Monday, March 31, 2014

The Garment of Praise

“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion...the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness...that he [God] might be glorified.”

I think most of us do not realize just how important praise is in the life of a Christian. It is not sufficient it play a little part in our lives; it is to play a “big” part! It is what we will do throughout eternity, therefore, wise is the man or woman who is familiarizing themselves in the practice of it prior to entering the City of our God. As C.S. Lewis writes, “If we cannot praise God on the lowest plane, how can we praise Him on the highest plane?”

We are told the Jewish people had different garments and ornaments for various festivities and events. Those for rejoicing and for mourning, much like our weddings and funerals. The prophet Isaiah tells us the Lord was going to give His people a change of garments. He was going to replace those which represented mourning and a heavy spirit with a garment of praise. And the reason for this? That He might be praised. “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me,” saith the Lord.

It has been said, “A gloomy believer is surely an anomaly in Christ’s Kingdom.” And Matthew Henry states, “Zion’s mourners weep in secret.” It is not those who complain about the dark hours, but those, who like Paul and Silas, praise God at midnight, that bring about a shaking and an awaking. It was not their preaching, but their praying and praising at the dark hour that had such a strong influence on those bound in chains.

Another writer penned, “There is something in each one’s experience that another cannot borrow.” This is why God made us all different and deals with us accordingly. Each of His children can praise Him in a particular and peculiar way that another brother or sister can’t. This is why it is imperative for each to praise God in his or her own way. If we do not, something will be missing. The praise songs of heaven are written in different parts.

“Christ had a delight in praise, possibly because it was a kind of echo from heaven. It reminded Him of the scenes He had left.”

(Andrew A. Bonar)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Jelly Beans and God

As the boy waited for his mother to complete her shopping, the old time store keeper smilingly held out a large jar of jelly beans to the little fella, inviting him to take a handful. The wise little urchin asked the kind man if he would mind doing it for him.

In the final analyses, it is best to always have God’s hand in all our choices. As the song says, “He holds the whole world in His Hands.” It’s because of this, He does, “…exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.”

I always loved to give to my children. To this very day I still find great pleasure in it. No doubt our Lord was referring to this when He said, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”

I don’t know about you, but I dearly love jelly beans. I think I’ll ask my Father if He would mind putting His Hand in the jar for me. How about you?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Jesus Didn't Have a Bucket

The following is from my book, "Spilt Milk."   

“Thou hast nothing to draw with.” This woman had the same problem many of us have. She was delaying God’s blessings upon her life because of her question, “How is He going to do it.” (“Thou hast nothing to draw with”). How can you give me water without a bucket? How often we fuse the physical with the Spiritual, missing what God has for us, because of our human reasoning. “But,” someone says, “Doesn't God use human resources?” Yes, many times over. I grant you, He still uses obedient “widow women,” but I remind you, also, He still has “ravens” flying overhead, waiting for His beckoning call.

Israel is a good illustration of questioning the “how” of God’s plan. In Psalm 78 we read, “Can God furnish a table in the wilderness... can he give bread also…can he provide flesh for the people?” Sound familiar? “Can he…Can he…Can he? I’m sure none of us have ever thought or said such a thing. It says, “…they believed not…they trusted not.” Why the lack of faith? Simple, they could not answer the “how” question. The advice of the wise man is, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”

God is waiting to put an artesian well in some of us, as soon as we cease trying to understand how He will do it. Too many of us are more concerned with the bucket than the blessing. Let’s stop worrying about the “how,” and believe He can and will. He is still able, “…to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think.” The woman, like us, forgot a little line in Isaiah which says, “Who hath measured waters in the hollow of his hand.”

“My misgivings come from the fact that I ransack my own person to find out how He will be able to do it.”
 (Oswald Chambers)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Leeches in Christian Costumes

In the world, these Christian leeches, dressed in religious garb, are known by different aliases: freeloaders; bloodsuckers; sponges; moochers; hanger-ons; scroungers; parasites; and last, but not least, extortioners. The world has always had their share of these low-downers, who fleeced the innocent and unsuspecting, but now the Church has a “mixed multitude” who has taken up residence among us.

