Tuesday, May 31, 2016

"Bears and BearGuy"

(Friends,  during our time away, a number of thoughts and experiences occurred that crystalized into messages that I'll send along this week.  Thanks, Glen)

"Bears and BearGuy"

    We never saw a bear during our hike in Virginia.  But we saw their tracks.  And we heard the refrain of BearGuy, who communicated to us the latest version of "Bears here, bears there, bears everywhere!  Watch out!"

    You'll always run into BearGuy on the trail (or sometimes BearGal), the self-appointed sentry who warns about possible encounters with these members of the Ursidae species who are actually quite shy regarding humans in most cases.  On this hike, we encountered BearGuy on the next to last day of our journey.  He told us about five bears seen in a nearby town as they attempted to break into a food scrap-laden dumpster.  I'm not sure how this applied to the woods in which we walked, where we never once came upon a dumpster, much less one filled with food.  BearGuy nevertheless adopted the familiar rueful grin as he rode away on his bicycle and called back, "Better watch out!"

   We did, and again, saw bear tracks, but no bears themselves.  BearGuy's red flag did make us (or at least me) more cognizant of the possibility that a fearsome but tragically unfortunate bear would accost us on the trail, only to be torn apart from limb to limb by Frances.  This would have gotten us into big trouble with the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior, and would have created a huge mess to clean up (we try to follow the hiker's axiom of "Leave no trace".  Try to accomplish that with the remains of a mutilated bear!).  It would have been sad also.  We don't want to hurt anybody or anything on our hikes, but if a bear messes with Frances, well, he'll get what he asks for!

   Seriously, we know that bears roam the woods of just about every part of the North American continent.  They can cause problems, and from 2001-2016, 29 people have died in bear attacks (more than half of those in Canada and Alaska).  They are notorious food thieves in areas where people fail to properly secure their supplies, and encounters with bears are certainly something we all want to avoid.  However, they are not a major problem for hikers such as ourselves, and the only time we feel overmuch concern tends to be in those times when BearGuy or BearGal warn us that we're being tracked by ferocious beasts.

   I share this because we live in times wherein voices constantly shout, whisper, and beckon to us to be afraid.  Apart from a living faith in the Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus Christ, I don't see how a heart of fear can be avoided in times such as these.  Of course, this has always been the case, but the world's capacity for 24/7 communication of warnings, threats, and dire portents means that we are now constantly in range of BearGuy and BearGal, as it were.  Thus, we must constantly keep ourselves in range of the One who knows every danger His trusting children in Christ will face before the threat even exists.  "His understanding is infinite" (Psalm 147:5).  Only thereby can our hearts be kept in peace, even as we acknowledge the reality of challenges to be faced during our earthly sojourn.  "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee" (Isaiah 26:3).  

     A frequently read Bible, a prayerful, expectant heart (expectant of God's presence and involvement in all things), and much mutual encouragement and challenge offered and received by fellow believers leads to a "stayed" mind, and thus, a heart of peace.  Let BearGuy and BearGal communicate their warnings as they will.  We will respond as God wills, that is, with confidence rather than consternation, faith rather than fear, and the joyful anticipation that if our path leads to trouble, Someone will be waiting there with the triumph of the risen Christ who overcame all, and leads us in His victory.

"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)
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."
(Isaiah 46:1)

Weekly Memory Verse
     Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
(II Thessalonians 2:16-17)

Monday, May 30, 2016

"One Step At a Time"

(Friends,  during our time away, a number of thoughts and experiences occurred that crystalized into messages that I'll send along this week.  Thanks, Glen)

"One Step At a Time"

    I'm not sure how many steps we took during our 50 mile hike last week.  But I do know this.  We took them one at a time.

   "Walk in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:16).
   "Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us" (Ephesians 5:2).
   "Walk, even as He walked" (I John 2:6).
   "Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called" (Ephesians 4:1).

    It mattered not whether we ventured uphill, downhill, or on flat paths.  One step at a time.  We cannot physically walk in any other way, and the same applies in spiritual terms.  We cannot take the second step without the first, nor can a journey be completed in one stride.   Each particular component contributes to the whole, including the current step that must plant firmly and surely in preparation for the next.  We therefore seek to trust and submit ourselves to the Lord for immediate benefit and consequence regarding this moment, but also in the realization that faithfulness now will lead to faithfulness later.  We want to finish our spiritual path as did the Apostle Paul, in victory and completion - "I have finished my course, I have kept the faith" (II Timothy 4:7).  Trusting and obeying God now, concerning the step before us as navigated by the power of the Holy Spirit, ensures our own triumph and fulfillment, to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Of course, missteps will occur along the way of the path of righteousness.  Our understanding of the step by step journey of faith does not preclude detours and stumbles.  Thus, the next step often involves honest recognition and acknowledgement of sin.  God's grace and mercy provides restoration to the path in such times, lifting us up to walk again in forgiveness, cleansing, and renewed determination.  We cannot change the fact of missteps, or of consequences that occur as the result of unbelief and disobedience.  We can, however, begin our journey anew, from where we are.  The redemption of the Lord Jesus Christ raises the fallen to walk again as we confess our sins and believe that "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin" (I John 1:7).  Such a step back into the Light enables us to take the next faithful step in the light.  Indeed, one step.  One step at a time.

