Friday, March 31, 2017

"The Grace of Song"

"The Grace of Song"                                        
   Mrs. Johnson cannot hold a conversation.  She seems completely oblivious to her surroundings, and likely lives in another time and another place of life.  The healthcare workers who help her must maintain keen alertness at all times.  Mrs. Johnson can still walk, and will often arise from her chair for journeys that might result in a fall that would greatly jeopardize her well being.

    She can, however, still sing.  Boy, can she sing!  Mrs. Johnson still somehow knows the hymns, and when she joins us in "At the Cross" or "In the Garden", I have to maintain concentration in order to keep playing and singing.  She possesses a professional quality voice, which I have so often affirmed that the activities director at the retirement community where Mrs. Johnson lives often places her in a chair not far from where I stand.  I want to hear the woman sing!  I recall the first time I heard her, when I literally hushed my own voice so I could listen.  I am not exaggerating.   Mrs. Johnson could still add her vocalization to any musical venue with the assurance of enhancing the performance.  Again, however, she can't hold a conversation.

   This also reminds me of an experience several years ago when we filled in at another retirement community.  During the hymn time, I asked if anyone had a particular song they'd like to hear or sing.  "Old Rugged Cross!" immediately chimed in a gentleman.  "Certainly Sir," I responded, and proceeded to lead a rendition of the great old hymn.  I happened to notice some surprised looks on the faces of a few aides who sat in the service with us.  I asked one of them about this after the service.  The aide shook her head and responded, "We've never heard him say a word before today!  We didn't even know he could talk!"

   I do not pretend to understand this.  Some try to explain it in natural terms of brain function, and I'm sure this applies to some degree.  However, I think it speaks (or sings!) of something far more, far deeper, far truer, and far more wonderful.  I don't have to tell you that music is sublime.  Few realities more speak to the Lord's amazing capacity for both art and engineering.  Melody, harmony, song, singing, and playing require technical abilities that must be learned to some degree, based on established methods, modes, and principles.  However, music also heralds the existence of a beauty that far transcends understanding and application.  How often the sum becomes greater than the parts when a gifted singer or player performs.  Or when many human hearts, hands, and voices unite to create symphonies of sound.  Only God could have made music.  Few more absurd notions exist than the proposal that humanity somehow stumbled upon the capacity to synchronize sounds into such mathematical precision and wondrous beauty.  Yes, God made music.  So, perhaps I do understand how Mrs. Johnson or the gentleman mentioned can enjoy the grace of song long after the loss of mental capacity and verbal communication.

   I also happen to live with (and sing with!) the greatest harmony singer in the world.  Frances's voice is ethereal, and remains the only vocal instrument I have ever heard that comes with built in reverb.  I frequently want to stop and listen to her while we're singing, but I suppose harmony does require a bit of melody.  In any case, I would suggest that of the loveliness in the world that speaks (sings!) of our wondrous Lord, none more confirm to us His wisdom and beauty than music.  The Artist and the Engineer gave to us this gift, and like Mrs. Johnson, the gentleman, and Frances, let us avail ourselves of this most wonderful way to requite such generosity, such grace of song.

"Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth; O sing praises unto the Lord."
(Psalm 68:32)
"Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet: praise Him with the psaltery and harp. Praise Him with the timbrel and dance: praise Him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise Him upon the loud cymbals: praise Him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD."
(Psalm 150:3-6)

Weekly Memory Verse
   He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
(Romans 8:32)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

"The Three Altars"

"The Three Altars"    
  Three spiritual altars must be built within the hearts of human beings if we are to live as God defines life.  We must be born again, we must decisively consecrate ourselves to God for His glory, and we must daily acknowledge His presence, power, and possession of our being.

   "Ye must be born again" (John 3:7).
   "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable services" (Romans 12:1).
   "He said to them all, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me" (Luke 9:23).

   A physical altar is a place erected for the offering of sacrifices.  In the Old Testament, this often involved building a mound of rocks upon which sacrifices were offered, or more formal versions as existed in the tabernacle and temple of Israel.  Altars and their sacrifices served to  foreshadow of Christ, and to symbolize the devotion of the supplicant who made offerings in obedience to God and repentance from anything unworthy of His glory.  Such places are no longer applicable during the dispensation of God's grace and truth in Christ, the physical, ritualistic versions having given way to the Reality they foreshadowed.  "We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle" (Hebrews 13:10).  Thus, we build spiritual altars of the heart.

