Saturday, January 31, 2009

*Its a Passing Thing

“And the world passeth away...” Like all the things in it, the world itself is going to wax old and pass away. God is going to baptize this present world with fire, burning off the dross and thus making all things new. It is because of this we should not get attached to our toys, for they are headed for the furnace. But, thank God, there is another world that shall never pass away. It is upon this world we are to set our affections, for the things in it abide forever.

C.S. Lewis says, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” Many, like Lot, are living only for the things of this world. But, like him, they will see all go up in smoke. When we truly seek the lasting things of the next world, it is then we can enjoy the temporal things of this present one. To this type of person, God is going to give “beauty for ashes.”

Never sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate. (Dr. Bob Jones Sr.)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

*Just Pray

Watch out for the How To books, especially when it comes to the subject of prayer. Any manual designed to show you how to pray has the wrong designer for its author. A book or sermon’s objective should not be to show you how to pray, but rather to get you to pray. The real problem has always been to get God’s people to just pray. Whenever this happens, the rest will take care of itself. It then simply becomes a trial and error thing. We learn to pray by praying!

Following some book about how to pray with a slavish superstition will cause you to lose your spiritual sanity. Like children in an earthly family, God’s children are all different and talk to their Heavenly Father in various ways. There is something between each of the children and their Father that is not understood by the others. The best advice on prayer that I’ve heard thus far is, “Pray as you can and don’t pray as you can’t.” The only requirement is staying within Biblical guidelines.

A Scottish Pastor out for a stroll one morning heard the voice of a young boy behind a hedgerow reciting the alphabet. When he asked the lad, who was on his knees at the time, what he was doing, he replied, “Well sir, I just became a Christian and am trying to pray. But I don’t know the right words to say, so I thought by quoting the alphabet the Dear Lord would put together the words and know what I’m trying to say to Him.”

Getting God's Ear

“And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord…save thou us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD God, even thou only…Thus saith the LORD God…That which thou hast prayed…I have heard.” John tells us in his first Epistle that the secret of getting your prayers answered is to first get God’s ear. He goes on to say, to do this, you must pray with God’s interests in mind.

Hezekiah was concerned with God’s concerns. As a result, God heard and answered his prayer. If you’ll check, this was also true in the lives of men such as Abraham, Moses, David, etc. All were occupied, first and foremost, with God’s interests. It seems when we look out for God and His concerns, then He looks out for us and ours. Solomon found this to be true, and so will you and I.

By putting God first, you end up at the head of the line.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Vile Virtues

Daniel was one of the Bible’s saintliest men. He holds a place in the front ranks of the godly. His enemies could find no fault in him other than he prayed too much. He had religion with windows in it. The angel Gabriel told him he was greatly beloved of God.

You would have a difficult time trying to find a hole in his spiritual armor. His life was beyond reproach. Yet, in his prayer of confession in chapter nine, he includes himself, along with the Lord’s people, when saying they had sinned against God. But he ends the prayer by personalizing it. He refers to it, by saying “my sin.”

What sin was it that he was confessing? Certainly not his vices; there are none recorded. Was he, then, confessing his virtues? In the presence of God, our virtues can become vile. Self-revelation is a devastating thing. Usually connected with our virtues is a vicious pride. The lesson is plain; I can’t trust myself an inch.

The word that makes virtue vile is pride. Remember the Pharisee in the temple?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Watch For the Misses

As you read the Gospels, one of the things that stands out is how Jesus’ words were misunderstood. Over and over again, we see the arrogance of the religious crowd, presupposing what He meant. When we misunderstand, we misconstrue; when we misconstrue, we misrepresent. And the latter borders on slander.

Make up your mind, then, if you’re going to be a person with spiritual depth and maturity, you also will fall into the category of the misunderstood. The superficial, legalistic, traditionalists have only a one-track mind. That’s why their mental train is always derailing. They can’t stay on track; therefore, don’t look for them to ever arrive.