"The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delighteth in his way."
(Psalm 37:23)

Weekly Memory Verse
     Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
(II Thessalonians 2:16-17)

"Life Abundant"

(Friends,  during our time away, a number of thoughts and experiences occurred that crystalized into messages that I'll send along this week.  Thanks, Glen)

"Life Abundant"

    During our hike on the Appalachian Trail and the Virginia Creeper, we saw millions, no, billions, no, trillions, no zillions of trees.  Add foliage and groundcover to the immeasurable vitality, and an abundance of life presented itself to our eyes, ears, touch, mind, and heart.

    "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).

   As I considered the overwhelming wonder of such created beauty, I thought of the words of the Apostle Paul: "The invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and godhead" (Romans 1:20).  I realized that the abundance of life in creation speaks of the abundant spiritual life in the Creator.  Moreover, I considered the infinite measure of our salvation and subsequent relationship with God as provided through the Lord Jesus Christ.  Many New Testament passages that declare such boundless grace redound to the glory of God and His lavish abundance provided to believers:

    "Unsearchable riches…  All spiritual blessings… All things that pertain to life and godliness… Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound… The grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant… The exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us though Christ Jesus… Exceeding, abundantly above all we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:8; 1:3; II Peter 1:3; Romans 5:20; I Timothy 1:14; Ephesians 2:7; 3:20)

    Little wonder that the writer of Hebrews referred to Christ's redemption as "so great salvation" (Hebrews 2:3).  For every moment of our existence, an abundance of God's provision exists far beyond any capacity of  comprehension we presently possess - "exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think".  A challenge exists, however, regarding our awareness and apprehending of such grace.  Just as I don't live in the forested mountains of Virginia, and do not see their verdant beauty every day, so is Christ's abundant life not immediately viewable to my earthly senses and understanding.  Sometimes life seems more like a desert, or in the imagery of our current consideration, a burned and desolate forest.  Rather than "sound of abundance of rain", all seems parched and dry (I Kings 18:41).  We see little, feel less, and wonder if the green spiritual forests of yesterday were merely pigments and figments of our imagination.  

   They weren't, and they aren't.  All the verses quoted above (and many more), along with the wondrous measure of physical life in the natural creation, speak to the abundant life given to us in the Lord Jesus.  Whether we see, feel, or seem to experience such grace or not, the Life abides.  The grace remains.  The abundance overflows.  Our calling beckons us to the know the Lord Jesus so well that we see His forests with spiritual eyes even when our natural senses and awareness see nothing.  "We walk by faith, not by sight" (II Corinthians 5:7).  Such a path is not easy, and will not be known by those who must see the trees, the foliage, and the groundcover in order to believe in their abundant life and existence.  Who will we be?  What will we see?  What will form our convictions?  The choice is ours, again, a choice made more and more as we  grow in our knowledge of God's being, nature, character, and way.  Thus, to know Him and to understand His truth forms the most important purpose and quest of our lives because sometimes we see zillions of His trees and the forest of grace they reveal.  Sometimes we don't, but they exist nonetheless, and our experience of God's abundance awaits the faith that grants greater knowledge of "so great salvation" than mere vision, sound, and touch could ever offer.

"Moses endured, as seeing Him who is invisible."
(Hebrews 11:27)

Weekly Memory Verse
     Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
(II Thessalonians 2:16-17)

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Soaring, Singing

(Friends, after sending out the series for next week, I hadn't planned on a message for today.  But I'd like to send this, and thanks.  Have a great week in our Lord's peace and joy!  Glen)

The Special of the Day… From the Orange Moon Cafe…

"Soaring, Singing"

    "I sure wish I could go with you and Frances."

    Miss Liz said this in response to mention of our hike in the mountains of Virginia.  We conducted a service today before we left for Virginia at the retirement community where Miss Liz lives.  She's hiked those mountains, and would love to do so again.  It's not going to happen in this lifetime, however.  Miss Liz's body is confined to a wheelchair, in stark contrast to her soaring, singing spirit.  Indeed, you may recall my mention of this dear Christian woman in a previous Orange Moon from several years ago:

    "I think also of Liz, the dear lady who loves the first hymn many of us ever learned as children.  "Glen," Liz told me one day, When I'm going down the halls in my wheelchair and encounter somebody who looks down and sad, I stop and take them by the hand.  I ask the person, "Why don't we sing 'Jesus Loves Me' together?  It always seems to help.

    I never think about this image without tears, as in the present moment.  Allow yourself to see and to hear such moments of grace communicated by our Heavenly Father through His daughter.  Consider how many hearts He has encouraged by her words, and by her song.  And recall that she performs her ministry from a wheelchair that keeps her from  trekking through the mountains of Virginia.  They do not hinder her soaring and singing, however, and her escorting others into  Heavenly places from her wheelchair.  I'll think about that for the next 5 days as we venture into those mountains.  

