Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 A.D.

Some incorrectly refer to the abbreviation A.D. as "After the Death." But actually, it is the abbreviation for Anno Domini, Latin for 'The Year of Our Lord.” And may I add, whatever the year, it will always be a great year when one submits to and accepts the lordship of Jesus Christ in his or her lives.

Peter, in his Pentecostal sermon tells us, “God hath made…Jesus...both Lord and Christ.” Often we hear it said that one needs to “make” Jesus Lord of his or her life. But this is not so; God has already made Him Lord; all that is left for us to do is to acknowledge and submit to this fact. But, if not, He’s still Lord! Man’s choice doesn’t change God’s Truth.

All creation obeys Him as Lord, that is, with one exception: mankind. Isaiah writes, “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but [My people] doth not know.” Jesus says to those of His day, “Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” here we see the test of Lordship is doing what He says.

“Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.” Lordship is settled in Heaven. We need to settle it on earth.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Regrets

Anyone the least familiar with the life of Paul knows he had regrets concerning his past. Hauling both men and women off to filthy prisons, to be tortured, depriving their little ones of a mother and father; persecuting the “Little Flock,” for whom their Good Shepherd had shed His life’s blood; approving the stoning death of the first Christian martyr, Steven, with his angelic countenance branded into Paul’s conscience, never to be forgotten; and worse of all, the memory of his insane hatred for the One he now loved, served, adored, and worshiped.

But this stalwart Christian was not crippled by vain regrets. In other words, he did not let his past paralyze him. He was not a member of the morose crowd who are incessantly whining, “If I had only…” He knew he couldn’t recall the past. He knew he couldn’t gather up spilt milk, so he poured himself a fresh cup. He didn’t waste time praying about the past but got up and started doing something in the present. He did not worry about what he could not affect or change in the past. In Paul’s mind, it was wrong to mortgage the present with the past. He followed his Lord’s instructions, when He said, “Let the dead bury the dead.”

Satchel Paige, that great relief pitcher for the Cleveland Indians in the 40’s, had some great home-spun philosophies, one of which was, “Don’t look back; dey might be gainin’ on ya.” Paul would have said, “Amen” to that statement, for the Apostle had written over two thousand years ago, “Forgetting those which are behind.”

God can give us a crop in one year that makes up for ten. (Joel 2:25) M.L. Jones.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

You Think So, Huh?

“But Naaman was wroth…and said, Behold, I thought, he will surely…” God did not do things according to this man’s pre-existing ideas. And as a result, like the Irish say, he became “out of sorts.” His mistake is one we still make today. We fancy ourselves imagining how the Lord will pull off certain things for us in our lives.

When we have big expectations of the way God will do certain things, we are in danger of being miffed with God when He voids them. To have such a mindset is to set oneself up for a let down. Naaman said, “I thought,” but God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts.”

A popular advertisement says, “Take the bus, and leave the driving to us.’ Let’s make our requests and leave all the details and intricacies to Him.

When we ask God to do something for us, it is well to remember, beggars can’t be choosers.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Knocked Down, Not Knocked Out

"Abram went down...Abram went up... [Abram] went on." The Christian life is not without its failures. For, as long as we are in this flesh, we will experience them from time to time, as our father Abraham did. The secret is being able to bounce back, so to speak. We are told in the New Testament we are to follow Abraham's example. If that be the case, when we go down, we are to come up and go on.

Throughout the Bible, we see this characteristic in the saints who endured. Jacob, Moses, David, Elijah, Peter, Paul—all illustrate that one can have a successful comeback after a severe set back. Complete recovery is always possible in a regenerated, repentant believer.

The greatest disgrace is not in getting knocked down, but in not getting up.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

First in Line

Jesus said it is a wicked person who has been forgiven, but refuses to do the same for another. Each of us ought to be fighting for first place in line when it has to do with forgiving others. But most of us drop back to the end of the queue when we come face to face with forgiving ourselves. We’ll forgive others 490 times, but will not forgive ourselves once.

To be sure, a person who longs for, and cries out daily for our forgiveness, should be granted it. God freely forgives us, yet we deny that same person forgiveness. I like the way C.S. Lewis puts it: “I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.”

