Monday, December 31, 2007

The Word and Warfare

The Holy Spirit is like our General in this war, and the sharper the soldier, with readied weapons, the more powerfully He will be able to use us, with greater damage to the Enemy of our soul.

Of the weapons He has provided for doing battle, the sword of the Word and prayer are the ones for offense. The rest of the armor parts are for protection, for defense, but the Scriptures are to be wielded in attack, often through prayer.

Among the various ways and means that the spiritual soldier can gain and maintain a state of readiness, sword continually sharpened, memorization of the Word is the best.

Psalm 119:11 provides the most basic, foundational motive for memorizing the Scriptures --- “Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.” As Charles Spurgeon noted astutely, it is the best thing in the best place for the best purpose.

As a seasoned Seminary professor I admired once said, “It is amazing the affinity the Holy Spirit has for a trained mind.” In context he was encouraging Seminary training, but there is needed application related to Scripture memory, as well.

The more of the Bible that is lovingly stored away by the Christian soldier, the greater the ammunition available to the blessed Spirit for warfare.

And He is so faithful to bring to one’s remembrance a pertinent verse, or even part of one, at the exact time it is needed most. It would be grievous to know how many times we have succumbed to temptations, or acted un-biblically, or made foolish decisions simply because we didn’t know the Word.

Like Elisha’s servant in II Kings 6:17, may the Holy Spirit open our eyes to see the ongoing warfare that is happening in the spiritual realms even at this moment. Would that He would impress upon us the urgency of having un-rusted swords, by hiding His Word in our hearts for use at any given moment!

Morning Plea

Thank You for the morning, Father.. for the refreshing effect of sleep.. for the protection You provide through the night, when we are most vulnerable...

Praise to Your Name that You never sleep, nor slumber... that we are always before You...

Amazing that You would commit Yourself to such as us.... providing Your Book filled with promises, as trustworthy as Your Name and character..

providing Your very presence in the Person of the Holy Spirit... expressing Himself through producing fruit by grace...

through bringing to our remembrance the things the Lord Jesus said...

through bearing witness with our spirit that we are Yours..

through faithful, needed conviction of sin...

through promptings in our inner man that speak to our spirit for direction and leading...

through speaking peace to our hearts...

through confirming by conversation with others Your will from Your Word...

and all because of the Lord Jesus, and His sinless death and blood atonement for satisfying Your just and righteous anger against sinners!

Selah (Pause & Ponder)

Father, grant that this would be a day in which our eyes are fixed upon You... for when we focus on ourselves and our walk, it leads to either despair or pride.

Forgive for ways we compare ourselves with others... for there, again, we are given to either introspection or self-satisfaction.. neither of which is pleasing to You. Only as our thoughts are filled with contemplations of You, Your blessed Word, Your faithful character, will, and ways, will our perspective be pleasing and our lives usable.

Forgive, too, for the love of ease that fills our days... we see so little sacrifice, know so little of the heaviness of heart You have for this lost world...

No one better than You knows the prayerlessness of our hearts... our thoughts so easily taken from You, and placed on the seen, the incidental, the transitory, the temporal, the inconsequential, the worldly.

Do a work of restoration, Father, that can be explained in no other way than that You did it.

Be pleased to call us back to Yourself... to the days when our love for You was fresh, clean, joyous, thrilled with You, yearning to know You, to tell others how wonderful You truly are!

You know perfectly how desperately we need a personal awakening... and how deeply our decadent nation needs awakening... instill in our hearts afresh... grant the desire anew... to pay the price of godliness, to become usable again, and used for Your glory....

and please move us from fine-sounding words and phrases, to actual obedience.

In the Lord Jesus' Name,


Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Impact of Absence

As presence, so absence has an impact.

Perhaps it's precisely because of the power of presence that the impact of absence is so keenly felt. And no other time of the year heightens the awareness of this truth as does Christmas.

Touted by the world as the ultimate time of year when families are to gather intact, and experience a closeness unknown at any other time, any deviances from those expectations are seen as regrettable. So, with such unreasonable expectations, and with so many marriages and homes being devastated by divorce and unfaithfulness, Christmas becomes an occasion for cynicism and melancholy.

Is there an absence here? Yes. The impact of ignoring the One whose presence is at the very heart of Christmas takes a terrible toll. Only as the Lord Jesus is looked to for salvation, and only as He is centralized in the celebrations at this time of year, will peace of mind and spirit be possible.

However intensely the world tries to trivialize this truth, Jesus IS the Reason for the Season.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

In His Presence

There is such power in presence!

I recall when the soldiers sought to arrest the Lord Jesus in the Garden, on the night of His betrayal…. And, upon being told that He indeed was the one they sought, “they drew back and fell to the ground,” (John 18:6).
What a sight that must have been! Battle-hardened soldiers, nerves steeled by the atrocities of war, and they are stumbling to the ground, retreating from the presence of a young, unarmed Rabbi. How can this be explained...?

It was a demonstration of deity. The Lord Jesus had said, "I am He." He had proclaimed The Name. Even as in the Old Testament encounter and conversation with reluctant Moses, The Name gave assurance of God's presence (Exodus 3:14). [By the way, Moses, too, found his way to the ground, when brought into His presence].

Such a challenge are these encounters with the living God to the theoretical acknowledgement of His presence in the experience of too many believers. When will we move from vague, mental agreement with the doctrine of His omnipresence, to actually encountering Him...?

May He shake us to the core of our being by His powerful presence!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Who could possibly deserve our life-long, soul-felt thanks more than the One who laid His life down in abject sacrifice for worms such as us...?

"He was despised, rejected, and like one from whom men hide their face... He was despised and we esteemed Him not..."

"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!"

The greater one's sense of sin, the holiness and wrath of holy God, and the eternality of sin's punishment, the greater the gratitude for Jesus' sacrifice.

Astonishing is the inexplicable love that He would show toward hardened enemies, intent in rebellion, shaking tiny fists in the face of almighty God.

Some are dismayed that He has not elected all for salvation... I am amazed that He set His heart upon any!

So much of the blame-shifting of man, in faulting God for his lostness, stems from underestimating the heinousness of sin in the light of God's holiness. We are so comfortable with sin, so accustomed to its velvet vice-grip, its subtle strangulation, we easily forget His perfect righteousness.

At the foot of the cross, we again see what our sin cost the Son of God... and sense afresh the awesome holiness of the living God.

Thank You, Lord Jesus. Thank You, Thank You, blessed Lord, for doing what we could never have done for ourselves, being dead in our transgression and sin. Praise to your Name for such condescension, such compassion, such submission to Your Father's will.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Ephesians: All of Grace (1:17)

"...that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him."

In interceding for the Ephesian believers, Paul prayed for two things: (a) wisdom, and (b) knowledge of God. We could do no better than to pray the same for one another.

