Friday, May 29, 2015

"What He Is Being"

"What He Is Being"

   Facing a heartbreaking challenge involving the health of a loved one many years ago, a friend confessed he did not know what God was doing in the painful situation.  He added, however, an affirmation of Divine faithfulness that remains to this day a bright and shining ray of illumination regarding God's faithfulness.  "I don't know what the Lord is doing," said my friend.  "But I do know what He is being."

    "And God said unto Moses, I am that I am.  And He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you" (Exodus 3:14).

   God frequently chooses not to explain to us the manner of His hand.  In such cases, we wouldn't understand even if He did.  He always, however, offers to us the motive of His heart.  We require only an open Bible to discover the content and intent thereof.  "Faithful is He that calleth you" (I Thessalonians 5:24).  We can always be sure of our Lord's good intentions.  Moreover, we can always have perfect confidence in His application of those intentions, even when they bewilder us - "As for God, His way is perfect" (II Samuel 22:31).  Our faith lies in both God's "I AM" and in His "I do."  The former, however, must constitute the heart of our faith as we remember and affirm the heart of our Lord in times when His hand seems stilled or even misguided.  "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him" (Job 13:15).

    "I do know what He is being."  God's purposes will lead us all to times when we must grab hold of the horns of this altar, as it were.  His actions always accord with His nature and character.  Thus, when we cannot understand His hand, we trust His heart.  We shall not be disappointed as we gaze upon this Light that shines in the darkness.  "He that believeth on Him shall not be confounded" (I Peter 2:6).  Indeed, no one has ever been disappointed who trusted the heart of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And no one ever will.

There is a Light that shines in the darkness.
There is a wind that blows in the stillness.
There is a fount of grace in the desert place,
a stream of hope for those who know,
there is a Light that shines in the darkness.

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

Weekly Memory Verse
    Truly my soul waiteth upon God.  From Him cometh my salvation.
(Psalm 62:1)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

"Art In His Heart

The Special of the Day… From the Orange Moon Cafe…

(Friends, we will be away from cable and wifi connections much of this week.  I am taking the occasion to send a repeat message from each of the last five years.  I'll be back to writing fresh material on Monday, June 1.  Thanks, Glen)

Art In His Heart


    A friend recently sent the link for a video entitled "Starling Murmuration" (link included below).  It reveals the wondrous ritual of literally hundreds of thousands of starlings, who at certain times of the year unite in a perfectly coordinated and choreographed dance that defies the imagination and thrills the soul.  My initial impression was of a vibrantly living, constantly changing, and beautifully fluctuating art gallery.  I've included the link below, and I assure you that wonder awaits upon watching the starlings (sadly, the video does not well capture the sound made by the birds' movement, from which the term "Murmuration" arises).

    "Art" implies an artist.  God is nothing if He is not that.  There is art in His heart, as it were.  "Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary" (Psalm 96:6).  Creation comprises a canvas upon which the Creator displays not simply His ability - "strength" - but also His imagination - "beauty" - in myriad glories of sight, sound, texture, fragrance, and even flavor ("O taste and see that the Lord is good!" - Psalm 34:8).  

      For discussion's sake, imagine that the Lord could have made a universe without color, or the rods and cones in our eyes to behold it.  He could have omitted sound, and the hearing faculties that absorb, assimilate, and process auditory waves.  He could have formed surfaces without texture, or our bodies without the nervous system that processes our capacity for touch and feel.  He could have excluded fragrance and flavor from creation, along with our olfactory and gustatory systems that make possible our enjoyment of fragrance and food.  Indeed, we must imagine these possibilities because it is not possible that the living God could have acted in such a manner.  He is holy, and must do all things in accordance with His character, nature, and way, which includes the blessed truth of art in His heart.  Thus, when the Lord created, and as He sustains His creation, He acts in beauty as well as in power.  The Great Artist continually draws wonders from the palette of His heart to splash upon the creation canvas, wonders such as seemingly innumerable starlings in such a choreography of flight that no sane human mind can fail to see and worship the Choreographer.

