Monday, March 31, 2008

Bobbing For Apples

“Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.” I have a little philosophical tidbit I try to live by. I’ve mentioned it on more than one occasion in the Journal. It goes like this: There is nothing perfect; there is nothing lasting; and you’ll never get it all together. Each of these causes my type of temperament much frustration, the last one probably more than the first two.

Life is like bobbing for apples. There will always be something popping up that demands our attention. When one is taken care of, there will be another to take its place. It is vicious cycle that will keep us dizzily going round and round, if we allow it. It is only outside the circle that we can see the whole. As long as we stay on this merry-go-round, we’ll get nowhere.

George McDonald writes: “No man ever sank under the burden of the day. It is when tomorrow’s burden is added to the burden of today that the weight is more than a man can bear.” This agrees with Jesus’ teaching to take care of what’s at hand and to not overly concern ourselves with what will pop up in the near future (Matt.6:34).

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Temporary Patch

Why do you think among today’s believers there is so much emphasis on this present evil world, and not that one which is to come? Why all the hullabaloo about here rather than here-after? Why the concern with the nasty-now-and-now, to the neglect of the sweet-by-and-by? We who name the name of Christ should realize our next major stop is Heaven. This present world, as we know it, is headed for a baptism of fire, only to leave all the things we cherish and cling to in ashes.

Here are some reasons that anchor us to this present evil world: exposure to science, falsely called, with its atheistic influence and bias; emphasis on the material in our secular culture; erroneous teaching of Eastern religions with the New Age philosophy; and being engulfed in social and political issues. As a tragic consequence of these, the Church has paid a dear price, substituting the Here for the Here-after.

As the song goes, “This world is not my home; I’m only passing through.” We are sojourners, not permanent residents. There is a whole New Earth coming. The best we can do with this present condemned one is to put a temporary band-aid on it. Dr. J.H. Jowett wrote: “I discovered that no man works less eagerly for the slums because now and then he has a vision of the city of God.”

“Pleasure, profit, preferment are the worldling’s trinity.” (John Trapp-Puritan)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

*Christians Are Not Exempt

“[A]t even my wife died; and I did in the morning as I was commanded.” God had forewarned Ezekiel that He would remove from him the joy of his life, when he told him, “I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke.” What is one to do when loved ones are taken, health breaks down, children go wrong, and we experience financial set backs? In spite of sounding overly simplistic, we go on. In the bad times as well as the good, life goes on. And, like it or not, we are carried along by the same current as others. We are not any different or better. Christians are not exempt.

Our text teaches us that, after we have buried our losses, we are to do as we are commanded. Our personal griefs are to give way, and submit, to Divine direction. Our disposition at such times makes little difference. If we are living to please God, then life’s hurts will be easier to bear. How many servants of God can testify after a gloomy evening, there was a glorious sunrise awaiting them.

There is a great difference between the world’s “ups and downs” and the Christian’s "downs and ups”. (Psl.139:2,a)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Awed by the Almighty

“Stand in awe, and sin not.” Webster’s definition of the little word “awe,” is as follows: 1) an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, or wonder produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, etc.; 2) to inspire or fill with awe; 3) to influence by awe, awed them to obedience.

One good remedy for sin is to be awed by the Almighty. The reason for most, if not all the trouble in the Church today is that we have lost “the wonder of it all.” The reverence, majesty, and glory of “the Lamb that sitteth upon the throne,” is no longer preached from most of the pulpits of our country. The average sermon could be found in any “self-help” book. This is the cause for so many anemic churches. When God is preached, His glory soon fills all His house.

One Almighty is more than all mighties. (William Gurnall, Puritan)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

All Equal in One

A book about math says one equals one, but the Book of God teaches all are equal in THE ONE. Paul tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” In Him, diversities of peoples become one.

