Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Inner Prayer Closet

Father, backed against the wall of life's onslaught, targeted by the flaming missiles of the evil one, both working in conjunction with my flesh, to Whom shall I go, if not to You, my Lord? You alone have the words of eternal life. Only You can nourish my inner man... as You bring to my remembrance wonderful promises, applied by Your precious Spirit: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it."

O Father, may the blood of Your risen Son cleanse my wayward heart, so that my thoughts are taken captive to Your obedience. Grant grace to embrace Your grace. May Your Spirit's softening work increase my spirit's willingness to obey Your truth. Deepen my desire to do the hard thing, to refuse the spirit of ease which so often holds my heart hostage.

Instill determination to take sides against myself, without excuses, when Your Spirit confronts me with sin. In repentance and restoration there is growth in grace and the knowledge of You, which produces such peace...

Forgive my fearing, Father. Worry impugns Your faithful character, and takes on future concerns You never intended for me to assume. Magnify Your promises in my memory, please... so that all I hear in my thoughts is Your assurance: "Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."

Thank You, blessed Lord,
In Jesus' Name,

Monday, March 26, 2012

Just Suppose

"At the end of time, billions of people were scattered on a great plain before God's throne. Most shrank back from the brilliant light before them. But some groups near the front talked heatedly-- not with cringing shame, but with belligerence.
'Can God judge us?'
'How can He know about suffering?', snapped a pert young brunette. She ripped open a sleeve to reveal a tatooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. 'We endured terror... beatings... torture... death!'
In another group a black man lowered his collar. 'What about this?' he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. Lynched for no crime but being black!'
In another crowd, a pregnant schoolgirl with sullen eyes. 'Why should I suffer?', she murmured. 'It wasn't my fault.'
Far out across the plain were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering He had permitted in His world. How lucky God was to live in heaven, where all was sweetness and light, where there was no weeping or fear, no hunger or hatred! What did God know of all that men had been forced to endure in this world? For, God leads a pretty sheltered life, they said.
So, each of these groups sent forth their leader, chosen because he had suffered the most. A Jew, a black, a person from Hiroshima, a horribly disabled arthritic, a thalidomide child. In the center of the plain they consulted with each other.
At last they were ready to present their case. It was rather clever.
Before God could be qualified to be their Judge, He must endure what they had endured. Their verdict was that God should be sentenced to live on earth--- as a man! Let Him be born a Jew. Let the legitimacy of His birth be doubted. Give Him a work so difficult that even His family will think Him out of His mind when He tried to do it. Let Him be betrayed by His closest friends. Let Him face false charges, be tried by a prejudiced jury and convicted by a cowardly judge. Let Him be tortured.
At last, let Him see what it means to be terribly alone. Then let Him die in agony. Let Him die so that there can be no doubt that He died. Let there be a whole host of witnesses to verify it.

As each leader announced the portion of his sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the throng of people assembled. When the last had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence. No one uttered another word. No one moved. For suddenly all knew that God had already served His sentence."

---from a British Youth Magazine in the '60's

Monday, March 19, 2012

Luke 23:32--43

What an amazing case of sovereign grace... at the outset he had joined in with the Jewish leaders, the Roman soldiers, and his fellow malefactor, as they all scoffed rudely, crudely at the One in the middle-- Who did not respond in kind. Like them he did not fear God... like his fellow thief he didn't feel his punishment was deserved... and like them he assumed that the One in the middle had surely done something to merit the beatings, the torture, the abuse, and now the exquisite pain He was enduring...

And then it happened.

The Lord quickened his spirit, opening his eyes to see clearly the spiritual situation around him. Between gasps for breath he found himself rebuking his former cohort in crime, "Don't you fear God?" The other man must have glanced at him in disbelief... had he heard right? But there was more-- "We are receiving what we deserve for our deeds.." The other brigand couldn't believe what he was hearing... this didn't sound like the same man who, just an hour ago, was scoffing at the One in the middle with the best of them. Then, finally, "... but this man has done nothing wrong." Painfully sliding up and down the cross, agonizing for every breath, the cynical thief wondered how on earth his changed companion knew anything about the One in the middle...

"Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" Pushing up on his nailed feet, for the few seconds that he could endure the pain, the believing thief made his request... humbly asking only to be remembered by the Savior when His kingdom is inaugurated. The plea evidences the work of salvation wrought upon his heart, infusing confidence in both Jesus' saving power and spiritual sovereignty.

