Friday, September 30, 2011

Unsatiable

“And what shall I more say?” These words remind me of a line from the song, How Firm a Foundation. “What more can He say than to you He hath said/ To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?” Within the pages of God’s Holy Writ there is everything we need to know about how to live in this life and prepare for the next. Anything not recorded, God deems unnecessary for us at this time. It is futile to look for answers God hasn’t given.

Philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates spent a lifetime seeking for the hidden things of God, while neglecting those things that God did reveal for both us and our children. These wise men should have heeded the wisdom of the old man (Abraham). His words to one who sought something apart from God’s revelation were, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded…” And neither will you or me, my friend.

Be satisfied with what God has revealed, or spend your life seeking unanswerable questions.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Individual and Personal

“...all things work together for good...” Some time ago, at a late hour, on my knees next to my bed, feeling the weight of a burden I thought would crush me; I received new light on this text. Previously, I held it as a precious promise to all God’s suffering saints who loved Him. But, though it may be true collectively, this is only so because individuals have experienced it personally. It is possible this text may include everyone and me, but it can also exclude everyone but me. This Scripture must be approached as though I were the only one involved.

Others may be part of the mix that is working together in my life, but I am not to concern myself with them. For I do not know their hearts; but I do know mine, that I love God and am assured that everything will work out for my ultimate good. My good; His glory—what more could I want?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Singing the Truth

My wife often testifies before congregations that prior to singing a special, she asks the Lord to keep her from singing a lie. That is, she wants her life to come up to her singing. I wonder how many of us sing a falsehood when we sing the words to such old songs as; “It’s not my brother or my sister but me O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.” If we are singing unto the Lord as we are supposed to, then we are singing a lie if we do not believe prayer is the great need of our life.

We come into this world in a fetal position, and we go out in that same position. Surely the Lord is showing mankind his life should to be one of continuous prayer. The first thing we are told of Paul, the new born babe in Christ is, “Behold he prayeth.” And the last pose we should be found in is the fetal position of prayer. We are told that both Thomas Watson the Puritan, and David Livingston the great missionary, were both found kneeling in prayer at their deaths.

Let’s face it, most, if not all our problems, are prayer problems. Even the medical world now recognizes the solace that comes to those who pray. How true the words, “O what peace we often forfeit, O, what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” We all have a Divine invitation to enter His throne room (Hebrews 4:16). Let’s take advantage of it.

A.W. Tozer had what he called his “prayer pants”. He would put them on when entering his office in the morning before he prayed. The purpose was to keep from wearing out the knees of his suit pants. I’m sorry to say not too many of us have that problem. I say this to our own shame!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Bottom Line

But without faith it is impossible to please [God].” The bottom line in pleasing God is faith. Other things are good and right in their place, but faith is the starting point. We begin our spiritual journey with it, and we end with it. Having a variety of good things in one’s life does not necessarily mean you have the right thing.
Faith is as much at home with the impossible as it is with the possible, for faith’s reliance is upon God who knows no limitations. Real faith involves not an introspection of itself, but always its occupation upon God. When faith’s eye is looking to God, and not placed on itself, it makes the impossible, possible. But every true act of faith is followed by activity. As one has said, “A faith that does not walk may soon become too weak to stand.”
Faith has degrees; there is “no faith, little faith, and great faith.” Faith can be increased as we exercise it. The reason why our faith does not grow is because there is always a calculated risk connected to it. This makes us hesitant to put feet to our faith. But once we step out of the boat, our initial act becomes a habit; one step turns into a walk.
If we are to display “the prayer of faith,” then we must of necessity pray with faith. Prayer without faith reduces us to faith in ourselves. A real, honest to goodness faith only comes from the written Word of God. And it will never betray those who place their confidence in it!  

Monday, September 26, 2011

Knowing When To Cease

“And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.” Here we have good people attempting to keep a godly man from taking what they thought was the wrong course. Paul was strong in his resolution, and his friends were just as adamant the other way. What is the latter to do in such cases? Carry the issue as far as you can with decency. But it is not wise or good manners to over-press a godly person in such cases. There is a time when we are to “…cease saying.”

We are apt to judge and censure those who will not do things the way we think they should be done. But it is always good to remember that possibly they and God know something that they have not let the rest of us in on. It is not stubbornness that keeps some from heeding their earthly friends’ advice, but rather, a willingness to suffer anything for their heavenly FRIEND.

Make sure your well-intentioned help is not, in reality, a hindrance.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

When Night is Past

“But when the morning was now come...Jesus...” How often I have toiled throughout the night, fishing for the answer to my problems, only to find after a barren night that the answer was to be found only in Jesus. When will we ever learn He is the sum of all things?

“Weeping may endure for a night,” but, when Christ comes, so comes joy. How many times in the “womb of the morning” has He shown forth His “loving kindness”? Is it any wonder then that David would “sing aloud of [His] mercy in the morning”?

