Daily Thoughts in the Lord II

As with last week, I have looked at a five-year span for today’s date, to see what was on my mind as I read the Bible each day, on this day:

For by You I can run upon a troop; By my God I can leap over a wall. – 2 Samuel 22:30 (NASB)

If the Lord is with me, if my God smiles down upon me, if He wills it, I can do anything. My life is secure in the Lord, I have given it to Him. For I am safe with the Lord’s hand upon my shoulder, He will lift me above all, He will raise me above sin, He will save me forever.

Professing to be wise, they became fools – Romans 1:22 (NASB)

Let me not profess to be wise in my right, for without God I lived a sad life. Let my wisdom come from Him alone, let my praise go to Him only, let all glory and worship be His, and be given to no one else. I am nothing without Him, He is my all in all forever.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. – Hebrews 13:2 (NASB)

We may never know the effects, the impact a single act of kindness can have. We may never know who we have helped, encouraged or put right upon the path by God’s grace through our love for others. It may be that we start a great wheel in motion for the glory of God for a time we cannot begin to imagine.

Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘If you will walk in My ways and if you will perform My service, then you will also govern My house and also have charge of My courts, and I will grant you free access among these who are standing here. – Zechariah 3:7 (NASB)

I need but walk in the ways of the Lord to see Him bless my actions. I need but follow Him to feel Him close to me. His blessings He freely bestows on those who love Him and show themselves to be His children in this world. Let me eagerly be His everyday.

 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 5:21 (NASB)

The reign of Christ is over all; through His grace the reign of Christ is in me. It is grace that is victor over death, for Jesus is the victor over sin. I am in Him, He abides in me. I cannot lose because His grasp on me cannot be loosened forever.

Once again I claim no depth of insight, no exclusivity of the knowledge within the Word of God. You might view these as ramblings, if so, they are mine and given to me by the Spirit as I read my bible on this day years ago.

Uncompromising

In my recent daily Bible reading, I have spent some time in 2 Chronicles 17-20, reading of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah.  In a long line of kings of Israel and Judah, a long line of men who failed to follow the Lord, Jehoshaphat did better than most. He sought God, followed His commandments, removed high places and Asherim from Judah. He sought to be like King David, and be a man with a heart for God. He did much good as the king of Judah.

Yet a key passage for me was 2 Chronicles 19:2-3:  And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to King Jehoshaphat, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Therefore the wrath of the Lord is upon you. Nevertheless good things are found in you, in that you have removed the wooden images from the land, and have prepared your heart to seek God.”

What I see here is that God’s standards are uncompromising, and since He is Holy, those standards are of the highest possible order. Even in the case of a good king like Jehoshaphat, a man sincerely trying to seek and obey the Lord, there is a rebuke at the beginning of 2 Chronicles 19 for his actions in militarily supporting Ahab, a wicked king of Israel. Jehoshaphat’s reign was one of reform and turning to the Lord, especially in times of trouble. The Lord delivered Judah for her enemies, but at the end of 2 Chronicles 20 Jehoshaphat again displeases God in his alliance with Ahaziah of Israel. God “broke” the ships they readied to go against Tarshish. When Jehoshaphat died, Jehoram succeeded him and killed all his brothers, I assume to secure his throne against possible contenders. Was this the fruit of Jehoshaphat’s wicked alliance with Ahaziah? I think that is a distinct possibility.

One can see in these chapters in 2 Chronicles a man trying to live for the Lord, trying to lead his nation back to the ways of God. Yet he stumbled at times and incurred the Lord’s displeasure. Given how the kings of Judah before and after Jehoshaphat behaved, you would think the Lord would cut him some slack. But God’s standards are uncompromising because He is Holy. We cannot please Him with half measures or going almost all the way for Him. Close might count in horseshoes, but it doesn’t get the job done with the Lord.

Not surprisingly, I find the story of Jehoshaphat points to Christ and our need for Him. Romans 8:1 talks of there being no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. He meets the standards that we cannot, that men and women have never been able to meet. Even good men like Jehoshaphat or King David, who was a man after God’s own heart. It is humbling to stand before a God who is Holy, who will not compromise His Holiness and requires holiness from all who stand in His presence. Humbling to know that while we cannot meet His standards, He sent His Son who could and did meet them on our behalf so that we can stand in Christ before the Father and He will not see us but Jesus in us.

