Friday, July 31, 2015

“Peachy Blessings"

    It has been and continues to be an amazing Alabama peach season (I couldn't comment on the lesser Georgia variety, but hopefully our neighbors to the east are doing as well as they can, considering… :)  ).  Sweet, juicy (dribble down the chin juicy), perfectly textured (soft fleshed, but firm), and visually beautiful as painted by the hand of God, His favorite fruit, the Alabama peach, has never been better or more gratefully appreciated.

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

    You are aware, of course, that only God could have devised and created peaches.  Indeed, consider that peaches have always existed in the heart and mind of the great Artist.  Only at creation, however, did this masterpiece become visually, fragrantly, deliciously, and texturally manifested.  Moreover, only when the Lord made human beings did beings exist who could find not merely physical pleasure in the peach, but also emotional, mental, and even spiritual delight in God's good gift.  "My delights were with the sons of men" (Proverbs 8:31).

    The latter point provides the brightest light and greatest blessing of this consideration.  We never fully enjoy any good thing until we recognize it as our Lord's joyous bestowal to our hearts.  Whatever pleasure we experience in the reception and enjoyment pales in comparison to the joy God experiences in the planning and bestowal.  "It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32).  When we know that our Lord rejoices in our enjoyment, our own delight is exponentially enhanced and expanded.  "It is more blessed to give than to receive" declared the Lord Jesus Christ of a truth that begins with our Father's great joy in providing, and even greater joy in our glad reception of His wondrous generosity.

    I try to remember this during these fleeting days of the peach season.  As the produce manager of our local vegetable and fruit store said the other day about this season's peachy blessings, "When they're gone, they're gone!"  So, I'll seek to enjoy these gifts of God while I can, recognizing them as such, and even more, remembering that the Lord enjoys our enjoyment more than do we ourselves.  He made us with the capacity for delight, and with the spiritual, mental, and emotional faculties to rejoice in Him even we enjoy His good gifts.  Yes, God made peaches, and He made this season's Alabama version especially wonderful.  They would be amazing even if we didn't know their origin in the love of the Lord Jesus.  They are far more glorious because we do know, and because we bow our hearts in gratitude even as the juice dribbles down our chin.

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

Weekly Memory Verse
    That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
(John 3:6)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

“Supernatural Gratitude"

    Gratitude does not come naturally to the human heart.

   "Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the Lord" (Proverbs 18:22).
   "And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made He a woman and brought her unto the man.  And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.  She shall be called woman, because she was taken out of  man" (Genesis 2:22-23)

    Note the lack of recorded thanksgiving in Adam after Eve's creation and presentation to him by a generous and gracious God.  Rather than expressing gratitude to the Creator of Eve for so wondrous a gift, as we would reasonably expect, Adam rather views the woman in terms of himself - "bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh".  Consider also that this took place before sin entered the human experience.  Adam had not yet transgressed the commandment of God and become a servant of sin rather than righteousness.  Thus, even before the fall, we do not see in humanity the disposition to thanksgiving that should grace those whose very existence and every provision proceeds from Another.  "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights" (James 1:17).

    Gratitude in the human heart originates in the Divine heart that gives, and then works within the recipient to reveal the Giver and His generosity.  The Holy Spirit motivates and empowers  thankfulness to the Father, based upon the sacrifice of the Son that makes possible God's bestowal of "every good gift and every perfect gift."  Indeed, the old prayer, offered less frequently today than in times gone by, reflects much wisdom regarding both God and man - "Lord, make us truly thankful."  

   Believers do well to pray for each other and for ourselves that the Spirit of God will lead us in sincere gratitude and consistently expressed thanksgiving.  The appreciation that does not come naturally must come supernaturally.  It will as we trust and submit ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ, and as His Spirit reveals in us the grateful heart of the Son to His Father: "God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father" (Galatians 4:6).

"Be filled with the Spirit… giving thanks for all things unto the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
(Ephesians 5:18; 20).

Weekly Memory Verse
    That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
(John 3:6)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

"Enabled By Joy"

     "The joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10).

    The enabling we find in God's joy involves several aspects of His being and His working on our behalf.  First, the knowledge that joy characterizes the Lord's sensibilities constitutes the perception of Him that leads to our own capacity for rejoicing.  We must know God as He is if we are to rightly respond to Him.  The Bible declares of the Lord that "in Thy presence is fulness of joy" (Psalm 16:11).  We must therefore approach Him in the awareness of the complete contentment and satisfaction He finds in Himself, that is, in His existence as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  "The good pleasure of His goodness" perpetually fills and fulfills our triune Lord, and we know and relate to Him rightly only as we consciously make our approach to the God of "joy unspeakable and full of glory" (II Thessalonians 1:11; I Peter 1:8).

    We also come in the faith that believes and affirms that God alone constitutes the joy of our hearts.  The prophet greatly illuminates us in this vital understanding.  

    "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines, the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield not meat. The flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls.  Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation" (Habakuk 3:18).  

    Conditions, circumstances, and situations do not provide our joy.  We may experience joy in them, and we must, regardless of their nature because our Lord Himself is our joy.  He made us for Himself, and having Him, we possess in all things the capacity for a heart at rest and fulfilled.  Indeed, any concept of joy that does not begin and proceed in this singular light of "God, my exceeding joy" leads us into the darkness where no true joy can be known, regardless of condition, circumstance, and situation (Psalm 43:4).

    The awareness of God as the essence of joy, along with the blessed companion truth of God as the source of our joy, strengthens us to endure and to thrive in all things.  Of the great and painfully varied sufferings experienced by believers, the Apostle Paul affirmed, "In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us" (Romans 8:37).  Such overcoming can only exist within our hearts when we realize the true Joy of our hearts.  Possessions, places, pleasures, and people don't provide our satisfaction.  They may serve as the expressions of experiencing contentment, as provided by our Lord.  But only He can dwell as the essence of joy in our innermost being.  Thus, whether in abundance or in lack, we can, we may, we must rejoice in Him.  The matter involves conviction rather than emotion.  Is our Lord who He declares Himself to be?  This is the question we must rightly answer in all things as the choice to rejoice - in the God of joy - presents itself along every pathway of our journey…

"Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again, I say rejoice."
(Philippians 4:4)

Weekly Memory Verse
    That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
(John 3:6)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

"Encouraged By Encouraging"

(A repeat from 2010)

     Sometimes when we feel the need for encouragement, God sends it by His Word, His Spirit, His people, and other means whereby He strengthens and refreshes us. Sometimes, however, He doesn't.  Sometimes no cool breeze or cup of cold water seems forthcoming.  In such times, we can be sure that a different form of encouragement lies at hand.

