Thursday, December 30, 2021

Orange Moon Thursday, December 30, 2021 "Brown Eyes and Buster"

The Special of the Day… From the Orange Moon Cafe

(Today is my and Frances's 43rd wedding anniversary.  Thought I'd send this, a repeat from 2014)

"Brown Eyes and Buster"

    Frances and I met in church in the spring of 1976.  We became friends before our courtship began, and often frequented a local restaurant after church to talk about the Lord, our lives, and whatever subject might come up (and, unbeknownst to us, to fall in love).

    One day, Frances shared with me a passage from the book of James.  "The Lord is teaching me," she said, "to count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations" (James 1:2).  I was familiar with the command, having been disturbed by it several times already in my still fledgling Christian life.

    "Oh, it doesn't mean that" I immediately responded with an air of 19 year old male wisdom and authority (Oxymoron Alert!).  I expected my pontification to end the discussion, hoping to move on to less challenging matters.

    Frances, however, failed to be dazzled by my spiritual brilliance, insight, and cocksure demeanor.  "What do you mean that it doesn't mean that?"  She looked directly into my green eyes with her beautiful, but piercing brown eyes.

    I would come to learn over the years that the brown eyes usually win.  I averted my gaze to avoid their challenge, and repeated, "Well, it doesn't mean that."

    Frances didn't divert her gaze.  She looked at me with puzzlement and consternation (a word of advice: in matters of Scripture, one does well not to raise questions with Frances about their authority and obvious meaning).  "If it doesn't mean that," she said, "then what does it mean?"

    I didn't have the foggiest idea.  I just knew it couldn't possibly mean that we are to count as "all joy" every trial and tribulation of our lives.  I said as much to her.  Frances paused for a brief moment, gathered her thoughts, and then declared, "Well, Buster (she didn't actually say "Buster."  But it felt like it!), "Well, until you can tell me what it does mean, I think I'll just take it at face value!"

    More than 45 years later, "face value" remains her standard regarding the Scriptures.  I joined the parade of faith regarding James' command not too long after the aforementioned episode as I witnessed Frances exemplify and affirm the truth of counting it all joy.    James meant what he wrote.  Even more, our Heavenly Father meant what James wrote.  He unequivocally calls us to consider every trouble of our lives in the joy of His working all things after the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).  

    Note that James does not call us to "feel" our challenges joyfully, but to "count" (consider) them so.  We are to view difficulties through the lens of faith that sees God's involvement in all things.  Sometimes sorrow will wrack our hearts and tears will stream from our eyes as we look Heavenward to affirm joy in Christ - "as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" (II Corinthians 6:10).  Joy nevertheless begins with conviction and faith as we choose to "rejoice in the Lord" regardless of condition, circumstance, or how we feel (Philippians 4:4).  Glad emotions will come later as God vindicates the confidence we choose to affirm when our world seems to be crashing in upon us and our hearts feel crushed.  

   "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed and the mountains be carried into the sea" (Psalm 46:1-2).

   Again, Frances continues to count it all joy.  As for "Buster," well, I'm learning.  I'm grateful for the example with whom I live this life in which God's presence and loving involvement fills all things.  Yes, it does mean that.  We can and must affirm the joy of Christ in all things and at all times.  We do so as a matter of faith, and as a matter of obedience.  We also do so because our Lord's joy resides within our spirits if we have believed, and because failure to count it all joy means that we are living in the darkness that chooses not to see Truth and reality.   The Lord Jesus sacrificed too much to usher us into the Light for such unbelief to govern our hearts.  Moreover, too much is at stake in our lives to count our challenges, whatever their nature and measure, as anything but "all joy."  Yes, the brown eyes were right.  They are right.  How grateful Buster is for them.

"Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness."
(Psalm 97:12)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
(Romans 4:8)



Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Orange Moon Wednesday, December 29, 2021 "The Worst Evil, the Greatest Good"

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

"The Worst Evil, the Greatest Good"

     Good is good.  Evil is evil.  The line of demarcation between the two realities is precisely and forever fixed in spiritual and moral substance.  Thus,  the God who "is good" does not determine, cause, or even tempt anyone to sin (Psalm 100:5).  Moreover, His character, nature, and way are pristinely perfect to the degree He cannot even be enticed to sin.

