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.