Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"Afar Off? Very Present!

(a repeat from 2012)

       Trouble causes us to feel alone, even as the Psalmist bewailed the sense of orphanage experienced during his difficulties.

     "Why standest Thou afar off, O LORD?   Why hidest Thou Thyself in times of trouble?" (Psalm 10:1).

    The same David, however, unequivocally declared God to be more than near in times of trouble.

     "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).

      Which is it?  Afar off or very present?  The answer is both, that is, trouble causes us to feel as if our Lord is a trillion miles away.  The truth, however, is that God draws closer to His trusting children when we hurt than at any other time.  The Apostle Paul wrote that the Lord "comforteth us in all our tribulation," meaning that from the beginning of trouble, our Heavenly Father is on the scene with help and balm (II Corinthians 1:4).  Indeed, an unfathomable magnetism of grace and mercy draws the heart of God near to the need of man. 

     Again, however, we initially do not feel it.  Emotions, thoughts, and even physical sensations whisper or scream at us that God has hidden Himself, and rather than being "very present," He seems very far away.  This challenge calls us to trust His Word in times when such faith seems especially difficult.  We must "endure, as seeing Him who is invisible" (Hebrews 11:27).  We open the eyes of our heart to behold that "the Light shineth in darkness" (John 1:5).  We make a choice, against all the world, the devil and the flesh throw against us, to believe the Lord's promise of His keeping, comforting and providing presence.  "What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee" (Psalm 56:3).

    In a lifetime wherein trouble comes "as the sparks fly upward," we must expect much opportunity to offer prayers of faith flying upward to the throne of God (Job 5:7).  "Trouble's sure!" wrote the poet Housman.  More sure is that the "faith… once delivered unto the saints" works in the saints by the Holy Spirit's quiet moving to draw us unto confidence in God's abiding and involved presence (Jude 1:3).  Contrary feelings pave the path for believers to walk in conscious faith.  The challenge is great, but our hearts are never more vibrantly alive than in those times when we must arise to decisively affirm, "I will trust in Thee!"  Or, as the prophet and the apostle unite to proclaim…

"The just shall live by faith."
(Habbakuk 2:4; Romans 1:17)

Weekly Memory Verse
    All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.
(John 1:3)

Monday, June 29, 2015

“The Worst Thing, the Best Thing”

     Scripture records the greatest evil that ever occurred.

    "When he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto Him the whole band of soldiers.  And they stripped Him, and put on Him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon His head, and a reed in His right hand: and they bowed the knee before Him, and mocked Him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon Him, and took the reed, and smote Him on the head. And after that they had mocked Him, they took the robe off from Him, and put His own raiment on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him. And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear His cross. And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull, they gave Him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when He had tasted thereof, He would not drink. And they crucified Him" (Matthew 27:26-35).

   Amazingly, however, this same event constitutes the greatest act of righteousness that ever took place. 

     "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed.  It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel… The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Genesis 3:15; Revelation 13:8).

    At the greatest cost to Himself, God made a declaration of grace immediately after the sin of Adam and Eve.  He promised a Savior, whose heel the serpent would bruise even as the serpent received a mortal blow to the head.  This promise was fulfilled during the great crime of the ages.  The suffering, forsakenness, and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, devilish and human crime as it was, also constitutes the most glorious display of God's holy and faithful character.  The Lord's righteousness shined forth even as the darkness of sin enshrouded the soul and body of our Redeemer.  "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself" (II Corinthians 5:19).

    The worst thing became the best thing for those who trust the Lord Jesus.  In the wonder of God's eternal purpose in Christ, the crime of the ages became the very basis of our redemption.  This principle applies in all things in our lives.  Sometimes our Heavenly Father grants to our enemies a long leash, enabling them to wreak evil and painful havoc on us.  Much may seem to be lost, and things may seem dangerous and out of control.  "Seem" is the operative word in the latter sentence.  Indeed, if the worst thing became the best thing, and if God's loving faithfulness was most vividly displayed in the tortured murder of His Son, all other devilish and fleshly assaults pale in comparison.  "In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us" declared the Apostle Paul regarding our sufferings for Christ (Romans 8:37).  Thus, we can trust with our hearts the Biblical assurance that "all things work together for good to them that love God," even in those circumstances and situations that bewilder our minds (Romans 8:28).

    When life flows in a direction that seems to threaten our well being in any manner, let us remember the cross of Calvary.  The light of God shone more brightly in that dark place than in any other.  There we see the character, nature, purpose, and power of God in the most vivid display.  Yes, the world, the flesh, and the devil cast their wicked worst upon the Lamb of God.  The greater truth, however, involved the redeeming love of God who determined to transform the crime of the ages into the salvation of eternity for those who believe that the worst thing and the best thing are one and the same in our Lord's wondrous counsels of grace…

"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!  For who hath known the mind of the Lord?  And who hath been His counselor?  Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto Him again?  For of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things, to Whom be glory forever. Amen."
(Romans 11:33-36)
"The light shineth in darkness."
(John 1:5)

Weekly Memory Verse
    All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.
(John 1:3)

Friday, June 26, 2015


     Ash does not burn because the combustible components of the item ignited have been removed.  In similar terms, born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ cannot truly be harmed by our spiritual enemies because we have already passed through the fires with our Savior.

   "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Galatians 6:14).

    The world, the devil, and the flesh do much that seems to hurt us, of course.  Certainly, we have the emotional sensibilities and nerve endings that feel the assaults of our foes.  But can they really harm those of whom the Apostle Paul declares, "Ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God"? (Colossians 3:3).  Hardly.  The combustibles in us are gone, in real terms.  We are a burnt over forest.  Nothing happens to us that does not fit into the "all things work together for good" assurance of Romans 8:28.  We live every moment of our lives in the presence of He who promised, "I am with you always… I will never leave thee nor forsake thee" (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5).  Let our enemies perform their absolutely worst assault upon us, and the truth remains, "In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us" (Romans 8:37).  Indeed, in light of our Father's presence, promise, and care, the part of us that remains upon the earth is dead to any real jeopardy.  Moreover, the part of us already "made to sit together in Heavenly places", that spiritual heart of us "hid with Christ in God," well, the devil himself cannot approach the one who dwells with Christ in that holy place (Ephesians 2:6).

