Saturday, December 30, 2017

"Get Up, and Get Up Now!"

(Thanks to Fred C. for inspiration on this one.)

"Get Up, and Get Up Now!"

    I've had a couple of falls on wet sidewalks during our walks in the past few months.  The first took me down quite hard, splayed my left leg in an unsightly direction, and bounced my head on the hard concrete below (so far, the homeowner on whose sidewalk I fell has not filed a lawsuit for the destruction caused by my hard noggin!).  I thought I might be significantly injured in the first prone moments.  After arising to test things, however, I was fine, with nothing more than a sore knee for a few days.  I went down again the other day, but this time with less force and less concern that I might be injured.  I'm grateful for the Lord's safekeeping, and that neither spill kept me from the walks that Frances and I greatly enjoy.

   "The LORD upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down" (Psalm 145:14).

    The first fall intrigues me until this day.  Again, I lay a bit dazed, and most concerned that I might have seriously injured my left knee (that joint already having undergone the surgical knife due to a high school basketball injury).  My thought and motivation, however, directed me to get up as quickly as possible (I also had the same response after the lesser fall).  I wanted to know the extent of any damage.  Thankfully, the force of the fall did not correlate with the extent of any injury.  I was a bit surprised, but thrilled to know.  Moreover, I have no doubt our Heavenly Father graciously preserved me from ongoing consequences of the fall.

    All this causes me to think of falling in other ways.  Sometimes our spiritual enemies are allowed by God to knock us down.  This happens in countless ways as the world, the devil, and the flesh seek to discourage our walk with the Lord.  When we realize we are under such attack, we must arise as quickly as possible, remembering the Scriptural promises that assure us we can stand up to continue our walk with God in peace, assurance, and "the power that worketh in us" (Ephesians 3:20).  On other occasions, we cast ourselves down, as it were, distrusting and disobeying our Lord, and lying along the path of righteousness in full knowledge that we have sinned.  In such times, we must yet again arise as quickly as possible.  We do God, ourselves, and others no favors by wallowing in self pity when we yield to our flesh.  An honest, repentant heart is surely in order, and restitution toward people if any human being is hurt by our fall.  However, "Get up, and get up now!" would be the sound of the Holy Spirit's voice if we could audibly hear Him.  The atoning work and ongoing Heavenly intercession of the Lord Jesus makes possible our quick restoration from times of failure, enabling us to walk with our Heavenly Father so that we avoid other pitfalls along the way (Hebrews 7:25).

   "Get up, and get up now!"  The Spirit of God convicts rather than coddles when we fall.  He also encourages us by directing our attention to the Word of God's affirmation of the saving work of Christ from enemies, and from our own indiscretions.  I arose as quickly as possible to discover the consequences of my physical falls.  We must arise even more quickly when spiritual stumbles occur, discovering the power of the Lord Jesus to redeem, and the enabling of the Holy Spirit to restore us to a walk of faith and faithfulness.

"I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.  And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found."
(Luke 15:18-24)

Weekly Memory Verse
     For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6)

Thursday, December 28, 2017

“Greatly Beloved, Graciously Beckoned”

"Greatly Beloved, Graciously Beckoned"

    Although Daniel did not possess the full revelation of God's grace and truth in the Lord Jesus Christ, this "greatly beloved" Old Testament saint knew the heart of God's relating to us, and our response to Him (Daniel 10:11).  Indeed, Daniel was greatly beloved and graciously beckoned.

    "O my God, incline Thine ear, and hear; open Thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by Thy name: for we do not present our supplications before Thee for our righteousnesses, but for Thy great mercies" (Daniel 9:18).

   Daniel's affirmation of approach to God based upon the Lord's abundant mercy rather than the illusion of our own righteousness foreshadowed the New Testament illumination declared by the Apostle Paul: "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand" (Romans 5:1-2).  Such grace has always been the way to God.  However, in Christ, the Blood-stained path to the throne lies clearly before us.  We come by His merits, based upon His person and work, or we do not come at all.  On our best days of faith and faithfulness, we come by the Lord Jesus.  On our worst days of waywardness, we may still come if we approach with a humble, trusting heart fixed and focused on the Lord Jesus.  He is our way at all times, our fount of "great mercies" whereby our Heavenly Father receives us as "accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6).

