Thursday, March 31, 2016

“Joy, Always and Again”

  "Joy, Always and Again"   
    If we seek earthly happiness, our inner being will be determined by circumstances, situations, and conditions.  Conversely, if we set our sails to catch the winds of God's spiritual joy in Christ, He will govern our internal environment.

    "Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4).

    The Apostle Paul's "alway and again" command, as it were, would be nonsensical if joy were not possible in all things, and at all times.  Again, we reference, as did Paul, spiritual joy rather than earthly happiness.  There is a difference.  As the old saying goes, "Happiness is based on happenings.  Joy is based on Jesus."  The former concerns primarily how we feel.  The latter references our beliefs and convictions, which may or may not coincide with our emotions.  "As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" characterized Paul of the believer's capacity to know the joy of the Lord Jesus even when we feel the ache or even the break of our hearts (II Corinthians 6:10).  Indeed, the most joyful Christian on the planet at any given moment may be laughing or crying, or may seem to not feel anything at all.  He or she realizes that God's person, presence, involvement, and working on our behalf enables joy always, and as Paul commanded, joy again.

    The world, the devil, and the flesh - including perhaps our own - cry out against this frequently stated and implied Biblical truth.  Thus, we must kneel before our Lord to sacrifice the fleshly quest for earthly happiness so that we may arise to rejoice in the far greater pilgrimage of the heart: "Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy" (Psalm 43:4).  Happy moments will ensue, but even if they didn't, we could still know the joy of God Himself, and of seeking the true satisfaction of knowing, loving, trusting, obeying, and honoring Him.  Joy, always and again.  Our Lord promises that such grace is given, and He calls to believe that He can enable rejoicing in all things, and at all times…

"The joy of the Lord is your strength."
(Nehemiah 8:10)

Weekly Memory Verse
   But why dost thou judge thy brother?  Or why dost thou set at nought thy brother?  For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
(Romans 14:10-11)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

“His Song, Our Song”

  "His Song, Our Song"   
    Mr. Harry sings "How Great Thou Art".  Miss Loretta loves "Jesus Loves Me" (and sings it to me as we say goodbye after every service).  And Miss Lillie frequently blesses us with a rendition of "Day By Day" - in Danish no less.

    These dear folks reside at a local retirement community where we conduct services several times a week.  They attend our meetings regularly, and love the great old hymns of the faith.  We do too, and the thought frequently occurs to me that many of these songs have been sung millions and millions of times by believers all over the world.  Some go back centuries, and in my mind and heart, I sometimes seem to hear ancient echoes of musical praise and thanksgiving even as we presently add our own contribution to the strains, melodies, and harmonies of grace.

   "Be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 5:18-20).

   Clearly, a musical Holy Spirit fills us and then leads us to psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs of the heart.  This speaks to the sublime beauty of our God, who could never be content with a creation of precise technical precision, but which lacked loveliness.  The Great Engineer is also a great Artist.  He made us with the heart to experience and appreciate beauty, and then grants to us the privilege of affirming His glory with expressions of praise and gratitude as accompanied by the sweetness of song.  How it blesses us, as when Mr. Harry, Miss Loretta, and Miss Lillie lend their voices to the praises of God.  But far more, how it must bless our Heavenly Father as by His Spirit, the children of God sing forth the glories of the Lord Jesus Christ.

   Of course, for various reasons some people don't like to sing aloud, or can't.  No worries.  The Apostle Paul calls us to "sing and make melody in your heart to the Lord" (emphasis added).  The music of the Spirit first and foremost graces our own spirits.  He first gives us songs of the heart, that is, He fills us with the beauty of His Person in the inner hall of grace as received by faith.  Every believer can sing there, and will as the Holy Spirit fills us, thrills us, and fulfills us with the wonder of the Lord Jesus.  The Great Artist blesses us no less as deeply within we hear His song, and as we respond with our own.

