Thursday, November 30, 2017

"The Hour Is His" Part 2

"The Hour Is His"

Part 2

    Our fleshly humanity, inherited from Adam, rebels against the notion of belonging to God rather than ourselves.  "The flesh lusteth against the spirit" (Galatians 5:17).  Infected with the lie that "ye shall be as gods," the strains of devilish deception tempt us to believe we can govern ourselves far better than anyone else, including God.  Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ must therefore strongly and frequently affirm the inclination of our spirits, as motivated by the indwelling Holy Spirit.  "I delight in the law of God after the inward man" (Romans 7:22).  We must put to death any fleshly notion that we can rule ourselves, or that we own ourselves.  We cannot, and we do not.  "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool… Ye are not your own" (Proverbs 28:26; I Corinthians 6:19).  The hour is indeed His because we and everything we are and have belongs to our Heavenly Father as His "purchased possession" through Christ (Ephesians 1:14).  

    Left to ourselves, we drift in the dark seas of independence, believing we are capable of navigating the journey of this life, or even closer to home, this day.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  "O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jeremiah 10:23).  We try, again, as tempted by the world, the devil, and the flesh (including and especially our own).  At best, futility results, especially regarding the primary purpose of our lives, namely, consistently walking in faith and faithfulness.  Sometimes we even court and encounter shipwrecks of disaster as the wages of sin lead to various forms of death (Romans 6:23).  The latter point speaks to a vital issue of Biblical truth, namely, the fact that the essence of sin involves the delusion of independence that we belong to ourselves and can thus govern our own existence.  Such deception began with Lucifer, the "light-bearer" who deluded himself into believing he could be a light be-er (Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:17).  The devil failed in the attempt, dooming himself and countless other angelic and human hearts to the oblivion of seeking to be what they can never become.  God is God.  We are not.  No more fundamental Biblical truth illuminates, encourages, and challenges our hearts.  Thus, we belong to Him, and only by trusting and submitting ourselves to Him can we successfully journey through the seas of both time and eternity.  "Come ye and let us walk in the light of the Lord" (Isaiah 2:5).

   Morning, noon, and night we do well to remember Whose we are, and who we are.  "For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8).  We must consistently affirm that we belong to Another for the fulfillment of His purposes.  This may seem daunting and challenging as the questions arise, "Where might He lead me?  What might He call me to do?"  The specifics of His leadings and callings vary in thousands of ways.  However, the overarching truth is that He will lead us in light, peace, joy, and most importantly, in the manner that honors the Lord Jesus and fulfills the will of God.  This is life, the life of Christ revealed in those who remember and affirm the blessed and only tranquility available to human hearts…

"We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture."
(Psalm 100:3)
"O Lord, truly I am Thy servant."
(Psalm 116:16)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
(I Timothy 1:17)

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

“The Hour Is His”

"The Hour Is His"

    We live and give as stewards, not as owners.

    "The world is Mine, and the fulness thereof" (Psalm 50:12).

    The peace of knowing that all belongs to our Father prepares and enables us to grip our possessions lightly, in the knowledge that they are not "our possessions."  They are His.  We are His.  This includes not only our possessions or money, but our time and how we use it.  I may plan to spend a particular portion of the day performing a necessary responsibility or enjoyable privilege.  Should the Owner of my life have other plans, however, we must remember that "my times are in Thy hand" (Psalm 31:15).  Or, as Solomon declared, "A man's heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).  Suppose I've been planning to cut the grass for several days, and have blocked out a specific hour in which to perform the task.  As I'm getting the mower out, I remember a friend who is experiencing a particularly difficult trial and might benefit from a phone call.  A strong sense of making that call pervades my thoughts.  However, I'm also thinking about the task at hand.  "I've been wanting to cut the yard for days, and I'm not going to have another chance until the weekend!"   In such times, we trust the Lord for His guiding wisdom, and our devised way may defer to His directing of our steps.  Because we are His, the hour is His, and that time is in His hand.

