Wednesday, September 30, 2015


     Have we read, considered, and pondered the Scriptures enough to have opinions about the matters addressed therein?  Thankfully, many issues of God's Word are simple enough that we do not have to spend many hours poring over the text of God's Word.  The most blessed example involves salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ as a matter of God's grace received by faith.  God's gift shines forth in such plain language that a child can understand and respond to the Gospel.  Other matters, however, may not so readily find an easy way into our understanding, assimilation, and application.

    "Whom shall He teach knowledge, and whom shall He make to understand doctrine?  Them that are weaned from the milk and drawn from the breasts.  For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little" (Isaiah 28:9-10).

    The milk that rightly serves babies does not suffice for adults.  God calls us to become so familiar with the "precepts" and "lines" of His Word that we wean ourselves from predigested food by responding to our Father's ongoing work of growth and maturing.  This much involves our devotion to the Bible.  That is, to the degree that we consistently expose ourselves to the Scriptures will be the degree to which the Holy Spirit enables us to fit together the words, sentences, paragraphs, and passages that reveal the spirit and truth of the Lord Jesus.  No one verse explains anything in the Bible.  Consider, for example, the Apostle Paul's plain declaration to Timothy: "there is one God" (I Timothy 2:5).  No truer statement exists in Scripture.  But does this fully declare the complete nature of our Lord?  Hardly.

    "Grace be to you from God our Father" (II Corinthians 1:2)
    "Unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, o God, is forever and ever" (Hebrews 1:8).
    "Annanais, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?… Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God" (Acts 5:3; 4).

   The Bible proclaims a triunity to exist in the unity of God.  The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all exist as God.  They are one, and yet They are three (the use of the plural  as well as the singular pronoun regarding God is confirmed by Scripture - Genesis 1:26; 3:22).  Thus, Paul's declaration - "there is one God" - is true.  But it is not complete.  This illustrates our need to know the Scriptures well enough regarding important matters of doctrine that we can ourselves drawn proper and truthful conclusions.  And, regarding our original question of this essay, if we have not adequately exposed ourselves to the Bible, can we justifiably hold opinions about its teaching?

    We live in a generation that offers so many ways and means to absorb and to assimilate God's truth.  Just as many distractions, however, vie for our attention.  The choice is ours.  If we consistently read and ponder the Scriptures, its precepts and lines will increasingly fit together in our understanding.  Matthew and Malachi will unite.  John and Joshua will coordinate.  Exodus and Ephesians will blend together.  All will center in the person and work of the Lord Jesus.  We discovered this in the milk fed to us by others who helped to establish our convictions and walk with the Lord.  We will discover it even more as our Father beckons us to the adult spiritual food that requires chewing rather than mere swallowing.  

"Every one that useth milk is unskillful in the Word of righteousness, for he is a babe.  But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even to them who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."
(Hebrews 5:13-14)
"He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him."
(Hebrews 11:6)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Ye are not in the flesh but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.
(Romans 8:9)


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

"The Voice of Warning"

     The young man didn't want to hear it.  "It's not true!"   He literally shouted at the gentleman who informed him that the bridge has collapsed just down the dark road on which the young man wanted to travel.  "There's a party at the house just beyond the bridge, and you don't want me to go!  You're judgmental and self righteous, and you don't want me to have my fun!"  In actuality, the gentleman who sounded the warning knew nothing about the party or the young man. He just knew a storm had washed the bridge out.  Anyone who ventured down the dark road risked injury or even death.  He restated his warning, firmly, but with no malice.  "All I'm saying is that the bridge is out and if you go down this road, you could be seriously hurt, or worse."  Sadly, the newpapers the next read contained the headline, "Young Man Drowns In Pleasure River After Bridge Collapse."

   Serving as the voice of warning can be uncomfortable.  Nevertheless, love, the love of Christ, requires our willingness to tell the truth about dangers ahead.  

    "God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory, whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching in all wisdom" (Colossians 1:27-28).  

    The Apostle Paul, well aware that life apart from the indwelling Spirit of the Lord Jesus constitutes grave danger, sounded the alert to unbeliever and believer alike.  His epistles resound with warnings no less than with promises.  Life apart from Christ leads to death in the present, and the "second death" in the hereafter (Revelation 21:8).  Life with Christ present, but unacknowledged and unheeded, constitutes a tragedy that can only result in God's chastening of sons and daughters He loves too much to allow our living as apart from Him (Hebrews 12:6).  Thus, we must offer ourselves to God as His voice that declares one Way, one Bridge, and one Hope, and which also warns that all other paths lead to destruction.  "Exhort one another daily" (Hebrews 3:13).