When the Spirit of God is poured out upon a people, they rise to the place where they all flow together. It is so racially, for no longer are they Jew and Gentile. Peter and Cornelius lose their prejudice against one another. When the Spirit of God comes, He also takes care of our social problems. There is no bond or free. The master and servant’s distinction is lost in the Great Emancipator. The rich and the poor, the learned and illiterate—their pools flow together when the tide is high.

I spent some years living close to the ocean. At low tide, there are scores of separate pools along the seashore, but, at high tide, they flow together, and the distinctions are lost in union. It seem to me that in many of our lives it is high time for a high tide.

Friday, March 21, 2008

*Close to the Cross

It was Evangelist D.L. Moody who said, “Never get further than a day away from the Cross.” It was here Jesus made a fool out of the devil (Col.2). The Cross was no afterthought with God. Jesus was God’s Lamb “…slain from the foundation of the world.” And our Lord well knew it. For, in reference to this historical event, He said, “…for this cause came I into the world.” God does not want us to forget it. This was His purpose in establishing the Lord’s Supper. It is God’s forget-me-not. “This do in remembrance of me.”
Years ago, after a village meeting in Alaska, the pastor was flying me back to the Anchorage airport in a small 2-seater plane. We ran into a snowstorm so bad that I couldn’t see the wings for the blinding snow. I asked how he knew where we were going. He pointed to the instrument panel, showing me a little cross-like needle, then replied, “Just keep your eyes on the cross; it will keep us safe and on course.”

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Good Place to Start

Setbacks need not be permanent. Sometimes a step backward will take you two forward. Setbacks can be advantageous. One can get a clearer view of the landscape and what’s up ahead. You can get so close to the forest you can’t see the trees.

What does one do when he or she has lost ground? The same thing that our father Abraham did when experiencing a backward step. After we are told he “…went down,” it is recorded he “…went up,” and then it adds, “…he went on.”

Some of us are waiting for something to happen when what we really need to do is get a move on. Don’t wait until you get all your ducks in a row. There will always be one duck to break ranks! Go with what you have.

Begin your journey again from where you are. The Chinese proverb says, “A thousand mile journey begins with one step.” The quickest way to make progress is to advance to where you once were, and go on from there. It’s the old story of coming back to Bethel.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Satan and Time

“He knoweth that he hath but a short time.” In the Bible sense, any time is short compared to an endless eternity, whether it be one or a thousand years. Satan’s limited time accounts for the fierceness in his fighting. He is a conquered foe who refuses to admit defeat. In God’s omniscience, for some reason known only to Him, He allows the devil to continue to do battle with the Omnipotent and His children for a time.

Because of this, we Christian soldiers may lose a battle or two, but when, and if, this happens, it is important to remember Apollyon has already lost the war. This is the reason the old-timers used to say, “When you fall, shout the victory.” Every evil spirit, with their king, has an eternal place of punishment already consigned and prepared, just as our everlasting home of bliss is reserved and awaiting us.

We can be characterized as “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” Sorrowful for temporary defeats because of our sinful natures, yet, at the same time, rejoicing because, as saints, there is eternal victory. So, when we are brought low, you may hear a little low-sounding bass in our song of Zion, but the high pitched treble sounds of the Hallelujah’s for our Victor almost drown them out.

Wounded and weak, the lame still take the prey.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

*Continual Cleansing

“…the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” One need not go to the Greek to find out this is a present and continuous cleansing. The English word “cleanseth” carries with it both a present and progressive action. Because of this, in spite of daily defilement from sin, we can enjoy unbroken fellowship with God.

Confession of sin is not to be at the end of the day but throughout it. The Christian life is to be lived on a moment by moment basis. This is the way in which God keeps His vineyard in this world. “I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.”
As A.W. Tozer says in his book, I Talk Back to the Devil, “…when God forgives a man, He treats him as though he had never sinned…He starts with him again as though he had just been created and as if there had been no past at all.”

What God forgives, He forgets.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Truth in a Nutshell?

