Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"The Escape of Love"

    When tempted to fear, whether small, lingering insecurities (that are not really small in their effect), or in more immediate and intense challenges to be afraid, the Bible offers to born again believers the escape of love. 

    "God hath not give us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (II Timothy 1:7).

    Fear invites us to a place in our flesh wherein self-centeredness pervades and poisons the atmosphere with ignorance of God's promised Person, presence, power, and protection.  At the root of all insecurity, the unholy trinity of "I, Me and My" dominates, disturbs, and deceives.  Conversely, the Word of God invites us into the place of peace wherein God-centeredness governs the heart and mind.  "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee" (Isaiah 26:3).  Rather than dwell upon ourselves and our fleshly feelings of insecurity, the Spirit of God leads and enables the focus on God and others that flows from His unselfish heart.  "The Lord is on my side, I will not fear" declared the Psalmist (Psalm 118:6).  New Testament believers proceed even further into the place of peace, affirming "The Lord dwells within my heart, I will not fear."  Moreover, we are "hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3).  Thus, by faith we escape from fear and its narcissism into the peace of love and its devotion to God and others.

    The more we know the love of God for us, the love of God in us, and the love of God revealed by us unto others, the more we escape from the fleshly selfishness of fear to the Divine unselfishness of God's heart.  We must not coddle fear by failing to realize that it beckons us not merely to be insecure or afraid, but to be self-centered.  The love of the Lord Jesus rather beckons us to the peace of looking upward, outward, and away from ourselves unto the Lord and the needs of others.  This is peace, as promised and provided by the escape of love...

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear."
(I John 4:18)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Godliness with contentment is great gain.
(I Timothy 6:6)

Monday, March 30, 2015

"Invisible Things, Clearly Seen"

    It very much feels like a Divine healing.  I think it is.

    Throughout my lifetime, sinus issues have accompanied my earthly journey.  As a child in the 1960s, the medications available did little to help my symptoms, especially in the spring and fall.  I loved visiting my grandparents' farm during spring break and the summer, but I also remember difficult nights there when breathing through my nose was pretty much impossible.  My adult years have been somewhat better because of improved treatments.  However, I don't think I've ever consistently breathed through both nostrils (especially when sleeping) until the last week when a medication that recently became available over the counter has made a world of difference (in fairness to a dear friend, he told me for years I should obtain a prescription and try the product.  You were right, Mike!).  I can now breath (and smell!) like never before, and while I tip my cap to the scientists, technicians, and marketers whose expertise and labors made the medication available, I nevertheless perceive the remedy as of and from the Lord (as I wrote this, by the way, another friend called.  I mentioned the subject of this message and he responded that he also has used the product in the last few weeks to great success and relief).  

    Again, I do not discount the human element in this matter.  People imagined, planned, manufactured, and distribute the product.  They do so, however, with the means God provides, including knowledge, wisdom, material, and the ability to produce and provide the medication to the masses.  

    "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights" (James 1:17).

    The Bible affirms the medical field and its labors.  Two books of the New Testament were written by a physician, Luke (Colossians 4:14).  Medicines also receive the Divine affirmation in the Apostle Paul's advice to Timothy to "use a little wine for thy stomach's sake, and thine often infirmities" (wine was a commonly used medicinal treatment in Biblical times - I Timothy 5:23).   Thus, God's healing may be acknowledged when administered through human means no less than when He chooses to touch our bodies directly in matters of sickness, disease, and injury.  This points to the Biblical truth and principle that the Lord often accomplishes Heavenly things through earthly means, as in sending His Son to save our eternal souls by conceiving and birthing the Lord Jesus Christ as a human being in womb of a human mother.  "Great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh" (I Timothy 3:16).  The Spiritual often manifests itself in and through the earthly.  We must therefore open our eyes to God's provisions administered in ways we will miss if do not see through the human and the corporeal to the Divine and the Heavenly.