   The upshot of such glorious truth involves the destruction of fear in us.  Truth delivers us from terror, even as David affirmed, "What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee" (Psalm 56:3).  How did the king trust God?  By remembering and affirming the facts of his Lord's Word.  He didn't just simply say, "Lord, I trust You."  The Psalm are filled with pointed affirmations of truth hidden in David's heart.  He rested upon specifically appplied promises and assurances, along with the remembrance of how often in the past God confirmed the truth of such confidence.  In similar manner, we must fill our hearts with the Light that overcomes darkness.  Both directly and implicitly, the ongoing message of Scripture to the sons and daughters of God in Christ calls us to "Fear not!" (Luke 12:7).  Every time temptation causes our nerve endings fearfully fire and our emotions quake with feelings of fright, an opportunity presents itself to our hearts.  What does the Bible say about this challenge, regardless of its mode and measure?  What does the Bible say about the God who promises His presence always, but who amplifies the assurance by being "a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1; emphasis added).  What does the Bible say about our already having passed through the fires to the degree we cannot be burned? - "the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."

    The ashes of a burnt over forest.  Regarding the fires ignited by our enemies to do us real harm, the challenge is overcome before it begins.  Herein our hearts rest, our hearts hid with Christ in God

"In God will I praise His Word, in God have I put my trust.  I will not fear what man can do unto me."
(Psalm 56:4)
"I sought the Lord, and He heard me and delivered me from all my fears."
(Psalm 34:4)
"He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose and walking in the midst of the first.  And they have no hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.  Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth and come hither.  Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came forth of the midst of the fire.  And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king's counselors, being gathered together, saw these men upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was a hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them."
(Daniel 3:25-27)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord will not impute sin.
(Romans 4:8)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

"One Sacrifice"

"One Sacrifice"

     As our memory verse for this week suggests, the sins of born again believers will never be imputed to us.  "Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord will not impute sin" (Romans 4:8).  They were rather placed on the account of the Lord Jesus Christ when He suffered and died on the cross of Calvary.  "Christ… bore our sins in His own body on the tree" (I Peter 2:21; 24).  To the degree His sacrifice atoned for our sins, our relationship and acceptance with God forever abides in grace and security.  "But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God… By one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:12; 14).

    Our Lord does not place sin on our account because His Son's sacrifice looms so large in His sight and so satisfactory in its effect.  Nothing can convince God to condemn those whom Christ  justifies.  No double indemnity, as it were, can exist in the judicial ethic of our Heavenly Father.  When He passes righteous judgment and executes appropriate sentence on the guilty party, that party cannot suffer again at the bar of Divine justice.  Such legal implementation took place at Calvary, where the Lamb of God bore our sin and its accompanying guilt.  In God's sight, we were spiritually in Christ when He died, and thus we cannot suffer again at the hands of His justice.  "Our old man is crucified with Him" (Romans 6:6).

    Of course, we still sin as believers, and our Father deals with us as a Father when we do.  Rather than placing sin on our account, He seeks to restore us to fellowship with Himself if we disbelieve and disobey Him.  Referencing the matter of sin in the experience of Christians, the Apostle John wrote, "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 cleanseth us from all sin" (I John 1:7).  Moreover, the Lord may discipline us, as necessary.  "Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth" (Hebrews 12:6).  Never, however, does He view our sins in terms that contradict or minimize the fact of Christ's all encompassing, perfectly adequate sacrifice.  Again, to the degree He bore our sins, we never will.  And He bore them in their entirety.  "By Him, all that believe are justified from all things" (Acts 13:39).

   Such truth greatly motivates the heart of sincere and humble believers.  Knowing the direct relationship between Christ's suffering and our justification elicits grateful appreciation in all who sincerely embrace the blessed truth that "He hath made Him to be sin who knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (II Corinthians 5:21).  This leads to the loving relationship with God for which the Savior died - "we love Him because He first loved us" (I John 4:19).  Nothing less satisfies the heart of the Heavenly Father who made us for us fellowship, as based upon His complete satisfaction with the redeeming work of His Son's sacrifice on our behalf.  Moreover, nothing less motivates and transforms the hearts of believers than the growing understanding of the cost of our eternal place in God's favor.  "One sacrifice for sins forever" - thereby God deals with His trusting children in Christ as a loving Father who "will not impute sin" to those "justified from all things."

"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
(Romans 5:1)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord will not impute sin.
(Romans 4:8)


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Harvest of Grace"

   A peach tree stood in the backyard of my early childhood home.  This thrilled me upon first discovery of its presence because I loved peaches (still do).  I couldn't wait for the summer crop that I knew would bless us with beautiful, fragrant, juicy, and delicious fruits, allowing me to simply pick and eat one of my favorite culinary delights.  

    Disappointment awaited me regarding my expectations.  Perhaps due to lack of care, poor soil, disease, or age, the tree produced inedible peaches smaller than a golf ball, just about as hard, and lacking any fragrance or flavor that approached peachy goodness.  I never experienced the blessing for which I had hoped, realizing after several seasons that for whatever horticultural reason, the tree would never produce good fruit.

    The Apostle Paul prayed for the Philippian believers that they would be "filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:11).  God planted a good tree in us when we trusted in Christ, a spiritual root that produces good fruit in those who realize that He is the source of the spiritual harvest God seeks to produce in us.  "I am the Vine, ye are the branches" declared the Lord Jesus to His disciples" (John 15:5).  Our calling involves the faith and submission that keep the life of the Vine freely flowing into our hearts and minds.  We acknowledge His faithful presence, our complete dependence, and our privileged responsibility to accept our role in fruit-bearing.  As Paul wrote, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both to will and do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13).  

