Monday, December 30, 2013

The Coronation Year

"Thou crownest the year with thy goodness." No doubt, David is speaking from hindsight. But I believe we do the text no injustice by saying it by faith, in foresight. I say this because of Romans eight, twenty-eight. Every year is a good year to those who have an intimate relationship with our good God.

When we crown Him King of our lives, He crowns our lives with His goodness. No matter what a year may hold, at its end we can look back and see it was all working for our good. He is a good God who works everything for His children's good. No wonder the sweet Psalmist could say of his Lord, "Truly God is good...even to such as are of a clean heart."

Think of it, from the first day of the year to the last, from start to finish, the year will be filled with the goodness of God. At all seasons goodness will reign! Hallelujah! Every year is a royal year to God's elect. Concerning my yesterdays, "Thou hast set me behind." Concerning my tomorrows, "Thou hast set me before." Concerning my todays, "Thou hast laid thy hand upon me."

As the saying goes, "I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds my future." And again, "My future is as bright as the promises of God." And again, as the little poem my mother kept on her dresser said, "Yesterday He helped me, today He did the same, how long will this continue? forever, praise His name!"

What does the word crown bring to mind? Royalty, Sovereignty, Rule, Reign, Dominion, Splendor, Adornment, King/Queen. Ah yes, HE crowns the year with these.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

John's "Wish List"

"Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." I just returned home from a two day stay at the VA hospital in Sacramento. I needed a blood transfusion (four units) for blood I was losing in my stomach, and naturally, an endoscopy to cauterize the source of the cause. Even though I had been up for twenty-four hours, the night before the procedure, I was unable to sleep, I think because of weakness and anxiety, 

About two in the morning, I turned on the TV, hoping that would possibly help me in drifting off into La-La Land. As I surfed all seven channels, I came across one of the "feel good" TV ministries. For the life of me, I cannot understand how even a novice could fall for that jargon. But as P.T. Barnum is purported to have said, "There's a sucker born every minute." Any worldly con-man would spot such shams. Our Lord told us as much when He said the children of this world are wiser than those of light.

I seriously doubt some Christians put their thinking caps on when reading the Bible. To use our opening text to prove a "health and wealth" philosophy is utter nonsense. John is speaking in a general sense. What would you expect him to say? "I wish above all things you will be in want and poor health?" To ask about one's health was common custom in ancient Jewish correspondence. Evidently Gaius' spiritual state was of such excellence that John prayed his physical health would match it. Or, it may be, John's beloved friend was not well and the apostle was praying Gaius would be as healthy in body as in soul.

The scriptures teach throughout, God's people are still a part of humanity after He calls them out from the world. In one sense, we are nothing like natural man, but in another, just like them. This is so that we can still relate to their infirmities and sufferings. You know, like Jesus came in the flesh to identify with us. From godly Isaac's poor eyesight to Paul's continual affliction, God's elect have always suffered in one form or another. And as to wealth, let us not forget Jesus had to borrow a penny. To by-pass the Cross for a "health and wealth" life is Satan inspired, to be sure (Matt.4 cp. Lk.4). As my dear friend, Dr. John R. Rice used to say, "Healers die also."

No cross, no crown! It's not now, it's later (Ro.8:18). 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

*The "No Room" Sign

"There was no room for them in the Inn.” “And Jesus saith…the Son of man hath not where to lay [his] head.The night our blessed Saviour entered this dark, sin—cursed world, on every door, whether it was a business, synagogue, school, or palace, all had a common sign hanging on it reading, “No Room.”

There was never a welcome matt laid out for the Son of God by humanity. In His infancy there was no room to lay that little body; and in His manhood, many years later, He tells us there was no place to be found where He could lay His head.

He never knew the comforts of the human race. We are told, “And every man went to his own house. And Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.” This world still has no room for Him in their homes; nevertheless He has made room for them in His heart. It remains true at this present hour that among lost mankind he still cannot find a place to lay His precious head. But in spite of their callousness, like John of old, He allows them in their time of deepest need to lay their weary heads on His bosom.

“Christmas is not about presents, but His Presence.” (R.D.S.)

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Christ-less Society

“Thou shalt call his name Jesus.” Just two syllables, like “Mama,” or Dada.” A child can pronounce it from early age. This name is found some seven hundred times in the New Testament, six hundred of these in the Gospels alone.

Shakespeare said, “What’s in a name?” Well, that depends on whose name it is. If it’s the name of Jesus...a lot! His name is the most powerful name in the universe. Someday every knee shall bow to it, in Heaven, on earth, and under the earth. And every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord.

The early Christians "hazarded their lives for the name of...Jesus. They were willing to die for it. It was in this name that primitive believers withdrew large sums of blessings from Heaven’s bank. By faith in His name, lame souls got back on their feet again. Devils would flee at the very mention of it, and, like David of old, when we face our giants, “in the name of the Lord” they will fall like Goliath.

