Friday, February 25, 2011

Had It Not Been For “HIM”

“If it had not been the LORD… now may Israel say…If it had not been the LORD…” This double statement David made in reference to God’s Elect, who were in danger of their soul being “swallowed up,” and “overwhelmed.” He tells them they had every right to preface their testimony with, “If it had not been the Lord.” And so do all of God’s children, no matter the age in which they live, or their geographical sphere.

It might be advantageous for some of us to fill in the blank, “If it had not been [for] the Lord________” O, child of God, think of it, meditate long upon it, “Had it not been [for] HIM.” It was He who took us from the hole of the pit, and set us in heavenly places. What a mess our lives would be, had it not been for Him.

In the movie, The King’s Speech, there is a wonderful scene that illustrates my point. The King, who had an incurable stutter, of which his nation was aware, was making his first speech by radio to his people. The only one in the sound room with him was his speech therapist, who had helped him marvelously. After nervously, but successfully, finishing his talk, he looked at his friend and said, “If it hadn’t been for you, they would have known it was me.”

Thursday, February 24, 2011

*The First Lady Letter-Carrier

“I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.”
Most commentators believe Phebe was the bearer of this letter (Epistle) to the Romans. Few, if any, would dispute it as being the “masterpiece” of all Paul’s writings, and as far as that goes, any other Christian writing throughout Church history. Justification by faith is its theme. It set the Reformer, Martin Luther, free, and has done so for multitudes since.

All Christians, of all ages, owe this woman a debt of gratitude. Never did a messenger carry a more important letter. Bless the memory of her name! As my wife, Salle, says, “I’m sure glad Paul didn’t ask me to carry it in my purse.” What a great responsibility was laid upon this “weaker vessel.” But at the same time, what a tremendous honor was afforded her.

Her name means, “bright/radiant.” She was a business woman, possibly, one of means. She is the first in a list of some twenty-eight saints (two unnamed) whom Paul greets. There are no less than eight women mentioned, and he details the work of six of them. Phebe, as well as the other women mentioned, disprove the theory that Paul disapproved of women ministering in the churches. Paul’s depiction of Phebe is brief, “Sister, Servant, Succourer.” When speaking of great women, few words are needed; their works speak volumes.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Those Nonconformist Nuisances

It’s bad enough constantly fighting the world intimidating us to be just like them (Romans 12:2); but when professing Christians attempt to bully othersto fall in line and march to their drum-beat, well, that is when I say, “Halt!” A nonconformist is called everything from a rebel, an antagonist, to a controversialist.

Emerson wrote, “Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.” John Ruskin, the English art critic, said, “I fear uniformity. You cannot manufacture great men any more than you can manufacture gold.” A German philosopher commented, “We forfeit three-fourths of ourselves in order to be like other people.” And the old Methodist, Francis Asbury, prayed at an ordination service, “O Lord, grant that these brethren may never want to be like other men.”

In 1662, on St. Bartholomew’s Day, over 2000 of England’s finest preachers were ejected from their pulpits for refusing to conform to the mandates and dictates of the Act of Uniformity. On August 24, 1662, these stalwart ministers preached their “farewell sermons” to their congregations. The price these nonconformists paid? Two thousand, five-hundred preachers were silenced. There were three-thousand deaths, and sixty-thousand families were ruined.

Every man, woman, and young person found in the Bible, who were mightily used of God were nonconformists. God elected and encouraged them to be so. Their nonconformity was Divinely deliberate.

The Bible teaches the only thing we, as Christians, are to conform to is the Image of Jesus Christ.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Impossible or Improbable

“Whosoever is born of God…cannot sin.” A casual reading of 1 John shows Christians can, and do, sin. Is this then a contradiction? No, for the Bible does not contradict itself. For the answer to this seemingly problematic text (as in all such cases), we must allow the Scriptures to interpret themselves. “Cannot” does not essentially mean impossible, though it can (cp. Titus 1:2 & Heb.6:18).

