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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Time And Eternity

Genesis 1:5,14 - And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. . . . And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:

Revelation 10:6 - And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer:

Revelation 21:23-25 - And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.  And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.  And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.

Have you ever thought about the fact that there is a sense in which we are already living in eternity?

Time came into existence in the context of eternity.  Time did not interrupt eternity. Eternity is the backdrop for all of time.  Eternity is always there, it is an ever present reality.  Everything we do impacts eternity because we are living it.  This is why we have the exhortations of scripture to live for eternity.  This is why Ecclesiastes warns of the danger of under the sun living.

There is a stark contrast to be noted in this connection.

Time against the backdrop of eternity is next to nothing.  It is the presence of the finite in the context of the infinite!  That is all of time.  Now think about our lives consisting of 70 years in the context of 6,000 years. We only live about .011 of the total time allotted so far.  If our lives only consist of .011 of the total sum of time so far, what must our lives look like in the context of eternity?  What must one year look like?  What must one day look like?

Our lives are about as close to nothing as you can get in the context of eternity and, yet, the choices of that infinitesimal life span have major consequences throughout eternity.

The reality is that something as small and insignificant as the lives we live has a major impact on eternity!  The reason is because every day is not just a 24 hour time period it is a slice of eternity.  Therefore every slice carries the weight of eternity!  The whole is reflected in the part.  A slice of the infinite is well….infinite! Could it be that much is made of the proper use of time in the Scripture not only because of its brevity, but because of what it represents?

2 Peter 3:8 - But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

Psalms 90:4 - For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.

We are living for eternity because we are living in eternity.  The question becomes are we living and making choices in light of eternity or are we simply living from day to day with little awareness that every day is a slice of eternity and carries the full weight of the infinite!  Are we living solely in the context of time without realizing that time itself has a context?

Time is crucial because it represents our opportunity to do something with eternity!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Words Of Wisdom From Abraham Lincoln

"If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attakcs made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how - the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference." Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

He Forgave Because He Remembered

Psalms 78:38,39 - But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath.  For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.

Psalms 78 is a record of Israel's unbelief, pride, and rebellion in the face of God's deliverance, provision, and faithfulness.  Their sins were aggravated because their mercies were multiplied.

A sampling of their sins:

"They kept not the covenant of God"
They "forgat his works"
"They spake against God"
"They believed not in God"
"They flattered him with their mouth"
"The lied unto him with their tongues"
"Their heart was not right with him"
"They turned back and tempted God"
"They limited the Holy One of Israel"
"The not . . . they day when he delivered them"
"They kept not his testimonies"

An accounting of their mercies:

"He divided the sea and caused them to pass through"
"In the daytime also he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire"
"He brought streams also out of the rock"
He "rained down manna upon them to eat"
"He guided them in the wilderness like a flock"
"He led them on safely"
"He cast out the heathen before them"
"He made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents"

It is these sobering realities that magnify his forgiveness toward the nation of Israel.  It is not that he did not chastise them for he surely did at times, but he did not destroy him.  In wrath he remembered mercy.

We are told that the LORD was:

"Full of compassion"
"Forgave their iniquity"
"Destroyed them not"
"Many a time turned he his anger away"
He "did not stir up all his wrath"

Why?  What was it that called forth his compassion, promoted his forgiveness, kept him from destroying them, enabled him to turn his anger away many times, and kept him from stirring up all his wrath?

Verse 39 provides the answer.  It is because of what he remembered!

He remembered that they were but flesh.  He remembered that they were but a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.  In a word he remembered their natural infirmity.

It would be good for us to remember about each other what God remembers about us.  That we are but flesh.  If God remembers that in the face of our unfaithfulness to him, surely we can remember that in relation to others transgressions against us.  We have a constant reminder of it in our own being!

If we would remember the right things we would find ourselves more able and ready to be full of compassion, forgive iniquity, refrain from destroying, turn away our anger many times, and not stir up all our wrath.

