Monday, June 30, 2014

“A Cheerful Giver"

    Consider the anticipatory joy experienced when we possess a gift for a beloved friend or family member that we must wait to bestow.  Multiply that by an infinite measure regarding how our Heavenly Father must feel as He looks forward to providing grace and goodness for His trusting children in the Lord Jesus Christ.  

    "It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Matthew 12:32).

    Many of our Lord's gifts must wait for the ultimate redemption of all things that will usher in our eternal state of blessedness in Christ.  Some, however, flow to us in the present as we trust God for His provision and supply.  "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life" (Psalm 23:5).  We do well to expect such beneficence, honoring our Lord by realizing and affirming that He loves to meet our needs, as well as fulfill many of our desires.  Certainly, we do not sully His reputation or ours by misrepresenting our Father as slavishly subject to fanciful human whims.  He gives according to the glory of His Son, our best interests, and the benefit of those with whom we live our lives.  He gives nonetheless, and we do well to affirm both His generosity and His wisdom in bestowing "every good gift and every perfect gift" (James 1:17).

    Scripture calls us to view God with great anticipation regarding His anticipation for providing for us in both this life and the next.  Moreover, such expectation plays a role in how we experience His generosity.  If we anticipate little, we will likely receive little.  "Ye have not because ye ask not…according to your faith be it unto you" (James 4:2; Matthew 9:29).  Most importantly, we must perceive our Father as greatly desirous to provide far more than we likely expect.  He "loveth a cheerful giver" because He is a cheerful giver (II Corinthians 9:7).  Such assurance, tempered by the awareness that He gives in accordance with His purposes and wisdom in Christ, forms within us confident and reasonable expectation of the goodness  that follows us all the days of our lives, and will greet us far more in the life to come…

"Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."
(Ephesians 3:20-21)
"Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (for after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
(Matthew 6:28-33)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.
(Ephesians 1:3)


Friday, June 27, 2014

A Light In the Darkness

(Friends: a bit longer than usual, but the seriousness of the subject matter seems to warrant a more involved consideration.  Thanks. )

   I had a message prepared for today, but in light of recent events, I've decided to share some different thoughts with you.

   You may have heard about the child who died of heatstroke this week after being left in the car by his father.  There's some indication that, unlike nearly all other tragedies of this sort, the father intentionally left his child to die.  I'm certain that you feel what I feel, from horror, to heart-wrenching sadness, to rage at the possibility that the child died as the result of malicious intent by the one who should have loved him the most.

   I think also of those parents whose children died accidentally because the father or mother forgot that the child was in the car with them when they reached their destination.  One can only imagine the tortured agony experienced by the child in such horrific circumstances.  One cannot imagine the tortured and enduring agony of the parent responsible for perhaps the greatest tragedy a loving father or mother could experience.  Certainly, we cannot excuse those who make such a mistake.  We can, however, understand how such a thing can happen.  Indeed, no single demographic indicator exists that predicts the profile of those to whom this happens.  Every socioeconomic class, gender, race, personality type, and vocation are included among parents whose children died due to this particular form of unintentional neglect.  Recent events make me more aware than ever of such shattered souls, and I hope to regularly visit the altar of prayer for those fathers and mothers who will live the rest of their lives with broken hearts because they will, through their own actions, live the rest of their lives without their beloved.

   We cannot fail to think of our Heavenly Father as we ponder this difficult subject.  He alone can provide hope and meaning in such temptation to despair.  In this regard, several thoughts come to mind.  

    First, the children do not die alone in the terrible circumstances we reference.

   "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me… Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?  And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows." (Psalm 23:4; Matthew 10:29-31).

   Somehow our Father draws near to these children in their departure from this world.  This does not preclude suffering, of course, but if a sparrow's fall beckons the loving and compassionate heart of God, we can be sure that the cries of a small child draw Him instantly to their side, and to their heart.  "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).

    We also wonder how the parents endure such loss and grief.  In secular considerations of the matter, the question often  arises, "How do they forgive themselves?"  As we recently referenced in another message, no such need exists in human hearts.  Only God can so completely forgive us, through the sacrifice of His Son and application of such grace to our hearts, that our consciences are cleansed.  "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience" (Hebrews 10:19-22).  A real and living experience of such mercy avails for our conscience, and nothing else does.  Let us pray for the parents we consider, that the Spirit of God will lead them to the Christ of God, and to the faith that realizes the wondrous truth - "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 5:20-21).  

