Monday, February 29, 2016

“Decisions, Decisions (His, Ours)”

  "Decisions, Decisions (His, Ours)"

   I awoke this morning in prayerful contemplation about a particular course of action.  The thought came to me, "I'm so glad I don't have to make that decision!"

   "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him… (James 1:5).

   Of course, I do have to make the decision.  I must use my mind to consider the options, analyze possibilities concerning the paths that lie before me, and and ultimately make my way in a chosen direction.  The Lord will not write His will in the sky, He won't speak to me audibly, and I long ago learned to be suspicious of inner voices that may seem for all the world to be God, but which we often discover in the end to be devilish heralds of deception.  My confidence in the matter involves the truth that I don't make the decision alone.  The Lord promises to direct our thought processes as we look to Him, and He may also work circumstantially to make His chosen path clear to us.  "Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established… Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of His steps" (Proverbs 16:3; Psalm 85:13).  

    Our confidence also involves the faith that believes God will in fact direct us as we look to Him.  "Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways" (James 1:6-8).  Wisdom sought must be wisdom expected.  We must sincerely seek our Heavenly Father's guidance in the anticipation of His sincerely fulfilled promise to lead us.  By His Word, His Spirit, His church, and His personal working in our lives, the Lord directs us to think well and choose well as we trust Him to guide us.  Thus, we begin our decision making processes by first looking to Him, and then expecting His enabling of our thoughts and paving of our paths.  We don't have to make decisions.  But we do.  We just don't perceive ourselves as having to determine our course alone.  His thoughts establish our thoughts as we consistently look to Him in confidence and expectation of guidance through a dark world…

"The meek will He guide in judgement, and the meek will He teach His way."
(Psalm 25:9)
"O send out Thy light and Thy truth.  Let them lead me."
(Psalm 43:3)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.
(Psalm 31:24)

Friday, February 26, 2016

"Distraction" Part 2


Part 2

   I find that the most motivating, strengthening, and challenging consideration whereby we overcome the temptation to distraction involves the truth of God's un-distractedness.

    "The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous… The Lord thinketh upon me" (Psalm 34:15; 40:17).

    Even as I typed the words above, a combination of joy and sorrow came to mind.  I rejoice because of God's loving and undivided devotion to His trusting sons and daughters in Christ.  I sorrow because I too often fail to remember the wonder of our Lord's fixed gaze upon us, and the great pleasure He finds in our fellowship.  "The prayer of the upright is His delight" (Proverbs 15:8).  Nothing should more elicit our approach to the Throne of Heaven than the truth that its glorious Occupant rejoices to see us coming.  I believe no truth of Scripture more.  I understand no truth of Scripture less.  Moreover, I do not respond to such truth with the purity of attention toward God it should motivate.  Joy and sorrow indeed…

    Even in this moment, our Heavenly Father looks upon us and thinks about us.  His heart is set upon those in whom the Spirit of His Son dwells.  His infinite mind forever abides in undistracted commitment to the relationship and fellowship with us He provides in Christ.  No thought should more thrill us - "In Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11).  And no thought should more cause us to realize the importance of overcoming temptations to distraction - "I will look unto the Lord" (Micah 7:7).  Yes, distraction overcome leads to delight - in God - and in ourselves as in the wonder of grace we bless His heart, and as in the wonder of grace He blesses ours.

"The Lord taketh pleasure in His people" (Psalm 149:4).

Weekly Memory Verse
    Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
(I Corinthians 15:58)

Thursday, February 25, 2016



   "Thou wilt keep Him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee" (Isaiah 26:3). 

   Only One has lived a human lifetime with a mind perfectly "stayed on Thee".  Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled His title as "the Prince of peace" (Isaiah 9:6).  All others who trust and seek God await the experience of complete tranquility empowered by a fixed gaze on Him.  Even the most godly believers confess to distraction and to missing so much of that which could be known of the Lord always present, involved, and active on the behalf of His children.  Indeed, the same David who affirmed, "Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord" also confessed in times of trouble, "I am distracted" (Psalm 25:15; Psalm 88:15).  We live in a world of flesh and devils, and our sensibilities are far from being glorified.  Thus, we must live in expectation of distraction, or rather, of the temptations to distraction continually offered by our enemies.