As we live in this troubled world it would be great if we could lead like Jehoshaphat, seeking to reform things and turn others back to the Lord as well. But we will fall short in our efforts because of who we are, and due to the fact that only Jesus in His Second Coming can truly make things right and keep them that way. In the meantime, let us be strong, bold and uncompromising in the Lord. Let us be strong and bold in knowing that His grace will overcome our failings.

We can do nothing but bring the news of Jesus to the world that desperately needs it. Nothing but let Him use us for His purposes in obedience to His will. The Lord requires nothing but we behave as faithfully as did His Son as He walked to His death on the Cross. As we cannot walk in such a way, He graciously provided the means for us to walk in Christ instead.

But that is enough for us to do in a situation that requires an uncompromising standard of performance and behavior that we are unable to meet.

 

Crisis in the Nations

Excerpted from “The Nations in Prophecy” by John F. Walvoord (1967):

The world today faces an international crisis unparalleled in all the history of man. A tremendous revolution is under way in the international scene, in economics, in morals, in theology, and in the religious structure of the church. The world is aflame with the raw passions of men ambitious for power and desperate to be freed from poverty and frustration. An ominous cloud hangs over the hearts of men and nations. The nations are indeed at the crossroads, and impending events cast their shadow on every aspect of human life. The world is moving faster and faster like a colossal machine out of control whose very power and momentum inevitably will plunge it into ultimate disaster.

Apart from the Bible, the world does not have a ray of hope. Our most brilliant leaders have not found an answer. World leaders, whether in Moscow or Washington, are troubled by the great issues which face the worlds today. President John F. Kennedy before his untimely assassination expressed the viewpoint of western civilization when he said, “I speak today of an hour of national peril, and of national opportunity. Before my term has ended, we shall have to test anew whether a nation organized and governed such as ours can endure. The outcome is by no means certain. The tide of events has been running out, and time has not been our friend.”

The present world crisis is not a result of any one factor, but a concurrence of causes and effects which combine to set the world stage for a conflict which may quickly bring an end to hundreds of years of progress in western civilization and establish new centers of international power. Whatever the future holds, it is going to be dramatically different than the past. In this dark picture only the Scriptures chart a sure course and give us an intelligent explanation of world-wide confusion as it exists today. Three present world crisis in the light of the Scriptures reveals the existence of remarkable components in almost every area which may lead to a dramatic climax of world history. The present crises in every area of human life all point to the same conclusion, that disaster awaits the nations of the world.

Words of Grace for Strength

If Dr. Walvoord was with us today it is possible he could easily say one of two things: Either “See, I told you so” or “Even so, come Lord Jesus”. The plain fact is that nearly 50 years after he wrote the above excerpt, the world seems to be spiraling even more out of control. Such a fact speaks to both the bottomless depravity and hopelessness of humanity and the inexhaustible patience and mercy of a loving God. Jesus has not yet returned, although many, including John Walvoord, might reasonably have expected Him to do so in the intervening years between when the above was written and the present day. Why hasn’t He returned? It is a question we cannot answer. But we know the Lord’s timing is His own, and we know He is long suffering in wanting all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Many might have been eternally lost if the Lord had returned ten, twenty, thirty or more years ago. The Lord will have none of those who will come to a saving faith perish, and so He patiently and lovingly endures a defiant and disobedient world as He awaits all those who will come to Him in His timing.

The world is hopelessly lost as it seeks to find solutions to its problems, but we who have Christ know the answer, have the truth and need share it with others. There is a crisis among the nations of the world, but we can help solve a small piece of it by sharing Christ with those around us who do not know Him as we do. Yes, the Lord is patiently waiting for those who would come to Him, and is also wanting to bless us for our obedience in sharing the good news of Jesus and the riches of being in Christ with others. The crises in the world can only be solved by Christ. The crisis within the body of Christ, where it seems fewer are following Him obediently as we watch the very foundations of the church continue to crumble, can only be solved by turning back to Christ.

We can study the Word of God, searching the Scriptures like Bereans (Acts 17:11) to seek out and understand the Truth. And so we should. But we can never know the timing that is the Lord’s alone to measure and pour out as He will to fulfill His purposes in the perfection of His plans. We cannot fall into the prideful trap of thinking that we so understand the Lord that we know not only the message He has for us but also the timing of when He would have His prophetical Scripture fulfilled. The more I study His Word, the less certain I am that I fully comprehend all that is in it, let alone knowing when all things He deems will come to pass. I am better off seeking Him and sharing Him with others in the hope that they come to have a relationship with the Lord. I am better off looking to encourage and edify others as I look to be encouraged and edified, and leave the timing of the Lord to the Lord.