"The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing."
(Zephaniah 3:17)
"Sing… with grace in your hearts to the Lord."
(Colossians 3:16)

Weekly Memory Verse
   But why dost thou judge thy brother?  Or why dost thou set at nought thy brother?  For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
(Romans 14:10-11)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

“The Counsel of His Own Will”

  "The Counsel of His Own Will"   
    If God acted according to the forced implementation of His will rather than "the counsel of His own will," we might better comprehend His working to fulfill His eternal purpose in Christ (Ephesians 1:11).  Were this the case, however, a far lesser view of our Lord would present itself to our hearts and minds.

    The Bible declares a God so good, so great, so powerful, and so involved in His creation that He can give freedom to angels and humans, see them misuse it in innumerable ways and means, but nevertheless successfully accomplish His ultimate intentions.  No mere chessplayer deliberately moving pawns, as it were, shines forth from the Scriptural revelation.  We rather see created beings, including those supposedly friendly toward Him, continually acting in opposition to the will of God - "Oh that My people had hearkened unto Me, and Israel had walked in My ways!" (Psalm 81:13).  Moreover, the Bible states that such waywardness results not from Divine determination, but from human mis-inclination.

    "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man: but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed" (James 1:13-14).

    Again, "counsel" governs the means whereby our Lord fulfills His purposes.  He knew and He knows His sublime capacity to weave together innumerable choices of created beings - be they conformed to His will or not - with the ultimate result being the glorifying of His Son and the successful accomplishment of "gathering together in One all things in Christ" (Ephesians 1:10).  A weak and tawdry deity would require forced implementation of his will.  The Most High God needs no such tyranny.  He rather grants freedom, sees it misused to the degree that His beloved Son dies at the hands of sin's perpetrators, but fulfills His ultimate intentions all the more wondrously.  "And though they found no cause of death in Him, yet desired they Pilate that He should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of Him, they took Him down from the tree, and laid Him in a sepulchre. But God raised Him from the dead" (Acts 13:28-30).  

   Such is the God of Scripture, the Lord whose counsel of heart and mind reveals a greatness and goodness beyond all imagining.  Indeed, consider the literally trillions of human and angelic choices He must coordinate for the fulfillment of His eternal purpose.  Were they all His choices, we might better understand.  "He made a big plan, acted accordingly, and forced created beings to do the same."  We might get our minds around that notion.  However, when the God and Father of our Lord Jesus forms His purpose, He grants real freedom for participation or refusal to both the angelic and human races.  A portion of the former misuse the liberty.  All of the latter refuse.  "Nevertheless, the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand" (Proverbs 19:21; emphasis added).  This is glory.  This is wonder.  This is love, grace, mercy, wisdom, and power beyond all conception and imagining!  Thus we do well to join the Apostle Paul, who having himself written of the Most High and His historical workings to redeem His earthly people Israel, and His Heavenly people the church, falls before God in utter amazement…

"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!  For who hath known the mind of the Lord?  Or who hath been His counselor?  Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto Him again?  For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen."
(Romans 11:33-36)

Weekly Memory Verse
   But why dost thou judge thy brother?  Or why dost thou set at nought thy brother?  For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
(Romans 14:10-11)

Monday, March 28, 2016

"Every Word"

  "Every Word"   
     "God hath spoken in His holiness.  I will rejoice" (Psalm 60:6).

    Our Lord's words proceed from His unchanging and inviolable character and nature.  What He says originates with who He is, resulting in the perfect truth of every utterance and the complete impossibility of any form of falsehood.

    "Thy Word is truth… every word of God is pure" (John 17:17; Psalm 30:5).
    "God… cannot lie" (Titus 1:2).

    Unlike any other document, we open the Scriptures with complete confidence in their veracity, based on our complete confidence in their Author.  In this regard, I will always be grateful for a book by a Christian author given to me just after my conversion.  The writer suggested, "Trust the Bible - every word of it - without reserve, and as the years go by, see the Lord over and over again confirm the perfection of His faithful heart and His faithful Word."  Such assurance rings more true today than it did forty years ago.  Over and over again, I have seen that Scripture alone serves as the repository of Truth so pristinely pure that we rightly rest our hearts in every word, sentence, verse, passage, chapter, book, and Testament.  "Thy Word is very pure.  Therefore, Thy servant loveth it" (Psalm 119:140).

