Sunday, January 31, 2010

Free To Run

“Ye did run well; who did hinder you…?” It was not a what that was hindering their progress, but a who. Inanimate things rarely slow us down, if ever; it’s the living that throws the monkey wrench into the machinery. Paul reminds these liberated saints what they had been, and now, what they had become. These straightforward, zealous runners were now zigzagging.

The legalist wanted them out of the Grace Lane. They accomplished this by putting up detour signs which were inscribed with man-made rules and regulations. These were weights that would tire them out and hold them down in the race of life. These Judaizers took away the joy that was set before them, and made the race instead, a chore. They had taken God’s Ten Rules for living and added hundreds of their own.

God’s rule in our lives is better than man’s rules.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

*Blessed Forever

“Thou blessest, O Lord, and it shall be blessed forever.” What God hath blessed, no man can “un-bless.” Even the hireling prophet, Balaam, knew this. When called upon by Balak to curse God’s people, he said “He hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.” We do no injustice in applying Isaac’s words concerning Jacob to our Lord, “I have…blessed him…and he shall be blessed.”
This being true, why do so many Christian’s live lives in seeming bereavement, rather than blessing? One word is the answer: “Appropriation.” It means, “To take for one’s own.” You can have a $1000.00 check in your possession for years and still die a pauper. You must cash it in. God gave the land to Israel, but they had to personally appropriate it (Josh.1:3); and He gave more than they took (Josh.13:1).

Whereas Israel’s blessings were predominately earthly and physical; the Church’s are heavenly and Spiritual, (in both cases there are exceptions to the rule). Proof of the latter is Eph.1:3, “Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly [places] in Christ.” Jesus came to bless (Acts 3:26. He ascended, blessing (Lk.24:51). And He continues today (Eph.1:3).

God does not want us to pray for something He has already given; He wants us to take it by faith! (Jn.4:50-51).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A History Lesson

I love history, but it can be frustrating reading at times. What I mean is that many historians differ when recording the same event. And to further my aggravation, I find a wide variance of interpretations among readers of just what the author is attempting to say about said events, or people. Is it any wonder then, as C.S. Lewis says, “The pre-historic is much more believed than the historic”? For this reason, many have conjured up their own fantasies of what happened before there were any records. But debatable facts are always to be chosen over unsubstantiated fantasies! You’ll never come to a conclusion in La La Land.

When reading history, whether secular or Christian, two things must be remembered: First, the natural man always writes with a biased pen; that’s his nature; and second, the saints read with a prejudiced eye. And why is this? We still have enough of the old man in us to leave us jaundiced. As my son, Andrew, says, “An infallible Book doesn’t make us so.”

How then must we read history? Here are my personal suggestions. First, realize the secular writer has some ingrained biases; and that the Christian reader has some innate prejudices. Secondly, leave some elbow room for differing options on minor points (never on your principles). And thirdly, find what you and those who have diverse views can agree on. Like reading diet books that differ, find two or three major points they all agree on and follow that. Chances are you’ll be healthier. And in the case at hand, we’ll no doubt get along better with our brethren in differing camps.

History can liberate or enslave, it’s up to the reader to choose.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Embarrassment of Short Trousers

Years ago, when pastoring, we established a Christian school for our own church kids. I felt so sorry for one particular boy, who was in the growing stage and had outgrown his trousers. They came well above his ankles. To make things worse, he had a tall, skinny, frame.

Samuel’s mother, Hannah, would have no such thing happen to her little boy. She saved him from this humiliation, for we are told, “Moreover his mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year.” One of the price’s of growth is letting go of the old for the new.

It is easy to get attached to Linus’ security blanket! As one grows in the Lord there are some things, good things, we must leave behind (Heb.6:1). You can no longer fit in your crib, or use your baby blanket for a covering (Isa.28:20).

