Saturday, April 30, 2016

“Of Comets Without Tails, and Eyes Without Vision"

"Of Comets Without Tails, and Eyes Without Vision"

     NASA reported yesterday that it has discovered a tail-less comet, the first ever observed.  A spokesman said that the finding will possibly help in ongoing research regarding the origin of our solar system and the universe at large.

    I, for one, am not buying it.  How would the discovery of a comet missing the usual trailing gases cause God to personally communicate with NASA regarding the matter of His creative process?  Because that's the only way any human being will ever learn any really worthwhile information about the how, when, and what of creation.

    "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?  Or who hath stretched the line upon it?  Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened?  Or who laid the cornerstone thereof; when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" (Job 38:3-7).

   I am not at all opposed to scientific research.  I do believe, however, that many scientists, while learning much about the function of the universe, fall woefully short regarding the foundations thereof.  Things like that happen when you attempt to exclude God from the research lab.  He alone was there at the beginning.  Moreover, He has already communicated the portion of His creative process that human beings need to know.  Scripture tells us that God made all things, sustains all things, and all things are inexorably moving toward the fulfillment of His eternal purpose in the Lord Jesus Christ.  "The Lord hath made all things for Himself" (Proverbs 16:4).  Regarding origins, scientists make valid observations only when thy kneel before the Word of God before and as they seek truth in the world of God.  "In Thy light shall we see light" (Psalm 36:9).  

    A comet without a tail.  It means something, no doubt.  I suspect, however, that the Lord will not personally inform NASA regarding the reasons for the interesting exclusion.  He has rather informed all by His Word that creation exists for the glory of His Son.  Scripture communicates all we need to know about origins, and a lifetime of reading and study will not fully yield every aspect of such Truth we can discover in God's Word.  Only therein can we "see light" regarding foundations that help us to rightly understand our observations of a wondrous creation made by a far more wondrous Creator.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made."
(John 1:1-3)
"The invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things which are made, even His eternal power and godhead."
(Romans 1:20)

Weekly Memory Verse
     We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
(II Corinthians 4:7

Friday, April 29, 2016

“Christ First"

"Christ First"

     The communication of God's Truth does not begin by addressing human need, but rather by proclaiming Divine supply, namely, the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We first affirm the Savior and His salvation, and then we address the reasons we need Him.

    "He is before all things" (Colossians 1:17).  

    A humanistic message begins with the human.  Christianity as revealed in Scripture begins with Christ.  Believers thus go forth with a message of hope and confidence that proclaims an available salvation, and then addresses the sin that makes salvation necessary.  Indeed, the first sermon of the age of grace, preached by the Apostle Peter, begins with the proper sequence of affirming the Savior before addressing the sin, waywardness, and plight of sinners.  

   "Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it" (Acts 2:22-24).

    First, the declarative - a Christ "approved of God" and delivered by God for redemptive purposes.  Then, the indictment of human sin - "ye have taken, and by wicked hands, have crucified and slain."  This is the order and sequence of the Gospel, the Divinely originated and proclaimed truth that God purposed the provision of our salvation before ever we needed a Savior.  Thus, find the most wicked and incorrigible sinner on the planet, and the Truth he first needs to hear is not that he is a sinner, but rather there is a Savior!  The sin must be addressed, no doubt, but only in light of the wondrous truth that God ignited the light of our redemption in His Son long before we willfully entered into darkness.  Christ first, and then our need for Him.  This is the sequence of the Gospel that offers hope, while exposing our hopelessness apart from the Lord Jesus.

    We do not hesitate to reprove the works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11).  However, we first reveal the work of the Light of the world whereby we can be redeemed from the darkness.  "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me" (John 12:32).  We preach and proclaim Christ, shining the spotlight upon Him, and thereby affirming the God-originated and centered truth that offers hope for human need before exposing it.