    By "distraction", we do not mean that believers must directly think about God in every moment.  We do not possess the mental capacity for such undivided concentration.  The mother who cares for her children must think well about her duties.  Nurses attending to patients require a focused mind in order to give proper attention to their needs.  Carpenters require undivided attention in order to properly build and repair.  In every human endeavor, we must think well in order to perform well.  Thus, our Lord would not have us think that a stayed mind presently involves the attempt to ponder Him in every moment.  He is with us, of course, and pervades every moment with a background consciousness, as it were, in the sensibilities of those devoted to His glory and will.  "The Spirit beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God" (Romans 8:16).  Remaining undistracted, however, does not require the impossibility of attempting to focus our minds on two subjects at once.

   Our calling involves the consistent directing of our attention to God and His truth, as opportunity allows.  This constitutes a different experience for all believers, as guided by the principles of Scripture and the Holy Spirit.  That which may provide opportunity for one might loom as an obstacle for another.  Certainly we learn from each others' example of walking with our Lord in faith and faithfulness.  However, we must seek Him along the personal path He paves for us.  Where might I be distracted from availing myself of the opportunities to "look for Him"? (Isaiah 8:17).  What ways of staying my mind exist that I have not considered? How can I more avail myself of the possibilities I know to be available for focused attention to the Life of my life?  Keeping these questions at the heart of our walk with the Lord goes far in keeping Him much in heart and mind.  Growing peace awaits as we more consistently stay our minds on the One whose mind is perfectly stayed upon us...  

"The Lord thinketh upon me."
(Psalm 40:17)
"I will look unto the Lord."
(Micah 7:7)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
(I Corinthians 15:58)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

"Beyond the Ceiling"

  "Beyond the Ceiling"

    A believing and sincere young man recently said to me, "Does it ever feel like your prayers must not be getting much further than the ceiling?"  I instantly responded, "Of course!  In those times when my focus in prayer - or in life - is upon myself rather than the Lord Jesus Christ, all kinds of false notions and sensibilities pervade my experience of relating to God.

    "Christ Jesus our Lord: in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him" (Ephesians 3:12).
    By definition, true prayer involves focusing upon our Lord rather than ourselves.  We also look unto the needs of others in intercession.  Moreover, we pray about our own needs and lives, seeking God's light, making requests,  and acknowledging, confessing, and repenting of sin when necessary.  All is done in remembrance and affirmation that the Lord Jesus secured and secures our access.  We come by Him, through Him, and for Him, or we come not at all.  Thus, prayers that seem to bounce back, as it were, indicate that in some manner our gaze has been diverted from "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2).  

    We do well as we approach the Throne of God to see by faith the blood that stains the path of our access.  It is not our blood that grants entrance into the Holiest.   "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh, and having an high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience" (Hebrews 10:19-22).  Such a scene fills our hearts with gratitude, encourages our hearts with confidence, and breaks our hearts with repentance as we de-focus our gaze from ourselves unto seeing God as accessed through the merits of Christ.  If our prayers seem to bounce back, we can be sure of our need to prayerfully reorient our attention from ourselves to the One whose sacrifice provides the way, the only way whereby we can be confident of prayers that ascend beyond the ceiling…

"Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."
(I Peter 2:5)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
(I Corinthians 15:58)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

“Power In Prayer?"

  "Power In Prayer?"

    A good friend recently expressed a commonly held notion as he testified of God's working in his life.  "I believe in the power of prayer!" he said.  I smiled, nodded, and rejoiced with him because I knew what he meant, and I knew that he knew what he meant.

    That being said, it is important that we realize that no power actually exists in prayer.  In and of themselves, our prayers accomplish nothing.  We rather seek in our praying to avail ourselves of God's power, provision, protection, and working in our hearts and lives to reveal His glory.  Our prayers actually involve our frank acknowledgement that we need the Lord to do for us that which we cannot do for ourselves.  I share this with no intention to pick at nits, or to be argumentative.  As in the case with my friend mentioned above, I don't challenge anyone who speaks in terms of prayer's power.  I've doubtless used the terminology myself, and most believers would readily admit that they do not mean to divert attention from God's working to our asking.