    We will make enemies by serving as that Voice.  Sometimes we will offend even our friends.  Faithfulness - both to God and to people - requires such sacrifice.  We must also be willing to hear the same Voice ourselves as our brothers and sisters in Christ love us enough to warn us about washed out bridges and the raging torrents of Pleasure River.  Most importantly, we rejoice in  a Heavenly Father so devoted to our well being that by His Word, His Spirit, and each other, He tells us that "to live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21).   But He also tells us…

"There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."
(Proverbs 16:25)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Ye are not in the flesh but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.
(Romans 8:9)


Monday, September 28, 2015

“In the Presence of Enemies"

     Our Lord's present governance of His creation involve an overcoming rather than an absolute rule.

     "He must reign til He hath put all enemies under His feet" (I Corinthians 15:25).

     Such purposes necessitate challenges in the lives of God's trusting sons and daughters in the Lord Jesus Christ.  "When they had preached the Gospel to that city and taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples and confirming them in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).  No challenge, no overcoming.  No overcoming, no present reign of Christ in the midst of devilish and human sins that are not His will, but through which He works nevertheless to reveal His glory and mature His children.  Thus, we must expect the difficulties, needs, obstacles, and attacks that grant ongoing opportunity to trust our Heavenly Father, and to see His ultimate victory in Christ manifested in the specific challenges of our lives.  "In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us" (Romans 8:37).

     God does not determine the devilish evil and human sin that confront us.  By the time, they reach our doorstep, however, He has woven His purposes into the glory of Christ, our benefit, and the benefit of those to whom we minister Christ.  Perfect wisdom and foreknowledge can do such a wondrous thing.  Nothing will ever approach us that takes our Lord by surprise.  Nor will we face any challenge too great for His ability to work all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).  Such wondrous truth means that we view life in a very different way than the norm of human response to trouble.  "I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake" (II Corinthians 12:10).  Note that the Apostle Paul does not state that he "feels" pleasure, but rather than he "takes" it.  Trouble hurts the trusting no less than anyone else.  However, Paul realized that God offers a gift in our difficulties, the gift of knowing, trusting, and submitting to the Lord Jesus in such a manner that we see His victory manifested specifically in our challenges.  "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee.  When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee" (Isaiah 43:2).  God Himself comprises the gift that enables us to overcome - "I will be with thee."  Moreover, He promises a special dispensation of Himself when we must pass through the waters, the rivers, and the fire - "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1; emphasis added). 

    Those attacks upon us allowed by our Father provide opportunities for the revelation of His overcoming presence and power.  He invites us into His heart when we hurt.  Therein we discover the nature, character, and way of the Lord Jesus that the absence of trouble cannot offer.  The way is not easy.  By definition, overcoming requires difficulty.  But the way is blessed for those who realize that anything which provides opportunity to better know our Lord and understand His truth can become a friend.  Or, as David proclaimed, "Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of mine enemies" (Psalm 23:5).  It is up to us as to whether we will parkake or not.

"These things have I spoken unto you that in Me, ye might have peace.  In the world, ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer.  I have overcome the world."
(John 16:33)
"This is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith."
(I John 5:4)

Weekly Memory Verse
    My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
(I John 3:18)

Friday, September 25, 2015

"No Greater Grace"

     "And Joshua, the son of Nun, sent out of Shiitim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go, view the land, even Jericho, and they went, came into a harlot's house, named Rahab, and lodged there" (Joshua 2:1).
      "By faith, the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace" (Hebrews 11:31).

     Delicately stated, the Rahab who usually received men for sinful reasons received the men of Israel unto her salvation.  In the most sublime display of grace, the Lord met her within the context of her very lostness and led Rahab out of her own personal wilderness of sin into the promise of redemption received by faith.  Indeed, God's mercy so enveloped Rahab that Scripture includes her in the genealogical line of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5).

    It would have been better for Rahab had she never practiced prostitution.  God does not determine sin, even to the degree that He will not tempt human beings to disbelieve and disobey Him (James 1:13).  In the marvel of His loving wisdom, however, He does take advantage of the inevitable consequences experienced when sin pays its deadly wages.  "To be carnally minded is death… sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" (Romans 8:6; James 1:15).  We do well to remember that God exempts no one from this inexorable reaping of evil sowing.  "The wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" (Romans 1:18).  The literal verb tense of the original Greek in this passage can be rendered, "is presently being revealed."  Thus, no one gets away with anything in God's creation.  The deadly wages begin to be paid in the moment sin begins, whether the practitioner knows it or not.  More importantly,  as in the case of Rahab, God's grace begins to use the miseries of sin as a preparatory illumination to inform us of our lostness.  Again, the Lord met the woman within the context of a misspent existence, even as her progeny and Savior would one day walk the paths of a fallen world to meets sinners where they were.  "How is it that He eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?!" (Mark 2:16).

