Monday, October 31, 2016

"The Hurt of Love"

"The Hurt of Love"

     While lovingly concerned with our comfort, our Heavenly Father' primary attention concerns our character, namely, our conformity to the spiritual and moral image of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear Him" (Psalm 103:13).
    "We which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh" (II Corinthians 4:11).

   If it were possible for the cup of challenge, difficulty, and sorrow to pass from us in this lifetime, certainly our Lord would always prevent or deliver us from trouble.  Or, He would immediately apply the balm of complete comfort in our pains.  Presently, this is not possible.  We actually need pain during our earthly sojourn, in a myriad of emotional, physical, and even spiritual modes and measures.  "Before I was afflicted, I went astray.  But now, I have kept Thy Word" (Psalm 119:67).  Apart from difficulty, we would never have come to know the Lord, nor would a challenge free life lead to continuing to walk with Him.  Thus, we require blessing, which our Father joyfully administers whenever possible.  We also require buffeting, which our Father also administers, but certainly with no pleasure as He wields the necessary rod.

    Presently, character trumps comfort.  Love, the love of God, decrees such Divine devotion to our best interests.  Thus, when challenge lingers, or pain abides, or prayers seemingly go unanswered, we can be sure that we are loved no less than in those hours of deliverance, healing, and obvious Heavenly response.  Perhaps we are loved even more.  The Father who works toward our eternal blessedness in Christ declares it to be His "good pleasure" to give us the kingdom (Luke 12:32).  Presently, however, He must also give to us the challenge that carves His Son's character upon the slate of our hearts.  It hurts, doubtless both ourselves and Him.  We might consider it the hurt of love, known by both the recipient and the Administrator of purposes that will ultimately give to us the best gift we could ever receive, namely, likeness to Christ.

"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."
(James 1:2-4).

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

Saturday, October 29, 2016

“Faithful and True" "60"

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

"Faithful and True"


     The day is here.  60.  I have never focused on age, but this birthday seems significant.  Or perhaps I have succumbed a bit to the temptation to make it more than it is.  Indeed, as a believer in the eternal existence of all conscious beings, I know that time does not actually constitute the importance we often grant to its inexorable passage of moments.

    "We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (II Corinthians 4:18).

    I will choose to trust, to rest, and to rejoice in this day, as I hope to do in all others.  I will also seek to give thanks for the innumerable gifts graciously bestowed by the Lord in these six decades (including those of you who read these messages).  I awoke to this beginning of another epoch in time with fresh determination to seek quality, God's Christ-centered standard of life and being, in all things.  I have long believed in the principle that "Less is more".  I hope I have walked in the light of that Truth to some degree.  I am sure I have not done so in far too many ways and means.  Thus, this new day and new time of life seems to offer a fresh start on the path of righteousness whereupon how we do what do is every bit as important - even more - than what we do.  "Whatsoever ye do... do all to the glory of God" (I Corinthians 10:31).  

   I am blessed to feel far better physically at 60 than I did at 30.  Of far greater importance, I am much more confident of God's loving presence, involvement, and faithfulness than I would have dreamed possible half a lifetime ago.  I do not know how this transmits to the Lord's evaluation of my own faithfulness.  I join the Apostle Paul in that regard.  "I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord" (I Corinthians 4:3-4).  But this I know after all these years: the God and Father of our Lord Jesus is trustworthy beyond every conception and imagination our minds and hearts can ponder.  He is perfect in His way and in His doings.  He cannot lie.  He cannot fail.  And He cannot be other than who He is.  If 60 years on the planet have taught me anything, it has taught me that.  Of all that I could have learned during these times, these days of my life, I can think of nothing that comes close to the blessing of this ongoing discovery of God's good and perfectly faithful heart.   And I hope in whatever time the Lord grants to me beyond these days, I will learn of such wonder far more.

