Friday, April 30, 2010

Ripening

Some of the definitions the dictionary gives for the word ripe are: ready to harvest; sufficient age; fully developed; mature; seasoned; mellow. As we grow older in the Lord these synonyms ought to characterize our lives.

Billy Graham’s third daughter, Ruth, has written a book entitled, Things I Learned from My Father. In describing the change the years have brought to his life she writes, “I am much more warmed by the embers than I ever was by the fire.” She goes on to quote what her father’s pastor used to say to him on various occasions, “Billy, the older you get the more like yourself you become.”

When I was just a young convert and dismayed with my spiritual development, my brother-in-law gave me some great words of encouragement. He said, “I’m not what I wanna be; I’m not what I oughta be; I’m not what I’m gonna be; but, thank God, I’m more than I used to be!”

I don’t know about you, but when God calls me home, I want to be ripe for the pickin’.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Rose by Any Other Name is Still a Rose

While reading George MacDonald recently I came across one brief line that gave birth to this article. I find great writers say little, but like the small acorn, much comes from it.

The statement MacDonald used that caught my attention was this: “Jesus would not change into another thing what His Father had made into one thing.” That is, He would not change a stone into bread. If God said it is a stone, the Son would not say it is a loaf.

When Jesus changed the water into wine, it was still a liquid substance. When God changes a sinner into a saint, he remains a part of the human race. But I find many of us try to deny this by, as my Son Andrew says, “Running from our humanity.”

When I was associated with the Deeper Life groups I found most, if not all its adherence refused to accept that they were who they were. Paul states it this way, “I am what I am.” Or as my wife wrote in one of her articles, “It is what it is.”

When Jesus spoke of denying self, it was in reference to rights, not recognition. When the Holy Spirit comes into one’s life, his or her principles are converted from ones of depravity to that of Deity. Your tastes, likes, and temperament stay the same, but are now governed by the Divine Nature.

If you want to live a happy, contented life, I would strongly advise you to accept your humanity, live in the Word, obey it the best you can, and take it a day at a time. It will work, if you work it. It works for me!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

*Walking on Land

My wife spoke to me recently of a gospel song she heard that gave me the ideal for this article. I wonder if part of Peter’s failure to walk on water stemmed from the fact he had not learned to walk on land. Many Christians want to skip over basic math to trigonometry. They can’t add 2 and 2, yet they somehow think they can figure out life’s more difficult and perplexing problems.

I’m always amused to hear someone whose life is in shambles advise others in the same situation. That is, on how they can build their own unstructured lives. It’s kind of like a blind man instructing another blind man how to build his house. When will we learn, we can’t do great things until we first learn to do little things faithfully. We’ll never be able to walk supernaturally on water till we have learned to walk straight on land.

God will not put the “Super” in front of the “Natural” in our lives unless we do a good job with the latter first.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sheep and Giraffe's

Oswald Chambers writes, “Beware of posing as a profound person; God became a Baby.” In this pseudo-intellectual philosophical, and supposedly enlightened age, it is not difficult to pass one’s self off as being a deep person. Especially impressed are those who have voluntarily chosen to unashamedly adorn a “Dunce’s Cap.” They ignorantly and mistakenly interpret shallow muddy waters as being deep.

Any seven or eight year old child, brought up in a Christian home, can understand the Sermon on the Mount, which was spoken by the ONE who possessed the greatest mind that ever graced this earth. One of the impressive characteristics of this MAN, who was the incarnation of eternal knowledge, was His “Intellectual Simplicity.” He was more concerned with instilling truth in His hearers, than impressing them with it.

Dr. Bob Jones Sr. used to say, “Simplicity is life’s most becoming garb.” Paul feared the intellectual Corinthians would lose sight of the, “simplicity that is in Christ.” Sublime simplicity, that was our Lord! It takes real humility for a great mind to “put the cookies on the bottom shelf,” so to speak. This way, those that are of lesser intellectual stature can enjoy and digest what the great minds feed on. At a zoo, I once saw the giraffes and sheep feed together. The fodder was kept low for the sheep, and all the giraffe had to do was bow his proud neck.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Defective Knowledge

“Jesus saith…Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me?” Philip had been with Jesus three years. During this time he had eaten with Him, slept near Him, heard His teachings, and listened to His prayers. But what’s even more important is the fact that this Disciple, along with the others, had seen His Lord raise the dead, cast out demons, heal the sick, walk on water, and tell people their innermost thoughts. Displaying attributes as these (omnipotence and omniscience), could only be ascribed to God Himself.