Oh, dear child of God, tossed to and fro through a long, dark night of trials, know for a surety that in His chosen season He will make Himself known to you. When we are most at a loss, and there is nothing left, then He will make known that we have the all sufficient Christ. And, as the song says, “Christ is all I need.”

For a Christian, the long night of suffering is not endless; but the joy that comes in morning is.

Friday, September 23, 2011

You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down

“For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth again.” Falling down doesn’t make you a failure; but staying down does. It’s to be expected that we will be knocked down in the ring of life from time to time. Just make sure you’re back on your feet before the count of ten.

A quaint little saying by an old preacher, who is now with the Lord, has helped me from the inception of my Christian life until now. He reiterated this miniature truth over and again in his long ministry. Simply put, it was: “Keep gettin’ up!” Simple, but, oh, how profound.

We are apt to think bad people fall, but this is not what David observed. The Shepherd’s shepherd tells us, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and...though he fall...” This is the fall of a good man walking in the ways of the Lord.

Cast him down as many times as you will, but a true Christian has something in him that causes him to always bounce back. Micah knew this truth, for he tells us, “When I fall, I shall arise.” And so will you, dear saint of God!

Monday, September 19, 2011

*A PRAYER OF MOTHER TERESA

Although I radically disagree with this dear woman’s church, as well as their doctrine, I do agree with one of her prayers. And so does the Bible. In speaking of the poor and hungry she said, “Lord, give them through our hand this day their daily bread.

This was Jesus’ teaching to his followers. He knew He would be leaving this earth, therefore He was training them to give to others what He had given to them. This is seen in the feeding of the multitude. Matthew records, “He gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.”  The principle is, “Freely ye have received, freely give.”

A little barefoot boy was sitting on a curbside singing, “Jesus loves me.” A passerby asked the little urchin, “If Jesus loves you so much, then why hasn’t He given you some shoes?” The small toe-head replied, “O, I’m sure He put it into someone’s heart to help me, I guess they just didn’t want to!”   

 “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these me brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

ENDURE or ENJOY?

There is to be found among modern day Christians, those to whom I like to refer to as, “Happy Christian Campers,” or “Smiling Sanguine Saints.” They like to set their melancholy, doomsday brethren straight by saying, “The Christian life is not to be endured, but enjoyed.”

The truth of the matter is both are correct. One simple proof text settles the argument, “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame…” Paul teaches in 2 Cor. 6:8-10, that the Christian life is a paradoxical one.

I just finished reading, Letters and Papers from Prison, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a young Lutheran pastor who joined the underground in hopes of overthrowing Hitler. The Gestapo hung him just days before the end of the W.W. 2.

I was impressed that in his letters to his parents, he showed both joy and endurance. Writing to his mother from his damp prison cell, very weak and sickly, with little to eat, he tells her that in spite of all the discomforts, he could hear in the early mornings the little birds singing. And that he could now look forward to spring, and seeing the flowers begin to bloom from his one small window.

For any who are imprisoned by circumstances beyond their control, remember, spring comes immediately after winter. It is something you can look forward to.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Truth Tops Everything

“…for thou hast magnified thy word above thy all name.” This is a startling statement; nevertheless it stands like the Rock of Gibraltar in this topsy-turvy world. Without God’s final authority, every man will do that which is right in his own sight. When this occurs, the words “God says,” is replaced with “I think,” “I feel,” “I believe,” etc. For example, one can turn the Grace of God into lasciviousness (Jude 4), if he or she turns a deaf ear to what God has said about His Grace in Titus 2:11-12.

If we lift a text from Jeremiah, and transport it into our Twenty- first Century, we will see another example of putting God’s Word on the back burner. It is written, “Why trimmest thou thy way to seek love.” Applying this practically to the present is not a difficult thing to do. How many there are who, wanting to put on a good face before the brethren, trim truth under the guise of love. They do not want the stigma of being called judgmental and unloving. Such Christians are cowards copping out for the approval of today’s popular carnal society. They don’t want to take the heat that right principles bring. 

In Paul’s great chapter on love (1Cor.13), he plainly tells us, Biblical love rejoices in truth. Tough love is always tougher on the one administering it than the recipient, especially when the former is sincere and really cares for the latter. You’ll remember that though Joseph was tough on his erring loved ones in attempting to bring them to repentance, behind closed doors, where only God saw, he showed his tenderness and compassion in weeping uncontrollably for them. And it was this kind of love that got the job done. The wise man said, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” If you’re not willing to hurt them, you can’t help them. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Saints in the Shadows

It is both interesting and enlightening to contrast the ministries of Elijah and Elisha. Their service for the Lord was entirely different. The former was public, direct, and fiery; while Elisha’s was, for the most part, private, indirect, and commonplace. Young’s Concordance says, “Elijah was the grandest and most romantic character Israel ever produced. Elijah is quoted some thirty times in the New Testament; his prodigy, not once. Elijah was always the center of attraction. Elisha was more or less a wall-flower. Elijah was constantly seen; but Elisha, only occasionally.