    First, we must be born again through faith in the Lord Jesus.  This involves the sacrifice of trusting in ourselves for redemption and righteousness.  We naturally seek to make our own way in life rather than looking unto the way as given by God.  "I am the way" declared the Lord Jesus" (John 14:6).  Salvation involves the complete renunciation of self effort and our own works as our hope and our life.  "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).  Saving faith involves our response to the Holy Spirit's working in our hearts to direct us to the Lord Jesus and His redeeming work on our behalf.  As the old hymn proclaims, "Nothing in my hand I bring, only to Thy cross I cling."

   The second altar involves our recognition that salvation births a "new man, created in righteousness and true holiness" (Ephesians 4:24).  We must realize and respond to God's complete possession of every aspect of our life and being.  This usually happens at a point subsequent to our new birth because we know so very little of spiritual reality as we enter into newness of life in Christ.  Surprisingly to some, the altar of this consecration involves a one time dedication of our being to God.  The passage in Romans 12 referenced above was written in the aorist verb tense of the Greek language.  This denotes a point in time consecration to our Lord, or in terms of our present consideration, the building of an altar in our hearts where we decisively sacrifice any notion of personal autonomy or ownership.  Thereafter, we rather view ourselves as "the purchased possession" of God through the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 1:14).  We may not always live accordingly, and we will need refreshing and growth in the reality of our sacrifice.  But once we make the transaction in response to Truth, God receives our offering and seals it forever.

   Finally, we daily visit the heart altar whereupon we acknowledge the Lordship of Christ, and the life of Christ as our hope for walking accordingly.  We "put on the new man" by recognizing His involved presence, and by affirming with the Psalmist, "This is the day which the Lord hath made" (Ephesians 4:24; Psalm 118:24).  We do well to visit the altar as soon as possible upon the opening of our eyes, and by the decisive consecration of prayer and exposure to the Word of God.  Again, a hymnist helps us in our devotion: "I am thine, o Lord, I have heard Thy voice, and it told Thy love to me.  Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord."  Or as the prophet of Scripture affirmed, "Here am I.  Send me" (Isaiah 6:8).  Again, this involves a day by day visit to the heart altar whereupon we turn away from any notion that the day - this day - involves anything less than devotion to the glory, will, and eternal purpose of God in Christ.  "That thy trust may be in the LORD, I have made known to thee this day" (Proverbs 22:19).

   Three altars, spiritual altars for the offering of spiritual sacrifices - we must build them all within our hearts in response to the leading and enabling of the Holy Spirit.  Most importantly, we remember the altar of the cross that makes possible the reality of our consecration, and the Christ who died and arose to provide our life, hope, and trust.  Any and all other devotions must be burned away to make a way for the Lordship and life of the Lord Jesus, and for our dedication thereunto.

"Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."
(I Peter 2:5)

Weekly Memory Verse
   He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
(Romans 8:32)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

“A Book Closed, Sadly”

"A Book Closed, Sadly"    
  I recently checked out a book from the local library, a biography of a fairly notable 20th century figure whose particular field of endeavor interests me.  The woman accomplished a great deal after starting out somewhat late in life, and she clearly worked hard after achieving her status.  I respect her for that.  However, I had not read far into the book before I encountered this statement: "Mary (not her name) was a committed atheist".

  I wasn't surprised by the revelation, but the directness of the words stuck home with force: "a committed atheist".  I closed the book, and won't open it again.  I really don't want to know anything else about the lady.  The sadness of her lost life and eternity is  too profoundly tragic to continue further consideration.  Again, she made somewhat of a mark on the world in more than 90 years on the planet.  But for what?  I am reminded of the old adage from previous generations: "Only one life, t'will soon be past.  Only what's done for Christ will last."  Or, as Scripture declares of the futility of an unbelieving lifetime, "Treasures of wickedness profit nothing" (Proverbs 10:2).