"In Thy light shall we see light."
(Psalm 36:9)

Weekly Memory Verse
     We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
(II Corinthians 4:7

Thursday, April 28, 2016

“In Heart, In Hand"

"In Heart, In Hand"

     God's supply always precedes our need, even as the Apostle John referred to the Lord Jesus Christ as "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8).  Before the human race ever existed, and before we sinned, our Heavenly Father purposed that His Son's sacrifice would make atonement for us.  Such grace applied to those who looked forward to the coming Christ of the Old Testament, even as it redeems those who look back to the crucified and risen Lord Jesus of the New.  Salvation has always been about the Savior, who in the heart and mind of God, has always been the supply to human need.  "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).

    Of course, the Old Testament saints did not see redemption to the degree that born again believers experience in the age of grace.  Nor do we fully apprehend the salvation of Christ - "we see through a glass darkly" (I Corinthians 13:12).  We walk by faith in God's provision.  Thus, the supply of Christ may precede our need, but we do not always view  in hand the grace given.  We must often wait for the manifestation of our Lord's gifts.  We do not wait, however, to believe and affirm that He already has our answer, provision, solution, and deliverance purposed and ready for the best time of appearing.   "When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son" (Galatians 4:4).  The truth of the matter is that Christ Himself is our provision, or as my wife Frances often says, "Having Him, we have all".

    We have not yet seen the Lord Jesus, but we know He is our Savior.  We have in heart that which we have yet to view with our eyes.  "The Spirit beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God" (Romans 8:16).  The principle applies in countless other ways regarding our walk of faith.  We believe and thank our Heavenly Father for the provision whereby He supplies all our need "by Christ Jesus".  We also wait for the appearing and application of such provision.  We might say that we have in heart that which we will have in hand.  Some things will not be manifested until after this lifetime.  But many graces affirmed will become graces appearing as we trust in the Christ who is Himself the essence of God's provision.  Having Him, we have all.  And having Him, we will have all.  Now and always in heart, then in hand according to God's perfect wisdom and timing.

"Before they call, I will answer."
(Isaiah 65:24)
"Yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry."
(Hebrews 10:37)

Weekly Memory Verse
     We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
(II Corinthians 4:7

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

“The Heart of the Matter, the Matter of the Heart"

"The Heart of the Matter, the Matter of the Heart"

     God's creation of the human race "in His image" involves many aspects of meaning and significance.  The heart of the matter, however, involves the matter of the heart, God's heart.  He made us in His image for the possibility and actuality of personal communion with us in love and devotion.

    "I have loved thee with an everlasting love" (Jeremiah 31:3).

    Relationship and fellowship with God exists as potential in us because He desires to love us and to be loved by us.  This involves volitional commitment - "I will" - emotional affection - "I feel" - mental application - "I think" - and physical action - "I do".  God's grace in the Lord Jesus Christ received by faith establishes the foundation in us whereby potential becomes actuality as we realize that our Heavenly Father made us to experience the wonder of His sublime character - "God is love" - and then to respond in kind for the pleasure of His heart and our own (I John 4:16).

    First and foremost, we must believe that God alone satisfies our hearts.  "He is thy life" (Deuteronomy 30:20).  No one else can enter or abide in the innermost sanctum of our spiritual being.  We succumb to the most devilish temptation of idolatry if we seek to allow anyone else into this Holy of holies reserved for God Himself.  This involves our determined response to Truth, namely, we affirm to our Lord and to our own hearts that we will seek life, peace, joy, fulfillment, meaning, and purpose in no other.  Every born again believer must build this altar deeply within, and then return to it often for remembrance and reaffirmation of Christ only, Christ always, Christ forever.

   We then must realize that we really do possess the capacity to please the heart of God.  "The Lord taketh pleasure in His people" (Psalm 149:4).  Indeed, any joy we have ever known in a loved one serves as a glimmer of the bright light of the joy our Heavenly Father experiences when we walk with Him in love, faith, devotion, obedience, and expectation of "the hope of glory, which is Christ in you" (Colossians 1:27).  We cannot presently look into our Lord's face to see such joy in our relating to Him.  But we can look into His Word, wherein the Truth of what we mean to God shines upon every page.  Most of all, we look to Calvary, where the Lamb of God paid the highest cost ever remitted in order to provide to us the freest gift ever given.  The purpose?  That rebel hearts might become hearts of beloved sons and daughters, as "dear children" who bless the heart of our Father (Ephesians 5:1).