    When God chooses to act in a direct spiritual manner, whether in healing, provision, protection, or the blessing of His presence, we rejoice.  We rejoice no less when He acts spiritually through earthly means.  However, we may not as readily recognize the hand of God when administered through the hand of man.  Since our very redemption came to us through such means and mode, however, we do well to keep out eyes open to God, as "manifest in the flesh."

"The invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood through the things which are made, even His eternal power and godhead."
(Romans 1:20)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Godliness with contentment is great gain.
(I Timothy 6:6)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

“Love, Joy, and Holiness”

    Unbelievers seek to live long, happily, and healthily.   In the brief span of earthly existence they perceive as their only being and opportunity, they have no other option.  "Eat and drink, for tomorrow we die" (I Corinthians 15:32).

    Conversely, born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, while having nothing against length of days, happiness, and health, seek rather to live lovingly, joyfully, and in holiness.  

    "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 222:37-39).    
     "My soul shall be joyful in the Lord" (Psalm 35:9).
    "Put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" (Ephesians 4:24).

    Believers seek quality of life rather than quantity.  This leads to love, the love of God and love for God, along with loving others.  We were made for this glorious experience of God's character, nature, and way first revealed to us, and then formed in us through the presence of the indwelling Spirit of Christ.  Nothing else can serve as the primary purpose and foundation of our lives, even as the Apostle Paul declared in I Corinthians 13 that without God's love, we are nothing.

    We also seek to live joyfully rather than happily.  There is a difference.  As the old adage suggests, "Happiness is based on happenings; joy is based on Jesus."  Indeed, Christians can know the joy of Christ even in our saddest times - "as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" (II Corinthians 6:10).  We rejoice in Him rather than in the pleasant circumstances and conditions required by the world to know its limited and fleeting happiness - "rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, rejoice" (Philippians 4:4).  One of the great miracles of God's grace in the Lord Jesus involves His joyfulness known where it could not seem to possibly be.  The anthem sounds and resounds through the ages from venues of pain, loss, grief, agony, and forsakenness as the Holy Spirit reveals to hurting believers that the Light shines best and brightest in darkness.  Indeed, if we could presently find the most joyous Christian in the world, he or she would likely be discovered in a circumstance that would seem to preclude joy.  "Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness" (Psalm 112:4).  

    Finally, the believer seeks holiness, the ongoing recognition of who we are in Christ, and Whose we are in Christ.  We blessedly do not belong to ourselves - "ye are not your own" (I Corinthians 6:19).  We are the sons and daughters of a Father, the stewards of a Master, and the Blood-washed, Spirit-enlivened branches of the True Vine, the Lord Jesus.  Holiness relieves us of seeking to determine our own destiny, while still giving us a vital role of faith, devotion, and submission in the process of God conforming us to the image of His Son (Philippians 2:12-13).  Thus, the cruel tyranny of a constantly troubled mind about the health of my mind and body dissolves in the glory that in truth, we have no mind and body.  They belong to Him!  The Lord may do with His own as He sees fit.  Our calling involves keeping this blessed truth fresh and vital in the heart so that the Holy Spirit may lead our minds and bodies in His possession, presence, and power.  "Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1).

    A frenzied world concerns itself with the temporal, limited realities that comprise its only perception and hope of existence.  A faithful family of God in Christ concerns itself with the loving, joyful, and holy opportunities of today whereby we may know and honor our Lord, while rejoicing that our best days lie ahead.  Or rather, a glorious eternity beckons us with its promised glory of hope…

"And so shall we ever be with the Lord."
(I Thessalonians 4:17)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Who can understand his errors?  Cleanse thou me from secret faults.
(Psalm 19:12)

Friday, March 27, 2015

"Principle and Practice"

    If queried about the truth and veracity of the Bible, most born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ will quickly and decisively respond in the affirmative, echoing the Psalmist, "In His Word do I hope" (Psalm 130:5).

