Thursday, September 29, 2016

Esther Conclusion "Not Enough Ink" FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30

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


Part 5

"Not Enough Ink"

   Many people with whom I share the story of Esther are surprised to learn that God is never directly mentioned in this portion of Scripture.  Most of these folks have read Esther, but they missed the fact that the Holy Spirit did not lead the writer to overtly mention the Lord.  I never share the passage in a service without seeing surprised looks when I mention that a blessed portion of God's Book omits reference to God's Person.

    "Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, o God of Israel, the Savior" (Isaiah 45:15).

   Of course, the Lord doesn't always hide Himself, and for those with eyes to see, His glory fills all things.  However, we presently live in a dispensation wherein "we walk by faith, not by sight" (II Corinthians 5:7).  This would not be possible if our Lord too plainly revealed Himself.  Thus, all believers must have times when a veil seems to hinder our view of the Lord's involved heart and hand.  In such a time, the Psalmist cried to his Lord, "Why hidest Thou Thyself in times of trouble?" (Psalm 10:1).  The truth is that God allows it to seem as if He is not near even though He forever abides as "a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).  We presently need times when we feel alone.  Such difficult episodes provide opportunity to exercise the faith to believe in the unseen, unheard, unfelt fact of our Lord's eternally abiding presence both with and within us.  This strengthens our spiritual sinews, as it were, and also greatly honors God by revealing that He is worthy to be trusted even if He seems a million miles away.  "Thou He slay me, yet will I trust in Him" (Job 13:15).

   Read Esther a hundred times.  You'll never find a direct mention of God.  Read it once with a humble, trusting heart, and you'll discover it to be one of the most God-saturated portions of the Bible.  A beautiful spiritual lesson shines forth in this glorious story inspired by an even more glorious Lord.  In the lives of his trusting children, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ forever abides nearer than our next breath.  If we can't seem to find Him on the pages of our lives, the book of Esther proclaims that the Lord is present and actively involved nevertheless.  "The Light shineth in darkness" declared the Apostle John (John 1:5).  It also shines on pages where appearances might indicate that God is absent, but where reality reveals there is not enough ink in the world to tell of His doings.

"God… worketh all things after counsel of His own will."
(Ephesians 1:11)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.
(John 6:35)


"Esther" Part 4 "Hoisted On Their Own Petard" THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29

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


Part 4

"Hoisted On Their Own Petard"

   The conflict between wicked Haman and godly Mordecai presents another episode in the book of Esther where we see God overcoming and supplanting the flesh with the spirit.

   "After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him. And all the king's servants, that were in the king's gate, bowed, and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence. Now it came to pass, when they spake daily unto him, and he hearkened not unto them, that they told Haman, to see whether Mordecai's matters would stand: for he had told them that he was a Jew. And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath"(Esther 3:1-5).

   Haman cherished his exalted role as the king's most honored subject.  He loved the power, honor, and even reverence that came with the position.  Mordecai, however, did not acknowledge Haman's place, thus eliciting the evil man's ire.  Moreover, Mordecai himself was worthy of honor because he had saved the king's life on a previous occasion, unbeknownst to the king.  Thus, as with Vashti the rebellious queen replaced by Esther, the story progresses to the destruction of Haman and the installation of Mordecai as the king's most rightly honored subject.  Indeed, Haman ends up not only replaced, but executed.  

   "So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai" (Esther 7:10).  

   I am not ashamed to admit this is one of my favorite verses in Scripture.  It vividly proclaims the truth that God's enemies, including Satan himself, always hoist themselves upon their own petard, to borrow from Shakespeare.  "They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down: they have digged a pit before me, into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves" (Psalm 57:6).  Our foes are allowed by God to challenge us and even hurt us.  As with the Psalmist, our souls may be bowed down.  However, they cannot defeat us so long as walk with the risen Captain of our salvation.  As we trust the Lord Jesus Christ, our enemies end up falling into the pits they dug for us.  Or, hanging on the gallows they built for us.  Or, being bludgeoned by the cross that temporarily impaled our Savior, but will forevermore herald His victory.  Let Haman do what he will.  Mordecai will win.  He will be raised up in honor as the enemy is raised upon the gallows.  God Himself sees to that, and in this hour when perhaps he allows the wicked to do what they will.  But a little while, and they will fall or they will hang.  The cross is empty, the Heavenly throne is occupied, and Jesus Christ is Lord.  This is our hope and assurance.  Yes, Haman always ends us hanging on the gallows he prepared for Mordecai.