    The honest atheist will acknowledge their belief that life has no meaning except that which one creates for himself or herself.  The lady in question would likely have agreed. In other words, while unbelievers live their earthly lives, they attempt to find ways to convince themselves that who they are and what they do matters to themselves, perhaps to others, and even to posterity.  However, does meaning really exist if we are nothing more than a chance meeting of molecules that somehow united for a brief time to give us consciousness?  Indeed, according to that empty notion, death so obliterates our awareness that we might as well have never had it.  Does anything really matter at all to those who reject the One who alone provides significance and consequence?  Hardly.  We cannot create meaning if we ourselves are so doomed that we will not exist beyond the vapor of an all too quickly passing earthly lifetime.

   I closed the book, sadly.  I then prayed for the lady's relatives who remain and perhaps already know the Lord, or who might come to know Him.  There's nothing I can do for their deceased relative.  No prayers will help her, nor is there any possibility for her redemption.  "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27).  That's why I don't want to read any further about her life that was not really a life.  It was just an existence wherein she rejected the most obvious truth that presented itself to her heart.  She will have eternity to regret that choice, and I find that prospect far too troubling to continue reading her profoundly sad story.  She was a committed atheist during her earthly lifetime.  But of this we can be sure: she is no longer.

"The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God."
(Psalm 14:1)

Weekly Memory Verse
   He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
(Romans 8:32)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

"The Catskinner"

"The Catskinner"     
   (****DISCLAIMER**** No animals were harmed during the production of this essay.)

  You've heard the saying: "There's more than one way to skin a cat."

   Now for all you fans of felines out there, I assure you that I have no intention to separate any cat from its hide.  I'm well aware that God made cats, albeit for reasons of which He has not chosen to inform me (one possibility might be to keep the rodent population under control.  Cats eat those things, you know).  So, I abide by the old "live and let live" philosophy when it comes to cats (although I'm not at all sure they share my sentiment).

   Back to the axiom.  "There's more than one way to ski…", well, you know!  This simply means that there is usually more than one way to do things, quite often by unexpected alternatives.  This especially holds true regarding the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways" declared the Lord to Israel long ago (Isaiah 55:8).  The truth hasn't changed, and thus we must expect the unexpected as God works in our lives and answers our prayers.  Indeed, Israel anticipated her Messiah to appear as a Supreme Sovereign to fulfill God's promises, but He rather came in His first advent as a Suffering Servant.  "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).  The same principle often holds true in our lives.  The Lord administers some of His mightiest works on our behalf in ways we will miss if we do not expect the unexpected.  "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24).

    I don't actually know how many ways there are to skin a cat.  Don't want to know.  Again, I harbor no ill will against such creatures, and wish only the best for them (as long as they don't get too close and make me sneeze!).  I do know that in His infinite wisdom, our Lord possesses many ways and means whereby He fulfills His purposes in our lives.   Many of these workings will challenge our understandings and sensibilities.  Remembering that God works accordingly helps to prepare us for faith and faithfulness when He acts in a way we've never considered.

"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)

Weekly Memory Verse
   He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
(Romans 8:32)

Monday, March 27, 2017

"His Story"

"His Story"     
   As the saying goes, "History is His Story".

   "God… worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:3; 11).

   The Apostle Paul's declaration does not suggest the fatalistic pagan notion that everything happens according to God's will.  Scripture clearly teaches otherwise (Titus 1:16; Psalm 119:53).  Paul rather affirms that God is wise enough, powerful enough, involved enough, and wondrous enough to allow angels and humans to disobey Him throughout history without thwarting His eternal purpose in the Lord Jesus Christ.  

   "Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under his feet" (I Corinthians 15:24-25).

   In the mystery of our Lord's infinite wisdom, the current of history ever flows in the direction of God's purposes, even as contrary eddies and streams swirl against it.  As modern culture devolves and dissolves, we do well to daily encourage our hearts in His Story.  Events sometimes bless us, and sometimes trouble us.  This is exactly as it should be.  God made us to respond to both the pleasant and the painful, whether in our personal lives, or in the world wherein we presently live as "strangers and pilgrims" (I Peter 2:11).  What we do with those responses, however, determines the peace of our hearts.  Do we see the ebb and flow of history in terms of mere happenstance?  Or will we choose to open our ears and hearts to His Story?  God's determinations and allowances all somehow fit into the larger picture of His inexorable purpose to "gather together in one all things in Christ" (Ephesians 1:10).  How it all coordinates, we do not know.  That it all coordinates, we can be completely certain.  To the degree we remember and submit to this truth will be the degree we swim with the current of purpose and peace in a generation complete untethered from its moral and spiritual moorings.