    I responded to Miss Liz's expressed desire.  "Miss Liz, remember that you, Frances and I have already made plans for a hike some day."   Last month after a service, I suggested to our dear sister in Christ that in eternity, we will find some beautiful planet yonder in the "new heaven" that will spring forth when God has redeemed and perfected all things (Revelation 21:1).  "We'll see sights there glorious and unimaginable, Miss Liz, and you'll lead the way as we climb purple hills, wade in crystal waters, gaze into skies bluer than blue, and rejoice in the glory of God that will shine forth in all things and all places."  Miss Liz smiled again today as I reminded of our plans.  For now, of course, she'll soar in song and in helping others to realize the love of Christ.  "Jesus loves me, this I know…"  Yes He does, Miss Liz.  And we do too.

"O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together!"
(Psalm 34:3)

Weekly Memory Verse
    "I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True".
(Revelation 19:11)

"The Prospect of Prayer 1-5 MONDAY, MAY 23-FRIDAY, MAY 27

Monday, May 23 - Friday, May 27


"The Prospect of Prayer"

Part 1

The Mystery and Origin of Prayer

    I greatly enjoy writing these messages, and still find it humbling and gratifying that you read them.  Regarding our fellowship in Christ, however, I must say that I find even more rewarding the privilege of praying for you daily, and the knowledge that you pray for us.

    "I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers" (Ephesians 1:15-16).

    Is there anything more mysterious than the privilege and responsibility of prayer?  That God would call us into active, involved participation in the fulfillment of "Thy will be done" should fill our hearts with wonder (Matthew 6:10).  Indeed, after more than forty years as a born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, the main thing I know about prayer is that I know very little about it.  I've long studied the Scripture regarding the matter, read fine books on the subject, talked about it with fellow believers, written about it, and oh yes, I've even prayed a bit!  Four decades into the blessed realm of communion with God, however, causes me to feel as if I've barely stuck a toe into the shoreless Ocean of our Father desiring our fellowship, and our desiring Him in response.

   "When Thou saidst, Seek ye My face, my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek" (Psalm 27:8).

   One thing I know for sure about prayer is that it does not begin with us.  The glory exists as an eternally ancient blessedness of loving relationship and fellowship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (John 17:5; 20-26).  It proceeds to those who believe - "Because ye are sons and daughters, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father" (Galatians 4:6).  It reaches us in this moment as the Holy Spirit beckons us to commune with our Heavenly Father, who so loves our fellowship with Him - "the prayer of the upright is His delight" (Proverbs 15:8).  Our prayers are response to the Spirit's moving upon and within us to seek the One who first sought us, and who still seeks the communion of our hearts.  God made and redeemed us for such a bond of love, and we please and honor Him as we respond to His overtures of grace.

   I rejoice in our mutual prayers, knowing where and with Whom they begin.  I also know more than ever that communication with an infinite, eternal Being will always hold much mystery.  I find this to be perhaps the most blessed aspect of prayer, namely, the more we know of it, the more we need to know.  This should thrill us as we realize that any blessedness we have experienced in communion with God promises more to come.  More, forever.  What a contemplation, and I close because I certainly have no words t express the wonder of such a prospect, of the prospect of prayer.

"Thou wilt show me the path of life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore."
(Psalm 16:11)

Weekly Memory Verse
   "The fear of man bringeth a snare, but whoever putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe."
(Proverbs 29:25)


"The Prospect of Prayer"

Part 2

Motive and Prayer

     Having considered the origin of prayer in Part 1 of these messages, we now turn to the Why? of prayer.  The model prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ illuminates the subject.

    "Our Father, which art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name.  Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as it is in Heaven" (Matthews 6:9-10).

    The glory, purpose, and will of God serve as the paramount motivations for all genuine prayer as led and enabled by the Holy Spirit.  Our needs and desires matter in prayer, but only as they flow from the fount of God-centeredness - "This is the confidence we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us" (I John 5:14).  This references what we pray, but "according to His will" even more concerns why we pray.

    "Ye ask and receive not because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts" (James 4:3).

    James references motive regarding unanswered prayer - "that ye may consume it upon your lusts".  Prayer that proceeds from fleshly or even devilish motivations falls upon a deaf Divine ear because answering such requests would encourage the self-centeredness from our Lord works to redeem us.  In the love of Christ, we exist for the glory of God and the blessing of others, even as the two great commands of Scripture mandate -  "Love the Lord thy God… love thy neighbor" (Matthew 22:38-39).  Again, our needs and desires matter, they matter much.  True prayer, however, places them where they belong, safely in the heart and hand of God.  This delivers us to the God and others-focused motive fostered by genuine communion with God.

   Prayer is not for the selfish and greedy.  It rather saves us from being selfish and greedy as "Thy name… Thy kingdom… and Thy will" motivate our intercessions and supplications.  Indeed, things change as we pray, but even more, we change.  Or, as the Apostle Paul affirmed…

"Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
(II Corinthians 3:18)

Weekly Memory Verse
   "The fear of man bringeth a snare, but whoever putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe."
(Proverbs 29:25)


"The Prospect of Prayer"

Part 3

Reverence and Prayer

     A Christian attorney once told me that on several occasions during a busy courtroom schedule, she inadvertently began a time of prayer with "Your Honor".  I responded that in her case, the Lord doubtless has no problem with being referred to in this way, which leads to the subject of this essay.

    "Holy and reverend is His name" (Psalm 111:9).

