Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Orange Moon Wednesday, August 31, 2022 "The Hand and the Blade"

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


               "The Hand and the Blade"

    Before a storm blew in this afternoon, I worked on trimming a sweet olive tree in our backyard, Frances's favorite.  The tree has enjoyed our rainy, warm (but not overly hot - thank You, Lord!) summer here on the Gulf Coast of the United States, growing nearly 3 feet since its spring pruning.  I marveled at its gain, while stretching and sweating on my ladder to clear the branches from our roofline.

    "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).

    The Christian life involves consistent growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, including seasons of steady advance, and, like the sweet olive tree this summer, of rapid increase and abundance.  The former provides the norm, while the latter sometimes happens as the great Tender of our hearts sees fit to supply rain, wind, sun, and temperature in measures that result in especially quick advancement.  We play a role, of course, primarily of trusting and submitting to our Heavenly Father in the realization we cannot grow ourselves, but we can maintain a heart of good soil by knowing He can.  

   "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him, rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving" (Colossians 2:6-7).

   When pondering our growth in Christ, we tend to focus on particular disciplines, habits, and doings that unquestionably contribute to our ongoing spiritual development.  "Exercise thyself unto godliness" wrote the Apostle Paul to Timothy, encouraging him to maintain the attitudinal and behavioral responses to God that lead to an increasing Christlikeness in character, nature, word, and deed (I Timothy 4:7).  However, the focus must always remain on the One who plants, waters, nurtures, prunes, weeds, and harvests the spiritual Vine of Christ in us, and the branches we are in Him.  We can no more tend ourselves than can any cultivated garden or plant, but rather confidently submit ourselves to His loving and persistent care.  "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it" (I Thessalonians 5:23-24).

   As I wait for the rain to pass and the winds to abate so I can return to pruning the sweet olive tree, I ponder our need for the Lord's tending and cultivation.  Thankfully, born again believers are cultivated plants whose growth relies primarily on the care and attention not of ourselves, but of the One to whom we belong.  We play a role, but our participation must always be fulfilled in the blessed light that "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works" (Ephesians 2:10).  Like the sweet olive that cannot prune itself, we require the hand and blade of Another to maintain and enhance our spiritual vitality and vibrancy.  "We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead" (II Corinthians 1:9).

   Hey, the rain has slowed to a drizzle.  I have work to do, which brings to mind the thought that our Father must ever say the same.  I'll keep that in mind as I apply hand and blade to the sweet olive.

"But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever."
(Psalm 52:8)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father.
(Galatians 4:6)








Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Orange Moon Tuesday, August 30, 2022 "Yonder To Worship"

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


               "Yonder To Worship"

    The first mention of worship in the Bible involves Abraham's faith and obedience in the offering of Isaac.

    "And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt (test) Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.  And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him… I and the lad go yonder to worship" (Genesis 22:1-3; 5).

   This introduction to worship provides the essence of its meaning, namely, worship involves trusting and obeying God, at whatever cost.  The writer of Hebrews speaks of Abraham's faith and its fruit of faithfulness: 

   "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called, accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead" (Hebrews 11:17-19).

    In some manner, God promised He would resurrect Isaac if Abraham did what he was told to do.  "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17).  Indeed, Isaac was the son of God's promise.  He had to live in order for offspring as "the stars of the sky" and the "the sand which is upon the sea shore" to be birthed into heavenly and earthly abundance (Hebrews 22:17).  Abraham believed God's promise of a son's resurrection, the first human being in recorded Biblical history to set foot upon the gilded path of such faith.  He then obeyed the command to offer Isaac as a sacrifice.  Little wonder the Apostle Paul referred to believers as those "who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham" (Romans 4:12).

    Abraham also obeyed God as the fruit of faith, or as Paul termed, "the obedience of faith" (Romans 16:26).  This completed the first directly mentioned act of worship in Scripture, thus providing for us the very heart, essence, and meaning of worship.  To trust God and to obey Him, regardless of the cost - this is worship.  Many fruits of worship may flow from this fount of faith and obedience, including the praise, thanksgiving, and music that has come to define the subject in the minds of many in this generation.  However, Abraham did not go into the mountain of sacrifice to praise, thank, or sing to the Lord.  He may have done so, but it is not recorded.  Abraham went into the mountain to kill Isaac, trusting that God would subsequently raise his slain son from the dead.  This Abraham called worship, and we must join "our father Abraham" in our understanding and calling to our own steps of trust and obedience.

