Friday, October 23, 2015

"Things to Remember. . .The Gift of Himself"

"The Gift of Himself"

    Salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ imparts to the trusting recipient the greatest gift our Heavenly Father could bestow upon us, namely, the gift of Himself.  Remembrance of such truth provides the greatest possible assurance in times of difficulty that we do not face alone.

    "Ye are the temple of the living God" declared the Apostle Paul to the believers of Corinth (II Corinthians 6:16).  Paul also proclaimed the Lord's promise to His trusting children, I will dwell in them and walk in them."  Finally, the Apostle wondrously wrote that God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father.  The Gift of Himself, the most magnanimous bestowal possible by God to undeserving hearts such as our own.

    In this same theme of blessed grace, the Lord Jesus promised, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee, I am with you always.  Yes, in Christ, God provides an abundance of blessedness to those who believe, including forgiveness, newness of life, the promise of eternity in Heaven, a place  in the family of God, and the assurance of His enabling to live in faithfulness and obedience.  The list could go on and on regarding the grace our Father provides in His Son.  However, His living presence within our hearts, as provided through the indwelling Holy Spirit, this constitutes the greatest of all gifts as in Christ, God gives to us Himself.


    The little boy could not believe his ears when one evening, his father announced, "Tomorrow, son, tomorrow it's time for you to go into the deep, dark woods!"


    The boy had often seen his father venture into the vast stand of trees that surrounded the family property.  One of the things he loved and admired most about his dad was the man's seeming fearlessness concerning the dangers that might lie in the woods.


    "Uh, Dad, did you say you think I should go into the deep, dark woods?" The boy gulped as he replied, barely looking at his father because he so feared that he might have correctly heard  the fateful words.

    The man replied without hesitation, even smiling as he did so. "Yes, son, tomorrow's the day. I have no doubt you're ready, and I'll wake you up at the crack of dawn for a good breakfast, and then, and then a journey into the forest! Your first journey!"

    The boy slept little through a long, restless night.  When he did, dreams, no, nightmares of what might lie in the forest startled him to wakefulness.  How could it be that his dad thought he was ready for the deep, dark woods?!  What might really lie in their fearful depths?   What was his father thinking?!  

    Just before sunup, the boy heard a knock on his bedroom door, followed by the familiar voice.  "Son, are you awake?  It's time.  Today's the day!  It's time for you to go into the deep dark woods!"  Once again, the little boy heard excitement in his dad's voice.  "Yes, Dad, I'm awake" he responded.  "Great son," said the father.  "Get your clothes on and come to the kitchen.  I'm making a big breakfast for you so you'll be ready for your big day!"

   The little boy quietly uttered "Yes sir" and began to get dressed.  As he put on his clothes, he thought about his father.  First, he remembered again the courage and bravery of his dad.  But then, he thought even more about how much his father loved him.  He knew this was true!  His dad showed him every day!  So there must be something his father knew that the little boy didn't know.  "If Dad thinks I'm ready, well….  I know I can trust him!"

     The boy ate little of the breakfast his father prepared as the sun rose on what would be a fateful day. "Not hungry, son?" asked the father. The boy looked at his dad, still feeling uncertain about things ahead, but also trusting the man even more as he looked into his eyes. "No sir, not really" said the boy, speaking  barely above a whisper. "I guess I'm just thinking about the trip into the deep, dar… The boy cut his sentence short, not even wanting to say the words.

    "Ok son, get your backpack" the dad said with a smile, and I'll meet you out by the poplars," referring to the stand of hardwoods where an opening allowed entrance into the forest.


     When the boy arrived at the spot, his dad was not yet there. This gave him time to look at and into the woods. They were beautiful, no doubt, especially as the rays of the rising sun shone through the branches and leaves. He had loved to look at them for as long as he could remember, from a safe distance, and he often lingered as he watched his dad disappear into the forest for his trips. How brave was his father! And how much the little boy felt he was not like him! A sense of shame began to couple with the fear churning inside, and tears formed in his eyes just as he heard his father's footsteps approaching.  He gulped hard, and thought to himself again, "I can trust my dad!"

    The man reached his son, and put his arm around the boy's shoulder. "All right, son, are you ready?" The boy quickly wiped a tear and looked up at his father. "Yes, Dad, I think so. I think I'm ready." 


    The father replied, "Me too, son. Ah, I've been waiting for this moment since the day your were born! There are so many things in these deep, dark woods I want to show you. So let's get going!"

       The boy's father set out toward the opening in the poplars.  His son, however, stood still, frozen in his tracks by the words he had just heard. Once again, he could hardly speak, but as best he could, the boy called out to his father, who had already reached the opening. "Dad… Dad, are you going with me?"

     The father stopped and turned to face his son.  He smiled and reached out for the boy in a motion that invited him to come and join him. "Of course I'm going with you, son! You're not yet ready for a journey into the deep, dark woods by yourself.  Someday you will be, but this is not that day. No, not yet. Yes, I'm going with you into the deep, dark woods. We're going together, and I'm going to show you things I could never describe to you with words. It will be wonderful, and like I said, I've been waiting for this moment since the day you were born!" The man looked into his son's eyes. "Are you ready?"

