Thursday, December 31, 2015

“No Such Thing"

     There is no such thing as salvation.

    By this, I do not mean to suggest a controversial or obviously false notion.  I rather intend to consider the truth that the salvation declared by Scripture involves the most intensely personal reality of our existence.
     "The Lord is... my salvation" (Psalm 27:1).

    The Psalmist affirms our Lord as our salvation.  Such grace is not a thing or a possession, but rather a Person with whom we have living relationship and fellowship.  The Holy Spirit indwells us when we believe for the holy purpose of birthing within us unto the relational bond with Christ for which God created us.  "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent" (John 17:3).  Many fruits of salvation proceed from the presence of our Lord within us.  The Savior Himself, however, constitutes the root and essence of salvation.  "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him: rooted and built up in Him" (Colossians 2:6-7).

   Our original forebears long ago turned away from the tree of life that provided the eternal spiritual vitality of knowing God in and through Christ.  This resulted in the need for salvation in all of Adam's son and daughters.  Such necessity involves atonement for our sins, forgiveness, cleansing, deliverance from our fleshly constitution and subsequent condemnation.  Most importantly, however, salvation involves the Savior personally entering the mortal chamber of our spirits and raising us from the dead.  "You hath He quickened (enlivened), which were dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1).  He is our salvation, our Savior from death and unto His own life everlasting.  Thus, we must never view our redemption in anything other than the most personal terms.  To be saved means that the Spirit of Christ dwells in us to reveal Himself as the living reality of all salvation.  Again, we were made for this gift of grace, and God so desires to personally relate to us that He gave His beloved Son unto a terrible tree of death in order to save us unto His tree of everlasting life.

    In such blessed light, there is no such thing as salvation.  There is a Savior, the crucified, risen, and ascended Lord Jesus Christ.  When the Bible references the matter, it always implies Christ as the heart of the matter even if it does not directly proclaim it.  He is our salvation.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  Nothing else.

Say it again, Lord, 
By Thy Word and Thy Spirit and the voices of Thy children,
again and again please say it, Lord,
I am thy salvation. 

For we have none other, to whom shall we turn when
the needs of our heart call us yet again
to say it, Lord,
You are our salvation.

So we will say it, Lord, 
as we look into Your face to once again receive Your grace
as You say it, as we say it,
I am, You are our salvation.

"Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation."
(Psalm 35:3)

Weekly Memory Verse
    The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
(Psalm 27:1)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

“Into the Enabling"

(Thanks to my dear brother and friend Randy R. for inspiration on this one).

     Physical tiredness usually signals the need for a time of rest and stillness, as in the case of no less than the Lord Jesus Christ.  "Jesus therefore, being wearied with His journey, sat thus on the well" (John 4:6).

   Sometimes, however, weariness may indicate the need for movement and action.  All of us have had times when we felt tired, but duty or inclination demanded that we engage in activity.  Invigoration rather than exhaustion ensued, revealing perhaps that mental or emotional stress rather than weariness caused our prior sense of fatigue.  We needed movement rather than stillness.  The passage referenced above records the Lord's encounter with the woman at the well, a discourse that clearly invigorated Him as He shared the living waters of eternal life with a curious supplicant.  "I have meat to eat ye know not of" declared a refreshed Lord Jesus to His disciples upon their return from seeking food (John 4:32).  The meal of ministry, as it were, fed and revitalized the Redeemer just as it nourished the woman who needed His ministry of redemption.

    The more we rest in the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ, the more we discover His moving within us by the Holy Spirit.  Thereby we actively engage ourselves by His enabling to "work the works of God" (John 6:28).  Thus, we may act at times when we feel weary, expecting invigoration in movement.  "My strength is made perfect in weakness" declared the Lord to the Apostle Paul (II Corinthians 12:9).  Doubtless He would say the same to us as He calls us to anticipate His dynamic activity that leads to our corresponding activity of thought, word, deed, and relating in times when we find that weariness beckons us to action rather than inaction.

    Do we expect the power of God to energize our lives by His life?  We should.  "Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might… My expectation is from Him" (Ephesians 6:10; Psalm 62:5).  As we anticipate such grace, we will discover a strength from Above that would be missed apart from confident expectation.  In a sense, we walk into the enabling that awaits us at the particular venue of our callings and responsibilities.  There is a time for rest in stillness.  There is also a time for rest in diligent application to the will of God, whether in obvious spiritual endeavor, or in earthly duties that are actually no less spiritual as we fulfill them by the power of God.  We need not live by meager human devices and strength.  Nor should we…

"I will go in the strength of the Lord God."
(Psalm 71:16)
"Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger."
(Proverbs 19:15).

