Monday, June 30, 2008

The Unmovable Seems to Move

“Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast...” The third definition of the word “anchor” in Webster’s Dictionary is: “a person or thing that can be relied on for support, stability, or security; mainstay.” This certainly describes the Lord Jesus, does it not? An anchor is the symbol of hope, and the Scriptures tell us He is our Hope. He does for the soul what an anchor does for a ship. Because our Anchor is both sure and steadfast, it enables us to outride the storms of life. No matter how severe the tempest, wild the waves, or boisterous the winds, there is a calm within the veil.

That is our unmovable standing, but our state may present us entirely different. We may be tossed to and fro with the tempest, but, like a buoy in a storm that appears to be movable on the surface, unseen to the naked eye, it is both “sure and steadfast” underneath the tempestuous storm. Our flesh may be weak, but our faith is strong.

Hope is never ill when faith is well. (John Bunyan, Puritan

Friday, June 27, 2008

*Mr. Great-heart

“I am this day fourscore and five years old…Now therefore give me this mountain.” Caleb reminds us of Bunyan’s “Mr. Great-heart.” It is said of Caleb, the ageless adventurer, that from the time he was a sprig until he became an old oak, “…he wholly followed the Lord.” He had soared like an eagle in his youth, and run in mid-life without growing weary, but now this advanced, aggressive achiever is going for his greatest victory. He was not retiring; he was re-firing!

“Give me this mountain,” he says to his old friend, Joshua. In old age, though alone, Caleb was still climbing upward. It is said only of this vintage saint that he completely subdued the territory allotted him. He had evicted all his enemies. He had waited over forty years for God to keep His promise to Him, but the wait was well worth it. He is now entering the land of milk and honey, the place where he would go from victory to victory. It can be said of “Caleb’s clan,” winter is on their heads, but spring is in their hearts.

To all you aging saints, let me encourage you to be mountain men, always climbing higher. As one has said, “Wrinkles may be upon our brows, but let them never be upon our hearts.” Let us stay young at heart.

For age is opportunity no less/Than youth itself, though in another dress. (Longfellow )

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cut From the Same Cloth

“To the Jew first…” Some believe the Jews are special in God’s sight and that the Gentile is second-rate. A random reading of Ephesians shows the Gentile was not an after thought with God. They were not “stuck in,” as some teach, after Israel rejected Christ. We are not a fill-in, but part of God’s eternal plan. First does not necessarily mean preference, but simply, in order. A dying patriarch blesses each of his children, according to their ages, not according to his affection, for he loves each the same. Speaking of Jews and Gentiles, Paul says, “…there is no difference…”

God’s love for a Jewish saint of the Old Testament and His love for a Gentile saint of the New, is the same. “Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also.” We are “…joint heirs with Christ.”

There is nothing God ever did for a believing Old Testament Jew that He cannot, and will not, do for a believing Gentile of the New Covenant. He loves us the same; He answers our prayers the same; He leads us the same; and He provides for and protects us the same. As one of my children used to say when she was small, about identical things, “We’re same-alikes.”

The Jew was not God's pet, but a pattern.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

*Dead or Alive

My elder son, Andrew, has an excellent book out on the Resurrection. During the long months he was writing it, he naturally was consumed with the subject (and has been ever since). Thus, we spent many hours together discussing this important topic.

As a result, I rediscovered a great truth I had somehow allowed to lie dormant. That truth being that everything (and I literally mean everything) depends on whether or not Christ raised from the dead. The Christian Faith stands or falls on the Resurrection. The early, first-century believers greeted one another with the words “He is risen,” not “He died.”

Those primitive Christians in the book of Acts did not get into trouble for saying Christ had died; they were persecuted for preaching that He had risen from the dead, and was alive.

This is one of my contentions with the modern-day “deeper-lifers.” Their emphasis seems to be on our dying with Christ, rather than our being raised with Him to walk in newness of life. It seems to me, some spend all their time in a graveyard, inspecting a dead corpse. They are constantly “feeling their pulse” to see if they are dead. Someone needs to inform these poor souls that dead people are not conscious of the fact that they are dead. Only life has consciousness.

To a child of God, every morning should be Easter morning.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Rearranging the Price tags

I read an interesting story recently. It seems, some thieves broke into a jewelry store, but they didn’t steal anything; they simply rearranged the price tags. By doing this, they put a high price on things of little worth, and made cheap and irrelevant, the items of great value.

Jesus spoke of “weightier maters.” There are some things in the Christian’s life that take priority over others. The Church today has put gym class before math class. When you major on a minor, it’s not long before the lesser becomes the more important.

Many churches are trying to pass off a cheap piece of costume jewelry in place of the “Pearl of Great Price.” The Divine Christ has been devalued, and religious “things” have been elevated to the high-price bracket. No wonder many of our young people (along with their parents) are so shallow and superficial. They cast out the pearls, to be trampled under-foot by the swine; while indoors, they’re playing with their imitation jewelry.