    A perfect Heart beckons us by His perfect Word.  There is Somebody we can trust in this life and forevermore.  Moreover, the Lord has spoken by His prophets and apostles, providing through the Bible a tangible means of relating to Him in a lifetime whereby we "walk by faith, not by sight" (II Corinthians 5:7).  Thus, I would join that author from long ago in suggesting to my heart and yours that we "Trust the Bible - every word of it, without reserve."  We trust its glorious Author as we do so, and four decades confirms to my heart that we shall not be disappointed as we heed the counsel of the prophet, "Come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord" (Isaiah 2:5).  The Bible is that lamp, serving to perfectly reveal the living Light of the Lord Jesus Christ to the hearts of all who determine to trust every word

"In Thy light shall we see light."
(Psalm 36:9)
"I have not hid Thy righteousness within my heart.  I have declared Thy faithfulness."
(Psalm 40:10)

Weekly Memory Verse
   But why dost thou judge thy brother?  Or why dost thou set at nought thy brother?  For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
(Romans 14:10-11)

Saturday, March 26, 2016

“Joy and Pleasure - His and Ours”

  "Joy and Pleasure - His and Ours"   
     "Thou wilt show me the path of life.  In Thy presence is fullness of joy.  At Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11).

     Only in God can we find "fullness of joy" and "pleasures forevermore".  Thus, the path that leads to Him offers us life in its truest and most heart-fulfilling potential and actuality.  This we must believe about our Lord, and this we must seek to know in conscious and applied reality - "to live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21).

     Great challenge awaits us, however, as we seek to journey upon "the path of life".  Our spiritual enemies ever work to hinder and distract us from attending to the One for whom our hearts exist.  We face great conflict as we devote ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ, including the waywardness of our own flesh, which "lusteth against the spirit" (Galatians 5:17).  Thus, our walk with God along the path the includes only He and ourselves, but also malevolent entities who would keep us from experiencing the Life of our lives.  We "wrestle" against such foes, the primary aspect of which involves remembering, affirming, and applying the Truth that Christ alone fully blesses our hearts with joy and pleasure (Ephesians 6:12).  "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies" (Psalm 23:5).

    We also do not fully understand what it means to walk with God in living fellowship.  Mention such a concept to many believers - or consider it ourselves - and false, fleshly notions of  devotion likely come to mind.  The aforementioned enemies are more than happy to offer us distorted understandings and expectations of what it means to live in consistent communion with our Lord.  They would focus our attention on what we must do, or think we must do.  Certainly a role exists for us in our relationship with God - "Seek the Lord… and His face forevermore" (Psalm 105: 4).  However, those who walk with God in genuine devotion and experience realize that our primary response involves… response.  "When Thou saidst, Seek ye My face; my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek" (Psalm 27:8).  Just as subjects under an earthly king would not barge into his presence with noisy and unbidden bluster or wordiness, so must we not audaciously think that fellowship with God primarily involves our relationship to Him.  We rather realize that He began our spiritual bond with Himself, He maintains it, and He motivates and empowers our response by His indwelling Spirit. "God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father" (Galatians 4:6).  His relationship to us - this constitutes the proper understanding and expectation of those who most genuinely walk with God, leading to humility and a far more consistent response to His presence and fellowship. 