Weekly Memory Verse
    The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
(Psalm 27:1)


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

"Look For the Lamb"

     The same John the Baptist who unequivocally affirmed the Lord Jesus Christ as "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" nevertheless questioned the truth when cast into prison at the end of his life (John 1:29).

    "It came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities. Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto Him, Art Thou he that should come, or do we look for another?" (Matthew 11:1-3).

    "The works of Christ" performed in humility and devotion to individual needs confused John, as it did most of the Jews.  They could not fathom a Messiah who came in meekness rather than power, failing to remember the many Old Testament prophecies that foretold and fulfilled the truth, "Before honor is humility" (Proverbs 15:33).  Particularly in John's case, this way of meekness led to imprisonment rather than the glories he expected.  Temptation followed, and the Baptist clearly succumbed to the degree that he sent representatives to question his Lord's identity.  "Do we look for another?"  The question must have stung the heart of the Lord Jesus, and He responded in the authority of Scripture: "The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them" (Matthew 11:5, as quoted from Isaiah 35:4-6).

    We can all identify with the temptation faced by John.  How often we perceive that the Lord should act in great power.  However, He sometimes seems to either stay His hand of deliverance, or work in a manner that apparently does not fully address our challenges.  As with our brother of old, we may feel imprisoned by our difficulties.  And, as with our brother of old, we may be tempted to wonder about our Lord and His ways.  We will likely not go so far as to "look for another" in the sense of believing that Christ is not the Savior.  We may, however, seek deliverance in ways that do not correspond to the will of God in Christ.  "Prisons" can tempt us accordingly, and we must expect similar temptations such as faced by John when the Lord Jesus acts quietly rather than in open display of His power.

    John forgot that he paved the way for a Lamb.  We may also forget that the Lamb's presence in us constitutes our present lot as "sheep for the slaughter" (Romans 8:36).  The Day will come when the Lord Jesus will openly and powerfully appear as "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" (Revelation 5:5).  All enemies will melt away in the glory of such deliverance and majesty.  This is not that day, however.  We still live in the age of Christ's revelation involving His "meek and lowly" heart, as revealed in His trusting children (Matthew 11:29).  We may see manifestations of power at times.  Most often, however, our Lord will work quietly and in such manner that can only be seen by the eyes of a Biblically illuminated faith.  Look for another?  Never!  We look for the Lamb, expecting the Lord Jesus to often appear in such manner, and expecting that He will honor us to walk as His sheep.

"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.  And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."
(Philippians 2:5-8)
"They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name."
(Acts 5:41)

Weekly Memory Verse
    The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
(Psalm 27:1)


Monday, December 28, 2015

“From the Throne"

     We must show up at the scene of our privileged responsibilities to which our Heavenly Father calls us, including and especially at the Throne of grace.

    "Here am I.  Send me" (Isaiah 6:8).

     We first approach the Heavenly Throne of as our days begin with offerings of praise and thanksgiving, and with the acknowledgement that showing up before the Lord serves as the first scene upon which all others are based.  We come to God with gratitude for His grace in the Lord Jesus Christ, and with the responsive love whereby we devote the day to His glory, will, and eternal purpose in Christ.  "What would You have me to do in this day, Father?  How would You have me think, speak, act, and relate?  Where would You have me go?  To whom would You have me minister?"  As the day progresses, our Lord will answer these questions for us by leading and enabling us in the blessed privilege and peace of "Not my will, but Thine be done" (Luke 22:42).  Indeed, having shown up at the heavenly Throne, the first scene, we are likely to show up at the various venues of our earthly responsibilities.

    Much glory and good happens when we show up at the Throne, and then along the pathways of life that proceed from the Throne.  Many may seem obviously important in the spiritual sense.  Others may feel mundane and of little worth and importance.  The truth of the matter is that all matters.  "Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (I Corinthians 10:31).   A major aspect of blessing regarding the Christian life involves the truth that God infuses spiritual reality and significance into "whatsoever ye do" as we live from the Throne.  In simple terms, we do all with the Lord, through the Lord, and for the Lord.  We may wash the dishes by ourselves in a manner that glorifies Him no less than the Apostle Paul preached to a multitude.  By becoming human and living much of His earthly life in the most ordinary and obscure of circumstances, the Lord Jesus sanctified the mundane and filled it with meaning.  Thus, nothing menial exists in the life of born again believers, and we show up everywhere and in all things with the attitude of having been sent from the Throne.

    Upon first light, our Lord calls us into His Light.  "Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud forth: there will I give thee my loves" (Song of Solomon 7:12).  The Vine is flourishing, the tender grapes are appearing, the pomegranates do bud forth, and the Lord Jesus  provides His loves to all who show up at the Throne of grace.  We live therefrom, or we do not really live at all.  May we hear the Voice that beckons as our days begin, and may we come to our Father so that He may send us to the venues of His glory, will, and eternal purposes where we show up as from the Throne.

