Saturday, January 30, 2016

"Orange Moon"

"Orange Moon"  

    Over the years, we have received reports of orange moon sightings from people all over the world.  The greatest of all came recently when our son Noah spotted one while doing a freefall parachute jump in the desert of Arizona, at an altitude of 11,000 feet.  "It was so bright it looked like a sunrise" says Noah.  It's going to be hard for anyone or ourselves to top that scene, particularly as viewed while engaged in such a thrilling and challenging activity.

    I thought I would take the occasion to write about the origin of the Orange Moon emphasis in our lives.  It's been quite awhile since I've done so, and our newest readers may not be familiar with the story.  For those of you who have heard or read the story, well, this provides opportunity perhaps to do something else, like maybe some freefall parachuting!

    On Frances's birthday (I'm pretty sure the year was 1988), we returned home from a celebration at her parents' house.  The evening was clear and warm, so I grabbed my guitar and headed for the back porch.  Awaiting to greet me there was an absolutely beautiful orange moon, rising through the trees.  Also awaiting me was a piece of music and the words for a song for Frances.  I worked on it while looking at the moon, and finished the song over the course of a day or so.  She loved it (to this day, it's her favorite song), and orange moons became a personal remembrance of our bond with each other, and with the Lord.

     Several years later, we had an idea for opening a coffeeshop here in Mobile.  One of us said to the other, "We'll call it the Orange Moon Cafe!"  This sounded great, and we allowed our minds to venture down that road the point we shared the possibility with some friends.  One of them invited me to breakfast several days later, looked across the table, and very effectively convinced me that we were out of our minds to consider such a possibility.  "You have no business experience, Glen, and owning and operating such a place will distract you from the ministries God has given to you."  My friend's words rang more than true, and we shelved the idea of an Orange Moon Cafe for five years, until…

   …Until we decided to send out a daily email devotional, the one you are currently reading.  It occurred to us that we could open an electronic version of our previous dream.  We were already using the Orange Moon as a logo for other pursuits.  It seemed natural to incorporate it into the theme of the devotional, and 17 years later the Cafe is still open, to my surprise.  We started sending out the messages to family and a few friends, not knowing it develop into something beyond our plans and expectations.  I cannot imagine what our lives would have been like without this blessing, and most importantly, without your fellowship and friendship.  It is pure joy to write the messages, and pure joy to know that people whom we love and respect read them.  You greatly inspire, encourage, and challenge us in our walk with the Lord, and your responses to the messages often greatly illuminate us regarding the wonder of the Lord Jesus and His Truth.

    Noah returned from his time in the desert last night.  We picked him up at the airport and on the way to his home, a beautiful half moon, an orange half moon, escorted us part of the way.  I don't recall ever seeing an orange half moon before, and the scene was quite special.  All this to say, thank the Lord and thank you for so many very special years of blessing in the beauty of His light and His love.

An orange moon rises through trees tonight
as I think about our time together.
And the promise made so long ago
that we'd gladly share our lives forever.
Well I guess we've kept our word,
for the seal is undisturbed.

What is the mystery of the tie that binds,
how burns the flame of love in winter?
And who are we to know with certainty
that a bitter chill can never enter?
Well "the twain shall be as one"
is the promise that is written.

(And we dance unfettered through a world
that no one else can see,
my strings your wind, a perfect blend,
a single melody.
And I'm amazed that I will always be yours,
and you'll be mine.)

The risen moon now casts its pale blue light
on silhouettes lost in each other.
And in silence we communicate so much more
than words could ever utter.
For we speak the silent prose,
the language only true love knows.

(And we dance unfettered through a world
that no one else can see,
my strings, your wind a perfect blend,
a single melody.
And I'm amazed that I will always be yours,
and you'll be mine.)

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

Weekly Memory Verse (one of the first Bible verses I ever memorized)  
   Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.
(I Peter 1:22)

Friday, January 29, 2016

“To Fulfill All Righteousness”

"To Fulfill All Righteousness"    

    "Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad Him, saying, I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?  And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness" (Matthew 3:13-15).
    "To fulfill all righteousness" required the Lord Jesus Christ to participate in a baptism for sinners.  This actually involved the pattern for much of His earthly lifetime.  He was born of a virgin who appeared to became pregnant out of wedlock.  Upon His birth, His parents laid Him in a feeding trough for animals rather than the soft pillows of a palace.  He lived more than 90% of His life in such obscurity that His own brethren did not recognize Him for who He was.  He continually chastened the religious leaders of His day rather than compromising to gain their approval.  He seemed to allow His disciples to  break the Sabbath, He fellowshipped with forbidden Samaritans, He chose fisherman and other common laborers rather than eloquent communicators as His representatives.  The list could go on, but finally, He submitted to a cross ordained by His Father for humanity's redemption.  To most eyes, however, Calvary appeared to involve the execution of a common criminal.  Moreover, He appeared in His risen glory to relatively few people, and for more than 2,000 years has accomplished His greatest redemptive work along the obscure byways and hidden corners of human civilization (Matthew 1:23; Luke 2:7; John 7:5; Matthew 23:27; Matthew 12:1-8; John 4:9; Matthew 4:18; Galatians 3:13; I Corinthians 1:23-32).

