Monday, November 30, 2015

“Heavenly Or Earthly?”

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

"Heavenly Or Earthly?"

    We may view our lives from a Heavenly or an earthly perspective.  This applies in terms both general and specific.  The former involves our beliefs and convictions about God, ourselves, other people, the world, and our lives.  The latter involves our application of those beliefs and convictions regarding events, conditions, and circumstances, and people.

    "Ye are the light of the world… Now are ye light in the Lord" (Matthew 5:14; Ephesians 5:8).

     Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ possess His light to the degree that both our Savior and the Apostle Paul referred to our very being in terms of light.  It is another matter altogether to live accordingly.  "Walk as children of light" added Paul.  Note that walking involves individual steps whereby we navigate journeys from one place to the next.  In most cases, our stride does not allow for simply one step.  We rather take few or many to get where we desire to go.  In spiritual terms, such everyday reality serves to remind us that the Christian life comprises many choices to act upon God's truth by knowing it to the degree we can believe and respond to it along the pathways of our lives.  "The just shall live by faith," that is, those freely justified by trusting the Lord Jesus walk out the course of our lives through the same dynamic means of specifically seeing Christ as present, willing, and available to act on our behalf (Romans 1:17).  Whatever happened in the first moment of receiving the grace of salvation must happen as we navigate pathways of blessings, difficulty, or the everyday realities of life.  "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him" (Colossians 2:6).   We live "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2).

    It is, however, not inevitable that we will "look".  Again, we may or may not specifically deal with matters in accordance with the convictions referred to by Luke as "those things which are most surely believed among us" (Luke 1:1).  The question ever lies before us: am I viewing this circumstance or condition, or that person and relationship in the light of God's truth, or in the shadow and darkness of any lesser perspective?  Am I knowing life in terms of Christ, or according to carnal or even devilish viewpoints?  This day and this moment present the question, and lead us to an ongoing fellowship with God in His Word and by His Spirit.  "In Thy light shall we see light" (Psalm 36:9).  Am I walking in accordance with that which I most surely believe?  Keeping the question fresh in our walk with the Lord prepares us for His specific answers, and the living of our lives in accordance with His life-giving Truth and perspective.

"If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."
(Galatians 5:25).
"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee."
(Isaiah 26:3)

Weekly Memory Verse
  He that is mighty hath done to me great things, and holy is His name.
(Luke 1:49)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

"Another Heart"

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

"Another Heart"

"He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered."
(Proverbs 28:26)

There is another Heart to trust
rather than our own.
A fount of faithfulness,
a source of grace and hope.

A flowing spring of light and life
that beckons us to seek
another way to view all things,
the way of perfect peace.

Lean not unto your own, it says, 
but on My knowing mind.
Seek My face, look unto Me,
and wisdom you will find.

Another Heart to trust,
awaits us in this day
to lead us as it surely must
in light and life and grace.

There is another Heart to trust…

"Trust in the Lord with all thy heart and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."
(Proverbs 3:5-6)

Weekly Memory Verse
    This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
(Titus 3:8)

Friday, November 27, 2015

"To Serve the Servant"

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

"To Serve the Servant"

    "No man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made an high priest; but He that said unto Him, Thou art My Son, today have I begotten Thee.  As He saith also in another place, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec" (Hebrews 5:4-6).
    "Though He was a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered" (Hebrews 5:8).

    Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ look to our Master for the example of submission.  We serve a Servant.

    "If I then, your Lord and Master, washed your feet, ye ought also to wash one another's feet" (John 13:14).

    While equal to the Father in Divine substance and personhood, the Lord Jesus submits Himself to His Father in rank and authority.  "My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28).  Becoming human enhanced the beauty of such humility in Christ.  "I do always those things that please Him" declared the Lord during His earthly lifetime (John 8:29).  Thus, we "look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" as we seek to overcome our native human tendencies to pride, self affirmation, and self determination.  "Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from glory, to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (II Corinthians 3:18).

