Thursday, June 30, 2022

Orange Moon Thursday, June 30, 2022 "A Vine In Thy Blood"

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

"A Vine In Thy Blood"

     I wonder about the sacrifices she made for me, the blood, sweat, and tears shed to be sure she provided for and protected me.

    I refer to my mother, who reared me to adulthood after my father died when I was two years old.  She never remarried, mainly because she could not be sure a second husband would be a good stepfather.  She worked hard all her life, much of her effort devoted to my primary benefit.  How I wish I had known at the time how diligently she labored.  I did not.  Even now, I realize how little I know of my mother's blood, sweat, and tears, despite having been a parent and experiencing what it means to do whatever, whenever, and wherever to raise children.

   "Thy mother is like a vine in thy blood, planted by the waters: she was fruitful and full of branches by reason of many waters" (Ezekiel 19:10).

   My mother causes me to think of Another whose sacrifices I will never fully know.  As a child, an adolescent, and a teenager, I did not realize I daily witnessed the character and nature of the Lord Jesus Christ as He walked through my mother's feet, labored by her hands, and loved me through her heart.  Again, how I wish that I had known this.  Moreover, I grow in realizing that how little I knew of her sacrifices speaks to how little I know of my Lord's.  

   "He is… a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3).

   I am glad of the realization.  Knowing that we cannot fully know "the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge" goes far in motivating our response of love to Him (Ephesians 3:19).  The realization also elicits love for my mother, along with great and growing appreciation.  There is little I would not give to have her back for a moment to be able to express a heartfelt "Thank you!" for all she was and all she did for me.  Thankfully, I can express this to the Lord who bestowed and bestows the grace of a far greater love than I will ever comprehend.  I now know that the blood, sweat, and tears shed by my mother flowed from the wellspring of His self sacrificial heart of goodness.  I daily saw the Lord Jesus as He walked and worked in my mother.  How she abides as "a vine in my blood," ever bearing witness to the True Vine who dwells in my spirit.  How I thank Him, and look forward to a day when I can again thank her for having served my heart as so vivid a display of His heart.
   A final thought.  If your mother remains in this world, thank God for the blessing.  Then, call her, write her, go see her.  Tell her.  

"I am the True Vine."
(John 15:1)
"Honor thy father and thy mother."
(Exodus 20:12)

Weekly Memory Verse
    And the heavens shall praise Thy wonders, O Lord, Thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints.
(Psalm 89:5)




Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Orange Moon Wednesday, June 29, 2022 "Conviction and Character"

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

"Conviction and Character"

     Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ all know God in the context of our personal heritage, history, upbringing, experience, and response to His grace and truth in the Lord Jesus.  Thus, we have a "common faith," based on the same Lord and truth, but with a nearly infinite variety of our Heavenly Father's administrations and working in our lives (Titus 1:4).

    "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ" (I Corinthians 12:12).
    "The very hairs of your head are all numbered" (Matthew 10:30).

   I share this to encourage my heart and yours to hold steadfast to the common faith, and "the faith which was once delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3).  We must be doctrinal as believers, that is, the objective truth of Scripture must guide us, teach us, confirm us, and correct us.  We will inevitably go astray if we do not abide in the Bible, ever seeking to grow in our understanding of "It is written," and "Thus saith the Lord."

   Concurrent with such conviction, however, must be our endeavor to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3).  The importance of doctrine walks hand in hand with the necessity of mutual respect among believers.  We can disagree with one another without dishonoring each other.  We can be strong in affirmation of our beliefs, while humbly esteeming those with whom we disagree.  We can look into the hearts of brethren, seeing the Spirit of Christ who dwells there, while we may differ on points of faith and practice.  In no way does this minimize the doctrines of Scripture.  It rather confirms them, especially the truth stated and implied in Paul's admonition to the Ephesians:

   "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice, and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:31-32).

