Thursday, June 30, 2016

"Glory and Goodness"

"Glory and Goodness"

    For all its shame, ugliness, pain, and horror, the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary constitutes perhaps the greatest display of the glory of God that will ever occur.

   "These words spake Jesus, and lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee" (John 17:1).

   To understand the nature and extent of this mutual glorification for which the Lord Jesus prayed just before He went to the cross, we must understand the Biblical definition of the word glory.  Scripture provides the most basic meaning in its Exodus account of Moses seeking to know God.

    "And Moses said, I beseech Thee, show me Thy glory. And He said, I will make all My goodness pass before Thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy" (Exodus 33:18-19).

    Moses asks to see the glory of God.  God responds affirmatively, "I will make all My goodness pass before thee".  Nowhere else in Scripture do we find so direct an elucidation of our Lord's glory.  His glory, in essence, is His goodness.  It is who He is.  Moreover, the Lord proceeds to illustrate the definition by referencing His graciousness and mercy.  We might expect this because of all the Divine qualities declared by the Bible, none more vividly portray goodness than God's willingness to graciously give to those who do not deserve His generosity, and to mercifully forgive those who rebel against Him.  "When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.  But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:6-8).

     In this most holy light, consider again the Lord's prayer for mutual glorification of He and His Father, and the cross to which His request led.  Certainly grace and mercy flowed from the wounds of our Savior, and certainly they brightly shined with the wondrous display of a Being unlike any other.  Indeed, when we affirm that God is good, w mean many things.  More than anything else, however, we mean that our Lord so loves us that He gave His Son to the most horrible death for the benefit of those responsible for the sorrow, pain, and forsakenness of Calvary.  Again, nothing compares or ever will compare with this revelation of God's glory, or, the revelation of His goodness.  Yes, on the cross, in time and space history of a fallen creation, God answered the prayer of His Son to unveil the wonder of the Divine character, nature, and way.  The good and glorious Holy Spirit then inspired the revelation to be provided in the pages of the Gospels so that trusting human hearts might personally receive the grace and mercy of "so great salvation" given freely by so good a Father and Son (Hebrews 2:3).

    We will never fully plumb the depths of the goodness of God.  Eternity will not allow enough opportunity to exhaust our discovery of His glory.  This should thrill our souls, and it does whenever we still our hearts long enough to ponder the wonder.  God's glory is His goodness.  Calvary revealed this blessed truth, and also what the Lord meant when He responded to Moses' request, "Show me Thy glory".  We do well to ask the same, and to expect ever increasing realization of goodness.

"Forever's Journey

There is no end to the quest we know, 
forever beckons on.
For our spirits soar in skies so blue,
above all clouds of 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 forever and ever. Amen."
(I Timothy 1:17) 

Weekly Memory Verse
   "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.  God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." 
(John 4:23-24)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"With Him"

"With Him"

    "We shall live with Him by the power of God" (II Corinthians 13:4).

    Salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ grants to believers the very presence of God.  We live "with Him".  Thus, our Heavenly Father would have us view life in terms of "we" rather than simply "me".  Such blessed truth changes everything as we grow in the grace and knowledge of a Savior who promises "I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20).  First, we realize in our blessings that there is Someone to thank.  "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights" (James 1:17).  That Someone dwells near at hand, nearer than our next breath.  We may therefore live in an attitude of gratitude that causes the pleasant things of life to be far more than happy experiences.  They rather become holy as we acknowledge with thanksgiving the Source of "life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:25).  

    There is also Someone to trust in the challenges, difficulties, and pains of life.  "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).  Always near, but very near in our troubles, the Lord promises to walk with us through valleys that seem dark to our natural senses and understanding, but which actually shine brightly with His compassion and keeping.  "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).  Trouble tempts us to feel alone, and to wonder, "How will I get through this?"  Truth responds, "I do not face this alone.  My Lord dwells and walks with and within me.  We will get through this."  

