Monday, March 30, 2009

The Secret

A great preacher of the past tells an interesting story. He had struggled for years to find fulfillment in his Christian life, but to no avail. He had tried all the formulas and steps that he had been taught or had read about. But none of these worked for him.

While at a conference on the “deeper life,” he heard an old English Bible teacher announce that the next morning he was going to preach on the subject, “The Secret of Living the Christian Life.” The preacher could hardly sleep that night for the excitement. The next morning he was the first in the outdoor tabernacle. He had pen and paper ready in order to take down every point. When the old man stepped to the podium, he looked over his glasses perched on the end of his nose and surveyed his audience. The thirsty soul waited, with great anticipation. Finally the elder said, “You have come this morning to hear the secret of how you can live an overcoming and abundant Christian life.” Then, with a quaint smile, he said, “The secret is Jesus.”

Simple? Yes—yet profound. This simple secret many of God’s people have not yet gotten hold of. It is Jesus—Jesus—Jesus. Christianity is Christ. He’s the first and the last and all in between. He is all in all. “And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only” (Matt.17:8).

It is a destructive addition to add anything to Christ. (Richard Sibbes, Puritan)

A Special 'INSIDE ISSUE' Report

When I was a young “preacher boy,” just starting out, a dear pastor friend who’s now with the Lord gave me the following advice: “You’ll always be servant to whomever or whatever dominates your thoughts, talk, or time.”

I’ve observed, much to my chagrin, many well intentioned saints allowing a common man in the White House to fill their daily lives, rather than the Precious One who came from His Father’s House.

In this country, elected officials are supposed to be servants to the people. But you’ll be hard pressed to find such a creature today. Interestingly, our King, Jesus Christ, made Himself a servant to servants (Jn.13:4-5).

You will not find Caesar or Nero dominating Jesus, His Disciples, or Paul’s daily lives. The politics of that day played a small part in the life of Jesus’ followers, compared to their consuming passion for their lovely Lord.

He is to be the center of our attention and conversation; if He is, then we will truly become one of Christ’s cherished jewels (Mal.3:16-17). I don’t know about anyone else, but I want to be one of His rare jewels, not a cheap marble.

Let each of us ask ourselves the question, “Around whom does my life center?”

Friday, March 27, 2009

From Here to There

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer…how art thou cut down to the ground…” What a contrast, “the son of the morning” started at the top and ended up at the bottom. While on the other hand, the Son of God started at the bottom, as it were, and worked His way up, to the top.

Our generation, it seems to me, has fallen for the pitch that originated from the pit. There seems to be a belief that because one desires a certain thing, they can obtain it with no time lapse, preparation, or growth involved.

What I mean is, we are made to think that it is possible to go from noon to midnight, crude to the finished, and from infancy to maturity without the necessary parenthesis. O dear friend, please heed my words: To go from one point to another involves process, and that, in turn, requires time and patience.

No time spent in preparation is wasted!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Illiterate Readers

I received a great quote by e-mail from one of my readers recently; it was by Mark Twain. The old sage said, “A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.” I believe this is the worst kind of illiterate, the one who can read, but won’t. This type of reader puts themselves in the same category as the illiterate person. It may sound like a misnomer, but one could refer to them as illiterate readers.

Sometimes you hear certain people say, “I don’t like to read.” If you are like this, you need not tell even a moderately intellectual person; it will be apparent after only a few minutes of talk. I have found when carrying on a conversation, readers are delightful people to be around. How I enjoy my morning chats with my wife, who is always reading some five books at any given time. And my son Andrew, who lives not too far from us, how interesting he is to converse with; his reading habits even surpass those of his mother.

Prior to young Timothy visiting his mentor in prison, he was asked by the old scholar, among other things, to bring his books. In his seclusion, Paul considered paper and ink as much a good companion as flesh and blood. Because of this, after 2000 years, I’m sure the aged Apostle would still advise any and all saints to “Give attendance to reading.” As one dear man of God said, “Learn all you can, put it under the Blood, and use it for Jesus.” God gave us a brain; He expects us to use it! Ignorance is not a goal to strive for. God gave us sixty-six different books in His Divine library; thus showing us He wanted us to have variety in our reading habits. The greatest need in the Church today is a Revival of Reading!

