Tuesday, October 31, 2017

“For He Is Peace”

"For He Is Peace"

    We don't know for sure what is coming.  The next moment may surprise us, and for all our proper planning and preparation, we can never anticipate with certainly the conditions, circumstances, and events we will find, or that will find us.  

    "Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth" (Psalm 27:1).

    On the other hand, the blessed other Nail Scarred Hand, born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ do know the One who is perfectly aware of what is coming in our lives.  "His understanding is infinite" (Psalm 147:5).  

I don't know what tomorrow holds,
but I know Who holds tomorrow
in the palm of His hand, His nail-pierced hand,
Yes, I know Who holds tomorrow.

And this is peace, this is peace.

I don't know how the road will bend,
but I know I will not go without my Friend.
For deep in my spirit, His Spirit lives,
and grace for each journey I've learned that He gives.

And this is peace, this is peace.

I know this, that wherever I go,
I'll find Him there for yes it's true, tomorrow He holds.
And though I can't tell the path that lies ahead of me,
I gaze into the darkness and the Way I plainly see.

And this is peace, this is peace,
for He is peace.

    Our Lord is with us as we go, and will be awaiting us at every destination of life.  He will be all that we need in the journey, and He will be all we need to face wherever the journey leads.  Actually, He will be more than we need.  "Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding, abundantly above all we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end, Amen" (Ephesians 3:20-21).  This is indeed peace, the peace of the Divine mind, as beautifully described by A.W. Tozer: "The flutter of an angel's wing a thousand years hence is as known to God as if it were happening in this moment."   We do not know what the future holds.  But we know Who holds it, and as believers, we have entrusted our hearts and lives unto the One who does know.  Yes, this is peace, for He is peace.

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

Weekly Memory Verse
   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)

Monday, October 30, 2017

“To Wage and Engage”

"To Wage and Engage"

    When tempted to be controlled by fear or insecurity, what do we do?  The Psalmist answers in clear and unmistakable terms: "What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee" (Psalm 56:3).  David affirmed such internal action of the heart and mind in the context of everyday threats from enemies who sought his destruction: "Be merciful unto me, O God: for man would swallow me up; he fighting daily oppresseth me. Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: for they be many that fight against me, O Thou most High" (Psalm 56:1-2).

    Outwardly, our challenges likely seem quite different from those that confronted David.  Inwardly, however, the issue is not that different.  Anything that tempts us to fear, be it minor concern or threats to life, limb, and security, calls us to the faith that sees God as He actually is - perfectly faithful - and His promises as they actually are - completely and utterly true.  "What time I am afraid" thus offers us an open door into the conscious determination to "trust in Thee."  Our Heavenly Father would have us to know Him in actuality and awareness, as opposed to simply principle or doctrine.  He thus allows our spiritual enemies to foist temptations of fear upon us for the purpose of our acting upon who and what we are in Christ.  Christians are believers not simply as a title, but as the hallmark of what we do in this presently earthly lifetime.  We are like the athlete who wears a jersey and actually plays in the game, as opposed to the fan who dons the garb with no intention or opportunity to face an opponent on the field or the the court.  Temptations to fear call us into the conflict, and even more, unto the One who promises His peace and enabling to all who choose to "fight the good fight of faith" (I Timothy 6:12).

    We must do more than wear the robe of righteousness provided in Christ as an identifier.  We must wear it to wage and engage.  As believers, we must believe and overcome the challenges to fear that confront us.  Our spiritual enemies would "daily swallow us up" with insecurity if we merely don the jersey, as it were.  Challenges of every nature and degree call us onto the field to wage war rather than merely wear apparel.  Through the Spirit of Christ and His provision of "the sword of the Spirit" and "the shield of faith," we make the internal choices to trust God and His Word (Ephesians 6:16-17).  The conflict is not easy.  Waging rather than wearing calls us to a far different reality and response.  Again, by definition, believers must believe.  David knew this long before the Scriptures and the permanently indwelling Holy Spirit were available to God's trusting children.  Those weapons are now in our arsenal.  May we use them, and may our spiritual apparel be worn not merely as an identifier of our allegiance, but as the indicator of our determination to wage and engage.  This is our hope for the realized peace of Christ in our hearts, and our capacity to communicate such grace to our spheres of influence.   There is no other.