    All this should splash the cold water of Christ's truth and reality into our faces regarding our own lives.  Presently, the Lord Jesus will often not appear as the Messiah of power and obvious displays of glory.  He may rather meet us as the manger's baby, or as the obscure carpenter, or even as the accursed of the cross.  He may often not deliver us from our own crosses, but rather deliver us upon them.  Days and an eternity of His glory await our expectant eyes.  This is not that day, however.  In this day, the Lord Jesus most often walks in us, as it were, on rough roads, in battered shoes, and again, for all the world appearing so be someone other than who He is.  He will never, of course, compromise His character or our own.  There will be times, however, when few will understand that the strange path upon which we walk results in the purpose of God "to fulfill all righteousness."

    Our Savior honors us to walk in His footprints of humility, meekness, and the true power of God that reveals His glory in contrary circumstances, situations, and conditions. He does the same in our brothers and sisters, calling us to be careful in our analysis of the Lord's way in both their lives and our own.  Clearly, the fulfillment of all righteousness sometimes requires the appearance of just the opposite.  Much time in the Scriptures and much prayerful consideration will be required to enable us to discern  when the Lord Jesus reveals Himself in the same righteous, but enigmatic way He lived His earthly life.

"Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment."
(John 7:24)

Weekly Memory Verse (one of the first Bible verses I ever memorized)  
   Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.
(I Peter 1:22)


Thursday, January 28, 2016

"His Heart"

"His Heart"    

    Without discounting the wonder of our Lord's infinite mind and the ways of His hand, the Scriptures call us to emphasize the character, nature, and disposition of His heart.

    "Who art Thou, Lord?" (Acts 9:5).

    Upon encountering the risen Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, Saul of Tarsus asked precisely the right question in response.  The answer ultimately birthed a new man to whom we refer as the Apostle Paul, and who penned a significant portion of the New Testament.  Paul became a believer who was utterly enraptured by the "Who?" of God.  In the most doctrinal and theological portions of his writing, the Apostle's emphasis on the Divine heart nevertheless shines through.  He knew the necessity of understanding and of discovering God's ways in history and in our personal lives.  He knew even more that regarding the true knowledge of the Lord, the heart of the matter always involves the matter of the heart, God's heart and our own.  

    We do well to embrace the emphasis of our brother of old.  We must gather many facts about the ways and workings of God in our reading and study of Scripture.  Lest our pondering become merely academic, however, we must catch ourselves when necessary to ensure that we maintain the priority to which the Bible calls us.  "Who art Thou, Lord?"  God invites us into His heart through the Lord Jesus.  Wonders await us there more thrilling and fulfilling than any other reality can begin to offer.  Glimpses of love as revealed in truth, righteousness, grace, holiness, mercy, purity, peace, power, humility, joy, and stunningly pristine perfection of character and nature - all meet us as we prayerfully seek God in His Word and along the pathways of this life of faith.  Our hearts were made for such ardent and adoring devotion, based upon the wonder of His ardent and adoring devotion to us.  

T'was said of old that our hearts 
find no rest save in Thee.
Still the truth unfolds through
the passing years, 
as it will eternally.

Thou art good beyond all notion,
no heart can find emotion
to feel what it should as it looks 
upon the Face
of Thy shoreless ocean, of truth and of grace.

Into Thy heart You call us
that wonders may enthrall us,
that we may see 
even more than angels see
of Thy great goodness.

And so forever's scenes await
as we pass beyond Thy gates.
Who art Thou, Lord?
We ask again and again in faith.
He answers forevermore.

"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)
"I will declare Thy greatness. They shall abundantly utter the memory of Thy great goodness, and shall sing of Thy righteousness. The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.  The LORD is good to all: and His tender mercies are over all His works. All Thy works shall praise Thee, O LORD; and Thy saints shall bless Thee."
(Psalm 145:6-10)

Weekly Memory Verse (one of the first Bible verses I ever memorized)  
   Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.
(I Peter 1:22)


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

"The Wake of Love"

"The Wake of Love"    

    On Monday, I wrote about the homegoing of our dear friend Mr. Jack Howell.  His funeral services were held yesterday, at 2:00 p.m.  This presented a scheduling conflict for Frances and myself because we conduct two services at a local retirement community on Tuesday afternoons, the first beginning at 2:00 p.m.  I was not sure what we should do.  Our love and respect for Mr. Howell meant that we wanted to attend the observance of his life and his entrance into the direct presence of the Lord.  However, we feel a great and privileged responsibility to fulfill our ministry obligations.  As I have shared in the past, we believing in "showing up" regarding ministry, when and wherever possible.