   The consistent realization and availing ourselves of such grace nurtures genuine devotion to God and communion with Him.  "We love Him because He first loved us" (I John 4:19).  When we come by way of Christ and His atoning sacrifice, the Holy Spirit enables us to overcome both pride and despair.  We approach the aptly termed "throne of grace" with bowed heart and head, but also "boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him" (Hebrews 4:16; Ephesians 3:12).  Thereby the love that beckons us also motivates our responsive love that blesses the heart of our Father.  Grace and mercy alone fuel within us the commitment, affection, and willingness to sacrifice whereby we desire to come to God, and do so in both humility and assurance.  Long ago, greatly beloved, graciously beckoned Daniel discovered such freely offered Divine goodness.  He greatly loved in response, as will we with even clearer understanding through the light of the Lord Jesus that confirms our way to God as available and accessible.

"For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father."
(Ephesians 2:18)

Weekly Memory Verse
     For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6)

“A Mind and a Heart”

"A Mind and a Heart"

    Many unbelieving scientists contend that human consciousness evolved from unconscious matter.  In their view, naturalistic processes created the capacity for self and world awareness.  Most people find this completely counterintuitive and perceive that that someone possessed with the capacity for consciousness made human beings with the same capability.  They may or may not attribute the gift of consciousness to the God of Scripture, but they perceive consciousness as something obviously more complex than the mere collection of matter resident in a brain.

    "But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding" (Job 32:8).

   It is hard to imagine a greater absurdity than the notion that an unconscious universe somehow produced creatures who know, think, reason, and even communicate their awareness.  A mindless universe somehow resulted in mindful human beings.  A thing that does not know it exists - the universe - produced a being that does know it exists.  I know, you're shaking your head right now as the absurdity slithers through your, yes, through your consciousness.  However, multitudes in our generation believe the proposition to be the truth.  They are perfectly comfortable with the notion of the mindless having made the mindful.  "The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God" (Psalm 10:4).  

    For those who do believe that our consciousness is the product of God's making, a great blessing and challenge lie before us.  He made us to use our awareness for the purpose of knowing things, and most importantly, of knowing other conscious beings.  Certainly this begins with God, who formed us for relationship with Himself.  "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent" (John 17:3).  We then proceed to the knowledge of other people: "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ" (I John 1:3).  Such loving devotion to God and others leads to the proper knowledge of ourselves as the vessels of His others-focused love.  "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5).  What a gift, to be God-aware, others-aware, and self-aware, and to use and enjoy our consciousness in the personal terms for which the Lord made it.  But what a challenge also.  Again, some people exercise their capacity to deny its very origin and nature.  Moreover, those who acknowledge God sometimes misuse our capacity for consciousness, as tempted by the world, the flesh, and the devil.  We thus do well to consistently acknowledge the wonder of the gift, and devote it to our Lord for His enabling to rightly know, Him, others, and ourselves.  Yes, a Mind made us, a Mind guided by a glorious Heart.  May we exercise our own to ponder Him, bless others, and perceive ourselves as wondrously gifted by the God who knows, and who enables us to know.

"In all thy ways acknowledge Him."
(Proverbs 3:6)
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
(Philippians 4:8)

Weekly Memory Verse
     For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

"Reading, By Faith"

"Reading, By Faith"

    Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ encourage one another to read the Bible on a regular, daily basis.  Indeed, the writer of Hebrews' command to "exhort one another daily" surely includes our mutual encouragement to avail ourselves of the written Word of God that provides "a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Hebrews 3:13; Psalm 119:105).

