Friday, March 29, 2013

Jesus and His Bride

Many years ago my wife and I visited Niagara Falls in the state of New York. While viewing the lower part of the falls, the tour guide told our group a heartbreaking story. Some years previous, before there were safety rails, a newly married couple was viewing that great rush of water. The young bride ventured too close to the edge and fell in. Immediately, without a second’s hesitation, her young lover dove in after her. As he held her in his arms, they went over the falls together, plunging to their death.

The spiritual application is obvious. The bridegroom died for his bride, not for himself. He needed no saving; she did. And it was his love for her which moved him to take that most dreadful leap into what was to be their watery grave.

Paul tells us, “Ye are bought with a price.”  In the book of Leviticus, the redemption value of a male between the ages of twenty and sixty was fifty shekels of silver. But for a woman, it was thirty shekels of silver. Unknown to Judas and the priests, they would forever show the world, the thirty pieces of silver was not for Jesus, but for His bride. His death was for her redemption.

Unlike the bride in our story, who died with her lover, our story does not end there. For we not only died with the Lover of our souls, but were raised with Him, and now walk with Him in newness of life. Hallelujah! Saints of God, we’re on our “eternal honeymoon!”

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Prayers Paradox

A few months ago after a phone conversation with a friend, just prior to ending the call, the person said, “You pray for me and I’ll pray for you.” I thought to myself at the time, and since then, how strange a statement. You would think each would pray for himself or herself. After all, who knows better one’s needs than the individual? Nevertheless, God has ordained it so.

In the very first church Paul established, he taught the new converts at Thessalonica this truth. Listen to this giant man of prayer asking the lesser, so to speak, for their prayers, “Brethren, pray for us...”  But who, also said, “We pray always for you...” This was the rule in his other epistles as well. Interestingly, this great man of God asks prayer from those we would think beneath us spiritually.

Many years ago I began asking little children, and saints who were considered least esteemed in their church, and yes, even those who by their outward appearance seemed to be worldly, to pray for me. I have found such people, as well as other kinds, often have something between themselves and their God the rest of us have not been let in on. James admonishes us, “Pray one for another.” Brethren, LET’S GET TO IT!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

*Miracle Lives

Christianity is the only religion in the world whose credentials read, “Miraculous.” Oswald Chambers writes, “If Christianity is not miraculous, it’s a sham.” Its founder was not only a miracle worker, He Himself, was a miracle. His birth and resurrection were the two greatest miracles this world has ever, or will ever, see.
Every true Christian is God’s, “Miracle Child.” Whenever natural man asks us, as it asked our Saviour, “shew us a miracle,” we should be able to say, “You’re looking at one.”  In a genuine Believer’s life is something that cannot be explained apart from his or her miracle working God!
Therefore, each of us who name the name of Christ ought to be a walking miracle. I’m not speaking of miraculously walking on water, but rather, walking miraculously on land. A similar walk in principle to the one He walked on earth. The world’s description of us being, “They’re miracles in shoe leather.”

Friday, March 22, 2013

Hard Sayings

“This is an hard saying; who can hear it...From that [time] many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.”

In John the sixth chapter, Jesus spoke of “eating His flesh and drinking His blood.” And if one didn’t, he or she would forfeit eternal life. This difficult saying caused many to give up on following Him, in spite of the fact He was speaking spiritually, and told them as much in verse sixty-three. Even Peter understood it to be so v. 68, b. To take it literally would mean one believed in cannibalism.

This is seen also in the following chapter. There He speaks of “rivers of water” flowing out of a man’s stomach. But in verses 38-39, again, it plainly says He was speaking spiritually.

Just like wading through lengthy genealogies produce patience and character in us, even so, the hard sayings have their purpose. I believe one of the main purposes is in getting the spiritually minded to think. Jesus always made His hearers think.

You can depend on the dunces to give up when the thinking gets tough!

Modern translations attempt to make Jesus’ hard sayings easier by replacing them with ones of their own. But I find theirs much more difficult to understand, if not impossible. In trying to make it more acceptable, they leave it less challenging.