The Lord Jesus responded, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." This wonderful "word" is the second of the seven declarations of our Lord from the cross on that momentous day. That it is brief is understandable. It is amazing that the Lord Jesus could say anything at all, given the horrendous trauma and physical exertions involved simply to continue breathing during crucifixion. Yet in its brevity is eternal comfort incomparable.

It is a beautiful assurance of salvation, a certainty for eternity, given to one who would experience the new birth for only a few earthly hours.

Note the solemnity-- "Truly I say to you.." a promise is only as certain as the dependability of the one making it... Deity in bodily form is promising eternal security! You can't get more certain than that! Note the immediacy-- "today".. physical death would overtake them both, yet eternal life was immediately next! No purgatory. No lengthy wait. Instantly into Paradise. Note, too, the promised Presence-- "with Me"... nothing could have been more reassuring, more encouraging, than to be told that he would be with the Savior forever and ever.

The scene on The Skull that day was a microcosm of the world as it relates to the Lord Jesus. There are those who revile Him, mock Him, hate Him, ignore Him, despise Him, living and dying as children of wrath, following their nature in unrepentant rebellion. The other thief begins the same way, entering this world with the same nature that opposes God's holy sovereignty. Yet, in His perfect time, for His own glory and pleasure, God intervenes by making him willing in the "day of His power." His Spirit quickens the sinner, and he eagerly looks to the Savior in repentance and love. He, too, is following his nature, his new nature, in gratitude for such grace and mercy shown to so great a sinner. What an amazing case of sovereign grace!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Psalm 122:6

"Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." Revelation 2:10

"The persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is on its way to reaching epidemic proportions," wrote Raymond Ibrahim, with the David Horowitz Freedom Center and Middle East Forum. He continued, "In Egypt, a Christian student was strangled and beaten to death by his Muslim teacher and fellow students for refusing to cover his cross. When the headmaster was informed of the attack in progress, he ignored it and 'continued to sip his tea.' "

"In Somalia, a 17-year-old was decapitated for converting to Christianity the previous week."

"And, in Pakistan, a Christian mother of four was slaughtered by a Muslim colleague in Pakistan after she resisted his attempt to rape her at the factory where they worked."

Such is the world of Islam. On her website, www.ArabsForIsrael.com, Nonie Darwish writes, "Crimes done by Muslims against other Muslims who are considered apostates should alert the American public of what is coming to American streets if Muslims start increasing in numbers. The dirty little secret of Islamic hate and intolerance is clear... and no one in the media cares to expose it and alert the American people."

Father, I would pray for the peace of Jerusalem, for those who are the apple of Your eye, in light of the promises You have made to the people of Israel. Praise to Your Name for the ways You have shown Yourself strong on their behalf through the centuries, even to the present day, in utter faithfulness. I plea that our nation would wholeheartedly love Your people, pray for them, and obey Your Word's commands related to the nation upon which You have set Your heart.

For brothers and sisters persecuted for their faith in You, Lord Jesus, I would also intercede... Your Word promises "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." As the times grow closer to Your return, the intensity of such treatment will increase... be pleased to grant grace to Your children to be faithful when needed most. Your Word tells us that the death of your godly ones is precious in Your sight... thank You for providing just what we need at the very moment it's required. May we live and die in a manner worthy of You, Lord Jesus. In Your Name, I plea, Amen.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Free Will

Among his notes, C. H. Spurgeon tells of an imaginary conversation on the topic of "Free Will":

"Do you see the cat? She sits there, and will lick her paws and keep herself clean." "I see that," said the other. "Well," said the first speaker, "Did you ever hear of one of the hogs taken out of the pigsty that ever acted like the cat?"
"No," he said. "But he could if he wanted to," said the other.
"Yes! truly he could if he wanted to; but it is not according to his nature, and you never saw such a thing done, and until you have changed the swine's nature, he cannot perform such a good action, and God's Word says the same thing of man."

"And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest." (Ephesians 2:1--3)

In the Bible, death indicates separation, such as the spirit separating from the body. In this passage Paul is rehearsing truths related to the Ephesian Christians' pre-salvation days, in which they were separated by their sinful nature from the spiritual life of Christ. Common to all who are spiritually dead in trespasses and sins, both then and now, their nature was at enmity with Christ, with the desires of both the flesh and the mind being hostile toward Him. Given a choice, (much like the crowd when presented with the Lord Jesus and Barabbas), the one whose will is in bondage to sin always chooses someone other than Christ.
What is required for someone to be able to choose the Lord Jesus? The Lord Himself said, "You must be born again." How? Look to the Lord Jesus. He is faithful. He hears, knows and saves, perfectly.
You'll discover the ability to do what you ought... and that's a truly free will.