Sunday, December 5, 2010
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!
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, ways, and will, 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, enamoured 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,
Friday, October 22, 2010
When words are worthless, smothered by overwhelming grief, You are enough.
When there is no strength to move, You say simply, "Look to Me." And Your Spirit graciously brings You before my heart's vision, bringing peace beyond comprehension, and You are enough.
Forgive, Father, for ways I seek sufficiency in places, people, and things. Some may afford happiness for a season, but none satisfies, only You do that. Grant repentance to this covetous heart, weaning it from wanting the world's mirages. Grant discernment to see through the veneer of promised provision, the smiling sneer of the enemy who hates my soul. Grant contentment, Father, complete satisfaction with You, simply You.
In Your Son's Name I plea,
Friday, August 6, 2010
In the First Century.
From Josephus it appears that in the first century before the destruction of the Temple a number of Messiahs arose promising relief from the Roman yoke, and finding ready followers. Josephus speaks of them thus: "Another body of wicked men also sprung up, cleaner in their hands, but more wicked in their intentions, who destroyedthe peace of the city no less than did these murderers [the Sicarii]. For they were deceivers and deluders of the people, and, under pretense of divine illumination, were for innovations and changes, and prevailed on the multitude to act like madmen, and went before them in the wilderness, pretending that God would there show them signs of liberty" (Josephus, "B. J." ii. 13, §; 4; idem, "Ant." xx. 8, §; 6). Matt. xxiv. 24, warning against "false Christs and false prophets," gives testimony to the same effect. Thus about 44, Josephus reports, a certain impostor, Theudas, who claimed to be a prophet, appeared and urged the people to follow him with their belongings to the Jordan, which he would divide for them. According to Acts v. 36 (which seems to refer to a different date), he secured about 400 followers. Cuspius Fadus sent a troop of horsemen after him and his band, slew many of them, and took captive others, together with their leader, beheading the latter ("Ant." xx. 5, § 1).
Another, an Egyptian, is said to have gathered together 30,000 adherents, whom he summoned to the Mount of Olives, opposite Jerusalem, promising that at his command the walls of Jerusalem would fall down, and that he and his followers would enter and possess themselves of the city. But Felix, the procurator (c. 55-60), met the throng with his soldiery. The prophet escaped, but those with him were killed or taken, and the multitude dispersed (ib. xx. 8, § 6; "B. J." ii. 13, § 5; see also Acts xxi. 38). Another, whom Josephus styles an impostor, promised the people "deliverance and freedom from their miseries" if they would follow him to the wilderness. Both leader and followers were killed by the troops of Festus, the procurator (60-62; "Ant." xx. 8, § 10). Even when Jerusalem was already in process of destruction by the Romans, a prophet, according to Josephus suborned by the defenders to keep the people from deserting announced that God commanded them to come to the Temple, there to receive miraculous signs of their deliverance. Those who came met death in the flames ("B. J." vi. 5, § 3). (taken from http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com)
One of Satan's most adroit strategies for disguising his working (and thereby deceiving folk from recognizing the truth) is duplication. Unable to silence the declarations of the Lord Jesus, he sought to trivialize them by having numerous "messiahs" making similar claims. Bereft of spiritual discernment, the gullible multitudes drifted from one to another, confused, desperate for relief from Roman domination.
Amid this morass of disillusionment, the Lord Jesus proclaimed repeatedly that He had been sent from the Father. A study of how often He made this statement reveals how important it was to Him that the people understand and embrace it. For, however some interpreters have tried to lesssen its impact by saying He was only claiming the role of a great Prophet, those who sought to take His life understood very clearly what He meant: "I am the Messiah, God in human form!"
But note! Although they had access (He was within their grasp), opportunity (no Roman soldiers on the scene) and means (plenty of stones as well as men), there was no execution. Try as they might (and you know they did!), He remained unharmed.
Of the many explanations possible, John tells us it was a matter of timing (!) For, walking in the absolute center of the Father's will, as He always did, the Lord Jesus not only did what the Father willed, and where at all times, but when, as well. And in the providential sovereignty of the Father's plan, He would not be killed prematurely, or in any other way than crucifixion. Why? In order that the Scripture be fulfilled (John 19:24, 25, 28, 36, 37). His every word, work, attitude, and impulse was supremely submitted to the authority of Scripture.
Praise to His Name, such a Savior!
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
"A needed reminder, Father, for the times of frustration when our schedules clash and my patience runs thin because I sense such urgency, while You seem only vaguely involved. Or when I have become spiritually lethargic and insensitive, and suddenly find You dramatically intervening, showing Yourself strong on my behalf. In such moments I am awed afresh at Your aseity, keenly conscious of being a creature in the presence of my uncreated Creator. Worship wells up in my grateful heart, all the while covering my mouth like Job, stunned by the holiness of Your presence. Yearning soars! O to worship You as You are truly worthy.... to declare Your greatness as You deserve... wouldn't that be something! Won't that be something! To join the numberless chorus of the elect in the heavenlies, endlessly praising You for Your transcendent thoughts and fathomless ways! Yes, O Righteous Judge of all the earth, You do right!"