    That being said, it is important to rightly and Biblically view prayer and answered prayers.  Satan is far from being above the attempt to exalt human flesh regarding the matter of our communion with God.  "Beware of the scribes, which... for a presence make long prayers" (Mark 12: 38; 40).  A.W. Tozer may have overstated the case a bit when he proposed that one of the worst things that can happen to a believer is that he gain a reputation as being a so-called "prayer warrior".  Our brother of old, however, did have a point in raising the possibility that the fact of praying does not assure that the pray-er seeks God with proper motives, intentions, and purposes.  Certainly this is why the Lord Jesus Christ mandated much privacy in our prayers: "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret" (Matthew 6:6).

    My friend did not mean to exalt our human response to God's calling of communion, intercession, and supplication.  I felt no need to correct him, not do I write this as a fuss.  We do, however, desire accuracy in all that we believe and express about our Lord and His involvement in our lives.  We pray to honor the Lord Jesus rather than our praying, an obvious truth when we ponder the matter in terms of Scripture.  We do well to think about such things, ensuring that our beliefs, convictions, and communication accord with the reality of Biblical truth.

"After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name."
(Matthew 6:9)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
(I Corinthians 15:58)

Monday, February 22, 2016

“Interceding For Hope"

  "Interceding For Hope"

    "We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, for the hope which is laid up for you in Heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel" (Colossians 1:3-5).

   In Christ, God grants to trusting hearts the most amazing privilege and responsibility of praying for each other.  He also provides in Scripture examples of prayer, as exemplified by the Apostle Paul's intercessions for those to whom he wrote his epistles.  Paul's prayer for the Colossians provides such illumination as he asks the Lord to administer and apply "the hope which is laid up for you in Heaven."

    Such request serves to counter the ongoing attempt of our spiritual enemies to discourage born again believers in the Lord Jesus.  They cannot steal from us the fact of our relationship with our Heavenly Father granted freely through the Lord Jesus.  Thus, they seek to cloud our vision of His face, as it were.  Devils, the world, and the flesh seek to divert our gaze from "Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" unto ourselves, other people, circumstances, conditions, and situations (Hebrews 12:2).  If successful, our foes can damage the prevailing hope that infuses our confidence, peace, joy, and determination to walk in close communion with God.  Thus, we pray for each other, we intercede for the hope of Christ to fill each other's hearts and minds.  

   Biblical hope can be defined as the confident expectation of God's presence and involvement on behalf of His glory and our benefit.  As we often suggest, our Lord would assure us that wherever we are going, He will be with us as we go, and He will be there when we arrive.  Indeed, our hope is first and foremost in Him rather than His actions on our behalf.  Believers can know the peace and joy of Christ in a prison no less than a palace as we remember and affirm the Biblical truth that God Himself serves as the Life of our lives and the fulfillment of our hearts.  "Thou art my hope, o Lord God… In Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 71:5; 16:11).  No other request surpasses the importance of our intercession of hope for each other, even as David prayed for his people, "Let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and forever" (Psalm 131:3).

    Again, the gift of praying for each other constitutes a most amazing bestowal of grace.  Believers possess the capacity to affect each others' hearts and lives, or more literally, to ask our Father to act on behalf of our brothers and sisters.  We can pray for each other's hearts to be filled with hope, as the Apostle prayed for the Colossians.  In so doing, we will find our own hearts more expectant as our gaze upon the Lord for the benefit of others strengthens our own hope.  Thereby, the Spirit of God overcomes devilish, worldly, and fleshly attempts to discourage us, and we increasingly discover the blessedness proclaimed by Paul…

"And hope maketh not ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us."
(Romans 5:5)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
(I Corinthians 15:58)

Friday, February 19, 2016

“Darkly, Quickly"

  "Darkly, Quickly"

    How does a Being who knows everything relate to beings who know, in relative terms, next to nothing?  

    "His understanding is infinite… "If any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know" (Psalm 147:5; I Corinthians 8:2).

    The answer is that God condescends to speak to us in terms we can understand.  He reveals Himself in creation, and more pointedly, in Scripture to declare who He is, who we are, and how we live in the mode and manner He defines as authentic life.  One suspects that the Lord must greatly simplify the truths of reality in order to presently communicate in a manner we can comprehend.  This may account for some of the Biblical issues upon which genuine and well meaning Christians differ as we seek to interpret the Word of God.  We are all attempting, as aided by the Holy Spirit, to understand the Truth of an infinite Mind while we still "see through a glass darkly" (I Corinthians 13:12).  We can fathom enough to know the Lord and walk with Him faithfully.  Beyond that, things get "darkly", quickly.  "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God, but the things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law" (Deuteronomy 29:29).

