Thursday, May 31, 2018

"The Promise of Presence" Part 3

"The Promise of Presence"

Part 3

    The presence of God is often in direct proportion to the appearance of His absence.

    "Judge not according to the appearance" (John 7:24).

    Our Lord may be most active when He seems the least engaged.  His involvement often belies our perceptions and awareness.  In a life to be lived by faith, such counterintuitive means and modes of God's presence and working must line the path of righteousness upon which believers walk.  The day will come when we more directly see the Lord at hand, and perceive the nature of His doings.  This is not that day.  Presently, "we seek through a glass darkly" (I Corinthians 13:12).  Thus, we must seek the Truth we cannot view with our eyes by looking into the pages of God's Word for encouragement in the reality that "God worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:11).

    Awareness of God's presence during our earthly lifetime involves the conviction of belief far more than sensation, sight, and sound.  Our ability to understand His involvement also lags far behind the reality of His universal presence and activity.  Jacob realized his ignorance at Bethel, where he dreamed of the ladder upon which angels ascended and descended: "Surely the Lord is in this place and I knew it not!" (Genesis 28:16).  How often do we sleep as did our brother of old!  And how often the Lord must awaken us, again, most often not in terms of sensation or emotional experience, but rather the Biblically-confirmed truth that leads to faith's conviction: God is here and His hand is not still.   Appearances deceive.  The authority of Scripture declares the truth and reality we nevertheless affirm by faith.  Our circumstances, situations, and conditions teem with His living and active presence.  He fills our hearts.  This is fact, regardless of how well or poorly we perceive the great truth of our existence.  Again, God's presence is often in direct proportion to the appearance of His absence.  The better we grasp this plainly revealed truth of Scripture, the better we will "see" that "the Light shineth in darkness" (John 1:5).  Thereby conviction graces our hearts with assurance even when our perceptions seem to see little or nothing.

"We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen.  For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
(II Corinthians 4:18)
"We walk by faith, not by sight."
(II Corinthians 5:7)

Weekly Memory Verse
   The wicked flee when no man pursueth, but the righteous are bold as a lion.
(Proverbs 28:1)


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

"The Promise of Presence" Part 2

"The Promise of Presence"

Part 2

    It is a blessed thing to remember God's presence with ourselves.  It is also blessed to affirm His presence in the hearts and lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

    "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; 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 1:3-6).

    Many years ago, I looked out on a congregation at a local retirement community where we conduct services.  Most of the folks were in wheelchairs, and some were clearly not in good physical health.  A thought, however, occurred to me: "I look upon temples of the living God."  The contemplation overwhelmed me then, as it does now.  Believers are not merely human beings, but rather human beings inhabited by the indwelling Holy Spirit.  We may not look like it, and we don't always speak, act, or relate to each other as if Christ dwells in us.  But He does, and we must view "the good work" of which the Apostle Paul writes no less about fellow Christians than we do ourselves.

    Such a perspective changes much in our view of each other.  We do not and cannot ignore the fact of our humanity, with both its appeal and its challenge.  However, we also seek to remember the presence of Divinity in brothers and sisters.  Frequently in Paul's epistles, he acknowledges and affirms the promise of the Presence, including the Corinthians who were carnal in their walk, but nevertheless spiritually enlivened: "I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ, that in everything ye are enriched by Him" (I Corinthians 1:4-5).  We do well to follow the Apostle's example in our perspective of fellow believers.  Greater love, respect, and grateful regard ensues as we affirm our brothers and sisters as the spiritual dwellingplace of the living God.

    I will never forget that moment when I saw through the human to the promised and fulfilled presence of the Divine.  Temples of the living God.  Again, the remembrance influences me to this day and this moment as I rejoice in a life lived with brothers and sisters, including yourselves, who serve as lamps of the Light that dwells in the human sanctuaries we are.  The promise of the Presence includes every believer.  Remembrance and affirmation of Christ in each other goes far in enabling our love for one another, and for the Father who dwells in and among the Christ-birthed "whole family of Heaven and earth" (Ephesians 3:15).

"I will dwell in them and walk in them."
(II Corinthians 6:16)

Weekly Memory Verse
   The wicked flee when no man pursueth, but the righteous are bold as a lion.
(Proverbs 28:1)



Tuesday, May 29, 2018

"The Promise of Presence"

"The Promise of Presence"

    The power of our Lord's general promise of "I am with you always" must be specifically affirmed in the situations, circumstances, and conditions of life (Matthew 28:20).

