Saturday, July 31, 2010

For Ministering Saints

“Thou shalt never wash my feet.” Though I do not believe it to be true in Peter’s case, there are many of us who minister to others who don’t necessarily cherish the thought of being ministered to by someone else, especially if that someone is inferior and lowly in our appraisal. We’d rather choose the one who is to minister to us, that is, if we choose at all. Balaam would never have chosen the instrument to minister and speak the truth to him that God did (2Pet.2:16).

There is something humbling in being ministered to. We do not always like being the recipients. Because of our pride, many of us would rather be the givers. This way, we feel we are no man’s debtor. With our independent spirits, we enjoy giving the impression that we have need of nothing (Rev.3:17). Oh, that more of us were like Apollos! (Acts 18:24-28).

“Every man knows something I do not; therefore every man is my teacher." (Plato)

Dust or Deity

David said, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” God was David’s heart-throb. But sad to say, all of God’s children do not have this throbbing for Him. There are those, “That pant after the dust of the earth...” Some gasp for Deity, others for dust.

“No man can serve two masters,” says Jesus. We cannot have it both ways. Those who want the best of the two worlds, end up getting the worst of both. As the old Puritan said, “A man cannot love health and poison too.” It would be a strange man indeed that did not desire all his wife’s love, admiration, and devotion. With God, no other love can co-exist; He is a jealous Lover.

Those with a divided heart will never get anywhere with God, for part of them will always be going a different direction from Him. Speaking through Isaiah God says, “This people draw near to me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me.” As the Irish say, “They’re speaking from the teeth out.”

Don’t you think it’s about time we heed God’s admonition in Ezekiel, “Go thee one way or other…” There is no middle ground with God. As the late Dr. Tom Malone Sr. used to say, “There isn’t anything in the middle of the road except a yellow line and dead skunks.”

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Giant Step Toward God

“Humble yourselves...” It’s something we can do. Jesus did. The book of Chronicles tells us that humility is the first step toward God. Humility is not thinking little of ourselves, it’s not thinking of ourselves at all. As Bernard said, “Humility is self-annihilation.”

You can’t be God-conscious and self-conscious at the same time. Once we see our horrible, haughty hearts, we are the last person we want to think of. A humble person prefers to be a non-entity. True humility blends with the common. In the garden, they did not know Jesus from His disciples.

Beware of those who display a false humility. This type has a wardrobe full of garments that have a “show of humility” when worn. It’s not the external appearance before man but an internal attitude before God that manifests genuine humility. And God knows the difference, even if others do not.

God promises to exalt the humble, but a truly humble person begs Him not to.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Personal Physician

“Jesus…said…They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.” The “goody-goody-two-shoes” Christian of our day has missed out on a great blessing, a spiritual intimacy with the Divine Doctor. Just as Dr. Luke “the beloved physician” was the constant companion of ailing Paul, so it can be with our Great Physician and us. But only when we get rid of our Laodacean attitude of “I have need of nothing.” Physicians are not found among the healthy, but the hurting. Their place is among the sick.

John Owen said, “The whole may give the physician a good word, but the sick alone know how to prize him.” He went on to say, “The more we are convinced of our depravity and inability from first to last, the more excellent Jesus will appear.” I have found among believers who give the appearance of being whole, boast of their health. While the sick boast of Him.

While on earth, Christians need daily transfusions from their Great Physician.

The Boomerang Effect

“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” Showing mercy to others has a boomerang effect to the one who displays it. The world knows little or nothing of this virtue. Mercy is distinctively a Christian attribute. Mercy is something shown to those who have no claim on it, and mercy knows no retaliation.

The merciful person does good to his soul. Not to show mercy, can be disastrous to one’s life. “For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shown no mercy.” We all might remember if we got our just deserts it would be anything but sweet! “Never forget, what goes around comes around.”

To show mercy to those who have failed builds up a reservoir for us when we do so, and, be assured, we will do so. To make allowances for others in their misery is doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. The Bible’s admonition is to consider ourselves. For someday, we may be sitting on the other side of the table from them.

A visitor (seeking to console the dying Thomas Hooker): Sir, you are going to receive the reward of your labour. Thomas Hooker: Brother, I am going to receive mercy!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Empty Shelves

I believe it was the missionary, C.T. Studd who is purported to have said, “I honestly do not know of anything left in my life that I have not given to the Lord.” A person like that can spend the rest of his days singing, “O Happy Day, O Happy Day.”