"And though they found no cause of death in Him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of Him, they took Him down from the tree, and laid Him in a sepulchre. But God raised Him from the dead."
(Acts 13:28-30)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.
(John 6:35)


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

"Esther" Part 3 "Do... Do Not"

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


Part 3

"Do… Do Not"

   The Jewess Esther became the unlikely queen of a pagan empire because Vashti the previous queen disrespected her king.

   "On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded… to bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to show the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on. But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king's commandment" (Esther 1:10-12).

   In the process of time, Esther took Vashti's place though the agency of her cousin Mordecai's working on her behalf.  Or more literally, Esther became queen through God's working in Mordecai.  This illustrates one of Scripture's most fundamental themes, namely, the replacement of flesh as authority with the Spirit of Christ.  We see countless examples of this Divine process throughout Old Testament and New, the most important of which involves "the first man Adam" and "the last Adam" (the Lord Jesus).

   "The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening Spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural (fleshly); and afterward that which is spiritual" (I Corinthians 15:45-46).

   The first man Adam plunged himself and his progeny into sin and its cruel mastery.  Like Vashti, he disrespected and dishonored his King.  "In Adam all die" (I Corinthians 15:22).  The "second Man", as Paul called the Lord Jesus, plunged Himself into a lifetime of challenge, sorrow, and death for the purpose of redeeming us from our sin.  He perfectly obeyed His King, that is, His Father.   As with Esther and Vashti, but of far greater significance, the spiritual Lord Jesus replaced the fleshly Adam as the man who would have dominion.  All who trust and submit to Christ are enlivened by "the quickening Spirit", and will thus reign with Him as His overcoming sons and daughters (II Timothy 2:12).

    In our own lives, countless opportunities to replace flesh with spirit present themselves.  Through the Holy Spirit, we "put on the Lord Jesus Christ", and thereby "put off" the ways of fallen Adam (Romans 13:14; Ephesians 4:22).  Indeed, overcoming temptation always involves a "do" making possible a "do not".  Rather than curse those who curse us, we bless them.  Instead of lying, we speak the truth.  In place of bitterness, we pray for those who hurt us (Luke 6:28; Ephesians 4:25).  Or, as Paul commanded, "Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16).  We "walk" in order to "not fulfill".  The queen's throne must not remain empty, as it were, but rather be occupied by Esther.  We put on the Lord and His way in order to put off the lust of the flesh.

   As with Mordecai, our Lord works in us to install His spiritual royalty upon the throne by replacing the rebellious fleshly queen.  Our flesh has no business governing our lives.  "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from sin and death" (Romans 8:2).  Thus, we see temptation as opportunity to "put on" our blessed Lord's character, nature, and way.  Thereby, we put off the ways of the flesh, and thereby our rightful King governs our lives by His Spirit, and in His grace, love, righteousness, and faith.

"But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him."
(Colossians 3:8-10)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.
(John 6:35)


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"Esther" Part 2 "For Such a Time As This"

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


Part 2

"For Such a Time As This"

Perhaps for such a time as this, 
our Lord has brought you here,
His instrument of grace and peace,
His truth for all to hear.

Perhaps your sorrows are His way 
of bringing joy to others.
Perhaps your trials will be His means
of setting free your brother.

Perhaps your tears will water soil
long barren, hard, and dry.
Perhaps your years of pain and toil
will bring to others Christ.

Perhaps for such a time as this,
those in your world await
to see the Savior's faithfulness
as only you display.

Perhaps for such a time as this,
for such a time as this…

"Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"
(Esther 4:14)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.
(John 6:35)


Monday, September 26, 2016

"Esther" Part 1 “The Light of the World"

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


Part 1

"The Light of the World"

    The book of Esther contains some of the richest typology of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Bible, along with allegory that alludes to our Heavenly Father's historical and prophetic working in Israel and the nations.  Other spiritual truths fill its pages.  The book of Esther, however, never directly mentions God.

    "Search the Scriptures…  they are they which testify of Me" (John 5:39).

   What other author would pen a self revelation, but omit mention of himself?  Only the God of Scripture could inspire such a work that so vividly reveals His character, nature, and way without overt reference to His own presence and involvement.  This speaks to the behind the scenes working of our Lord in our present existence.  Most of His doings take place in ways we cannot begin to see or understand.  "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33).  Indeed, whenever we wonder if our Heavenly Father is working in our hearts and lives, remembering the book of Esther reminds us that much - most! - of His loving involvement proceeds without fanfare, and without even mention.  