    Finally, "for now, we see through a glass, darkly" (I Corinthians 13:12).  In eternity to come, our brightest earthly moment wherein we experienced the joy and pleasure of God's presence will seem to have been shadowed twilight in comparison to His glory known then and there.  Let us admit the truth.  It is hard to presently walk with our Lord in consistently genuine fellowship.  For the reasons mentioned above and many others, no greater challenge beckons us than the call to come, to commune, and to consecrate ourselves to the One who forever - and now - exists as the joy and pleasure of our chief delight.  Thankfully, our Heavenly Father knows the conflict we face.  Thus, He works with great patience to strip away any notion that some other other heart might fill and fulfill our own heart.  The Lord also bears witness by His Word and His Spirit that our greatest motivation to avail ourselves of His presence involves His sublime desire to avail Himself of our presence.  A wonder beyond all wonders, and that which which most infuses our hearts to respond, to come, and to please the One who finds joy and pleasure in us…

"The Lord taketh pleasure in His people."
(Psalm 149:4)
"The prayer of the upright is His delight."
(Proverbs 15:8)
"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)

Weekly Memory Verse
   For though He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.
(II Corinthians 13:4)

Friday, March 25, 2016

"Life Beyond Life"

  "Life Beyond Life"   
     The Lord Jesus Christ did not come forth alone in His resurrection from the dead.

     "God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:4-6).
      "Ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead" (Colossians 2:12).
      "For in that He died, He died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God.  Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:10-11).

    Note the verb tenses in these redounding and resounding affirmations of Christ's Life beyond life.  "Hath raised us up… Are risen with Him… To be alive unto God."  These reference not the physical resurrection to be experienced by born again believers at the coming of the Lord Jesus for His saints (I Corinthians 15:52).  The Apostle Paul rather calls us to affirm the spiritual resurrection that has already taken place in us through the entrance of the Holy Spirit into our hearts at the time of our new birth.  "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2).  Transcending space and time in the realities of the Spirit and of our spirit, the Lord Jesus came forth from the grave with you and with me following in His triumphant wake.  His risen life is our risen life, and we minimize the truth of His resurrection if we do not affirm and declare that we are "risen with Him". 

   A great encouragement exists in this blessed truth, namely, "we shall live with Him by the power of God" (II Corinthians 13:4).  Strength for this day and this moment, the power of Christ's Life beyond life, infuses our innermost being with then abundant energy of grace - "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13).  However, great challenge also presents itself to our hearts.  "If ye then be risen with Him, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God" (Colossians 3:1).  All excuses for failing to trust and obey God dissolve in the bright light that reveals more than one set of spiritual footsteps exiting the Lord's tomb so long ago.  The risen Christ dwells with and within us by His Spirit.  We presently live in the vibrant life of His resurrection, which is also our resurrection.  We may or may not experience the glory thereof.  But the glory exists nonetheless, and challenges us to believe that Life beyond life energizes us both now and forevermore.

   Angels declared, "He is not here, for He is risen" (Matthew 28:6).  The Word of God and the Spirit of God declare, "Ye are risen with Him".  This is truth.  This is reality.  This is resurrection, the Lord's newness of life and our own.  May we walk in this "faith of the operation of God", and this grace-given Life beyond life made possible by our Savior's sacrifice of sorrow, suffering, and death.  Indeed, too much was given for believers to not avail ourselves to so much that is given, to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to our own resurrection in Him…

"If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin.  But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Christ from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.  Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh" (Romans 8:11-12).

Weekly Memory Verse
   For though He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.
(II Corinthians 13:4)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

"Larger Purposes"

  "Larger Purposes"   
     The Old Testament saints prayed for a Messiah who never came during their earthly lifetime.

    "These all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise, God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect" (Hebrews 11:39-40).

    God's purposes involve the ultimate and the many as He works to "gather together in One all things in Christ" (Ephesians 1:10).  Our individual needs matter greatly to Him, so much so that "the very hairs of your head are all numbered" (Matthew 10:30).  Personal interests nevertheless bow before our Heavenly Father's larger purposes as He "worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:11).  Indeed, many of David's prayers for Israel in the Psalms were not unanswered until centuries after he sought God's help and deliverance, and many have still not been fully realized.  "Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! When God bringeth back the captivity of His people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad" (Isaiah 53:6).