As soon as this type of person sees, hears, or reads something not fashioned upon their own anvil, they begin throwing out words such as heretic, apostate, and false doctrine. The pathetic thing about this is that they don’t even know the Biblical definition of the words they use.

When we misunderstand something (or someone), we invariably do one of two things: run from it, or try to destroy it. This is seen in the life of our Lord. And I guarantee, those who choose to follow Him in an intimate relationship will experience the same.

Watch the prefix “miss” in your vocabulary; you may miss the point.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Gushy or Gutsy

An evangelist friend of mine, now with the Lord, used to describe the Christians of our day, as those who live by their warm, fuzzy feelings. I attribute much of the “falling away” today to this very fact. These people need to trade-in their gushiness for some old time gutsiness.

It seems, at the least little inconvenience these thin-skinned saints are ready to sell their birthright for any “sloppy-joe” that the world serves up. Real intestinal fortitude sticks under trials and temptation.

But I hear someone say, “You don’t understand, I’m a mess.” Well welcome to the junkyard! You’re only experiencing what many of us older saints have. With the exception of the first few months of our new found faith, when we thought ourselves archangels, we also now see all the hideousness of our lives. We are presently in the salvage yard trying, the best we can, to wait patiently for our new model to replace this wrecked one.

I love the way C.S. Lewis puts it: “You can be assured that God is well aware of what a wretched machine you are trying to drive, and asks only that you keep on, [doing] the best you can.”

The Supernatural

“[T]he water was made wine...this beginning of miracles did Jesus...” There is a term used among Bible students known as “the law of first mention.” That is, the way anything is used originally, it will remain that way thereafter. We find this truth in Jesus’ first miracle.

In our Lord’s “beginning of miracles,” He uses all natural means to perform the supernatural. I have not looked up the dictionary meaning of the word “supernatural,” but it seems to me that the Bible’s definition would be, “The supernatural is the natural with God in it.”

Possibly, the greatest supernatural act God ever performed was entering a virgin’s womb and coming into the world in the likeness of a natural man who bore the name Jesus. “God was in Christ…” The second amazing act was when He entered my body and changed my life supernaturally. Paul referred to it as a mystery. “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

The world today is seeking the supernatural when, all the time, they are surrounded by it...their called Christians.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Invisible Man

“Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.” So says David in the 139th Psalm. I have a note in the heading of this book that reads “There’s a Balm in Psalms.” Certainly this text has healing in its wings.

As to yesterday’s failure and the guilt which is its companion, my lovely Lord comes between me and my pursuers. “Thou hast beset me behind.” But I have natural fears of tomorrow and the unknown. What about the enemies that would hinder my advance on the Heavenly road homeward. “Thou hast beset me...before.” All the fiery darts shall be quenched before they reach me. My unseen Shield is ever before me.

He has graciously taken care of my past and my future. But what of the present? “[A]nd laid thine hand upon me.” No immediate circumstance can overtake or overwhelm me. There can be no unexpected ambush by my adversary, which my Protector has not seen and planned for.

The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. (Psl. 34:7)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Is He or Isn't He?

“…if the LORD be God, follow him.” Elijah called for a one-time decision, but it was not to end there. They were to follow through on it. This initial experience needed to become a process. Long term commitments are best achieved by daily renewals. God knew His people, then and now, have short memories. “They soon forgat…” is God’s testimony of us.

It is wise for us to apply Joshua’s words, “…choose you this day…” to our daily lives. Each day, we must decide “…if the LORD be God…” And the decision we make will determine our success or failure, our victory or defeat, our overcoming or being overcome.

God is a present “I AM,” not a past “I WAS.”

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Grace Costs

Joseph’s coat of many colors was a free, unmerited gift from his smiling father. It cost him nothing to receive it from his hands, but it cost him the rejection and hatred of his brethren to wear it daily. It may sound like a misnomer, but grace does cost. A father may give his son a new car, without conditions, but there is a price to pay in receiving it. One is the jealousy of many of his friends. Also there is the personal responsibility placed upon him in owning it.