   Finally, and most importantly, the terrible possibility that a parent perhaps intentionally consigned his son to a horrifying death solemnly reminds us of another Father who did the same (albeit for monumentally different reasons).  "Jesus of Nazareth… being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:22-23).  It serves as the most foundational truth of the Gospel, that God sent His beloved Son into the world for the purpose of suffering and dying on behalf.  The Father Himself smote the Lord Jesus with untold furies of Divine wrath against sin - "we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted" (Isaiah 53:4).  Moreover, the Father and the Holy Spirit abandoned our Savior to die in the most desolate loneliness any soul will ever know - "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?!" (Matthew 27:46).  Foundational truth, yes, but that truth from which we never want to venture too far, and which the sons and daughters of God in Christ seek to perpetually remember within our hearts and affirm among ourselves.  This is the Light that shines most brightly in a blackness so very dark, and so very deep.

    Some child, somewhere will live because the tragedies we consider will motivate the hearts of parents to find ways to be sure it does not happen to their beloved.  And some soul, somewhere today will live because God could not and did not spare His Son.  Even in this moment, the saving grace of the Lord Jesus made possible by His agonized death and glorious resurrection moves upon and within sinners to birth them into eternal life through the grace received by faith.  Oh yes, with God, lights always shine in the darkness He allows for the purpose of magnifying His mercy, as known in His beloved Son.

"The Light shineth in darkness."
(John 1:5)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat, yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
(Isaiah 55:1)


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Permanence and Significance

    The naturalist believes the human race exists as a fairly recent development of the evolutionary process he maintains to be the source of all things.  Moreover, his model projects that humanity will cease to exist when our sun incinerates our being and our consciousness in a supernova (if not before, in some lesser cataclysm).  Thus, the expectation of the naturalist projects annihilation as the ultimate end of the human race.  The natural model predicts we will fade from our brief moment in the universe with little trace that we ever existed.  The implication for humanity: utter meaninglessness and insignificance.

   The supernaturalist, particularly, the Bible-believing Christian, views the universe and humanity from a completely different perspective.  He believes the human race exists as a special creation of God, made in His image, and thus eternal in being and existence.  He maintains that all consciousness endures forever, both in the individual and collective sense.  Joy or sorrow await all in a forever of awareness, our eternal lot having been determined by our response (or lack thereof) to God during our earthly lifetime.  This being the case, everything matters concerning such a race of beings for whom each moment, condition, and circumstance bears vital significance and meaning.

    We presently live in a generation wherein a growing population holds to the former perspective of forlorn fatalism.  This provides great opportunity for born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ to “shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15).  Deep within the soul of the most ardent naturalist yearns a cosmic longing for permanence and significance.  We all want to be, and we want to be forever.  And, we will.  As Solomon declared, "I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before Him” (Ecclesiastes 3:14).  The human race exists as the primary expression of “whatsoever God doeth.”  We will indeed be, and we will be forever.  We also matter, another sensibility that pervades human consciousness and sensibility.  The Gospel of Christ proclaims that our Creator values us to the degree He became as one of us, experiencing life and death for the purpose of redeeming us from our sins. The person and work of the Lord Jesus thus assigns significance, eternal significance to our life and and being.  “Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ” (I Peter 1:18-19).

    Let us boldly proclaim this truth for which every person longs, and let us do so with both promise and warning.  The matter involves not our existence, but rather the nature and condition of the eternity we will experience.  Everything matters because everything is more than matter.  This is our message of joyful hope and solemn seriousness in Christ.  May our Lord enable our faithful communication of permanence and significance…

“Lead me in the way everlasting.”
(Psalm 139:24)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Ho, everyone that thirtieth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat, yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
(Isaiah 55:1)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Relationship… Fellowship Conclusion

     Our Heavenly Father’s delight in our fellowship with Him motivates us to seek Him because His love is “shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us” (Romans 5:5).   Love begets love.  Thus, the knowledge that our attention delights Him elicits desire in us to bless His heart by consistent approach to the throne of grace.  “The Lord taketh pleasure in His people” (Psalm 149:4).

    Growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ fosters increasing likeness to His spiritual and moral image (Romans 8:28-29).  The needs and desires of others, beginning with God Himself, become more important to us than our own. "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.  Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:4-5).  The realization of God’s love for us in Christ births in us genuine desire to lovingly bless Him in holy response.  As in every relationship, communication serves as the heart of such devotion.  Therefore, when Solomon declares “the prayer of the upright is His delight,” the heart of the trusting believer can only respond as did King David: "When Thou saidst, Seek ye My face; my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek” (Proverbs 15:8; Psalm 27:8).

