Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Bottom of the List

The last sin to be acknowledged or confessed in our lives is that of prayerlessness; even if we admit to it then. Samuel says to the Lord’s people, “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you.” If it’s a sin not to pray for others, how much more is it not to pray at all? And notice, to not pray is a sin against God.

If we were honest with ourselves we would say with Job, “If I had called, and he had answered me; yet would I not believe that he had harkened unto my voice.” It is during those long intervals when God has us wait that we lose our faith. And when this happens, we also lose face. Like the old suffering patriarch, we impulsively say, “…what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?”

Jesus said, “…men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” If you have fainted during a long night of silence form God, try praying. You’ll find it a good smelling salts. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

You, Too

"In the midst of the throne stood a Lamb as it had been slain.” What a seemingly strange paradox. A Lamb, the perfect picture of gentleness; a throne, the supreme symbol of power. The One in the midst of the other. The Sacrificial Lamb has become the Sovereign Lord.

The homage and worship He receives is not by coercion, but by loving constraint. His subjects are not driven to worship Him as Nero’s servants, against their will. For, our Sovereign has won our wills, and we are drawn to Him by His graciousness.

How wonderful it is to realize that I, too, can stand before Him with my golden vial full of odors. That I, too, may join that Heavenly choir to sing praises to Him. That I, too, can be one of the “ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” who say, with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb.” Just to think, I too, may “fall down and worship Him that liveth forever and ever.” Hallelujah! It’s not just “I, too,” but “You, too.”

O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name togethe (Psl.34:3)

Knowing Your English

“[Jesus} said…let down your nets for a draught…at thy word I will let down the net.”
God has preserved His Word for us in the English; therefore, I do not overly concern myself with the Greek, or Hebrew languages. He will judge me on understanding and acting upon my own native tongue, not on one given to another people.
There can be a vast difference between singular and plural. The variation is to be seen in addition.  My dear friend, Marvin Clanton, used to say about something that was good and he wanted more of, “If one’s good, two’s better!”

Peter was a commercial fisherman, and since he had toiled all night without a catch, nets would not be necessary, only a net, if that. His expertise was a hindrance to his faith. Professionalism is man at his best, but that is not good enough in the Spiritual world.
When we do not expect great things from God and act on it, it is because we do not believe our God is Great!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Voluntary Slavery

“All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” Paul’s “all things” are not all-inclusive, but means all, within bounds. For example, it is still not lawful to have your brother’s wife. All vices are unlawful, but what about virtuous things?

It is well to remember, things that are not expedient or profitable are not necessarily necessary. If indulgence in a good thing becomes injurious to ourselves or others, we are to abandon it. If what we allow destroys our freedom of thought, peace of mind, and general happiness, it should be laid aside.

It is possible to become a voluntary slave. We can do this by creating our own craving for something. And, ultimately, this brings us under the power of what is considered legitimate, thus we become slaves to it, and it becomes our master.

You’re either master, or mastered.

Physicians with Colds

The demands some put upon their ministers, mentors, and those attempting to help them, such as pastors, parents and friends, is both unfair and unkind. Such high expectations are unrealistic as well as unreasonable. The proverb going around in Jesus’ day, “Physician heal thyself,” is part of the record of inspired truth; but the saying is not necessarily true. For example, it’s true the devil said certain things, but that doesn’t make the things he said true.

The fact of the matter is, physicians get sick and can’t heal themselves, but this does not take away from the fact they can still cure others. I’m sure Peter, James, John, and Paul would love to have had some undesirable, inherent weakness cured in their lives, but that did not stop them from offering their expertise to others. Nor did it hinder those who were wise from asking for it.

Let’s not keep a cancer specialist from helping us, simply because he can’t get rid of his cold. When in dire need, we are in no position to make trivial demands. In such situations, we might remind ourselves, “Beggars can’t be choosers.”

 “He saved others; himself he cannot save”   (Matt.27:42)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tormented by Temptation

None of us is exempt from temptation. Not even our blessed, sinless Lord was excused. It will dog us until we enter our heavenly city of refuge, where nothing that defiles can follow us in. Or to put it another way, until we are, as the Irish say, “Safe Home.”  

Temptation comes in many forms, but has only one objective: to break our fellowship with God. Therefore temptation never comes from God; He tries us, but never tempts us. James tell us, “…every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.”  

