Tuesday, April 29, 2008

*Sooner or Later

“Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate.” The first coming of God’s dear Son was “in the fullness of the time.” And so it will be when He appears a second time. We are told it will be “in his times…” And what will He show us at this appearing? That Jesus Christ is the “only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.”

Someday Jesus Christ is going to show this old world who is really boss. All will be under His absolute, sovereign rule. Now there is only a small remnant of us who willingly submit; but then “every knee shall bow.” Yes, the time is drawing nigh that all of the earth’s kings and lords, along with their subjects, will be under Christ’s rule and authority, paying Him the homage due His blessed and holy name.

Sooner or later all will bow to His sovereignty. This being the case, the sooner is the better.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Despair of Perfection

I tend to be a perfectionist. Because of this, I can be a burden both to myself and those around me. In a world where everything, and everyone, is imperfect, such people as me can spend their lives in misery unless they learn to adjust.

No one in the Bible claimed to be perfect. In the Old Testament, Job says, “...if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.” Paul tells us in the New Testament, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect...” If one could be perfect, that would do away with the doctrine of progressive sanctification, while ridiculously stating, by its claim, that you no longer need the blood of Christ in your daily life.

Though they would never say so publicly, this is where much of the so-called “deeper life” teaching leads one. Be careful of such teachings. Remember the first person in the Bible that promised that if you followed his teaching, “ye shall be as gods.”

When the Bible speaks of a Christian being perfect it simply means at a particular stage in your spiritual growth. For example, a husband may make a table for his wife, and seeing it in its early stage, she might say, “its perfect!” But she also says this after the sanding process, the staining, and then, finally, when the finishing touches are put on it. That is how the Scripture can use the term, “more perfect,” and be correct. How can perfect be more perfect except it be at different stages and time intervals?

David said, “I have seen an end of all perfection: but thy commandment is exceeding broad…” Christ is the only, truly Perfect One, and yet He gives each of us an “exceeding broad” space to move about in. God help us to do the same with our family and friends.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

*Visiting the Fruit Stand

“[The] Lord is…longsuffering to us-ward.” The “us-ward” here is referring to God’s people—His elect, if you please. And who among the Lord’s children knew more about God’s suffering long with them than His number one problem child? How comforting to find two thousand years later that when we stepped into Peter’s sandals, we’d find the same God bearing long with all our shortcomings.

And how thankful we should be to our families, loved ones, and friends, for putting up with us. Even during the times when we can’t even stand ourselves, and are apt to give up, they don’t write us off as a lost cause. Oh, the gratitude we owe them for suffering those long days, weeks, months, and, yes, even years, with us.

Jesus’ admonition to the “us-wards,” is to “Go, and do likewise.” When visiting the Spirit’s fruit stand, take away with you a large bag of long-suffering. The taste is out of this world!

Friday, April 25, 2008

*How Will You Die?

A philosopher asked a young man if he would like to be rich or virtuous. He answered that he would like to live like a rich man, but die as a virtuous man. And so it is with many Christians today. They want to live like the worldly and enjoy the pleasures of sin, but when it comes to dying they want to die like the godly.

Balaam was such a man. He said, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his” (Num.23:10). But if you’ll check his life, he didn’t want to live like the righteous, only to die like them.

Common sense would teach us that if godliness is so desirable at death, why should we not pursue it in life? Godliness is needed now as much as it will be at death.

If my testimony is not, “For me to live is Christ,” then to die is not gain.

*The Remnant

Throughout the Bible, and down through Church history, whenever the mass of God’s people, like Lot of old, went away from the Lord, there was always a small segment of devotees, as Abraham, who drew near unto God. This small group that swore its allegiance only to the Lord is referred to as the remnant. The word is defined as 1) a remaining small part or number; 2) a fragment or scrap.

Elijah felt he was left alone among the throng of God’s people who had grown cold and indifferent to spiritual things, especially God Himself. But the Lord revealed to him that there were still seven thousand like himself who refused to bow the knee to the powerless, permissive, popularized religion of their day.

Paul’s words are as applicable to us today as they were true then. “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” I pray you are rejoicing in the ranks of the remnant.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

*Great Praise for a Great God

When I used to mark my Bibles, each time I would start through a new one, I would put in the margin next to Psalm 145, “Our Great God.” David wrote in this Psalm “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.” He goes on to say, “...His greatness is unsearchable.” He also tells us, “...I will declare thy greatness" and adds, “...The Lord is..of great mercy.”