   Esther became queen of a kingdom "for such a time as this", that is, for the rescue of Israel (Esther 4:14).  She didn't know it, and required her cousin Mordecai to inform her of God's doings in her life.  Mordecai opened her eyes, encouraging and challenging her heart to see the Lord's presence and working.  Herein we see one of primary reasons God sent the Lord Jesus into the world.  "I am the light of the world… No man hath seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared (revealed) Him" (John 8:12; 1:18).  In Christ, people with eyes to see discover how pervasively God's involvement fills the world.  Just as Mordecai opened Esther's eyes, so does the Lord Jesus illuminate the hearts of all who truly see Him for who and what He is.  His very name - Emmanuel - means "God with us" (Matthew 1:23).  To know the Lord Jesus thus means that we realize God had sent us to our particular kingdom "for such a time as this".  Believers exist to fulfill God's purposes in our particular venue, circumstance, situation, and condition of life.  

    The book of Esther contains one of the greatest stories of Scripture, and of all literature.  More importantly, it contains the message of God's presence and involvement in ways we will miss unless our Mordecai, the Lord Jesus, reminds us of such grace.  Remembrance of Him illuminates, encourages, and challenges us to see the invisible, to hear the inaudible, to touch the unfelt, and to realize that "such a time as this" grants opportunity to participate in the fulfillment of God's purposes for His glory and the blessing of others.

"In Thy light shall we see light."
(Psalm 36:9)
"He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father."
(John 14:9)

Tomorrow: Part 2   "For Such a Time As This"

Weekly Memory Verse
    Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.
(John 6:35)


Friday, September 23, 2016

"One By One By One By One"

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

"Heart To Heart"

    When preaching and teaching, I attempt to make regular eye contact with every person in a congregation or class.  I visually scan the audience in the hopes of making a personal connection with each person, and because I want to view people in individual rather than collective terms.  

    "The very hairs of your head are all numbered" (Luke 12:7).

   I do not believe the Lord Jesus Christ ever saw a crowd in His earthly lifetime.  He rather viewed the throngs who followed and heard Him in the most personal terms.  Consider the episode wherein He was surrounded by people, but one woman's contact garnered His rapt attention.  "Who touched Me?"  (Luke 8:45).  This perplexed the disciples, who saw a crowd.  The Savior saw people, one by one by one by one.  In the case of the bleeding woman, the Lord Jesus felt the touch of one amid the thronging of a multitude.  I suspect also that whenever He spoke to many, every person who could see His eyes experienced the aforementioned connection as He viewed not a crowd, but rather gazed into the hearts of a collection of beloved individuals.  Everybody mattered to the Lord Jesus.  Those willing to come and to listen would find the Savior speaking as to one rather than many.

   Scripture teaches that God weighs hearts rather than counts heads.  "The Lord weigheth the spirits" (Proverbs 16:2).  He possesses the spiritual capacity to relate to us all as if we alone exist.  Moreover, He makes contact of a far greater nature than merely eye to eye.  Heart to heart rather directs the vision and focus of God.  We do well to remember this when we find ourselves among many who are actually one, and then another, and another.  No crowds exist in the sight of God, and no numbering of heads.  He rather counts the individual hairs of one by one by one by one, and weighs the hearts.

"Thou God seest me".
(Genesis 16:13)

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



Thursday, September 22, 2016

"Less Is More"

"Less Is More"

    "There sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him" (Acts 20:9-10).

    Luke's intriguing account of Eutychus and the Apostle Paul never fails to remind me of what a seminary professor told his class: "If you can't say it in 20 minutes, boys, what makes you think you can say in 40?!"