    Needless to say, the little boy was ready. He was more ready to journey into the deep, dark woods than anything he had ever pondered doing. His dad was going with him! His brave, strong father would accompany him every step of the way, and now the vast forest portended not of fear and uncertainty, but rather promised the wonder of discovery and awe. "Yes, I'm ready, Dad" the boy almost shouted. "I'm ready to go into the deep, dark woods!"


     Whence we go, we go not alone.  So long as our Heavenly Father journeys with us, it matters not whether we venture unto shining summits whereupon vistas of beauty await our awed eyes, or into deep, dark woods that threaten with seeming peril.  Whence we go, we shall not go alone. "I am with you always" promised the Lord Jesus, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee" (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5).  In Christ, God gives to us Himself.  Thus, we can face anything and everything with the assurance that the Lord Jesus will be everything we need Him to be in every moment, in every contingency, in every venue.  Indeed, let us remember the One who is always with us, and never to leave us - this is the promise of He who cannot lie.   "Are you ready?" He asks.  Let us respond,  Oh yes, Father, I am ready!

"The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge."
(Psalm 46:7)

Weekly Memory Verse
   I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed.
(Psalm 77:3)

“Gifts of the Heart”

      Two small things.  But they meant so much.

     "Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right" (Proverbs 16:8).

    I opened a door this morning for a young man as he and a friend left a store.  The young man looked at me, smiled, and said "Thank you" with a genuinely expressed note of gratitude.  Again, two small things, a smile and a thank you.  Something about them touched me, or rather, something about the young man's demeanor and obvious sincerity. The "something" was human, of course.  It's a pleasant thing when people express gratitude to one another.  While not mandatory, it is desired, and it does bind us to one another even when expressed in the briefest moment of contact.  

    More blessed, however, is the Divine to human, human to Divine truth represented.  God "giveth to all life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:25).  This provides us with opportunity to give back to Him in the only way possible, considering that everything already belongs to Him - the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof" (Psalm 24:1).  We bestow upon Him gifts of the heart, just as that with which the young man blessed me this morning.  "The prayer of the upright is His delight" (Proverbs 15:8).  Note the emotionally powerful word expressed by Solomon regarding God's response to our communication with Him.  "Delight" connotes much more than mere acknowledgement or even happiness.  I suspect that we would all be greatly surprised if we knew how much our smile and our thank you means to our Heavenly Father.  Indeed, most people on the planet never think to realize and acknowledge the Giver of "every good gift and every perfect gift" (James 1:17).

    I can give back to the young man, and by God's grace, I will.  I don't know his name, and I will likely never see him again (nor would I recognize him if I did).  However, I can pray for him to the One who knows his name, and who sees him perfectly.  I'll often smile as I do so, and I'll give thanks for a moment that reminded me of the blessedness of gratitude, both in our hearts, and in the heart of our Heavenly Father.

"It came to pass, as He went to Jerusalem, that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.  And as He entered into a certain village, there met Him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off.  And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.  And when He saw them, He said unto them, God show yourselves unto the priests.  And it came to pass, that as they went, they were cleansed.  And one of them when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice gloriifed God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks.  And he was a Samaritan.  And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed?  But where are the nine?"
(Luke 17:11-17)

Weekly Memory Verse
    The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them."
(Proverbs 20:12)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

"Not Unto Us!"

      We know God's ultimate intention for creation.

    "Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to the good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in Heaven and which are on earth, even in Him" (Ephesians 1:9-10).

    Much mystery lies in this gathering of all things in the Lord Jesus.  What does this mean?  The consideration raises as many questions as it answers.  Of this, however, we can be sure: God's eternal purposes, determined from everlasting to everlasting, center in His Son.  Thus, if we are spiritually united to Christ, we find ourselves in the very midst of God's intentions to the degree that His working in our lives always concerns the exaltation and revelation of the Lord Jesus.  We may not know how His determinations and allowances in our lives fit into the gathering of all things in Christ.  But we can be sure that they do.  "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).

    Times of difficulty and challenge tempt us to self-centeredness.  "Why is this happening to me?"  Without discounting our Heavenly Father's loving, personal involvement in our lives, we do well to replace our inquiry with the understanding that more significant matters occupy His primary emphasis.  He acts first and foremost to fulfill His aforementioned Christ-centered purpose.  If God were ever to sleep, we would not be the first thought on His mind when He woke up.  As we ponder such a decentralizing thought, we do well to breath a huge sigh of relief.  "I am not the center of the universe, and God doesn't view me as such!"  The Lord Jesus occupies this holy place, rightly, and He is more than able to fulfill the privileged responsibility of being the central theme of the Divine purposes.  Such a burden would overwhelm us, even as it actually does when we allow self-centeredness to govern our thoughts, attitudes, and ways.  "Why is this happening to me?"  The question never leads to peace.  Instead, tranquility of heart ensues when we affirm our Father's working to exalt and reveal His Son in us, even if we do not see how His actions result in such glory.