     We never cease to be the dependent party in our relationship with God.  “Without Me, ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).  We nevertheless serve as a significant party in the sense that our love for Him is real and freely determined, as led and enabled by the Holy Spirit.  “I will love Thee, o Lord, my strength!” (Psalm 18:1).  Our Heavenly Father values and cherishes such devotion far more than we can possibly imagine.  Recognizing such plainly declared Biblical truth instills in us a far different sensibility than the notion of approaching God merely for the gratification of our own needs and desires.  We please Him.  Such truth may be hard to fathom.  It is not difficult, however, to recognize the Scriptural affirmation that our hearts matter to His heart.  Such truth beckons us to respond in wonder, and in love.

“We love Him because He first loved us.”
(I John 4:19)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Ho, everyone that thirtieth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat, yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
(Isaiah 55:1)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

“Relationship… Fellowship” Part 2

    As referenced in Part 1, I find the consideration of God's delight in our fellowship with Him much more motivating than focusing on my own need and desire for His realized presence.

   "The prayer of the upright is His delight" (Proverbs 15:8).

  First, how bewilderingly wondrous that the eternal, infinite God should desire our communication to the point of delight.  What could it be that fosters such joy in our Heavenly Father when we approach Him in loving and humble faith?  Perhaps the answer lies in the "upright" reference in Solomon's declaration.  Those who qualify for such a description have not picked themselves up from their fallenness.  Only God can redeem us from our sins.  

   "He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings… By faith ye stand" (Psalm 40:2; II Corinthians 1:24).  

    "The upright" thus consist of those redeemed by Christ, and who reflect the glory of His saving presence and grace.  God sees His beloved Son in every believer, shining forth in unique and particular expressions of Christ as revealed in our varied personalities, dispositions, and gifts.  The prayers that delight Him issue forth from the Spirit of the Lord Jesus as He dwells in us - "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father" (Galatians 4:6).  Accordingly, when we pray in humble sincerity, our words find our Father's ear and heart graced with the living Word, the Lord Jesus.  This brings Him double pleasure, as it were, pleasure in His Son, and in His Son as He uniquely dwells in us.

   Again, this blessed truth stimulates and motivates fellowship with God far more than our personal needs and desires.  We pray in love, that is, in unselfish devotion to our Father's heart.  This does not discount our own sensibilities concerning prayer, of course, but rather puts them in their proper order and significance.  "But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33).  We must establish this priority in our hearts, praying first for the purpose of God's glory, will, eternal purpose, and heart pleasure.  Upon this basis, we shall find our own needs and desires well considered and accommodated by the Father who so loves us.  Yes, through Christ, we possess the capacity to please the infinite and eternal God with nothing more than a sincere word breathed in His direction.  No other truth about prayer equals this blessed motivation to avail ourselves of such grace, as given by so great a Savior.

"Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more."

(I Thessalonians 4:1)

Weekly Memory Verse

   Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

(Isaiah 55:1)


Monday, June 23, 2014

Bay To Baie June 23, 2014 1,731.7 miles out from Mobile; 225.3 miles to Baie Comeau

Bay To Baie   June 23, 2014    1,731.7 miles out from Mobile; 225.3 miles to Baie Comeau (about 200 miles north of Montreal)

"Southward Toward Home"

(and I ain't just whistlin' Dixie!)

   Ok, here's the scoop.  I'm way down the road from our last posting, regretfully ("regretfully" not because of the walking, but for having written so little along the way).  The walking is going great, but the writing has tanked in recent months.  I'll offer no excuses, save a busy schedule.  We all have that, however, so I offer my apologies, along with a renewed and refined commitment to keep you posted.

   The refinement involves this:  Lord willing, and according to my present regimen, I'll arrive in Baie Comeau in less than a month.  That's about 2 and ½ months ahead of schedule.  So, I'm thinking I'll just turn around and come back, as it were, writing about a lot of the venues I've missed in the Northeastern parts of the U.S.  Doubtless, there's some interesting places about which to write, and more importantly, from which to glean spiritual lessons and analogies.  That's my plan, and I hope to write at least weekly in the months to come.

   For now, I thought I'd bring you up to date on some developments that have taken place along the way (some I may have mentioned in previous posts).  Most importantly, Frances now joins me on most of my walks.  She started back in January, and passed the 700 mile point this past Saturday.  She loves the journeys as much as I do, and having her with me adds a new and wonderful dimension to the endeavor.  I get to see the sights through another pair of eyes, and enjoy the blessings and the challenges with another heart, namely, the one nearest and dearest to me.  Even more, we both perceive that we walk as a trio, namely, the Lord, Frances, and myself, just as we seek to live the rest of our lives.