"This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."
(I John 5:4)
"Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
(Philippians 4:6-7)

Weekly Memory Verse
   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)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Saturday Series - 38 - "The Fall and the Falls" or… “So Beautiful"

This one's a bit longer than usual.  Thanks of your patience.

(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 - 38

"The Fall and the Falls"


"So Beautiful"

   It was one of those moments.  Actually, there were two of them.   

    Frances and I hiked in the mountains of North Georgia on Thursday and Friday this past week.  As always, the experience thrilled our hearts and senses in countless ways, leading to much realization and shared experience of God's indescribable beauty.  Indeed, as on many other occasions over the years when seeing, hearing, or experiencing some aspect of His creativity and lovingkindness, I found myself simply saying to our Lord, over and over, "You are so beautiful!"

    The two moments mentioned involved what I would term the Fall and the Falls.  First, the changing colors of Autumn amazed us, and then, our visit to a wondrous place called Long Creek Falls amazed us yet again.  The wonder commenced with the colors.  The Southern region of the United States has been warm this fall, and also impacted by several storms that have passed through the area.  Some reports have indicated this would make for less than spectacular autumn foliage displays.  Driving to Georgia seemed to confirm the prospect as we saw color, but nothing like we have experienced in the past (some of you may remember my mention of our hike two years ago, when we saw God fully open up His palette of fall hues to riotously splash them onto the foliage and fauna of North Carolina during the very days we hiked there.  I still feel awed upon every remembrance of that time when rain in the forecast threatened our very hike, but far more, when God in His creation bestowed the very glory of His creativity.  Oh yes, so beautiful!).  This time seemed to promise a lesser display, and the first day of our hike confirmed the forecast.  

   The second day, however, put an end to any notion of a limited Divine palette for this autumn season.  Cold weather finally arrived in the days just before we began our time in the mountains.  We awoke to a very chilly morning on Friday, and shivered a bit as we folded our tent and packed our supplies for the day's hike to Springer Mountain, Georgia (the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail).  We've made this journey before, and knew what to expect regarding a mildly challenging ascent.  We did not know, however, that during our descent from Springer, we would literally witness another riotous Divine display, as it were.  About halfway down the mountain, we began to see hues that had not been there earlier in the day.  Greens and browns gave way to golds, yellows, reds, oranges, and a million other color variations for which no names have been, or ever will be adequately assigned.  Again, we both felt as if the leaves transformed even as we beheld them, and as the sun shone through the treetops and onto the foliage and forest floor.  Yes, this time, rather than seeing the finished product of the Autumn Artist, Frances and I instead seemed to watch Him as He painted the forest!  So beautiful! 

    The moment we will most remember, however, involved our second visit to Long Creek Falls during the hike.  We actually planned our visit to the mountains so we could enjoy another time at the Falls, which I consider to be my favorite place on earth (Frances completely concurs!).  We discovered it on a hike several years ago during a mountain foray performed in a two day driving rainstorm that soaked us to the gills.  I'll never forget the first glimpse of the Falls, which are nestled in a beautifully forested and secluded spot that perfectly frame the rushing water and sparkling creek.  "We'll come back here again" I said to Frances that day, and again, she wholly agreed with the prospect.  So, we found ourselves at the Falls yesterday afternoon, after venturing there Thursday at the beginning of our hike.  We wanted to see them in the late afternoon light, and we were not disappointed.  Have I used the term "so beautiful?"  It was, but even more, we both knew that the Lord gave to us another blessed gift, another of those moments that first take our breath, and then rob us of the capacity for finding words to think, to speak, and even to pray.  We sat together with our eyes transfixed on all the scenes at hand.  That which most captured my attention simply involved the cascading water as it rushed over the rocks and onto the sparkling, turbulent pool below.  Power and beauty seemed completely united in the cascade.  I gazed into the torrent with tears in my eyes, and with the longing to think, say, or pray something that might serve as an adequate response to the wonder we beheld.  Nothing intelligible came, however, until a thought - actually a verse of Scripture - come rushing into my heart and mind like the torrents that surged over the Falls.