    In the practical outworking of our walk with the Lord, however, we may find ourselves not always acting in accordance with our principled confidence.  At the root of any sin we commit lies unbelief.  Our spiritual enemies offer us a way that contradicts the mandate of the Bible.  If we respond to their temptation, we either tacitly or directly determine that God's way is not best despite the Bible's clear declaration that "to live is Christ… the wages of sin is death" (Philippians 1:21; Romans 6:23).  We face the same challenge with which Satan confronted Adam and Eve, namely, the attack upon God's faithfulness and the truth of His Word.  "Ye shall surely die" the Lord warned regarding the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  "Ye shall not surely die" countered the devil.  Our forefathers believed the enemy rather than the Friend, just as we do any time we distrust and disobey God (Genesis 3:1-6).

    The more we grow in the knowledge and understanding of our Lord and His Truth, the more likely we are to believe Him in times of temptation.  "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ… Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee" (II Peter 3:18; Psalm 119:11).  If we "live by faith,"  it must be that we experience the death of sin by its rival, namely, by unbelief (Romans 1:17).  Thus, we must realize our need to believe the Scriptures in far more than merely the principled sense that the Bible is true.  We must realize the specific confrontations we will face throughout our lifetime to believe someone or something other than the Word of our Lord.  Again, at the root of every temptation lies Satan's deception, "Thou shalt not surely die."  Only as we increasingly know the character, nature, and way of our perfectly faithful Heavenly Father will we find ourselves consistently arise to affirm, "Thy Word is true from the beginning, and every one of Thy righteous judgments endureth forever" (Psalm 119:160).  Obedience, "the obedience of faith," flows from such confidence based upon our Scripture-formed conviction that "Thy Word is truth" (Romans 16:26; John 17:17).  The principle empowers the practice as we recognize our calling to "walk by faith" (II Corinthians 5:7).

"This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not grievous, for whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.  And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.  Who is he that overcommits the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" 
(I John 5:3-5)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Who can understand his errors?  Cleanse thou me from secret faults.
(Psalm 19:12)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

"Zealous Ignorance"

    It is possible to be enthusiastic and excited about God without knowing Him or walking closely with Him.

    "I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge" (Romans 10:2).

    Relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ involves truth as well as spirit.  "God is a spirit, and that they worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24).  Personal experience united with doctrinal truth comprises the heart and expression of a genuine bond with our Lord.  Enthusiasm and excitement frequently characterize such relationship, although much of the Christian life rather involves a quiet walk of faith, devotion, and attention to the glory and will of God unaccompanied by emotional fervor.  "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength" (Isaiah 30:15).  We must expect such a life as our Heavenly Father leads us by His Word and His Spirit, particularly in a frenzied, noisy generation that equates zeal with reality and fulfillment.  Excitement does not always accompany accurate and adequate response to our Lord and His truth.

    The Apostle Paul testified to being "more exceedingly zealous" of God than all others - at a time when he sought the imprisonment and execution of Christians (Acts 26:9-12; Galatians 1:14).  Knowledge did not accompany Truth at this time of Paul's overt religious enthusiasm.  This should tell us much about the need for an experience of God that intimately associates with His Truth.  Zeal may indicate the Lord's working in our hearts and lives.  But it may not.  Our spiritual enemies are more than capable of exciting us about a "Jesus" who bears little resemblance to the genuine Christ of the Bible.  That holy Text warns us continually to be on guard against false voices, many of whom cry with intense emotional fervor that originates in some spirit that may thrill even as it kills.

"Try (test) the spirits, whether they are of God."
(I John 4:1) 
"They zealously affect you, but not well."
(Galatians 4:17)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Who can understand his errors?  Cleanse thou me from secret faults.
(Psalm 19:12)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"By Hearing"

    We might suspect that great manifestations of the miraculous power of God would lead to great faith and confidence in Him.  It sometimes may, but only in a temporary and limited sense.  

    "A great multitude followed Him because they saw His miracles which He did on them that were diseased" (John 6:2).
    "But though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him" (John 12:37).