We do not know what tomorrow holds for any of us, but those of us in Christ have the surety of God’s Word in knowing where and with Whom we will spend eternity. Those of the world needs to know what we do as well, otherwise they will all stay in crisis after crisis until the Lord returns.

Loving the Mockers

But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ:  how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. – Jude 17-18

Scriptures tell us that that in the last days those of us of the Christian faith will face mocking and worse. And we will face it in increasing amounts as the time grows even shorter toward His Soon Return. We should not be surprised when it happens, for Scripture is Truth and the Scriptures tell us it will be so. So, we need turn to the Bible for our strength and comfort when it does occur.

For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. – Romans 16:19

We may be subject to mocking, but to God it shows our obedience to Him, to the call He has placed on our lives. What better than to be seen by all as being obedient to the Will of God even if most choose to mock us openly? While the world’s response will not be ideal, what more could we want to give but total obedience to our Lord and Savior? Frankly and simply facing evil for what it is and being obedient to the Lord because of who He is.      

The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old. – Proverbs 8:22

A sovereign deity controls all which He created. He has called us from before the foundations of the world and we have answered, and are answering today in how we go about our Father’s business. Hopefully we are answering every day until He comes for us each as individuals or for the church as a whole. We are His while we are on this earth until He brings us home, and then we are His for eternity. An eternity in the physical presence of our Savior. He has always possessed us and He waited for each of us to respond to His call and trust in Him as Savior.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

The Lord knows our hearts and how we will respond to His call. Those He has chosen for His work have the heart to do it, and being Spirit filled, have the strength and stamina to see it through in faith and obedience. God looked into our hearts and knew we were wanting. But He sent His Son and now the Father sees not us but Christ in us. And being filled with the Spirit we have the strength within to resist the evil around us.

You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. – John 15:3

We were ready to do His work even before we knew it. We have a new heart for Christ, we are Spirit filled and clean in God’s eyes because of Jesus even if our old flesh still struggles with our old sin nature. Because of Jesus are perfectly acceptable in God’s view to do the work appointed to us to do. We are ready to do His will because we are already clean in His eyes.

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord; and he said: “Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far? – 2 Samuel 7:18

David recognized the extraordinary lengths God would go through to preserve David’s line to fulfill the promises made to Abraham and to David. We will endure to the end because of what Jesus endured on our behalf and in spite of ourselves. Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. We have been carried this far along, and so will be carried into the eternal state in the same way, on the wings of the Lord. No burden too great for Him to bear, His yoke is light and easy to bear, and with it we shed the heavy weight of sin in our hearts by the freedom we have in Christ.

Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. – Acts 17:25

We cannot provide anything He needs by our own hands, we cannot be delivered out of the evil we soaked in before Him other than by His hands. Our worship by the new hearts of flesh He has placed in us, not by our hands as if we could fashion anything to give to Him which He does not already possess, like the cattle on a thousand hills.

I entitled this article loving the mockers and I have not talked about them at all to this point. Because the love we should show to those inevitable mockers is that they hear of and come to have what we have, a personal relationship with Jesus, with a saving faith in Him alone.  The only way we get to that love is through the work He did in the Cross and the Spirit that enabled us to be filled with. It ain’t about us, but all about Him. So we need to understand who we are in Him before we can love the unlovable as He did. The unlovable club of whom we were once charter members of.

We can only love the mockers if we make a mockery of any attempt to keep us from being obedient to our Lord and Savior.

 

Embrace the Will of God

As in all He did, our Lord and Savior is the perfect example of how we are to face the Will of God in our lives:

He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” – Matthew 26:39

Struggling in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus faced in His heart, soul and mind what He would soon face in His body; His upcoming crucifixion and death. With agonized praying with a fervent intensity that made His sweat become like drops of blood (Luke 22:44), He not only accepted His Father’s Will, but embraced it as the purpose of His coming to us in the first place. We may accept God’s will, but how many of us truly embrace it, as Christ did at Gethsemane? No doubt should exist in our minds that His plans and purposes for our lives are perfect, as is His timing. Yet, I think we struggle with embracing that idea, and it is likely many have trouble with actually accepting it either. For what if His Will would have us suffer for the cause of Christ?

