Sunday, February 28, 2010

What More Can He Say?

“How long dost thou make us to doubt…tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not. ” Or as we would say today, “How many times do I have to tell you? What else can I say?” The song writer penned it this way, “What more can he say than to you he hath said, To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled.”

Notice it is not, they didn’t know what He said, it’s they did not believe what He said. Doubt resulted in their unbelief; as it will in us! You can tell someone the same truth a thousand times, but to no avail, if he or she refuses to believe it. The author of Hebrews depicts this type, “The Word…did not prophet them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” Our disbelief is often the cause of God’s seeming inactivity. “And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” You can be sure, unbelief shot-circuits every desired blessing in one’s life.

In John’s gospel, chapter nine, we have a good illustration of those who incessantly ask questions, but with no intention of believing the truthful answer, no matter how many times it’s given them. The religious crowd had asked the blind man repeatedly how he was made to see, and always the answer was the same, “A man that is called Jesus.” (By the way, that’s always the answer!) Finally in exasperation, after constant quizzing, “He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again?”

Don’t tell me, “A man is as good as his word”; then you doubt God’s!

Friday, February 26, 2010

God's Feeble People

“For he knoweth our frame: he remembereth that we are dust.” It is for this reason we are told our Heavenly Father pities His children. For our frames were not made of steel nor our dusty substance from iron ore. Why would our Creator make His creatures with such frail frames as bone and feeble flesh from dust? The answer is found in just one word: dependence. God intended for man to always look to Him for his every need. He was not created to go it alone, but to always look to his Divine Helper.

When Jehovah formed man out of the dust of the ground, and framed his body, He knew its limitations and how much he could bear. Because of this, we can be assured He will never put upon us more than we can handle. Contrary to what we sometimes think, we can always carry those heavy packages our Father places in our arms. If we can’t, it is proof we are carrying something He didn’t place there.

The only thing God will ever weigh us down with is an “eternal weight of glory.” All else is but “light affliction”(
2Cor. 4:17).

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Immaturity and Insecurity

I am no psychologist, nor have I delved into the subject extensively. But having spent a lifetime studying people, and the last fifty two years soaking up what God has to say about mankind, I do profess to be a little familiar with human behavior.

Something I have observed in others, as well as my own life is the twin plagues of immaturity and insecurity. I’ve discovered a child can be immature without necessarily being insecure. But I have also noted that when an adult has insecurities, immaturity is always present. This is true both in the physical and spiritual realms.

The only answer to insecurity is maturity. And the latter does not come overnight; it is the result of growth. It is a process of feeding the intellectual with wholesome, challenging literature, and, of necessity, nourishing the soul with the Word of God (2 Tim.4:13b).

They say, “You can’t stay a baby all you life,” but I’m afraid some sadly do.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

We Called Her "Granny"

“The memory of the just is blessed.” She was my mother-in-law, but more important, she was my friend. When I wanted to marry her daughter, most all the family was opposed to it because of the age difference (ten years). To this day I remember that sweet saint saying to me, “I don’t know why they’re against it; I think you’re a nice boy.”

That was close to fifty years ago. Since then she has gone on to meet her Lord that she loved so dearly. She had Alzheimer’s, and forgot her loved ones, but not the Lover of her soul.

If I were to characterize “Granny” with one word, it would be contentment. No matter what environment she was in, this precious soul was always calm. And this attribute had its effect on those present, especially on me. How I thank God she passed this serenity down to her daughter. It has helped keep this wild man sane these many years.

I miss you, Granny. I’m looking forward to seeing you in the near future. It will be wonderful to be in that land with you, where there is only peace and calm.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Living the Christian Life

I believe I can say without reservation that I have studied and meditated on the topic of Christian living more than any other subject in the Bible. No doubt because of the previous life I lived. My one main goal was, and still is, as Francis A. Schaeffer so ably put it, “How then shall we live?

The Christian life is just that: life. And just as there are daily duties to perform in this physical life, so it is in the spiritual realm. It isn’t mystical, but practical. In the early years of my Christian life I could not see this; but then I discovered the Puritans’ writings. And after standing on their shoulders, I was able to see clearly.

Paul feared the believers of his day were leaving “the simplicity that is in Christ.” My concern is that today’s Christian is leaving the simplicity of Christian living. It is not some deep, profound, secret. It’s simply acknowledging His right to Lordship in your life each new day; then follows Bible reading, confession, prayer and praise.

That’s it, there ain’t no more! The rest will take care of itself. Doing your daily chores will please your Father and will bring an inner satisfaction and peace to you. The one great descriptive word of the early Christians in Acts was, “And they continuing daily.” The Christian life is not “a one-time fix.” It’s, “Let us go on.”