May God help us to be God-like in this respect!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pray Without Ceasing

The following is from J. R. Miller's Prayer In The Christian Life, (1903)

"It is well for us to learn this lesson--to take everything to God in prayer, to pray as we go from task to task. We may form the habit of putting up little 'sentence prayers' continually.  When you feel an inclination to speak bitterly, or to answer sharply; when you have been stung by another's speech or act; when you are tempted to refuse a request for help, to do some selfish thing, to pass by a human need, to speak an untruth--lift up your heart in the prayer, "Jesus, help me to do Your will."  Or if you meet a sudden temptation and are in danger of being swept away, look up and cry, "Jesus, save me!"  We do not know what we miss--by leaving God out of so much of our life!

We often wonder . . .
why we fail,
why so little comes of our efforts,
why we do not get along better with people,
why we are not happy,
why joy is so lacking in our experience,
why we are so easily fretted and vexed,
why we are so discontented,
why we fall so easily into surliness and bad temper.
       It is because we cease to pray!

Life is not easy for any of us.  We can live nobly, purely, Christly--only by being much with Christ!  We will rob ourselves of Divine blessing, of beauty of character, of power in service--if we fail to make room in all our busy days--for quiet retreats from the noise and strife, where we may sit at Christ's feet--to hear His words, and lie on His bosom that we may absorb His spirit, to prepare us for the toil of the day!"

Monday, December 21, 2009

Wept Bitterly

Luke 22:62 – And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.

The occasion of Peter’s bitter weeping was his third denial of the Lord Jesus Christ the night of his betrayal. Peter’s weeping was made bitter because of two things we are told in verse sixty-one.

“The Lord turned, and looked upon Peter.” By the time the third denial was slipping off the end of Peter’s tongue Jesus was standing in the courtyard and heard Peter’s cursing, swearing, and denying. I am inclined to think that Peter and Jesus made eye contact. No words needed to be spoken. They both knew. It was a moment of revelation for Peter about Peter.

Verse sixty-one also tells us that “Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.” Peter had probably thought about those words at least a couple of times already that night; his two previous denials. He no doubt, after each of the previous failures, remembered the words and embraced a new resolve that only evaporated under the blistering threat of what it might mean should he claim to know him.

Peter in his denial betrayed. Judas betrayed him with a kiss, Peter with a curse. Judas betrayed him into the hands of sinners. Peter betrayed him while in the hands of sinners. Of course these two men are as different as night and day. This is revealed in how they addressed their betrayals. Judas went out and hung himself; Peter went out and wept bitterly.

All sin is a betrayal of Christ. In all sin there is a sense in which we are saying “I do not know the man”. We condemn Judas and deservingly. We chastise Peter and consider it appropriate that he would go out and weep bitterly, but do we never feel compelled to weep bitterly over our own sins, our own betrayals. Do we never deny in our own way and realize the Lord is looking? Do we never betray in our own way and never remember the word of the Lord? Do we never weep bitterly over our sin, denials, and betrayal?

This may be too much to ask of a Christianity that has been weaned on feeling good about itself. I don’t think anyone could have consoled Peter that early morning by encouraging him to think about who he was in Christ. Such words would have only intensified his agony. It was exactly because of who he was in Christ that he was so overwhelmed with grief because of what he had done to Christ.

When is the last time we wept bitterly over our sin?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Receiving Sinners??

Luke 15:2 – And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.

Jesus is soundly condemned for “receiving” sinner and for “eating” with them. This complaint of the Pharisees and scribes highlights one of their premiere misunderstandings. They did not consider themselves sinners, at least not sinners like other men. They did not realize that while their sins may be different, they were like all men sinners. If they received each other, then they were receiving sinners. If they ate with each other then they were eating with sinners. This was a fundamental truth that they did not acknowledge.

It seems that receiving sinners could be either good or bad. Where there is social interaction the receiving of sinners cannot legitimately be questioned. If sinners are being received to justify their sin, that is a bad thing. If sinners are being received to bring them to repentance, that is a good thing.

The Pharisees and scribes in complaining against Jesus were actually condemning themselves. They received each other in an elite circle of companionship that fed their misunderstanding that they were not sinners like other men.