    True and lasting faith results primarily from hearing and receiving God's Truth as revealed in the Scriptures.  "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17).  Certainly, God's working may help prepare our hearts to believe, or confirm existing confidence in His loving presence and involvement.  Nevertheless, merely witnessing the actions of the Lord's hand can never lead us to trust His heart.  Truth, the Truth of Scripture, rather ushers us into the faithful relationship whereby we know His love, and love Him in holy response.  Indeed, no one has ever been born again by witnessing a miracle, and then believing that God performed the act of transcendent power and greatness.  Salvation rather results from believing Truth, that is, from believing the Gospel of a Christ we cannot see, who died a death for our sins that we did not witness, and then rose again in a resurrection accomplished long before we were born.    "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth… I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (Romans 1:16; I Corinthians 15:1; 3-4).

    When God chooses to perform an open and mighty act of His power, we rejoice and seek to benefit from the display of His glorious ability.  We do not, however, base our faith on such unpredictable manifestations.  We rather look to the perfectly predictable means of daily exposing ourselves to the Word of God, whereby "faith cometh."  While perhaps not outwardly spectacular, thrilling, or exciting, the growing relationship with our Lord that results from such devotion solidifies and enhances existing faith, while also initiating new aspects of confidence in God.  Most importantly, such communication between Heart and heart constitutes our bond with the Lord in terms of personal relationship and fellowship rather than our being merely spectators at Divine events.

    No human eye witnessed the actual resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  However, no human heart can be saved apart from believing the witness of the Word of God that "now is Christ risen from the dead" (I Corinthians 15:20).  Thus, the greatest of all miracles calls us to believe Truth about the great event apart from witnessing the wonder it must have been.  This is the way of God in those with whom He desires living communion that may sometimes benefit from displays of power, but which most often thrives in discourse between persons, namely, the proclamation of Truth as declared by the Word and Spirit of God unto trusting believers seeking His heart.

"We walk by faith, not by sight."
(II Corinthians 5:7)
"Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy Word is truth."
(John 17:17)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Who can understand his errors?  Cleanse thou me from secret faults.
(Psalm 19:12)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

"Trust His Heart"

    "As for God, His way is perfect" (II Samuel 22:31).

    Our Lord's standard of life and being beckons us to wonder and enraptured fascination.  We have no frame of reference for perfection in reference to His way.  Even more, however, we cannot fathom the pristine purity of character and nature that leads God to always act in the best possible manner.

    "Thou art good, and doest good" (Psalm 119:68).

    While perfect, God's ways often bewilder us because, again, we have no frame of reference for perfection.  Those of His actions which are exactly as they should and must be may seem strange and even misguided to our faulty understanding, senses, and expectations.  This behooves us to increasingly know His character and nature - "Thou art good" - in order to also know the perfection of His every action - "Thou doest good."  Or, as the saying goes, "When we cannot understand the Lord's hand, we must trust His heart."

   On a number of occasions in the Psalms, David cried out in confusion because God's actions - or inactions - troubled him.  "O my God, I cry in the daytime, but Thou hearest not, and in the night season, and am not silent.  But Thou art holy, O Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel" (Psalm 22:2-3).  Clearly, David perceived that the Lord had turned a deaf ear to his pleas.  He could only reason that God remained still because He disregarded His child's cries for help.  This was not true, but it seemed true to the king of Israel.  David, however, fell back upon his remembrance and conviction of God's character - "But Thou art holy."  David seems to catch himself as he bemoans God's way, affirming the truth of God's "Who".  He determined to trust his Lord's heart when he could not understand His hand.

    We face many such challenges and opportunities.  The Divine way and the human perception thereof often conflict.  We thus do well to join David in remembrance of the perfection of the former, and the imperfection of the latter.  God can only act in perfection because He eternally exists in perfection.  His heart guides His hand, and the more we know the Biblical declaration of our Lord's pristinely pure character and nature, the more we will fall back in times of confusion to confess with our brother of old, "But Thou art holy!"

"He hath done all things well."
(Mark 7:37)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Who can understand his errors?  Cleanse thou me from secret faults.
(Psalm 19:12)

Monday, March 23, 2015

"Sunrise, Sunset"

    The Scriptures declare that "the invisible things of  Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood that the things which are made" (Romans 1:20).  How "clearly" is the message actually communicated?