    "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).
    "Let no man say when He is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man" (James 1:13).

   No greater error exists than the assigning of responsibility for moral evil to God.  Indeed, the very first devilish temptation of humanity involves Satan's besmirching the Lord's character by suggesting to Eve that her Creator withheld something something of benefit to she and Adam (Genesis 3:5).  The devil implied evil in God's character by slandering His ways.  Thus, as we seek to understand our Lord's working in all things, we must assiduously avoid proposing even the slightest sense of culpability to Him for the wrongs of either devils or people.  No more more deluded or dangerous darkness exists in our understanding of our Lord, or our response to Him.

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

   Such vital awareness notwithstanding, the truth remains that our Heavenly Father, without causing evil, works in all things to fulfill "the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Ephesians 3:11).  The cross of Calvary most confirms this universal undertaking of God's heart and hand.  The Lord's suffering and death at the hands of humanity constitutes the greatest evil that has ever occurred, or will occur.  "This is your hour, and the power of darkness" said the Lord to those whose wicked actions led to the cross (Luke 22:53).  When thinking of evil, we must first venture to Calvary, where "the power of darkness" most enshrouded the world with moral wrong.  The sinful murdered the Sinless, thus revealing the magnitude of devilish and human immorality.

   However, Christ's suffering and death also transpired through the purposes of Another.  "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:23).  Our Heavenly Father, knowing that which would transpire if He sent His Son into the world, nevertheless did so according to His wisdom and the purpose of establishing the hope of eternal redemption for sinners.  Thereby, God unveiled the clearest revelation of His nature of love and grace, namely, the worst evil of devils and humanity becomes the wondrous means of revealing His greatest good.  "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound" (Romans 5:20).

   This would be a good moment for us all, whether physically or within our hearts, to fall to our faces in adoring and awed wonder.  "Oh the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God.  How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33).  How can such a Being of such love, grace, goodness, righteousness, holiness, justice, wisdom, understanding, and power even exist???  How can the God "of purer eyes than to behold evil" nevertheless fulfill His purposes through evil no less than by good? (Habbakuk 1:13).  How can the moral horror of the cross become the very hope for our becoming "the righteousness of God in Him?" (II Corinthians 5:21).  How can the utter injustice of Calvary fulfill the justice of God to the degree He becomes "just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus?" (Romans 3:26).  How can the Prince of life have suffered death through our bloody hands, resulting in His pierced hands that makes possible the redemption of our hearts?  How can our sin have opened a portal into the heart of God so sublime that angels desire to look therein to see the grace only the cross could have brought into view? (I Peter 1:12).  How can the worst evil have served as a means whereby God brought forth the greatest good????  We could go and and on in the contemplation…

    And we will.  Forever…

    "But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved), and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."
(Ephesians 2:4-7)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
(Romans 4:8)



Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Orange Moon Tuesday, December 28, 2021 “The God of Our Doorstep”

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

"The God of Our Doorstep"

     God knows all that will arrive at the doorstep of our hearts and lives.

     "His understanding is infinite" (Psalm 147:5).

     He either determines or allows everything that comes to our doorstep.  "God… worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:3; 11).

   Our Lord knows what He will do regarding that which arrives on our doorstep.  "Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:8).

   God possesses complete confidence in His ability to do and be for us whatever we require.  "Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for Me?" (Jeremiah 32:27).

   He also bears perfect motivations of love regarding all He determines or allows to make its way to us.  "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31).

   Most pointedly, whatever presently stands upon the doorstep of His trusting children's lives found our Heavenly Father awaiting its arrival, be it blessing, challenge, or the everyday and mundane.  "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above… A very present help in trouble… I am with you always" (James 1:17; Psalm 46:1; Matthew 28:20).  Nothing escapes His perfectly focused attention, His complete foreknowledge and knowledge, His devoted commitment of love, and the fulfilling of His promise to work all things together for good to those that love Him (Romans 8:28).