Our Tempter is a solicitor. And all the wares this street vender peddles are evil. No matter how they appear, even if they’re good and pleasant. Ask Eve if you have any doubts. To be tempted with evil is an agony of soul; but to be tempted with good is even a greater a torture. The devils dainty delicacies are much more difficult to resist than his depraved delights. It’s green grass that lures the sheep to stray, not the parched.

It has always amazed me how that after a temptation is refused, something extraordinarily good always follows it. I agree with C.S. Lewis when he said, “A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.” “And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him…and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him…And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit…”

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Trusting Our Guide

“…when he was called to go out…he…obeyed, and went out, not knowing whither he went.” Two great difficulties were involved in this crisis decision. First, much that had been precious in life was to be left behind. Secondly, entering into, and undertaking, this new venture entailed uncertainty as to his future.

Nevertheless, he plunged into this desert journey by faith, being assured that, though he may not know the way, he knew the Guide. And he was confident his new Friend would lead him aright.

We who are believers are called “…the children of Abraham,” and, as such, we are told that we’re to “…walk in the steps of that faith,” which our father, Abraham, had. And as we take each step, remembering that God will not show us everything, but He will always show us the next thing.

The faith that enables us to enter into God’s best must first be used to come out.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Winnie’s Good Advice.

As a boy, during the Second World War, I had two heroes, one on each side of the pond, so to speak. On this side, it was General Douglas Mac Arthur, on the other, Winston Churchill.  The latter, in a speech at Harrow School in 1941 said, “Never give in—never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

I am no super-saint, but I say the truth in Christ, I lie not; I do not know how to quit! I can honestly tell you I have tried on more than one occasion, but never found the “wherewithal” in following through with it. It costs one dearly to do so; but as Ruth, of old, the rewards are worth the price you pay.

People who are constantly re-tracing their steps never get anywhere in life. I often wonder about the lives of those who quit on the Lord. What became of them? There’s no record. All we are told of these quitters is, From that [time] many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. All one can do is speculate, and I believe you would be close in guessing they spent their lives in regret.

For all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these “It might have been." -John Greenleaf Whittier, "Maud Muller" (1856)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Evolution of Good and Evil

Far too many Christians have a one-track mind when it comes to the usage of a word. Words, like “The Word,” can have two edges. That is, they can be used in more than one way.  It is not wise to condemn a word by association. To sight just one case, is that despised word, abort. But there are times when it is good and right to use the word. For example, “Because of mechanical problems, the flight was aborted.”

And so it is with the word “evolution.” Rage should not surge through one when it is used in the right connotation. Among its several meanings are, 1. an unfolding; process of development or change. 2. to develop gradually. And so, the scriptures teach there is an evolution in the lives of both saint and sinner.    

As to the latter we are told, “Evil men…shall wax worse and worse.” But of the former, it is written, “As touching brotherly love…ye [should] increase more and more.” And so, as the one gets worse and worse, the other is to be getting, better and better. I have seen the first taking place over the last fifty years, at a rapid pace. But have noticed very little of the second happening, as it relates to the Body of Christ.

Many fear by loving all the brethren they it will be seen by their peers as diluting their convictions; but to the contrary, it will make them more savory. Try it; both you and the recipients will like it. By the way, it never fails!

        

Friday, May 20, 2011

What God Expects

I’ve often said, “Some people have standards so high that even the angels couldn’t keep them.” J At our best, we shall always come up short. But this should not curtail us from giving our best. Doing less than your best is sin. Therefore, I should be the best that I can be.

Some of us are four-cylinder Christians, tormented because we are not an eight-cylinder. The important thing is to stay tuned-up, and make sure we run on all four, if that’s our lot in life. Wanting to be something you’re not keeps you from what you can be. Comparison only brings frustration.

Remember, God blesses a life on the basis of not what we have done, but what we would have done, had we been able. His judgment is according to quality, not quantity; sort, not size (1Cor. 3:13b). God is not a hard taskmaster. It’s the Pharaohs of this life that are always demanding that more work be placed upon the people of God.

Overworked saints lose something that is essential in a believer’s life. Martha would be a good example of this. The Lord is not looking for sweatiness, but sweetness (Ezk.44:18b cp.11Sam.23:1b). The latter is the man or woman who is …”after God’s own heart.”