Jesus was receiving sinners, even to the degree that he was eating with them. The question becomes for what purpose was Jesus receiving sinners?

The rest of the chapter answers the question. It consists of a triad of parables, relating to a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son.

After the parable of the lost sheep Jesus makes his application by saying in verse seven, “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.”

After the parable of the lost coin Jesus makes his application by saying in verse ten, “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”

At the conclusion of the parable relating to the lost son we find the father of the parable saying to the bitter son in verse thirty-two, “It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.” When you read the parable it is readily discovered that the lost son repented and that was the occasion of the rejoicing.

Jesus received sinners to call them to repentance and this is a good thing.

Jesus received this sinner and called him to repentance almost 40 years ago, “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.”

Thursday, December 10, 2009

An Imperfect Understanding Of A Perfect Jesus

Jesus is perfect!

Our understanding of him is oftentimes imperfect!

We labour under the presence of our own biases.  Our prejudices concerning different character traits are often imposed upon the Son of God. Therefore some see him as tender with a touch of strength, and others see him as uncompromising with a touch of tenderness.

In Luke 13:34,35 we see Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem. “How often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings. . .”  The pathos of his words are stirring and we are compelled to recognize the tenderness of Jesus toward a city that would not accept him.  Even in verse 35 when he states, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate:” we are likewise compelled to acknowledge the presence of tenderness and yea, even anguish concerning the ultimate judgment of their unbelief.

Before we leave the next chapter (14) we find Jesus pressing a multitude with the demands of discipleship. “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”  These are uncompromising words.  They leave us edgy and uncomfortable with the demands being pressed upon us.  In verse 28 we are challenged to count the cost.  In verse 31 we are pressed to first to consult whether we have what it takes.

It seems we need be careful about so extolling one aspect of his divine beauty that we diminish other characteristics which are equally divine and glorious.  We must discipline our thinking to appreciate who he is in his totality.

We must rejoice in that fact that he is both uncompromisingly tender and tenderly uncompromising!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Missing Link

Hebrews 11:1-3 - Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  For by it the elders obtained a good report.  Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

Faith is the "missing link". Not a leap in the dark faith, but a faith both reasonable and logical.  Faith is the capacity of the reason to believe things it does not understand.  Faith is not at odds with reason it simply expands the potential of reason.  Faith is not inconsistent with reason; in fact it is a tool of reason.

Simple reason would tell me a several thousand ton aircraft could never climb into the sky and fly thousands of miles.  But then I see one do it, it is documented that it happens thousands of times each day all around the world, I ride on one.  Now my reason has been confronted with revelation.  My reason now tells me there are forces at work here I do not see nor understand but I now believe they exist and are in operation and it now would be unreasonable to say otherwise.  The result, I board an airplane because of what I understand by faith.  My faith has become the substance of what I hope for.  It is through faith I understand that the aircraft will get me from point A to point B.

It reminds me of an occasion when we were hiking in a state park in the Texas hill country. We came across a group of rocks that spelled a word. There was no one else around. My reason led me to faith. I reasoned the order revealed in the group of rocks was an indication someone else had been there; an intelligent being, with power to arrange the rocks and make something meaningful out of them. I simply believed someone else had been present. I did not "know" it; I believed it (and still do).  But my faith seemed reasonable, in fact I don't think anyone would have considered it unreasonable and would likely have agreed with my conclusions.  My faith became the substance of (acknowledged the unknown person) who did the arranging of the rocks.  My faith became the evidence of the person I did not see.  My faith was the missing link that made sense out of what I did see.  Had I not had faith I would have become frustrated in my ability to understand the reality staring me square in the face.

That takes me to the rocks themselves and the universe in which they are found, in which we are all found. Where did it come from? My reason tells me it exists and it had to come from somewhere. Why is the universe such an expression of order, intelligence, and power? My reason tells me the cause must be ordered, intelligent, and powerful. As reasonable as all of this may be I still am without understanding as to why? how?  I may begin to rationalize it must have just happened through a process of random selection. But can I really be comfortable with that?  Is that really reasonable?  No more than I could be comfortable with the rocks in the state park simply rolling into place!  In fact I am quite sure no reasonable person would have argued very long for such an explanation.