    Thankfully, the Apostle Paul bore apostolic authority as given by God.  He thus restored Eutychus to life and health.  I often wonder about the purpose of this story as it exists in Scripture.  Is this a warning against long preaching?  I personally take it that way.  Limited attention span is a reality, particularly regarding the conveying, receiving, and processing of information.  Not matter how well or how forcefully one communicates (or how loudly!), the focus of congregations and audiences begins to wane if the speaker carries on too long.  Thankfully, this rarely leads to the untimely death of young men, as in the case of Eutychus.  This is good because in this present age, no one bears the aforementioned authority whereby victims of a longwinded pulpiteer can be raised from the dead.  :):)

   I share this not really to comment on preaching duration, but rather to illustrate the truth that in much of our Christian life, less is more.  Our Heavenly Father far more concerns Himself with quality than quantity.  On two occasions, a few loaves and fish fed multitudes (Matthew 14:15-21; 15:32-39).  The Lord pared down Gideon's fighting force until so few remained that victory depended on the arm of the Lord rather than the efforts of the flesh (Judges 7:1-7).  Moreover, eleven men, none of whose careers involved communication, turned the world upside down by preaching the Gospel because they lived three years with one Lord Jesus Christ, and were thereafter inhabited by one indwelling Holy Spirit.  As the saying goes, God and one constitute a majority.

   We often feel ourselves to need more than we have in order to accomplish the Lord's will.  If this is true, He will provide more as we trust and submit to Him.  However, in many circumstances, the Lord operates by the "less is more" principle.  I try to remember that this is true about most sermons, and is certainly true about those times when things must be done for God's glory, but the supply seems low.  This is never really the case, and as we trust and submit ourselves to our Lord, a few loaves and fish, or three hundred men, or eleven disciples, or a shorter sermon that doesn't kill anybody (!) will prove more than adequate as the power of God reveals more in less.

"God hath chosen… things which are not to bring to nought things that are."
(I Corinthians 1:27; 28)

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

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

"Better To Trust"

"Better To Trust"

    "I remembered God and was troubled" (Psalm 77:3).

    Normally we encourage each other and ourselves to remember God in order to be comforted.  However, thoughts of the Lord discomfited the Psalmist because he felt as if the Lord had turned away from Israel.

    "Will the Lord cast off forever?  And will He be favorable no more?  Is His mercy clean gone for ever?  Doth His promise fail forevermore?  Hath God forgotten to be gracious?  Hath He in anger shut up His tender mercies?" (Psalm 77:7-9).

    David found thoughts of God troubling because he did not understand well enough the ways of his Lord.  Even more, he was tempted to question God's heart.  Trouble does this, or rather our spiritual enemies seek to use trouble to cast doubts in our mind regarding our Heavenly Father's faithfulness.  His determinations and allowances of difficulty often transcend our ability to understand.  "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord" (Isaiah 55:8).  Try as we might, some challenges defy any comprehension regarding the specific and personal reasoning behind this sorrow, or that loss, or some pain that brings us to our knees.

    Speaking of that - of being brought to our knees - the Psalmist fell thereupon and found his answer not in understanding, but in the remembrance of God's faithfulness.

    "I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High. I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember Thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all Thy work, and talk of Thy doings" (Psalm 77:10-12).

   It is good to understand the ways of God when we can.  "With all thy getting, get understanding" (Proverbs 4:7).  It is even better to trust the heart of God when we cannot understand.  "Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous" (Psalm 112:4).  Glories of our Lord's heart shine forth in the night seasons that cannot be seen in the light of noonday.  Temptations to discouragement during times of troubled perplexity thus offer opportunities for faith unavailable when our Father's ways seem understandable.  As the old saying beautifully encourages, "When we cannot understand God's hand, let us trust His heart".  We will find that Heart perfectly faithful even when the Hand challenges our ability to comprehend.  The Psalmist realized such truth by remembering, mediating upon, and talking of those Divine workings and doings he could understand.  Thereby the faithfulness of God arose as a light in the darkness, and as assurance in uncertainty.  As it still does, for you and for me as we look for the rising Light in our own times of seeming darkness.

"Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, for He is faithful that promised."
(Hebrews 10:23).
Weekly Memory Verse
    "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."
 (Psalm 46:1)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

“The Possessor"

"The Possessor"

    In a coffeeshop today, I heard a song in which a pop singer intoned, "It's my life and I'll do what I want to!"  Sorry, buddy.  Not the case!

   "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world, and they that dwell therein" (Psalm 24:1).

   Everything in creation belongs to the One who created it, including every human being who has lived, or ever will live.  Of course, this does not mean that every person knows the Lord in His redeeming grace, or that every person obeys the will of God.  Far from it.  However, the Lord is "the Possessor" of all, even if they reject His very existence and seek to run as far and as fast as they can from the reality in which they "live and move and have their being" (Genesis 14:22; Acts 17:28).  God fits even the wicked into the fulfillment of His eternal purpose in Christ.  The Lord who "worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" is more than able to use unbelievers as the dark backdrop for His light, or as an agent of chastening for His children, or to reveal Himself as a God of both mercy and justice (Ephesians 1:11).  People can run, but they cannot hide from the One wise enough and involved enough to coordinate their existence into His purposes.