    "For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you... Knowing that He which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes" (II Corinthians 4:11-12; 15).

     The greatest encouragement we receive is that which we dispense to others. The strengthening that passes through us rather than merely to us lifts us up because "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5).  Our Lord ever moves within us to look upward and away from ourselves, leading us to experience the comfort and encouragement of the truth that "it is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).

    When we feel cast down without reprieve, the Holy Spirit would direct our attention to the needs of some other hurting soul. We may only have opportunity to pray a prayer, but what an opportunity that is.  Or we may find words and ways to reveal the living water of the Lord Jesus in direct ministry.  Whatever the case, as our focus departs from ourselves unto the glory of God and others, our need for encouragement will either be reduced, or it will be supplied in the "more blessed" way of Christ's loving self sacrifice being ministered in and by us.

    We thank God for those times in which He personally comforts our hearts.  We also thank Him when we are encouraged by encouraging.  Both ways are the fruit of the Lord Jesus, who lived His earthly lifetime in His Father's care, and in the glory of devotion to others...

"The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many."
(Matthew 20:28)
"Walk, even as He walked."
(I John 2:6)

Weekly Memory Verse
    That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
(John 3:6)

Monday, July 27, 2015

"Our Mozart"

    The foundation and power of obedience to God lies in the great gift provided to all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, namely, the indwelling Holy Spirit.  "He that keepeth His commandments dwelleth in Him, and He in him" (I John 3:24).  Christ lives in us so that we may "live through Him" (I John 4:9).

    The Scottish preacher James Stewart beautifully illustrated this truth. 

      "For what Christ has done is to make us feel, at all the gateways of our nature, the pressure and bombardment of the infinite energies of a world unseen.  He has shown us how our little life, with unsearchable riches to draw upon, can be reinforced beyond all calculation.  I may not be able to fight down some evil thing.  But if Christ were here, He could.  So then, if Christ is in me, He can.  This transfusion of spirit and energy is really possible...  If Mozart were in you, what music you could make!  That cannot be.  But here is something that can: if Christ were in you, what a life you could live!  This is faith's logic.  God wants you to know that you can rise above the level of your limitations.  "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13).

    What music we can make!  Or, through Christ, what a life we can live for His glory as He lives His life in us so that we may live through Him.  Our Heavenly Father does not call us to make bricks without straw, as it were.  He rather provides - through the involved presence of His Spirit - far more straw than we will ever need for the construction of faith and faithfulness in His trusting children.  Moreover, He supplies the wisdom and enabling to live far beyond our paltry means of spiritual and moral capacity.  "Without Me, ye can do nothing" declared the Lord Jesus to His disciples (John 15:5).  Our Heavenly Father never intended that we attempt to walk by our own faithfulness, but rather by "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2).  Indeed, if we wait until we perceive ourselves to have arrived at the doorstep of spirituality before entering into a life pleasing to God, we shall wait a very long time.  If, however, we realize that our spiritual Mozart dwells within us to motivate and empower genuine godliness, what music we can make!  He does, and as we trust and submit ourselves to Him, we must have a great anticipation of composition and performance for the glory of the indwelling Composer and Performer.  "My expectation is from Him" (Psalm 62:5).

    If we have trusted in the Lord Jesus, this day offers to us "the hope of glory, which is Christ in you" (Colossians 1:27).  As Dr. Stewart suggested, we draw upon unsearchable riches as we seek to live in faith and faithfulness.  Our particular sphere of influence desperately needs to see the Lord Jesus yet again walking upon the earth, this time in and through us.  "I will dwell in them and walk in them" (II Corinthians 6:16).  Or, in terms of our present consideration, our world needs to hear the strains of the symphony as composed and performed by our Mozart, as formed in us.  This is the Christian life, namely, the life of Christ revealed unto and within those who expect Him to be what He promises to be, and to do what He promises to do…

"He is thy life" (Deuteronomy 30:20).
"Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.  Amen."
(Ephesians 3:20-21)

Weekly Memory Verse
    That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
(John 3:6)

Friday, July 24, 2015

"Obstacles, Opportunities"

    I'd like to return to the subject we addressed several days ago, namely, the fact that God birthed two of the New Testament epistles into being by using Satan's interference in the life of the Apostle Paul.

    "We would have come to you, even I Paul, once and again, but Satan hindered us" (I Thessalonians 2:18).

    As previously mentioned, it is very likely that the epistles to the Thessalonians would never have been written had Paul been able to venture to Thessalonica.  The devil's hindrance necessitated the Apostle's communication by pen, constituting literary volumes included in the New Testament.  As the saying, we might say that the Lord, through Paul, used the devil's lemons to make lemonade (in this case, the very Word of God).  Much of life, the Christian life, involves this process of grace through faith whereby blessedness proceeds not merely in spite of hindrance, but because of it.  

    Such condition, circumstance, and situation doubtless confronts all of us in the present moment.  Something seems to block our path, an unmovable obstacle that will not budge despite our best attempts and efforts, and even more, our most ardent prayers.  We cannot go over, under, or around it to make our way to our own particular Thessalonica.  The matter may be relational, physical, financial, or it may even involve a desired ministry for the glory of God and the blessing of others.  We long to proceed, to go!  But we cannot.  Indeed, if we could see with spiritual eyes, the case might well involve a devilish hindrance that prevents some good and godly journey that for all the world would seem to be beneficial.  The path is blocked, and we cannot convince the God who made the worlds to do that of which we know He is capable.  "Awake!  Why sleepest Thou, o Lord?!" (Psalm 44:23).