   In praying about the matter, I asked the Lord what He would have us do.  The thought came to mind, "What would Mr. Howell want us to do?"  This instantly answered the question.  Indeed, I had a further thought that if Mr. Howell could speak to me, he would have said, "Glen, I'm not going to be at my funeral anyway.  So you know what you need to do!" :):)  Thus, we conducted the services at the retirement community, which provided another opportunity to tell people what a blessing Mr. Howell was and is to us. More importantly, as Mr. Howell would mandate, we had the opportunity to proclaim the Source of all blessing.  

   Mr. Howell had his priorities straight regarding life (he has them even straighter now!).  To love God and to love people guided our dear brother as he sought to respond to the grace of the Lord Jesus by honoring his Savior, and by sharing His Savior's redeeming goodness with others.  What an example for this day in our lives, and for all others!  We all have much on our plates, of responsibilities to fulfill and privileges to enjoy.  The main course of that plate, however, is the Lord Jesus - "to live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21).  As we feast upon Him by seeking to know His love and love Him in response, He will lead and enable us to also love the people in our lives.  Mr. Howell set this example for us, and for many others.  Following his lead meant that yesterday we fulfilled the priorities set for us, again, to love God and to love people.  

    This moment and this day offers us the opportunity to truly live.  We may respond to the love of God by determining that loving Him and loving people will set our course for the waters through which we sail.  As we do, we will follow in the wake of the Lord Jesus, who perfectly loved His Father and His people.  And, if we look closely, we will see other currents that help us to make our journey and remain on course.  Mr. Jack Howell surely provided one of those Heavenward flows for Frances and myself, as do so many of you.  We are grateful, and by the Lord's grace, we seek to follow in the glorious wake of love.

"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.'
(Mark 12:30-31).
"Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works."
(Hebrews 10:24).

Weekly Memory Verse (one of the first Bible verses I ever memorized)  
   Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.
(I Peter 1:22)


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

"Just One Thing"

"Just One Thing"    

    The Apostle Paul did not rest on laurels or dwell on defeats.  

    "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14).  

    Certainly Paul gave thanks for days of faithfulness, and repented for days of failure.  He doubtless also sought to learn from them.  The Apostle did not, however, allow the past to negatively impact the present.  Instead, he realized that God alone was worthy of glory for faithfulness, and God alone could forgive, cleanse, and restore when we fail.  Few truths more enable us for the realities of this present day as we join our brother Paul in "this one thing I do", made possible by forgetting, reaching forth, and pressing toward.

The more I walk the paths of this world, 
the more I think that just one thing is of value and of worth.  
The more I find life simplified, as I look beyond this earth. 
The more I see, o Lord, of Thee, and just one thing. 
Just one thing, oh, just one thing.

To live is Christ, nothing else suffices to pave the path of life. 
For only He can give us peace, and end the needless strife 
between the heart of God and our hearts, our only hope is Christ. 
Yes, the more I see, o Lord of Thee, and just one thing. 
Just one thing, o just one thing. 

So the thing is this, our helplessness must open up our eyes 
to the only fount of truth, of meaning, of purpose, and of life. 
O lead us from the dark into the one true shining Light,
Yes, the more I see, o Lord of Thee, and just one thing. 
Just one thing, o just one thing.

"Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."
(Matthew 6:33)

Weekly Memory Verse (one of the first Bible verses I ever memorized)  
   Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.
(I Peter 1:22)


Sunday, January 24, 2016

"Mr. Jack Howell"

(Our dear brother in Christ and friend Mr. Jack Howell went to be with our Lord this past Friday.  We will miss him, and I send the message below, written and sent out in 2012, as a tribute to our Lord and to Mr. Howell.)

"Mr. Jack Howell"

     "We had everything money couldn't buy."
 (Mr. Jack Howell, 1/4/2012)

    Instantly upon hearing our dear friend Mr. Howell's testimony recounting his growing up in a wonderful family during the Depression, I knew I would be writing about it.  Indeed, outside of Scripture, I don't know if I've ever heard any words more descriptive of what life is all about - and what it isn't all about.  Again, "we had everything money couldn't buy!"