They’re found not just in the pews, but worse, in the pulpits, and among many missionaries and Christian institutions. These “hard-Luckers” have done more harm to the legitimate ministers, enterprizes, and servants of God than the devil ever has. They take advantage of the gullibility of innocent saints who have never known the ways of the world. But, I’m sorry to say, “I have.” And I want to warn you who are being drained by these devils.

These charlatans are not just to be seen in the public media, but also in our assemblies and among our kin and friends. In this case they generally come under the guise of borrowers, but have no means or intention of ever paying their incurred debts. The Bible speaks of such, The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again.” God’s command is, “Pay...that thou owest.”

These characterless conmen and women need to have the “brook dried up” on them. Hanger-ons don’t hang-around long when this happens! You think I'm, tough? Paul said, “If a man didn’t work, neither should he eat,”

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Cause of Discontent

“I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Contentment is something we learn, and this subject cannot be learned until we have first learned that there can be no contentment without commitment. Once we commit ourselves daily to the will of God, we have learned the secret of contentment. It’s not that we do not know the will of God; it’s the fact that many of us do not like the will of God, and that brings on discontentment. We are not content with who we are, where we are, what we're doing, and even the way we're doing it. Because of the simply reason we have not committed these things to God.

We cannot enjoy the present for the imagery we create in our minds of some fanciful future. C.S. Lewis writes: “Of unattainable longings, sour is the fruit.” Sometimes it is alright to say to ourselves, “This is it, and there “ain’t no more; and that’s O.K.” Along with this, we need to change our philosophy from, “It could be better” to “It could be worse.” Again I quote Lewis: “Nobody who gets food and clothing in a world where most are hungry and cold, has any business to talk about misery.”

“Commitment” and “contentment” are spelled differently, but they go together.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Enjoying Our Bible

Someone has said, “The Bible is not read because it is not enjoyed; it is not enjoyed because it is not understood; and it is not understood because it is not rightly divided.” Rightly divided, as in giving to each their equal share. Like the Old Testament offering, a portion went to God, another to the priest, and a third to the one sacrificing. You don’t give to one what distinctly belongs to another. All the Bible is for us, but not all of it is to or about us.

Many, I find, are slaves in the reading of their Bibles. Sometimes Bible teachers lay down hard and fast rules for a person’s quiet time that in return become a law to the recipient.  I’ve heard such nonsensical statements as: “Every Christian needs to read their Bible through three times a year”; “You ought to mark your Bible from Genesis to Revelation”; The time to read the scriptures is very early in the morning.” The aforementioned is fine for some, but not all. One size doesn't fit all.

The man who works midnights is not in any shape to have early morning devotions. The young mother, with two or three to look after would have a tough time reading so many chapters a day. The visually impaired have difficult time enough reading, much less marking. And those with terminal maladies find it almost impossible to fit some ritualistic, man-made system into their suffering lives! The truth is, other than a daily meeting God in his Word, there is no cut and dried way to read your Bible.

A.W. Tozer stated that there were times he spent days, even weeks, on one scripture or portion before moving on in his Bible reading. Brainard said he read till his heart burned. And that late, great missionary statesman, Oswald J. Smith, made it a point to make sure he turned a page a day in his reading of the old Book. Most certainly, we all agree we should read the Bible, like any other book, from cover to cover. But we do not all agree as to the method. Therefore, let’s give each a little elbow room.

It’s not how many times you've been through the Bible, but how many times it’s gone through you. And the question for sure is not, “Do you mark your Bible?” but, “Are you marked by your Bible?” I close with two quotes from Andrew A. Bonar in reference to the Bible: “May we be able to spread our Bibles on the Mercy-Seat, and read them by the light of the cloud of Glory”; “Keep a grape of Eshcol beside you, and moisten your parched palate with it when you can.”  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

*The Old Manna

“And the children of Israel did eat manna forty years...until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan...And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old... neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.”


Manna, whatever else it may represent, is associated with wilderness saints: faithless, fruitless, and faltering, going in circles, never getting any place. We wonder sometimes why we have not advanced in our Christian life, why we have not grown more. To a great extent, it is because we live upon the “old manna.” We're too easily satisfied with the old manna, rather than the fresh grapes of Eshcol .       