Where is this great praise for our great God? We have lost the awesomeness of God. Very few Christians contemplate the greatness of God. We seem to be too busy thinking of ourselves and others to work God into our thoughts. Great praise makes great problems pygmies. When praise fills our lives, power to overcome enters them.

A great God inspires great praise. Our trouble is that we have a little god, and, as a result, there is nothing wonderful or sublime about this “miniature” god of ours. I believe worship is a direct result of praise, and until we get back to greatly praising our great God, there will be no desire to worship.

“I will praise thee with my whole heart…I will worship...” (Psalm. 138:1-2)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

*Christianity: Fact or Fiction

“Nicodemus…said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him…” Socrates said, “An unexplained life is not worth living.” God doesn’t mind if you put Christianity under a microscope. That is, as long as we’re willing to lay aside our preconceived ideas. As C.S. Lewis said, “In coming to understand anything, we must reject the facts as they are for us, in favor of the facts as they are.” Many come to God for His agreement, rather than His answers.

The book of Job records over four hundred questions. It is perfectly legitimate and Scriptural to ask God a question…but not to question God. These are two entirely different things. I personally, question unquestioning people. Those who say we are to simply have faith and not question, live in a dunce’s dungeon. God’s order is fact, faith, and feeling. It is, therefore, proper and right to investigate the facts before stepping out by faith.

Biblical faith is built on historical fact.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Best Medicine

“Then was our mouth filled with laughter.” If the Christian life does anything for a person, it balances him out. It is not all fun and games, as some would have us believe. But, on the other hand, it is not a sour-looking long face either. God made the mouth so that it can turn up or down. Left to itself, it’s neutral. Our attitude determines which way it goes. And, certainly, I understand the influence of circumstances at times.

If anyone has the right to laugh, it is those who have been delivered from being held in long captivity. Spiritual laughter can cause our enemies to take notice so that they testify among themselves, “The Lord hath done great things for them.” The laughter of God’s people is what convinced their adversaries.

“A merry heart doth good like a medicine,” says the wise man. Sometimes it is not medication we need but merriment. We have a plaque hanging on a wall in our home that reads, “He who laughs, lasts.” Maybe today some of us need to get with friends and have an old-fashioned belly laugh. It would do us all good.

Some of the most memorable times in life are those in which we shared laughter with friends.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

*Taken Away or Given Away

“…your joy no man taketh from you.” If this be true, and it is, then, any joy lost was willingly surrendered, not taken. Man can take just about everything we possess; but it is impossible for him to rob us of our joy. It remains ours until such time as we choose to freely relinquish it to some circumstance or individual. Our joy is one of the few things that spiritual thieves cannot break through and steal.

Paul had his freedom taken and was confined, but he still had joy in the jailhouse. They thought they had emptied old John of all life’s pleasures, but in that aged, earthly vessel remained his treasured “fullness of joy.” And when Habakkuk was stripped of all life’s blessings, he stood and testified, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” Now we understand a little better the words “as sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing.”

You can’t rob a Christian of his joy; but he can relinquish it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

*The Second Time Around

“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” This promise was not made to Jeremiah when he was at his pinnacle, but while he was in prison. And so it is with us. God’s sweetest promises come our way when we are shut-up and imprisoned by circumstances. But though we may be shut in, God cannot be shut out from us. No locks or bars can keep Him from His elect.

When dire events frown upon us, Deity smiles. And why not, for nothing is too hard for Him. Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity. Things were going from bad to worse for His prophet. And it was then that God made His bold promise, one which He was more than capable of performing.

During these tough times our testimony should be that of God’s old friend. “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.”
“The word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah the second time.” If we don’t get it the first time, God always makes sure we get a second chance. (Jonah 3:1)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Caretaker

“Be careful [full of care] for nothing...” Through the years, I have seriously thought of taking Philippians 4:6-7 as my life text. I am so prone to give in to the temptation of worrying about every little thing. How it has choked the life out of my joy, usefulness, and fellowship, during those times I yielded to it (Matt.13:22)! I don’t know if it’s the day in which we live, or the fact that I’m getting older, but it seems my heart is overcharged with the cares of this world, more and more (Lk. 21:34).

I can certainly empathize with Martha in her being full of care about many things. And the disciples are not alone when they questioned the Lord in the storm, “...carest thou not...” As the saying of our day goes, “Been there; done that.” Oh, not audibly, for I would not come across as “spiritual” to others; but, in my heart...well, that’s another matter.

“Casting all your care on him; for he careth for you.” By continually carrying our load of cares we simply are telling Him we do not believe He cares for us.