    The principle holds true in every aspect of our lives.  To live and give as stewards rather than owners blesses us with peace.  However, it also challenges us with the will of God that sometimes flows against the current of our natural inclinations.  No less than the Savior prayed in the Garden of prayer and pressure that drew sweaty blood from His pores, "Not My will, but Thine be done!" (Luke 22:42).  The Lord Jesus perfectly knew the Father to whom He belonged.  Thus He overcome the tempest of temptation to walk in the tranquility of "Thy will be done" (Matthew 6:10).  As a friend often says, "we must know who we are, and Whose we are."  We live and give as stewards, and and as sons and daughters devoted to a Father whose "way is perfect" (II Samuel 22:31).  Our times are in His hand and our well being is in His heart.  We seek His will accordingly, and trust Him to lead us in the love of Christ that assures us of life, peace, and the reality of realization…

"Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?"
(I Corinthians 6:19)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
(I Timothy 1:17)

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


(Friends: Well, it's that time again.  It's been nearly two years since I sent to you my favorite poem, "The Darkling Thrush," by Thomas Hardy.   This time, you'll find something extra, something you might call a poetic response.  This one is for Jay and Randy, and for all who "fling their souls upon the growing gloom."  Glen)


"The Darkling Thrush"

Thomas Hardy

I leant upon a coppice gate
when Frost was specter-grey,
and Winter's dregs made desolate
the weakening eye of day.

The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
 like strings of broken lyres,
and all mankind that haunted nigh
had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to be
the Century's corpse outleant,
his crypt the cloudy canopy,
the wind his death-lament.

The ancient pulse of germ and birth
was shrunken hard and dry,
and every spirit upon earth
seemed fervorless as I.

At once, a voice arose among
the bleak twigs overhead,
in a full-hearted evensong
of joy illimited.

An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
in blast-beruffled plume,
had chosen thus to fling his soul
upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
of such ecstatic sound,
was written on terrestrial things
afar or nigh around,

That I could think there trembled through
his happy good-night air
some blessed Hope, whereof he knew,
and I was unaware.

(December 31, 1900)

"To Fling Our Souls"

Like the thrush of long ago,
who seemed to have no cause
for raising battered heart and soul
to sound a joyful voice,

The song of the redeemed
rings through a darkened realm.
Its bells of worship sing,
It's truth sublimely tells

The glory of a Savior
worthy of all praise,
the story of redemption,
the wonder of His grace.

How can we sing?  How can we not
in the light of His dear face?
For like the thrush of long ago,
a blessed Hope conveys

The Light that shines in darkness,
the splendor of His ways.
We join the thrush to fling our souls 
 in joy and grateful praise.

"An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small…"

(November 27, 2017)

"And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them."
(Acts 16:22-25)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
(I Timothy 1:17)

Monday, November 27, 2017

“The Hope of Our Hearts”

"The Hope of Our Hearts"

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

    Measures of joy and pleasure grace us in things, experiences, provisions, and most of all, people.  Only in God Himself, however, do we find immeasurable fulfillment of our hearts.  "He is thy life" declared Moses in the Old Testament.  "To live is Christ" proclaimed the Apostle Paul in the New (Deuteronomy 30:20; Philippians 1:21).  Our present experience of such grace is limited as we "see through a glass darkly" (I Corinthians 13:12).  The Person, life, and presence of God nevertheless constitutes the one indispensable content of our hearts.  As my wife Frances says, "Having Him, we have all."  Indeed, we require much of earthly supply to maintain our physical, emotional, and intellectual health, as provided by our  Heavenly Father.  Regarding the depths of our being and selfhood, however, the inner sanctum of our spirits exists for One.  "God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever" (Psalm 73:26).  This we must believe, first because it is true, and then because our Lord desires loving fellowship with us based on His personal devotion and our response of "Thou art my God, I will exalt Thee!" (Isaiah 25:1).