"When Thou saidst, Seek ye My face; my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek."
(Psalm 27:8)
"I will go in the strength of the Lord God."
(Psalm 71:16)

Weekly Memory Verse
    The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
(Psalm 27:1)

Saturday, December 26, 2015

"What? That!"

(A repeat from 2012, three years ago today)

   The residents of our city experienced strong tornadoes yesterday for the second time in a week.  We are far more noted for the "straight-line" tempests of hurricanes, so the twisters have caused some nervous moments for all.  Those who suffered damage in the storm face clean up and recovery challenges similar to the aftermath of the late summer winds that often blow in our area.    

    "Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons and all deeps: fire and hail; snow and vapor, stormy wind fulfilling His word" (Psalm 148:6-7).     

    What particular "word" does a "stormy wind" fulfill?  In the general sense, we might deduce that this refers to the Bible's message of God's involvement in a fallen world, characterized by a cursed ground and an atmosphere governed (under God's ultimate authority) by "the prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 2:2).  The entrance of sin into the human race through Adam brought necessary thorns into our earthly experience for the purpose of revealing our need for the Lord's redemption and rescue.  "Before I was afflicted, I went astray.  But now I have kept Thy word" (Psalm 119:67).  Stormy winds certainly comprise part of this loving revelation, revealing the truth of helplessness  in the face of life's uncertain realities.   

    In specific terms, we rarely know the whys and wherefores of God's determinations and allowances.  Some people experience the brunt of storms, while others escape.  It is a risky business to decide that we know the specific reasons for such mystery.  I try to avoid pronouncements of judgment or bestowals of mercy based upon evaluations of people's response to God, or lack thereof.  Stormy winds and other calamities impact the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45).  In our area, hurricanes have destroyed the homes and taken the lives of Christians who were doubtless on their knees praying at the time of destruction.  Conversely, storms often spare those who might be cursing Heaven for the fearful tempest.  Who can understand or offer explanation for such an enigma?  Personally, I find that far beyond my ability to comprehend.    

     We do know that while we often don't perceive what God is doing, we can be sure that He is doing something.  "God... worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:3; 11).  Moreover, "as for God, His way is perfect" (II Samuel 22:31).  Our Lord weaves His determinations and allowances into a fabric that glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ, while working "all things together for good" in the lives of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).  Nothing happens in our lives outside the scope of God's wisdom and power to coordinate "all things" into our best interest, defined in Scripture as believers being conformed to the spiritual and moral image of the Lord Jesus (Romans 8:29).      

    Tornadoes on Christmas Day, 2012.  How did such "stormy wind fulfill His word?"  I don't know.  I just know that it did, in accordance with the Psalmist's declaration.  We can trust God in both blessing and calamity, and in those times when we cannot understand His hand, we can trust His heart.  Again, "His way is perfect."  Therein, our souls find rest in calm and storm, knowing that both fulfill His word.

"He commandeth and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.  He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves are thereof are still."                                  (Psalm 107:25; 29)

Weekly Memory Verse
    I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for Thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.
(Psalm 4:8)


Friday, December 25, 2015

"Walking Mangers"

(Friends:  First, Merry Christmas to all of you.  You are in our prayers today of thanksgiving, as always, for your fellowship in Christ.  I have already sent one devotional today, a repeat of a message I wrote many years ago.  I did not intend to send another, but I just finished the following and since the theme is so directly about the Lord's birth into the world, I decided to do a 2 for 1 special on this Christmas day.  Thanks, Glen).

"Walking Mangers"

     "She brought forth her firstborn Son and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger" (Luke :2:7).  

    Why a manger, a feeding trough for animals, rather than a palace, the abode of kings?  The Occupant of the long ago place of humility answers the question for us.

     "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Mark 2:17).

     Entrance into a lush and oppulent physical hall would not have typified the inauspicious spiritual dwelling into which the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ enters when we believe.  While birthing a "new creature" in our hearts through the new birth, the Holy Spirit nevertheless occupies unlikely habitations when He enters human hearts (II Corinthians 5:17).  The Infinite dwelling in the finite - long ago, Solomon wondered how an earthly temple could serve as the home of God.  "Will God indeed dwell on the earth?  Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee; how much less this house that I have builded?" (I Kings 8:27).  Far more wondrous is the gift of "Christ in you, the hope of glory" given to every believer at the moment of our grace-provided, faith received salvation (Colossians 1:27).  The manger of Bethlehem pales in comparison to the unlikely spiritual venue of our hearts wherein the Lord Jesus enters to remain forevermore.  "He shall be in you" promised the Lord Jesus to His disciples regarding the Holy Spirit who reveals Christ not only as the Savior and Lord of Christians, but as our very indwelling life (John 14:17).