   Perhaps the Lord allows our enemy to hinder so that we may pen our own personal epistles to our Thessalonians.  That is, we possess the capacity to illuminate our sphere of influence in a manner no one else can accomplish.  Such ministry, however, may have more far reaching effects than we can imagine, especially if we seem hindered from that which would seem the most obvious means by which we might shine our light.  Indeed, consider that hundreds, or perhaps thousands, would have benefited from a journey by Paul to Thessalonica in the first century.  Millions, or dare we say, billions have been blessed because our brother of old made sweet lemonade from the sour lemon of Satanic hindrance!  The same principle applies in our lives.  Our particular obstacle provides the Lord and us with powerful opportunity to see and communicate the glory of a salvation that began with death, stillness, and a tomb sealed by a stone.  Such glory will never end, however, because the resurrection of the Lord Jesus revealed the greater glory that would never have been known apart from the seeming "hindrance" of the cross.  Nor will there be an end to that which God does in us as we view our obstacle as opportunity rather than oppression.  

"For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we depaired even of life.  Btu we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver, in Whom we trust that He will yet deliver us, ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons, thanks may be given by many on our behalf."
(II Corinthians 1:9-11)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.  But we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
(I John 3:2)

Thursday, July 23, 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 plainly 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, or in the context of our personal lives.  That which matters in us 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, to accomplish His will, and to 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 lasts.  "Only one life, t'will soon be past.  Only what's done for Christ will last."  We might even better say, "Only what's done by Christ will last."  That which matters involves that which endures forevermore, or "that which God doeth."  Hereunto we devote our hearts, our minds, our lives, our all as we respond to our Lord's truth, and to the realities that bear eternal significance even as we live this day in the glory, values, and hope of forever…

"Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever, Amen."
(I Timothy 1:17)
"And this is the promise that He hath promised unto us, even eternal life."
(I John 2:25)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.  But we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
(I John 3:2)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

"A Lengthened Leash" Part 2

   Sometimes, the best thing regarding Satan's involvement in our lives is "Get thee hence!", as at the end of the wilderness temptation of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 4:10).  Sometimes, however, "Get thee here!" comprises God's lengthening, as it were, of the devil's leash.

    "And lest I should be exalted above measure for the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure" (II Corinthians 12:7).

    Note the Apostle Paul's plain language regarding his Job-like experience.  God allowed the devil to "buffet" Paul, but nevertheless wove good purposes into the assault.  Thus, "Get thee here!" seems to have fulfilled the Apostle's need more than "Get thee hence!" would have accomplished.  We often do not know which option is best, a primary reason that James taught us to counter devilish attacks not by direct confrontation, but by trusting and committing ourselves to God: "Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7).  Indeed, even angels do not directly confront the devil, perhaps for the same reason that they do not perfectly know what their Lord is doing when He allows Satan to have freer rein.  "Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee" (Jude 1:9).

    Had we lived in the Apostle Paul's day, we might well have been tempted to pray for our brother's deliverance from the "messenger of Satan."   This would have constituted an unwise waste of time and breath on our part.  Paul needed that messenger.  Moreover, believers through the ages sometimes require similar devilish challenges.  Had the Apostle become exalted in his heart "for the abundance of the revelations," much of his ministry (including the epistles) might have been thwarted.  Certainly, compassion for Paul would have been in order, along with the devotion of ourselves to God for our brother's benefit.  Twisting God's arm for Paul's deliverance from devilish involvement, conversely, would not have been in accordance with the Lord's purposes.  

   Satan (then Lucifer) originated sin in God's creation (Ezekiel 28:15).  The Lord was not taken by surprise that such spiritual and moral calamity occurred.  Nor is He taken aback when the devil involves himself malevolently in the world and in our lives.  God never determines Satan's wicked actions.  He does know about them beforehand, of course, and thus works through them to glorify His Son and further the best interests of His trusting children in Christ.  Again, this sometimes involves the removal of the devil from fields of conflict - "Get thee hence!"  Or it may require his continued attacks - "Get thee here!"  We must pray accordingly, humbly acknowledging our limited understanding of God's specific purposes, and thus asking Him to lengthen or shorten the devil's leash according to His wisdom and purpose.

"But as for you, ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good to bring to pass as it is this day, to save much people alive."
(Genesis 50:20)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.  But we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
(I John 3:2)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

“A Lengthened Leash”

   "We would have come unto you, even I, Paul, once and again, but Satan hindered us" (I Thessalonians 2:18).
    Two of the Apostle's Paul's New Testament letters might not exist had the devil not blocked Paul from journeying to his brethren in Thessalonica.  Nor might they have been written had the Apostle given into to frustration and despair because God lengthened Satan's leash to allow him to hinder a seemingly good thing.

    "Overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21).  The Christian life involves ongoing challenges by our spiritual enemies.  The conflict provides opportunity to overcome rather than to be overwhelmed.  When we trust and submit ourselves to God in our trials, He may work in a manner that seems to indicate the devil's hindrances succeed "once and again."  Trouble often endures as our Heavenly Father's determinations and allowances often puzzle and even bewilder our minds.  No less than the Psalmist cried out in such anguish.  "O God, how long shall the adversary reproach?  Shall the enemy blaspheme Thy name forever?  Why withdrawest Thou Thy hand, even Thy right hand?  Pluck it out of Thy bosom!" (Psalm 74:10-11).

    Why does God not move His hand to deliver?   In Paul's case, the Lord's hand was busy in writing, namely, in leading His servant to compose a blessed portion of the New Testament.  Again, Satan's hindrances almost certainly necessitated the Apostle's need to communicate to the Thessalonians by pen rather than face to face.  You and I, along with believers through two millennia, thus possess words of God that would not grace our hearts, minds, and lives had the Lord plucked His hand out of His bosom to block the devil's hindrance.  