   Let us apply the truth to our personal lives.  God determines and allows much that challenges our understanding.  Is our story a part of His Story?  Does He really "work all things together for good to them that love God"? (Romans 8:28).  Do our present blessings and difficulties fit into this purpose?  Again, how we answer these questions completely determines the peace of our hearts.  Completely.  Circumstances, situations, and conditions do not govern our internals.  Certainly they influence thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations.  But that which determines either still waters or raging seas within us is the eternal purpose of God in Christ - and our response thereunto.  Is He wise enough, powerful enough, involved enough, and wondrous enough to incorporate our story as a working associate and collaborator of His Story?  We know the answer.  We must also embrace the answer with determination and commitment as enabled by the Spirit of God and the Word of God.  Yes, history is His Story, including our particular stream that flows with the Divine current of God's grace and truth in Christ Jesus.

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee."
(Isaiah 26:3)

Weekly Memory Verse
   He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
(Romans 8:32)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Saturday Series - 7 - "No Need"

(Friends:  Most Saturdays for the duration of this year, I plan on sharing a message that relates to the character and nature of God, and our response thereunto.  I hope you will find it helpful, and as always, thanks for allowing us to send the devotionals to you.  Glen).

The Saturday Series - 7

"No Need"     
   God exists as a completely self sufficient being without need or requirement.

   "God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though He needed any thing, seeing He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things" (Acts 17:24-25).

   Our Lord is perfectly fulfilled in and of Himself, and of His triune nature as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  In contrast, all others derive their existence and their meaning from God, both in the origin and the sustaining.  "Without Him was not anything made that was made… By Him all things consist… He is thy life" (John 1:3; Colossians 1:17; Deuteronomy 30:20).  Nothing in creation adds anything of sustenance or supply to the Creator.  God did not make things to fill a void in Himself, or because of discontentment or dissatisfaction.  "If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is Mine, and the fulness thereof" (Psalm 50:12).  He rather created as the expression of His own joy and fulness: "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created" (Revelation 4:11).

    Few Biblical truths more establish Truth in our hearts and minds regarding our Lord, enabling us to rightly consider and relate to Him.  Because God is perfectly self-fulfilled, He can always act in a manner faithful to Himself and His nature.  Unlike ourselves, need never complicates His determination to act in unselfish love.  Nor does any trace of impure motive based on weakness or inner void ever cause Him to violate His character.  Thus, He will always be "righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works" (Psalm 145:17).  Moreover, He will always be perfectly able to "give to all life and breath and all things" by a just and gracious administration that bears no admixture of selfish intent.  God has no need to be anything other than who and what He is because He has no need.

   Regarding ourselves, human beings must put to rest any notion that we satisfy some emotional requirement in God.  We do not.  We rather possess the capacity to please or displease Him, based on our response to Him.  He can therefore love us purely and perfectly because He seeks nothing in us or from us regarding His own fulfillment.  To understand this truth, simply consider the contrast of our relationships with others.  Regardless of how purely we seek to love others, can we ever suggest that we are not also seeking some fulfillment of our own personal need in even our best moments of human relationship?  Hardly.  God, however, can and does love purely and perfectly in unselfish devotion to the creation that possesses great capacity to bless His heart, but no capacity to fulfill His soul.  His soul is whole, as it were, and let us rejoice that only One exists whose very name declares the self-sufficiency of His character and nature…

"And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is His name?   What shall I say unto them?  And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you."
(Exodus 3:13-14)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
(II Thessalonians 2:16-17)

Friday, March 24, 2017

“God’s Resolve”

"God's Resolve"     

   In his epistle to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul references his imprisonment regarding the challenges he faced as he sought to fulfill his calling to communicate the Lord Jesus Christ and His truth.

    "But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel" (Philippians 1:12).