And so it is with the grace of God. Once this supernatural, free gift is received, there are natural costs that follow. The first is a scrutiny on the part of the believer himself. He must be careful he does not abuse or misuse this new-found liberty. He must be always conscious that this grace he has received does not become a disgrace. On the other hand, there will be the slanderous reports of the brethren who say you teach “Let us sin that grace may abound,” and accuse you of antinomianism. It would seem that, if we are following Paul’s example, a believer is not really living under grace until he also is accused of this.

Thank God for delivering some of us from the legalistic slavery of a list of man-made rules and regulations, to the ranks of the “freedom movement” that is governed only by His Spirit and His Word.

Fullness Can Beget Forgetfulness

“Lest when thou...art full...thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God.” I try to read Deuteronomy chapter eight on a regular basis, and I encourage others to do the same for their own Spiritual welfare. Though it need not be, many of God’s people allow fullness to translate into forgetfulness.

The Bible abounds with warnings and examples of this pitfall. Read Psalm 106, and see how quickly Israel was to forget God their Savior after each miracle performed on their behalf. Sodom’s doom was “...fullness of bread.” The rich fool left God out of his life when his barns were full. Listen to God’s indictment of his people in Hosea: “[T]hey were filled and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me.” And what Christian is not familiar with the Laodicean philosophy: “[I] have need of nothing.” The wise man said, “Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord.”

We need to be careful that our full souls do not cause us to loathe the sweet things of God. If we do, our blessings will become curses.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Excuse Me, Please

"And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell…” This was a Divine interruption. The Holy Ghost cut short Simon’s sermon. To interrupt while another is speaking is considered by us to be bad manners, but when it comes from Heaven, it’s perfectly proper, as well as polite.

In most of today’s churches, there is no place in prepared programs to fit the Holy Ghost into a particular time slot, if He so chooses. Everything is planned ahead of time, and unless there has been previous notification, the services must, and will, go on as planned, at all costs. Nothing or no one must disrupt it…even God.

When preparing your order of service, make sure there’s room for God to interrupt it.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Good and Evil

“Overcome evil with good.” There is no other way. Satan cannot cast out Satan. You can’t clean house with a dirty dust cloth. A doctor cannot cut out diseased tissue if his scalpel is defiled. He will only remove the one to leave another. It is health that fights disease.

And so it is in my Christian life. If I would eradicate a vice, I must cultivate a virtue. The best way to get rid of an immoral habit is to replace it with a good one. Instead of earthly evil being my food for thought, I must feed upon, and nourish my mind with, heavenly manna. Don’t feed on “devil’s food,” but on “angel’s food.”

This also applies to the faults and vices of my Christian brethren. I must fight his evils with opposites. If he is harsh and cruel, I must be kind and considerate; if possessive, I must be generous; if loud, I, soft-spoken; if carnal, I, then, must be Spiritual.

From Genesis to Revelation good ultimately and always triumphs over evil.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Signed Check

“According to your faith [appropriation] be it unto you.” This principle is found throughout the Bible. It’s not wishing, longing, wanting, or even praying that gets the blessing. It’s appropriation (taking for one’s own). Drab, defeated lives have been transformed by learning the art of appropriating. They turned promises into facts. They stepped out on a promise and trusted God—sink or swim. And those who do, never have to experience either.

In the story of the prodigal son, it says of the father, “He divided unto them his living.” The prodigal may have had a lot of faults, but appropriating what his father had given him was not one of them. This was not so with his elder brother. He accused the father of not even giving him a “kid,” to which his father replied, “Son, all that I have is thine.” Yet, he had not appropriated one kid. The difference was not in bestowal, but in appropriation. We must appropriate what God has given (Josh.1:3 and Eph.1:3).

Jesus has already signed the check. He’s waiting for us to cash it at Heaven’s bank.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Drudgery and the Divine

“...common things.” As you read your Bible, you become aware that our Lord has an affinity for common things, though many of us must confess to having a dislike for them. We read in the New Testament of a common people, a common faith, a common salvation, and a common temptation. To be sure, God is the Creator of the common.