   Frances joining me has also resulted in a new and fascinating possibility.  For years, I have pondered the remote possibility of someday walking the Appalachian Trail, the nearly 2,200 mile trek between Georgia and Maine that spans 14 states, along with mountains, valleys, forests, and vistas of the Eastern United States.  I never thought such a journey would actually take place.  Frances, however, is now so enthused about the possibility that I think someday it might actually happen.  We'll see, and it will doubtless be down the road a bit, ahem (!) if it is ever to take place.  

  I'm also coping with what I call an "injury of hypocrisy."  Not long after I began "Bay To Baie," I wrote about walking having become my endurance activity of choice.  I mentioned previous eras of running and cycling during my adult life, and the fact that I wisely gave those up due to chronic injuries they fostered.  Not long after the entry, however, I went through a period when I felt so good walking that it seemed to me a little running wouldn't hurt a thing.  It didn't - at first.  However, I can still remember the moment when the tightening and pain of my plantar fascia in my right foot screamed at me.  "Dummy, what do you think you're doing??!!!  This hurts!!"   Since that moment, I've dealt with the usual aches associated with plantar fasciitis, again, my injury of hypocrisy.  If only I had chosen to abide in accordance with my own words…  Dummy!

   We're presently walking through a Mobile, Alabama late spring and summer.  This normally means an excess of heat and humidity.  The season, however, hasn't been too challenging.    We did have an experience the other day, however, when we were caught in a rainstorm about a mile into our walk.  Frances and I enjoy this when it happens, so long as lightning does not accompany the rain.  The system passed pretty quickly,  leaving in its wake the most humid late afternoon we've ever experienced.  We made our way home in a literal haze of the wettest atmosphere imaginable.  Living in the subtropics means that we are accustomed to heavy air.  The humidity of this day, however, took the matter to a new level altogether.  We pretty much swam to our house, feeling all the time that gills would have served us much better than lungs.

   All this to say I'm looking forward to reconnecting with you on this journey.  From the look of the Canadian map, there's not too many towns or outposts between our present location and Baie Comeau.  I'll stay in touch nevertheless, and look forward to the journey southward toward home and far more consistent contact with you.  Thanks for coming along.

"Relationship... Fellowship"

    We may have relationships without relating, or in Biblical terms, we can have relationship without fellowship.

   "If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin" (I John 1:7).

   Note that the Apostle John, writing to believers, raises uncertainty concerning the matter of our communion with God.  "If we walk in the light… we have fellowship."  That is, we must live in the reality of Truth in order to commune with the Lord who declared, "I am… the Truth" (John 14:6).  Or, in the words of the Apostle Paul, "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25).  Relationship does not assure fellowship, that is, we may be born again through faith in the Lord Jesus without consistently availing ourselves of His living presence and desire to commune with us.

   "The prayer of the upright is His delight" (Proverbs 15:8).

   We tend to think of fellowship with our Heavenly Father in terms of our need.  We do better to begin our contemplation of such glory in terms of His delight.  That is, He loves human hearts to the degree that we elicit joy in the Divine heart when we approach Him in truth and in faith.  God does not need us, existing as a perfectly sufficient being in and of His triune personhood (Acts 17:25).  He does desire us, however, with a love that spans an "eternal purpose in Christ" that included the cross of Calvary to fulfill (Ephesians 3:11).  Indeed, whenever we wonder how much our Father may desire us to walk with Him in loving fellowship, we do well to remember He smote and forsook His eternally beloved Son on the cross in order to make such grace possible - "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?!" (Matthew 27:46).

   Our Lord gave to us relationship with Him when we believed.  "As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name" (John 1:12).  He presently offers to us fellowship.  "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all" (II Corinthians 13:14).  Imagine, the living God beckons us to walk with Him in this day, indeed, in this moment.  May we do more than imagine as the reality of our relationship draws us into the realization of fellowship with the One for whom our hearts were made, and the One who values our hearts to the degree He gave His cherished Son to the brokenheartedness of Calvary.  How can we possibly refuse so great a gift, purchased at so high a cost?

"Our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son, Jesus Christ."

(I John 1:3)

Weekly Memory Verse

   Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

(Isaiah 55:1)


Saturday, June 21, 2014

"To Overcome"

    In our present existence, authentic spirituality does not involve the absence of our fleshly weakness, but the overcoming of it.