    Actually, we do more than simply look.  "God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father" (Galatians 4:6).  Salvation in the Lord Jesus constitutes His inhabiting our spirits with His own.  Thereby He works in us "both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).  Any desire in us to humble ourselves before God results from the indwelling character and nature of the Christ who lives in eternal submission to His Father's glory, will, and purpose.  Our Master's servant heart progressively changes our motivations, attitudes, actions, and words as we more and more discover who He is.  Again, we serve a Servant, and we rely upon His leading and enabling to devote ourselves to submission to the Father.  "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13).

    Believers will one day fall before the feet of our glorious Lord Jesus.  As we do, we will see the tangible marks of His devotion to the Father, and to us.  Nail-scarred Feet will proclaim the wonder of His humble heart, revealing His surpassing glory all the more.  In this day, we look into the pages of Scripture in order to behold the humility that progressively changes us into the same image.  No greater honor can God bestow upon a human heart than the calling to serve the Servant.  Wonder awaits as we humble ourselves to behold the Master who submits, who serves, and who leads us in the joy of His "meek and lowly" heart (Matthew 11:29).

"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.  And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore 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 in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father."
(Philippians 2:5-11)
"Before honor is humility."
(Proverbs 15:33)

Weekly Memory Verse
    This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
(Titus 3:8)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

"The One Gift"

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

"The One Gift"

    What do we give to the One who has everything?

   "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein" (Psalm 24:1).
   "I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord, the Most High God, the possessor of Heaven and earth" (Genesis 14:22).
    "Whatsoever is under the whole heaven is Mine" (Job 41:11).
    Obviously, we can bestow no tangible thing upon the Lord to whom all things belong.  Nor can we give Him our hearts, as a Christmas carol suggests.  They already belong to Him - "Behold, all souls are Mine" (Ezekiel 18:4).  Of course, we may suppose that believers figuratively "give our hearts to the Lord", as some preachers and teachers suggest.  I wouldn't quibble over this point, except to suggest that in literal terms, we cannot logically give anything, including our hearts, to the One who has already owns all.


    "O Lord, my God, I will give thanks unto Thee forever!" (Psalm 30:12).

    Along with praise, the bestowal of affirmations of gratitude and adoration to the Lord bring something to Him that He does not possess until we make our offering.  His Spirit works within our hearts and minds to motivate such expression, but we must respond to His moving in order to actually give the gift.  This means that our relationship and fellowship with Him comprises a real bond of Personality to personality, as opposed to our merely existing as programmed machines.  When we thank and praise our Heavenly Father in faith, humility, and sincerity, we lay something upon the threshold of His heart that He would not otherwise have.  We give offerings of uniquely expressed love as manifested through our spirits, minds, emotional nature, histories, and experience of the Lord Jesus.

   Can you imagine what this must mean to Him?  I suspect we can't.  Perhaps we do, however, catch a glimpse of what Solomon meant when he declared, "The prayer of the upright is His delight" (Proverbs 16:9).  The gift of loving appreciation, expressed in the twofold affirmation of thanksgiving and praise, doubtless blesses the heart of God beyond all comprehension.  You and I possess in this moment the opportunity to bring joy to the Heart that has brought so much joy to us (at so much cost to Himself).  Allow me then to get out of your way, and to myself find that place in my heart from which I may join you in giving a most sublime gift, the one gift, to the One who has everything.  Or perhaps, not everything

"It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto Thy name, o Most High!"
(Psalm 92:1)

Weekly Memory Verse
    This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
(Titus 3:8)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

“A Powerful Gospel”

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

"A Powerful Gospel"

    Matthew and Mark record that both thieves crucified with the Lord Jesus Christ mocked and reviled Him.  "They that passed by reviled Him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save Thyself. If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking Him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; Himself he cannot save. If He be the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him: for He said, I am the Son of God. The thieves also, which were crucified with Him, cast the same in His teeth" (Matthew 27:39-44).

    Luke, however, reveals that one of the thieves repented and believed.  "One of the malefactors which were hanged railed on Him, saying, If Thou be Christ, save Thyself and us.  But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss" (Luke 23:39-43).