Ordinary water poured into common water pots is turned mysteriously into that which makes glad the heart. Unlearned and ignorant men become ambassadors. From uncultured lips, mighty arguments are presented, and a common meal is changed into a Sacrament by the God who can transform the common into the uncommon.

And, since He is the same today as He was then, this glorious ministry of transformation continues on. He can, and does, still turn the humdrum things of life into burning bushes. The only condition necessary to make the common to shine is to put the Light of the World into them.

Life’s drudgeries become delights, when Deity is put into them.

The Virtuious Woman

'A woman's heart should be so hidden in Christ that a man should have to seek Him first to find her.'

Standing the Test of Time

Paul’s principles were in line with the Word of God. He believed people, as well as things, should first be proved before putting one’s stamp of approval upon them. Individuals who live by this scriptural philosophy are many times misunderstood and even criticized as being harsh and unforgiving.

A good example of this is found in the latter part of Acts chapter fifteen. In our story, the Apostle did not want young John Mark to prove himself to Paul, but to his own self. Interestingly, after Mark did prove himself to himself, Paul’s opinion of him changed (2 Tim.4:11).You see, the old man knew it was more important how the young man felt about himself, than how others thought of him.

Time is a good tester! A person or product that has not been proven over a period time is generally not one you would want to put your full confidence in. Just to site one example of this in my own life would be my use of the old 1611 Authorized King James Version of the Bible. You can put T. and P. next to every verse in it. That is, Tried and Proved.

A wait and see attitude is not necessarily pessimistic; it can be pietistic!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Do You Know This Person?

They attend a new church; they meet a new friend; they support a new cause; they begin a new ministry. Everything is great, and nothing that came before these mentioned things can be compared. But when the newness wears off, and they are no longer the center of attention, but now become one of many, a face in the crowd, so to speak, they pack their bags and move on to another church, friend, cause, or ministry. These are vagabond saints. Do you know such a person; have you met them; are you that person?

What is the root cause for this painful problem in the lives of these sad saints? One does not have to dig too deeply to find the source. It is self-absorption! Some definitions of this word are: to be concerned only with ones self; self-centered; excessively self-involved; egomania. Not a pretty picture at all, is it?

The only hope for such a person is to understand what Jesus meant when He said, “Deny thyself.” This is not denying recognition of our humanity, but denying any rights to the Adamic nature. That is, the Adamic syndrome, the sinful, egocentric behavior pattern which has been developing from our birth. The impulse to do anything rather than to obey God.

The “Last Adam” must be put first if we’re to overcome the first Adam.

Double or Nothing

"Ask what I shall do for thee…And Elisha said…a double portion…And he [Elijah] said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless if…it shall be so unto thee." When asking hard things from God, the question of receiving them is on us not on Him. Speaking of God, Jeremiah tells us, "…there is nothing too hard for thee."

The "if'" is on us, not God. Jesus taught this to the father who brought his needy son to Him. The distraught father said, "…if thou canst do anything…" But Jesus placed the little two-letter word back on the father, by saying, "If thou canst believe…" It is not if God can do, but if we can believe.

Elisha had one, top priority; and, not only was this request hard, but he made it doubly so by asking for a "double portion." When we mean business with God, God will mean business with us. Three times Elisha was told to "tarry," and three times, his reply was, "I will not…" Dogged perseverance always gets the hard things in life.

With Elisha it was "double or nothing," and God gave him the former.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Way Back Then

I have never professed to be in the same major league with the theologians and scholars, but I do admit to being in the minors with those who are students of the Word. I’ve always tried to follow David’s example when he said, “…neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.” Nevertheless, many of us have our own personal views on problem texts. These views do not always satisfy others, but they do the individual who holds to them. That is, they are comfortable with their view point.