   Believers are walking mangers, as it were.  None of us begin to spiritually and morally qualify by our own merits as "the habitation of God through the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:22).  Nor does it overtly appear that we are the temples of His living presence.  But we are, as enlivened and inhabited through the grace and mercy of the God who purposes to reveal His strength in our weakness (II Corinthians 12:9).  In this light, the humble abode of our hearts well serves our Heavenly Father's gracious purposes of exalting His Son by first revealing Christ's "meek and lowly" heart - "Before honor is humility" (Matthew 11:29; Proverbs 15:33).  We are the manger.  This is the grace of our wondrous Father, who sends His Son not to palaces, but to places wherein we might least expect to find Him.  

"We have this Treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power might be of God, and not of us." 
(II Corinthians 4:7)

Weekly Memory Verse
    I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for Thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.
(Psalm 4:8)


"The Glory of the Unlikely"

(From 1987, pre-Orange Moon days)

      In the birth of His only begotten Son, the Lord revealed to us that He is the God of the unlikely.

    "He hath no form nor comeliness, and when we shall see Him, He hath no beauty that we should desire Him" (Isaiah 53:2).

    How unlikely that the King of the universe should be born in a feeding trough usually reserved for animals.  How unlikely that the nation which so long awaited her Messiah should miss the fulfillment of her dreams and reject her only salvation.  How unlikely that this Messiah should live the majority of His life in obscurity without the pomp and circumstance befitting royalty, and without the obvious appeal we might expect.  Most of all, how unlikely that such a One should die in shame and degradation, apparently discarded upon the dustbin of history as just another well-intentioned zealot without the means to accomplish His desired end.

    This is the glory of Christmas, the glory that fills the present as well as the past.  How unlikely that the humiliated is now the Glorified, and the possessor of that Name at which every knee will one day bow.  How unlikely that the Satan who instigated His seeming destruction served as the unwitting agent of the One who "worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:11).  How unlikely that tragedy should lead to triumph in the purposes of the One in whom all wisdom resides.  Perhaps most of all, how unlikely that God in His wisdom should determine to fill the seemingly marred, broken, and useless vessels we appear to be for the purposes of enabling us to "walk, even as He walked" (I John 2:6).  How unlikely and how wonderful that His strength is made perfect in weakness so that He alone may be glorified as He leads us in His presence and faithfulness.

    He is the God of the unlikely, the God who requires mangers in which to birth His beloved Son rather than the pristine palaces we might anticipate.  Let us therefore expect to find the Lord Jesus Christ in the unlikely venues of our lives, those circumstances, situations, and people where we least expect Him to be.  Our Lord often reveals the glory of His presence in direct proportion to the appearance of His absence, and let us rejoice that through faith in the Christ of Christmas, we have found our King in the most unlikely place of all…

"It pleased God... to reveal His Son in me."
(Galatians 1:15; 16)
"Ye are the temple of the living God."
(II Corinthians 6:16)

Weekly Memory Verse
    I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for Thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.
(Psalm 4:8)


Thursday, December 24, 2015

“Look For Him There"

    "Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of Me" (John 5:39).

    How saturated is the written Word of God, the Bible, with the living Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ?  The first two verses of Scripture introduce the answer.

    "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.  And the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep" (Genesis 1:1-2).

    First, "the heaven and the earth."  God's initial act of creation typifies the Lord Jesus.  He is God, "the Lord from Heaven" (I Corinthians 15:47).  He is also human, "the man, Christ Jesus" (I Timothy 2:5).  Our Savior is the God who became man, and the man who remains God.  He exists in the holy mystery of Heaven and earth united in one glorious Being, the Infinite Deity somehow resident in a created humanity.  In Heaven and earth, there is no one like Him, leading to the Father's pronouncing Him "beloved Son", and the redeemed adoring Him as beloved Savior.  Genesis 1:1 foreshadows such glory, introducing us to the grand Theme of all 31,000 plus verses of Scripture.  Again, as the Lord Jesus affirmed, "The Scriptures… testify of Me".

   We move on to verse 2 of Genesis 1.  

   "The earth was without form."  The Psalms prophesy that the Lord Jesus would fulfill this typology.  "He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him" (Isaiah 53:2).  Our Lord's divinity was so veiled in most of His earthly lifetime that His own brethren did not know who He was (John 7:5).  Moreover, "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not" (John 1:11).  The Lord Jesus was "in the form of God" no less than His "from everlasting" preincarnate existence as God the Son (Philippians 2:6; Psalm 90:2).  However, the garb of humanity necessarily enfolded the beauty of His divinity, even as Genesis 1:2 presages.