    What caused the change in one of the thieves' hearts?  The Lord Jesus answered this question before He suffered and died on the cross.  "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me" (John 12:32).  One thief responded to the lifting up of Christ on the cross.  Thereupon he witnessed the redeeming love of God as the Lord Jesus gave His life as a sacrifice for sin.  Thus, he changed his mind, and the Holy Spirit changed his heart as the man not only believed in the suffering Savior, but also in a resurrected and reigning king.  "Lord remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom" (Luke 23:42).  This is the Gospel, displayed in the very hour of our Lord's sacrifice for our sins.  "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand… For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (I Corinthians 15:1; 3-4).

    We must have great confidence in both the Lord of the Gospel and its message.  The Apostle Paul declared that "the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Romans 1:16).  As with the thieves, some will believe, and some won't.  Moreover, as the Lord Jesus counselled and chided Nicodemus, we do not concern ourselves with the whys and the wherefores of that reality, any more than we attempt to discover the origin and destiny of the wind (John 3:6-8).  We rather bear witness to the saving grace of a crucified, risen, and ascended Savior, trusting that His lifting up will accomplish the redemption of all who hear and respond to our personal testimony and principled proclamation of the Gospel.  As mentioned in yesterday's message, thieves become saints and evangelists through the glory of such Truth, even as we gratefully realize the degradation and damnation from which our Lord delivered us.  Christ died.  Christ arose.  Christ is Lord.  This is the truth believed by the thief who became the saint transformed by God's grace and truth in the Lord Jesus.  And this is the truth we proclaim in the assurance of the Holy Spirit's affirmation and confirmation to human hearts. 

"The righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven?  That is, to bring Christ down from above.  Or, Who shall descend into the deep?  That is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.  But what saith it?  The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that 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.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."
(Romans 10:6-10)

Weekly Memory Verse
    This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
(Titus 3:8)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


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


    The desired norm of the Christian life involves trusting the Lord Jesus Christ as a young person, and then walking faithfully with Him for many years.  This does not preclude, however, the possibility of salvation late in life, and of God's mighty working to glorify His Son in a far shorter span.  For confirmation, let us consider the account of the saint and evangelist on the cross (commonly referred to as "the thief on the cross").

    He had literally minutes to live.  He had wasted his life to degree of acknowledging his rightful place on a cursed tree of shame, agony, and death.  He should have had no expectation of an afterlife that involved anything less than Divine wrath and rejection.  If remembered, his legacy would be expected to proclaim only ignominy.  And yet...

    "One of the malefactors which were hanged railed on Him, saying, If thou be Christ, save Thyself and us.  But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise" (Luke 23:39-43).

    This man, this thief transformed into a saint on the cross, is now a citizen of Heaven.  He will eternally dwell there in the presence of the living God, where there is "fullness of joy" and "pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11).  Moreover, for twenty centuries, his story has become the redeeming message that has led countless souls to faith in the Lord Jesus.  The thief on the cross, now a citizen of Heaven, also serves as an evangelist of holy Scripture.  A wasted life indeed, save for the brief moment wherein Divine grace redeemed one who will forevermore sing "Amazing Grace" with a heart of wonder and a voice beautified in strains of thrilled and loving gratitude.  Indeed, will anyone throughout eternity love the Lord Jesus more than the thief who at the very end of a misspent life became a saint, an evangelist, and a son of the living God? 

   Actually, the truth of the matter is that even the believer who met the Lord as a child, and then lived a long, faithful, and fruitful life, must sing the old hymn with no less wonder, gratitude, and love.  Every godly person will attest to their Heavenly Father's longsuffering patience, and to far too many times when faithful feet nevertheless wandered or even determinedly strode off the narrow path of righteousness onto avenues of waywardness.  The longtime Christian must know his or her Father's grace as one of His children, something the former thief never knew.  He didn't have enough time for this form and measure of experiencing undeserved favor in Christ.  Those who have long walked with the Lord do know such grace.  So, they will surely sing also with a heart no less full, and a voice no less accompanied by utter amazement.

