Thursday, July 31, 2008

*Getting There.

How does a Christian get close to God? I once asked an Irishman the quickest way from where I was to where I wanted to go. His reply was, “The quickest way is the way you know best.” Some of us spend a lifetime trying to find the best way to get close to God. Well, the best way is the way you are the most familiar and comfortable with.

Bible saints came to the place of consecration by traveling seemingly different roads. Jacob struggled all night in prayer, but Isaiah surrendered by a simple “Here I am.” Read the lives of great saints in history and you’ll find they arrived at their desired destination by different routes, but all ended up prostrate before the Lord Jesus.

For example, A.W. Tozer came to this place by way of the Mystics, while Martyn Lloyd-Jones came by way of the Puritans. Allow the Scriptures to lead you personally into the simplest way for you, and you’ll find the quickest way to God.

God uses different means with different saints to bring us all to the same place....the feet of Jesus.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Misnomer

Webster gives the definition for “misnomer” as: 1)a misapplied or inappropriate name or designation; 2) an error in naming a person or thing. Years ago, I held a meeting in a Missionary Baptist church. They had $18,000 in their mission’s account, yet they did not support one missionary. That, I believe, would fall under our definition of the word “misnomer.”

We have quite a bit of this in Christendom today. There are those who pass themselves off as something they are not. For instance, there are churches who parade themselves as a “soul-winning” church and that criticize some of us who do things a little differently from them. Yet, I’ve observed both pastor and people of said churches seldom, if ever, win anyone themselves. Then, there is the professing Christian who lives in open sin without any shame or sense of guilt toward God. And what of the Evangelicals who profess to believe in the cardinal doctrines of the Bible, but never mention hell? Or the Fundamentalists who say they adhere to the fundamentals of the Faith, but only major on their pet peeves? And, yes, the Reformed also, who recite the Apostle’s Creed weekly, saying they believe in the power of the Holy Spirit, yet try to change the world through politics. Misnomer, misnomer, misnomer, all.

Let’s make sure our product lives up to what we tag it as being. Or else, remove the tag.

Monday, July 28, 2008

*Seen in Secret

“…thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” This is part of the Sermon on the Mount. In chapter six of Matthew, Jesus reiterates the above text five different times. Oh, how the spirit of the Pharisees that is within us all, loves “…to be seen of men.” The great problem with being rewarded with the attention and admiration of our peers on earth, is that we need not expect any parcel posts from Heaven showing up at our doors.

The most important part of our lives is the part that only God sees. Like David of old, when we kill our lions and bears behind closed doors, in secret, where none else but God can see, it is then He rewards us openly with a giant-kill before the eyes of men.

A person can be no better in public than he or she is in secret

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Been There; Done That

"…after the most straightest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.” I have observed that most of us Christians, at one time or another, have belonged to this strict sect. Like Paul, many find the glorious liberty that is in Christ, and leave it. But others keep this yoke of legalism upon their necks that neither their fathers were, nor they are, able to bear. They continue to live by their rigid rules and regulations and condemn all those who rejoice in their own emancipation.

This tight, elitist group works tirelessly to keep up appearances. They pretend to be either what they are not, or not to be what they are. Once you’re on the inside of this externally pietistic group, you discover their internal pitiful condition. There is little, if any, real joy. I found in my own life (as well as others’) that if there seemed to be any semblance of it, you could be sure it was manufactured. It is a cosmetic that is taken off when one is alone and out of sight of their peers. Each of these only finds solace when secluded from their contemporaries, who, like they, have to be constantly jumping through a hoop to please the other.

If you can only be yourself when you’re alone, you’re running with the wrong crowd.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Lesson From a Leper

In Leviticus chapter thirteen we find the law of the leper. While reading this portion of scripture, I was struck by the oft repeated seven day waiting period before he could know the results of the priest’s evaluation. Any of us who have had a serious medical condition can relate to this patient in waiting. What agony he, along with his family, must have gone through. Yet this is the way God has ordained life. It seems to be one long waiting period.