   Another journeyed into the mount of sacrifice to worship.  At Calvary, the greatest act of worship to ever occur saw the Lord Jesus Christ give His life in obedience to His Father, and in the confidence that His Father would raise Him from the dead (John 10:17).  This same One now lives in believers, leading us to our own mountains of sacrifice.  Indeed, every self-sacrificial act of faith and obedience to God constitutes the essence of worship.  Thus, we can worship anywhere, at any time, and in any place as the Holy Spirit leads us to trust and obey our Father.  

    Long ago, Abraham set his feet on the threshold of the path God calls all His children to walk, the path that led to the offering of a son, in confidence of his resurrection.  He worshipped thereby, and gave great glory to God by his steps of faith and faithfulness.  We worship in light of an even greater sacrifice, made for us by God Himself, and in the glory of a far greater and more literal resurrection.  Surely this will lead to much praise, thanksgiving, singing and countless other fruits of worship.  The heart of the matter, however, will always be the trust and obedience of Abraham's "I and the lad go yonder to worship."  

"But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth."
(John 4:23-24)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father.
(Galatians 4:6)








Monday, August 29, 2022

Orange Moon Monday, August 29, 2022 “The Perfect One, the Abiding One”

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


               "The Perfect One, the Abiding One"

    I recall one of the saddest days each year of my childhood being the first day of school, when it always seemed a good friend had moved away during the summer.  I would not be seeing that buddy anymore, and knew that the separation would likely be for a lifetime.

    "Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you" (John 14:28).

   The disciples likely understood the "go away."  Based on their response after the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, they obviously did not comprehend the "come again" (and in real terms, would not until they received the indwelling Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost).  Thus, their hearts broke when He died, a sad and forlorn response we can certainly understand.  No others had ever before or since lost the presence and companionship of a perfect human being.  The classmates mentioned certainly did not attain to that standard.  Nor have many other precious ones who have left since then, many by death.  Still, the separations have keenly hurt, especially since I have been blessed with so many wonderful family members, friends, and colleagues.  Again, however, only the disciples and other close followers of the Lord Jesus lost perfection.  Surely their's were the most broken hearts any have ever known.

   Subsequently, however, they became the most joyful of people.  The perfect One who had walked with them returned to dwell and walk within them (II Corinthians 6:16).  He has done the same in all who have believed throughout the course of church history.  Moreover, once He comes to indwell, He promises, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5).  The One for whom our hearts were made takes up eternally permanent residence within us, spiritually birthing us by becoming the very Life of our lives.  Never must we concern ourselves regarding a separation from Him because God always finishes what He starts.  "Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).

   The Perfect One also graces us as the Abiding One.  Like the brokenhearted disciples who became the joy-filled sons and daughters of God, the Holy Spirit who indwells us to reveal in us the character and nature of Christ will be with and within us forever.  God could grant no greater gift of His grace and truth in the Lord Jesus, and we honor Him by affirming and responding to His perfect and abiding presence within us.

"And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you."
(John 16:22)
"Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father."
(Galatians 4:6)

Weekly Memory Verse
   Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father.
(Galatians 4:6)








Sunday, August 28, 2022

Orange Moon Sunday, August 28, 2022 "Sally Can Sing"

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


               "Sally Can Sing"

    Friends: I wrote the following last year.  I am resending because the other day in a service, Frances and I sang one of our songs before I preached.  We usually sing as a duet, but this time we had the pleasure of singing as a trio with someone very dear to our hearts, and doubtless, someone more than dear to God's heart.  We sang with Sally.  She joined her voices with our's and blessed us beyond measure.

    From 2021:

    Sally cannot speak.  She cannot walk.  She can do few things most human beings take for granted, having been confined to a a bed and a wheelchair for a lifetime.  She can, however, do two things that greatly blessed us in a service we conducted yesterday.  Sally can smile.  And Sally can sing.