   Two preachers with whom I am familiar retired several years ago.  One was asked how he wanted to be remembered.  "As a man beyond reproach, and faithful to his Lord", he responded.  The other replied differently when aked the same question.  "Remember me as a man who had a patient, longsuffering, and faithful Savior whose grace continues to amaze me to this moment."  I'll let you consider those responses and come to your own conclusion about them.  I suspect the thief who became a saint and an evangelist while hanging on a cross would have an opinion.  And I suspect we know what it is.

"And they sang a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, and hast made us unto our God kings and priests.  And we shall reign on the earth. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped Him that liveth forever and ever."
(Revelation 5:9-14)

Weekly Memory Verse
    This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
(Titus 3:8)

Monday, November 23, 2015

“A Good Hope”

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

"A Good Hope"

    "Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work" (II Thessalonians 2:16-17).

    "Good hope through grace" leads to "every good word and work."  The human heart must have an expectation regarding the future in order to successfully navigate the course of the present.    

    We recently discussed this truth with a dear friend whose daughter presently suffers the consequences of numerous bad choices that have led her to the brink - and beyond - of destruction.  Among many other aspects of redemption through Christ, Frances and I assured our friend that we would ask God to reveal His hope to her daughter.  Can the future be different?  Can it be brighter?  Is there a reason to believe that tomorrow can be other than today?  Only the Lord Jesus can bestow such good hope, and thankfully, He does so through grace.  Like every member of the human race, our friend's daughter does not deserve such an expectation.  She made her own bed of despair, and according to the adage, should have to lie on it.  According to the Gospel, however, the Lord Jesus approached a cross He did not make, and hung on it.  Thereupon He died not for His own sins, of which He had none.  He rather gave His life for us in order to save us from our deserved consequences.  Mercy flows from the wounds of His sacrifice, and in the wonder of grace, "good hope".  Moreover, such hope received and embraced elicits motivation to live this day and this moment in a manner that honors the One who bore His undeserved cross of agony in order to deliver us from our deserved bed of shame.

    "One of the malefactors which were hanged railed on Him, saying, If thou be Christ, save Thyself and us.  But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise" (Luke 23:39-43).

   Neither thief had any basis upon which to seek hope.  One mocked the possibility that the Lord Jesus could provide an expectation of salvation.  The other, however, acknowledged both the worthiness of Christ, while confessing his own unworthiness.  He also believed that the dying Man who hung beside him would somehow be crowned as a king after the ignominy of the cross.  He believed in the Lord's resurrection, the hope of the ages, and the hope of the thief's dying moments.  The Lord Jesus promised Paradise to the man whose had wasted his entire life, save his last moments when the wondrous grace of God bestowed upon him innumerable moments of eternity in the presence of God.  This is indeed a "good hope"!  A certain hope!  An undeserved hope!  And for the thief, a presently realized hope as he honors his Redeemer in this Heavenly moment.  I know you join me in prayer for the young lady mentioned, and for so many in each of our lives who must see the Savior hanging upon the cross He did not make in order to save us from bed of destruction we all have made for ourselves, but upon which our blessed Lord desires that we should not lie.  

"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit,  which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; that being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
(Titus 3:5-7)

Weekly Memory Verse
    This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
(Titus 3:8)

Friday, November 20, 2015

“Abundance and Access”

    Our memory verse for this week promises that God has made provision for everything that our earthly lives will bring to our doorstep.

    "His Divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness…

    A caveat exists, however, regarding our experience and access of such abundance.

   "…Through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue" (II Peter 1:3).