   This is written as a simple reminder of things we all know and believe in our hearts, but which must be often recalled in mind as life comes to us with its gifts, difficulties, responsibilities, and occurences.  All must pass through  the gates of God's "eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" in order to find a way to us (Ephesians 3:11).  Our Father is that wise, that motivated, that able, that present, that involved, and most of all, that lovingly devoted to our hearts.  Thus, He can be trusted with every fiber of our being, in all things, and at all times.  Solomon leads us to the Throne of such grace as we close our consideration of the God of our hearts, and the God of our doorstep…

"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."
(Proverbs 3:5-6)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
(Romans 4:8)



Monday, December 27, 2021

Orange Moon Monday, December 27, 2021 "The Holy Proportion"

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

"The Holy Proportion"

     On the cross of Calvary, God placed our sins on Christ's account so that He might place Christ's righteousness on our account.

    "He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (II Corinthians 5:21).

     Because God the Father poured out wrath and rejection on the Lord Jesus, He can freely bestow grace and acceptance to all who believe without compromising His justice and integrity (Romans 3:26).  We do well to realize and continually grow in the truth of a holy proportion that exists between our Lord's time on the cross and every moment of our eternal existence.  

    To the degree the Lord Jesus was forsaken, we are "accepted in the Beloved" (Matthew 27:46; Ephesians 1:6).

    To the degree our sins were imputed to the Lord Jesus, they will never be imputed to us.  "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin" (Romans 4:8).

   To the degree He suffered God's wrath, we freely receive God's favor.  (Ephesians 1:3).

   To the degree our Lord experienced utter aloneness, the promise of "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee" secures God's presence in our hearts (Hebrews 13:5).

   To the degree the Savior's hands and feet were impaled to a tree, the hands and feet of believers are liberated by the power of the Holy Spirit to work and walk for the glory of God.  "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).

     To the degree He was "made to be sin for us," His righteousness completely enrobes us in the sight of God.  "Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us… righteousness" (I Corinthians 1:30).  

    Regarding the last point, the hymn writer Isaac Watts beautifully portrays the wondrous truth of grace in Christ:

    "And lest the shadow of a spot should on my soul be found, He took the robe my Savior wrought and cast it all around!" (From "Awake My Heart, Arise My Tongue!").

   We wear the robe of the Lord Jesus' righteousness because it was brutally stripped from Him on the cross of Calvary, where He took upon Himself the filthy rags of our sin.  Only thereby can we be so clothed in the sight of God, and we do well to often recall the marvel of such grace.  Yes, to the degree our Lord became what He was not, we  become what we were not through a holy proportion for which even eternity will not allow opportunity for full appreciation and gratitude.

"The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all."
(Isaiah 53:6)
"Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin."
(Romans 4:8)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
(Romans 4:8)



Saturday, December 25, 2021

Orange Moon Saturday, Christmas Day, 2021 "Joining the Multitude"

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

Christmas Day, 2021

"Joining the Multitude"

     In "A Charlie Brown Christmas," Charlie Brown asks in great frustration, "Is there anybody who knows what Christmas is all about???"  His friend Linus replies without hesitation, "Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about."  Linus then reads the account of the birth of the Lord Jesus from the Gospel of Luke.

    "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." (Luke 2:8-14).

   "That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown" concludes Linus.  He was right, of course, and I must say I have never heard a reading of the passage that touches my heart as much as Linus's version.  

   Let us further consider Charlie Brown's question: "is there anybody who knows what Christmas is all about?"  The answer is yes.  However, only One knows all that Christmas is all about.  God alone fully knows what it means that the Lord Jesus took upon Himself our humanity after a previous eternal existence as the infinite and boundless Son of God.  God alone knows the sacrifice involved, the life lived by a holy being in an unholy world, and the continual challenges known by the "man of sorrows…  acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3).  God alone knows what it meant for the Prince of life to experience death and bear the Divine wrath against our sin as suffered on the cross of Calvary.  Yes, God alone knows what Christmas is all about, and we do well to ask Him that whatever we presently understand about "God… manifest in the flesh," may our knowledge and awareness grow (I Timothy 3:16).  

