Friday, November 30, 2018

"Weightier Matters"

"Weightier Matters"


        "I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith" (I Timothy 1:3-4).

    The Apostle Paul's called Timothy to know and communicate Truth for genuine edification, as opposed to titilation or knowledge for the mere sake of knowledge.  God's Word never concerns merely philosophy, although it is the most philosophical document in existence.  His light always accomplishes vocational and functional purposes.  He reveals Truth to enable thinking that leads to practical faith and faithfulness.  Paul likely knew and understood God's truth better than any believer who ever lived, having been caught up into Heaven where he heard "unspeakable words, not lawful to be uttered" (II Corinthians 12:4).  He was also the most active of Christians as doctrine rightly assimilated led to deeds rightly applied.  "I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (I Corinthians 15:10).

    The Scriptures are never fully understandable, being inspired by the God whose "understanding is infinite" (Psalm 147:5).  We can, however, know them well enough to enable our growing knowledge and application regarding our walk with the Lord.  Light leads to life.  "Give me understanding, and I shall keep Thy law" (Psalm 119:34). Teaching that merely titillates or raises more questions than it answers should be summarily rejected by all sincere believers.  We are on a "need to know" basis with our Lord.  The truths and doctrines of the Bible that lead to "godly edifying which is in faith" are that which we need to know.  We must be aware that our spiritual enemies seek to distract us from the "weightier matters" of knowing our Lord and His truth.  Thereby He changes us more and more into spiritual and moral likeness to the Lord Jesus (Matthew 23:23).  We learn, know, and understand in order to love, trust, and obey.  No other reason exists for seeking God in His Word, or for availing ourselves of the communicators He calls to proclaim His truth in a manner that accomplishes the purposes our Lord intends…

"So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."
 (Isaiah 55:11)

"The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law."
(Deuteronomy 29:29)

Weekly Memory Verse
     We have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
 (Hebrews 4:15).


Thursday, November 29, 2018

"No Excuses"

"No Excuses"


        Nothing changes who and what born again believers are in the Lord Jesus Christ.

       "Ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (I Corinthians 6:11).

      Note those to whom the Apostle Paul wrote.  The Corinthians.  A careful reading of Paul's first epistle to the church in Corinth reveals the most wayward congregation mentioned in the New Testament.  "Are ye not yet carnal and walk as men?" chided the Apostle (I Corinthians 3:3).  The Corinthians were indeed carnal in their attitudes and behaviors, so much so that many believers in the church had been chastened with weakness, sickness, and even death because of their disrespect for the Lord's supper (I Corinthians 11:30).  

    Still, the Corinthians' failures did not change who they were in Christ.  The same is true of all believers.  On our best spiritual days, we are no more the temple of God's Spirit.  On our worst days, we are no less.  We are who we are in the Spirit, based on the faithful grace of our Heavenly Father and our Savior's mediation on our behalf: "He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25).  Certainly our being should lead to doings that reflect the truth: "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25).  Presently, however, our flesh remains susceptible to devilish and worldly temptation.  "The flesh lusteth against the spirit" (Galatians 5:17).  No less than Paul himself realized he could fall with the Corinthians into spiritual declension: "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself might be a castaway" (I Corinthians 9:27).   Thus, we can walk in a manner that originates and results in death despite the fact of being "alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:11).

    This truth of God's saving and keeping grace pulls the rug out from every excuse for sin, or for not arising in times of unbelief and disobedience.  Indeed, if we were not who we are in Christ as His eternal spiritual habitation, we might absolve ourselves by a false humility that claims, "Well, that is just who I am and I can't help it!"  Not so.  While a temple of God can fall into ramshackled disrepair, it remains a temple and should function accordingly.  Through the grace of salvation in the Lord Jesus, believers are who we are in Him, whether we act accordingly or not.  No excuse for sin exists in any circumstance, situation, or condition.  Nor can we rationalize any reason for staying down if we fall down.  We are who we are in Christ, a blessed truth of originating and perpetuating grace given in Him, and administered by the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Blessed indeed, but also decidedly challenging for every believer as it directs us to a "no excuses" life of walking with God as His redeemed sons and daughters.

"Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption."
(Ephesians 4:30)
"Ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you."
(Romans 8:9)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Weekly Memory Verse
     We have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
 (Hebrews 4:15).

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

“The Saint On the Cross"

"The Saint On the Cross"


     I'm sure you are familiar with the Scriptural narrative of "the saint on the cross."

    "And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on Him, saying, If thou be Christ, save Thyself and us.  But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?  And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise" (Luke 23:39-43).

    As referenced in yesterday's message about Ebeneezer Scrooge and the Apostle Thomas, I think it is misguided to think in the commonly expressed terms of the so-called "thief on the cross" (unless we refer to the malefactor who did not believe).  The former thief who believed ended his life as a redeemed saint of God, so much so that for 2,000 years, his story has preached the Gospel and been responsible for many late hour conversions.  Indeed, without Luke's narrative, we might well think that no possibility exists for those who waste most of a lifetime in unbelief and alienation from God.  Certainly it is true that such conversions are rare.  We only have one such account in the Bible.  Generally speaking, those who have disregarded the Lord in life will disregard Him as death approaches.  However, late in life conversions can happen when a brand is snatched from the burning through faith and confession of the Lord Jesus.  "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Romans 10:13).

   Surely it is best to believe early in life.  Most believers come to the Lord sooner rather than later, as it were.  A long lifetime lived through and for the Lord Jesus is a beautiful thing.  "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth" (Ecclesiastes 12:1).  It is much better to live life with a Christ-filled heart of giving rather than a soul of self-centeredness.  The thief who became a saint would surely tell us that.  We nevertheless rightly seek to lead both young and old to the Lord.  Moreover, the Lord can infuse a great measure of His glory into a short span of time.  The saint we reference had but moments to live.  Again, however, his narrative glimmers as a bright Light of truth in the Scriptures.  In just a few moments, a taker became a giver through the Lord Jesus.  He has been giving for twenty centuries in a ministry that reveals the marvelous mercy of God's grace in His Son.  Yes, rightly considered, the man is who he became, namely, the saint on the cross now dwelling forevermore with his Lord as a saint in Heaven.

"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." 
(I Corinthians 6:9-11)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Weekly Memory Verse
     We have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
 (Hebrews 4:15).


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

"Ebenezer and Thomas"

(This one is a repeat from 2013.  At the time I wrote the message, I don't think I realized the significance of the day.  It was October 22, 2013, my son Noah's birthday.  He is, like myself, a fan of Charles Dickens' writings, particularly "A Christmas Carol."  As you read below, you will see why this was an interesting day in which to have written the particular message.  Again, I don't think I realized it at the time.  But I do now.  Thanks, Glen

"Ebenezer and Thomas"


     Allow me, if you will, to express a pet peeve.  Or two, actually.

    I cannot stand Ebenezer Scrooge being viewed as the symbol for mean and cold-hearted misers who possess no caring or compassion for their fellow man.  Nor can I abide an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ who ultimately gave his life for the Savior being referred to as "doubting Thomas."

    "If any man be in Christ, he is as a new creature.  Old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new" (II Corinthians 5:17).

    Whether in Dickens' fiction or the Bible's historical reality, our focus should gaze not upon that which was, but rather, that which is.  In Ebenezer's case, his journeys through the past, present, and future led to his becoming the man who most knew how to keep Christmas.  His is a story of redemption.  Thus, when we hear the name "Scrooge," kindness and generosity should come to mind in joyful remembrance of transforming grace and mercy.