The history of Israel was, each time the way got rough, “Let us return into Egypt.” They longed for the way it was, not the way it could be. The former takes faith! To experience the new, many times we must leave much of the old behind. This was the problem with the early Jewish Christians. They held to their religious past. The writer of Hebrews exhorts them,  “Leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection.”


The old in our lives has served its purpose, but to return to it is only to find it breeding worms. The rich, adult cuisine of Canaan cannot be compared to the infant pablum of the wilderness. We have a choice how we will live our lives. Either in poverty, wandering in the wilderness of this world, our fleshly appetites never satisfied, or feasting on the spiritual riches of Canaan.


I guarantee, no true Christian when entering the New Heaven, will desire the old earth!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

When There's None To Encourage

David and his men have just returned to Ziklag, where both he and the families of his followers were housed. While absent, the Amalekites had invaded the city, burning it down, and taken all the women and children captive. David and his men wept till they could weep no more. Then, because of grief, his men spoke of stoning David, leaving him in great distress. It is at this point, we are told, “David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.”

There will be times in all of our lives when each of us will find ourselves totally alone, with no one around to encourage us. It is then we must learn to follow darling David’s example in encouraging ourselves in the Lord. And just how is this done? I suggest we take the wise advice of Martyn LLoyd Jones, “We must learn to talk to ourselves instead of allowing ‘ourselves’ to talk to us.”

We’re not to listen to ourselves; we are to talk to ourselves. Whenever the former is the case, there will be discouragement. Listen to David when tempted to be downtrodden, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him.” Three times he tells us this. David knew how to handle himself. There are times we need to take ourselves in hand and give ourselves a good talking to. For some of us, maybe that time is now.

“Yesterday He helped me,
Today He did the same,
How long will this continue?
Forever, Praise His Name!”

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Learning To Live With It

"I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." In the context of our scripture the Apostle is speaking of accepting, equally, the hard times in life along with the good . I am glad he inserted the word, "learned." We naturally do have to be taught to live with the good and pleasant, but to live co-equally with the distasteful things of life, well, that must be learned over the years.

It is by no way an easy thing to digest those bitter transitory conditions we all experience in our earthly journey. But it has and can be done, knowing such things will come to pass; but always with some reluctance, I might add. But what of those things that enter our lives, those things that come to stay, the clinger-ons, the ones you can't shake off? Like a viper, it clings till death do us part.


In such cases, praying doesn't help. When Moses brought up such a situation in his own life to God, the answer was that God didn't want to discuss it anymore. It was also the same in Paul's case, he prayed three times, over a period of fourteen years, for its removal. The answer was that it was there to stay, and God's grace was sufficient for him. 


In my own case I've had to accept the fact I'm aged, afflicted, and it will always be that way till death. I find contentment with this! How about you, what do you need to accept?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Be Thankful/Things Could Be Worse

Years ago, an evangelist I knew went through a great trial. His wife left him, spreading lies everywhere, his children all turned on him, and every church he had booked, cancelled their meetings. He told me he thought at the time, it was bad as it could get. Then a card came in the mail from a preacher friend. On the front was a picture of a one-legged man with the caption, "I thought I was bad off." Then when you opened the card, it said, "Until I met a man with no legs."

I remember my blessed mother saying about herself or to others, when in difficult situations, "Well, it could be a lot worse." Those among us who are tempted to say, in trying times, "It is as bad as it can get," may find God will allow us to realize the hard way our statement to be untrue. We need to learn to be thankful our lot is not worse than it is. There are many suffering saints who would gladly change places with us. None of us has yet "sweat blood," in our agony!

David, no doubt, had the same trouble some of us have in our afflictions. He complained with his lot."I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed." Whenever we feel like grumbling we need to follow the advice an older preacher gave me when I was starting out in my ministry. I had asked the cure for those times I felt sorry for myself. The wise answer was, "Read a chapter out of Foxe's book of Martyrs, or go visit the cancer ward at a local hospital. Maybe some of us need to do some reading or visiting today. What do you think?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Virtue Trumps Vice

"Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all - And  now, my daughter...all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman - A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones - Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies - And Jesus said...I perceive that virtue is gone out of me - for there went virtue out of him [Jesus], and healed them all - Finally, brethren, ...whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things - add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge - him that hath called us to glory and virtue."