    We also do well as we promote the reading of Scripture to remind each other that "we walk by faith, not by sight" (II Corinthians 5:7).  Much of the benefit we receive from the Bible happens in ways of which we may not be aware.  Not every reading results in a spectacular display of light, as it were.  Certainly we sometimes feel as if God has written the most personal of letters to us as the words of His Word directly apply to our hearts and circumstances.  We will also at times catch a glimpse of the Lord Jesus Christ's goodness and greatness that overwhelms us with wonder and and the determination to more love, trust, and obey Him.  Specifically applied illuminations, encouragements, and challenges also greet us many times as we read the Scriptures.  However, it is also the case that many readings seem like simply readings.  We may sense no spectacular display of lights as we look into God's Book of light.  We open the sacred Volume, asking God to administer His Person and truth to our hearts.  He answers our request, but we have no sense or awareness of the illumination.  Again, this is precisely as we would expect in a lifetime that involves far more faith than sight.  Just as we presently do not see the living Word, the Lord Jesus, so the written Word frequently enlightens without dazzling.  "Unto the upright there ariseth a light in the darkness" (Psalm 112:4).

    If the Holy Spirit thrilled us with obvious light every time we read the Bible, we would quickly begin to worship the experience rather than the Lord Himself.  Our Heavenly Father therefore administers His illuminations in rays of glory both obvious and obscure.  We devote ourselves to reading in the confidence that the Scriptures are not simply a book.  They are also a voice, the Voice our hearts cannot live without hearing.  The sound of such utterance, however, often graces our hearts unbeknownst to our conscious awareness.  Let us therefore consistently read the Bible, and let us read by the faith that rejoices when the Light brightly shines, and rejoices no less when it quietly illuminates without obvious display.

"I rejoice at Thy Word, as one that findeth great spoil."
(Psalm 119:162)
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
(Hebrews 11:1)

Weekly Memory Verse
     For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6)

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

"Challenge? Opportunity!"

"Challenge?  Opportunity!"

    Spiritual mindedness involves seeing challenges as opportunities.  

    "But the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD: He is their strength in the time of trouble" (Psalm 37:39).

    To know "the power that worketh in us," namely, the power of God, we must experience circumstances, situations, and conditions that motivate us to consciously seek our Lord's enabling (Ephesians 3:20).  The challenges of life in our present earthly existence help us to see our great need for God's presence, involvement, and working on our behalf.  The world, the devil, and the flesh tempt us to believe we can make our way by our own devices.  The Word of God, however, declares that "the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jeremiah 10:23).  Without challenge, we would all ignore or forget the plainly-stated Scriptural declaration of how dependent we are on the Lord Jesus Christ.  Indeed, He told His disciples, "Without Me, ye can do nothing" (John 15:5).  Apart from Christ and our realized requirement for His enabling, we rely on illusions of our own abilities, as based upon the original devilish temptation, "Ye shall be as gods" (Genesis 3:5).  No we won't, but we can live as if we are self sufficient creators rather than utterly dependent creatures so needy of Divine grace that "in Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).

    Great opportunity lies in troubles both great and small.  Our Lord beckons us to therein know the power that is "exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20).  Without challenge, we wouldn't avail ourselves of such grace, even as the Psalmist confessed: "Before I was afflicted, I went astray" (Psalm 119:67).  Thankfully, our brother of old proceeded to also confess, "But now have I kept Thy Word."   Challenge, understood and perceived as opportunity to trust God, provides an altar whereupon we sacrifice the darkness of self sufficiency with the bright light of God's faithful promises, and our faith therein.  How little we would know of Him apart from pain, difficulty, and the perplexity that directs our gaze away from ourselves and unto the Life of our lives and the Hope of our hearts…

"I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth."
(Psalm 121:1-2)

Weekly Memory Verse
     For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6)

Monday, December 25, 2017

"The Glory Of the Unlikely"

(from 1987)

The Glory Of the Unlikely

    In the birth of His only begotten Son, the Lord revealed to us that He is the God of the unlikely.

    "He hath no form nor comeliness, and when we shall see Him, He hath no beauty that we should desire Him" (Isaiah 53:2).