We wait for a child to be born; we wait for advancement; we wait for graduation; we wait for a meal to be prepared; we wait and wait and wait. We are impatient creatures; we want life to be instantaneous. But God is never, and can never, be rushed. Isaiah tells us “…therefore will the Lord wait…blessed are all they that wait for him.” It’s the patient people who are the blessed people. Whenever you find God doing something “suddenly” in the scriptures you will find a long period of waiting leading up to the event. Pentecost came suddenly, but only after a fifty day wait.

Has it been a long night for you, dear one? Just wait a little longer, “…joy commeth in the morning.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Captive of Christ.

“Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ…” What a statement! Not, a prisoner of Rome or Nero, but Jesus Christ. Paul’s relationship to everything is always expressed in terms of Christ. Every item in his life is tagged, “Christ.” He is “the apostle of Christ,” “the servant of Christ,” “the minister of Christ,” etc. To him Christ was all and in all. He ate, slept, and breathed Christ. He was his life, He was his everything.

Who, in his or her right mind would not want to be His prisoner? The prison garb is the righteousness of God; the daily rations are the sweet Word of God; the bars on the window, and the locked door, are to protect us, not confine us; we are bound to Him with the chain of love; and we are at liberty to do any and all things within the walls of His Will. I have spent most of my adult life as His prisoner, and I can truthfully say, His prison is a palace!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

*Superstitious Saints

To the worldly-wise Athenians, the Apostle said, “Ye are too superstitious...therefore ye ignorantly worship.” Their worship, like much today, had degenerated into superstition. I become superstitious whenever the means of worship is permitted to eclipse the object of my worship. If we are not careful, the means of worship can become like a magical instrument causing us to lose sight of our lovely Lord.

For example, I can become superstitious about prayer. Rather than a means of fellowship with God, it can become like a genie in a bottle, with my wanting only selfish wishes granted. The same is true of the Bible. Instead of allowing it to lead me into a deep personal relationship with my Maker, it can become so mechanical that it actually hides His face and becomes a hindrance instead of a help in my worship. Ministers of the Gospel who are to bring us into the light can so be exalted that God is relegated to their dark shadow.

Let us not make the mistake of Israel of old; they rejoiced over the returning Ark more than the Architect.

It Takes Two

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” There are today in Christendom (as in Bible times), those who profess to having something, but whose lives show they possess nothing. People who invariably go back to the past to prove their salvation by some formula they recited, but cannot verify their salvation in the present by fruit in their lives.

Such people cling to a doctrine called “Eternal Security.” But, while doing this, they have no internal assurance. As an old Southern preacher used to say, “Eternal security only works if you’re saved!”

Every true Christian has a Witness who takes the stand in the courtroom of his heart to testify that he is a child of God. Even Jesus said of Himself, “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. There is another that beareth witness of me.” Why? Because, “It is written in [the] law, that the testimony of true.” To testify of yourself that you are His is not a true witness.

Only a Divine voice from within saying, “This is my beloved Son” makes it so.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Purpose of Preaching

"Preach the word.” This is only the first step in a progressive revelation. The preached Word is to reveal the Written Word. The Written Word reveals the Living Word, and the Living Word reveals the Eternal Word. The whole purpose of preaching, then, is ultimately knowing God.

Too many preachers come short in this area. They stop at the Written Word. Thus, it becomes to them a novelty rather than a revelation. Those who do this would do well to heed Paul’s words, when he said, “Let us go on…” It is possible to know the Word of God without ever knowing the God of the Word. Both the devil and Pharisees fit into this category.