    Salvation in Christ progressively delivers us from the false and deadly notion that we are the sun of our personal solar system.  We are not.  Christ is the Son, and the scene of God's ultimate gathering of all things.  Breath that aforementioned sigh of relief in the peace of such light, rejoicing that God loves us best by exalting the Lord Jesus in us.  He could give to us no greater gift as through Christ, He removes from our hearts the burden of self-centeredness we cannot bear.

"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)
"He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He might have the preeminence."
(Colossians 1:18)
"God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a  name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in Heaven and things on earth, and things under the heart, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
(Philippians 2:9-11)

Weekly Memory Verse
    The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them."
(Proverbs 20:12)


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

"The Cost of Grace"

   We went several weeks in one of our meetings at a local retirement community without singing "Amazing Grace."  Mrs. Berry, one of our dearest attendees, loves the hymn, which is likely the most well known song of the Christian faith.  I apologized, and Mrs. Berry, in her sweet, but forthright manner, responded, "That's all right, Pastor.  But don't think I haven't noticed!"

    Why is grace amazing?  Eternity will not suffice in answering the question.  

    "But God, who is rich in mercy for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved), and hath raised us up together and made us sit together in Heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:4-7).  

    We will never exhaust "the exceeding riches of His grace" in our discovery and access of the undeserved goodness of God.  However, if I were pressed to give just one answer regarding the amazing wonder of the subject, my response would focus on the cost of grace.  

    "Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold… but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without spot or blemish" (I Peter 1:18-19).

    Of all the wonder regarding grace, our contemplation begins and forever continues with the very heart of the Gospel, namely, the heart of God revealed in the sacrifice of His beloved Son not for friends, but for foes.  "When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son" (Romans 5:10).  Nothing else and nothing less would have saved us from our spiritual and moral ruin.  Thus, our Heavenly Father gave nothing else and nothing less.  At the greatest cost to Himself, the Lord Jesus purchased our redemption by "precious blood."  Moreover, He suffered wrath and utter abandonment as executed by the One from whom He had eternally known boundless love, favor, and devotion.  "Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world… "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?! (John 17: 24; Matthew 27:46).  For His enemies, God sacrificed His beloved Son.  Such wonder constitutes the simplest truth of Biblical revelation.  A child can understand the proposition.  Forever, however, will not fully explain the ineffable glory, nor will we ever cease to be amazed as in the ages to come, God continually reveals "the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."

    Today is a part of that forever.  Our Father would have us to know His grace in this day, and to be amazed thereby.  To believers, every New Testament epistle written by the Apostle Paul begins with the salutation, "Grace to you" (Romans 1:7, etc.).  Thus, whatever of God's grace we already know, boundless measures await our realization and access.  All comes to us by the price of sacrifice, by "precious Blood".  Amazing?  It is not a big enough word.  May the wonder never fail to overwhelm us, and as we hear and sing the familiar strains, let us remember that the freest gift ever given was paid for by the highest cost ever remitted.

"By His own blood, He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us."
(Hebrews 9:12)
"His name shall be called Wonderful."
(Isaiah 9:6)

Weekly Memory Verse
    The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them."
(Proverbs 20:12)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

"Do I Really Matter?"

(The words of this one are the lyrics of a song I wrote many years ago.  Wonderfully, the answer to the question remains the same.  Glen.)

"Do I Really Matter?"

The lonely man wonders, 
Is there anybody out there who really gives a care
that I cry myself to sleep each night, 
and very soon I'll give up this fight?
Oh do I really matter,
do I really matter?    

The pretty girl wonders,
Is there more to me than just this face
shining in the mirror?
And when beauty fades into memory,
will I still, will I still be me?
Oh do I really matter, 
do I really matter?

The guilty one wonders,
is there any way to purge these 
bloody hands of mine?
Or am I damned for eternity?
Will no one rise to make my plea?
Oh do I really matter,
Do I really matter?

An answer comes...

As a moonbeam piercing through the endless night,
the silver voice of the risen Christ
shines pure and bright,
Oh yes, you really matter,
yes, you really matter…
To Me.

And we do.

"Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?  And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows."
(Matthew 10:29-31)

Weekly Memory Verse
    The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them."
(Proverbs 20:12)

Monday, October 19, 2015

"What Ocean?"

    "In all thy ways acknowledge Him" (Proverbs 3:6).

    Fellowship with God begins with the simple fact of His presence in "all thy ways", and our simple acknowledgement of the fact.  

    Simple?  It should be.  But it is not.  The unholy axis of the devil, the world, and the flesh (including our own) align to complicate our awareness of the reality in which we "live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).  As the fish responded when asked about the ocean in which he swam, "Ocean? What ocean?"  We miss so much because of all the nefarious effects that sin has on ourselves and the environment in which we live, darkness and blindness constitute the greatest challenge.  Creation teems with the living and true God - "the whole earth is full of His glory" - but even the most devoted believer misses great measures of the sea of God in which we all have our being - "If any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know" (Isaiah 6:3; I Corinthians 8:2).

