Saturday, July 31, 2021

Orange Moon Saturday, July 31, 2021 "A Hard Day. And Then Homework"

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

(Several conversations with good friends led to sending this out again, a repeat from 2017)

"A Hard Day.  And Then Homework"

    Little Johnny came home from school one day, clearly distraught and angry.  "What's the matter, sweetheart?" asked his mother.  Johnny looked up at his mother with tear-filled eyes. "It's Mrs. Johnson, my teacher!" he responded.  "We worked hard all day in class, and now she's loaded us down with homework.  I have to copy my spelling words, read a chapter in history, do 15 math problems, and write a paragraph about what I think personal responsibility means."  Johnny paused and sighed in disgust.  "It will take me at least an hour to do all that!"

    Johnny's mother looked at her son with obvious sympathy.  "I see what you mean, darling!  That is way too much work to do after a full day at school.  Now don't you worry about any of it. You just go into the kitchen right now and have a big snack.  Then go out and play with your friends until dark.  I'll make your favorite supper, and after that, you can watch TV until bedtime. And don't you worry about your teacher.  I'll send a note and give that Mrs Johnson a piece of my mind about putting so much work on my little darling!"

    Well, little Johnny didn't fall far from the tree, did he?  Certainly we read this account with much distaste for Johnny, but far more, for the mother so obviously the source of her son's dreadful attitude.  Truly loving parents teach their children to fulfill responsibilities before enjoying pleasures. This is true among people, and it is especially true of our Heavenly Father.

   "He openeth also their ear to discipline" (Job 36:10).

   We sometimes wonder why God works in our lives as He does. He may lead us along difficult paths whereupon responsibilities and challenges seem overwhelming.  We long for respite that doesn't seem to come, regardless of how much we hope and pray. Like Johnny, life feels like a hard day at school, and then homework.  Unlike Johnny's mother, however, our Heavenly Father directs us to keep our hand on the wheel of the duties He places before us.  He calls us to face our challenges in faith and submission to His purposes.  He comforts us in our challenges as we look to Him, but He does not coddle us.  Indeed, He loves us far too much for that.  And yes, it is love that disciplines rather than delivers.  "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him" (Proverbs 13:24).

   Johnny would not have been pleased had his mother admonished him to fulfill his responsibilities.  However, he would have greatly benefitted from the genuine love that emphasizes responsibility over pleasure.  As will we, when God's hand seems firm because His heart is so deeply devoted to our best interest. This is the love of reality rather than a coddling that delivers from necessary responsibility.  Yes, the hard paths of life are paved with Divine love no less than the pleasant, and perhaps even more.

"Thou hast showed Thy people hard things:  Thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment. Thou hast given a banner to them that fear Thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth, that Thy beloved may be delivered."
(Psalm 60:3-5)

Weekly Memory Verse
     Because Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice.
 (Psalm 63:7)






Friday, July 30, 2021

Orange Moon Friday, July 30, 2021 "Not Just Ourselves"

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

"Not Just Ourselves"

    "Are ye not carnal, and walk as men?" (I Corinthians 3:3).

    Many problems plagued the first century Corinthian church, including division, immorality, legal disputes, doctrinal weakness, and even disrespect of the Lord's supper.  However, the Apostle Paul's rhetorical question above addresses the root cause of the Corinthians' spiritual weakness.  Paul challenges their carnality, and in so doing, provides the clearest definition in Scripture of what it means for born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ to walk in the flesh rather than in the Spirit.  To live as if we are just ourselves, as opposed to ourselves inhabited, led, and enabled by the indwelling Holy Spirit - this is the essence of carnality, and the root of its many fleshly expressions.

    The Apostle asked another rhetorical question of the Corinthians:

    "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (I Corinthians 3:16).

   The Corinthians did not adequately realize that the Christian life involves the present and active life of Christ Himself providing the enabling presence of God.  Certainly, they required illumination regarding what believers are to do in faithfulness to God.  However, they also required the realization of the living presence of the Holy Spirit as the "How?" of all godliness.  "Without Me ye can do nothing… I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (John 15:5; Philippians 4:13).   