    In the case of the Apostle Thomas, a far serious matter presents itself.  Certainly, he expressed the fleshly "I'll believe it when I see it" sensibility that characterizes lack of faith.  "Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe" (John 20:25).  Moreover, the risen Lord Jesus chided his disciple for such uncertainty: "Then saith He to Thomas, reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing" (John 20:27).  However, the episode ends with Thomas expressing to his Savior one of the great affirmations of truth recorded in Scripture: "My Lord and my God!"   Moreover, historical tradition holds that Thomas gave his life for Christ at the point of a spear.  Thus, rather than "doubting Thomas," we should respectfully view our brother of old as "trusting Thomas,"  a man who wears the martyr's crown for the glory of the Lord Jesus.

    God looks upon believers not as who we were, but as who we are in Christ, and who we are becoming in Him.  We must share this blessed view of His saving grace, whether we consider a transformed literary figure, or a redeemed saint who gave the last full measure of devotion for his Lord and his God.  Ebenezer and Thomas - may we remember them in the light of redemption, affirming God's saving and transforming grace when we think of who they were, but even more, who they became.

"Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord."
(Ephesians 5:8)
"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?   Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."
(I Corinthians 6:9-11)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Weekly Memory Verse
     We have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
 (Hebrews 4:15).


Monday, November 26, 2018

“Look Up! Show Up! Get Up!"

"Look Up! Show Up! Get Up!"


     "Look up.  Show up. Get up."  The Holy Spirit and the Scriptures call us to these sensibilities of heart and mind that enable a consistent and enduring walk with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.    

    "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds" (Hebrews 12:2-3).    
    "Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1).
    "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9).

    First, we seek to remember and affirm the person and work of the Lord Jesus as the basis of our faith and faithfulness.  We "look up" to Him by looking into the Scriptures, seeking to increasingly discover who Christ is, what He has done, is doing, and will do forevermore.  This leads to confidence in His involved presence in our lives, which leads to specific steps of faith along the challenging pathways of our present existence in a fallen world.  We thereby "live through Him" as He lives in us, administering His love, wisdom, and enabling as the Life of our lives (I John 4:9).  Look up!

    We also "show up."  It has been said that "our greatest ability is availability."  Consistently appearing before the Throne of God with the prophet's attitude - "Here am I.  Send me" - leads to our Lord honoring our expression of devotion (Isaiah 6:3).  He motivates and empowers faithfulness for our callings as showing up before the Throne of God fosters showing up at earthly places and positions of responsibility with the proper attitude of willingness, dedication, and determination.  Show up!

    Finally, we will sometimes need to "get up."   While there is never an excuse for sin or failure in the believer's life, we do sometimes fail to look up and show up.  "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" (I John 1:8).  If we could audibly hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in such times, we can be sure He would cry, "Get up!"  No reason exists for believers to wallow in the mires of discouragement because we have distrusted and disobeyed the Lord.  Our crucified and risen Savior intercedes for us at the throne of God.  The Word of God promises both restorative forgiveness and cleansing through the blood of the Lord Jesus.  And the presence of the Spirit within us enables us to arise and go forward as we look to our Savior in faith and repentance.  Get up!  

   Through Christ, God makes provision for all of life's possibilities.  Gazing upon the Savior leads to devotion to God and others, and also the confidence that if we fall down, we do not have to stay down.  Look up!  Show up!  Get up!  The Word of God and the Spirit of God call us to these Heavenly paths that lead and enable us along the earthly pathways of our present journey for the glory of God and the blessing of others.

"I will look for Him… I am Thine… I will extol Thee, o Lord, for Thou hast lifted me up."
(Isaiah 8:17; Psalm 119:94; 30:1)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Weekly Memory Verse
     We have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
 (Hebrews 4:15).


Saturday, November 24, 2018

"My Times, Your Times"

"My Times, Your Times"


     I am greatly blessed to need very little sleep.  I suppose this is because I sleep so deeply that Frances sometimes checks my breathing to see if I'm still on the planet!  This serves me well because the middle of the night (or early morning) is one of my favorite times to be awake.  I love the quiet, the stillness, and the solitude, and my mind seems to work best upon first awakening.  This must be a metabolism thing and it makes me think I would have been suited for the early to bed, early to rise life of the farmer.  Whatever the case, I enjoy reading, pondering, praying, and writing in the wee (or as my daughter says "weird, Dad!") hours.