    A lesser grace would have found a seemingly more righteous woman to receive the men of Israel.  It would have avoided Rahab with the dismissal, "No, woman, your reception of men for sinful purposes disqualifies you for the redemptive reception presently required!  First clean up your life, and then perhaps God will mercifully grant to you another opportunity!"  In the marvel of His mercy and preparatory working in Rahab's life, however, the Lord saw her as a candidate for grace and for the working out of His purposes within the very context of her lostness.  Such purposes first involved the protection of Joshua's spies.  Far more gloriously, Rahab would receive God's mercy and then occupy a place in the human lineage of the Lord Jesus.  No greater grace can be imagined, although you and I would confess that its equal occurred in our lives when the Lord so graciously met and redeemed us in our own wilderness of sin.

"Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord."
(Romans 5:20-21)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Ye are not in the flesh but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.
(Romans 8:9)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

"First Look"

     I don't know about you, but when I wake up in the morning, a thousand different paths of thought, consideration, and planning seem to present themselves to my heart and mind.  Nine hundred and ninety nine are distractions from the way I desire to first consider.

     "In the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee, and look up" (Psalm 5:3).

    Upon first consciousness, I often tend to look around rather than look up.  There is no law that demands a Heavenward gaze unto the Lord as our first focus.  The grace and truth of God in the Lord Jesus Christ rather calls us into a fellowship of love wherein we freely determine to respond to His overtures or not.  Our Heavenly Father desires genuineness of devotion, as opposed to mere ritual of discipline.  The question then becomes, How do we more consistently direct our first gaze to our Father?  What motivates us to look up rather than around?

    The answer lies in His gaze.  "The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous" (Psalm 34:15).  Or, as the Apostle John declared, "We love Him because He first loved us" (I John 4:19).  Our devotion to God ever proceeds from His devotion to us.  We awaken to every new day under the gaze of God's love, and thus, in the wonder of His determination to work in accordance with our best interests.  The sooner we remember this truth, the sooner we get our spiritual bearings, as it were, remembering how rightly the Psalmist affirmed, "This is the day which the Lord hath made.  We will rejoice and be glad in it!" (Psalm 118:24).  We don't make our own days.  "The way of man is not in himself.  It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jeremiah 10:23).  We rather "live and move and have our being" in God (Acts 17:28).  Thus, the first gaze of our day best sees and affirms God's gaze upon us rather than ours upon Him.

    The challenge of beginning our days involves our native tendency to forget that through the night, and always, our Father maintains His concentration on us for the holy purpose of conforming us to the spiritual and moral image of the Lord Jesus (Romans 8:28-29; Philippians 1:6).  The more and better we remember such truth, whether in the morning, at noon, or during the night, the more our hearts respond in kind.  Love begets love, that is, the heart of God for us elicits our reciprocal heart for Him, or regarding the present consideration, our first gaze.

"When Thou saidst, Seek ye my face, my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek."
(Psalm 27:8)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Ye are not in the flesh but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.
(Romans 8:9)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

"Confident In His Confidence"

     God is supremely confident of Himself and in His ability to fulfill His determinations.  "Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh.  Is anything too hard for me?" (Jeremiah 32:27).

    Only a Creator sure of Himself could grant to angelic and human beings the freedom to rebel against him and disobey Him in the foreknowledge that such a moral calamity would transpire.  Indeed, our Lord know that He can weave all things into His ultimate purposes, including both righteouness and unrighteousness.  The former He determines by providing the power necessary for obedience in those who trust Him.  The latter He allows, at the greatest cost to Himself, the very sacrifice of His beloved Son on the cross of Calvary.   All occurs as "God… worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:3; 11).   Such working does not imply the Lord's determination of rebellion and sin.  Note that the Apostle Paul does not suggest that God works all things after the "forced implementation" of His will, but rather by it's "counsel."   Again, He knew and He knows that nothing can thwart His "eternal purpose in Christ Jesus," being supremely confident of His ability to weave all things together for the ultimate fulfillment of His intentions (Ephesians 3:11).  