Familiarity with a book doesn’t mean you know its author.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Words With Worth

Hosea instructs the people of God, when coming before Him, to, “Take with you words...” They are not to bring sacrificial lambs, but sacrificial lips, “…the calves of our lips,” is how he puts it. We are to have something to say when we come before Him. If that be the case, it would be wise to heed the old Puritan admonition to, “behink what we are to say in God’s presence.” We certainly would if it were earthly royalty. You don’t ramble on and on when you’re in the audience of a King. That is, unless a person is some kind of a fool.

Job tells us, “How forcible are right words.” We are told to reason with God, to present our cause, to make our requests known unto God. This implies both consideration and preparation. We are not to bring with us hollow, empty-sounding words, but words with substance. They need not be eloquent; but they must be sincere; that is, in earnest. They must be words from the heart, or to put it another way, the heart must dictate to the tongue.

Elijah’s few, choice words brought down fire from God. The all day babblings of Baal’s prophets were just that....babblings.

Monday, July 14, 2008

One Thing and the Other

David said, “One thing I desire”; Jesus said, “One thing is needful”; the blind man said, “One thing I know”; and Paul said, “One thing I do.” One thing does not necessarily mean the only thing. It does not exclude other things, but rather, it gives precedence to the one thing.

There should be some things in our lives that are more important than other things. But while we do the one thing, we should be careful not to leave the other things undone. As the old adage goes, “Some people are so Heavenly minded they’re no earthly good.” Duties never conflict. God never asks us to do something for Him and neglect a lesser thing. He only asks that He be first on our list of things. When He’s the One Thing, all other things fall into place.

Certainly, we need to get our priorities straight. But remember, the other things, after you have accomplished the one thing. Don’t throw the baby out with the wash. Mothers, devotions come first; but don’t forget there are also the dishes. Fathers, it’s not just worship; remember there is your work. And children, it’s not only your chums; there are also your chores.

To the Christian it’s not one thing or the other. Its one thing and the other.

*Personal Loss.

“The Lord is able to give thee much more than this.” Amaziah, like many of us, had made a bad decision, and it was going to cost him dearly. God’s instruction at such times is to do the right thing even though the loss seems great. The one who owns the cattle on a thousand hills can make up for our meager losses. “[He] is able to do exceeding abundant above all that we ask of think.”

The Bible promises “…he that loseth…for my sake shall find…” Hannah lost one child for the Lord and got five back in exchange. God is no man’s debtor. King Amaziah lost a hundred talents of silver by obeying God, but this exact sum was given to his grandson, Jotham, as a present. That was the principle. Then God added the interest of ten thousand measures of both wheat and barley.

Any personal loss for God is gain.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Consecrating the Common

“And there were...shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them.” I have preached for years the possible reasons for God telling the shepherds first of Christ’s birth. One purpose could have been that His Son was the Lamb of God, so was it not fitting for them to be the first to know? Another reason may have been that our Lord was to be the Great Shepherd, and it was proper for the under-shepherds to do Him homage.

But I now think it goes much deeper than this. And though it is deep, yet it’s clear. We usually miss the simple truths of the Word, imagining they must always be hidden and obscure. I believe the purpose for this annunciation to these men of the field is plain for all to see who will use their spiritual eyesight.

The good news was told these shepherds, because God wanted to show us how He is, preeminently, the Lord of the working man. And so, He first told those who tirelessly toiled for a living. The common man would hear Him gladly; therefore, He throws a halo over common labor.

Just think, the hour Christianity was birthed, common work by humble laborers was elevated by Heaven itself. The grocer, the shoe clerk, the construction worker, the college student, the at-home mom, the policeman—all these everyday employments have now been consecrated by the Holy One Himself. When the angels went to the shepherds, common chores would henceforth be crowned with glory forever.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ask Dad

I remember how that our three older children when they were small would send Charity to me, to ask for things they wanted; I guess, because she was the youngest and tiniest, they imagined she had something going for her. I might add, she was also the boldest! As I think back, there were very few times I denied her when she came on their behalf. We’d all get in the car and go get ice creams, or to the hamburger place. Of course, Chip (Charity) got in on all of this herself.

