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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Loving God

If ye love me, keep my commandments.  John 14:15

He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: . . . John 14:21

Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: . . . .  John 14:23

He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: . . . .  John 14:24

I love him, I love him not!

Is it possible that these sobering words from Jesus can at the same time be a source of comfort and consternation.  That is what they are to me!

I love him therefore I keep his commandments and words.  I do not keep them perfectly or at times even consistently, therefore I do not love him as I ought, and certainly not as he deserves.  I do not know that I will ever love him as I should in this life.  I want to love him, I desire to love him, and at times I do love him with an obedience that amazes me; an obedience that causes me to humbly admit I only love him with his love that has been shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Ghost.  Then there are the other times, the times of disobedience and unbelief; the times when I don't love him; the times when self-interest assumes the helm and I am propelled by the flesh and carnal interest.

I guess I find myself in the awkward place of loving him more than I ever have and yet realizing I do not love him as I ought.  The words of Jesus in John fourteen keep me thankful, humble, and longing.  Thankful I love him as much as I do.  Humble when I consider that I love him because he first love me.  Longing to love him more!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Even Now

John 11:21,22 - Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.  But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.

In John 11 we find the familiar narrative of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It is one of the most extraordinary instances of Jesus’ power in all of the gospels. It was the event that sealed Jesus’ fate in the minds of the Jewish leaders.  Verse 53, Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.

It is interesting that upon receiving word of Lazarus’ sickness Jesus tarried two days before going to him.  The delay was deadly for Lazarus.  Yet, nothing in the narrative indicates it was an oversight on Jesus’ part; to the contrary it was the result of his foresight.  His delay was purposeful.  Verse 4, When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.  God is not nearly as interested in meeting our deadlines as he is in glorifying himself. We will have more peace in life if we learn there are times when his delay is for the purpose of creating desperation on our part.  It is in the darkness of desperation that the light of hope shines most brightly.

When the disciples misunderstood Jesus’ words about Lazarus sleeping the bible declares in verse 14, Then said Jesus plainly, Lazarus is dead.  This reality poses a significant paradox.  Jesus had said the sickness was not unto death, and now he firmly declares that Lazarus is dead.  Faith would dictate the final verse had yet to be written on Lazarus’ condition.  In fact Jesus goes on in verse 15 and says, And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.  So this sickness that was not unto death that killed Lazarus was to glorify God and to the intent that the disciples might believe.  This was such a good thing that Jesus said, “I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, . . . .”

When Jesus approaches Bethany and Martha goes out to meet Jesus she speaks some of the most striking words of the whole account.  Verse 21 and 22, Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.  But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.

“But I know, that even now” This is a statement of great faith.  Her desperation did not deteriorate into disbelief.  Even now with Lazarus dead all hope was not gone as long as Jesus was here.  Martha knew if Jesus had been there he could have kept Lazarus from dying (in fact he did not even have to be there to produce that outcome), but she also knew that though dead it was not beyond the ability of Christ to interpose and grant relief and deliverance.

We should learn to say with Martha amidst our darkest days, confronting our biggest challenges, battling our strongest enemy, suffering our most desperate discouragement, “But I know, that even now”.  We face no difficulty that rises above the ability of our God.  He may be waiting, if so he is doing so with purpose and it could very well be to glorify himself and that we might believe.

I choose faith!  I choose, no matter the circumstances, to say, “But I know, that even now”.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Christ A Source Of Division

John 7:43 - So there was a division among the people because of him.

This was a signal characteristic of the life and ministry of Jesus.

John 7:12 - And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people.

John 9:16 - Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.

John 10:19 - There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings.

Jesus did not shy away from the reality of creating division.
Luke 12:51-53 - Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:  For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.  The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

If we do not preach a Jesus that produces division we may not be preaching the Jesus of the bible.  Jesus required men to make a choice, and where people must make a choice there will be division.  Some will believe, some will not.
We live in an apostate age in which the only Jesus most know anything about is a Jesus of unity.  This is not a complete picture.  Therefore it is an untrue characterization.  When everyone can be united under the same Jesus no matter what they believe about him we may not have division but neither do we have the Jesus of the bible.
Where Jesus is faithfully portrayed and proclaimed there will be division!  If we set ourselves to erase the division we ultimately diminish the Saviour!