A man is known by the books he reads. Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Greatest Hindrance to Prayer

Most any serious book on prayer will contain at least one chapter on “Hindrances to Prayer.” I myself, in years past, have preached on the subject more than a few times. But I have come to see that with many of us, the one main hindrance in our prayer life is majoring on what is hindering us. The best place to find out what is hampering us, is in prayer itself; Jesus said, it’s at the altar of prayer that we remember our wrongs (Matt.5:23).

I find the two central elements that encourage me to pray are expressed by David in Psalms; “O thou that hearest prayer…”; and, “Moses and Aaron…and Samuel…they called upon the Lord, and he answered them.” David believed in a prayer hearing and prayer answering God. It is important to note that the three men he mentions, along with himself, had much to be desired in qualifying them as worthy recipients of answered prayer.

I had an old evangelist friend, now with the Lord, who used to say, “Just pray!” Stop worrying about crossing your t’s and dotting the I’s. God knows where you’re at in your Spiritual life; no one else does. A sincere humility and well meaning intentions in the heart go long way with God (1Kgs.8:18). I believe there is something going on between each genuine child of God and their Heavenly Father, which the other kids know nothing about! Like, “Benjamin’s mess was five times so much as any of theirs.” There’s no understanding or explaining it, there are times when the biggest “messes” get the biggest “mess.” I think it’s called GRACE!

We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us. — C.S. Lewis

Monday, March 23, 2009

Leaning on Broken Reeds

Anyone who is at all familiar with my writings knows of my strong belief in the use of means; whether it is physical, psychological or Spiritual. I adhere to whatever method necessary to get the job done. My issue is with those who have been made to walk on their own, but who continually go back to their dependence of the crutches they used before getting on their feet again. You know, a return to weak and beggarly elements (Gal.4:9); a return that puts them in bondage again (addicted to the means, if you please).

David didn’t have a sex-therapist to consult: James and John couldn’t attend any anger-management classes: and the drunken Corinthians lacked a local AA meeting to attend. What did these poor, helpless souls do without a re-hab to run to? First, they called their problem by the right name, sin; second, they admitted no one else was to blame for the mess they made; third, they repented, the kind of repentance that brought a real, lasting change; fourth, they got back around Spiritual people in a local church; and last, but not least, they ministered to others, their lives no longer habitually centered on themselves and their problems.

If we were as dependent on God’s ordained means (Bible-prayer-local church), we would not be so addicted to the worlds for help!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Knocked Off Your Feet

“…cast down, but not destroyed.” The devil may knock a child of God down, but he can’t knock us out. We may be down for the count of nine, but you can depend on finding us standing again, ready to fight, before the referee says, “…ten; you’re out.” The standard order for getting back on our feet after being knocked off of them is to go from the prostrate position to a kneeling one, and then to that of standing .

Daniel was lying flat, his face toward the ground, with no strength left in him. Then he was set upon his knees and the palms of his hands. From there he stood trembling, and it was then he was strengthened. All this was made possible by the “smelling salts” of God’s Word (Dan.10).

Just because we are knocked down doesn’t mean we have to stay down. Paul’s testimony after being “cast down,” is, “God comforteth those that are cast down.” In other words, The Almighty is in our corner. If we can make it there, we will find Him waiting with a bucket full of blessing, and the sponge of grace to apply healing to our hurts.

And so, when you get knocked down, get up, at least as far as your knees!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Principles Are the Principal Thing

Our title is not just a play upon words. Principles are fundamental truths one lives by; whereas principal means chief or first in rank. Therefore, having a set of beliefs that govern your life is of the highest priority. For a Christian, these principles are to be gleaned from the Bible. The old Methodist evangelist, Bob Jones, Sr., used to refer to them as “Eternal Principles.”

If one’s principles are not based upon the unchanging Word of God, they will be like a weathervane spinning this way and that; whatever way the winds of convenience blow will be the direction in which they face. Times, like the weather change; but Godly principles do not adjust to the times in which one resides. In the game of life, at the end of the day, only Bible principles win out.

It is not difficult to spot an unprincipled man or woman. Invariably, you will find they have no core beliefs or moral values. You might say they are empty vessels. But just as evident will be the man or woman who holds to Scriptural principles. You will find them to be rock solid in their code; you cannot intimidate, scare, threaten, or buy them off! They will give on non-essentials, but never on their principles. As Thomas Jefferson said, “In matters of principle, stand like a rock, in matters of taste, swim with the current.”