    Nothing we do in life should be more accompanied by respect than prayer to the living and true God.  He is worthy of far more reverence than we can ever express, and the proper familiarity believers know regarding God as our Heavenly Father does not preclude our utmost awe of One far greater than we can imagine.  Old Testament and New call us to such a sensibility, commanding that we confidently approach our Father through His grace, while also reverently affirming His otherness.  As A.W. Tozer once wrote, "the same Apostle John who laid his head on Jesus' chest during the Lord's earthly life fell at His feet as dead when He saw Him in His resurrected glory" (John 13:25; Revelation 1:17).  These dual sensibilities grace the hearts of all who know and pray to God as He is.

    Through Christ, God draws us into a relationship with Himself whereby we call Him "Father".  "To as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God" (John 1:12).  Never, however, do we forget who this Father is.  No thought of His majesty and greatness we can think approaches the boundary of His glory.  "Your Honor" indeed.  We pray with familiarity, but also with the most holy reverence.  

"In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up… And I said, Woe is me, for I am undone!"
(Isaiah 6:1; 5)
"Sing forth the honor of His name."
(Isaiah 66:2)

Weekly Memory Verse
   "The fear of man bringeth a snare, but whoever putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe."
(Proverbs 29:25)


"The Prospect of Prayer"

Part 4

Sanity and Prayer

   "I'm not a praying man."  We've all heard people utter these sad words, usually from the lips of those who seek to pull themselves up from the bootstraps, as it were, despite the fact that, in spiritual terms, they're not wearing any boots.  "They trust in vanity" (Isaiah 59:4).

   We must first view prayerlessness in terms of sin.  People who forego a life of communing with God omit prayer because they turn away from Truth.  "The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God" (Psalm 10:4).  We must also, however, consider the matter in terms of lacking a sound and lucid mind.  To trust in vanity leads to spiritual insanity.  Indeed, God's existence and intimate involvement in our lives means that we embrace utter delusion when we engage in a prayerless life (Acts 17:28).  The Lord made the human heart for communion with Himself.  "Come unto Me, hear and your soul shall live" promises our Heavenly Father of the life with Him that constitutes our only hope for truly being alive - "to live is Christ" (Isaiah 55:3; Philippians 1:21).  He makes such truth plain in His Word and in His world.  To live in reality thus requires that we live with a prayerful heart that acknowledges the beckoning of God, and responds accordingly.

     We fail to use our minds for their intended purpose when we ignore or disbelieve the One nearer to us than our next breath.  We must be praying people in order to consider ourselves truly rational and sane.  "He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12).  Countless mental, emotional, and even physical pathologies ensue when we seek disconnection from the Life of our lives.   Outwardly, many people function in an earthly sense, and may even seem possessed of a measure of peace and well being.  Within the heart, however, emptiness reigns as alienation from God results in a mind that cannot be used for its intended purpose.  "I'm not a praying man" is actually synonymous with "I'm not a completely sane man".

   A final thought.  Born again believers can be sane in our understanding and awareness of prayer's central place in our existence.  We can still walk in delusion if we fail to consistently commune with our Heavenly Father.  We must therefore come to our senses regarding matters of praise, thanksgiving, intercession, supplication, and walking with the One in whom we "live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).  Indeed, how crazy is it to know the living God in personal relationship, but to walk as if we do not? Pretty crazy!  I know, because I have too often acted accordingly, and still do.  Perhaps you feel the same way.  Join me therefore in seeking our Heavenly Father's working to draw us to Himself, and let us pray one of the wisest and sanest requests ever offered, as voiced by the disciples of the Lord Jesus during His earthly ministry…

"Lord, teach us to pray."
(Luke 11:1)

Weekly Memory Verse
   "The fear of man bringeth a snare, but whoever putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe."
(Proverbs 29:25)


"The Prospect of Prayer"

Part 5

The Gift of Delight

     As we view the prospect of prayer in our lives, one reason stands above all others in terms of personal response to the calling of God regarding this most amazing of privileged responsibilities in our relationship with Him.

    "The prayer of the upright is His delight" (Proverbs 15:8).

    The "upright" are those God has made to stand by redeeming us from our fallen state apart from the Lord Jesus Christ.  "God… hath raised us up together, and made up sit together in Heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:4; 6).  "In Heavenly places… in Christ Jesus."  We spiritually dwell in the presence of God as His trusting children in Christ.  Thus, we possess the potential to please our Father in prayer, or even more, to "delight" Him by communing with Him.  May I suggest that we still ourselves, take a deep breath, and ponder the wonder of this truth…

    I cannot imagine a more intensely and intimately considered way to view the matter of communion with God.  We pray to glorify Him, of course, and for many Biblically declared aspects of seeking our Lord.  But to "delight" Him?  The word implies something beyond mere satisfaction, happiness, or even pleasure.  Delight means much more.  We possess the potential to bless our Heavenly Father with joy by realizing our place in His presence, and responding accordingly.  Former rebels become the beloved of God and "dear children" (Ephesians 5:1).  Thus, we may each bring a gift to our Father's heart graced with by our particular personality, disposition, and history with Him.  We bring the gift of delight to God as we pray with a trusting, humble, and devoted heart.  This is personal to the utmost degree, and no motivation to pray more calls the upright in Christ to kneel before the Father who so loves our presence and response.