    We will progress only to a limited measure of relationship with God if we fail to build the altar within our hearts whereupon we sacrifice all idols.  If we believe that anything or anyone else can supply the joy and peace of our hearts, we are grasping at a passing wind.  "Thou art God alone" affirmed the Psalmist to the Holy One who made and redeemed our hearts to serve as His spiritual temple (Psalm 86:10).  No one else can dwell in this Holy of holies deep within us.  We must therefore solemnly and joyfully choose to believe that we could lose everything, but if God remained, we would have lost nothing.  He alone fulfills the hope of our hearts.  This is hard truth to our flesh, but blessed assurance to our spirits.  Our Father loves us to the degree He could not be content by merely dwelling with us.  "I will dwell in them" He promised, and then fulfilled His word through the Lord Jesus' death, resurrection, ascension, and giving of the indwelling Holy Spirit to all who believe (II Corinthians 6:16).  We must not be content with any notion that something or someone other than God can fill and fulfill us.  We were made for the wondrous abiding of His Spirit within us, to the degree that Paul proclaimed of believers, "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5).  Herein lies "fullness of joy" and "pleasures forevermore."  We will find such grace and such fulfillment of heart in no other, and in nothing else…

"And now, Lord, what wait I for?  My hope is in Thee."
(Psalm 39:7)

Weekly Memory Verse
    Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
(I Timothy 1:17)

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Saturday Series - 42 - "The Glad God"

(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 - 42

"The Glad God"

    Our view of God must include the truth of His indescribably glad nature.

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

    We must perceive God in terms of the Psalmist's affirmation, especially in light of the Bible's accounting of our Lord's displeasure regarding the current state of creation.  Things are not as He would have them to be because of sin and its consequences.   This is especially true regarding human hearts, many of which give Him no regard at all, and others that presently know Him in far more limited experience than He desires.  The Bible's declaration of God's discontent with things as presently constituted must be interpreted in light of its plainly stated description of He in whom the trusting heart finds "joy unspeakable and full of glory" even though we cannot see or hear Him (I Peter 1:8).  Our Lord's sorrow does not preclude the truth that He exists as the very essence of joy, to the extent that only in Him are found "fullness of joy" and "pleasures forevermore."

    Among many reasons for our Lord's displeasure is the fact of our own.  A God of pure and exhilarating joy cannot by definition be pleased when sorrow pervades the hearts He made.  Thus, He reveals Himself and His truth by His Word, His Spirit, His people, and His involved presence in creation.  He offers salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ and the joy of His redeeming grace.  "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice" commands the Apostle Paul, revealing the God who desires "to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness" (Isaiah 61:3).  Our Heavenly Father's pleasure coincides with our own and He will not be content until His trusting children in Christ all experience complete deliverance from sorrow, and complete entrance "into the joy of thy Lord" (Matthew 25:21).

   Perceiving God rightly and accurately understanding His truth requires our awareness of His glad nature.  "Thou hast made known to me the ways of life.  Thou shalt make me full of joy with Thy countenance" (Acts 2:28).  The degree to which we know His joy determines the experience of our own capacity for a glad heart.  Amid the challenges and pains of our present existence, we can know through Christ the wonder of being "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" (II Corinthians 6:10).  One day we will know undisturbed and unmitigated gladness in the presence of the glad God.  For now, we often see Him through tears.  The vision nevertheless graces us with the capacity to rejoice in the very midst of sorrow.  This reveals the power of joy, that is, of our Lord's joyous being and nature as the glad God, and the God who alone can make us His glad children.

"O send out Thy light and Thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto Thy holy hill, and to Thy tabernacles. Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy."
(Psalm 43:3-4)
"Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation."
(Habakuk 3:18)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.
(Hebrews 12:28)

Friday, November 24, 2017

"The Last Step"

"The Last Step"

    "It is good for me to draw near to God" (Psalm 73:28).

    The Psalmist states an obvious maxim regarding the very Life of our lives, but one we must nevertheless often read, hear, and remember.  Interestingly, the primary reason for the good declared by the Psalmist regarding our drawing near to God involves what seems to be an enigma.

    "Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you" (James 4:8).

    James almost seems to place the responsibility for fellowship with the Lord within the province of our determination and actions.  In a sense, this is true.  Relationship between two parties means that both must take steps toward each other for association and communication to occur.  As Solomon declared, "A man that hath friends must show himself friendly" (Proverbs 18:24).  Regarding our bond with the Lord, we must relate to Him in order to fully experience the fact of His involved presence in our hearts and lives.  This means that we must respond to the Holy Spirit's moving within us to seek the One who seeks us.  James' contention that God draws near as we draw near to Him must be viewed in the light of the whole counsel of Scripture.  Our desire and decision to seek the Lord begins with His seeking of us, again, by the Holy Spirit's working in us to approach our Lord in responsive devotion. 

