Think of all the hard things there are in your life

Words of the wife of a great man who in her own right was a monument to what she wrote. She spent most of her married life confined to bed, and then when she was able to be up and around, her husband was confined to bed. Yet, none of this hardened or embittered her. Truly, God does “work wondrously”!

The Whole Armour Of God

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Think of all the hard things there are in your life

(Susannah Spurgeon, “Words of Cheer and Comfort for Sick and Sorrowful Souls!” 1898)

“Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You!” Jeremiah 32:17

“Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for Me?” Jeremiah 32:26-27

Dear reader, your difficulties and trials may not be similar to those of “the weeping prophet”–but they are very real, and seemingly insurmountable to you. It is a fact that, of yourself, you can neither overcome nor endure them. So I want to remind you that the Lord’s hand is not shortened–that what was true of His power in Jeremiah’s time, is as certainly true today. Whatever present hardship 

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“Full Time Service”

There’s no Scripture heading for this post because it’s a “rabbit trail” from the previous post.  That post finished with the idea that, short of death itself, the Apostle Paul could never stop serving his Lord and God.  He was, heart and soul, into “full time service.”

Every so often, we’ll hear of a young person who has surrendered to go into full time service.  Usually this means that he has been called into some form of ministry, a pastorate, missions, or some other form of full time involvement.

The truth of the matter is, every true believer is called into full time service.  This does not mean that we’re all called to preach or teach or some other “public” thing.  The world needs Christian janitors as much as it needs preachers.  It needs Christian delivery men, secretaries, plumbers.  It needs Christian men and women on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday and Saturday, as well as on Sunday, and perhaps moreso.

If one isn’t “a Christian” on the other days of the week, does Sunday matter all that much?

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God, 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Acts 5:29, Of God or Men?

29] But Peter and the other apostles answered and said:  “We ought to obey God rather than men.

I originally listed several more verses, but got to thinking this verse might be a good motto for the New Year.  I have no idea what 2018 will bring, but whatever it is, God knows all about it and it’s in His purpose.  We live in uncertain times when the ungodly are doing all they can to get rid of any idea of God.  We see the results of that in the chaos recorded in the news.  Regardless of all that, may it be our desire and prayer in this year to obey God rather than men if that choice must be made.

On Christian “Personalities”

There are many in the church today like those the Lord mentioned who love the best seats, etc., etc.  Many years ago, there was apparently an complaint in a religious paper that “Christian workers” weren’t receiving enough honor.  Amy Carmichael wrote a poem responding to all such fleshly pride.

MEDALS AND HONORS?

Medals and lighted titles?  Who but is ashamed
That such, for such as we, should ever be claimed
As our just due?  Perish the paltry plea,
The sordid thought.  Oh how little, how little have we
Done for our kind; that little, how faultily.
And yet what joy to do it!  Has the day
When “The Offscouring of All Things” could be
An apostle’s title wholly passed away?

Ah, but if one among us covets famed
Great Orders – recognitions – let him lay
Close to his heart two ancient words, and say
Them over and over till he be
Somewhat attuned to them:  Gethsemane
The first:  the second, Calvary.

A Girl Named Rhoda.

In our reading Sunday, my wife and I were in Acts 11 and 12.  When we read Acts 12, I had to chuckle at what happened, and yet also reflected how often what happened then happens now.

In ch. 12, Herod had decided to persecute the church at Jerusalem.  He put to death James, the brother of John.  Because this greatly pleased the Jews, with whom the Herods pretty much always had uneasy relationships, he also imprisoned Peter.  V. 5 tells us that constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.  What happens next always impresses me:  on the night before Peter was to be brought out, probably to be executed, that night Peter was sleeping…. (!)

“Sleeping”….

I wonder what you and I would do under similar circumstances.

Well, Peter is miraculously released, which ultimately cost the lives of 16 Roman soldiers and went to where many was gathered together for prayer.  This is where Rhoda comes in.