   "A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first" (Matthew 21:28-31).

  Salvation births our spirits through union with the Spirit of the Lord Jesus.  Growth in His grace and truth matures and strengthens this "new man, created in righteousness and true holiness" (Ephesians 4:24).   In His wisdom, however, God allows our earthly members and faculties to remain, including a "law of sin" that inhabits them (Romans 7:23).  The potential for temptation thus remains so near to us that it must be overcome within our very being.  As with the faithful son referenced in our Lord's parable, obedience involved initial response and desire to the contrary.  His feelings and thoughts said "No".  Something deeper in him, however, changed his mind, resulting in a faithful "Yes".

   The "something deeper" in born again believers involves Someone working in us "both to will and to do of God's good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).  First thoughts, feelings, inclinations, and even physical sensations notwithstanding, the Holy Spirit moves within us to illuminate the fact that we are being tempted, and then reminds us of the indwelling power of Christ to overcome.  "If ye, through the Spirit, do overcome the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Romans 8:13).  Our Lord is present in the temptation, as is our flesh, and "greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world" (I John 4:4).

    Regardless of how long or how faithfully we walk with the Lord in this present life, our flesh and its proclivities will remain.  This is why the Apostle Paul, writing in the future tense of the Greek language of the New Testament, rhetorically pleaded, "Who shall deliver me from the body of the this death?" (Romans 7:24).  Thankfully the answer came, "We ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body… we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (Romans 8:23; I Corinthians 15:51-53).  Yes, "we shall be changed," and "this corruptible must put on incorruption."  

     But not yet.  The flesh remains, not to be presently eradicated or glorified, but to be overcome through the power of the Spirit and our confidence that He works in us to make His desire our deepest desire.  "I delight in the law of God after the inward man" (Romans 7:22).  Accordingly, our initial reactions and responses may flow in a direction contrary to our Father's will.  This can quickly result in sin if we do not remember and affirm the greater truth of the Spirit of Christ dwelling with and within us to overcome.  He transforms initial "No's" to the will of God into "Yes" as we trust and submit ourselves to Him.  This is godliness in our present existence, as triumphantly revealed not by the eradication of challenge, but by triumph over it.

"In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."

(John 16:33).

"This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."

(I John 5:4)

Weekly Memory Verse

   Now the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.

(II Thessalonians 3:16)

Friday, June 20, 2014

"A Clear Conscience"

"A Clear Conscience"

    "Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men" (Acts 24:16).

    As referenced in yesterday's message, the Lord Jesus Christ provides a clear conscience to those who trust in the mercy provided by His atonement and intercession on our behalf.  He forgives our sins when we believe in order to provide forgiveness, relationship with God, and peace of heart.  He thereafter leads us by His Spirit to walk in the faith and faithfulness that keeps our conscience clear.  Moreover, in those times when we sin, the Holy Spirit leads us to avail ourselves of the forgiveness that maintains our fellowship with God through "having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience" (Hebrews 10:22).

   The believer's clear conscience results from dedication to obedience and confidence in Christ's intercession for us.  Obedience is best, but sacrifice (His sacrifice) avails for us to provide quick restoration if we distrust and disobey our Lord.  Our sensibility must therefore involve the determination to trust and obey God at all times, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  "Now the God of peace… make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ" (Hebrews 13:20; 21).  We maintain the confidence and conviction, however, that the Lord promises restorative forgiveness and cleansing for His children as necessary.  "Let us come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy" (Hebrews 4:16).   Thereby we join the Apostle Paul in seeking "to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men."  

   A Christ-maintained tranquility of heart means that we will far more likely abide in His Word, in prayerful communication, and in the joyful determination to honor the Lord Jesus in all things.  Such a walk with God will foster ongoing growth in His grace and truth, and a growing, consistency in faith and faithfulness.  The Spirit, the Word, and the Blood make possible such a gift of peace, and such a life of glory to God that results from a Christ-maintained conscience.

"My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."

(I John 2:1)

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed upon Thee, because He trusteth in Thee."

(Isaiah 26:3)

Weekly Memory Verse

   Now the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.

(II Thessalonians 3:16)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

"Forgive Ourselves"

"Forgive Ourselves?"

    The modern notion of "forgiving ourselves" actually stems from an incomplete and inadequate Biblical understanding of God's forgiveness.  That is, if we fully experience His pardon for our sins, we will find no need for our own personal absolution and cleansing of our conscience.