    How unlikely that the King of the universe should be born in a feeding trough usually reserved for animals.  How unlikely that the nation which so long awaited its Messiah should miss the fulfillment of its dreams and reject its only salvation.  How unlikely that this Messiah should live the majority of His life in obscurity without the pomp and circumstance befitting royalty, and without the obvious appeal we might expect.  Most of all, how unlikely that such a One should die in shame and degradation, apparently discarded upon the dustbin of history as just another well-intentioned zealot without the means to accomplish His desired end.

    This is the glory of Christmas, the glory that fills the present as well as the past.  How unlikely that the humiliated is now the Glorified, and the possessor of that Name at which every knee will one day bow.  How unlikely that the Satan who instigated His seeming destruction served as the unwitting agent of the One who "worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:11).  How unlikely that tragedy should lead to triumph in the purposes of the One in whom all wisdom resides.  Perhaps most of all, how unlikely that God in His wisdom should determine to fill the seemingly marred, broken, and useless vessels we appear to be for the purposes of enabling us to "walk, even as He walked" (I John 2:6).  How unlikely and how wonderful that His strength is made perfect in weakness so that He alone may be glorified as He leads us in His presence and faithfulness.

    He is the God of the unlikely, the God who requires mangers in which to birth His beloved Son rather than the pristine palaces we might anticipate.  Let us therefore expect to find the Lord Jesus Christ in the unlikely venues of our lives, those circumstances, situations, and people where we least expect Him to be.  Our Lord often reveals the glory of His presence in direct proportion to the appearance of His absence.  Indeed, let us rejoice that through the Christ of Christmas, we have found our King in the most unlikely place of all…

"Christ in you, the hope of glory."
(Colossians 1:27)

Weekly Memory Verse
    And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
(Luke 2:10-11)

Christmas 2017 - Conclusion - "Here Is Christmas"

Dear Orange Moon Friends,

    A very Merry Christmas to all of you.  Below you will find a recording and the lyrics of one of our songs, "Here Is Christmas," that heralds the season and the day, but most of all, seeks to commemorate the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ into the world.  God bless all of you on this special day, and I am grateful for your fellowship, friendship, and example.  Glen.


Here is Christmas, it comes once again,
bringing it’s message of redemption from our sin.
Here is the Child, promised long ago, 
to lead us to the Father, whom every heart must know.

Oh here is Christmas, let your hearts rejoice, 
may praises and thanksgiving be heard from every voice!

To Bethlehem the Baby came in humility, 
to save us from our pride and from our self sufficiency.
He showed how to live, and then he showed how to die,
He shed his blood and gave His life to pay the awful price.


I hear the bells of Christmas ringing, singing once again.
Telling of that blessed Morn That promises to men.
The light still shines in darkness to illuminate the way
For Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem on Christmas day!


Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas 2017 -6- "Divine... Human"

(Friends, this is Part 6 of a seven part series devoted to the Lord's entrance into the world.  Today's message involves God's Divine working, revealed by human means.  Thanks, Glen)

Christmas 2017


"Divine… Human"

    My wife Frances, a Labor & Delivery nurse for more than three decades, recently reflected on the helplessness of newborn babies.  I paraphrase: "They cannot feed themselves, nor provide for themselves in any manner.  They cannot clean or change themselves.  They cannot move from place to place.  They cannot protect themselves.  They cannot speak.  They cannot do anything for themselves!"

    "Ye shall find the babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger" (Luke 2:12).

   Frances proceeded to apply this to the Lord Jesus Christ, the all-powerful Creator and Sustainer of the universe, who for our sakes took upon Himself the neonatal inability to do anything for Himself.  Indeed, when Herod sought to kill the Lord Jesus, God's angel told Joseph and Mary to flee into Egypt (Matthew 2:13-14).  Why didn't the angel simply destroy Herod and his forces, thus eliminating the threat and executing proper judgement against the wicked?  This was not God's will, of course, because He purposed the Lord Jesus to live a human life that identifies with our earthly experience.  "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same" (Hebrews 2:14).  Rather than angelic intervention, our Savior required His earthly father and mother to protect Him by the most natural means available.  They escaped.  So helpless was He as a babe, He would have been hopelessly in peril apart from such human response to danger.