    We cannot independently produce "the fruits of righteousness."  We do, however, keep our hearts in good soil and exposed to necessary light by consistently seeking our Lord's fellowship, provision, and enabling.  "Keep yourselves in the love of God" commanded Jude (Jude 1:21).  Much fruit hangs upon the branches of believers who acknowledge the grace-planted Tree of life dwelling within us through the Holy Spirit.  Our Heavenly Father finds much pleasure in good fruits borne upon the branches of His children, as produced by the good Vine of His Son's presence, life, and spiritual vitality.  My long ago disappointment reminds, encourages, and challenges me to not be as that tree of old, but rather to keep myself in the healthy Soil and holy Light that leads to the harvest of grace…

"God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work."
(II Corinthians 9:8)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord will not impute sin.
(Romans 4:8)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


   "While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, What think ye of Christ?  Whose son is He?  They say unto Him, the Son of David.  He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call Him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on My right hand until I make thine enemies Thy footstool?  If David call Him Lord, how is He his son?  And no man was able to answer Him a word" (Matthew 22:41-46).

    The religious leaders of the Lord's day, themselves proud and self important, could not fathom a Christ who would humble Himself to become a son of one so much lesser than Himself.  The Lord Jesus was responsible for David's very existence (John 1:3).  How then could He become the earthly king's offspring?  The question flummoxed the Pharisees.

    We know the answer, at least in principle.  In New Testament terms, every Christian realizes and believes that our salvation required the incarnation of God the Son.  The humility required for such a miracle, however, should flummox us no less than it did the Pharisees.  How could One so infinitely great and glorious be the same One who condescended not merely to become human, but to willingly suffer the most ignominious fate imaginable?  "He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8).  Let us not allow the familiarity of the old, old story to numb our hearts and minds to its wonder, or more literally, to the wonder of the God whose sublime character includes the glory of "I am meek and lowly in heart" (Matthew 11:29).

    Many fascinating subjects will present themselves to our minds throughout our earthly lifetime.  None begin to compare with the person of the Lord Jesus.  "What think ye of Christ?"  No less than the Lord Jesus Himself raised the question to men who could not begin to answer.  We can begin.  We can in this lifetime initiate discovery of the wonder unlike any other.  God's Son and our Savior exists as Divinity and humanity united in one Person glorious beyond description, and humble beyond all understanding of meekness.  The Apostle John fell as dead at the feet of the risen Christ.  The Apostle Thomas was invited to touch the prints of nails that remain on the Savior's resurrected hands, and to reach into His wounded side (Revelation 1:17; John 20:27).  Glorious.  Humble.  All in one, all in One.  Indeed, in Heaven and earth, there is no one like the Lord Jesus.  No other subject can so fill, thrill, and fulfill our hearts and minds as the contemplation of the Christ revealed by the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit.  How can He be who and what He is?  A long eternity will not suffice in providing a complete answer.  But this moment calls us to the consideration, and to the wonder that both flummoxes and illuminates...

"Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness.  God was manifest in the flesh."
(I Timothy 3:16)
"The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.  And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain."
(Revelation 5:5-6)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord will not impute sin.
(Romans 4:8)

Monday, June 22, 2015

"The How? of Our Hearts"

    "How're you doing?"  We all ask the question of each other, usually inquiring as to physical and emotional conditions, or to pleasant or difficult circumstances.  There's nothing wrong with this, and if asked sincerely, the inquiry indicates genuine interest and concern for the well being of others - "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth" (III John 1:2). 

    Taken to a different level, "How're you doing?" can mean something altogether different.  In ultimate terms, the Bible affirms of born again believers that we are doing quite well indeed.

    "Your life is hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3).
    "Of Him are ye in Christ, who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (I Corinthians 1:30).
    "This is the record, that God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son" (I John 5:11).
    "His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness" (II Peter 1:3).
    "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:13).
     "God hath not given unto us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (II Timothy 1:7).
     "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2).
     "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God" (I John 3:1).
     "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father" (Galatians 4:6).
     "I am with you always… I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5).

    The declarations of spiritual well being declared by Scripture could go on and on.  Of course, such blessedness in Christ does not remove the thorns of our present lives when the lesser "How're you doing?" must be answered honestly in terms of difficulty.  "Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day" (II Corinthians 4:16).  Life in a fallen world challenges us greatly, and daily.  Sometimes the answers to our outward "How?" involve pain, loss, and even bewilderment.  In such challenge, we do well to fortify ourselves in the Lord, and through the strengthening of His truth.  We remember and affirm the ultimate answers, declaring with the Apostle Paul, "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding weight of glory" (II Corinthians 4:17).  We divert our focus, as it were, from things below to "those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God" (Colossians 3:1).  The challenges do not thereby dissolve, but by God's grace accessed through faith, they are transcended - "In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us" (Romans 8:37).

    "How're you doing?"  The answer depends on which perspective determines our response.  The choice is ours.  Without denying the realities of the "outward man" and "our light affliction," we may nevertheless consider and affirm the spiritual well being of the "inward man" and the transcendent "day by day" renewal promised by our Heavenly Father through Christ.  Our experience will flow accordingly, or more literally, the "How?" of our hearts will flow in accordance with the perspective we choose to embrace.

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed upon Thee, because he trusteth in Thee."
(Isaiah 26:3)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord will not impute sin.
(Romans 4:8)

Friday, June 19, 2015

“In His Image”

    God made the human race "in His own image" for the purpose of relating to us in a manner no other created being could experience (Genesis1:27).  He formed our hearts for loving relationship and fellowship, and when sin entered the picture, made possible the re-making of those who believe into "dear children" in whom His Spirit dwells (Ephesians 5:1; II Corinthians 6:16).  

   "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent" (John 17:3).