It seems it’s general meaning is “improbable” (unlikely). There are many Scriptures that prove this to be so. But to save space, I’ll cite just two. In Luke 11, the friend says, “I cannot rise and give thee.” But he does. Likewise, Matthew 7 says “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit.” That is, it would be contrary to its nature to do so. But sometimes it does. So, when a Christian sins, he does something wholly contrary to his new nature. All of the first Adam’s descendents sin. It’s characteristic. But those related to the last Adam, are not likely to dabble in it. A sheep can fall into a mud hole, but he doesn’t wallow in it, like the hog.

We are not sinless, but each of us ought to long to sin less. Darling David tells us the secret of how to accomplish this. “Stand in awe and sin not.” Evidently, his fall came as a result of his no longer being awestruck by God.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

*The Product of God’s Mercy

“Out of the mercy seat made [He] the cherubims.” Just as the cherubims were the product of the mercy seat, so we are the direct outgrowth of the Mercy of God. Thus, we are called, “Vessels of mercy.” From start to finish, there will never be a time in the life of God’s Elect that God’s Mercy is not needed. From a towering King David, to the lowly publican, all are in need of God’s Mercy. Whether acknowledged or not.

God’s Mercy is described as great, rich, manifold, plenteous, abundant, sure, everlasting, tender, new every morning, high as heaven, filling the earth, and His delight. Is it any wonder then, that darling David said, “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever.”
And he knew better than most the need of God’s Mercy. Listen to him crying out to his God for mercy, after that dark, dark, night of his soul, when he sinned against a Holy God. “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.”
O, child of God, are you in sins clutches? Then flee to the Mercy Seat. The Blood has been applied. And HE promises to meet you there.

‘Take heed of abusing the mercy of God…To sin because mercy abounds, is the devil’s logic…he that sins because of God’s mercy, shall have judgement without mercy.”(Thomas Watson)

Friday, February 18, 2011

To Have or Have Not

“…I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” One of Paul’s main reasons for writing his friends at Philippi was to express his thanks for their support. But he left this until the end of the letter, for there was something that took precedent over his physical comfort, and that was their spiritual well-being. But, having addressed this, in closing, he now expresses his gratitude for their gift.

But this created a two-fold problem. How does he accomplish this and still let them know his dependence is on God and not their gift, without, at the same time, seeming to be ungrateful. And secondly, how does he thank them without sounding as though he is requesting another gift? As one has said, his answer came “in blending delicacy with dignity and pleasantry.”

The solution to his dilemma was to be found in one word: contentment. He wanted his friends to know that whether it is rags or riches, penury or prosperity, he was content, under all circumstances. Therefore, he did not take the one as a curse and the other as a blessing. They were both alike to him. For, whichever, he knew it came from the hand of the Lord. Paul’s contentment was Christ Himself.

This is a difficult lesson for us to learn. It’s a hard subject to grasp. It takes long tutelage in the school of life. But, once we do comprehend it, to have or have not is no longer a concern. For we will have found the all-sufficiency of Christ.

Only in Christ will you find a calm confidence in all circumstances.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Apologetic Apologist

One meaning the dictionary gives for the word apologetics is: The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines. And for the word apologize: to express regret, ask forgiveness, make an apology, beg pardon, say you are sorry. A.W. Tozer said of one popular preacher of his day, “He is an apologist who needs to apologize.” All Christians, to some extent, are apologists, especially preachers.

My dear friend, Dr. John R. Rice, used to say, “Some preachers ask before preaching, “Who’s out there? then shoot.” He went on to say, he believed a man ought to shoot first, and then ask, “Who’d I hit?” Far too many preachers today “tip-toe through the tulips,” as they say. They come to the pulpit as Agag of old, “delicately.” At a time such as this in our beloved country, we don’t need psychologists in the pulpit, but heart surgeons.