   The prospect of prayer becomes the practice of prayer when we determine to be God-centered in our understanding of the matter, as directed by the authority of Scripture.  Delight awaits, God's delight and our delight as we realize His pleasure in our fellowship.  Who can understand such wonder?  No one.  But we can believe the plainly stated Biblical declaration that "the prayer of the upright is His delight".  We can pray in the blessed light of such grace, such glory, and such love as known in the Lord Jesus, and enabled by His Spirit

"Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father."
(Galatians 4:6)

Weekly Memory Verse
   "The fear of man bringeth a snare, but whoever putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe."
(Proverbs 29:25)

Friday, May 20, 2016

“When God Speaks”

"When God Speaks"

     If I could only say one thing about the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, it would be this: no one has ever trusted Him and been disappointed for doing so.  And no one ever will.  He is faithful and true, He cannot lie, and every promise He has ever made is either already fulfilled, or is in the process of being fulfilled.  No word He has uttered will fail in coming to pass, and eternity will forever reveal that when God speaks, He speaks in the perfection of Truth.

   "Thy Word is truth" (John 17:7).
   "He that believeth on Him shall not be confounded" (I Peter 2:6).

    Someone exists who can be trusted completely and without reserve.  Thus, Solomon could command, "Trust in the Lord with all thy heart" (Proverbs 3:5; emphasis added).  How wonderful is this?  Imagine if it were not true, or if we did not know it to be true.  The masses live in such sad and forlorn darkness, but born again believers in the Lord Jesus have partaken of the faithfulness of God to the degree that we would not want to exist apart from it.  "Thy Word is very pure.  Therefore Thy servant loveth it" (Psalm 119:140).  A haven for our hearts exists in the Heart of God, wherein we are "hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3).  In that holy place of peace, the Holy Spirit continually speaks forth assurance regarding God's Truth.  He speaks of perfection, and of the One who "cannot lie" (Titus 1:2).  He proclaims that "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all" (I John 1:5).  And He calls us to complete confidence in the integrity of the Father who cannot speak without speaking Truth.  "I will trust and not be afraid" (Isaiah 12:2).

  Whatever our current circumstance, situation, or condition, such assurance applies.  Moreover, our response must apply.  The experience of God's faithfulness awaits our determination to join Isaiah in his "I will trust".  We shall not be disappointed because by definition, a perfectly faithful Heart cannot fail the heart of faith.  Promises of our Lord's presence, provision, protection, and proactive involvement meet us in the pages of Scripture.  "I am with you… I will provide… I am thy shield… I will do" (Matthew 28:20; Philippians 4:19; Psalm 91:4; John 14:14).  Let us arise to greet the promises with "I believe" (II Corinthians 4:13).  We shall not be disappointed.  We shall not be disappointed.  Because no one has ever trusted in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and been disappointed for doing so.  And no one ever will.

"I have not hid Thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation: I have not concealed Thy lovingkindness and Thy truth from the great congregation."
(Psalm 40:10)
"Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds."
(Psalm 36:5)

Weekly Memory Verse
   "I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True".
(Revelation 19:11)


Thursday, May 19, 2016

"A Clear and Cleansed Conscience"

"A Clear and Cleansed Conscience"

     A clear conscience is of more value than all the material wealth one could ever amass.

    "Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men" (Acts 24:16).

    How does one achieve this internal "void of offence" condition of heart and mind?  The first answer is obvious.  "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?" (Genesis 4:7).  The optimum path to a clear conscience involves righteous attitude and action.  We do the right thing for the right reason.  Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ seek this first and best option regarding the maintenance of a heart at peace, trusting the Lord Jesus Christ to lead and enable us to love God and others.

   A problem exists, however, regarding this first means  of maintaining a clear conscience.  We do not always do that which is right toward God or people.  Nor do we always maintain proper attitudes and motives.  Thus, our conscience becomes stained by sin and convicted by the Holy Spirit, who will not let us rest easy when we harbor intruders contrary to the character of the Christ who dwells in us by His Spirit.  In such times, we remember the Biblical remedy and purification offered by our blessed Lord:

    "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9:14).

    In times of unbelief and disobedience, a clear conscience returns when we place our confidence in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus for our sins.  As we trust in God's promises regarding the shed blood of His Son, He purifies our hearts and restores us to unhindered fellowship with Himself (and also leads us to make restitution to people when necessary).  This is God's desire for us, and it must be our determination to receive the gracious mercy that enables us to arise and walk in peace.  We do Him nor ourselves no favors by wallowing in our sins, that is, by failing to avail ourselves of forgiveness and cleansing through repentant confession and receptive faith.  We take sin seriously, for all the reasons Scripture declares.  But we take God's grace and mercy no less seriously, again, for all the reasons Scripture declares.  Our Heavenly Father offers to us a clear conscience by enabling us to do His will, and a cleansed conscious when we fail to do so.  This is peace, the peace of the heart more valuable than gold, silver, precious stones, land, or anything the world could offer us.