   If we have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, we must believe and affirm this about ourselves, as spiritually constituted in Christ.  We are eternally related to God as His Blood-washed, Grace-renewed, Spirit-birthed sons and daughters.  Upon this basis, we may expect and devote ourselves to genuine fellowship with our Heavenly Father.  Through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit and the fellowship of brothers and sisters in Christ, God offers to us a communion with Himself that alone satisfies our hearts.  Moreover, such fellowship greatly pleases His heart because the relationship for which He made us blesses Him no less than it does us.  More, in fact, as our Lord's emotional sensibilities are infinite in their mode and measure.  What He feels, He feels with an intensity beyond our imagining.  And what He feels for us is pleasure in our presence - "the Lord taketh pleasure in His people" - and joy at the sound of our voices - "the prayer of the upright is His delight" (Psalm 49:4; Proverbs 15:8).

    When we believed in the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit inhabited us with "the love of God… shed abroad in our hearts" (Romans 5:5).  Such a gift made possible the relationship and fellowship with God for which He originally created humanity.  Much was sacrificed to provide the gift, namely, the smiting and forsaking of the Lord Jesus on the cross of Calvary, by the Father who loved Him (Isaiah 53:4; Matthew 27:46).  This is how much our Father desires the companionship and communication of your heart and mine.  The sacrifice of His Son for the securing of many sons and many daughters - "I… will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (II Corinthians 6:18).  Yes, we were made and remade in His image for this, and the present moment provides blessed opportunity to direct our hearts to the fellowship we so need, and which our Lord so desires.

"And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me. Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them."
(John 17:22-26)

Weekly Memory Verse
     Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life.  He that cometh to Me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.
(John 6:35)    

Thursday, June 18, 2015

"For Love"

    In his epistle to the Romans, the Apostle Paul thrice refers to our justification through the Lord Jesus Christ as a "free gift" (Romans 5 16-18).  We do nothing to earn such blessedness, and by definition, we can never pay God back for the goodness He bestows on us through His Son.  Nor should we seek to do so.

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

    In loving relationships, there is no quid pro quo, as it were.  We rather seek to bless our loved ones as the expression of loving affection, commitment, and devotion to their best interests and the pleasure of their hearts.  This reality of relationship presents a challenge in our bond with our Lord.  We are dependent on Him for all, including "life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:25).  "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights" (James 1:17).  Thus, we may be tempted to relate to God as a matter of indebted obligation rather than love.  There is a difference, the difference of grace.  Again, by definition, one cannot purchase a free gift, particularly the freest gift ever given, salvation in the Lord Jesus and subsequent relationship with God.  We rather receive it as it is, the bestowal of love, and then seek to respond in a gratitude that elicits more than the shallow obligation of "Well, God has done so much for me!  I want to do something for Him!"  In Christ, we rather discover in ourselves the capacity to relate to our Heavenly Father with a far greater and purer motivation.  We love Him for who He is rather than for what He does.  Perhaps this is what the Apostle Paul alluded to in his marvelous affirmation, "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father" (Galatians 4:6).

"What I did for you, I did for love.
What I've given you came from
a Father's heart.
You don't owe me, there is nothing to repay,
for what I did for you,
I did for love.

It has been My joy to be the Life of your life.
And I still rejoice that forever I'll supply
for your every need,
and there'll be nothing to repay.
For what I do for you,
I do for love.

As the days go by, and your heart grows 
close to Mine,
you will understand the glory of a life
in which you do for love,
and there is nothing to repay,
for what I do and what you do,
we do for love.

"For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."
(Romans 4:3-5)

Weekly Memory Verse
     Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life.  He that cometh to Me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.
(John 6:35)    

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

“What Shall It Profit?”

    I recently read an interview conducted with a gentleman who has lived most of his adult life in the public eye.  You would instantly recognize the name, and likely think positively about the man, his personality, his accomplishments, and even his charitable endeavors (which are many and significant).  I feel this way, and have long respected this luminary who has certainly conducted himself more circumspectly than many other famous figures.

    Accomplished.  Wealthy.  Respected.  Winsome.  Generous.  Many adjectives might describe the public figure I reference.  However, after reading the interview, a verse came to mind that remains in my thoughts, and which troubles me even as I write these words.

    "What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36).

    In more than 60 years of public life, the man I reference has never given any indication of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Moreover, the interview I read implied that he does not believe and that he has no interest in the Savior or a life that honors Him.  Thus, despite achieving that which many would consider enormous success in many ways, the truth of the matter is that to this point, the man has wasted his life.   "I am the life" proclaimed the Lord Jesus.  "To live is Christ" declared the Apostle Paul.  "He is thy life" wrote Moses (John 14:6; Philippians 1:21; Deuteronomy 30:20).  Anything less than this definition of genuine living does not meet the standard of life, as defined by God (the only definition that matters).  Thus, in real terms, the figure referenced, despite such a notable existence and experience, is not even truly alive.  He is dead, and if in the relatively brief time that remains of his earthly sojourn he does not entrust himself to the Prince of life, he will also experience the "second death" of an eternity apart from God (Revelation 21:8).  

    These troubling thoughts have led to many prayers in the last few days, prayers for a man who has, again, wasted his life.  He likely doesn't know it.  Or perhaps he does.  What good are memories, accomplishments, fame, wealth, and earthly accolade when one stands on the precipice of eternity without Christ?  The Holy Spirit bears witness of such truth to all, and I pray that in these days when the curtain of life begins to close on the man I mentioned, he will realize, repent, and receive the saving grace of the Lord Jesus.  The alternative is too terrible to imagine, namely, the reality of a wasted life and a forfeited forever.  "What shall it profit a man…"

"And He spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: and he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?  And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:16-21).

Weekly Memory Verse
    Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life.  He that cometh to Me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.
(John 6:35)    

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

"His Gaze Upon the Heart"

    When God looks upon His trusting children in the Lord Jesus Christ, what does He first see?  The Bible progressively illuminates this vital matter concerning our Lord's perspective.

    "The Lord looketh on the heart" (I Samuel 16:7).  First, we discover that our Heavenly Father directs His primary gaze not upon us, but within us.

