Wednesday, August 31, 2016

“The Offense of the Gospel"

"The Offense of the Gospel"

    During his earthly Christian lifetime, the Apostle Paul did not enjoy the respect his name has inspired throughout most of church history.

    "Am I not an apostle? am I not free?  Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?  Are not ye my work in the Lord?  If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord" (I Corinthians 9:1-2).

    Many believers questioned Paul's spiritual authenticity, first because he persecuted the church before he became a born again Christian.  However, his message provided just as much grist for the mill of criticism as through Paul, God greatly amplified the implications of His grace in the Lord Jesus Christ.  "Now to Him that is of power to stablish you according to my Gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith" (Romans 16:25-26).  The legalizers of Paul's day hated his message because it struck at the very core of human pride and self affirmation.  Moreover, it directed all glory and praise to the Lamb that was slain, and to "the Name which is above every name" (Philippians 2:9).  

   Paul's Gospel, or rather, the fullness of New Testament teaching, still offends those whose message either directly or implicitly deemphasizes the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ on our behalf.  Is Christ's grace enough to save human souls from their deserved condemnation?  Is His grace enough to enable a subsequent life of faith and faithfulness?  Or do we look to another?  Do we trust in our own works for obtaining and maintaining our relationship with God?  Do we follow those whose message exalts human flesh rather than the Divine Savior?  How we answer these questions has much to do with how we view Paul and his writings.  It has even more to do with how we experience the Lord Jesus and His living presence.  We either trust Him with all our hearts, or we leave room for faith in someone or something else.  To the degree we follow the latter path will be the degree to which we experience the power of God as it motivates, guides, and empowers our walk with Him.  Long ago, the Apostle Paul suffered much rejection and disrespect because his message constituted an offense to human self-importance.  Nothing has changed in 2,000 years, and we do well to join our brother of old in his determination to exalt the Savior and His gift of wondrous grace…

"We are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh."
(Philippians 3:3)
"But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved), and made us sit together in Heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come, He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."
(Ephesians 2:4-7)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, for He is faithful that promised."
(Hebrews 10:23)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

"No Pardon For Excuses"

"No Pardon For Excuses"

    When approaching God's throne of grace through the Lord Jesus Christ to obtain His merciful forgiveness of sin, our heart must be empty of excuses.

   "I said, Lord, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against Thee" (Psalm 41:4).

    Others can serve as the means whereby we are tempted.  "It must needs by that offenses come. But woe to that man by whom the offense cometh" (Matthew 18:7).  However, we make our own choices to disbelieve and disobey God.  It's nobody else's fault, regardless of how negatively the words or behaviors may influence us.  The challenge we face, however, involves the sinful strain in our flesh that ever seeks to divert blame to others for our own faults.  Adam faulted Eve (and by implication, God, since He made Eve for Adam).  Eve blamed the devil (Genesis 1:12-13).  The default position of humanity regarding our faults tempts us to divert, distract, and deny.  Our flesh seeks to blame anything but itself for sin. Failure to recognize this inclination can lead to a stained conscience as we do not adequately avail ourselves of our Lord's forgiveness and cleansing.  As the old saying goes, "The blood of Christ pardons sins, not excuses."

    Others, including the devil, may beckon us to poisoned waters.  We determine, however, whether we will drink.  This has been the case for every sin we've ever committed, especially those choices of unbelief and disobedience that occurred after we trusted in the Lord Jesus.  God's presence and enabling to overcome temptation dwells within believers by His Spirit.  Never is sin inevitable in born again believers.  Thus, we must acknowledge our full culpability if we are to receive full restoration of our fellowship with God when confessing our sins.  He is "faithful and just" to forgive (I John 1:9).  We must be honest and contrite to receive His forgiveness.  Again, full pardon for sin awaits us in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus.  But no pardon for excuses.

"I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin."
(Psalm 32:5)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, for He is faithful that promised."
(Hebrews 10:23)

Monday, August 29, 2016

"The Nevers" Conclusion Never Changing

"The Nevers"


Never Changing

    God cannot be other than who He is.  He cannot act in any manner that conflicts with His character, nature, and way.  He cannot change. 

    "I am the Lord.  I change not… Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8).

