Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Instruction in Neglect

“I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, [and] nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, [and] considered [it] well: I looked upon [it, and] received instruction [Yet] a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come [as] one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.

The book of Proverbs is about instruction, Ecclesiastes, experience. If one will not learn from the former, then the latter awaits them. “Experience is the best teacher,” generally, is not so. To heed the words, “the stove is hot and will burn you,” is much better than laying your hand on it to find out.

No matter what else the above text teaches, it certainly teaches the danger of neglect. There is no question one’s salvation, then his or her Christian life is at the top of the list in importance. But having looked well to these, there are many practical everyday things that if ignored, can cost us much in time, money, and inward peace.

I hesitate to mention any of these little, or big, irritants we all dread, lest I leave yours off the list. The Bible speaks of, “Daily duties.” Duty is not usually found under the category of “fun and games.” One cannot neglect the menial chores of life in pretense using the “spiritual” as an excuse for their negligence. All ground is holy ground! (1Cor.10:31)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Wheelers and Dealers

"Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed: and he divided the people that was with him…And said, If Esau come upon the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape.” Planning by faith is a good quality, but not as a result of fear. David gives us the recipe for such occasions: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” It is never time to fear, but it is always time to trust.

How like Jacob many of us are. We not only make sure our backside is covered, but all sides! Such individuals are habitually planning, manipulating, and arranging situations and people. They frustratingly try to arrange everything and everyone, placing them, garrison like, for their own protection. These people are to be kept safe from all unpleasantness, no matter the cost, even at the expense of loved ones and friends.

The title of Of Mice and Men is taken from a poem by Robert Burns. "To a Mouse" describes how a mouse’s home is destroyed by a farmer’s plow even though the mouse thinks he has discovered an invulnerable site. Steinbeck borrowed a significant line in the poem to use as his title: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” That is, even the best ideas can fail. Let us each give up our plans and get in on God’s!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Helps and Helpers

“Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.” Who were these disciples? What were their names? It is not recorded in the Holy Scriptures, but not because it was unimportant. There is always a name attached to every good thing done for God. Malachi tells us God has a personal journal that He keeps, called the “book of remembrance,” in which the names of such people are recorded. He refers to these unknown, unnamed saints as “my jewels.”

Paul never forgot this event. Years later, he recounts it to the Corinthian believers. My heart is moved when I think of all the helping hands that have undergirded me on my Christian journey. People who held the ropes that I might escape the enemy of my soul and fulfill God’s will for my life. Undoubtedly, this kind of people were the ones to whom the Apostle was referring when he penned “God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.”

I may have forgotten their names; I may have forgotten their faces. But I have never forgotten what they did for me. (R.D.S)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Hymns and "Him"

Most Christians are aware that Psalms is the “hymnbook” of the Scriptures, but few seem to realize Hebrews is the “Him” book of the Bible. Some are so busy focusing on a few problem texts in this book that they lose sight of the Person of Christ.

This “Him” book is also a “better” book. It speaks of “better things,” a “better sanctuary,” a “better sacrifice,” “better promises,” and a “better covenant.” We are told that Jesus is “better” than the “angels,” “Moses,” “Joshua,” and “Aaron.” The book is all about “Him”. It stands as one of the greatest books in the entire Bible on assurance. In spite of some unlearned and ignorant souls trying to prove the opposite!

I asked my pastor a year or so ago to pray about preaching this “Him” book in the coming year. He smiled, and replied, “I don’t know if I could handle it.” This statement, in itself, proved that he can. Anyone who approaches the book of Hebrews with this kind of attitude and spirit of humility will find “Him” in Hebrews.

Hebrews is not about perplexing problems, but a precious Person. The problems fade in light of the Person. (R.D.S)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

*Splintered

In a phone conversation with a black pastor friend, he reminded me of something I had mentioned to him some years ago. I had told him that the crowd we ran with (which I am no longer affiliated with), would end up fragmented because of their lack of charity and their exclusiveness. He informed me that they are now no more than splinter groups, attacking one another. I got to thinking about his statement, and how you cannot build anything out of splinters.

Paul warned the Galatians “…if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” A modern-day shepherd told me once that when sheep are not fed properly, they start chewing the back of the others. I wonder if this is not the main cause of so much backbiting among us today.