   Truth matters.  It matters so much that it must be ever and always known within the scope and measure of the love of Christ - "speaking the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15).  Failure to emphasize the Bible and its doctrine will inevitably lead us to compromise conviction.  Failure to walk in the love so emphasized in the Bible will inevitably lead us to compromise character.  I can disagree with my brother and strongly contend for my position.   I can - and must - also love him as I do so.  We have all come from different places in our walk with the Lord, which have great influence on what we think and believe.  Remembering this will go far in encouraging our determination to know God and His truth as well as we possibly can.  It will also help us to remember that as we seek to help each other, maintaining mutual respect through the love of Christ will go far in bringing all to a greater understanding, and to a walk with each other that bears powerful witness to our Lord and His truth…

"By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another."
(John 13:35)
"And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth, and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will."
(II Timothy 2:24-26).

Weekly Memory Verse
    And the heavens shall praise Thy wonders, O Lord, Thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints.
(Psalm 89:5)




Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Orange Moon Tuesday, June 28, 2022 "The Rewards of Grace"

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

(Another Doctrine 101 consideration)

"The Rewards of Grace"

     Salvation must be known and received as a completely free gift of grace, purchased by the Lord Jesus Christ for all who believe, and in the blessed light of "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy, He saved us" (Titus 3:5).

   It is also true, however, that believers will one day be judged for our works subsequent to salvation.

   "We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ… Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire" (Romans 14:10; I Corinthians 3:13-15).

    How does the "free gift" of salvation correlate with "receive a reward" or "suffer loss" based on works?  The Apostle Paul answers in context of his own experience:

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

    The works of the Christian life, that is, our faithfulness to God's will, proceed no less from the reception of God's grace than did our new birth.  "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him" (Colossians 2:6).  Just as we were saved by grace through faith, so we obey by grace through faith.  Paul's "labored more abundantly" sprang from the fount of "the grace of God which was with me."  The Apostle trusted his Lord's promise to work in him "both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).  Thereby, he received grace for obedience just as he had received grace for forgiveness and newness of life when first he believed.  "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).

    The Christian life is a free gift of grace to be received.  But it must be received day by day as we walk by a conscious and active faith in the Lord Jesus.  We will one day "receive a reward" for reception and the works that flowed accordingly.  Or, we will "suffer loss" for failure to have faithfully walked with God when so much provision and power resided within our hearts through the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Thus, the free gift and rewards for works perfectly correlate.  The gift consistently received - grace through faith - results in the power faithfully applied to what we do, and how we do it through Christ - "to maintain good works" (Titus 3:8).

   A final point.  We do well to remember that we will stand before the judgment seat of Christ with glorified sensibilities and awareness.  We will have been changed into His spiritual and moral likeness (I John 3:2).  Thus, it will matter to us more than we can presently imagine how we spent our earthly sojourn as believers.  Did the grace received that began our relationship with God serve as the dynamic means whereby we walked with Him, leading to works that result in reward?  We do well to presently keep the question before us, and much in heart and mind.  The faithfulness of this day will ebb or flow accordingly, leading to another day wherein rewards for works will be, like our salvation, based on reception by grace through faith.  "The Lord alone shall be exalted in that day," exalted by the works we have done that resulted from response to the work of grace He so faithfully wrought in our hearts, and through our hands and feet (Isaiah 2:11).

"He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"
(Romans 8:32)
"Let us have grace, that we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear."
(Hebrews 12:28)

Weekly Memory Verse
    And the heavens shall praise Thy wonders, O Lord, Thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints.
(Psalm 89:5)




Monday, June 27, 2022

Orange Moon Monday, June 27, 2022 "Wonderful"

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


     "We serve a wonderful Savior."

     I mentioned in yesterday's message the final sermon my dear friend John Canning preached as pastor of the church he served for 54 years.  John shared many sublime truths in his message, but obviously filled with deep and heartfelt emotion, he often returned to the simple, but eternally glorious thought, "We serve a wonderful Savior."