    The matter of the heart, God's heart, beckons us to realize, remember, and rejoice that this and every moment offers to us the possibility of pleasing the God who so pleases us.  The love of Christ in us makes possible a love for God that blessedly redirects our gaze from inward and outward to Upward.  We can please Him because we mean so much to Him.  Thus, even our determination to love the Lord begins with His love for us.  This is the heart of the matter, and the matter of the heart.  We need look for no other. 

"We beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more."
(I Thessalonians 4:1)
"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."
 (Mark 12:30).  

Weekly Memory Verse
     We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
(II Corinthians 4:7

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

“Our Calling Of Love"

"Our Calling Of Love"

     "And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men" (I Thessalonians 3:12).

    Our Heavenly Father calls us not only to love, but to "increase and abound in love".  Moreover, He mandates not only love for our fellow believers, but "toward all men".  Thus, we set forth in this day on a journey of growing, abundant, and universal devotion to others, based upon the love of God - "and the Lord make you to increase and abound… toward all".

    The New Testament illuminates our calling of love by first revealing the presence of God's winsome and holy character made resident in His trusting children in Christ.  "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5).  To love as our Lord loves requires His indwelling because "God is love" (I John 4:8).  No one else possesses this innate character trait in and of themselves.  If we love, we do so by Him and through Him as the grace of God in Christ grants to our hearts the greatest gift of all, the gift of Himself.  "I will dwell in them" (II Corinthians 6:16).  

    Scripture then calls us to ask for experience of such wonder and enabling.  "And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God" (II Thessalonians 3:5).  We make request for each other and for ourselves that we will avail ourselves of the love which indwells us.  The Holy Spirit seeks to guide believers unto an applied knowledge of the Divine nature of self sacrificial devotion to others - "Charity (love)… seeketh not her own" (I Corinthians 13:5).  We play an active role in the outworking of such grace by the seeking of such grace, again, for each other and for ourselves.  We offer no greater supplication and intercession than the request for direction into the love of God.

    Finally, Jude commands that we "keep yourselves in the love of God" (Jude 1:21).  The writer does not imply that we must somehow act to maintain God's love for us.  That abides as fixed and forever - "I have loved thee with an everlasting love" (Jeremiah 31:3).  Jude rather calls us to active response to our Lord's devotion, and to the expectation that the love we receive will be the love we distribute.  "Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us" (Ephesians 5:2).  Our Heavenly Father graces us with the privileged responsibility of becoming more and more like the Lord Jesus in our character, attitude, demeanor, words, actions, and relatings to God and people.  He works accordingly in us, and we accordingly anticipate countless moments of opportunity to absorb the light of Christ's love, and then to reflect it for the glory of God.

   First, our Lord inhabits us with His love.  We pray for direction into the wonder.  We keep ourselves in the holy environment of our Lord's character by availing ourselves of His love.  This triune calling offers to us the glory of experiencing the triune God.  The Lord Jesus prayed for such a gift to be given, and the prayer is answered in us as we abide in the glory of this grace and goodness…

"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.  O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee: but I have known Thee, and these have known that Thou hast sent Me.  And I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them."
(John 17:24-26) 

Weekly Memory Verse
     We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
(II Corinthians 4:7

Monday, April 25, 2016



     Warriors bear the scars of battle, whether of engagement in conflict, or escape from it.

    "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus" (Galatians 6:17).
    "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed" (II Corinthians 4:8-9).
    "My heart is wounded within me" (Psalm 109:22).

     Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ bear the imprints of struggle, difficulty, and pain.  Our spiritual enemies do not allow us to peacefully and quietly pass the time of our earthly sojourning.  "There are many adversaries" (I Corinthians 16:9).  More importantly, our Heavenly Father also directly sends us into many battles, or allows others to find their way to us.  "Fight the good fight of faith" (I Timothy 6:12). We may or may not recognize the challenges of life as spiritual in nature, but they are.  How we respond to the difficulties determines our effectiveness in glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the nature of our scars.  Do we bear them because we arose to engage in "the good fight" by trusting and submitting to our Lord in trials and tribulations?   Or do our wounds indicate that we ran from battle, allowing our enemies to overrun us as we succumbed to unbelief?  As believers, we will bear scars, be they from conflict or compromise.

    This subject always brings to mind a poem written in 1902 by John Masefield.  Entitled "A Consecration", the poet honors those who engage in real battles of earthly nature, as opposed to those who receive accolades for conflicts never faced.  This applies to our spiritual lives no less.  We close with Masefield's invocation and indictment, and with the prayer for myself and all that we will engage, that we will bear the marks of having fought "the good fight of faith".

NOT of the princes and prelates with periwigged charioteers
Riding triumphantly laurelled to lap the fat of the years— 
Rather the scorned—the rejected—the men hemmed in with the spears; 
The men of the tattered battalion which fights till it dies, 
Dazed with the dust of the battle, the din and the cries.         
The men with the broken heads and the blood running into their eyes. 
Not the be-medalled Commander, beloved of the throne, 
Riding cock-horse to parade when the bugles are blown, 
But the lads who carried the koppie and cannot be known. 
Not the ruler for me, but the ranker, the tramp of the "road,  
The slave with the sack on his shoulders pricked on with the goad, 
The man with too weighty a burden, too weary a load. 
The sailor, the stoker of steamers, the man with the clout, 
The chantyman bent at the halliards putting a tune to the shout, 
The drowsy man at the wheel and the tired look-out.  
Others may sing of the wine and the wealth and the mirth, 
The portly presence of potentates goodly in girth;— 
Mine be the dirt and the dross, the dust and scum of the earth! 
Theirs be the music, the color, the glory, the gold; 
Mine be a handful of ashes, a mouthful of mould.  
Of the maimed, of the halt and the blind in the rain and the cold— 
Of these shall my songs be fashioned, my tales be told.  Amen. 

"For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life.  But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead."
(II Corinthians 1:8-9)

Weekly Memory Verse
     We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
(II Corinthians 4:7

Thursday, April 21, 2016

“The Enabling"

"The Enabling"

     During my senior year of high school, I lost my voice for more than six months.  A bout of flu damaged my vocal chords, and after awhile I began to wonder if I would ever speak normally again.  To this day, I sometimes feel the effects in my voice of that time more than forty years ago.  The occasions are rare, thankfully, especially in light of my privileged responsibility to preach and teach the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    "My strength is made perfect in weakness" (II Corinthians 12:9).

   Frances and I are greatly blessed to conduct 350 services a year in various places in our area.  I serve as the moderator of most of the meetings, and also lead music and preach.  That's a lot of utterance over the course of 45-60 minute gatherings, and I frequently have little voice left after we finish, especially on days when we do 3-4 services.  Never, however, does my vocal difficulty manifest itself while conducting meetings.  I had never considered this before today, when singing a hymn after moderating a meeting and preaching.  I'm fine in services, but my voice sometimes crashes as I walk out the door of meeting places.  

   I share this with you because it illustrates how much our Heavenly Father loves to display His enabling in our personal aspects of challenge and need.  Strength bounces off strength, as it were, but the power of God nestles comfortably and effectually in our weakness.  Thus, the Lord Jesus receives all the glory, just as He deserves.  And thus we often feel as if we are sitting on the sideline cheering, even as we find ourselves actively involved in the most energetic endeavors.  In more ways than just my voice, I feel this in every service we conduct, and I often sense my heart bowing and worshipping in the very midst of engaging my suspect voice by the Enabling that never fails.  I know that you have your own tales of such grace to declare, and that you share in the desire to bow heart, head, and even knees to give thanks in remembrance of such mercy.  Let us do so now…

"Because Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice."
(Psalm 63:7)
"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
   He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."
(John 7:38)

“Comfort From, Comfort In"

"Comfort From, Comfort In"

     In times of pain, whether physical or emotional, we cannot always immediately feel better.  We can, however, think better and thus believe better.