    To make matters all the more blindingly and stunningly clear, Mr. Howell went on to say, "You know, you can't buy anything real with money."  Have mercy, sir!  One heart-shattering, earth-quaking, mind-numbing statement at a time, if you please!  The rest of us mere mortals cannot process the thoughts of angels in such measure of heavenly light! :)

    Seriously, I do not expect during this lifetime to hear truer or more profound words, other than those directly stated in the Bible's Divinely-inspired text.  Money is a tool we use for the exchange of goods and services.  Scripture speaks much of it, and clearly commands that we use it properly for the purposes of giving, spending, and investing.  However, the truest thing about money is that none of us actually possess a penny of it!  It rather belongs to Somebody else.  Let us breathe the sweet sigh of heavenly relief as we recall the truth that neither our money or our possessions belong to us - "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof, the world, and they that dwell therein" (Psalm 24:1).  Few Biblical truths can more instantaneously infuse our hearts with God's tranquility as we remember the proper place of money, and our rightful role as stewards rather than owners.   Those who "have everything money can't buy" understand and experience the truth that real things come to us by way of grace rather than barter.  Indeed, the primary reason the Lord Jesus Christ scourged and drove out the moneychangers from His Father's house is that the temple of God is a place of grace rather than buying and selling.  This includes the temple of our hearts, wherein our Lord freely gives to us the relational realities that alone satisfy and fulfill our innermost being.  As Frances often says, "Life is about God and people.  Everything else is just stuff!"  Or, as both Old Testament and New Testament command, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.  This is the first commandment.  And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Mark 12:30-31).

    The more we realize that "real things" can't be bought with money, the more we will know the joy of that which the Lord Jesus referred to as "the true riches" (Luke 16:11).  Moreover, the more we realize we are stewards rather than owners, the more our hearts will rest in the peace of a possession-less life.  Again, let us breathe the sweet sigh of faith's relief as we look to our Heavenly Father in the acknowledgment, "It's all Yours, Lord, just as I am all yours!"  Thank you, Mr. Howell, for a sublime reminder of such truth, and for words that many of us will remember for a lifetime and an eternity.  "We had everything money couldn't buy!"  And thank You, Heavenly Father, for Your ongoing gift of that which money cannot buy, the gift of Yourself revealed in blessed and innumerable expressions of grace unto and within our hearts.

"A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Luke 12:15).

Weekly Memory Verse (one of the first Bible verses I ever memorized)  
   Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.
(I Peter 1:22)


Thursday, January 21, 2016

"The Wrong Prayer"

(This one is a repeat from 2010)

"The Wrong Prayer"

   Why do born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ experience many of the difficult, painful, and bewildering things encountered along the path of righteousness?  One answer is that at some point in our Christian life, we have prayed the wrong prayer, perhaps along these lines:

   "Heavenly Father, I acknowledge that I belong to You for Your glory, Your will, and Your eternal purpose in Christ. You have bought me with a price, the precious blood of the Lord Jesus, and I devote myself and my entire being to You for Your purposes. Have Your own way in me, Father."

   In real terms, this is actually the right prayer. "Yield yourselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God" (Romans 6:13). We exist for the glory, will, and purposes of the Lord who has redeemed us at the highest cost imaginable. It is our "reasonable service" to consecrate ourselves completely to Him, and such a prayer of devotion is the expression of our heart's acknowledgement that we belong to the Lord Jesus (Romans 12;1-2).

   It is the wrong prayer, however, if we desire a life of ease and comfort. In a world that "lieth in wickedness," there is no possibility of richly fulfilling the glory, will, and purposes of God apart from much difficulty. Our spiritual enemies will see to that, as the world, the devil, and the flesh (including our own) challenge our consecration in every way possible. More importantly, our Heavenly Father Himself must orchestrate and allow our challenges because conformity to the image of the Lord Jesus comprises His ultimate purpose in our lives (Romans 8:29). Our Savior was a "man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3). By definition, being like Him requires our walking the path He walked.  Thus, in varying modes and measures, all devoted believers will share in "the fellowship of His sufferings" (Philippians 3:10).

   Again, the wrong prayer is actually the right prayer, the most right of all prayers. But it may sometimes feel as if we made a mistake by placing our being completely in the hands of God. We didn't, however, and the days and the eternity to come will reveal that the only safe harbor for our hearts is found in the prayer of loving consecration, "Not My will, but Thine be done" (Luke 22:42). Our Lord Himself prayed this prayer, and it led to a cross. But it also led to an empty tomb, and a throne of glory. The same will be true in our lives, and in those times when we can't understand our trials, "the wrong prayer" - the right prayer - may well be the reason for them.