You cannot pray in His name in the United Nations. Local governments are doing away with Nativity scenes. Businesses tell employees to use “Happy Holidays,” rather than “Merry Christmas.” Entertainment is changing the songs that mention His name into only instrumentals, and the news media has X’d out His name when spelling Christmas. The world’s intention is to have a Christ-less Christmas. Their goal being a Christ-less society.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

I Love Christmas

“One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it.” I believe I am somewhat familiar with the pros and cons of Christmas, particularly the arguments concerning its conception and contemporary commercialization. Most Christians are ignorant as to its history, but are admittedly caught up in the second.

I doubt seriously, for example, if you could have proved that Saturday was associated with Saturn, and Sunday with the Sun god, it would have kept an Old Testament Jew or a New Testament Christian from worshiping on one of these two days. True, it may have offended the “weaker brother,” but never the mature saint.

Most all of us recognize birthdays, in spite of the fact that the only two mentioned in the Bible have evil ramifications connected with them (Gen.40 & Matt.14). I, for one, feel if I can celebrate a loved one’s birthday, I certainly can the birth of my Lord.

I love the old-fashioned, traditional, American Christmas. And today’s commercialization of it is not going to cause me to “throw out the Baby with the day.”

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Ham, Christmas, and Eggnog

There are specific “Thou shalt not’s” in the Bible that all Christians are to conform to. None of us is to lie, steal, murder, commit adultery, etc. But there are other things that God does allow, and they are individual and particular. For example, in Romans chapter fourteen we see differences among God’s people concerning dietdays, and drink (vss 2, 5, 21).

Allow me to take this primitive setting and advance it to our modern, contemporary, Christian age. We have meat-eaters as opposed to vegetarians; those who recognize Christmas, and those who refuse to acknowledge it; and the “tee-teetotalers,” over against those who believe moderation is Biblically acceptable. You will find that time, geography, culture, temperament, tastes, and tradition have a lot to do with deciding the above.

I read a little tract entitled Others Can; You May Not. But there is a flip side, and that is, You may not; Others can. The truth is, God has accepted both. Neither side is the better or the worse for what they do, or abstain from. All the frustration that comes into our lives is because we want everyone else to do and see things as we do.

Never make a principle out of your experience; let God be as original with others as He is with you. (Oswald Chambers)

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Blessedness of the Blessed Hope

It is always dangerous to major on minor truths, especially when it concerns the Bible. That is not to say attention should not be given to the latter, but to realize they are sub-heads to the main point. This is particularly true concerning the second coming of Christ. It is not focusing on signs, Anti-Christs, a tribulation period, or Rapture. It is welding our attention on the person of Jesus Christ. The main purpose of the coming of Christ has to do with our union with Him, "So shall we ever be with the Lord." Losing sight of this is to lose the blessing of the Blessed Hope. 

May God keep us from dogmatism when it comes to this future, great historical event; lest we end up in the doghouse at His return. Many have made a novelty of His coming, and the world laughs at both them and Him as a result. Others sacrifice solid scriptural substance for speculation, removing an emphatic period, and replacing it with a question mark. When it comes to the Second Advent, it is fact, not fancy, we are to build this doctrine on. Much of the obscurity surrounding His coming will be made plain with hindsight. Jesus told His disciples, "I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe..." Oswald Sanders writes, "The implication is, we will understand the full significance of prophecy only after it has been fulfilled."

The early Christians greeted one another on the street and in the market place with,"Maranatha," (The Lord Cometh). No more, no less, simply. "THE LORD COMETH! That's good enough for me. How about you?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Branded Conscience

"Having their conscience seared with a hot iron..." I once heard a preacher illustrate this text by applying it to a branded calf. He said, once the seared place healed, you could jab it with a penknife and the beast would nor flinch; it was now insensitive in that area. 

There has been much discussion and written about the subject of conscience. Generally speaking, there seems to be no debate it is an inner sense of what is right and wrong in one's conduct or motives. As to the latter, before conversion, because of depravity, there is a bent to follow the evil. Concerning the former, after salvation, because of the divine nature, there is a leaning to pursue the good.

It seems when Satan has put his brand upon an individual life by cauterizing their conscience, there is no longer conviction. That is, no conviction without conscience! John.8:9 tells us, "...being convicted by their own conscience..." If as the old adage says, "Conscience is your guide," when seared, the two choices will disappear. And you will naturally choose the latter, though it is no longer set before you, it is ingrained in you. What will be missing is the good.

The devil is no respecter of persons when it comes to the ruination of a life. Young or old, it matters not to him. Many religious young people, because of their continual refusal to do the good and leave off the bad, have had their conscience seared, just like the old reprobate in the gutter. What a chilling thought, to go through life in such a hopeless condition!      