Martha knew something akin to this, when, after burying her brother, Lazarus, she said to Jesus, “I know that even now, whatsoever Thou wilt ask God, God will give it Thee.” Faith like this will always receive its request. Notice the words, “even now.” That is, it’s too late--it’s humanly impossible--it’s beyond all hope. Yet, “even now, if You ask God, He will give You what You ask.”

If I can just get Jesus to go to the Father on my behalf, I know I’ll have what I need. For God never denies Him anything. It matters not the darkness of the hour, the impossibilities of the situation, or the discouragement I may feel. If I can get Jesus to intercede on my behalf, to our Father, it will be no time until I’ll be “licking my ice cream, or eating my hamburger!”

“If ye shall ask anything in my name...I will pray the Father, and He shall give you...” (John 14:14,16)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Anticipating the Answer

“Though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” When the writer of Hebrews quotes this text in the New Testament, he changes the “it” to “he” (Hab.2:3; cp. Heb.10:37). Habakkuk’s historical interpretation is speaking of the end of the Babylonian captivity; Hebrews, the prophetical application of our Lord’s return. To the discouraged Jew awaiting deliverance, Habakkuk pleads, “Wait for it; because it will surely come.” To the disheartened Christian waiting for Christ’s coming, Hebrews promises, “He that shall come will come, and will not tarry.”

Scoffers say, “Where is his promise..?” God says, “Wait for it.” One of the greatest secrets of the Christian life is being able to patiently wait on God to fulfill His promises. Saul’s decline came because he couldn’t wait for Samuel to keep his promise to meet him at an appointed time. When God makes us a promise, it is not a question of “if,” but “when” He will fulfill it. The promise may tarry, but when the answer comes, it will be speedily.

“Wait for the promise of the Father.” Tarry at a promise till God meets you there. He always returns by the way of His promises. (D.L. Moody)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Both Mind and Heart

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and the cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." There is a little saying in the acting profession that can truly be applied to the life of a Christian. It goes something like this: "Have the heart of a child but the head of an adult." As most of you who are familiar with my ministry know, it emphasizes a heart religion. But, certainly, not at the expense of your intellect. It seems today we must choose one or the other. It's either cold, factual, doctrinal truth, or heartwarming "ditties" that have no Scriptural foundation. Why can't we let a calculating mind sink into, and become part of, a compassionate heart, finding completeness with this mixture?

Beware of any person or situation that plays upon the heart, without any basic, logical reasoning. A good illustration of this today is seen in Christian enterprises that are attempting to get support for their "man-made" ministries. We have become a generation of believers who are spiritual robots, who allow others to control our actions, while we refuse to use our sanctified minds that God has equipped us with. P.T. Barnum is reported to have said, "There's a sucker born every minute," and I'm afraid this is often true in the Christian community, as well.

Let's put an end to our incessant impulsiveness, and start taking time to think things through. Check out your preacher and what he says; listen intently when in fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ, and weigh in your mind what is being said; spend some time "chewing the cud," so to speak, after reading a book, before you digest it, and letting it become a part of you; and beware when someone attempts to get you to make quick decisions without thinking it through. Almost every Christian I know of, whose life is a wreck today, can trace it back to a tragic failure to reason and think

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Cherish Your Choices.

“…choose you this day…” Christianity begins with a choice and continues on that way. The Christian life is basically made up of daily choices. At the dawn of each new day, we must choose whether we will search the Scriptures, pray, take up our cross, exhort one another, renew the inner man, die to self, offer up a sacrifice, etc.

It is important to realize, we are what we choose. You can tell a lot about a person by their choices. Many complain about where they are in life at this particular time, but it may be well to remember, we are what and where we are because of choices we made in days gone by. This is why it is so crucial to make the right daily choices. The choice of one day can determine all our future days.