So excited was she to hear Peter’s voice on the other side of the door that she didn’t open it, but ran and told the others, “Peter’s outside the door!  Peter’s outside the door!”

Their response? –

In the vernacular of our day, “You’re out of your mind!”

“No!  He’s outside, he’s outside!”

“No way!”

“Way!”

“It must be his angel.”  This from one of the more spiritual brothers.

Well – finally – they opened the door, and the Word says that they were…

…”astonished”(!)

Oh, my!

(Looking in the mirror) – how often we are “astonished” when the Lord answers prayer unexpectedly, as He did here.  I don’t know exactly what the believers were praying for when they prayed for him, but it evidently wasn’t that he would just show up at the door!

How often – too often – we’re like the man in Mark 9, who came to the Lord about his son and said, “…if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”  I think the Lord was very emphatic in the first part of His reply when He said, “If you can believe – all things are possible to him who believes.” 

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:17-24.

Aye, there’s a prayer for us poor believers!

“Lord, we believe.  Help our unbelief!”

Reflections on the Death of a Sister.

A sister in Christ, that is.  I was an only child.

Her memorial service was this morning.  “Viewing” was Sunday.

The morticians did an admirable job preparing her.  Meaning no disrespect at all, I thought it was a little like fixing up a vacant house.  She doesn’t live there anymore.

But we came together to remember and honor her, not the mortal remains she left behind.

I was thankful the service wasn’t just some rote thing out of some “minister’s manual.”  It was from the heart, both the minister officiating and those who spoke of her.  There were a few tears, but there was a lot of laughter.  That’s the kind of person she was, a joy to be around, and a shining light for the glory of God in this dark world.

She was a shining example of what Paul meant when he wrote, For to me to live is Christ…, 

Jo suffered from Lupus for more than forty years, and came down with ALS just a few months before she died.  Though she was paralyzed and unable to speak at the end, yet someone’s comment during the service said to me that she had more joy in life than most of us who enjoy good health.  My wife and I visited her before she lost the ability to talk, and her cheerful demeanor and spirit blessed us more than we blessed her.  I’m sure of it.

A comment someone made while we were leaving the service struck me.  Like other comments I’ve heard over the years, it showed me how much we’ve been influenced by the thinking of the world.  This person said, “It’s good to be alive.”  My response, “Jo’s more alive now than we are.”

Another comment often heard, especially when someone is very sick:  “Well, that’s better than the alternative.”  No, it’s not, not for the Christian.  The rest of the verse from Paul quoted above is, …and to die is gain, Philippians 1:21.  There’s an interesting nuance in the original language missed in our English translations.  What Paul actually said was, “to have died is gain.”  His is the viewpoint of looking back at death and what’s on the other side of that door, not just at the door itself.

In spite of what the world wants to think, to die is not better than to live if the one dying doesn’t know the Lord Jesus as Savior.  There is no “better place” out there apart from Him.

But Jo was more than ready to go through the door, not because of her own efforts or goodness, as she herself would point out, but by the grace and mercy of God.

So, Jo, as we come to the end of the events of the day, we don’t say “goodbye.”  We just say, “Auf Wiedersehn, dear one.”  ‘Til we meet again.

Miss you.

“This Is A Faithful Saying”

Perhaps the best known “faithful saying” in Scripture is the one about Christ coming to save sinners, 1 Timothy 1:15, however, there are six such “sayings” in the New Testament.  We’ll start with 1 Timothy and look at all six, which span all our spiritual life, from sin to glory.

  • 1 Timothy 1:15, the saying of Salvation:

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 

The Lord Jesus didn’t come just to be a good example or to give us a set of moral sayings.  He wasn’t just another prophet.  He didn’t just come to help us to save ourselves or to make it “possible” for us to be saved.  He came to save sinners; that’s the only kind of people He’s interested in.  Religious people, moral people, “good” people – these have no need of Him, or so they think.