“Master we saw one...and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not...” (Mk. 9:38-39). Oswald Chambers said, “It takes God a long time to get us out of the way of thinking that unless everyone sees as we do they must be wrong.”

There are some rigid movements within Christendom who believe only they have a corner on the truth. In an overbearing, dictatorial way, they renounce all others as heretics or apostates. If you’re not a part of their particular denomination, or church, you could not possibly be right. This type of self-centered ego comes from the fact that they refuse to see the whole picture. The Body of Christ is much larger than one little group. It takes in all of God’s people, not a select few. It may surprise some, but there are still “seven thousand.” You need not get an Elijah complex.

I like what one old-time evangelist said years ago: “If a hound dog comes to town and barks for Jesus, I’m going to leave him alone.”

A man who thinks he is always right will eventually start playing God in other people’s lives.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Responsible Knowledge

“And he said unto them, It is not for you to know…” Because we do not know one thing does not mean we are left in the dark about another. The disciples did not know the time of the establishment of the Kingdom, but they knew they were to be empowered by the Spirit. To not be certain of the one doesn’t release us from obeying the other.

We are obligated and responsible to do those things we know are right to do (James 4:17). There are superficial, professing Christians today who believe that because they do not understand one thing, they are justified in copping out of doing the revealed thing. To not understand foreordination does not excuse fornication.

“It is not the things in the Bible I don’t understand that bother me, but those that I do.” (Mark Twain)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The God Who is Near

“…a God at hand…not a God afar off.” God is omni-present; He is everywhere at the same time. The first ten verses of the 139th Psalm bear this out. Try to understand it with your finite mind and you’ll end up joining the chorus with David and the rest of us singing, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.”

God is in Heaven, but He is also here. He is universal, but He is also local. Paul expresses this blessed fact by telling us, “[H]e be not far from every one of us.” What a glorious day when we come to realize this. It is then that we will echo Jacob’s words of long ago. “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not.”

If God is “…a very present help in trouble,” then He is within hollerin’ distance!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

*Heaven Helps Us

During a Bible conference some years ago, I mentioned to the people that there are various types of ministries. To explain mine, I said, in jest, “I’m not as interested in showing you how live in the ‘sweet bye-and-bye’ as I am in the “nasty now-and-now.” After my message, my good pastor friend, in all innocence and sincerity said, “You know, I find, when my mind is upon the “sweet bye-and-bye,” I live better in the “nasty now-and-now.” I took this gentle and instructive rebuke as from the Lord.

If you’re familiar with Bible biographies, as well as those written throughout history, you realize those who accomplish the most for this present world, were those who thought much on the next. They left their enduring mark upon this earth, because their minds were occupied with Heaven.

I believe the one main cause Christians are so ineffective in the world today is for this very reason; we no longer think of the other world. To quote one of my favorite authors, “Aim at Heaven and you will get the earth thrown in; aim at the earth, and you will get neither.” We shall never make a difference on this earth as long as the world is our main goal. We must learn to want something else more.

There will be no Heaven on earth until Heaven is in our hearts.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Know-It-Alls

God keep me from being a religious dogmatist, as Job’s well-meaning friend, Eliaphaz. But sad to say, how much like him we all are—flaunting our spiritual superiority, while we declare the cause of other’s misfortunes. What we say is often true—even eloquent, at times—but we do it with a harsh and hard spirit.

Webster’s definition for dogmatic is, “asserting opinion in a dictatorial way; opinionated.” I’m afraid this has been a picture of my life on many occasions. What an ugly one it is. Even now I am ashamed and embarrassed to think about it. We can tell people why their children go wrong, what is the cause of their sickness, the reason for their trials, and where they’re doctrinally wrong, etc, etc. We dogmatists have a hypocritical and pharisaical opinion on just about everything.

We can explain it all...till it happens to us. Isn’t it strange that when bad things happen in the lives of others, it’s because of something wrong they did; but, when it touches us, it surely must be for our benefit, to make us a better Christian. If we could (or would) only see ourselves as others do, we would keep a permanent black veil over that portrait.