But in spite of Philip being with Jesus so long a time, he, like so many Christians today, possessed a defective knowledge of Christ. True, he knew Him as the Son of God, but had not yet comprehended Him as God the Son. You might say he had entered the Holy Place: feeding on the Word (Shew-bread); praying (Altar of incense); and enjoying light (Golden candlestick). But he had not yet entered the Holy of Holies, where God alone was! So often, God’s people never grasp the fact these three things are means to take us into God’s very presence, that we might worship Him alone.

Philip had ignorantly requested, “Lord, shew us the Father.” Poor soul, he was asking for something he already had. If you have Jesus, you have God! As Matthew Henry so ably wrote, “Many know Christ, who yet do not know what they might know of him.”

Friday, April 23, 2010

Lasting Relationships

“The Lord be between thee and me for ever.” These words were spoken to David by his good and dear friend, Jonathan. Never was there a human relationship stronger than that of these two inseparable friends. A relationship in which, we are told, “The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David.” It lasted up to the grave and even beyond. This bond was pure, honorable, and godly, linked together by a Man in-between, holding each of their hands.

Contrary to popular opinion, lasting relationships are not held together by: things you have in common; your children; deep feelings; physical attraction; or mutual affirmation (You pat my back, and I’ll pat yours). An enduring union is, if you’ll pardon the expression, glued, mortared, and yes, cemented together, by Jesus Christ. If He joins two spouses, friends, or associates, no one can unknot the tie. Unless, of course, one of the partners grows weary of the MAN-in-the-middle. This Blessed go-between keeps relationships sweet. He works out all differences, while still keeping the duet on key and in harmony.

If one or both in a relationship do not want Jesus Christ to have pre-eminence, then there can never be a lasting relationship!

Born Losers

Through the years, when in the presence of real Spiritual thinkers, I have discussed at length the baffling question, “Are certain people born losers”? With some, it seems no matter how much prayer, time, or help you put into them; they are doomed to a life of defeat. Even those nourished up in the Lord, as Samson was.

Is it that they cannot because they will not; or they will not because they cannot? I have come to believe there is an element of truth in both. Isaiah tells us, “[God] hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see.” But Jesus said, referring to this text, “…their eyes[ they] have closed.” It seems that because they would not, God fixed it so that they could not.

What an awesome thought! It is no light thing trifling with one’s Christian life. Esau treated sacred things flippantly, and afterward, when he saw the folly of doing so, he sought to repent; but we are plainly told he could not. No doubt this was Paul’s concern when he mentioned being a castaway.

We need to get serious about our lives, for we are dealing with a serious God. Is it any wonder the Apostle admonishes us to, “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Like all things worthwhile, you have to work at it. And as they say, “It will work if you work it.” So let us all get to work!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Peeking in Prayer

On more than one occasion, Jesus admonished His followers to, “…watch and pray.” In other words, it’s alright to pray with one eye open. Maybe our children are more scriptural than we realize! :>) For some reason we’ve gotten it in our heads that the watching part is not as important as the praying. I guess the latter seems more spiritual to us. But our Lord tells us we are just as responsible to do the one as the other.

Most certainly, the watchman watches in vain if there is no prayer, but it needs to be emphasized that the prayer is in vain also, if one is not watching. You don’t want to be praying when you’re supposed to be watching, (and vice-versa). If the good man of the house would have been watching, the thief would not have walked away with his goods; so says Jesus. The devil will rob you of everything you hold precious, if all you do is pray.

Peter, like most of us, learned this lesson the hard way. It’s interesting that years after his tragic fall, he warns other believers, “…watch unto prayer.”