    We do, don't we?  And don't the five words seem inadequate to express what we know and feel deeply within?  "His name shall be called Wonderful" declared the prophet (Isaiah 9:6).  A perfect name indeed for the Lord Jesus Christ, the God who became man, and the man who remains God.  He is indeed a wonder, and wonderful.  In Heaven and earth, there is no one like Him wherein Divinity and humanity perfectly unite.  Eternity will not be long enough to plumb the depths of who He is, or to fully fathom all He has done, is doing, and will forever do as the beloved Son of the Father, and the beloved Savior of the saints.  

   "And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands,  saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing" (Revelation 5:11-12).

   Little wonder that Heavenly beings cry out, Worthy is the Lamb!"  And little wonder that a preacher upon the earth, in his last message to the people he has loved, and for whom he has laid down his life, so often returned to the refrain, "We serve a wonderful Savior!"  As one who shares John's calling, I could sense the frustration he felt even as he said the words.  They are not enough.  You want to say it so much better, with so much more eloquence, influence, conviction, and passion.  But you cannot find words that do that.  There are none.  So John said, far better than he realized, what we all needed to hear in his farewell address.  There is a Savior we so desperately need to trust.  There is a Lord we so devotedly need to follow.  There is a life, the very life of Christ Himself, we so delightedly need to know as the power whereby we love God and people.  And there is a Lamb so worthy, and One who so graced His servant's heart that five words beautifully formed the heart and theme of his parting message to the people he has loved…

     "We serve a wonderful Savior!"

"And the heavens shall praise Thy wonders, O Lord, Thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints."
(Psalm 89:5)

Weekly Memory Verse
    And the heavens shall praise Thy wonders, O Lord, Thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints.
(Psalm 89:5)




Sunday, June 26, 2022

Orange Moon Sunday, June 26, 2022 "Faithful"

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


     This morning, I helped conduct a service for a dear friend who has pastored a local church for 54 years.  He preached his last sermon today as shepherd of a very special portion of God's people.  These were my remarks:

   "Good morning.  We gather today first and foremost for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, as Scripture privileges and commands, "Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."

    We also gather to both rejoice and feel a great sense of sadness as a long and faithful tenure of service to our Lord comes to its conclusion.   John Canning will preach his last sermon as pastor of this church today after more than a half century of ministry.  Of course, we also gratefully remember Connie today, and your devotion to John and to this church with much appreciation and gratitude.

    John, I did the numbers regarding how many times you have stood in this pulpit to preach.  At the very least, you have spoken from this special place as God's ambassador 7,800 times.

    7,800 sermons and messages.  This gives much pause to us all, and raises the question, how many people have been blessed with the spirit and truth of the Lord Jesus through the years?  How many believers have been illuminated, encouraged, and challenged in their walk with the Lord?  How many people have come to know the Savior?  We do not and cannot know right now.  But we will one day, and the prospect gives much reason to bow our hearts and heads in wonder and thanksgiving as our time together today begins.

    54 years as pastor of one fellowship of believers.  What faithfulness.  What trustworthiness.  What persistence and consistency this reveals.  Yes, how faithful is our LordHow trustworthy He is.  How persistent and consistent He is.  This is the testimony John would have us to remember and affirm.  Yes, when you think of John Canning, think of this: God is faithful.  He called John to this place.  He gifted him to serve. He enabled him to faithfully minister for so many years, and in life and word, John and Connie have borne witness to the truth: God is faithful.

   John, Connie, I know I speak for all here today.  We thank God for you.  And we thank you for responding to His faithfulness, His trustworthiness, His consistency, and His persistence.  How such grace and glory has been revealed and reflected in both of you.  And how we all have been so immeasurably blessed.  I close with words I am sure you will both one day hear from our Father, and which I want you to hear in this moment from our hearts as the blessed recipients of His grace administered through you...

    "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

"God is faithful."
(I Corinthians 1:9)
"Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful."
(I Corinthians 4:1-2)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world.
 (Acts 15:18)




Saturday, June 25, 2022

Orange Moon Saturday, June 25, 2022 "Amazing Grace"

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

"Amazing Grace"

     What is the most amazing thing about grace, that is, God's freely given acceptance, favor, presence, and working in the Lord Jesus Christ?