    No truth about our Lord more secures and assures our hearts than the continuity of His character and His capacities.  We shall never find the goodness of His heart altered to even the slightest degree, nor shall we find the greatness of His hand anything less then all powerful.  Thus, if ever we have ever trusted Him to be willing and able to work on our behalf and found Him faithful, we shall always discover the same.  This includes the moment at hand.  Any need that presently exists in our lives offers yet another opportunity to realize what the theologians refer to as the immutability of God.  He is today - and in this moment - who He was yesterday, and who He has been "from everlasting" (Psalm 90:2).  The nature of the need does not matter.  The nature of the Lord does, and that nature of perfect willingness and ability graces time and eternity with the promise of "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).

    This consideration directs our attention to a truth of Scripture we often propose, namely, that what God does always proceeds from who He is.  "The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works" (Psalm 145:17).  A faithful Heart guides and empowers an able Hand, as it were.  Recall the Apostle Paul's affirmation of such truth in his epistle to Titus.  "God… cannot lie" (Titus 1:2).  Not "will not lie", although this is true.  Paul rather declares that God "cannot lie".  He cannot be other than who He is, and He cannot do anything the conflicts with His pristine character and nature.  Herein we see the continuity of our Lord that forms and informs our present consideration.  Nothing arbitrary exists in God.  He never acts on a whim.  His hand forever flows with the current of His heart.  Thus, if He is faithful, He will act faithfully.  Always. Forever. Now.

    Solomon commanded that we "trust the Lord with all thy heart" (Proverbs 3:5).  He could not call us to such faith if God's nature and ability could change.  It cannot, and thus Someone exists upon whom we can cast ourselves without reserve.  The "Never changing" nature of our perfectly faithful Lord beckons our hearts into the safe harbor of trustworthiness and ability.  No other haven exists, and we need no other.  The Nevers of God all secure and assure us because this particular Never promises that we shall eternally find Him to be who He is, and do what He does.  We shall never live a moment in time or eternity in which God cannot be trusted.  Never!

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

Weekly Memory Verse
   Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, for He is faithful that promised."
(Hebrews 10:23)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

"The Nevers" Part 6 Never Away

"The Nevers"

Part 6

Never Away

Father, are You there?
No, My child, I am not there,
I am here, nearer than any other.

And I will always be not there, but here,
of this you can be sure, 
and this you will discover

as the years roll on, and eternity draws nigh,
I am with you always, 
so near, so much nearer than any other.

    We seek to stress the living and involved presence of God in these devotionals, or the gift of Himself as provided by the indwelling Holy Spirit to every believing heart.

    "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5).

    God made human hearts as His dwelling place, "the temple of the living God" (II Corinthians 6:16).  When we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, our Heavenly Father sends His Spirit to occupy eternally abiding residence in the innermost depths of our being.  "He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit" (I Corinthians 6:17).  He faithfully enters our spirits as a gift of the most freely given grace.  He faithfully remains in our spirits, again, as a gift of the most freely given grace.  No human heart ever deserves the entrance or the abiding.  God rather blesses us with the gift of Himself upon the basis of rending Himself from the spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary.

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

    The One who had eternally known the loving presence of His Father and the Holy Spirit experienced their absence as He suffered and died alone for our sins.  We cannot imagine the horror of such loss, other than to know that any loneliness we have ever known pales in comparison to the broken heart of the Lord Jesus.  "We did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God" (Isaiah 53:4).  This we can know: the "Never" of God's absence from our own hearts graces us because our Savior cried out into the darkness of Calvary, seeking His Father and the Holy Spirit, but receiving no reply.  Indeed, no answer came because no one was there.  Our Savior purchased the gift of "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee because He was left, He was forsaken.

   Such truth transcends our complete understanding even as it transforms our hearts.  It is no small thing as we awaken to each day in the confidence of God's presence.  The fact of it is wondrous as we live our lives in His loving involvement, provision, communion, and purpose.  The cost of it, however, seems just as wondrous, and it is.  The loneliest Soul that ever was makes possible our eternally occupied spirits.  The Lord Jesus promised such grace, the gift of Himself, and then suffered, died, and rose again to provide it.  Wondrous indeed, and glorious as we live this day and forevermore in the "never to leave thee nor forsake thee" made possible by the sorrow of Calvary…

"I am with you always."
(Matthew 28:20)
"He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."
(II Corinthians 5:21)
"Ye are the temple of the living God" (II Corinthians 6:16).

