Saturday, March 30, 2024

Orange Moon Saturday, March 30, 2024 "The Resurrection - a Personal Matter"

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

"The Resurrection - a Personal Matter"

"Eternity will not suffice in the discovery of all our Savior's resurrection means.  Of this, however, we can certain: it was personal."

      The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ was a personal matter.

    "God… raised up His Son Jesus" (Acts 13:26).

     Think of Abraham, who expected to kill his son in accordance with God's command, and who also anticipated the Lord to resurrect Isaac (Hebrews 11:19).  This did not occur, as God mercifully provided a ram to substitute for Abraham's beloved son of promise.  "Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns, and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son" (Genesis 22:13).  Thus, God spared Abraham the untold agony that would have shredded a father's heart were it not for the divine provision of a substitutionary offering.

     No one stayed God's hand from sending His Son to the cross of Calvary.  Human beings escorted Him there, impaling His feet and hands after having tortured Him unmercifully.  Far more, however, the Father of Heaven not only led the Son of Heaven to earthly suffering and death.  He also smote Him with His wrath against sin, forsaking Him to suffer and die alone as the bearer of our iniquities, and even more, as the pristinely holy One who somehow was "made to be sin for us" (Isaiah 53:4; I Peter 2:14; II Corinthians 5:21).  No ram caught in a thicket substituted for the Lamb of God nailed to His cross, and smitten with more loss than any other conscious being will ever being to suffer.  Indeed, His "visage… marred more than any man" reflected the greater agony of a heart far more broken than all others.  "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46).

   In this solemn and holy light, the glory of the Father raising His Son from the dead brightly shines as a - the - most personal of matters.  Can any heart or mind begin to fathom what it meant when God called the Lord Jesus from death unto life again, indeed, to an eternally undying Life beyond life?  Eternity will not suffice in our discovery of all our Savior's resurrection means.  Of this, however, we can certain: it was personal.  It was joy in the triune heart of God.  It was love.  

     Scripture records no human or angel as having witnessed the resurrection in the moment of its occurrence.  The Father and the Holy Spirit alone convened in this most sacred of events wherein God raised His beloved Son from the dead.  As I write these words, a great sense of stillness enters my heart and mind.  Indeed, I have seen evidence of the resurrection more times in nearly a half century as a believer than I can begin to remember or report.  However, to even imagine the moment when the Lord Jesus arose seems futile in the very least, and forbidden at most.  In the moment, the resurrection involved three glorious Persons who comprise the one living and true God in a relationship that has forever been, and will forever be.  Yes, our Lord arising from the dead concerns more than we will ever begin to fully know.  But of this we can be sure: it was a personal matter.

"The Father loveth the Son."

(John 3:35)

Weekly Memory Verse

    "By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name." 

(Hebrews 13:15)


Friday, March 29, 2024

Orange Moon Friday, March 29, 2024 "Has It Come To That?"

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

"Has It Come To That?"

"We do well to seek our Father's guidance, leading us to the throne of grace about the matters of life in which He is present, willing, and actively involved.  This includes everything."

      A Christian once recounted a particular difficulty to a friend. "I tried this. I tried that. I tried this and that" said the troubled man about efforts to solve his problem. "But finally, well, finally, I just had to pray about it!"  The other gentleman, realizing with alarm the severity of his friend's plight, mournfully shook his head and responded with a sympathetic sigh, "Oh my, has it come to that?!"

   The story always elicits a chuckle. Then, the realization sets in regarding how easy it is for all of us to act as if prayer involves a last resort rather than a first response.  Of course, this does not mean that we must specifically pray about everything we do before we act.  Life comes at us fast and furious, and often we must respond to matters in the moment.  Such occasions are likely covered by God's answers to prayers we have previously prayed, perhaps at the beginning of the day.

    "My voice shalt Thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee, and will look up." (Psalm 5:3). 