Christ is the required Subject; everything else is electives.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sometimes or All the Time

Jesus said, “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” Before returning to Heaven, He told His disciples, “Watch ye therefore, and pray always.” Paul’s personal testimony was that he was “praying always,” and of Epaphras, it is said that he was always laboring fervently...in prayers.” It is recorded of Cornelius that he “prayed to God alway.”

The little cliché, “All we can do now is pray” may sound spiritual, but when analyzed, it’s anything but that. When you hear this statement, you know you’re listening to a person who believes prayer is their last resort. Let’s face it; most of our problems stem from our having a prayer problem. Prayer is to be first and foremost. It has nothing to do with how we feel. There’s a gospel song that says, “When you don’t feel like praying, pray.”

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Cesspool Within

One definition of “cesspool is: “a place of filth or immorality.” Jesus said, “From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, [t]hefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blaspheme, pride, foolishness; All these things come from within..” (Mark 7). Thirteen defiling sins, and not one comes from without; all originate in our hearts.

We love to blame people and things for our sin, but the problem is our heart. As someone has so apply said, “At the heart of every problem is the heart.” True, many times, individuals and situations are involved in our sin. But they are not the cause. The cause, says our Lord, lies wholly within us. People and things are only “stir-sticks” that stir up what is already lying dormant in our hearts.

Our hearts are cesspools. They are desperately wicked, and a deceiver lives within. We have blamed everything and everyone for our sins—from the devil, to TV, to our children’s friends, to magazines, to billboards. But they are not the culprits. It’s the person we see in the mirror every morning.

Until you see your heart and your true self, you’ll never appreciate the holiness of God.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Having Your Day

In his excellent little book, The Life of Christ, James Stalker divides our Lord’s ministry into three parts: the year of obscurity, the year of favor, and the year of opposition. The second of these was not all we would think it to be. For one thing, the year that followed would keep most of us from being desirous of popularity. Jesus knew what was in the human heart; He knew the fickleness in man. Full well did He know the ones who shouted “Hosanna,” today would scream, “Crucify him,” tomorrow. Because of this He sought the shadows.

The best work is usually done in secret. Elijah had a public ministry, Elisha a private one; interestingly, the latter did twice the miracles of the former. In the Bible, it seems Closed Door Ministries generally bear the most fruit.

We sometimes use little idioms to describe life. Sayings like “Every man and woman will have their day in the sun,” (that is, your time of deserved recognition and appreciation). But those of us who have experienced “our day in the sun” will tell you, it was not as hot as we thought it would be. It was just that: “a day.” And those days are brief, at best!

Each of us should live not for “our day in the sun”; but rather, “that day before the Son.”

Friday, June 13, 2008

Daringly Different

Whether it’s David’s sling and a stone, or Paul being let down in a basket, God does not generally do things in the traditional, orthodox way of religion. The vessels God uses do not come out of a man-made mold, but is produced in the Heavenly Potter’s house, upon His wheel.

For a Christian to do things any other way than what the standard norm is will be unacceptable with the conformist. They will not tolerate a man who is individualistic, any more than they will a God that is not consistent with their teaching of Him. “We never saw it on this fashion” is their characteristic statement of the “odd ones.”

The book of Judges is all about the foolish things God has chosen to confound the worldly wise. In it we find a left-handed assassin (3:21); six hundred men slain with an ox-goad (3:31); a woman, the weaker vessel, delivering her people (4:14); a hammer and nail used rather than a military weapon to destroy the adversary (4:21); a simple pitcher and trumpet overcoming a multitude (9:20); a piece of millstone falling upon a leader’s head, stopping an armed attack (9:53); and the jaw-bone of an ass as a means to kill a thousand men (15:16).

God doesn’t use a cookie cutter when He produces His men and women.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A "God " of Our Own Making

In the beginning God made man after His own likeness; now, since the Fall, man makes a god after his own likeness. That is, one that suits him. It’s a god of his own making. Like Aaron’s golden calf, we fashion it according to our desires, after our vain imagination.

The pagans of old had a plurality of gods and so do many professing Christians today. Some of the names given to these imitation gods are: the god of money; the god of sex; the god of power; the god of pleasure, etc. The one characteristic of each god is their permissiveness. You can do and be anything you want and still your created god will accept your worship.

But real Christians who worship the One True God can say of these would be Ephesian craftsmen, “Your god is not our God!”

Monday, June 9, 2008

We Are Not in Denial

We hear much about a person being in a state of denial. That is, they are unwilling to admit, or accept, an established fact. Self-denial is not necessarily the same as denying self.

When Jesus said, “Deny thyself,” He did not mean to deny personal self. To attempt this will lead to all sorts of spiritual problems. We must live with self until our termination at death, or transformation at His descent.