For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)

These words, spoken to Israel during the Babylonian captivity, show the Lord as a God of planning and order, in addition to His loving and gracious nature. While this statement is not addressed to the Church but to Israel, I think it clearly shows a God who has plans and purposes laid out in advance, and He is a God who can in sovereignty bring these plans to pass. But that does not mean His plans are all sunshine and parades for all of us, or even necessarily that for any of us. If you believe the highest purpose for man is God’s glory (and the growth of His kingdom), His plans for any of us might mean unhappy circumstances in our eyes. Just go back to Gethsemane to see the will of the Father obeyed. His plans perfected in the Son’s obedience, culminated upon the Cross. The glory and joyous occurrence of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus could not have occurred without the abject horror of the Cross. Our hope resides in an event seen by the world as hopelessness and defeat; it only came about because Jesus embraced the will of the Father and obeyed it as His own. What if His call to us is one of struggle and suffering for His glory to become manifest in the lives of others through us?

In the call placed upon our lives by our bond-service to Jesus as His disciples, are we ready to embrace the will of God and face His purposes for us with a joyous obedience? Are we willing to sweat blood as we struggle with our human nature in trying to be obedient to the Divine Will? It is so much easier to ask “Why me?’ than to say “Not my will but Yours be done.” It is so much easier for us to embrace our “right” to question and seek answers before reaching a decision than it is to embrace a decision made for us by God. Jesus more than any had the power and ability to make His own decisions, to pave the road He was to walk on His own, for Himself. But He chose to reveal the Father to us by obediently following His Father’s Will for His life. We should not balk if God asks the same from us that Jesus so willingly did.

The very possibility of us embracing His Will unquestioned requires a bedrock steadfastness to our faith walk and if done, is the defining moment of our lives.

Why Are You Still Here?

In the span of just a few days I heard expressed the thought that the reason we, as believers, are still here in this world now is because God is not finished with us (each of us as an individual), and that He still has some work for us to do here for His purpose, to His Glory. It was stated by two different people in two different contexts, and not within the hearing of each other. Looked at with slightly different perspectives, but the same essential thought, that if there wasn’t something that God had for us to do here in this life, He would have taken us home to Him already.

For the believer in Jesus Christ, having this attitude is a faithful and obedient way to live. As the Apostle Paul describes himself in the opening of his epistles, we, like him, are bondservants of Jesus Christ. The Greek word used here, doulos, has the meaning of slave or servant, on either an involuntary or voluntary basis.  But in the context of Paul’s self-description (or those of Peter in 2 Peter or Jude in his epistle), one need use it in the context of voluntary servitude; for these are men who came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ and sought to serve Him, even unto death. And as privileged, by the grace of God, as we are through our faith in Christ to be in a place to serve Him, I believe any disciple of Jesus should view it in the voluntary sense of service to the Lord.

And now to the heart of the matter; I chose the word disciple instead of believer because I feel that if you are a true bondservant to Christ, you are a disciple. As a disciple you are a faithful follower of the Risen Lord, and not just simply a believer who has trusted and believed in Him as the only way to one’s salvation. As disciples, we should live our lives as if the Lord has work for us to do, living as if there is something He would have us do today for the Glory of His Name and the Growth of His Kingdom. If not, there truly is no earthly purpose to our lives. If His plans and purposes for us are complete, (or if we no longer actively serve the Lord; for we must remember we still have a sinful nature which rebels against Him at times), we might as well be called home to be with Jesus. He is a loving God, He wants us with Him for eternity, so why not start that life today?

But He has not called us yet, and we are still here. So let us serve the Lord. We may wish to be with Him (nothing wrong with that), but we should want to do His bidding first. As Paul noted in Philippians:

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again. – Philippians 1:21-26

Paul even goes on in Philippians 1 to talk about letting one’s conduct be worthy of the Gospel of Christ; so Paul is looking for service to the Lord in a way that is honoring to the Lord. Good words to follow for the true disciple of Jesus.

Scripture has more guidance for us:

…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6

The Lord is doing a work in each of us, and is doing a work through each of us. If you are still here among us there’s something God has for you to do, and it may be something that someone, somewhere needs to experience in their life.

In our work for Christ we each have a race to run.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2

Running with endurance while looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher (italics mine) of our faith. We are to run until He decides our race has finished and His Will has been done. This is why we are still here, Jesus hasn’t decided our particular race is over. It is a race which involves obedience to Him, bringing glory to the Father, and growing the Kingdom by reaching others with the love of Christ and the good news of His Gospel.

You are still here and I am still here. Our Lord has not yet stepped out on the clouds to call His Bride up to meet Him, so for now we all remain here. There is something for each of us to do for the Lord today. We need do it with the love of Christ; not hating others (He didn’t hate anyone although He took false teachers and religious leaders to task), not complaining about life (He didn’t do that either, instead He encouraged others to live godly and obedient lives), and with a lot of prayer, even for those who are doing evil (He did a lot of that type of praying).