Wisdom, true wisdom, is the ability to view life from God's vantage point. This is possible only for the one who has been changed by the Lord Jesus Christ, who has the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16), enabled by the Spirit of God in spiritual discernment. As with every facet of the Christian life, the Bible is the key tool in gaining and maturing in godly wisdom. While reliance only upon observing circumstances can cause one to wonder as to the Lord's perspective, His Word reveals His will in no uncertain terms. The one who lives wisely, lives within the parameters of Scripture.

Closely akin to the prayer for wisdom is Paul's requesting the Lord to grant revelation in knowing Him. Paul clearly understood that, for anyone to know God He must reveal who He is. In this issue of learning the Lord of the universe I'm reminded again of the life principle: If it isn't revelation, it's speculation. God does not want His children to guess who He is. And in the inspiring, protecting, and preserving of His Word He has graciously provided the flawless disclosure of Himself. If we would please Him, then we would increase consistently in our knowledge of Him and our love for Him, by learning Him through His blessed Book.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Selah (Pause & Consider)

"Oh, Father... Praise to Your Name for the faithfulness You show in preserving and protecting my life. I'll know only in heaven the multitude of ways that You've shown Yourself strong on my behalf. When I reflect on the number of times through my years that You providentially engineered circumstances, ensuring my safety when in such danger, I'm touched afresh with Your compassion and care.

Forgive for times when I complain (even if only inwardly), chafing in my spirit at what You've allowed in my life.... call again to mind the precious and magnificent promises You've so generously made (and have unfailingly kept!).

Forgive for times I take You for granted, times I fail to thank and praise You, times I presume upon You... allowing You to slip from my attention. You are so faithful to call me back, bidding me taste again the sweetness of Your fellowship, the joy of Your smile, the deep security Your Spirit gives in confirming I'm Yours.

In the Lord Jesus' Name,

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Needed Reminder

"In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch," (Psalm 5:3).

*Prayer permeated David's experiencing of God, and here he touches on the "when", the "what", and the "how" of his praying.

(a) When: in the morning.

Starting in the sixth grade I learned to play the B flat Clarinet, and became skilled to the point that I went to college on a music scholarship. By the time I went to Seminary, I hadn't played it in several years, but had strong memories of all the concerts, etc. in which I had had a part. When a brother who was discipling me at Seminary asked about my prayer life, I quickly pointed out that I was a "night" person, unable to follow the Lord's example in Mark 1:35. His response was a penetrating question: Back when you played the clarinet, did you warm up before the concert, or afterwards?
No doubt he noted my wince, and said, "The discipline is not in getting up in the morning, it's in going to bed the night before."

(b) What: You will hear my voice, I will order my prayer to You.

Being up in the morning is but the beginning. The enemy of our soul knows that prayer is the place of power. He cares not what is used, i.e., fatigue, distractions, family, etc., as long as he can keep us from praying. We must ask the Lord to increase our wanting Him, to deepen our desire for time with Him, and put on the provided armor of Ephesians 6.

(c) How: eagerly.

No one enrolled David in a prayer workshop, requiring him to keep a quiet time notebook, or preached guilt-producing sermons on prayer, or called him to account for how many hours he spent in prayer.
His attitude was that of one who is in love. No outer coercion was required... his inner love for God resulted in eager seeking. So too, when our hearts are in love with the Lord who bids us come to Him, we say, "Yes, yes, and evermore, yes!"

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Selah (Pause, & Consider)

Praise to Your Name, Father, for another day in which to live, and move, and have my being... You have established Your throne in the heavens, and Your sovereignty rules over all, and throughout this day I plea You'll draw my thoughts to Yourself and Your sovereign supervision, continually.

Thank You for Your promised presence.... Your changeless Word... Your absolute faithfulness and constancy... Your trustworthy promises...

I would plea Your Spirit's filling work, now... and the cleansing that only Your Son's blood can accomplish, so that my thoughts this day would be taken captive to Your obedience, lifted continuously in praise to my only Hope and Redeemer.

Grant grace, Father, to guard my thoughts from despair, knowing that despair in all its forms is from the pit. Remind me, blessed Holy Spirit: it is ALWAYS too soon to despair. And that to fear is to slander every promise in Your Word...
In the Lord Jesus' Name,

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Ephesians: All of Grace (1:11-14)

"In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation-- having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory," (Ephesians 1:11---14).
*By His sovereign initiative, and according to His preordained plan, the omnipotent God of all that is willed that His elect ones would inherit eternal life through salvation in His Son.
Such inheritance is to the praise of His glory, being granted totally from all eternity by His uncoercible love.
Is this promised inheritance secure? Considering that a promise is only as valid as the one making it, yes! For it is the Creator of the universe, the One whose mere word spoke everything into existence, who so promises our prepared place with Him throughout the eons.
Who's pledge would be more dependable?
And should we doubt the bare giving of His word, He deigns to take up personal residence within His own in the Person of the blessed Holy Spirit!
"The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him," (Romans 8:15, 16).
So the presence, ministry, urging, gifting, comforting, convicting ministries of the Holy Spirit within us confirm the truth that He resides therein... and particularly in His taking the Word and applying it as we need it the most.
And He is given as a down payment, a guarantee of things to come. As the Lord Jesus put it so beautifully, "If it were not so, I would have told you."
How utterly gracious of our Lord to give such reassurance to His men, and by extension to us!
As life's ebbing becomes more and more keenly felt, and the energies of younger years increasingly wane, these assurances of Scripture become all the more cherished, as does the One who promised them.

Ephesians: All of Grace (1:8b-9a)

"...In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will.."

*In matters eternal,if it isn't revealed it's concealed. It's either revelation or speculation. Had God determined to withhold inspiration of His Word, we would not know His heart, His provisions or His prohibitions. We would be left to guess what happened before we were born, and what will transpire after we are gone.

Such speculation is exactly what the non-Christian engages in, since he "does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised," (I Corinthians 2:14). Notice the distinction between "does not accept" (refusal), and "cannot understand" (inability). Apart from the regenerating and revealing work of the Holy Spirit, there is no spiritual discernment, no comprehending God's workings, wills, and ways.

*For the redeemed one, however, God graciously makes known His perspective (wisdom), and understanding (insight). By the faithful ministry of the resident Holy Spirit, the Christian is able to appraise the spiritual dimensions of life, thereby experiencing a God-awareness unknown to lost humanity.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Ephesians: All of Grace (1:7c, 8a)

"... according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us."