   It's not our life, and we don't really do what we want to do.  This includes the wicked.  Unbelievers are governed by sin as their master, in both heart and in flesh (John 8:34).  Thus, they exist as puppets of the world, the devil, and the flesh.  Again, however, their unrighteous doings flow with the current of the Divine river of history.  This does not mean that sin is God's will, or that He determines unbelief and disobedience.  He does not (James 1:13).  We commit grievous and dangerous doctrinal error when we assign the cause of sin to God in any manner whatsoever.  However, just as the worst sin of history - the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus on the cross - served as the very means of our redemption,  so does God fit all things together for the glory of His Son and the benefit of those who love Him.  We live in His creation.  He made us, sustains our being, and we belong to Him whether we believe it or not, or like it or not.  His eternal purpose in Christ will be fulfilled, and all things and all people will have played a part, as coordinated by the Lord.  This truth promises a joyful role both now and forever as the trusting sons and daughters of "the Possessor of Heaven and earth".  And it warns of a role of misery for those who reject Him, perhaps in this life, but surely in the next.

"The LORD hath made all things for Himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil."
(Proverbs 16:4)

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

Monday, September 19, 2016



    An interesting, blessed, and challenging reality exists regarding the presence of God in the life of born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

    "I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20).
    "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).

    Always with us.  "Very" with us in trouble.  Thus, our potential for experiencing the Lord's abiding presence seems to be more accessible in the difficulties of life than in the delights.  This does not mean we do not rejoice in Him when the waters of our pond sparkle in stillness.  It does mean, however, that our natural tendency to view trouble as jeopardy rather than opportunity can be overcome as we walk in the Truth of "very present".

    This explains one of the Apostle Paul's more intriguing affirmations. "I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong" (II Corinthians 12:10).  Note Paul's language: "I take pleasure in infirmities…"  The Apostle felt what we all feel when trouble comes.  Of his challenges, he confessed, "In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness… who is offended and I burn not?" (II Corinthians 11:27; 29).  The flesh of even the most godly believer recoils when trouble arrives at the doorstep, including the threshold of our revered brother of old.  However, by the time Paul wrote II Corinthians, he knew the Lord and His Word well enough to "take pleasure" in difficulty.  He chose to believe in the "very present" dispensation of God's presence that transcends our capacity for experiencing our Lord on mountaintops and the aforementioned still waters.  "For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion: in the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me; He shall set me up upon a rock" (Psalm 27:5).

   I would be less than honest if I did not admit that I find this a difficult subject about which to write.  A dear friend called as I worked on this message.  I told him the theme, and we both agreed that the truth profoundly challenges all of us.  Again, we gratefully rejoice in the pleasant times, as well we would when our Heavenly Father graces us with His presence in the good gifts He gives.  Moreover, we don't go looking for trouble.  But it's coming, to one degree or another, and in forms both expected and unexpected.  Most importantly, with it comes the "very" presence of God.  So, we  join Brother Paul in the "taking" of pleasure when difficulty comes our way.  We choose to believe that the Word of God is true, the Heart of God is near (very near), and the hand of God is active on our behalf.  We may not immediately see the obvious manifestation of such grace.  We certainly will not feel it.  But it will be there because He will be there.  He will "very" be there.  Indeed, the pleasure we take in such challenge involves the confidence of conviction rather then the fickleness of feeling.  The Psalmist wrote of such grace and such faith regarding the presence of God, and we close in the remembrance that our Father offers to us the pleasure of His presence on blessed mountaintops and in dark valleys...

"In Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore."
(Psalm 16:11)

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

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Dear Orange Moon Friends


   I became a born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ forty one years ago today, on September 17, 1975.  I've thought a lot about the anniversary in the last few days, primarily in terms of all I would have missed had I never come to know the Lord.  That includes just about everything and everyone in my life.  First and foremost, I would have not known the glorious presence of the Lord Jesus in this life and forevermore.  "In Thy presence is fullness of joy.  At Thy right hand, there are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11).  That's a horrifying prospect to consider.  However, I would also have missed being blessed with nearly all the people in my life.  My wife Frances and I met in church, which led to our life together, including our children and grandchildren.  I can't imagine having lived without such indescribably wondrous gifts to my heart.  Moreover, I would have missed nearly all the friends in my life, the vast majority of whom are believers I met because I became a Christian.  Another terrible thought to postulate.

