Friday, August 12, 2011

"Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us." (Psalm 62:8)

To whom else would we go? You have the words of eternal life. Far too often we seek solace from others, i.e., friends, loved ones, counselors, teachers, and fail to bring our sorrowful hearts to the One who knows us completely, who loves us unconditionally, and has promised to never leave nor forsake us.

Whom have I in heaven but You? and besides You I desire nothing on earth (Psalm 73:25)

How great is our need to be weaned from all other affections that compete with our Lord. How easily is His still, small voice drowned out by the clamoring noise of many well-meaning advisors, thinking they help, when what is really needed is to be still, and know that He is God!

And those who know Your Name will put their trust in You... (Psalm 9:10)

The better I know Him, the more I trust Him. Where the line is drawn, beyond which I will not go in faith, that is the extent to which I know Him. Faith increases by feeding upon His Word, thinking through the scenes presented in Scripture that demonstrate His unfailing faithfulness. Trust is strengthened when recalling His past acts in times of need, and realizing He never changes!

So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord... (Hosea 6:3)

To move beyond knowing things about Him... facts learned at church, or through book or sermon... the God Who would have us take Him seriously bids us know Him, pressing on to know Him ever more intimately.
Some wag asked, "If God seems far away, guess who moved?" True. It is always our sin that keeps us at a distance; keeps us from knowing Him more intimately. Fellowship must be restored by agreeing specifically to the sin the Holy Spirit points out, following through with repentance. Through such obedience do we learn Him whom to know is life to its fullest.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Best is Yet To Come

"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.' " [John 11:25, 26]

There it is... the crux of Christianity. If Jesus is who He said He is, then the one who believes in Him (is changed by Him), will live (spiritually) even if that person dies (physically). And everyone who lives (spiritually) and is changed by the Lord Jesus will never die (experience spiritual separation from God in hell).
In I Thessalonians 4, Paul takes this truth and draws the implication that, because death has been defeated through the Lord Jesus' atoning death and resurrection, we as believers need not grieve as those who have no hope. Sorrow, yes... as without hope? No.

For though the experience of death itself may be grievous, and the emotional loss difficult, we are to be comforted that we will be with Him forever.
Our Lord gave His wonderful promise in John 14:2, 3 -- "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also."
I share a story I was sent recently:

A young woman diagnosed with a terminal illness had been given a short time to live. As she was "getting her things in order" she contacted her pastor, and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes.
She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what Scripture she would like read, and what outfit she had picked out to wear.
Everything was in order, and the pastor was preparing to leave, when suddenly the young woman remembered something very important to her!
"There's one more thing," she said excitedly.
"What's that?" the pastor asked.
"This is very important," the young woman continued. "I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand." The pastor stood looking at her, not knowing quite what to say.
"That surprises you, doesn't it?" she asked.
"Well, to be honest, I am puzzled by the request," said the pastor.
The young woman explained. "My grandmother once told me this story, and from that time on I have always tried to pass along its message to those I love, and those who are in need of encouragement. In all my years of attending socials and dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared away, someone would inevitably lean over and say, 'Keep your fork.' It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming... like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful and with substance!"
So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder 'What's with the fork?' Then I want you to tell them: 'Keep your fork.. the best is yet to come.'
The pastor's eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman good-bye.
At the funeral people were walking by the young woman's casket and they saw the cloak she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand... over and over the pastor heard the question: 'what's with the fork?' And over and over he smiled.
During his message he told the people of the conversation he had had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it meant to her. He told them how he could not stop thinking about the fork, and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either.
He was right. So the next time you reach down for your fork, let it remind you ever so gently that the best is yet to come.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Isaiah 30:18

"Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him."

Such an amazing truth is this, that the sovereign Creator and LORD of the universe should wait longingly to be gracious to the likes of us! Such astonishing condescension, that He Who spoke everything into existence should set His heart on mortal worms such as us, actually longing to reveal His compassion towards us. And especially astounding, considering our sinful attitudes and actions committed every day we live! How can the LORD of justice look upon us with favor...?

Because His righteous wrath was poured out upon His Son when "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him", (II Cor. 5:21). As we are viewed by the Father as being in the Son, He sees us in the Lord Jesus' perfect righteousness, in His flawless keeping of the perfect Law, in His complete satisfaction of the Law's requirement for acceptance by God into His holy presence: absolute sinlessness. That is the Father's perspective on His children, as viewed through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The blessing comes for the one who learns to walk in the light of such unconditional acceptance; the longing for God characterizes the life of those who practice their position... who take seriously the fact that they can never earn nor deserve His favor, and rejoice in His grace by (1) deeply longing for His presence, and (2) speaking to others who need the Lord Jesus' salvation.