*God is totally other-oriented, generous beyond measure. The lavishing of His favor is according to the riches of His grace. What an amazing difference between out of and according to! Were Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire, to give me a sum out of his wealth, it could range from a penny to almost all he has. But if he were to give according to his financial capabilities, I'd be an instant millionaire, at least. He would be parting with a sum in proportion to his store.
The spiritual application is mind-boggling. The infinitely-great Creator of all that is, the One Who spoke everything into existence, and sustains it all by His omnipotence, has seen fit in the giving of His Son to show His elect favor in salvation according to the riches of His grace! Who can fathom a proportion of infinite riches? Who can truly grasp such giving? And to then consider the recipients of such lavishing...!
Reminds me of II Samuel 9:7,8, where the crippled son of Jonathan, Mephibosheth, is shown favor by King David. "Do not fear, for I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father, Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly," said the king. Mephibosheth, lame in both feet, with no claim on the king's favor, prostrates himself, and says, "What is your servant, that you should regard a dead dog like me?"
So says the Christian to the God of the universe... once spiritually dead, totally incapable of anything spiritually pleasing to Him, and yet is lavished with forgiveness according to the riches of His grace in Christ Jesus!
No wonder it's called amazing grace.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Ephesians: All of Grace (1:7b)

"...the forgiveness of our trespasses..."

*I recall a story I came across years ago, where a group of Christian men went camping. As they sat around the fire that night, the conversation turned to spiritual things. One posed, "What is the most beautiful word in the Bible?" One said, "grace", another, "love"... and another, "hope." There was some reflective silence, until one of the group whose past was filled with much rebellion and sin said with tear-filled eyes, "For me, the most precious word in all the Bible is 'forgiven.'
Though painful, it is a wondrous work that the Holy Spirit of God does when He reveals to someone his sin. Since our hearts are more deceitful than all else (Jeremiah17:9), and desperately sick, how else could we understand that we have transgressed God's standard of holiness, unless the Spirit reveals the truth?
When He does confront one with the enormity of his sin and the deserved consequences that will ensue, there is great grief and inner turmoil. It is the cry of Isaiah catching a glimpse of God's absolute holiness: "Woe is me, for I am ruined!" (Isaiah 6:5).
The more intense this awareness of sin, the deeper the relief and gratitude for the forgiveness given by the Lord Jesus. The greater the agreement with the Spirit that we have sinned, and sinned mightily, the more precious are verses such as: "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, " (Romans 8:1), and "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness," (I John 1:9).
And the word "forgiven" is so cherished by the believer because of what it cost the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ephesians: All of grace (1:7a)

"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace"

*I remember getting into the car with Mom, wondering where we were going, and being told that she had some stamps she wanted to use. In those pre-teen years I didn't know what a redemption store was, much less what S & H Green Stamps signified. It would be years before I understood that the stamp redemption store, and the ubiquitous pawn shop are the two best secular examples of the basic meaning of 'redemption.' The word means to buy back, to release from bondage, and, in the days of the Roman Empire when the book of Ephesians was written, redemption was illustrated in the process of buying a slave, and then giving him/her complete freedom.
The spiritual application is strong.
Praise to His Name, the Lord Jesus paid with His sinless life the ransom God required for the freeing of elect sinners from sin's bondage!
In contrast to the world's definition of freedom (doing what you want, when you want, and how you want to do it), genuine freedom is the ability to do what you ought. Only the blood-bought believer has this spiritual ability to do that which is pleasing to God (Hebrews 11:6). This freedom is our calling (Galatians 5:1), grace-given and irrevocable (Romans 11:29).
So let the redeemed of the LORD say so! (Psalm 107:2)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

All of Grace: Eph. 1:6

"to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved"

*A dictionary definition of truism is succincted stated as 'an obvious truth'. And surely there are few, if any,more widely-accepted ones than this: God helps those who help themselves. It epitomizes the world's perspective. It so naturally fits and expresses humanity's common sensical stance on life in general, and religion in particular, that to question it one might as well go ahead and cast doubt on breathing as beneficial to life.

In stark contrast to this false assumption stands the biblical truth of salvation by grace. Diametrically opposed to the notion that somehow we can spiritually help ourselves, and thus deserve God's help, Scripture declares that the non-Christian is spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1), and all his efforts to please God are worthless (Romans 3:10-12). The one who has been changed by the Lord Jesus, however, has been placed "in the Beloved," and is viewed by God with the same love as He has for His Son. Such love must be of grace, for it could never be earned nor deserved. Who could force the hand of almighty God to unwillingly love?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Ephesians: All of Grace (1:5)

"In love He predestined us..."

* In spiritual matters of an eternal nature, describing activities which occurred before we were born, as well as what will transpire after we are gone, the Bible is the Christian's objective source of revelation. And in all such matters, we have but two choices: revelation or speculation. Had God decided to conceal the truths we have in Scripture, we would be left to guess regarding His nature and character, His interaction with our world, and His will toward us. Praise to His Name for breathing out His Word by His blessed Spirit, revealing His heart of justice and mercy!
Of course, those who reject His revelation seem enamored with their speculations... one of which de-personalizes God as a cosmic Force. Only the Lord knows how widespread this erroneous perception has become, especially with the popularity of the Star Wars movies. A holiness-hating society embraces an impersonal Entity which (not who) has no Son, no cross, no resurrection, because man really has no sin (!). And, best of all, no judgment or hell. No wonder it's so popular!

But I serve no Force, but a loving Father! He (not it) predestined me to salvation, not out of brute sovereign power, but in love. In fact, it was "according to the kind intention of His will." I might have guessed that was the case, but how gracious He is to reveal this truth, sinking deep in my soul the security and spiritual safety that comes from embracing such love. Reminds me of that old saying, "the world didn't give it to me, and the world can't take it away." Praise, praise to His Name!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ephesians: All of Grace (1:4b)

"...that we would be holy and blameless before Him."

* The basic meaning of "holy" is 'set apart', for a particular purpose. When, in eternity past, God set His heart on a multitude no one can number, His purpose was that they be set apart, distinct, to live in a manner worthy of His calling.
Humbled that He should graciously see fit to plan, and then procure, our salvation through the giving of His Son, we are to live holy lives that reflect His holiness (I Peter 1:15-- 17).

In truth, His Name is at stake in our lives.

A watching world instinctively knows that God is holy (Romans 1:19), and looks to see if ones who claim association with Him reflect His character. Do we? Do we avoid every appearance of evil (I Thessalonians 5:22)? Do we have a critical spirit of complaining and/or disputing (Philippians 2:14, 15)? Is our speech continually wholesome, clean, and encouraging (Ephesians 4:29)? The key to a consistent, holy and blameless life is found in the renewing of our minds, which then produces a transformed life (Romans 12:2). And no finer tool for renewing our minds can be found than Scripture, memorized and meditated upon.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ephesians: All of Grace (1:4)

"just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him."