   "And void."  Again, the Lord Jesus did not empty Himself of His deity.  He did, however, void the perogatives of living as God during His earthly sojourn.  He rather lived as man dependent on God for the purpose of identifying with those He came to save.  "I can of Mine own self do nothing... the Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works… We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man" (John 5:30; 14:10; Hebrews 2:9).  The Lord was also stripped of His Father and the Holy Spirit's presence on the cross of Calvary, likely the keenest agony any conscious being will ever know - "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?!" (Matthew 27:46).  Such a void, foreshadowed in Genesis, became the foresakenness of the cross.  

    "Darkness was upon the face of the deep."  The Savior proclaimed Himself as Light, "the Light of the world" (John 8:12).  At Calvary, however, the torrents of God's wrath doused the Flame.  "From the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour" (Matthew 27:45).  The Apostle Paul taught that the Lord Jesus not only bore our sins on the cross, but He also "was made to be sin" for us (II Corinthians 5:21; emphasis added).  We cannot possibly reason what this must have meant in the being of Christ as the darkness of sin and God's wrath enveloped our Savior in spiritual and moral blackness.  We cannot even imagine such horror.  We can only know that it happened, and that the darkness upon the face of the deep in Genesis did not compare with the darkness experience in the depths of our blessed Savior when He bore the wrath of God for our sakes.

   The living Word, Christ, saturates the written Word, the Bible.  The Spirit of the Lord Jesus dwells in and upon every page and upon every book, chapter, verse, word, and letter of the Bible.  It is all about Him, and of Him, and through Him, and to Him.  Thus, we open the Word of God written to know the Word of God living, and to love, adore, trust, revere, obey, and exalt Him.  

Look for Him there.
In the pages of His Word,
where shines the holy Light,   
the Light of Christ who is the Word.

Look for Him there.
From Genesis to Revelation,
in chapter, verse, word, and letter
He dwells in glorious exaltation.

Look for Him there.
In the Bible,  Divine, sublime,
the wondrous Scene
where as we search, God's Christ we find.

Look for Him there.

"Thy Word is truth… I am the Truth."
(John 17:17; 14:6)

Weekly Memory Verse
    I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for Thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.
(Psalm 4:8)


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

“God… Manifest In the Flesh"

"God… Manifest In the Flesh"

    Christmas declares that God does Divine things through human means.

    "Great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh" (I Timothy 3:16).

    Our Heavenly Father's "eternal purpose in Christ Jesus" involved His Son taking humanity upon Himself so that He might "reconcile all things unto Himself" (Ephesians 3:11; Colossians 1:20).  Thus, the most Divine of God's intentions were and are being fulfilled through the most human of His actions.  The Apostle Paul affirmed in the present tense that our Savior is "the man Christ Jesus" (I Timothy 2:5).  He is no less Divine for having taken flesh upon Himself, but His central role in the fulfillment of God's purposes requires the Son of God to remain both now and forevermore the son of man (Matthew 24:30).  

    In the light of such Truth, we must expect our Lord to accomplish His will in our lives through means that may seem unexpected and very human.  The principle of the baby conceived in a virgin and laid in feeding trough upon His birth applies to God's present activities.  He works through a Man, and He works through people to do what He does.  This primarily involves the church of the Lord Jesus, namely, the Blood-washed and Spirit-birthed company of believers who trust and submit themselves to God for the holy purpose of serving as His tangible expression in the world.   We awaken to every new day as members of the body of Christ, and thus to view our hearts, minds, voices, hands, and feet as the human vehicles whereby Divine wonders manifest themselves through the agency of "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27).  Yes, pondering Bethlehem in this season hearkens to the consideration of our personal venue, namely, our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, churches, marketplaces, and wherever we may venture in the love of "God… manifest in the flesh."

    In this moment, let us remember with loving and awed gratitude the condescension of Christ taking upon Himself eternal humanity.  Then let us realize that He dwells within our particular humanity to accomplish God's Divine purposes in our particular sphere of influence.  He leads, motivates, and empowers such activity, often in ways of which we are unaware, and sometimes in ways that we know.  Whatever the case, we are the holy scene of God's grace, serving as human means like unto the womb of a virgin and the manger of a Baby wherein Divinity and humanity united for the glory of God and the fulfillment of His redemptive purposes.  "I will dwell in them and walk in them" (II Corinthians 6:16).   Divine actions through human means - this is Christmas.  And this is today.

"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."
(John 1:14)
"We are members of His body, of His flesh and His bones."
(Ephesians 5:30)

Weekly Memory Verse
    I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for Thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.
(Psalm 4:8)


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

"Ebenezer and Thomas"

(a repeat from 2013, with further considerations)

    Allow me to express a pet peeve.  Or two, actually.