We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action. ~Frank Tibolt

Sunday, February 21, 2010

*Honest to God

The prayer preceding all prayers, states C.S. Lewis, should be, “May it be the real I who speaks.” How often do we speak to God in prayer, as the Irish say, “From the teeth out.” That is, there’s no meaning behind our words.

Jeremiah said to God, “O Lord, thou hast deceived me.” This is the way he felt down deep, and he told God so. He was honest before the Lord. And why shouldn’t he have been; there is nothing hid from the Omniscient One.

David also was not one to play-act in prayer. Listen to him as he boldly addresses an all-knowing God, “…give ear unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned [disguised pretention1Kgs.14:2,6] lips.”
Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to tell God just how you feel about your lot in life. No one ever came to Him with an honest complaint who didn’t go away completely satisfied. Instead of saying “Honest to God,” let’s be it.”

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Eyes of the Beholder

“But made himself of no reputation…” Strange, is it not, that many of us are willing to pay any price to get a reputation, while He paid the ultimate price and lost His? An honorary degree was bestowed upon me years ago, which I was most proud of. Then one day it dawned upon me that they called Him a devil and called me Doctor. Needless to say, I dropped the title.

The religious crowd ruined His reputation, but they couldn’t touch His character. Character is what a man is; reputation is what people think a man is. The former is a life; the latter is a label. A missionary once told me, “The first pre-requisite for being used of God is ruined reputation.

“Reputation is in the eyes of man; character is what you are in the sight of God.”

Friday, February 19, 2010

*Broken and Blessed

A broken pitcher allowed the light within to shine out; a broken net was the door of freedom for the fish; a broken roof was the means of a miracle; broken loaves fed a multitude. The broken alabaster box left its fragrance lingering long after it was broken; broken pieces of a ship were what those in a storm held to, to get them to safety; and our Lord’s broken body is to be remembered by His people continually.

God has an affinity for broken things. Listen to the man after His own heart: “I am feeble and sore broken.” Again: “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart.” And again: “Thou broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God...” Could anything be plainer?

“Lord, bend that proud and stiff-necked I,
Help me to bow the head and die;

Beholding Him on Calvary,
Who bowed His head for me.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The "If" of True Faith

“But if not...we will not.” This great statement of faith was made by the three Hebrew children to Nebuchadnezzar concerning the fiery furnace into which they were soon to be cast. It came on the heels of their declaration to this potentate of God’s ability to deliver them, “our able to…and he will.”

But then follows the most God-honoring, devil-defying testimonial of true faith found anywhere in the Holy Writ. After making the assertion that God was able, and that they believed He would deliver them, this glorious proclamation is made. If God saw fit to allow this dreaded thing to come to pass in their lives, they would still love and serve Him. They would never bow the knee in surrender to the suggestion that He is anything but a Good, and Loving God!

For most of us the prayer of Gethsemane is the only model. Removing mountains can wait. C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Todays and Tomorrows

“And his allowance [was] a continual allowance given him of the king, a daily rate for every day, all the days of his life.” Charles Spurgeon says in his devotional book Morning and Evening, “A daily portion is all that a man really wants. We do not need tomorrow’s supplies; that day has not yet dawned, and its wants are as yet unborn. The thirst which we may suffer in the month of June does not need to be quenched in February, for we do not feel it yet.”

The trademark of the Christian life lies not in its tomorrows, but in its todays. “Give us day by day our daily bread,” is how our Divine Teacher instructs us. You need not fear at the close of today you have scraped the bottom of the barrel dry; it has a strange way of replenishing itself (1Kgs.17:16). Whether it is grub or grace, there will be a sufficiency of both on a daily basis. “Yesterday He helped me, today He did the same, how long will this continue? Forever, praise His name.”
It is only possible to live happily-ever-after on a day-to-day basis.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

*Riding Trains

As a young man in service and afterward, I rode trains to get to distant destinations. In many of the coaches the seats faced each other. I always chose the seat with my back toward the way we were traveling. The only thing wrong with that was that I could only see the past. I find many Christians have chosen to travel through life the same way. This type of person only gets a quick, passing glance at things; a fleeting glimpse of what others enjoyed in its entirety.

I’ve observed people who look forward in life delight in it much more than those who are always looking to their past. Yesterday’s manna always spoils today, no matter how good it may have been then. The old missionary said, “My future is as bright as the promises of God.” A promise has to do with the future, not the past. Living in the past keeps one from looking forward to the future. Paul’s secret to a successful life was, “…forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”

Remember, if you belong to God, the best is yet to come!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Hopless Hopers

“…all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.” The poet, Joaquin Miller, wrote these following lines in his poem that he simply called, Columbus: “What shall we do when hope is gone…Sail on! Sail on! Sail on! and on!” He got his inspiration for writing this from reading Columbus’ log from his first voyage across the uncharted Atlantic. In spite of storms, the threat of mutiny, hunger, darkness, and exhaustion, over and again, the captain recorded these words, “This day we sail on.”