* Whether as a kid being picked to play on a baseball team, or the high schooler who gets the part in a production, or the adult who is asked to join the firm, we as people want to be wanted. And, for the most part, when we are selected for something it's based on something: skill, appearance, wealth, reputation, etc.
So when we read that God chose His own for Himself, by Himself (the word "chose" here implies it), the emphasis is on His sovereign prerogative. He is God.
Too, when we consider when this choosing took place ('before the foundation of the world'), any contribution by which we could have influenced His choice is eliminated. We were not on the scene to have a say.
Many feel uncomfortable, if not downright angry with such truth. Pride produces resistance to God's sovereign decisions. Distrust does, too.
Yet, for those who have learned to trust Him, who have found Him infinitely faithful, there is rest in His goodness. I love Psalm 9:10, "And those who know Your name will put their trust in You." We don't trust Him more, because we don't know Him very well. The better we know Him, the more faithful we find Him to be.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Ephesians: All of Grace (1:3)

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ."

* Paul begins this lengthy section (vv. 3--14) on God's master plan for the salvation of His own by praising the Father. "Blessed" and 'eulogy' share the same Greek word, and involve declaring the goodness of someone through commendation and praise. That is the essence of worship, to proclaim the "worth-ship," the worth of someone. And, if Isaiah 6 is any indication, the declaring of God's worth is going on all the time, as the heavenly host continuously voice His worthiness through adoration.
Do we do the same? Or is there someone, some thing, or some situation for which we refuse to praise Him? If we say, "I just can't," yet God has said we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, then what we are really saying is, "I just won't." It isn't about ability, but obedience.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Ephesians: All of Grace (1:2)

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ," (v.2).

* Grace and peace. One produces the other. As long as there is the slightest bit of works needed for salvation, true peace isn't enjoyed. Millions who are seeking to earn favor with God, incessantly wonder if what they've done will be good enough for heaven when the reckoning time comes. Others are resigned to believe that it is impossible to know for certain now, so we'll just have to see at death what happens. Among many Christian groups there is the theology that salvation is given by grace, but kept by works. How subtle is the enemy of our souls! To such tender-hearted folk he whispers, "You're saved by grace, but you can still lose it," and keeps them in a peaceless bondage.

No, only as His salvation is embraced in the fullness of grace is God's intended peace enjoyed.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ephesians: All of Grace (Chapter 1)

"To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus," (v.1b).

* "saints"! Now there's a word the world has taken to itself and twisted its real meaning! It can be used as a mocking term: "who does she think she is, a saint?" A deceased mother can be described as a "saintly" one. The Roman Catholic Church on occasion declares someone to be a saint, assuming they've met the required criteria. During my early years, the most popular of these was St. Christopher, whose medal was worn, rubbed, and hung from the inside rear view mirror in many cars. It's this superstitious aspect that is the most troubling.... the practice of praying to "saints" long deceased, or venerating them in worshipful ways is decidedly unbiblical.

In the New Testament, "saint" (lit. 'holy one') is simply a designation for a Christian. The ones whose lives were changed by the Lord Jesus, identifying with Him, following Him in faith, were the saints. No, they had no "St." in front of their names, but that artificial prefix would have been shunned if offered. Then, as now, the most important name-related issue was that one's name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Ephesians: All of Grace (cont'd.)

"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God," (1:1).

* A theme that runs throughout a number of Paul's letters is that of his apostleship. Because he was not in the company of the original twelve, and received his apostolic commission years later, he was sensitive to accusations that he did not possess the same authority as did they. Paul knew better. From that incredible day on the Damascus road onward, his life was fully focused on fulfilling the role, scope and duty of an apostle. As the popular saying goes, 'the world didn't give it to him, and world couldn't take it away.'

Thinking of Paul's blinding and healing experience on that road to Damascus, it is interesting to note that the Lord will often (if not always) tailor the depth of encounter to the depth of need to recall it later.

When initially calling a man or woman to His purposes for that life, He will give a more dramatic experience, a greater revealing of Himself, to the one who will encounter greater challenges down the road. For the one whose ministry will face fewer difficulties, His call will be engaging, but not earth-shattering. With the experiences Paul was to have, and the trials that he was to face, it is little wonder that the Lord confronted him in such a fashion at the outset of his ministry.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ephesians: All of Grace

For several years, Ephesians has been my favorite epistle (with John as my favorite gospel account). For it's in Ephesians that Paul sets down the doctrinal basis for living the Christian life of grace. And although he touches on the profundity of predestination in other letters, somehow Ephesians portrays the Lord's secret counsel most completely.

Of the six chapters, the first three deal with the lofty grandeur of God's plan for believers from eternity past, in Christ Jesus; the second half of the book then takes the foundation and builds upon it. Chapters 4,5, and 6 apply the truths of chapters 1,2, and 3.

A major theme of the book is the Church. Paul deals with 7 elements of God's past plan in forming the Church.
1. His Method: Election
2. The Objects of His plan: the Elect
3. The Time of His Plan: Eternity Past
4. The Purpose of His Plan: the Holiness of the Elect
5. His Plan's Motive: Love
6. The Result of His Plan: Sons and Daughters in His Son
7. The Goal of His Plan? His own Glory!

As we'll see in future studies, contrary to the common belief of many that the ultimate purpose in the universe is the salvation of man, Ephesians (as well as other letters) teaches that the highest purpose is God's glory.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Bits & Pieces: The Bible (6 cont'd.)

* "judge the thoughts and intentions" This section brings to mind the principle set forth in I Samuel 16:7, where the Lord speaks to Samuel of His rejection of Eliab as the next king of Israel. "...Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." From the time of the Garden of Eden onward, man has been continually trying to hide from God. With all the subtlety he can employ, he seeks to deceive God, others, and even himself, sparing no effort to deny the emptiness of his life apart from his Creator. For all this, he holds no secrets from God. For, the God to whom we each must eventually give an account (Romans 14:12) knows completely every motive and attitude, every plan and purpose.

This truth is a source of conviction and comfort. For the one who deals in double-mindedness and duplicity, having the heart exposed to the Word brings great condemnation and guilt. Yet for the one who has experienced the reality of Romans 8:1, an underlying willingness, even eagerness to be examined by the blessed Holy Spirit's Word produces repentance leading to godliness.

Bits & Pieces: The Bible (6 cont'd.)

"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart," (Hebrews 4:12).

* "piercing" This aspect of the Word's penetrating power is graphically recounted in Acts, chapter 2, verse 37. Peter has just concluded his Spirit-anointed sermon, demonstrating with crystal clarity that the Old Testament-predicted Messiah is the same Jesus who was crucified by his hearers! Luke then tells us that "...when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart..."
John MacArthur comments, "the Greek word for 'pierced' means 'stab,' and thus denotes something sudden and unexpected." When the Spirit of Truth sees fit to apply His Word of Truth to the human heart, it is stunning. In this situation Peter's hearers cried out for instruction ("...what shall we do?"). And, they were not interested in information, so much as relief! They had to respond. The Word's piercing requires a response!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Bits & Pieces: The Bible (6 cont'd.)