    Nothing confronts Christians for which supply does not presently exist for and within us.  Again, however, we must access such grace in accordance with the faith and confidence that comes with knowing the faithfulness and competence of our Heavenly Father.  If we know Him well, we will likely trust Him in times of both bounty and need, happiness and sorrow, triumph and trial.  "Because Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice" (Psalm 63:7).  Conversely, if we find ourselves overwhelmed by challenge, we can be sure that much need exists for our growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.  "If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small" (Proverbs 24:10).  We trust someone to the degree we know them, that is, that we have experience-based confidence in their willingness, ability, and availability.  Thus, Solomon calls us to diligence: "Get wisdom, and with all thy getting, get understanding" (Proverbs 4:7).  Our brother of old references not merely wisdom and understanding in general terms, but rather wisdom and understanding regarding the Lord.  Who is He?  What comprises His character and nature?  What are His ways?  No inquiry begins to compare with these questions that, if answered, enable us to access the promise of "all things that pertain to life and godliness."  

    "The knowledge of the Holy is understanding" (Proverbs 9:10).  We must know and understand much about many things in order to navigate the course of our lives.  All must begin and continue, however, in "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (II Corinthians 4:6).  Full provision has been made for our hearts and for every exigency.  Our access of such grace depends on "the knowledge of the Holy."  Again, we trust someone to the degree that we know them.  The choice is ours, in this, the only day we actually have to seek and obtain the knowledge of the Lord Jesus that enables us to access His promised abundance.

"Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
(II Peter 3:18)
"As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, o Lord!"
(Psalm 42:1)

Weekly Memory Verse
    His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue.
(II Peter 1:3)


Thursday, November 19, 2015

“Seeming Enigma… Sublime Glory”

(Thanks to Hugh for inspiration on this one.)

    A good friend recently asked a Scriptural question regarding several passages that I suspect puzzle all who read and consider them.

   "Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah. But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him. And Saul's servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee… And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul's hand. And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence twice… And the evil spirit from the LORD was upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his javelin in his hand: and David played with his hand. And Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the javelin; but he slipped away out of Saul's presence, and he smote the javelin into the wall: and David fled, and escaped that night" (I Samuel 16:13-15; 18:10-11; 19:9-10).

    An evil spirit, from the Lord?  My friend raised the good and proper point.  How and why would a perfectly righteous Lord send an evil spirit upon David, or anyone?  In light of Scripture, this seems to make no sense.

    "The works of His hands are verity and judgment; all His commandments are sure.  They stand fast forever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness" (Psalm 111:7-8).
    "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity" (Habakuk 1:13).
    "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man" (James 1:13).

    An apparent Biblical enigma presents itself in this matter of an evil spirit proceeding from a good God.  However, Scripture itself reconciles the conflict.  As it does, several great principles of Truth also illuminate our understanding and response to God.

    "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.  And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered My servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?  Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?  Hast not Thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side?   Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth Thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse Thee to Thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand.  So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD" (Job 1:6-12; emphasis added).

    "Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord."  Compare this with the "evil spirit from the Lord" referenced in the matter of Saul and David.  Note that in both cases, the Bible does not suggest that God sent the spirits.  They rather went forth from Him.  In the case of Job, the devil received permission of the Lord to attack Job in a measured fashion.  We may well surmise the same regarding Saul's attempt to kill David with a javelin.  Thus, the matters do not compromise God's revealed character.  The spirits went forth from the Lord, but He did not originate their evil devices.  He rather allowed the devils' chosen wickedness in the full knowledge that He could fulfill His purposes in Job and David to a greater degree because of the attacks, thus revealing His redemptive power and glory.  Such wonder foreshadows the cross and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and also God's working in our lives wherein troubling and evil things happen, but never without the Lord's complete confidence that He can "work all things together for good to them that love God" (Romans 8:28).  Few more important truths exist as we seek to walk with our Lord in a fallen world with devils whose leashes the Lord often seems to lengthen in order to provide opportunity for the revelation of His greater glory and the benefit of His children's growth in grace.  "It is written, For Thy sake we are killed all the day long.  We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.  Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us" (Romans 8:36-37).

   We also discover in this matter the vital truth that Scripture interprets Scripture.  

    "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, and there a little" (Isaiah 28:9-10).

