Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Archaic Anointing

Different groups use various terms to describe it. This has been true in every age. It has been referred to as: the baptism of the Holy Ghost, the fullness of the Spirit, the anointing of the Spirit, the special enduement of the Spirit, and filled with the Spirit; but however it was referred to they all meant one and the same thing, the mighty power of God coming upon a man or woman. Today one is seen to be “religiously incorrect” to use such terms.

I knew of an old preacher years ago who referred to this experience as a crisis that becomes a process. It is simply coming to the end of yourself and wanting the  power of God more that all else. It’s like a man dying of thirst in a desert who gives up everything for a drink of water. I have observed in our day, not many Christians are thirsting for God and His power. Is it any wonder then that their lives are like a desert?

I like the story of the old Indian who went to hear a speaker of great reputation. When asked what he thought of his talk he replied, “Big thunder, much wind, no rain.” How about you? Do showers of blessing follow wherever you go?

A preacher who has a well prepared message is ill-prepared without Holy Ghost anointing!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Bullies in the Christian's Life

I read that at one point in John Wesley's life he had an eating problem. He is purported to have said, "Food is not going to bully me!" As a result, he ate nothing but potatoes for the next two years to prove his point. I do not necessarily agree with this solution, but I do believe we need to stop the bullies in our lives. As long as we cower in a corner and give them their way they will continue to push us around all of our lives.

Peter tells us, "...for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage." Scripture teaches the saints are to be the overcomers. Paul wrote, he would not allow himself to be brought into bondage even to things that were lawful (legitimate). Good sometimes can be a greater enemy than the bad. As to the things of the world, too much of a good thing can become harmful, even distasteful. 

Many of us are way too "Spiritual" when it come to our physical cravings. I like something J.I. Packer said in his introduction to John Owen's book, Sin and Temptation. "I nowadays think the way to deal with temptation is at once to say "NO!" And with that to ask the Lord for strength to keep saying, "NO!" I have found doing this and meaning it, works far better than quoting many scriptures without meaning it.

In India, I'm told, they tie baby elephants to a straw chain to hold them. When older and grown, they never try to free themselves, having come to believe they do not have the power to do so. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Dreaming Can Be Devine

“And Joseph dreamed a dream...” If you’re familiar with the story, then you know this young man got into a lot of trouble with his brethren because of the dreams he had. Even for us today, speaking allegorically, there is a price to pay for having Divine dreams; as Joseph's cost him. Nevertheless, we should dare to dream, even to old age (Joel 2:28). Once it is discerned that the dream is of God, nothing should divert our attention from seeing it come to fruition.

On the other hand, let me caution all those who have a dream to make sure the ingredients of that dream have come from God. For this is what real dreams are made of. Be careful your dreams are not of your own making. “Neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed.” We need to be dead certain that God is the Author of our dreams. If He is not, they are only fantasies. Any dream that does not have God’s glory for its goal is not from Him.

God is the only Person who can interpret dreams; He is also the only one who can fulfill them.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wishing Doesn't Make it So

"Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth."

This is a brief but unusual salutation. Bible students are more familiar and used to it being: grace, mercy and peace. Nevertheless asking about or showing a concern for others' health in greetings, whether it be personal or in correspondence, was standard. We pretty much follow this pattern in our own culture. We say such things as, "How are you?" when meeting a friend. And in a letter, "I trust this finds you in good health." 

The health and wealth gurus, along with many of the tell-evangelists use this scripture to promote their healing ministries, attempting to convince sincere and misguided saints they should never be sick, and if so, that God does not want it so. The result is long healing lines of sick folk, while the shyster lines his or her pockets with their silver. As P.T. Barnum is purported to have said, "There's a sucker born every minute."  

But John is only saying what, for example, every pastor says to his flock around the holidays, "I wish all of you a Merry Christmas," realizing in reality this will not be true in many of their cases. But that is his longing, his desire, his deepest wish. It is a general statement, not a factual reality. 

If good health and lack of any physical sufferings in a saint's life is an indication of being spiritual and of great faith, then the likes of Job, Paul, and yes, I say it reverently, our own blessed Lord would be left out. 

Wishing never abdicates God's Will for one's life!  

Monday, January 19, 2015

Routine

Customary, regular, habitual, unvarying, unimaginative, rehearsed, repeated, common-place, dull. One thing you cannot associate with any of these words is excitement. This list of bland words is various definitions of the word “routine.” True, there are high points in life, but these experiences are intermittent. For the most part, every day life is routine.

Many do not understand our lives are not lived on the mountain peaks, but in the valleys. There are those who mistakenly look at the mountain peak experiences of the Bible and see them as being close together. But, actually, there is a long valley between each. This valley is called, “The Valley of Routine.” In it you will find the “same-old, same-old.” Jesus walked it thirty years as a common laborer. He knew what it was to live a routine life.