    I cannot abide Ebenezer Scrooge being viewed as the symbol for mean, miserly, and cold-hearted curmudgeons who possess no caring or compassion for their fellow man.  Nor can I abide an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ who ultimately gave his life for the Savior being referred to as "doubting Thomas."

    "If any man be in Christ, he is as a new creature.  Old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new" (II Corinthians 5:17).

    Whether in Charles Dickens' literature or the Bible's historical reality, our focus should not rest upon that which was, but rather, that which is.  In Ebenezer's case, his journeys through the past, present, and future led to his becoming the man who most knew how to keep Christmas.  His story powerfully depicts miraculous redemption and change.  Thus, when we hear the name "Scrooge," kindness and generosity should come to mind in joyful remembrance of transforming grace and mercy.

    In the case of the Apostle Thomas, a far serious matter presents itself.  Certainly, he once expressed the fleshly "I'll believe it when I see it" sensibility that characterizes all of us at times.  "
Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe" (John 20:25).  Moreover, the risen Lord Jesus chided his disciple for such uncertainty: "Then saith He to Thomas, reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing" (John 20:27).  However, the episode ends with Thomas expressing to his Savior one of the great affirmations of truth recorded in Scripture.  "My Lord and my God!" he pronounces the Lord Jesus.  Moreover, historical tradition holds that Thomas gave his life for Christ at the point of a spear.  I would therefore maintain that rather than "doubting Thomas," we should respectfully view our brother of old as "faithful Thomas," and a man who wears the martyr's crown for the glory of the Lord Jesus.

    Ebenezer and Thomas also elicit attention concerning a more personal matter.  Do we as believers view ourselves in terms of who we were, or who we are?  God looks upon us not as in terms of our past history as servants of sin, but rather as who we are in Christ as His sons and daughters of righteousness.  "Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord" (Ephesians 5:8).  We must share this blessed view of His saving grace, whether we consider a transformed literary figure, a redeemed saint who gave the last full measure of devotion for his Lord, or ourselves in Christ.  "Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:11).  Ebenezer and Thomas - may we remember them as who they became.  And let us affirm ourselves as who we are, and who we are becoming through the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives.

"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?   Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."
(I Corinthians 6:9-11)
"He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."
(Philippians 1:6)

Weekly Memory Verse
    I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for Thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.
(Psalm 4:8)


Monday, December 21, 2015

“Peace With God, Peace With People"

    "He maketh wars to cease" (Psalm 46:9).

    The day will come when throughout the earth, the Lord establishes His reign of love, peace, and justice.  This is not that day, of course.  We rather live in times of "wars, and rumors of wars" (Matthew 24:6).  It is a day, however, when God can make wars to cease in our hearts, first with Him, and then with people.

    "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1).
    "He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us" (Ephesians 2:14).

   In Christ, God establishes and maintains a relationship wherein we are "accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6).  Through the atoning work of the Lord Jesus, our Heavenly Father births us into "the whole family of Heaven and earth" when we believe (Ephesians 3:15).  He spiritually enrobes us in Christ's righteousness, accounting that the wrath we deserved burnt itself out upon the Christ who died on the cross.  Thus, we have peace with God, although in our present lives, we may not always experience the blessed gift of grace.  Our spiritual enemies seek to cloud our awareness of how accepted we are, and sin hinders our awareness and walk in the peace of God.  At times our Heavenly Father also chastens us because we are at peace with Him - "whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth" (Hebrews 12:6).  Such times will not feel peaceful at all, but again, the very fact of our justification and adoption as God's sons and daughters in Christ accounts for His loving heart and hand of discipline.  In Christ, believers eternally exist in a relationship of peace with God, a truth we must affirm based upon our confidence in the atoning work of our Savior.  The outworking of that relationship will not always feel peaceful, for the the reasons mentioned.  But the war between ourselves and God must be viewed as ceased if we are to a fuller experience and more faithful expression of our bond with Him.

    Regarding people, we possess the capacity in Christ to "if it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peacably with all men" (Romans 12:18).  Indeed, we bear no sword against others, even if they do against us.  The Lord who so mercifully forgave and accepted us works in us to walk in the same attitude that seeks to establish a relationship of peace with people.  We do not compromise His truth in doing so, but we do "seek peace, and pursue it" (Psalm 34:14).  The presence of the Prince of peace constitutes the "as much as lieth in you" mentioned by the Apostle Paul, and confidence in His loving, involved and active presence often establishes terms of peace without compromise where we least expect it.

    Our Heavenly Father is devoted to the peace of our hearts, and to the peace of our relationships with people.  Let us anticipate His working in this holy regard, rejoicing in our bond with Him, seeking to walk accordingly, and seeking also to "live peacably with all men".  The joy that accompanies peace will fill our hearts, and our blessed Prince of peace will be revealed and glorified as He causes unnecessary wars to cease.