Elisha’s life was much like most of ours. It was a behind-closed-door ministry. The mass was not aware of him, but the individuals he helped knew him. And, more importantly, so did God. Elijah, by today’s standards, would be considered the greater of the two, in spite of the fact that Elisha did twice the miracles as his master. True humility and a willingness to accept one’s place in life can result in phenomenal results. Elisha was never ashamed of being referred to as the servant who poured water on Elijah’s hands, like someone else who did not hesitate to take the place of servant and wash the feet of others.

Though Elisha has always been overshadowed by Elijah, he was no less a great saint of God. If you wanted to know the true worth of Elisha, you’d have to ask those who drank of the waters he healed, or the widow whose children were saved from slavery, or Naaman, who was healed of  his leprosy, or the man whose borrowed axe-head Elisha found, or the one who was raised to life again simply by touching Elisha. Each of these would tell you who Elisha was.

And if you want to know about those today who are behind the scene and rarely come out of the shadows, ask those whom they have helped. Elijah’s ministry was basically one of repentance; Elisha’s was one of giving life to things and people. It was, you might say, a ministry of resurrection.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

*Shoved Out

It says of the wicked, “God is not in all his thoughts.” It does not say that He is not in some of them, but in all of them. As Christians, we need to be careful not to follow the example of the ungodly. There should not be a thought that He cannot share in. But sad to say, many times I have shut Him out of the chamber of my imagery, simply because I harbored thoughts that I knew He would not approve, or be a part of. Embarrassing as it is to say, I chose the thought over my blessed God.

How we need to rise above the great mass of men and women who drift through life without ever taking God into their thoughts. Darling David said, “My meditation [thoughts] of Him shall be sweet.” And why not, the shepherd boy knew that God thought upon him and his woeful condition constantly (Psl.40:5,17).  It’s awesome to think that we, His children, are in His every thought. Should we then shove Him out of ours?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

JUST THE WAY YOU ARE

I like little sayings, also referred to as aphorisms, maxims, or adages. They’re brief, but can say a lot. But Christians must be careful not to equate all of them with the Scriptures. Some are humanistic, and completely opposite from the Bible’s teachings. On the other hand, there are those with great Biblical principles, which can be incorporated into one’s daily Spiritual life.

Speaking of the former of the two afore mentioned, a good example of mistakenly associating a familiar saying with the Scripture is, “Honesty is the best policy.” But, as old Dr. Bob Jones Sr. used to say, “If you’re honest because it’s the best policy, you’re crooked.”

A popular Christian cliché among the feel-gooders of our day is, “I love you just the way you are.” Many times, this is made by someone who wants you in return to do the same with them. But, upon close inspection, you’ll often find someone whose life is in shambles, and who has no intention of ever changing. The effort would take character, and that would be just too much for anyone to ask of them. Such people do not realize, we love them in spite of, not because of. By desiring us to love them just the way they are, they’re seeking approval for their sorry life. If one loves them just the way they are, then, to them, we’re condoning their sinful life-style. Hence, no need for change.

God loves us in Christ; He did not love us for the way we were, but the way He could make us. He saw what we could become in Christ. To stay the way one is would be to accuse God of loving the sin as well as the sinner. And that, my friend, ain’t ever gonna happen!

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Ear of God

O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come.” God says both to Solomon and Hezekiah, “I have heard thy prayer.” David writes, “God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer.” And Zacharias, also, was informed, along with Cornelius, “…thy prayer is heard.” God is a prayer-hearing God. How wonderful the thought that our great God takes the time to listen to our prayers!

To think that He would bend His ear to hear the likes of me is beyond my comprehension. Some think it a great thing that God answers our prayers, I think it remarkable that He would even listen! I feel like David, who, when in the presence of God, said, “Who am I, O Lord God…” What condescension, that Almighty God would bow His ear to hear earthlings such as ourselves. Is not our text one of the most beautiful and sublime that has ever been penned? Oh, how I love to repeat it again and again! “O thou that hearest prayer…”

Saturday, September 10, 2011

QUESTIONING GOD

Someone has said, “It is alright to ask God a question, but wrong to question Him.” Jesus falls under the heading of the former, when on the cross He asks God, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” Israel in the wilderness fits into the category of latter, when they questioned God by saying, “Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?