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

Friday, August 26, 2016

"The Nevers" Part 5 Never Selfish

"The Nevers"

Part 5

Never Selfish

   Relating to the God of love presents a great challenge to our hearts and minds because we have no frame of reference for One possessed of such character and others-centered devotion.

    "God is love" (I John 4:8).
    "Charity (love) seeketh not her own" (I Corinthians 13:5).
    "The Son of man came not to be minister unto, but to minister and give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).

   We all likely know people who consistently act, speak, and relate unselfishly.  Perfect altruism, however, does not presently exist in any human being.  We have never known any person who is never selfish.  Open the pages of Scripture, however, and the Bible reveals the God whose nature involves the eternal quest to seek the benefit of others.  This begins in Himself, that is, in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit's loving devotion to one another.  It proceeds to God's relationship to those whom He created.  "I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end" (Jeremiah 29:11).  Our Lord does everything in accordance with a mind and heart toward others, as guided by His perfect righteousness, wisdom, and holiness.  This includes His merciful lovingkindness, displayed in obvious goodness, and His sanctions, revealed in chastening and wrath.  "The LORD is good to all: and His tender mercies are over all His works… Righteous art Thou, O LORD, and upright are Thy judgments" (Psalm 145:9; 119:137).

    Again, this is not easy truth to understand or assimilate as we ponder God, and as we seek to relate to Him.  Our human experience is so tainted by self interest that we may project the same onto our Lord as we consider the teachings of Scripture, or as we seek to walk with Him.  We must reject such distortion of His character in principle, consistently affirming to ourselves and each other that the God of the Bible cannot think, speak, act, or relate in anything less than pristine devotion to others.  We must then seek to relate to God through Christ in the remembrance of such wondrous glory, realizing that we walk with One unlike ourselves, but who has undertaken the loving process of making us like Himself.  "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us… He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:5; Philippians 1:6).

   Never selfish.  From everlasting to everlasting, our Lord lives in an atmosphere and environment of heart beyond any contemplation of goodness we can presently fathom.  We can believe, however, and we can seek to remember His heart as we relate to Him and to people.  No truth more causes us to kneel before the living God.  And no truth more raises up to walk in the wonder of the loving God.  He alone provides our perfect frame of reference for such devotion to others.  But we see reflections of His glory in those who seek to know the truth of our Lord's "Never selfish".

"Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us."
(I John 3:16)

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

Thursday, August 25, 2016

“The Nevers” Part 3 Never Untruthful

"The Nevers"

Part 4

Never Untruthful

    Our Lord's perfect character and nature means that He not only will not lie.  He "cannot lie" (Titus 1:2).  Thus, Someone exists whom we can believe without reserve, or as Solomon commanded, "Trust in the Lord with all thy heart" (Proverbs 3:5).

    Presently, this involves complete confidence in the words of Scripture.  We cannot hear the physical voice of God in this life, so we must trust the propositional voice of His Word, the Bible.  I was greatly blessed in the first week of my Christian life more than four decades ago to hear a mentor suggest, "Believe every word of the Bible to such a degree that if you have problems with any verse, passage, or chapter, realize that the issue is not with God's Word, but with your own limited and faulty understanding."  The Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures bore witness to my heart then of such perfect Biblical reliability, and He continues to do so in the hearts of all whom He inhabits.  "Thy Word is truth" sounds and resounds, beckoning our hearts to the safe haven of the Christ perfectly proclaimed in the sacred Text (John 17:17).

    "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock" (Matthew 7:24-25).

  Doing God's sayings first involves believing them.  Every day of our lives provides opportunity for numerous determinations to affirm the truth of Scripture in the face of opposing information, appearance, and reasoning.  "We walk by faith" (II Corinthians 5:7).  Step by step, our Father offers us the peace of knowing He can be trusted, as revealed in the words - all of them - declared by the Bible.  "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee" (Isaiah 26:3).  We will never completely understand the Scriptures in this lifetime.  Infinite Truth communicated to finite minds will always lead to some head scratching.  We can, however, completely believe the Scriptures in this lifetime, building an altar within our hearts that sacrifices any notion of unreliability in God or His Word.  We choose to believe in the "Never" of Divine and Scriptural untruthfulness.