    This sublime enigma of God's working reveals His principle of accomplishing Divine purposes by human means.  Our redemption required "the power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16).  However, it also required the mystery of "God… manifest in the flesh" (I Timothy 3:16).  Our Heavenly Father could not forgive or accept us merely by fiat.  His holy character and nature would not have allowed a mere pronouncement of pardon.  Someone had to suffer and die in an atoning sacrifice for us, someone who bore our humanity to the degree that He shared the substance of our being and the circumstance of our experience.  As the saying goes, when God created, He spoke.  When He redeemed, He bled.  The Babe became a boy, who became a man, who became "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).  He now sits at the right hand of God as our risen Savior and Lord, the God who became man, and the man who remains God.  The Lord Jesus fulfilled His Father's Divine purposes by human means, as enabled by Divine power.  "For though He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God" (II Corinthians 13:4).

   We must expect the principle to manifest its glory in our lives.  God does many things that look very human.  He often answers prayers in ways so seemingly ordinary  that we will not recognize them if we fail to remember the Incarnation and its lesson to us.  Divine glory, revealed by human means.  This is the Lord Jesus Christ.  This was God's redeeming process of grace and truth.  This continues to serve as a primary aspect of how He presently works, and how He will eternally enact His eternal purpose through the Christ who forever dwells as the perfect unity of God and man.  The helpless Babe in the manger, so very human in His being and substance, was no less Divine than He was and is as the almighty Son of God who sits upon His heavenly throne.  Remembering this principle of the Heavenly revealed in the earthly opens our eyes to see our Lord and His powerful working in things that seem so very helpless, so very human.

"And when He was come into His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works?  Is not this the carpenter's son?   Is not His mother called Mary, and His brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?  And His sisters, are they not all with us?  Whence then hath this man all these things? And they were offended in Him."
(Matthew 13:54-57)

Weekly Memory Verse
    And the angel said unto them, Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:10-11)

Christmas 2017 -5- “Joseph the Just(ified), Joseph the Obedient”

(Friends, this is Part 5 of a seven part series devoted to the Lord's entrance into the world.  Today's message concerns Joseph, the husband of Mary, and the Lord's earthly father.  Thanks, Glen)

Christmas 2017


"Joseph the Just(ified), Joseph the Obedient"

    We know little about Joseph, the husband of Mary and the earthly father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Of the lineage of David by ancestry, and a carpenter by trade, the Bible most importantly reveals him to have been a just and obedient man.

    "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.   But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit... Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called His name Jesus" (Matthew 1:18-20; 24; 25).   
    "And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and His mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy Him. When he arose, he took the young child and His mother by night, and departed into Egypt" (Matthew 2:13-14).

    "Just and obedient" go hand in hand according to God's working in human hearts.  First, when any Biblical figure is referred to as "just," we can know that the person has been justified by God's grace through faith.  This includes Old Testament saints who did not know the full revelation of God's saving purposes in Lord Jesus, but who entered into relationship with Him by trusting His promises.  As some Bible commentators have suggested, they were justified by looking forward to God's promised Messiah, while Christians are justified by looking back to Messianic promises fulfilled.  "Therefore being  justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1).  Scripture records Joseph among this company, again, "a just man."  Or justified.

   Joseph was also an obedient man.  God told him to take Mary as his wife, despite the appearances, and to take the Lord Jesus into Egypt for His protection.  This follows the Bible's theme of justification resulting in sanctification to the glory and will of God.  The Apostle Paul prayed that the Philippians "might be filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:11).  Justification and righteousness are translated from the same Greek root word in the New Testament.  Thus, the fruits of righteousness can also be termed the fruits of justification.  This returns our consideration to Joseph, a just man and an obedient man, or an obedient man because he was a justified man.  Scripture does not record the history of Joseph's personal reception of God's grace that led to a faithful life, but we can be sure it happened because no human being justifies himself.  "By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" (Galatians 2:16).  Thus, when we think of our brother of old, we consider a forgiven man freely enrobed with the gift of God's righteousness provided to all who trust His promises.  Moreover, the reception of the gift led to a life that reflected such grace in a subsequent life of faith and faithfulness.  Justified by grace received and obedient by grace experienced- this is the legacy of the carpenter, as made possible by "the carpenter's son" who was actually the Son of God given to make possible Joseph's justification and obedience - and our's as well.