     "My strength is made perfect in weakness" (II Corinthians 12:9).

    Occasionally, a young person will come to live at one of the nursing facilities where we conduct services.  The challenges faced by such ones are almost always extremely difficult and even painful.  This is the case with Sally.  I suspect she has never walked, spoken, or done anything we might classify as normal.  Frances and I, however, can attest to Sally's ability to smile, to sing, and to be a blessing beyond all description.

    During our hymn time, we began to hear sounds that initially did not seem like melody or harmony.  We quickly realized the notes came from Sally's voice, and even more, from her heart.  She smiled and she sang.  How her voice sounded musically did not matter at all as a sublime beauty deeply touched our hearts.  It made me wonder, what must Sally's voice sound like to God?  Surely we cannot fathom how our Lord must feel when one of His broken instruments raises its voice to praise Him with sounds that may not seem musical, but which He doubtless hears in ways too holy and too Heavenly to imagine.  "Let Me hear thy voice, for sweet is thy voice" (Song of Solomon 2:14).

   I know you will pray for Sally, that the Lord will meet her deep in the spirit of her heart.  I am sure He already does.  Let us ask that He will richly magnify the love and communion He bestows there.  I look forward to singing again with Sally in services to come, and far more, in the Heavenly eternity when once again, we will hear notes as we begin to sing.  "That's Sally" we will think.  Doubtless, the strains of her glorified voice will be sublimely beautiful as it sounds in perfection and in the direct presence of her Lord.  However, I do not know if they will be more beautiful than what we heard today, or what God heard today.  Because Sally can sing.

"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord."
(Psalm 100:1)

Weekly Memory Verse
     Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
(John 4:14).







Saturday, August 27, 2022

Orange Moon "Personal" Saturday, August 27, 2022

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



      Huck Finn and his friend Jim lay on their backs as they journeyed down the Mississippi River, gazing at the the stars and wondering "whether they was made or only just happened."  Jim opted for the former, but Huck for the latter because "it would have taken too long to make so many."


     Jim was right, of course. "He made the stars also" (Genesis 1:16).  Huck would have been even more flummoxed had he known the Creator of all things not only made the vast company of celestial bodies by immeasurable power, but also in terms so personal that He named every star.

    "He telleth the number of the stars; He calleth them all by their names" (Psalm 147:4).

   God has forever existed in the most personal terms imaginable, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have related to one another in a love so infinite and yet so imminent that Three exist as One (yet another reality that would doubtless bewildered Huck).  We must view Him in this way because we will never otherwise know the reality of love as defined by Scripture. 

    "And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you" (I Thessalonians 3:12).

   "One toward another."  Personal.  Our Lord made us for living relationship and fellowship, first with Himself, and then with others. Consider that to redeem us from our sins, God took upon Himself our humanity in the second Person of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ.  "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14).  He did not decree our hope of salvation from a Heavenly vantage point.  His righteousness would not have allowed for that.  Someone like us had to die for our sins to make atonement for them.  Someone like us.  The Lord Jesus had to live among us, to move among us, to relate to us.  He had to touch and be touched by us.  He had to be "tempted like as we are" (Hebrews 4:15).  Finally, He had to die like as we die, albeit in the most extreme circumstances of sorrow, pain, bewilderment, and agony.  How personal is that?  Thereby, His prayer was answered for us, that we would enter into the glory of love He and His Father had forever known by the Holy Spirit entering into the hearts of all who believe.

   "And I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them" (John 17:26).
   "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us" (John 5:5).

   We do well to look up at the stars and join Jim in knowing Somebody made them.  We can also understand and even share in Huck's bewilderment that so many stars could have been made by One.  Far more, however, let us fall to our faces in wonder that this One exists as the most personal of beings, and that He desires the most personal fellowship with our hearts.  He made the stars and He calls them by name.  He made us also, and calls us by name.  In this holy light, a day approaches when God's desire to be personal with us will result in a most mysterious, a most wonderful, and a most personal gift given to all who trust in His saving grace through the Lord Jesus…

"To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." 
(Revelation 2:17)

Weekly Memory Verse
     Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
(John 4:14).