    Forty years has confirmed to my heart over and over again the Truth of God's Word, and the wisdom of the mentor I mentioned.  Eternity will confirm the same, and perhaps most to the point, this day offers the privileged responsibility to join the Lord who in His affirmation to the Father: "Thy Word is truth".  What will we believe?  Who will we believe?  The current of this day will flow in response to our answers.  I know you join me in the peace of the Bible's "Thus saith the Lord".  We will believe the word of the One who cannot lie, and who we will forever - and in this day - find to be never untruthful.

"It was impossible for God to lie."
(Hebrews 6:18)
"Thy Word is very pure.  Therefore, The servant loveth it."
(Psalm 119:140)

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"The Nevers" Part 3 Never Untrustworthy

"The Nevers"

Part 3

Never Untrustworthy

    Never will we find God to be untrustworthy. He cannot speak, act, or relate apart from the perfection of integrity.

    "God… cannot lie" (Titus 1:2).
    "Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds" (Psalm 36:5).
    "The LORD will not cast off His people, neither will He forsake His inheritance" (Psalm 94:14).

     Of all the "Nevers" of God, His never to be anything other than perfectly faithful assures our hearts and empowers our hands and feet.  Our Lord's complete trustworthiness, known and accessed by faith, blesses our hearts with peace, and then enables our own faithfulness to Him and to people.  First, God assures us that He will always be exactly what we need.  Always.  He cannot be other than who He is.  He can never be less than "faithful and true" (Revelation 19:11).  At times, we may not understand the application of our Heavenly Father's trustworthiness.  We can always, however, be sure of the fact of it.  The "never" of unfaithfulness in God thus provides an eternally safe haven for our hearts in times of both peace and perplexity.  "The Lord will be the hope of His people" (Joel 3:16).

    Such assurance also births and nurtures our own devotion to trustworthiness.  We cannot yet achieve the "never" of unfaithfulness as is true of our Lord.  However, the more we embrace His perfection, the more we progress along the path of righteousness to Christ's faithfulness empowering our own integrity.  "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).  We reflect His character as we fulfill our commitments, keep our word, and devote ourselves to being in conduct who we are in Christ.  No quality of God's character more reveals the essence of His loving nature than faithfulness.  The same quality revealed in believers most directs honor to the One who progressively works in us to conform us to the image of His Son.  "But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you" (I Thessalonians 3:3).

   Let us plant the truth deeply within our hearts and minds: our God will never think, speak, or act apart from perfect and pristine trustworthiness.  Such blessedness gives pause for much praise and thanksgiving, and for much expectation that the more we realize this "Never" of our Lord, the more He will empower our own devotion to faithfulness.  

"Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on Thee."
(Psalm 25:21)
"It is required in stewards, that a may be found faithful."
(I Corinthians 4:2)

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

"The Nevers" Part 2 Never Alone

"The Nevers"

Part 2

Never Alone

   "There is one God" - it could be argued that this constitutes the simplest truth proclaimed by Scripture - unless that one God exists in three Persons.

    "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Peter 1:3).
    "Unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, o God, is forever and ever" (Hebrews 1:8).
    "By His Spirit, He hath garnished the heavens" (Job 26:13).

    The truth of the Trinity reveals not only the mystery of God's being, but also the fellowship of Heart to Heart to Heart that eternally exists in Him.  Herein we see another "Never" of God.  He has never been alone.  Even before He made angels and humans, our Lord dwelt in the perfect love and fellowship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The Persons of the Godhead were and are perfectly fulfilled, having no need for any other in order to know the joy of relational union and communion.  "God is love" declared the Apostle John (I John 4:8).  He is also eternally unchanging - "I am the Lord; I change not" (Malachi 3:6).  Thus, there must have always been relationship and fellowship in the Lord, again, even before other conscious beings existed.  We may therefore conclude that God's oneness does not preclude the relational nature of His being.  He has never been alone.