    We pray always in the context of God's glory, His will, and "according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Ephesians 3:11).  This sometimes means that the Lord seems not to heed the supplications regarding personal matters that seem to vital to us.  They do matter, even more to our Lord than to ourselves  - " Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you" (I Peter 5:7).  However, He knows and we must know that our vital personal interests revolve around issues far bigger than ourselves.   It is best for that God attend to His "eternal purpose in Christ Jesus", even it means that temporal prayers go - for now - unanswered.  Born again believers are part of that purpose, and the fulfillment thereof always serves our greatest benefit.

"Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."
(II Corinthians 4:17-18)

Weekly Memory Verse
   For though He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.
(II Corinthians 13:4)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

"The Current of the Divine"

  "The Current of the Divine"   
     In past, present, and future, God the Father's love, devotion, and purposes revolves around His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.      

    "Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me, for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24).
      "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17).
      "Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ" (Ephesians 1:9-10).

      Moreover, God the Holy Spirit also purposes to reveal and honor the Lord Jesus.  

     "When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of me" (John 15:26).
    "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 show it unto you (John 16:13-14).

    Our Heavenly Father privileges us with the honor of joining Him in the exaltation of His Son and our Savior, as enabled by the indwelling Holy Spirit.  "God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord" (I Corinthians 1:9).  To the degree that Christ becomes the center and circumference of our beliefs, our testimony, our purpose, our ministries, and our love will be the degree to which we walk in the shared purpose of the Father's heart and intentions.  "That in all things He (Christ) might have the preeminence" - this is the ever-flowing current of the Divine.  We flow with or against His stream in relationship to our heart's exaltation of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 1:18).

    One other witness must be mentioned.  "Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life.  And they are they which testify of Me" (John 5:39).  Only the Lord Jesus could have uttered those words, and He did.  The Bible exists as its last book affirms, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 1:1).  The Holy Spirit painted a sublime literary portrait of the Son of God by His inspiration of the Scriptures.  "Every word of God is pure" declared the Psalmist, pure in the Spirit's singular intention of portraying a Christ who forever exists as the Father's chief delight of beauty and glory (Proverbs 30:5).  He must be ours as well, and we open the pages of the Book to behold its reason for existence.  Again, "they (the Scriptures) are they which testify of Me".  Indeed, the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the Scriptures direct our hearts to "Behold the Lamb of God" (John 1:36).  Thus flows the current of the Divine, the revelation and exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ.  May we ever flow with it.

"God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a  name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in Heaven and things on earth, and things under the heart, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
 (Philippians 2:9-11).  

Weekly Memory Verse
   For though He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.
(II Corinthians 13:4)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

"Residents of Reality"

  "Residents of Reality"   
     Nearness to God never involves the issue of physical proximity.  Speaking to the unbelieving Athenian philosophers, the Apostle Paul declared God's immanent presence regarding every human being.

    "God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though He needed any thing, seeing He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation, that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us: for in Him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:24-28).

    Spiritual and moral proximity rather characterizes the matter of whether we live in nearness to God.

    "This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart" (Ephesians 4:17-18).
     "I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you" (John 14:16-18).

    The salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ illuminates us to the truth that we are as fish that swim in the ocean that is God.  Before Christ, we are darkened, alienated, ignorant, and blind residents of reality.  We reside in God nonetheless, with no possibility of escaping the Environment in which we "live and move and have our being".  After we trust in the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit's freely given entrance into our hearts illuminates and redeems us unto living relationship with the One who gives us "life and breath and all things".  We discover the Ocean in which we swim, and thereafter experience the blessed possibility of conscious fellowship with the great fact of our existence.  "Call unto Me and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not" (Jeremiah 33:3).