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

   The Lord Jesus Christ uttered these words to His disciples, and ultimately to all who trust and submit themselves to Him in faith.  He calls each of us to serve as the reservoirs of His glorious Person, and as the flowing fount of life to our particular spheres of influence.  We choose to believe in Him "as the Scripture hath said."  Who does the Bible declare the Lord Jesus to be?  What has He already done for His Father, and for us?  What is He doing?  What will He do forevermore?  All who devote themselves to the centrality of Christ in God's purposes become the holy fountains of His Spirit, His life, and His truth.  By both practical example and verbal expression, God leads and enables us to bear witness to who Christ is, what He has done, what He is doing, and what He promises to do in both time and eternity.  "Ye shall be witnesses unto Me" (Acts 1:8).

   Two moments to forever remember, two among many, actually.  Every moment matters to the God who works all things "according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Ephesians 1:11).  Some, however, are more obvious to our presently limited capacity for awareness.  The Fall and the Falls both bore witness to the incredible beauty of our blessed Lord.  I was keenly aware that I would remember both blessings for the rest of my life, and far more, for the rest of my eternity.  So beautiful is the Father from whom we receive "every good gift and every perfect gift" (James 1:17).  The Psalmist realized such sublime splendor, and prayed accordingly...

"Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us."
(Psalm 90:17)

Weekly Memory Verse
 "Without Me, ye can do nothing… I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
(John 15:5; Philippians 4:13)

Friday, October 27, 2017

"To Please God"

"To Please God" 

     We shall never get far in our relationship with God until we consciously and decisively determine that the matter involves His pleasure far more than our own.

     "Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more" (I Thessalonians 4:1).

    A black hole of despair awaits all who seek their own pleasure as the the goal and purpose of life.  This includes all of Adam's fallen race, as infected by the devil's lie that "ye shall be as gods" (Genesis 3:5).  The kind of false "god" referenced by Satan seeks his own blessedness rather than that of others.  Conversely, the love of God for which we exist "seeketh not her own" (I Corinthians 13:5).  To live for our Lord's pleasure therefore means that we worship and walk according to His character and nature, as enabled by His indwelling presence.  "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5).  Thus, the Lord who redeemed us by the most unselfish act ever performed - the cross of the Lord Jesus - further rescues us by constituting His glory, will, and pleasure as our governing motivation.  The joy of His others-centeredness increasingly becomes our own as we know and respond to His love.

    Our Heavenly Father does not Himself act selfishly by working in us to please Him.  He rather knows that our hearts were made to be governed by the same character whereby He lives and acts.  Commanding and then enabling us to please Him thus means He works unselfishly even as He motivates us to live for His pleasure.  He could grant to us no greater gift than to make us like Himself in character, nature, and way.  Again, His indwelling presence and faithful working begins and continues the work of love that increasingly enables us to reflect our Lord's sublime unselfishness.

"And I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them."
(John 17:26)

Weekly Memory Verse(s)
    "Without Me, ye can do nothing… I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
(John 15:5; Philippians 4:13)

Thursday, October 26, 2017

"The Beautiful Heart"

"The Beautiful Heart"  

     No physical beauty surpasses the colors and hues of autumn.  Our dear Orange Moon friend Randy Reed, pastor and photographer, illustrates this truth by a glorious scene he viewed and photographed in his homeland of Michigan.

   God paints His foliage with the sublime during the fall, gracing dying leaves with pigments of His imagination and application that no other artist can possibly duplicate.  Several years ago, Frances and I hiked in the mountains of North Carolina during the peak of seasonal color.  To this day, I can find no words to describe the wonder we witnessed as every bend of the trail ushered us into increasingly vivid vistas that filled and thrilled our hearts.  I recall thinking on so many occasions during that hike, "Well, Lord, I don't see how You can top this."  But He could, and He did, the memory of which gives me yet another opportunity to bow head and heart in gratitude for the mountain gallery through which we walked in wonder.

   How interesting that dying leaves and foliage present such beauty to our hearts.  There can be only one reason.  Indeed, the beautiful death we see in autumn speaks to us of the most beautiful display of God's heart that will ever occur in either time or eternity.  "Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).  Amid the horror, shame, crime, agony, forsakenness, death, and ugliness of Mount Calvary, God opened to us the holy gallery that unveils who He most deeply is.  The cross displays a love, along with its expressions of grace and mercy, that sings to us of a Heart more beautiful than a trillion eternities would allow us to fully discover.  The Lord Jesus suffered and died for His enemies (Romans 5:10).  His precious blood flowed from wounds that all of our sins carved upon His blessed frame.  He bore the loneliness and forsakenness that should have enshrouded our hearts.  The Prince of life died, an aberration that should not have been possible, but which became actual as God the Father smote His beloved Son for our sakes.  Every leaf of autumn, graced with hues only God could imagine, mix, and splash upon the canvas of creation, speaks to us of Calvary and the beautiful Heart pierced so that the prayer of the Old Testament might be answered by the grace of the New…

"And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us."
(Psalm 90:17)

Weekly Memory Verse 
   One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple" (Psalm 27:4)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

"In the Fires"

"In the Fires"

   "Glorify ye the Lord in the fires" (Isaiah 24:15).

    Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ possess the capacity to honor God in all things and at all times, as led and enabled by the Holy Spirit.  In times of pleasant experiences, we acknowledge our Heavenly Father as the the Giver of "every good gift and every perfect gift" (James 1:17).  Thereby we give Him much glory in accordance with His gracious kindness and generosity.  "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).  Indeed, Scripture declares that "God loveth a cheerful giver" because He is Himself the most cheerful of givers (II Corinthians 9:7).   However, painful times - "the fires" - provide perhaps the greatest opportunity to glorify our Lord as we bear witness to the extent of His goodness and greatness in the midst of challenges that confront our emotional and physical sensibilities.

    It is one thing to trust and magnify the generous Hand of God.  It is another to trust and magnify the mysterious Way of God in times when His loving wisdom determines or allows difficulty.  Choices of faith and submission must be made that run counter to our fleshly perceptions and impulses.  The flesh that "lusteth against the spirit" would lead us to worry, complain, speak, and act in a manner that fails to "give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name" (Psalm 29:2).  The Holy Spirit works in us with far greater power to trust, praise, and act in faith.  However, such a response does not just happen.  We must believe that through Christ we can face adversity in a God-honoring manner.   We then determine to avail ourselves of the grace that transforms possibility into actuality.  Subsequently, fires in our lives brilliantly illuminate our testimony of God's presence, provision, and power to endure.

    It is not easy to "glorify ye the Lord in the fires."  By ourselves, it is not even possible.  However, through the Christ who so honored His Father on the cross, we can also bear witness to the God who is always more than we need Him to be in every circumstance, condition, and situation.  What a privileged opportunity and responsibility, and what joyful purpose awaits us as we honor our Lord in the fires that illuminate Him of whom the Psalmist declared…

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."
(Psalm 46:1)
"Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counselors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God."
(Daniel 3:24-25)

Weekly Memory Verse(s)
    "Without Me, ye can do nothing… I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
(John 15:5; Philippians 4:13)

“Comfort, According To Thy Word”

"Comfort, According To Thy Word"

   Regardless of how far we grow in our walk with the Lord, sorrow will always feel like sorrow.  No less than the Lord Jesus Christ confirms this reality of our present earthly existence.
    "Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith He unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death" (Matthew 26:36-38).

    The Apostle Paul echoes the truth we consider, describing the Christian's experience of being "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" (II Corinthians 6:10).  Spiritual maturity does not preclude emotional distress.  It does, however, call us to respond in a manner of faith and faithfulness rather than being overwhelmed.  What shall we do when life hurts us by loss, pain, difficulty, and even tragedy?  Obviously, we bring our heavy heart to the Lord in the confidence He can and will comfort us.  The Psalmist helps us here.

   "Let, I pray thee, Thy merciful kindness be for My comfort, according to Thy Word unto thy servant" (Psalm 119:76).

    Note the request for comfort, but consider also the context in which God'balm provides help: "according to Thy Word."  Certainly there may be times our Heavenly Father applies comfort simply as an answer to prayer.  However, many and perhaps most bestowals of such grace will result from His application of Scripture to our hearts and minds.  We may remember passages, or we may open our Bibles to find our Lord awaiting us as we avail ourselves of Truth that pointedly applies to the present distress.  Indeed, lingering sorrow, especially in the sense of our being controlled by it, may be the result of failure to seek God "according to Thy Word."  Again, the Psalmist illuminates, "This is my comfort in my affliction: for Thy Word hath quickened (enlivened) me" (Psalm 119:50).  

    David declared his Lord to be "a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).  The Spirit of God works in us to remind us of such grace, and to bring to our remembrance the countless assurances of the Word He inspired.  Indeed, a hurting heart best finds God's comfort in an open Bible.  Therein, our Lord's promises to assure us echo Paul's affirmation that we can know joy in the very midst of sorrow.  Only the Spirit and the Word can lead us there, to the overcoming wonder of God's gracious comfort in Christ.

"Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God."
(II Corinthians 1:3-4)

Weekly Memory Verse(s)
    "Without Me, ye can do nothing… I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
(John 15:5; Philippians 4:13)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

"I Can't! I Can!" Part 2 "We"

(We just sent this one out earlier this year, and have repeated the theme on numerous occasions.  But it seemed to fit so well with yesterday's message, I decided to send it again.  Glen)

"I Can't!  I Can!"

Part 2


     In the believer's relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ, what is His part, and what is our part?

     No simplistic explanations suffice to answer this question, as evidenced by the Apostle Paul's fascinating declaration of life in Christ, written to the Galatians (2:20).

   "I am crucified with Christ."  Paul is dead and gone.

    "Nevertheless I live."  Paul rises from death and returns.

    "Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me."  Paul leaves again, declaring that his Lord has taken active residence in his heart.

    "The life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me."  Again, Paul returns to live.  However, the circle of life in the Lord Jesus culminates in Christ living in Paul, and Paul living through Christ.

     Paul's accounting of life in Christ reflects the New Testament teaching that the Spirit of the Lord Jesus lives in us so that we may live through Him.  "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him" (I John 4:9).  The Christian life therefore involves not only the Lord Jesus and not only us.  Life is rather a "we."   The Spirit of Christ indwells, motivates, leads and enables. The spirit of the believer responds in faith, submission, and confident anticipation that we are powerfully enabled through Christ to trust and obey God.

    Emphasis solely on the life of Christ inevitably leads to passivity and failure to access the power of God already provided to every believer (II Peter 1:3).  Emphasis solely on our own dedication and determination leads to pride if we believe ourselves to be successful, and despair when our failures reveal our weakness apart from the Lord Jesus (John 15:5).  How, therefore, are we to understand His role in living within us, and our role in responsive living to His dynamic presence?  

     This question of all questions requires a lifetime to answer.  We must increasingly discover the wonder of life lived as a "we" rather than simply a "He" or a "me."  There is no more fulfilling or joyous experience of living, and in real terms, there is no other genuine life.  The Spirit of Christ lives in us so that we may live through Him.  We must grow in the grace and knowledge of a Savior whose indwelling presence does not annihilate us, but rather actualizes the God-given gifts and faculties of our humanity.  Again, the holy process and dynamic of life in Christ proclaims with Paul, - I die.  I live.  Yet not I.  Christ lives in me.  I live by Christ.  We!

"We shall live with Him by the power of God."
(II Corinthians 13:4)

Weekly Memory Verse(s)
    "Without Me, ye can do nothing… I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
(John 15:5; Philippians 4:13)

Monday, October 23, 2017

"I Can't! I Can!"

(A discussion with a friend reminded me of this one, a repeat from 2013)

"I Can't!  I Can!"

     Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ live in an interesting duality of "I can't" and "I can."

    "Without Me, ye can do nothing" (John 15:5).
    "We are weak in Him" (II Corinthians 13:4).
    "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13).
    "I also labor, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily" (Colossians 1:29).

    I cannot!  I can, through Him!  Both these spiritual sensibilities must fill our hearts and minds as we seek to trust and obey God.  Indeed, His standards are so high that we could not begin to fulfill them by ourselves.  "His way is perfect" (II Samuel 22:31).   Never, however, did our Lord expect or call us to fulfill such an impossibility.  He rather fills us with the Spirit of His Son when we believe, leading and enabling us to godliness as we trust and submit ourselves to Him.  Thus, we forever maintain within our hearts and minds the acknowledgement of "I can't."  We do not stop there, however, but rather affirm our weakness as the vessel and branch of Christ's empowering presence and involvement.   As the Lord declared to the Apostle Paul, "My strength is made perfect in weakness" (II Corinthians 12:9).  Thus, we confess, "I can, through Christ."

    This understanding is vital.  If we believe ourselves to be independently capable of even the slightest act of godliness, we will crash upon the rocks of futility.  Conversely, if we fail to accompany our "I can't" with "I can, through Christ," we will surrender to passivity and fail to avail ourselves of the indwelling Holy Spirit's enabling grace.  Indeed, the Christian life involves not Christ alone, or ourselves alone, but rather the Spirit of the Lord Jesus walking in us so that we might walk through Him.