    It's good to seek as much knowledge as possible, particularly the truths of God's Word.  "With all thy getting, get understanding" (Proverbs 4:7).  As the end of such pursuit, however, we will still in this lifetime know nothing yet as we ought to know.  An eternal Being, possessed of an infinite mind, seeks to communicate with beings whose primary frame of reference involves time and space.  Salvation in Christ births us into the reality of eternity, assuring us that, as the old hymn proclaims, We shall understand it better by and by".  We shall, but for now, the best and brightest among us still "see through a glass darkly".  Remembering our universal human limitation, and more importantly, the limitless mind of God, goes far in establishing and maintaining the proper frame of heart whereby we relate to the Lord and to people in the humility that knows how much we don't know.

"Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?  Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou Me.  Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?   Declare, if thou hast understanding.  Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest?"
(Job 38:2-5)

Weekly Memory Verse 
   A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
(Proverbs 15:1)


Thursday, February 18, 2016

“Abundance of Grace"

  "Abundance of Grace"

     It is possible to wrongly communicate and emphasize the grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is not possible, however, to overemphasize His freely given favor in His Son.

    "Some affirm that we say let us do evil, that good may come" (Romans 3:8).
    "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 5:20-21).

    No less than the Apostle Paul was accused of preaching licentiousness as he proclaimed the redeeming grace and truth of Christ.  A faithful presentation of the Gospel always elicits such slander in the minds of those who have not read and studied the Bible enough to actually have an opinion regarding this most vital of matters.  We cannot fail to come away from a legitimate consideration of Scripture without being overwhelmed by its joyous declaration of the freest gift ever given.  The Old Testament foretells of such grace - "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price" (Isaiah 55:1).  The New Testament fulfills the foreshadowing - "The grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many" (Romans 5:15).  Thus, we must join Paul in proclaiming a salvation already paid for in full, and a gift that we fail to receive and experience only if we seek to pay for it, or reject it outright.  "Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness" (Romans 4:4-5).

    There will, of course, be those who use God's grace as a license to walk after the flesh.  In such cases, the problem is not with the message, nor is it always the messenger (faithful Paul, again, being the prime example).  There will always be souls who misinterpret and misuse Truth to their own advantage.  The devil is far from being above the use of God's Word in his attempts to deceive (i.e. - the wilderness temptation of the Lord Jesus, Matthew 4).  We must not allow such distortion to cause us to alter our presentation of the freest gift ever given.  The Lord Jesus sacrificed too much for believers to compromise our communication of the grace that flows from the wounds of Calvary.  Thus, we either proclaim a salvation "without money and without cost" and "not of works", or we proclaim no salvation at all (Ephesians 2:9).

    Law-based legalism never leads to the quality of love God seeks to birth and empower in human hearts.  Only the grace and truth of the Lord Jesus accomplishes such an authentic work that changes the heart as the basis for empowering a life of faithfulness that meets the test of spiritual authenticity.  "They which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:17).  A growing awareness and understanding of God's freely given favor in Christ leads to a growing response of faith and faithfulness in the hearts and lives of those redeemed by grace, amazed by grace, empowered by grace, and inhabited by the Lord of grace.

"Let us have grace, that we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear."
(Hebrews 12:28)

Weekly Memory Verse 
   A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
(Proverbs 15:1)


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

"For Thy Sake"

  "For Thy Sake"

     "I have learned by experience that the LORD hath blessed me for thy sake" (Genesis 30:27).
     Laban's acknowledgment that God's favor not only rested upon Jacob, but also flowed through him, presents a vividly clear description of the believer's relationship to God through the Lord Jesus Christ.

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

    We cannot independently access God's acceptance and favor.  We must have a mediator who unites God and ourselves, a go between whose merits make possible the establishment and maintenance of relationship.  "There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (I Timothy 2:5).  In His Son, our Heavenly Father provided such a bridge of grace, applying the righteousness of Christ to us just as He applied our sins to Christ when He died on the cross.  The blessing of God thus flows to us in direct proportion to the curse of God known by the Lord Jesus at Calvary.  "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).  The longer we walk with the Lord, the more we discover in far greater measure than Laban the reality of "I have learned by experience that the Lord hath blessed me for Thy sake."  Christ's imputed righteousness means that God's primary working in our lives involves the person and work of Christ.  We are "complete in Him" (Colossians 2:10).