   "Evening, morning, and at noon will I pray and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice" (Psalm 55:17).

    We all must find our way in such matters.  I sometimes wish I was more of an evening person.  I get very little study and writing done during those hours, which sometimes would seem to provide good opportunities for the endeavor.  I'm winding down by then, however, and not consciously processing information to any significant degree.  You may well be different, but whatever the case, we each must seek to find that period of quiet, stillness, and solitude wherein we join the Psalmist to ponder our Lord and His truth, and to be sure that "He shall hear my voice."

    "Sweet is thy voice."  Our Heavenly Father would say this to each of His trusting children in Christ (Song of Solomon 2:14).  This may be hard to mentally and emotionally grasp in light of His eternal, infinite nature.  "What is man... that Thou shouldest set Thine heart upon him?" (Job 7:17).  We may not be able to answer the question.  But we can believe the truth.  Moreover, we can apply it to ourselves and our fellowship with the God who loves us so dearly that His Son bears wounds upon His hands and feet as the price paid to secure our hearts unto Himself.  We are "dear children" to our Heavenly Father, and our voices are sweet to Him (Ephesians 5:1).  I try to remember this in the weird, uh, wee hours!  I need to remember it more at noon and in the evening also, and at all times.  May His Spirit lead us all to find our times in the realization that He has a particular way for each of us.  I'll try to cover the weird hours if you'll take care of the normal ones when my brain function dwindles.  Most importantly, what a gift our Father offers to us at all times, the gift of Himself in living fellowship through Christ, as led and enabled by the Holy Spirit.

"My times are in Thy hand."
(Psalm 31:15)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Weekly Memory Verse
    I will remember the works of the Lord.  Surely I will remember Thy wonders of old."
(Psalm 77:11)


Friday, November 23, 2018

"Thanksliving" Conclusion "After Thanksgiving"

(Friends: we conclude our series on "Thanksgiving" today with a final consideration.  Thanks, Glen)


Conclusion -  "After Thanksgiving"

    What happens after thanksgiving?  I refer not to the tens of millions of Americans who will go Christmas shopping today, hoping to save $1.50 on the widget for Aunt Martha.  I rather reference the consequences experienced by born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ after we have sincerely offered gratitude to God for the fulfillment of His promises.  What happens in our hearts and lives after we express such faith and faithfulness, as led by the Holy Spirit?

    1.  First, we will have glorified the Lord.  "I... will magnify Him with thanksgiving" (Psalm 69:30).  In every instance of offering sincere thanks, we honor our Lord by realizing and responding to His gracious generosity.  Even in times of silent appreciation offered within our hearts, our gratitude magnifies Him in ways we cannot perceive.  We will consider this more as we continue.

    2.  We will have pleased Him.  "The prayer of the upright is His delight" (Proverbs 15:8).  One of the primary themes we attempt to convey in the Orange Moon devotionals involves our capacity to affect our Heavenly Father's emotional sensibilities.  I don't think we consider enough the wonder of such relational reality.  That we might please God to the point of "delight" when we pray?  Even battered Job wondered, "What is man… that Thou shouldest set Thine heart upon him?" (Job 7:17).  No final answers offer themselves to such an inquiry.  But this we know: through Christ, we can please God.  This includes our prayers of thanksgiving.  I suspect we cannot imagine what happens in His heart whenever we express our gratitude.

    3.  We will have obeyed Him.  "In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (I Thessalonians 5:18).  Our Father commands that we thank Him, not because He requires our gratitude or because He selfishly demands our acknowledgement.  As important as our obedience is to God, we fill no void in Him when we do His will.  However, obedience - including thanksgiving - greatly fills our hearts whether or not we are consciously aware of its holy benefit.  "Ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit" (I Peter 1:22).