Peter, speaking of Paul’s epistles said. “As also in all [his] epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood.”  Notice, he did not suggest a better rendering of Paul’s letters or a more up to date translation. We are to put on our spiritual thinking-caps, and work through difficult passages. It takes spiritual and intellectual sweat to understand the hard things of the Bible, which this generation of Christians, is not into.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Bowing to Our Books

Evangelist D.L. Moody, commenting on marking your Bible said, “It can be a helpful thing, provided one doesn’t become a slave to it.” Because of the makeup of my temperament, I was a servant to my markings for years. Bold lettering, notes in the margin, and different highlighted colors characterized my Bibles. Many years ago, my youngest daughter Charity, while leafing through my Bible said, “Man, this looks like a coloring book.” By her statement you can see how bad it had gotten.

I find this type of slavishness is also true in the reading of books. As long as the Bible remains the Monarch of all other books, fine. But when you are more interested in what someone else has to say, over God, you have a big problem. If one is blessed more by his or her books, rather than “The Book,” it is time for him or her to take inventory of their spiritual life. The writings of others, no matter how godly, are at best, fillers. The Bible is always the exclusive Book. Paul’s reference to the two groups when writing to Timothy proves this, “...when thou comest, bring [with thee]...the books, [but] especially the parchments.”

Let us not unconsciously become the servant of men, remembering it is possible to make the Word of God to none effect by their traditions. The Word of God is to be the first and last Book we go to for our final authority. I love my books, but need to constantly remind myself, there is only “One Book” on this earth that will never pass away.

“How sweet are thy words unto my taste! [yea, sweeter] than honey to my mouth!”

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

After You've Done All You Can

“...in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore...”

That old warhorse Paul gives good advice to us would-be warriors, who desire to emulate his example in life’s battles. After we have done all we know to do in life’s skirmishes, says he, “Stand.” That is, stand your ground, or as the leader in combat tells his men, “Hold the line.”

We do not fight to victory; we fight from victory to victory. Our attempt is not in getting it, but in keeping it. Just as David’s mighty men were “steadfast, unmovable,” in guarding what belonged to their king, so should it be with us and our King of Kings.

When I was a boy, and there was a fight between two of us, whoever was left standing was declared the winner.  In spite of the numerous and continual punches this wicked world gave Jesus, they never knocked Him off His feet. Jesus Christ was, is, and will ever be, the last man standing! HE IS ETERNALLY THE MIGHTY VICTOR!

An illustration by C.H. Spurgeon conveys, I believe, what I am attempting to say. “In the old Roman days, when a sentry was placed in his position by his centurion, he never thought of quitting his post. Rocks might roam, but not the sentinels of the empire. There was found in Pompeii, among the ashes, a sentry, standing in his place with his javelin in his hand: he had not flinched amid the deadly shower which fell from the volcano and buried the city. His centurion, in the name of the emperor, had set him there, and there he stood."

"And having done all, to stand. Stand therefore...”

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Those Progressives

“(For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)”

I have never professed or thought myself to be the brightest kid on the block. But I do confess inheriting some of my dear mother’s Kentucky, common horse sense, as she would put it. She used many such aphorisms, one of which was, “Child, they don’t have sense enough to come in out of the rain.” I think this is especially applicable to today’s pseudo-intellectual society.

Whether it is politics, business, education, or religion, one of their most popular catch words is, progressive. It has even come to be associated with a movement. I’ve come to the conclusion after hearing some of them, they’re like the philosophers on Mars Hill, they’re only interested in things that are new.

Under the guise of moving forward they leave behind them discarded treasures of immense value.   

I think G.K Chesterton said it best, “Real development is not leaving things behind, as on a road, but drawing life from them, as from a root. Even when we improve we never progress. For progress, the metaphor from the road, implies a man leaving his home behind him: but improvement means a man exalting the towers or extending the gardens of his home.”

Friday, March 15, 2013

Nesting Near the Altar

“Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, [even] thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God.”

Each time I read this scripture, it arrests my attention. I’ve found there are numerous interpretations among commentators on this text. It seems to me David is referring to either the Tabernacle or the Temple, in reference to “an house,” probably the latter of the two. We could liken our narrative to a present-day mall, where the little birds have slipped in and made their homes in the high-up rafters.

In our story it is apparent these little creatures had crept into God’s House, but not without his full knowledge or approval. They’d made their straw homes someplace adjoining or near the altar. It was here they were constantly reminded that their Creator required sacrificial lives upon His altar. Their little fledglings would also observe this as they grew, and before leaving the nest, so to speak. Each family member knew what it was like to live near the altar.