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Weaker Than Water

I have a problem with the little cliche', "Weaker than water." Especially in the aftermath of a tsunami. It is documented the waves alone have reached heights of an estimated one-hundred feet, spanning for some sixty miles; plus the devastating carnage it leaves behind. 

Like Peter of old it is easy for us to lose faith, sinking in the sea of despair, when we look at the magnitude of the waves during the storms of life. It is so important during such occasions we get alone and remind ourselves, God is mightier than the mighty. David tells us, "The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, [yea, than] the mightywaves of the sea."

Let each of us keep three scriptures in our mental file cabinet when we see the dark clouds arise and the sea and the waves begin roaring:

1. "Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them." 

2. "He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still."

3. "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed."

How precious the thought that we all may recline,
Like John, the beloved so blest,
On Jesus' strong arm, where no tempest can harm,
Secure in the "Haven of Rest."

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sharing Deity

Many times in a family, when other children come along, the oldest has difficulty sharing parental affection with his or her siblings; this, often spills over into adulthood. Especially this is true when the latter are adopted; and even more problematic if they share equally in the family inheritance.

Jesus had no such dilemma! Most certainly, God, "The Son," laid claim that the Eternal Deity was "My God," and "My Father."  But He was just as quick to recognize the fact that those who had put their faith in Him, as the "Son of God," had the Sovereign right to do the same. When teaching His followers how to pray, He taught them to pray as a family, "Our Father."

And before ascending He commissioned Mary to go tell His brethren, "I ascend unto my Father, and your Farther; and to my God and your God." Think of it, eternally co-equal with the "Man, Christ Jesus!" What love, what humility, what unselfishness, what wonder, and what mystery. Yea, and what effect it should have upon each of us who use the terms, "My Father," and "My God."


Friday, December 13, 2013

Accidental or Providential

“So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God.” Joseph was not a learned theologian, but he strongly believed in the providential working of God in his life. He recognized that even the sinful acts of his brethren were under the control of God, and only allowed by His permission. They meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. Providence in a child of God’s life, then, always works for their ultimate good and God’s eternal glory.

God not only rules in the affairs of men, He overrules. This is true, whether it be in Creation, the nations, or in our individual lives. Everything is by Divine design. All things are arranged and directed toward an appointed end— the eternal purpose of God. Nothing is accidental; it is all providential.

“God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.” — Wm. Cowper

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Given to Prayer

"I give myself unto prayer." Whenever you read such terms in scripture as Solomon's, "I sought in my heart to give myself unto wine"; Paul's "Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness"; and Timothy's (speaking of Christ), "Who gave Himself a ransom for all," it usually means completely, without reservation. 

This is the meaning of David's statement. He was a man given over entirely to prayer. Prayer was not a part of his life; his, was a life of prayer. Like Nehemiah, Daniel, Hannah, Paul, and his Lord. When prayer ceases to be a category in a saint's life, and becomes like their very breath, communion and prayer run together.

You can always spot a professing Christian in whose life prayer is cataloged. Invariably, in a crises, you'll hear the telling statement, "Well, all we can do now is pray." Like we could every do anything else. It is not the use of human means, then prayer. It is prayer, followed by God directed means. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Chief End of Man

The Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” I’m aware some of my Baptist Brethren are against any form of catechism. But their hero, Charles H. Spurgeon, whom many love to flaunt as “The Prince of Preachers,” did not hold to their viewpoint. Speaking to his assembly, he said, “I am persuaded that the use of a good Catechism in all our families will be a great safeguard against the increasing errors of the times, and therefore I have compiled this little manual from the Westminster Assembly’s and Baptist Catechisms, for use in my own church and congregation.”

Now whether one agrees with the Catechism or not, I’m sure all will concede, this first statement is as classic and scriptural as you can get! I once heard an old preacher say, “To glorify God means to make Him look good.” This should be the goal of every created life, to lift up God in this world, even in what some would think mundane things like eating and drinking. As Thomas Watson, the Puritan wrote, “It’s the yearly rent we pay to the crown of heaven.” He goes on to say, “We glorify God, when we are God admires.” Every kind of beast glorifies God, “The beast of the field shall honour me” Only the human animal doesn't!

Let each of us follow darling David’s example, “I will praise thee, O Lord my God, and I will glorify thy name.”  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Those Dreaded Confrontations

One of the negative characteristics in Jacob's life was his dislike for facing people. He ran from those he didn't like to face. We're told he, "left" home, and in Laban's case, "stole away." How many there are of us that can relate to him. Like the ostrich, we'd prefer to bury our head in the sand. But sooner or later, all must face the music.

The word confrontation means: (1) to meet face to face; to stand facing. (2) to place before. There are three necessary encounters we cannot avoid indefinitely. Facing others, God, and ourselves. Jacob ran for years trying to avoid facing these three  with whom he had dealings earlier in life. But God brought him to a place he couldn't get out of and demanded of him a confrontation.