"If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
(I John 1:7-9)

Weekly Memory Verse
   "I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True".
(Revelation 19:11)


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Carnality and Spirituality

"Carnality and Spirituality"

    In yesterday's message, we mentioned the most concise Biblical definition of carnality, as provided by the Apostle Paul.  Writing to the Corinthians about the divisions that existed in their fellowship, Paul asked, "Are ye not carnal, and walk as men?" (I Corinthians 3:3).  In other words, "As born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, do you nevertheless live as if He is not present among you?  Do you walk as if you are merely human beings, rather than as human beings indwelt by the living and true God?"

    Herein Paul reveals the root of carnality, or fleshliness in believers.  Whatever the nature of the challenge or temptation we face, we fall and fail when we ignore the truth that our Heavenly Father calls us to live our lives as if He is with us, and we are with Him.  Because He is, and we are!  "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (I Corinthians 3:16).  Thus, we live life as a we, or in the reality of Christ in us, and ourselves in Christ.  He is the life, the wisdom, the power, and the overcoming grace.  We are the trusting recipients of all that our Lord is, and all He provides.  He lives in us, and we live through Him (Colossians 1:27; John 4:9).  We, always we.  Carnality results when we fail to avail ourselves of our Lord's enabling presence through ignorance, distraction, deception, or lack of faith.  "He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief" (Matthew 13:48).  

    The opposite of carnality, spirituality, involves the awareness, recognition, and affirmation that our Lord dwells with and within us by the Holy Spirit, and our response of faith and submission to His living and active presence.  The better we know, understand, and experience the truth of this Biblically defined spirituality, the more likely we are to consistently walk in the Spirit rather than after the flesh.  No guarantee exists that we will always do so.  The truth we consider does not offer a gimmick or mere method for faith and faithfulness.  Believers live in personal relationship and fellowship with God.  We may or may not walk in the Spirit regardless of how well we know the Lord and His Word.  In this present life, the possibility always remains that we will disregard "the power that worketh in us" (Ephesians 3:20).  However, the truth of living as human beings  united to the God of unimaginable power makes faith and faithfulness far more likely as we walk in the light of our Lord's presence and Word.  "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).

   Interestingly, a particular challenge confronted me as I wrote these words, an opportunity to remember and affirm the very truth we consider.  Nice of the Lord to do that for me!  Indeed, I can testify that, as always, the Lord confirms His faithfulness in my particular challenge.  He is both with and within me to enable the experience of "We".  This is peace in the heart for resting in Christ, and power for the feet for walking through Christ.  "So great salvation" declared the writer of Hebrews of this life we live with our Lord both now and forevermore (Hebrews 2:3).  Great indeed, and what grace, that the very Life of our lives walks in us, and we walk through Him.

"I will dwell in them, and walk in them."
(II Corinthians 6:16)
"Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh."
(Galatians 5:16)

Weekly Memory Verse
   "I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True".
(Revelation 19:11)


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

“I Have To… I Get To!"

"I Have To… I Get To!"

     By the working of His Spirit in our hearts, the Lord transforms responsibility into privilege.

    "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).

    As we seek to do the will of God, He enables us to function according to His leading and enabling, as opposed to operating by our own devices.  "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might" (Ephesians 6:10).  However, it is not inevitable that we will avail ourselves of such grace.  We can still act as if we are by ourselves, attempting to live our lives in the needless frailty of utilizing mere human capacities.  "Are ye not yet carnal," asked the Apostle Paul of the Corinthians, "and walk as men?" (I Corinthians 3:3).  In other words, do we live as if we are merely human, as opposed to the truth that believers are human beings inhabited by the living God?  Paul referenced "the exceeding greatness of His power" in those who believe (Ephesians 1:19).  Moreover, he prayed that God might be glorified by "the power that worketh in us", which is "exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20).  When we respond to such grace in knowledge, faith, and confidence, we avail ourselves of the enabling that, again, changes "I have to" into "I get to".

    A sense of drudgery regarding our privileged responsibilities means two things.  Either we are not actually doing what the Lord would have us do, and thus cannot avail ourselves of His power.  Or, we have forgotten that He calls us to "labor, striving according to His working" (Colossians 1:29).  Such enabling does not mean that we will not feel the physical, mental, and emotional strain of self sacrificial effort.  It rather promises that we will do what we do in the strong sense of witnessing the effort of Another who blesses us no less than the beneficiaries of our labors.  More, in fact, as we find ourselves empowered in a measure far beyond our human means.  Thereby responsibility becomes privilege, the blessing of witnessing Christ walking in us and working in us to fulfill our hearts even as He benefits others through us.  I have to?  I get to!

"We pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power."
(II Thessalonians 1:11)

Weekly Memory Verse
   "I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True".
(Revelation 19:11)


Monday, May 16, 2016

"For This"

"For This"

     This past Saturday, I had about 45 minutes before dark in which to cut the grass.  This is pretty much how long it takes to cut our front and back yards.  I got the lawn mower out, it started (thank the Lord!), and I set about to do the job.

    As I began, the thought occurred to me that I could spend the time simply cutting the grass.  Or, I could add a component to the task that would make it far more productive and enjoyable.  "Heavenly Father," I prayed in response to the thought, "I want to take this opportunity to think about Your goodness and greatness, and praise You for the thoughts that come to mind."  I did so, and here is the progression of praise I offered, with verifying Biblical passages and a few accompanying thoughts.