"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart," (Hebrews 4:12).

* "sharper than any two-edged sword" In Ephesians 6, among the articles provided by our Lord for the spiritual warfare in which all believers must be engaged, is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Of the various pieces of armor, it is the one given for offense... the others are for defense.
When our Lord was attacked by Satan in the desert, it was the Word He used to counter Satan's strategies. We, too, must keep the edge of our sword keen, ready for use against our foe(s). How? Hearing the Word, reading it, studying it, memorizing, and meditating on it. It is then that we will be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

* The other aspect of this two-edged sword relates to the Word's use by the Spirit in the lives of the lost. For the unsaved one, the Word has a cutting work of conviction of sin, revealing God's standard of holiness, and the righteous requirements of the Law.
Regardless of intellectual objections, rationalizations, or stubborn resistance, the Holy Spirit can use the Word to cut through it all, forcing the unbeliever to face the fact of his/her lost and hell-bound condition.

Learning to answer objections from Scripture is a worthy endeavor, enabling us to "give an answer for the hope that is within us".... but equally needed is the reminder that our arguments are not promised power--- but God's Word has the power of the living God Himself behind it!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Bits & Pieces: The Bible (6)

"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart," (Hebrews 4:12).

* "living" What an amazing claim! Unique among any work penned by human hand, the Bible is living. How can this be? It is the word of the living God, Creator of heaven and earth.
Indeed, was this not the declaration of the prophets of Israel, which set them apart from all "prophets" of the surrounding pagan nations? "I serve the living God, Creator of heaven and earth." And since Scripture is the written expression and extension of who God is, it, too, must be living.
Implications? Since it is ever-living, the Word's impact and potency are ongoing and never-ceasing. Every scrap of Scripture can be used by the Holy Spirit Who inspired it to accomplish His perfect will.
Secondly, the more of the Word we have memorized, readied for release at the moment it is needed most, the greater His power will be manifest through our lives.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bits & Pieces: The Bible (5)

"'Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished," (Matthew 5:17, 18).

* Someone has well said that God is as great in His minuteness as He is in His magnitude.
No detail of His Word, not the smallest stroke of the pen, will pass away without His fulfillment.
Even the heavens and earth are not beyond dissolution, but God's Word will stand forever.

*Years ago I came across a thought that has stayed with me as a life principle: The only things that will last are the Word of God and the souls of men... everything else will burn. The Lord brings that truth to mind on occasion, perfectly timed, of course, when I have begun spending my life instead of investing it. So much of what we do is exactly that. Needed is the reminder that if you can see it, it's temporal; it's the unseen which will endure. And the Word of God is forever settled in heaven (Psalm 119:89).

Bits & Pieces: The Bible (4)

"... for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God," (I Peter 1:23).

* The Word of God is the tool the Holy Spirit uses to produce regeneration in peoples' lives. And because the Word is imperishable, the life produced is also imperishable.
How grateful we ought to be that the eternal Spirit of God applied His imperishable Word to our hearts, so that we may live with our Lord forever.

* The apostle Peter describes the Word of God as living and abiding, likening it to imperishable seed, which produces eternal fruit.
Our salvation began with God's Word applied by the Holy Spirit, is sustained by His Word's power, and will be ever secure, made so by God's eternal promise.

Bits & Pieces: The Bible (3)

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away," (Matthew 24:35).

* As dependable as we consider the day-in and day-out functions of our natural world and its laws to be, the Lord Jesus states that there will come a time when it will all pass away.
In II Peter 3:10, the apostle affirms that this will occur by fire.
But the point of our Lord's Word here is the invincible nature of His truth.
When all else fails, His Word endures.

Bits & Pieces: The Bible (2)

"The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever," (Isaiah 40:8).

* Mirrored in the two images of grass and flower, are a perfect picture of temporary, vacillating humanity. Our lives are biblically portrayed as vapor-like, lasting only until burned off by the scorching sun.
The Word of the eternal God, by contrast, knows no limitations of time or eternity.
It will stand forever.

* What a graphic description of the durability of God's Word! Humanity, in its continual withering and fading, is aptly portrayed as grass and flower. When compared to eternity, we are exceedingly temporal.
Which brings us to the comforting truth that God's Word is eternal and unchanging. Why?
Because it is His Word.

Bits & Pieces: The Bible

"Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven," (Psalm 119:89).

* What a contrast between the Lord's Word and the word of man! Men promise and then forget, or simply fail to keep their word.
God's Word, however, is stable, eternally firm, unchangeably fixed.
May we re-determine to anchor our lives to God's never-changing Word.

* Oh the depth of these five truths incorporated into one verse! Transcending the limitations of time's ceasing, the sovereign, omnipotent Ruler and Creator of all that has been, is, or will be... has established unshakably in unreachable realms, His absolute declaration of unvarnished truth. All that we may do (ignore or heed, obey or refuse, trust or doubt, love or despise, resent or embrace), does not alter His truth in the slightest.
All humanity's hammers are shattered by the anvil of His Word.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Bits & Pieces: Giving (15)

"So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God," (Romans 14:12).

* Because the thought of giving is so connected with material things, this verse would likely not come to mind on the subject.
Yet, each and every believer shall give an account of himself to God at the Bema seat of Christ.
It is there that what we have done with what the Lord entrusted to us will be evaluated.
It will not be centered on our salvation (that was sealed the instant the Lord quickened us), but will be the basis for receiving crowns and rewards.
Questions come: will it be a day of gladness, showing the Lord how His investment in us has multiplied through faithful obedience? Or will it be an occasion for embarrassment, that we have squandered His resources through laziness, pride, & fear?
What a challenge to live each and every day in the light of this future judgment!

Bits & Pieces: Giving (14)

"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" (II Corinthians 9:15).

* It is evident throughout his letters that the apostle Paul never tired of praising the Father for giving His Son for our salvation.
We, on the other hand, often fail to specifically give thanks for God's indescribable gift.
It is all too easy for us to take Him for granted.
Take a few moments to reflect on the Lord Jesus Himself... ponder His perfections such as: His sovereignty.... His compassion.... His sacrificial love.....His faithfulness.... that He is Truth.

Bits & Pieces: Giving (13)

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful," (John 14:27).

* Upon facing the fact that their Master was leaving, the disciples needed desperately to be comforted. Intimately acquainted with all their ways, the Lord Jesus promised them, and us, a distinctive peace to counter discouragement and fear.
Because the world didn't give it to us, the world cannot take it away.
This promised peace is as permanent as the presence of the blessed Holy Spirit, its benefit forfeited only by unconfessed sin, and regained by repentance.