   We also navigate the everyday, seemingly mundane realities of life in the light of "we shall live with Him".  Remembrance of such assurance leads to all things becoming sacred as the Lord's realized presence reveals the sanctified holiness of every moment.  Life is an altar, a blessed scene of grace that beckons us to continually sacrifice any notion of living as if we are alone.  We are not, and the forever that stretches before us glimmers with the presence of the perfectly faithful One who promises, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5).  Thus, the mundane becomes the quietly miraculous as "We" transforms everyday experiences into eternal wonders of a life lived with Somebody.

   Finally, we do well to always remember the cost of the abiding presence of our Lord.  "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46).  On the cross of Calvary, the Savior who had forever known the presence of His Father and the Holy Spirit suffered the horror of their absence as He died for us.  Thus, to the degree He was forsaken, the trusting sons and daughters of God in Christ will never be alone.  Time and eternity shine with the glory of "We", obtained for us by the highest cost ever remitted.  This constitutes our Lord's presence as a perpetual opportunity to remember not only the assurance of "I am with thee", but also the wonder of "I have loved thee with an everlasting love" (Jeremiah 31:3).  "We" - always we because the Lord Jesus once knew the sorrow of forsaken aloneness that means we will never be alone...

"I am continually with Thee."
(Psalm 73:23)

Weekly Memory Verse
   "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.  God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." 
(John 4:23-24)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016



    It always comes back to "Why?"

   "The Word of God is… a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

   What we do matters, that is, our thoughts, words, actions, and relating to God and others.  Our Heavenly Father is intensely devoted to our doings.    "This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men" (Titus 3:8).  No Biblical Christianity exists that fails to strongly emphasis our doings, again, both the mental, volitional, and physical expressions that result from the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in our lives.  "Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8).

    However, our Heavenly Father works no less to direct our attention to our motivations, that is, to "Why?".  It is more than possible to do right thing, yes, even the Biblically prescribed thing.  However, if we do what we do for the wrong reason, we are wrong.  Consider the Pharisees.  History records that their outward practices would indicate they were as godly a sect as ever existed.  The Lord Jesus severely rebuked them, however,  regarding their motivation: "All their works they do to be seen of men" (Matthew 23:5).  Thus, we learn that much prayer, Scriptural emphasis, outward works of charity, and appearances of the most ardent worship can actually mask the existence of an utterly wrong "Why?".  "The Lord looketh on the heart" declared God to Samuel (I Samuel 16:7).  He seeks first and foremost to find genuine Christ-wrought motivation because if the "Why?" is right, the "What" will inevitably follow.  

   How do we know if our "Why?" is sincere and true?  First, we prayerfully keep the matter before the Lord, asking for His examination of our motives.  "Search me, o God, and know my heart.  Try me and know my thoughts.  See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting: (Psalm 139:23-24).  We cannot know ourselves apart from Divine guidance and searching.  We heed the Scriptural command to "examine yourselves" (II Corinthians 13:5).  However, we do so by looking unto the One who alone sees into the very center of our hearts.  "Examine me, o Lord, and prove me.  Try (test) my reins and my heart" (Psalm 26:2).

    We also keep our hearts and minds near the Word of God.  The sword of the Spirit cleaves and penetrates into our thoughts and intentions.  Consistent Bible reading and consideration makes far more likely the consistent awareness of the true nature of our "Why?"  The Spirit of God illuminates the Scriptures, testing our hearts in order to reveal whether what we do flows from His bestowal of the indwelling love of Christ, or rather from fleshly self-centered motivation.  "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (II Timothy 3:16).

   We also stay in close proximity to devoted brothers and sisters in Christ.  "Exhort one another daily" commanded the writer of Hebrews in the knowledge that the fellowship of the saints provides a powerful influence regarding both our motives and our doings (Hebrews 3:13).  By example and word, fellow Christians help us to know whether we do we what we do for reasons wrought in our hearts by God.  

    What we do matters.  Why we do it matters no less.  Only the Lord knows the latter, and only He can lead and enable us to purity of motive.  May we keep ourselves continually before His examination regarding "the thoughts and intents of the heart".  Just three letters: W-h-y.  They must nevertheless fill our considerations and prayers regarding our walk with the Lord.