    Let us think of this the next time we read the epistles to the Thessalonians.  Then apply the truth we presently consider to our own lives.  Might our enemy's challenges and oppressions be the means by which God purposes to shine forth His light in a brighter and more brilliant measure than an untroubled and unhindered path would allow?  We can be quite sure this is the case.  A lengthened leash that allows devilish involvement provides opportunity for a luminous Light that "shineth in darkness" (John 1:5).  Portions of the very Word of God exist through this puzzling but perfect way in which our Lord reveals His glory by using even His enemies' actions to fulfill His great and glorious purposes…

"And though they found no cause of death in Him, yet desired they Pilate that He should be slain.  And when they had fulfilled all that was written of Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a sepulcher.  But God raised Him from the dead."
(Acts 13:28-30)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.  But we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
(I John 3:2)

Monday, July 20, 2015

"That Which Matters Most"

   At the end of our earthly lives, many things will have mattered.  Events, experiences, blessings, challenges, careers, goals dreamed, goals fulfilled (or not), possessions, and places will all take their place of significance among many other aspects of our time in the world.  However, none will compare with that which matters most, namely, relationship with God and with people.

  "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself" (Luke 10:27).  

    The two great commands, repeated in both Old Testament and New, illuminate our path with the realization that our Lord made us for relationship with Himself and with the people He brings into our lives.  Through the Lord Jesus Christ, He makes possible our growing awareness, understanding, and practical experience of this great Truth of all truths.  Those who believe receive the indwelling Holy Spirit as the Life of our lives.  Thereby God makes possible fellowship with Himself and with others to serve as the realized purpose of our existence.

    "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by which Holy Spirit which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5).
    "God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father" (Galatians 4:6).
    "Walk in love" (Ephesians 5:2).

    We live our lives one day at a time.  More literally, we live this day at a time.  The past is gone.  The future (in this realm) is not guaranteed.  Thus, we have one opportunity to realize, to respond, and to live in the gift, the glory, the privilege, and the responsibility of that which matters most.  We have this day to know the love of God in living and personal reality.  We have this day to love Him in holy response, and to love others as the fruit of our fellowship with our Lord.  Many other matters will demand our attention, many of which must be addressed.  As this only day we have begins, however, we do well to commit our hearts to that which matters most.

    "Heavenly Father, thank You for creating us and redeeming us to relationship with Yourself through the Lord Jesus.  Thank You for making us with the capacity for knowing and responding to Your love by faith.  Your Word declares that such love is lavishly poured out into our hearts by the presence of the Holy Spirit, making possible our love for You and for others.  We believe that this is what matters most, Father, and we come to You in this day, the only day we have, to live in the wonder of being loved by You, and then to love You and others in holy response and devotion.  We will need Your guidance and enabling, and You promise to abundantly provide.  Thus, we kneel before You as this day begins to ask that amid the busyness of our lives, You keep us aware of that which matters most.  You matter most, Father.  People matter most.  Love matters most.  Thank You for the wondrous gift and privilege of a life lived in the light of such glory, of this day lived therein.  Send us forth in Your love, for the glory of the Christ who so loved us, and for the blessing of Your heart and the hearts of people.  In the name of our Lord Jesus we pray, Amen."

"And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God."
(II Thessalonians 3:5)
"Keep yourselves in the love of God."
(Jude 1:21)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.  But we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
(I John 3:2)

Friday, July 17, 2015

"He Paid a Debt"

   "I don't deserve to be forgiven!"  We've all felt this way at times when our sins seem particularly grievous, or when we've fallen yet again into some pit of temptation that has too often caused us to stumble.  As David cried when he finally realized the nature and extent of his own failure in the matter of Bathsheba, "My sin is ever before me!" (Psalm 51:3).

    Can we ever deserve to be forgiven?   By Biblical definition, forgiveness flows from the fount of God's grace and mercy.  God freely pardons sinners, based upon the price paid by His Son on the cross of Calvary.  We cannot buy the gift for which the Lord Jesus Christ paid in full by shedding His precious lifeblood.  We cannot earn mercy.  We cannot work for grace.  And we cannot somehow cleanse ourselves to the degree that our Heavenly Father grants forgiveness based upon that which He sees in us.  He rather forgives in light of what He sees on the Lord Jesus, namely, the prints of nails suffered as the Lamb of God paid our accounts in full.

"He paid a debt He did not owe,
I owed a debt I could not pay.
I needed someone to wash my sins away.
And now I sing a brand new song,
Amazing Grace the whole day long,
Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay."

    God pardons those who confess, "I do not deserve to be forgiven!" as the basis of affirming through Christ, "Thou Lord, art good, and ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy to all that  call upon Thee!" (Psalm 86:5).  Such a mighty, rushing River of grace flows to pools of faith in the hearts of those who sing with the hymnist, "Nothing in my hands I bring, only to Thy cross I cling."  Pardon results, then peace, and finally, a purpose formed in our cleansed hearts that sing yet again, with the Psalmist, "I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever!" (Psalm 89:1).  No, we cannot merit mercy.  We can only receive it by believing that the Lord Jesus paid a price so high that He might bestow a grace so free.  Indeed, salvation in the Lord Jesus gives to us what He deserves because He bore for us what we deserve…

"He hath made Him to be sin of us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."
(II Corinthians 5:21)

Weekly Memory Verse
  He is the rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are done in judgment, a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.
(Deuteronomy 32:4)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

“Changed By the Changeless”

   God exists as the only unchanging being and reality, a good thing since perfection characterizes His nature, character, and way.  "I am the Lord, I change not… As for God, His way is perfect" (Malachi 3:6; II Samuel 22:31).  We wouldn't want Him to change, or to be anything other than "the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).  Conversely, as finite beings, we require ongoing change, particularly in  seeking to know, love, trust, obey, and relate to the Infinite.  A path of spiritual progress ever lies before us, beckoning us to come closer, soar higher, and dive deeper.  "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18).

    No more thrilling prospect can present itself to our hearts and minds.  New facets and features of the triune God will forever beckon us to discover the goodness and greatness of Father Son, and Holy Spirit.  "Call unto Me, and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not" (Jeremiah 33:3).  As creatures made for the personal knowledge of our Lord, such possibility of growth offers to us the Gift of all gifts.  We may always better know the Glory that requires not even a hint of need for growth, progress, or transformation.  We are thus changed by beholding the Changeless - "Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (II Corinthians 3:18).  