    Since God created humanity in His image, and since through Christ He progressively works in born again believers to conform us to His spiritual and moral likeness, we must realize the centrality of relationship not only in our Lord, but also in ourselves.  The first two commands call us to love God and to love people (Mark 12:30-31).  Thus, we must join our Lord in never being alone, first, in the reality that He always abides with His trusting children, and then, in our devotion to people.  "I am with you always… Honor all men" (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 12:14).  The Apostle Paul declared himself to be both the servant of God and servant of all others (Romans 1:1; I Corinthians 9:19).  In the Lord Jesus, we are united with the Divine race as God's sons and daughters - "He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit."  In our physical birth, we are united with the human race in our privileged responsibility of viewing ourselves as being devoted to the welfare and fellowship of all - "As we have opportunity, let us therefore do good to all men" (I Corinthians 6:17; Galatians 6:10).

   Never alone: true of God, and true of ourselves.  We walk with Him forevermore, and with people. Thus, we begin this and every day with gratitude for the potential and the actuality of knowing the joy our Lord knows, the joy of relationship.  We also devote ourselves to the blessing of His heart, and the blessing of the hearts of others.  This is life, the very life of the one glorious God who forever dwells in the union and communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  And this is our life, the very life of those who by grace also know the wonder of the communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The Lord Jesus prayed for such, and then suffered, died, and rose again to draw us into the love of never alone…

"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me."
(John 17:20-21)
"For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God."
(I Peter 3:18).

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

Monday, August 22, 2016

"The Nevers" Part 1

"The Nevers"

Part 1

    We do well to often consider the innumerable truths about God's nature and doings that will require eternity to discover.

    "From everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God O LORD, how manifold are Thy works!   In wisdom hast Thou made them all: the earth is full of Thy riches" (Psalm  90:2; 104:24).

    We also do well to frequently ponder the "nevers" of God, that is, those qualities of His being that have never been and never will be true, and those behaviors and actions in which we can be sure He will never engage Himself.  

    "The Lord will not… (I Samuel 12:22; Proverbs 10:3; Lamentations 3:31…).

    We begin with the simple, but eternally wondrous fact of God's "from everlasting to everlasting"existence.  Never has He not existed, and never will He not exist.  God dwells alone in His triune being as the only resident of the Kingdom of forever, "the lofty One that inhabiteth eternity" (Isaiah 57:15).  His "I AM" had no beginning and will have no end.  We joyfully answer the child's question, "Where did God come from?", with the exultant explanation that "Someone exists who has always been and who will always be, and He is the God of the Bible!"  The child understands better than the adult, but we must all nevertheless lay hold upon the bedrock of Reality, namely, the eternal existence of One who "was, and is, and is to come" (Revelation 4:8).  Heavenly beings "rest not day and night, saying Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty" to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, knowing the wonder of God's eternal being, and the truth of His first never - never has He not existed, and never will He not exist (Revelation 4:9).

    Unfathomable as such truth may be, it nevertheless sings a hymn of blessed assurance to our hearts.  Something - Someone - exists who is fulfills the deep inner cry of our hearts for both foundations and immortality.  Indeed, if nothing or no one existed before creation, all things lie upon an empty void.  The human psyche cannot peacefully exist in such uncertainty.  Nor can it rest without confidence in our ongoing existence.  Since we possess no capacity to ensure such perpetual being, something - Someone - must exist to provide our journey into forever.  Moreover, we must know this to be true.  Thus, the "from everlasting to everlasting" God proclaims His eternal being by His Spirit, His Word, His creation, His church, and His personal working in our hearts to enable us to hear the hymn that has forever sounded, and will forever resound - "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms" (Deuteronomy 33:27). 

    The First Never: never has God not been, and never will He not be.  Much pondering upon such ineffable glory provides much peace within our hearts, and much provision for our voyage through time.  Yes, we live this moment upon "everlasting arms" and within the Heart that was, is, and is to come.  I cannot imagine more assurance, or more peace, the peace of "Never".

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

Tomorrow: Part 2  Never Alone

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

Saturday, August 20, 2016

“Words of the Mouth, Meditations of the Heart"

"Words of the Mouth, Meditations of the Heart"

     "I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed… Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh" (Psalm 77:3; Matthew 12:34).

     So, which is it?  Does the tongue influence the spirit, or does the spirit rather motivate the words of our mouths?  The answer is both, even as David implied in his prayer for God's grace and keeping of both components of our being: "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer" (Psalm 19:14).