    "I am with thee" (Genesis 26:24).

    God comes to stay when we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The light of His presence never flickers or wanes despite our varying remembrance and affirmation of the blessed truth.  "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5).  Such assurance constitutes the greatest of all gifts, namely, the gift of our Lord Himself dwelling with and within us.  The magnitude of such grace is overwhelming upon every serious contemplation - "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:17).  The realization of that same grace, however, must often be consciously embraced within our hearts and minds if it to empower our experience of God's truth and reality.  Again, the general much become the specific.  Our Lord is with us in the blessings of life.  He comes with His gifts.  He is with us in the everyday mundane repetitions and responsibilities that characterize our present earthly existence.  He is especially with us in our challenges, a "very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).  Sometimes the remembrance of such goodness seems to light upon us with no conscious determination on our part.  Most often, however, we play a role in the realization of our Lord's loving and involved presence.  "I will look for Him" declared the prophet (Isaiah 8:17).  We must also frequently "look" if the fact of "I am with you always" is to be known in the moment.

    Remembering and affirming God's presence does not usually lead to spectacular experience, either inwardly or outwardly.  Brightly lights will not flash and we will not hear Heavenly music.  "We walk by faith, not by sight" (II Corinthians 5:7).  However, the blessings of life become more significant when we see the Giver in His gifts.  We view everyday responsibilities with a less mundane and more meaningful perspective.  And the challenges, while still difficult, find us enabled to take the next step of faith, and the next, and the next.  "Thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living" (Psalm 116:8-9).  This is the promise, the promise of Presence to be known in terms both general and specific.

"I will behold Thy face."
(Psalm 17:15)

Weekly Memory Verse
   The wicked flee when no man pursueth, but the righteous are bold as a lion.
(Proverbs 28:1)



Monday, May 28, 2018

“Dependently Proactive”

"Dependently Proactive"

    Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ walk in dependently proactive determination as we seek to live for the glory of God.  

     "The just shall live by faith… And let us consider one another, to provoke unto love and good works" (Romans 1:17; Hebrews 10:24).

    Apart from the Lord Jesus, we can do nothing of eternal worth and significance.  "Without Me, ye can do nothing" (John 15:5).  We are not without our Lord, however, and  can thus join the Apostle Paul in his affirmation of enabling: "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13).  We rest in Christ, but this does not imply a passive waiting for God to program our choices of faith and faithfulness.  Believers rather "look to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith as the abundant power source whereby we expect to make consistent choices to trust and obey God (Hebrews 12:2).  Again, "I can do" testified Paul, albeit "through Christ."  The Apostle realized that salvation enlivens, actualizes, and empowers our humanity rather than obliterating it.  The Spirit of Christ lives in us so that we may live through Him.  "I cannot… I can… through Christ!"  This is the dynamic process of God's leading and enabling presence, as united with our confident expectation that we can consistently make the choices of godliness.  "His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness, according to the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue" (II Peter 1:3).

    We depend entirely on our Lord's guidance and enabling.  We nevertheless recognize our role as stewards to apply the grace of gifts given that empower our ability to trust and obey.  Again, expectation has much to do with our performance.  Is the Holy Spirit present in our hearts?  Will He work in us "to will and to do of His good pleasure?" (Philippians 2:13).  Is any challenge or temptation we will face greater than our Christ-enabled ability to overcome?  Note the emphasis of our anticipation, namely, the presence and working of God.  However, we must also recognize that we play an active role in the relationship of Divine power and human response.  We trust that God will faithfully fulfill His Word to be everything we need Him to be in every moment.  In the light of such grace, we set forth in active and engaged confidence, seeking to "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18).  Dependent, but proactive in working out that which God works in us.  This is the dynamic relationship and process of "so great salvation" provided by so great a Savior, and so dynamically present the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 2:3).