* Within hours of the cross, the Lord Jesus spoke these words of comfort to His men. They, as we, had such need for the inner assurance of His utter acceptance which transcends all circumstances.
Such peace pervades our hearts through the Person and ministry of the blessed Holy Spirit.

Bits & Pieces: Giving (12)

"And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life," (I John 5:11, 12).

* In the light of man's total spiritual depravity, if anyone is to have eternal life, it must be given by God. For, no one could, or would, ever be able to earn his way to heaven. Only through salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal life given by God to whomever He pleases, can heaven be reached.

* In no uncertain terms, the apostle John makes it abundantly clear that eternal life is a gift, and is experienced by no one apart from salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Such truth decimates two of the world's most common assumptions: (a) that salvation can be earned or deserved, and (b) that there are many ways to heaven.
No, says John, eternal life is only in the Lord Jesus, and available only as He makes it so.

Bits & Pieces: Giving (11)

"Then Herod secretly called the magi, and ascertained from them the time the star appeared. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly, with great joy. And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary his mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh," (Matthew 2:7, 10, 11).

* These gifts from the magi were both beautiful and practical-- beautiful, as they reflected the character of the Child's life, and practical in meeting the little family's needs.
Gold could represent His deity or purity, incense the fragrance of His life, and myrrh (which was used for embalming) His sacrifice and death.
Practically, the gifts were undoubtedly the means by which Joseph took his family to Egypt and sustained them there until Herod's death.
May we also give the Lord Jesus gifts beautiful and practical: the beauty of praise, and the practicality of daily obedience.

Bits & Pieces: Giving (10)

"But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, 'GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE," (James 4:6).

* The prime obstruction to the grace of God in our lives is pride in all its forms. Although completely accepted in the Lord Jesus, we are usable only as we humble ourselves in His presence.
The greater our humility, the greater His grace. Pray that He will increase your willingness to be humbled.

* Although humility is the key which unlocks the floodgate of God's grace, we must not focus on being humble as our goal. Rather, we are to continually become more and more aware of who God is in all His greatness, thereby keenly conscious of our total dependence upon Him.
The greater our vision of who He is, the less thought we'll give to who we are.

Bits & Pieces: Giving (9)

"And Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, 'Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.' And Jesus said to him, 'Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham,' " (Luke 19:8, 9).

* A key evidence of the salvation the Lord Jesus brought to the soul of Zaccheus is the giving which resulted from his gratitude. Previous disdain for the poor, as well as unconcern over dishonest dealings, were replaced by compassion and a determination for a clear conscience. Instead of loving things and using people, he would now use things and love people.

* It is doubtful that a clearer evidence of salvation could be manifested in Zaccheus' life than is here given. To suddenly express generous concern for the poor, and to determine to gain a clear conscience, are unmistakable indications that Zaccheus' life had been changed.
The Lord Jesus had opened his eyes to finally see that people are more important than things.

Bits & Pieces: Giving (8)

"and do not give the devil an opportunity," (Ephesians 4:27).

* We are to be generous in our giving in many areas, but not when it comes to the devil. Time and again we are instructed in Scripture to be of sober spirit, alert, watchful, and vigilant as to Satan's schemes. We must mature in discerning our weaknesses, learning to avoid activities, habits, and places conducive to sin.
For, make no mistake--- give him an inch, and he'll take a mile.

* Of all things we are told in Scripture to give, an inroad to Satan is not one of them. We must never underestimate his power, subtlety, and cunning.
Rather, we are to stay on guard, giving the enemy of our soul no ground for establishing a stronghold.

Bits & Pieces: Giving (7)

"And on an appointed day Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them. And the people kept crying out, 'The voice of a god and not of a man!' And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died," (Acts 12:21--23).

* Judging by this solemn account of Herod Agrippa's death, sovereign God takes very seriously His glory going unacknowledged. He deserves and desires the credit for every ability and blessing we enjoy. May this sobering episode in Scripture remind us to readily give our God the glory He is due.

* Whatever other offenses he had committed against almighty God, the one that killed Herod Agrippa was taking God's glory for himself. In His sovereign holiness, the Lord jealously requires the acknowledgement of His supremacy.
May He have the same place in our hearts that He has in His universe!

Bits & Pieces: Giving (6)

"Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. And a certain man who had been lame from his mother's womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. And when he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. And Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze upon him and said, 'Look at us!' And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, 'I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene---- walk!' " (Acts 3:1---6).

* What availability Peter demonstrates! Not possessing the financial ability to help the man, he nonetheless uses what he does have: the apostolic authority to heal.
May we, too, give creatively, using the natural and spiritual gifts God has given us to meet the needs of others.

* Following these words, wasn't the lame man glad he didn't get what he asked for, but what he needed!
Like him, we often ask the Lord to meet our surface desires, when what we need is personal healing.
Praise Him for how wise as well as giving a God He is.

Bits & Pieces: Giving (5)

"I have coveted no one's silver or gold or clothes. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. In every thing I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive,' " (Acts 20:33--35).

* Knowing he would not see the Ephesian believers again in this life, the apostle Paul leaves them with an example to remember and His Lord's proverb to ponder. Completely content with His Savior's sufficiency, Paul never took financial advantage of anyone. He had learned what we continually struggle with: you cannot out-give God.

* In this farewell address to the elders of the church at Ephesus, Paul urges them to remember his example, and Lord Jesus' exhortation. The apostle Paul's teaching on giving was powerfully authentic because he modeled his message consistently.
Would that a cynical, watching world could see such giving in our lives.

Bits & Pieces: Giving (4)

"Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For whatever measure you deal out to others, it will be dealt to you in return," (Luke 6:38).

* These words from the lips of our Lord Jesus contain a command, an encouragement, and a cause for consideration. Our Savior commands our giving, and encourages such giving by promised blessing (although reward is not to be our goal).
Rather, our standard of measure for giving should reflect the gracious way in which the Lord has given to us.

* So much of the deep satisfaction and joy we experience in the Christian walk is in proportion to the investment we make in others. Often, the greater our giving to the needs of others, the greater our receiving of the love we give.
Oh, that we would give in a manner worthy of the giving God who saved us!

Bits & Pieces: Giving (3)

"Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully," (II Corinthians 9:6).

* Within his appeal to the Corinthian Christians for generous financial support, the apostle Paul gives this principle of sowing and reaping. It is echoed in Galatians 6:7, again relating to sharing material goods generously. The key to this rule of reciprocity is our intent--- we must give with love as our motive, not greed.

* This principle of reciprocity, of reaping what we sow, must not be abused. Every such promise in God's Word assumes purity of motive. We dare not mock God by giving generously with the greedy intent to reap bountifully.
He is not mocked.
May we always give only from gratitude for God's generosity to us.