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
(Ephesians 2:8-10)

Weekly Memory Verse
    And the angel said unto them, Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:10-11)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas 2017 -4- "Back To Their Fields"

(Friends, this is Part 4 of a seven part series devoted to the Lord's entrance into the world.  Today's message involves the shepherds who experienced God's glory in a profound way upon the advent of the Savior, but then likely returned to life as it had always been.  Thanks, Glen)

Christmas 2017


"Back To Their Fields"

    How appropriate that God graced shepherds with the angelic announcement that heralded the birth of the Lamb of God into the world.

   "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:8-11).

    Doubtless before and after the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, these men witnessed the delivery of lambs.  Those born afterwards surely reminded the shepherds of that night when Heaven graced their eyes, ears, and hearts with a visitation that resulted in their journey to Bethlehem.  We can surmise that the shepherds were changed forever, although they likely returned from Bethlehem back to their fields, never again to experience a night like that holy night.  They were real men who lived real lives, and the resumption of their shepherdly duties would likely have seemed frustratingly ordinary at times as they cared for their sheep and lambs.  They probably never heard another angelic voice, nor witnessed God's glory shining upon them, and they may never have seen the Baby again.  They likely just lived, but again, we can be sure they were never the same.

   Relationship with God involves moments of grace administered in extraordinary ways, as defined in personal terms to each of our hearts.  Our Heavenly Father knows when we need Heaven to open a bit and shine particularly vivid and beautiful rays of His light upon us.  We rejoice in these times and benefit by their encouragement.  Like shepherds of old, however, we must return to abide in our fields once again.  Regardless of how faithfully we walk with our Lord, most of life involves that which appears common and ordinary.  Like the Lord Jesus, who lived most of His life in quiet obscurity, we tend our sheep in fields where no angelic voices sound, no bright star illuminates, and the glory of God must be seen by faith rather than sight.  This is precisely as it should and must be in a life wherein God's focus primarily involves the heart rather than the eyes.  As the writer of Hebrews described Moses, who "endured as seeing Him who is invisible," our Heavenly Father graces most of our lives with the opportunity to know Him apart from sight, sound, and overtly spiritual displays (Hebrews 11:27).  Memories of a star and glory bless and help us.  However, God's unseen presence in the present provides opportunity and enabling to most know Him in the common and ordinary venues where He most reveals His Son.  The shepherds who likely returned to abide in their fields after visiting Bethlehem speak to us of such grace sometimes openly known, but most often experienced in that which seems common and ordinary.

"We walk by faith, not by sight."
(II Corinthians 5:7)

Weekly Memory Verse
    And the angel said unto them, Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:10-11)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Christmas 2017 -3- "The Mysterious and the Miraculous"

(Friends, this is Part 3 of a seven part series devoted to the Lord's entrance into the world.  Today's message involves the wonder of our Savior's united Divinity and humanity.  Thanks, Glen)

Christmas 2017


"The Mysterious and the Miraculous"

    Upon His conception in the virgin womb of Mary, the Lord Jesus Christ became the God who is man, and the man who remains God.

    "Great is the mystery of godliness.  God was manifest in the flesh" (I Timothy 3:16).    
    "Unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, o God, is forever and ever" (Hebrews 1:8).