    "I will dwell in them and walk in them" (II Corinthians 6:16).
    "Walk ye in Him" (Colossians 2:6).

    I recall a discussion with a young man who struggled with Scripture's lofty commands, as we all do at times.  "I just can't consistently do them!" he cried.  I told him that I fully understood the challenge he faced, and that he was half right in his cry of futility.  "It is true that apart from the Lord Jesus, you cannot obey God's commands."  I let that thought sink in, and then continued.  "However, the truth of the matter is that as a born again Christian, you are not apart from the Lord Jesus!  No, He dwells in you by His Spirit to enable all faithfulness and godliness.  He lives in you so that you may live through Him.  Therefore, let your awareness of "I can't" serve as the basis of confidence and faith: "I can, through Christ!"

    The New Testament epistles declare this blessed duality of Truth throughout their pages, both directly and implicitly.  We must affirm the reality in heart and mind, humbly acknowledging our weakness and confidently affirming the power of God as present and active in our hearts.  The proud will sneer at this Scriptural light as it strikes at the heart of self-sufficiency.  The passive will find it decidedly challenging as it eliminates all excuses for unbelief and disobedience.  "I can't."  This is true, but it is not the full and final ray of light in so vital a matter as faithfulness to God.  "I can, through Christ!"  Such a gift of grace completes the understanding that must guide us to a life as God intends it to be.  Thereby our Lord saves us from both pride and passivity, and thereby a far more consistent relationship with Him blesses our lives with the joy of faith and faithfulness.

"In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him."
(I John 4:9)

Weekly Memory Verse(s)
    "Without Me, ye can do nothing… I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
(John 15:5; Philippians 4:13)

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Saturday Series - 37 - “Dependent and Free"

(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 - 37

"Dependent and Free"

   God made us for total dependence on Himself - "He is thy life… Without Me, ye can do nothing" (Deuteronomy 30:20; John 15:5).  He also made us with the capacity for exercising our dependency by faith - "The word is nigh thee, even in thy heart and in thy mouth, that is, the word of faith which we preach" (Romans 10:8).  Thus, we must personally relate to Him in trust and submission if we are to experience the reality of both God and ourselves.  We are not merely machines with no role in our relationship with God, but rather living persons who either respond or do not respond to His movings upon our hearts.  "When Thou saidst, Seek ye My face; my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek" (Psalm 27:8).

   This speaks much to the nature of our Creator.  Anyone with a lesser character would never have made beings who might rebel against him.  The risks are too high, the consequences too great, and the need for such creatures non-existent.  Only the God who "is love" would have granted such freedom (I John 4:8).  Indeed, love seeks relationship and real fellowship.  "Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love Him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:23).  If God were not who He is, such "abode with him" would hold no interest for Him.  He would have formed us as mere machines to do His bidding no less than the computer that automatically responded as I typed the words you are reading.  

    Consider the most vivid and poignant implication of freedom.  "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:23).  Our Heavenly Father well knew that creating us with the capacity to rebel would lead to our choice to do so, and far more, to the tortured agony and death of His beloved Son on the cross of Calvary.  There God would smite the Lord Jesus with the full fury of His wrath against sin, and there He would utterly abandon Him to die alone: "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?!" (Matthew 27:46).  How much does our loving fellowship with God mean to Him?  Look to Calvary, where for our sakes the Savior cried out into the darkness for His Father and the Holy Spirit.  He received no answer so that we might be freely received at the throne of grace, never to be ignored.  As we exercise our God-formed capacity to come by faith in the Lord Jesus, we may approach the Throne with confidence and assurance our presence is welcomed, welcomed gladly.  "We have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:2).

    We seek to trust our Heavenly Father completely - "with all thine heart" (Proverbs 3:5).  Thereby we access the enabling to relate to Him in a manner that is authentic and free, but which is also empowered by the One to whom we relate.  David declared it most succinctly - "I will love Thee, o Lord my strength!" (Psalm 18:1).  We thus relate to God in real relationship, while attributing the glory for such freely exercised capacity to Him.  Again, only the God of Scripture, the living and true God, would have made us for this Life of our lives, and this pleasure He finds in the loving fellowship of creatures such as ourselves.  

"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me."
(Revelation 3:20)

Weekly Memory Verse 
    Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.
(Psalm 90:2)