    We exist in that vibrantly living, constantly changing, and beautifully fluctuating art gallery.  Perceiving the universe, and more importantly, it's Maker, in such terms opens our hearts to joys that can be known anywhere and everywhere.  Our senses exist for such appreciation.  Our spirits exist for the obvious response of worship.  Our tongues exist for grateful exclamations of praise and thanksgiving (although words often fail in the splendors of God's revealed glory).  And all, because God exists with art in His heart, and with the desire to display it to those who recognize the sublime gallery in which we live.  May we be among that blessed company, and in this day appreciate, worship, and proclaim the glory of the Artist, and the beauty of His art.

"One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple."
(Psalm 27:4)
"Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us."
(Psalm 90:17)
Weekly Memory Verse
    Truly my soul waiteth upon God.  From Him cometh my salvation.
(Psalm 62:1)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

“Dying Breaths, Saving Confessions"

The Special of the Day… From the Orange Moon Cafe…

(Friends, we will be away from cable and wifi connections much of this week.  I am taking the occasion to send a repeat message from each of the last five years.  I'll be back to writing fresh material on Monday, June 1.  Thanks, Glen)

"Dying Breaths, Saving Confessions"


    In the last moments of a heretofore-wasted life, grace entered and redeemed the heart of a man whose story became one of the great evangels of the Christian faith.

     "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom" (Luke 23:42 ). 

     Universally referred to as "the thief on the cross," the man may more accurately be termed "the saint of Heaven" and "preacher of the Gospel."  Indeed, how many souls have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ, many in the late hours of life, because the Bible records the story of a thief crying out to the God so desirous to redeem that dying breaths can become saving confessions of the Savior? 

     One might think that the thief become saint expressed a great audacity in seeking grace while hanging on a justly deserved cross.  This would be true were it not for the fact that it was not the man who sought grace, but grace that sought the man.  This is always the Divine order of salvation, that Christ is revealed for who He is by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.  No one in history ever had a clearer view of the true nature of the Lord Jesus than the men who hung beside Him on Mount Calvary's crosses, and thankfully, one responded to the mercy he witnessed flowing from the wounds of the Lamb of God.

    We may boldly proclaim our message of hope to those who have little time left in a lifetime wherein God was ignored or denied.  I suspect that a significant portion of the redeemed population of Heaven will fit this company of souls snatched from the fire in the very nick of time.  Why else would the story of the thief become saint have found its way into the pages of Scripture?   Thus, we go forth to dying scenes of the most reprobate, declaring that the Spirit of the Lord Jesus searches far into the night to, as preachers of old used to say, "save the soul that is nearest hell."  Yes, our Lord is that loving, that merciful, that desirous to save, and that completely possessed of a grace that transforms lifelong thieves into late hour saints who will doubtless love Him forevermore with a unique and sacred devotion.

"Wherefore He is able to save them to the uttermost, who come unto God by Him, seeing that He ever liveth to make intercession for them."
(Hebrews 7:25)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Truly my soul waiteth upon God.  From Him cometh my salvation.
(Psalm 62:1)

Monday, May 25, 2015

"The Best Robe"

The Special of the Day… From the Orange Moon Cafe…

"The Best Robe"


    "Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him" (Luke 15:22).

    Who is the recipient of the "best robe?" Is it the Lord Jesus Christ upon His triumphant return to Heaven after He victoriously trampled sin, hell, and the grave under His nail-scarred feet? Could it be David upon his coronation as the king of Israel?  Or might it refer to an overcoming saint who enters Glory after living an earthly lifetime of faith, obedience, and sacrifice for God and others?

    While the Lord Jesus, David and the godly believer offer likely candidates for such Biblical affirmation, they are not the subjects of this blessing. "The best robe" is rather reserved for one we would rightly deem unworthy of such exalted garb.

   "And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found" (Luke 15:15-24).