    Great security awaits believers who realize the inviolable Foundation upon which we rest our hearts.  "He is the Rock" (Deuteronomy 32:4).  Upon this basis, we then venture forth on a voyage of eternal discovery, of which (Whom) the poet so beautifully charted, "Shoreless Ocean, who can sound Thee?  Thine own eternity is round Thee, majesty Divine!"  The One who cannot change, who needs no change, whom we would not want to change, calls His trusting children in Christ to the transformation of our character, nature, and way by our beholding His perpetual perfection.

There is no end to the quest we know, 
forever beckons on.
For we soar in skies so bright and blue,
above all hint of storm.

Yes, we fly into the heart of God
 as in His Son we trust,
and earth will soon be nothing more
than long forgotten dust.

So spread your wings and catch the wind,
o journeyman of hope,
and race toward horizons blessed
with those who also know

That the quest of hearts is Jesus,
He is our shining sun.
It matters not how far we've come,
the journey's just begun.

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

Weekly Memory Verse
  He is the rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are done in judgment, a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.
(Deuteronomy 32:4)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

"Him In Them"

   When I trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior in 1975, I did not realize that the gift of salvation would include multitudes of brothers and sisters who would so bless and enrich my life that I cannot imagine having lived without them.

    "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!  It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard, that went down to the skirts of his garments, as the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion.  For there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life forevermore" (Psalm 133:1-3).

    I thought of such blessing yesterday as Frances and I had lunch with our dear sister in Christ and friend Eunice.  We met her through these devotionals.  Neither Eunice nor I can recall who it was that recommended the messages to her, but we are certainly glad they did!  We have communicated by email for many years, but only in the few years have we regularly met face to face.  Eunice is 86 years young, loves the Lord and people, and as such, has countless friends who love her in grateful response.  Frances and I consider ourselves to be blessed beyond measure that we know Eunice, and to be counted among those friends.  She is a great example to us of faith and faithfulness, and she is high among the list of those believers who I can't imagined have lived without knowing.

    The Lord Jesus Himself comes to us in a special dispensation of grace through our brothers and sisters.  We see Him in them.  The indwelling Holy Spirit reveals the character, nature, and way of the Savior though the countless personalities, dispositions, gifts, and callings of fellow believers who share the common life of Christ.  Like a jewel graced with millions of facets, the light of God shines in and through us in countless rays of hue, intensity, and beauty.  The humanity of believers serves as the holy absorber and reflector of Divinity as, again, we see Him in them.  "I am the light of the world… Ye shine as lights in the world" (John 8:12; Philippians 2:15).  

    I wish you could all know Eunice.  I wish you could all know each other!  I am the one blessed with the wondrous gift of seeing in you the Light of the world shine forth in so many lamps illuminated by the grace and truth of the Lord Jesus.  No, I didn't know all those years ago when I believed in Christ that the grace of God comes with the family of God in Christ.  I now know, and I cannot imagine what these past 16 and a half years would have been like without the Lord having come to me so often through you.  I wouldn't have wanted to have lived apart from such a gift, and I bow my heart before our blessed Father to give thanks that I haven't had to do so.

"For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in Heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, might comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God."
(Ephesians 3:14-19)

Weekly Memory Verse
  He is the rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are done in judgment, a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.
(Deuteronomy 32:4)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

"The Enigma of Faith"

   Because God's strength is "made perfect in weakness," the Apostle Paul could affirm the enigmatic condition, "When I am weak, then am I strong" (II Corinthians 12:9-10). 

   Mutually exclusive realities find place and union in born again believers.  We rejoice in our sorrows.  We trust when perplexed.  We see light in darkness.  And we believe that a tomb of death became the birthplace of the greatest Life imaginable - "He is not here, for He is risen" (Matthew 28:6).  Thus, we live our lives expecting enigma, the enigma of faith whereby the realities of earth serve as open portals through which we gaze upon the greater glories of Heaven.

    "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.  We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed.  We are perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not forsaken, cast down, but not destroyed.  Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body" (II Corinthians 4:7-10)

    Weakness, in whatever form, provides opportunity to those who realize that God's way in our lives involves the union of mutually exclusive realities.  "I cannot" serves as the springboard of "He can", and ultimately of "I can do… through Christ" (John 15:5; Mark 7:37; Philippians 4:13).  Weakness continues to feel like weakness, of course, and our initial human reaction to the sense of inability may still tempt us to despair.  We overcome, however, when we remember that our Lord Himself was "crucified through weakness", and that such apparent futility led to the display of Divine power that raised Him from the dead (II Corinthians 13:4).  The challenge is great as we must learn to view liabilities as assets.  The reward is greater, however, for those who discover that mutually exclusive realities actually serve as mightily enabling resurrection in the lives of those who by faith see that "the Light shineth in darkness" (John 1:5).

    Scripture calls us to "be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might" (Ephesians 6:10).  The realization of our weakness prepares us to avail ourselves of such grace.  The way is not easy, but it is wondrous as "when I am weak, then I am strong" becomes expectation rather than enigma…

"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
  He is the rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are done in judgment, a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.
(Deuteronomy 32:4)

Monday, July 13, 2015

"Faithful and True"

    "God is faithful" (I Corinthians 1:9).

    Our Lord is always true to His character and nature.  He forever speaks, acts, and relates in the glory of His perfection.  As such, He can be trusted without reservation.  "Trust in the Lord with all thy heart" commanded Solomon, a mandate that would be unwarranted if even the slightest hint of unfaithfulness could be found in God's heart and way (Proverbs 3:5).  

    Such blessed truth also presents a great challenge to those who seek to trust our Lord with all our hearts.  We have no frame of reference for relationship with One possessed of such purity.  Indeed, we know that even the most faithful human beings sometimes fail to act faithfully, whether through human sin, weakness, or circumstance.  Throughout our lifetime, we learn to trust some people and not to trust others.  If wise, however, we learn to never view the word or commitment of any human heart as sacrosanct.  We rather hope for consistency of determination and practice.  Thus, when we enter into relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ, our "trust, but verify" perspective regarding people may cloud the unreserved abandon of faith that must characterize fellowship with our Heavenly Father.  Indeed, we don't know anyone else who "cannot lie" (Titus 1:2).   We've never met another heart that forever "abideth faithful" (II Timothy 2:13).  No one else's assurances perfectly reside with the willingness and power that always results in "I will speak, and the word that I shall speak shall come to pass" (Ezekiel 12:25).

    Growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus involves increasing awareness of the perfect heart, the perfect word, and the perfect way of God.  By His Spirit, His Word, and His church, we must fortify ourselves with the confidence that every promise of our Heavenly Father has already come to pass, or is in process of ultimate, to the letter fulfillment.  We are the sons and daughters of the One whose Bible shines forth in perfect and pristine purity.  We open the sacred Page to discover the Rock upon which we stand.  There is no other.  Only One is completely trustworthy.  Only One cannot lie.  Only the way of One is perfect.  And only One bears upon His hands and feet the prints of nails that assure us of the blessed truth that there is somebody, Somebody, in this life who can be trusted without reserve, with complete abandon, and with unreserved confidence…

"And I saw Heaven opened, and a white horse, and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True."
(Revelation 19:11)

Weekly Memory Verse
  He is the rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are done in judgment, a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.
(Deuteronomy 32:4)

Friday, July 10, 2015

"Light and Light"

    Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ seek to travel along the parallel tracks of the living Word and the written Word.

    "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14).
    "He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38).

    Genuine knowledge of the Lord Jesus involves both the personal and the doctrinal.  God originally made humanity in His image for the wondrous purpose of fellowship with us.  Even a cursory reading of the New Testament confirms that our Lord can be known in living reality, even in this present dispensation wherein we "see through a glass darkly" (I Corinthians 13:12).  As our Lord declared, "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent" (John 17:3).  The "know"of this statement (ginosko in the original Greek) implies intimacy, as opposed to a mere surface intellectual assent.  Thus, we expect God to be personal with us as He leads, enables, and reveals Himself as the very Life of our lives.  

    We also expect such Presence to flow in the current of "as the Scripture hath said."  John 17 also contains the Lord's affirmation to His Father, "Thy Word is truth" (John 17:17).  Clearly referencing the authority of Scripture, the Lord Jesus established the written Word as the objective standard of all genuine experience of the living God.  Every jot and tittle of what we know about our Lord and His working in our lives must rest upon "as the Scripture hath said" and "Thy Word is truth."  Doctrine is vital, serving as the indispensable source and test of our walk in the Spirit.  Any supposed personal knowledge of God that does not align with the Bible rightly interpreted must be rejected as dangerous deviation from Truth, regardless of how spiritual or noble the experience may seem.  "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try (test) the spirits" (I John 4:1).

    Our train, as it were, requires two tracks.  "In Thy light shall we see light" (Psalm 36:9).  The light of Scripture leads us to the light of Christ.  The light of Christ leads us to the light of Scripture.  We will spiritually derail if we fail to emphasize both gifts of God to our relationship and fellowship with Him.  Our Heavenly Father calls us to know Him and His Son, as revealed by His Spirit and the Scriptures.  He engages both the heart and the mind of His trusting children in Christ as we seek to know and to understand the wonder of His living and true presence in our lives…

"God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth."
(John 4:24)

Weekly Memory Verse
   I will call on the Lord, who is worthy to be praised.  So shall I be saved from my enemies.
(II Samuel 22:4)

Thursday, July 9, 2015

"Hidden Harvest"

(Thanks to Char and Marie for inspiration on this one)

  A tall pear tree stands in the backyard of the house our eldest daughter Marie recently purchased.  This morning, I picked 30 pounds of the bumper crop of fruit the tree presently bears.  Hundreds more pounds remain, and we'll be eating, cooking, canning, and giving away pears for awhile to come.

  Interestingly, few people in the world even know the tree exists.  The previous owner informed Marie of her love for the fruit it bears each season.  Our family knows about it, and perhaps a few neighbors.  But that's all (and now, you folks).  A beautiful, healthy, and fruitful tree stands, beautifying Marie's backyard and providing delicious sustenance for her family and friends.  However, it fulfills its reason for being largely unnoticed.

    "He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground.  He hath no form nor comeliness, and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him" (Isaiah 53:2).

    In His incarnation, the Lord Jesus Christ lived most of His life in obscurity, even as He bore a hidden harvest of the Spirit of God every day of His life.  At the time of His appearing, relatively few know of the advent that would change the world and redeem multitudes from their sins.  Many who did know rejected the Lord outright because He bore fruit that didn't fit their definition of beauty and sustenance.  Such ones cut the Tree down, as it were, but God raised His Son from the dead, planting Him in the soil of an everlasting life of resurrection that will bear fruit forevermore.  "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone.  But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit" (John 12:24).

    The same truth presently applies to the coming of the Lord Jesus to His church, as manifested in us by the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Most of the fruit borne upon the branches of born again believers occurs in unnoticed backyards, as it were.  Christ walks the earth again - in us - and He "bringeth forth much fruit."  God harvests most of the crop far away from the sight of the masses.  The branches themselves often do not see the fruit that hangs upon them in plentiful and spiritually succulent blessing.  A few may know, here and there, but it is best that the bounty springs forth as known by God alone, and solely for His glory.

   As we often suggest, with God there is more to the picture than meets the eye.  Below the surface, behind the scenes, and along the back lanes (or in the backyards) of this present world, the Tree of life stands in abundant beauty and fruitfulness.  Of this we can be sure: whether we see it or not, or whether outward indications even seem to deny the Tree's existence, it fulfills its glorious purpose.  Moreover, it bears the fruit of everlasting and overcoming life that will one day shine forth all the more beautifully because the harvest of grace, the hidden harvest, was largely seen only by eyes of faith.