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Misunderstood Maturity

Contrary to the belief of many, age and growth do not automatically carry with them maturity; and may I add, neither does change. The former is illustrated in a child’s body that grows and ages into that of an adult, while the brain remains adolescent. Admittedly, there’s growing and aging, but certainly no maturing! As to change, well, I may change something greater for that which is lesser, such as a diamond for a marble. In most, if not in all such cases, we would classify this change as a result of immaturity.

We have a generation of professing Christians who believe white-washing, sugar-coating, and accepting fornication, drunkenness, drug taking, and cultic life-styles as the norm, are growth; but this is a twisted and deformed type of growth, without mature thought. Going backward only advances one to the Stone Age. True Spiritual maturity discerns between good and evil. And the authority in distinguishing the two is the Word of God (Heb.5:13-14). To condone wrong is to categorize you with the immature.

The late great English preacher, C.H. Spurgeon, told a story of an Irishman who, when asked how he got on at the meeting of a small separatist church said, “Oh, it was lovely; none of us knew anything, and we all taught each other.” Enough said! `

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It's God's Moral Compass or Collapse

“…every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” When you have no moral authority, this is always the result. Man becomes a god unto himself, making the rules for his conduct anyway his depraved mind deems best for his satisfying the flesh. Man’s moral code invariably ends in justifying lying, fornication, hatred, envy, drunkenness, and all uncleanness. It’s referred to as “The New Morality,” and its chief promoter is “The New Age” movement. Actually, it’s as old as the devil. He makes this morality acceptable by tagging new names to old sins. When men go by their own moral compass, they end up going in different directions, none of which lead to God.

C.S. Lewis writes, “The most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of your own nature and set it up as a thing you ought to follow at all costs. There is not one of them which will not make us into devils if we set it up as an absolute guide.” He goes on to remind us that “moral collapse follows upon spiritual collapse.”

God’s Commandments are concrete. Grace doesn’t obliterate the Law; it’s the icing on the cake. The great Grace preacher, Paul, mentions believers adhering to every one of the Ten Commandments, with the exception of observing the Sabbath. When man leaves God’s moral code, he sets up his own civilized morality, which ultimately turns into savage morality. Today’s Christianity has an anything goes philosophy. Animals have no moral code of conduct either.

Therefore, let us endeavor to keep His Commandments, for as John tells us, they are not grievous. Again, sighting the insightful Lewis, “One of the worst things about a moral relapse—to me—is that it throws such a shadow back on the time before during which you thought you were getting on quite well. Having found oneself—for the hundredth time—back where one started, it seems obvious that one has never really moved at all: and what seemed progress was only a dream, or even the irrelevant result of circumstances or physical condition.”

“The road to the promised land runs past Sinai.” C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lame Excuses

I once heard an old evangelist preach a message from Luke chapter fourteen on, “Two morons and a henpecked husband.” He said anyone who would buy a piece of land without seeing it, or a person who bought five yoke of oxen before proving them, would have to be moron. And to refuse eating with a king because of your wife…well, the only word to describe him is henpecked.

Many today are like these three men who, “…all with one consent began to make excuse.” Are not our reasons for not dining with Deity just as flimsy? Be careful, lame excuses will leave you without a leg to stand on. We need to face ourselves. It is not, “I cannot,” but rather, “I will not.” Billy Sunday said, “An excuse is the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.” You’ll find people who good at excuses are usually not good for anything else.

Let’s face it, like the men in our story, those who make excuses to God have self-interests at heart. But God does not excuse our excuses! And by the way, their empty seats were filled by others. God always has someone in the wings waiting.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

*Needless Worry

The area in which we live here in Northern California was one of Mark Twain’s favorite stomping grounds. There is a cabin near by in which he spent a winter. His short story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, was written about a town ten minutes from us. One of my favorite axioms of the old winsome wit is, “I have been through some terrible things in life, some of which actually happened.”

Following the crucifixion of our Lord, some ladies prepared spices and ointments for His body. They had rested on the Sabbath, but very early in the morning on the first day of the week they made their way toward the tomb. One of their concerns was who would roll away the great stone from the door of the sepulcher. But their worry was all in vain; the Lord had already taken care of it. When they arrived “They found the stone rolled away from the tomb.”
The spices and ointment they so lovingly prepared were as useless as their anxiety about the removal of the stone. How human they were, how like us! How we too worry about things the Lord has already taken care of. The angel gently reproves them for their short memories: “He is not here; for he is risen, even as he said.” Whenever we worry, we can be sure we have forgotten His Word with the promises within. In the face of insurmountable odds, they were expected to believe His Word; and so are we!