"For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake."
(Philippians 1:29)

Weekly Memory Verse    
   He only is my rock and my salvation: He is my defence; I shall not be moved.
(Psalm 62:6)


“The That”

"The That"

   A friend recently asked if I could look back on my life and see the Lord's working in the past to bring me to the realities of the present.  I quickly answered in the affirmative, although some yesterdays still seem a bit cloudy regarding their place and purpose regarding today (and tomorrow, for that matter).  One experience of the past that clearly fits into puzzle involves the 100th Psalm.

"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.  Serve the Lord with gladness, come before His presence with singing.  
Know ye that the Lord, He is God.  It is He hath hath made us and not we ourselves.  We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.  Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.  Be thankful unto Him and bless His name.  For the Lord is good.  
His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endureth to all generations."

   During the first years of my elementary education (in a public school, no less), I heard these blessed words every school day.  The Psalm was played over the classroom intercom each morning before we began our studies, chosen by the administrators and teachers of the school, I am sure, as a way to prepare students for the day's assignments.  For me, I have little doubt that an even greater preparatory work took place deep within my heart as the sowing of the seed of God's Word led to the reaping of salvation when I was eighteen years old.  Of course, I likely didn't listen that closely every day to the recitation.  The words penetrated nevertheless, and again, I look back and know beyond all question that the Lord led me to Woodcock Elementary School in the early days of my life for the gracious purpose of exposing my heart and mind to the blessed declarations of the 100th Psalm.

    Again, a journey into the past will not allow a complete understanding of the whys and wherefores of God's working in our lives.  Some things will make sense, while others will cause us to wonder.  As Moses wrote, some things of the Lord's doings are revealed.  Others are secret (Deuteronomy 29:29).  We often cannot see how this or that fits into His loving purposes.  We can always, however, choose to believe that "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).  Indeed, our confidence in the "that" is more important then our understanding of the "how".  Let us give thanks for the 100th Psalms in our lives, those obvious traces of the Lord's hand that elicit grateful remembrances and certainties of His involvement and orchestration of our lives.  And let us also give thanks for the unseen traces that fit no less perfectly into God's purposes…

We shall understand it better by and by, 
but in the here and now, 
we rest on the that 
more than on the how.

"God… worketh all things after the counsel of His own will."
(Ephesians 1:3; 11).

Weekly Memory Verse    
   He only is my rock and my salvation: He is my defence; I shall not be moved.
(Psalm 62:6)


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

“Just and Righteous” Addendum The Cost

"Just and Righteous"


The Cost

   It is possible to consider justification and righteousness in merely principled terms of fact.  A complete pondering of the truth, however, begins, continues, and concludes with a profound devotional meditation that must surely overwhelm our hearts with wonder, awe, humility, and the most heartfelt response of grateful love.

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

   In order to redeem us into being who we are, the Lord Jesus Christ had to become who He was not.  First, He had to become human, a condescension of stunning magnitude when we consider the Biblical revelation of the Divine and human natures.  By Scriptural definition, the Infinite should not be able to unite with the infinite - "the heaven and Heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee!" (I Kings 8:27).  As the Apostle Paul declared, "Great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh!" (I Timothy 3:16).  The human existence of the Lord Jesus required a miracle, the wonder of Incarnation, of God as man and man as God.  In both Heaven and earth, there is none like unto Him,

O Mystery great, o wondrous grace!
That glory Divine might shine
in a human face!

   As wondrous as such glory may be, we must journey beyond the mystery and the miracle to our Lord's experience as Divinity resident in humanity, as Infinity housed in the finite, as God dwelling in and as man.  Eternally possessed of a being that transcends space and time, God compressed the Son of His love into the realm of limitation and restriction.  Perhaps this explains the statement of the writer of Hebrews: "a body Thou hast prepared Me" (Hebrews 10:5).  What would the pressure of such spiritual, moral, and even physical constraint involve?  The fact of God as man constituted the Lord Jesus as "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" even before He experienced the rejection, ridicule, and horrors of the cross (Isaiah 53:3).  We do well to often give thanks for the Incarnation, which will endure forever in the holy Being of our Savior.  Indeed, for our sakes, our Savior will always be human without in any manner minimizing His divinity.  "There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus… Unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever" (I Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 1:8).