    "Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life" (Proverbs 4:23).  We then learn that the heart comprises the central component of our being, the source from which all human realities of spirituality, morality, love, life, and relationship flow.  Thus, the God who "looketh upon the heart" sees into the very essence of us.

    "God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father" (Galatians 4:6).  Finally, and most importantly, our Father sees the Spirit of His Son in our hearts, united unto our own spirits through the new birth.  "He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit" (I Corinthians 6:17).  God gazes upon who we most deeply are, seeing us as "in Christ" and seeing "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (I Corinthians 1:30; Colossians 1:27).  Indeed, the One whose eyes pierce to the very heart of all things first looks upon the results of His grace as He looks upon and within us.  "Ye are the temple of the living God, as God hath said, I will dwell in them and walk in them, and I will be their God and they shall be My people" (II Corinthians 6:16).  

    Of course, God does not overlook or fail to see the entirety of our being and our ways.  He relates to us accordingly, affirming and blessing those thoughts, attitudes, words, and deeds that proceed from the indwelling Spirit of Christ, and dealing with us as a faithful Father in matters of waywardness.  "To be spiritually minded is life and peace… Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth" (Romans 8:6; Hebrews 12:6).  Still, His primary gaze never wavers from the heart, wherein the Spirit of His Son dwells, and wherein He sees the "new creature" He birthed when we believed, "created in righteousness and true holiness" (II Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:24).  

    We must join our Father in His gaze upon the heart.  "Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:11).  Without minimizing the importance of the fruits of our lives, we nevertheless affirm the root of grace within, namely, the Holy Spirit and the new person we are as united to Him.  Such remembrance and reckoning makes it far more likely that we will bear "the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:11).  Indeed, if we fail to see and affirm that which our Lord sees and affirms, we walk in darkness rather than His glorious light.  He looks upon the heart, He sees within, and beholds the Spirit of His Son united by grace to our own spirits.  Let us join Him in His gaze, His gaze upon the heart.

"Now are ye light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light."
(Ephesians 5:8)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life.  He that cometh to Me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.
(John 6:35)    

Monday, June 15, 2015

“That Which Matters”

    In a creation originated and eternally sustained by the everlasting God, that which matters can be defined as that which lasts - forever.

    "We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (II Corinthians 4:18).

    What will eternally abide?  The Bible directly addresses this inquiry.  "I know that whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever.  Nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it" (Ecclesiastes 3:14).  Eternal significance must be viewed in the light of our Lord's doings, whether we consider the subject in universal terms outside ourselves, or in the context of our personal lives.  That which matters, that which lasts forever, is that which God does in all things, and in ourselves.  

    What is God doing?  In general terms, He works to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, accomplish His will, and fulfill His eternal purpose in Christ (Colossians 1:18; Matthew 6:10; Ephesians 3:11).  Personally, He works according to these parameters in countless modes and measures, some of which are known to us, and many of which are not.  His doings may relate to obviously spiritual aspects of life and practice.  Or, they may flow in terms of our everyday lives that on the surface do not appear religiously oriented at all.  Our calling involves devotion to the Christ-centered purposes mentioned, as led and enabled by the Holy Spirit who indwells born again believers in the Lord Jesus.  Knowing that our Heavenly Father's eternal purpose centers in Christ calls us to submit our hearts to the same holy intention.  We set our sail to catch the wind of God's grace and truth that ever conveys us toward the glory of our Savior.  That which matters, that which lasts forever, always coincides with this Christ-centered and empowered journey.  "To live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21).

    The old adage speaks to that which will endure.  "Only one life, t'will soon be past.  Only what's done for Christ will last."  To amplify the point in terms of our present consideration, "Only what's done by Christ will last."  We play a role in the matter, even as the Lord told the blind men He purposed to heal, "According to your faith be it unto you" (Matthew 9:29).  The work is His, however, and that which endures forever - that which matters - will be that which He originated and fulfills for the glory of the Lord Jesus.  Devotion to such truth infuses eternal meaning and significance into our hearts and lives as we focus our gaze on the unseen things of eternity.

"If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth."
(Colossians 3:1-2)
"Then said they unto Him, What shall we do that we might work the works of God?  Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent."
(John 6:28-29)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life.  He that cometh to Me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.
(John 6:35)    

Friday, June 12, 2015

"The Best He Can"

    We've all said it, and if sincere, there's nothing wrong with it: "I'll do the best I can."  

    When some asks us to help or commissions us to a task, the determination to do our best indicates a noble desire to respond and act to the utmost of our ability.  What more can we do than our very best?  The answer may surprise us.

    "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might" (Ephesians 6:10).

   The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ sends His Spirit to dwell within all who believe, enabling a life far beyond human capacities.  He calls us to live according to His abilities and capacities.  Thus, life for the Christian does not involve doing the best we can.  We rather seek to do the best He can.  

   "I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (I Corinthians 15:10).

   The Apostle Paul testifies to a Power beyond his own strength, indeed, to "Christ, the power of God" (I Corinthians 1:24).  The indwelling Holy Spirit makes such a life possible, as revealed in the trusting, submissive, expectant heart of all who believe the many Biblical promises regarding God's enabling.  Is Christ who He declares Himself to be in Scripture?  Is He as present as promised?  Does He dwell and walk in us, as the Bible affirms?  If we answer yes to these questions, a great and privileged challenge awaits us in this moment and the rest of this day (and tomorrow, if God chooses to give us another earthly day).  Our Lord calls us to live according to His best rather than our own.  That is, we realize the standards of Scripture regarding heart, attitude, demeanor, action, and relationship are so high because the very definition of the Christian life involves the life of Christ rather than our own.  We "live through Him" (I John 4:9).  No sane person would seek to be like the Lord Jesus apart from the promise that His Spirit lives within us to enable such a life beyond our capacities.  "Without Me, ye can do nothing" He declared (John 15:5).  But with Him?  Ah, that'a a different matter altogether!  "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13).  