    The most strident atheist lives in physical proximity to the One he rejects.  Indeed, those who do not believe in God are governed by their unbelief about Him, as evidenced by the fact that atheists often talk about God no less than do believers.  They speak in different terms than Christians, of course, but the Lord remains the determining subject matter of their lives.  This results from the Environment in which they exist, even as they choose to disbelieve the great fact of life and being in a God-saturated creation.  Conversely, believers know and affirm their Lord's presence and involvement in all things.  Our challenge concerns growth in realization of Reality, and maintaining ongoing fellowship with the God so very near to us, but whose proximity requires faith to know and experience.  "He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).

   The Spirit of God and the Word of God beckon us constantly to be aware of the Ocean in which we swim.  Not only for ourselves, but we do well to view all human beings as residents of Reality.  Some know and some don't, but no one can escape the great fact of physical proximity to God.  We share the Gospel for the holy purpose of calling people unto the spiritual and moral proximity of relationship with God through the Lord Jesus.  Thereby blind and condemned fish become enlightened and redeemed residents of the Ocean.  And thereby converted fish more and more realize the wonder of life in God, and the Divine saturation of our hearts and our environment.

"Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit?  Or whither shall I flee from Thy presence?  If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me.  If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from Thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to Thee. For Thou hast possessed my reins: Thou hast covered me in my mother's womb."
(Psalm 139:7-13)

Weekly Memory Verse
   For though He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.
(II Corinthians 13:4)

Monday, March 21, 2016

"The Pillow of Peace"

  "The Pillow of Peace"   
     Certainty fills God's heart, mind, and being.  He knows who He is, what He is doing, what He will do, and the certainty of the outcomes He purposes.

    "I am the Lord… I the Lord have spoken it, it shall come to pass, and I will do it" (Isaiah 44:24; Ezekiel 24:14).

    Human beings, conversely, have a difficult time remembering who we are as defined by God.  Moreover, Scripture calls us to avoid any proud certainty regarding our doings. 

    "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass.  For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was" (James 1:22-24). 
    "Go to now, ye that say, Today or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain, whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that" (James 4:13-15).

    As our days begin, two paths lie before us.  One glimmers with the light of assurance, confidence and tranquility of heart - "To be spiritually minded is life and peace".  The other casts a pall of uncertainty and darkness before us - "To be carnally minded is death" (Romans 8:6).  The former way beckons us to trust in God's certainty about Himself, even as we acknowledge the personal uncertainties that elicit our great need to commit our faith unto Another.  "Trust in the Lord with all thy heart… He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool" (Proverbs 3:5; 28:26).  Thus, we acknowledge our own weakness with joy rather than discomfort - "I take pleasure in infirmities" - because the recognition of our uncertainty becomes the springboard for faith in One rightly possessed of complete assurance in Himself.  I am the Lord… I will do… (II Corinthians 12:10).

    Terrified disciples should have taken comfort in the Lord Jesus Christ during a violent storm on the Sea of Galilee.  "He was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow" (Mark 4:38).  Indeed, as long as their Master rested in peace, His followers could have reclined with Him on their own pillows.  As can we, if we embark upon the way of peace whereupon the Prince of peace rests in perfect assurance regarding Himself and His ability.  "Let us go pass over to the other side" He declared before the storm-tossed journey long ago (Mark 4:35).  Thus, no wind or wave could have capsized the ship in which the Savior and His disciples sailed.  And the Savior knew it.  He knows the same about us, and the voyage of this day in our lives.  "Let us pass over."  We will, and the only question is whether we will join our Lord on the pillow of peace, His peace, based upon His complete confidence in His ability to guide us safely in this day and forevermore…

"When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee."
(Isaiah 43:2)

Weekly Memory Verse
   For though He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.
(II Corinthians 13:4)

Friday, March 18, 2016

"High Expectations"

(a repeat from 2013)

  "High Expectations"   
     Children tend to succeed and accomplish in proportion to the expectations set forth for them.  Challenge rather than coddling produces responsible human beings who respect their own God-given dignity, as well as that of others.

     "Unto whomsoever much is given, much shall be required" (Luke 12:48).