Today’s choices can decide tomorrow’s outcome.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Chew Before Swallowing

“I heard…and I partly believer it.” Paul didn’t believer everything he heard, even when it came from sanctified saints! Most people mean well, but we are all experts at exaggeration. Because of this, our grandparents learned, as the old saying goes, to take everything “with a grain of salt.”

Like the apostle, we are to take most of the things we hear…only in part. That is, we need to minimize what well-intentioned loved ones and friends maximize. It’s generally not as bad as it seems, and usually not as good, either. There needs to be restraint in the information that we receive. Jesus said, “Take heed therefore how ye hear.”

If you swallow everything, it’s for sure you’ll choke on something. Let’s make one another a promise: If you’ll not believer everything you hear about me, I’ll not believe all the things I heard about you!

It takes somebody really smart to believe something that stupid. (George Orwell)

Friday, July 4, 2008

A Crisis in the Church

I have just read afresh the book of Acts, along with Paul’s Epistles. I’m convinced many pastors have been sold a bill of goods by their peers who possess powerful, persuasive personalities...and it just ain’t so. I’m referring to the practice of using regular church services as a time for preaching to, and reaching, the lost.

It seems plain to me from the Scripture that the Church is not a place for evangelization, but for edification. The ministering gifts found in Ephesians 4 are for the purpose of, “perfecting the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Notice also from this text that all of God’s people are what is known as “full-time workers.” It’s just that some among us get a salary for it!

Some simple metaphors, I believe, will enlighten us to the purpose of the Church. To begin with, it’s to be a first-class restaurant where one can be fed and satisfied with nutritious food that strengthens. Secondly, it’s a filling station where we can be empowered to continue on the road we’re traveling. It’s a hospital, where we can be healed and can convalesce till we’re back on our feet. It’s a place where all the family meets regularly to enjoy and encourage one another. Finally, and most importantly, it’s where the children can collectively shower all their adoration and love upon their Father.

I wonder if the problem with many fainting Christians today does not stem from the fact that they are not fed?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

*Granny Had No Faults

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted…” My grandmother, on my father’s side, died while I was still an infant. My other granny, I knew, however. I loved to go to her house, as a boy. The table was always set in case someone dropped in unexpectedly. And you knew there was tantalizing food under the extra tablecloth that was used to cover it. It only needed to be warmed up a little.

When my granny unbraided her hair, it would reach the floor as she sat in her rocker and combed it, after a washing. Her apron, I found, was a part of her daily dress. She had a lot of Cherokee blood in her, which was evident by her dark complexion and high cheekbones.

Grandma Morrison was an old-time Primitive Baptist. I can remember her rocking and reading her Bible as she puffed on her corncob pipe and chewed on a twist of tobacco. And who could forget her old spittoon made from an empty Maxwell House coffee can?

I’m afraid our modern-day separatists, who, with their “high standards,” and holier-than-thou attitude, would not think much of Granny’s religion. But I shall never forget she was one of the kindest, most tender-hearted people I have ever known. And when I remember that, the pipe and the chew don’t seem to be that important to me. But, of course, you may feel differently about people like that.

It’s hard to find fault with someone who loves you unconditionally.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

*Stop to Review

“All these things are against me.” Unknown to the old patriarch, God was behind the scenes working everything out for Jacob’s good. Because of weakness of faith, and weariness of the flesh, we, like Jacob, respond in the same manner. We often misapprehend that which is for us, as being against us. It proved otherwise in Jacob’s case, and it will in ours. True, humanly, everything was working against him; but, divinely, it was all working for him.

No wonder the sweet psalmist said, “Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help...” The suffering servant, Paul, had grasped this blessed truth in his life. Listen to him: “For our light affliction [severe sufferings], which is but for a moment [twenty years], worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” How did he come to this concrete conclusion? By simply not looking at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.” So says our precious Lord.

Hind-sight always proves the truth of Romans 8:28.