We are not to deny the recognition of self, but rather, we are to deny the “rights” of self. The old, Adamic, sinful, egotistical behavior pattern we have been nurturing since birth is to be denied any rights, under our new management.

I will always be me. Attempting to get rid of my personality is a slap in the face to my Creator. The thing that is wrong with me is my fallen nature. But now, with the new nature, I am enabled to squelch all the inherently evil things in my life.

I no longer have to pretend either to be what I am not, or not to be what I am. The so-called secret of the victorious life is not to be found in steps, formulas, or rules, but rather, by simply saying an emphatic “No” to the old nature by the help of the new Divine nature.

When the last Adam reigns in your life, you can deny the first Adam his right over it.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Faith of the Aged

“By faith Abraham...went out, not knowing whither he went.” At seventy-five years, Abram (along with his wife, Sarah, ten years his junior) began a second exciting venture. God can, and does, disturb us at any time of life. He does not ask us if it is convenient. He does it at His own will.

This nomadic life they were entering through the door of faith would cost them. They were to leave their comfortable life style, sacrificing home, loved ones, and friends, not to speak of financial security. He was not a young man thirsting for adventure when this disturbing challenge from God came to him.

I wonder sometimes if I can still pray the prayer of my youth and mean it. “Lord, anytime, any place, doing anything, at any cost.” I hope so.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Used but Useful

Both my wife and I enjoy visiting old bookstores, searching for old and outdated books. Recently, randomly leafing through a used book, I came across an outline that I believe characterizes my ministry these fifty years. You who are familiar with my preaching and writings are aware that both are highly practical. I like to put everyday clothes on naked truths, and shoe leather on doctrine. You know; something you can comfortly walk in on a daily basis.

Let me give you the skeleton of this outline, and then I’ll try to put a little meat on it. It went like this: “Start where you are; use what you have; and do what you can.” As to the first, the Chinese proverb says, “A thousand mile journey is started with one step.” Secondly, if you don’t have a hammer to drive in a nail, use your shoe heel. And thirdly, if you can’t do great things in a great way, do little things in a great way.

With Christ’s enablement, ordinary people can do extraordinary things. No matter the odds or opposition, they can overcome. But we need to begin in the sacred now! Wherever here is, that’s where we need to start. As someone has said, “We live our lives like we have another one in the bank.” The best time to plant a fruit tree was twenty years ago, the second best time is right now.

In closing let me give you two more thoughts from the little book that blessed me. “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” And this one could be my all-time favorite: “No one can go back and make a brand-new start, but anyone can start from now and make a brand-new ending.” Amen and Amen!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Correct or Corrupt

I am not as concerned with the outward “fashion of this world,” entering into the Church as I am with its philosophy creeping in. Outward fashions come and go; they pass away. But philosophy is ingrained in the inner-man, and controls all his decisions.

We should not be surprised by anything the world does. After all, the leper cannot change his spots or the Ethiopian his skin. But we should be shocked when the world’s philosophy of political correctness is transferred into our assemblies, and we become “religiously correct” instead of Biblically governed.

I believe this is one of the purposes of the modern-day translators. It seems they believe God needs a vocabulary that fits with their idea of correctness. God must not offend secular man with His sacred Words.

Humanism is deifying man and humanizing God; there seem to be many Christian humanists today.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Changeable Christians

“…meddle not with them who are given to change.” There are some changes that are good as well as necessary. For example, all improvement is change. And each of us periodically ought to be experiencing this. But our text is speaking of a different kind of change. It is speaking of one who is “given over” to it. When the Bible uses the term “given over,” it is speaking of dissipation as opposed to moderation.

The root problem with this sort of changeable Christian is discontent. It seems they get weary of the old and are easily captivated by the novelty of the new and untried. They are forever experimenting. Their restless, turbulent spirit makes for “unstable souls.” This type can undo all the good that has been done. They like change for no other reason than change itself. And they are oblivious to how their attitude and actions affect family and friends.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

An Arminian Calvinist

“Father, all things are possible unto thee...nevertheless not what I will but what thou wilt.” For years I’ve heard the little cliché, “When you’re praying, pray like a Calvinist (Sovereignty); but when you arise from prayer, work like an Arminian (free-will). I believe we make a grave mistake by doing this. I find the reverse of this little saying is what brings great peace to my heart, banishing all frustrations.

What a joyful time it is in prayer to mull over God’s sweet promises, requesting He perform certain ones on my behalf. Like a bee that goes from flower to flower, I go freely from promise to promise. But when leaving that sacred closet of prayer, as I open the door to enter the world once again, to say in a still, small voice, “Nevertheless, thy will be done.” This is the peace that passes all understanding.

Let your request be known unto God, but leave the choice to Him