    No possibility exists of our independently living the resplendent life of grace to which God calls us.  Thankfully, no command of the New Testament exists requiring us to do so.  Believers "live through Him," that is, we trust that the same Christ who died for us now lives in us to empower the thoughts, words, attitudes, and actions to which God calls us (I John 4:9).  We are not just ourselves.  We are rather ourselves inhabited by the living God who created and sustains all things.  The Corinthians needed to better know this.  I need to better know this.  Perhaps you feel the same way.  Let us then rejoice in the truth of God's living and active presence within our hearts.  And let us trust Him for growing illumination whereby we walk not merely as ourselves, but as ourselves inhabited by the living Spirit of Christ.  Indeed, may the rhetorical question - "Know ye not?" - be answered with a growing and resounding affirmation that "Yes, we do know the wonder of 'Christ in you, the hope of glory' " (Colossians 1:27).

"I will dwell in them and walk in them."
(II Corinthians 6:16)
"We shall live with Him by the power of God."
(II Corinthians 13:4)

Weekly Memory Verse
  "Because Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice."
 (Psalm 63:7)






Thursday, July 29, 2021

Orange Moon Thursday, July 29, 2021 "Naturally Supernatural"

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

"Naturally Supernatural"

    God often accomplishes supernatural actions in natural ways.

      "But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, Arise, and take the young child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life. And he arose, and took the young child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee.  And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene" (Matthew 2:19-23).

   Could not God have simply sent legions of angels to guard His Son against the enemies who sought His demise?  In the sense of capability, He certainly could have.  However, in the sense of purpose, the Lord Jesus Christ necessarily lived a life such as we experience in order to fully identify with us.  

   "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same...We have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities" (Hebrews 2:14; 4:15).

   As with our Savior, God often works in our lives in ways easily missed or overlooked because they appear to simply result from the natural course of events.  If allowed to look back on our earthly lives from a future Heavenly perspective, we may well be surprised to see how active God's hand was in ways that looked like anything but Him.  As Jacob declared when discovering he had missed the Lord's presence and working at Bethel: "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not!" (Genesis 28:16).

    Presently, we do well to realize this naturally supernatural working of our Heavenly Father.  We may see a bit more of His handiwork as we do, although much of His loving involvement on our behalf will remain beyond our awareness.  This is best because we "walk by faith, not by sight" (II Corinthians 5:7).  For now, we discover much of God's heart as we trust Him and find Him faithful despite the actions of His hand being so often veiled.  We will doubtless "understand it better by and by," as the old hymn sings.  However, we may understand a bit more during our earthly sojourn as we open our eyes to see the naturally supernatural.

"Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment."
(John 7:24)

Weekly Memory Verse
  "Because Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice."
 (Psalm 63:7)






Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Orange Moon Tuesday, July 28, 2021 "The Treasure and the Vessel"

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

"The Treasure and the Vessel"

    Both the reception and maintaining of our salvation involves the freely given grace of God through the Lord Jesus Christ.

    "By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves.  It is the gift of God, and not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).
    "You… are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (I Peter 1:4; 5).
     "Salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9).

    Such wonderful grace not withstanding, it remains true that we bring something real and of value to God as we relate to Him in love, faith, submission, and devotion.  The Holy Spirit's leadership, motivation, and enabling does not merely program us to do God's bidding as if we were mere machines.  He rather supplies the necessary grace for believers to think, speak, act, and relate in freely chosen ways unique to who and what we are as individual sons and daughters of God in Christ.

    "We have this Treasure in earthen vessels" (II Corinthians 4:7).

   As a writer of old once said, "Christianity is not just the Treasure, nor is it the earthen vessel."  Christianity is the Treasure in the earthen vessel."  When we relate to God in love and faith, the Spirit of Christ most surely plays the vital role of moving within us to make our response possible.  However, we bring something to the table in our response, something of our hearts God would not receive if we did not engage our spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical faculties.  Of course, God receives all the glory for such response.  But we do respond in a love for Him that would mean absolutely nothing to our Lord if He merely punched the buttons of our hearts, as it were, to ensure our devotion.  "I will love Thee, o Lord my strength" declared the Psalmist of such Divine/human relationship and fellowship, affirming both the necessary enabling of God, and the necessary "I will" of genuine devotion (Psalm 18:1).