   "The mighty God, even the Lord, hath spoken, hath called the earth from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof" (Psalm 50:1).

    At the beginning of every day, the physical light of the world rises.  Just before nightfall, that same light sets.  Thus, day by day, the sky beautifully depicts the death and resurrection of the Light of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ, and His saving grace. Moreover, in the language considered by most scholars as the most influential in the world, English, the words "sun" and "Son" even sound exactly the same.  The message couldn't be clearer, leaving all "without excuse" (Romans 1:20).  

    Frances and I thought of this several days ago while witnessing a beautiful sunset.  Accompanied by gloriously hued clouds, the descending star thrilled us with an artistic display in the sky no other gallery could equal.  Far more, however, the thought of what the setting sun typified reminded us of the beauty of the heart of God.  "God commendeth His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).  Every day of our lives, the glory of this love displays its wonder as our Lord seeks to draw our hearts into His own by communicating the extent to which He went for our redemption.

    Over the years, Frances and I have also witnessed many beautiful sunrises while kayaking.  We can honestly confess that not one of those glorious displays have failed to remind us that the Lord Jesus is risen from the dead.  The rising sun proclaims the risen Son!  Again, the message could not be clearer as day by day the Voice of God sounds and resounds the Gospel in creation, confirming and beautifully illustrating the Gospel in Scripture.

    The first light of every days sings to our hearts of a living Savior who fills us with His vibrancy and vitality when we believe.  The last light of every day proclaims the sorrow, agony, forsakenness, and death of His sacrifice for us.  The Psalmist concludes our consideration with his recommendation that we look to the light of heaven for it revelation of the greater Light of Heaven…

"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shouted His handiwork.  Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge.  There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.  Their line is gone throughout all the earth."
(Psalm 19:1-4).

Weekly Memory Verse
    Who can understand his errors?  Cleanse thou me from secret faults.
(Psalm 19:12)

Friday, March 20, 2015


   In the moment of our passing from this world by the cessation of our earthly and physical lives, born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ will find ourselves more "with" someone than ever we have experienced.

  "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me" (Psalm 23:4).

   Our present lives veil the reality of our Lord's abiding presence in our hearts.  "Now we see through a glass darkly" (I Corinthians 13:12).  In that moment, however, when our spirits ascend into the Heavenlies, "Thou art with me" will infuse our journey with a brighter Light, a clearer Voice, and a more a more intimate With than possible during our earthly sojourn.  In spiritual proximity, God may be no more near to us then than He is now - "I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20).  However, we will better know the glory of His presence in that hour when His "Thou art with me" will cause our passage through death to be no more than the briefest journey through the valley of a shadow

Homeward, My child, 
it is time to go.
I am with you just as promised,
you'll journey not alone.

I have been this way we travel,
oh see the steps I've traced.
Those sparkles all along the way
are glimmers of My grace.

Homeward, My child, homeward.

Angels travel with us, 
they marvel at the scene
of yet another spirit
My mercy has redeemed.

And Someone waits to greet you,
a Father all sublime,
oh I have no words to tell you 
of the wonder you'll soon find

Homeward, My child, homeward.

So homeward, child, we venture,
united in My love.
I have waited for this moment
when Yonder up above

You'll see things unimagined,
you'll look upon Your God,
we'll forever be together
because this path we've trod.

Homeward, My child, homeward.

"For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first.  Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
(I Thessalonians 4:16-17)

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)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

"Their Father's Comfort"

   "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforteth us in all our tribulation" (II Corinthians 1:3-4).

   A friend recently shared with me the story of a great tragedy.  A fireman in southern Mississippi, responding to a call about an automobile accident, discovered that his two teenaged children were the victims of the calamity.  Both had been killed.