   Lest we think Paul to be a special case in God's purposes, we do well to remember other words he wrote to the Roman Christians.

   "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. For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:28-29).  

   Paul identifies the "good" of Romans 8:28 as being our conformity to the Lord Jesus.  "All things" work toward that end in the lives of those who trust and love Christ.  Thus, the things that happen to us must be viewed in the same God-designed purposes as revealed in the life of the Apostle.  We do not live happenstance lives.  Our Heavenly Father coordinates everything in our lives to fulfill His loving determination make us like His Son.  The blessings flow upon the current of this grace, as do the challenges and the ordinary, seemingly mundane moments.  God seeks to further the Gospel and to form Christ in us with an unyielding determination of lovingkindness and faithfulness.  "Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).

   When we first believed in the Lord Jesus, we likely did not know how involved the Lord would be in our lives, nor did we understand how Christ-centered His purpose.  We still often forget, and require much reminder, encouragement, and challenge to recall that the happenings of our lives are not happenstance.  God relentlessly works to change us from "glory to glory", that is from one measure and radiance of Christlikeness unto another (II Corinthians 3:18).  Nothing deters Him from the performance of this "good work".  To the degree we acknowledge and understand this truth will determine the peace of our hearts as our Father works in our lives, and as we respond.  The way often leads to difficult challenge, but the ultimate goal transcends any loss or pain of the process.  Remembering and affirming this truth of God's resolve helps strengthen our resolve to trust Him, which in and of itself furthers progress toward the purpose of our conformity to the spiritual and moral image of the Lord Jesus.

"We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works."
(Ephesians 2:10)
"I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."
(Romans 8:18)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
(II Thessalonians 2:16-17)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"A Pure Joy"

"A Pure Joy"     
    While cleaning out a bookshelf today, I ran across my first published words, as recorded in my elementary school newspaper.  It was entitled, "Grandfather's Farm".

   "My grandfather has a farm.  I go to the farm every spring.  He has some chickens.  He lives in Atmore.  I like my grandfather's farm very much." - Glen Davis, Mrs. Wilburn's 2nd Grade class, Woodcock Elementary School.

   I know, I know what you're thinking!  "Wow, Glen was a whole lot better writer as a 7 year old than he is now!"  Agreed!  I seem to have lost some clarity and brevity somewhere along the way!  Anyway, we discovered the masterpiece above during a visit to my old school several years ago, just before it closed.  I hadn't walked the halls in nearly 50 years.  Little seemed to have changed actually, and I said farewell to the dear old place with fond memories and a bit of sad melancholy.  Thankfully, my youngest daughter Emmie accompanied me and took many photographs, which my wife Frances compiled into the beautiful, cherished memory book I found today.

   I wrote quite a bit throughout my school days, with plans to one day go to journalism school.  Circumstances prevented that, and when the Lord called me into the ministry, I never thought much about anything but preaching and teaching.  But the years went by, the Internet came along, and an opportunity presented itself to return to writing, mainly in the form of these devotionals (although I did write a book this past summer that we hope to publish sometime this year).  This message is the 4950th, and makes me think that it won't be too long, Lord willing, before we hit 5,000.  I never dreamed of such a thing before starting this endeavor, or even after.  I honestly didn't have any great vision or prospect for what the Orange Moon devotionals would be.  I can't say that I do even now.  I just write them, hopefully in response to the Lord's calling, and send them to folks like all of you who are kind enough to read them.  That never ceases to amaze me.

   Regarding the little boy's words from so long ago, I'm surprised that I mention only my grandfather, referring to the farm simply as his.  My grandmother had a piece of it too, and when I think of childhood influences, she is at or near the top of the list.  She was an old-school Christian who believed that we must take God very seriously.  She was fun also, and when I think of her, I smile - and then I think, "Lord, am I toeing the line?!"  That's a pretty good dual influence.  And, by the way, my daughter Emmie whom I mentioned proudly bears the name of the great grandmother she never met, but about whom she's heard much.  She even looks remarkably like her, a compliment to both of these cherished women of my life.

   Well, as mentioned, I lost brevity a long time ago.  So I'll close by simply thanking you for reading the devotionals, and I also thank the Lord that He made a way for me to scratch the literary itch from the 2nd grade until today.  It has been and remains a pure joy, and the most undeserved blessing.