"I the Lord search the heart."
(Jeremiahs 17:10)

Weekly Memory Verse
   "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.  God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." 
(John 4:23-24)

Monday, June 27, 2016

“True Worshippers”

"True Worshippers"

    True worship involves the face of God, as it were, and also the facts of God.

    "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.  God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23-24).

   Genuine response to the Lord must be personal, that is, we look into His face (speaking figuratively, of course).  We also seek to know the facts about Him, as provided in the Bible.  The Holy Spirit supplies the former by revealing the Lord Jesus Christ to believers as not merely a figure of history, but as a living, personal Savior who is actually and actively involved in our lives.  "The Spirit beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God" (Romans 8:16).  Moreover, the Spirit also leads and enables us in our reading and study of Scripture to rightly gather, understand, and apply the truths written by the prophets and apostles.  "The Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things" (John 14:26).  Believers are thereby enabled to walk with God "in spirit and in truth" as we seek to be devotional and doctrinal, personal and principled, and facial and factual in our response to Him.

   By suggesting that we look into God's face (a physical impossibility in our present existence), we simply mean that we expect our Heavenly Father's aforementioned personal involvement to be revealed in our hearts and lives.  Indeed, the believers mentioned in both Old Testament and New all experienced God in terms of living reality.  He revealed Himself to them, and they knew Him.   The characteristics of such illumination differed in both degree and nature, but the saints of Scripture all knew God.  They spiritually looked upon His face, in response to His grace.  God was there with them, in more than merely terms of fact and principle.  And, He is here with us if we have believed, existing and consisting as the greatest reality of our lives.  "I am with you… I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5).

   Such a blessed gift of grace, personal as it is, must be also known in terms of fact.  Thus, our Heavenly Father gives to us the blessed gift of the Bible.  "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105).  Merely looking into God's face (again, speaking in spiritual terms of personally relating to God by faith), is not enough to keep us on the straight and narrow path of life.  God made us as minds, as well as hearts.  We must increasingly understand the doctrines of Scripture if we are walk in the devotion of the Spirit.  "Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee" (Psalm 119:11).  Attempting to walk with the Lord of the Word apart from the Word of the Lord leads to a false worship that deceives us into believing that we know God when we actually don't.  We rightly recognize His face in the light of His facts.  "In Thy light shall we see light" (Psalm 36:9).

   We must seek to be both personal and principled in our worship of God - "in spirit and in truth".  The train of our devotion rolls on these two tracks.  Remove either and we derail.  We know God in the light of His truth, and we know His truth in the light of His Person.  Let us build an altar in our hearts to this reality of true worship, or revisit it often if we have already done so.  Only thereby do we walk with our Lord as the "true worshippers" in the living and factual reality we must both experience and understand.

"Wherefore 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; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened."
(Ephesians 1:15-18)

Weekly Memory Verse
   "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.  God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." 
(John 4:23-24)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

"Raging Against Reality"

"Raging Against Reality"

    With the breath God provides, atheists and agnostics make their case against the Lord's reality and existence.

   "He given to all… breath" (Acts 17:25).

    It's always disturbing to hear unbelievers rage against reality.  However, they do so in full range of God's hearing and awareness.  He could still their voices if He chose to do so.  He does not, however, at least not yet.  Indeed, the Lord Jesus Christ even suggested that the purveyors of darkness play a role in serving God's purposes, albeit to their great detriment:

   "Woe unto the world because of offences!  For it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" (Matthew 18:7).

   In a fallen creation, darkness serves as a backdrop to the light of God.  To those who will see, the Lord Jesus and His truth shine ever more brightly when His enemies seek to make a case against the Obvious.  The skeptics sound ridiculous, and while we seek to be respectful of others, it is hard to avoid acting dismissively of those who "live and move and have their being" in God, while denying the very spiritual and moral environment wherein they live (Acts 17:28).  "The heathen rage" declared the Psalmist (Psalm 2:1).  They rage not because of intellectual difficulties.  Mere thought and philosophy do not foster rage.  No, the rejecter of God and His truth rage because they do not want Him to exist.  The Lord is too involved and interferes too much in our existence for the atheist and agnostic.  The very anger they express against One in whom they do not believe actually suggests the fact of His existence.  Again, a mere concept of whether God exists or not does not lead to rage.  God Himself leads to such a response, or as one debater said of the late atheist Christopher Hitchens: "Chris does not believe in God.  And he hates Him with all his heart!"