Yes, let us pray, but let us also be sure to keep an eye open.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Raw Christianity

What do I mean when I use the term, “Raw Christianity?” I am simply speaking of those stalwart saints who go on in life without the aid of all the fanfare of today’s modern religious tripe tacked on to them. Those rare, red blooded, unprocessed, natural souls; whom God has stripped and laid bare on His altar of sacrifice for all to behold; as the smell of their sweet savor ascends to the nostrils of God.

These unsung heroes are all around us. Count yourself blessed if you have rubbed shoulders with any of them. And consider yourself even more privileged if the Lord has sorted you out to join their ranks. Who would not count it an honor to stand along side these “living sacrifices?” Suffering in body, forsaken by loved ones, and having lost all that’s precious, they display countenances as “the face of an angel.”

When our Lord said, “Take up your cross,” He was telling us it is a voluntary thing. It is our choice; we can pick it up or put it down. Many today, I’m afraid, have preferred doing the latter. They have elected to follow the fun and games crowd over following the “Lamb to the slaughter.” Whenever one saw an individual carrying a cross in Jesus day, they certainly knew he or she was not headed for an ice cream social! As A.W. Tozer brings out in one of his books on the Cross, the one thing we can be sure of, a cross crucifies its occupant.

Historical Christianity is the story of God’s people triumphing over suffering. And it began with its Blessed Founder!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Deceptive Desires

I do not know the motive of James and John when they desired of the Lord that each might sit next to Him in His Kingdom. I do know we can have deceptive desires. A request can be right, but the motive wrong. James tells us, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” A good cross-reference to this would be Israel in their wilderness journeying, “…they tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust.”

If we are persistent in our carnal desires, God may grant them to us, but realize this: something else will accompany them. “And he gave them their request; but sent leanness unto their soul.” It is possible to have a full life, but with an empty soul. Read the book of Ecclesiastes if you doubt this. Having what you want doesn’t mean having what you need. For this reason, every prayer should end with, “…nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” After all, Father knows best.

It’s always safe to desire “HIM” above all your desires!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Holiness

One of, if not the most misunderstood words among Christians is the word “holiness.” Not only today, but in past years, it has been both misused and abused. Some believe it to mean sinless perfection; but that cannot be, for holiness is associated with places and things, as well as people. And Paul tells us to, “[Perfect] holiness.” That is, you can improve on it.

The Bible is its own interpreter, dictionary, and commentary, as well as being self-corrective (typographical errors, etc.). We are told in Luke 2:23, “As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.” When we look up the reference in Ex.13:2 and12, we find these words, Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, [both] of man and of beast: it [is] mine.” Verse 12, “Thou shalt set apart unto the LORD all that openeth the matrix, and every firstling that cometh of a beast which thou hast; the males shall be] the LORD'S.” Note matrix is also interpreted.

Without going to the Hebrew or Greek, we find holy, sanctify, and set apart, are all synonymous. And all three have to do with ownership, “It is mine...[it] shall be the LORD’S.” A Pharisee was more separated than say, Simon; but the former was not holy, he did not belong to the Lord. The question of holiness is not what you do or don’t do; it’s does He own you?

Many separatist boast of things they’ve given-up for the Lord, who has never given-in to the Lord!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Simple, Not Simpleton

“…the simplicity that is in Christ." One of Webster's definitions for simplicity is: "freedom from complexity." The apostle is not advocating Christ's followers be simpletons, but rather to keep their lives uncomplicated. I know many people who complicate the simple. It goes without saying, that these many create many unnecessary problems for themselves.

Studying the life of Christ or that of the early Church, the one thing that stands out above all else is the utter simplicity that governed their lives. Whether it was in their praying, preaching, witnessing, giving, or church services, it was simple. There was nothing complicated about them. I used to tell my staff, "Plan it big, but keep it simple." In our complicated world today, it is wise for all of us to come back to the "simplicity that is in Christ."