"My heart is indicting (overflowing with) a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the King: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer."
(Psalm 45:1)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
(II Thessalonians 2:16-17)

"The Realities of Forever"

"The Realities of Forever"     

    God works according to design, or rather, He always acts in coordination with His "eternal purpose in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Ephesians 3:11).  Creation began by His Son, continues accordingly, and will culminate when He "gathers together in one all things in Christ" (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:17; Ephesians 1:10).

    This truth has tremendous significance regarding the Bible's revelation of God's being, nature, and ability.  All things done by our Heavenly Father must fit into His overarching determination to honor and reveal the Lord Jesus.  The specifics, as it were, must align with the general.  Thus, when our Heavenly Father does anything, He must act in a manner that flows with the current of His eternal purpose as it relates to Christ.  This involves a wisdom beyond all imagining, especially in light of the  existence of angelic and human beings to whom God gave the freedom to exercise choices that do not always align with the Divine purpose.  How does He coordinate all things together in a creation that presently "lieth in wickedness"? (I John 5:19).  How do trillions of moments, events, blessings, calamities, and actions by angels and people all somehow serve to fulfill the purposes of One who does not merely move all things as merely pawns on a chessboard?  How does our Heavenly Father "work all things after the counsel of His own will" when all things do not presently correlate to His will? (Ephesians 3:11; I Kings 13:21-22).  How does He do what He does?  The question drives us to our knees and faces in awed, reverent, and even fearful wonder that a Being such as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus can even exist.  Or that He can coordinate all things for the fulfillment of His Christ-exalting purpose.  "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).

   The sublime matter we consider also greatly affects our prayers.  God must answer them all in a manner that aligns with His eternal purpose.  For example, the way in which He responds to our request for this day's bread must fit with ultimate determinations much larger than the morsels of food we will consume.  Specifically answered prayers must align with the general plan and purpose.  This helps us to understand why prayers are answered, and also why prayers are unanswered.  As the Apostle John declared, "And this is the confidence we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us.  And we know that if He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him" (I John 5:14-15).  The "according to His will" refers not merely to the matter of the moments in our lives, but also the realities of forever that guide God's heart and hand in all things.  He cares deeply about the specifics of each of our particular issues, to the degree that He number the hairs of our head (Matthew 10:30).  However, the fulfillment of His eternal purpose in Christ most benefits us, and all.  Our Father thus acts accordingly, and answers prayers accordingly.

   After arising from our knees and faces, we do well to open our Bibles to better learn and understand God's eternal purpose.  This will enable us to more likely pray in accordance with His will, and more likely experience the blessing of answered prayers.  Or, in those times when our requests seem unanswered, we may better understand that our Father must stay His hand in order to execute and coordinate the realities of forever.  We wouldn't want Him to act in any other way, and we can be sure that He never will...

"The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works."
(Psalm 145:17)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
(II Thessalonians 2:16-17)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

“Redemption and Restoration”

"Redemption and Restoration"     

    My 7th grade Social Studies teacher Mr. Swilley posted a sign above the classroom clock, making an obvious point while raising a somber challenge:

    "Time Passes.  Will you?"

   Yes, I passed, and even made an A in the class (I always enjoyed history.  But don't ask about algebra).  Time does pass, and seems to move faster the older we get.  Moreover, as the years go by, we may bemoan opportunities that seemed to pass us by, and which will not return.  Or we remember tests of life in which we didn't fare well.  Nobody makes A's in everything, and we all can look back on failures, missed chances, and those times in which the obvious path of truth, benefit, and God's will lay before us.  But we took the other path.  Hope may seem lost, and much time and opportunity wasted.  

    "O Lord, Thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul.  Thou hast redeemed my life!" (Lamentations 3:58).