"My times are in Thy hand."
(Psalm 31:15)
"And 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)

Friday, October 28, 2016

"The Puzzle of Our Lives"

"The Puzzle Of Our Lives"

     I am currently attempting to solve a jigsaw puzzle.  It depicts a nice scene of a cottage in the woods, or at least the cover portrait offers that view.  Presently, the actual puzzle looks like a half finished border, along with 270 differently shaped pieces of cardboard imprinted with a wide variety of colors and features.  I spend on average about 5 minutes a day on the project, so I suspect that at some point in the 21st century, the puzzle on the table will match the picture on the box.  Maybe.

    No uncertainty, however, characterizes the puzzle of our lives as God somehow coordinates every aspect of our experience into His eternal purpose in Christ.  "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).  I find this one of the most astonishing truths about our Heavenly Father.  How does He possibly fit together all things in one person's life for His glory and the individual's benefit?  This alone would be wondrous beyond imagining.   That the Lord perfectly coordinates all things in the lives of millions and billions, well, I don't even try to imagine that.  I just bow my heart, and frequently my knees to acknowledge His indescribable wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and minute involvement in His creation.

    I also find find a great measure (an immeasurable measure, actually) of assurance in this truth of the Great Coordinator's working of all things together for good in the lives of those who love Him.  Like the present condition of my puzzle, a lot of things can seem really ill-fitting and disjointed as we look at the unfinished project.  How will this fit?  Why did that happen?  Can the Lord really effect good from the disappointments, heartaches, and even heartbreaks of our lives?  He can, and will.  "His way is perfect" declared David (II Samuel 22:31).  This includes coordination of all things that happen in creation, first, for the eternal purpose of glorifying His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and then for the benefit of all who know, love, trust, and devote themselves to Him.  Our Father cannot fail.  He cannot leave one piece of the puzzle of your life and mine out of the finished product of conforming us to the image of the Lord Jesus (the "good" to which Romans 8:28 refers, as Romans 8:29 affirms).

    I don't know if I will finish my puzzle.  I am determined to do so, but time, inclination, and impatience might scrap the project.  Hope not, but it could happen.  Conversely, nothing can hinder the living and true God from fulfilling His eternal purpose in Christ.  Let us apply this to our particular lives, taking the comfort, encouragement, and joy such Truth elicits.  "All things together for good" - the good of our spiritual and moral conformity to the Lord Jesus.  This puzzle, presently composed of untold trillions of human details, will be finished in perfection.  The Great Coordinator presently works to put every piece into its place…

"God… worketh all things after the counsel of His own will."
(Ephesians 1:3; 11)
"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is."
(I John 3:2)

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

Thursday, October 27, 2016

(Alt. 30075 feet) "A Greater Law"

 (Alt. 30075 feet)…

"A Greater Law"

    I write this on Thursday, October 27th, during my first flight ever, as members of our family join me during a brief vacation to celebrate my upcoming 60th birthday.  I know, I know, I'm way too old for a first flight, but there's just never seemed to be a need to travel by plane.  I like driving, and seeing the sights at ground level.  I must admit, however, it's really nice to see those same sights, but from 4-5 miles in the air!  And that takeoff was much better than any amusement park ride I've ever experienced (and without nausea!).

    I write because the occasion provides opportunity to consider one of my favorite passages of Scripture, along with one of my favorite illustrations regarding God's truth in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Indeed, I've wanted to write the following from an airplane in flight for decades.

    "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit" (Romans 8:2-4).

    The law of gravity that presses objects toward the earth did not cease to exist when our plane took off.  Instead, the laws of aerodynamics temporarily overcame gravity for the purpose of lifting the craft from the ground.  Furthermore, the laws of propulsion move the plane forward, presently at a speed of 578 mph.  For the present, the aircraft overcomes gravity by forces powerful enough to keep it in flight until we reach our destination.

   In the same manner, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus overcomes "the law of sin" that still inhabits the earthly members and faculties of born again believers in the Lord Jesus. 

     "I delight in the law of God after the inward man, but I see another law warring in my members… So then, with the mind, I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh, the law of sin" (Romans 7:23; 25).   