    "O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember Thee" (Psalm 42:6).
    "This is my comfort in my affliction: for Thy Word hath quickened me" (Psalm 119:50).

    Discomfort offers opportunity to remember the Lord in pointed aspects of His Truth we might never consider apart from our hurts.  We discover realities of grace that exist only along difficult and rocky paths.  Pain beckons us to God and His Word, whereupon we frequently discover with the Psalmist "comfort in my affliction" rather than comfort from my affliction.  The latter deliverance "from" is more pleasant.  The former deliverance "in", however, is more illuminating regarding the power of God revealed in our lives.  Indeed, it is one thing for God to simply send an angel to open the doors of the Apostle Peter's prison, allowing immediate escape from difficult challenge (Acts 12:7-9).  It is quite another for the Apostle Paul to linger in Roman prisons for the purpose of writing epistles that would become bright lights of New Testament revelation (Colossians 4:18).

    Ongoing pain, in whatever form, tempts our minds to think in terms of darkness, despair, and unbelief.  We must therefore do something about such challenge.  Again, we may not be able to feel better.  Thus, we take the higher path that leads to more beautiful vistas of the glory of God.  We think better, that is, we remember, ponder, and affirm the truths of Scripture as they relate to God and to our lives.  Thereby we discover that "the Light shineth in darkness", and even more, we become a bright and illuminating lamp of that Light (John 1:5).  We give thanks for those times of comfort from our pains.  We do well, however, to give the same thanks - and perhaps even more - for those times when comfort in our afflictions calls us to the Biblical illumination that empowers better thinking, better believing, and a better realization of our Lord's ability to fill and fulfill us in every contingency.

"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)

Weekly Memory Verse
   He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."
(John 7:38)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

"Grace... Obedience" Part 2

(Thanks to my dear sister and friend Phyllis S. for inspiration on this one)

"Grace… Obedience"

Part 2

     How does grace lead to obedience in the lives of born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ?  We might suppose that the primary answer lies in motivation, namely, that the more we realize the Lord has done for us, the more we want to do for Him.  Grace provides forgiveness, newness of life, relationship with God, the promise of eternal life,  deliverance from Divine wrath, and  many other wonders of undeserved favor and blessedness.  Surely the growing awareness of such grace leads to growing desire to reciprocate with faith and faithfulness.

   It does.  "We love Him because He first loved us" (I John 4:19).  A place exists in the believer's spiritual understanding and sensibilities for what we might term a quid pro quo with God.  He's been good to us.  We desire to be good to Him.  Every Christian amazed by the love of God in the Lord Jesus possesses this yearning to respond in kind, and to bless our Heavenly Father's heart because He has so blessed ours.  "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3).

    Such desired reciprocity, however, does not serve as the primary source of obedience to God in a life lived by His grace.  Human motivation, even in response to Divine goodness, can never empower the surpassing life of godliness to which our Lord calls us.  Indeed, if the spiritual quid pro quo we reference served as the only means whereby we seek to obey, our attempt would be little more successful than Israel experienced in her efforts under the law of Moses.  A greater power and motivation is required.  In the covenant of God's grace and truth in Christ Jesus, a greater power and motivation is supplied.

    "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Romans 8:2-4).
   "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both to will and do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13).
   "God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father" (Galatians 4:6).