    The incarnation of "the Word… made flesh" constitutes the greatest of mysteries (John 1:14).  In the Lord Jesus, the Infinite resides in the finite, the Eternal in the temporal, the Almighty in the dependent, and the Creator in His creation.  No amount of reading, study, or contemplation allows for the complete understanding of such an enigma.  The Holy Spirit Himself, through Paul, acknowledges "Great is the mystery of godliness."  Of course, God understands how such a thing can be, but we likely never will.  Nor will the need ever arise that we completely comprehend the wonder of our blessed Savior.  It is enough to know that His very existence involves the miracle of God dwelling in and a human being for the purpose of revealing Himself to us, and redeeming us by His life, death, resurrection, and redemption.  "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself" (II Corinthians 5:19).

   The mystery and the miracle should greatly encourage our hearts.  We would not want to worship, love, trust, or obey a God not infinitely greater than ourselves, to the degree of being profoundly inexplicable.  Certainly we can understand much about Him, as revealed by the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit, the church, and God's working in our hearts and in the world (John 5:39; 16:13; Philippians 2:15; Romans 1:20).  We should grow in such illumination and walk in its blessed light.  However, every ray of glory not only informs us with knowledge, but also reveals how more can be known.  Christ is a mystery to be considered, discovered, and then considered and discovered over and over again.  His very existence proclaims this hope and challenge to our hearts.  Moreover, the fact that His being constitutes an ongoing and eternal miracle - the Infinite dwelling in the finite - bears witness to us that regardless of the challenges we face in life, the Lord Jesus provides definitive assurance that God can and will work in us "to supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).  Yes, if the Lord Jesus can exist by the miraculous working of God, He can provide for us any and everything we will ever require.

    Christ Himself - the great mystery and miracle of God.  The more we know of Him, the more the Holy Spirit beckons us to greater discovery, insight, and devoted response.  In Heaven and earth, there is no one like the Lord Jesus.  Long ago, our Heavenly Father filled a manger with the Light of the world that shines not only with illumination, but with the blessed assurance of how much we do not know.  Both realities should thrill our hearts as we rejoice in the Christ we know, and the same glorious One who exists as an eternal wonder of the Mysterious and the Miraculous.

"Our Lord Jesus Christ, which in His times He shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no can can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen."
(I Timothy 6:14-16)

Weekly Memory Verse
    And the angel said unto them, Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:10-11)

Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas 2017 - 1 - "A Promise Made, a Promise Kept"

(Friends, today beings a seven part series devoted to the Lord's entrance into the world, a promise made and a promise kept.  Thanks, Glen)

Christmas 2017


"A Promise Made, a Promise Kept"

    The birth of the Lord Jesus Christ constituted a promise fulfilled by the God who always and perfectly honors His commitments.

    "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle and separated unto the Gospel of God, which He had promised afore by His prophets in the holy Scriptures concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 1:1-3).

   When we think of Bethlehem, the manger, and it blessed Occupant, the Spirit of God bears witness to our hearts that God is true and faithful.  From Genesis 3, when our Heavenly Father immediately foretold His redemption, to the book of Malachi, when He promised the coming of the Lord to His temple, the Old Testament sounds and resounds with the herald of hope (Genesis 3:15; Malachi 3:1).  The New Testament then opens with hope fulfilled, the promise kept, and a gift given: 

    "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ… Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 1:1; 18).

    Indeed, Christmas is many things to many people, but the pervasive and piercing Light that shines through all the seasonal trappings illuminates the blessed reality:  God is true.  He cannot lie.  He cannot fail to fulfill His promises, all of which center in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  We can trust Him with all of our hearts, in any and every moment, about any and everything.  "The Lord is faithful" (II Thessalonians 3:3).  We must trust Him accordingly, first, for His saving rescue from sin and its eternal consequences, and then, for the living of a life that honors our Rescuer and influences others to embrace the trustworthiness of God revealed in His Son.  "The just shall live by faith" declares both Old Testament and New (Habakuk 2:3; Romans 1:17).  No other way exists to truly live, and again, the Season sings with the glory of a Promise made, a Promise kept, and the assurance that Someone exists who can be trusted completely and without reserve.  As Solomon wrote, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart" because no one has ever trusted the God and Father of the Lord Jesus and been disappointed for doing so.  And no one ever will.  Christmas says this above all else, proclaiming it blessed hope in our Lord's perfect faithfulness for this moment and forevermore (Proverbs 3:5).