“Simplicity is life's most becoming garb.” Bob Jones, Sr.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Silence of God

As a young preacher I had an older pastor friend who would remain silent during most conversations, but when he did speak, it was worth listening to. Of course, such a person drove an impetuous novice like me up a wall.

Throughout the Bible, at certain times, we find a muted God. But the silence of God should not be always interpreted as His disapproval; it can mean the opposite. The wise man tells us, “There is a time to keep silence.” And God always follows His own teachings.

In the Old Testament book of Psalms, David spoke much of God’s silence. In the New Testament our Lord, if you’ll pardon the expression, gave the silent treatment to a number of people who came to Him in dire need (Matt.15:22-23). But never did He remain silent indefinitely. Sooner or later He spoke; and when He did, it was not with wasted words. And so it will be with you and me.

Between the two Testaments there is what Bible students refer to as, “The Four Hundred Silent Years.” An interval when God did not speak, though He was actively working behind the scene. Admittedly, that is a long period; kingdoms can rise, decline, fall, and be forgotten in less time. But when He did break His silence, it was worth the wait. For the voice that came from heaven introduced His Son to the world, “This is my Bloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Main Goal

There is no question; we are living in a goal-oriented age. Goals are good if we prioritize them. That is, if at the top of the list we have God as our main goal. Augustine said, “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” Any goal achieved without God will always leave one empty and unfulfilled.

In the beginning, Adam had no goal but God until the devil came on the scene with his competitive goals. Satan subtly tempts Christians to set spiritual goals to get them to take their eyes off God. To mention a few, soul-winning, Bible reading, missions giving, etc. In Pilgrim’s Progress, we see how the devil used every means to turn Christian aside from his one main goal.

It’s true that as we run the race of life, with Christ set before us as our Goal, we may fall from time to time. But as one has said, “Some goals are so worthy, it’s glorious even to fall.”

Thursday, April 8, 2010

P.T. Barmum Was Right

“There’s a sucker born every minute.” This phrase is generally credited to P.T. Barmum (1810-1891), an American showman. It’s normally taken to mean there are (and always will be) a lot of gullible people in the world. Christians are constantly warned in scriptures of being deceived. Yet, in spite of this, many are willing to swallow poisonous teaching if some portion of the Bible is an additive in the mixture. I’d remind our na├»ve friends that the devil can quote the scriptures (Matt.4: 5-6).

Let me site an example of the above. In a recent article in Newsmax, a tel-evangelist and his preacher wife, who preach the Health and Wealth gospel, was interviewed concerning today’s dire economy. During the discussion he made this statement, “You can’t have faith if you don’t first have hope.” Now a person wouldn’t have to have a thimble full of Bible knowledge to see through such a asinine statement as this. The apostle Paul, during a dreadful time said, “I believe God.” But this was said only after it was recorded, “When all hope was taken away.”

Faith brings hope, not the opposite. We are told of Abraham, “Who against hope believed in hope.” When there is no hope that is when faith creates it. “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” It does not say, “without hope.” Nothing comes before faith other than the object you’re trusting in. And that is not hope, THAT IS GOD!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Intellectual Love

When thinking of love we do not generally equate it with the intellectual part of a person, but rather their emotional side. We mistakenly associate love with the heart only and not the head. But Jesus taught His followers that the first and great commandment was not only to love God with all your heart, but also with the entire mind.

There is nothing more dangerous than an ignorant love. I was once at the scene when a six year old boy was hit by a car as he followed some older boys across the street. A passerby had the child lie still until the ambulance arrived. In the mean time, his mother, who lived nearby, rushed to the sight, pushed through the crowd, picked up her son, and pressed him to her bosom, weeping. There is no question that was a display of true love; but had the boy a broken back, that mother’s love would have, at the least, crippled him for life.

Heart love by itself leaves one clueless as to the right actions to be taken in any and all situations. On the other hand, a love that remains in the confines of the head, never traveling a few inches downward, will result in coldness. One cannot allow the heart to rule the head; remember, God warned us that a deceiver occupies a room there. The Bible teaches a two witness principle. Until these two are in perfect agreement, it’s safe to not make any major moves or decisions. It takes two wings to fly.