    The grace of God in Christ provides the internal presence and dynamic working of the indwelling Holy Spirit to all believers.  This was not the case under the law.  As the Lord Jesus told His disciples before He fulfilled His redemptive work in the cross, the resurrection, the ascension, and Pentecost, "The Spirit of truth… dwelleth with you, and shall be in you" (John 14:17).   Grace provides God Himself to dwell within the hearts of believers by His Spirit.  Thus, we "live through Him", seeking to "be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might" rather than attempting the futility of seeking to create enough dedication and determination in ourselves for faith and faithfulness (I John 4:9; Ephesians 6:10).  The law commanded human flesh to make the attempt to obey in order to reveal the deep need of our hearts.  Grace rather promises and empowers our spirits to "fulfill all righteousness" through the presence of Christ Himself dwelling and walking in us (Matthew 3:15; II Corinthians 6:16).

    The fundamental dichotomy between law and grace involves one of the most important truths we can embrace in our walk with God.  The law of Moses beckoned Israel to obey from tablets of stone written by the finger of God (Exodus 31:18).  The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus writes the will of God in our hearts, as imprinted by the very indwelling heart of Christ in us.  The former led to futility, and in those who believe, to the preparation for what the writer of Hebrews termed "better things… a better hope… a better testament… a better covenant… better promises… better sacrifices… a better resurrection" (Hebrews 6:9; 7:19; 22; 8:6; 9:23; 11:35).  Most importantly, a better Christ, in the sense that the Savior who lived, died, rose, and ascended for us now lives in us to motivate and enable obedience.  This is grace, and this is our expectation for a life lived in consistent and growing obedience to the God so very worthy of our Christ-enabled devotion and life of loving self sacrifice.

"But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.  And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.  Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ."
(Galatians 4:4-7)

Weekly Memory Verse
   He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."
(John 7:38)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

"Grace... Obedience"

"Grace… Obedience"

     God's earthly nation Israel related to Him under a contingency covenant of "if-then" that they did not fulfill.

    "Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is Mine: and ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:5-6).

    In other words, "If you obey Me, then you shall be My people".  God's covenant of grace and truth in the Lord Jesus Christ, conversely, offers a different relationship based upon freely given blessedness in our Savior.

   "As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name… If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.  Old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new… We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works" (John 1:12; II Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10).

    Or, "If you become My people, then I will empower you by My grace to obey Me."  Note the different order and sequence.  Under law, obedience leads to relationship.  Under grace, relationship leads to obedience.  Israel failed miserably in her attempt to approach God by her own efforts.  Thus, the law became " a schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ" (Galatians 3:24).  In Him, God rebirths and reconstitutes our inner being by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit - "a new creature".  We become His sons and daughters in relationship with Him.  We then become His personal venue of dynamic involvement as we avail ourselves of the obedience-enabling life provided by the grace of the Lord Jesus - "I will dwell in them and walk in them" (II Corinthians 6:16).  As we often reference, the writer of Hebrews perfectly expresses the Divine sequence of life in Christ.  First, he bids, "Let us have grace."  Then he affirms the holy result, "that we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear" (Hebrews 12:28).  This is the order of God's salvation in the Lord Jesus, that is, grace received empowering acceptable service, reverence, and godly fear.  We must never reverse the order in either our doctrine or practice.  Again, under grace, relationship leads to obedience.

   In Christ, we live from God in order to live for Him and to Him.  Problems with obedience always indicate a faulty sequence, as it were.  In some manner, we fail to "have grace", leading to failure to "serve God acceptably".  Thus, we seek to avail ourselves of the freely given favor and enabling provided by the indwelling Spirit of the Lord Jesus.  "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18).  Thereby we rejoice in the wonder of sonship and daughterhood in Christ, and thereby we consistently experience the enabling whereby we "take root downward, and bear fruit upward" (II Kings 19:30).

"As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him: rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving."
(Colossians 2:6-7)

Weekly Memory Verse
   He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."
(John 7:38)

Monday, April 18, 2016

"This Ocean!"

"This Ocean!"

     God dwells alone as the only being possessed of self existence.

    "I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me" (Isaiah 46:9).
    "God said unto Moses, I am that I am" (Exodus 3:14).

    All other persons and things derive their being from the Self Existent One.

    "In Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).
    "By Him all things consist" (Colossians 1:17).