   Prior prayers, whether at the beginning of the day or at other times in our lives, likely serve as the requests God often answers in the moment, as the matters of life arise.  Indeed, who can say that in this day, our Heavenly Father may answer a request for His grace we offered years ago, addressing a present need based on prayers we offered in the realm of time, but which He answers in the context of eternity?  Certainly, we seek to be current in our praying, and the possibility of neglect in prayer constitutes a real challenge every believer must confront.  "Ye have not because ye ask not" (James 4:2).  The truth remains, however, that a faithful God proceeds in answering prayers His children have forgotten we ever prayed.  

   Regarding all things in our lives, it has come to that - "In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths" (Proverbs 3:5-6).  We do well to seek our Father's guidance leading us to the throne of grace about the matters of life in which He is present, willing, and actively involved.  This includes everything.  Thus, we pray, being confident He will answer our requests that accord with His will (I John 5:14).  His provisions will come our way according to His perfect timing, meaning that some answers will result from prayers we remember offering, and some from prayers we forgot that we prayed (but which our Father does not forget to answer).

"For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers."
(I Peter 3:12)

Weekly Memory Verse
    "By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name." 
(Hebrews 13:15)


Thursday, March 28, 2024

Orange Moon Thursday, March 28, 2024 "“Empty Tomb - Full Hearts, Full Lives”

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

(For Lynette)

"Empty Tomb - Full Hearts, Full Lives"

"The empty tomb tells us indeed how full are our hearts and lives as we walk by faith."

      "We walk by faith, not by sight" declared the Apostle Paul, a truth every born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ knows as the norm of walking with God in our present lifetime (II Corinthians 5:7).  We do not yet see our Lord "face to face," nor do we hear Him or touch Him (I Corinthians 13:12).  This often presents great challenge as we navigate the pathways of a world that "lieth in wickedness" and ever seeks to counter faith in the Lord Jesus (I John 5:19).

    Sometimes, however, God works in such a manner that He becomes vividly obvious.  This occurred yesterday during a service at a local retirement community.  To explain requires a bit of backstory.  At a church in our city where I served more than forty years ago, a member of the congregation - Lynette - brought homemade chocolate chip cookies to a function.  Having been a devotee of such gifts of God's grace since childhood, I enjoyed them more than any other version I had ever tasted.  I did not cook in those days, but I asked Lynette for the recipe.  She gladly responded, and I kept the blessed blueprint for chocolate chip goodness for nearly ten years before attempting to make the cookies myself.  

   After learning to cook, I began making the cookies for my family, friends, neighbors, and my wife Frances's colleagues at the hospital where she works.  At some point, I also began to take cookies on a fairly regular basis to people for whom we conduct services, a practice we continue unto this day.  I must add that whenever I make the cookies, I find it incumbent upon myself to test each batch to ensure that no harm comes to those who consume my production.  Yes, I know.  It is a most noble thing to do, and I am more than willing to serve as the canary in the coalmine! :)

   This concludes the backstory.  Now, to the present hour of God sometimes making it difficult to "live by faith" because He becomes so obvious.  In a service yesterday, I delivered a message centered on the theme that our Lord's resurrection means that He is not merely an historical figure, but rather a present and living Savior who saturates our existence and involves Himself in all things in our lives.  "I will come to you" promised the Lord Jesus to His disciples, and to all who would trust Him for 2,000 years (John 14:18).  As I preached, a woman came in and sat less than ten feet from where I stood.  I finished the message, and we closed the service with a hymn and a prayer.  After I said "Amen," the lady I mention asked us to pray for her son, a pastor who serves in Oregon.  "My name is Lynette…" she began.  

    If you knew how many times through the years I have credited the Lord and His daughter Lynette when mentioning or distributing the aforementioned cookies, you would understand how it almost felt as if we could reach out and touch the hem of Christ's garment as He passed so closely by.  I stood in amazement, my eyes wide and my mouth shaped in what must have been the most goofy grin.  After she concluded her thoughts, I told the backstory and the present story, and how much we all witnessed in the moment a most vivid example of how the risen Christ involves Himself in all things in our lives.  I had not spoken to Lynette since the moment more than forty five years ago when she handed me her masterpiece of a recipe.  I have often thanked the Lord for her, and again, have said to recipients of my version of the cookie, "If you like these, give God and Lynette your gratitude!"