    This explains a lot.  Indeed, every believer who has known the Lord for any length of time discovers that He is so much better to us than we begin to deserve.  Our response  of faith and submission to Him matters, of course, but we realize that our Heavenly Father's gracious mercy far more proceeds from some other source, and some other fount. Christ is the source and the fount.  Again, to His trusting children, God gives to us what the Lord Jesus deserves, just as on the cross He gave to the Lord Jesus what we deserve.  The more we discover such truth in the pages of Scripture and the more we "learn by experience", the more motivated and enabled we find ourselves to live in a manner worthy of such freely given favor.  "Let us have grace, that we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear" (Hebrews 12:28).

    For those who could never pave their own path into the presence and acceptance of God, the Lord Jesus is the way (John 14:6).  We have no other, nor do we need any other.  "I have learned by experience that the Lord hath blessed me for Thy sake."  We can utter no truer words to our Savior, and no truth more instills in believers the grateful love that serves as the rightful motivation of our walk with the Lord.  Our Heavenly Father sees us in His Son, and works in us accordingly.  We must see ourselves in such gracious and holy light, and then live in the wonder that leads to worship.

"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."
(Romans 5:1-2)
"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)

Weekly Memory Verse 
   A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
(Proverbs 15:1)


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

“That Which He Cannot Do"

  "That Which He Cannot Do"

     One reason our prayers sometimes go unanswered is that we ask God to do things He cannot do.  This may seem counterintuitive upon first consideration.  Christians believe in an omnipotent Lord for whom nothing is too hard to accomplish.  

     "Be Thou exalted, LORD, in Thine own strength: so will we sing and praise Thy power" (Psalm 21:13).

    We rightly extol the greatness of God's ability.  Scripture, however, teaches that His actions are governed by His character and purposes.  The Psalmist declared, "The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works" (Psalm 145:17).  Moreover, the Apostle Paul wrote that "God cannot lie" (Titus 1:2).  Our Lord will not and cannot do anything that conflicts with His character, nature, and eternal purpose in Christ.  He exists as a being governed by internal realities of heart so pristinely pure that His hand does not move or act in any manner that fails to coincide with His perfect goodness.  "The righteous Lord loveth righteousness" (Psalm 11:7).

   Such sublime truth supplies the reason we seek to be guided by Scripture in our prayers and in our response to God's working in our lives.  We "ask amiss" if we knowingly or  inadvertently make request of our Lord to do anything that conflicts with the Biblical revelation of His character, nature, and way  (James 4:3).  We may also become discouraged when our prayers go unanswered if we fail to remember that our understanding of God's ways is far from perfect even when our intentions are good and we seek to pray in the light of His Word.  Again, we may ask the Lord to do that which He cannot do, namely, to move His hand in a manner that conflicts with His heart.  

   Few truths should more lead us to our knees and face in awed and grateful adoration.  Indeed, Somebody exists whose heart is comprised of a purity of love whereby He must always act in accordance with who He is.  "Praise the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good" (Jeremiah 33:11).  This may mean that times will come when our prayers go unanswered because God will not and cannot violate His character and purposes as He works for our best interests.  Such times are not easy.  However, unanswered prayers confirm rather than conflict with our Lord's perfect faithfulness.  He must be who He is, and we desperately need Him to act accordingly.  He will, and this moment provides opportunity to find that place on our knees to praise and thank the omnipotent God for that which He can and cannot do.

"The LORD liveth in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness."
(Jeremiah 4:2)
"All His works are done in truth."
(Psalm 33:4)
'The LORD our God is righteous in all His works which He doeth."
(Daniel 9:14)

Weekly Memory Verse 
   A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
(Proverbs 15:1)

Monday, February 15, 2016

“The Refrain of Grace"

  "The Refrain of Grace"

     Our spiritual enemies cannot steal the existence of the Lord Jesus Christ from our lives - "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5).  Thus, as in the case of the Galatian Christians tempted to add ritual to salvation, our foes seek to nullify our experience of Christ's presence - "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace" (Galatians 5:4).