   This leads to grateful thoughts about all of you who read these devotionals.  I consider you to be friends, as well as brothers and sisters in Christ.  Many of you I consider close friends because you have been kind enough to respond to the messages, leading to regular fellowship of heart to heart.  And with some of you, this has become a face to face experience.  Again, I've thought to myself in the last few days, "What if I had never known the people who read the Orange Moon devotionals?"  I literally shudder at the thought!  So, please know that on this day when I gratefully consider the glories I have known in these forty one years, and what it would have been like to have missed them, you are all among the gifts for which I can never offer enough gratitude.  I thank the Lord with all my heart, and I thank you.

   "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now" (Phillipians 1:3-5).


Friday, September 16, 2016

“The One or the Nine?"

"The One or the Nine?"

    "As He entered into a certain village, there met Him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: and they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when He saw them, He said unto them, Go show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed?  But where are the nine?  There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And He said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole" (Luke 17:12-19).

   Healing from leprosy occurred in the ten "as they went".  Christ's declaration of wholeness graced the one after he gave thanks.  Indeed, the Lord Jesus Christ healed the physical infirmities of multitudes during His earthly ministry.  How many of those of those so blessed truly came to know Him?  Scripture does not provide the answer, but the account of the lepers indicates that the percentage might be quite low.  The consideration challenges us to join the one who "returned to give glory to God" in the knowledge that most people receive the Lord's good gifts with no acknowledgement to Him whatsoever.  "He giveth to all life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:25).

   What caused the one leper to return?  The answer to that question is far above the paygrade of human minds, particularly my own.  I don't concern myself with such mystery, but rather seek to respond to the plainly understood issue that presents itself on the doorstep of my heart.  In this day, will I gratefully join the one in his return to the feet of the Lord Jesus, falling before Him in amazed gratitude?  Or will I blindly and blithely receive God's good gifts and then go on my way with the nine, giving little or no thought to the Lord's abundant graciousness?  While I be merely healed, as it were?  Or will I be made whole by giving thanks?

   The heart always constitutes the main issue our our lives.  "The Lord looketh on the heart… Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life" (I Samuel 16:7; Proverbs 4:23) .  The body matters, and God concerns Himself with every aspect of our being.  "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Thessalonians 5:23).  However, great and good things can happen in soul and body without the spirit being touched.  This was the case with 90% of the lepers.  Only one returned to glorify God, to fall on his face, and to give the Lord Jesus thanks.  I know you join me in wanting to join the one.  And I know you join me in realizing that it is far too easy to join the nine.  Wholeness depends on our response, the fulfillment of heart found only in God's gracious blessing, and in our grateful acknowledgement thereof.

"Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be Thou my helper. Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: Thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness, to the end that my glory may sing praise to Thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto Thee forever."
(Psalm 30:10-12)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Ephesians 6:23)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

“The Current of Peace"

"The Current of Peace"

    Our spiritual enemies tempt us with notions of burdensome sacrifice regarding God's will.  Obedience to our Lord does involves sacrifice, of course.  Great challenge, difficulty, loss, and pain may indeed accompany faithfulness to Him.  However, they lie when they suggest that obedience to God is burdensome.

   "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).

    Our Lord motivates and empowers all genuine obedience to Himself.  Thus, the easy yoke and the light burden accompany every step we journey along the path of righteousness.  Even when great sacrifice is involved, including martyrdom, obedience to God as enabled by the Holy Spirit fills the heart with the peace of rest.  Indeed, if we could speak to those who through the centuries sacrificed their very lives for the Lord Jesus Christ, all would tell us that blessing rather than burden accompanied their earthly departure.  Obedience to the Lord, regardless of accompanying bodily or emotional suffering, graces the heart with the assurance of rightness and goodness.  "Burden?"  The martyrs would scoff.  "Blessing!" they would exult.  Or, as the disciples of old experienced when first they encountered opposition to their testimony of the Lord Jesus:  "They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name" (Acts 5:41).