May we stop trying to play God in everyone’s life. Let us be careful of being too dogmatic on minor doctrinal issues, and, by all means, stop interpreting events in the lives of others. It never occurs to a dogmatist that he could possibly be wrong. I cannot tell you how many times I have been.

As a dogmatist, I’ve spent a lot of time in the dog-house.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Unanswered Questions

My wife sings a song that says, “When answers aren’t enough, there’s Jesus.” When I was first converted, there was a preacher who used to claim he could answer any Bible question in fifteen seconds. I trust now, in his old age, he knows better than to make such a foolish statement as this.

Recently, I saw a beautiful teen-age girl with her mother. The girl had only a stump for a left arm. It seemed to be a birth defect. Had she asked, I could have quoted for her the Scriptures. But, truthfully, I didn’t have the answer. Yes, we are to take things by faith, but that doesn’t always supply the answers.

I’m told in the book of Job that there are over four hundred questions. Someone has said, “It is alright to ask God a question, but it’s wrong to question God.” With some of our perplexing questions, we’ll just have to wait till we see Him face to face. Until then, we need to go on our pilgrim way, singing in our hearts:

We’ll talk it over in the bye-and-bye.
We’ll talk it over, my Lord and I.
I’ll ask the reason; He’ll tell me why,
When we talk it over in the bye-and-bye

"What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter." (jn.13:7)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Prayer Requests

“Let your requests be made known unto God.” Throughout scriptures we find kings, lords, masters, judges, fathers and friends granting requests to those who ask. Interestingly, God falls under each of these headings. If a wicked king granted a sinful woman’s request (Mat.14:7), most certainly our Wonderful King of Kings will His saints (Mat.21:22).

Paul doesn’t mention a “claiming,” or “demanding,” of things; but simply the making of a humble, submissive request. “If it be thy will,” was both Jesus’ approach and addendum to His request to God (Lk.22:42). He subordinated His desire, believing His Father knew best. We need to trust our all-wise God to decide which of our requests to grant, and which to lovingly withhold.

The Lord doesn’t need information; He knows our deepest longings before we ask. But He would know them from us. “Thus saith the Lord God; I will yet for this be inquired of by the House of Israel, to do it for them.”

To be sure, He will regard our prayers when they are in the form of requests (Psl.102:17).

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Flavor of Life

“I hated life.” These words did not fall from the lips of a depressed, ignorant pauper who had no station in life, but rather from a king to whom God had given “largeness of heart,” as well as making him the wisest and wealthiest man in all the earth.

The things of this world bring no permanent satisfaction if God is not in them. Like sugar is to tea, so God makes our material cups sweet to the taste. When we seek first the things above the sun, we’ll enjoy the things that are under the sun. As Peter says, it is then that we can “love life.”

To live only for the “meat that perishes” will never bring perpetual happiness to the soul. Those who live only for the things of this world are constantly discarding them as children do who no longer find satisfaction from their toys. It is Heaven’s promises, not earth’s pleasures that give spice to life.

The blessings of earth become burdens when God is not in them.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Corinthian Syndrome

I tell young preachers who are entering their first pastorate to begin it by teaching through 1 Corinthians. Why do I say this? Because we are in the age of the Corinthian Christian. You cannot read through this book and not notice the similarities.

They boasted of their spiritual gifts, but never recognized the Giver; they gloried in preachers, but not in God; fornication was the accepted norm; they sued one another; they drank to excess, and came to church that way; divorce was rampant; their religious trinkets (idols) were more important to them than a Divine relationship; there was the masculinization of women and the feminization of men. We could go on, but this should suffice to prove my point.

What was the cure for such a people and church? Well, Paul did not give them a long list of man-made rules. He gave them a simple cure-all for everything. It has to do with ownership:

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s (6:19-20).

There is no spiritual problem that the filling of the Holy Spirit cannot solve.