"By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain, but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me."
(I Corinthians 15:10)    

Weekly Memory Verse
   The wicked flee when no man pursueth, but the righteous are bold as a lion.
(Proverbs 28:1)



Saturday, May 26, 2018

Saturday Songs -21- "Someone Had To Die"

Saturday Songs


"Someone Had To Die"

    Friends: A tribute to commemorate Memorial Day, the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the sacrifices of all our patriots who have given so much to provide and maintain our freedom.  Thanks,  Glen

Someone Had to Die
Words and music by Glen Davis

T'was the blood of patriots that made and keeps us free,
and still their lifeblood flows to guard, to guard sweet liberty.
But it doesn't seem to flow so freely, the river of my thanks,
how rarely does it seem that I have knelt to offer thanks.
Oh give me a heart, my Lord, with eyes that ever see,
that freedom is so many things, but it is never free.
And help me to remember, Lord, oh keep it close at hand,
that this song was written with the blood spilled in so many lands.
T'was the blood which flowed at Calvary which made and keeps us free,
and at the throne of God and Christ it still avails for me.
And I wish that far more than I have my heart had given praise,
how rarely does it seem that I have knelt and offered thanks.
Oh give me a heart, my Lord, with eyes that ever see,
that freedom is so many things, but it is never free.
And help me to remember, Lord, oh keep it close at hand,
that this song was written with the blood spilled in so many lands. 
The Savior said the truth shall make us free and I believe,
for He lived and taught and bore the cross, His grace we might receive.
And the truth that He was speaking of, the bright and shining light,
is that if we are to know sweet freedom, Someone had to die.
Oh give me a heart, my Lord, with eyes that ever see,
that freedom is so many things, but it is never free.
And help me to remember, Lord, oh keep it close at hand,
that this song was written with the blood spilled in so many lands.

Friday, May 25, 2018

"The Gideons"

"The Gideons"

    As we traveled recently, I was pleased and grateful to see a Gideon Bible in the hotel room wherein we stayed.

    "The Lord gave the Word; great was the company of those that published it" (Psalm 68:11).

    In the current climate of our culture, I am almost surprised that hotels still allow the Gideons to continue their long tradition of placing a copy of the Scriptures in bedside drawers.  I prayerfully hope it continues, which yet again leads to thanksgiving for a ministry that has distributed 1.5 billion Bibles in their 119 year existence.  The first Bible I ever owned came from the Gideons.  My sixth grade history teacher invited several men from the ministry come to class one day for the purpose of giving New Testaments to each student who wanted a copy.  I'll never forget how it felt to receive that which I knew was something very special.  I did not become a believer until six years later, but I have no doubt the Gideons played a role in my salvation by faithfully disseminating God's Word.  "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17).  

   The day may come when hotels and other institutions will succumb to cultural pressure and no longer allow the distribution and presence of Gideon Bibles.  I pray not, but if it happens, I have no doubt the organization will still find ways to get God's Word to people. The Lord who "gave the Word" will see to that, I'm sure.  And great will be the company of those that continue to publish it, as led and enabled by the Holy Spirit.  This serves as a great example to all believers as the Lord works in each of us to find ways to share His truth with our particular worlds.  "Here am I, send me" prayed the prophet of old (Isaiah 6:3).  May it be our request as well regarding the declaration of the Bible's revelation of God's saving grace in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Thoughts of the Gideons motivate such determination, yet another reason to be grateful for a ministry that bears faithful witness to the living Word, the Lord Jesus, and the written Word, the Bible.  And, a faithful example.

"Finally brethren, pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified."
(II Thessalonians 3:1)

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


Thursday, May 24, 2018

“The Weapons of Our Warfare”

"The Weapons of Our Warfare"

    Among the many reasons God gave to us the gift of prayer, one involves the spiritual nature of reality and the conflict in which we presently exist (whether knowingly or not).

    "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12).

    We cannot see, hear, and touch Satan and his host of demonic influences.  Moreover, the devil is a cunning foe, possessed of knowledge and ability beyond our means of directly confronting.  Even the archangel Michael would not contend with Satan regarding the body of Moses.  "The Lord rebuke thee" declared Michael (Jude 1:9).  Thus, our Heavenly Father calls us to Himself for the purpose of prayerfully seeking the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ in dealing with devilish attempts to discourage, deceive, and distract.

   "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds" (II Corinthians 10:4).

    Try pulling down a spiritual stronghold using earthly and fleshly devices.  Try even finding one!  That won't happen.  Thus, we look to the One unto whose eyes "all things are naked and opened" (Hebrews 4:13).  This includes the the devil and demonic influences God sees with perfect clarity.  We ask Him to work in the spiritual realm to expose, confront, defeat, and overcome "the wiles of the devil" (Ephesians 6:11).  But what if we don't ask?  What if we don't consistently pray?  We must conclude that Satan gains unnecessary footholds in our lives and the lives of those for whom we have spiritual responsibility.  Little wonder that Samuel sought God's protection against prayerlessness regarding his calling to intercede for Israel: "God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you" (I Samuel 12:23).