   When we trusted the Lord Jesus, God birthed a "new creature" capable of knowing, loving, trusting, and obeying Him, as empowered - but not programmed - by Him (II Corinthians 5:17).  Certainly, much mystery accompanies the wonder of "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27).  This we know, however: the indwelling Spirit of God makes possible a personal fellowship with our Heavenly Father in which we view ourselves as capable of blessing Him in a freely determined response of love.  Few more motivating thoughts will encourage and challenge us to avail ourselves of grace, and then apply that grace to be who and what God redeemed us to be.  Moreover, few thoughts will more enable us to please our Father and serve people than the realization of the glorious Treasure Christ is, as known by the functioning vessel we are.

"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure."
(Philippians 2:13-13)

Weekly Memory Verse
  "Because Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice."
 (Psalm 63:7)






Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Orange Moon Tuesday, July 27, 2021 "Can God? Will God?"

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

"Can God?  Will God?"

    Can God?  Will God?

    "And there came a leper to Him, beseeching Him, and kneeling down to Him, and saying unto him, If Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean" (Mark 1:40).

    The Lord Jesus Christ could.  And He did.  "And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean."  

   What about you and me?  Can God?  Will God?  The answer, of course, is yes and yes.  Our Lord can do what we need Him to do, and He wills to do what we need Him to do.  "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).  The born again believer in Christ can and must be sure of God's ability and intentions.  Like all loving fathers - and infinitely more than any other - our Heavenly Father loves to provide for His children.  Wonderfully, He also possesses omnipotent ability to fulfill His devoted inclinations regarding our well being.  

    The latter point provides a key element in our consideration: "our well being."  Love, God's love, always seeks and finds the void in us that most needs filling.  For the leper, the Savior addressed the obvious by healing the man's disease.  Often, however, God's definition of need does not correlate with our own.  The Apostle Paul, for example, sought removal of a painful thorn.  His actual need, however, involved sufficiency of grace to endure the thorn because for that time in his life, the Lord deemed it best for the thorn to remain.  Could God supply for Paul?  Was He willing?  Yes. Yes.   He did supply, albeit according to His loving wisdom.  Indeed, the Apostle discovered glories of God's heart that would never have been known had the Lord moved His hand to pluck the thorn as Paul desired.  Moreover, the Holy Spirit incorporated Paul's experience of grace into the pages of Scripture.  Thereby, millions of believers have been illuminated through the ages with a holy light that bears witness to God's willingness and ability, but also to His wondrous wisdom regarding how best to meet our needs, and the needs of others through us.  "His understanding is infinite" (II Corinthians 12:7-9; Psalm 147:5).

   God will. God can. God does.  This is who He is to you and to me.  This is what He does.  Thankfully, He executes His willingness and ability according to His loving wisdom rather than our own.  Such grace makes our way hard at times, and challenging to understand.  If Paul could speak to us personally, however, he would tell us in no uncertain terms that that Lord's provision of grace rather than removal of the thorn was by far the perfect thing to do.  We will know that one day.  No, let us rather know that in this day.  By faith, let us determine to affirm the loving willingness of our Father, and to declare with the Psalmist…

"As for God, His way is perfect."
(Psalm 18:30)

Weekly Memory Verse
  "Because Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice."
 (Psalm 63:7)






Monday, July 26, 2021

Orange Moon Monday, July 26, 2021 "He Careth"

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

"He Careth"

    God calls us to an active response when we see anything in life that concerns, disturbs, or alarms us.

    "Casting all your cares upon Him for He careth for you" (I Peter 5:7).