   We do well to be rightly repentant for sins, neglect, and detours from the path of truth and righteousness.  We must also seek the Lord's forgiveness, cleansing and restoration through His provision of the Lord Jesus Christ.   Upon this basis, we must then arise from the altar of contrition to overcome the temptation to paralyzing regret.  We do God and ourselves no favors by wallowing in the slough of despond regarding past failures.  Moreover, we can and must have hope in the Lord our redeemer.  Recall the thief on the cross who became a saint in the last moments of his life though the gracious mercy of the Lord Jesus.  The man wasted 99.9% of his earthly lifetime.  Crying out to the Savior with his dying breaths, however, not only saved his soul.  His experience also became the basis through which multitudes of others who failed many of life's tests nevertheless received the saving grace of the Lord Jesus when all seemed lost.  The saint on the cross found redemption from a wasted life, and restoration unto an eternity of worship.  Doubtless no other heart more joyfully and enthusiastically cries with the Psalmist, "I will praise Thee forever!" (Psalm 52:9).

   We cannot change the past.  We can, however, believe in the present that the Lord Jesus pleads our cause and redeems our lives as we trust and submit to Him.  How He will do this is His prerogative.  God's wisdom finds many ways to use both the successes and failures of yesterday to serve as threads He weaves into the tapestry of glorifying Christ in us today and forever.  He would not have us to be paralyzed by the tests we failed.  He would rather have us affirm with Job, "I know that my Redeemer liveth!" (Job 19:25).  He does, and "He ever liveth to make intercession for us" (Hebrews 7:25).  Our Lord is that gracious and merciful, and that willing to administer His redemptive capacity in us no less than in a thief dying on a cross, and a Job suffering great calamity.

"Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord."
(Romans 5:20-21)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
(II Thessalonians 2:16-17)

Monday, March 20, 2017

Ringrunners - Revisited

"Ringrunners - Revisited"     

    (Friends: I wrote the following nearly six years ago.  The young men mentioned still work at the store I referenced.   They continue to "run rings" around their fellow employees.)


    I recently spoke with the manager of a local grocery store we frequent. He mentioned that his district manager had been at the store recently, and questioned him about several handicapped young men working there. The district manager seemed to feel that the boys could be a liability.  I loved the manager's response: "Are you kidding?  They're the best workers I have, and run rings around everybody here!"

    God's economy and our own are often quite different.

     "But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence" (I Corinthians 1:27:30).

    Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ increasingly discover that supposed earthly "handicaps" serve as advantages regarding things that really matter.  Our faith began on a cross whereupon our Creator died in weakness, shame, suffering, and death.  Thus, weaknesses become the vessels of strength.  God turns losses into gains.  Trials transform into triumph.  We see problems as opportunities.  Pain, in its myriad of forms, can be known as a friend.  Moreover, tears lead to the comforting touch of the hand of God upon our troubled faces.  Indeed, as we trust and submit unto Him in our challenges, the Lord Jesus is known in ways we could never otherwise experience.

   Human beings do not naturally prioritize things that matter. The world, the devil and the flesh skew our perceptions, causing us to maximize the minimum, emphasis the inconsequential, and exalt the unimportant.  Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ begins the renewing of our minds whereby we increasingly learn to rightly prioritize our perceptions, based on the Bible's evaluation of the things that matter.  Who would have thought that a baby born in a feeding trough would become the Lord sitting upon the throne of Heaven at the right hand of God?  Uninformed observers who witnessed the birth of the Lord Jesus would not have suspected that God manifest in the flesh lay in such meager circumstances. Nevertheless, the Baby would live, die and rise again to reign as the God who is man and the man who is God.

     Such sublime wonder should confirm the Lord's counsel that "My thoughts are not your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8).  It should tell us also that like those young men at the store,  the Ringrunners, our "handicaps" can be known as opportunities.  Concerning the things that most matter, they may well "run rings" around the supposed strengths of our lives.

"And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  
Therefore 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 12:9-10)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
(II Thessalonians 2:16-17)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Saturday Series - 6 - "Holy, Holy, Holy"

(Friends:  Most Saturdays for the duration of this year, I plan on sharing a message that relates to the character and nature of God, and our response thereunto.  I hope you will find it helpful, and as always, thanks for allowing us to send the devotionals to you.  Glen).