I remember the sweet times we all had years ago when during revival meetings, as high as twenty-five churches in our community would visit with us. And we returned the courtesy during their special meetings. I’m fearful that many, under the guise of separation, are really practicing isolation. It has always amazed me how we can work with other believers, but we can’t worship with them.

Insecurity, I find, generally is derived from immaturity. And the former usually avoids surroundings and people they’re not familiar with. I personally believe it is time for us to stop building walls and begin building bridges. We stanch Bible Believers are not lacking for the one, but we sadly are for the second. Whenever the Church has suffered persecution it is amazing to find the various types of Christians sharing the same foxhole!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Psychological Jargon

For the past twenty-five years or so, the Church has been turned into a world-like psychological clinic for the disturbed. We see this both in the preaching from its pulpits, and the counseling that comes from office calls to the church’s pseudo therapist. When will we learn Biblical principles outshine psychology as much as the sun does a lit match?

Martyn Lloyd-Jones comments, “Psychology, I believe, is one of the most subtle dangers in connection to our faith.” An area in which I find many Christians are taken up with is in the matter of self-image. The “doctors” tell us this is very important in facing life with its difficulties. But you need no PhD. to understand this. A simple saint with a sixth grade education, who loves God and lives in His Book, could grasp this truth.

Any Spirit-filled Believer, reading the story of the twelve spies in the Old Testament would be aware of this. The timid ten, in making their excuse for not wanting to face their giants said, “We were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.” Their problem was that they saw themselves the way others did. No soul can be a giant-slayer in his or her life by accepting another’s evaluation of himself or herself.

Both Saul and Goliath said of David, “Thou art but a youth.” But the shepherd boy brought down his giant in spite of what others thought of him. He would not allow others to define him. David knew who he was and was content with what God had made him. He refused to pass himself off as another, hiding in their armour. Little David would have never said, “Why hast thou made me thus?” But he did say, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Saturday, January 21, 2012

*Coming to Jesus at Sunset

“Now when the sun was setting…” Jesus, as usual, had just finished a jam-packed day, and night was now setting in. We are told He would be up on the morrow, “in the morning, rising up a great while before day.” Nevertheless, people came to Him at this late hour seeking help both for themselves and loved ones. When one is in great need, he or she is apt to be less considerate of others than they naturally would be. But in spite of being, no doubt, weary from the long day, we are told that our Lord met the need of “every one of them.”

And so the case still is, though it be over two thousand years later. Be assured, when the sun is setting and others are closing up shop, the sign on our Lord’s door is always, “Open.” He is well-known for helping at “the eleventh hour.” Don’t be hesitant to come to Him “by night,” He will graciously receive you; ask Nicodemus! None of us, as Joshua of old, need ever ask the sun to stand still. He can and will give you calm in the midst of the storm, no matter if it is “the forth watch” of the night.

Whether the sun is setting on a long drawn out problem in your life and family; your age is coming to a close and you need more time to accomplish something special; or it is some lingering sin you feel will not be overcome, it’s never too late, even though darkness is rapidly approaching. No sincere soul ever came to Jesus for help, no matter the circumstances, place, or time, that supernatural assistance was not available. Is it any wonder then that God’s darling David penned, “From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the Lord’s name is to be praised.”

Friday, January 20, 2012

*Appreciation of Creation

I believe few Christians have an appreciation for God's creation. A preacher friend in Canada took me outside one night to behold the Northern Lights. What an awesome sight it was! After seeing such a spectacular scene, I could only say with David, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him?”

On a visit to the Midwest some years ago, my wife and I ate at a Cracker Barrel restaurant. The decor is rustic, and all around there is memorabilia. As we stood in line to pay the cashier, I looked up and saw that the ceiling was full of the same. I mentioned to my wife, "Just think how many never enjoy the sight, simply because they don't take time to look up."

Maybe each of us should take the time to look up at Gods' wonderful creation one night soon. It is part of His works, and we should love to view The Carpenter's handiwork.

Jesus Christ is the Divine Architect for all of creation; don't neglect to view it. (RDS)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Scarlet Sin

“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?” Is a spiritual sin less than a physical one? Is a sin against God of lesser importance than one against man? It may be well to remember that it is the spiritual sin of rejecting Christ, and not a physical one that sends a person to hell.