     I marvel in countless moments, whether of long ago when I did not know how to boil an egg, but nevertheless requested a recipe that would become somewhat of a hallmark in our lives.  Or, of how many moments I have made a batch of the cookies, tested them (noble indeed!), and have mentioned Lynette when seeing people enjoy them as I do.  Or, of the moment yesterday when the Lord chose to illustrate my sermon with a most pointed example of how His empty tomb means that His Spirit dwells within us if we have believed, and moves among us nearer than our next breath.  We don't see, hear, or touch Him yet.  But sometimes… sometimes He manifests His presence in ways beyond sight, sound, and sensation.  I said to Him again yesterday, respectfully,  "Sometimes, Lord, you make it hard to live by faith!"  Yes, the risen Lord Jesus moves within and among us in all the moments of our lives.  The empty tomb tells us indeed how full are our hearts and lives as we walk by faith, and sometimes it almost seems, by sight.

"I am with you always… I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee… I will dwell in them and walk in them."

(Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5; II Corinthians 6:16)

Weekly Memory Verse

    "By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name." (Hebrews 13:15)


Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Orange Moon Wednesday, March 27, 2024 "Risen - Our Story"

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

"Risen - Our Story"

"His empty tomb makes possible our full hearts, and our lives immersed in His living presence."

      No Biblical evidence exists that Lazarus, raised from the dead, lived forever thereafter.  His body doubtless returned to the grave at some point, but nevertheless his story serves as testimony to the power of God and His capacity to conquer death by life (John 11).

    Conversely, the Lord Jesus Christ exited His tomb, never to return.

    "Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him.  For in that He died, He died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God" (Romans 6:9-10).

    The account of Lazarus serves as encouraging history.  The resurrection of the Lord Jesus serves our story, namely, He becomes a living and present Savior, Lord, and life to all who believe.  His empty tomb makes possible our full hearts and our lives immersed in His living presence.  "God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father" (Galatians 4:6).  Had our Lord not been raised from the dead, He could not have returned to Heaven for the purpose of sending the Holy Spirit to spiritually enliven all who trust Him.  "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away, for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you" (John 16:7).  

   Such a gift of grace means that we are alive from the dead in spirit, and will one day be fully alive in every aspect of our being.  "You hath He quickened… when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory" (Ephesians 2:1; I Corinthians 15:53-54).  The Apostle Paul taught that believers exist as living spirits, united to the Spirit of Christ, who presently dwell in bodies "dead because of sin."  As we trust and submit to our Lord, "He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken (enliven) your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you" (Romans 8:10-11).  Thus, every thought, word, and deed accomplished in obedience to God means that the Holy Spirit has imparted the risen life of Christ from our spirits into our earthly faculties and members.  Resurrections happen continually in believers as Christ lives in us and we "live through Him.  "They which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ" (I John 4:9; Romans 5:17).

   The tomb once occupied for three days, but empty now and forever, promises a living Savior in history - and in our story that includes this present hour.  "I will come to you" promised the Lord Jesus to His disciples (John 14:18).  He kept His word, and now all who receive His grace find the same assurance impacting our hearts and lives.  Yes, the tomb of the Lord Jesus is empty so that our spirits may be full, and our bodies empowered by His overcoming Life beyond life.  The risen Christ dwells within us, upon us, and around us as the theme of our story, and of whatever this moment may hold for each of us.  "He is not here, for He is risen" said the angels long ago of the empty tomb (Matthew 28:6).  "He is here, and He remains risen" they would say to us, echoing the Scriptures' declaration of our present, involved, and living Savior given by grace as the Life - the risen Life - of our lives and of our story.

"For though He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God."

(II Corinthians 13:4)

Weekly Memory Verse

    "By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name." (Hebrews 13:15)