My grandson, Joseph, is lead singer for the Southern Gospel group, The Perrys. He wrote a song entitled, “He’s Already There.” The women at the tomb would say, “Amen!” to that.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

How Do You See Yourself?

God took us from the hole of the pit and set us in heavenly places. Every saint has one of two choices in envisioning themselves; they can look at the very worse part of their life, or the very best.

Some prefer to dwell among earthly tombs, while others choose to hang out around the Heavenly Throne. Old Bob Jones Sr. said, “The Christian who builds his or her life on their past is doomed to fall.”

It’s not what you were; it’s what you are that counts. The important thing is not how others see you, but how God sees you “In Christ.” And that is “…holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight.”

The prodigal’s filthy rags were hid beneath the father’s best robe.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Devine Peek Behind Closed Doors

“[A]nd thy Father, which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” This phrase, I believe, is found three times in Matthew chapter six. And, if it teaches anything, it certainly tells us that what we do behind closed doors, where only God can see us, is of vital importance to our public lives. For it is in the secret place that we determine what the reward will be in public. It seems today there is a great desire to put oneself on public display. And the result is a tragic amount of casualties.

I am sure most of us are familiar with the story when young David was brought before King Saul, who questioned whether such a youth was qualified to face the giant, Goliath. When being challenged by Saul for his lack of military experience, as well as his youth, out of necessity, David told of an experience he’d had in secret. This young man had fearlessly killed a lion and a bear, single-handedly, while shepherding his flock. We can now understand God rewarding him openly by helping him slay his giant.

Each of us, no matter what our age or maturity as Christians, will have “giants” that we will be confronted with in the public arena of life. Our victories over these will be determined by our personal victories in secret, behind closed doors. Never underestimate the importance of that part of your life that is unseen to everyone but God!

Remember, the most important part of your life is the part that only God sees.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Sea of Faces

“…a great multitude, which no man could number…stood before the throne, and before the Lamb.” There is only a singe Face that stands out in Heaven. All the rest are a sea of faces. He is one above many, not one among many. There are no solos in Heaven, just a great choir. We will be, as the saying goes, “a little fish in a big pond,” or, like a small pebble in a big ocean. In Glory, all will be “just one of the guys.” So we might as well get used to it now.

The most important part of maturing is growth from self-centeredness. One is not mature until he or she has both the ability and willingness to see themselves as one among many. We are each special to Him, but no more so than the most insignificant saint. C.S. Lewis writes, “I would prefer to combat the ‘I’m special’ feeling, not by the thought I’m no more special than anyone else, but by the feeling, ‘Everyone is as special as me.’”

A person wrapped up in his or her self makes a small package.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Question of Tribulation

No matter what one’s prophetic position, I find most, if not all, hold to the belief that toward the end time, there will be unprecedented dark days, many believe the duration of which will be seven years. I personally have some reservations on this teaching (Matt.24:21-22).

There are basically three popular positions concerning this seven (?) year tribulation period. The first is known as pre-tribulationist; the second group holds to a mid-tribulation; and the last are post-tribulationist.). The pre-trib. teaches all the elect will be taken out of this world just prior to this time of trouble; a secret rapture, if you please. The mid-trib. group say Christians will go through the first half of the trib. and then be caught up. The post-trib. holds that the Church will go through all the Tribulation Period. (We will not discuss the partial-rapture crowd).

The most important question is not which of these three or any other is the right position; the crucial question is: are you and I ready for either? No matter which teaching proves to be the right one? There are people in each of these camps fighting for their particular pet doctrine who are not prepared, even if their position is the valid one. Holding the right position does not guarantee the person holding it is right.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

*Weighing the Options

One of my two favorite Puritan writers, Richard Sibbes (the other being Thomas Watson) writes, “Satan gives Adam a piece of fruit, and takes away Paradise. Therefore in all temptations let us consider not what he offers, but what we shall lose.” It’s possible to get what we want, but lose what we have.