   We cannot help but be disturbed when unbelievers rage against reality.  We need not despair, however, because they cannot utter a blasphemous syllable that God does not allow.  He fits the bluster into the fulfillment of His ultimate purposes, shining the light of His Truth ever more brightly in the night sky.  His reality resonates throughout the universe, happily to some, unhappily to others, but unavoidable to all.

"This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil."
(John 3:19)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Put them in fear, O LORD: that the nations may know themselves to be but men.
(Psalm 9:20)

"The Purchase of Grace"

"The Purchase of Grace"

    Sacrifices must be made if we are to know God, and to apply His truth in our hearts and lives.

    "Buy the truth and sell it not, also, wisdom, and instruction, and understanding" (Proverbs 23:23).

    We buy things by giving up one thing in order to obtain another.  The knowledge of our Lord involves such a purchase of grace, a phrase that may seem oxymoronic upon first consideration.  Indeed, the grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ is the freest gift ever given, purchased for us by our Savior because we had no way to buy God's pardon and favor.  "Freely ye have received" declared the Lord Jesus to His disciples of the redeeming relationship with God received by faith and "not of works, lest any man should boast" (Matthew 10:8; Ephesians 2:9).  How then do we view the acquisition of truth, wisdom, instruction, and understanding in terms of barter rather than gift?

    The answer lies in the definition and meaning of relationship.  "A man that hath friends must show himself friendly" (Proverbs 18:24).  Loving discourse and fellowship requires reciprocity in free beings, as constituted by God.  In our fellowship with Him, the reception of His grace not only establishes our bond with Him, but also actualizes and energizes our human faculties to respond in kind.  "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5).  This enables born again believers to make freely determined choices regarding the sacrifices necessary to love even as we are loved.  We frequently choose to attend heart, mind, and body to fellowship with our Heavenly Father rather than other options and opportunities that lie before us.  He does not force such sacrifice upon us, but rather beckons us to His Word, to prayer, to fellowship with other believers, and to the conscious awareness of God's presence and involvement in our lives.  We choose whether to respond or not, even as the Psalmist affirmed, "When Thou saidst, Seek ye My face, my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek" (Psalm 27:8).

   "The purchase of grace" actually involves stewardship in our relationship with God.  That is, He grants His life and capacity for fellowship to our trusting hearts by the indwelling Holy Spirit.  We determine whether to use such grace whereby we consciously walk with our Heavenly Father.  Relationship requires such enabling by, and also such chosen sacrifice of other things by ourselves in order to relate to God.  Thus, we both "freely receive" and we "buy".  Genuine love and fellowship result in the only way that truly satisfies the hearts of both parties.  Again, the Psalmist clearly reveals the beauty of such relationship that begins and continues with Divine enabling, but also includes the human determination to respond in real devotion…

"I will love Thee, o Lord my strength!"
(Psalm 18:1)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Put them in fear, O LORD: that the nations may know themselves to be but men.
(Psalm 9:20)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

"Most Wanted"

(Thanks to our dear brother and friend Mike S. for inspiration on this one).

"Most Wanted"

   I write the following as a confession, and because I genuinely desire to change the inexcusable failing I now acknowledge to you.

   "Confess your faults one to another" (James 5:16).

   I am really terrible regarding the matter of returning library books on time.  I mean really terrible.  I wish I had an excuse, but I don't.  Our library sends notices by email, I have a good enough memory to have a general idea about due dates, and I fully intend to meet the deadlines.  I even have a dear friend who works at the local library, and I'm fully aware that he must regularly see my name on the "Most Wanted" list of overdue offenders.  Somehow, though, I continue to hold books for much longer than I should, with absolutely no excuse whatsoever.