There was a time when Paul was like that.  He thought he was doing God service.  He thought he was blameless as far as the Law was concerned.  I believe it was during the witnessing of Stephen in Acts 7 that the light began to dawn and Paul began to understand how far short he fell of the mark, cf. Romans 3:23.  That his “best” was bogus.  And on his way to Damascus, the Lord stopped him short and turned him around.

  • 1 Timothy 4:9, the saying of Realization:

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. 

We might ask, “a saying of what?”  I think it refers to all of vs. 1-11.

In this section, Paul prophesies a time in which “the faith” will be replaced by teachings from deceiving spirits, teachings which are the doctrines of demons, v. 1.  According to Paul, we need to realize that there is an active warfare – in a realm we can’t see, but which greatly impacts the one we can see.  The truth will suffer reproach, but God’s people are called on to both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God.

Verses 1-11 speak of a Christian’s perseverance in times of apostasy.

We certainly live in such a time, when a supposedly Christian college will invite a Muslim scholar to lecture about “the historical Jesus” – as opposed to the Christ of faith. This happened here locally just a few weeks ago.  The religious organization which sponsors this college prides itself that they’re the true one and that their teachings are the true faith, yet they host a man who denies everything they say they believe.  A man who says that the Gospels aren’t to be trusted as accurate history, but were written much later than the events they portray.

  • 2 Timothy 2:11-13, the saying of identification:

This is a faithful saying:  For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him.  If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.  If we deny Him, He also will deny us.  If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.  

Some look at these verses as teaching that a true believer can lose his or her salvation.  If that were the case, then they would contradict all the verses which teach that salvation once entered can never be lost.

I think there’s another thought in these verses.  Many people have just identified with a church or a denomination.  They were sprinkled into it, maybe “confirmed” a few years later, but the Bible may as well still be in the original languages.  They never read it, and have no idea what it says.

This goes for those who don’t accept infant baptism, as well.  My earlier years were spent in fundamentalism, where I was privileged to know and work among many wonderful Christian people.  At the same time, because of the tremendous emphasis on “soul-winning,” there were many who were manipulated into making a “profession of faith” who never seemed ever to be any different.  They never went to church or were baptized.  They seemed no different after than they did before.  I think Paul would say that there’s something wrong with that.

I believe in evangelism; it’s just not about working a particular “method.”

When persecution comes, and we believe it will, we’ll find out who’ve merely identified with some church and who’ve truly identified with Christ.

  • Titus 3:8, the saying of exhortation:

This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works.  These things are good and profitable to men.

There’s a big discussion going on about the relationship of faith and works.  Some vociferously maintain that we’re saved by faith alone.  No works at all.  “Just believe.”  There’s a certain amount of truth to that.  We are saved by faith alone.  The difficulty comes in when one asserts that “faith” is alone.

Paul put it like this in Galatians 5:6, For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything but faith working through love(emphasis added.)  Make no mistake.  Paul isn’t talking about faith AND works, but faith WHICH works.  There’s an eternal difference.

  • Revelation 21:5, the saying of expectation:

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”  And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

While the saying is a little different, the thought is the same.  V. 4 speaks of tears, death, sorrow, crying, pain.  These are all common to this life, even for Christians.  I know Christians who suffer terribly physically, or mentally, or emotionally.  Some of the blogs I follow speak eloquently of this, as well.

John assures us these things will soon be over; there is coming a time when they all have passed away.

  • Revelation 22:6, the saying of confirmation:

Then he [one of the seven angels, 21:9] said to me, “These words are faithful and true.”  And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place.”

There’s a lot of discussion about Revelation:  how to understand and interpret it.  That’s not the point of this post.  The Book of Revelation isn’t just the hallucinations of a tired, overworked old man, as some blasphemously assert, but is the very word of God.  This applies not only to Revelation itself, but to every part of God’s Word; it has all been given to us by divine inspiration.  It is, therefore, to be handled with reverence and respect.  It is the Word of God.