The devil’s defeat comes when we can truthfully say to God, “All that I have is thine.” The devil’s delight is when it is recorded of us that we “kept back part.” God is not as concerned with what we give Him, but rather, what we are holding back.

Every Christian needs an indelible sign around their neck that reads: “Sold out.” When Satan comes to tempt us to keep back something for ourselves, he should find the shelves of our lives empty and bare. If we leave him anything, it should be the dust on the shelves. He can eat that all the days of his life (Gen.3:14).

He is no fool, who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. (Jim Elliot)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Proof of God

I personally do not know of a greater proof that “there is a God in heaven” than answered prayer. I think Elijah would be inclined to agree with me. You’ll remember, when challenging the unbelieving religious apostates of his day, he said, “the God that answereth…let him be God.” God did, and the result was “when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God.”

Concerning the existence of God, old Dr. Bob Jones used to give a homespun illustration I thought good. He said if he were in a dark room with all the windows and doors shut from the inside, and he asked for a hamburger, then one suddenly was in his hand, he would be a fool not to admit someone or something was present in that room with him. Christian, He is not only a prayer hearing God, but an answering God!

The book of Hebrews tells us it is impossible to please God unless we believe, not just in His existence, but that He answers prayer (Heb. 11:6). When shut-up in prison God told Jeremiah to “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” Elijah believed a God who could not answer prayer was a laughable God.

George Muller recorded 50,000 answers to prayers that not one living soul knew of except God and him.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sure, You Can

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” This is not an idle boast but a stated fact. Various experiences throughout this old man’s life helped him form this conclusion. He had a firm confidence that Christ would enable him to perform his daily duties both toward God and man. He believed he could bear any trial, perform any task, subdue any evil in his nature, shoulder any burden, and meet any and all temptations, with the strength he derived from the indwelling Christ.

Paul believed he could do what he ought to do. This was not self-confidence, but God-confidence. There was no doubt in his mind that as long as he abode in the vine, he could draw from its life-giving strength, thereby enabling him to meet life’s responsibilities. He did not look at outward circumstances; he looked inward to Christ.

I’ve known some among the so-called learned, who thought of some others as being “a brick short on top.” Yet I’ve seen these same underdogs excel spiritually over their analysts. It has little to do with our intellect, but it has everything to do with the One who indwells. As one teenager said, “I’ve learned that my “I can” is more important than my “I.Q.”

Christ's commandments are His ennoblements!

It's Not the Answer

“Let your moderation be known to all men.” If there is not a moderation of legitimate things in our lives, then there will be a condemnation. When this happens, we believe the answer is abstinence from these God-given enjoyments. And, because we are not disciplined by grace, we impose our restrictions upon others, begrudging them of finding joy in doing those same things which we refuse to be moderate in.

This is why I say the “temperance” movement of old is a misnomer. In actuality, it was the “abstinence” movement. Giving up things you enjoy is not the answer; the answer is found in the inspired word “moderation.” God has given us richly all things to enjoy, but we are not to misuse or abuse these privileges by going to the extreme.

A bar of chocolate is moderation; a box of chocolate is excess. And so it is with all good things in life.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

It's No Trouble

Have you ever called or approached a busy person you wanted help from in a crisis? And have you said to them apologetically, “I hate to trouble you?” Have you noticed those with giant souls always answer, “It’s no trouble at all.”

Jairus’ daughter was at the point of death when her father came to Jesus seeking His help. On the way to Jairus’ home, the Lord stopped temporarily to help another in great need. It was at this interval Jairus’ servants showed up with the discouraging news of his daughter’s demise. And so they added, “…why troublest thou the Master any further?” To which Jesus replied, “Be not afraid, only believe.”

From this story we learn that delays are not denials. Whenever Jesus helps another before us, it is well to remember we never lose by the gain of others. Another important lesson is that our Lord waits in crucial times to show us, man’s extremity is God’s opportunity. When we come to the end of ourselves, it is then we find God. When all hope is taken away, it is then the Lord says unto us, “Only Believe.”

But the central theme of the story is that we are no trouble at all to Christ. Never hesitate to call upon Him at any time and for any thing. If at such times you feel you are a trouble to Him, I assure you, you’ll hear a still, small voice say, “My child, you’re no trouble at all to Me.”