   "Having a High Priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience" (Hebrews 20-22).

   Only our great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, can birth and maintain in us "a true heart in full assurance of faith," and only He can cleanse us from "an evil conscience."  In times of sin against God and others, the Holy Spirit works in believers to expose our errors, to lead us to remembrance of our Savior's intercessory sacrifice on our behalf, and to elicit honest contrition for our unbelief and disobedience.  When we respond in genuine faith and repentance, the Spirit magnifies the salvation of the Lord Jesus in our hearts and minds to the degree that we go forward in peace and renewed devotion to God and others (which may at times involve Spirit-led confession, apology, and restitution to those against whom we have sinned).  "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 5:20-21).

   Believers who walk in ongoing and paralyzing remorse about sin fail to adequately understand the efficacy of Christ's work on our behalf.  Thus, the notion has arisen, even among Christians, that we must "forgive ourselves."  No Biblical basis exists for such an erroneous concept.  Our need is rather to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18).  "What is it about my Lord and His redeeming work on my behalf that I do not know well enough in order to walk in the peace of a cleansed conscience?"  This is the question the remorse-plagued and paralyzed believer must ask if he is to have any hope of the tranquil heart our Lord desires His children to experience.  God's answer will exalt the Savior, emphasize His once for all sacrifice, enlarge understanding of His ongoing intercession, and enable the trusting and repentant believer to go forth from the altar of mercy in the peace for which the Lord Jesus suffered so much to provide.  Forgive ourselves?  Not when the Holy Spirit applies the power of our Savior's sacrifice and intercession to needy hearts.

"This man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God."

(Hebrews 10:12)

"There is forgiveness with Thee."

(Psalm 130:4)

"How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"

(Hebrews 9:14)

"He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them."

(Hebrews 7:25)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"His Delight, Our Delight"

    One of the great contrasts between God and ourselves involves His natural inclination to forgive.

   "He delighteth in mercy" (Micah 7:18).

  Not only does our Heavenly Father desire to pardon and restore.  He rather delights in it.  God loves to forgive, even as the father of the prodigal ran to greet his wayward son when he returned home in shame and brokenness (Luke 15:20).  Or as the Psalmist confirms, "For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee" (Psalm 86:5).  The New Testament even more reveals the degree to which our Father delights to forgive - "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

   Contrast such wondrous truth against the innate fleshly proclivity of humanity.  Vengeance comes natural to us rather than mercy, despite the fact of our own sins against others.  We often build crosses on which to hang our offenders, as it were, rather than die upon them for our offenders.  "Jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore, he will not spare in the day of vengeance" (Proverbs 6:34).  

   Left to ourselves, the tooth and the claw would more characterize human relationships than even the bloody nature of the animal kingdom.  Thankfully, our Lord does not leave us to ourselves.  His pervading influence presently provides a limited restraint upon our natural tendency toward destruction.  Moreover, in those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, God imparts His indwelling character and nature into our spirits.  "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5).  Thereby believers possess the capacity, through Christ, to overcome our natural proclivity by walking in accordance with our Father's supernatural disposition to mercy - "I delight in the law of God after the inward man" (Romans 7:22).

   We must believe such blessed truth about our Lord, and about ourselves as spiritually birthed and constituted in Him.  The Apostle Paul referred to believers as "vessels of mercy" (Romans 9:23).  The Spirit of Christ inhabits us in order that we may "walk even as He walked" (I John 2:6).  Few traits of the Lord Jesus more honor God than our determination to forgive as we have been forgiven.  His delight in mercy is now our delight in mercy, regardless of our fleshly tendencies to the contrary.  This we affirm, first because it is true, and then in order to experience God's winsome mercy not only in our personal reception, but also in bestowal upon others.

"Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."

(Ephesians 4:32)

Weekly Memory Verse

   Now the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.

(II Thessalonians 3:16)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

"To Give and Not To Give"

    Regarding our giving to those in need, the Bible commands an abundant generosity, as guided by a wise and God-directed discretion.

   "And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment" (Philippians 1:9).

   "Give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not away" (Matthew 5:42).

    "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat" (II Thessalonians 3:10).

   The Apostle Paul's prayer for God to direct our love "in knowledge and all judgment" reveals our need for the Lord's guidance regarding our service to others.  As the Lord Jesus commanded, we expect and prepare ourselves to give to those who indicate need.  However, Paul's declaration to the Thessalonians concerning those who show no initiative for personal responsibility confirms that we are not to give to any and everybody.  