We Christians are prone to look down our pharisaical noses at an adulterer or adulteress. How upset we become if one of our own commits such a hideous sin. And are we not the first to demand church discipline in such cases? Certainly, these people are to be put out of the assembly, we say. Do I agree with this? Yes, but only if the person in question is not repentant.

On the other hand, what is to be done with the spiritual adulterer and adulteress? If we took the same action on them, many churches would drop drastically in membership. Not only that, a lot of them would lose their leading deacons, elders, and even their pastors. I do not profess to have the answer to this dilemma. I do know I need to be slower to condemn, and quicker to forgive, if for no other reason than for my own sake. For there’s been a few times; I have fallen into this latter category, that is, of having a secret love affair with this world. Haven’t you?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Common Thread

One definition of the little idiom we have chosen to entitle this article is, “an idea or theme that is similar to others.” For example, what main thought does the following list of words bring to mind: father, birth, brother, friend, daughter, son, lover, family? If your answer is relationship, you’re right. Whatever else one might associate with this list, the word relational would have to be at the top.

Being a Christian doesn’t have anything to do with knowing doctrine, the Pharisees were fundamental in the “letter,” but were void of the “Spirit.” Nor is it in being familiar with the scriptures. Satan can quote them all day long. Going to church doesn’t qualify one either. John tells us the devil had his own seat where he regularly sat. And even faithful service will not merit us anything; Jesus says to such people, “I never knew you.”

All the above mentioned are to be commended in a person’s life, if they are a result of and not in order to, become a child of God. If you’re doing the latter to be a member of the family, then you’re putting the cart before the ox. The “Fatherhood of God” only applies to those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ. Paul makes it crystal clear in his Galatian epistle, “For ye are all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” To all such, God has sent His Spirit into our hearts crying, “Abba, Father.” What a blessed, affectionate, and endearing term, “Papa!” Every true child of God should be both comfortable and confident in addressing Him as such. Jesus did!

Friday, January 13, 2012

God Is Not A Renter

God, through the prophet Hosea says of His people, “Their heart is divided.” The true mother standing before Solomon would not have her child divided. And so it is with the Lord. He will not have His child with a divided heart. God is not a tenant that lives in one small room of our heart, while we rent out the other spaces to strangers.

Over and over again we read in the Scriptures how the Lord wants the “whole heart.” Anything less than this is unsatisfactory. Our love to God must be entire. He says, “…with all thy heart.” Our love is to be without measure. As the old Puritan put it, “The creature may have the milk of our love, but God must have the cream. Love to God must be above all things, as the oil swims above the water.”

In the Old Testament, the high priest could not marry a widow or a harlot. He could not marry the widow because He would not be her first love; He could not marry the harlot because He would not be her only love. “HE” is to be our first and only love!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Changing the Unchangeable

Only God can change the unchangeable. And all our efforts to do so on our own will only prove futile. Although the Lord could change the color of an Ethiopian’s skin, as well as remove the spots from a leopard, in His wisdom He has chosen not to do so. And He can also, in a second, if He so desired, alter any and all circumstances in our lives. But again, many, if not most of the times, He doesn’t.

Paul prayed fourteen years for God to take the painful thorn in his flesh from him, only to have the Lord tell him, it was till “death do us part.” And what of Moses’ deep desire and request to enter the Promised Land, after God had told him he would not, was met with, “Speak no more unto me of this matter”?

Why is it we refuse to accept what we cannot change, while, at the same time refusing to change what we can? Like spoiled children, if we can’t have it our way, we don’t want it any way. I may not be able to drive a Rolls Royce across America and enjoy some of the great breathtaking sights of our Country, but I can still find the same pleasure in viewing them from the back seat of an old clunker.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Those Old Friends

“Pilate sought to release him.” Three times Pilate had said to the crowd concerning Jesus, “I find no fault in him.” Yet he gave in to their wishes to crucify Him, though it went against his conscience and better judgment. Why? God's Book tells us: “For the fear of man bringeth a snare.”

A man of convenience, full of self-love and self-interest, will always be intimidated by his peers to give up an intimate friend, whom he knows to be right, for an influential one. He chose to be a friend of Caesar rather than to be a friend to Christ.