    "When Thou saidst, Seek ye My face; my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek" (Psalm 27:8).

    God's "Seek ye My face" initiates our "Thy face, Lord, will I seek."  This leads to His drawing near to us in the sense of fellowship because He has no desire in a forced communion with us that would be meaningful to neither Him or ourselves.  We might say that regarding communication with our Heavenly Father, He beckons and provides motivation for fellowship, but awaits our response until He takes the last step toward us that fosters genuine nearness of loving devotion and communication.   This involves our conscious approach to the Throne of grace in prayer, reading or remembrance of Scripture, fellowship with other believers, and an expectant and responsive heart to God and His working along the pathways of life.  Thus, our fellowship with Him is real, free, and meaningful as enabled by the Holy Spirit, and as accessed by our seeking of the One who seeks us.  

    We were made for such grace, and redeemed by the Christ whose indwelling presence provides the power for this Life of our lives.  It is indeed good to "draw near to God," and it is even better as He takes "the last step" of drawing near to us in living and loving fellowship.

"God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father."
(Galatians 4:6)
"But as for me, I will come into Thy house in the multitude of Thy mercy: and in Thy fear will I worship toward Thy holy temple."
(Psalm 5:7)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.
(Hebrews 12:28)

Thursday, November 23, 2017

“Intelligent Thanksgiving”

"Intelligent Thanksgiving"

    I recently heard a public figure express gratitude, but not to the Lord or to people.  "I thank my lucky stars that things worked out!" declared the grateful gentleman who used his God-given capacity for thanksgiving, but not for any purpose related to truth.   In real terms, he may as well have said, "I thank those mindless, heartless bags of gas that float out there in space, the ones who somehow orchestrate fortuitous events for me!"

   "I will give thanks unto Thee, o Lord" (II Samuel 22:50).

   It is one thing to express gratitude.  It can be quite another to do so in the light of reality.  If neighbor Ralph helps me paint our house, but I send a note of gratitude to John, another fellow who lives nearby, both men would wonder if I had lost my mind.  Far more importantly, if the Lord and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ exists as the active and involved Giver of "every good gift and every perfect gift," we would lose both heart and mind if we misdirect our gratitude toward another (James 1:17).  Long ago, God strictly warned Israel not to "worship the host of heaven" rather than Heaven's true Lord and Father (Deuteronomy 4:19).  We must be careful to intelligently express thanksgiving in the light of reality and Biblical truth if we are to use our capacity for gratitude in a manner that honors God, and blesses the hearts of both ourselves and those who hear our expression of gratitude.

    The altar of thanksgiving is no place for mere ritual, or again, misguided and mindless worship.  God gave us a brain for countless reasons, one of which is the recognize the true Provider of "life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:25).  "Lucky stars" are among a pantheon of false gods to whom human beings offer thanksgiving.  Thus, born again believers must seek to know our real Benefactor as well as possible in order to properly acknowledge and thank Him for gifts given from His heart of gracious generosity.  Indeed, perhaps the greatest truth of all declares that "my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).  "By Christ Jesus" - in other words, our Savior's suffering, forsakenness, death, and loss made possible the gain of our salvation and eternal relationship with God.  Every good and perfect gift therefore comes to us with a price tag, as it were, but not because we must pay for gifts given.  The Lord Jesus purchased all things for us by shedding His precious lifeblood.  Remembering this Truth of all truths forms and informs our capacity to give thanks in truth and reality.  No lucky stars died for us, nor did anyone or anything else.  In such holy light we join the Psalmist in expressing mindful and heart-filled gratitude both now and forevermore…

"O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto Thee forever!"
(Psalm 30:12)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.
(Hebrews 12:28)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

“The Gift We Can Give”

"The Gift We Can Give"

    Our capacity for thanksgiving offers a blessed and fascinating opportunity in our relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.