   We have all sinned against our Father, wasting His inheritance to the degree that the odor of swine is our most appropriate garment. If we have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, however, tour Father bestowed the best robe upon us.  It is the robe of our Savior's righteousness, a grace so effectual in its redemptive power that God remembers no more our rejection of Him or the degradation that led to our spiritual starvation. He looks upon us and sees the robe, the best robe. Forever thereafter He relates to us as the loving Father of sons and daughters who were dead, and are alive again, who were lost, and are found.

   Upon our arrival in Heaven, we will know the extent of our Lord's redemption in infinitely greater measure. The realization will take our breath away, and it will seem that we cannot bow low enough to adequately worship the Author and Finisher of our salvation. In this we will be correct, but we will also hear our Father's command that we stand so that the universe can view the Blood-washed garment of righteousness that we wear.  For as we do, the glory of the Lord Jesus will shine forth from us in a splendor heretofore unknown, and the display of grace will begin that will require an eternity to fulfill...
"But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."
(Ephesians 2:4-7)
"And lest the shadow of a spot should on my soul be found, He took the robe the Savior wrought and cast it all around!" (Isaac Watts).

Weekly Memory Verse
    Truly my soul waiteth upon God.  From Him cometh my salvation.
(Psalm 62:1)

Friday, May 22, 2015

"Thorns, Plucked and Unplucked"

    Several friends recently mentioned specific answers to prayer about important matters in their lives.  These fellow believers asked, they received, and give God much glory and gratitude for His quickly and directly revealed faithfulness.

    "Ask and it shall be given you.  Seek and ye shall find.  Knock and it shall be opened unto you" (Matthew 7:7).

   What if, however, my friends' requests had seemingly gone unanswered?  First, we must acknowledge that our requests sometimes fail to coincide with the will of God.  "Ye ask and receive not because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your own lusts" (James 4:3).  No believer is beyond the possibility of asking God to do things or make provisions that are not in line with His desires.  When considering this clear Biblical teaching, we recognize our presently imperfect understanding of our own needs, and more importantly, our Lord's perfect way in our lives.  Humility demands that we acknowledge our native tendency to "ask amiss", as guided by our own fleshly desires rather than the will of God.  This can happen even when we sincerely seek His will because it is not always easy to know our Lord's desires, as opposed to those of our flesh.

    No less than the Apostle Paul experienced this challenge of prayer, grace, and faith.  Our brother of old, doubtless in all sincerity, asked God to do something that God was not willing to do. 

    "Lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (II Corinthians 12:7-9).

    We feel no criticism of Paul when reading this honest confession.  The Apostle, in good faith, sought deliverance from the thorn - thrice.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Still, the Lord did not answer in the affirmative.  He rather provided a far greater answer for Paul, namely, deliverance with the thorn.  God gave sufficient grace rather than supplied relief.  Prayers unanswered led to an even greater bestowal of Divine supply that escorted the Apostle more deeply into the heart of God than a plucked thorn could have ever accomplished.

    Returning to the matter of my friends' rejoicing in answered prayer, we say Amen, and rejoice with them.  However, had God not answered their initial requests, we could well voice and affirm the same.  He might well have had greater intentions and provisions.  Sometimes our Heavenly Father grants.  Sometimes He graces.  Either way, He acts in accordance with His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus, as well our benefit and the blessing of those with whom we live our lives.  In such Divine perfection, we rest our hearts, rejoicing in thorns plucked and unplucked.
"My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."
(Isaiah 55:8-9)

Weekly Memory Verse
    The name of the Lord is a strong tower.  The righteous runneth into it and is safe.
(Proverbs 18:10)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

"Empty Hands"

    A local jewelry store promotes itself as "Your Get Out of Trouble Place."  They carry a line of inexpensive rings, necklaces, and bracelets for men who seek to appease offended wives or girlfriends.  "Guys, if you've messed up with your gal, we'll get you through the rough patch.  And it won't cost you an arm or leg!" (if honest, of course, they would rightly add, "No, not an arm or leg.  Just your honor, decency, and the sincerity in your relationship!).