Paul was one of those rare breeds who believe, no matter what, you keep on keeping on. He was like Abraham of old, who, “against hope, believed in hope.” He could go against all odds and encourage others to “…be of good cheer.” This was because of the fact that he belonged to God—lock, stock, and barrel. His telling testimony was, “For their stood by me this night…God, whose I am…”

If Christ is our Hope, we need never lose hope.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

*From Start to Finish

“I am Alpha and Omega (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet), the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” Jesus is the commencement and the consummation. He’s from start to finish. The text denotes the whole of anything and takes in everything and connects all in between.

At the start and finish of the Christian life is Christ. He was—and will be—awesome. But if we’re not careful, what falls in between can become awful. Christ is not only to be first and last, but all that is in between. In my studies, I’ve noticed that throughout Church history down to the present, there has been a temptation to draw God’s people away from a Christ-centered life. In the Spiritual realm, this is generally accomplished by getting us to major on some portion of Christianity, rather than on the person Christ.

Lock up your heart with Christ every morning, and give Him the key. (Thomas Watson)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Stop Blaming Yourself

God’s people are likened to a vineyard in both Testaments. In Isaiah chapter five verse four, He says, “What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?” In verse three, He calls upon His people to judge for themselves if this were not true. In spite of Him doing all He could to make them holy and happy, by taking obstacles out of the way (v.2), they still persisted in their “wild” living (vv. 2 and 4). As a result, God’s wall of protection was taken from them (v5). Read the entire chapter to see the pitiful plight of those who had it all, only to lose it by going their own way and doing their own thing.

This parable shows that even God can do only so much in His child’s life, and then the rest is up to them; after that, they’re responsible. The blame lies at their door. Or as God told Cain concerning his wicked actions, “Sin lieth at the door.” It stopped at his doorstep. And so it does in every adult child’s life.

No Christian parent need feel guilty (sad, maybe), over grown children who have gone against a godly bringing up. When a mother or father can truthful say that they did all they knew to do in the matter of rearing their children, then that is all you can do. So says the Lord! In Isaiah chapter one, God says, “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.” I guess it’s not hard to find an excuse for a sinful and rebellious lifestyle if you’re looking for one, even if it is against God Almighty!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Misplaced Loyalty

The saying, “They’re loyal to a fault,” sounds good on the surface; but a deeper probing will show the malignancy of this. Such people are taking loyalty to the extreme and will find in the end, it generally causes more harm than good. To be sure, these people fall under the category of having “misplaced loyalties.”

When loved ones and friends can do no wrong in our sight, we need a second touch from the Lord (Mk.8:23-25). We can’t get away with using the worn out quip, “Love’s blind,” as our excuse for not seeing their defect. As Dr. Bob Jones Sr. said, “Love is not blind, it just refuses to see.” Principles always trump personalities. And that includes everyone from our favorite Guru to darling Grandpa.

Paul tells us only Spiritual people are to deal with those who have, more or less, been “run over,” so to speak, by a fault in their life. Carnal sentimentality will close its eyes to others’ sad condition under the guise of compassion. Had someone called attention to the butler’s fault of his short memory, no doubt Joseph would not have had to spend those two extra, miserable years in confinement.(Gen.40:23;41:1a, 9).

Our loyalty is due not to our species but to God. (C.S. Lewis)

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Oblivious Ostriches

The English language is very rich and descriptive. Someone “hiding their head in the sand, like an ostrich” is said to be foolishly ignoring their problem, while hoping it will magically vanish. If this is not picturesque of today’s professing Christians, I don’t know what is. Closing one’s eyes to a problem does not void the problem.

The dilemma I speak of is unanswered prayer. It seems few, if any, are willing to tackle this unmentionable and embarrassing topic today. I most certainly understand prayer is not a magic wand we can wave around at our fancy. Nor do I believe it is like a genie in a bottle to be at my beacon call to fulfill all my fleshly wishes. But God does promise to answer “Big” prayers (Jer.33:3), and we don’t see much of that today, if any! Could Solomon be giving the Church the reason the heavens are brass to it, when he mentions in his prayer to God, “When the heaven is shut up…because they have sinned against the”? Do you think maybe the whole Church needs to repent? If so, who’s going to go first?

In my opinion, the Church of today is play acting in prayer. Jesus refers to them as people who “for a pretense make…prayers.” I’m speaking of that kind of prayer old Dr. Bob Jones Sr. used to define as real prayer. He said, if he were in a room, with the doors and windows all being locked from the inside, and he prayed and said, “I sure wish I had a sandwich,” and all of a sudden one was in his hand, he’d be a fool not to realize there was an unseen, supernatural presence there with him (Matt.6:6).