    First, what we allow ourselves to verbally express has much to do with the internal environment of our thoughts, emotions, and determinations.  We've likely all heard and perhaps even said, "I would complain, but it wouldn't do any good!"  This is true.  However, we usually leave out the Psalmist's realization that complaining does much harm, namely, a spirit overwhelmed.  We hurt our walk with God in His contentment, peace, and joy when we leave our tongues to their natural inclination toward unbelief and carnality.  As my wife Frances says, our hearts hear what our tongue utters, and are either positively or negatively influenced by the content and tone.  "Death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21).  Thus, we do well to consistently seek God'leading and enabling regarding what we say, whether in the self talk most people utter, or in earshot of others to whom do either great benefit or harm with our words.  "Set a watch, o Lord, before my mouth.  Keep the door of my lips" (Psalm 141:3).

    We also do well to frequently keep our internals, as it were, before the inspection of our Heavenly Father.  "Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life" (Proverbs 4:23).  Our words not only affect our thoughts, feelings, and attitudes.  They also express our inner spiritual condition.  Regarding our current consideration, a heart of faith and submission to God consistently speaks words that reflect His character, nature, and way, along with the conviction of His loving involvement in all things of our lives.  This includes what we say, and what we don't say.  Living words come from from the trusting believer committed to the living Word Himself, the Lord Jesus.  Moreover, words of death are consistently caught before uttered by those who realize the dire consequences of fouled and bitter waters proceeding forth from tongues that belong to God.  "Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing.  My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?" (James 3:9-11).

   "The tongue can no man tame… Incline my heart unto Thy testimonies" (James 3:8; Psalm 119:36).  Acceptable words of the mouth and meditations of the heart proceed from the leading and enabling of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Our role involves the recognition of His promised grace and our perpetual need regarding these vital matters of our walk with the Lord.  Godly thinking and speaking do not just happen.  We must recognize our Lord's commitment to our thoughts and words.  We then join Him in devotion to the same, and to the expectation that He will faithfully enable us as we faithfully trust Him.  The words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts.  Only through the Lord Jesus can they consistently form and flow as the sweet waters acceptable in God's sight.

"Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge."
(Proverbs 23:12)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
(Galatians 5:16)

Friday, August 19, 2016

"The Four Questions"

(a repeat from 2013)

"The Four Questions"

        "His name shall be called wonderful" (Isaiah 9:6).

    The Lord Jesus Christ fulfills this blessed prophecy as the One full of wonder.  He perfectly fits His name as His person and work provide to our hearts the singular fascination of our existence in both time and eternity.  "Great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh" (I Timothy 3:16).

    Four questions help us to keep this fascination and mystery fresh in our hearts concerning God's truth:

       1.  Who is the Lord Jesus?
       2.  What has He already done for His Father, and for us?
       3.  What is He presently doing?
       4.  What will He do forevermore?

    The Bible continually speaks to these questions, whether in the prophecies and foreshadowings of Christ in the Old Testament, or the history and teaching of the New.  "Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life.  And they are they which testify of Me" (John 5:39).  Thus, the degree to which we establish and maintain our quest for knowing the Person and work of Christ corresponds to the degree we truly live, as God defines life.  "To live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21).

    The Apostle Paul, a man once caught up to Heaven for the direct vision of spiritual reality, determined that the knowledge of his Savior transcended any and everything.  "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord" (II Corinthians 12:1-4; Philippians 3:8).  The four questions ruled Paul's heart and life, as evidenced throughout his Christ-saturated epistles, penned under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (who is Himself devoted to the centrality of the Lord Jesus): "When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me" (John 15:26).  Both eternal God and enlightened humanity thus gaze with enraptured wonder upon the Son of God, including the Father who proclaims His holy accolade: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well l pleased" (Matthew 3:17).

    In both Heaven and earth, there is no one like the Lord Jesus.  In our hearts, there must be no one like Him.  They were made for Him, even as Scripture declares of believers, "God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father" (Galatians 4:6).  The four questions help stoke the warm flame of devotion to the Lord Jesus that must continually burn upon the hearth of our spirits.  We do well to consider them often, particularly as we open God's Word, and then as we face the challenges of life that press us to seek four answers.  Again, who is the Lord Jesus?  What has He done?  What is He doing?  What does He promise to do forevermore?  These are the central questions of Christ's existence, and of our life and being in Him.

"All things were created by Him, and for Him.  And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.  And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence."
(Colossians 1:16-18)
"My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
(Philippians 4:19)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
(Galatians 5:16)