    "O give thanks unto the Lord" (Psalm 107:1).
    "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein" (Psalm 24:1).

    What do you give to the One to whom all things belong?  In tangible terms, we can give nothing to God that He does not already own as "the Possessor of heaven and earth" (Genesis 14:22).  He made all things, He sustains all things, and and while not everything presently flows according to the course of His perfect will, all things remain the possession of their Creator.  Thus, we cannot give anything to our Heavenly Father in the normal sense of transferring ownership that characterizes our human experience.

    We can, however give thanks.  In the grateful offering, we present to God something He will not have if we fail to open the treasuries of our Christ-filled hearts.  Such opportunity originates in the thoughtful, intelligent gratitude commanded by Scripture, as opposed to the mere rote expression - "vain repetitions" - often practiced without heart, mind, and authentic spiritual reality (Matthew 6:7).  

    "Give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness" (Psalm 30:4).

    When we gratefully respond to the Holy Spirit's movings in our inner depths, as guided by the Scriptures He inspired and by His involved working in our lives, we literally give something to God He would not otherwise have.  In the mystery of Divine-human relations, we join the Psalmist in his holy determination: "I will freely sacrifice unto Thee.  I will praise Thy name, of Lord, for it is good" (Psalm 54:6).  While utterly dependent on the creative moving of the Spirit within us, we nevertheless bring something to the table that flows from our own personhood.  God made us as persons rather than mindless, programmed computers.  To spiritually, intelligently, and lovingly give thanks therefore means that we can actually bestow something upon our blessed Lord He would not otherwise have.  

     Personally, I know of few more thrilling or motivating thoughts.  Perhaps this is one reason David so passionately determined to express himself to his Lord.  "Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and He shall hear my voice" (Psalm 55:17).  Indeed, if it is possible to give something, anything, to the glorious One who provides our life, breath, and very being, then we must, we can, and we will!  What an opportunity and gift from the God of whom the hymnodist exulted, "Out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth and giveth and giveth again."  He does, and let us be found in holy response, giving and giving and giving again that which our Lord will not have unless He hears the voice of our heart and our lips giving thanks at the remembrance of His holiness.

If my voice is sweet to you, 
as Your Word declares,
and if somehow You find delight in my prayers,
then my voice, Lord, You will hear.
My voice You will hear.

"O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto Thee forever!" (Psalm 30:12).  

Weekly Memory Verse
   Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.
(Hebrews 12:28)

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

“Thy Grace Alone”

"Thy Grace Alone"

    The writer of Hebrews declares grace to be our hope for acceptable service to God.

   "Wherefore we, receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear" (Hebrews 12:28).

    United with Truth, it's constant companion, the grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ justifies, sanctifies, and ultimately glorifies all who trust in the Savior.  "Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (John 1:17).  

    We enter into Christ through the grace of God's freely given favor, as received by faith.  "By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves.  It is the gift of God, and not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

    We subsequently walk with our Lord by the same grace that introduced us to Him.  "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him… I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (Colossians 2:6; I Corinthians 15:10).

   Finally, our Heavenly Father's gracious process of conforming us to the spiritual and moral image of the Lord Jesus ensures that every believer will one day "be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (I John 3:2).  "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).

   Grace covers us in terms of past, present, and future.  Regarding our present lives, born again believers must realize that we live by the same grace as received through faith whereby we were born again.  Our spiritual enemies tempt us to view the Christian life in terms of our doings as the central aspect of walking with God.  Without minimizing the truth that God calls us to action and good works, we must never forget the grace and originates and empowers faithfulness to God.  As Paul wrote to the Philippians, we "work out" that which God first "works in" (Philippians 2:12-13).  We are always in response to Him, our faith being the product of His grace, and His love begetting our own: "We love Him because He first loved us" (I John 4:19).  The Lord Jesus Himself lived such a life during His earthly journey - "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5:17).  Since Scripture calls us to "walk even as He walked," we must follow in the footsteps of the Son, as empowered by the Father's leadership and Holy Spirit's enabling (I John 2:6).  This is the grace and truth of God in Christ, this is our salvation, and this is our hope for a life lived in the glorious light thereof.