A text that has always seemed to generate more friction than light among the brethren has been Ephesians 1:4. “…he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.” If we believe the extreme position, that we were always “in Christ,” then we were never “in Adam”; therefore, we were not born sinners. This reasoning creates even a greater problem. On the other hand, for us to try to dismiss the fact of our text is to deny God’s foreknowledge of us (Rom.8:29).

The answer that I can live with is found in Hebrews 7:9-10. Levi was in the loins of Abraham before he was born. Positionally, he was always in his father’s loins; but, practically, he only became his son when he was birthed. And so it is with us and our spiritual birth. Paul, who penned Ephesians 1:4, also wrote Romans 16:7. Speaking of two believers, he says of them, “…who also were in Christ before me.” Not positionally, but experiencially.

We were not always saved; but, Hallelujah! We were always safe.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Generational Songs

While browsing churches on the Web recently, I came across one that advertised, “No worship leader, no worship team, no worship songs.” I chuckled to myself and said, “I wonder if they have a worship service?” I’d be the first to admit that some of the modern-day worship songs are both unscriptural and without substance. But is that not also true of the old ones? Songs such as “A Cabin in Glory Land,” and “There’s a New Name Written Down in Glory,” come far short of Biblical correctness.

Many good churches, as my dear mother used to say, “Cut off their noses to spite their face.” The argument is that the old songs are better. But what they’re actually saying is that the songs from their generation which they were brought up with are better. A woman once told my wife after she sang the old, old, song, “Come, Ye sinners,” that she enjoyed it, but preferred the old ones, to the newer ones. It is well to remember, the songs of today will be the old songs in twenty years.

Isaac Watt’s father accused his son of blasphemy when he started writing church music. He believed the Psalms of David were sufficient. In the book of Revelation we have “The song of Moses” (old), and we sing, “A new song.” Jesus tells us, in His treasure box there are, “…things new and old.” My church incorporates in its singing both the contemporary and the traditional, and I, for one, like it!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Present Reality

"God...hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” I’ve had little difficulty in my life remembering the hole of the pit I was dug from; my problem is the reality of the heavenly places where I am presently seated. Our text is not a prophecy of something that is going to happen, but an actual event that has already taken place. We are distinctly a heavenly people. Some are concerned about becoming too heavenly minded. Believe me when I say I don’t think today’s Christians need to worry their pretty, little, worldly heads about this happening.

The song says, “This world is not my home, I’m only passing through.” The Scriptures speak of us as sojourners, strangers, and pilgrims. We are a tent people; we have no permanent dwelling place here. Our citizenship and home is in heaven.

Once in awhile, the reality of this breaks through the outward shell and penetrates to the soul. It is then that the overwhelming sensation of it all leaves us with unspeakable joy. It is what I like to call the firstfruits, a foretaste of what’s coming.

We are now seated there, says the inspired writer. This word denotes rest, as well as completion. May God help each of us to rest in Christ’s finished work. Let us heed the old timers’ invitation to, “Sit down and rest awhile.”

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Claustrophobic Christian

I tend to be claustrophobic, that is, I have a fear of being confined in an enclosed area. But not only do I have trouble in the psychological and physical realm, but also in the Spiritual sphere. One would be correct in saying that I suffer from acute Spiritual claustrophobia. I panic when I am restricted to one small cramped area of Christianity. I need elbow room; I need space to breathe. And I can’t do these within the bounds of legalism, denominationalism, and a restricted elitism.

There was a very popular song in the 40’s entitled, “Don’t Fence Me In.” In the closing verse it says, “I can’t look at hovels and I can’t stand fences/Don’t fence me in.” That is my sentiment exactly! As the old-time evangelist, Gypsy Smith used to say, “I was born in a field; don’t try to put me in a flowerpot.” Well, I was born into the vast expanse of the Kingdom of God, don’t try and keep me within four walls. Israel was “boxed in” on all four sides, but God opened a way out. And he will for anyone who is willing to go it alone by faith.

The only time I am not claustrophobic in confinement is when I am shut in with Jesus.