There is nothing but misery where one party will not forgive the other. So, why not forgive yourself, start new, and cease from that miserable life you’re living? After all, you have probably forgiven others of much worse things.

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. ~Lewis B. Smedes

Friday, December 24, 2010

Note to following article

After re-reading my article, "Inspecting the Lamb," I need to make a clarification. I am aware it was Pilate who actually uttered the words, "I find no fault in him." But Annas, the High Priest (Lk.3:2 cp. Acts 4:16), was the first to head Jesus toward his death, and like the O.T. priest, approved this Lamb to be slain, admitting unwittingly, unconsciously, and inaudibly that there was no fault in Him. But he did not actually say the words. Sorry for not making this clearer.

Richard

Inspecting “The Lamb”.

In Old Testament times, when an Israelite brought his sacrifice to the High Priest for inspection, he did not examine the offerer, but the offered. He checked the Lamb to see if it had any spots or blemishes, not the one who presented it. This, no doubt, is what Paul is referring to in Ephesians, where he pens, “He hath made us accepted in the beloved.”

You’ll remember when Jacob was about to meet his brother Esau, who had promised wrath upon this one who had wronged him years previous. And so Jacob, knowing he would soon face his elder brother, sent a gift ahead of him, hoping to satisfy Esau. For, said Jacob, “I will appease him with the present that goeth before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me.”

When the High Priest inspected Jesus the night before His death, before He was placed upon the altar of sacrifice, the High priest, unknowingly, but officially, declared Him approved for sacrifice; for he said of this unblemished Lamb, “I find no fault in Him.” The book of Hebrews tells us, Jesus is our “forerunner,” that is, He went on ahead to present Himself to God on our behalf. And we never have to fear seeing God’s face, for “He hath made us accepted in the beloved.” GLORY! GLORY! GLORY! What a God!

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Logical Explanation

“And the Jews marvelled, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?” Is there anything in your life that cannot be explained apart from God? If not, pray tell me, how then can we profess to be followers of the Lord? Paul certainly exemplified this fact in his own life and ministry: “They glorified God in me.” The world’s testimony when beholding God’s elect should be, “God is in them, of a truth.” Anything short of this will never convince the Christ-less.

If, when being discussed among the natural and carnal, our lives and gifts can be logically and reasonably explained, then the blinders will remain upon their eyes. The thing that reconciled those in Bible times unto God, says the Apostle, was the fact, they saw “God in Christ.” And now, He has committed this ministry unto us. People of our day are to see “Christ in us,” (2 Cor.5:18-20).

Characteristic words of our unexplainable Lord and His children are: amazed, marvelled, wondered, astonied, speechless. Do any of these descriptive terms depict us? It is written of those early believers, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” I’d like for people to say of me, “He has been with Jesus.” Wouldn’t you?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

“Indian-giver”

“Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” I must admit to taking back things after I have given them to the Lord. And, like Moses’ rod, the supernatural turns back into the natural when I again put my hands to it. It’s possible to begin right, but end wrong.

How I am tempted to put my finishing touches to the canvass after God completes His picture. I ruin everything when I do this. There is no trouble as long as it seems impossible. It is when God is coming to the end of His work that it seems plausible for me to pick up a brush to dab my dull colors in His bright artistry. We amateurs need to stay out of the Professional’s way.

Every time I put my “two-cent’s-worth” to God’s work, I cheapen it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Old Watering Hole

As crude as it may sound to some of the “elitists,” nevertheless, the local church, if nothing else, is a watering hole for God’s thirsty sheep. Far too many of God’s lambs, in their desert journey, are leaving their designated wells with parched lips. Water is a necessity for life, physical or Spiritual, and without it we die!

But if, perchance, in some cases there is some water, a host of the shepherds are offering it to goats, which they have made their first priority. But the Great Shepherd said, “Let the children first be filled.” I’ve seen water being dipped out to those who may or may not become sheep, while the real sheep find the bucket empty when it gets to them.

Isaac was a well-digger. What a thrill it must have been passing through that barren land when his servants said to him, “We have found water.” And what a joy it is to hear a saint say of his or her local church, “I have found water!” May every pastor's testimony toward his flock be, "Their soul shall be as a watered garden."