    If we are to set forth on the journey of acknowledging our Lord in all our ways, or to continue thereupon, we must avail ourselves of the gifts He provides that expose our hearts to truth and reality.  We open our Bibles for illumination upon the sea of God in which we live, even as the Holy Spirit once moved upon the dark depths of the waters (Genesis 1:2).   Every page of Scripture shines with the light that reveals, "The Lord is.  The Lord is here.  The Lord calls us through His Son and by His Spirit to know, love, trust, and obey Him."   We also seek the fellowship of Christ-honoring, Bible believing Christians who encourage and challenge us to acknowledge our Lord - "that we may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ" (Ephesians 3:19).  In such light, we then choose to anticipate the realized awareness of our Father's presence and working in all our ways - "My expectation is from Him" (Psalm 62:5).  Indeed, our human capacity to envisage the future exists primarily to enable our anticipation of Divine involvement.  Thereby our Lord prepares us to acknowledge His loving presence and activity.

    We could not acknowledge the Lord in all our ways if He did not first completely immerse Himself in them.  He does, or rather we are immersed in the sea of God.  "Whither shall I flee from Thy presence?" questioned the Psalmist, who answered his own inquiry with the affirmation that in all things, "Thou art there" (Psalm 139:7-8).  Let us avail ourselves of the gifts given to open the eyes of the blind, and to keep them open.  We will miss much otherwise.  We will miss much regardless.  But we don't have to miss all, and our Father offers to us growing awareness, leading to growing anticipation, and resulting in growing acknowledgement of the wondrous and holy Environment in which we live and move and have our being…

"The path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day."
(Proverbs 4:18)

Weekly Memory Verse
    The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them."
(Proverbs 20:12)

Friday, October 16, 2015

“Questions of Love"

     After Peter betrayed the Lord Jesus Christ, thrice denying that he knew Him, the risen Savior thrice asked his fallen servant, "Lovedst thou Me?" (John 21:15-17).  Peter responded on each occasion, "Lord, thou knowest that I love thee."  Indeed, the Lord did know that His disciple loved Him.  However, Peter no longer knew whether this was true.  Peter's affirmations notwithstanding, the Lord Jesus knew that uncertainty filled His servant's guilty heart wracked by memories of betrayal.  

    We may sometimes wonder the same after times of unbelief and disobedience.  "How can I really love the Lord when I so failed to trust Him and do His will?"  Most sincere believers wonder this in times of failure.  This raises the question, "Does it inevitably mean that we don't love God when we disregard Him?"  Peter's experience answers this question. Note that the Lord Jesus did not counter His servant's claim of devotion.  He did not respond, "Peter, how can you say you love Me after you so egregiously betrayed Me?!"  The Lord rather called Peter to arise and continue - "Feed My lambs… feed My sheep… feed My sheep."  In other words, "Peter, do what I've called you to do.  Look forward rather than back, and know that My will for your life still stands."  While this may raise any number of questions about sin, repentance, forgiveness, and restoration, it also answers the question at hand.  Namely, failure, even of the most severe order, does not necessarily mean that we don't genuinely love our Lord.   As with Peter, we do not act in love when we sin.  His experience reveals that even devoted, God-loving believers can behave in a manner contrary to the true and determined devotion of their hearts.

   In the Old Testament, King David provides an example of one whose devotion cannot be questioned.  The New Testament strongly affirms David, never negatively referencing the king, and quoting God Himself as declaring David to have been "a man after Mine own heart" (Acts 13:22).  However, David greatly distrusted and disobeyed the commands of God on several occasions.  The Biblical account of his sin regarding Bathsheba portrays David in the darkest indictment possible.  Rather than discounting and disqualifying David, however, Scripture declares the Lord Jesus to be "the son of David" (Matthew 1:1).  As he frequently declares in the Psalms, David truly and deeply loved God.  But he didn't always think, speak, act, and relate accordingly.  This explains and interprets the Apostle Paul's New Testament mandate: "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25).  In those who know, trust, and yes, love God, it is possible and sometimes actual that the realities of the heart will not always translate into outwardly faithful and loving expressions.  We may "live in the Spirit" (and every believer does - Romans 8:9).   But we may not always "walk" accordingly.  We may truly love, while not always truly acting in love.

   Had the Lord Jesus not raised the questions of love with Peter, our brother might have returned to the sea to feed bait to fish rather than journey to mission fields to spiritually serve lambs and sheep.  Peter had to know that he loved the Lord, and that his failure did not mean otherwise.  No excuse existed for his betrayal of Christ, and the fact of Peter's love for his Master makes his sin all the more inexcusable.  Forgiveness and restoration neverthless transcended failure in the heart of one who loved, and who had to reminded thereof.  The same will be true at times in our lives as the redeeming grace of Christ calls us to arise, go forth, and fulfill our particular callings and responsibilities in the confidence of God's love for us, and our love for Him.

"Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free Spirit. Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto Thee."
(Psalm 51:1-13).
"The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us."
(Romans 5:5)

Weekly Memory Verse
   For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.
(II Corinthians 10:18)


Thursday, October 15, 2015

"What Saith My Soul?"

     Just as God made air before He made lungs to breath, so does His provision precede our need (Genesis 1:6-8; 20-27).  

    "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Philippians 4:19; Revelation 13:8).

    Appearances often belie such blessed promise and assurance.  Voids sometimes exist in our lives that seem to remain unfilled.  In outward terms, needs may abide as we seek our Lord's help and supply.  We may feel the emptiness, and with King David wonder, "Lord, how long wilt Thou look on?  Rescue my soul" (Psalm 35:17).  Inwardly, however, our Lord offers to us the provision of Himself as our keeper and supply even when we feel cast down and forsaken.  "My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever" (Psalm 73:26).  

    "The Lord is my portion, saith my soul" (Lamentations 3:24).  We must ask the question, "What saith my soul?"  Hard choices of faith line the path whereupon we walk with God in a fallen world.  Sometimes the pages of Scripture seem to serve as the only proponent of Truth in our lives.  All other voices speak and even shout against the notion of Christ as "the strength of my heart and my portion forever."  Appearances belie, emotions contradict, evidence counters, enemies and perhaps even friends controvert.  What saith my soul?  Who will we believe?  Upon which rock will we stand?  Is God faithful?  Is His Word true?  These are the questions our souls must answer in those times when promised provision cannot be seen with the human eye or comprehended by our brain.  Only one response suffices - "I will trust in Thee" (Psalm 55:23).  Such response, however, often swims against the current of every river in our lives except the stream of Scripture.  What saith my soul?

    Every breath we breath not only proceeds from God's provision, but also whispers the truth that He made air before He made the organs to breath it.  Provision precedes need.  In all things, God is our portion, whether or not we see Him or comprehend the application of His supply.  This is the promise of His Word.  This is what the Bible says over and over and over again.  What saith my soul?

"I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress.  In Him will I trust."
(Psalm 91:2)
"Moses endured, as seeing Him who is invisible."
(Hebrews 11:27)

Weekly Memory Verse
   For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commented.
(II Corinthians 10:18)


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

"The Pristine and the Exquisite"

     God always acts in accordance with the standards that coincide with His character and nature.

    "As for God, His way is perfect… God is love" ( I John 4:8; II Samuel 22:31).

   In eternally perfect harmony, God's being and power unite to do always that which is best, and that which reflects who and what He is.  Nothing less than pristine and exquisite perfection suffices regarding our Lord's way and the heart that motivates the doings of His way.  In such wondrous light, we must surmise that God always does the only thing He can do.  He does not have options that lie before Him such as we experience.  His infinite knowledge rather presents a complete view of reality to His mind.  His character leads Him to perform the best possible action in relationship to His knowledge.  And His wisdom and power enable Him to act in accordance with the aforementioned "pristine and exquisite perfection" that fulfills His holy and ineffable standard.

    Writing the previous paragraph stilled my heart, bowed my head, and will lead me to my knees after I finish this essay.  Our God is a wonder.  Indeed, somebody - Somebody - exists in such perfect holiness that He cannot be other than who He is.  He cannot act in any manner other than the pristine and the exquisite.  We may not always understand the perfection of His doings.  But we can always be sure that what He does correlates with the only path of behavior that lies before Him.  For us, this means pleasant and unpleasant experience as our Heavenly Father administers both necessary aspects of life in our present state and condition.  "Thou hast been my help.  Therefore, in the shadow of Thy wings, I will rejoice… Thou hast afflicted me with all Thy waves" (Psalm 63:7; 88:7).  Love, particularly perfect love, meets needs before it fulfills desires.  This is often hard truth and reality in the moment.  Utimately, however, we look back and realize the wonder of our God that He acted in the only way He could, and thus, in that which was best.  

    We may not and will not understand many of our Lord's "Whys?"  We can always, however, be sure of His "wise."  His way is perfect, based upon pristine and exquisite character, nature, knowledge, and ability.  We trust Him accordingly, in both the pleasant and the unpleasant administrations necessary to the glory of Christ, and our eternal well being.  Let us indeed kneel before Him as we realize and affirm His heart, His mind, and His way…

"Now unto the King, eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever."
(I Timothy 1:17)

Weekly Memory Verse
   For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commented.
(II Corinthians 10:18)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

"I Will... I Am"

     The Lord Jesus Christ warned us to be on guard against those who beckon us to receive intruders into our hearts and minds.

    "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself" (Matthew 6:34).