   We give to those who cannot help themselves with as much generosity as our Lord makes possible.  "Blessed is he that considereth the poor" (Psalm 41:1).

   We give to those in immediate need who can ultimately help themselves, but we grant only temporary bestowals of beneficence, recognizing we may create a temptation to irresponsibility if we do not temper our giving with wisdom and restraint.  "Study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands" (I Thessalonians 4:11).

   We do not give to those who clearly show no personal initiative, or who have taken advantage of kindnesses received in the past.  As Paul revealed, in God's economy, eaters must be workers.  "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread" (Genesis 3:19).

   Born again believers in the Lord Jesus are not to act as patsies.  We do people no favors by a charity that does not align with the parameters set forth in Scripture regarding both generosity and personal responsibility.  Indeed, if we do not help the genuinely needy when we have the means to do so, we fail to reflect our Lord's abundant generosity and self sacrificial kindness.  However, if we help those unwilling to act in accordance with their own best interests, we also misrepresent the Lord who freely gives, but who does so in order to initiate our response of faith and submission to His Truth.  "We love Him because He first loved us" (I John 4:19).  God will not allow Himself to be taken advantage of, nor does He call His trusting children in Christ to allow the irresponsible to avail themselves of our Christ-formed proclivity to generosity.

   The Apostle Paul prays for God-directed love because we need to be guided accordingly.  The indwelling Spirit of Christ motivates us to devote ourselves to God as the branches of His holy devotion to the needs of others.  That same Spirit mandates that we seek our Lord's direction in such vital matters.   Generosity and discretion walk hand in hand in the hearts of those submitted to the glory and will of God in Christ.  May we be found among this company whose love abounds in abounding wisdom.

"Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?"

(I John 3:17)

"We hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing."

(II Thessalonians 3:11-13)

Weekly Memory Verse

   Now the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.

(II Thessalonians 3:16)

Monday, June 16, 2014

"The Christquest"

    We "hold fast the profession of our faith" - (Hebrews 10:23) because the Lord Jesus Christ holds fast the possession of our faith - "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day" (II Timothy 1:12).

   God's sustaining grace in Christ provides the basis and power for our ongoing faith in Christ.  To the degree we discover, embrace and affirm the person and work of the Lord Jesus on behalf, as declared by Scripture, we increasingly love, trust, and submit ourselves to our Heavenly Father.  "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17).  Our spiritual enemies thus seek to distract us from the Christquest, as it were, of our hearts, tempting us to forget or ignore the truth that our faith and faithfulness ever flows from the fount of our Lord's saving and keeping work on our behalf.  "Consider Him... lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds" (Hebrews 12:3).

   Considering our Savior involves our consistent exposure to the Scriptures for the purpose of fulfilling the Apostle Peter's mandate: "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18).  Who is He?  What has He done on our behalf?  What is He doing, and what will He be doing forevermore in order to secure and enhance our grace-given and perpetuated relationship with God?  Growing understanding and answers to these questions makes possible a richer experience of the Lord Jesus along the pathways of life, wherein we also increase in our knowledge of Him as He works in our hearts and experience.  

  To "profess" Christ means that we affirm the same thing about Him that God declares to be true.  He declares that the Lord Jesus eternally vouchsafes our possession, thus constituting the truth and power of our profession.  We must join Him in this declaration, seeking to grow in our understanding and apprehending of Truth.   Thereby we find ourselves increasingly motivated and empowered to trust, obey, exemplify, and communicate our Savior.  The Christquest beckons us, based on the Christ-obtained and secured redemption made possible by our Lord's death, resurrection, and ascension.  Let us indeed "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ…"

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."
(Hebrews 12:1-2)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Now the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.
(II Thessalonians 3:16)

Friday, June 13, 2014

"The Table of Grace"

"The Table of Grace"

     King David beckoned lame Mephibosheth to his table because and only because of the latter's relationship to his father Jonathan.

   "When Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, was come unto David, he fell on his face, and did reverence. And David said, Mephibosheth. And he answered, Behold thy servant! And David said unto him, Fear not: for I will surely shew thee kindness for Jonathan thy father's sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually. And he bowed himself, and said, What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?" (II Samuel 9:6-8).

   In the sensibilities of his day, Mephibosheth perceived himself to be cursed of God because of his lameness.  David's offer of grace thus shocked the man, whose previous life consisted of shame, hardship, and internal misery.  He expected the lot of a "dead dog."  He received the beneficence of a king, of God's chosen royal, David.  Two relationships accounted for the unexpected bestowal of favor, first, David's relationship with Jonathan, and then, Mephibosheth being the son of Jonathan.