   If we are to rightly consider our justification and righteousness, we must look upon the cross where Christ "bore our sins" (I Peter 2:24).  Even more, however, we must see that God made His Son "to be sin".  I try to think about this often, and to even on occasion write or speak about it.  However, I find the subject to be far too holy for overmuch consideration.  Scripture does not explain the somber truth it so plainly states - "to be sin".  What can this possibly mean?  What flames of horror ignited in the soul of "the Sun of righteousness" when for our sakes, He became everything that He is not? (Malachi 4:2).  The fires raged on, of course, as the One who so pleased the Father became the object of His Father's wrath, rejection, and indignation (Matthew 3:17; 27:46).  What measure of grief, agony, and brokenness of heart ravaged the Christ who had to become sin before He could become our Savior?  No answers offer themselves to our hearts and minds, nor will they ever.  It is enough to simply know, to be aware that for you and for me, the One who "loved righteousness and hated iniquity" became the very essence of everything He was not…

   "…That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."  We must never view our justification and righteousness in Christ as merely a matter of being and standing.  It is doctrine, but as with all authentic Truth, the flame shines brightly, warmly, gloriously, and personally in the hearts of all who realize the cost of Christ's redeeming work on our behalf.  Indeed, to the degree that Lord Jesus was smitten and forsaken on the cross of Calvary, all who believe are received and "accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6).  Such truth can only motivate deep and heartfelt desire to love our Lord as He so loved us.  Moreover, we seek to know our justification and righteousness not simply as a matter of accepted principle, but also as adoring piety and applied practice.  The goal?  To honor, reveal, exemplify, and please Him as our justification in Christ increasingly manifests itself by a righteous walk through Christ.  The Apostle John proclaimed our response to such holy grace in profound simplicity, "We love Him because He first loved us" (I John 4:19).  Here we conclude our consideration of justification and righteousness, in the love that provided such grace at such cost, and in the love whereby we respond in grateful devotion, heartfelt affection, and the echoing of the Apostle's prayer…

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

Weekly Memory Verse    
   He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved.
(Psalm 62:6)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

"Just and Righteous" Conclusion Review of Justification and Righteousness

"Just and Righteous"


Review of Justification and Righteousness

"And lest the shadow of a spot should on my soul be found,
He took the robe the Savior wrought
and cast it all around!"
(Isaac Watts, "Awake My Heart, Arise My Tongue!")

     As we conclude our consideration of justification and righteousness, let us reconsider the major points of the series.

    "Just" and "righteous" reference the same Biblical truth, both words being interpreted from the same Hebrew and Greek root words.

    In their primary meaning, just and righteous refer to rightness, that is, something is as it should be.

    God alone is inherently just and righteous.  All others depend on Him to make them into what they should be, and empower them to do what they should do.

   When we believe in the Lord Jesus, God justifies us and Christ is made to be our righteousness.
    In Christ, we are justified and righteous in our spiritual being because God made us to be His habitation, a gift of grace fulfilled when the Spirit of the Lord Jesus enters our spirit in the new birth.

    The indwelling Holy Spirit makes possible our bearing "the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ."  We are not only justified and righteous in Christ.  We may  think, speak, act, and relate accordingly through the power of the Holy Spirit.

    We can still, however, walk after the flesh rather than after the Spirit.  In our present life, a "law of sin" still inhabits our earthly humanity inherited from Adam.  Thus, we can be righteous in our innermost being through the presence of Christ, but nevertheless live in contradiction to who we are in Him.

     Increasing knowledge of the righteousness of Christ and our righteousness in Him makes far more likely our walking in a manner that corresponds with our being.  Thus, we are called to reckon, or account as true the fact of our justifying relationship with the Lord Jesus. 

     God calls us to live in expectation of revealed righteousness based upon our received righteousness in Christ.  This involves our ultimate glorification and our day by
 day walk of grace through faith in our present lives.

    We exist because God made us.  We exist rightly because He indwells and changes us when we trust the Lord Jesus.  We walk accordingly as we grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus, and in His righteous presence within us.  To be just means that we have been justified by the Just One.  To be righteous means that we have been made righteous through Christ being made our righteousness.  Our Father spiritually enrobes us with the rightness of His Son when we believe, thereby reconstituting us as a "new man, created in righteousness and true holiness" (Ephesians 4:24).  Such truth is true for believers regardless of whether we live accordingly or not.  Certainly, however, we long to walk in righteousness, even as we live in Christ's righteousness.  Too much was sacrificed for believers to fail to avail ourselves of so great a Gift, provided by so great a cost…

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

Next - Addendum  The Cost

Weekly Memory Verse    
   He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved.
(Psalm 62:6)

Monday, January 18, 2016

"Just and Righteous" Part 9 The Expectation of Righteousness

"Just and Righteous"


The Expectation of Righteousness

    To a congregation clearly identified as believers, the Apostle Paul wrote that we "wait for the hope of righteousness by faith" (Galatians 3:2-3; 5:5).  That is, to those already justified by Christ, Paul nevertheless references a righteousness that awaits us in the future.