    Scripture calls us to "resist the devil" by obeying the command to "submit yourselves therefore to God" (James 4:7).  We do not directly confront the devil and his minions.  We are not equipped for such conflict.  The Captain of our salvation, however, has already defeated the devil by the weapons of the cross, the resurrection, and the ascension.  Thus, we look our risen Overcomer, seeking His engagement.  "The Lord shall fight for you" (Deuteronomy 3:22).  Indeed, by definition, we "fight the good fight of faith" by trusting our Lord to bludgeon unseen enemies that are perfectly visible to Him, and subject to Him (I Timothy 6:12).  Thereby we prayerfully keep our gaze and focus where it belongs, on Christ, and thereby God applies the triumph of the Savior to our lives, callings, and responsibilities.  

"Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."
(Ephesians 6:11)

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



Wednesday, May 23, 2018

“Longsuffering, Abundant and Limited”

"Longsuffering, Abundant and Limited"

    The word "longsuffering" Biblically describes the love of God in a beautiful aspect of its present administration.  How the Lord bears with us, be it His trusting sons and daughters in Christ, or the present devilish and fleshly world system.  More to the point, how He suffers long with me!

    "But Thou, o Lord, art a God full of compassion and gracious, longsuffering and plenteous in mercy and truth" (Psalm 86:15).

    God's longsuffering constitutes a beautiful characteristic of His nature.  He so lovingly desires to bless creation that when it goes awry, He patiently works His purposes of redemption in the Lord Jesus.  Interestingly, however, God's patience is not unlimited, as the prophet reveals: "Seek ye the Lord while He may be found" (Isaiah 55:6).  God's righteous holiness necessarily governs and structures His patience.  Those who persist in unbelief must ultimately experience the sad effects of refusing to flow with the current of the Divine as it proceeds from the heart of God.  Our Lord would contradict His nature if He allowed sin and sinners to proceed in perpetuity.   Moreover, creation would ultimately be destroyed by such allowance (Mark 13:20).  Thus, God suffers long into the night of a fallen world, seeking to illuminate and redeem those who will respond to His overtures of grace and truth in Christ.  We nevertheless must also acknowledge the limits of God's patience in personal terms and also regarding those with whom we share the Gospel.  No unbeliever should test the parameters of God's longsuffering.  "Today is the day of salvation" (II Corinthians 6:2).  Nor should believers blithely consider that since the Lord is so kindly natured, He will allow waywardness in us to continue unchecked.  Indeed, it was to and about Christians that the writer of Hebrews declared that "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:30-31).

    We must view God in terms of both longsuffering and necessarily limited patience.  Both comprise His nature and exist in perfect temper and harmony with each other.  We rejoice in our Lord's patience.  We respect the character that determines the limitations thereof.  These are dual rails of Truth upon which proper understanding of the Divine nature leads to the proper response of both joy and fear.

"And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth."
(Exodus 34:6)
"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting."
(Galatians 6:6-7)

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


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

“A Surprising Sadness”

"A Surprising Sadness"

    I accidentally killed a harmless brown snake today.  It made me surprisingly sad.

    Allow me to provide context.  I do not like snakes.  If I never encounter another one as long as I live, that will be fine with me (and after my action today, I suspect that snakes now likely feel the same about me).  Like many people, I find the slithering creatures to be a bit scary and somewhat discomfiting in their appearance and the way they move.  So, being sad about ending the life of the brown snake surprises me.  The event happened as I was using my string trimmer to remove a stand of monkey grass.  I didn't see the creature and impacted it enough to kill it.  Upon seeing what had happened, I experienced a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, again, despite the fact that snakes are not on my list of favorite creatures.

    "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?  And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father" (Matthew 10:29). 

    I find this statement of the Lord Jesus Christ to be one of His most intriguing pronouncements.  Clearly, God is emotionally invested not only in human beings, but in all His creation.  "His tendermercies are over all His works" (Psalm 145:9).  Thus, when even one sparrow "falls," our Father is on the scene with tendermercies.  Again, what does this mean in terms of the Lord's actions?.  I do not know.  However, I am confident of this: such involvement says much about the heart of God.  Indeed, as much death as presently exists in creation, our Lord apparently feels the impact of all of it.  This must include a brown snake, whose death at my hand brought real sadness to my heart.  How much infinitely more must the fall of a sparrow or the demise of even a snake bring to the emotional sensibilities of God?  "But Thou, o Lord, art a God full of compassion" (Psalm 86:15).