Thy grace alone, dear Father,
this is hope for me,
to walk in the truth of the gift You give 
in Christ so wonderfully free.

I have no other way, dear Lord,
 no other hope for me
to walk in faith and faithfulness,
to please and honor Thee.

So here I am, dear Father,
the vessel of Thy grace.
Lead me now and ever on
in the light of Thy dear face.

To shine with truth, to walk in grace,
to live throughout my days
by Thy Son, Thy Word, Thy Spirit,
Thy freely given grace!

Thy grace alone, dear Father,
this is hope for me...

"And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work."
(II Corinthians 9:8)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.
(Hebrews 12:28)

Monday, November 20, 2017

"The Necessity of Sorrow"

"The Necessity of Sorrow"

    God's allowance and even application of sorrow in our hearts reveals the goodness of His loving character.

    "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes" (Proverbs 13:24).

    Kindness and the desire to bless characterizes the disposition of Divine love.  "The Lord is good to all, and His tendermercies are over all His works" (Psalm 145:9).  Such devotion, however, must flow with the current of Divine truth, justice, wisdom, and God's eternal purpose in the Lord Jesus Christ.  True love demands that He judge those who will not respond to His overtures of grace.  All creation would be doomed if the Lord failed to act against sin and its consequences.  Just as with the flood of Noah, God's present and future judgments result from His loving desire to preserve humanity from utter destruction.  "And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them.  And behold, I will destroy them with the earth…And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved" (Genesis 6:13; Matthew 24:22).  True love also demands that God chasten and scourge His trusting children in Christ when we persist in blindness or failure to repent of ongoing unbelief and disobedience.  "Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby" (Hebrews 12:11).  We would all remain spiritual infants if our Heavenly Father failed to exercise His loving discipline.  Our Lord's natural disposition of lovingkindness thus unites with the perfection of His character to motivate His actions toward us in accordance with the best interests of both creation and ourselves.  "As for God, His way is perfect" (II Samuel 22:31).

    We wouldn't want it any other way.  God must be God, and He must act accordingly if we are to have hope of life and peace.  One sentimental deviation from His spiritual and moral purity would doom us all.  Thus, if our Heavenly Father's wisdom deems that allowance or application of sorrow is for our best, His desire for our blessedness will not preclude His administration of challenges.  He takes no pleasure in seeing us hurt, but He gives no latitude regarding necessary chastening.  As Solomon declared, failure to spare the rod when necessary involves parental hatred even if it may seem that loving affection motivates the shirking of responsibility.  This is the hard truth of love, Divine love, and this is the illuminating truth regard God's perfect character, nature, and way.  He loves us enough to hurt us when and as necessary, taking no pleasure in our sorrows, but knowing that our conformity to the image of Christ is far too important to jeopardize by sentimental neglect of His parental responsibility.

"If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?  But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.  Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?  For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness."
(Hebrews 12:7-10)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.
(Hebrews 12:28)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Saturday Series - 41 - "The Easy Yoke"

(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 - 41

"The Easy Yoke"

    Consider the Lord's parable regarding a man who bestowed varying amounts of money on three servants, five "talents" to one, two to another, and one to a third servant (Matthew 25:14-15).  The first two men wisely stewarded their responsibility, doubling their master's investment.  The third servant, however, fearfully buried his lord's money and earned no return.  The narrative provides a striking and illuminating reason for his failure.

    "Then he that had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strayed: and I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth" (Matthew 25:24-25).

    Nothing in the parable confirms the servant's perception of his master as a "hard man."  Indeed, the lord's response to the first two servants indicates a most generous heart desirous to reward good stewardship.  Faithfulness regarding a few things led to further responsibility over many things, and also the blessed invitation, "Enter thou into the joy of thy lord" (Matthew 25:23).  The master was not hard nor was he at all unjust.  Sadly, however, the third servant failed to accurately recognize the true heart and way of his employer.