“Sabbath-days are well-days in the desert journey, days when we fill the waterskins, to journey on to another well.”
(Andrew A. Bonar)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Always the Same

“Jesus Christ the same…to day” Jesus Christ is absolutely without change. He is not only without change, but utterly without even the possibility of change. His very name, Jehovah, “I Am That I Am,” gives credence to His unchangeableness; immutability, say the theologians. We change, things change, but never Jesus Christ!

We hear the old adage, “Things (and people) aren’t the way they used to be.” True, but not so with the Changeless Christ. His character, His very essence, is everlastingly unchangeable, though His dealings with individuals and situations are. As Andrew A. Bonar put it, “He has changed me, but He has never changed Himself.”

As precious as His sameness is to “yesterday” (history), and in the “forever” (prophecy), it does not help me much unless a “to day” (present) is inserted. And the Blessed Holy Spirit knew this, so there it is, right in the middle of the text. He is the same in this nuclear, computerized, modern age. And I am His and He is mine!

“Change and decay in all around I see,
Oh Thou who changest not, abide with me.”

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mad Math

I remember as a boy in school, my teacher emphasizing the importance of carrying over in problems of addition. Well, that may work in math, but you’ll go mad trying it in life. Dragging the past over into the present only creates a bigger problem. It never solves it; it only adds to it. As C.S. Lewis says, “Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done.”

I think George MacDonald got it right when he wrote, “The next hour, the next moment, is as much beyond our grasp and as much in God’s care, as that a hundred years away. Care for the next minute is just as foolish as care for the morrow, or for a day in the next thousand years-in neither can we do anything, in both God is doing everything.”

In these, my latter years, I’m learning that the Christian life is basically a moment by moment trust in the Lord. God, speaking through His prophet Isaiah, and likening His people to a vineyard says, “I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.”

A Distant Devil

“The devil is gone out of thy daughter.” And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, [of] her daughter...” One aspect of this mother’s great faith was that she believed Jesus could deal with the devil at a distance. Geography does not limit our Omni-present God in His power over Satan. Miles do not matter to the Master.

If this be true, why have Christian parents ceased to pray and claim their children who have been taken captive by the devil in distant places? Is it because we have a sense of personal unworthiness? If so, we need to realize the fact that the woman in our story felt she was unworthy. But, to her amazement, she found this was the very thing that gave power to her parental plea. If we humble ourselves to eat the crumbs from the Lord’s Table, we may just free our children from the dainties of the devils.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

*Answer “Him” Please!

"Have ye not read…at the beginning? Have ye not read in the book of Moses? Or have ye not read in the law? “Have ye not read what David did?” And have ye not read this scripture? Have ye not read so much as this? Have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God?
Well, have you? Have you started at the beginning? Have you read Moses writings? Have you read anything of the Law? Have you not read anything of darling David’s experiences? Have you read any particular scriptures? Have you not even read a little? Have you not ever read what God wrote to you? These questions must be answered. And mind you, these inquiries were made to religious people, not to down and out sinners.

In my reading recently I came across this interesting statistic. The Bible can be read, at a speaking speed, in approximately eighty hours. This means it takes no more than thirteen minutes per day to read through the entire Bible in one year.

God’s Book is as relevant today as it was when spoken. For example, “Have ye not read what David did?” I believe our Lord is giving us three vital truths in this text. First, read the Old Testament. Second, He said they could apply it to their generation. And thirdly, Biblical principles are always in vogue; you need not dissect principle.

“The two testaments are the two lips by which God hath spoken to us.” (Thomas Watson)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Take His Arm

“Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?” Only a man can know that special feeling when his spouse takes his arm. To be sure, it shows her reliance upon him for support and confidence in him as her guide. But it also manifests something much deeper. It reveals a familiarity with him and her fervent affection toward him, while, at the same time, displaying before all her true femininity. This man is the love of her life.

How much more should this be true of the Lover of our souls and us! Not only should we lean upon that everlasting Arm as the weaker vessel in total dependence upon Him, but we should cling to our Beloved, lovingly, adoringly, and with all the affection and adoration of our beings. As we walk down the aisle of life, holding on to our Beloved’s arm, all those who observe should hear our refrain, “My beloved is mine, and I am his.”

Love doesn’t know how to let go.

Sunday, December 12, 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. C.S. Lewis says, “A man is never so proud as when striking an attitude of humility.”