    Our Lord's admonition regarding the future involves contemplations of fear and insecurity.  We are not to "take" those thoughts, implying that someone offers them to us.  Someone does, namely, our spiritual enemies who seek to thwart the peace of this moment known as we trust the Prince of peace, the Lord Jesus Christ.  The world, the devil, and the flesh would have us look ahead to fearful possibilities, most of which will never happen.  They paint a scene for our minds of what could happen, and they always leave out the most important detail of tomorrow.  Namely, the great fact of the future will be the same great fact of the now.  God Himself is that fact.  His "I am with you" will fulfill the promise of "I will be with you" (Matthew 28:20; Isaiah 43:2).  For the trusting believer in the Lord Jesus, tomorrow will be full of His presence and working on our behalf, no less than today and no less than this present moment.  Thus, even if difficulties do arrive upon our doorstep - and some will - we will not face them alone as, again, "I will be with you" becomes "I am with you."

    The great fact of our past, our present, and our future is God.  We look back to see His faithfulness.  We presently open the eyes of our heart to see the same glory.  And we look ahead to the promise of One who cannot lie, and who assures us that every destination shines with the light of His presence.  In such blessed illumination, we take no thought that fails to affirm the truth of "I will be with you."  Godless contemplations of tomorrow are intruders who have no place in hearts of peace graced with the Prince of peace.  He waits for us there even as He is with us here.  Let us refuse to receive any intruder into our hearts and minds who would suggest otherwise.

"Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them: for the LORD will be with you."
(II Chronicles 20:17)

Weekly Memory Verse
   For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commented.
(II Corinthians 10:18)


Monday, October 12, 2015

“Little, White Lie?"

     I was tempted recently to tell a little, white lie.  I remembered, however, that no lie is white, and no lie is little.  

    "No lie is of the truth" (I John 2:21).

    All dishonesty originates in a source devoted to our harm.  "The devil was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth because there is no truth in him.  When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own, for he is a liar, and the father of it" (John 8:44). Moreover, we must remember the consequences of lying - "The wages of sin is death… Christ died for our sins" (     Romans 6:23; I Corinthians 15:3).  Indeed, far before we consider the impact of unbelief and disobedience upon ourselves, we must recall the price remitted by our Lord Jesus for us.  He paid the wages of sin by His agony, forsakenness, and death on the cross of Calvary.  "He is the propitiation for our sins, and nor for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world" (I John 2:2).  Our Savior died for our lies - for all of them.  Thus, none are white, and none are little.

    Writing the last few sentences gave me pause, leading me to bow my head (and hopefully, my heart).  I remember times when I've stretched the truth, compressed the truth, and manipulated the truth for my own selfish purposes.  Sometimes I have done so for obviously self-centered and self-protective reasons.  Occasionally, however, I've rationalized that sometimes it's better to not be completely honest and forthright so that we don't offend others.  Certainly, we should avoid unnecessarily hurting people with foolish and unwise words.  Rather than utter falsehoods for which the Lord Jesus died, however, we should seek our Lord's grace and wisdom "to speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15).  We do this with prepartory prayers, asking the Lord to have us ready for those occasions when we desperately need His guidance in order to be both obediently true and compassionately kind.  Moreover, in those moments when immediate challenges demand wise words, we quickly look to Heaven in our hearts so that we may be "wise as serpents and harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16).

    Great is the challenge that lies before us regarding words spoken in truth and graciousness.  Greater yet is the power of God to lead and enable us to obey Him in His wisdom and harmlessness.  The Psalmist well recognized the demands presented.  "Set a watch, o Lord, before my mouth.  Keep the door of my lips" (Psalm 141:3).  James also wrote that "the tongue can no man tame" (James 3:8).  Thus, we seek our Lord's enabling to speak the truth always for God's glory.  No lie for which the Lord Jesus suffered and died can be viewed as white or little, and much wisdom will be required as the truth we purpose always to utter edifies rather than injures.

"Deliver my soul, o Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue."
(Psalm 120:2)
"Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers."
(Ephesians 4:29)

Weekly Memory Verse
   For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commented.
(II Corinthians 10:18)

Friday, October 9, 2015

"Mr. Schaeffer's Pecans"

(If you've been with us awhile, you might recall this, a repeat we've sent out a number of times over the years.  I passed by Mr. Schaeffer's house yesterday, and was reminded again of our friend, and our Lord's faithfulness. )

     Each morning during my walk, I pass by the house where we used to live.  Of course, this also takes me past my former next door neighbor's home.  Mr. Schaeffer was an elderly gentleman possessed of what seemed to me a gruff exterior.  I tried to be gracious and polite to him, but for some reason, we never seemed to connect as friends.  Until...

    ...Until one fall, when our eldest children Marie and Noah were small children.  Mr. Shaeffer's pecan trees shed a bumper crop that year.  Many of his limbs hung over our driveway and portions of our backyard.  He knew this, of course, and I remember seeing him peer through the bushes at the thousands of choice nuts that might have fallen from his trees, but which were legally our possession because they fell onto our property.  One morning, I stepped out onto my backsteps to see a gentleman - a friend of Mr. Schaeffer's - picking up pecans in our yard and placing them in his coat pockets.  I knew what was going on, and called out to the man, "Sir, can I help you?"  I tried not to sound peeved, but I was.  He looked at me as if he had been caught doing something he shouldn't have, - which he had.  "Oh, I'm sorry, I'm in the wrong yard" he said with a not too convincing voice.  "I thought I was next door."  