    I would submit that without the passage in Job, the aforementioned enigma of evil spirits proceeding "from the Lord" referenced in I Samuel would remind beyond our understanding.  I have seen so many explanations of this matter through the years that simply involved surmising rather than "precept upon precept, line upon line" Biblical interpretation.  I'm all for santified thinking and the use of our brains, but only as we begin and continue in the framework of Scriptural authority.  Indeed, when a question of Truth arises, the answers will be found by "not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (I Corinthians 2:13).  Again, Scripture interprets Scripture.  No more important truth can be known and embraced by the trusting sons and daughters of God in Christ as we seek to walk in His light and life.  

    Whenever a seeming conflict or enigma presents itself in the Bible, we can be sure that the Bible itself contains the reconciling answer.  Quite often, the most brilliant truths shine forth from such challenges of intrepretation, but only to those who have absolute confidence in the truth and authority of Scripture.  We begin with the conviction of its perfection, and in the certain expectation that "In Thy light shall we see light" (Psalm 36:9).  In the case of David and Saul, and of Job, the foreshadowings of the cross, the resurrection, and our good and great Heavenly Father's ability to "work all things together for good" shine forth in a brightness that may begin with a seeming enigma, but ends in sublime glory and illumination.

"Thy Word is truth."
(John 17:17)

Weekly Memory Verse
    His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue.
(II Peter 1:3)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"On Guard! Part 2"

    How do we know?  How can we sure that a Christian communicator whose words we hear or read is truly faithful to God and His Word?

    The answer to this question is not easy, and may even be disturbing.  We cannot know, that is, we cannot be abolutely sure.  We do not possess the capacity to look into the heart of another human being with absolute assurance that authenticity dwells therein.  Of course, the Lord Jesus Christ declared that we can gauge the nature of preachers and teachers by their fruits (Matthew 7:15-17).  He did not mean, however, that we will possess perfect discernment as we test the spirits.  I'm sure we'd all admit to having been fooled at times by imposters who quote Scripture, name the name of Christ, and seem for all the world to be the genuine article of faith and faithfulness.  Just as artificial fruit may look exactly like the real thing, artificial preachers, teachers, and writers may delude our eyes and ears, and most importantly, our hearts and minds.  "Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.  Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed into ministers of righteousness" (II Corinthians 11:14-15).

   A great challenge presents itself to us as we seek to hear, read, and respond to those whom we hope are genuine ministers of righteousness.  Again, we cannot look into their hearts.  We must rather seek to follow our Lord's mandate to discern their fruits.  What do we look for?  To whom shall we listen, and whose words shall we read?  Many Biblical answers provide illumination, more than we can presently offer in this essay.  A few stand at the forefront of Truth, however, including those that follow.

1.  Absolute devotion to the person and work of the Savior.  God's eternal purpose centers in the Son of His love who must be the Savior of our love (Ephesians 3:11).   The Father emphasizes His Son, the Holy Spirit glorifies Him, and the Scriptures, all of them, exist to reveal Him (Matthew 17:5; John 16:14; John 15:26).  Thus, any Christian communicator who does not constantly communicate (both directly and implicitly) such love for the "Beloved Son" is either not actually Christian, or has been distracted from the only reason to serve as a preacher, teacher, or writer.  The Apostle Paul proclaimed the Lord Jesus as preeminent in all things (Colossians 1:18).  All things.  Only a heart thrilled, enraptured, and utterly fascinated by the glory, person, and redeeming work of the Lord Jesus can lead to lips or a pen worthy of our attention.

2.  Absolute devotion to the Scriptures.  Love for Christ cannot exist apart from love for 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).  Personally, and I know you share this conviction, I have no interest in exposing myself to any supposed Christian communicator whose words do not give evidence to much time spent in the Book.  Indeed, any proclamation of the Lord Jesus or any explanation of Truth that does originate and proceed in accordance with the "Thus saith the Lord" of Biblical revelation must be viewed as false, even if it seems true.  We either expose ourselves to the oracles of God, or the opinions of man and devil.  There is no alternative, and Scripture serves as the heart and the test of this most vital of matters.  "Thy Word is truth" declared the Lord Jesus who consistently and constantly quoted the "Thus saith the Lord" of the written Word (John 17:17).