    The implications of this Truth of all truths are infinitely vast and eternal.  They also matter for this moment.  How we view ourselves, other people, life, blessings, difficulties, the responsibilities of this day, time, eternity, and whatever faces us in this moment - we experience all either from the sweetwater spring of seeing God as the sole I AM, or from the bitter, stagnant pond of blindness regarding the Self Existent One.  We will genuinely live in this day - and in this moment - as we realize and affirm the monotheistic truth of one God not only in our doctrinal beliefs, but also in our expectations and responses to the realities of our existence "in Him".  Any other means of seeking to navigate the course of this day casts us into the twilight and darkness of mere existence rather than vibrant living.  "To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace… To live is Christ" (Romans 8:6; Philippians 1:21).

    A film crew from WSEA TV interviewed Mr. Fish for a report to be aired on the evening news.  "Mr. Fish," asked the reporter, "What do you think of this vast ocean in which you live your life?"  Taken aback, Mr. Fish wrinkled his brow and threw up his fins in obvious confusion.  "Ocean?  What ocean?!"  Sadly, the vast majority of the human race lives and moves and has its being in God, but like Mr. Fish, has little or no idea of the spiritual and moral environment in which it exists.  Even the Lord's children miss much as we presently "see through a glass darkly" (I Corinthians 13:12).  We don't have to miss as much today, however, as we may have missed yesterday.  Through the Word of God and the Spirit of God, we can open our hearts and minds more fully to the reality of the Ocean in which we live.  The great I AM beckons us to remember Him as the Self Existent One from whom we derive "life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:25).  He calls us to believe, to trust, and to depend on His being and doing as the source and power of our journey through this moment, this day, and forevermore.  Any other or lesser view of life misses the Ocean, as it were, leading to frustration rather than fulfillment, and to mere existence rather than vibrant life.  What ocean?  This Ocean

"I am God, and there is none else."
(Isaiah 45:22)

Weekly Memory Verse
   He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."
(John 7:38)

Friday, April 15, 2016

“With Reverence"

"With Reverence"

     With reverence, Lord, we come to Thee,
we bow our heads to look Above.
We give our hearts to ponder Thee
with wondering awe and grateful love.

How can it be, Lord, that you love us so
when we have fallen so far?
I do not think that we will ever know
And so we kneel, o Lord.

With reverence, Lord, You thrill our hearts,
how You amaze us evermore.
As by Your Son, such grace imparts
to us a free and open door.

How can it be, Lord, that You bore the wounds,
the stripes our sins brought unto Thee?
Yes, we recall the lonely cross and tomb,
whereby our hearts are healed!

How wonderful, Lord, You must be, How kind your tender love and grace.
How beautiful the sight we'll see when first we look upon Your face. 

With reverence, Lord, forevermore,
we'll bow our head, to look with love.
We'll give our hearts, Christ to explore,
forever won't be long enough.

Our precious Lord, oh how we thank You so,
we fall unto our face.
Oh look into our grateful hearts and know
our reverence for Thy grace.

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

Weekly Memory Verse
   The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.
(Proverbs 11:17)


Thursday, April 14, 2016

“Rest and Restlessness"

"Rest and Restlessness"

     Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ live in a dichotomy of rest and restlessness.

    "We which have believed do enter into rest… he that is entered into His rest, he hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His" (Hebrews 4:3; 10).
    "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).

    Our Heavenly Father would have experience the spiritual repose of complete confidence in our relationship with Him through Christ.  He began and He maintains the bond of love between us.  "Of Him are in Christ Jesus… He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 1:6).  Moreover, the Lord promises His abiding and available presence in blessing, challenge, and every moment of our lives.  "I am with you always… I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5).  Thus, we may and must rest in "the unsearchable riches of Christ" provided to all who cease from our own works in light and lieu of the work of the Lord Jesus for our sakes (Ephesians 3:8).