Bits & Pieces: Giving (2)

"These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them, saying, 'Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' 'Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons; freely you received, freely give,' " (Matthew 10:5--8).

* Amid instructions to His men related to their commissioning, the Lord Jesus commands their generosity. When occasions arose which tempted them to selfishness, they were to remember how freely they had received God's goodness, and then give in like manner.
May the Holy Spirit improve our memory of how good we've been treated by God when we have opportunity to share with others!

* Along with the ministry of miracles the apostles would enjoy, the Lord Jesus knew there would also be the temptation to withhold or selfishly use these abilities. So He included in His instructions the command to give freely.
When opportunities to give arise, may we remember how freely we've received.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Bits & Pieces: Giving

"We love, because He first loved us," (I John 4:19).

* We who are believers are told in Scripture that the Father has loved us with an everlasting love, from all eternity. He set His heart upon us from before time began, marking us out as objects of His redeeming grace. And out of such immeasurable love He gave His only begotten Son to die in our place on that terrible tree. Our God is such a giving God, totally other-oriented. How should we then live?

* 'Love' has been so cheapened by our world, the enemy of our soul doing all that he can to mask its sacrificial nature, epitomized in the Son of God giving His life on Calvary. So it comes as no surprise that much that passes for 'love' in our world is actually veiled selfishness. For, only one who has been spiritually changed on the inside by the Lord Jesus' love, can love as He loves.

Bits & Pieces: Gratitude (10)

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father," (Colossians 3:15--17).

* Three times in three verses the apostle Paul commands and assumes our giving of thanks. In our innermost thoughts, in the songs we sing, in all that we do or say, we're to have an attitude of gratitude.
Why so important? Because when we are thankful, we humbly acknowledge our dependence upon our Lord's provision. And then He receives the deserved credit.

* In each of these verses, the apostle Paul either commands or assumes our thanksgiving.
Why should an attitude of gratitude pervade our daily thoughts, words, and deeds? Because humility is blessed by God, and giving thanks strikes at the heart of prideful independence.

Bits & Pieces: Gratitude (9)

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus," (Philippians 4:6,7).

* Within the process of God's peace replacing our anxiety is thankful prayer. Coupled with our intensely urgent crying out for the Lord Jesus' help, there must be confident thanksgiving for His faithfulness. Thanking Him in advance of His answering brings great encouragement and needed perseverance.

* Someone has well said that worry slanders every promise in the Word of God.
By contrast, thanksgiving lays hold of every promise, 'faithing' its truth in spite of adverse circumstances. We can complain, grumble, and worry about our trials; or we can give thanks, take God at His word, and experience His peace.

Bits & Pieces: Gratitude (8)

"Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus," (I Thessalonians 5:16--18).

* Few higher goals could we have in the Christian life than to live out these 3 commands. Each requires us to see our relationships, circumstances, and experiences from God's perspective.
Are you in a situation for which you are refusing to give thanks?
Plea for the grace to repent, and submit to God's truth.

* We will never carry out these commands if we base our obedience on feelings. Whether or not we feel grateful misses the point --- we are to give thanks regardless, and let feelings come or go as they will.
Are there circumstances in your life for which you will not give thanks?
Yield to the Lord, now. Obey His Word, and give thanks for it all.

Bits & Pieces: Gratitude (7)

"For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account, as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?," (I Thessalonians 3:9, 10).

* In these touching verses, the apostle Paul expresses his loving concern for the spiritual well-being of the Thessalonian believers, by thankful intercession. Being separated from the fellowship that he started intensified his praying, and his gratitude to God for them.
Ask the Holy Spirit to bring to mind someone you haven't seen in quite a while, and then gratefully pray for them as creatively as possible.

* Even as did Paul in these verses, the faithful pastor continually feels the responsibility of praying for those whom God has entrusted to his care. And regardless of how far he may be separated from them, by travel or other circumstances, his heart is still with them.
Pray for your pastor, thanking God for him.

Bits & Pieces: Gratitude (6)

"And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father," (Ephesians 5:18--20).

* Paul places no limitations on the frequency or object of our thankfulness. We are to give thanks always and for all things. Such absolutes demand a consistent life-style of responding to life's circumstances gratefully. And the more difficult the situation the more grace we need to give thanks.

* One of the more powerful characteristics of the Christian life, and which stands in marked contrast to the world's attitudes, is a grateful heart. Ours is a complaining world, and when someone cultivates a life-style of thankfulness, opportunities arise for giving the Lord Jesus the credit. Question: are our days so permeated with "thanksliving", that a watching world demands an explanation?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Bits & Pieces: Gratitude (5)

"For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers," (Ephesians 1:15, 16).

* The most powerful service we can render to someone is to prayerfully intercede for him. And an integral part of our intercession should be thankfulness, expressed both to God and to that person.
What needed encouragement we can give by thanking God for one another, and then telling each other how grateful we are for them.

* Paul understood that the most precious and powerful of ministries a pastor can provide for his people is to pray for them. And an essential ingredient of such intercession is thankfulness.
For, our hearts are warmed and our attitudes transformed when we give thanks before interceding for someone.

Bits & Pieces: Gratitude (4)

"The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord," (I Corinthians 15:56--58).

* With no hope beyond the inevitability of death, the world is pervaded with a sense of futility. Only through salvation in the Lord Jesus is victory over the grave assured, and purpose in life enjoyed.
Each day of our lives should be gratefully lived in the light of our certain eternal destiny with the Lord Jesus.

Bits & Pieces: Gratitude (3)

"And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people," (Matthew 15:35, 36).

* When one reads this account of the miraculous feeding of over 4,000 people from seven loaves and fish, it is easy to hurry over the fact that the Lord Jesus gave thanks. By doing so, He modeled the need for continually pointing to the Father as the Source of our sustenance.
There is a basis here for consistent giving of thanks at mealtime, both at home and in public.

* How consistent of our Lord, who walked in unbroken fellowship with the Father, to give thanks before breaking the bread. How easily we can miss the modeled message of that simple act, as we concentrate on the miracle that followed.
If the Son of God demonstrated such dependence on the Father's provision, and unashamedly verbalized it, how much more should we!

Bits & Pieces: Gratitude (2)

"Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth. Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing. Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations," (Psalm 100).

* Two very important aspects of worship are dealt with in this psalm: (a) recognition of who God is, and (b) giving thanks. As we come into the Lord's presence, and are given a fresh awareness of how great He is, our hearts overflow with thanksgiving. Why such adoration? The Lord is good and His lovingkindness is everlasting.

* Within the praise and thanksgiving of this psalm is the recognition of God's supreme authority in our lives. All that we have, all that we are must be submitted to His sovereignty.
And the more completely we are His, the greater our gratitude for His goodness.