     God does immediately glorify or perfect us when we trust in the Lord Jesus.  He rather spiritually births us, and then institutes a lifelong process of growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus (John 3:7; II Peter 3:18).  The "law" of our Lord's indwelling character resides within us in the person of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Thereby the law of sin in our flesh can be overcome as we trust and submit ourselves to our Heavenly Father.  The overcoming is temporary in the sense that we must consistently respond to the Lord and His truth if we are to consistently experience the power of a law far greater than the law of sin.  Just as the crew of the plane must engage it's physical potential to fly, so much believers engage our Christ-enabled spiritual faculties to overcome temptation.  Thus, the principles of gravity, aerodynamics, and propulsion that govern flight beautifully depict the dynamic process whereby believers "walk in the spirit" and overcome the inclinations of our flesh (Galatians 5:16).

   It thrills me to write this while flying, just as much as the flying itself!  Indeed, we get to soar in this way every day as temptation challenges by tempting the law of sin in our members.  Through Christ, and by His Spirit and Word, we can overcome the inclinations of our earthly frames and faculties.  A greater law than the law of sin indwells us, enabling us to take off in faith and obedience.  I've wanted to write this while flying since realizing the blessed promise of Romans 8:2-4.  Hereafter, I look forward to remembering the experience as an encouragement and challenge to realize and apply the greater law, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, whereby we may soar when tempted...

"They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles."
(Isaiah 40:31) 
"Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world."
(I John 4:4)

Weekly Memory Verse
    The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made free from the law of sin and death.
(Romans 8:2)



     The Lord's transformation of water into wine as His first miracle foreshadows the entirety of His redeeming work on our behalf (John 4:1-11).  He changes the ordinary into the extraordinary as we trust Him, or the natural into the supernatural, the earthly into the Heavenly, the fleshly into the spiritual.  The transcendance begins in salvation as the Lord births a spiritual being from that which had heretofore been merely earthly.  "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit, and that which is born of the flesh is flesh" (John 3:6).  Where once our innermost being existed as merely human, now we are human as inhabited and empowered by the Divine.  "He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit… ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you" (I Corinthians 6:17; Romans 8:9).

    We also live our lives in the experience of water, as it were, transformed into wine.  Relationship with God does not exempt us from the norm of human experience, including the challenges of difficulty, weakness, and sorrow that are "common to man" (I Corinthians 10:13).  The problems of life come at us no differently that they do to all others.  Moreover, they feel the same.  The difference, however, is that we do not face trouble alone.  "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).  When challenge comes our way, we initially respond based on the humanness of our particular personality, upbringing, and inclination.  As we walk in the light of Scripture and God's presence, however, we trust the Lord to overcome and transcend the mere earthly with Heavenly realities of wisdom, strength, provision, and protection.  In this sense, water becomes wine as God's Spirit infuses the ordinary with the extraordinary.  Of Christ, the prophet foretold, "The Spirit of the Lord us upon Me… to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He might be glorified" (Isaiah 61:1; 3).

   When the ordinary of life presents itself, let us see it as opportunity to know our Heavenly Father's extraordinary.  Indeed, the Lord Jesus did not cause wine to appear from nothing.  He used the most common substance on earth as the vehicle to produce something beyond the norm.  He does the same in countless ways in those who trust and submit unto Him through the Lord Jesus.  The first miracle of Christ led to millions upon millions of miracles produced by a similar process whereby our Lord overcomes rather than obliterates the earthly, the natural, the common, and the ordinary.  He births the spiritual, the supernatural, the uncommon, and the extraordinary from such unlikely sources, and thereby reveals His transcendent glory.

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us."
(Romans 8:35-37)

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

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

“Love - Bestowed, Directed, Kept"

"Love - Bestowed, Directed, Kept"

     First, God bestows His love within us when we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5).

     Then, we ask for guidance into the living experience of such goodness.  "And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God" (II Thessalonians 3:5).

    Finally, we engage ourselves by the Lord's leadership to maintain our hearts in the atmosphere and environment of His love.  "Keep yourselves in the love of God" (Jude 1:21).