Samuel’s character and principles didn’t change, but many, many other things did. In growth, it is necessary that allowances and adjustments be made. If you don’t, you’re going to be “too big for your own britches.” And I don’t mean this in the proud sense, but an embarrassing one.

Arrested development consists not in refusing to lose old things but in failing to add new things! (C.S. Lewis)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Condensed Reading

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

The Bible is a condensed book. I mean by this what the word itself means: compact, few words, pressed together, brief, undiluted and rich. The Holy Spirit chose to be selective rather than exhaustive in writing the Scriptures. What’s recorded is sufficient for all of life!

It was not necessary to document every detail of Jesus’ life. All His words and acts are not registered in the Holy Writ. Not only does our text tell us this but Paul, when he told us of something Jesus said while on earth, which is not to be found in the Gospels (Acts 20:35).

The above truth will significantly help in one’s daily living, once grasped. The Bible highlights momentous events in Jesus’ and His people’s lives. But we’re not told every time they washed dishes, changed diapers, went fishing, took a bath, played with the kids, or took a trip.

Some saints want to take a particular event in the Bible and relive it indefinitely. There was only one Pentecost; Elijah called fire down once; and we’re told Jesus prayed all night, only on one occasion. Once realized, this truth will make daily drudgeries a delight for us. These people were just like us (Acts 14:15,a cp. Ja. 5:17,a).

Condensed lives are only found in biographies. Other than that, they’re spread out over a life-time.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mine or His Righteousness

“Not having mine own righteousness...” An old farmer was once asked if he thought the hardest thing in the Christian life was denying sinful self. His reply was, “No, Sir; the most difficult thing is denying righteous self.” Few Christians realize the truth of this statement by the old plowman. Our deepest and most stubborn antagonism toward God is centered in our good and righteous and sacrificial selves. The real battleground where we as saints hold out against God is in the area of our self-righteousness.

It takes some of us a long time (and some never) to realize that our self-made, refined virtues are nothing more than the ragged rags of self-righteousness. Job is a good example. He was righteous; he was all that God said he was. And Job knew it, too. But what he did not know was the actual corruption of his own heart. God had to bring this perfect and upright man, who feared God and eschewed evil, to the place where he said, “I am vile.” Included in this were his virtues, also.

How embarrassing to see saints trying to impress others by showing off their filthy rags of self-righteousness.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Power or Personality

Many people have a vague idea of God; they think of Him as a force, power, or influence. The New Agers think of God as a power, but Christianity presents Him as a personality! The movie Star Wars depicts Him as The Force; a kind of supernatural abstract thing. They speculate of a spiritual entity that has a universal presence, omnipotence, if you please.

Never confuse personality with visibility. Pantheism maintains everything is God, and God is everything. Thus God is identified with nature, and not independent and separate from it. And so God becomes an unconscious force working in the world. Therefore, substance alone has nothing to do with personality. It is impossible to fellowship with a force or influence.

Communion is between two persons, in this instance, God and man. For this to happen there must of necessity be: intelligence, mind, will, reason, individuality, and self-consciousness. Not just consciousness; an animal has that. Moses spoke to God as friend to Friend. And so do I, and so can you, dear child of God. “And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own.”

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Satan and Appetite

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes…she took of the fruit thereof.” Although Satan does not know our thoughts, nevertheless he does know our natural disposition and temperament. This is true both in the physical and spiritual realm.

The wind and the tide go together, and so do his temptations with our temperaments. He goes along side of us, not contrary. He doesn’t lure with sauerkraut if your taste buds are programmed for spaghetti! Just because something is good doesn’t mean it’s of God. One writer put it this way, “He [Satan] wraps his poisonous pills in sugar.”

The old Puritan Thomas Brooks said, “Satan, like a fisher, baits his hook according to the appetite of the fish.” He hides the hook beneath the tantalizing bait. And of this you can be sure, whenever one takes his bait, he or she is hooked; none get away. Therefore, before you take that first bite, consider not what you’re getting, but what you’ll be losing.