"And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment, that ye may approve things that are excellent, that ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, unto the praise and glory of God."
(Philippians 1:9-11)

Weekly Memory Verse
   I will call on the Lord, who is worthy to be praised.  So shall I be saved from my enemies.
(II Samuel 22:4)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


     Many years ago, a reader wrote to me with an idea for "how to get more people to receive the Orange Moon devotionals."   I'm sure the friend meant well, and I responded politely - "Hey, that's an interesting idea!"  However, a problem existed regarding the suggestion, a complication that remains until this day.  I'll be blunt.  I don't care how many people read the devotionals.  It doesn't matter to me.  I never think about it, and only bring this up because I heard something today that reminded of that well meaning recommendation from long ago.

    The reason I don't care about this matter is that I choose not to care.  I do so because I know that if I sought to make the messages popular or more widely read, I would succumb to the temptation to write differently than I do.  I am greatly blessed that five or six days a week, I have opportunity to pen a few thoughts that many people like yourselves choose to read.  I get to write  in accordance with my beliefs and convictions, hopefully, as formed and guided by the Word of God.  I have no need whatsoever to consider the popularity of the messages, to promote them, or to write with an eye toward the numbers on our mailing list (along this line, I have no idea how many names are on the list.  And again, I don't care).  I rather seek to write for One (or Three, if you consider the goal in Trinitarian terms).  When I finish writing, if I honestly believe my words faithfully express the Bible's truth, and if I think the Lord might be pleased with what I have written, I hit the "Send" button to transmit to whoever out there might want to consider the ramblings of the most ordinary of people.  For me, this is the only way I could possibly remain faithful to what I believe the Lord has called me to do in these messages.  Others can and do overcome the temptations faced when more becomes an issue.  Of such folks, I am in genuine awe.  For me, I know better than to go there.  I would fail, I would fall, and I would compromise if I did.

  I cannot express in words the deep tranquility of heart made possible by having no need to concern myself with more.  I find this to be the purest bliss as it grants the freedom to write according to the dictates of my conscience.  Only time and the Judgment Seat of Christ will tell whether these convictions are faithful to God and His truth.  For now, I rest and rejoice in the liberty and the peace of writing for One (Three).  And I hope that perhaps some of you may sometimes catch a glimpse of Light as we together make our way to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, to whom we all desire to direct more glory, honor, and adoration.

"And He said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God?  Or with what comparison shall we compare it?  It is like a grain of mustard seed, which when it  is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth.  But when it is sown, it growth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches, so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it." 
(Mark 4:30-32)

Weekly Memory Verse
   I will call on the Lord, who is worthy to be praised.  So shall I be saved from my enemies.
(II Samuel 22:4)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

"Star of Love"

     How can we know that we have progressed from spiritual infancy into maturity?  In simple terms, love provides the primary answer.  Are we God and others-centered?  Or do the realities of our personal lives, needs, and desires constantly occupy our thoughts and attention?

    "Charity (love) seeketh not her own" (I Corinthians 13:4; 5).

    Of course, even the most mature Christian faces frequent temptation to self-centeredness.  While never inevitable, excusable, or necessary, they sometimes falter because believers will be susceptible to temptation throughout our earthly lifetime.  "If we  say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (I John 1:8).  The mature Christian nevertheless consistently and increasingly realizes that life constitutes not a black hole of self absorption, but rather a shining star of radiating light that illuminates, warms, and blesses others through the indwelling Spirit of the God who "is love" (I John 4:8).  Indeed, those who long walk with the Lord in sincerity and truth find their hearts turned inside out in the realization that blessedness sought for others fulfills the heart of those who, like the Lord Jesus, seek "not to be ministered unto, but to minister" (Matthew 20:28).

   The spiritual babe, regardless of how long he or she may have known the Lord, processes life in terms of the unholy trinity of "I, Me, and My."  Just as earthly babies respond to conditions, circumstances, and situations in self-centeredness, the spiritual infant smiles and laughs or mourns and moans in response to pleasing or disturbing realities.  He does not know God and Truth well enough in heart to overcome the challenges foisted by the world, the flesh, and the devil, challenges that tempt us to walk in the darkness of "I, Me, and My" rather than the light of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    The book of Hebrews was written to spiritual babies who should have been mature adults (Hebrews 5:12).  Its primary message calls us to "look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross", and to "consider Him, who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself" (Hebrews 12:2-3).  Such a gaze consistently directed Christward changes our hearts, minds, hands, and feet, delivering us from existing as a black hole to vibrantly shining as a bright and glorious star of love.  This is God's purpose for each of us, that we grow, develop, and mature in the unselfish character of Christ revealed to us, in us, and ultimately through us for the glory of God.

"Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor."
(Ephesians 5:2)

Weekly Memory Verse
   I will call on the Lord, who is worthy to be praised.  So shall I be saved from my enemies.
(II Samuel 22:4)

Monday, July 6, 2015

"Realized Reality"

    When considering the subject of fear in Biblical terms, we begin by transitioning our thinking from the emotional and the physical to the realm of knowledge and understanding.  Who is God, who are we in relationship to Him, and what does He promise to be and do for us?  Overcoming fear first requires our answering these questions in a depth that enables us to respond to fearful temptations in the realized presence and power of Christ.  

    "He shall not be afraid of evil tidings.  His heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.  His heart is established, he shall not be afraid" (Psalm 112:7-8).

    Of course, we do not discount or ignore the emotional and physical realities of fear.  Our Lord made us to react to challenges and dangers.   Feelings and physical sensations play a role in protecting us from unnecessary harm.  We wouldn't want to lose these necessary capacities to respond, nor does overcoming fear in terms of Scripture mean that we must do so.  However, the recognition of danger, along with accompanying feelings and sensations of concern, is meant to be productive and beneficial to us, as opposed to torturing us within or leading to unwise and harmful actions.  Consider this account from the life of the Lord Jesus Christ.

   "Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.  And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith He unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with Me. And He went a little further, and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt. And He cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done" (Matthew 26:36-42).

    In Luke's account of Gethsemane, he adds that the Savior's sweat was mixed with blood (Luke 22:44).  Physiologists tell us that such a condition only happens when a person is under the most extreme emotional and physical distress imaginable.  Thus, our Savior Himself was not beyond the possibility of troubled concern that threatened to overwhelm Him in the hour of His greatest challenge.  Thankfully, the Lord Jesus overcame the temptation through the power of the Holy Spirit, and by the knowledge He possessed of His Father's presence, truth and will.  We see this preparation for the stresses of temptation in the garden by numerous statements He made during His lifetime and ministry.