It seems many who are called to defend the faith, preface their defense with an apology to the people before doing so. Preachers need to stand up and play the man! If deacon “fuddy-duddy” tells you, “You’re rubbing the cat the wrong way,” tell him to turn the cat around. Preach every sermon like it’s your last, and preach it as though Jesus was in the audience. Please the Master, not men. Why would you want the respect of a world that hated Him? Be a man “Approved of God.”

Barrel-straight preachers are thought by some to be of a different temperament than their peers. NO! They have a different heart. Don’t try to pass off your cowardness for compassion. The most compassionate men I ever met were men with strong convictions. Truth is always before love, else how would you know what true love is. Yet men trim their message in the pretence of love (Jer.2:33,a). True, some do the right thing, but in the wrong way. But better that than the reverse. But I would add, in contending for the faith, one need not be contentious.

“Why should clay fear clay?” (James M. Grey)

A Change Coming to the Journal

Many have come to think of “The Journal” as strictly devotional in content, and for the most part, they are correct. But for several months now, as the Puritans would say, “my soul has been exercised” in the matter of a broadening of the topics discussed. The word itself, journal, has multiple meanings. It is not confined to, as some have come to suppose, a kind of diary on personal experiences. My home-town newspaper was called, “The Journal,” and I assure you, the topics were legion.

One of the main causes for expanding our subject matter is a statement a dear Christian made to me years ago. After sitting under my ministry in a camp meeting for a few days, he came to me with his wife, introduced himself and her, and then said, “I thought I was going crazy till I heard you. I’ve thought I was the only one who believed like that.” There is a remnant of God’s people today, who are being intimidated by everything from the media, politicians, to totalitarian preachers.

I’m not an authority on the events and issues of our day, but I have an Authoritative Book that is! Paul told the Ephesians that he had not held back anything that was profitable to them, that he had declared the whole council of God. It is not our intent to “ride a hobby horse,” but we do intend to attempt to enlighten the Elect concerning the controversial issues. The above mentioned trio would have you believe only as they do. As someone has said, “An informed people, is a happy people.”

“The Journal” will basically be the same, but will now have issue oriented subjects interspersed from time to time. Some may not like or agree with all I say, that is your right. But my hope is that what I say will make you think on your own, and not let others do your thinking for you. Thank God there are still a few lone voices in the wilderness crying out, “I am not the only one, but I am one.”

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.”
(Edward Everett Hale)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

*Looking Out For The Other Guy

Our pastor told a cute story about an accident that took place in a lady’s yard. Recounting it to her neighbor she said, “It was awful; the car hit a tree, totaling it. The man was seriously hurt, and blood was all over the place.” Her neighbor asked her what she did, to which she replied, “Well, immediately my Red Cross training kicked-in. I put my head between my knees so I wouldn’t pass out.”

We laugh, but there’s more truth than fiction in this story. When it’s a question of ours, or someone else’s welfare, most of us choose the former. Like Jacob of old, we’ll let others take the brunt of things, while we safely bring up the rear. How unlike the Lord many of us are. He stood at the forefront and said, “…let these go their way.” Others profited at His expense. He was willing to spend and be spent for them.

The Psalmist tells us that a godly person, “…sweareth to his own hurt.” We need never fear in life; God will always be there to cover our back. There is something far better than self-preservation; it’s called Divine-preservation. “The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.” Let’s take care of others; God will take care of us!

"Me, Me, Me." Is not on God's musical scale."

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Paul and His Books

"The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring [with thee], and the books, [but] especially the parchments."

Here we have a picture of the whole man, the physical, intellectual, and Spiritual: something to warm his body; something to occupy his mind; something to feed his soul. Some expositors speculate the Apostle might have left these three items with his friend, Carpus, during the summer months, to keep for him. Paul wanting to travel light, thinking these things would have been cumbersome.

I have a difficult time accepting this theory. He may have left the first two, but I doubt seriously, the “parchments” (Scriptures). I think possibly, when arrested, he was not permitted to return to his lodging to collect his belongings. So now, in a damp prison cell, shivering with the chill of winter coming on, he asks his young protégé to make haste in bringing them to him.