The Saturday Series - 6

"Holy, Holy, Holy"     
   The primary meaning of the Biblical term holy involves something or someone set apart, consecrated, or sanctified.  Since creation rightfully belongs to God, all things and persons should be holy to Him - "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness therefore, the world and they that dwell therein" (Psalm 24:1).  The existence of sin complicates the reality of holiness.  All things belong to God, including all angels and people.  However, not all act in a manner befitting of His ownership.  Thus, the redeeming work of the Lord Jesus Christ involves the ultimate Divine purpose whereby He will "subdue all things unto Himself" (Philippians 3:21).  Whether happily or unhappily, all creation will bow the knee to the Lordship of Christ, and holiness to God will be fully manifested and executed.  "Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet" (I Corinthians 15:24-25).

   This raises an interesting Biblical question.  The most important truth of holiness is that God Himself is holy.  To whom is He set apart, consecrated, or sanctified?  "One cried unto another, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!" (Isaiah 6:3).  The prophet's affirmation provides an answer, raising consideration of the triune nature of God.  The Father is holy, and devoted to the Son and the Holy Spirit.  The Son is holy, and consecrated to the Father and the Holy Spirit.  And, of course, the Holy Spirit is holy, and set apart to the Father and the Son.

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

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

Holy, holy, holy is our Thrice-glorious Lord!

    In essence, God is consecrated to Himself, as He exists in His triune nature.  He cannot be other than who and what He is.  "I am the Lord.  I change not" (Malachi 3:6).  This elicits the faithfulness of His character, nature, and way in an illumination of purity that should thrill, awe, and greatly encourage us even as we fall to our knees and faces.  God will always be who He is.  He will always act in precise accordance with His holy Being.  He will be today who He was yesterday.  We shall know Him tomorrow as He is today.  His goodness and greatness exist in a fixed purity and power, from everlasting to everlasting.  He was, He is, and He will be exactly the God as revealed by His Word, His Spirit, and His creation.  Never will we find Him as other than who He is, as "Holy, holy, holy!"

   Such blessed truth means that someone, Someone, exists who we can trust with all our hearts.  Moreover, Someone exists to whom we can belong without the slightest fear of ever being unjustly abused or misused.  We are holy unto the Holy.  "Be ye holy for I am holy" (I Peter 1:16).  This is peace, the peace of holiness known in those who first fall before the Thrice-glorious Lord, and then arise to walk in the blessedness of belonging to the One who rightly possesses Heaven, earth - and ourselves.

"Give unto the LORD the glory due unto His name: bring an offering, and come before Him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness."
(I Chronicles 16:29)
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."
(Romans 12:1)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
(Hebrews 11:1)

Friday, March 17, 2017

"The Better Question"

"The Better Question"     

    God's grace proceeds from the sufferings of One serving to provide the salvation of others.

    "He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again" (II Corinthians 5:15).

   The same Lord Jesus Christ now lives in believers through the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Yet again, the process of death and life manifests itself through us as we walk with Him.

    "As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ… So then death worketh in us, but life in you" (II Corinthians 1:5; II Corinthians 4:12).

   Many of our challenges provide the basis for our capacity to minister to others, just as the Lord Jesus experienced and practiced during His own earthly life.  He now walks the pathways of the world again in us, leading us to view our difficulties and response to God as the means whereby deliverance can be ministered to people in our sphere of influence.  We sometimes lose, that other might gain.  We hurt, that others might be comforted.  We cry, that others might rejoice.  And we die in various ways, that others might live.   We realize that a primary reason for difficult paths in our lives involves the opportunity they give for the Savior to reveal Himself through us as the risen Christ to those in need of salvation, or in need of strengthening regarding an already existing relationship with the Lord.  

   When we hurt, the natural question comes, "Why is this happening to me?"  Sometimes our pains do involve God's personal working in our lives.  However, frequently the better question is, "Who is this for?"  How will this challenge enable the risen life of Christ to flow through the conduit of our difficulties, losses, pains, and challenges?  The application of Christ's victory through death, resurrection, and ascension proceeds in similar manner as did the atonement He fully accomplished for us.  He walks in us, His "sufferings abound" in us, leading to the revelation of His overcoming life to others.  Our faith began in such manner.  It's revelation continues in similar fashion as the Lord Jesus again walks the earth, executing in us the same quality of God-centered and others-devoted experience of death working in us, but life in others.

"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For 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 4:8-11)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
(Hebrews 11:1)