For His Name’s Sake

Psalm 23:6, He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake

Also 1 Samuel 12:22; Psalm 106:8; Isaiah 66:5; 1 John 2:12; 3 John 1:7, for more references to “His name’s sake”.

The 23rd Psalm is one of my favorites.  I learned it as a young man and it is with me much of the time now.  When I have trouble going to sleep, or even just at night after I’ve gone to bed, and my mind is still up and about, sometimes I recite it to myself.  It’s a great mind-relaxer, to be reminded that there’s more to life than sometimes meets the eye.

But verse 6 has impressed itself on me recently:  He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  Sometimes, we Christians get so wrapped up in living, that we forget that God has something at stake, if I can put it like that, in our lives, as well.  We are His children, and we are called by His name:  Christians.  Granted, David, the author of the 23rd Psalm, didn’t know that name, or what God was going to do long after David was dead.  He himself had great and precious promises about his lineage, 1 Samuel 7:12-16, but God never told him exactly how He was going to fulfill those promises.  David didn’t know anything about “the church.”  Still, he knew that God was working in His life.  David messed up badly and God told him, “You have given My enemies great occasion to blaspheme,”  2 Samuel 12:14, and so he had, to this day.  His dalliance with Bathsheba is the best known part of his whole life, and unbelievers still use it to belittle this “man after God’s own heart”, Acts 13:22.

If we’re not careful, we can do the same thing.  I remember a time as a young believer;  I had gone to Bible college, only been saved a few months, though I didn’t understand that at the time.  I’ve probably told the story of my early life before, but it fits here, as well.  I had “gone forward” at a meeting held by an associate of Billy Graham, name of Mordecai Ham, and had then been baptized.  I was 9 or so.  We’ll skip over the next 13 or so years.  A fellow at work kept after me to go to church, something I wasn’t interested in, and finally, just to shut him up! I went with him.  It was there in that church, not that first time I went but shortly thereafter, that the Lord brought me to Himself.  I never “went forward” or “prayed the prayer,” but God did something in my life and I was never the same afterward.  I still have a long ways to go.  I am well acquainted with Romans 7.  It was while I was at that college that I came to understand that I hadn’t really been saved at the age of 9 at all, but years later.  I was baptized again, this time at my own leading, not my grandmother’s, God bless her.  She’s been with Him a long time now.

Anyway, I was at work and evidently not doing a very good job at it.  The boss told me that I was a poor example of a Christian.  I cannot tell you how that struck me.  I asked the Lord to forgive me and straighten me out.  I worked at that cafeteria for about 3 1/2 years until I graduated.  A few years later, I took my wife to that same place and the boss, a different one, but who had been there when I was there before, offered me my old job back.

God had something at stake in my life.  He does in all His children’s lives.  You see, people judge Him by what they see in us.  That is why He leads us in paths of righteousness.  It is for His name’s sake.

Easter

“He is risen!”

“He is risen indeed!”

So begins the Easter liturgy for the Greek Orthodox church.

It was also the practice of a church Sharon and I used to go to.

On Easter Sunday morning, the pastor would announce from the pulpit, “He is risen,” and we in the congregation would respond, “He is risen indeed!”

But it isn’t just tradition; it’s truth.

Unbelievers and skeptics tell us that the Resurrection is a fiction, that it was something cooked up by priests or other religionists to keep the people under their thumb.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The folks involved in the story didn’t believe it either – at first.

Matthew 28:1 says, Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. Mark 16:1 tells us that, as they came toward the garden where the tomb was, they said among themselves [for Mark tells us that a woman named Salome was with them], ‘Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” 

These women were prepared the anoint the body of Jesus – to do for Him what there had not been time, because of the onset of the Passover Sabbath, to do when He died.  Just in passing – the Passover Sabbath could be any day of the week, not just Friday.  And Matthew, in the original, says, after the Sabbaths, plural, the women were on their way.  “Sabbaths” – there were two Sabbaths that week.  As we said in our last post, Jesus didn’t die on Friday.

And the woman were coming to the tomb to “anoint” the body of Jesus, to do the burial practices there hadn’t been time to do earlier.  They thought He was dead.