I can understand him desiring the first and last articles. Staying warm and having his Bible would seem to most Christians to suffice. But Paul also wanted his books. Like dear friends, he wanted them with him at the end. He is ready to be offered up, yet is reading right up to the time of his departure. As long as the old man lived, he wanted to continue learning. He could no longer preach, but he could read.

How he loved books and reading them, in spite of his poor eyesight. Is it any wonder then that he told young Timothy, “Give attendance to reading.” Paul read the poets of his day, was familiar with the philosophers, and knew something about science. God’s Book came first in Paul’s life and ministry, but God gave him his books as an added blessing. As Bishop Moule wrote, “The God of Scripture has room in His heart for every detail of human life.” Standing on others’ shoulders helps us see further than we naturally would have, without their help. Let us not only get in “The Book,” but in good books also.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Fragment from the Whole

“[Jesus] asked him if he saw ought. And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. After that [Jesus] put [his] hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.”

Our Lord would have us see men and women as they actually are. We are prone to be overly impressed with only a fragment or portion of an individual’s life; thereby thinking more highly of them than we ought, and less of ourselves. A part of anything does not necessarily represent the whole.

It is important to realize, when seeing one fulfilling their office in life or when on display before the public, that it is only a small portion of the sum total of his or her life. Few there are who do not put their best foot forward when before others.

It is well to remember that our “iconic” models are of “like passions as we are.” Heroes who can call fire down from heaven can also be given to deep depression. And women of great devotion can question Christ’s goodness. Think about it, maybe you’re not as bad as you thought.

If we knew what others have to contend with in their lives, we would be more content with our own.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

*My Frustrations

My natural temperament can be easily frustrated. I’ve had to deal with this all my Christian life. I asked the Lord to deliver me from it, or at least give me something to help me through those trying times. He didn’t do the former, but He did answer my prayer for the latter. He gave me a little saying I repeat to myself when those frustrating times come: “Nothing’s perfect; nothing’s lasting; and you’ll never get it all together.”
As to the first of these three, I like perfection. The only trouble is I’m living in an imperfect world of things and people. Then there is the problem of my wanting things to remain just the way they are. But I’m afraid there is an end of all things. They get old, rust, break, or just vanish out of sight, to be no more. One more thing that will never happen: I like all my ducks “in a row.” I want completion—no loose ends—nothing is to be missing. But in this life, I need to realize I’ll never have it all together. I’ll just have to do with what I have.

When I truly accept these three things, I find it much easier to live my life.

Monday, February 7, 2011

*We Worriers

“Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?” The context shows Jesus is discussing anxiety in the life of His children. When I was a boy I was always small for my age (I’m 5’9’’ now). I wished to be taller, but I found wishing something so, doesn’t make it so. This was a constant, nagging, worry in my young life. But it was all wasted time, for while I was full of care, I was not conscious God was allowing the natural process of life to do its work (Mk.4:26,27).

Those things in life we can take care of need to be looked too; but, if out of our hands, committed to God and left there. O, I can artificially fix the problem by putting lifts in my shoes; but at the end of the day, when I step out of them, my problem is still there. I still come up short. We need to take a lesson from Zacchaeus, he didn’t worry about that thing in his life he could not alter, he just kept his eyes on Jesus. It is vain to worry night and day concerning those things which we have no power over (Psl.127:2).

Mark it down; the size of our God will be in direct proportion to our worries. If a long list of worries, our God grows smaller as the list grows greater. If few in number, God grows greater as each worry drops off.

Worry bankrupts the spirit.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Promise Keeper

“According to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised...hath he said, and shall he not do [it]? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?”

The old timers used to say, “A man is as good as his word.” To be sure, this is true of our covenant keeping God. Abraham, as the saying goes, “hung his hat on it.” He believed “What he had promised, he was able also to perform.”