   We may view this matter from two perspectives.  First, we wait for righteousness in the sense of our glorification.  When the Lord Jesus Christ returns to the earth, believers will "put on incorruption" and "be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (I Corinthians 15:53; I John 3:2).  The dead in Christ and the living in Christ will rise to be with the Lord Jesus, and we shall be perfectly righteous not only in our spiritual union with Him, but also in mind, will, emotion, and body (I Corinthians 15:43-44).  This involves the ultimate and the eternal when the redeeming work of the Lord Jesus on our behalf will have its full effect on every aspect of our being.  We wait for this hope of righteousness by faith.

    In a more temporal sense, however, we also wait for the hope of righteousness.  We live expectantly regarding today and tomorrow that the righteous Christ who dwells within us by His Spirit will work in us so that we not only live in the Spirit, but we also walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).  We believe in a present, involved, and active Lord Jesus who promises, "I will dwell in them and walk in them" (II Corinthians 6:16).  Such confidence in Christ makes far more likely our overcoming of devilish, worldly, and fleshly challenges and temptations.  Specific choices of faith and submission to God must still be made, of course, but we are far more likely to make them as "the hope of righteousness by faith" prepares us to walk justly and righteously through the enabling of a just and righteous Christ.

   We must not allow past failure, present sense of weakness, or trepidation regarding the future to hinder our confidence in the Lord Jesus, or in the relationship we have with God through Him.  Indeed, should believers expect to obey or disobey our Lord?  We know that the latter is possible, and we would all confess has too often been actual in our lives.  The former path of faithfulness, however, must shine brightly in our hearts as our hope and expectation.  Through Christ, believers exist as super-charged vessels of righteousness - "we shall live with Him by the power of God" (II Corinthians 13:4).  No excuse exists for unbelief and disobedience, and no basis of low expectations can be justified in the sensibilities of those made just and righteous in Christ.  Just as we wait for the hope of righteousness in our ultimate glorification, we wait in the same Christ-centered anticipation regarding the living of life in this and in every earthly day.  

"As You Go"


I wait for you, My child, wherever you may go.
I'll be there when you arrive,
I'll be with you as you go.

We live our life together, you venture not alone.
Our hearts made one forever,
united in My Son.

I wait for you, My child, I'll be with you as you go.

I made you for such grace, to be My Spirit's home.
Oh, look into My face,
and with assurance know

that we'll always be together,  you'll never be alone.
We'll be as one forever,
each other's love to know.

I wait for you, My child, I'll be with you as you go.

Forever beckons to us, as does this day, this hour.
My Spirit's peace imparts
the presence and the power

for you to journey with Me, in darkness or in light.
I am in your heart forever,
and in this day, this night.

I wait for you, My child,  I'll be with you as you ago…
I'll be with you as you go.

"The Lord thy God, He it is that shall go with thee."
(Deuteronomy 31:6)

"My expectation is from Him."
(Psalm 62:5)

Next - Conclusions

Weekly Memory Verse    
   He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved.
(Psalm 62:6)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

"Just and Righteous" Part 8 "Righteousness - A Personal Illustration"

"Just and Righteous"


Righteousness - A Personal Illustration

    The consideration of righteousness in both being and fruit bearing focuses its primary gaze on the question, "Who is Christ?"  "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent" (John 17:3).  God calls us to "walk even as He walked," that is, to live in accordance with the righteous character, nature, and way of our Savior (I John 2:6).  In order to accomplish this highest of all callings, we must know His character, nature, and way.  We must know Him.  Moreover, we must know that the Holy Spirit dwells within our new and redeemed selves for the purpose of revealing Christ in us and by us.  Regarding righteousness, therefore, growing knowledge of the Lord Jesus supplies the present and eternal occupation of the redeemed.  

    The New Testament, however, also addresses the matter of the believer's identity.  Who are we in Christ?  Are we nothing more than sinners saved by grace?  Or are we saints, spiritually changed and enabled to be "filled with the fruits of righteousness", but still possessing fleshly members subject to the temptations of the world and the devil?   (Philippians 1:11). Our answer to this question greatly impacts our walk of faith and faithfulness.  Knowing that we "live in the Spirit" (regardless of contrary appearance, sensation, or experience) goes far in enabling us to more consistently "walk in the Spirit" (Romans 8:9; Galatians 5:25).  