Peter – he was going to go fishing, John 21:2-4.  Actually, he was going to return to his old business, the business he had left when Jesus called him to be a disciple, Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17.  John tells us that six other disciples joined him.  They all thought He was dead.

When Mary Magdalene came to those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept, Mark 16:10, emphasis added, and told them that she had seen the risen Lord, they did not believe her, v. 11. Luke 24:11 tells us that “them” included the eleven and…all the rest.  They thought He was dead.

When the Lord Himself appeared to two men on the road to Emmaus, and He asked them why they were so sad, Luke 24:17, Cleopas, one of the men, expressed surprise that Jesus, whom he didn’t recognize, didn’t know of all that had happened the past few days.  He mentioned the idea that the people had hoped that “it was He who was going to redeem Israel,” v. 21, but that hope had been dashed by the Crucifixion.  Cleopas thought He was dead.

When the eleven, finally convinced of the Resurrection of the Lord, told Thomas, who had been absent when the Lord had appeared to the eleven, when they told him that the Lord had risen, he didn’t believe them.  He thought Jesus was dead.

Nobody, at first, on hearing of the Resurrection, believed itThey all thought He was dead, every one of them!

So much for some “Passover Plot,” where the disciples got together and fabricated the story that Jesus had risen from the dead!

No, my friends, no one can suffer what the disciples and the others suffered – and continue to suffer – for a known or deliberate falsehood.  Now we grant that people can be fooled about the truth of something, believe that it’s true even if it’s not, and suffer for that.  But no one can continue to suffer for something they know is not true, especially if that something came from them.

Years later, the Apostle Paul addressed this same idea.  In 1 Corinthians 15, he wrote,

Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.  And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.  Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up – if in fact the dead do not rise.  For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen.  And if Christ is not risen, then your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!  Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied, vs. 12-19 NKJV (last four words – ESV).

But he goes on to declare triumphantly that Christ has risen from the dead.  Then he goes on in some detail to describe the ramifications and results of the Lord’s resurrection.

In v. 53-57, he concludes,

For this corruptible [body of flesh and blood] must put on incorruption, and this mortal [body which can and will die] must put on immortality.  So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

“O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Those last five words, “through our Lord Jesus Christ,” are the key.  Only through the Lord Jesus is there victory over death.  The grave is not our final resting place.

In these days of disease and discouragement, let us rest in the understanding that what we can see isn’t all that exists.  Through the Lord Jesus, we can have the victory even over something like COVID-19.  This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take the appropriate precautions or be careful.  It just means that the disease isn’t the final victor.

The Lord Jesus is.

It doesn’t have the final say.

The Lord Jesus does.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, Acts 16:31.

He Is Risen!

He Is Risen Indeed!

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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The LORD Is My Shepherd.

Psalm 23 is one of the most beloved of all the Scriptures.  Little children are encouraged to memorize it.  It’s one of the first portions of Scripture I memorized.  Yet I fear that all this familiarity, while perhaps not “breeding contempt,” has led to a certain nonchalance about it.

The first part of the first verse of this Psalm has got to be one of the most mind-boggling verses in Scripture:  The LORD is my Shepherd.

The Lord?

is my shepherd?

I’m not questioning it; I’m expressing wonder and amazement.

Wonder and amazement at the idea that Jehovah God; that One Who flung the stars into space and Who has counted and named every single one of their billions; that One Who spoke everything into existence by the mere word of His power; that One Whose will is instantly followed by the multitude of angels; that One to Whom the ages of eternity bow in glad submission: – that One –

has taken it upon Himself to be concerned about an insignificant speck of protoplasm on an infinitesimal mote of dust off to one side of His creation,

not just as a casual Observer, but as One Who is my Shepherd.

But way beyond that, that One Who lives so far outside our experience and ability to understand that He has to initiate contact through His Spirit; that One Who is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness (Habakkuk 1:13); that One Who cannot overlook iniquity, but must punish every sin; that One sent His Son, Who came willingly, as a sacrifice to pay for those sins and bear their punishment; that One Who has accepted me in His Son, and has clothed me with His perfect righteousness, that One Who, through faith, has granted me a place forever in His presence;

THAT ONE is my shepherd!