    We must ourselves embrace this confidence, this confidence of God in Himself.  Is anything too hard for Him?  And does He always act in full awareness of His own abilities?  In principle, every believer will strongly respond in the affirmative.  In practice, however, we may not be so sure.  Or at least, we may behave as if we are not completely confident in God's confidence in Himself.  Moreover, we may also succumb to a weak doctrinal view of our Lord, believing that He must impose His will on free beings in order to fulfill His purposes.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  God is not some grand chessmaster, moving hapless pieces on a cosmic gameboard in order to achieve His ultimate intention and victory.  Nor does He need to be.  Our Lord rather knew from everlasting that making free angels and humans would require far more wisdom, power, involvement, and most of all, love, than any chessmaster could possibly muster. Creation would necessitate the determination and empowerment of glorious good.  Creation would also necessitate the allowance of evil, and most horrifically, the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Both actualities would transpire within the scope and measure of God's purposes and His confidence that He could and would fulfill His ultimate will.  This He knows.  This we must believe about Him, namely, that He is that glorious, that powerful, that involved, and that loving.  Moreover, we must be confident in God's confidence not merely in principle, but along the pathways of life whereupon faith discovers not merely a chessmaster.  We rather find an infinitely wise and devoted Father more intricately involved in creation and in our lives than we can possibly fathom.  Little wonder that the Apostle Paul proclaimed His Lord's knowledge to be unfathomable, and His devoted involvement to be complete…

"Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" 
(Romans 11:33).
"For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, and who are the called according to His purposes."
(Romans 8:28)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Ye are not in the flesh but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.
(Romans 8:9)


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"Not Unto Us"

     What would the Lord's martyrs say if they could audibly communicate with us?

     Those who have given their lives for the Lord Jesus Christ would arise as one to proclaim, "Not unto us, o Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy and for Thy truth's sake!" (Psalm 115:1).  The martyrs of the ages would tell us that the Lord Jesus met them in the hour of their earthly departure in such a manner that they suffered and died not by their own devotion to Him, but rather by His to them.  He empowered their sacrifice.  They trusted and submitted themselves to Him, but the greater truth involved the love of Christ enabling the last full measure of love for Christ.  "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal bodies" (II Corinthians 4:10).

    The martyrs would also declare that while most of us may not be called upon to give "the last full measure," our own sacrifices must be viewed as the fruit of the Holy Spirit's empowering, and of our "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2).  Our Heavenly Father has no interest in flesh-produced dedication, or the mere grudging and servile obedience of a slave.  Indeed, one of the strongest Old Testament pronouncements of chastening directed toward Israel involved the Lord's displeasure that His people "servedst not the Lord with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart for the abundance of all things" (Deuteronomy 28:45-47).  Our works and sacrificial actions on behalf of God's glory must originate in "the hope of glory, which is Christ in you" (Colossians 1:27).  Such faithfulness creates in faithful ones the keen awareness that the motivation and power necessary for self-sacrifice originates not in humanity, but in Divinity.  No less than the Apostle Paul plainly stated his experience of power from above: "By the grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain, but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (I Corinthians 15:10).

    This truth of enabling grace does not mean that we do not remember, affirm, and admire the martyrs.  We do.  We direct our respect, however, not primarily toward their works of sacrifice as much as we recognize their knowledge of the Lord Jesus that elicited faith exercised in the flames, or on the gallows, the guillotine, and the cross.  As Paul declared, the martyrs received God's grace not in vain, but in triumph, Christ's triumph, known in their pain.  "Not unto us, not unto us!" they would tell us.  And they do.

"As it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."
(I Corinthians 10:31)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Ye are not in the flesh but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.
(Romans 8:9)


Monday, September 21, 2015

"Who and What"

     Who do born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ see when we look in the mirror?

    The answer is nobody.  We do not see a "who", but rather a "what".  "Ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you… That which is born of the spirit is spirit" (Romans 8:9; John 3:6).  Our bodies are not our selves.  We exist rather as a spirit united to the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ.  "He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit" (I Corinthians 6:17).  Our bodies serve as the physical components of the entirety of our being, and matter greatly in God's purposes of conforming His trusting sons and daughters in Christ to the Lord Jesus.  "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Thessalonians 5:23).  Our bodies, however, must not be viewed as the person we most deeply are, or as the site and scene where God dwells and works to reveal His "hope of glory" in the Lord Jesus (Colossians 1:23).  Our spirits rather serve as that grace-blessed and hallowed venue.  "The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord" (Proverbs 20:27).

    Few truths of Scripture more liberate and empower us, especially in a generation seemingly more fixated on flesh than any other.  The Apostle Paul referenced such enabling in his epistle to the Romans:

    "I delight in the law of God after the inward man.  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into the captivity to the law of sin which is in my members... So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the the flesh the law of sin" (Romans 7:22; 25).