As God’s “earthen vessels,” it is never acceptable to question Him as to why He made us the way we are. Or, as Paul so vividly illustrates this very thing in Romans, “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed [it], Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” 

One of the secrets of being comfortable in your own skin is in realizing that God made your skin and put you in it! We are not all the same, but we all had the same Maker. There is a great line spoken in the movie Viva Zapata, “Though we are all from the same clay, a jug is not a vase.” When you come right down to it, it really doesn’t make that much difference. All of us, (Christians) have the same treasure within. Whether it is a crock-pot, or fine china, it is, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

The Christian's Critic

In Bible times, names depicted a person’s nature. They were descriptive and significant. This is especially true of the devil. The many names given to him reveal his character and activities. I read that he has at least thirty different names that describe his person and work. But, of all these names, I do not believe there is one that causes more depression and depreciation for a Christian than the title, “the accuser of the brethren.” We are told that he does this before God, night and day.

What makes this so tragic is the fact that what he accuses us of is, mainly, all true and factual. What is one to do with this constant condemnation of conscience? Thank God, we have a Heavenly Advocate to deal with our hellish adversary. Our Lawyer reminds him of the cross, and how all of our faults, failures, and sins were paid for there—that our past, present, and even the future have been wiped clean in the blood of the Lamb.

Judicially, we have been justified freely from all things, and need not concern ourselves with his condemnation of us. “Who is he that condemneth?” “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.” “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus...the blood of Christ purge[d] your conscience...”

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sane Sanctification

I just finished reading again an article by my older son, Andrew, on the subject of sanctification. Would to God I had read it years ago. It would have saved me from some insane teachings on the subject that I ignorantly adhered to and taught.

Sanctification, first and foremost, has to do with ownership, not virtue. Paul tells the new converts at Thessalonica to abstain from fornication, not because it’s virtuous, but because it is the Will of God. One can be the former, without doing the latter. God sanctifies “things” as well as people, and the first has nothing to do with moral character.

Obedience comes before personal virtue. If this were not true, neither Isaiah nor Hosea would have carried out God’s orders. But both of these men knew God had exclusive property rights to their lives (1Cor.6:19b), and thus they obeyed Him.

Whenever we equate virtue as the main objective of sanctification, rather than obedience, we end up with a man-made list of taboos. And each “no, no” that we give up makes us think we are holier than before. But there are untold numbers of virtuous Christians who are not obedient to God, who pass themselves off as “sanctified saints.”

When you move from “Spirit” sanctification to “Self” Sanctification there is nothing but continual frustration. You become the center, rather than Christ. It is then that we become obsessed with a kind of morbid introspection that leaves one self-conscious, rather than God-conscious. This is a form of humanism. Let each of us remember “…that to obey is better….”

Friday, September 2, 2011

JOY: With Sorrow

“As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing”

Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, lists nine clusters of contrasts; the above text being one of them. Though seemingly illogical, these paradoxes can be sensibly explained. Thinking people realize life is made up of opposites. One necessitates the other. The one proves the other, not by its absence, but by its very presence. Example: how would one know he or she had joy if sorrow was not present? To what would you compare your joy as evidence it was legitimate?

I am emphasizing “authentic joy.” Not the cosmetic, painted on kind, so many professing Christians display today. To me, a lot look like Jack Nickleson in the movie, Batman. They seem to be emulating the Joker with his perennial clown smile. Real Godly joy is more than skin-deep. As the children’s song goes, it’s “down in my heart.”

The only time the Bible records that Jesus rejoiced, it says it was, “in spirit.” He had an artesian well that sprung up from deep within. He offered it to the woman at the well. And in His prayer to the Father, in John seventeen, He asks “that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” And the joy He had was not without its sorrows. Remember, “He was a man of sorrows.” His method was to always look past the cross “to the joy set before Him.” Jesus gave an illustration of this when He told of a mother’s pain in childbirth, how she looks past it to the joy that awaits her.

Jesus’ promise to His elect is, “Your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Joy: Restored

“Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation”

I like some of the dictionary’s definitions of restore, especially when applying it to our theme, “JOY.” Here are just a few of its meanings: “to bring back into existence or use… reestablish... to bring back to health, good spirits… return to life, get or give new life or energy.” This was David’s prayer after falling from Grace. Joy is Grace’s Siamese sister; whenever the latter is missing, so will be the former.

Although we cannot lose our salvation, we can lose something almost as dear, our JOY! Joy is the only thing on this earth that makes life worth living. Take joy away and all that’s left is a shell of a person, existing one day to the next. These forlorn folks’ testimonies are all the same. Though inaudible in many cases, nevertheless the cry of their hearts is, I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long.

How does one get back his or her treasured joy? You remember in the Old Testament when the man lost his axe-head, he went to God’s man asking help in finding it. To which Elisha inquired, “Where fell it?” In other words, the practical prophet let him know it was a simple matter. Where he lost it was where he’d find it. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out. He didn’t ask when he lost it, but where. If you’ve lost your joy, it would be wise to head back to the place you lost it. I guarantee that’s where you’ll find it.