 

[First published, in part, on May 22, 2013, as “WHO is my Shepherd?”]

On Approaching 75

Next year, Lord willing, I’ll be 75.

I’ve always known it was coming if the Lord let me live that long. It’s just that it struck me the other day that next year, I’ll be 75.

This is the latest in a series of what I suppose you might call epiphanies about growing up or growing old.

I have a vivid memory of my mother telling me I was getting too big for her to hold.  I don’t remember how old I was or what my reaction might have been, just that it happened.

When I was 8, for some reason I was thinking about being 21.  I have no idea why.  I was probably too young to be excited that I would be legally old enough to get drunk.  That idea has never appealed to me. It’s something I’ve never experienced. Can’t say I’ve missed it.  I’ve never understood how the morning after justified the night before.  Anyway, that was 13 years away – forever!

Several years later, I was thinking about when I was eight, and I literally and actually had to sit down at the realization that in 13 years, I would be 60!  I was 47 at the time.  That 13 years didn’t seem nearly as long as the first 13 years had seemed!

Now, next year, I’ll be 75.

Granted, that’s actually two birthdays from now, but still, it’s just next year I’ll be 75.  No big deal.  I suppose it is a landmark of sorts.  Still, it’s not nearly as “traumatic” as the idea of turning 60 had been.

A lot of time, a lot of memories.

55 years since high school.

48 years since Bible college.

43 years since I said, “I do.”

5 kids, 9 grandkids.

A lot of time, a lot of memories.

Still, in a way, it’s seems like no time at all.

James asked the question, For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away, James 4:14.  For all the years I’ve lived, in the light of eternity, they’re nothing at all.

Eternity.

Eternal life.

A magazine I get recently had the article, “So You Want to Live Forever”.

I suppose a lot of people do.  They go to great trouble and expense to have their bodies frozen and preserved in the hope that down the road someone will figure out a cure for whatever ails them, and they can be revived and cured and live happily ever after.

I don’t think I’d like to live forever in this old body.  Too many kinks and creaks…. Glasses,  hearing aids, more face to wash….  I’m not complaining,  it’s just the way it is.

Even if they could “cure” all that, there’s still what’s on the inside – not organically, but spiritually.  No pill can cure that.  I wouldn’t want to live forever with the struggle between what I’d like to be and what I am.

Though I don’t put myself on his level, Paul struggled with this.  Romans 7 bears eloquent testimony to the war that raged in his soul.  I know there are some who believe that once you’re saved, you become sinless.  For them, Romans 7 describes Paul’s pre-conversion life.  But no unsaved person can say, …I delight in the law of God according to the inward man, Romans 7:22, or, So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God. but with the flesh the law of sin, v. 25b

But there is still triumph in this melancholy chapter:  I thank God  – through Jesus  Christ our Lord, v. 25a.

And he had thoughts about this elsewhere.  In 2 Corinthians 4:16, Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  Then in 5:2, 7, he wrote, For in this [body] we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven….  For we walk by faith….

“Faith.”

Faith isn’t just about the “now,” that is, what we can get out of God.  He might be pleased to make us healthy or wealthy, but that’s not the primary purpose of faith.  Just in passing, on this “wealth” thing – in America, even a poor person is “wealthy” in comparison to most of the rest of the world.  There are a lot of statistics on this, but I remember reading a post from a college student who makes about $5,000 a year.  She said this put her in the top 20% as far as the world is concerned.

$5,000.

And now there is agitation in this country [the US] for a minimum income of $30,000+ a year  [figuring the minimum wage at full-time].  *sigh*

Faith isn’t so much about the the present, though it is that, as well.  It’s about the future and when we stand before God to give an account of the years He’s given us on this earth.

And Paul wasn’t alone in this.  Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:3, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,… 

“The resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

This is the basis, the only basis, for that “living hope” Peter referred to.  That and the death which preceded it.

You see, that spiritual struggle I wrote about earlier?  Only the Lord Jesus Christ can do anything about it.  We might be able to turn over some sort of a new leaf, but we’ll mess that one up, too.