    I don't know all that our Lord meant when He informed us that the death of a sparrow matters to our Heavenly Father.  But I do know that such truth reveals the nature and character of the One in whom we have placed our trust.  How wondrous must be His heart, and how He must grieve to see the death that is far from His perfect will and intention for creation. I could not have anticipated my reaction to killing a snake today.  But I can know how death affects God, as revealed in His Word.  Perhaps this is surprising also.  But in the light of the Lord Jesus and His redeeming work to swallow up death in victory, perhaps not (I Corinthians 15:54).

"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. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."
 (I Corinthians 15:24-26)

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


Monday, May 21, 2018

"The Joy That Remains"

"The Joy That Remains"

    God blesses us immeasurably in this present lifetime, giving us "richly all things to enjoy" and weaving His loving generosity into the entire fabric of our earthly sojourn (I John 2:17).  

    The truth nevertheless remains that our Heavenly Father loves us enough to not allow overmuch attachment to the world as it presently exists.  "The world passeth away" (I John 2:17).  Be it things, places, careers, hobbies, recreations, or even people, if we live long enough, we either experience the passing of the blessings or our capacity for their enjoyment.  This is hard truth, and nothing to blithely consider.  God made us with deep inner longing for permanency of relationship with Himself and others, along with the experience of lasting, eternal realities.  Thus, it hurts both to lose and to contemplate loss.  Our Heavenly Father understands according to His boundless compassion.  He comforts us in times when some blessing of this present world must slip from our grasp.  Moreover, He doubtless experiences with us the pains of our losses as the faithful One "touched with the feeling of our infirmities" (Hebrews 4:15).  However, He necessarily administers and allows the passing of all things but Himself in order to reveal to us  that Christ alone supplies the fulfillment of our hearts.  "He is thy life" (Deuteronomy 30:20).

    Our Lord would have us to enjoy the richness of His blessings.  We do so, however, in the recognition that He constitutes the true Joy of all our joys.  Thus, His joy still remains, even when the vessel through which it graces us must depart.  Our native tendency to "worship the creature more than the Creator" must give way to the realization of God alone as the Life of our lives (Romans 1:25).  We could lose everything, but if He remains, we will have lost nothing in the most literal truth and meaning.  Hard truth indeed, but necessary to embrace if we are to know the Joy that remains when earthly gifts must pass away.  A blessed Day comes when we ourselves shall depart from this passing realm into the eternal glory where all things abide forevermore.  There will be no losses, no separations, no passing of anything or anybody in the Heaven to which believers proceed by the grace of the Prince of life.  There we will enjoy His gifts in full and perfect knowledge that He is the Blessing of the blessings.  

God comes with His gifts
in full and boundless measure.
He gives to us Himself,
He is our heart's true Treasure.

Having Him, we have all,
Christ only fills our spirit.
The Word of God bears witness
to all whose hearts will hear it…

"I am thy life, thy joy, thy peace,
o look to Me alone.
For I will be all that you need,
both now and evermore."

God comes with His gifts… He is our heart's true Treasure.

"But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
(Philippians 4:19)
"We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (II Corinthians 4:18)

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


Sunday, May 20, 2018

"Saturday (Sunday!) Songs -20- "All In Jesus"

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

Saturday (Sunday!) Songs


"All In Jesus"

    Friends: This song references the all encompassing supply of the gift God gives to us in the Lord Jesus Christ.  It's all in Him.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  Nothing else.  I hope you find it encouraging.  Glen

All in Jesus
Words and music by Glen Davis

There is hope for the hopeless.
There is sight for the blind.
There is life for the dying.
There is peace you can find,
All in Jesus.  All in Jesus
All in Jesus.  All in Jesus

There is Grace for this moment.
There is strength for today.
There is joy in His presence.
Such glory shines in His face.
All in Jesus.  All in Jesus.  All in Jesus.
All in Jesus.  All in Jesus.  All in Jesus.
All in Jesus.  All in Jesus. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

“Character, Capability, Conduct”

(Friends: this is actually a repeat from last year that addresses the issue we've considered the last few days, with the added element of how it relates to God's working in our own hearts and growth in His likeness.  Thanks, Glen.)