   The thought occurred to me today regarding how completely selfish I am in this matter.  If I don't return books on time, I prevent other people from checking them out.  They fail to benefit from the material because I let the books sit on my shelf and collect dust.  I should have considered this much sooner, and I hope this realization helps me to change my ways, by God's leading and enabling.  Indeed, can you imagine the Lord Jesus not returning library books on time?  I can't.  As one who seeks to honor and represent Him, I therefore do not reflect well on our Savior by my selfishness and lack of consideration for others.

    I am confident of the Lord's forgiveness and cleansing as I acknowledge my sin, and I am also confident that He calls me to change.  "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy" (Proverbs 28:13).  I also know that He provides power for obedience through the indwelling Holy Spirit.  So, my determination is to trust Him for such leading and enabling, and to remember that our Heavenly Father calls me love Him and others in this matter that requires so little real sacrifice.  I appreciate your prayers accordingly, and given time, perhaps I can even get my name removed from the "Most Wanted" list.  I'll check with my friend at the library, and keep you posted!

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
(I John 1:9)
"We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
(Ephesians 2:10)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Put them in fear, O LORD: that the nations may know themselves to be but men.
(Psalm 9:20)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

"Thrice Glorious"

"Thrice Glorious"    

Holy, holy, holy sing we to
our Thrice-glorious Lord.
Father, Son, and Spirit,
wondrous beyond all thought and word.

And in this hour, this day,
our thoughts ascend with praise,
borne on winds of grace and faith,
endued with hearts amazed…

Holy, holy, holy to our Thrice-glorious Lord.

How can there be this One, these Three,
the Mystery sublime.
Is our God He, or is our God We
Both surely must apply.

Thus we proclaim without doubt or shame
that Three unite in One 
as the Spirit leads us in the praise 
of Father and of Son.

Holy, holy, holy to our Thrice-glorious Lord.

Forever and forever,
our hearts will kneel in awe.
Eternity will not suffice
as to our Lord we call,

Oh Father, lead us by Your Spirit
to glorify Your Son.
We fall in holy wonder
of Three, and yet, of One.

Holy, Holy, holy to our Thrice-glorious Lord…
holy, holy, holy to our Thrice-glorious Lord!

"And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory."
(Isaiah 6:3)
"The Lord our God is one Lord."
(Deuteronomy 6:4)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
(Proverbs 17:28)

Sunday, June 19, 2016

“Reaping the Whirlwind"

"Reaping the Whirlwind"

  Any born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ not disturbed by our generation's spiritual and moral rush to oblivion is likely not watching or listening closely to reports of the ongoing wickedness and madness.  Allow me to suggest, however, that a greater cause for disturbance would present itself to our hearts and minds if we were not seeing such calamity.

   "Because they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient (proper)" (Romans 1:28).

    When human beings choose to reject the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word, God allows us to go our own way, do our own thing, and experience the inevitable consequences of our freely chosen foolishness - "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).  The case can be made that we have seen such a turning away from Truth by Western culture in the last 50 years.  This is not to say that previous generations were always guided by Scripture and faithfulness to Judeo-Christian principles.  Far from it.  However, in times past, the United States and European countries undoubtedly existed under a pervasive influence of God's Light that He withdrew because of the cultural determination to rebel and not "retain God in their knowledge".  Thus, just as the Bible declares, we presently live in a generation that can no longer use its mind to make sane and rational determinations and decisions.  The wickedness and insanity thus confirms the Scriptural truth regarding the consequences of rebellion.  "They have sown the wind and they shall reap the whirlwind" (Hosea 8:7).

   In simple terms, the problem primarily lies in the root rather than the fruit.  Again, the Bible plainly states that turning away from God and His Truth leads to theological, philosophical, cultural, behavioral, political, social, and moral ruin.  Thus, if we were not seeing the sad declension, we would left with a far more disturbing uncertainty about the truth of Scripture.  As it is, we are seeing exactly what we would expect in nations that turn away from God and Truth.  Troubling and heartbreaking?  Absolutely.  But not nearly as much as if we witnessed our culture rebel against the Lord without consequences.

"Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against His anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure."
(Psalm 2:1-5).