    It's hard to write those words.  I'm sure it is hard for you to read those words.  We can barely begin to imagine the grief of the father when he encountered the reality of his loss, or of the mother and the rest of the family.  Perhaps we cannot begin to imagine.  Some things can only be known when experienced.  This we do know.  "The Father of mercies and the God of all comfort" knows what it is like to lose a child, and He can comfort in any and all tribulation.  No heartache or heartbreak exceeds His capacity to apply balm to the souls of those who trust and submit to Him through the Lord Jesus Christ.  The family involved in the tragedy I mention, the Wards, are apparently believers, and I know you join me in asking our Lord to lead and enable our brothers and sisters to keep their hearts near to His throne of grace in the difficult days to come.  I know also you will keep your own heart near to the Throne in intercession for them.

    The God who made our hearts can repair them even in those dark hours when they seemingly shatter into millions of pieces.  By His Spirit, His Word, and His church He draws more near to us in our hurts than at any other time.  "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).  Possessed of a heart that is "full of compassion," He rushes to the scene of our calamities, or more accurately, awaits us in them before ever we arrive (Psalm 86:15).  The history of the church sounds and resounds with such grace as the tears of the saints draw their Father's heart and His comforting embrace.  Indeed, our sorrows are His sorrows, and His comfort is our comfort.

    Long ago, a lonely Voice cried out into the darkness of despair, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46).  No answer came, so that in the hour of our broken hearts, an answer will always come.  "Fear thou not, for I am with thee.  Be not dismayed, for I am thy God.  I will strengthen thee, yea, I will help thee, and uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness" (Isaiah 41:10).  Again, I know you join me at the Throne of grace for the Ward family, who will discover and experience their Father's comfort in this day, and in all to come.

"Yea, thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.  Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me."
(Psalm 23:4)

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)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

“His Humility, Our Humility"

    The willingness to be corrected speaks much of the character of Christ, as formed in us by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

    "Correct thy son and he shall give thee rest, yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul" (Proverbs 29:17).

   This may seem strange since the Lord Jesus, while often tempted, never sinned (Hebrews 4:15).  How then would He know about correction?  The narrative of His life, as recorded in the Gospels, provides the answer.  Recall the episode of the temple, when at twelve years old He remained behind to astound the teachers of the law by His knowledge and wisdom.  When Joseph and Mary found Him in their midst, He clearly believed the time had come for His ministry to begin.  "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?" (Luke 2:49).  Certainly it was His Father's business that our Lord should declare and explain the Truth as no one ever had.  But not yet, that is to say, His ministry of preaching was not scheduled to begin for nearly two decades.  Thus, the boy realized His Father's will, as revealed through Joseph and Mary.  He had not sinned by remaining behind at the temple, but He did recognize and respond to the "correction" in His understanding of the Divine timetable - "He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them" (Luke 2:51).

    A similar episode occurred at the time when the ministry of the Lord Jesus was in fact scheduled to begin.  At the marriage feast in Cana of Galilee, a shortage of wine led Mary to seek His help, with obvious expectation of the miraculous (John 2:3).  "Mine hour is not yet come" responded the Lord Jesus, not yet realizing that the time of miracles and teaching was actually at hand.  At some point in the matter, the Lord realized that His hour had in fact come.  He stood corrected, as it were, not from sin, but rather to the redirection administered from His Father through Mary.  This speaks to His character of humility before God and humanity, and to the same disposition that will be formed in those who become the dwelling place of the Spirit of Christ through faith.

    "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up" (James 4:10).

   The more Christ is formed in us, the more we will recognize the ongoing need for correction.  In our case, more than simple redirection may be involved as we may also need reproof regarding sin.  Thus we must maintain always an attitude of humility whereby we realize the possibility that our chosen paths are not the God's chosen paths for us.  Realizing this to be a character trait of the Lord Jesus, we look to Him for guidance and enabling to redirect our steps as our Father clarifies our vision regarding His purposes and will.

"Come unto Me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls."
(Matthew 11:28-29)

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)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

“The Giver and the Gifts"

    God's desire that we enjoy the things of life speaks of His great love for the human race He created in His own image.

   "God… giveth us richly all things to enjoy" (I Timothy 6:17).