Jesus said, “She hath done what she could.” Not, what she couldn’t. And this has been spoken of around the world for two thousand years!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Eternal Two

To check the rightness of one’s true belief in God, you do not ask about his or her church name or affiliation. Nor do you question them about secondary issues such as baptism, the Lord’s Supper, spiritual gifts, etc. The one and only real test of an authentic Christian is who he, she, or they consider Jesus Christ to be. This is seen especially in John’s small, but powerful, second Epistle, the shortest book in the New Testament.

A person can be wrong on a lot of things, but if he is right about Christ, he is one of God’s own. This lesson needs to be learned among many Fundamentalists and Evangelicals. On the other hand, people can be right on many of the doctrines of the Bible, but, if they are mistaken about our Lord Jesus, nothing else matters. They have no hope. This, too, needs to be learned among the before mentioned groups.

Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of Go!. There was never a time when He did not exist. He is not a created being, as you and I; He is the Creator. Isaiah calls God the “Everlasting Father.” My older son is forty-eight years old, therefore, I have been a father for the same period of time. If God is an everlasting Father, then He has an everlasting Son.

This brings up something else of interest. “God is love,” says the Scriptures. Love is something one person has for another. If there was only God, without another being present, then there was no love before there were two. But God is eternal Love. He has loved someone eternally, and that ‘Someone’ is His darling Son.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Check it Out

I believe in classic Christianity. What I mean by this is what the word itself denotes: “an excellent model; formal; simple; traditional.” In general, churches used to major on the fundamentals of the Faith—the basic things all Christians believed in and adhered to. Now we major on minors, leaving God’s people without a sure foundation, having left the fundamentals.

It can be said of many past fundamental churches that they are no longer classic, but cultic. We could even add, comic to some of them. It staggers the imagination to think of all the things that are being passed off as Scripture to God’s dear children today. The cause of their being duped is not difficult to find. The answer is that the “Berean” breed has become extinct. It says of these noble believers that they “…searched the scriptures daily whether those things were so.”

Today would be a good day to start checking out what we believe and what others have, and are, teaching us as being authoritative. Any addition, subtraction, or change to the text doesn’t count for anything! A good rule to always go by is, “WHAT DOES THE TEXT SAY?”
A good order of questions is, “What saith the scripture?” Then, “What meaneth this?”

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Overloaded Plates

"...everyone unto his work." Just as the people of Nehemiah's day had their individual responsibility in building the wall, so each of us has our own work in building up God's Kingdom. He has dispensed to each his or her own place. Nehemiah was not like many well-intentioned leaders today who have fallen into the "Pharaoh Syndrome: "Let there more work be laid upon the men." But this mentality only "made their lives bitter." I once asked a pastor, “People aren’t getting saved as they once did, what’s your answer?” His reply, “Work your people harder.”

Some of us have an overdeveloped sense of duty. Like Benjamin of old, we have five times more on our plate than our brethren. This is not a compliment if it crushes you. Duties never conflict. Certainly we are to have priorities and everything in its order. But we need not sacrifice the one at the expense of the other.

There's a need in each of our lives for a spiritual inventory. If we do, I think many of us will find that our self-imposed activities are not Divinely ordered. The way to tell the difference is, "If...God command thee so, then thou shalt be able." You do only what God has enabled you to do and leave the rest. God will take care of both the unfinished work and the slack worker. You're one person, and you're to do the work of one, according to your ability.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tough Hide-Tender Heart

You’d think God would have spoiled Job a little after all that he had gone through. But on the contrary, He tells His suffering saint on two occasions, “Gird up now thy loins like a man.” God will not coddle us; He is in the business of making real men and women.

There is no room for self-pity in the presence of God’s crucified Lamb. Anyone can dish it out, so to speak, it’s how much we can take that counts with God. The Lord certainly wants us to have soft hearts, but not so with our hides. They’re to be leather-tough.

To use the excuse that our weak flesh cannot go on, will not cut it. The Spirit is willing; our problem is that we’re not. We are all going to suffer in this life, one way or the other. Peter tells us, “…it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.” The former brings reward, the latter regret.