   David loved Jonathan with exceeding devotion and affection.  Of Jonathan's friendship, he proclaimed, "Thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women" (II Samuel 1:26).  With his throne established, the King thus sought to honor his deceased friend in the only way possible.  Mephibosheth received blessing because of the bond between David and Jonathan, and because of his familial ties with Jonathan.  Such Old Testament history foreshadows the New Testament coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.  God purposes to show favor to all related to His Son.  "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3).  Christ provides the merit and basis of acceptance because of His relationship with the Father of Heaven.  We freely receive such grace by faith when we trust in the Lord Jesus, becoming spiritually related to Him.  Dead dogs thus become favored sons and daughters who  partake of the table of grace.  "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall he not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32).

   The Lord Jesus serves as our Jonathan.  Just as his forerunner of old made a way for his son when he died, the Savior's death grants to us our place at the table of grace.  Thus, we may come in times of faithfulness, but only through Christ.  And thus we may come in times of unfaithfulness, so long as we come through Christ.  May nothing cause us to forget our sole basis of welcome, indeed, of eternal acceptance provided through the atonement and intercession on our behalf of our Savior.  Yes, the relationship of the Father and His Son, along with our relationship with His Son, unite to provide our place of grace.  "With Him" God "freely gives us all things."  Our Jonathan makes such favor possible, and we seek always to remember so great a gift purchased by so great a cost.

"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."
(Romans 5:1-2)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
(Romans 5:1-2)

Thursday, June 12, 2014



     O.D. and G.C. are the best of buddies despite the fact that those of their species often do not get along.  The two became friends just before the conflict that normally characterizes`encounters between dogs and cats.  G.C. (Green Cat), even as he primed his razor sharp feline claws, looked quizzically at O.D. (Orange Dog).  "Hey buddy.  Are you an orange dog?"  O.D., ready to pounce, responded, "Yeah, fella, what's it to ya?!  And, by the way, are you a green cat?"  The interchange led to a fairly long discussion about their unique hues, and the subsequent ostracization they experience among their own kind.  O.D. and G.C. realized they have much in common, and before long, cat claws receded, dog hip flexors relaxed, and a beautiful friendship ensued.

   Oh yes, I suppose I should tell you that O.D. and G.C. are the star characters in bedtime stories I share with my grandchildren Jack and Emma when they spend the night.  Don't tell them, but the tales are made up in the moment and on the fly, as it were, so you never know (nor do I) what's going to happen next.  From a visit to a veterinarian by reluctant O.D. (piece of glass in paw), to a trip across town (they got lost), to whatever's coming next (they encounter a raccoon), Orange Dog and Green Cat have become part of our family lore and imagination.

   "We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty" (II Peter 1:16).

   In contrast to O.D. and G.C., the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ exists as the perfect union of eternal spirituality and literal historicity.  "The Word was made flesh" (John 1:14).  We trust in the God who became man (and who remains man).  We believe in events that actually happened in space/time history, as determined and directed by our "from everlasting to everlasting" Lord.  The facts and accounts of Scripture do not proceed from mere imagination or "cunningly devised fables," but rather from events that took place in real time and actual venue.

  The importance of believing such truth lies in the fact of God's faithfulness.  He plainly conveys His Word to us in terms of historicity, and we must believe accordingly to avoid misrepresentation of His character and misappropriation of His reality.  We must proclaim that "God… cannot lie" (Titus 1:2).  Moreover, we must have confidence in the literal nature of Scripture in order to walk in the confidence of God's literal nature in own lives and experience.  Is He actually present with and within us?  Can we expect His working along the dusty pathways of our lives as we actually live them?  Any weakness in our confidence in the Scriptural record greatly damages our anticipation concerning the God who "inhabiteth eternity" - and who inhabits today.

  I enjoy imagining O.D. and G.C. for my grandchildren, and they also seem to enjoy the fanciful tales.  I enjoy far more believing in a Christ who literally has been, is, and always will be.  I rejoice in His Word that perfectly proclaims God and His truth.  And I joyfully look forward to discovering the God who is actually here in the venues of my life because He was actually there in the venues of Scripture.  This is our faith, originated and communicated in the reality of both eternity and time by the God who lives - literally - in both.

"Great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh."
(I Timothy 3:16)
"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life.  For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us."
(I John 1:1-2)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
(Romans 5:1-2)