    Note the dichotomy.  Paul delights in the law of God "after the inward man."  He serves that law "with the mind, I myself." Here he references his spirit, as joined to the indwelling Holy Spirit, who works in believers "both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:23).   In the Apostle's body, however, a law of sin exists that, left to itself, will lead to an unnecessary captivity to the sin whose mastery has been nullified through Christ.  "Now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness" (Romans 6:22).  Paul knew the truth and reality of being a spirit, but having a body.  Again, the words of the Lord Jesus - "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (emphasis added).  Moreover, he realized that a work of grace and change has been accomplished deeply within believers that is not yet accomplished in our bodies.  "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature… "We ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the redemption of our bodies" (II Corinthians 5:17; Romans 8:23).

    Back to the mirror.  The next time you look into one of those infernal devices (!), rejoice that the image you see is a reflection not of a "who" but of a "what".  We cannot see our selves in the mirror… but, well, yes we can!  "Beholding as in a glass (mirror) 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).  Our Heavenly Father offers to us a spiritual mirror, one in which He would have us see His glory, or rather, "the hope of glory, which is Christ in you" (Colossians 1:23).  His Word is the mirror, declaring to us that if we have believed in the Lord Jesus, His Spirit dwells within the depths of our innermost being, wedded to our spirits as the very Life of our lives.  This wondrous hope of glory provides the primary reason we must realize that the reflection in physical mirrors does not present our "who".  We are not physically united to the Lord Jesus.  He has His own glorified body.   Thus, if we think of our bodies as our selves, we inevitably miss the wonder of who God redeemed us to be, namely, the spiritual dwelling place of His Son.  Again, our bodies are vital components  of what we are.  But they are not who we are.  Let us rejoice for this redemption in Christ that provides His enlivening presence in that part of us which comprises the very heart of us…

"Your life is hid with Christ in God."
(Colossians 3:3)
"Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord."
(Romans 6:11)
"Every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor."
(I Thessalonians 4:4)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Ye are not in the flesh but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.
(Romans 8:9)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Family

(This is a repeat from 2010.)

     It does no violence to the Scriptural record to propose that God exists in the nature and substance of family.

    The Bible states that "there is one God" (I Timothy 2:5). It also teaches that three distinct personalities exist in the oneness of Divinity.

   "Thou art my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation" (Psalm 89:26).
   "Unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, o God, is forever and ever" (Hebrews 1:8).
    "But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?... Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God" (Acts 2:4-5).

    God exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three sublime Persons so intrinsically united in nature, character, and being that "They" are one (the Bible uses plural pronouns in referencing God - Genesis 1:26; 3:22). Herein lies the reference to family, involving a unity in plurality, and a plurality in unity.  Our own experience tells us that distinct persons can be so bound in heart that oneness is easily the best way to describe the loving union. The love of husband and wife, parents and children, and sibling with sibling united in the bond of family reveals that unity and plurality can be mutually inclusive rather than exclusive.

     We need little understanding or explanation for such glory. Some realities we know in ways so sublimely beautiful that no description is possible. I recall an evening with our family many years ago, when our children were very young. We sat around a table at a favorite restaurant.  The banter was lively, with much laughter and enjoyment.  For a brief moment, I sat back to gaze upon and listen to the four people so dear to my heart. I cannot explain or describe that moment, but deep within my depths, I knew then (and I still know) that God gave me a glimpse of something so beautiful that tears streamed down my face (as they do now in recollection). The "something" concerned my own family, no doubt. I realized the amazing gift I had been given.   However, I also believe that the glimpse involved more.  It referenced God Himself, and a hint at the wonder of His triune heart and being.

     I came away from the moment believing that God can be defined, in His essence, in terms of family. He is one and yet He is three; He is three and yet He is one. The Bible proclaims the enigma, and the God of the Bible provides the most definitive and influential aspect of our lives - family - as a window into who and what He is.  Indeed, family is elemental in the existence of humanity because humanity's Maker exists in the same wonderful reality. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit comprise a family.

      Born again believers in the Lord Jesus are now part of this "whole family in Heaven and earth" (Ephesians 3:15). We are adopted sons and daughters, of course, and will never become God as He exists in His essence. However, we are spiritually united to the Lord Jesus so closely that we are "in Christ," our Heavenly Father having drawn us as near to Himself as created beings can be.  Our Savior prayed for our entree into such glory, and then died and rose again to make Heaven our eternal home not only in place, but also in personal kinship to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit...

"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us."
(John 17:20-21)

Weekly Memory Verse
    But let all those that put their trust in Thee rejoice.  Let them shout for joy because Thou defendest them.  Let them also that love Thy name be joyful in Thee.
(Psalm 5:11)

Friday, September 18, 2015

“Guidance To Repentance”

     Our Heavenly Father graciously works to change our minds for the purpose of changing our lives.

    "The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance" (Romans 2:4).