Interestingly, the whole of Jacob's life was changed when he came to the end of himself and faced those he'd evaded for so long. When the Lord asked what his name was, and he said, "Jacob" (meaning supplanted, schemer, deceiver), it was then God said he was a prince. And after coming face to face with his offended brother, he found a warm reception, with much affection and blessings.

Why, O, why, do we run from God's best?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

I'm Not Sorry

"This day is holy unto the Lord: neither be ye sorry." As I look back over my life, like anyone else, there are things I have regretted. Things I am sorry for. But viewing it from the positive standpoint, there are things I have never, or will ever, be sorry for. And it is the latter I like to dwell upon.

The first of these was the day I asked Jesus Christ to save me. Whenever I'm at my lowest, I say to myself, "I am eternally saved and safe in Christ Jesus, my Lord." That lifts up my drooping head.

The second thing is the night I turned my back on the world and all it had to offer. I had observed, as a young Christian, as my wife says, "Those saints who want the best of both worlds, end up with the worst of both."

The third thing that has never caused me a moments grief is when I gave back to God the life He gave me. I was created in His Image. When Jesus looked at Caesar's image on a coin He told His followers to render to him what was due. Then added, since they were in the image of God, to give to God what was owed Him.

Fourthly, I have never been dismayed for the times I said "No!" to the devil's temptations. I found a good, convincing "NO!" will help more than knowing theology.

And lastly, there has never been an unhappy day in my life for giving the Lord the key to the door of the last room of my heart. That room where I hid all my cherished, carnal  secrets. Jesus said, "I have the key of David." I wanted Him to be able to say that of me!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Right Answer

"Not answering again." In an recent e-mail to a friend I mentioned, "Sometimes the best answer is no answer." This can be especially true in situations such as heated controversies, differences in the home, and in dealing with your enemies. Most of us have a great deal of trouble, as my dear mother used to say, "holding our tongue." 

Our Lord realized, in life there were times when no answer is best. Such as when He was before Pilate, and was asked a particular question. We are told, "But Jesus answered nothing; so that Pilate marvelled." I wonder, are we a marvel to anyone? We should be, if not to others, most certainly to ourselves

Many of of us can sadly affirm the fact that we lost far more in winning some arguments than what we gained. An element of pride is always present in those who like to flex their muscle. It is a wonderful feeling allowing one to walk away thinking they won a debate, while in our heart we know we had the greatest conquest. That over SELF! 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Separatist Movement

I believe most emphatically in Biblical separation. But I do not, and will not, accept a list of man-made rules. My son, Andrew, mentioned once to a woman that the Bible did not teach total abstinence; to which she replied, "But don't you think God holds us to a higher standard than that?"

You can trace all separatist movements back as far as the Pharisees, and yes, even further, to Israel of old. They added hundreds of their own commandments to God's law. We find such descriptive terms of these separatists as, "They say, and do not." And, "Thou that sayest a man should not...dost thou...? 

Francis Schaeffer, J.I. Packer, and Harry Ironside all belonged to strict separatist groups in their day, the latter two coming close to nervous breakdowns, because they could not live up to the rigidity of the "elites" teaching. But each found, in time, that the strongest advocates of the movements didn't live up to what they preached.

This was the whole issue over Paul's stern rebuke of Peter in Galatians 2:11-14. Especially verse 14, "If thou being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest the Gentiles to live as do the Jews.?"

Let each reader heed the words of the first Church council."Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear."      

Monday, December 2, 2013

Facing Future Fears

"Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming..." 

It is not a gloom and doom personality that realizes life's future can hold some pretty scary things. To face this truth is not being pessimistic, but realistic. When Jesus uses the term "Men's hearts," He is speaking of mankind in general, not necessarily His elect. God's people need not fear the future. As the little saying goes, "I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future."

Our precious Lord knew that up ahead, in His life lay some difficult undertakings. But this did not make Him morbid, wanting to sit down in discouragement, saying, "What's the use of going on." He continued on, living in the present. If you are familiar with the Gospels you know Jesus' philosophy was, take the next step, then do the next thing. It is what James calls, "faith and works."  

God always goes before His children and prepares for every conceivable circumstance that may arise. To be sure, when you arrive at your dreaded destination, God will be waiting for you, having everything under His control!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

You're You

During my recent stay in the hospital after my heart attack, I had more than a few learning experiences, one of which was from a ministry called, “Mended Hearts.” Every day a male representative would visit my room briefly, encouraging me. Each man had had open heart surgery in the past. I heard words like, “It’s the greatest thing that ever happened to me.” And, “I feel better than I've ever felt.” Somehow their words left me wanting. First, because I had a serious setback. And secondly, when the two men had their heart attacks they were were, respectively, forty-seven and fifty-two years of age. I was eighty.