3.  Absolute devotion to the saints.  The Apostle Paul expressed such love to the Corinthians: "I will not be burdensome to you, for I seek not yours, but you.  For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children" (II Corinthians 12:14).  Those whom God truly calls to communicate His Word will give strong evidence to the upward, outward, and away attitude that characterizes the nature of the Christ who declared, "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).  The Holy Spirit forms in such ones a disaffected disinterest in reception, and a determined devotion to distribution.  Thus, any preacher, teacher, or writer who gives indication to self interest concerning ministry must be viewed with caution and even suspicion.  "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple" (Romans 16:17-18).

    Many other Biblical parameters exist that help to us "discern both good and evil" regarding those who communicate the Gospel (Hebrews 5:14).  Indeed, as we consistently read and ponder the Scriptures, one of the most important issues to keep in mind involves our being personally prepared to evaluate those to whom we listen and read.  The challenge is great, and the dangers are real.  "Many false prophets are gone out into the world" warned the Apostle John (I John 4:1).  "Many."  Let this be a splash of cold water in our faces that clears our eyes, increases our awareness, and prepares us to discern the true from the false, the real from the phony, and the Light from the darkness.  On guard!

"As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him: rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.  Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ."
(Colossians 2:6-8)

Weekly Memory Verse
    His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue.
(II Peter 1:3)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

"On Guard!"

    If there is a devil - and there is - and if he seeks to distract and deceive - and he does - where might we expect to find his messengers of darkness?  The prophet Jeremiah tells us.

    "Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied" (Jeremiah 23:16; 21).

    Since I myself profess the calling, I feel liberty to express the following: when I meet anyone who identifies himself as a preacher, I immediately put up my guard.  Moreover, I hope that people do the same with me.  Rather than lend instant credibility to those who preach, teach, and write, we should respectfully hope for the best, while wisely acknowledging the possibility of the worst.  As an old country preacher one suggested, "Some preachers are sent, and others just went!"  Indeed, Satan works to fill pulpits with deceivers, Sunday School classes and Bible studies with distractors, and supposedly Christian books with darkness.  Our enemy is often successful, particularly in these days when "evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived" (II Timothy 3:13).  

    What do we do in light of this possibility regarding professing Christian communicators?  The Apostle John guides us - "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try (test) the spirits, whether they are of God, for many false prophets are gone out into the world" (I John 4:1).  The life of faith involves both the responsibility to believe, and to "believe not".   We must prepare ourselves for the possibility that Parson Brown speaks visions of his own heart, or even worse, of Satan's seductions.  On guard!  A preacher is speaking.  A Sunday School teacher is talking.  An ostensibly Christian writer has penned words in the book we are reading (or upon the screen on which you presently gaze).  Failure to acknowledge the possibility of darkness propagated from those who should serve as heralds of light means that we are deceived already.  May our Lord lead us to His Word and by His Spirit to give utmost respect to the faithful, and withhold all credibility from the purveyors of darkness who are actually sent, but from a wrong and devilish source.

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."
(I Peter 5:8)

Weekly Memory Verse
    His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue.
(II Peter 1:3)

Monday, November 16, 2015

“Before the Earthquake”

    If we wait to rejoice until difficult circumstances and conditions abate, we will never actually know joy as defined by God.

    "Count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations" (James 1:2).
    "At midnight, Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God" (Acts 16:25).

    Battered Paul and Silas, having suffered beating, scourging, imprisonment, and the binding of their feet in painful shackles, did not wait until God's healing and deliverance to "count it all joy".  They rather opened the eyes of their hearts by faith to know the Lord as Scripture promises, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).  

    "This is my comfort in my affliction, for Thy Word hath quickened (enlivened) me" (Psalm 119:50).