Consider the ugly duckling of the children's tale who became a swan.  He did not act accordingly until He saw his reflection in the mirrored surface of the lake and realized the change that had taken place in him.  This precisely reflects Paul's teaching in II Corinthians 3:18:


   "Beholding as in a glass (Greek: "mirror") the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

The more we see and affirm Christ in His righteousness, and ourselves as spiritually dwelling in His righteousness, the more we will live as swans rather than ugly ducklings.    Christians must believe and affirm with the Apostle Paul that the "delight" of our innermost being involves love for God, His will, and the blessing of others (Romans 7:22).  We do not disregard or discount the lust of our flesh, of course, but we do direct our focus, as did Paul, to who we most deeply are in Christ.  Thereby we find a greater enabling to overcome the lusts of the flesh through the power of the Holy Spirit.  And thereby we bear the fruits of the Just One who lives within us.

I frequently illustrate this truth by my personal experience with those who follow too closely on the roads, namely, tailgaters.  Throughout my lifetime, these folks have tempted me with irritation at the very least, to road rage at the very worst ("Hmm, I wonder how much it would cost to have a .50 caliber gun mounted on the trunk of my car?" :) ).  The Word of God and the Spirit of God, of course, counter such notions with the commands to "love your enemies"  and to "bless them that curse you" rather than follow my fleshly inclinations (I John 2:6; Matthew 5:44).

The problem in such times is that I don't usually "feel" the love of Christ for tailgaters, nor do my thoughts immediately flow in the direction of blessing them.  Often it seems that nothing exists within me but the aforementioned irritation, anger, and itchy trigger finger.  I seem to desire only that which my flesh indicates.  But is this true?  Am I nothing more than flesh?  Is the Spirit of Christ in me dormant?  Is the Holy Spirit not working in me "both to will and to do of His good pleasure?" (Philippians 2:13).  Such questions are not merely rhetorical.  They rather comprise the crux of the matter as to whether I will relate to the tailgater in the righteousness of Christ or the lust of the flesh.  Will I believe the Word of God in the face of all contradictory evidence, including the emotional, mental and physical sensibility that may seem to be all that I am?

Many years ago, I began to respond to the Biblical truth that the delight of my spirit, as united to the Spirit of Christ, is to love the tailgater whose face looms so close in my rearview mirror (Romans 7:22).  Feelings, thoughts, and trigger finger (!) notwithstanding, the indwelling righteousness of the Lord Jesus means that I am perpetually subject to the infusion of His delight for obedience to our Heavenly Father.  As a gift of grace, He freely grants to me the blessing of being a "partaker of the Divine nature" (II Peter 1:4).  The character of Christ resides in my redeemed "new man, created in righteousness and true holiness" (Ephesians 4:24).  His delight is my delight, including the desire to bestow grace rather than wrath upon the tailgater.

       In times of temptation, an opportunity for faith presents itself to born again believers.  The contrary feelings and thoughts of our flesh provide opportunity to believe in the Lord Jesus, that is, to trust He is so present and active within us that we delight to walk in righteousness rather than being swallowed up by anger and resentment.  We reckon ourselves to "be alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:11).  We seek to believe the Word of God rather than the tempting influence of the world, the devil and the flesh.

This truth leads to the conviction that God allows tailgaters to come my way for the purpose of granting to me an altar of prayer for them (indeed, who needs prayer more than tailgaters?! :)  ).  I cannot recount the the times of joy I have experienced when walking this path of faith in the knowledge of how present and dynamic the Lord Jesus is in our trusting spirits.  I often still feel the feelings and sense the contrary thoughts and even physical sensations.  More and more, however, the conviction grows that our Savior is indeed a great and glorious Savior - even in traffic!

I suggest this perspective not as a mere method for seeking to walk with God, nor does it provide a spiritual panacea that guarantees we will always trust and obey the Lord.  Choices of faith and submission to God must still be made, and we remain free to either trust or distrust Him.  However, the truth we consider does have great impact  regarding challenge in our lives.  It provides opportunity to know the Lord Jesus in very personal and vibrant terms as we recognize that His grace impacts us far more dynamically than we often consider.  Not only has He forgiven us.  Not only has He promised us Heaven.  Not only has He made God a Father to us, and birthed us into "the whole family in Heaven and earth" (Ephesians 3:15).  As blessed as these gifts are, we must press on further, much further.  Through Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit, our Heavenly Father changed the very essence of who we most deeply are when we believed.  He made Christ to be righteousness not only for us, but within us.  He calls us to believe in "so great salvation," and then to be amazed by the grace of our Lord as He increasingly works in us and walks in us to foster the same quality of life He lived.  Indeed, we are just and righteous in Christ regarding our being and standing. We may also walk as just and righteous through Christ regarding our fruit bearing and the life we live for His glory...

"By the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me."
(I Corinthians 15:10)
"If ye know that He is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him." 
(I John 2:29)

Next - Righteousness and Expectation

Weekly Memory Verse    
   Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
(Romans 12:19)