When’s the last time any of us made a request that went only from our lips to God’s ear, and we got a Big Mac? fancy

Sunday, February 7, 2010

When Off the Plantation

One evening years ago, as a young evangelist, after speaking to a rather large assembly, I was invited to the pastor’s home. He (as I at the time) was associated with an extreme, separatist movement. As the evening wore on the conversation became less general and more personal. It was then he revealed that when visiting New York he would go to see some of the Broadway plays. He went on to say how much he and his wife enjoyed them, and how refreshed they both were upon returning home to Indiana.

Now I have no problem with seeing a good play. I’d like to go myself if I ever visit the “Big Apple.” But I do find disturbing the fact that one who has entered into the glorious liberty that is in Christ Jesus would hide it from others who are living miserable lives in bondage. As they used to say when I was a boy, “What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander.” Many of us are like Peter; we like the Kentucky fried chicken and ham, but go back to the rigid, man-made rules of the legalists once they cast their shadow over us again. You know, the fear of man, and that sort of thing.

Paul said he rebuked Peter (Gal.2:14, context) for his actions, because he was to blame. And so are we, if we allow others to believe we are fellow slaves, but exercise and enjoy liberty when we are off the plantation.

Friday, February 5, 2010

One Thing or Another

Through the years, on many an occasion, I remember my dear mother citing the old proverbial saying, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another.” She, like all wise in heart, knew life is like apples in a barrel; when you think you have them all down, another always pops up. Therefore, one must learn to adjust and adapt to changing situations, that is, if we expect to keep any semblance of sanity. We must learn to handle the other thing, as well as the one thing.

A good number of us, though we don’t like to admit it, like to be in control. We don’t mind others being on the bus, as long as we do the driving. We see this in conversations, projects, and any unnumbered list of things. You can almost always spot “controllers,” whenever things get out of control, so do they! There is nothing sadder than to see a controller who is uncontrolled.

Be assured, sooner or later the “oxen [will] stumble.” And as Uzza of old, who “put forth his hand” to steady things, so also will we. But, as with him, good intentions don’t count when it is not our business. I find I have a perpetual problem handling my own life and things relating to it, much less someone else’s. Believe me; I’ve had to learn the hard way that I am not “Lord,” not even a decent mini “lord.”

Whenever we get involved with someone’s problems, then there are two with problems. That’s poor addition!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

*Going in Circles

It goes without argument; those who go in circles never get anywhere. You’re always meeting yourself coming. And the landscape is the same-old, same-old. Merry-go-rounds can be monotonous, plus you always get off where you got on. Israel spent forty years proving all this to be so.

The above facts are also true when it comes to the Bible. Some spend their lives searching for new scriptures to place into old chiseled grooves they have whittled out on their proof-text wheels. Their lives consist of looking for texts that uphold their old, worn out, man-made dogmas. If it doesn’t fit into their self-made pigeon-holes, it’s of no use to them. This type never has fresh bread but is always serving up the moldy stuff.

But truth is not circular; it is linear. It’s eternal and continuous, not spherical. There is no growth spiritually or intellectually inside a cylinder!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

People Do Change

People do change. This is especially true of Christians who grow in the Lord. Yet, there are some who find it difficult to acknowledge this. This lack of perception is usually to be found in an offended believer, who has supposedly been hurt by one who has matured since the incident occurred.

The offending party’s change will never be seen or accepted by the wounded one as long as bitterness is allowed to fester. Change cannot be seen by the latter, because the individual has not changed themselves. Such people have remained where they were without ever moving on. The irony of it all is that while the one grows and goes on with his or her own life, the other remains a spiritual pygmy.

Jacob had trouble believing there was a change in Esau. It was only after Jacob was changed that he realized his brother was not the same as he had been in the past. Let’s allow in others what we desire for ourselves; the ability to change for the better.

God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it's me. ~Author Unknown

Monday, February 1, 2010

Context is Everything

The first rule you teach a new Christian about Bible study is that context is everything; that is, if one is to properly interpret the scriptures. Sad to say, many are not taught this most important truth about life. Life also is to be interpreted in its context, if we are to understand its meaning. The word interpret comes from the Latin, and means, “to weave together.” You know, like Romans eight twenty eight tells us.

When interpreting life, it’s dangerous to divorce individual events and incidents from their over-all setting. If we do, we will turn exceptions into rules, the temporal into the permanent, the fanciful into reality, and fiction into fact. We are told, as long as the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night, will also. But no one of these is life as a whole; they are only parts of it, making up the whole.

And so, whether our lot is joy or sadness, little or much, sickness or health, victory or defeat, let us remind ourselves that like the seasons, each will change, giving way to the other. Life is always changing. Only God is unchangeable! Therefore, when attempting to understand life, don’t take things out of their context. And remember, God is not part of that context, He is the context. Or as the Apostle tells us, “He is our life.”