    We require all three aspects of grace if we are to know the love of God in genuine experience and expression.  Without the Holy Spirit's presence in our hearts, we could never know the love of God, nor could we continue in His love.  Thus, we acknowledge that through Christ, we have received the very essence of our Lord's character and nature as His gift to our redeemed spirits.  This leads to prayer that we will realize the opportunities God gives us to respond to His love as revealed in our life and sphere of influence.  We then "keep ourselves in the love of God",  seeking to consistently exercise our faculties by loving Him and others as the Holy Spirit leads and enables.  "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us" (I John 4:11-12).  

    Let us rejoice that the love of God now resides in us.  Let us prayerfully seek the knowing of such grace for others and for ourselves along the pathways of our lives.  And let us do those things that maintain our hearts in the environment and atmosphere, as it were, of the love of God.  Thereby we experience the glory of being "partakers of the Divine nature", and then the Christ-enabled practitioners thereof (II Peter 1:4).  This is life.  This is truth.  This is love.  There is no other.

"I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them."
(John 17:26).
"This I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment."
(Philippians 1:9)
"And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men."
(I Thessalonians 3:12)

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

"Knowings... Doings"

"Knowings… Doings"

     Our memory verse for this week speaks to the truth that our faithfulness to God originates and proceeds from His faithfulness to us.

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

    We "hold fast" based upon "He is faithful".  More pointedly, our knowledge and understanding of the Lord's trustworthiness enables us to trust and submit ourselves unto Him.  By definition, those who "live by faith" must possess confidence in the One to whom we have committed our life and well being (Romans 1:17).  We cannot fulfill our calling if we do not well know the perfectly faithful nature of our Heavenly Father's heart and hand.  Thus, the Christian life involves the increasing discovery of who God is in character, nature, and way.  "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18).

   This truth establishes our walk with the Lord in the most personal terms.  Our doings proceed from our knowings, as it were.  To the degree we have discovered in both doctrinal and experiential terms the faithfulness of God will be the degree to which we trust and obey Him in the challenges of life.  We believe or disbelieve someone's word based upon how well we know the person.  In our relationship with the Lord, this determines how well we access by faith the power to walk in faithfulness to Him.  One of the saddest verses in Scripture involves the home country of the Lord Jesus Christ.  "He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief" (Matthew 13:58).  The Lord's fellow citizens did not trust Him because they did not really know Him.  Thus, He did not work because God directs His activity in human hearts and lives based upon grace received by faith.  Our Heavenly Father purposes our lives to profoundly relational.  If we do not experience His working, the problem can always be traced back to the failure to know Him well enough to trust and submit ourselves to Him in faith.  Always.  Again, to the degree we know our Lord and His faithfulness will be the degree to which we respond to Him in our own Christ-enabled faithfulness.

   Thus, we set forth in this moment and forevermore in the determination to better know our Lord and understand His truth.  This involves the directing of our hearts to Him in prayerful and personal terms, along with a Bible consistently read and the fellowship of like-hearted believers who encourage us in our quest to know the Lord.  We also live in much expectation that our Father desires that we know Him well enough to consistently trust and obey Him.  We therefore join the Psalmist in anticipation of God's working to reveal His faithful heart - "My expectation is from Him" (Psalm 62:5).  Such hope will not be unfulfilled as our Lord reveals the Trustworthiness that leads us to trust, and to the life - His life - that always flows from the fount of grace that leads to faith and faithfulness…

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

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

"A Lengthened Leash"

"A Lengthened Leash"

   "And the devil, taking Him up into an high mountain, showed unto Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto Him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If Thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be Thine" (Luke 5:4-6).