You can always trust a sanctified mind and a purified heart to be in agreement.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Lesser Prophet

The true prophets and prophetesses were a succession of messengers raised up by God during times of decline and apostasy. They were revivalists and patriots. They spoke to the heart and conscience of the people.

The Biblical meaning of the word is “one who stands in the place of” (Ex. 7:1). They were not only predictive prophets, but non-predictive. All predictive prophecy is prophecy, but not all prophecy is predictive. There were prophets who were foretellers; but there were also those who were forth-tellers.

It is in this latter sense that Paul tells the Corinthian believers that they may all prophesy (be forth-tellers). There are major and minor prophets in the Scriptures, but I like to refer to that small remnant of believers who are going among our nation, calling it back to God, as “lesser prophets.” After all, a lesser prophet is no less a prophet.

As we mingle among the crowds, may we be faithful in forth-telling of God’s longing to have His people return to Him, their only real resting place (Isa.30:15). For all who hear and heed us miniature prophets and prophetesses, it will be to their profit.

“And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come,) then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them.”

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Spice of Life

Christ is the main ingredient in the Christian’s life. He is to be “…all, and in all.” Prayer without His presence is simply spending time alone with yourself. And, be assured, it is not quality time! Without Him, witnessing is just so much jibber-jabber. Bible reading becomes boring if we neglect to see Him on every page. And, if in preaching He is not the main theme, then it is all theatrics, and the poor preacher becomes as a court jester, simply entertaining everyone.

If your life is bland and tasteless, you’ll find after investigation that Jesus is the missing ingredient in it. He is the spice of life! He adds a Divine, Heavenly flavor to everything in life. He can make every bitter thing sweet, when He is put into it (Exo.15:23-25).

As Matthew Henry’s father, Phillip, wrote, “What is a sick man’s all in all? a physician; a condemned man’s? a pardon; a captive’s? a ransom; a hungry man’s? food; a thirsty man’s? drink; a man in debt’s? a surety. This, in all respects, is our condition, and all this He is to us.”

“He who has Christ can have no more, for Christ is all.” (Thomas Watson)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Life and Death

One of the great lines in the movie Braveheart is, “Every man dies, but not every man lives.” How sad to have been born in this world, but never to have lived, only existed. I can understand this when found in the unregenerate, but in a Christian, it’s beyond my comprehension. How does a professing child of God reconcile his or her miserable life with, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

I have found those who enjoy life most, are those who refuse to let Herculean problems stop them. Unlike Israel of old, who ran from their giant, these brave souls emulate David, who not only ran toward, but dared to defy his Goliath. There is no such thing as a happy coward. To quote another line from a great movie, The Magnificent Seven, “Cowards die many deaths, the courageous die only once.”

Child of God, there is no reason for you to ever run from your Colossus with such promises as these. "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Ro.8:27). “God…always causeth us to triumph in Christ” (11 Cor. 2:14). “For whosoever is born of God overcometh the world” (1Jn.2:4). “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Cor.15:57).

Joshua told the people to “…divide the spoil…with your brethren.” Don’t you want to be a warrior in this world? You’ll never have anything to share with others if you’re not. As the saying goes, “To the victor go the spoils.”

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Worth of a Saint

My wife has a note in her Bible, I think from an Andrew Murray book, hat goes something like this: “The worth of a thing is seen in how much you’re willing to pay for it.”

To buy us out of this sinful world God paid the supreme price. But when selling us back to the world (because of our sins), He gets nothing. The Psalmist tells us, “Thou sellest thy people for nought, and dost not increase [thy wealth] by their price.

We are worth everything to Him, but nothing to the world. In other words, a saint is of value to no one but God. He didn’t buy us because of what He saw in us, but in what He could make of us. He takes our nothing and makes it into something.

Oh that God’s people would learn, especially the younger generation, that they are of value only to God. For it is He, and He alone, that can turn a life from “rags to riches”. As old Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. said, “Who wants to serve a world that puts your name up in lights one night, and throws you in the gutter the next?”

He gave Himself for you; will you give yourself to Him?