    The devil, the world, and the flesh lie when they tempt us with any notion of God's will as being less than the true delight of our hearts.  We may suffer for our obedience to God, and the truth of the matter is that every act of faith and faithfulness involves sacrifice to one degree or another.  However, we swim with the current of peace only when we trust and obey the Maker and Master of the river.  Obedience to God, at whatever earthly cost, bestows Heavenly tranquility in the heart devoted and submitted to His will.  Any contrary notion proceeds from the father of lies himself, Satan, and from those who serve as his voices of delusion, deception, and discouragement.

"For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."
(I John 5:3-4)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Ephesians 6:23)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

“Good. Great. Chief."

"Good.  Great.  Chief."

    "The Lord is my shepherd" (Psalm 23:1).

    The New Testament refers to the Lord Jesus Christ as our Good Shepherd, our Great Shepherd, and our Chief Shepherd.

    "I am the Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep" (John 10:11).
    "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen" (Hebrews 13:20-21).
     "And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away" (I Peter 5:4).

    "Good" refers to the Lord's character, that is, the wonder of His loving, gracious, and merciful heart that led Him to the cross of Calvary for our sakes.  We begin here in the consideration of Christ's shepherding because Scripture emphasizes character above all else.  1 Corinthians 13 tells us that without love, we are nothing.  This would be true in God, were it possible for Him to be other than who He is.  Being precedes doing and position.  Indeed, consider the horror we would face if the Lord Jesus possessed greatness and occupied the role of Master apart from a heart of goodness.  We wouldn't want to exist were this the case.  Thankfully, Christ is the Good Shepherd whose nature of unselfishness governs all that He does and all that He is.  "God is love… Charity (love) seeketh not her own" (I John 4:8; I Corinthians 13:5).  Indeed, we do well to consider that our Good Shepherd was also "the Lamb of God" who died for ours sins (John 1:29). 

   Our Lord is also the Great Shepherd.  This points to His power whereby He works in His trusting children to "make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight".  Unlike human shepherds, the Lord Jesus not only commands His sheep to follow, He also provides His own strength and enabling for the journey.  "I can do all things through Christ which which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:19).  Our Shepherd dwells within His sheep through the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Thereby we experience wonders of greatness that cannot possibly originate in ourselves.  As the Apostle Paul wrote, "By the grace of God, I am what I am" (I Corinthians 15:10).  The Christian life is the life of Christ, the Great Shepherd who leads His sheep by walking in us and enabling us to live the life to which He calls us.  "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him" (I John 4:9).

    Finally, we humble ourselves before the Chief Shepherd.  We live in a creation of hierarchy wherein our Heavenly Father establishes many roles and ranks of authority under which we live our lives.  All bow before the Lord Jesus, to whom God gave "a Name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow of things in Heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:9-11).  Interestingly, our Chief Shepherd is also Himself under authority, being submissive to His Father - "My Father is greater than I… The head of Christ is God" (John 14:28; I Corinthians 11:3).  Thus, He exercises His "Chief" office in the humility of "Good" and the power of His Father's "Great".  This is a Lord, a Shepherd, to whom we can safely entrust our hearts and lives in this moment, this day, and forevermore.  Or, as our Good,  Great, and Chief Shepherd declared of His role in the lives of His sheep…

"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light."
(Matthew 11:28-30)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Ephesians 6:23)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

“Further, Deeper, Higher"

"Further, Deeper, Higher"

    Physiologists tell us that the older we get, the more we need to move in order to maintain both physical and mental health.  The same is even more true spiritually.

    "Exercise thyself rather unto godliness" (I Timothy 4:7).
    "The hoary (gray) head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness" (Proverbs 16:31).

    No resting upon laurels or resigning to the status quo exists in the Christian life.  Like elderly, but vigorous Caleb of old, challenges remain that must be conquered.  More importantly, our attitude must reflect our brother's bold request - "Give me this mountain!" (Joshua 14:6-12).  Thus, we go forth in confidence of God's leadership and strengthening throughout our earthly journey.  This does not preclude the normal physical and mental challenges we face as "the outward man perishes".  It does, however, promise that "the inward man is renewed day by day" as we walk with our Lord in the faith that anticipates the fulfillment of His promised and abiding presence.  "I am with you always, even unto the end of the world" (II Corinthians 4:16; Matthew 28:20).