All Satan’s apples have worms. Dr. John R. Rice

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Symbolism without Substance

There is something I have observed in churches over these many years. Whenever a church becomes lifeless and lethargic, there is a strong attraction toward symbolism, something or someone to replace the missing substance, in this case, Christ!

Characteristically, you’ll find the words, “Let us make us…” dominate the vocabulary of those void of the essential ONE. Whether it is the Tower of Babel, a golden calf, or a king, they are frantic to find a substitute for their lost substance.

God’s people are expert at creating or calling someone in from the wings as an alternate for the “STAR.” But no stand-in can ever match the part HE plays on the stage of life. All and every proxy is no more than, “sounding brass, or a tinkling symbol.”

It is a destructive addition to add anything to Christ. Richard Sibbes

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Get On Your Horse

“And Jacob went on his way...and…God met him.” Jacob had been more or less doing his own thing for many years. Now God calls upon him to come back to the place of blessing. As he journeys, God meets him. You can always depend on God meeting you on the road of obedience. Ask one of the two Mary’s as they complied with the angels command: “And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them.”

Some of us need to get on our horse, and I don’t mean the merry-go-round kind. I’m talking about the kind that takes you in a straight line, not endless circles, getting you nowhere. As the old-timers used to say, “Get a move on!” We have far too many, “I’m gonna’s.” Good intentions are no good unless you fit them into shoe leather.

If you’ll lay aside your feelings, fears, and doubts and start for home, as you round the bend, you’ll find your Father has come out to meet you. “I will arise and go to my father…But when he was a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” Whether Jacob or the prodigal, the promise is still, “Return…and I will deal well with thee…I will surely do thee good.”

Remember, when you take a step toward God, He takes one toward you. And He has a bigger stride!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

He Knows My Name

“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep...he calleth his own sheep by name.” God knows His sheep on a first name basis. He not only knows the prominent ones, as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; but he also knows the names of the least known among the saints. For example, a Gideon, who said, “My family is poor...and I am the least in my father’s house” is known by our Shepherd. He calls us all by name, even to the weakest vessel. “Jesus saith unto her, “Mary.”

You may feel overlooked and insignificant among so many sheep. You’re not first—not even a close second. In fact, you feel lost in this great crowd. You wonder if anyone loves you, cares, or has any interest in you at all. But, dear lamb let me assure you; He knows you personally. A flock of sheep may look uninterestingly alike, and hopelessly indistinguishable, but our Good Shepherd knows us each by name.

If He calls the stars by name, is it any wonder He calls His sheep by theirs?

He Knows Me

There are times when I cannot see the trees for the forest; I cannot see a blade of grass for the field; I cannot see the sheep for the flock; I cannot see the person for the crowd. But this is not so with God. He is ever mindful of each individual. God is not as interested in the “general” as He is in the “particular.” I am blinded by bigness, but God’s eye is still on the little sparrow; He even sees when it falls to the ground, and condescends to hold its funeral.

I’m told in His Word that the very hairs of my head are numbered. He calls me by name. He knows my thoughts. He beholds me when I lie down and when I awake. God does not see the masses—only the individual. He looks at the world and sees a person. When He gazes upon the various races, He sees only one face. He is a personal God and must be known as such.

As far as God is concerned, I’m an only child—as if there were only the two of us. How wonderful to know God; but how much more blessed to be known of Him.

“But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God..."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Good Law of Intent

Some time ago, I brought a series of messages on Romans 8:28 to one of our church’s adult Sunday School classes. At the conclusion, a frail, dear lady asked that I might remember in prayer her married daughter who was bitter over losing her first child. She added she would not listen to anything the mother had to say in way of comfort. I mentioned to her that sometimes, in hard cases, only prayer and fasting are our alternative. She looked at me with tearful eyes and said, “I can’t fast because of my physical condition.”