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

Saturday, December 11, 2010

When the Kingdom Comes

The Old Testament priest was first and foremost a go-between. He was an intermediary, the middle man, an intercessor if you please. But he, like all others of his kind, had an infirmity that kept him from unbroken intercession; he had to sleep. Isn’t it wonderful that we now have a High Priest that neither sleeps nor slumbers?

The priests’ of old carried the names of God’s people upon their shoulders (strength); and upon their breast (affection). But unlike the Aaronic priesthood, our Lord remains in God’s presence continually. Therefore, day or night we can be assured He is standing in the gap for us. He is our heavenly representative to God, pleading on our behalf. And what a comfort to know the Father always grants His risen Son His desire.

Now we understand why Jesus told the disciples that he would not drink of the fruit of the vine until He drank it new with them in the Kingdom. The Old Testament priest could not drink wine while he was ministering in the priest’s office, but could afterward. Our Lord is saying His intercessory work is to continue throughout this age, unbroken and undisturbed. But after His work is accomplished, we will all sit with Him at His heavenly table, and sip from His eternal cup, filled with everlasting joy.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Experiences

One of Webster’s definitions for the word experience is, “the act of living through an event.” I emphasize the words “through” and “event.” An experience is not life; it is only a part of the whole. Experience is just that, an experience. You were never meant to dwell there, but to go on. God says to us what He said to Israel at Mt. Seir, “Ye have compassed this mountain long enough…” Or as the writer of Hebrews admonishes, “Therefore leaving…let us go on unto…” Paul tells us to forget the past (good or bad experiences), and press on from there. In our modern vernacular we’d say, “You need to move on with your life.”

It seems many have nothing to talk about except past experiences. Their entire life centers on some long ago hurt or victory. These types never accomplish anything constructive in the present. You can’t spend your time nourishing past experiences and expect to keep the present healthy and lively. If you’re not living in the now, then you’re a ghost from the past, attempting to resurrect something that ought to have been laid at rest. For goodness’ sake, whatever it was, let it lie in peace! I’m afraid too many of us are like Jacob, who allowed one bad experience (Joseph), to flavor the rest of his life and decisions.

I think with some Christians, that their experience is dearer to them than the Lord Himself. It might be wise for of us to remind ourselves that He is to be Lord of our experiences. Any experience not related to Him, is unproductive, and unprofitable, to say the very least. You’ll never learn anything from those types of experiences. Let’s cease embalming our experiences, and allow the Spirit of God to breathe new life into the present.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Look Who’s Coming to Dinner

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man...open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him...” So says our Lord through John the Revelator. The missionary, David Livingstone said, “Jesus Christ is a Gentleman; He will not enter where He is not invited.”

Men and women who have had a real relationship, and sweet fellowship, with God, are those who have opened wide the doors of their lives to let this Divine Tenant in. Our text is not speaking to the unregenerate, but to His own—those He loves. We can understand the former shutting Him out of their lives, but not the latter.

There is only one doorknob, and it is on our side of the door. Therefore, if He is to gain entrance, it must be opened by us. Whenever this door of self-will is thrown open, He enters and sups with us. So it was with Abraham; it was so, also, with his disciples; and so it will be with us.

What’s so wonderful about Him coming to dinner?—the fact that He brings His own “groceries.” He fills our barren tables with an abundance of Heavenly supplies, such as grace, mercy, and peace, etc. Our testimony, after we have dined with Him is, “He satisfieth the longing soul and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.”

Some prefer to have dinner with the devil; I choose to dine with Deity

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Strength of the Lord

Whenever I feel I do not have the strength to go on, invariably I find it’s because I’m attempting to go under my own steam. My problem is not my weakness, but my natural strength. The latter is not an asset, but a liability. It hinders me; it does not help me. Our trouble is not that we are too weak, but too strong. King Uzziah was marvelously helped till he was strong. Jacob became a prince, having the power of God, once his own strength had withered. God tells us His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Paul found it to be so. He writes, “…when I am weak, then am I strong.”

The heroes of Hebrews, we are told, “…out of weakness were made strong.” Those little shrimps became whales in their weakness. Those who are giant-killers testify, “The Lord is the strength of my life.” It is not our strength we are to offer to the Lord, but our weakness. It is then God takes the non-entity and infuses him with divine power. And be not mistaken, whoever He infuses, He uses!