Weekly Memory Verse
   Put them in fear, O LORD: that the nations may know themselves to be but men.
(Psalm 9:20)

"An Emotional Reaction"

(I can count on one hand the times we've sent a devotional on Sunday over the past 18 years.  But today is Father's Day in the United States, and the message seems appropriate.  Thanks, Glen)

"An Emotional Reaction"

    I'm pretty sure it's all I have left of him.

   We have pictures of my father, of course, but as far as I know, this old business card survives as my dad's last remaining possession.  He passed away in 1959, when I was two years old.  I have little direct memory of him, if any.  I'm sure he is with me, however, in heritage and also in influence from the precious little time we had together.  I've been told by family members that I'm like my father in personality, and I know that his absence from my life greatly affected me as a child and adolescent, and perhaps still does as an adult.  

   I showed the business card to a friend yesterday, and surprisingly to myself, experienced a strong emotional reaction as I mentioned that the card is all we have left of my father.  I was surprised by my response because I've lived most of my life without him.  I don't feel as if I really knew my dad.  This led me to think of an infinitely greater emotional response by a Son who also experienced separation from His Father.  

    "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?!" (Matthew 27:46).

    We will never know the depth of agony and sorrow known by the Lord Jesus Christ when for our sakes, He experienced wrath and abandonment from His Father.  Rather than the love He had forever known in the eternal past, our Savior bore the judgment of God as He died for our sins on the cross of Calvary.  "We did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted" (Isaiah 53:4).  Consider this dark statement in light of the Lord's affirmation to His Father uttered just before He suffered: "Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24).  From infinite devotion, affection, commitment, and communion to the cumulative wrath of God executed against the aggregate sins of humanity, the Lord Jesus suffered beyond measure: "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world" (John 17:24).  No contemplation of this emotional reaction will ever begin to plumb the depths of the lonely and brokenhearted sorrow known by the Son of God when He suffered the Divine rejection that should have been ours.

   While surprised by my response regarding my father, I was nevertheless glad it happened.  It revealed a bond that even death could not sever.  I am glad also that it led me to consider the bond that was severed, for our sakes.  I am grateful, as I know you are, and on this Father's Day, we do well to remember a Father and a Son who willingly experienced a breach in their relationship in order to establish eternal and unbreakable relationship with us.  Yes, to the degree that the Lord Jesus Christ was forsaken on the cross of Calvary by His Father, God's trusting children will never be forsaken by that same Father. "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5).  This is a good day to remember such wondrous grace, as is every day.

"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all."
(Isaiah 53:6)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
(Proverbs 17:28)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

“Waiting For Me There”

"Waiting For Me There"  

    I'm not scared of dentists.  I don't even feel nervous about going, or about the treatments.  However, some very negative childhood experiences have led me to inconsistency in the twice a year regimen of checkups.  When appointment times come, I've too often rationalized that I'll postpone that until another day.  Thankfully, I have pretty good teeth, and have had very few problems despite my neglect regarding more regular visits to the dentist.

    Of late, a few problems have arisen.  I made the call for an appointment yesterday, and they were able to squeeze me in today.  Things went well, we planned a regimen of treatment, and my plans now are to visit my dentist twice a year until the Lord takes me home.  All this made me remember the reason for my hesitation, namely, my childhood dentist, Dr. Adolph "Yank" Drillhappy (not his real name, of course, although it fit him quite accurately).  I spent many frightened and painful moments in Dr. Drillhappy's office as a boy who liked sweets, and thus needed a few fillings.  Of course, Dr. D. couldn't have been nicer to my mother, the lady who wrote the checks to pay for my tortur… uh, treatments.  "Why, Mrs. Davis, what a pleasure to see you again!  And I see you've brought little Glen in again!  How nice!"  Dr. Drillhappy would then look at me, smile, and slyly raise his eyebrow enough just for me to see, indicating that he relished yet another opportunity to execute mayhem in my oral regions.  "We'll take good care of the little fella" said the good doctor as he closed the door and pointed to the dentist's chair in which he plyed his nefarious trade.  "Get in the chair, kid", sit still and don't make any noise no matter what!  Because if you do…"  Dr. D looked at his assistant, who pulled the trigger on the dentist's drill to make that terrible high pitched noise that makes teeth hurt even it if never touches them.  "Yeah kid" said the doctor, "we have ways of discouraging bad behavior!"  He then went to work on me, and I still have dreams - no, nightmares - about piercing darts of pain racing in my head as Dr. Drillhappy gleefully sought for nerves in my teeth - and found them.