Routine is not rut; it’s life. Get used to it, and make the best of it.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Cemented With Age

After more than half a century of studying God’s Word and observing people, I have added to my short list of core convictions two more, and set them in cement. I have always strongly believed in both, but not to the almost radical extent I do now. I’m referring to my belief in God’s absolute sovereignty over man and matter, and the total depravity of man in every area of his being.

As to the former, in the above mentioned, the certainty that an omnipotent God is in control of this insane world today, is the only thing that’s allowed me to keep my sanity. A world where the inmates are now running the institution and the sane people are considered the “crazies.” It is wonderful to know at such a time, as Daniel of old said, “There is a God in Heaven.” And when things have run their course according to His plan, He will step in! And when He puts His foot down, I guarantee all will know it.

Concerning my second persuasion, as Isaiah says in the first chapter of his book, man is tainted with sin from the sole of his foot to the top of his head. No part is left untouched; he is depraved in all aspects. Left to himself, free to act and think as he pleases, he will invariably choose his own interests above God’s. Total depravity entails total inability. That is, he has lost all ability to understand or accomplish anything truly Spiritual. Cornelius Van Till put it something like this; it’s not that unregenerate man is not sharp; he can saw as good, if not better, than a Christian. The problem is, his saw is crooked, never allowing him to saw a straight line.

“Two things are needed to humble us. First, let us consider God in His greatness, glory, holiness, power, majesty, and authority. Then let us consider ourselves in our mean, abject, and sinful condition—especially in our enmity against God, which still remains in our hearts.” (John Owen, Puritan)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Habit/Tradition

I haven't taken time to look up the dictionary's definition of these two words (habit/tradition); I wanted to be a little 'Sandlinesque' in this article, so please forgive me. To me, the word habit brings to mind such descriptive words as personal or individual. Whereas tradition, to my way of thinking, carries a wider meaning, that being public and collective. A habit can be bad or good, and so it is with tradition. 

But even when one or both of these are found in a good context, they can be turned into the opposite. For example, Bible reading or prayer; when one thinks he or she cannot break the traditional or habitual mold they've always been accustomed to, then it becomes a weight in one's life. Strictly observing and adhering to the status-quo, you can be slowed to a stop. To put oneself under a law where no law is, is truly being a legalist! 

There's a way to tell when it is a man-made law or a legitimately scriptural one. David tells us God's commandments are "exceeding broad." He gives us elbow room, remembering we are but dust. On the other hand, man-made laws and rules are confining; there is no wiggle room to be found in them, for one's humanity is never considered. 

Interestingly, after God laid down His Law, the Decalogue, He followed it by the sacrificial offerings, providing for all who break it. There is no such provision when you break man's, or those we have self-imposed upon ourselves.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Honor Before Glory

No higher tribute can be paid a man than this. To be told by a person of character, who knows you best, that you’re the most honorable man they ever met; well, that’s the apex of life for any man.

I've observed in the general population of younger men today, this accolade seems to mean little or nothing. I personally bend over backward for this present younger generation, always remembering how it was in my early years of manhood. But one of the things set in stone in my moral makeup, which I refuse to expunge, is the fact that a man should be a man of honor. This statement may be from the old school, but we who graduated from that school, graduated with the medal honor!

The word honor itself comes from the Latin. Some of its meanings are: integrity, trustworthy, ethical, morally principled, respectable, good. David’s mighty men, whom he gathered around him, were honorable men. Some were more than the others, “He was more honorable than the thirty, but he attained not to the first three.” I would liked to have been among the three.

The movie Rob Roy is a historical adventure, set in the Scottish Highlands in the 1700's. In one scene, his son asks him what honor meant, and his reply is a classic: “Honor is what no man can give you, nor can he take it away. Honor is a gift a man gives to himself.”

I do not know what men call themselves that are without honor; but I, for one, would never refer to them as “a man.”

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

GOD IS GOOD

There are many who have a problem reconciling the goodness of God with all the pain and suffering in the world. The former stems from the Holy character of God, the latter is the result of the fallen state of man. No sensible person would blame a morally upstanding parent, who was a wonderful father or mother, for a grown child who contacted a loathsome and incurable disease as a result of a willful life of debauchery. 

I used to preach in a church in Virginia, where whenever I would mention God was good, in unison the whole assembly would shout, "All the time!" From my Spiritually enlightened readers, I hear a hearty "Amen!" Darling David had his share of set-backs, disappointments, and ups and downs, yet all he could ever speak of was how good God was. Read the Psalms. You'll find such statements as, "Thou art good, and doest good"; "Truly God is good."