What does one do in such cases? Well, this is what I believe. And I’ll tell you what I told her. Set aside a day for prayer and fasting and continue to eat what is necessary. God knows what you would do if you could do it, and marks that to your credit. A Christian in a wheelchair who longs to, and would have, run in a marathon to raise money for missionaries, will find that when he or she stands before the Lord, they will have run a good race. It’s important for all of us to remember “…if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.”

The Bible has a principle; I like to call it, “The law of good intent.” David found it to be true when desiring to build the Temple for the Lord, but was told, “Whereas it was in thine heart to build an house unto my name, thou didst well that it was in thine heart. Nevertheless, thou shalt not build the house.”

There are a lot more missionaries on the field than are actually there!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

When All Seems Lost

“He hath stripped me of my glory, and taken the crown from my head. He hath destroyed me on every side, and I am gone: and mine hope hath he removed like a tree.” Job’s sufferings left him feeling like a dethroned king. God had taken from him his earthly royal robes and crown, leaving him to sit on an ash heap. What a humiliation, going from the highest to the lowest. No matter which way he looked, he saw the destruction of his life. He felt all was gone and that all hope was taken away. That he could never recover his loses.

But Job found it was not “double or nothing,” but double for nothing. When his respectability and honour were laid in the dust, and his property, health, family, and friends’ esteem subtracted from his life, at the end of his problem, surprisingly, there was an addition, “The Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.”

God wanted to teach Job that when the vine has been stripped bear of all its fruit and foliage, there is still the loving, caring, Husbandman standing nearby! The Lord had taken away Job’s fading glory and corruptible crown. But replacing them with His eternal glory, which never dims; and incorruptible crown, that will never perish.

When God takes from us something precious, He replaces it with something twice as good!

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Elephant in the Room

The title of our article comes from a popular little idiom meaning, “A problem or difficult issue that is very obvious, but is ignored for the convenience or comfort of those involved.” It has always been more embarrassing for me to ignore the obvious than to acknowledge it. I’m very uncomfortable attempting to be pretentious. I realize there is an appropriate time for the discussion of some things; but when there is a four-ton elephant standing among us, well, it’s difficult for to me play act at such a time. Or as the popular term goes, “be in denial.”

I am more than aware that there are some among us who are like a bull in a china shop when it comes to sensitive situations. But I find there are far more in comparison who tip-toe through the tulips, so to speak, rather that offend. Some people are so sweet, they’re sticky.

Jesus’ disciples asked Him if He realized that He had offended the soft-skinned Pharisees, to which He acknowledged that He had. But He had only brought to attention what everyone knew. You can be sure, if Jesus entered a room with an elephant present, He didn’t act as if it were imaginary or invisible.

Big problems do not go away simply because we close our eyes to them!

Ascending Affections

“…seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” At the funeral of one of my dearest friends, some years ago, before my wife sang, she made a comment about his Godly life. She mentioned that while he was alive, someone had said of him that he was so Heavenly minded, he was of no earthly good. But, said she, I seriously doubt anyone is of any value to this world until they are such minded.

Noah didn’t set his affection on this earth, for he knew everything was ultimately going to be water-soaked. And we shouldn’t either if we really believe everything is going up in smoke. Those who are over zealous for this present earth, using the Scripture, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,” to justify their obsession with it, need to remember it was the Lord who destroyed the sinful Noahic earth; and He will do it again with ours. His promise to us is a “new earth,” when the former is passed away (new in the sense of Divine renovation).

Today, I observe that in most Christians, there is an absence of a Heavenly longing and looking. Longing for Christ and looking for that country wherein the Eternal City dwells. The one Abraham spent a lifetime seeking for.

If home is where the heart is, no Christian should feel at home on this present earth.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Crushing Cares

"Be careful for nothing.” So admonishes the Apostle to the Philippian Christians. One need not change this so-called archaic word to understand it, but simply reverse it. Thus we find that we should not be full of care about anything. As difficult as it may sound to some of us habitual worry-warts, anxiety is not an acceptable life-style for a believer.