If you’re no trouble to Jesus, then you ought not be troubled!

*The Claims of Christ

I always get a good chuckle when I read an advertisement claiming, “Satisfaction Guaranteed.” Temporal, maybe; permanent, never. If the latter were true, why then would it be necessary to keep going back? “What does not satisfy when we find it, was not the thing we were desiring” (C.S. Lewis).

My wife sings a song, “Only Jesus Can Satisfy Your Soul.” That, my friend, is the only true claim to permanent satisfaction. And what He promises, He is well able to fulfill. As the old preacher used to say, “He saves, He sanctifies, and He satisfies.”

Isaiah posed a question to the elect of his day that we must also answer in ours. Please allow me to paraphrase a little without doing any injustice to the text. “Why spend your life on things which will never satisfy you?” King David, who had everything imaginable to make one happy said, “For [He] satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.”
If “Christ is all,” then He is all you need.

Friday, July 16, 2010

An Extinct Creature

The Bible tells us, “Elijah was a man...” In today’s society, there is a great emphasis on certain forms of life becoming extinct. One particular species that falls under this category is a real man; he is a rare breed. There seems to be few who care that he is passing off the scene. I remember, as a boy, coming from a broken home, and having no masculine example to follow. Yet, in spite of this, my greatest desire was to be a man’s man. This desire has never left me throughout the years. Just because one is a male does not necessarily make him a man. Nor does being a Christian guarantee it.

What is a man? It’s neither brawn nor brains. They come in all different sizes and vary in intellect. But all have one characteristic that marks them: in any situation that arises in life, you can always depend on him to do what needs to be done, on the basis that it simply needs to be done. It matters not to him that his personal safety, comfort, and reputation may be in jeopardy. Therefore, the next time you’re in the presence of these vanishing creatures, bow your head and thank God for him!

He is not without shortcomings. All are aware of them. He doesn’t put cosmetics on his blemishes. What you see is what you get. But of one thing you can be sure; when he faces his Goliath’s in life, He will not run from them, for he doesn’t know how to retreat. His inbred principles will not allow him to flee from his responsibilities. His principles are not negotiable; they are unchangeable. They are not open for debate. To the Christian man, they are eternal principles.

At birth, God refers to him as a “man child,” and this is God’s plan.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The High Road or the Low Road

“Our God…is able to deliver…and he will deliver…But if not…” As Christians, we must be careful that we do not adopt the world’s philosophy. Some of the little clich├ęs we’ve been brought up with may sound good, but they are not scripturally sound. One such saying is, “Plan for the worst and hope for the best.”

But these three Hebrew children did the reverse. They first hoped for the best, and then planned for the worst. To do otherwise is to end up a morose Christian. Gloom-and-doom Christians are of no use to themselves or others. When Jesus went to restore Lazarus to life, it was Thomas who said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” In this case, the little quip, “He lives on the dark side of the moon” was true.

There is no such thing as a pessimistic faith. It is virtually impossible for a child of God to be pessimistic if he or she really believes an optimistic verse like Romans 8:28. But therein may lay the whole problem. To quote it to others is one thing; to personally appropriate it by faith to one’s own life, is quite another.

An optimist always takes the high road; a pessimist the low road. And the twain never meet.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Only God Can Please God.

My dearest friend, Marvin Clanton, now with the Lord, used to say, “Only God can please God.” This statement went over the heads of most Christians. It was so profound; they didn’t realize the depth of it. They simply passed it off as another one of this strange country preacher’s sayings.

But Marv was only echoing what Paul said to the Hebrews in the Book by that name. In the thirteenth chapter, verse twenty-one, he tells them that God is “working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight.” We see this truth exemplified in faith. Without it, we cannot please God; but we are told it is a gift from God. Hence, only God can please God.

Why then is God not more pleased through our lives by the things He gives us? A good illustration of this is found in Hannah. She was barren, and asked the Lord for a child. She promised to give him back to God if He would only answer her prayer. So the Lord gave this woman something, who had nothing, and she offered it back to Him in appreciation. Thus, God was pleased. In the case of most of us, we keep our “Samuels.”

God’s gifts and blessings are conceived in Heaven, given birth on earth, and are to be presented back to Him in thanksgiving. It is a re-cycling process. David knew this. Speaking to the Lord, he says, “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given them” Mary, the mother of our Lord, said “Amen” to this statement, in the temple, after the birth of Jesus.