    This reminds me of how tempted we are to bargain with God, as it were, in times of sin.  Unbelievers attempt countless means of religiosity to cover their failures, not surprisingly.  However, born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ may also succumb to the enticements of the world, the devil, and the flesh regarding our dealings with unbelief and disobedience.  Our Heavenly Father provides but one way of restoration to fellowship and faithfulness.

   "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: and He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (I John 1:1-2).

    The word "propitiation" can be translated "mercy seat," hearkening to the covering for the ark of testimony in the tabernacle and the temple in the Old Testament.  Once a year, the Jewish High Priest sprinkled the blood of animal sacrifices upon the mercy seat, foreshadowing the Lord Jesus Christ who shed His own blood to make atonement for our sins.  Unlike Israel's High Priest, who never sat down while administering the annual ritual, the writer of Hebrews declares of the Lord Jesus, "But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God" (Hebrews 10:12).  Our Lord rested because "by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14).  God the Father accounts His Son's death on the cross of Calvary as perfectly effectual in making forgiveness available and actual to all who trust in Christ and Christ alone.  "He is able to save them to the uttermost who come to God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25).  Thus, our Father's grace in Christ means we need never bargain with Him, nor seek to appease Him, nor offer any form of religious restitution to Him for our sins.  

   Consider the error constituted by any attempt to appease the God whose wrath against sin burned so fiercely against His Son on the cross.  Can we imagine He would have gone to such lengths, but then accept any other sacrifice for sin?   Our Heavenly Father offers forgiveness and cleansing freely, but exclusively.  We may "come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy" so long as we come to that mercy seat trusting in the person and work of the One who sits thereupon, having sprinkled the Heavenly place of rest with His own blood (Hebrews 4:16).  As the hymn writer confessed, "Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling!"   This understanding alone creates within our hearts repentance and godly sorrow for our sins.  A contrite heart results only from the empty hands that receive God's pardon in the realization of how completely His Son paid our debt by His sufferings.  "Now once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Hebrews 9:26).

    That jewelry store does a disservice to women whose men seek to restore damaged relationships by bargaining, bribery, and bestowal of trinkets.  A greater disservice by far occurs when any human heart seeks to buy its way to God.  We come freely through the person and work of the Lord Jesus, or we come not at all.  Even now, may the melody be heard in our hearts, and the lyrics be upon our lips, "Nothing in my hand I bring"

"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 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, and our bodies washed with pure water."
(Hebrews 10:19-22)
"If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleaneth us from all sin.  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:7-9).

Weekly Memory Verse
    The name of the Lord is a strong tower.  The righteous runneth into it and is safe.
(Proverbs 18:10)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

“Opening the Book"

    I continue to learn that we must avoid assessing people's response to Christ and the Gospel by the look on their faces or the appearance of their demeanor.

    "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24).

    Several weeks ago, I met a new resident in the hall of a retirement community as we arrived for a service.  I introduced myself and invited her to our meeting, explaining to her what we would be doing.  "I think I'll pass" she responded.  Immediately I wondered if perhaps Jane (not her actual name) might not be a believer in the Lord Jesus.  I caught myself, however, or more literally, the Lord caught me.  I realized the trap that loomed before me that would cause me to think of Jane in terms that might be completely foreign to the truth.  There could be a lot of reasons she didn't want to attend our service.   I therefore determined to pray for her in the realization that I knew nothing about her other than her name.  "You know Jane, Lord, and I ask You to work in her heart based upon Your perfect knowledge thereof.  Moreover, if You would have us minister to her in any way, grant to us the opportunity."

   Jane has been with us in our last two services.  I have not had opportunity to speak to her personally for more than a moment, but she knows the old hymns we sing and frequently nods her head and even utters a quiet "Amen!" as I'm preaching.  This does not confirm a genuine relationship with God through Christ, of course, but it's still a far cry from her initial "I think I'll pass."  Moreover, the lesson - "judge not according to the appearance" - sank a little deeper into my heart and mind.