Bits & Pieces: Gratitude

"It is good to give thanks to the LORD And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning And Your faithfulness by night, With the ten-stringed lute and with the harp, With resounding music upon the lyre. For You, O LORD, have made me glad by what You have done, I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands," (Psalm 92:1--4).

* The psalmist affirms three exercises that are good for us: (1) giving thanks, (2) singing praises, and (3) declaring God's goodness. Being grateful to the Lord is good because it puts our pride into perspective, by giving credit where it is due.
We dare not rob God by taking credit for any of His blessings.

* So many things are not good for us these days, but we need never wonder if giving thanks, singing God's praise, or declaring His greatness are good. From morning to evening, our days should be filled with praise and thanksgiving... praise for who He is, and gratitude for what He has done.

Bits & Pieces: Faith (11)

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ," (I Peter 1:3--7).

* Among several answers given in Scripture as to why believers suffer, Peter here reveals that the refining of our faith is a reason for trials. Through the fiery furnace of afflictions the dross of doubt can be melted away. As our faith is purified, the Lord Jesus is glorified, and our lives bear testimony to His trustworthiness.

* The Bible gives numerous reasons for why Christians suffer, and in this passage Peter points to the proof of our faith. Like an exquisite diamond, faith is most strikingly evident when set against a black background.
The darker our circumstances, the more evident becomes a steadfast trust in our Lord's goodness.

Bits & Pieces: Faith (10)

"But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith," (I Timothy 1:5).

* In this verse the apostle Paul enumerates three areas of character which he wants to result from his teaching ministry: (a) purity of love; (b) clarity of conscience; and (c) sincerity of faith. The word "sincerity" carries the connotation of 'un-hypocritical'. There's to be no duplicity, no play-acting, no double-mindedness about our faith.
Like the man someone told me about... they said, "He's the same everywhere you see him." That should be the testimony of a transparent, consistent faith for every believer.

* Purity of love, clarity of conscience, and sincerity of faith --- these are the character qualities every pastor/teacher should aim for in his ministry, both for himself and his people.
A sincere faith is a single-minded, unpretentious, and transparent commitment to Jesus Christ.
It is trust without conditions.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Bits & Pieces: Faith (9)

"nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified," (Galatians 2:16).

* There are only two means by which man may be eligible for heaven --- by earning it, or receiving it. Paul could not make it any clearer, that good deeds cannot, and will not, earn anyone entrance into heaven. The only means God has ordained by which man may be saved is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And that very faith that saves is given by God, not earned by works.

* To be justified is to be declared righteous, and its opposite is to be condemned. Yet, since people are condemned sinners, and God is unspeakably holy, how can people be justified?
Paul's answer is as plain as possible --- by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Bits & Pieces: Faith (8)

"Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord--- for we walk by faith, not by sight--- we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord," (II Corinthians 5:6--8).

* It is part and parcel of the Christian life to walk in the realm of the unseen, particularly concerning our eternal destiny. Because the One who so wonderfully changed our lives says that death ushers us into His glorious presence, we can be of good courage when that time arrives.

* When considering eternal realities, to walk by sight is to depend on speculation, whereas to walk by faith is to base our hope on the revealed truth of God's Word. The lost man must speculate about life after death, heaven and hell, and all such unseen realities.
As believers, however, we are to order our lives by the revealed fact that, at death, we will be at home with the Lord who saved us.

Bits & Pieces: Faith (7)

"and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God," (I Corinthians 2:4,5).

* Traveling teachers of Paul's day, known as sophists, gathered great crowds by their rhetorical skills and eloquence. In stark contrast, Paul intentionally delivered the unembellished gospel message plainly, to move his listeners beyond the messenger to the message.
Oh that we, too, would present the gospel in such power!

* How often we reverse God's priorities! So many churches put their faith in the eloquence and rhetorical polish of the preacher, yet experience so little power in the proclamation.
Our faith must instead be placed in the confirming power of God on the messenger.

Bits & Pieces: Faith (6)

"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God," (Romans 5:1,2).

* Paul bids us ponder the past, when we were justified, to be grateful for the present grace, and joyfully anticipate the time when we will be glorified. And from first to last, it is the faith granted us by the Lord Jesus which initiates, sustains, and culminates in our salvation.

Bits & Pieces: Faith (5)

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH,' " (Romans 1:16, 17).

* By graciously giving the faith to believe the gospel, God opens the way by which we believe in the Lord Jesus to salvation. The righteousness of the Savior is imputed to the believer's account, thereby guaranteeing our absolute acceptance by the Father. And the principle of faith by which we begin our Christian pilgrimage is to guide us throughout life.

Bits & Pieces: Faith (4)

"And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all," (Acts 3:16).

* Upon the healing of the lame beggar, Peter addresses the amazed crowd that gathered, directing their attention to the Lord Jesus. He teaches that the faith we have is both a gift, and the basis for healing. However great a faith the Lord has given us, we are to exert it in His name.

* In this verse Peter turns the healing of a lame beggar into an opportunity to preach the Lord Jesus. He teaches that faith is sovereignly given by God, and then exercised by men. Thus, we can claim no credit when God heals, for even the faith we have is from Him.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Bits & Pieces: Faith (3)

"And the disciples came to the other side of the sea, but they had forgotten to bring any bread. And Jesus said to them, 'Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.' They began to discuss this among themselves, saying, 'He said that because we did not bring any bread.' But Jesus, aware of this, said, 'You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets full you picked up? Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets full you picked up? How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.' Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees," (Matthew 16:5---12).

* Time and again the Lord Jesus sought to move His men from the realm of the natural to the spiritual. Here He chides them for forgetting His past provisions of bread, which should have assured them of His future faithfulness.
We, too, falter in faith when we forget our Lord's unfailing faithfulness in the past.

* One of the most basic lessons the disciples needed to grasp was the trustworthiness of the Lord. So concerned with whether or not their physical needs would be met, they missed the Lord's teaching.
And how often we refuse to faith the Lord out of similar fear!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Bits & Pieces: Faith (2)

"And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, 'Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.' Jesus said to him, 'I will come and heal him.' But the centurion said, 'Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes, and to another, 'Come!' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it.' Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, 'Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel,'" (Matthew 8:5--10).

* Can you imagine exhibiting faith that would cause the Son of God to marvel? And this centurion's extraordinary trust had its source in the principle of authority. The greater our vision of the sovereign authority of the Lord Jesus, the greater our faith in His sufficiency.

* Throughout the Scriptures the Lord is pictured as yearning for His people to trust Him. How ironic that it would be an unnamed Gentile who's faith would cause the Son of God to marvel.
And the key to his trust is found in his understanding of the principle of authority. How much authority does the Lord Jesus have in our lives?