    Our Heavenly Father could have made the world without enjoyable things, and He could have made us without capacity for pleasure.  This He did not do, however, choosing rather to create both beauty and our sensory capacity to appreciate it.  Any concept or understanding of God that does not include this wondrous grace of both gift and capacity fails to accurately grasp the Biblical definition and description of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    The entrance of sin into the human race certainly distorted our ability to rightly appreciate and respond to our Lord's lovingkindness.  Our fleshly tendencies prompt us to desire that which does not bring true and lasting pleasure, but rather a momentary titilation that leads to death.  Our original forefathers partook of the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil, seeking the false pleasure of attempting to "be as gods" (Genesis 3:5).  This led Adam and Eve to hide from the Giver of "every good gift and every perfect gift" (Genesis 3: 10; James 1:17).  Deadly desiring ensued as the human race seeks enjoyment apart from recognition of our Benefactor, and from the true pleasures of life as given from His heart to our own.

    "Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, rejoice" (Philippians 4:4).  The Apostle Paul's doubled encouragement to rejoice speaks of our proper relationship to God and His gifts.  First, we rejoice in Him, and then we enjoy the expressions of His generosity.  Indeed, our greatest pleasure involves the living presence of Christ, as revealed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.  This we must decisively affirm, even as David declared, "Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy" (Psalm 43:4).  Upon this basis alone can we then properly receive the gifts He gives of "life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:25).  God desires our pleasure, so much so that in Christ He gives Himself to us as the essence of joy, and then, as the hymn writer so beautifully sings, "Out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth and giveth and giveth again."

"Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."
(Matthew 6:33)

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)

Monday, March 16, 2015

"Changed Relationships"

     The Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ involves changed relationships, beginning with the very being of God Himself.  When the Lord Jesus Christ became human, as conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary, the Trinity of Divinity took on a new facet of being and nature.  "Great is the mystery of godliness.  God was manifest in the flesh" (I Timothy 3:16).  The purely Spiritual became something more as the Father who had forever loved His Son in Heavenly reality now loved and loves Him as both God and man.  "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 17:5).

   Relational change proceeds to the created human race as the death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus makes possible our redemption from carnality to spirituality - "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit… Ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you" (John 3:6; Romans 8:9).  While retaining our earthly substance, the grace of God as received through faith in Christ births us into spiritual being and relationship with God.  No longer are we merely our earthy, human selves, but rather forevermore live as ourselves inhabited and enlivened by the indwelling Holy Spirit.  "And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins… and hath raised us up together and made us sit together in Heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:1; 6).  Relationship with God thus becomes the great reality of our life and existence - "I will dwell in them and walk in them" (II Corinthians 6:16).

   Finally, changed relationships between people result when the Gospel is believed and embraced.  "A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another.  As I have loved you, that ye love one another" (John 13:34).  Before Christ, no human being could love as God loves because the indwelling Holy Spirit was not yet given (Old Testament saints such as Joseph, David, and others had limited experience of such reality, but did not possess the full measure of the grace of the Lord's love).  Through Christ, born again believers can love "as I have loved you."  The history of church bears witness to this glory of "the love of God… shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5).  Moreover, our own personal histories reveal that relationship with God fosters relationships with people that could not and would not exist apart from our union with the Spirit of Christ.  Referencing Jews and Gentiles, perhaps the greatest human alienation of all, the Apostle Paul exults, "He is our peace, who hath made both one and broken down the middle wall of partition between us, having abolished in His flesh the enmity" (Ephesians 2:14-15).

    The Gospel of the Lord Jesus changes people, and changes relationships between people.  We do well to keep this in heart and mind, particularly when difficulties exist with others in our own sphere of influence.  As we trust our Heavenly Father, miracles of His love often repair breaches and restore bridges between alienated hearts.  Such grace began between ourselves and God when we believed.  We do well to seek and expect that the grace will continue between ourselves and people as the love of Christ changes us, and changes our relationships with God and humanity.

"Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us."
(Ephesians 5:2)

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)