Friday, December 31, 2021

Orange Moon Friday, December 31, 2021 "To Walk In Meaning"

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

"To Walk In Meaning"

    Does it all matter?  Does anything matter?  Do we matter?

    The thought occurred to me while watching a mini-documentary about the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life."  

    You likely know the story.  George Bailey (portrayed by actor James Stewart) comes to believe his life has no meaning or purpose.  He bemoans his fate and his seeming insignificance. "Everybody would be better off if I had never existed."  An angel orchestrates events to show George this is not the case, and that he actually mattered greatly.  

   But did he?  Again, do any of us, or does anything?  The Bible plainly declares we do matter.  Originally created in the image of God, humanity and all its members are of such importance both now and forevermore that God Himself became as one of us.  

   "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14).

     The Lord Jesus also lived and died among us, His demise becoming the means of providing and offering eternal redemption to all (I John 2:2).  Thus, we matter.  Our lives have meaning.  What we do bears significance.  We will all exist forever, with our Lord or apart from Him, and we will all have had a role in the fulfillment of His eternal purpose in the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:11).  This the Christian believes, and this we seek to remember and affirm by living in the holy light that reveals all we are and all we do bears far more consequence than we can imagine.

    "Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord" (Colossians 3:23).

   The materialist, conversely, declares either directly or tacitly that human beings do not matter.  Our lives have no meaning.  We bear no significance.  Nothing is truly consequential.  Indeed, the universe will one day end its expansion and then collapse back into nothingness (one commonly held view of several that project the ultimate doom of all things).  The human race, according to this perspective, will have existed for a relatively brief moment of time in the history of all things.  No record will remain that indicates we ever were, nor will anyone exist who knows and cares about our moment.  In terms of reality, it will not have mattered that we lived, nor will it have mattered that the universe existed.  A cosmic event will simply have happened that led to a vast material domain, over long spans of time.  But then, it will end as if nothing ever took place.  Little wonder that nihilism, the view that nothing has meaning or purpose, has had such a voice in philosophy during the last two centuries when materialism exercised such influence over the scientific realm.  "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die" (I Corinthians 15:32).

   Much in God's creation tells us that we matter (everything, actually - Romans 1:20).  Every page of His Word bears the same witness.  The Holy Spirit continually shines the light of significance into every human heart.  Believers proclaim the truth as we walk with God and seek to exemplify and communicate Christ.  Indeed, we do well to remember as we look into the eyes of every human being that the heart behind them matters to God.  May it matter to us as well.  

   May this day matter to us.  Whatever it holds, the great fact of today proclaims that Someone holds it.  Even more, this Someone "worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:11).  Considering the vast scope of the universe and the intricacies of human existence, such truth casts us to our faces in bewilderment and wonder.  This constitutes an absolutely proper response to the infinite majesty of the Creator and Sustainer of all things.  From our faces, we then arise to significance, to consequence, to meaning, to importance.  All things matter.  Human beings matter.  You matter.  I matter.  This day and this moment matters.  Perhaps most importantly, what we think, what we believe, what we pray, what we speak, and what we do matters so much that God weaves the threads of all into the tapestry of eternity and its sublime purpose in the Lord Jesus.  Our realization of this truth, and our devotion to it, leads us in truth, reality, and yes, to walk in meaning.  

"I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever.  Nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before Him."
(Ecclesiastes 3:14)

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




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)