"And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that He hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee. And as concerning that He raised Him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, He said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David."
(Acts 13:32-34)

Weekly Memory Verse
    And the angel said unto them, Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:10-11)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Saturday Series - Addendum - “His Character, Our Character”

(Friends:  Last week concluded our Saturday Series consideration of the character and nature of God - except for this present essay, an addendum that speaks to the effect that knowing our Lord's character and nature has on our own.  Thanks for allowing one more!  Glen).

The Saturday Series - Addendum

"His Character, Our Character"

    The importance of knowing God begins with, well, with the fact of knowing God.  Upon this basis, we then discover ourselves as spiritually birthed and constituted in Christ.

    "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent" (John 17:3).
    "If any man be in Christ, he is is a new creature.  Old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new."
(II Corinthians 5:17)

    Humanity exists to serve as the spiritual dwelling place of its Creator.  Unlike stars, planets, rocks, and even animals, we are personal beings who share God's capacity for thought, reason, volition, and the devotional and emotional reality of love.  Originally created in His image, we can and should know our Lord as the focus of our attention, the object of our affection, and the Deity of our worship.  The entrance of sin into the human race gravely damaged our capacities, subjecting them to the mastery of sin's self-centeredness.   Through Christ, salvation births us into the newness of life whereby God's restoration of His original purpose for our existence begins.  The Spirit bears witness with our own spirit that the Lord of Heaven is the Lord of our hearts.  We know He exists, He is present, and He is involved in our lives and in all things.  Such knowledge constitutes the very essence of eternal life, as the Lord Jesus declared, because again, we exist to know and regard Him as the epicenter of our existence.  "In Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). 

    Such knowledge leads also to the discovery of what kind of God created and indwells us.  Interestingly, the Apostle Paul taught that such growing awareness leads us to realize our own character and nature.

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

    Note this intriguing explanation of how the Holy Spirit transforms believers into the spiritual and moral image of Christ.  We behold the Lord's glory by looking in a "glass" that is translated in terms of a mirror rather than a window.  Thereby we become increasingly like our Lord.  Thus, Paul would have us see the Lord's glory, or the content of His character, as we look at ourselves.  How can this be?  We often think, speak, and act in direct antithesis to being a mirror image of God.  At times, we rather cast an inverse reflection: "Look at me and you'll find out what God is not like!"  Why then did Paul call us to look into God's spiritual mirror and see His character and nature?  How does this lead us to reflect His being in our own being? 

   The answer lies in God's promised presence in us.  We must believe Him to be the Life of our lives.  "To live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21).  We then look into His Word to discover what kind of Lord so deeply and thoroughly inhabits us.  If He is our life, then the character we see is also our grace-birthed character, as formed in us by the indwelling Spirit of Christ.  "I delight in the law of God after the inward man… Put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" (Romans 7:22; Ephesians 4:24).  Certainly we do not always think, speak, and act accordingly, and just as certainly, the matter involves ongoing need for growth during this present lifetime.  However, Paul plainly states that seeing the Lord's glory changes us "into the same image."  He also plainly states that such perception results from viewing ourselves in the mirror of the Spirit.  We must see ourselves in Christ because this is truth, and also because discovering His character reveals not only Him to us, but also ourselves as alive in Him.  Thereby we more and more live accordingly as His presence motivates and enables us to affirm newness of life in Christ, and thus, to "walk even as He walked" (I John 2:6).  Or, as Paul mandated, "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25).  Believers do live in the Spirit, Christ is our life, and His character indwells and enlivens our own.  Thus, we seek to know God as the essence of eternal life, and to know ourselves as related to Him for the outworking of His gracious and transforming presence in us.  

"Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.  Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh."
(Romans 8:9-12)
"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."
(Romans 6:3-4)

Weekly Memory Verse
   "These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." 
(John 16:33)