"The LORD will give strength unto His people; the LORD will bless His people with peace."
(Psalm 29:11)

Friday, December 18, 2015

“A New and Living Way"

    "If Christ be in you…" (Romans 8:10).  Suppose we had never read this conditional clause included in the 8th chapter of the Apostle Paul's epistle to the Romans.  How might we expect him to conclude the sentence?

   "If Christ be in you… God's glory is revealed and exalted."
   "If Christ be in you... He enables us to walk in His triumph."
   "If Christ be in you…  you walk in peace and joy."
   "If Christ be in you…  you can do all things that pertain to God's will."

   We might imagine many such affirmations, all which reflect Biblical truth.  However, Paul finished his thought with a starkly different conclusion.

    "If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin" (Romans 8:10).

    "The body is dead because of sin."  Rather than affirm some wonderful glory related to Christ's indwelling presence, the Apostle references death in the believer's body.  By this, Paul means  that our bodies have yet to experience the direct presence of God's own life.  Thus, they are "dead" in terms of His definition of life and death.  "This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (I Corinthians 15:53).  Conversely, the Spirit of God dwells in the believer's spirit.  Therein we are "alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:11).  The earthly faculties and members of our body, inherited from Adam, has yet to be enveloped in this glorifying vibrancy of Christ's direct presence.  We therefore acknowledge our spirits as alive through the righteousness imparted by the direct presence of the Spirit of the Lord Jesus.  Conversely, 0ur bodies are "dead because of sin", the sin that separates devils, people, and things from direct proximity to the very life of God.

    In practical terms for the believer, this simply means that our bodily members and faculties possess no inherent capacity to fulfill God's will according to His standard of life and righteousness.  The power for such being and life rather resides in the Holy Spirit, and in our spirit where He dwells.  "If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken (enliven) your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you" (Romans 8:11).  Such truth establishes all Christian living as a resurrection miracle no less that the rising of our Lord Jesus from the dead.  If we are to pray, think, speak, act, and relate in "a new and living way" provided by Christ, He will have to energize our mortal bodies by His risen life (Hebrews 10:20).  This He does as we trust and submit ourselves to Him in the confidence of His promised provision of power.  Every act of obedience in the lives of Christians requires this life out of death process executed by our Lord, and received by us.

   The Lord Jesus told His disciples that they could not independently fulfill any aspect of genuine faith and faithfulness - "Without Me, ye can do nothing" (John 15:5).  Our bodies, still possessed of a "law of sin", are inherently dead to such godliness (Romans 7:23).  Within our trusting spirits, however, resides the Spirit of the Lord Jesus who enlivens our bodily faculties and members to walk in His Life beyond life.  Our calling involves "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith", trusting and submitting ourselves to Him in the expectation of His mighty enabling (Hebrews 12:2).  The Christian life requires Christ's life, the resurrection life of our blessed Lord that day by day, moment by moment enlivens us from death to empower lives of love, faith, and faithfulness.  As Paul prayed for the Ephesians, let us pray for each other that we will know the glory of the empty tomb and its risen Christ not merely as the historical fact of His life, but as the great power and enabling of our own...

"What is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places."
(Ephesians 1:19-20)
"I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
(John 10:10)

Weekly Memory Verse
    "Come unto Me, all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
(Matthew 11:28)


Thursday, December 17, 2015

“The Geography of Godliness"

    Place is important in our lives, even as the Psalmist declared, "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King" (Psalm 48:2).  In Christ, however, where bows to Who in terms of reality and importance.

    "Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and Ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.  Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him" (John 4:20-23).

   Spiritual "place" transcends earthly sites and scenes.  The venue of our hearts God's primary intentions regarding our present lives.  Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ may worship anywhere and everywhere, so long as we worship "in spirit and in truth".  Indeed, presently a persecuted and seemingly forgotten brother or sister may kneel in a squalid cell, raising heart and voice to the One who remembers His child, and who meets him in this most holy of venues.  Can we possibly imagine a more glorious and "beautiful for situation" place?   Love and faith rather than geography, scene, and decor beautifies the heart filled with the love of God and love for God.  Again, Who transcends where.

    For the Christian, our Lord is Himself our spiritual dwellingplace.  "Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (I Corinthians 1:30).  He is our place, as it were, in most elemental aspect of our life and being - "In Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).  We might refer to this as "the geography of godliness."  Moreover, the physical places in our lives that we find special all reflect the holy spiritual venue of the Christ in whom we dwell.  We may enjoy where.  However, Who must be acknowledged as home, and as the true abode of our hearts…

"Lord, Thou hast been our dwellingplace in all generations."
(Psalm 90:1)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

“Confidence, Conflict, Cries"

    The Psalms remarkably involve God's allowing David to express his perspectives of both confidence in the Lord's caring, provision, and protection, and in the doubts he sometimes felt about them.  Psalm 44, for example, begins with confidence, transitions to complaint, and ends with a cry for deliverance.  