We remain, to proclaim Christ and speak His Gospel into a world that desperately needs it.

Let’s get to it and be about our Father’s business.

A Life of Unchanging Joy

Excerpted from “Grace and Power” – W. H. Griffith Thomas (1916)

“In Your name they rejoice all day long” (Ps. 89:16). We must not forget, though it is often repeated in our ears, that there is a vast difference between joy and happiness. Happiness depends upon what happens, upon circumstance, the “hap” of life. Joy is independent of circumstances and is connected with our relationship to God. Happiness is very much like the surface of the sea, sometimes turbulent, at other times calm; joy is like the bed of the ocean, which is untouched by anything on the surface. Joy, referring to our relationship to God, is threefold. There is joy of retrospect, as we look back at the past; there is joy of aspect, as we look around on the present; there is joy of prospect, as we look forward to the future. There is the joy of memory, the joy of love, and the joy of hope. There is the joy of the peaceful conscience, the joy of the grateful heart, the joy of the teachable mind, the joy of the trustful soul, the joy of the adoring spirit, the joy of the obedient life, and the joy of the glowing hope.

“In Your name they rejoice.” That is where we get our joy – “in Your name,” in the revelation of God. The name of God is all that is known of Him. Wherever the word name occurs, it never reveals a mere title or epithet but a character, the revealed character of God. In proportion as we get to know this “name” and what it means in all the fullness, we shall have joy, which will thus depend not upon ourselves but upon God.

“In Your name they rejoice all day long-“ in other words, under all circumstances. That is what Paul meant when he said, “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4). He did not say, “Be happy in the Lord always.” He knew very well it was impossible. We cannot be happy always. If we have anything troublesome in our circumstances, if we have any bodily pain, if we have any mental or social anxiety, we cannot possibly be happy. The apostle Paul was not very happy when he called himself sorrowful, but he said, “Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10). While we cannot be happy always, we can rejoice always, because we rejoice in the Lord always. Our joy is independent of happiness, of what happens, it is associated with God.

This, too, is a need of the Christian life, one that ought to be considered again and again, the need of unchanging joy. If in our daily life we do not realize what this means, we are lacking in one of the essential features of biblical Christianity.

Words of Grace for Strength

If there is anything we forget to do as members of the body of Christ, it is to be joyous in all things. We are often so caught up in trying to stay happy or become happy again that we do not have the time nor inclination to be joyous. Yet it is to joy that we are called, no matter the circumstances of life. In fact, we are called to joy especially if the circumstances of life are working against our happiness.  My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials – James 1:2. It is because of what we have in Christ that we can call up unlimited reservoirs of joy, for what we have in Him, who we are in Him and where will one day be with Him overcomes the present troubles of this world. There is joy in knowing we can show the love of Christ, and our faith in Christ to others during times of trials and trouble. To Him be all the glory, and we have joy in knowing Him and saying this.

But to be joyous requires a focus on Jesus, or the unhappy circumstances of this world will sweep you away. It is no wonder Paul calls himself sorrowful in 2 Corinthians 6:10. Just read of his trials in the passage in 2 Corinthians 11:22-33 to see what he had to be sorrowful about. Yet he endured, because he had joy in the Lord. Paul finished his race running as to win; he fought the good fight because he was focused on Jesus, the source of his strength and the reason for his joy. Too often today people in the Church forget the joy (which is eternal) because they are chasing the happiness (which may only be in the here and now). There will be pain, suffering, hatred and persecution of believers by an angry and unbelieving world. Jesus told us so. And that is nothing to be happy about, so isn’t it better to focus on the joy and let the happiness come as it may (as He wills)? The circumstances of happiness can shift from moment to moment, but our joy in the Lord is unchanging if we just embrace it.

A fool can be happy (and fools often are) without realizing the feeling can be momentary and fleeting. We can know the rock solid foundation of Jesus Christ on which we can build in joy, knowing the lasting nature of that which the Lord blesses and accepts as His own. Our joy is knowing that through the merits of Christ we are clasped firmly in His and the Father’s hands, and nothing can pry us from that for all eternity. Nothing can change that, so our joy is unchanging. Come what may in this world, we will stand in His eternal presence one day for ever. The song is called “Joy to the World” but the joy is only in those who know the risen Christ and have accepted Him as their Lord and Savior. Joy everlasting, joy unchanging.

Are you considering it all joy today?