Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Friendship

“Thou shalt be king...and I shall be next unto thee.” The throne was Jonathan’s by birthright, but he chose to step aside for his friend. He promoted David at his own expense. He took pleasure in the advancement of his friend. He desired his friend to be preferred before him. Being near David—just sitting next to him—would be satisfaction enough.

Jonathan was a much better friend to David than David was to him. But, of course, David’s need for a friend (like some of us) was greater than Jonathan’s.

I had a friend like Jonathan. His name was Marvin. His was a self-denying friendship. It was a relationship of unselfish love. It could be said of him what we are told of Jonathan: “Jonathan loved him [David] as his own soul.” But, just as God took Jonathan from David, so He took my beloved friend from me. How I miss him! My pilgrimage on earth is not the same since he left for Home.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Those Parenthetical Times

In 2 Corinthians chapter eight Paul is discussing the parenthetical times in a believers life. It seems the previous year these Corinthians had promised financial help to the poor saints at Jerusalem. But because of circumstances, either of their own making or for reasons beyond their control, they had not finished what they had started. The apostle’s advice to them was to perform what they had begun.

Certainly, if this truth teaches us nothing else, it teaches us that once we have commenced upon a worthy task, and for some reason are interrupted, we should be resolute in our determination to finish it at the first opportune time. Good intentions at the beginning should not be an excuse to release us from our obligation of picking up where we left off before the interval entered in! If it was worth starting, it’s worth finishing,

Our father Abraham, in whose steps we are to follow, left us an example of a parenthesis in a child of God’s life. He started for Canaan, but there was a ten year parenthesis in his life; nevertheless, as soon as the cause was removed he was back on the road to the Promised Land again. I love how the old King James records it, “…and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.”

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Emancipated but Enslaved

“All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” It is possible to be set free, and enter a new kind of bondage. To leave one prison, only to take up residence in another. We can become voluntary slaves to legitimate habits. Excessive indulgence in an innocent, natural appetite can enslave as well as forbidden, unnatural one.

Habits—even legitimate and good ones—can master a person. Good things can create a craving. Anything or anyone that dominates all my time, thinking, and energy (God being the exception) can bring me into spiritual slavery.

Don’t allow your liberty to take away your freedom.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Doom's Day

“And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them…” The disciples were in the midst of the sea, toiling in the storm. Jesus was on high, praying. It was when His elect were engulfed in darkness, with the wind and the waves raging all about them, that Christ left His place of intercession and came to them, walking on a liquid floor.

Throughout the Scriptures, you find God always showing up at the last minute. You can look for Him when all hope is taken away. He waits till the fourth watch, when it’s the darkest, so that we will not be tempted to say later, “…mine own hand hath gotten me this.”

And so it will be with His Second Coming. The darkest hour of the night is just before the dawn. The morning watch (3 a.m. to 6 a.m.) is when those who are watching can see the “Bright and Morning Star.” As the night intensifies, you can look for “The Star” to show up.

This is not a Doom’s Day approach; it’s about His Glorious Appearing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Serious Praying

"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." In George Washington's prayer journal, he confessed to God that his greatest sin was to be found in his praying. He went on to explain that it was his coldness and apathetic attitude that caused it. David tells us an individual's prayer can become sin. Let us be careful we do not fall into this category.

To find the definition of fervent, we need go no further than the Bible, for it is its own dictionary. Peter tells us it means "a fiery heat that melts." Everywhere I go it seems that saints are concerned with the coldness and callousness in the hearts of God's people today. I wonder if the problem does not lie in our own bosom, where we hide a heart of stone. If some of us got on fire, could it be those around us would begin to melt in the presence of such fervent heat?

An imitation fireplace may look good, but it does not warm anyone.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Better Late Than Never

"When he [Jesus] had heard therefore that he [Lazarus] was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.” Why wait? Our Lord’s friend, whom He loved dearly, is at death’s door. And, as a result of His tarrying, Lazarus does die, which, as Martha stated, would not have happened had He been there. Why does Christ wait until the situation is impossible before showing up? Simple; to show He’s the God of the impossible, and to manifest His glory.

This is the same God of old who was going to answer Elijah’s prayer by fire. And so, what did the prophet do? He had twelve barrels of water poured on the sacrifice, wood, and altar, and then filled the trench around the altar with water. All this was not very conducive to a plan for God to burn up the sacrifice. But the man, who was “of like passions” as we are, knew nothing was too hard for the Lord. Do we know that?

God is not rushed, but He is reliable.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Getting Into Hot Water

Jesus didn’t get into trouble with His Jewish brethren for glorifying God. He got into hot water because He glorified Him at their expense. As long as He didn’t bring them and theirs into the picture, everything was fine. But when He put God before their exalted personalities (Abraham, Moses, etc.) and their religious rituals and rites (the Sabbath, Circumcision, etc.) they went after His scalp.