I was reminded once again of how God does not deal with His children in the same way. It will be to our detriment to think the pattern of our lives will be like others. Herod threw James in prison and beheaded him. The same king then put Peter in that prison, but God delivered Simon. Don’t look for the Lord to deal with you as He does with your brother or sister.

Remember Jesus’ words no matter what your lot in life, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?”

I think L.E. Maxwell, in his book Crowded to Christ, says it best, “The Bible is adapted to meet the need of each heart. It is written to each man or woman the way he or she is going. If they’re going east, Scripture is directed to them to meet their need: but if a person is going west, Scripture addresses them accordingly.” You’re an individual, and God’s plan for you is accordingly.  

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Old School Theology

I think in every generation there has been a small remnant of believers "born out of due time." Those who do not fit; who seem to be always-out-of-step with their generation of "toy soldiers." Who think outside the box, and are almost impossible to intimidate.

In this article I'm speaking of a residue of saints that believe there must be a preliminary work of the Holy Ghost in a life before anything spiritual will come to past, whether it be salvation, sanctification, or glorification. We still believe, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the LORD of hosts."  

Most certainly, we accept the Divine partnership, as Peter tells us, "It seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us."  Most always in scripture God uses the human along with the Divine. His way is, "In the mouth of two witnesses." The Spirit being the one, and us the other. But in this narcissistic age we have sacrificed the former for the latter.If the Holy Spirit is absent then there is an absence of life.

To illustrate my point, you'll remember when Andrew found the Messiah, he immediately found his brother Peter and said, "We have found the...Christ. And he brought him to Jesus." But some time later when Jesus asked Simon who He was, his answer was, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." And what was Jesus' response? "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee (Andrew had), but my Father which is in heaven." Man can relate who He is. But only God can reveal who He is."

Christianity is a Holy Ghost religion! And if we are to survive, we had better get back to it. As far as I'm concerned, "Give me that old time religion."

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Spittin' Image

"He also did predestinate [us] to be conformed to the image of His not conformed to this world." 

Matthew Henry says, "None can know their election but by their conformity to the image of cannot be a temptation to any to be conformed to the world to believe that they were predestined to be conformed to Christ."

Predestination has to do with saved people. God predetermined before hand that His elect be like His Son. He has destined each who name the name of Christ to ultimately bear the moral and spiritual image of the Son of God. As the old timers used to say, "We'll be the spittin' image of Him."

A preacher visiting a mountain man noticed he was whittling on a piece of wood. Trying to get a conversation started, the pastor asked what he was making. The reply was, "An elephant," to which the man of God said, "Wow, that must be difficult!" The old man answered, "Not really, I just cut off everything that don't look like an elephant."

And so it is with us beloved, God is cutting away everything in our lives that does not look like Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Not the Calves in the Stall/But the Calves of Our Lips

“Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” Not lambs—but our lips are to be our sacrifice to God. And along with it, we are to bring the sweet incense of praise and thanksgiving. “For with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”

It is not difficult to be thankful when all is well; but when everything is seemingly against us, to give thanks then, that is Christianity at its finest. Therefore, let us heed Hosea’s admonition and, “render the calves of our lips. The only ones who refuse to do so say, Our lips are our own: who is lord over us?” When He is Lord of our lips, we will offer this sacrifice He so desires from us.

There were two sisters, the younger bed-ridden, and on a breathing machine 24/7. The older sister who cared for her, returning from church one Lord's day, found the younger exuberant with joy. The caring sister asked the cause of her excitement, to which she replied, "O,Sister, I'm so thankful to God, I was able to breath on my own for five minutes today." 

"Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Keep Your Helmet On

In the garden of Eden, speaking prophetically, God said Satan would bruise Christ's heal (temporary wound), and that Christ would bruise Satan's head (permanent wound). Because of this latter truth it is imperative as Christian soldiers we put on the helmet the Lord has provided us. A first century Roman soldier when suddenly attacked, after reaching for his sword and shield would lay hold on his helmet.

Satan's main battle is for our minds. That is our intellect, understanding, thinking, our brain if you please. Paul feared Satan would corrupt the minds of the Christians of his day, as he did Eve in the garden. The old communist manifesto said something akin to, "Wars are not won by weapons, but by ideals. Therefore get a man to think your way and you have defeated him."

The helmet the Lord has furnished us with speaks of a mind controlled by God. What a tragedy that so many Christians today have the idea the intellect is not important, when in reality it has so much to do with our growth, service, and victory. Remember, everything that is in your heart came by way of the door of your mind.

In the classic story of David and Goliath found in 1 Sam. 17, we find a great practical truth. When the giant approached the shepherd boy he had a helmet of brass upon his head (v.5). But he had evidently sat down along the way. It says in verse 48, "When the Philistine arose."  Seeing such a small figure he must have become overconfident and left his helmet lying where he had been sitting, thinking it was not needed. But that was the ruin of him.