A caretaker’s responsibility is to take care of the cares (Isa.27:3).

Saturday, April 12, 2008

*For Better or for Worse?

Never expect a person, young or old, to accept your life-style if it be not better than the one they are already living. Such an offer would be ludicrous. If you can’t present a life that is better, then I would suggest getting one you can recommend. Equal, or inferior to, is not an incentive for change. I’m convinced most who desire others to adopt their way of living do so because, as the old saying goes, “Misery loves company.” It is a characteristic of cults or carnal Christians.

A life that is not filled with peace, joy, purity, and righteousness, is not living, it is only existing. Jesus’ desire for us is just not a life but an abundant life. Why would any sane person want to trade sergeant’s stripes for the bare sleeve of a private when they had opportunity to have a general’s star placed on their collar?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Change for the Better

“For I am the LORD, I change not.” That is, His character never changes. His internal attributes remain the same, eternally. But God’s external actions change throughout the Bible. They are too numerous to list, but one should suffice. The book of Hebrews is all about change for the better. God’s elect resisted this, and, as a result, remained spiritual pygmies. They wanted to hold to their rules, regulations, and restrictions. They did not want to be free from their religious bondage.

The unchangeable can change. It is a paradoxical statement; nevertheless, these two are compatible and consistent with one another. Changing my direction, clothes, viewpoint, habits, etc. does not change who I basically am. Change for the good is always good.

I, for one, am thankful the little caterpillar is not among the rigid ritualist who boasts that they never change. What a beautiful specimen to behold because of its change. But some would rather be a wooly-worm all their lives, while others get only as far as the cocoon, and, liking the security, never show their colors.

If you don’t like change, it’s doubtful you will like the resurrection.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Stop and Listen

“Amen and Amen.” To deny that God emphasizes certain numbers in His Book is to close one’s eyes to Divine light. For example, seven is completion or perfection; forty, probation or trial. There is a symbolism attached to these, as with other numbers in the Scriptures. And so it is with the number two. It stands for union. “They shall be one flesh,” is how God describes the union of two people in marriage.

This can be true also of the head and the heart. They are to be one in agreement. When there is conflict between the two, it is time to stop any endeavor until each can say “Amen” to the other. To be established, the Bible says it must be “in the mouth of two witnesses.” For instance, the Word of God and the Spirit of God always agree as one. It takes two wings to fly, and you’ll never get off the ground in any endeavor unless there are two internal voices that say, “Amen and Amen."

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Those Little Big Things

“…the Lord was not in the wind…the Lord was not in the earthquake…the Lord was not in the fire…but…in…a still small voice.” Certainly, it must be admitted, whatever else our Lord was teaching His prophet, one thing was that, if not careful, we can miss God in the small things of life, while looking for Him in the bigger ones.

There used to be a worldly song entitled, Little Things Mean a Lot. If we fail to see God in the compassionate touch of a loved one, the beauty of a little flower, the smile of a child, or in a small get-well card from a friend, we have missed seeing our great God in these little things.

Remember, God came into the world in the form of a little baby. He hailed from a small town, and He pastored a little flock. When Jesus saw things like small fishes, the lilies of the field, and a little lad, He knew little is much when God is in it. Let’s be sure not to look for God in the wrong places.

Little things God is in are better than one big thing He is not.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Get Hold of Yourself

It was Hudson Taylor who, when asked by a young man to pray God would help him get up at five each morning for devotions, said, “No! Then added, “But I will pray He will help you after you put your first foot to the floor.” The very fact that God is said to be our helper throughout scripture shows we are in the equation. Most certainly the Lord will do for us what we cannot do ourselves, but you’ll have a long wait, if you’re waiting for Him to do for you what you can do yourself. Taken in the right context, the little quip, “God helps those who help themselves,” is true.

We need to take ourselves in hand from time to time. Yes, we need to give ourselves a good talking to, if you please. David said, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” We are told Solomon, “Communed with [his] own heart.” Nehemiah tells us, “I consulted with myself.” And the old apostle says, “I determined this with myself…” Sometimes we need to take ourselves by the nape of the neck and give ourselves a good shaking. Twice God tells Job in the midst of the mess he was in, when he was prone to pity himself, “Gird up now thy loins like a man.”

I guarantee you, if we refuse to use the faculties God has endowed us with, we need not expect Him to use them! It’s a sham spirituality that will not use a sanctified mind to figure a way out of one’s predicament.