Not much has changed from those olden times. Many of the brethren today are all for glorifying God, as long as it doesn’t show them up. But, if you take away the outward spiritual tinsel, leaving them bare, with God towering over them, they’ll be looking for a cross to nail you to, also. Characteristically, these personalities and pet projects that are passed off as spiritual, must not be overshadowed by God; He is to take His place at the end of the line.

People such as this can never sincerely pray the prayer of A.W. Tozer: “God, glorify thyself, and do it at my expense.”

Friday, September 19, 2008

You Can't Change the Unchangeable

“Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?” There are some things in our lives that will never change. True, God can give both of these a new nature. The Ethiopian eunuch can testify to this as well as the leopard that lies down with the kid. But neither has a change of their skin or spots. They will always remain the same. Some are like Sisera’s mother, anticipating something that is never going to happen.

We need to read again the little “Prayer of Serenity”:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.


C.S. Lewis says, “Don’t you think the things people are most ashamed of are those things they can’t help?” I believe this to be true. But I also believe we should be ashamed of those things we can help and refuse to change.

I can’t change the wind’s direction, but I can change my own.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Drowning in Doubt

“…ask of God, that giveth to all…ask in faith, nothing wavering…For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” Like Peter of old, once you ask the Lord for something, and he gives His nod of approval, don’t turn to look at the circumstances. If you do, you, too, will be tossed to and fro with every wave, and begin to sink (James 1:6; cp. Matt.14: 24,30).

An on-again-off-again faith always ends up a shipwrecked faith. When we are in such a sad spiritual condition, we are told we need not even think about getting anything from the Lord. Once we have ascertained a thing to be the will of God for our lives, we need to commit it to the Lord and see it through, at all costs. You know, like a marriage. Ride it through, for better or for worse. And with this kind of faith, I can guarantee, at the end of the day, the results will always be for the better.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Are Babies in Heaven?

There is a difference of opinion on the above question. The Scriptures are not too clear on the subject. My personal belief is that they are not; my reason for saying this is the same as that of no old people being there: imperfection. What mother going to Heaven before her infant would want it to remain a baby on earth? She would want it to grow and mature. It seems to me we will all be of a perfect age. Our Lord died in the prime of life and stayed that way.

No matter your position on the subject, one thing all of us should agree on is that maturity is one of the great necessities of life. Most all our problems stem from this lack. We hear a lot about growth today in the Christian realm, but Peter tells us that along with growth, there should be knowledge of the Lord Jesus. The result of growth without knowledge is retardation.

Paul told the Philippian believers he had lost everything for the knowledge of Christ. C.S. Lewis said, “The process of growing up is to be valued for what we gain, not for what we lose.”

A person doesn’t know anything until they know Christ intimately. (Col.2:3)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Self-Help

My main problem with the self-help philosophy lies in the first word: self. In Romans 7, strong-willed Paul had given this teaching a try, only to lament, “...for to will is present with me; but how to perform…I find not.” He had the will, but lacked the power. He found it was through Christ and Christ alone he could accomplish any worthy work (Ro.7:24-25a; Jn.15:5b).

David tells us, “... twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God.” And Moses reminds God’s elect, “...thou shalt remember...it is [God] that giveth thee power...” The first in scripture to try and use his willpower apart from God was Lucifer. Five times he says, “I will,” and the result was disastrous (Isa.14:12-15).

The old time saying, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” may sound good to those who have boots. But what about those among us who were born void of both boots and straps? The New-Agers would have us believe the old adage, “God helps those who help themselves.” (And that’s the only people their willing to help.) But Christianity helps the helpless!

You can’ work out what God has not first worked in, If you try it, you’ll find it won’t work.
(Phil.2:12,b-13)

Friday, September 12, 2008

*Faith's Funeral

“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone...For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” A living faith has works; if not, it’s in a coffin. Is it any wonder that we are exhorted to “...be careful to maintain good works.” The judgment seat of Christ is not about the existence of works in a Christian’s life, but the quality of their works. We are to assume all believers have them, of one “sort” or another.

Jesus told His disciples that when men saw their good works, they would glorify the Father in Heaven. Good works are something we can leave behind for our loved ones to remember us by. “Dorcas...was full of good works...and all the widows stood by him [Peter] weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.” And, ultimately, they will follow us to Heaven: “...and their works do follow them.”

If James were living today, I imagine he would have come from Missouri—the “show-me” state. “Shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” In other words, James believed we ought to “put-up or shut-up.”