   Sure you did, buddy!  I didn't actually respond with those words, but I wanted to.  I was peeved, put out, perturbed, and determined then and there that Mr. Schaeffer and his henchmen were not going to get MY pecans!  I came back into the house, where Frances and our children were sitting together.  "Frances, you're not going to believe what Schaeffer did!  He sent one of his buddies over here to steal our pecans.  The guy told me he had mistaken our yard for Mr. Schaeffer's.  Likely story!  He was sent over here, and was taking that which is rightfully ours!  Can you believe it???"  I stopped talking in order to allow myself to fume a bit.  Then the inspiration hit.  "You know what we're going to do, Frances?  The kids and I are going to go out there and pick up all our pecans so Mr. Schaeffer can't get them, or send over his friends to do his dirty work!  Because the pecans are ours, they're rightfully ours!"

    I will never forget the Lord's interruption of my journey down Carnality Lane.  Somehow the thought came to me of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of how very differently He handled His earthly life's situations and relationships.    I realized He he had never acted the way I was acting, and that He had willingly given up the glory He so richly deserved in order to redeem us unto the glory we don't deserve.  "He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (II Corinthians 5:21).  It hit me like a ton of holy bricks cast into my unholy looking and acting face.  I realized the horrible example witnessed by my wife and children, and the misery of selfishness and bitterness I had allowed to envelop my heart (and that would have poisoned theirs).  Most of all, I knew the Lord was reminding me of the price He paid on the cross of Calvary to redeem me from such a fleshly and destructive attitude.  And, I knew what I had to do.

    First, I repented, confessed my sin, and thanked our Heavenly Father for His forgiveness and redirection of my waywardness.  Indeed, as you read this, please understand that if the Lord had left me to myself, my family and I would have enjoyed a belly full of pecans that autumn, while suffering from the ravages of my selfishness. God mercifully saved us from such a fate by saving me from my fleshly wrong and insanity.  I confessed to Frances, Marie, and Noah that the Lord had showed me the wrong of such an attitude for one who professed Christ.  "I was wrong, and I am sorry.  There is no excuse for what I said and how I behaved."  I paused for a moment as a thought occurred to me.  "Come on, kids, we have some pecans to gather up!"

     We filled several bags with the choice nuts.  We made our way to Mr. Schaeffer's back door, and knocked.  He took a while to come out, and when he did, his initial look seemed to be one of suspicion.  "Mr. Schaeffer," I said, a bit nervously, but with a smile, "Your pecans have been falling in our yard and driveway.  Marie, Noah, and I picked them up for you, and here they are."  We handed one bag to him, and set the others on his steps.  Suspicion gave way to shock on Mr. Schaeffer's face, and then his countenance softened into the kindness I would often see on the man's face throughout the duration of his life.  In that moment, and always thereafter, I discovered a hidden vein of richness in Mr. Schaeffer.  He couldn't do enough for us.  He frequently invited us over to offer us food, or give toys to the kids, or just to talk.  Moreover, not long after the episode, Mrs. Schaeffer became terminally ill.  We walked with Mr. Schaeffer through that trying time.  And not too long after, Mr. Schaeffer himself passed away.

    I served as a pallbearer at his funeral, held with military honors.  Mr. Schaeffer had served in World War II, where he had been a part of a hellish ordeal known as the Bataan Death March.  I can only imagine what he experienced in that terrible time, but I did come to understand at least a bit of why you had to get to know Mr. Schaeffer before the real person stepped forth.  I'll always count it a great honor to have served in Mr. Schaeffer's homegoing service.  We recently passed by the church where the funeral was held.   I reminded Frances of that long ago farewell.  She remembered, and we both smiled as we thought of our friend.

    We serve a faithful Lord, one who saves us from fleshly tendencies of selfishness as we trust and submit ourselves to Him.  Indeed, left to me, our family would have missed a rich blessing in lieu of a few bags of nuts.  The Lord didn't leave me to myself, however, and blessed me with a gift that still brings joy to my heart and tears to my eyes.  Mr. Schaeffer's pecans.  I love telling or writing the story because it reminds me of our friend long ago departed - and of our Friend forever present, active, and redemptive in our lives.  

"So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before Thee. Nevertheless I am continually with Thee: Thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel."
(Psalm 73:22-24)

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

Thursday, October 8, 2015

"Living and Written"

   When considering the Word of God, we must understand the two-fold definition declared in Scripture.

    "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:1;14).
    "From a child, thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ.  All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (II Timothy 3:15-16).