The word virtue, and its kin, is found eleven times in the 1611 KJV. In the Old Testament it always refers to a woman. In the New Testament the reference is to either gender. It has to do with who a person is, thus affecting what he or she does. Like many of our English words today, it has been gutted of its Bible meaning. The world desires to neutralize such words, thus taking away the convicting power of them. Therefore, they have now educated many that they are associated with only the self righteous and holier-than-thou crowd.

But notice in the texts we quoted, the Holy Spirit gives us a different interpretation than that of the worldling. Taking just the scriptures, observe: in God's eyes virtuous people excel all others; those around such, take note of them; also, they are like a crown to those close to them; and to not possess this godly trait is to be rotten to the bone; we're told these folk are hard to find, in any age; that their value is far above rubies; that their lives can be used to help the hurting; that virtue is sandwiched between a good report and praise, (yummy); that it is to be an additive to our faith: and last, but not least, God has called all of His children to be virtuous!

Marcus Porcius (234-149 bc), known as Cato the Elder, was a Roman statesman and writer. He said, "Those who have a great concern about the appearance of the body, have great carelessness about virtue!" Seems things haven't changed much.

rds


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Christ is All

Someone has said, "If Christ is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all." To Paul, to put it in his words, Christ was his "All in all." He knew that if his precious Lord was not the whole of his life, even the green pastures soon withered away. If Jesus was not the portion of his cup, it might as well be poison; death was preferable to living a life without Christ being the center.

Paul's eye was always fixed on Christ. He was on his mind night and day. So much so that people thought him, "beside himself" (crazy). The once blasphemer had been taken captive by His love. He knew he could take no other course but to love Him back, with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength. There are degrees of love, little and much, but he knew his Master longed for the latter. He found the more you love Him, the more you want to love him!

Paul didn't spend his time at "broken cisterns, that cannot hold water," he went directly to the fountainhead. Only there and there alone could he find satisfaction. Peter, speaking of us coming to Christ, said, "To whom coming...[is] precious." The history of Paul's life, once he met Christ, was a constant coming to Him. He knew of no other place to go! And once more, he didn't desire to go anyplace else.

O, beloved, the greatest hinderance to fuller blessings in our lives is that thing, or things, we take into our hearts with Christ. He is a jealous lover, He does not want to share us! He wants to be our, "ALL AND IN ALL."

Friday, March 7, 2014

Joy in God

We also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ...I [Jesus] pray...that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”

Someone wrote, “There is an intense Joy in God that has not yet been drawn out of Him.” God is the fountainhead of all joy. Joy is the very atmosphere of heaven, it is the celestial air we will breath endlessly up there. And the more we know of God here, the more of heaven we will enjoy on earth. Our joy should be in heaven with God; His, we are told, is on earth, “[God’s] delights [are] with the sons of men.”

Our joy here is but the beginning; it will continue throughout all eternity. Our taste of it now is only a foretaste for it then. You might say it is our earnest (down payment) while sojourning on earth. Strange it is, we say we want nothing more than joy, yet with the cup within our reach, we shrink back and take only a few drops. God would have us drink the cup of joy to the very last drop. Strange, we are afraid to rejoice, yet God entrusted us with Joy.

Paul’s desire for the saints at Rome (and I’m sure for us also) was, “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,” (we must appropriate it). The words “all” and “fill,” carry with them the thought of completely. That is, He will fill every nook and cranny of our vacant hearts with His joy. If that were the case, we would have no room for anything else, you know, like for instance, anxious care.

Hannah wept and worried because of the fact she had no son. Her husband said to her, “Am not I better to thee than ten sons?” Do not we also fret over things we desire, yet out of our control? And does not our God say to us, as Elkanah of old, “Am not I ten times better to thee than all the things thou couldest desire.”

“Am I not enough mine own, enough mine own for thee?”
(anonymous)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Retire/Refire

When that colorful old time Nazarene preacher, Uncle Buddy Robinson, was asked, when he entered his 80’s, if he would retire, with his familiar stuttering speech replied, “Shoot, no! I’m going to refire.” This is also how I generally answer the inquirer. That is, those who can get it.

“Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the LORD said unto him, Thou art old and stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.” God did not set a rocker before Joshua in his advanced years, but a challenge. “There is no discharge in that war.”

When the aged Apostle Paul was shut-up and chained to circumstances, he was still bringing forth fruit in his old age (Philemon). His writings, when a shut-in, excelled his public preaching. Elisha’s private ministry, behind closed doors, by far exceeded Elijah’s before the masses. The former performing twice the miracles.

The advantages of the aged is that they have both the learning experiences of the past, as well a vast collection of precious memories from those many years lived. And best of all, they can now see the lights of home and hear the joyful singing from their Father’s House!

“Since the Good Shepherd found me and laid me on His shoulders, rejoicing, we have never parted company.”
(Andrew A. Bonar)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Old Paths or Former Days

“Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls...Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this.

There is no contradiction here. In the latter case, Solomon speaks of the carnal man, “the man under the sun,” who thinks any and all of the old days were better than his present ones, desiring to go back to them. This type applauds the past and is appalled by the present. But in the former text we have a spiritual man speaking on God’s behalf, emphasizing not the any and all things of the past but  particular paths, those ways tried and proved to be goodly. He is not saying go back to everything, but rather transport some things, the good of the past, forward.

It is the second of these texts, I’d like to comment on, “the former days being better that these.” One of the oldest writings in existence, dating back a few thousand years, starts off with these words, “Alas, times are not what they used to be.” Sound familiar? Statements such as this, says Horace Greeley, “Have probably pervaded in every age.” We are not the first generation to be discouraged by our contemporary surroundings.

It is important for we Christians to realize, just because a culture changes does not mean civilization is coming to an end. Earlier ages thought their generation would usher in the end of the world. Each using some portion of Bible prophecy to prove their point. Therefore, they thought, proving theirs was the last days. But the book of Hebrews tells us the “last days” began with Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:2). As to signs, “wars and rumors of wars,” “earthquakes in divers places,” “false Christs’, “sodomy,” etc., they have always been.

Jesus Christ, the world’s greatest authority on prophecy said, “Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.” C.S. Lewis says of our text, “Precisely because we cannot predict the moment, we must be ready at all moments.” And Dr. John R. Rice’s warning to sign seekers was, “Jesus is coming again! Signs or no signs.”

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Where to Meet God

And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark...And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark ”

The main piece of furniture in the Tabernacle was the Ark of God. It was the center of focus, being the lone piece of furniture placed in the Holy of Holies. It was made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold. Within it were 1) the tables of stone with the Ten Commandments written upon them; 2) a jar of Manna; and 3) Aaron’s rod that budded. Above it was placed the Mercy Seat, made of one solid piece of gold. At each end were two Cherubs with outstretched wings facing each other. The Hgh Priest would sprinkle blood upon it once a year to atone for his and the people’s sins. It was symbolic of God’s Throne and presence.

It is good to remember when we come before God in prayer, it is not because of our merit, but His mercy which makes it possible. We can come before Him boldly, but only for the fact that Hebrews tells us, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.” This is why God invites us to, “Come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” It is not the man or woman who prays, “ God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, ”but that humble soul who cries out, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”

“Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty,
   At Calvary.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

*Idiosyncrasy

The word idiosyncrasy is derived from the Greek and means: one’s own; a mixing. Our dictionary defines it as a personal peculiarity or mannerism. Like it or not, we all have our little quirks. It is these oddities that our children, loved ones, and friends enjoy poking fun at. Some are way too sensitive to this well intended jesting. But no harm is meant; it’s simply a fact of life. Those who revel in this type of teasing are the objects of the same, whether they realize it or not. None are exempt. Even those who try to hide theirs are mimicked in their attempt to do so.

Few realize their idiosyncrasies are what make them stand out, what make them the individuals they are. Our mannerisms distinguish us; they make us different from others. If it were not for them, we'd simply be run-of-the-mill entities. What a bland, uninteresting character, one would be without any trade mark. Certainly they show our fallibility, but that’s what draws various people to us.

So let us stop being ashamed and cease endeavoring to disguise these little clinger-ons to our personalities. A woodworking craftsman doesn't try to hide natural markings in the grain; they are not deficiencies, they distinguish. And so it is with you and me.