In glory, God will not look at our medals, degrees, or diplomas, but for scars we received being true to His dear Son.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Language Barrier

Dry wells cannot satisfy the thirsty; neither can tearless Christian’s parched souls. Many who profess to be followers of Christ have. Jesus wept over a wrecked world; we cannot even weep over our wrecked lives. If some of us would follow Peter’s example and weep bitterly over our sad spiritual condition, we too might experience the blessings of a Pentecost.

Unsanctified tears have no merit with God. Carnal Esau proved this to be so. But tears do have a strong sway when they come from one devoted to the Lord. Concerning Hezekiah God says, “I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears.” There is a gospel song that says, “Tears are a language God understands.” David knew the importance of tears when he penned, “…put thou my tears into thy bottle.” They’re preserved. I wonder what for?

Sometimes we hear the argument from saints with dry sockets, that those who weep over our crushed culture have a different temperament from them. But it doesn’t have anything to do with a different kind temperament, but with a different kind of heart. Anyone familiar with the Apostle Paul’s temperament knows it was completely out of character for him to shed tears. Yet, we are told that when he exchanged his life for Christ’s, he went about weeping night and day for a wounded world. That, my friend, is a profitable exchange, both for us and the hurting!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Elijah Complex

“…and I, even I only, am left.” So says the discouraged prophet. To which God replies, “I have left me seven thousand…” Through the years I’ve observed the ruination of many good churches and ministries who fell into this isolation syndrome. C.S. Lewis says, “The worst sins of men are spiritual.” And the “I only,” I think, would be one at the top of the list.

You’ll remember that if young Joshua could have had his way, no one would have prophesied in the camp but Moses. But the old man set the younger straight concerning this mistake.  Paul thanked God Christ was preached, even when motives were in question. And our Lord told the disciples to leave alone one who was doing a work in His name. Not join him or promote him, but simply let him alone.

An old Methodist preacher used to say, “If a hound dog comes to town and barks for Jesus, I’m not going to try and stop him.” Let’s face it, all of we Blood bought Believers have a little heresy in us, but it will not keep us from Heaven. We need to be careful not to shut out those whom God has not shut out.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Defeat at Every Corner

I find many Christians today do not realize we do not fight for the victory, but from victory to victory. We have the “Victor” within us. The battle is not in getting, but in the keeping of the high ground. Our Mighty, Conquering Captain, has already entered the “strong man’s” house, and carried off his armour wherein he trusted.

The only thing, it would seem, that Satan was left with were his “wiles” (tricks, craftiness). You’ll remember this is the tactic the Gibeonites used to win over Joshua, not having sword or spear in hand (Josh 9:4 cp. Verse 22). When they got the Israelites to think their way, they got their way.

In this age in which we live, it would appear that the skirmish is over who is going to control the mind. It’s a psychological warfare, the mind is where the battle is won or lost. Remember, it is not the body that faints first, but the mind (Heb. 12:3,b). It may be beneficial to add this line to the children’s song, “Be careful little mind what you think.”

Every corner the devil ever turned or will turn, Christ meets him with defeat!

Old Dogs and New Tricks

“…for he is such…that a man cannot speak to him.” Not only Nabal’s wife, but those around him, was fully aware of this fact. Abigail’s husband was a man, as they would say today, “set in his ways.” He was such a one, you could not tell or teach anything to. He belonged to that clan that is already set, like cement, after it has set.

Someone has said that you can help a stubborn person, and you can help an ignorant one; but there is no hope for stubborn ignorance. This is the type of person Paul requested of the saints at Thessalonica to pray he be delivered from. “Pray…we be delivered from unreasonable…men.” The very fact that this mature man made such a request shows the impossibility of such people.

We need to refuse to become fixed and rigid in our ways. The great thing about life is that as long as we live, we have the privilege of growing. We can learn new skills, engage in a new kind of work, devote ourselves to new causes, and make new friends. It’s never too late to learn, if we stay pliable.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Need of the Needy

“…your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.” When theologians use the term “omniscient” in reference to one of God’s attributes, it doesn’t mean much to the average Christian. But when the word is defined and explained, their ears perk up. The poverty-stricken saint takes heart when he or she realizes they have a Father in Heaven who knows their every need. And not only does He know their particular need—whether it be spiritual, psychological, or physical— He has the wherewithal to furnish it.