    "The best He can."  This is the life and aspiration to which God calls His trusting children in Christ.  Indeed, we have this day in which to realize the power from Above that vibrantly teems within our redeemed spirits through the presence of the Spirit of the Lord Jesus.  A trusting, submitted, and expectant heart prepares us to experience the wonders of a transcendent life, the life of the risen Christ.  His best constitutes the possibility and actuality of a life that honors God because it springs forth from the very life of God…

"He is thy life."
(Deuteronomy 30:20)
"Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God."
(II Corinthians 3:5)

Weekly Memory Verse
    The Lord was not in the wind, and after the wind, an earthquake.  But the Lord was not in the earthquake.  And after the earthquake, a fire.  But the Lord was not in the fire.  And after the fire, a still, small voice.
(I Kings 19:11-12)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

"The Lordship of the Lamb"

(This is a first in the more than 16 years we have sent forth these devotionals.  Yesterday, a dear young lady named Brittany provided inspiration for the message.  Today, her mother Peggy provides inspiration.  Thanks ladies! Glen)

    The Lord Jesus Christ participated in a baptism for sinners, not as the one baptizing, but as a supplicant.

    "Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him" (Matter 3:13).

    We must allow the enormity of this consideration to keenly impact our hearts and minds.  The perfect Son of God, spotlessly pristine in every spiritual and moral sense, submitted Himself to an ordinance for which He had no personal need.  He acted in obedience to His Father's will and to His calling to fully identify with us.  "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same… We have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities" (Hebrews 2:14; 4:15).

    Glorious reflections of light shine forth Jordan's baptismal waters where the Lamb of God so humbled Himself.  First, let us see the wonder of Almighty God, glorious beyond all imagining, but possessed of a heart He declared to be "meek and lowly" (Matthew 11:29).  One could think, ponder, and seek to assimilate such glory for an eternity without plumbing the holy depths of the wonder of the Servant Lord.  We will do so, in fact.  In such light, we see our own calling to walk in humility, particularly in those matters where God commissions us to positions of authority.  No true leader, as God's defines leadership, can fulfill the role apart from a heart and attitude of lowliness, as revealed by the Spirit of Christ.  Self importance and tyrannical harshness in any supposed Christian leader disqualifies and disassociates the party from participation in the Lordship of Jesus, and thus, from the will of God.  Of such ones, the Pharisees, the Lord Jesus declared, "They bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers" (Matthew 23:4).   Moreover, to avoid such shameful distortion in the body of Christ, the Lord commanded, "Be not ye called Rabbi, for one is your master, even Christ, and ye are all brothers.  And call no man your father upon the earth, for one is your Father, which is in Heaven, which is in Heaven.  Neither be ye called masters, for One is your master, even Christ.  For he that is greatest among you shall be your servant" (Matthew 23:8-11).

    A manger, a life lived mostly in obscurity, a Lordship of disciples exercised as a servant, a posture of kneeling to wash their feet, submission to human authorities whose destruction He could have instantly accomplished, and a sorrowful, suffering death on the cross of Calvary - all and more in our blessed Lord Jesus tell us of His glory and His humility.  They tell us also of the utter absurdity and depravity of arrogant leadership on the part of any human authority.  "Ye call me Master and Lord, and ye say well, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye ought also to wash one another's feet.  For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you" (John 13:13-15).  May our Savior lead us in the Lordship of the Lamb, and in the authority most powerfully revealed in humility.

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."
(Philippians 2:5-8)
"The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men.
(I Timothy 2:24)

Weekly Memory Verse
    The Lord was not in the wind, and after the wind, an earthquake.  But the Lord was not in the earthquake.  And after the earthquake, a fire.  But the Lord was not in the fire.  And after the fire, a still, small voice.
(I Kings 19:11-12)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

“More Than Can Be Numbered”

"More Than Can Be Numbered"

    For those aspects of God's loving involvement known to us, we give thanks.  However, more gratitude is in order for all He has done for us of which we are completely unaware.

    "Many, O LORD my God, are Thy wonderful works which Thou hast done, and Thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto Thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered" (Psalm 40:5).

    How many Divine provisions have supplied for needs of which we were not even aware?  How often has our Lord delivered us from perils we never knew to threaten our well being?  To which minute details did He attend that occurred at a level beneath or above our field of consciousness?  We will never know the answers to these questions that address the lovingkindness of the God devoted to our care.  Nor do we need to know.  Much that impacts us happens in manners and modes far beyond our capacity to understand.  As the Lord chided Job when His suffering child sought explanations for God's allowances of grievous challenge, "I will demand of thee, and answer thou Me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?  Declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest?" (Job 38:3-5).  Job could not respond to the Lord's inquiries, of course.  Nor could our Heavenly Father begin to fully explain His way in our lives regarding the challenges, the blessings, and the innumerable details to which He attends without our knowledge or awareness.

  Thus, we do well to frequently express our gratitude to God for those "wonderful works" He accomplishes for us with no announcement or explanation.  Much of such grace will happen in this day, just as it has in every day of the past, and as it will in every day of the future.  As is so often the case, we "see" the Lord's love for us just as much in that which we do not know as in that which we can.  Perhaps even more.

"God… worketh all things after the counsel of His own will."
(Ephesians 1:3; 11)
"All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."
(Romans 8:28)

Weekly Memory Verse
    The Lord was not in the wind, and after the wind, an earthquake.  But the Lord was not in the earthquake.  And after the earthquake, a fire.  But the Lord was not in the fire.  And after the fire, a still, small voice.
(I Kings 19:11-12)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

"One Letter"

    I experienced a blessing the other day, one that might seem a minor thing to some.  For me, however, this small thing (actually, so small that it involved merely one letter of the alphabet) touched me more deeply than words can express.

    To explain, I ascribe to the old-school notion that when using personal pronouns related to God in writing, the first letter of the word should be capitalized (He, You, Thou, Thee, His).  You may notice this in these devotionals (and some of you are thinking that I'm "old school" in everything.  Yes, you're right).  I capitalize the pronouns as a matter of loving devotion, respect, and appreciation to the One who is unlike any other, and who I desire to reverence in a singular manner reserved only for Him.  I don't make this a matter of criticism toward those who don't share my view in this matter, although I would be less than honest if I didn't confess that I wish publishers of Bibles and Christian literature still followed the practice (they largely don't).