All our darling “Isaacs” are from God, therefore, they are to be offered back to Him.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Slain in the Sun

Our Lord had just performed the miracle of feeding the multitude. They come now to make Him King. What does He do? He goes immediately into seclusion. He flees alone unto a mountain to pray, realizing the danger that exists after great spiritual feats. It is at these times the devil lifts us up with pride, that we might fall into his snare. But our Lord was not “ignorant of his devices.” He shut Himself up alone with His Father.

I find we all are given to prayer up to our successes. But there seems to be a cessation while enjoying our victories. We have a way of remembering God in our battles, but forgetting Him in times of peace. There is sweet communion with Him as we travel, but a parting from His company after we arrive. It is easy for Christians at such times to become “practical atheists.” Our only security after personal achievements is to go alone to our mountain to pray. I must see God at noonday as well as in the night.

After our Lord’s return from His private communion with God, He performs even greater miracles. He had satisfied the hungry; now He stills the storm. If we, like Jesus, remain humble and dependent on God during our triumphs, then it can truly be said of us, “Greater works than these shall ye do.”

It would be well for all to remember, when basking in the sunshine of victory, that destruction can come at noonday, and that the arrow “flieth by day.”

Spiritual Muscle

When Paul says, “…bodily exercise profiteth little,” he is not saying it is of no value. The context is in comparison to godliness. In this respect its worth decreases. For we are told “…godliness…is great gain.” Its spiritual muscle we are to be concerned with first and foremost, not physical.

Spiritual Atlas’s are a result of “…exercis[ing] thyself rather unto godliness.” I’ve seen those who proudly flex their manly muscles, but who are constantly penned to the mat by their sins. Samson would be a good example of this.

Not one of us would be impressed with the “little” (the meaning of his name) Apostle Paul’s appearance. For it is said of him that “…his bodily presence [was] weak.” I doubt the 195 stripes on his back, and the scars left from being beaten with rods, and stoned with rocks, left anything to be desired in that blessed body. But Oh, the power that dwelt in that broken, earthen vessel!

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
(2Cor.4:7)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Use of the Little

“And Jesus…saith unto them, Have faith in God.” Not all Christians live on the same plane of faith. There are different degrees. We read in the Scriptures of “no faith,” “little faith,” “great faith,” and “so great faith.” All of us, I’m sure, desire to live life possessing one of the latter two. But raw reality proves most of us manifest one of the first two.

We need to learn to use the faith we have. You’ll remember the distraught father who cried out, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief,” saw a miracle performed because he used what faith he had. And we are told, though Peter’s faith wavered with the waves, he still, miraculously, “walked on water,” having only “little faith.” It is possible for the feeblest believer, with the weakest faith, to see God do great things. Jesus said, if we’ll sow the mustard seed of faith, it will grow into something great.

"Weak faith" no matter how feeble, if it lies in Christ is still a true faith.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Indwelling Sin

Three times in Romans chapter seven the Apostle tells us sin dwells in us. The emphasis today is on the outward results of sin, not the inward reality of it. It is only that person who understands indwelling sin who is useful to and fruitful for God.

Our very nature is opposed to God. Every act of sin shows the old nature being antagonistic toward God. No area of our life is secured without a struggle. When we would do good, evil is always there to fight against it. There is a continual civil war going on within each of us, and it will remain so “till death do us part.” This is why we are to, “put no confidence in the flesh.” We are to have a habitual distrust in ourselves.

In our modern day we no longer blame sinfulness, but replace it with “sickness.” We want external reformation, without the Spirit’s internal regeneration. Outward cosmetic surgery will not change the inward condition of the heart. The Puritan, John Owen, dreamed for “a commonwealth of godliness,” but saw it all collapse. The political aspiration he had for his beloved nation burst like soap bubbles. He saw clearly, in the latter part of his life, that the reality of it all was indwelling sin.

“What shall it profit a man if he
[change] the world, and lose his own soul?”

Monday, July 5, 2010

*One Way Out

“...a man...whom God hath hedged in.” Job is not the only one God ever boxed in. David said, “I am shut up and cannot come forth.” Jeremiah: “I am shut up and cannot go.” Of Noah it is written, “The Lord shut him in.” And John was “shut up in prison.” The Divine Record tells us of Moses and God’s people that “The wilderness hath shut them in.” All were shut in, but they were not shut out.