It is faith in His death, in His payment for sin, in who He was and what He did that gives poor sinners like me any hope at all for when these 75 years, or whatever God gives me, are over.  He took a place on the Cross that I might be able to take a place in Heaven.

How I long for that day when, in the words of the old hymn, “Nothing between my soul and the Savior.”

“Nothing between” and I will be able to worship and serve Him as He deserves.

Will you join me?  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,.., Acts 16:31.

What Good is the Bible?

“Why would you ask such a question?” you, the reader, might ask of me.

And certainly I don’t mean it in any sense like an atheist or unbeliever might ask it.  It’s not asked in derision nor do I mean any disrespect by asking it.  It’s a question based on the observation that so few professing Christians seem to read the Bible or know very much about what it really says.  They have to look in the table of contents to find Exodus.  You think I’m kidding, but more than once when I was preaching, I’d announce some text off the beaten path and see people having difficulty finding it.  Or since then, heard a preacher say that his text was on page such-and-such of the pew Bible.

So, what good is it – if you never read it?

Why do you believe what you believe – if you never read it?

How do you know you’re on your way to heaven – if you never read it?

Are you willing to trust your eternal destiny to what someone else says the Bible says?

Pastor so-and-so says it.  The TV personality says it.  My church says it.

Really?

Does the Bible say it?

There are people who will knock on your door and say they are witnesses for Jehovah.  They can quote Scripture by the hour.  It’s said that they get a large percent of their converts from “Bible-believing Christians,” because they quote so much Scripture and make it sound so good.

My wife’s grandmother was a Oneness Pentecostal.  She once sent me a tract explaining why they believe that Jesus is the only God.  I counted about 90 Scripture references in the tract.  What I found so fascinating about this tract was that many of the Scriptures they use to “prove” their view of Jesus as all the God there is, these verses are the very same ones Jehovah’s Witnesses use to “prove” that Jesus is only a created being.  You really can’t have it both ways.  BTW, neither of those “ways” is Scriptural.

I wrote her a letter explaining why I didn’t agree with the tract, but some tragedy happened in her family and she never answered.

The devil can quote Scripture.

“I don’t have time to read the Bible.”

And, truly, we live in a very hectic society.  Lots of responsibilities, lots of things to do.  Lots of stuff to check out on YouTube.

Will you eat something today?  Even if it’s only some item containing “mono- and diglycerides, cellulose gum, salt, sodium citrate, tricalcium phosphate, sodium alginate, xanthan gum, malic acid, caramel color, color added, natural flavor, BHT for freshness” (partial list of actual ingredients in an item in our food pantry – but “only 100 calories”.)

Yum.

Probably you will eat today – more than once.

The apostle John, writing to a brother named Gaius, had this prayer for him, Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers,” 3 John 2.

What level of “health” would you and I have if it corresponded to our spiritual health?

Oh, please.  I urge you.  If you don’t have a habit of daily reading the Bible, start today.

Even just a chapter.

There might be something there you need to know.

Yes, I know.  There are a lot of unpronounceable names.  There’s a lot to read.

Kindergarten children don’t start out by reading “War and Peace.”  Actually, I’ve never read it.  They start out with simple stuff and work their way up.

Work your way up.

I can testify that after five decades of reading, I wish I had started earlier and read more.  Even after reading the Bible through a number of times – I quit counting after 50 – I still see new things.  It’s a joy to read through the Bible and meet old friends, so to speak, and to meet new ones as well.  Many of the posts in this blog have come from something I’ve seen reading the Bible.  And I’m conscious that, for all that, I still haven’t been as faithful in reading as I should have been.

Even just a chapter a day.  Half an hour or so.

Not really that much.

My own reading schedule is to read the Bible through once and then go back and read the New Testament again.  I can recommend it.

I’m not trying to boast about my accomplishments or put anyone down who might not “measure up.”

People have died – many people – so that we might have the Bible.  The Savior died, that we might have it to begin with.

Shouldn’t we know as much of it as we can?

He Maketh No Mistake

My Father’s way may twist and turn,
My heart may throb and ache,
But in my soul I’m glad I know,
He maketh no mistake.