Many of us are concerned why we do not manifest more of the Spirit’s fruit in our daily lives. Our Lord gives us the reason for this barrenness. He tells us, “…the cares of this world…choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.” I would not say the following had I not our text to validate such a statement. Worry weakens the Word; it gets a strangle hold on it, and then cuts off its celestial, life-giving oxygen to us.

The devil will pile care after care upon us, if we allow him, sinking us in a sea of despair and hopelessness. David gave us the cure for care when he said, “Trust in the Lord at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him.” Therefore, I’m required during those times in my life when care is the predominate fact, to immediately prioritize. That is, at any given moment of my life when worry plagues me, my first responsibility is to, “…trust in the living God,” and to cast all my cares upon Him.

We are to never let the cares of this world usurp the place of trusting in God!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Totalitarian's Greatest Fear

Nothing will strike fear into the heart of tyrannical personality, whether they be political or spiritual, like a thinking person. When they lose control of your mind, they have lost control. Notice the last three words in the sub-head of Today’s Journal. It says “…for thinking people.” Our purpose is not to get people to think our way, but to challenge each to do his or her own thinking. We have far too many, what I like to refer to as, “Parrot Christians.”

Many, who have not had the privilege of a good education, nonetheless possess a highly intellectual aptitude. I’ve known educated people who, as my dear old mother used to say, “didn’t know how to come in out of the rain.” Both Jesus and His disciples did not have formal educations, but who would be ignorant enough to believe they did not have the same, or superior, smarts as the most learned of their day, especially the former.

For example, let’s take those who sit under dogmatic, prophetic, authoritarian Bible teachers. A thinker, when told there will definitely be a seven year tribulation period, will invariably ask the question, “What Jesus meant when He stated that those days would be shortened?” And as to the Seven Hills of Rome being the only solitary place known as such, some may wonder why they are not told of the other three places that are known for having seven hills associated with them (Babylon, Byzantium, and Jerusalem). And why something as important as the re-building of the Temple was never mentioned by Jesus or Paul? And that the “Last Days” started in Jesus’ day (Heb.1:2), not ours.

I’m not saying I adhere to any of the above, nor am I denying it; that’s not the issue. I simply want people, as Winnie the Pooh says, to “think, think, think.” O beloved of the Lord, use the mind God gave you. Don’t be intimidated by pseudo-scholarship. As much as possible, learn to be objective in your thinking. No one person has a corner on the truth. God can and will show a godly scrub-woman deep truths from His Word, just as He does a learned theologian!

Watch out for the person who gets upset when questioned!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

God Plays It Close

I’m sure most are familiar with the little clich├ęs, “playing it close”; “playing it to the minute”; or “playing it down to the wire.” Well, that’s what God does. It’s nerve-racking, and most of us would prefer that He do things way ahead of time, but that’s not the way He works. Saul lost everything because he couldn’t wait till the last minute (1Sam.13:8-14).

Admittedly, it can be scary when all is at stake. I just read again the story in the Old Testament of Haman’s plans to hang Mordecai (Esther 6). Within a moment of time God turned the tables, so to speak, in Mordecai’s favour. You talk about getting out of something “by the skin of your teeth!” Only faith in God’s faithfulness can take one up to the wire; “figgerin” will always fail you.

We need to synchronize our clocks with God’s time piece. Ours is always five minutes ahead of His time.

Can It Be?

In the book of Joshua we find these words recorded, “...the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man.” What a startling statement! It would not be of any surprise to read, “A man hearkened unto the voice of the Lord,” but for the Creator to respond to the wishes of His creation is almost more than one can conceive. Can it be that clay can have such a relationship with the Potter?