     In spiritual terms, high expectations based on God's abundant provision in Christ instills in born again believers anticipation for a life of faith and faithfulness.  "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).  Conversely, low expectations for godliness reveal that we focus upon ourselves rather than "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2).  Do we anticipate that godliness will characterize our attitudes, words, actions, and relatings in this day?  Some might say that an affirmative answer to this question indicates pride and arrogance on our part.  Certainly, this could be the case if we base our confidence on our own dedication and discipline.  The Christian life cannot be lived by such fleshly means.  If, however, we ground our hope in the presence and promise of the God who "worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure," how can we fail to join the Psalmist in his exultant affirmation, "My expectation is from Him" (Philippians 2:13; Psalm 62:5). 

     Past experience may scream at us, "You've failed before, and you'll fail again!"  Prospects of the future may appear dim despite the light of our Lord's promises of leading and enabling.  Moreover, our present sensibility may emphasize our native weakness rather than God's abiding strength in Christ.  What will we believe?  Or rather, Who will we believe?  Will we establish our expectation for this day on the faithful Word of the living and true God?  If so, high expectations will fill our hearts with hope.  We shall not be disappointed as through our indwelling Lord, we walk in a manner far beyond our natural abilities and capacities.  Even if we stumble along the way, and at times we shall, our Christ-instilled confidence will cause us to arise, stand, and walk again in expectation of the power of the Holy Spirit.  Yes, high expectations in the heart of believers leads to high performance when based upon the presence and working of the God who promises to provide Himself as the power of godliness...

"I will dwell in them and walk in them."
(II Corinthians 6:16)
"We shall live with Him by the power of God."
(II Corinthians 13:4)

Weekly Memory Verse
    And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by Me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock.
(Exodus 33:21)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

“Faithful and True”

  "Faithful and True"   
     Sometimes we fail to keep our commitments due to human weakness.  We may sincerely desire to be faithful, but we forget.  Or we find ourselves hindered by circumstances beyond our control.  "Now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity" (Philippians 4:10).

    I think of my father whenever I consider these human realities .  He passed away when I was two years old.  I have few, if any, real memories of him.  Everyone that knew him, however, tells me that he greatly loved me.  I'm certain this was true.  Thus, it can be said of my father, Glen C. Davis Sr., that he desired to fulfill his responsibilities to me, but his human weakness (a congenital heart condition) took his life and hindered his intentions.  He was willing, but he was not able.

    Yet again, I think of my father - my Father - when considering the matter of faithful fulfillment of responsibilities.  "His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:22-23).  One exists whose determinations never waver due to forgetfulness or weakness.  Perfect willingness and perfect ability flow from God's character and power.  He will and He can.  "Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it" (I Thessalonians 5:24).  Thus, Solomon could command that we "Trust the Lord with all thy heart" because our Heavenly Father will not and cannot fail to accomplish everything He purposes and promises (Proverbs 3:5; emphasis added).

There is a Heart so faithful and true,
it bears a scar for me and for you.
And we can know for a lifetime through,
it's faithful and true, faithful and true.

There is a grace that makes all things new,
born in that valley our Lord passed through,
where He was smitten for me and for you,
so faithful and true, faithful and true.

Forever draws nigh, we'll see His face soon,
shining in glory, so lovely the view.
And the glad anthem of our hearts will ensue,
so faithful and true,  faithful and true.

    There is Someone to trust in this day, and in this moment.  The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ forevermore dwells as the Holy One who cannot be other than who He is, and who cannot fail to fulfill His responsibilities and commitments.  He transcends circumstance, and He does not forget.  My earthly father's love for me and the human weakness that kept him from being and doing all he desired leads to remembrance of my Heavenly Father.  I find this to be a wonderful legacy, and motivation to rejoice that…

"The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms."
(Deuteronomy 33:27)
" I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True."
(Revelation 19:11)

Weekly Memory Verse
    And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by Me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock.
(Exodus 33:21)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

"He Delighteth"

  "He Delighteth"   
     "Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?  He retaineth not His anger forever, because he delighteth in mercy" (Micah 7:18).