    Love, that is, God's unselfishness devotion to others.  Certainly every consideration begins here, in the wonder of our Lord's self-sacrificial, others-devoted nature and character.  "God is love… charity (love) seeketh not her own" (I John 4:8; I Corinthians 13:5).  Indeed, think of it.  The infinite, eternal Lord, the Creator of Heaven and earth, the Most High God, the Judge of all, and the Redeemer of those who believe possesses a heart of altruism rather than arrogance.  He loves to give, even at the greatest cost to Himself, as revealed in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is not selfish, and as love, He cannot by definition do anything for mere self satisfaction.  He thinks, wills, speaks, and acts in devotion to others, and has never and never will experience a moment in which He does anything of egocentric narcissism.  I praised Him for this.

    Patience.  The Lord is longsuffering, especially with me!  How He bears with us as we learn His ways, and seek to grow in the grace and truth of the Lord Jesus.  Few qualities of our Heavenly Father more come to my heart and mind when I think of His devotion to us.  "And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth" (Exodus 34:6).  I praised Him for this.

    Faithfulness.  Frances and I like to say it this way: No one has ever trusted in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and been disappointed for doing so.  And no one ever will.  He is faithful and true.  He keeps every promise He makes, and fulfills every word He speaks.  He cannot lie, and He can be trusted with all our hearts.  "I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True" (Revelation 19:11).  I praised Him for this.

    Holiness.  Holiness serves as the fount from which faithfulness proceeds.  God is devoted and sanctified to His nature, character, and way.  He is who He is, always and forever.  Thus, He always acts accordingly, in the holiness of His unchanging being of love, light, life, and truth.  "The LORD is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works" (Psalm 145:17).  I praised Him for this. 

    Mercy.  God loves to forgive.  He "delighteth in mercy" (Micah 7:18).  The prodigal's father ran to greet his wayward son with pardon, forgiveness, and restoration.  In the moment we came to know the Lord Jesus, an even greater greeting met us as our Heavenly Father bestowed upon us a mercy so great that His Spirit entered into our hearts.  We became "vessels of mercy" in that holy hour, and we personally discovered the declaration of the Psalmist: "For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon Thee" (Romans 9:23; Psalm 86:5).  I praised Him for this.

    Goodness, or kindness.  God made and redeemed us in order to be good to us, and to eternally show forth His gracious kindness by such bestowal of grace (Ephesians 2:4-7).  The longer I walk with the Lord, the more I think, "The Lord has been good to me."  He has, and if He never did another thing for me, I would still be indebted to Him forever.  "Oh, how great is Thy goodness!" (Psalm 31:19).  I praised Him for this.

    Generosity.  I love the line from the old hymn, "Out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth and giveth and giveth again."  He does, and eternity will not be long enough to exhaust the vast Reservoir of God's "unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8).  As we frequently mention in these messages, "God loveth a cheerful giver" because He is a cheerful giver! (II Corinthians 9:7).  "Life more abundant" showers forth upon those who trust the Lord Jesus, and who know our Heavenly Father as the bestower of "every good gift and every perfect gift" (John 10:10; James 1:17).  I praised Him for this.

    Power.  As is so often the case regarding our wondrous Lord, the Apostle Paul expressed it best regarding the ability and capability of God: "Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church throughout all ages, world without end, Amen" (Ephesians 3:20-21).  I can add nothing to that, other than to say, I praised Him for this.  And, I rejoice that we can declare with the Psalmist our intention, based upon the goodness and greatness of our Lord, to eternally raise our hearts and voices to the One so worthy of our accolade, affirmation, and adoration…

"I will praise Thee forever!"
(Psalm 52:9)

Weekly Memory Verse
   "I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True".
(Revelation 19:11)


Friday, May 13, 2016

“More Blessed To Give"

"More Blessed To Give"

     Genuine service to God and people involves Christ-enabled devotion, effort, concentration, determination, and self sacrificial action.  However, the sensibility of one who ministers involves the sense of receiving while giving.

    "In the meanwhile, His disciples prayed Him, saying, Master, eat. But He said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought Him ought to eat?  Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work" (John 4:31-34).

   Recall that this episode with the disciples occurred as a weary Lord Jesus sought rest upon a well, only to find opportunity to minister the Truth of God to a Samaritan woman (John 4:1-30).   He led the woman to faith during the encounter, and many others of her people believed when they also came to hear Him.  The Lord Himself was invigorated by the spiritual meal of which He partook in communicating with the woman, revealing again that genuine labors for God proceed from God.  Thereby we feel ourselves to be as blessed or more blessed than those to whom we minister.  "Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in His ways. For thou shalt eat the labor of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee" (Psalm 128:1-2).

    That which we do for God and others begins with Him, and is empowered by Him.  "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might" (Ephesians 6:10).  Again, we will feel the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical challenges that accompany the diligence we devote to ministry, in whatever form.  The joy and peace of Christ in His love, however, fills us with the sense of receiving grace in the very midst of bestowing it.  Our Heavenly Father privileges us to serve for His glory and the blessing of others.  He also empowers us and thereby causes us to realize that the best reception of blessedness occurs as we confer it to others.  The Lord Jesus taught and exemplified such blessed truth long ago, and He now dwells within us by His Spirit to constitute His joy as our joy…

"Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive."
(Acts 20:35)

Weekly Memory Verse
    "Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body."
 (Hebrews 13:3).