And so will it be with each of God's elect that do not take seriously the Divine protection of their minds.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Ever Present Past

My daughter Leah texted me something she heard recently, "Only a fool trips on what's behind him." How many of us are habitually tripped up by our past. Whether victories or defeats, by constantly going back to them is futile. Our past is history, we cannot re-write it. Those who attempt to undo the unpleasantries only make them worse; and each time we return to previous achievements, they lose some of their original luster.

To live one's present life in the past is to feed upon stale, moldy bread.

Memories, good or bad, are not the material a person builds his or her life on. Many have mortgaged the present by the past. Don't allow the past to cripple you in the present. Occupy yourself with what is, not what was. Don't waste your time or energy in the past.

As Martyn LLoyd-Jones says, "We must never for a second worry about anything that cannot be affected or changed by us."

"Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before."

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Learning to Live With Your Thorn

"There was given to me a thorn in the flesh." I'm of the opinion, only Godly saints, used of the Lord to be a blessing to others, carry a thorn in their flesh. All efforts to identify Paul's thorn are at best only speculation. God ordained all who possess a "grieving thorn," as Ezekiel refers to it, can relate to Paul's, because of this very fact of not knowing. God's thorn is a reminder of who God is and who we are. Lest we be puffed up with pride, the thorn punctures our inflated egos to let the air out.

It is something one bears in his or her body 24/7. Always conscious of it, but not always plagued by it. It is not something that will come to pass, but is here to stay. No amount of prayer will remove it. Paul spent fourteen years asking it be taken from him. To do so is to have the Lord say to us, as He did to Moses, "Speak no more unto me of this matter."  Therefore, our choice is either to endure it, or as the apostle did, embrace it. This is not as difficult once you determine the thorn is a gift from His hand.

It is important that thorn bearers come to grips with the fact it is a life-long affliction, and when things get bad from time to time, remind ourselves Jesus knows what it's like to have a thorn in the flesh.

God uses our thorn to tack back the veil that leads us into the Holy of Holies. (A Puritan Saying)


Friday, November 22, 2013

Laymen/The Unsung Heroes

Had God not called me to preach, as I now look back, I would have considered it a great honor and privilege to have lived my life among the ranks of the laity. Where would preachers be in the absence of these saints in the shadows? I must embarrassingly admit that as a young pastor I thought of myself a notch above my people, but now realize, in reality, I was less than the least of any of my dear flock.

Some years ago, I preached a sermon at a camp meeting in Mt. Airy, North Carolina. In the message I exalted lay-people. Afterward, an elderly couple that had been in that particular church for thirty years, said to me, “Preacher, until I heard you tonight, I always considered myself a second-class Christian. In this “Nicolaitan” (clergy above the people) age, many today are of the same opinion.It might be well to remember,dour Lord spent thirty years as a layman, doing carpenter work, and only three as a preacher.

A little kindergarten girl tried out for her school's Christmas play. Her mother knew she didn't have a chance, but tried not to discourage her from trying. Picking her up after tryouts, expecting a tearful daughter, she instead saw a jubilant little girl. Running to the car, she cried, "Oh, mother, mother, I got the part. I get to clap and cheer!" And so can we my friends.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The End of the Lord

"Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy." 

A little leaguer playing third base was cheering his team on, in spite of the fact the score was twenty-one to nothing. An observer from the sidelines asked how he could be so positive in light of the dismal score. The little urchin replied, "Shucks, mister, we ain't even been up to bat yet!"

It is important when going through the trials of life to keep your attention, not on the present, but the end results. That piece of pottery in the furnace alone can feel abandoned at times. But then comes the end, when the potter takes it from the fires a vessel unto honor.

Job, like Abraham, had a strong faith ("Though he slay me, yet will I truest in Him") but a weak flesh ("Why died I not from the womb?"). When going through a variety of miseries, it is not uncommon for God's people to teeter-totter between the flesh and faith. But you can be sure, faith will win out in the end.

The end will crown all! If we will but patiently wait, we'll see "that the Lord is very pititiful, and of tender mercy." As Matthew Henry says, "His bounty is manifested afterwards!"  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

They Go Together

"...but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." God doesn't take away the temptation, but rather provides a way to bear up under it. He doesn't take away the one when supplying the other. Joseph's temptress  remained after his escape. And the three Hebrew children were still in the fire although it did not have any effect upon them.

And so it is with such things as peace; turmoil still remains. Just as affliction continues once grace has entered into the picture. And the blahs linger on, even when joy has replaced them. And what warrior has not known the enemy to still fight long after you have won the victory? 

And why does God permit this? Simply because we would never know the one was legitimate if the other were absent. It takes the negative to prove the positive. In such cases you do not deny the reality of the former, but its right to rule. 