My cherished plans may go astray,
My hopes may fade away,
But still I’ll trust my Lord to lead
For He doth know the way.

Tho’ night be dark and it may seem
That day will never break;
I’ll pin my faith, my all in Him,
He maketh no mistake.

There’s so much now I cannot see,
My eyesight’s far too dim;
But come what may, I’ll simply trust
And leave it all to Him.

For by and by the mist will lift
And plain it all He’ll make,
Through all the way, tho’ dark to me,
He made not one mistake.

–A. M. Overton

I’m doing some research for another post and decided to look in my Grandmother’s Teacher’s Edition Smith’s Bible Dictionary (copyright 1884!)  How many books in other fields that old are still relevant!?

As I opened the book, it fell open at a whole bunch of clippings and notes in my Grandmother’s writing.  There was a picture of a friend of hers, whom I remember from long ago, celebrating her 91st birthday.  On the back of this clipping is part of an article titled “Servicemen Reminded of Social Security Law Amendments.”  There’s not enough of the article to know what it’s about, but I guess some things even in this world never change.  (Though, of course, they do.)

There’s a verse in the Old Testament that I can’t remember the reference and can’t find it in my Strong’s Concordance.  Probably I don’t remember it quite right.  It goes something like this:  God is talking to Israel about their future and tells them that there’s coming a time when they will understand that there was a cause [reason] for everything He did to and with them.  They will understand that “He made no mistake.”

[Note 7 years later!  The reference is found in Ezekiel 14:23.]

May these verses bless you in reading as they blessed me in typing.

Be Thou My Vision

Be Thou my Vision. O Lord of my heart –
Nought be all else to me, save that Thou art;
Thou my best thought, by day or by night –
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word –
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I thy true son –
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Riches I need not, nor man’s empty praise –
Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart –
High King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heav’n’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

This 8th century Irish hymn is one of my favorites.

Additional, later edit:

There’s actually another, not so well-known, verse in this popular 1912 rendition by Eleanor Hull.  It would be v. 3, so the vs. 3 and 4 we know become vs. 4 and 5.  Wikipedia has some fascinating information on this hymn.  Here is the additional verse:

Be Thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight.
Be thou my whole armour, be Thou my true might.
Be Thou my soul’s shelter, be Thou my strong tower.
O raise Thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.

My Joy, My God, My All

from Habakkuk 3:17-18.

Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vine;
Though the harvest of the olive fail,
And food be hard to find;
Though the flock may come to nothing
And no oxen in the stall –
Yet I’ll rejoice in Yahweh,
My joy, my God, my All.

The 1812 Overture…and the return of Christ

As I work on the blog, catching up on emails and posts, I’m listening to the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky.  *sigh*   Now that’s music.  Funny, this stuff used to be called “longhair.”   The “longhair” stuff today is a little different – all noise and percussion.  But then, I’m old.  What do I know?

I especially love the finale.  It always bring tears to my eyes.  All that joy and victory.

Triumph!

This time, I got to thinking about the return of Christ – the finale of present history.

I wonder what it will be like when the Lord comes back in glory, honor and VICTORY to this world which has done, and is doing, everything it can to get rid of Him.  When He ascends the throne of David in Jerusalem as KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS!  what rejoicing there will surely be among His people.  What a festive time that will be!

I know there are some who pooh-pooh the idea of “an earthly, carnal Kingdom” of our Lord.  They’re quite content with the “spiritual kingdom” they envision in the church, most of which doesn’t pay a lot of attention to Him, either.  I simply cannot understand how they can insult the Lord by calling ANY kingdom which He is over as “carnal,” regardless of where it is.

I’m sorry.  In my reading and study of the Bible, I do not see anything other than such a kingdom as has Jesus as its King, sitting on David’s throne in Jerusalem.  While it is true that the Lord certainly “rules” His people – He is, after all, LORD – that is just a dim foreshadowing of the time foretold by both Testaments when He will rule over all nations, not just in some unseen “providential” sense, but really and personally.

As the finale wound its way to its glorious end, my heart almost burst with longing for that time.

‘EVEN SO, COME, LORD JESUS.’