Moody said, “The devil can put a wall around you, but he can’t put a roof on it.” A Christian may be imprisoned by circumstances, but you can’t keep him from God. You may circumvent him, but he is free vertically.

Madame Guyon, a cultured French woman, was imprisoned for her faith from 1695-1705. While in prison she testified that she had great peace as she sang praises to God. She tells us how the stones of her prison walls shone like rubies in her eyes. It was during this time that she wrote one of her choicest hymns. One verse goes like this:

My cage confines me round,
Abroad I cannot fly,
But though my wing is closely bound,
My heart’s at liberty.
My prison walls cannot control
The flight, the freedom of the soul.

Better the will of God that I be shut in with Him, than my will and shut out from Him.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

*Stay Connected

“For without me ye can do nothing.” That is, separate from me—the expression implies dependence. John Newton writes, “We are never safer, never have more reason to expect the Lord’s help, than when we are most sensible that we can do nothing without Him.”

King David, on four different occasions in Psalms said, “I am poor and needy.” The king, before the King of Kings, saw himself a pauper. Such a poverty of spirit will never be denied before the throne of grace. It is when strong Paul acknowledged his weakness and insufficiency before God that he found the Lord’s all-sufficient strength.

When a Christian lives his life independent of God, he loses his fellowship with God.

Friday, July 2, 2010

*Born Procrastinators

“And Moses said unto Pharaoh...when shall I intreat for thee…to destroy the frogs from thee and thy houses, [that] they may remain in the river only? And he said, To morrow.”
A preacher I knew many years ago had a sermon on this text entitled, “One More Night With the Frogs.” I am sure many of you who are familiar with this story, like me, have wondered about Pharaoh’s choice. Why one more night of misery, when it could have been taken care of then and there? As the old saying goes, “Why put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” When serving as pastor, I used to tell my people, “I’m gonna never did nothin.”

I do not know Pharaoh’s reason for waiting, but I have observed most of us are born procrastinators. Diets started, jobs to be done, apologies needed, sins righted, old debts settled, along with an innumerable list, are generally put off until tomorrow. The little quip, “Tomorrow never comes,” seems to fit our particular situation every time. In spite of Bible admonitions such as, “Now is the time,” and, “Boast not thyself of tomorrow.”

Procrastination is opportunity's assassin. ~Victor Kiam

*Scars

Scars are generally a reminder of an unpleasant or painful experience. We hear much today about emotional scars. In this psychological age that overemphasizes particularly ugly incidents in one’s life, it is easy to major on a minor. It would be well for us to remember, a scar is only a part of the whole, not the whole itself.

One of Webster’s definitions for the word “scar” is “a mark left by a healed wound, sore, or burn.” By this you can see a scar could be seen as something good also. It is a sign that one has been healed from whatever affliction they have suffered. It is important for we who have emotional and psychological scars to realize the hurt is over, and the unpleasantness is behind us. I might add a scar leaves one tougher. A scar can take more than the sensitive skin around it.

We who bear unsightly scars need not worry about the world around us gawking, with their self-righteous pity, for God has arranged for such things. You see, the Lord is a very good cosmetologist. When He gets through with His procedure, even loved ones lose consciousness of the hideous scars we bear.

What deep wounds ever closed without a scar? ~George Gordon, Lord Byron, Child Harold's Pilgrimage

Thursday, July 1, 2010

*A Wonderful Word: "Friend"

It has been said, “A friend is someone coming in, when others are going out.” To our dismay, many of us have found this to be true from personal experience. It is these types that are known as fair-weather friends. How we need to hold to and cherish that small circle of genuine friends, of whom it is said stick closer than a brother and love us at all times.

I heard an old preacher once say, “If, when you die, you can count your true friends on one hand, consider yourself blessed.” As I get older, I find myself agreeing with this more and more. As you pass through the fiery trials of life, you’ll find few supposed friends indeed will be in your company on the other side of the furnace. But what a treasure those are who are there to greet you!

David and Jonathan give us a picture of an authentic friendship. In this knitted relationship we see that David needed Jonathan more than Jonathan did David. That is the way I feel toward my few friends. O how much I need them, more than they will ever know!

I have friends in overalls whose friendship I would not swap for the favor of the kings of the world. ~Thomas A. Edison