   "The living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father" (John 6:57).
   "There came a voice from Heaven, saying, Thou art My beloved Son" (Mark 1:11).
   "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30).
    "He that sent Me is with Me.  The Father hath not left Me alone" (John 8:29).
    "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand" (John 3:35).

    The Lord's convictions concerning His Father's presence and care played a major role in His overcoming the challenge of Gethsemane.  In similar manner, our growing knowledge and understanding of Scripture prepares and strengthens us to realize reality in times of temptation to fear.  "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17).  Problems with fear are actions problems with Truth.  Whatever my particular emotional constitution and tendencies to react, do I adequately understand that concern actually offers opportunity to act in a positive, proactive manner?   This may simply involve the removal of our hand from the hot stove as pain makes us aware of harm at hand.  Or it may lead us to act inwardly in times when no outward action presents itself - "What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee" (Psalm 56:3).  In both cases, the issue involves Truth and our proper reaction to realized reality.

    Challenges regarding fear offer blessed opportunities to remember and relate to our Lord in the light of His promises.  Thus, we thank Him for making us with the capacity for concern and its protective nature.  We determine to respond to feelings of fear by walking in Truth, that is, by either confronting manageable matters that lie just before us, or by looking to our Father in the light of His promised presence, care, and working on our behalf.  We choose to realize reality in the light of God and His Truth - "I will trust in Thee."   For the trusting son or daughter of God in Christ, threats and feelings of trepidation provide opportunity to do that which by definition believers do - to believe.

"Come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord."
(Isaiah 2:5)
"I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in Him will I trust."
(Psalm 91:2)

Weekly Memory Verse
   I will call on the Lord, who is worthy to be praised.  So shall I be saved from my enemies.
(II Samuel 22:4)

Saturday, July 4, 2015

“Straight Ahead”

     "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" (Colossians 3:2).
     "Why stand ye gazing up into Heaven?  This same Jesus, which is taken from you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into Heaven" (Acts 1:11).

    While we set our affections on things above, God intends born again believers to direct our gaze straight ahead in order to deal with the present realities of our lives.  The Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ leads Christians to impact this present world before it escorts us to our future Heavenly home.  We might say that Heaven comes to us before we go to it.  "I will come to you" promised the Lord Jesus to His disciples, referencing the advent of the indwelling Holy Spirit given to all who trust in Christ (John 14:18).   

   Such Presence empowers a life of fulfilling personal responsibility as our Lord enables us to live our present lives in "the powers of the world to come" (Hebrews 6:5).  We can live no more practical life than the Christian life.  In fact, any other life cannot be viewed as truly reasonable or utilitarian.  God made human beings to "walk in the light of the Lord" (Isaiah 2:5).  Only believers see life and the world as it really is.  Thus, only believers deal with life in accordance with reality.  Through Christ, our Heavenly Father grants the grace to deal with the matter right in front of us.  However, Like sheep, distraction easily leads us away from our Shepherd's pointed and present command: "This is the way.  Walk ye in it" (Isaiah 30:21).  We must therefore determine that "affection on things above" will lead us to look straight ahead at life as it is, rather than than stand with starry spiritual eyes, "gazing up into Heaven."

    The present will of God may involve that which seems very ordinary, mundane, and earthly.  Recall that the Lord Jesus lived more than 90% of His life not as a preacher, teacher, and miracle worker, but as a seemingly ordinary man and carpenter.  He did so in perfect faithfulness, thus preparing Him for the three years of obvious ministry that led to the cross, the resurrection,  the ascension, and eternal glory.  In similar manner, most of our Christian life will involve faith and faithfulness in the countless small matters of the day that actually loom very large in their significance and effect for the glory of God.  We live with our hearts in Heaven, but with our feet planted firmly on the ground of earth.  Thereby we honor our Lord and thereby we display His presence in our hearts by looking straight ahead and dealing with the matter at hand through the presence, wisdom, and enabling of Christ.

"His Lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant.  Thou hast been faithful over a few things.  I will make thee ruler over many things.  Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
(Matthew 25:21)

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

Friday, July 3, 2015

"To Love"

     "I will love Thee, o Lord my strength" (Psalm 18:1).

     King David recognized that fulfilling the first and great command of Scripture involved not only the determination of "I will", but also the recognition of God's determination to provide "strength".  Only the presence of the God who "is love" can lead and enable human hearts to "walk in love" (I John 4:8; Ephesians 5:2).

    The Apostle Paul affirms and enhances this truth in the New Testament.  "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5).  Salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ births newness of life in all who believe, and most importantly, newness of love.  Our Savior's presence within us energizes our faculties with the Divine strength that makes Divine character and action possible.  "To live is Christ" wrote Paul to the Phillipians (Philippians 1:21).  To love is Christ constitutes the most important aspect of such grace, namely, to love God with all our "heart and soul and mind and strength" (Mark 12:30).  Thus, David's "I will love Thee, o Lord my strength" means far more to the Christ-inhabited believer than the king could ever have understood or imagined (Old Testament saints did not possess the permanently indwelling Holy Spirit because Christ had not yet made atonement for sin - John 7:39; 14:17).

    We must have great confidence in our capacity to love God and others, confidence not in ourselves, but in ourselves as enabled by the Holy Spirit.  Through Christ, we can love as God defines love (Philippians 4:13).  In response to His devotion to us, we affirm and confess the freely determined "I will love Thee", or as the Apostle John wrote, "We love Him because He first loved us" (I John 4:19).  We do so, however, in complete acknowledgement that every step of our journey must be empowered by the Spirit of the Christ who declared, "Without Me, ye can do nothing" (John 15:5).  Long ago, King David realized the shadows of such glory and grace.  Today, born again believers can walk in the bright sunlight of greater glory and grace as we make our free will determination to love God, and our free will determination to trust the Spirit of Christ as the power to fulfill - "I will love Thee, o Lord my strength!"

"I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it, that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them."
(John 17:26)

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