Thursday, May 12, 2016



     As Western culture spiritually and morally descends into darkness, many born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ feel the anguish of seeming like strangers in their own countries.  The disturbance is to be expected, and is also proper because we know the destruction that results when the masses reject the Truth of God and ignore the Biblical mandate to "remove not the ancient landmark" (Proverbs 22:28).

    "When the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn" (Proverbs 29:2).
    "Destruction and misery are in their ways" (Romans 3:16).

    An advantage exists, however, in this cultural flight from reality.  Believers are always "strangers and pilgrims" in this present world (Hebrews 11:13).  Regardless of the condition of our native earthly land, the earth as it now stands is not and cannot be our truest home.  You may recall the story of the couple returning home to America from the mission field in the early 20th century.  They sailed on the same ship as President Theodore Roosevelt as he returned from a two week hunting expedition in Africa.  Bands played and huge crowds gathered to welcome the President's arrival.  The missionary couple returned home to no such greeting.  "Sweetheart", the missionary said sadly to his wife, "the President comes home to a great celebration after a few weeks of recreation.  We spent 30 years of labor for God's glory and the salvation of lost souls.  But we return home to no one."  The man's wife, without hesitation, looked into her husband's eyes.  "But darling," she  responded with a smile, "we're not home."

    The condition of culture rightly grieves and disturbs us.  But we must not let it distract, deceive, and discourage us.  In the best of times and of nations, we are not home.   In the worst, we are not home.  Eternal beings united to the infinite God could never rest comfortably in a realm that "passeth away" (I John 2:17).  Thus, as we see the fulfillment of His Word regarding a spiritually and morally dissolving world, we choose to rejoice in Truth even as we mourn the sad dissolution.  We are not home.  But one day we will journey there, not to receive accolades and fanfare for ourselves, but to joyfully bestow them on Another…

"And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever."
(Revelation 5:11-14)

Weekly Memory Verse
    "Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body."
 (Hebrews 13:3).


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

"Not Yet"

"Not Yet"

     No less than John the Baptist - of whom the Lord Jesus Christ declared that "there hath not arisen a greater" - suffered a crisis of confidence when the Savior did not fulfill John's expected role as conquering deliverer of Israel from the yoke of her oppressors (Matthew 11:11).

    "Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto Him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?" (Matthew 11:2-3).

    Note the venue from which John wrote.  He never expected that a prison term would result from the coming of the Messiah, a prison wherein the Baptist eventually died in martyrdom.  Thus, he was tempted to question the identity of the One whom he once pronounced "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).  God's purposes paved a different and difficult path for the Lord Jesus and for John, a path that led to their death rather than the open manifestation of triumph.

   Such a day of victory will come, of course.  As with many of the Jews who awaited their Messiah, John did not see the necessary redeeming work of the Lord Jesus first revealed in humility rather than power.  "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).  John failed to realize the significance of his own announcement and pronouncement regarding the Lord Jesus as "the Lamb of God".  He rather expected "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" to come and to conquer the earthly enemies of God and His people (Revelation 5:5).  Surely Christ will come in the fulfillment of that office.  But not in John's day, and not yet in our own.

   Presently, the Lord Jesus will often work in our lives as the Lamb rather than the Lion.  Hardships, injustices, and bewildering "prisons" will abide in our lives, regardless of how diligently we pray and affirm Christ for who He is.  Recall the Apostle Paul's thorn in the flesh, which God could have removed by a mere syllable of utterance from the mouth of the Lion of the tribe of Judah.  The thorn remained as the Lamb of God beckoned Paul to walk in His path of suffering for the glory of God and ministry to others.  "My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness" declared the Lamb.  2,000 years later, the light of God still flows from the Apostle's lingering wound (II Corinthians 12:9).  Paul prayed for the greatness of the Lion.  He received the grace of the Lamb.

    Sometimes the Lion, often the Lamb.  We ignore much of the New Testament's clear teaching if we fail to realize that the coming day of Christ's openly revealed triumph is not this day.  This day rather calls us to know our Lord in both the splendor of His greatness, and the sufficiency of His grace.  We rejoice when He rescues us from prisons.  And we must rejoice when He rescues us in our prisons.  "Art Thou He that should come?"  Long ago, faithful John asked the question from a place wherein he never expected to find himself.  We may be tempted similarly, but let us realize that we have an advantage our brother of old did not possess.  We have a New Testament that fully reveals the Lamb and the Lion.  We know that a path of both blessedness and buffeting awaits us as we walk with the Lord Jesus.  A day comes when the buffeting will dissolve and "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain" (Revelation 21:4).  This is not that day.  Let us not expect it to be, and let us rather anticipate that "He that should come" is He that has come to deliver us with both grace and greatness.  

"It is written, For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us."
(Romans 8:36-37)

Weekly Memory Verse
    "Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body."
 (Hebrews 13:3).