    The Word of God, both living and written, constitutes our proper devotion to God's communication of Himself and His truth.  From everlasting to everlasting, the Lord Jesus Christ exists as the former; through the prophets and the apostles, God gave to us the latter.  Thus, we may - and must - know Christ in both personal and doctrinal terms.  "God is a spirit, and that they worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24).  The Lord Jesus graces every page of the Bible - "they are they which testify of Me" (John 5:39).  The Bible illuminates the person and work of Christ, rightly declaring and defining Him to our hearts and minds.  We open the written Word to discover the living Word, and know the living Word in terms of the written Word.  "In Thy light shall we see light" (Psalm 36:9).

    No greater principle serves to guide our walk with God in life and in truth.  If we seek to know the Lord Jesus apart from the Scriptures, we will inevitable end up following "another Jesus" to our deception and peril (II Corinthians 11:4).  Indeed, plenty of supposed Christs beckon our hearts and minds.  Only one suffices, namely, the Lord Jesus proclaimed in and by the Bible.  "He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38; emphasis added).  If we seek to understand the Bible apart from it's Genesis to Revelation exaltation of Christ, we will miss the main reason for the Bible's existence.  The Apostle Paul wrote that God ultimately purposes to "gather together in one all things in Christ" (Ephesians 1:10).  Such a determination means that if our Heavenly Father writes a book, it will be about His Son.  He did pen such a holy Volume, by His Spirit, through His apostles and prophets, and about the Lord Jesus.  Thus, we read the Book to know the Son, and we know the Son as we read the Book.  Or, in terms of our present consideration, we devote our hearts to the living and the written Word as we seek to love, trust, obey, exemplify, and communicate God and His truth.  

    Human beings possess the God-given capacity for personal knowledge and intellectual understanding.  Such a dual capability enables us to worship God "in spirit and in truth".  Both aspects of His Word present themselves to our hearts and minds as the Holy Spirit leads us to the Scriptures to know Christ, and as He leads us to Christ to know the Scriptures.  Again, "in Thy light shall we see light."  The Word of God, both living and written, beckons to us as a gift of riches unsearchable and love beyond full comprehension…

"Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."
(John 1:17)

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

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

“Of Power, Love, and Sound Mind"

   Our memory verse this week declares that God gives to His trusting children the Spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind.  Or, He gives to us the Lord Jesus Christ as the power, love, and sound mind of God.

   "Christ, the power of God" (I Corinthians 1:24).
   "The love of Christ, which passeth knowledge" (Ephesians 3:19).
   "We have the mind of Christ" (I Corinthians 2:16).

    Our Lord's power overcomes fear because it assures us that we can face any challenge that comes to us by His strength and enabling.  Any challenge.  His love delivers from insecurity because at the root of all such lack of assurance lies focus upon ourselves rather than God and others (even if our fear seems to be about others).  The wisdom and knowledge of our Lord's mind, revealed in us by the Holy Spirit, banishes fright because it leads us to think in terms of God's presence rather than His absence, His promises rather than our perplexity, and His power rather than our weakness.  "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee" (Isaiah 26:3).  Indeed, let Satan paint the worst possible scenario we could imagine on the canvas of our minds, eliciting feelings of fear, insecurity, dread, and even horror.  The greater truth and reality, by an infinite measure, speaks to us from the pages of Scripture and by the living voice of the Holy Spirit that the Lord Jesus is risen from the dead!  The earthly tomb is empty, the heavenly throne is occupied, and our Savior dwells both with and within us to implement and execute the truth that "in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us" (Romans 8:37).

   Temptations to fear, if embraced, cause unnecessary weakness, selfishness, and downright stupidity when we succumb to the notion that the world, the devil, and the flesh are more honest than God, and more true than His Word.  Along these lines, we close the present consideration in the best manner possible, by remembering just a few the assurances provided by the Bible that shines its Light upon the darkness of fear.  Our Lord leads us into the light of liberty, His liberty of power, love, and a sound mind that delivers us from the unnecessary prison of being afraid.

    "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).
    "What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee" (Psalm 56:3).
    "By Thee I have run through a troop.  By my God, I have leaped over a wall" (II Samuel 22:30).
    "When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Lord shall raise a standard against him" (Isaiah 59:19).
    "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed and the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea " (Psalm 46:1-2).
    "Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; He will come and save you" (Isaiah 35:4).
    "Neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defense is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not" (Numbers 14:9).
    "In God I will praise His Word, in God I have put my trust.  I will not fear what flesh can do unto me" (Psalm 56:4).
    "The Lord is on my side, I will not fear" (Psalm 118:6).
    "In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence" (Proverbs 14:26).
    "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13).
    "He is risen, as He said Ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God" (Matthew 28:6; Colossians 2:12).
    "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3).
    "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:14-15).
     "There arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.  And He was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow" (Mark 4:37-38).
     "Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given the Prince of peace" (Isaiah 9:6).
     "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world" (I John 4:4).
     "In the world ye shall have much tribulation, but be of good cheer.  I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
    "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear" (I John 4:18).
    "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 despaired even of life: but 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" (II Corinthians 1:8-10).
    "I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).
    "And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him: and they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign forever and ever" (Revelation 22:1-5).

"Be careful for nothing; but in every thing 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)

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