      God loves to forgive, so much so that He delights in the bestowal of mercy.  Indeed, to the degree we find it difficult to bestow grace upon our offenders, our Heavenly Father rejoices when we seek His pardon and cleansing.  "I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him" (Luke 15:18-20).  The sublime truth of the matter proclaims that God desires to forgive us far more than we desire to be forgiven.  Thus, His Spirit must call us to the Blood-stained altar of the Lord Jesus Christ whenever we need forgiveness and cleansing lest we ignore His great desire to restore us and our great need to be restored.

There is a place of forgiveness and grace,
our God delighteth in mercy.
For all who will come by the way of the Son
will find His pardon so plenty.

He delighteth, our God delighteth, 
He delighteth in mercy.

Blood has been shed, Christ is risen from the dead,
our God delighteth in mercy.
Fall to your knees, His forgiveness receive,
our God delighteth in mercy.

He delighteth, our God delighteth, 
He delighteth in mercy.

     So long as we come by the way God has made, the way of the crucified, risen, and ascended Lord Jesus, we may come in times of sin and failure with full confidence of receiving forgiveness and cleansing.  "There is forgiveness with Thee" (Psalm 130:4).  Our Lord beckons us in such times, and He so delights in mercy that He gave His Son to a terrible cross in order to make pardon freely available to the fallen and the guilty.  Thus, we grieve His heart and our own by wallowing in unconfessed, unrepentant sin.  "He delighteth in mercy."  May the blessed truth call us home whenever we wander, and as we begin our journey, let us lift our eyes to see our Father running toward us with compassion, with joy, and with full pardon, cleansing, and restoration.  He delighteth…

"Joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth."
(Luke 15:7)

Weekly Memory Verse
    And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by Me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock.
(Exodus 33:21)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

“Knowledge, Understanding, Wisdom”

  "Knowledge, Understanding, Wisdom"   
       Knowledge involves the possession of facts.  Understanding properly organizes and coordinates those facts in the mind.  Wisdom applies knowledge and understanding in an appropriate and effectual manner.  In God, all three of these qualities flow in the perfection of truth and reality.

    "The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath He established the heavens.  By His knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew" (Proverbs 3:19-20).

    We trust the Lord first because of the intentions of His heart.  I Corinthians 13 reveals that character precedes capacity, including the ability to think - "And though I have all knowledge… and have not charity, I am nothing" (I Corinthians 13:2).  Nevertheless, our faith also rests in the infinite mind of God.  In challenging Israel to turn to the Lord, Isaiah declared,  "Hast thou not known?   Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?  There is no searching of His understanding" (Isaiah 40:28).  Indeed, Someone exists who knows, understands, and perfectly applies wisdom in everything He does.  Everything.  This constitutes a mistake-free eternal existence in God and by God.  "His way is perfect" because His mind is perfect (II Samuel 22:31).  Thus, we may rest our hearts in the safe haven of our Lord's heart, and also in the peace of knowing that He knows all.  All.

   We have no frame of reference for perfect knowledge, understanding, or wisdom.  In real terms, the smartest and wisest among us know so very little.  Dim is the bulb of the human race, especially in comparison to the brightly shining light of God's infinite and ineffable mind.  We do well to look to Him in admiration, affirmation, and adoration of such glory, and also to trust Him for the proper usage of our own minds.  Through the Spirit of Christ, our Heavenly Father makes possible our ability to think well in accordance with His perfect thought.  "In Thy light shall we see light" (Psalm 36:9).  We "lean not unto thine own understanding", but we do "think on these things" (Proverbs 3:5; Philippians 4:8).  Thereby we rest our hearts in peace, and thereby use our minds to know and understand in "the wisdom that is from above" (James 3:17).  

"The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity."
(Psalm 94:11)
"His understanding is infinite."

Weekly Memory Verse
    And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by Me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock.
(Exodus 33:21)