David spent most of his life “compassing” God’s altar (Psl.26:6). But, one dark day, he took the wings of the morning, and flew away. And he learned from this experience, “As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so [is] a man that wandereth from his place,” to be ever so true. He had lost his song in a strange land. No doubt, during this wretched time in his life, he envied these little birds. He found, as all do who wing their way from God that it is better to live close to God’s altar than to dwell in a palace.

My wife sings a song, “Fly to Jesus, fly to Jesus, fly to Jesus, and live.” Maybe some, who are reading this, need to do just that!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What's Heaven Like?

Heaven is a country like our own, and it has a capital city, The New Jerusalem. The Holy Scriptures reveal quite a bit as to the latter, but comparatively little of the former. These two, the country and city, are inseparable from one another. We are told of the Bible saints, “They desire a better [country], that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.”

There has been much speculation concerning our heavenly home. A good deal that has been taught and written on the subject has majored on the allegorization and spiritualization of it. My personal view is, when literal sense can be applied, seek no other sense. I’ve always been a literalist in my interpretation, when at all possible. To me, the people, streets, mansions, fruit, robes, animals, river, trees, etc., are as real there as they are to us now. We must not forget, just because we say something is spiritual does not mean it isn’t physical. God associates the two, “on earth, as it is in heaven.” I believe heaven is like the earth, but without the sin.

My next major and final stop is heaven. My destiny is heaven; my hope is Christ. When I arrive I’ll finally be home and eternally with the one I love and adore. No! I’ll never get tired of HIM, for lovers are never bored with each other’s company. Ah, my friends, THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE HOME!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Take Your Foot Off The Pedal

“A sudden inclination to act”—short; but a good definition of the word impulsive. Generally speaking, every time I have gotten into trouble, it’s been those times when I went by a sudden urge to say or do something then and there, on the spot. How I have regretted those times in my life.

In spite of the wise man’s warnings to “Be not hasty in thy spirit...” we are determined to always keep our lives in gear with our foot on the gas pedal. We absolutely refuse to sit idled for a short time. We show our lack of faith by our impulsiveness. The prophet tells us, “...he that believeth shall not make haste.” Jesus’ advice to us is to sit down  first and consider  before attempting anything of significance.

An impulsive saint invariably has an impatient spirit.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Guilt of Prosperity

No doubt, the fear of being associated with the present-day teaching of the “health and wealth” crowd, and the envy of less fortunate folks, cause many with means to carry a sense of embarrassment and guilt. This is a needless weight to be borne by those blessed abundantly by their God. As my son Andrew so rightly says, “We need to stop apologizing for the Will of God in our lives.”

How much we who possess less owe to those who have been plentifully privileged. Think about that Blessed One, whom we are told was “poor.” He literally didn’t, as they say, “have a penny to His name.” We do well to remember, it was a rich man who donated his own grave site for His burying.

The scriptures say, “The rich and poor meet together: the LORD [is] the maker of them all.” We need to be content in whatever class to which we belong. There should never be class envy or warfare among the children of God. The Bible principle is: the poor saint is to rejoice at his brother’s prosperity, and the prosperous Christian is to relieve the less fortunate in the family of God.

Jesus said, “Ye have the poor with you always.” And John wrote, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper (physically)...even as thy soul prospereth (spiritually).”  There is no contradiction of terms here. Jesus’ statement is fact, John’s, sentiment. Just as one might wish there was no suffering in the world.

Let all of us, as the Lord’s children, rejoice, whether it is in much or little. Knowing that, GOD IS IN IT!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Taking a Step Up

My wife recently inspired me to read the works of an old divine, George H. Morrison. And what an inspiration I’ve found him to be. The ideas in this article I received in reading one of his sermons. He mentions a term the genuine mystics of old used; And I have come to agree with it, “The ladder of prayer.” They regarded prayer as an ascent to God, bearing the soul upward step by step. I have found this to be true both from my own observation and experience. Prayer, like most things in life, has a beginning and conclusion.

There are basic rudiments, if followed, that will lead one to celestial heights never dreamed of. It seems to me the first step is, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Then, the next rung on the ladder is petitioning the Lord for personal needs in one’s life. The next step upward is interceding for others. And the last and final stage on the ladder is the glorious and triumphant cry, “Not my will, but thine be done.”