Then I am confronted with revelation. A revelation that informs my reason. It tells of a self-existing, ordered God who is infinitely intelligent and whose power knows no limits. I believe the revelation not because it is speculative and fanciful but because it produces the missing link. It explains things I could never know apart from revelation. Now my reason tells me there are forces at work here I do not see nor completely understand but I believe they exist and are in operation and it now would be unreasonable to say otherwise.

Thus the Scripture says, "Through faith we understand".  When we believe we have found the missing link!

1 Peter 1:8 - Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: . . . .

Friday, December 04, 2009

What A Day That Will Be!

The following is from Richard Baxter's, The Saint's Everlasting Rest.

"How wonderful was the Son of God in the form of a servant!  When he is born, a new star must appear, and conduct the strangers to worship him in a manger, heavenly hosts with their songs must celebrate his nativitiy; while a child, he must dispute with doctors; when he enters upon his office, he turns water into wine, feeds thousands with a few loaves and fishes, cleanses the lepers, heals the sick, restores the lame, gives sight to the blind, and raised the dead.  How wonderful, then, is his celestial glory!

If there be such cutting down of boughs, and spreading of garments, and crying Hosanna, for one that comes into Jerusalem riding on an ass; what will there be when he comes with his angels in his glory!

If they that heard him 'Preach the Gospel of the kingdom,' confess, 'Never man spake like this man;' they then, that behold his majesty in his kingdom will say, 'there was never glory like this glory.'

If, when his enemies came to apprehehend him, they fell to the ground; if, when he is dying the earth quakes, the veil of the temple is rent, the sun is eclipsed, the dead bodies of the siaints arise, and the standers-by acknowledge, 'Truly this was the Son of God;' O what a day will it be when the dead must all arise and stand before him!  when he 'will once shake, not the earth only, but the heavens also!'  when the sun shall be taken out of the firmanment, and  be everlastingly darkened with his glory! and when every tongue shall confess him to be the Lord and King!

If, when he rose again, death and the grave lost their power; if angels must 'roll away the stone,' terrify the keepers till they are 'as dead men,' and send the tidings to his disciples; if he ascend to heaven in their sight; of what power, dominion and glory is he now possessed, and which we must for ever possess with him!

When he is gone, can a few poor fishermen and tent-makers cure the lame, blind and sick, open prisons, destroy the disobedient, raise the daed, and astonish their adversaries? what a world will that be, where every one can do greater works than these!

If the preaching of the Gospel be accompanied with such power as to discover the secrets of the heart, humble the proud sinner, and make the most obdurate tremble; if it can make men burn their books, sell their lands, and bring in the price and lay it down at the preacher's feet; if it can convert thousands, and turn the world upside down; if its doctrine, from the prisoner at the bar, can make the judge on the bench tremble; if Christ and his saints have this power and honor in the day of their abasement, and in the time appointed for their suffering and disgrace, what then will they have in their absolute dominion and full advancement in their kingdom of glory!"

What A Thought!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Somebody Hath Touched Me

These are words that were spoken by Jesus in Luke 8:46.  They are striking words.  Many people had touched Jesus and Jesus had touched many people.

The context in which these words are found makes them all the more worthy of our attention.  Jesus had been approached by one Jairus.  Jairus had a lone daughter that "lay a dying".  Jairus had come to the right place.  Jesus is always the right place.

As Jesus made his way toward Jairus' house the bible tells us that the people thronged him.  "Thronged" comes from a Greek word that is translated "choke" four times in the New Testament.  The only other time it is used is in this passage.  The people were literally pressing in all around him.

The Bible then informs us that in the midst of this pressing crowd that a woman who had an issue of blood came behind him and touched the hem of his garment.  The effect upon the woman was that she was immediately healed.