   In His response to the devil's temptation, the Lord Jesus Christ did not counter Satan's claim to the kingdoms of the world existing as his domain.  The kingdoms of the world have been "delivered" to the devil - temporarily - for God's good and ultimate purposes of installing His King, the Lord Jesus, upon the throne of the world that rightly belongs to Him.  "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:32-33).  In order to redeem the world and those inhabitants who look to Him in faith, the Lord in His wisdom grants the devil much latitude as "the god of this world" (II Corinthians 4:4).  Satan and his minions remain on God's leash, of course.  They can only do what He allows them to do, as in the case of Job (Job 1:12).  However, the leash sometimes seems quite long as our enemy foists his designs upon a world that "lieth in wickedness" (I John 5:19).

   Why would God work in such a seemingly mysterious way?  How does a lengthened devilish leash, as it were, fit in the Lord's purposes of redemption?  Several answers present themselves in the pages of Scripture.  For our present consideration, let us focus on one that seems quite obvious.  Namely, a world in which the devil has much sway is a world in which God's trusting children in Christ cannot become too comfortable.  We rather journey through this lifetime as "strangers and pilgrims" (Hebrews 11:3).  As the old hymn proclaims, "This world is not my home".  Without a devil plying his nefarious trade, wreaking havoc in countless ways of harm, we might forget this vital aspect of truth and reality.  Our flesh was born of the world's substance, and is strongly tempted to seek rest where no rest actually exists.  Having enemies helps us to recognize the fleeting nature of a world that "passeth away" (I John 2:17 ).  Without the devil, the world, and the flesh, none of us would realize the dire necessity of avoiding the planting of our stakes too deeply on shifting and doomed sand.

   Whenever we feel disturbed by the conditions and circumstances of "the kingdoms of the world" - or our own small domain - let us remember the one who for the moment finds much freedom in doing his dastardly deeds.  Indeed, we should expect the world to be the world because the devil is the devil.  However, let us far more remember the One who for His own good purposes, grants latitude to His enemy.  By and by, the leash shall be drawn in, and the beast destroyed.  "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever" (Revelation 20:10).   Until then, we remember the Master who lengthens the leash because He knows He can fit the beast's barking and even his biting into purposes of eternal glory.  In our case, we learn and remember that we do not presently live at home.  It's a good lesson, and one that must frequently be refreshed in our hearts and minds.  

"I have given them Thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world"
(John 7:14-16)

Weekly Memory Verse
   As for God, His way is perfect.
(II Samuel 22:31)




“A Child’s Prayer"

"A Child's Prayer"

     "God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food.  By His hand, we all are fed, give us Lord our daily bread, Amen."

    I suspect that many of us prayed this prayer, or a form of it, as children.  I did, and while I don't pray these words as an adult, I do think the simple offering presents profound Biblical truth to our hearts and minds.

    "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised" (Psalm 48:1).
    "Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good" (Psalm 135:3).
    "O give thanks unto the Lord, call upon His name" (Psalm 105:1).
    "Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing" (Psalm 145:16).
    "Give us this day our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11).

    The prayer first directs us to our Lord's ability - "God is great" - and to His willingness - "God is good".   Both truths must form and inform our confidence in the Lord.  Indeed, if God desired to act on our behalf, but did not possess the power, He could not be trusted.  If He had the power, but not the willingness, again, He could not be trusted.  Thankfully, "God is great, God is good".  He is both willing and able to be for us what we need Him to be, namely, the Giver of "every good gift, and every perfect gift" (James 1:17).

    These truths call us to gratitude - "Let us thank Him for our food".  We express this appreciation not as ritual, but as reality.  Spiritual understanding and sanity beckons us to realize the truth that regardless of how hard and how much we may work in order to eat, the true Source of every morsel originates in our Heavenly Father.  "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).  We play our role in the matter - "if any should not work, neither should he eat" - but we do so as the stewards of God's good grace that provides the motivation, wisdom, and energy for labor as we look to Him (II Thessalonians 3:10).  We give thanks accordingly, both for our food, and the heart fulfilling effort whereby we obtain and prepare our "daily bread".