    The more we realize our Lord's faithful and abiding presence in our hearts and lives, the more likely we are to avail ourselves of "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8).  Our enemies know this better than do we ourselves.  They constantly seek to discourage our "access by faith into this grace wherein we stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:2).  We counter by remembering and affirming the ongoing refrain of grace declared in the pages of Scripture regarding a Savior and a salvation "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20).  Such confidence leads to the expectation of faith whereby our hearts and minds are far more likely to realize and recognize the dynamic presence of our Lord's working in our lives.  However, if we allow our enemies to cast a shroud over our awareness of the abundant life of the risen Christ, we expect little and receive according to our stilted anticipation.  We "fall from grace" and "Christ is become of no effect" in the sense that we fail to avail ourselves of His glory because disbelieve the reality thereof.  "He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief" (Matthew 13:58).

    We need not - we must not - live our lives as if our Lord has left or forsaken us.  He has not - "I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20).  Our enemies would tell us otherwise.   They are liars. Thus, we join Moses, who "endured as seeing Him who is invisible" (Hebrews 11:27).  We overcome the clouding and enshrouding attacks of our spiritual foes by believing the Word of God that word after word, verse after verse, and page after page declares the presence, power, and involvement of the Lord in His people - "this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (I John 5:4).  We arise, we open our eyes, and we testify that "the Light shineth in darkness" (John 1:5).  It does - He does - and the devil himself cannot douse the illumination in all who immerse themselves in promises that cannot be broken, and in Truth that forever abides.

"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)

Weekly Memory Verse 
   A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
(Proverbs 15:1)


Saturday, February 13, 2016

“Attacked? Counterattack!

(a repeat from 2012)

  "Attacked?  Counterattack!

     We live in a world that frequently offers sights, sounds, images and ideas of discouragement.  Our flesh is also subject to downcast feelings and sensibilities.  Devilish spiritual enemies furthermore desire to lead us into sloughs of despondency that hinder the "joy unspeakable and full of glory" promised to all who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ (I Peter 1:8).

     How do we respond to this three-pronged attack of the world, the flesh, and the devil on our walk with God and ministry to others?   The Biblical answer commands a three-pronged counterattack, as enabled by the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the church of God.

     First, we remember and affirm the countless assurances of Scripture that promise a heart of joy even in the midst of feelings and experiences of sorrow.  "Thy words were found and I did eat them, and Thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart" (Jeremiah 15:16).   Read consistently with a trusting, humble attitude, the Bible will so reveal the Heart of God to us that our own hearts will find in Him our truest and purest joy, that is, Himself.  "These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (John 15:11).   Indeed, we could lose everything, but if Christ remained in our hearts, the essence of our joy would abide.

    This speaks of the second line of counterattack, namely, the indwelling Holy Spirit.   "The Comforter" applies balm to sorrow whereby our joy can be unhindered.  Most importantly, He reveals and glorifies the Lord Jesus unto and within the trusting heart, providing cause for joy even in times of grief and loss.  "As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" confessed the Apostle Paul, a man whose chronicle of suffering would seem to have made continual rejoicing impossible.  Nothing could be further from the truth, even as Paul wrote the joy-filled epistle to the Philippians from a Roman prison.  "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again, I say rejoice" (Philippians 4:4).

     Finally, we seek encouragement through the body of Christ, that is, in our fellow believers.  We receive comfort from our brothers and sisters in Christ as we avail ourselves of their fellowship.  However, our primary means of personal strengthening flows from encouragement we give out to others.  "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).  When we feel down, we can be sure that we are not alone.  Other brothers and sisters are going through the same.  Thus, our personal challenge provides opportunity to offer ourselves to the Lord for the encouragement of others.  This may come through a word, an action, a prayer, or perhaps simply the caring countenance of our face as we self-sacrificially determine to use our sorrows as opportunity to minister comfort to others.  "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God" (II Corinthians 1:3-4).

    The world, the devil, and the flesh, including our own, seek to discourage us.  Let us get our spiritual dander up about it, as it were.  By definition, born again believers in the Lord Jesus are vessels of His joyful heart.  "The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth" (Psalm 28:7).  Indeed, when attacked by despondency, the Captain of our salvation purposes that we execute  a counterattack.  Let us hear His command, and through His Word, His Spirit, and His church, let us stand to "fight the good fight of faith" (I Timothy 6:12).  The victory of the risen Lord Jesus shines forth from us thereby, and joys ascend from our sorrows we would never had known had we not been tempted by defeated but blustering enemies.