Pilate’s breed has not died out; they live on today. For over fifty years, I have observed an appalling thing. Cowardly Christians have accepted and adapted to Pilate’s principles. A faithful friend who is suffering outside the camp is sacrificed, so they may be associated with false friends within the gate. The important and influential are more valuable to them than an old friend.

A puppet’s friends are decided by those who hold the strings; cut them, and you’re free to choose your own. (R.D.S.)

Monday, January 9, 2012

One Foot at a Time

A friend, from years gone by, who is a regular reader of The Journal, e-mailed me a couple of months ago. In his correspondence he mentioned how difficult the Christian life could be at times. I get many such letters on a regular basis. Most of which are from dear saints who are just plain weary of the testings, temptations, and daily drudgery of it all. Each, consciously or unconsciously, is looking for some secret formula that will rid them of this agony of soul.

I can sympathize with such people. Personally I have searched the Mystics, Puritans, and the Deeper Life teachings for the same answer. I do not say that my experience should be emulated or even that it will work for others. All I know is it works for me. As I wrote my friend, “When all is said and done, I believe the Christian life is simply putting one foot in front of the other.” This is what Noah and Enoch did until they arrived home with their Lord. It worked for them!

I came across a portion of a little a song that I believe says it all concerning this matter I’ve been discussing.

You never will get where you’re going
If you never get up on your feet
Come on, there’s a good tail wind blowing
A fast walking man is hard to beat

Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door

Friday, January 6, 2012

Leap Frog

When we leap frog over the doctrinal for the practical, we leave something behind us that is necessary to our Christian life. For example, justification is first in order, then sanctification. One comes before two. You can always spot those who have reversed the sequence; invariably they emphasize their merits, rather than God’s use of means.

Justification is foundational; sanctification is structural. The former has to do with our standing, the latter with our state. The one is eternally settled, both now and forever; the second is settled in eternity, but is on going in this life. To understand and accept these twin truths is life and peace. Not to, is frustration and anxiety.

Paul said that he was, “…accepted in the beloved.” Yet in another place he wrote, “Wherefore we labour, that…we may be accepted of him.” The old war-horse didn’t live for God in order to be accepted, but because of his acceptance. A wife doesn’t try and please her husband so she may become his wife, but because she is his wife.

A.W. Tozer has an article in one of his books entitled, “God is Easy to Live With.” A dear preacher friend of mine tells of hearing an old pastor once say, “Never make your Christian life so difficult, that you can’t enjoy it.” The Old Testament priests when ministering to the Lord were told that, “…no wool shall come upon them…they shall not gird themselves with anything that causeth sweat.” God doesn’t want His people to “sweat it,” so to speak, in living for Him. And don’t forget, we are referred to as “priests” in the New Testament.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Holding Our Peace

“And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron...died before the Lord...And Aaron held his peace.” When God corrects our own for their sin, it is our duty to be silent. We are not to quarrel with God or question His judgment, nor charge Him with folly, but accept his verdict. There is to be absolutely no complaint. Our Lord asked His disciples, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?”

Aaron patiently submitted to the holy will of God in this sad providence. He was dumb and opened not his mouth, because God did it. He wisely laid his hand upon his mouth and said nothing. Aaron refused to honor “his” over “Him.” Aaron’s loss of comforts was God’s gain in glory. Therefore, he has not a word to say against God or his dealings with his loved ones.

“The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this,
Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.”
(Job 1:21-22)

Monday, January 2, 2012

*The Blank Space

“If the Lord be God…” As I was reading through the book of Kings awhile back this portion of a verse captured my attention. So much so, that I wrote an article on it. Allow me to polish this little nugget up once again.

Our pastor, along with his preaching, uses fill-in sheets. And, I might add, he does it very effectively. I, personally, don’t feel comfortable with this style, and am sure I would fail in attempting it. But, though I would not be successful following this method, I have had success using it when I pray.

Each morning, when I awaken now, I say to myself, “If the Lord be God,” then______; and I fill in the blank. For example, “If the Lord be God,” then…I have nothing to fear; I need not worry about my needs; my children are in safe hands; I can do what’s right with His help; etc.

Why don’t you try it right now? You fill in the blank space. “If the Lord be God,” then_______.

If He is “the God of the living,” then, let’s get on with it!