Monday, May 24, 2010
One of the most popular stories in all of Scripture, so often geared primarily toward children, with bright and colorful images of the animals, Noah, and the boat, "Noah's Ark" is generally presented as a happy tale. Actually, it is one of the most horrific accounts of divine judgment in the entire Bible. How so?
For one thing, there is the magnitude of the Lord's poured-out wrath. "All flesh that moved on the earth...birds and cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth and all mankind." Never before, nor since, had the living God displayed His anger on such a scale. Worldwide in scope, utterly thorough in completeness, the waters rose above the highest mountain peaks, sparing nothing nor anyone in their relentless rising. For, as far as the eye could see there were only floating bodies, terrible stench, and rain, for five months. As stern as Noah's prior pronouncements no doubt were, as he warned his mocking neighbors and others about the destruction to come, likely even he couldn't fully grasp the enormity of the deluge until it hit!
Another aspect of the account is the method God determined to use. In contrast to the striking destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire & brimstone, or the sudden confounding of languages at the Tower of Babel, or the various plagues against the Egyptians, the use of water in the Flood was a slow process. Even though water was used in the slaying of Pharaoh's army by the rushing waters of the Red Sea, it was a death quickly done. Not so the Flood, with its incessant rains inch-by-inch eliminating every place upon which to stand, and breathe.
Finally, there were the terrible memories Noah and his family reflected upon for the rest of their lives... the seemingly-endless hours of shrieks, calls for aid, pleas for help, cries for mercy that they could not answer... the pounding of fists on the outside of the ark, as desperate, frantic neighbors sought entrance for their children, if not for themselves... to no avail. The only door had been closed, and by the LORD Himself.
*The only true & living God is utterly holy, and hates sin, seriously.
*There is grace with our God, even amid judgment. He didn't have to preserve anyone from the waters' certainty, but He did.
*Salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ, like the ark, is the only hope of refuge from judgment (Acts 4:12).
*The rainbow reflects His promise to never again destroy the earth by flood (9:11, 15), but His hatred of sin will again result in earth's destruction, this time by fire (II Peter 3:10, 11; Revelation 20:9; 21:1).
Friday, May 21, 2010
The writer makes a distinction between "every encumbrance" that needs to be laid aside, and "the sin" that so easily entangles us. Both are obstacles, hinderances to running the race the Lord has set before us, yet one is characterized not as sin, but rather an impediment.
Those athletes running competitively in ancient times wore little or nothing during the race, minimizing any restriction to their movement clothing might impose. Their single-minded intensity in the athletic realm is held up as a challenge to us in the spiritual marathon that is our Christian walk. We, too, are to put off whatever the Holy Spirit reveals has become a drag upon our stride. A colorful leader I knew years ago phrased it: "I needed to get the junk out of my life!"
The "junk" we need to lay aside is often morally neutral in itself, and no spiritual hinderance for others, but has become an encumbrance in our heart and must be expunged. The temptation is always there to look around and question why we are not allowed to experience what others are free to enjoy, but Romans 14:12 must prevail--- "So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God." However innocuous my encumbrance may seem to someone else, however little need they may see for my getting it out of my life, however misunderstood I may be, the unchanging and unchangeable truth remains:
"Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." (II Corinthians 5:9, 10)
Monday, May 17, 2010
Insidious. adj. "operating or proceeding in an inconspicuous or seemingly harmless way but actually with grave effect"-- Random House Dictionary, 2010.
Insidious comes to mind whenever considering systems of theology that speak of grace in terms other than the biblical usage, characterizing it as a means of meriting favor (salvation). Various cults, such as Christian Science, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. teach such heterodoxy, a "gospel" which is not good news at all.
These groups' popularity speaks to the natural tendency in lost folk to believe that surely some good works will help earn a spot in heaven. Still, these cults' influence is not as insidious, nor as pervasive, as the consummate organized "works-'grace' " theological system today: Roman Catholicism.
With its sacramental system inherently works-based, the entire theological structure is skewed, because the foundation is faulty. What is this foundational fault which 'proceeds in an inconspicuous or seemingly harmless way but actually (has) grave effect'?
AUTHORITY. By asserting that its authority (Church Tradition) is on an equal plane (superior, actually) with Scripture, the Roman Catholic theology of "salvation-by-sacramental-obedience" subverts the true biblical meaning of grace.
For, to add any effort whatsoever to the freeness of the genuine Gospel's grace of Scripture is to invite such questions as, "How much effort is enough? How many good works does it take to know you have salvation? Where is the joy of salvation's assurance, especially at death, if one is depending on works for acceptance?"
The implications are enormous, important, and of eternal consequence. Why? People act on what they believe. And those who teach them are promised by God a stricter judgment (James 3:1). Those who teach the systems of works-salvation in all their insidious forms will have much to answer for, when before the King (Romans 14:12).