    "And 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).
   "Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (John 1:17).

    Many answers come to heart and mind.  However, that which always finds its way - graciously, of course -  to the forefront of my understanding involves not what grace is, but what it cost.  Freely given to us, grace required God to pay a price more vast than even eternity will fully reveal.

    "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich" (II Corinthians 8:9).

   "He hath made us accepted in the beloved.  In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:6-7).


So much given, so great the cost,
so terrible the sorrow, so vast the loss.
When on that day at Calvary, 
the Father smote His Son,
when for us He forsook Him
to bleed and die alone…
So much given, so great the cost.

      Or, as the hymnwriter so beautifully penned, "But none of the ransomed ever knew how deep were the waters crossed, nor how dark was the night the Lord passed through 'ere He found His sheep that was lost."  We do not know, do we?  In fact, what we cannot know about grace - the full extent of its cost - may shine as its brightest light.  The Lord Jesus bore our sins on the cross of Calvary.  He was also "made… to be sin" for us " (I Peter 2:24; II Corinthians 5:21).  What does this mean?  None of the ransomed can ever fully know.  And in the unknowing, a light shines in the darkness that glimmers with grace in a way that reveals so much.  As the saying goes, grace is free.  But it was not cheap.  

   The Apostle Paul tells us that One became poor that many might be made rich.  This reveals much.  It does not and cannot tell us all, however.  The limitations of created beings surely means that the redemptive doings of the Creator transcend our understanding by the vastest of measures.  God the Father smote His beloved Son to make possible His not smiting us.  The Son became what He was not in order to redeem us into who we are as God's dear children.  The Father and the Holy Spirit forsook the Lord Jesus on the cross so that we might be indwelt by the Spirit, and never forsaken (Isaiah 53:4; II Corinthians 5:21; Matthew 27:46; I Corinthians 3:16; Hebrews 13:.  These, and countless other sorrowful realities comprise the inestimable meaning of grace.  

   The most amazing thing about grace?  Perhaps no one answer perfectly suffices to answer.  However, none transcend the truth of its price, that is, grace comes to us as the freest gift ever given, purchased by the highest cost ever remitted.  Amazing indeed.  Amazing grace.

"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man."
(Hebrews 2:9)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world.
 (Acts 15:18)




Friday, June 24, 2022

Orange Moon Friday, June 24, 2022 "Perfect Harmony"

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

"Perfect Harmony"

     All of God's character attributes perfectly align with one another.  No conflict or contradiction exists between His love of good and hatred of evil, nor between His holiness and grace, righteousness and mercy, or favor and wrath.  In Him we find fulfillment of the Psalmist's beautiful testimony of unity that dwells in perfect harmony in the being of God…

   "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Psalm 85:10).

   Few more vital truths must form and inform our understanding of our Lord.  God acts in perfect accordance with His character whether He justifies by grace, or judges in holiness.  Indeed, the Father who sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, into the world to purchase flood tides of grace for sinners is the same glorious One who sent floods of destruction upon the world in the days of Noah.  His elemental love and righteousness guided both administrations, obviously in His Son's mission to save us our sins, but also in the worldwide flood that ultimately saved the human race from completely destroying itself.  

    "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (I Timothy 1:15).

    "God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence through them.  Make thee an ark" (Genesis 6:13).  


   The truth of God's perfectly unified spiritual and moral nature and the actions it motivates must be established in every believer's understanding.  Our Father never acts out of character.  Never.  His perfect being forever and always guides His perfect way (II Samuel 22:31).  We may not always understand how His innumerable actions all flow from the same fount, or how they correlate.  We just know that they do, and that we can trust our Lord completely because who He is guides all that He does.  We can know nothing more important about Him than the perfect harmony that forms the composition of His heart and the conduct of His hand.  Nor can we embrace any truth that will more lead us in peace along every pathway of life, both now and forever.

"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)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world.
 (Acts 15:18)