The old gospel song the quartets used to sing down south is theologically correct. It says, “My Jesus Knows Just What I Need.” Many well-intentioned preachers tell God’s people, if their needs are not being met, there is something wrong in their lives. But there seems to be few who will tell you that one’s need may be to have a need (Phil.4:19 cp. verse 12,b). Therefore, when God creates a need in our lives, He has kept His promise by supplying our need. Have you thanked God for supplying  yours?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Snubbing Good Advice

Ahab, like many today, turned his nose up at good advice. The reason was that the one giving it didn’t tell him what he wanted to hear. He was looking for agreement, not advice. He said of Micaiah, “…he never prophesied good unto me, but always evil.” It was for this reason Micaiah earned Ahab’s hatred.

Some people don’t seem to understand, you can’t prophecy good things to bad people. They criticize their advisor for rubbing the cat the wrong way, while all the time refusing of turn the cat around themselves. If one wants to hear good, he or she must of necessity be willing to do good.

It is always a wise thing to seek the counsel of the wise. Only a fool rejects the advice of a person who has already been down the road they’re to travel. Know-it-alls end up finding out they knew nothing at all. They incessantly run into ditches and wonder why they can’t get anywhere on the road of life.

On my way to a speaking engagement, I once went a hundred miles the wrong way, simply because I would not ask for directions. You’ll never get where you want to go by going the wrong way. The sooner you stop and ask the right way the sooner you will arrive at your desired destination.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Cashing Signed Checks

“According to your faith [appropriation] be it unto you.” This principle is found throughout the Bible. It’s not wishing, longing, wanting, or even praying that gets the blessing. It’s appropriation (taking for one’s own). Drab, defeated lives have been transformed by learning the art of appropriating. They turned promises into facts. They stepped out on a promise and trusted God—sink or swim. And those who do never have to experience either.

In the story of the prodigal son, it says of the father, “He divided unto them his living.” The prodigal may have had a lot of faults, but appropriating what his father had given him was not one of them. This was not so with his elder brother. He accused the father of not even giving him a “kid,” to which his father replied, “Son, all that I have is thine.” Yet, he had not appropriated one kid. The difference was not in bestowal, but in appropriation. We must appropriate what God has given (Josh.1:3 and Eph.1:3).

Addendum: Over fifty years ago, my dear friend Mark Andrews, who was instrumental in my becoming a Christian, gave me a little devotional book by F.B. Meyer. One of the chapter tiles was, “The Law of Appropriation.” This one truth kept me from being a spiritual pauper these many years, which is so easy to succumb to.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Jesus and the "Old Timers"

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time…But I say unto you…” Whenever the term “old times” is used, invariably we are referring to the most recent of past generations; to go back further would be speaking of “ancient times.” Every age had its “old times”, and in each of them most of the people felt the previous age was better than the one in which they lived. Nostalgia can be fine, if it doesn’t turn into nonsense. What woman wouldn’t trade a scrub board for a washing machine? And I doubt there is a farmer who would not prefer a tractor to a horse-drawn plow.

The people of Jesus’ day were quoting the “letter” of their father’s teachings about the Law, but left out the spirit. They emphasized only the externals, but our Lord went to the heart of the matter. Jesus exposed the expositors of His day. He was not correcting the Law, only their erroneous interpretation of it. They taught the mechanics, but mechanical things do not have life; hence, no growth. It’s the Spirit that gives life to the letter.

Let us be careful that we do not make the Word of God ineffective by the tradition of the “old timers.” Some people get more upset over me correcting them, than they are of them corrupting the Word. That kind of tradition is tripe!

God’s way is working from the inside out; the traditionalist, from the outside in. But the latter never seems to be able to get past the first layer.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

All or Nothing

You can’t departmentalize God; either He is all, or nothing at all in a life. He refuses to be categorized in our file cabinets, only to be brought out and viewed from time to time. As A.W. Tozer says, “God is a jealous Lover.” He is not in the sharing business when it comes to our affections. He will not play second fiddle to anyone.

The Bible describes the people who live their lives apart from God as being dead while they live. Even though they’re enjoying this world’s pleasures, they’re dead men walking. All Prodigals are considered dead until they return to the Father’s House. As George MacDonald writes, “All that is not God is death.”