    Rather than allow us to continue in thoughts contrary to life and reality, the Lord guides us to Himself and His Truth.  "Call unto Me and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not!" (Jeremiah 33:3).  We will require such "doctrine… reproof… correction… and instruction in righteousness" throughout our earthly lifetime (II Timothy 3:16). We live in a world fraught with influential darkness that continually beckons our minds to think in terms contrary to the Word of God.  Our Heavenly Father loves us enough to counter the deceptions by continually working to lead us to the repentance ("metanoia" in the original Greek, meaning "change of mind") that delivers from darkness unto and into His light.  "The path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18).

    We play a role in this necessary matter of grace, first and foremost, by recognizing that this Divine guidance to repentance constitutes one of the Lord's primary works in our lives.  We do well to frequently remind ourselves of the need for a changed mind.  This may simply require advancement regarding matters in which we perceive things rightly.  "Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18).  Or it may involve the realization of wrong, and the determination to turn to the light.  "O Lord, correct me" (Jeremiah 10:24).  Either way, our Lord's goodness leads us to the vital acknowledgement and experience of necessary grace, leading to necessary change.  The process is not easy, nor is it inevitable.  Again, we must respond and we must repent when the Truth of God illuminates our darkness, or calls us further into His glorious light…

"Lead me in Thy truth and teach me, for Thou art the God of my salvation.  On Thee do I wait all the day."
(Psalm 25:5)

Weekly Memory Verse
    But let all those that put their trust in Thee rejoice.  Let them shout for joy because Thou defendest them.  Let them also that love Thy name be joyful in Thee.
(Psalm 5:11)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

"Too Wonderful"

    I became a born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ forty years ago today, on September 17, 1975.  The anniversary has been on my mind for awhile now.  I knew I would write about it when the day came, and I've wondered what I would actually attempt to communicate about the most important experience of my life.

    I'm at a loss to know, and I find this to actually be the best and most appropriate response to the wonder of salvation, and of the Savior.  Life in Christ involves superlatives and beyond.  His power is "exceeding, abundantly above all we ask or think."  The peace of God "passeth all understanding."  He gives "joy unspeakable and full of glory."  The Lord Jesus supplies and is "life… more abundant."  His mercy is "everlasting," and most wondrously, "the love of Christ passeth knowledge" (Ephesians 3:20; Philippians 4:7; I Peter 1:8; John 10:10; Psalm 100:5; Ephesians 3:19).  Such transcendant glory defies language, and at any point that we consider ourselves to have found words that fully explain and express the marvel of life in Christ, we can know that we've been distracted from the glory thereof.

    "Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33).

    I feel unexpectedly subdued in seeking to communicate what that day so long ago meant, and what it means.  As the Psalmist expressed of God's intimately and intricately involved saturation in our lives, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me!" (Psalm 139:6).  So that is what I will affirm on this day that I feel far more than I understand and can express.  "Too wonderful!"  It is, and rejoice with me in the glory that, most vividly known, elicits praises and gratitude that cannot begin to be adequately expressed…

"His name shall be called Wonderful."
(Isaiah 9:6)

Weekly Memory Verse
    But let all those that put their trust in Thee rejoice.  Let them shout for joy because Thou defendest them.  Let them also that love Thy name be joyful in Thee.
(Psalm 5:11)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

"The Model and the Paradigm"


(Or, Theological Anthropology 101)

    How do we best know our need for a Savior?  The answer lies in the Savior Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ.

    "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17).

    This Divine affirmation sounded forth after the baptism of the Lord Jesus, and at the beginning of His ministry.  Our Lord had lived three decades in near obscurity, faithfully doing His Father's will in the normal circumstances of a life lived as we live it.  He was tempted more than any other - "in all points" - and He overcame every challenge to His character and the fulfillment of the will of God (Hebrewss 4:15).  Perfection characterized His attitudes, words, deeds, and relatings to God and humanity.  Thus, He became human and lived as a man in pristine purity, and in God's definition of what it means to be a human being.  He is humanity as God made humanity to be, and here is the illumination that reveals how much we need Him to redeem us from our sins.  Indeed, if we cannot say that from the moment of our conception until this moment, we are just like the Lord Jesus in character, nature, and way, then we must confess that we need a Savior.  Christ alone fulfills the standard and model of humanity, and God accepts only Him or those just like Him.  "Ye should follow His steps, who did no sin" (I Peter 2:21-23).