The secret of the Christian life is "appropriation" (the act of taking for one's own).  

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Don' Give Up On God

In Psalm 81:14 God tells His people, “I should soon have…” The context, verses 11 through 16, show they couldn’t wait for God, but rather gave up on Him. Their clocks, like our own, ran fast. How many have given up on the Lord, not knowing the answer was on it’s way, right around the corner, so to speak? As someone has said, “It’s always too soon to give up.”

When your need seems slow in coming, remember the “raven” is on it’s way...Don’t give up! When life feels useless, think of John the Baptist in the wilderness all those years...Don’t give up! When your prayers are not answered immediately, remind yourself of Daniel’s three week wait...Don’t give up! When deliverance looks afar off, read about the three Hebrew children...Don”t give up! When darkness is prolonged, take Job for your example, see the end of the Lord...Don’t give up!

Some will never know what would have happened in their lives had they waited for the Lord just a little longer. Throughout scripture, God is known to wait before taking action on His children’s behalf. “God waited in the days of Noah.” And so, we need to learn to wait on a waiting God. “Therefore will the Lord wait...Blessed are all they that wait for Him.”

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Learning the Word

Darling David said, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted;that I might learn thy statutes (Word).” David knew the “letter” of God’s Law; but in his affliction he learned the “spirit” of the Word. That is, the underlying and deeper meaning.

A preacher friend, now with the Lord, exemplified the above truth to me years ago. He was born with Cerebral Palsy and knew first hand the meaning of affliction. He asked me why God wanted Abraham to offer up Isaac? My immediate answer was “He was a type of Christ, says Hebrews.” Bill said, “True, but is there also not a deep spiritual meaning?” Then continued, “Two equal loves cannot coexist, one love must die.”

Affliction has a way, if you’ll pardon the expression, of putting clothes on naked truth. Suffering makes truths we have long known come alive. Truths that had laid dormant, suddenly have new meaning. They bleed, weep, and hurt like we ourselves. An example of this is when we put Joseph’s clothes on Romans 8:28. It is then the latter means so much more to us.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Those Blessed Psalms

My wife has a book by C.S. Lewis entitled, Reflections on the Psalms. Whenever I see it I’m reminded again of how I, along with a multitude of others, love this precious book. Through the years, I have jotted down some little personal notes in the heading this book. I’d like to share some of these thoughts with you today, if you don't mind:

1. The Spirit-filled believer is drawn to Psalms (Eph.5:18-19).

2. Much of the book is autobiographical...about David's personal life.

3. There is a Balm in Psalms. It’s the “Gilead” of the Bible (Jer.8:22 a, cp. Gen.37:25).

4. It is in the very heart of the Bible because it’s to the heart.

5. David’s physical foes have become our spiritual enemies today
(1Cor.10:6 a, 11).

6. Look for Jesus when you read the Psalms (Luke 24:44 cp. Psl.2:2 and  Acts 4:26).

A Psalm a day will bring the Great Physician your way.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Invaluableness of the Insignificant

"Those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary...those... which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour."  

It takes some of us a long time to realize that no brother or sister is beneath us; sad to say, some never come to this conclusion. They cannot, for some reason or the other, bring themselves to "esteem the other better than themselves." I guess it is the Pharisee in us that causes us to look down our noses on others.

Paul tells us some of the important things pertaining to this life are to be handled by them "who are least esteemed." We need to constantly be aware that true wisdom many times is dressed in a poor man's garment (Eccl.9:15). It is that unobserved man or woman who, in many cases, bring great deliverance to our lives. Throughout the Old Testament you find some commonplace saint stepping from the shadows to be a great blessing in the lives of others.

When Jacob blessed Pharaoh, we see the lesser blessing the greater. I'd rather have the blessings of the humblest child of God bestowed upon my life than anything this religious world can offer! 

Friday, November 8, 2013

*My Mentor Was Right

Dr. Joe Henry Hankins used to say to me, “Sonny boy, none of of us are as dedicated as we think we are.” How very true I’ve found this to be in my own life. As Eliphaz said to Job, “Behold, thou hast instructed many, and hast strengthened the weak hands. Thy words have upholden him that was falling, and hast strengthened the feeble knees. But now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest; it toucheth thee, and thou art troubled.”

Darling David assures us, “God knoweth our frame; He remembereth we are dust.” He knows what we are made of, even though we are prone to forget it. We are not Herculean; we are human! God is not surprised at our frailties; it is we who are shocked to see and admit to our fragilities. We are prone to think of ourselves more highly than we ought. Also, we’re likely to think this of others when observing those whom we deem great men and women of God. Let us remember, all of us at our very best are but dust. Let not dust glory in dust.     

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Where Do I Start?