The scriptures tell us His goodness is: Great; Abundant; Rich; Satisfying; Enduring; and Universal. We read in His Word, "The Lord is good to all"; that is, both to the saved and unsaved.A good companion passage is, "He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. I say with the Psalmist, "Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness." 

Let none of us who know and love the the Lord ever forget one of the Bible's great truths. Satan's first temptation to our parents was to get them to question the goodness of God. Don't you fall for it! No matter what difficulties are transpiring in your life at this particular time. 

"GOD IS GOOD"  

Monday, January 12, 2015

Obscurity's Reward

“Made in the likeness of men.” Any spiritual person studying the life of our Lord soon realizes it is a portrait of their own. I’m not referring to His Deity, but His Humanity. When one steps back and looks at Jesus’ life panoramically, he or she notices a strange, but common, pattern to their own. When the Christian sees the overall picture, they are conscious that their own life falls into the same mold of that of their Savior.

First we have those long years of preparation. This is followed by entering public life. Then there is a brief time of popularity, when we ride the crest. But this is short lived. The crowd’s “Hosanna’s” soon die out and we are left with a few loved ones and true friends. This last stage of life—that of obscurity—can be our greatest.

His last days were spent with His faithful few. It was during this time, away from the clamor of the crowd, that He taught them the deep things of God. Having completed this, his closing ministry, His friends were then able to minister to Him in His final hour.

May God grant each of us older saints, during the closing years of our lives, to pass along to those He has placed around us the real issues of life. It is then that we can say in our final hour with satisfaction, “It is finished.”

Sunday, January 11, 2015

For the Elect's Sakes

"Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory."

I do not want to argue whether it is free will or God's arbitrary will in an individual's salvation. Nevertheless, it is undeniable, one of the many words God uses throughout the scriptures to describe His people is the term "Elect." Whether Israel or the Church, God has always had but one people. There are not two elects!

Some would rather labor debating sovereignty and free will than answer the searching question, "What am I willing to endure for God's Elect?" Paul's answer was all inclusive, as found in his words "all things." He had proved this on many occasions: by being shipwrecked, thrown into prison, etc. In each incident God's elect were involved.

We hear much sentimental jargon today about being, "Christ-like." I would remind my readers, Jesus was the ultimate in suffering for the "Elect's Sake." He poured out His soul for God's elect. In Christ's case, and Paul's, these chosen were anything but lovable and deserving. On the contrary, we were filthy and abhorring in God's sight.

Addendum: Early this morning (Sunday), I received a call from a dear saint who sat under my ministry when I was pastor, years ago. Saturday, she was rushed to the hospital with acute pneumonia. This morning she was reading my new devotional book, "Breakfast With the King." The nurse asked what she was reading, and when told, she requested it be read to her. The article was about being amazed with Christ. As a result the nurse was saved. My friend thanked God for her situation and its glorious result.  

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Making Progress

I remember reading somewhere in C.S. Lewis’ writings about one making progress in his or her life. It goes something like this. If you get off on the wrong road, no matter how far you go, that is not progress. To go back to where you took the incorrect turn and continue on, that’s progress. And, he adds, the man or woman who turns back soonest makes the speediest progress.

I have said to wayward souls in the past, “Begin again from where you’re at.” But I was mistaken; what I should have said is, “Start from where you got off.” The advice of the former only changes ones attitude, not their direction. They’re still on the wrong road. God’s way is to come back to Bethel and start over from there. Jacob found this to be true.

You can’t go on until you have first come back.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Learning to Pray

The best way in learning to ride a bike is in riding a bike. The best way in learning to pray is to pray. With all the falls one may encounter, if he or she persists, they will achieve their desired goal in either one. The perennial proverb, "Practice makes perfect," is certainly true in the case of prayer.  

Don't attempt to understand prayer and its workings, before you do it, any more than you would the digestive system before you eat. It's better experienced than explained. The Christian life is made up of scores of unfathomable doctrines we cannot comprehend before we enter our heavenly class room. Nevertheless, until then, we accept them by faith, and act upon them. 

Jesus taught distinctively that prayer has to do with FATHER and child. In our vast family there are the theologian and and the novice; the intellect and the illiterate; religious Jews and non-religious Gentiles; the city-fied and the country-fied; as well as the eloquent and the crude. But the FATHER knows each of His children and their innermost longings; even those they can't seem to be able to articulate at times.

Let us follow the example of the newly converted little Irish boy. He said he didn't know how to pray, so he said his alphabet, trusting God to put it into words. This was exactly what the great apostle Paul taught. After years of being saved, this seasoned saint wrote: 

"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that 
searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he
maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God." 