Esau got his bowl of soup, but he lost God’s blessing. Samson got his desire, but he lost the power of God. And Israel got the meat they longed for, but it soon became loathsome to them. In each of these cases, “[God] gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.”

As the great old preacher said, “Never sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate.” All good things come in time. We need to learn to patiently wait for them. For some of us, it is closer than we think. The mailman is next door, heading our way, with a bundle of “goodies from God.”

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Undying Love and Loyalty to Jesus Christ

To quote another, “If Jesus Christ is who He says He is, and if He did what the Bible says He did, then he deserves my undying love and loyalty!” I feel as the old martyr Polycarp, when he was told if he’d deny Christ he would be set free. His reply to the Roman proconsul was, “Eighty and six years have I served Him and He never did me any injury. How then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?”

If you cannot turn your back and walk away from the dearest person you have on this earth, when the choice is between them and Christ, then never refer to yourself as one of His disciples. He gave up everything for us; He demands no more than what He Himelf did. “It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord.” There are going be times in your life when, if you’re to honour Christ, it will be necessary to do it at others’ expense.

I guess some think me fanatical when it comes to The Lover of My Soul, and I guess they’re right. For example, my wife has instructions that at my funeral everything is to be about Him: the sermon, songs, and any testimonies. No one is to have part in it that does not own Him as the most precious thing in their lives. This includes not just friends, but my nearest kin. Those who bare the casket are carrying the Temple of the Holy Ghost; therefore I want holy hands to handle it.

I’ve been a source of embarrassment to some through these long years. I don’t seem to be getting any better; in fact it may be even worse. Like at the end of the movie, The Passion of Christ, when I stood in the theatre and cried with a loud voice, “Thank God for Jesus Christ.” You might not like hanging out with me.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Revolutionized Life

Years ago while serving the Lord in Ireland; I came across a truth from God’s Word that literally revolutionized my Spiritual life. As I was making a study of past Christian and Catholic mystics, I soon became aware how much of their teachings flavored modern Fundamental and Evangelical devotional books. I am speaking of the fact that most, if not all, teach that God works through the believer. Of course, like many others, I parroted this doctrine, never bothering to “…Search the scriptures [to see] whether those things were so.”

The word “through” occurs 463 times in your King James Bible. After a search of these, I discovered there was no place that I could find where God ever did anything “through” one of His children. On the contrary, I learned it is the Christian doing things “through” God. Please stop and read: Psl.44:5; 60:12; Ro.8:13, 37; lCor.15:57; Eph.2:18. Can you see now that God doesn’t come by way of us; we’re to go by way of God. This makes us personally responsible so that we can never accuse Him for things not being accomplished in our lives.

A bank doesn’t go through us to give a loan, we go through the bank. Passivity is a curse that rests upon many a Christian’s life today. We’re much too “spiritual” (syrupy); more than most would like to admit. You’d be surprised what can get done if only we would stop waiting for God to do something through us, and do what we see needs to be done through Him. David didn’t wait around for God to take on the giant is his life; it was something that needed to be taken care right then, and he did it. He did it in the name of the Lord. That is, he looked to God to enable him; he did it through God, if you please.

Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” I remember old Dr. Bob Jones Sr. paraphrasing the Apostle’s statement. He would cup his hand around his mouth, and thundering out from the pulpit would cry, “You can do what you ought to do!” And so can we, my friend!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

He Won't Go Away

There is a little saying among the Deeper Life crowd that goes something like this: “You need to get out of Romans seven and into Romans eight.” This sounds spiritual, but it’s not scriptural. The truth is the man groaning in chapter seven is still at it in the next chapter. Inward civil war is the Christian’s lot, and it’s life-long. After all, how could we ever claim victories without battles? From the Believer’s viewpoint, the Christian life is one of progressive sanctification.

The way to deal with our dark side, that is, the side that’s continually in opposition to God and all that’s good, is by denial. Not denying its existence, but in recognition. When Peter denied knowing Christ, it was the latter not the former of these he denied. When the corrupt “old man” attempts to usurp authority in our lives, we are to deny him any and all rights; we are not to recognize his demands.

In the movie, A Beautiful Mind, actor Russell Crowe plays a true life character who’s a schizophrenic. Toward the end, when the character he portrays is asked if he still had difficulties, he replied, “I still see things, I just don’t acknowledge them.”