If we would only confess our inadequacy, and abandon our reliance upon our natural abilities and resources, then would come to pass, “…the lame take the prey.” But this will not happen until we are content to be nothing, and let Him be everything.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Opposites Attract

“And they twain shall be one…” From the very beginning God has united opposites. But in making them one He did not take away their distinctiveness. Each retains his or her individuality and function.

God does things in twos. Two witnesses establish the truth. The dream was shown Pharaoh twice so that he would know it was of God, Jesus sent the disciples two by two, etc. It takes two wings to fly; you will never get off the ground with one. “Ask now…the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee.”

This is also true of us if we emphasize only one side of twin truths. For example: faith and works, sovereignty and free will, secular and sacred. Each of these are completely opposite from the other. But, nonetheless, God has joined them together, and what God hath joined together let no man put asunder.

The devil’s desire is to keep us off balance with an imbalanced life. Every scale has two balances. Don’t put all your credence on just one (Prov.11:1).

A train has two tracks, take away one and it’s disastrous!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Temperament or Truth

“Watch your temper,” we were warned from childhood. But newborn Christians, even mature ones, need to be reminded, “Watch your temperament.” That is, our natural disposition we inherited at conception. Being saved does not change one’s temperament, though it can be improved drastically by the Spirit’s control in our lives.

When the Bible states that when one becomes a Christian, “…all things are become new,” it does not mean things have changed, but that we have changed, and as a result look at everything differently. Sin is still sin, and godliness is still godliness. Neither has changed. But now we see them through a different light.

We must be careful not to read the Scriptures “through our own specs,” but make every effort to see them through God’s glasses, so to speak. For example, an outgoing sanguine can justify his or her external gleefulness, and lack of seriousness, by saying it’s the joy of the Lord. On the other hand, the serious minded melancholy points to texts on soberness to vindicate his lack of Biblical cheerfulness.

I think it was one of the old philosophers who came up with the idea of four temperaments. I personally do not know about that. But I do know each of us fall into a limited list of categories that make us distinctively different from the others. I was asked once if there are four temperaments, which did Jesus, have. My answer was, since He was representative man, all four. Therefore He knows each of us and our personal needs. Our individual temperaments were given to us by God, and when He is in control of them, we are no longer a burden to ourselves or others. It is then we become a blessing.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Twofold “Must” of Faith

“But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

There is more to Biblical faith than believing in the existence of God. The devils believe that. We must not only believe that “God is,” that is, He is all He says He is. But we must also believe He is a prayer-answering God. This is the second wing that gets our text off the ground, and soaring into Heaven to the throne of God.

Once God's existence is believed in, of necessity, we must expect Him to hear and answer our prayers. God's recompense for true faith is always a reward. Each of the twenty-two or so names found in God's hall of faith, in Hebrews eleven, received some sort of token from God for his or her faith.

But, whatever the remuneration, it doesn't hold a candle to the reward of God Himself. For our God has said to all those with legitimate faith, "I am thy…exceeding great reward." Orphans enjoy gifts, but would gladly give them all up for a father.

To have Christ is everything; and everything is nothing without Him.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Does God Still Speak?

The song says, “And He walks with me; and He talks with me; and He tells me I am His own.” Does God still speak to us? My answer is a definite “Yes!” But, along with this statement, I make one important stipulation: any and all means must be tested by the Word. If there is a conflict, the latter cancels out the former.

God can, and does, speak to His people on various occasions by, for example, outward providences and/or inward impressions. But often our humanity hinders us from discerning His voice. We are emotional creatures and are prone to go by our feelings; but, when we do, we fall into emotional quicksand. Thus, falling from our pinnacle of expectations, it is easy to mistake emotional impressions for Divine illumination.

Once we garble God’s message to us because of our human limitations, we are apt to prefer complete silence rather than the risk of hearing from Him again. We feel the experiences are too embarrassing and painful, thus we turn a deaf ear to God.

We need to be like little Samuel of old and keep coming back. He believed, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” To save ourselves from disappointment and embarrassment, it is good to follow Mary’s example, whenever we sense the Lord speaking to us: “[And] Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Let us wait and watch how God fulfills what He tells us (Ruth 3:18).