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

   The Lordship of Jesus calls us to the most wondrous of masteries, a truth we must know and in which we must grow.  He is the most winsome of rulers, to the degree His provision of empowering grace precedes our calling to obedience.  He enables us to love God by imparting the very love of God into our hearts when we believe.  "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5).  Thereby we trust and obey by the supply of His living presence, namely, the "power that worketh in us" (Ephesians 3:20).  He leads us not as a tyrannical master, but rather as our elder Brother who guides us unto the Father who calls us to joyfully serve Him as sons and daughters.  "Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ" (Matthew 28:10; Galatians 4:7).  To know Him rightly thus leads us to glad service even when great sacrifice is involved in our devotion to God and others.  "They departed… rejoicing that they were  counted worthy to suffer shame for His name" (Acts 5:41).  

   The third servant was cast into "outer darkness," reflecting his inner darkness regarding the master.  He did not know the heart of his employer.  Thus, he did not serve him well.   The lesson both promises and warns us.  We must know our Lord rightly to serve Him well.  We must increasingly know our Lord rightly to serve Him well.  Obedience and service flow from the fount of grace as received through faith.  The order must never be reversed, and we must realize that responsibility fulfilled always proceeds from relationship experienced.  Our Heavenly Father is not interested in mere service without heart.  Nor should such spiritual ignorance and perversion interest us.  Long ago, He severely rebuked Israel "because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things" (Deuteronomy 28:47).  The lesson speaks to us.  Know the Lord as He actually is.  Understand His truth.  Trust and submit unto Him in the light of His sublime goodness, integrity, and generosity.  Serve Him accordingly, with grateful devotion and expectation.  Great returns on His investment in us await, including further blessed responsibility, present gladness of heart, and the joyous anticipation of one day hearing, "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!"

"Serve the Lord with gladness."
(Psalm 100:2)
"We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
(Ephesians 2:10)

Weekly Memory Verse
  To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
(Romans 8:6)

Friday, November 17, 2017

“A Thorn… and the Rose”

"A Thorn… and the Rose"

    I will likely hear "Happy Thanksgiving" sincerely expressed many times in the next week by family, friends, congregants in services, and even from strangers met along the pathways of life.  None, however, will likely find a place in my memory like Mr. Lafitte's utterance as we left a service held several days ago.

    At first, I did not understand what Mr. Lafitte attempted to say.  He suffered a stroke many years ago, and in the time we have known him has been confined to a wheelchair.  He cannot clearly speak, although he enunciates well enough to let us know that "Amazing Grace" is his favorite hymn.  The smile that illuminates his face when we sing the familiar hymn tells us that.  So, as I leaned down to shake his left hand (his right is paralyzed and withered), I wasn't sure what he attempted to say.  Perhaps it was the smile that interpreted.  As I realized the Thanksgiving greetings that came forth from garbled words, I knew that I would not hear a clearer or more blessed invocation of grace from any voice, or any heart during the coming days.

   "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers" (Ephesians 4:29).

   Mr. Lafitte reminded me of the Lord's counsel to the Apostle Paul, pierced by a thorn in the flesh God allowed to remain with His servant: "My strength is made perfect in weakness" (II Corinthians 12:9).  Had the Lord removed Paul's thorn, much of the Light that shined forth from our brother of old might not be ours to see.  Weakness became a vessel for God's strength, even as it kept the Apostle in the place of humility required for all who receive and express "abundance of the revelations" (II Corinthians 12:7).  The thorns our Lord allows to remain with us, in whatever form, often serve the same purpose of forming a seemingly marred jewel through which the light of the Lord Jesus, Himself "marred more than any man," glimmers in the beauty of holiness (Isaiah 52:14).  

    I am sure Mr. Lafitte has experienced many difficult moments in the years since his stroke.  The challenge will likely continue, and I know you join me even now in prayer for the Lord's grace and comfort.  The Rose that accompanies that thorn is nevertheless sublimely beautiful.  I see such glory ever time we sing "Amazing Grace" in Mr. Lafitte's presence as his smile radiates joy.  And I heard the same in his Thanksgiving greeting.  Strength.  In weakness.  Such grace characterizes much of our experience in this present lifetime as the Christ who was "crucified through weakness" shines forth in resurrection glory through the trusting children whose challenges reveal His triumph (II Corinthians 13:4).

"Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal body."
(II Corinthians 4:10)

Weekly Memory Verse
   To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
(Romans 8:6)