"Character, Capability, Conduct"

    In God, character always precedes and motivates His capabilities and conduct.  Who He is guides and empowers what He does.  Through His redeeming grace in the Lord Jesus Christ, He also works in us to establish the same order of being and doing.

   "All His works are done in truth… The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works… Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Psalm 33:4; 145:17; Genesis 18:25).
    "Now are ye light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8).

    We do well to pause for a moment and offer praise and thanksgiving that our Lord always acts in accordance with who He is.  He never behaves capriciously, arbitrarily, or in any manner that does not perfectly align with His nature of loving goodness, righteousness, and holiness.  Were this not the case, the thought of an all-powerful deity could only elicit sheer terror and dread.  If God's power served as His first characteristic, He might well exercise His capacity to wreak eternal havoc upon the creation that rebelled against Him.  Consider the cross of the Lord Jesus, whereupon our Savior declared that legions of angels were ready to heed His call to end the suffering (Matthew 26:53).  Instead, the primacy of God's character led the Savior to endure the entirety of the cross in order to fulfill the Divine promise and purpose of redemption.  Thus, the Lord Jesus stayed His prayer, the Father stayed His hand, and the angels stayed in Heaven rather than execute the power of God to destroy His Son's cruel torturers.  Yes, in our Lord, character guides and empowers capability.  

   The same order  must increasingly characterize God's trusting children in Christ.  We must act, as led and empowered by the Holy Spirit, in accordance with who we are in Christ.  Being must motivate and enable doing.  Holiness involves the faithful manifestation in and through us of our Christ-inhabited spiritual essence.  Our Father calls us to be who and what we are, just as He always acts in accordance with who He is.  "It is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy" (I Peter 1:16).  Thus, we must know our character, as birthed in us through Christ.  We must also respond by thinking, speaking, acting, and relating accordingly: "Put ye on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" (Ephesians 4:24).  We must believe the Word of God in the face of anything that contradicts.  We are not who we were before we believed.  The Lord Jesus was tortured to death not only to forgive our sins, but also to forge our character in the furnace of His sorrows.  Our blessed Lord made possible the newness of being we freely received when we believed.  "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature" (II Corinthians 5:17).  Thereby He enables us to walk in accordance with His character, and with our character as formed by His living presence in us.  Character.  Capability.  Conduct.  This is the order of holiness in God, as perfectly fulfilled in His being, nature, and way.  The same order exists in us, making possible a life lived for our Lord's glory and a walk more and more reflecting the truth of our being in Christ.

"If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."
(Galatians 5:25)

Weekly Memory Verse
  "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God."
(I John 4:7)



Thursday, May 17, 2018

"Character and Capability" Part 2

"Character and Capability"

Part 2

    A good friend responded to yesterday's message with the comment that it can be unsettling to think that God cannot do some things.  His point was well taken.  We all rightly think of God in terms of almighty ability, even as the Lord Jesus Christ affirmed, "With God, all things are possible" (Matthew 19;26).  However, Scripture also speaks of impossibility regarding our Lord's capacities, a reality about Him that may indeed throw us off balance a bit upon first consideration.  However, careful contemplation in the light of Scripture actually presents to us assurance no less blessed than the infinite nature of His power.  

    "God cannot lie… It was impossible for God to lie… God cannot be tempted with evil" (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18; James 1:13).

    The assurance lies in the absolute certitude of our Lord's faithful integrity. "He is the Rock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He" (Deuteronomy 32:4).  Someone exists so pristinely pure of heart, mind, and character that He cannot be other than who and what He is.  Thus, Someone exists whom we can "trust… with all thine heart" (Proverbs 3:5).  This would not be the case were it not "impossible  for God to lie."  Thus, our Lord's "cannot" fosters as much confidence as His "can."

     If God could lie, how could we ever be sure that at some point in eternal history He might not actually do so?  One could respond that His righteousness would prevent such an occurrence.  However, this simply leads us back to God's intrinsic nature that ensures He cannot lie.  An example might aid our understanding.   Imagine a father who loves his small daughter with all his heart.  The mother died in childbirth, and the little girl is all he has left of his wife and family.  He dotes on the daughter, providing for her sustenance and safety as best as his meager income allows.  He also seeks to make her happy with things she likes, although he cannot afford much.  One day the little girl approaches her father and asks him for the doll they saw while passing a toy store during a visit to the local town.  He had noticed her looking intently at the doll and hoped he might be able to return to the store and purchase it as a surprise gift.  The price tag, however, dashed his hopes.  Made of porcelain and clothed in silk, the doll far exceeded the man's budget.  As much as he hated to disappoint his daughter, he knew that he had to answer honestly.  "Sweetheart," he said, "I'd love to buy the doll for you.  But I just can't afford it."