   "We all are fed".  Food is God's gift to "every living thing".  We will never meet a human being whose sustenance does not proceed from his Creator and Sustainer.  Human beings - all of us - exist as the supplicants of God.  We may or may not know it.  But nothing changes the truth that if the Lord ever purposed to withhold His provision, we would immediately embark upon an involuntary crash diet.  This is important to remember as we seek to lead people to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  They exist as His beneficiaries, and it is not a bad idea to look a person in the eyes and say it respectfully, but directly, as the need demands.  "Friend, you've never eaten a morsel of food that did not grace your palate and belly as the gift of your Creator."

    "Give us this day our daily bread."  We do well to responsibly plan for tomorrow.  The Bible calls us to such preparation (Proverbs 24:30-34).  We do so, however, in the knowledge that the day in which we live is the only guaranteed earthly moment we have.  Moreover, we also realize that the Maker of this day is also its Source and Sustenance.  Thus, we seek the bread of now, from the great I AM.  We plan for tomorrow, but we do so in faith rather than fear.  This Truth enables us to enjoy God's provision for today, keeping our hearts focused on His present supply and our present responsibility to acknowledge and express appreciation for what we have in hand.  "Now thanks be unto God" (II Corinthians 2:14).

   "Amen."  So be it.  We can be sure of God's provision.  We cannot be so sure of our own acknowledgment thereof.  So, we encourage and challenge each other to remember, to realize, to rejoice, and to respond with praise and thanksgiving.  A child's prayer taught this Truth to many of us long ago.  It's light still shines, and will for as long as God remains faithful, and those who look to Him bow with simple, but profound offerings of gratitude.  "God is great, God is good…"

"What hast Thou that thou didst not receive?"
(I Corinthians 4:7)
"Suffer the little children to come unto Me... for of such is the kingdom of God."
(Mark 4:10)

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

Saturday, October 22, 2016

"Not Unto Us!"

(Today is our son Noah's birthday.  I'll be thinking much about him today, which got me to thinking about this message, a repeat from last year)

"Not Unto Us!"

     We know God's ultimate intention for creation, namely, the revelation and honor of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

    "Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to the good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in Heaven and which are on earth, even in Him" (Ephesians 1:9-10).

    Much mystery lies in this gathering of all things in the Lord Jesus.  What does this mean?  The consideration raises as many questions as it answers.  Of this, however, we can be sure: God's eternal purposes, determined from everlasting to everlasting, center in His Son.  Thus, if we are spiritually united to Christ, God's working in our lives always concerns the exaltation of the Lord Jesus.  We may not know how His determinations and allowances in our lives fit into the gathering of all things in Christ.  But we can be sure that they do.  "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose… to be conformed to the image of His Son" (Romans 8:28; 29).

    Times of difficulty and challenge tempt us to self-centeredness.  "Why is this happening to me?"  Without discounting our Heavenly Father's loving, personal involvement in our lives, we do well to replace our inquiry with the understanding that more significant matters occupy His primary emphasis.  He acts first and foremost to fulfill His aforementioned Christ-centered purpose.  If God were ever to sleep, we would not be the first thought on His mind when He woke up.  As we ponder such a decentralizing thought, we do well to breath a huge sigh of relief.  "I am not the center of the universe, and God doesn't view me as such!"  The Lord Jesus occupies this holy place, rightly, and He is more than able to fulfill the privileged responsibility of serving as the central theme of the Divine purposes.  Such a burden would overwhelm us, even as it actually does when we allow self-centeredness to govern our thoughts, attitudes, and ways.  "Why is this happening to me?"  The question never leads to peace.  Instead, tranquility of heart ensues when we affirm our Father's working to exalt and reveal His Son in us, even if we do not see how His actions result in such glory.

    Salvation in Christ progressively delivers us from the false and deadly notion that we are the sun of our personal solar system.  We are not.  Christ is the Son, and the scene of God's ultimate gathering of all things.  Breathe that aforementioned sigh of relief in the peace of such light, rejoicing that God loves us best by exalting the Lord Jesus in us.  He could give to us no greater gift as through Christ, He removes from our hearts the burden of self-centeredness we cannot bear.