    I share this with you because several days ago, I texted my youngest daughter Emmie to inform her that the Browned Butter Pecan ice cream I had made may be the best ice cream I've ever eaten.  "I need no proof of God's existence," I began, "but this ice cream definitely confirms it!"  The sentence that followed contained the aforementioned blessing.  "And that He loves us more than we can begin to imagine!"  Please note the capitalized "H" in that sentence.  As already referenced, this is my practice regarding Divine personal pronouns.  However, I did not type that capital letter.  I hate doing caps as I write texts, so whenever I need to use them, I type the sentence, and then go back and capitalize any letter requiring the emphasis.  In this case, I had not need to make the correction.  My phone automatically capitalized the personal pronoun for God - "He."  I don't know why it did this, unless it related to the fact that I had mentioned God in the previous sentence.  Whatever the case, I found this to be one of those moments in which you know that the Lord involves Himself in minute details of our personal lives that would likely mean something only to yourself.  Indeed, I have followed the capitalization practice for nearly forty years.  I don't mention it, and it feels like such a private matter between the Lord and myself that I felt hesitant to even write about it.  In this case, however, to provide such an opportunity to so affirm God's loving involvement that I feel a freedom to do so.  Yes, I was pleased to learn that my phone shares my view regarding the Lord and personal pronouns!

    We are fish that swim in the Ocean that is God - "In Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).   We miss so much of His presence and working, most of it, actually.  Our Heavenly Father does so much that we could never begin to fathom it all.  Sometimes, however, the clouds part and a tiny ray of Sonlight shines through to grace us with the most personal expressions of our Lord's love for us.  In such moments, our hearts smile, they bow, and they realize that in Christ, God gives to us glories that might mean nothing to some, but which are everything to us.  One letter.  One letter, capitalized.  A tiny thing, but one that illuminated my heart with yet another indication of the measure and mode of our Lord's loving devotion to us…

"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 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)

P.S. - Oh yes, if you want the recipe for the ice cream, I'd be inclined to share it.  :):)

Weekly Memory Verse
    The Lord was not in the wind, and after the wind, an earthquake.  But the Lord was not in the earthquake.  And after the earthquake, a fire.  But the Lord was not in the fire.  And after the fire, a still, small voice.
(I Kings 19:11-12)

Monday, June 8, 2015

“What We Mean To Him”

    Think of the human being whose presence, relationship, and fellowship mean the most to you, and with whom time spent you consider to be a blessing beyond measure and imagining.  Then, realize that your enjoyment of that person pales - exponentially - in comparison to how much pleasure and delight your presence, relationship, and fellowship mean to God.

    "The Lord taketh pleasure in His people" (Psalm 149:4).
    "The prayer of the upright is His delight" (Proverbs 15:8). 

   When we think of the gift of communion with God given to us through the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ, our natural tendencies prompt thoughts of what such a bond of love means to us.  This is as it should be.  Our Heavenly Father desires us to "rejoice in the Lord always, and again, I say, rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4).  The more sanctifying, God-centered thought, however, involves the wonder of what we mean to Him.  Countless Biblical paths of consideration lead us into the glory of such wonder, the most important of which escorts us to Mt. Calvary.  There, our Heavenly Father sent His Son to suffer and die so that He might thereafter send His Spirit to dwell with and within us forevermore.  Christ shed the blood of His physical body so that He might shed His Spirit upon His spiritual body, the church.  "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father" (Galatians 4:6).

    Such Light, shining from the darkness of the cross, best illuminates the degree and measure of how much our hearts mean to God.  At Calvary, the Father smote His beloved Son with wrath so that He might bestow upon us the grace and mercy that makes possible the relationship with us that David and Solomon declare to be God's "pleasure" and "delight".  God the Father and God the Holy Spirit abandoned God the Son as He died on the cross so that a wondrous promise might grace those who trust the Lord Jesus: "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5).  This is how much our hearts mean to God, and how much He delights and finds pleasure in us.  He desires to live with and within us forevermore, and went to the furthest extreme to make possible and actual our hearts as His home.

     I don't begin to understand this.  I suspect that you share the same wonder and amazement.  This is precisely the response that should grace our hearts when considering such blessed truth.  Wonder best characterizes the proper realization of such grace, and then the grateful determination that if God finds pleasure and delight in our fellowship, then by all means let us bless His heart with our hearts!  We don't have to understand such mystery.  We just have to believe it to be true, and then seek always to maintain in our hearts the truth that we possess the capacity to bring joy to the One so worthy of it.  This moment offers such opportunity, and let us avail ourselves of wonder, the wonder that "The Lord taketh pleasure in His people" and "The prayer of the upright is His delight."

"Let Me hear thy voice, for sweet is thy voice."
(Song of Solomon 2:14)

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

Saturday, June 6, 2015

"Self Destruction?

    Scripture declares that human beings are not naturally self-destructive, but rather self-nurturing and cherishing. 

    "No man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it" (Ephesians 5:29).

    Why then do we see so many do so much obvious harm to themselves?  The answer lies in the truth of influences outside ourselves that seek our hurt.  

    "Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour… We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, againts the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (I Peter 5:8; Ephesians 6:12).  

     When we see in ourselves or in others the tendency to think, speak, act, or relate in a manner that clearly jeopardizes our well being, we can know that the source of such foolhardiness originates not in our own desire for self-destruction, but rather in devilish and worldly entities who desire our spiritual, moral, relational, and physical ruin.  Again, "no man ever yet hated his own flesh."  Of course, we are fully responsible when by our own hand and devices, we hurt ourselves.  The notion of self-destruction is valid in the sense that human beings participate in accomplishing our own hurt if through unbelief and lack of submission to God, we "give place to the devil" (Ephesians 4:27).  In most cases, we do not know that we are responding to malevolent spiritual influences.  The truth remains, however, because no race of beings that by nature "nourishes and cherishes" itself can seek its own harm apart from sources outside ourselves bent upon our demise.  Our natural tendency toward self-benefit and preservation precludes such personal inclination toward our own destruction.