It is the touch of this woman that was the ocassion of Jesus speaking the words, "Somebody hath touched me".  The disciples give voice to our own thoughts had we been there.  "Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?"

Everyone was touching him, but no one else had touched him like the woman with the issue of blood.  Their touch was casual, her touch was with purpose.  Their touch was a product of circumstances, her touch was a product of faith.  Their touch was inconsequential, her touch was life changing!

Jesus knew he had been touched, "for I percieve that virtue is gone out of me."  The word "virtue" is a word that embraces strength and might.  The Greek word is translated "power" 77 of the 120 times it is used in the New Testament.  Power had been transfered to the woman to meet her need.

All of the other people who were touching Jesus drew no power from him.  It is not the casual touch that transfers power.  If we are to know the power of Christ in our lives we must reach out and touch him with purpose and faith.  We dare not be satisified with the casual touch!

And let it be known if we are reaching out to touch with purpose and faith and only mange to reach the hem of his garment we will find it is enough to change our lives and set us apart from the crowd.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Jesus Marvelled

Luke 7:9 - When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, . . . .

I consider myself on safe ground when I say if Jesus marvelled then of necessity God marvelled!

Marvelled is a word that involves admiration, to admire.  If God admires something it should probably be of interest to us what it is.  It was admired to the point of marvelling.  Just from my own persepctive I find myself marvelling at that which I do not expect.  The unexpected causes me to marvel.  I think Jesus came across something here that he didn't quite expect and he marvelled at it, admired it.

What was it?

We find the statement in the narrative of the Centurion who had a servant that was dear unto him and was about to die.  The Centurion sent messengers to beseech Jesus to come and heal his servant.  Jesus, as was his custom, went with the men toward the Centurion's home.  Before Jesus could get all the way to the man's house he sent other messengers to inform Jesus that he was not worthy that he should come to his house and that he did not even deem his presence necessary.  He believe all Jesus needed to do was speak the word and his servant would be healed.

The bible says when Jesus heard these things, "he (Jesus) marvelled at him (Centurion), and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel."

At what does God marvel, what does he admire.  Faith!  He admires those who believe that he is and the rewarder of them that diligently seek him.  In fact we are told in Hebrews 11, "without faith it is impossible to please him".  I suppose from the account before us we can likewise conclude that with faith it is possible for us to become the object of God's marvelling.

And of course the Centurion's faith was rewarded!  "And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick."

The Centurion marvelled at the power of Christ.  Christ marvelled at the Centurion's faith.  This is the kind of mutual marvelling I would love to enjoy in my own life.

"Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

All Night In Prayer To God

Luke 6:12 - And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.

I find comfort in the fact that Jesus prayed.  That in conjucntion with the fact that he continually resorted to the Scripture establishes an achievable pattern for my own life:  Prayer and Scripture both of which I have access to.  I assume the more I pray and saturate my life with a spirit of prayer and the more I fill my mind with Scripture the more spiritual I will be, the more like him I will be.  I will be like him both in cause (prayer & Scripture) and effect (surrendered to the will of the Father).

I am also a bit taken back that Jesus ever felt the need to pray all night.  I don't know for sure how often he did this, I simply know he did on ocassion.  If he, at times, felt the need to pray all night, do I never feel, at times, the need to pray for several hours?

I also notice this statment about Jesus' prayer life is surrounded by the realities of ministry, both the challenges and the opportunities.

In the verses just previous to Jesus praying all night he was facing a group of people who sought an accusation against him.  He healed a man who had a withered hand and as a result became the object of their madness and desire to do something to him.  The challenges of ministry!

In the verses following he chooses the twelve men who would constitute his church, the Apostles. Then a few verses later we are told that a great company of people out of all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon had come to hear and be healed by him.  Jesus healed them and taught them.  The opportunities of ministry!

Ministry is like that.  There are always challenges and there are always opportunities.  In the midst of it all Jesus set a powerful example.  He went out into a mountain to pray.  And on this occasison he prayed all night to God.

In the midst of our challenges and opportunities let us not forget to find a place to pray and if necessary, surely sometimes it is, pray prolonged prayers.