    4.  We will have prepared our hearts for further faith and faithfulness.  We cannot take the second, third, or any step of walking with the Lord until we take the next step.  Thanksgiving is often that first step.  Attitude leads to action.  "Keep thy heart will all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life" (Proverbs 4:23).  In times of both blessing and difficulty, the attitude of gratitude provides a strong basis upon which other matters of obedience to God find their footing.  

    5.  We will have prepared our hearts to be a blessing of Christ to others.  "Give thanks unto the Lord, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the people" (I Chronicles 16:8).  A grateful heart will always be seen in our countenance, attitude and demeanor first, and then in our words and actions.  As the saying goes, "Preach Christ to every creature.  Use words when necessary."  Our left hand will often not know the works of our right hand, as based upon a heart of gratitude to God.  Conscious devotion to God leads to unconscious deeds performed for His glory and the benefit of people.

   6.  We will have experienced the person and working of the Lord Jesus.  "God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son in your hearts, crying Abba Father" (Galatians 4:6).  Our Lord dwells within us by His Spirit, and every step of obedience, including the offering of thanks, flows from the fount of His presence within us.  "Without Me, ye can do nothing… I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (John 15:5; Philippians 4:13).  The thankful Christ lives and moves in our hearts to foster gratitude and conscious thanksgiving.

    7.  Finally, we will have fulfilled the reason for our existence.  God made us to know Him in living, personal relationship, thereby serving to glorify His Son and bless His heart with the fellowship of our hearts.  "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent" (John 17:3).  Whenever we sincerely give thanks, we walk in the light of Truth and reality.  This includes times of blessing, and perhaps even more in times of difficulty.  Indeed, when we raise our eyes of gratitude to our Father with tears falling from them, we know Him in a measure that cuts through the fog and mist of a fallen world.  "The Light shineth in darkness" (John 1:5).  Either way, in the pleasant or the painful, thanksgiving - Thanksliving - reveals the light of Truth and reality in us, through us, and most importantly, to our Father so worthy of our gratitude in all things.

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

Weekly Memory Verse
   I will remember the works of the Lord.  Surely I will remember Thy wonders of old."
(Psalm 77:11)


Thursday, November 22, 2018

"Thanksliving" Part 13 Thanksgiving Day, 2018 "Two Trees"

(Friends: during the next few weeks, as we approach the observance of thanksgiving in the United States, many (perhaps all) of the messages will address the theme of thanksgiving and gratitude.  Thanks, Glen)


Part 13 - "Thanksgiving Day 2018-  "Two Trees"

    We decorated our Christmas tree early this year because of upcoming schedules, and well, because we wanted to!  I write this sitting nearby the brightly lit, abundantly adorned work of the great artist of the season, namely, my wife Frances.  She does Christmas trees and decorations like no one else, which leads to a story and much thanksgiving in my heart.

    "Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set" (Proverbs 22:28).

    Many years ago before Frances and I met, she traveled during the holiday season to Savannah, Georgia.  While there, she visited a beautiful old Southern home where she was most impressed by the Christmas tree.  Beautifully adorned with traditional ornaments, the tree also bore mementos of the owner, an elderly lady who explained to Frances that her tree was much more than a decoration of the season.  It was rather a chronicle and commemoration of her life.  Through the years, the woman had made a point to save keepsakes of all types of experiences.  The items became Christmas ornaments each year, leading to a tree full of memories and opportunities for gratitude and thanksgiving.  

    Then and there, Frances determined she would do the same when she had a home and a family.  She has done so, and now I sit before an altar of our family's memories, but far more, a sublime gallery that exhibits the history of our lives together.  I see photographs of family and friends, some of faces, and some of events we shared together.
I see baby shoes, and little hands made of construction paper, and even pacifiers.  Tickets from many concerts, plays, games, and speeches hang from the limbs.  I gaze upon wedding and graduation announcements, along with a miniature version of our eldest daughter's law degree, tokens of of our son's Marine Corps career, reminders of our youngest daughter's college days, and our daughter in law's invitation to her graduation from aeronautical school.  Our grandchildren grace many limbs, of course, as do our beagles through the years.  And yes, Charlie Brown and Snoopy are all over the tree.  Friends find their place, from clothespin replicas Frances made many years ago, to ornaments they've given, to golf balls and even tennis balls from major tournaments like the U.S. Open, Wimbledon, and the Olympics given to us a friend who serves as a tennis referee.  Of course, traditional lights and ornaments, carefully chosen, glimmer and shine from the branches.  I could go on and on in describing what I see of the more than eight hundred items that adorn the tree.  However, something far more important than visual beauty illuminates my eyes and especially my heart.