    The Psalmist affirms the comfort of his Lord in the very midst of trial and difficulty.  As James mandated, he determines to "count it all joy".  Note that he does not "feel" it all joy.  Nor did Paul and Silas in the hour of their pain and imprisonment.  Our brothers of old felt every physical agony, emotional distress, and perhaps even spiritual bewilderment known when thrust into the cauldron of suffering.  The Lord met them there.  Amid the tears, the pain, and the grief, either Paul or Silas or both men remembered the many Scriptural affirmations of the Lord's promised "very present help in trouble".  Thus they prayed, an understandable response in such difficulty.  However, they did more than pray.  They sang, a different matter altogether.  They chose to trust and praise the Lord in the dark midnight hour of torn and bruised flesh, fettered feet, and lost freedom.  They counted it all joy, knowing that God had good and loving purposes for allowing evil men to perpetrate their cruel wickedness.  A great earthquake ensued, doubtless of miraculous nature (Acts 16:26).  However, a greater miracle preceded the prison-destroying act of God's power.  Before the earthquake, before they were freed from their trial, "Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God."  They chose to rejoice in the very midst of pain and misery - "as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" (II Corinthians 6:10).

    We may rejoice after the earthquake of God's deliverance from trial.  Greater joy and greater glory to our Lord ensues, however, when we rejoice before the earthquake.  Again, recall that such joy involves far more than mere emotion and a sense of happiness or relief.  True joy rather constitutes the promised presence of God, the "very" presence of God in trouble.  And, on our part, we rejoice as we "count it all joy" by believing the Word of God regardless of contrary circumstance, condition, emotion, and appearance.  Tears of grief may sometimes accompany such affirmation.  Again, Paul confessed, "As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing."  However, deeply within, the Lord's presence will lead us to pray, and to more than pray.  We will "sing the Lord's song in a strange land" as the Spirit of God brings to heart and mind the Word of God (Psalm 137:4).  This is the greater miracle, the power of God as manifested not outwardly, but in the heart where a song of joy should not be, but is.

"Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice."
(Philippians 4:4)
"The light shineth in darkness."
(John 1:5)

Weekly Memory Verse
    His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue.
(II Peter 1:3)

Friday, November 13, 2015

“In Thy Light”

    One of the vast differences between God and ourselves is that He is perfectly self aware.  He knows exactly and completely who He is (a wondrous thing in light of His infinite and eternal being).  

    "I am the Lord.  That is My name…  I am the Lord, and beside Me is no savior… I am the Lord, and there is none else… I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight saith the Lord" (Isaiah 42:8; 43:11; 45:6; Jeremiah 9:24).

    Conversely, apart from Divine revelation, we do not know who and what we are.  No less than the Apostle Paul expressed consternation about his ignorance regarding himself.

    "For that which I do, I allow (understand) not.  For what I would, that do I not, but what I hate, that do I" (Romans 7:15).

   The God who knows Himself perfectly also knows us perfectly.  Thus, He must progressively explain Himself to us, and He must explain ourselves to us.  "In Thy light shall we see light" (Psalm 36:9).  The former illumination is central to our existence and well being.  "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent" (John 17:3).  Indeed, we fail to understand ourselves because we do not adequately see the Lord as He is.  Thus, the more we "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ", the more we grow in realization of our need for grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus.  Who are we?  Or make it personal - Who am I?  The answer lies in God, the One who knew we would exist before He made us, and the One who now knows us perfectly.  "Thou God seest me" (Genesis 16:13).   Again, to know ourselves involves knowing the Creator and Sustainer of our very being.  We find no answers when we ask, "Who am I?"  We rather ask, "Lord, who are You?"

    Note the wondrous deliverance in such truth.  God's truth in Christ saves us from ourselves, or more specifically, from the misguided selfishness that constantly looks within rather than "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2).  The very problem with humanity lies in our inclination toward viewing ourselves as the center of our existence.  We are not - "in Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).  The more such Light shines upon and within us, the more we experience the peace of knowing our Lord, and of knowing ourselves in relationship to Him.  In His light indeed shall we see light…
"Know ye that the Lord He is God.  It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves.  We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture."
(Psalm 100:3)

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