   Ok, I exaggerate a bit.  However, I did have enough uncomfortable dental moments as a child that it leads to the aforementioned rationalization and inconsistency in my dental care.  I knew I couldn't do that now.  Some cracked fillings have led to enough discomfort that I knew the time had come.  So, this morning as I prepared to go to the dentist, I went to the Lord first, just to make sure that I didn't allow any fear or nervousness to accompany my visit.  "Lord, I know You'll be waiting for me there, and that You have a purpose in my going other than simply fixing my teeth."  I offered myself to Him for whatever He might want to do in the situation.  Again, things couldn't have gone better.  My dentist is a great guy, and made me feel completely comfortable about the treatment to come.  Also, the dental hygienist who cleaned my teeth, Elisabeth, seemed like an angel.  She showed great care and compassion in being gentle around the sensitive areas of my teeth, explained everything she did, and couldn't have been nicer.  This leads to the point of my sharing all this with you.  While Elisabeth worked on my teeth, we both looked out the large window of the office into a courtyard where a bird feeder stood in the very center of the area.  On the feeder sat a beautiful red cardinal.  I mentioned this, and Elisabeth said, "Hmmm, that's funny.  We usually only see squirrels out there."

    Those of you who know me well likely see the point of this event, and of Elisabeth's observation.  I am known for loving cardinals, all cardinals.  But I especially love the male red ones.  I find their scarlet plumage to be one of the most beautiful things in all creation.  The depth of red in their feathers always thrills my soul, most of all because it reminds me of the precious lifeblood shed by the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary.  "But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ" (Ephesians 2:13).  Yes, I love cardinals and what they represent to my heart.  So, having affirmed that the Lord would be waiting for me at the dentist, and then seeing a cardinal there where cardinals are not usually seen, well, you know what I'm trying to say.

    As we often suggest in these messages, the Lord does wait for His trusting children in Christ wherever we go.  And, He journeys with us on the way.  Sometimes He makes Himself quite obvious.  This surely seemed to be the case today, and I gave thanks (and give thanks again as I write this).  I also thought about this: If there had never been a Dr. Adolph Drillhappy in my life, along with the uncomfortable experiences he fostered, I would have never had known the blessedness of seeing that cardinal.  I might not have prayed before going to the dentist, or if I had, I might not have voiced my request in the way I did.  "Lord, I know You'll be waiting there for me…"  He was, and while I knew that before seeing the scarlet plumage, I knew it with a particular joy afterward.  So, Dr. D served and still serves a purpose in God's gracious ways in my life.  I am grateful for the moment this morning, and for being able to share it with you.  A closing thought, however: I'm glad I now go to to another dentist rather than Dr. D!

"As You Go"


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekly Memory Verse
    Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
(Proverbs 17:28)

"Far Better"

(Thanks to our friend and brother Wayne B. for inspiration on this one.  And, dedicated to Peggy and her family)

"Far Better"  

    The Apostle Paul declared that our earthly departure to be in the direct Heavenly presence of the Lord Jesus Christ will not merely lead us into a better existence.

    "To depart, and to be with Christ... is far better" (Philippians 1:23).

    "Far."  A tiny word, but in it lies the most glorious of promises - far better.  Salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ, while providing abundant provision for our walk with God today, nevertheless promises infinitely greater glories in our eternal tomorrows.  Indeed, would any believer already in Heaven tell us they wish they could have stayed on the earth for just a bit longer?  Not a chance!  One twinkling moment after our passing from this life into the next, we will experience the greatest relief we've ever known.  Indeed, whatever measure of peace we have received in Christ during our earthly sojourn will pale in comparison to the experience known when the Prince of peace journeys with us through the valley of the shadow of death.  While certainly we do nothing to hasten our earthly passing, and we do all to presently know God as well as possible, we must nevertheless realize and affirm that Paul proclaimed blessed truth in his triumphant exultation, "To die is gain!" (Philippians 1:21).