   Personally, this new thought came to me in today's reading.  So few humans attended the birth of the Lord Jesus, but "a multitude of the Heavenly host" joined the angel of the Lord in praising God.  This seems absolutely as we would expect, doesn't it?  It makes me wonder what the angels must have thought, and what they must still think about the frequent lack of human response to the greatness of God's doings.  Do they ever wonder in utter bewilderment, "How are they not seeing this????"  I do not know if that is the case.  But I do know this: I so often join Jacob in his plaintive cry at Bethel, "Surely the Lord is in this place.  And I knew it not!" (Genesis 28:16).  So, if angels do wonder, I must be a primary source of their astonishment.  "How is Glen missing this????"

   Thank you, Linus, for the most beautiful of all Christmas readings (and thank you, Charles Schultz, for fighting so hard to have the reading included in the Special - a story for another day).  Most of all, thank You, Heavenly Father, for Your "unspeakable gift" (II Corinthians 9:15).  You are a wonder.  Your Son is a wonder.  The Holy Spirit is a wonder.  And I hope to wonder much more in days to come, joining the Heavenly multitude in grateful realization that we will find the Lord Jesus not among the masses, not under the bright lights, not amid the noise, but rather where we might least expect Him to be…

"Ye shall find the Babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger."
(Luke 2:12)

Weekly Memory Verse
   "But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name." 
(John 1:12).


Friday, December 24, 2021

Orange Moon Friday, December 24, 2021 "The Mystery, the Miracle"

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

"The Mystery, the Miracle"

     The mystery can never be completely solved, at least in terms our finite minds can comprehend.  No less than the Apostle Paul acknowledged its sublime wonder.

    "Great is the mystery of godliness.  God was manifest in the flesh" (I Timothy 3:16).

    Long ago, in the womb of a virgin, two realms of fundamentally different and seemingly conflicting realities united to form the greatest of all mysteries, and the most incomprehensible of miracles.  God and man.  Eternity and time.  The Infinite and the finite.  Omnipotence and weakness.  All met in the Lord Jesus Christ, forming a being beyond all understanding and comprehension.  Such glory ushers us to the portal of the mystery, beckons us to enter, but quickly reveals that we can never begin to fully fathom the being and person of the Lord Jesus.  Great indeed is the mystery, and great our need to acknowledge that the Savior we trust transcends our understanding by an infinite measure.  "His greatness is unsearchable" (Psalm 145:3).

    The mystery, however, does not transcend our ability to know the Lord Jesus well enough to trust and submit to Him in confidence of His involved presence in our lives.  By the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit, God reveals the light of Christ in terms we can grasp well enough to respond to Him.  Certainly, we can never know all.  But we can know some, and we can know more as we respond to our Heavenly Father's working in our hearts and minds. 

    "The path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18).
    "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18).

     Who is the Lord Jesus in terms of being both God and man?  How does the knowledge of both aspects of His Person impact our response to God?  Most people love a mystery, enjoying the journey of discovery, and looking forward to finding the solution in the end.  Ever before us  is the greatest of all mysteries, that is, the Person of Christ.  How can He even exist?  Perhaps the best answer finds the mystery giving way to a miracle.  The One who performed so many acts of God as a man is Himself the greatest of all acts of God, and the most wondrous of all miracles.  In both Heaven and earth, there is no one like the Lord Jesus Christ.  He exists as the God who became man, and the man who remains God.  He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and the Lamb of God.  His substance comprises both Heaven and earth, His understanding involves the omniscience of the Divine and the experience of the human, and He perfectly relates to the everlasting Father and to temporal humanity.  As theologians suggest, the Lord Jesus is as much God as if He were not man, and as much man as if He were not God.  Great indeed is the mystery!

    Great also is the miracle that graced the manger of Bethlehem when the eternal God entered the world He had made.  We do well to see our Lord in such terms as we seek to trust His working in our lives.  How able is He to meet our needs and fulfill His purposes?  So much so that He is Himself the greatest of all miracles.  Realizing the truth greatly encourages us to trust the Lord Jesus in all things.  Yes, great is the mystery because great is the Miracle….

"The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."
(John 1:14)

Weekly Memory Verse
   "But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name." 
(John 1:12).