Though it is mind baffling, the answer is, “Yes!” Our Great God hears the prayers of His “poor and needy” creatures. David knew this wonderful truth, hrecorded, “O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come.” But it gets even better. He not only hears our prayers, He has promised to answer them. “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”

But God is no bell-hop; He only responds to requests when accomplishing His Will is uppermost in our lives. When God heard and answered Joshua’s prayer, he was doing the Will of God in accordance to the Word of God. When the warrior had used all the natural means at his disposal, it was then God answered by doing the supernatural. You do your part and you can be sure God will do His. Are you praying for a miracle? Make sure you have used up all the means at your disposal. When you have, it is then God will perform a miracle.

A.W. Tozer says, “Miracles follow the plow.”

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Greater is Blessed by the Lesser

“I trust that through your prayers I shall be given to you.” Here we see balanced believers. Paul was not so super-spiritual that he did not believe in the means. Paul had faith in God’s people’s faith. He trusted their prayers, because he knew they trusted the One who answers prayers. You can always trust someone who trusts God.

We find here the greater being helped by the lesser. But there was wisdom in doing so, for the latter would receive benefits from the former by his ministering to their Spiritual needs. When people pray for faithful ministers, they are, in effect, praying for themselves and their own Spiritual welfare. You might say it has a boomerang effect!

It is wise for those in high positions of Spiritual leadership to humbly request the prayers of God’s lowly saints. Peter chained in prison slept peaceably, knowing God’s people were praying for him.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Learning to Walk

“Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” Walking according to a set of man-made rules and restrictions may outwardly hide some fleshly fruit, but will only be replaced by a damnable fleshly pride peeking through filthy rags of righteousness. God promises to enable us to meet His heavenly standards. No such promise is given for a man-made list of taboos. God supplies what He demands! To walk by earthly, human restrictions is to walk unaided by Deity.

A Spiritual walk is not a complicated teaching; it is not something deep and mystical, something for a pseudo elite, enlightened group. Walking in the Spirit is simply an on-going attitude of reliance, a continual dependence upon the indwelling Spirit in every area of your life. This refusal is what caused Satan’s fall. When he said, “I will be like the Most High,” he was not desiring God’s Holiness, but rather His independence. Maintaining one’s Spiritual dependence is what Satan fights.

Whenever we cease to walk in the Spirit, we immediately return to walking in the flesh. The latter is easy to spot; they characteristically manifest an empty heart and barren life. They erroneously think human effort can bring their desired results. Oswald Chambers said, “All our vows and resolutions end in denial because we do not have the power to carry them out.” Only the Spirit of God can keep us from fulfilling the lusts and desires of the flesh. “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not…”

We cannot meet tomorrow’s issues today. We must walk step by step today. It is a constant appropriation of the Spirit’s power in our lives.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Cost of Obeying God

Any enlightened informed Christian is astutely aware that our age is characterized by a shallow, milk-sop, type of professor. As the sub-heading of Today’s Journal say’s, it’s for “thinking people.” I trust any who read this article do not fall into the above category of the dunces with their hats on, sitting proudly in some corner. If so, two things are certain. First, they’ll be highly offended by what I write today; and secondly, they will not be able to conceive of the God they envision doing anything like I’m going to describe. The reason being, their God has been created by their own imagination, and does things only as they would do them (Psl.50:21 cp. Isa.55:8).

In Matthew’s gospel we read of Herod putting innocent children to death. And why was this? Simply because the Wise Men obeyed God. You might say these little ones were the first martyrs for Jesus’ sake in the New Testament! Think of all the parents, siblings, and loved ones who were deprived of having the benefit of seeing that toddler grow-up. How one might point the finger of blame at these three men for their own personal misery. But no child of God ever needs to feel guilt for obeying the Lord. The only important thing in this life is that God’s Darling Son be glorified, even if it is at our or others’ expense. And so, let us count the cost of following Christ. Not only the cost to us, but to others around us.

The song writer had it right when he penned, “It’s not an easy road we are travelling to Heaven!”