"Not unto us, o Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy and for Thy truth's sake!"
(Psalm 115:1)
"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 1:18)
"God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a  name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in Heaven and things on earth, and things under the heart, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
(Philippians 2:9-11)

Weekly Memory Verse
   As for God, His way is perfect.
(II Samuel 22:31)


Friday, October 21, 2016

"His Working, Our Works"

"His Working, Our Works"

   The Christian life involves works.  But not our own.

   "He that hath entered into His rest, he also hath ceased from his own labors, as God did from His" (Hebrews 4:10).
   "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).
   "I also labor, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily" (Colossians 1:29).

   When the first man Adam sinned by responding to Satan's temptation to "be as gods", the human race entered into the delusion and illusion of seeking to live according to our own works (Genesis 3:5).  In real terms, we possess no such capacity.   We can scratch out an existence to one degree or another during our earthly lifetime.  However, this does not constitute life, according to God's definition.  "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Proverbs 14:12).

    Conversely, we can follow the path paved by the Lord Jesus Christ during His earthly lifetime.  

    "I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. I can of mine own self do nothing" (John 5:19; 30).
    "The Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works" (John 14:10).

    Those who trust the Lord Jesus seek to live according to His pattern of looking to Another for life and enabling.   "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).  Before our Savior died for us, He showed what it means to live as a human being in accordance with truth and reality.  The Lord Jesus did not relinquish His deity when He became human.  However, He did not live by the capacities of His own Divine nature. He rather trusted in His Father's wisdom and enabling, as revealed by the indwelling Holy Spirit.  He worked, but the works originated in His Father.  Moreover, our Lord truly lived because He trusted in Heavenly enabling to live an earthly life.  This alone constitutes genuine life that produces abiding works, as empowered by God.  The Apostle Paul prayed accordingly, that the Colossians believers might be "strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power" (Colossians 1:11).  We do well to pray that same for each other and for ourselves so that we might "work the works of God" (John 6:28)

"To live is Christ."
(Philippians 1:21)

Weekly Memory Verse
   As for God, His way is perfect.
(II Samuel 22:31)




Thursday, October 20, 2016



   The best way to know ourselves involves the knowledge of God.  He originally made us in His image for the purpose of reflecting His person, character, nature, and way.  He made us to be mirrors of Himself.  The entrance of sin into the world gravely damaged this primary reason for humanity's being.  In Christ, however, God begins a redeeming work in all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ that will ultimately result in our conformity to the spiritual and moral image of our Maker.  "When He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (I John 3:2).

   Mirrors exist to reflect the image of things other than themselves.  We exist to "bear the image of the Heavenly" (I Corinthians 15:49).  God made us as conscious beings who have a role of response to Him regarding how well we serve as reflections of His Person.  This involves the knowledge of who He is, and the knowledge of who we are.  The former comes first.  Since He is the object that casts the reflection, as it were, we must increasingly discover His character and way if we are to accurately fulfill our Image-reflecting reason for being.  First, we must know that this why we exist.  Then we must grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus in order to faithfully "walk even as He walked" (I John 2:6).  Thereby He engages our "fearfully and wonderfully made" human faculties for their primary purpose of displaying God's fearful and wonderful eternal being (Psalm 139;14).  Whether they realize it or not (and most often they likely won't), others should see the Creator in the particular aspect of creation we are.  Our attitudes, words, deeds, and relating to people serve as the lamps of His Light when the Spirit of God ignites our human faculties, and then sends us forth to illuminate the darkness of a fallen world.  "The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord" (Proverbs 20:27).

   The truth of our existence as mirrors beckons us to look upward, outward, and away from ourselves if we are to accurately know ourselves.  Mirrors concern themselves with the image they bear, seeking to absorb the image they must reflect, and then to send it forth in accurate display.  Theology, the knowledge of God, precedes anthropology, the knowledge of humanity.  In fact, the study of God constitutes the only way we can rightly study humanity.  I will never know myself while seeking to know myself.  Such discovery only results from seeking to know the Image I exist to bear.  Blessed relief descends upon those who devote themselves to this reality of who God is, and who we are in relationship to Him.  He is the Image.  We are His mirrors.  Only in the light of such Truth can we know Him, and ourselves.