Morrison, speaking of when we have reached the pinnacle on the ladder of prayer says, “That is the highest reach of prayer, when it is grasped in the fullness of its meaning. That is something nobler than petition. It is communion with the Father of all spirits.” He goes on, “There may be many struggle before that stage is reached. There was struggle for Jesus before that stage was reached—“If it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” But when it is reached, then there is perfect peace, and a new light on everything that happens.”

The joy, peace, and contentment small children enjoy is to be found in their trusting their father to handle all the cares in their little lives. And so it is also with us, God’s Little Children.”

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Anointed Shield

"Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.”

The shields of the Old Testament were made of various materials, such as gold, brass, etc. Some were simply for show, while others were for military use. We are told that the latter was made of wood, wicker work, overlaid with leather. Ezekiel speaks of Israel burning their enemy’s shields.

There is an interesting text in Isaiah, “Anoint the shield.”  To keep the shield from drying out and cracking, it would be anointed with olive oil. This would prevent the adversary’s arrows from penetrating the parched shield. But also, this oil would serve to extinguish the fiery arrows as they stuck in this most important part of a warrior’s armour.

Abraham was in constant danger from those around him. He was told by God, “I am thy shield.” And darling David said, “The Lord is my shield.” And the wise man tells us, “He [is] a shield unto them that put their trust in him.” Christ means “the anointed one” (cp. Acts 4:26 with Psl.2:2).

Standing between us and all the fiery darts of the wicked one is “The Captain of [our] Salvation,” who, anointed with His own precious Blood, bears in His own body every flaming arrow that hell can shoot at us. What a blessing to put Him, our Shield, between us and Satan. And O the thrill, to smell the smoke of the smoldering fire as it dies out. Hallelujah, what a Saviour!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Soaked in the Scriptures

That has been my deepest longing from the night I was birthed into God’s family, until this present hour. At the close of the final evening of the revival meeting in which I was converted, the evangelist, when he was bidding farewell to people, looked at me and said, “Stay in the Book, stay in the Book!”  Although I had never read the Bible up until then, from that moment to now, I have endeavored to do just that, for these past fifty-five years.

I desire to be so soaked with the scripture that when I am wrung out, so to speak, the water of the Word splashes on everyone and everything around me. O, to be saturated with the Holy Scriptures! Then I’ll be able to ask myself, not, “What would Jesus do?” but more importantly, “What does Jesus say!” Some can only assume the one, but you can be assured of the other.

We are not to seek Jesus’ and His disciple’s experience, but their teachings. In this case, the little cliché, “Don’t do as I do, but do as I say,” holds true. A boy who is a 98-pound weakling, who has an older brother 275 pounds, and a lineman for an NFL team, would be foolish to try doing what his brother does; but he would be wise to do what his godly Christian brother says.

May the good Lord help each of us to live in, and to live by, the blessed Holy Scriptures.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Word Worriers

“And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees (religious) and of the Herodians (political), to catch him in [his] words.”
 
In our Lord’s time, as today, there were those who were word-checkers. They believed in both political, and what’s worse, theological correctness in the use of terms. Even to the point of ostracizing those who did not use the accepted expressions of their particular groups.
 
Such superior snobs, like fierce animals, lie in wait for their prey to come their way. They’re unmerciful in their criticism; they rip and tear their victim publically, so that all can behold their expertise. Jesus was not threatened by such nonsensical know-it-alls. He was the WORD!
 
I chuckle to myself when reading scriptures that many today would believe to be theological incorrect terms. John said, “Beloved, I wish...” I can hear someone now say, “Wish?” “Do you believe in Aladdin’s lamp, John?” Or when Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, He said, “And by chance there came down a certain priest that way...” This was said by One who I think was up on the subject of predestination. Yet, I’m sure, a certain group among us would have been the first to correct Him, saying, “Nothing is by chance.”
 
Years ago, a little boy who was saved in one of my meetings was asked by the pastor who saved him. The lad pointed to me and said, “He did.” The audience gasped, yet he was more scriptural than they. Paul said, “...that I may save some.”  The old-timers spoke of the “baptism of the Holy Ghost,” and the Second Blessing.” Such terms today are frowned upon by these powerless elites.
 
I like the way Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. put it: “I’d rather hear a fella say, ‘I seen,’ when he had seen something, than ‘I have seen,” when he hadn’t seen anything.”