    The law of Moses was Christ in legal, moral, and ritualistic command and foreshadowing.  God's chosen earthly people, Israel, did not and could not attain to its (His) lofty standard of love, devotion, commitment, and obedience.  God's chosen man, the Lord Jesus, did attain to the standard, even as He declared to John the Baptist, "Thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15).  Because He had no sin of His own, the Lord could therefore die for the sins of others.  This we desperately needed because, again, if we are not just like the Lord Jesus Christ in character, nature, and way, we need this same glorious One to save us from our failure to be like Him.  This He does in all who trust Him as Redeemer because we are not like Him as the Model and Paradigm of humanity.

    Throughout history, nearly every generation of Christians has bemoaned the fact that "people just aren't as sensitive to sin and sorry for it as they should be."  This often leads preachers to focus more on the seriousness of sin and sinfulness, a proper Biblical teaching as long as it correlates with the emphasis of Scripture.  However, the best way to know the darkness of unrighteousness is to look upon the light of "Jesus Christ the righteous" (I John 2:1).  "In Thy light shall we see light" (Psalm 36:9).  The more we proclaim His character, nature, and way in accordance with the Word of God, the more it becomes clear that in and of ourselves, we cannot attain to His pristine spiritual and moral standard (the only human standard God accepts).  It comes down to this: we must either be perfectly like Him, or we must have His perfection spiritually imputed to us as a free gift (and then progressively infused into our character and way as we walk with our Lord by faith).  There are no other options, nor do we need any other.  Thus, we preach Christ only for the glory of God and the illumination of His righteousness that first reveals the contrast between Him and ourselves, and then redeems those who receive the grace bestowed by Him upon ourselves.

"He hath made us accepted in the Beloved."
(Ephesians 1:6)

Weekly Memory Verse
    But let all those that put their trust in Thee rejoice.  Let them shout for joy because Thou defendest them.  Let them also that love Thy name be joyful in Thee.
(Psalm 5:11)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

"Broken Bones"

    The Bible that so often illuminates and encourages us also sometimes shreds us, applying "reproof" and "correction" to our hearts, minds, and lives (II Timothy 3:16).

    We wouldn't want it any other way.  True love, the love of God, tells us the truth about all things, including ourselves.  The Psalmist honestly confessed fear regarding this Divine devotion to our best interests: "My flesh trembleth for fear of Thee, and I am afraid of Thy judgments" (Psalm 119:120).  He knew that the God committed to our care loves us enough to apply His Word in a manner that may well offend us.  David's prayer of repentance in Psalm 51 speaks figuratively of "the bones which Thou hast broken" (Psalm 51:8).  The Lord ventured deeply in David to make changes that hurt and damaged before healing and delighting.

    Every time we open our Bibles, the possibility exists that our Heavenly Father will venture deeply in us to break bones.  Thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions that do not align with Truth must be shattered.  Indeed, it is one thing to say that we seek to be Biblical in all things.  It is another thing altogether to actually do it.  What does Scripture literally say about the issues and realities of God, and of our relationship with Him?  And what is the Holy Spirit thereby communicating to us of light, encouragement, and yes, of reproof and correction?  We must keep these questions at the forefront of our hearts and minds as we open the Book that should not only thrill us, but cause us to tremble.  Our Lord loves us enough to hurt us when necessary, and to tell us plainly when we are wrong in order that "the bones which Thou hast broken may rejoice" (Psalm 51:8).

"My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor be weary of His correction.  For whom the Lord loveth, He correcteth, even as a father the son in whom he delighteth."
(Proverbs 3:11-12)

Weekly Memory Verse
    But let all those that put their trust in Thee rejoice.  Let them shout for joy because Thou defendest them.  Let them also that love Thy name be joyful in Thee.
(Psalm 5:11)

Monday, September 14, 2015

"Worth It All"

    "When they had called the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.  And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name" (Acts 5:40-41).

    The apostles considered it a privilege to suffer for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  They viewed pain, loss, and even possible martyrdom as evidence of God's approval rather than His disfavor or neglect.  Peter, James, John and their brothers well understood from the experience of their Master that the resurrection proceeding from suffering and death makes every loss worthwhile.  Or, as the Apostle Paul declared, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18).

    Our lives upon the earth are but a brief moment, and "as a shadow that passeth away" (Psalm 144:4).  Eternity, however, is forever.  The pains that God allows or even determines impact our hearts with their barbs and their pangs.  We feel them, and they are real.  Paul's reckoning did not preclude or minimize the sorrows he experienced as a human being.  Our brother of old realized, however, that a greater reality could overcome and transcend the sufferings of this present sojourn.  We can "reckon," that is, we can account as true - because it is true - that today's losses serve as heralds for eternity's gain.  We shall not suffer forever.  But we shall eternally know glories unimaginable because we have suffered.  As we join the Apostles in embracing such blessed Truth, our hurts may not heal.  But our hearts will rest and rejoice in our Lord's assurance of peace: "Be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).