    "Through Thee will we push down our enemies: through Thy name will we tread them under that rise up against us. For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me. But Thou hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hated us. In God we boast all the day long, and praise Thy name forever" (Psalm 44:5-8).
    "But Thou hast cast off, and put us to shame; and goest not forth with our armies. Thou makest us to turn back from the enemy: and they which hate us spoil for themselves… My confusion is continually before me, and the shame of my face hath covered me… Awake, why sleepest Thou, O Lord? arise, cast us not off forever. Wherefore hidest Thou Thy face, and forgettest our affliction and our oppression?" (Psalm 44:9-10; 15).
    "Arise for our help, and redeem us for Thy mercies' sake!" (Psalm 44:26).

    The Psalmist's seemingly conflicted sensibilities coincide with the experience of all believers as we navigate our way through a fallen world wherein God is present, involved, and active, but wherein He also allows devils, the flesh, and the world system to challenge us.  We may possess strong confidence in God's faithfulness and working on our behalf.  Such faith will be severely challenged, however, and our Heavenly Father may so lengthen the leash of our enemies that we are tempted to wonder, "Hath God forgotten to be gracious?  Hath He in anger shut up His tender mercies?" (Psalm 77:9).  Deep in our hearts we know better, but our flesh feels the conflict and the conflicted confusion of reconciling a faithful Lord with earthly realities that seem to contradict.

   In the New Testament, no less than the Apostle Paul experienced the challenge.  "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed, always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body" (II Corinthians 4:7-10).  Note that Paul confessed perplexity, but without despair.  Our brother felt the realities of a fallen world, along with his own internal conflict between spirit and flesh.  The Apostle of faith shared with the Psalmist and with us the challenges that reveal the power of God, expose our human frailties, and lead us to seek "the life also of Jesus" as our help and hope.  "My strength is made perfect in weakness" (II Corinthians 12:9).

    Confidence.  Conflict.  Cries.  We will join the Psalmist and the Apostle in such experience as we walk with God in our present lives.  No excuses exist for unbelief, of course.  We make our choices to trust God on both bright mountain tops and in dark valleys.  Many such determinations of faith, however, will be made when our emotions, thoughts, and physical sensibilites do not coincide with confidence.  We must expect such experience and challenge as we trust our Father's heart when we cannot fathom the workings of His hand.   As David declared, "His way is perfect" (Psalm 18:30).  It will not always seem perfect, however, and in such times, we cry unto the Lord as did another supplicant of old

"Lord, I believe!  Help Thou mine unbelief!"
(Mark 9:24)

Weekly Memory Verse
    "Come unto Me, all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
(Matthew 11:28)


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

"The Heart"

    The most beautiful reality that ever graced planet earth was the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ.  

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

    Beautiful scenes, sounds, fragrances, flavors, and textures bless us in world "full of the goodness of the Lord" (Psalm 33:5).  None, however, compare with The Heart.  Nothing does.  Nothing can.  The Creator of all goodness took upon Himself a human temple that had "no form nor comeliness", and "no beauty that we should desire Him" (Isaiah 53:2).  Thus, He shined all the more beautifully as Glory enrobed itself with Humility.  This He chose to do in loving submission to His Father, and in loving salvation for us.  Yes,  someone has lived on this planet who perfectly loved God and humanity at the greatest cost to Himself.  Of no one else can this be said, and no other wonder we can imagine begins to compare with this most beautiful reality, this most beautiful Heart.

   "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple" (Psalm 27:4).

    The Psalmist who knew so little of the Lord Jesus compared to us nevertheless realized that beholding his Lord's beauty comprised a lifelong pursuit of seeking.  We must join David, especially since we live in the post-Incarnation age of knowing the Lord Jesus in the light of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the completed Scriptures, and the fellowship of the church.  We may behold  The Heart in far greater measure than David could ever have dreamed.  This day offers to us the opportunity of a lifetime.   Indeed, when the sun goes down on December 15, 2015, we can know the Lord Jesus better than we did when the day began.  By His Spirit, we can respond in love, faith, devotion, and obedience.  Nothing will compare, in this day or forevermore, with such grace and truth offered, received, and assimilated.  Because nothing compares with The Heart.  And nothing can.

"He is altogether lovely."
(Song of Solomon 5:16)
"Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
(II Peter 3:18)

Weekly Memory Verse
    "Come unto Me, all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
(Matthew 11:28)