Monday, May 3, 2010
Recently, in a Bible class, someone raised the question of whether or not the Father punishes His children. I see in Scripture that we are disciplined by the Father, but are discipline and punishment the same thing?
Random House Dictionary defines punishment thus:
1. the act of punishing.
2. the fact of being punished, as for an offense or fault.
3. a penalty inflicted for an offense, fault, etc.
4. severe handling or treatment.
For discipline, more is involved, according to the same source:
1. training to act in accordance with rules; drill: military discipline.
2. activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training: A daily stint at the typewriter is excellent discipline for a writer.
3. punishment inflicted by way of correction and training.
4. the rigor or training effect of experience, adversity, etc.: the harsh discipline of poverty.
5. behavior in accord with rules of conduct; behavior and order maintained by training and control: good discipline in an army.
6. a set or system of rules and regulations.
7. Ecclesiastical. the system of government regulating the practice of a church as distinguished from its doctrine.
8. an instrument of punishment, esp. a whip or scourge, used in the practice of self-mortification or as an instrument of chastisement in certain religious communities.
9. a branch of instruction or learning: the disciplines of history and economics.
Although the terms are here used interchangeably, there is in Scripture distinction made. Punishment is seen most graphically displayed in judgment against the wicked, although God also dealt with His people Israel severely for their idolatrous ways throughout the Old Testament. Yet even amid His wrathful pronouncements and harsh measures, there remained covenantal commitment, not given any of the other nations. Only to His chosen people was His holy outrage an expression of zealous love, whereas toward Israel's enemies His judgment was purely punitive.
At the cross the Lord Jesus took upon Himself the complete wrath and judgment of God against the sin of His own, so that we are no longer under condemnation with its fear of punishment. Yes, we experience His discipline (which can certainly feel like punishment, true), but its eventual peaceful fruit of righteousness is unknown to a punished world.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
I plea for those who serve in positions and places of danger this day... especially in our nation's military and law enforcement. Grant enhanced alertness and awareness of the enemy, whether law-breaker or one sworn to destroy our nation. Speak to the heart of our soldiers and peace officers, whether a word of warning, instruction, assurance, urgency, strengthening, or calming, as the immediate situation requires for the right to prevail.
Speak peace to the hearts of believing families, encouraging them by Your Spirit's use of promises in Your Word, that they may sense Your nearness when needed most. I plea Your perfect will to be accomplished in the lives of those who do not know You as Lord and Savior, Jesus, that You would sovereignly use the dangers and difficulties to draw Your own to Yourself.
May Your name be magnified and glorified through the lives and experiences of those who serve in these self-sacrificing ways, Father, that we may live in peace in this land.
In Your blessed Son's Name,
Monday, March 8, 2010
How refreshing is Your rest, restoring my soul with Your peace that passes all understanding... taking the fretting that so easily entangles my heart, the worries that encumber my walk, and the fearings that drain my days of joy... these are replaced with tranquil confidence in Your sovereign control, the assurance that You know, and that is enough.
Thank You for calling me again to come to You, and for forgiving my foolishness in staying away... for the flesh's yoke is unrelenting, and sin's burden is brutal. Only in You, blessed Lord, does my soul find rest."
Friday, February 19, 2010
Like Peter, we must be sternly reminded that our Lord's plan for others is not for our eyes to see nor evaluate, but hidden within His sovereignty. There will come a time when there will be no one around with whom to compare (Romans 14:12), so we need now to fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2), eagerly seeking His will and way!
Friday, February 5, 2010
In the present story, the Lord Jesus recounts three miseries of hell: (a) an unstoppable flame which produces unquenchable thirst [v. 24]; (b) everlasting memories of lost opportunities feed a guilty conscience [v. 25]; and (c) a fixed, unchangeable chasm separates the soul from God and everything good [v. 26].
The first, the physical agony, elicits a cry for mercy from the rich man's lips. Even but a drop of water would be infinitely better than the choking thirst the flame continuously causes. Surely father Abraham would heed his plea, and provide a moment's respite. But no. For, as a man on the rack will confess to anything, so in such terrible pain the rich man could seem piteous, when actually he is unrepentant still. Hell is totally punitive, never remedial. No one improves there.
There is mental anguish as well, with memories and conscience accusing the hell-enslaved one, reminding him of all the days filled with lost moments, lost to eternity, never to be given again for repentance and salvation. This indeed is a worm that never dies, a guilt that never relents, a yearning for the escape of sleep or unconsciousness, but there is none.... ever.
Finally there is emotional angst, unutterable despair, as the great chasm is revealed. The lost one sees and senses the separation from God, and feels it intensely. Impassable, irreversible, the great gulf is an unending reminder of the lost soul's confinement for eternity. Though within earshot and eyesight, the rich man could not move one inch toward heaven, to somehow improve his situation. The chasm removed any hope of help he might have had.
May the Lord burn this passage into the hearts of believers, adding urgency for seeing opportunities to share the gospel with lost folk; and should one who reads here be unsaved, may you look to Jesus, and live!