    "I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High" (Psalm 77:10).

    As Frances and I decorated our tree several nights ago, the occasion became a very emotional experience of thanksgiving for us.  One after another, the aforementioned mementoes and so many others reminded us that God has so graciously and undeservedly blessed our lives with, as the carol so beautifully expresses, "wonders of His love." Opportunities for thanksgiving paraded before us in such beauty of remembrance that at times, we both literally wept.  Even more, we praised the Lord and expressed our gratitude for so many moments, experiences, places, events, and most of all, people.  Words finally failed, and we could only hope that our Heavenly Father would look into our hearts and see what He had wrought therein by blessing us with memories, and indeed, with far more than memories.

    A final thought.  As we finished the tree, the thought occurred to me that all of those of those recollections, those opportunities for thanksgiving, had been purchased by blood, namely, the lifeblood of the Lord Jesus Christ whose sacrifice not only secured our salvation from sin, but also every "good gift and every perfect gift" bestowed upon us by our Heavenly Father (James 1:17).

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

    Were it not for the cross of Calvary, God could not bless us in any way, measure, or form.  Because of Calvary, and only because of Calvary, He can and will give and give and give again from the bounty of grace purchased by the suffering, sorrow, forsakenness, and death of His beloved Son and our beloved Savior.  Every moment of time and eternity for believers comes to us as the gift of love made possible by the Lord Jesus.  I thought about this as I gazed upon our tree, and as in my heart, I gazed upon another Tree.  The former is so very beautiful.  The latter was not.  But it is, isn't it?  Or rather, the One who died upon it is beautiful beyond all description.  It will take forever to discover how beautiful, and even that won't be long enough.  Mementos and memories brought such grace to our hearts, as they do now in the light of our tree, and far more, in the light of His tree.

"Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name.  Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness."
(Psalm 29:2)

Weekly Memory Verse
   I will remember the works of the Lord.  Surely I will remember Thy wonders of old."
(Psalm 77:11)

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

"Thanksliving" Part 12 The Gift We Give

(Friends: during the next few weeks, as we approach the observance of thanksgiving in the United States, many (perhaps all) of the messages will address the theme of thanksgiving and gratitude.  Thanks, Glen)


Part 12 - "The Gift We Give"

    What can we give to the One who has everything?

    "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof.  The world, and they that dwell therein" (Psalm 24:1).
    "Offer unto God thanksgiving… In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (Psalm 50:14; I Thessalonians 5:18).

    We cannot give our things to the Lord.  They belong to Him.  We cannot give ourselves to the Lord.  We belong to Him.  We cannot give our children to the Lord.  They belong to Him.  In the commands of the Psalmist and the Apostle, however, we discover there is something we can offer to God.  We can give Him thanks.  We can bring Him something He does not and will not enjoy until we gratefully express our appreciation to Him.  In response to the Holy Spirit's moving within us, born again believers possess the spiritual capacity to form something in our hearts fostered by the Spirit, but also by ourselves in response to Him.  As the Psalmist mandated, "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord" (Psalm 100:1).  Thus, we can joyously produce a gift, we can "make" something to lay before our Lord, even as the word suggests: thanksgiving.