   However well we presently know the Lord, we do not know Him well enough.  As an infinite Being, He forever beckons us to come further, dive deeper, and soar higher into Himself.  "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18).  Thus, each new day dawns with the promise of discovering the Person and Truth of the Lord Jesus Christ in greater measure and more intimate detail.  An open Bible, a prayerful heart, fellowship with other believers, and confident expectation prepare us for the journey of further, deeper, higher.  Thereby, we grow in both faith and faithfulness, and in the spiritual movement of heart and mind whereby we seek to exercise ourselves unto godliness for as long as our present lifetime endures.

"Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
(Philippians 3:12-14)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Ephesians 6:23)

Monday, September 12, 2016

“Loving God. Loving People"

"Loving God.  Loving People"

    The writer of Hebrews calls his readers to "let brotherly love continue" because it is possible that it may not (Hebrews 13:1).

    "Ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?" (I Corinthians 3:3).

    Both the Gospels and the epistles of the New Testament chronicle difficulties among believers regarding the love of Christ translating into our love for each other.  As a friend often wryly comments, "I understand completely that we are to love God.  He's perfect.  But loving imperfect people is a different matter altogether!"  It does feel that way at times, but the truth of the matter is that loving imperfect people constitutes a primary aspect of loving our perfect God.

    "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (I John 4:20).  
     "Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee an hungred, and fed Thee?  Or thirsty, and gave Thee drink?  When saw we Thee a stranger, and took Thee in?  Or naked, and clothed Thee?  Or when saw we Thee sick, or in prison, and came unto Thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me" (Matthew 25:37-40).

   Loving people involves obedience to the Lord's command that we "Love one another".  Obedience to the Lord's commands involves love for Him - "If ye love Me, keep My commandments" (John 15:17; 14:15).  Thus, must view people - imperfect as people are - as the tangible, hands on means of experiencing and expressing true devotion to God. Our love for Him exists as the reflected beam of His light of love directed toward us.  "We love Him because He first loved us" (I John 4:19).  The people in our lives who walk into the path of the reflected beam thus experience our love for God that becomes our love for them.  Again, we love Him by loving them.  Moreover, devotion to God means that we will love those whom He loves.  "The Lord is good to all… Let us do good unto all men" (Psalm 145:9; Galatians 6:10).

    Realizing and affirming the direct correlation between love for God and love for people greatly aids our self sacrificial dedication to our brothers and sisters in Christ, thereby making the continuance of "brotherly love" far more likely.  We love Him by loving them.  And we love them because our Lord loves them.  The indwelling Holy Spirit illuminates such Truth by His Word and then empowers the fruits thereof as we devote ourselves to our Heavenly Father through Christ.  We love a perfect God by loving imperfect people, just as He does.

"The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us."
(Romans 5:5)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Ephesians 6:23)

Friday, September 9, 2016

"They Spit In His Face"

(A repeat from 2010)

"They Spit In His Face"

    Many years ago, I sat in my car at my children's school, waiting for them to come out at the end of the day.  I heard a car approaching from behind.  When it pulled alongside me, the driver slowed down long enough for a young man to lean out the passenger side window and spit in my face.

    I felt stunned at first, and then angry beyond words.  I thought about shouting something at the car speeding away, but before a word could escape my mouth, I remembered words from Matthew's Gospel:  "They did they spit in His face" (Matthew 26:67)

   I cannot say that all the bad feelings went away instantly.  However, in that blessed moment, the situation changed.  I realized that while perhaps I didn't deserve to be spat upon by the young man, the truth of the matter is that in real terms, I deserve infinitely worse. I deserve God's wrath, and banishment from His presence forevermore.  Instead, the Lord Jesus Christ bore my condemnation.  He suffered my abuse, being utterly shamed, smitten, and forsaken on the cross of Calvary by both God and man. Thus, my Heavenly Father allowed me to experience a small sample of "the fellowship of Christ's sufferings" (Philippians 3:10).

   I still pray for that young man I would have loved to strangle had God left me to my fleshly devices and inclinations. I have no idea who he was, where he is now, or anything at all about him. I only know that he was a means by which God gave me an opportunity to remember the grace He bestowed upon me, and to "walk, even as He walked" (I John 2:6). I also believe that the Lord allowed the young man's sin so that I might pray that he would realize the Lord Jesus loves him enough to endure the indignity of spittle, taunts, thorns, nails, and a spear.  I hope to see the young man in Heaven someday, and if so, perhaps we will kneel together at the throne of the glorious and wonderful One of whom it is written, "Then did they spit in His face."

"Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
(Luke 23:34)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh. For the LORD shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken." (Proverbs 3:25-26).