    In his day, few would have thought that any hope existed for Saul of Tarsus to become a believer in Christ.  All evidence indicated that he would live a lifetime persecuting those of such persuasion.  The road to Damascus changed all that, of course, or rather, the Savior who waited for Saul on that road transformed the seemingly hopeless reprobate into the Paul who would later confess, "To live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21).  Again, no previous appearance could have predicted such spiritual cataclysm in Paul and his subsequent communication to countless hearts through the ages who know and grow in Christ through the Apostle's teaching and testimony.  

    As the saying goes, you cannot judge a book by its cover.  Even more, we cannot always discern the heart by the look on the face, or initial reactions.  Remembering such truth keeps our own hearts in the proper attitude of availability to the Lord and to people such as Jane.  Why did she "pass" on that first meeting?  A thousand reasons may provide the answer.  Whatever the reason, I'm glad I remembered to wait until the book opened, as it were, before making an assessment about the story on its pages.  "Judge not according to the appearance…"

"The Lord seeth not as man seeth, for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."
(I Samuel 16:7)
"We walk by faith, not by sight."
(II Corinthians 7:5)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

"Weakness and Strength"

    "And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since Thou hast spoken unto Thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind?   Have not I the LORD?  Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.  And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray Thee, by the hand of him whom Thou wilt send.  And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and He said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother?  I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart. And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do" (Exodus 4:10-15).

    Moses forfeited the opportunity to fully experience God's enabling of the ability to speak.  The challenge seemed too great, his weakness too pronounced, and the possibilities of failure too ominous for the faith that would have seen the Lord act on His servant's behalf.  Aaron thus frequently served as the surrogate for God's communication to Israel, particularly when confronting Pharaoh, the king of Egypt (Exodus 7;1-2).

    God's callings transcend human abilities.  His standards are too high, His missions too challenging, and His purposes too eternally consequential for our capacities.  Moses was correct in the estimation of his slow speech and slow tongue.  He was wrong, however, in his failure to realize that every step of the journey to which God called him required abilities and capacities far beyond his own.  "I can't" may be true - if our Lord is not present, involved, and active on our behalf.  "Without Me, ye can do nothing" (John 15:5).  If, however, God does in fact dwell within us to motivate, lead, and enabling us, "I can't" dissolves in the light and energy of "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13).  Of course, Moses was not privy to most of the dynamic realities of God and Truth revealed to us in the living Word, the Lord Jesus, and the written Word, the Bible.  But we are, even as the Apostle John wrote, "The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (John 1:17).

    Fixating on our human abilities and talents leads to pride and/or despair.  Indeed, had God called Moses to go and fight Pharaoh, Moses might have jumped at the opportunity.  He had killed one of Pharaoh's servants long ago, and as a shepherd, he possessed much confidence in his capacity for physical aggression (Exodus 2:11-12; 17; 3:1).  But to speak?  Confidence evaporated at the thought, again, because the man of God did not realize or believe that the power of God would provide more than enough strength of the task.  "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might" wrote the Apostle Paul to the believers of his day (Ephesians 6:10).  The truth flows down through the ages to our day, wherein the Holy Spirit beckons us to launch forth in the realization of weakness - ours - and strength - His.  "My strength is made perfect in weakness" (II Corinthians 12:9).  Indeed, we glance at the fact of our "cannot," but we gaze upon our Lord's "can."   This is the Christian life, namely, the life of Christ revealed in us for the purpose of stilling proud fighting hands, but activating timid slow tongues.  I cannot!  I can!  Through Christ!

"For though He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you."
(II Corinthians 13:4)

Weekly Memory Verse
    The name of the Lord is a strong tower.  The righteous runneth into it and is safe.
(Proverbs 18:10)

Monday, May 18, 2015

"His Heart, His Hand"

(Sorry this is so late today.  I'm a bit under the weather.  This is a repeat from last year.)

    God's character guides His capacities, or we might also say, His heart governs His hand.

    "The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works" (Psalm 145:17).