   Conversely, we must never be satisfied with our knowledge of God, or our response to Him of love, faith, devotion, obedience, and a life that reveals His glory and goodness to others.  Relationship and fellowship with the Lord of the Bible involves our quest to walk with One possessed of infinite nature, character, and being.  By definition, therefore, we will never exhaust the riches of discovery that beckons us to come ever further, ever deeper, ever higher into the wonder that eternally awaits us.  God Himself is that wonder, existing as the poet's "Shoreless Ocean" whose horizon we will never reach.  "His greatness is unsearchable!" (Psalm 145:3).  Thus, no matter how deeply we discover and know our Lord, we will experience the restlessness of "further… deeper … higher" even as we rejoice in the peace of having "entered into His rest".

    Regardless of how well we know Him, or how well we will ever know Him, our journey into God will always seem to have just begun.  Again, Infinity of character, nature, and being beckons us.  "Oh how great is Thy goodness which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee!" (Psalm 31:19).  Come and rest, He calls to us.  And then come further, and deeper, and higher.  

There is no end to the quest we know,
forever beckons on.
For we soar in skies so bright and blue,
above all clouds and storm.

Yes, we fly into the heart of God, 
as in His Son we trust,
and earth will soon be nothing more
than long forgotten dust.

So spread your wings and catch the wind,
o journeyman of hope,
and race toward horizons blessed
with those who also know

That the quest of hearts is Jesus,
He is our shining sun,
it matters not how far we've come,
the Journey's just begun.

"Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen."
(I Timothy 1:17)

Weekly Memory Verse
   The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.
(Proverbs 11:17)


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

"The Good Fight"

"The Good Fight"

     "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).

     The Apostle Paul did not mean that we enter God's kingdom because of tribulation, but rather than we experience tribulation because we enter.  We must "fight the good fight of faith" from the moment of our new birth until our earthly sojourn of conflict ends (I Timothy 6:12).  "There are many adversaries" said Paul, adversaries of Christ, and thus enemies of those in whom He lives (I Corinthians 16:9).

    "We wrestle not against flesh and blood" (Ephesians 6:12).  We do well to remember that our foes consist of "principalities… powers…. the rulers of the darkness of this world... spiritual wickedness in high places".  People often act as enemies, and in their own minds may view themselves as engaged in conflict with believers.  Fleshly sources do not instigate our challenges, however, nor do they empower the conflict in which we find ourselves.  Unseen, unheard, and untouched enemies wrestle against the sons and daughters of God in Christ.  They use seen, heard, and touched means to assail our confidence in the Lord Jesus, and our walk of faith and faithfulness with Him.  The battle nevertheless rages on spiritual fields of conflict as our enemies seek to distract us from "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2).  Be it people, problems, circumstances, or situations, every challenge that seems earthly in origin or substance always bears the invisible imprint of spiritual entities who seek our harm.

    We must view life in these terms of the unseen, the unheard, and the untouched.  Our very faith consists of trusting in a Christ "whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory" (I Peter 1:8).  The good fight of faith in which we are engaged consists no less of realizing the invisible field of conflict that we may ignore, but which we cannot avoid.  We fight by looking to "the Captain of our salvation".  We fight by raising "the shield of faith".  We fight by wielding "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God".  We fight by wearing "the helmet of salvation… the breastplate of righteousness… our loins girded with truth…. our feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace… and by praying with all perseverance and supplication for all saints" (Hebrews 2:10; Ephesians 6:12).  We fight!  Through the presence of the living Word and the truth of the written Word, we engage our hearts and minds to believe that which God declares to be true rather than the lies propagated by deceiving spiritual influences that use tangible means to confront our confidence and devotion to God.

   The war was won by our Captain long ago.  Battles continue, however, battles which, again, we can ignore, but we cannot avoid.  We enter the kingdom through tribulation of every form imaginable, as originated and empowered by foes invisible.  Let us fight from our Lord's victory, and in the triumph of His risen and overcoming life.  Let us believe His truth in the face of every challenge, for how else can we "fight the good fight of faith"?

"Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of His knowledge by us in every place."
(II Corinthians 2:14)
"This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."
(I John 5:4)

Weekly Memory Verse
   The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.
(Proverbs 11:17)