Like a rowboat, the Christian life has two oars—faith and works; take away one, and you go in circles.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

*The Church in the Cradle

“...let us go on...” The early Hebrew Christians were exhorted to “go on,” not to “go back.” The Church of today is mostly living in the past. What could be a glorious present is sacrificed for the memories of a golden past. Memories can be blessed and beneficial, as long as we do not forget they are, at best, just memories. We do not need so much a resurrection of a dead past as a revival of living in the present. It’s not an encore by the old players of the last act, but the curtain going up on the opening night of a new act with fresh talent.

Remember the “infant” Church was just that—infant. It has matured through the years. Shadowy truths have had light shone upon them. And it has grown geographically to be universal as well as local. Why long for yesterday’s babe in the cradle, when you have a mature adult that has the potential and means to function so much more capably than when in its infancy?

“Infant” and “primitive” denote a beginning; but not a place to stay.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

*Were or Are?

“And such were some of you." It is not "then"; it is "now." It is not the past; it is the present. It is not what you were; it's what you are that counts with God and is what should occupy our minds. An old Methodist preacher used to say, "A person who builds his life on his past is destined to fall."

Paul only gave his testimony two times in Acts. That's twice in some thirty years, and both times it was given out of necessity. The Apostle's epistles give little space to our being "in Adam" in comparison to our being "in Christ." Dwelling on the former can bring on a state of defeat, but dwelling on the latter brings victory.

Constantly inspecting a corrupt corpse can cause morbidity and depression. Like the man of Gadara, we need to leave the tombs and go among the living. The Prodigal's father said of his son, "This my son was dead, and is alive again." Let us dwell on the "is," not on the "was."

A person can do nothing about who he was, but can, who he is.

Monday, September 8, 2008

*Exceeding Our Reach

Harry A. Ironside, a gifted Bible teacher of the past and present day expositor, J.I. Packer, had similar experiences early in their Christian lives. Both were driven to the brink of a nervous breakdown by trying to reach an unattainable standard set by men in the particular group to which they belonged. The testimony of them both (looking back in hindsight) was that the very teachers themselves who advocated that type of life had never experienced it themselves.

C.S. Lewis, in referring to such people says, Those like myself, whose imagination far exceeds their obedience, are subject to a just penalty; we easily imagine conditions far higher than any we have really reached. If we describe what we have imagined, we may make others, and make ourselves, believe that we have really been there.”
I think Martyn Lloyd-Jones sums up how to live the Christian life as well as anyone I have ever read after. Using that familiar text, “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.” he says in essence, it is not I, without Christ, nor is it Christ without I. You do not eliminate either; it takes both. He goes on to explain that the Christian life is simply a poor, weak, anemic believer, infused by the mighty power of the indwelling Christ, carrying out, with his or her own personality and temperament, the responsibilities given him or her by God.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

*One Bad Experience

I was a boy of eight or nine and had just finished playing baseball on an extremely hot day. I stopped at the corner ice cream parlor on my way home and got a delicious, creamy, vanilla ice cream cone. After consuming about half of it, while heading for the house, I got horribly sick and brought it all up. From that day, I never ate that flavor again until recent years.

How many of us in life are like this? We spend years blaming others for one bad experience, when all the time, it would never have transpired had it not been for the condition we were in at the time. What is so pitiful about the whole thing is that we could be enjoying that thing or person we blame if we only admitted it was not them or it that was the cause, but us! I now thoroughly love vanilla, but cringe when I think of the wasted years of enjoyment I forfeited by living on one bad experience.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

*Divine Interruption

“While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell...” In recounting this event to others, Peter said, “And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell…” I am so thankful to say that I have been in such services—services where God interrupted preaching, singing, and even the praying. I was once asked, “What do you do when God gets in it?” My reply was, “I get out of it.”

The Bible teaches order, but not at the expense of God interrupting that order. I am not against bulletins listing the order of the service, but let us be careful we do not organize God out of them. You cannot dictate time to an eternal God.

Let’s be more concerned about our heart’s burning than the Sunday roast.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

*The Everyday Stuff

“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord…” I think it’s time for us to be reintroduced to what real Christianity is. We have produced a generation of “happy hour” Christians, who believe they must have a spiritual high at some time each day. They cannot handle the boring and mundane; they need a pick-me-up to keep going.

Many think of the Christian life only as something mystical and inspirational. But, in reality, it’s mostly practical and “perspirational.” Though I know this statement will not set well with the “spiritual elite,” who sit in their lofty seats, nevertheless, I’ll say it anyway. Sometimes we have to take the first step as if there were no God to find out there is. I believe it’s called “living by faith.”

The order in a believer’s life should be Deity, duty, and delight. It may be well to remember that spiritual blessings are something we stumble over as we walk the road of obedience. Those who get off this road to seek spiritual highs find instead spiritual lows.

Putting Deity into daily drudgery makes it a delight.