Monday, April 7, 2008

*It's Never Too Late

“This is a desert place, and the time is now past.” Time and place create no problem for God. He, rather, uses them as opportunities to manifest His glory. The situation is never too bleak or the hour too late for Him to work. When we are ready to give up and disperse, He is ready to give out and dispense.

It’s never too late when we put God in the equation. Ask aged Sarah, as she holds her new born child. Ask Mary and Martha at their brother’s graveside. Ask all those blind, lame, deaf, and dumb, who thought their time had come and gone. We need to remember, our cheap timepieces always run five minutes faster than God’s precision “Big Ben.”

Saturday, April 5, 2008

*A Sacred Sedative

The little wall plaque says, “Prayer changes things.” But even more importantly, it changes me. There is such a thing as predestined circumstances, which all the prayer in the world cannot and will not change. But though some things in life are as settled as cement, God intended for his children to be as supple as a good leather glove. And it’s only by prayer we become pliable.

I’m afraid one of the undesirable traits I received from my mother, who raised me, was to be a habitual worrier. Rather than sing, “Why worry when you can pray,” my natural temperament would be to change the lyrics to, “Why pray when you can worry.” God’s sacred sedative for such people is to be found only in prayer. It’s our divine tranquilizer.

Portions of two of my favorite songs say it better than I ever could: “Oh what peace we often forfeit, Oh what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” And the second is like unto it, “Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.”

Friday, April 4, 2008

A Coveted Compliment

Oswald Chambers, describing his dear and respected friend, Duncan MacGregor, used just three words: “Character, character, character.” This is just about as high a compliment one can be paid, other than their love for God.

Contrary to what some low people in high places may say, character counts. We hear a lot today in religious circles about a person’s faith, as if it were the pinnacle, not realizing it’s foundational. Peter tells us, “Add to your faith...” We are to be cultivating character as we grow in the Lord. It’s a continuous process that culminates in Heaven.

Until Christians once again begin to honor their commitments, pay their debts, show appreciation, clock in on time, along with a list of other Godly character traits, we will never convince this world that we are made out from a different fiber. They’ll be content with their own garments.

The best collateral is character.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Fear of the Fire

Strange how two people can look at the same thing but see it differently. Israel saw only a devouring fire on the mount and kept their distance. Moses saw God in the fire and entered into the midst of it. There is no cause to fear the fire when God is in it.

The “fiery trials” spoken of by Peter always do three things: first, they loose us from our bondage; second, they give us an awareness of our Divine Companion; and third, they bring glory to God. The three Hebrew children are an illustration of these three truths.

Isaiah promises, “...when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” And so it was with the courageous three in Daniel. The king’s testimony of them was, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth man is like the Son of God.”

It’s that fourth Man Who makes the difference in the fiery trials of life. When old John on Patmos describes this fourth Man he says, “...his feet [were] like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace,” (Dan.3). No wonder we are told “...glorify ye the Lord in the fires.”

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie
My grace all sufficient shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Chained or Changed

The wise man tells us it is not wise to say the former days were better. Even if we could go back, in order to forget present unpleasantries, we’d also have to forfeit the nice things we have experienced. And anyway, who wants to start over in the first grade? To begin again from where you are is the thing to do. Or, as the Hebrew writer says, “Let us go on…”— not back. The way it was is not as good as the way it can or will be.

Like it or not, we all change, whether for better or worse. I’ve observed that those who live pulling the scab off a painful past only get worse and worse. And those who relive the “good old days” are destined to miss the glorious days that lie ahead. Yesterdays can be a ball and chain that holds us back today.

To hear someone say of another that he or she is the same, and that they never change, is not a compliment, unless it refers to their principles. Only God doesn’t change; you cannot improve on perfection. But we still need a lot of work. We’re on the assembly line all our lives. It is at the end of it we get the perfect product.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

To Be or Not To Be

Shakespeare’s To Be or Not To Be is still a relevant question, especially among God’s people. Today, whether it be the local paper, or the local pulpit, it seems what you do is more important than who you are.

The “how-to” books promote doing, not being. We do not want to take the time to become some-one. We are too busy doing some-thing. God is preeminently interested in who we are. The world, and religion, is only impressed by what we have accomplished.

“Being” is so important because it flavors all we do. This is why, when God judges His people according to their works, it will not be on the basis of what size it was, but “what sort it was.” What we have done will be traced back to who we are. All works are birthed by motive.

When I stand before my God, I care not if my spiritual resume is void of great accomplishments; but I do pray it will say, “He was a good man and full of the Holy Ghost.”