    We "cast" because He "careth."   The more we realize the devoted involvement of our Heavenly Father in our hearts and lives, the more we will not allow the challenges of life to overwhelm us.  Ever and always, what we do as believers flows from the fount of God's goodness, and how well we know the wonder of His character and nature.  If we rightly perceive our Heavenly Father as present, involved, and active in our circumstances, we will likely seek His gracious working.  We trust Him to the degree we know Him, or in terms of our present consideration, we cast because we realize He cares.

    "Because Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice" (Psalm 63:7).

   We also do well to be very specific in the casting of our cares.  Even a professional baseball pitcher would have difficulty throwing a dozen balls in one motion.  Casting one ball at a time, however, confirms his skill and effectiveness.  The believer also does well to pointedly bring our concerns to the Lord, asking Him to work in accordance with His glory, will, and ability to accomplish for us that we could never do in and of ourselves.  Is the Lord who He declares Himself to be in this particular matter?  Can and will He do what He promises to do along this specific pathway of life?  Realizing that the matter at hand matters to God greatly encourages us to cast one pitch at a time, making our walk of faith far more effectual.  "This thing is from Me" (I Kings 12:24).

    Scripture proclaims our Lord to be "a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).  Which trouble?  All of them, of course, which includes this one.  Yes, the one that presently challenges us and elicits care, this is the one we must cast.  Because the wondrous truth of the matter is that our Heavenly Father cares about our cares much more than we care about our cares.  Realizing such blessed truth with our hearts will lead us to cast, to cast because "He careth."

"I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy hill."
(Psalm 3:4)

Weekly Memory Verse
  "Because Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice."
 (Psalm 63:7)



Friday, July 23, 2021

Orange Moon Friday, July 23, 2021 "Just and the Justifier"

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

"Just and the Justifier"

    Justice must exist in the universe if it is to have any hope of survival.  Mercy must also exist if we are to have hope for our own excape from the administration of justice.  Thankfully, our Creator established and maintains creation as a place wherein good is ultimately rewarded, evil is repudiated, and pardon is available to human hearts.

    "Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this" (Isaiah 9:7).
    "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy" (Psalm103:8).

   Note first that God zealously executes justice.  How grateful we should be that this is so!  Again, a creation without reward for good and repudiation of evil would spell doom for the domain and its denizens.  This constitutes a great problem for the human race, however: "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).  We all rightly deserve God's judgment for our wayward ways.  If He fails to execute wrath against even one sinful human being, the universe would ultimately perish.  "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump" (Galatians 5:9).  Moreover, God's own character and nature rests upon His justly rewarding good and condemning evil.  Even more than fallen humanity, a God who compromised His character by failing to judge and preserve His creation would be the most fearful reality imaginable.

    How then do we have hope?  The Apostle Paul provides the answer:

    "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 3:25-26).

    The "Just One," the Lord Jesus Christ, made it possible for a just God to remain righteous while forgiving and receiving unjust sinners.  Our Savior bore our sins on the cross of Calvary, and was even "made to be sin for us" (I Peter 2:24; II Corinthians 5:21).  God executed His wrath against His beloved Son, thereby remaining righteous by repudiating and judging sin, and thereby freely justifying all who believe in the Lord Jesus.  No description in Scripture more speaks to our God's vital nature of righteousness, as manifested in both necessary justice and sublime mercy: "Just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus."  Indeed, through Christ, creation remains safe because God remains righteous, and sinners can be saved because God justifiably pardons and receives them if they receive His gift.  Wondrous!

   We either avail ourselves of Christ's bearing of our sins, or we bear them ourselves.  This is the good news of God's Gospel, and this is His warning to all.   He will "save to the uttermost them come unto God by Christ" (Hebrews 7:25).  But He will not and cannot save those who reject the way He has made through His Son's death and resurrection.  "He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18).  If our Lord acted otherwise, He would violate Himself and doom His creation.  This, He will not do.  This, He cannot do.  In much joy and much solemn realization, therefore, let us give thanks for the way - the way of His beloved Son - where He maintains His integrity and saves us from His judgment against sin.  Yes, Just and the justifier.

"He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
(John 3:18)
"Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other."
(Psalm 85:10)

Weekly Memory Verse
    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).