Life can be confusing at times. Things can become so muddled that it is not clear what one should do. You don’t want to go back; you’ve been there. And to go forward is not wise, especially when, in your situation, the fog is so thick it can be cut with a knife. What does a baffled Believer do when he or she has no desire to go back, and his or her future is not clear?

You do the next thing! You start from where you’re at. You begin from the starting point, and that launching pad is always where you are presently. As the old adage states, “There is no time like the present.” I've observed those who make it in life are the ones who are continually doing what’s next, even when the next thing is unpleasant and difficult. Think of the advancement in just one year of following this rule.

David tells us, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path.” Here we see the principle we’ve been speaking of. David saw where he was at, and knew, as he did the next thing, his path would be enlightened. This, no doubt, is what the wise man meant when he penned, “But the path of the just [is] as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”

If we begin now, we’ll arrive sooner than if we waited!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Educational Suffering

“Though He were a son, yet learned He obedience by the things He suffered.” Whatever else this mysterious and perplexing verse teaches, one thing is for sure,  suffering can be educational. A saint’s suffering is not for his or her destruction, but rather their instruction. Therefore, our first question should not be a “Why?” but “What?” That is, “What can I learn from this.”

The “man” Christ Jesus learned obedience; Job, patience; Paul, grace; David, the Word. There is no such thing as purposeless pain to God’s elect. Someone has said, “Present pain can bring us eternal profit.” This is true, but it can also be beneficial both to us and others in this life. Suffering need not be a limiting handicap; it can be made an invaluable advantage. Like the old saying, “Make your stumbling stones your stepping stones.”

As our dear Lord and Paul found, God may not answer our request to remove the cup of suffering, but He will rather use it for our good and His glory. And so, as my dear old Kentucky Granny used to say, “We need to make the best of it.” I read of a precious child of God who suffered her life-long with no answer from her Lord as to removal of her ailment. It was said of her, “She made magnificent bouquets out of the refusals of God.”

Why don’t some of us today either pick some flowers from our garden or stop by the flower shop.     

Monday, October 14, 2013

Happy 80th Birthday, Barzillai!

"Barzillai was a very aged man...and [he] said unto the king...I am this day fourscore years old." This octogenarian’s name means iron, telling us much about his character. He stood loyal to his beloved king when David was in exile and all the odds were against him. Barzillai was as full of courage as he was full of years. And his king never forgot the kindness this old man had shown toward him. On his deathbed, David recalled it, commending Barzillai's family to Solomon's care.

This aged saint lived by a fixed star and was true to his principles to the very end. He was sane headed and warm hearted. His king would have his very best; he would follow him as fast as his fourscore years would allow him. His outward man was perishing, but he would not permit the inward man to be squandered. This magnanimous man not only showed a new generation how to live, but how to die. And he would die heavenly minded.

One of the sweetest and tenderest things in this entire account, between David and his old friend, happened when David returned to Jerusalem to reign upon his rightful throne. We are told, "The King kissed Barzillai and blessed him." O! what more could an eighty-year-old man desire than the kiss of his KING!

And it just so happens, on this very day (October 15th), I too can say, "I am fourscore years old." Can you guess what my birthday wish is?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Proper Posture in Prayer

In the Bible we have a variety of physical postures taken by God’s people when praying: they knelt,stood, prostrated, sat, and walked to and fro. Circumstances, many times, dictate what position we take in prayer.

In Scripture we find God is not as interested in our kneeling physically before Him, as He is in our bowing the knees of our heart: no matter what posture we take outwardly. If the inner man is always in the fetal position, then he is always in the spirit of prayer.

That greatly used preacher and practical philosopher, Dr. Bob Jones Sr., who mightily influenced my life said: “I’ve always been a man on the go. I pray sitting in my train compartment  as I travel to a meeting, while shaving, and as I walk across campus to speak at chapel. But I have always had the attitude, I thought I would die if God didn’t bless me.”

That, my friend, is what real prayer is all about!   

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Downs and Ups of a Child of God

“Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.” The worldling has his or her ups and downs, while God’s elect have their downs and ups. That is, God’s people ultimately bounce back. You know, “You can’t keep a good man down.”

David had his down moments, and he knew God knew of them. God understanding his thoughts, I’m sure, was aware David, like ourselves, wished it were not so. In an old time camp meeting, David would have given a hearty AMEN! to the quartet singing the old spiritual, “Sometimes I’m Up, Sometimes I’m Down, O, Yes, Lord!”    

Is this not why we all love the book of Psalms so dearly? The Psalmist did not go from mountaintop to mountaintop without having his valley experiences. And this was so he might appreciate and enjoy breathing that celestial air once he climbed back up.

In the Christian life, the rule is we’re to be up, the exception being when we’re down; Whenever reversed, there is dire reason for concern. I heard a preacher say once, “I’m never down. I won’t allow myself to be down.” I knew immediately I was listening to a spiritual sham or a self-deceived braggart.