No matter how long in coming, the old patriarch was willing to bide his time. Had not God told Habakkuk, “Though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” And you can be guaranteed, “They shall not be ashamed that wait for [God].” Caleb lived on one promise for forty years.

O child of God, be assured of this one thing, when God says, “At the time appointed I will…” He means it! D.L. Moody said, “God always returns by way of His promises.” Therefore, plead the promises of God! Humbly remind him by your heartbreaking words, as my children used to say to me, "But you promised Dad." So say to your God, “But you promised me Father.”You need not “stagger” at His promises, but be as Sara of old, “She judged him faithful who had promised.”

"Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises"

Friday, February 4, 2011

MY FRIENDS

John wrote it in one of his little epistles, “Greet the friends.” Therefore, I greet my readers in the name of the Lord, considering each of you to be just that, true friends. I have not met most of you face to face, but neither had Paul the Colossians, yet his and their souls were knit together in love. I feel this way in our relationship.

Many have e-mailed us wanting to know about my health. Well let me just say, I have never experienced the power of united prayer in my life and ministry, these past fifty-three years, as I have since asking you to intercede to our Father for me. I feel again like my old self. The bleeding has stopped, my strength has returned, and my only medication is an anti-acid pill and liquid iron. At seventy-seven, I have the aches and pain that go with age, but other than that, “A-1.”

May God bless each of you for your prayers. It is a wonderful thing to be able to exchange one’s own strength for HIS. Someone asked, “Did God heal you?” My answer is that God is healing me moment by moment.” The Lord, I feel, has made me dependent upon the prayers of HIS people. As long as they keep their hands lifted to God, as Joshua of old, I have the victory.

I want, as always, to also thank our faithful supporters. Because of the economy and other things, we have lost over $200 a month. But we have little concern, since our largest contributor is a RICH JEW! We have a little barrel in the kitchen that we’ve had for over thirty- five years, On the inside, there is a “handful of meal” lying at the bottom; on the outside of it I have written : “And the barrel of meal wasted not.” And our testimony is just that. As I heard an old preacher say years ago, “You can depend on Jesus showing up whenever He’s needed. AMEN AND AMEN!

An Old Disciple,

Richard

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Legitimate Enjoyments

“Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot...” Let’s study two words in the text that will help us in our Christian life.

Excess: “exceeding, extreme, beyond what is customary, unlimited, more than necessary.” The world teaches her worldlings to live in excess in every area of their lives. Whether it is food, drink, amusements, sex, exercise, etc., they are to go above and beyond what is normal and natural.

Riot: The Bible does not use this term as we think of it today, as in an unruly, uncontrolled mob, but rather, indulging in unrestrained revelry. We say of someone, “You’re a riot,” or “We had a riot.” We mean by these terms that good times were had. The prodigal “wasted his substance with riotous living.” His good times turned into bad times, because it became excessive. This is true of all things that we permit in our lives that are done in excess. But notice that, when he arrived home, he had a legitimate and real riot of a time, because it was done scripturally and properly.

Because the world goes to the extreme in all they do, many of us let that drive us to the place of not enjoying anything associated with them because of their excess. God has given us richly all things to enjoy as long as these things are done in moderation.


“Abstinence in some things; moderation in all things” (Salle Sandlin)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Right Mixture

The Word of God is not an Aladdin’s Lamp. You do not hold it in your hands and make a wish; you hide it in your heart, and make a request by faith. It will not profit if it is not believed. The writer of Hebrews, speaking of God’s people of old tells us, “…the word…did not profit them, not being mixed with faith.” If there is no belief, there is no benefit.

Both a baker and scientist realize the importance of proper ingredients. The right mixture in prayer is the Bible and faith. Paul commends the young Christians at Thessalonica in this respect, “… ye received the word of God... which effectually worketh also in you that believe.”

If you don’t have the right concoction, then the Bible holds no advantage for you as a Christian. The Word just won’t work if there is no faith.

"Where reason cannot wade there faith may swim" (Thomas Watson)