   A good friend recently responded to the physical death of one for whom many believers prayed regarding healing.  "Oh," said Wayne, "you mean he was really healed!"  Or, we might say, that those who passed through the valley of the shadow are Heavenly healed.  Three letters: f-a-r.  In them lies the blessed promise of entrance into the eternal glory of Heaven with the Lord Jesus.  Thus, anything that might in our minds seem to bind us to the present life must be viewed in the light of "better to be with Christ", or, far better.  Anything.  Everything.  All things.  Yes, one twinkling moment with our blessed Lord will convince us of that.  Thus, we do not fear death as God's trusting sons and daughters united to the Prince of life.  We rather see our earthly departure as hope, hope for passage from darkness, pain, and sorrow.  But even more, we see death as hope for passage into the sublime glory of "to be with Christ"…

"We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord."
(II Corinthians 5:8)
"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."
(Hebrews 2:14-15)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
(Proverbs 17:28)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

"The Uncaused Cause"

"The Uncaused Cause"  

    God exists as the only uncaused reality - "From everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God" (Psalm 90:2).  All other things exist and consist either as the direct creations of the Lord, or as the indirect result of the things, forces, and laws He made.

    Human beings do not create.  We rather serve as stewards of that which the Lord hath made despite the bluster of some who think quite highly of humanity and its capacities.  We make things by using other things, many of which exist only through God's creative fiat.  The proud fail to see this, as in the case of the young scientist who blithely confronted the Lord.

   "God, we don't need you any more!" boasted the scientist.  "Science has brought us to the place where we can harness the powers of nature, transplant organs, and even clone human beings.  Why, I can even create a man from dust, just like that Book of Yours mentions."  The Lord responded, "Is that so?  Why don't we have a contest then.  Let's see who can make a human being, and I'll let you go first."  The scientist laughed and quickly said, "You're on, God.  Watch and weep."  The man then knelt down to scoop up a handful of dirt.  "Whoa, young man!'  The man looked up, and in a tone of exasperation exclaimed, "What's the problem, God?"  The Lord looked at the man, paused for a moment, and then quietly but in no uncertain terms declared, "Young man, get your own dirt!"

    We use that which God made, even if we refuse to believe He exists.  We do not create, but rather implement the Divinely formed law of causality, namely, that all things and events have a cause.  The baker does not create cakes, but rather uses already existing components to combine and reconstitute flour, eggs, butter, sugar, and appropriate additions into a different form and structure.  The cake, delicious as it is and perhaps beautifully decorated, exists as a caused reality.  It came from something rather than nothing.  God, conversely, came from nowhere and from nothing.  He didn't come at all.  He simply was, is, and always will be.  "I AM" He declared His name to be, or "I AM THAT I AM" (Exodus 3:14).  Children wonder about such things, and ask the question, "Where did God come from?".  We need to wonder also, but not to ask questions.  No, we rather fall to our faces in worship of One beyond understanding, imagination, and awareness.  "Who is like unto Thee, O LORD, among the gods?  Who is like Thee, glorious in holiness?" (Exodus 15:11).

    In Christ, God draws the believing heart so near that He indwells it.  Never, however, do we fail to remember the infinite otherness of God, as it were.  He exists as the uncaused Cause of all things, the first Mover, and the Word that merely required utterance to create all things (John 1:-3).  He works to conform Christians to His own spiritual and moral likeness, and one day "we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (I John 3:2).  We shall not be like Him in the eternal infinity of His being, however.  No one is, and no one can be.  We reserve forevermore in our hearts the wonder of One who had no beginning, and will have no end.  We kneel in complete and utter awe, fear, and reverence.  Or, as the poet expressed so beautifully, "Shoreless Ocean, who can sound Thee?  Thine own eternity is round Thee, Majesty divine!"

"Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen."
(I Timothy 1:17)
"Thou art from everlasting!"
(Psalm 93:2)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
(Proverbs 17:28)