    Somebody hates the human race with a malevolence beyond our awareness and understanding.  He and his minions prey upon our weakness and blindness caused by the sin with which he originally tempted our original forebears.  We must open our eyes to this reality as we seek to overcome destructive tendencies in ourselves, or help others to avoid pits dug by devils.  Remembrance of this truth should get our spiritual dander up, as it were, whenever we see supposed "self destruction."  The term is a misnomer, although valid in the sense that we choose whether or not to respond to our enemy's allure to act and react in ways that lead to personal harm.  Somebody is trying to hurt you and me, and all others of  the human race he so terribly despises.  Let us open our eyes to the ongoing assault and attempt to devour, committing ourselves to the One who seeks our best interests and well being, and who can save us from the "self destruction" that actually originates outside ourselves.

"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
(John 10:10)

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

Friday, June 5, 2015

“The Garden of Grace”

   The law of Moses constituted an outside-in work of God's Word written on stone tablets, beckoning to human hearts from without.  The grace and truth of the Lord Jesus Christ, conversely, provides an inside-out work of grace and truth whereby God's Spirit enters and abides within our spirits to enable genuine worship of the heart.

    "Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the Spirit: for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life" (II Corinthians 3:3-6).

    The law revealed sin, serving as "our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ" (Galatians 3:24).  Grace and truth redeem us from sin, providing the indwelling Holy Spirit to fill and energize us by Christ.  Of course, most believers have never actually lived under the law of Moses, especially as practiced in the days of the Old Testament.  We rather formed our own moral codes, or embraced those of others before we trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ (many of which were influenced to some degree by God's law).  As mentioned, all involved the out-to-in attempt to make ourselves better, or improve behaviors.  The attempts were futile, thankfully, thus preparing us for the realization that "the issues of life" originate and proceed from an in-to-out working within our hearts (Proverbs 4:23).  We cannot venture there ourselves to accomplish the internal heart transformation and care, any more than we might ourselves transplant and tend to the physical organ that circulates lifeblood throughout our bodies.  Only the Lord Jesus can change the heart.  Only He can progressively nurture and mature the new heart birthed when we receive the indwelling Holy Spirit at the time of our new birth.  And only He can ultimately perfect our hearts by conforming them into His spiritual and moral image.  "And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: to the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints" (I Thessalonians 3:12-13).

    We play a role in such growth and development.  First, we realize that Christ alone, by His Spirit, birthed and maintains our hearts.  We can no more tend that garden than we could have planted it.  We do, however, keep the garden available to His nurture by conscious faith and devotion to His caretaking.  The Scriptures, prayer, fellowship with believers, and decisive response to our Lord's promised presence, involvement, enabling, and Lordship lead us to "keep yourselves in the love of God" even as our Heavenly Father works to "direct your hearts into the love of God" (Jude 1:21; II Thessalonians 3:5).  Indeed, Heart to heart relationship and fellowship with God constitute the inside-out work of grace and truth, as promised and provided to all who realize that in matters of the heart, only the Maker of our hearts can accomplish the essential work of planting and tending the garden of grace therein…

"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them.
(Ezekiel 36:26-27)

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

Thursday, June 4, 2015

“Here Am I… Send Me”

   Frances and I did something today quite rare for us.  We conducted a service without my guitar.  

    Before we left the house for the meeting, I cut grass, and also cut it pretty close schedule-wise.  I came into the house in a hurry, departed in a bigger rush, and halfway to the meeting realized I had left home without my musical friend (not Frances, the guitar!).  "Well, we'll be leading hymns acapella today" I said, and we did.  Things went well actually, and don't tell my instrument this, but I think the people actually enjoyed doing things a bit differently (especially since they were able to hear Frances's voice even better than usual).

   All this make me think winsome thoughts about my guitar, a ten year old Taylor 310.  It's been with us in more than 3,000 services through the years, and continues to perform very well.  It stays in tune, frets well, and has such beautiful tone and resonance that even when I hit a wrong note, I don't think many people notice (hope not anyway).  I consider my guitar as a friend that would be one of the first objects I'd want to save if our house caught fire.  I am truly grateful for this blessing, so much so that while thinking of this, I prayed for the gentleman who long ago sold the Taylor to me (who, the last I heard, was doing mission work in China).

   All this make me think of faithfulness and availability.  Never once in ten years has my guitar failed to present itself to my hands and heart, as needed and desired.  Today was not the Taylor's fault, but rather resulted from the forgetfulness of its owner.  Under normal circumstances, the instrument seems to echo the prophet's devotion to God, "Here am I. Send me" (Isaiah 6:8).  The guitar stands ready always, so long as I take care of it and transport it to the venues where its services are required.  I seek to use it for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and the blessing of people, and my instrument faithfully performs its purpose and reason for being.  Indeed, I have no doubt that more than a decade ago, the Holy Spirit led the builders of the guitar in constructing an object of wood and steel whose whole, by the grace of God, constitutes far more than the sum of its parts.  "Here am I. Send me…"

    I hope never to forget my guitar again.  I also hope to be as faithful to it as it is to me.  I also desire to follow its example by growing in faithfulness to the God who always acts in perfect fidelity and devotion to us.  No day should pass in our lives wherein we do not in some manner affirm to our Heavenly Father, "Here am I.  Send me."  As we often suggest in these messages, a big part of life and devotion to the Lord Jesus involves simply showing up.  That is, we come to the throne of grace day by day in the attitude of presenting ourselves to God for His glory, will, and eternal purpose in Christ.  We show up at the throne to be sent forth from the throne.  My musical friend exemplifies such truth, and I will seek to more consistently follow the example it speaks to me, or rather, sings to me.

"Yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God."
(Romans 6:13)

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