"In Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forever more."
(Psalm 16:11)

Weekly Memory Verse 
   Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
(Colossians 2:8)


Friday, February 12, 2016

“The Word and the Word”

"The Word and the Word"  

    The Lord Jesus Christ is the living, personal Word of God.  "The Word was made 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).  The Bible is the written, doctrinal Word of God.  "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (II Timothy 3:16).  The former provides the theme and subject matter for the latter.  The latter perfectly reveals the person and work of the former.  "In Thy light shall we see light" (Psalm 36:9).

   As we ponder our Savior and His redemptive work in our lives, we do so in terms of Scripture.  We must seek the true and authentic Christ, as opposed to "another Jesus" of which the Apostle Paul warned (II Corinthians 11:4).  Only the Bible perfectly reveals our Savior to us.  Other books penned by devoted believers may provide rays of light that help us in our understanding and response to God through Christ.  Scripture alone, however, is light in the sense of Truth.  Thus, in seeking to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ", we rightly glance at faithful literature that concerns Him.  But we gaze upon the pages of the Bible, knowing that as we seek God therein, perfect purity of illumination awaits our hearts and minds.  "How sweet are Thy words unto my taste!  Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Psalm 119:103).

    As we read and consider the Scriptures, we do so in expectation of their revelation of Christ.  "Search the Scriptures… they are they which testify of Me" declared the Lord Jesus of the Old Testament (John 5:39).  Although never directly named in the pre-Incarnation documents, the Savior shines forth no less in the writings of Moses, the prophets and the psalmists than in the New Testament that brings Christ into open display of light and glory.  The Lord Jesus illuminates every letter, word, sentence, verse, passage, book, and Testament of the Bible.  We may not see Him clearly as we read and ponder, but He is there.  The Holy Spirit who inspired the words of Scripture purposes always to glorify the Son.  "When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you" (John 16:13-14).

   The Bible reveals the person and work of the Lord Jesus.  The Lord Jesus comprises the purpose and understanding of the Bible.  Again, "in Thy light shall we see light."  The living and the written Word of God go hand in hand, heart in heart.  No truth about Christ and the Bible is more important to learn and to embrace.  Every time we open the Scriptures, we look for the Savior.  And every time we personally seek the Savior, we search in the light of Scripture.  This provides the key to knowing God in living, personal reality, and to understanding the Bible.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  Nothing else.

"God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
(II Corinthians 4:6)
"Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts."
(Jeremiah 15:16)

Weekly Memory Verse 
   Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
(Colossians 2:8)


Thursday, February 11, 2016

“The Matter of Our Words”

"The Matter of Our Words"  

    "The tongue can no man tame.  It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison" (James 3:8).
    "Set a watch, o Lord, before my mouth.  Keep the door of my lips" (Psalm 141:3).

    Nothing more reveals the abject need of humanity for Divine intervention than our capacity to speak.  Created by One called "the Word" in Scripture, our verbal ability separates us from all other physical creatures (John 1:1-3).  This should lead to great and glorious utterance, and if often does.  Our tongue, however, often displays the fallen disposition of our flesh, running away from us in directions that we know lead to destruction even as we speak the foolish word.  

    The Psalmist well recognized his complete inability to govern his speech, presaging James' indictment of a tongue that cannot inherently speak in a manner pleasing to God.  "Set a watch… Keep the door."   Indeed, when the Lord Jesus told His disciples, "Without Me, ye can do nothing", no human capacity more appropriately fits into the indictment of our weakness (John 15:5).  In this day, for example, we require our Lord to motivate, lead, and enable us to speak in a manner that glorifies Him, blesses others, and keeps us out of unnecessary trouble.  Words are central to our existence - "Death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21).  Regardless of how much we believe this truth, however, we cannot independently speak in a manner that fosters life.  We require the power of God to empower words that bless rather than curse, a power that we must consciously seek if we are to speak living rather than deadly utterances.  "I cried unto Him with my mouth, and He was extolled with my tongue" (Psalm 66:17).

   We do well to pray for ourselves and for each other concerning the matter of our words in this day.  We also seek the light of God's Word in this most vital matter of our relationship with our Lord and with people.  Moreover, we encourage and challenge each other to present our tongues to the Lord for His watch, His keeping, and His empowering to speak as the voice of His Spirit.  "Death and life" are at stake, as Solomon declared.  Few matters more determine the course and quality of our lives.

"Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer."
(Psalm 19:14)

Weekly Memory Verse 
   Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
(Colossians 2:8)