    Carefully considered, the profundity of this truth will overwhelm us with wonder.  In this moment, for instance, you can stop reading these words - I suggest you do - and approach the Throne of grace with an offering of thanks that God will view as a gift from you (I'll keep writing in case you return after your visit to the Throne).  Moreover, He will emotionally respond to your bestowal.  "The Lord taketh pleasure in His people" (Psalm 149:4).  Pause for a moment to consider the possibility.  Through Christ, we possess the capacity to give something to God He will not have if we refrain from availing ourselves of such a marvelous opportunity.  How can we possibly contemplate such wonder and fail to give the gift - our gift - to the One who has so lavishly loved and given to us?  

    "Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: Thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness, to the end that my glory may sing praise to Thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto Thee forever!" (Psalm 30:11-12).

     A final thought.  The gift we give, this gift of thanks to God, is completely personal to each of us.  You can give thanks to the Lord in a way I cannot.  Paul's gratitude was different than Peter's, as was Mary's than Martha.  Our genetic heritage, our upbringing, our history, our experiences, our personality, and our particular callings mean that when we genuinely give thanks, we bestow something no one else can produce.  I cannot give your gift.  You cannot give mine.  And so, we each must determine to look deeply within for the personal components that will form the beauty of our offering.  Thereby we bless the Heart that so blesses us as we give the one thing He does not possess until we bring the gift we make within our grateful hearts.

"I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving.  This also shall please the LORD."
 (Psalm 69:30-31)

Weekly Memory Verse
   I will remember the works of the Lord.  Surely I will remember Thy wonders of old."
(Psalm 77:11)


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

"Thanksliving" Part 11 Grace In Gratitude

(Friends: during the next few weeks, as we approach the observance of thanksgiving in the United States, many (perhaps all) of the messages will address the theme of thanksgiving and gratitude.  Thanks, Glen)


Part 11 - "Grace In Gratitude"

    God will do just fine without our gratitude, thank you.  He doesn't need us to thank Him for anything.  His perfect fulfillment lies in His triune Personhood of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Of course, we greatly please Him when we consciously and volitionally appreciate His doings for us.  "The prayer of the upright is His delight" (Proverbs 15:8). Moreover, we glorify Him and influence others by living with a grateful attitude expressed thanksgiving.  But we meet no spiritual and emotional need in our Lord by saying "Thank You."  He is eternally all sufficient in Himself.

   "If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is Mine, and the fulness thereof" (Psalm 50:12).

    On the other hand, gratitude of heart and thanksgiving offered to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ fills oceans of need in us.  "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD… For Thou, LORD, hast made me glad through Thy work" (Psalm 92:1; 4).  When God works (which is always, whether we perceive His doings or not), realizing and affirming His lovingkindness fills our spirits with a deep inner gladness beyond thought and emotion.  Even in times of sorrow and tears, giving thanks to the Lord for His "very present help in trouble" does something within us that strengthens us for our journey through a fallen world.  The Apostle Paul testified of being "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" (Psalm 46:1; II Corinthians 6:10).  Thanksgiving as either a happy overflow in pleasant times, or a holy overcoming in times of pain, reveals the presence of the Lord Jesus in us as the Life of our lives, and our strength along every path.

    We are needy creatures united to a needless Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Our Lord clearly loves His role of being our provision, strength, protection, and the fulfilling Presence that occupies our innermost being.  We must love our role of dependence and believe that no matter what, God is present and active on our behalf.  Thanksgiving will ensue upon such remembrance, a Light will shine within our depths, and our Father will administer His grace not only in His provision, but even in the gratitude we express for it.  This leads to even more thankfulness as we realize the blessing us in His gifts - and in our giving thanks for them.

I will be all that you need,
with joy as your provision.
You will trust and look to Me
with faith and holy vision.

For in My gifts and in your thanks,
grace fills you with My peace
as I give and give and give again,
and as the Truth you see…

That I will be all that you need,
 you will trust and look to Me.

"Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto Thy name: the upright shall dwell in Thy presence."
(Psalm 140:13)
"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness."
(Psalm 41:10)

Weekly Memory Verse
   I will remember the works of the Lord.  Surely I will remember Thy wonders of old."
(Psalm 77:11)