    The little girl was broken hearted.  She began to cry, but then looked up at her dad and said, shockingly, "But Daddy, I want that doll with all my heart!  Why can't you just go to the store and take it when nobody's looking!"  You can imagine how the story proceeds from here.  Most importantly, the truth shines forth that regardless of how much we may love someone, we cannot violate our integrity in order to make them happy.  Be sure that in this story, the father acted accordingly (and also had a thorough discussion with his daughter about honesty!).

    You see the point.  A vital characteristic of God's loving nature involves perfect devotion to His integrity, character, and disposition.  God must be who He is and act accordingly.  This is the very essence of holiness whereby our Lord is sanctified to Himself and His nature.  As 1 Corinthians 13 teaches us regarding ourselves, character always precedes and guides capability.  If we could remove mountains, Paul teaches, but did not have love, we would be nothing.  The same is true in God.  In fact, the light of 1 Corinthians 13 shines forth from the very being of our Lord Himself.  Everything God has ever thought, spoken, or done accords with the perfection of His holy being.  Everything He ever will do flows accordingly.  He exists as something eternally glorious and wondrous because He is who He is and cannot be otherwise.  "The Lord is righteous in all His ways and holy in all His works" (Psalm 145:17).

    The implications of this truth are vast, eternally vast.  I think the subject of character governing capability should comprise a primary subject for every pastor, seminary professor, Sunday school teacher, author, and Christian communicator.  I seek to include it either directly or tacitly in every one of these devotionals.  God is who He is.  Thus, He can do all things that correlate with His nature and being.  He can do nothing that fails to meet the test of such holy perfection.  Thus, when thinking Biblically of God, "He can" and "He cannot" both form our proper doctrinal understanding.  This is peace.  This is security.  We are related to Someone whose character directs His capability.  Our Lord will forever act in accordance with the perfection of His being.  He will not do otherwise, and praise His holy name, He cannot.

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

Weekly Memory Verse
  "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God."
(I John 4:7)


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

"Character and Capability"

"Character and Capability"

    God's way of salvation provided as a free gift could not compromise the integrity of His character, nature, and way.

    "Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God, to declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Romans 3:24-26).

    Our Lord'spiritual and moral perfection meant that He could not merely decree the redemption of lost human beings.  He must be both "just and the justifier."  As the saying goes, "when God created, He spoke.  When He redeemed, He bled."  This truth emphasizes a vital doctrinal understanding for born again believers in the Lord Jesus.  Our Heavenly Father will not, and indeed cannot act in a manner that violates who and what He is in righteousness and holiness.  "God… cannot lie" declared the the Apostle Paul to Titus (Titus 1:2).  Moreover, the Lord Jesus and Paul both thrice prayed for deliverance from challenge, namely, the cross and the thorn (Matthew 26:36-46; II Corinthians 12:7-9).  "If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me" requested our Savior.  It was not possible, however, because the redemptive promises and purposes of God required the suffering and death of Christ for their fulfillment.  Our faithful Savior therefore also prayed, "Nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt" (Matthew 26:39).  God also could not remove the thorn from Paul, for the same reasons.  He provided sufficient grace for the Apostle's enduring and overcoming.  But the Lord did not and could not apply the efficient grace of removing Paul's challenge.  Again, God's purpose in Paul's life stayed His rescuing hand, even as He applied the sufficient grace of His heart.

    The Apostle John taught that we must pray "according to His will" in order to be confident of God's answers (I John 5:14).  A primary reason for this involves the subject at hand, namely, the Lord's inviolable integrity.  His almighty capability always flows with the current of His pristine moral character.  Always.  Thus, in some cases, we can pray, beg, plead, and even cajole our Heavenly Father to act on our behalf in deliverance from our troubles.  He does not act, however, because He cannot act.  Just as our salvation required death rather than decree for its full implementation, sometimes God's purposes for us involved lingering crosses and thorns.  We do well to remember this truth about our wondrously perfect Lord, as we pray and seek to live in accordance with the newness of character formed in us by the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Character governs capability, in God, and in His trusting children as we walk with Him.

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

Weekly Memory Verse
  "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God."
(I John 4:7)