    The Psalmist proclaims the truth that our Lord's ways and works flow from His righteousness and holiness.  His being determines His doing.  The Apostle Paul amplifies this truth in the thirteenth chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians:

    "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing" (I Corinthians 13:1-3).

    Eloquence, foreknowledge, intelligence, knowledge, faith, power, and even acts of extreme self sacrifice mean nothing if not guided, motivated, and enabled by the character of charitable love.  This is true in us, and were it possible for God to be anything other than who He is, it would be true in Him also.  Thankfully, "God is love" (I John 4:8).  His actions always proceed from the unselfish nature and disposition of His winsome being).  In God, therefore, character (who He is) precedes and supersedes capacity (what He can do).

    Few truths should more lead us to grateful praise and thanksgiving.  Indeed, if God's primary attributes involved His ability rather than His character, we could never be certain of His motivations, purposes, and actions.  He would rather be like Satan, a being of great power (as given and allowed by God), whose character of self-centeredness results in horrific ways and actions.  This is not the case, of course, and we may rest our hearts in the eternally unchanging reality that God will always be who He is, and thus will always act in the pristine perfection that expresses His perfect heart and mind.  "I am the Lord.  I change not" (Malachi 3:6).

   As David repeatedly commands in Psalm 107, we "we praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men."  Note the order: first, His goodness, and then, His wonderful works.  The sequence must never be reversed, whether in our understanding or in our communication of the Biblical truth of being, and then doing.  God's heart governs His hand.  His character guides His capacities.  Who He is determines what He does.  Yes, we do well to rejoice in this glory of Divine holiness, and to kneel even in this moment to offer grateful adoration, praise, and thanksgiving for the doings of our Lord that forever originate in His glorious Being.

"And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is His name?  What shall I say unto them?  And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you."
(Exodus 3:13-14) 

“Great Expectations”

"Great Expectations"

(I think somebody's already used that title, actually…)

    Should the born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ expect to consistently obey or disobey God?  The Bible answers the question in no uncertain terms.

    "His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness" (II Peter 1:3).
    "They which receive abundance of grace and of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:17).

    The answer we personally offer, however, may not ring with the same confidence and assurance as implied in the Apostles' affirmations.  Past experience, the awareness of our human weakness, and even an erroneous concept of humility may lead us to low expectations.   If confronted with the New Testament's ongoing declaration of our enabling through Christ, we may be tempted to respond, 

     "Yes, all that may be true in some manner.  My frequent failure miles, however, tell a different story.  I'm obviously just not dedicated or spiritual enough to expect the consistency and triumph suggested by the Bible.  I know it's not right, but there just doesn't seem to be anything I can do about it!"

    Note several features of the mournful resignation that characterizes such a defeatist confession.  First, self focus and self absorption pave the path of failure.  The Christian life was never meant to be lived by the power of our own dedication and spirituality.  We rather "look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" as the holy means whereby the quality of His life manifests itself in our own - "the just shall live by faith" (Hebrews 12:2; Romans 1:17).  We focus upon our Savior's  frequent faithful miles, as it were.  Indeed, unbelief and sin always originate in our failure to keep the first thing the first thing, and the main thing the main thing (Thanks, Larry!).  And the first and main things regarding godliness are the confession and affirmation of "Christ, the power of God," and Christ the empowerer of ourselves to fulfill the will of God (I Corinthians 1:24).  "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might" (Ephesians 6:10).  Failure to faithfully obey God means we have not availed ourselves of His promised and present enabling through the Lord Jesus.  A heart devoted to His dedication and spirituality leads to Christ-empowered feet enabled to "walk, even as He walked" (I John 2:6).

    Consider also the resignation to failure implied in the aforementioned statement.  Rather than expecting our faithful Heavenly Father to fulfill His promise to work in us "both to will and to do of His good pleasure," the statement implies anticipation of defeat (Philippians 2:13).  Whose defeat?  Certainly we would quickly acknowledge our own.  However, implicit in any lack of expectation to walk in genuine godliness lies either ignorance of God's promised working, or outright unbelief concerning the promise.  The believer who resigns himself to low expectations actually says more about God -falsely - than about himself.  Is the Lord Jesus who the Bible declares Him to be?  Does He do what He promises to do?  If I answer yes to those questions, by logic and definition I embrace high expectations of His faithfulness and my Christ-enabled response.