    The passing shadow of today will soon give way to the perpetual solace of forever.  The hymn writer proclaimed the truth when she wrote, "It will be worth it all when we see Jesus."  It will.  Let us therefore reckon our sufferings as privilege, and as unworthy of comparison with the glories to come.  This is Truth, and the transcending reality whereby we honor the One who presently meets us in our pains, and who will forever grace us with wonders that will more than requite every loss and every sorrow.

"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.  And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying.  Neither shall there be anymore pain.  For the former things are passed away."
(Revelation 21:4)

Weekly Memory Verse
    But let all those that put their trust in Thee rejoice.  Let them shout for joy because Thou defendest them.  Let them also that love Thy name be joyful in Thee.
(Psalm 5:11)

Saturday, September 12, 2015

"The Worst Thing, the Best Thing"

(From 2012)
    The worst thing that will ever happen to us has already happened to us.

     "Christ died" (Romans 5:6).

     No "worst case scenario" we can imagine will ever compare with that horrific day when the Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died at the hands of the humanity He so loved.  We put to death the only perfectly innocent person who ever lived, after inflicting upon Him shame, rejection, forsakenness and a misery of soul and body none other will ever know.  It matters not that we weren't even born when the crime took place.  Our sins made necessary the cross, and we are all complicit in the worst and most unjust event of history.

     The marvelous grace of God, however, transforms for believers the worst thing into the best thing.

     "God raised Him from the dead… If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved" (Acts 13:30; Romans 10:9-10).

     Having atoned for our sins by His death, the Lord Jesus came forth from His tomb in a newness of life not only for Himself, but for all who trust in His redeeming work.  "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new" (II Corinthians 5:17).  The cross led to the empty tomb, which leads to our full hearts, as inhabited by the Holy Spirit when we believe.  Indeed, the worst thing made possible our becoming "the habitation of God through the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:22).  While we don't fully realize the enormity of such a gift at present, the day will come when a long eternity stretches forth in which we will forever exist as the very home of God.  In that day, we will better understand that the worst thing made possible our reception and experience of the best thing.

     In this holy light, all other challenges and difficulties fade in comparison.  Indeed, if God can birth the best thing from the tomb of the worst thing, then surely He can cause every other darkness to serve as the lamp of His light.  Regardless of the nature or the severity of the difficulty, the risen Christ will meet us as we look to Him in faith and expectation.  An empty tomb resounds through the ages to declare God's redeeming grace.  Yes, the worst thing became for the believing heart the best thing.  Little wonder that the Apostle Paul exultantly proclaimed of every darkness and difficulty…

"In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us."
(Romans 8:37)
"You, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind through wicked works, hath He now reconciled in the body of His flesh through death to present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in His sight."
(Colossians 1:21-22)

Weekly Memory Verse
    For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life."
(Romans 5:10)

Friday, September 11, 2015


(Friends: I had another message all set to go, but then the dishes needed washing, and…)

     What if that everyday, seemingly menial and monotonous tasks at home, at work, or wherever actually constitute an opportunity for spiritual worship, devotion, and meaningful response to God?  They do.  I thought of this last night as the dishes needed washing, and I initially felt burdened by a chore rather than blessed by the Christ who involves Himself in every aspect of our lives.

    "Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord" (Colossians 3:23).

    This is the glory of genuine experience of God, and response to Him.  We do not segment our lives into the spiritual and natural, but rather see altars everywhere.  "Unto the pure, all things are pure" (Titus 1:15).  What we do, and how we do it infuses the "whatsoever" reality of the Lord Jesus Christ into moments no longer menial when viewed in the light of "as to the Lord".  "I have to wash the dishes" becomes "I get to wash the dishes" if done "heartily" and with the attitude of honoring and pleasing our Heavenly Father.

    I felt tired as I began to perform that chore last night.  I still felt tired even after remembering the opportunity that presented itself in washing the dishes.  No bright lights flashed, no heavenly peals rang through the ceiling of our kitchen, and nothing of spectacular spiritual importance seemed to happen.  I simply washed and dried the dishes as usual, but with a heart and mind toward remembering that the first purpose for everything we do involves honoring and pleasing the Lord.  I sought to do a good job, of course, and I affirmed to the Lord that what I did, I did for Him.  I think that's enough in most cases.  Oh yes, and one more thing: I'm writing to you about the blessedness of "whatsoever" in the hope that it might encourage and challenge your own experience of everyday events becoming portals through which we view eternal realities.  The Lord is at hand, and in heart.  What we do, we do with Him and for Him.

"Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."
(I Corinthians 10:31)

Weekly Memory Verse
    For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life."
(Romans 5:10)