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

Weekly Memory Verse
   As for God, His way is perfect.
(II Samuel 22:31)




Wednesday, October 19, 2016

“Angels - For Good Or For Ill”

"Angels - For Good Or For Ill"

   Scripture identifies three primary angels, Lucifer (Satan), Michael, and Gabriel.  They represent a host of spiritual beings that number at the very least in the hundreds of millions (Revelation 5:11).  Created by God, they exist to serve Him, and also to function as "ministering servants, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation" (Hebrews 1:14).  Two of the angels, Michael and Gabriel, remain faithful to this calling, while Lucifer long ago rebelled in pride and delusion.  Interestingly, the Bible seems to indicate that the angelic population reflects the same percentage of faithful and unfaithful angels as 1/3 of the spiritual host followed Satan in his rebellion (Revelation 12:4).

   Michael functions as what we might consider a warrior angel.  He appears in Scripture on three occasions, always fighting and contending for God and His people (Daniel 10:13; 21; 12:1; Jude 1:9; Revelation 12:7).  Gabriel functions as a communication angel.  The Bible's four references to Gabriel find him conveying news, knowledge, and understanding (Daniel 8:16; 9:21; Luke 1:19; 26).  Of Lucifer, we find him throughout Scripture as the enemy of God and His people.  He seems to have been created as an angel devoted to the revelation of God's goodness and greatness, perhaps serving as the intermediary of grateful praises and adoration directed to His Maker and Lord (Ezekiel 28:12-14).  He fell from this high calling, somehow coming to believe that he himself originated the light and glory that shined within and through him (Ezekiel 28:17).

   This is written as general information about a host of beings of which know some, but in real terms, not that much.  We are not meant to know much, of course.  Angels, while much involved in our lives for good or ill, exist as invisible and largely unknown influences.  Michael and his host may fight much for us as the aforementioned ministering servants of believers.  We won't know it, however, and it's likely good that we don't!  Gabriel and his legion may still aid our understanding of God's communication, but we will not realize his role in any direct sense.  Of Lucifer, well, we know much more about his involvement, and are "not ignorant of his devices" (II Corinthians 2:11).  Still, we know little of the devil's machinations in real terms.  Angels greatly impact our lives, again, for our benefit and our harm.  God purposes, however, that we do not direct overmuch attention to their existence and involvement.  Indeed, if this happened, we would end up worshipping them, even as the devil tempted the Colossian believers (Colossians 2:18).

   I try to remember to thank the Lord regularly for Michael, Gabriel, and their hosts.  These beings, greater than humanity in power, nevertheless serve us in humility and devotion to God (II Peter 2:11).  Thus, they reflect the character of their Creator, the Lord Jesus, who Himself "was made little lower than the angels" for the purposes of service to human beings (Hebrews 2:9).  Of the devil, God calls us to be wary of him (I Peter 5:8).  We recognize the involvement of Satan and demonic host in our lives, pray accordingly, and seek to counter his lies, as did the Lord Jesus, by remembering and affirming the truth of God's Word (Matthew 4:1-10).  We resist him by submitting ourselves to God (James 4:7).  We live in the presence of an unseen host of millions of beings devoted to our best interests, and to our harm.  I for one am glad for the aforementioned percentage of twice as many angels devoted to our service than our hurt.  More importantly, I seek to remember that all angels ultimately serve God's eternal purpose in Christ, whether happily or unhappily (Job 1:8; II Corinthians 12:7).  Yes, when considering angels in the light of Scripture, we focus upon their Maker as we offer gratitude and maintain vigilance.

"Bless the LORD, ye His angels, that excel in strength, that do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word."
(Psalm 103:20)
"For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness."
(II Corinthians 11:13-15)

Weekly Memory Verse
   As for God, His way is perfect.
(II Samuel 22:31)