    Finally, there is something we can do about it!  We can trust and submit ourselves to our Heavenly Father, and then marvel as He confirms the truth of His Word.  I argue not for perfection in this consideration, but for a growing consistency in our walk with the Lord.  Failure is not an option for the trusting sons and daughter of God in Christ.  It is a possibility, but it must be tolerated in our thinking as an option.  The Lord Jesus was tortured to death on the cross of Calvary and smitten by God and man to save us not only from the penalty of sin, but from its power.      Too much was suffered and sacrificed for any believer to dishonor the cross by living as if there had been no resurrection.  There was, and the power thereof, the same power that raised our blessed Lord Jesus from the dead, now inhabits us to foster great expectations and the fulfillment thereof…

"Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places."
(Ephesians 1:15-20)

Weekly Memory Verse
   The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
(Proverbs 1:7)



Saturday, May 16, 2015

“Will Be, Am, Was”

    This is likely the briefest devotional we've ever sent out.  If I write more, I think I would just mess it up :).

    Fear is the Godless view of the future.  Discontent is the Godless view of the present.  Bitterness is the Godless view of the past. 

"I will be with thee.
(Genesis 26:3)
"I am with thee."
(Matthew 28:20)
"I was with thee."
(II Samuel 7:9)

Weekly Memory Verse
   The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
(Proverbs 1:7)

Friday, May 15, 2015

"Great Expectations" Part 2

"Great Expectations"

Part 2

    We've all meet people who live with a great sense of foreboding.  As I heard one gentleman say, "If it's going to happen, it's going to happen to me."  Like bitterness (the aftermath of difficulties as experienced by those who fail to see the loving providence of God in all things), an attitude of apprehension regarding the future does not merely affect the bearer thereof.  The personal poison of fear spreads to others through attitudes, words, and actions that anticipates misery rather than the promised presence and involvement of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    "I, even I, am He that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; and forgettest the LORD thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? And where is the fury of the oppressor?' (Isaiah 51:12-13).
   "They all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done" (Nehemiah 9:6).

    Fear in one fosters fear in others, be they few or many.  More importantly, faith accomplishes the same.  If my expectations include God's working in blessings, difficulties, and the everyday realities of life, I will invariably encourage others to confidence.  Conversely, if I harbor a godless expectation, I pass on the poison.  My demeanor and attitude communicates even if I never express a word of doubt and trepidation.  "No man is an island" wrote the poet John Donne.  More importantly, the Lord Jesus proclaimed the power of our influence - "Ye are the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13).  We live interconnected lives with others, and our expectations, whether according to Truth or not, affect everyone around us. 

   Do we consistently expect God, as it were?   If so, we know that blessing, trouble, and the mundane are all coming.  We know even more that the Lord will be waiting for us in all, and He will accompany us during the journey.  We will experience the normal human reactions to all.  Pleasant things will please.  Difficulties will ruffle the feather.  And the mundane will seem ordinary and without luster.  However, if "My expectation is from Him," a consistent peace and assurance will grace our hearts, and again, the hearts of those around us (Psalm 62:5).  I've long maintained that one of the greatest tools of ministry to others we possess is the Christ-enabled capacity to consistently know the peace of God.  A growth process is required, even as the Apostle Paul confessed, "I have learned in whatsoever state I am in, therewith to be content" (Philippians 4:11; emphasis added).  We must be sure we have signed up for the course, as it were, by determining to believe that God constitutes the great fact of our moments to come.  Such a chosen belief germinating into conviction assures a harvest of peace that will bless the garden of our own hearts and those of others.

"Edify one another."
(I Thessalonians 5:11)

Weekly Memory Verse
   The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
(Proverbs 1:7)