Canary Or Starling?

The following is from J. R. Miller's, "Taking Cheerful Views" 1880

Proverbs 15:15 - All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.

Proverbs 17:22 - A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

"One of the divinest secrets of a happy life--is the art of extracting comfort and sweetness from every circumstance.  We must develop the habit of looking on the bright side.  This is a magic-wand whose power exceeds that of any fabled magician's to change all things into blessings.  Those who take cheerful views, find happiness everywhere; and yet how rare is the habit!  The multitude prefer to walk on the dark side of the paths of life.

There are those who take to gloom--as a bat to darkness, or as a vulture to carrion!  They would rather nurse a misery--than nourish a joy.  They always find the dark side of everything, if there is a dark side to be found.  They appear to be conscientious grumblers, as if it were their duty to extract some essence of misery from every circumstance!  The weather is either too cold or too hot; too wet or too dry.  They never find anything to their taste.  Nothing escapes their criticism.  They find fault with the food on the table, with the bed in which they lie, with the railroad-train or steamboat on which they travel, with the government and its officials, with merchant and workman--in a word, with the world at large and in detail.

They are chronic grumblers!  Instead of being content in the state in which they are--they have learned to be discontented, no matter how happy their lot!  If they had been placed in the Garden of Eden--they would have discovered something with which to find fault!  Their wretched habit empties life of all possible joy--and turns every cup to gall.

On the other hand, there are rare people who always take cheerful views of life.  They look at the bright side. They find some joy and beauty everywhere.  If the sky is covered with clouds--they will point out to you the splendor of some great cloud-bank piled up like mountains of glory.  When the storm rages, instead of fears and complaints--they find an exquisite pleasure in contemplating its grandeur and majesty.  In the most faulty picture--they see some bit of beauty which charms them.  In the most disagreeable person--they discover some kindly trait or some bud of promise.  In the most disheartening circumstances, they find something for which to be thankful, some gleam of cheer breaking in through the thick gloom!

When a ray of sunlight streamed through a crack in the shutter, and made a bright patch on the floor in the darkened room--the little dog rose from his dark corner, and went and lay down in the one sunny spot; and these cheerful people live in the same way.  If there is one beam of cheer or hope anywhere in their lot--they will find it!  They have a genius for happiness.  They always make the best out of circumstances.  Their good nature never fails.  They take a cheerful view of every perplexity.  Such people have a wondrous ministry in this world.  They are like apple trees when covered with blossoms, pouring a sweet fragrance all around them.

It may be worth while to linger a little, on the philosophy of living which produces such results.

Some people are born with sunny dispositions, with large hopefulness and joyfulness, and with eyes for the bright side of life.  Others are naturally disposed to gloom.  Yet, it is still largely a matter of culture and habit, for which we are individually responsible.  Like the apostle Paul, we can train ourselves to take cheerful views of life, and to extract contentment and enjoyment from any circumstances.

Philippians 4:4 - Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.  This is clearly a most important part of Christian culture.

Joyfulness is everywhere commended as a Christian duty.

Discontent is a most detestable fault.

Morbidness is a sin.

Fretfulness grieves God.  It tells of unbelief.  It destroys the soul's peace.  It disfigures the beauty of Christian character.  It not only makes us soured and unhappy in our own hearts--but its influence on others is bad.

We have no right to project the gloom of our discontent--over any other life.  Our attitude is to be ever towards joy.  There is nothing so depressing in its effect upon others, as morbidness!

True contentment does not chafe under disappointments and losses--but accepts them, becomes reconciled to them, and at once looks about to find something good in them.

This is the secret of happy living!

And when we come to think of it--how senseless it is to struggle against the inevitable!  Discontent helps nothing.  It never removes a hardship, or makes a burden any lighter, or brings back a vanished pleasure. One never feels better, for complaining.  It only makes him wretched!

A starling in a cage struggles against its fate, flies against the wire walls, and beats upon them in efforts to be free--until its wings are all bruised and bleeding!

A canary is shut in another cage, accepts the restraint, perches itself upon its bar and sings.

Surely, the canary is wiser than the starling!"