Pray as you can and don't try to pray as you can't!    

Monday, January 5, 2015

Tied Hands

God has given us all the tools we need to work through, and out of, our daily problems; physically, psychologically, and spiritually. But He allows, and sometimes creates, complexities that only He alone can solve. This is done to remind us, as Daniel say's, "There is a God in heaven"; and that we can't get through life without Divine help.

At such hopeless times we need to commit the impossible person or predicament into God's hands. And having done so, to keep our hands out of it. He does not need our assistance in such situations. When we do so, we become, as Oswald Chambers writes, "Miniature Providences." 

Remember Uzza attempting to give God a hand? "And when they came unto the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark." 

Faith unties the hands of God, so to speak, allowing Him to work. And at the same time, ties ours with the same rope; so that we will cease from our own works! 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Joyful in a Joyless World

The world's joy is cosmetic, it's painted on; it's surface, and goes no deeper. The least trial or trouble can wipe it away in a second's time.The Christian's joy, on the other hand, is inward and dwells deep, like an artisian well; so much so that he or she can say, "... I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation." 

And from whence cometh this unspeakable joy of the saints of the Highest? Why it comes from none other than the Godhead themselves, our Triune God, the Great Three-in-One, the Divine Trinity, if you please: "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy"; "that they might have my (Jesus) joy fulfilled in themselves""But the fruit of the Spirit is joy." FATHER, SON, and HOLY GHOST! 

Have you ever thought? the final reward of God's people on judgement day will be eternal joy: "Well done, thou
thou good and faithful servant... enter thou into the joy of thy lord." This is what sustained our blessed Lord through a lifetime of suffering, and it will do the same for us! "Looking unto Jesus...who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross."

"My God, the spring of all my joys,
The life of my delights,
The glory of my brightest days,
And comfort of my nights." 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Seeing Eye to Eye

There is more truth than humor in the little quip, "Let's stand back to back, face to face, and go forward." Many times we think if our brethren and sisters are not headed in the same direction as ourselves, they're not one of us. The disciples had this problem: 

"Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not usBut Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me."

Barnabas and Paul went different directions, but were on the same team; both had a deep abiding love for Christ, their lovely Lord. They were simply at odds on the best way to get the job done. The two cherubims on the Mercy Seat faced different directions, and though seemingly opposites, still they were looking at the same thing. 

In John's writings he preeminently makes Christ and Christ alone the focal point of our fellowship with one another. Personally, I can go a long way with a man or woman who believes in the deity of Jesus Christ, and His substitutionary death, who love Him with all their heart, soul, mind, strength, and might. We'll work our differences out around the family table when we get home.

"IN ESSENTIALS, UNITY; IN NON-ESSENTIALS, LIBERTY; IN ALL THINGS, CHARITY." 
(Augustine)

Friday, January 2, 2015

One Thing After Another

"And there came a messenger unto Job...While he was yet speaking, there came also another...While he was yet speaking, there came also another...While he was yet speaking, there came also another."

I remember the old timers saying, concerning their trials: "If it's not one thing, it's another"; or, "It's one thing on top of another"; or, "It seems it's just one thing after another." Paul referred to them as, "Sorrow upon sorrow." 

Any of the above quotes could have applied to Job. On four different occasions, on the same day, one messenger after another brought the old patriarch bad news. Actually, it was devastating, heartrending news! As my granny would say, "It seemed more than a soul could bear."

But if we skip ahead and read the conclusion of the story, we find the final message from God after all his sufferings, we might say it was the great finale. We're told the Lord doubled-up, so to speak, on all the blessings he had previously enjoyed. WHAT A GOD WE HAVE! 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Answer Is Nigh

"But when the time of the promise drew nigh..." Sooner or later all of God's long-range promises (as well as the short-range ones), have a time when they "draw nigh"; are close at hand, if you please. Jesus told the disciples to "wait" for the promise until it was fulfilled. D.L. Moody, commenting on this text said, "Tarry at the promise till God meets you there. He always returns by way of His promises."  

God asks some of us to wait a long time before fulfilling His promise to us, but the testimony of those who have waited it out is, the wait was more than worth it! Ask, to mention just a few, the children of Israel, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Zacharias, and John the Baptist. Each would say "Amen" to Habakkuk's words, "...though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry." 

In telling the story of the widow coming continually before a judge to get her request granted, Jesus applies it to His elect who, He says, "... cry day and night unto [Me]..." He goes on to tell us, "...though [I] bear long with them. I tell you that [I] will avenge them speedily." Notice it may be a long wait but when He does answer, it will be so quick, as they say, it will make your head swim.

Remember, to God, "A promise made, is a promise kept!"