Friday, February 28, 2014

The Things that Remain

"And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." I Corinthians 13: 13

I am struck by these words this morning. These elements, and these elements only, are the things that will remain. Everything else, I mean everything, comes to pass. Faith, hope and love are the only constants in this universe. But what kind of faith, what kind of hope, what kind of love?

Are these things we try to conjure up within ourselves and do the best we can as humans to perform? Or, is it a work of God within us? Is it something we can proudly state that we have achieved, or is it something God reduces us to, stripping away all the things we once grasped onto so dearly?

What is faith? Is it blind faith in the goodness of mankind, that somehow we will overcome all the problems that plague our planet and the ushering in of a new harmony on this earth? Or is it faith that realizes that all we as men can do is mess things up and therefore we need a Creator who solves our every problem? Is it realizing that in our natural person, there exists "no good thing?" As Romans 7:18 states:

"For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find."

Yes, we humans want to do what is right. No normal parent ever sets out to harm his child, no normal person goes to the altar with the intention of getting a divorce, but something gets in the way of these beautiful plans.

It's called sin. It's called the fall of man, which every single person on this planet is affected by. No matter how good our intentions are, we just can't perform the right things that we want to do.

That is where faith comes in. The faith is not in ourselves, but in the Person who came and basically, pitched his tent among us according to the Greek in John 1:14. The word for "dwelt" is skēnoō (#4637 in Strong's Lexicon). This is what it means: fix one's tabernacle, have one's tabernacle, abide (or live) in a tabernacle (or tent), tabernacle dwell

Think of it, the only human without this sin problem came to dwell among us because He loved us so much.Jesus Christ lowered Himself to pitch a tent among us and live the perfect life for us and then sacrificed Himself perfectly on the cross so that we could live forever with Him. This perfect Person was willing to share His righteousness with us (II Corinthians 5:17), so that we could live forever, in spite of the weaknesses and failures of our humanity.

So faith isn't in our own goodness. No, it is only and completely in Him. That is rightly directed faith, and it is the only way to please God, for Hebrews 11:6 tells us:

"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."

What about hope then? What is it we are hoping for? Are we hoping that we will realize all our material dreams and finally have "the good life?" Or is it a hope beyond what this world could ever offer? Is it the hope of a new and eternal life that will never perish away, that will not grow old, that will never be corrupted?

Peter tells us of this hope:

1 Peter 1:3-5

"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,to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."

This is where our hope lies. Not in things getting better in this world, and that we will have a comfortable life with no problems.

But I Corinthians 13 tells us that greater than even faith and hope is love. What is love? Is it a warm, fuzzy feeling we have towards other people? Something we must produce in and of ourselves?

The Bible tells us of differing categories of love, romantic love (eros), friendship love(phileo), but in the most supreme category, the kind only God produces, is agape love. This is a love we cannot muster in ourselves. When I find myself getting annoyed with other people, I now stop and pray to the Lord: "OK, Lord, I cannot love this person, but I know that You live inside me through faith and I can trust You to love through me."

Because I know He lives inside me, and that His will is to love, I can trust that He can and will produce that love in me, without my feeble human attempts to do it. But how do I know of this love? The key is in the Word of God.

I John 2: 2 says:
"But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him."

The Greek word for keep is tēreō. (Strong's #5083). Here is what it means: attend to carefully, take care of guard
B.metaph. to keep, one in the state in which he is observe reserve: to undergo something

If we take heed to God's Word, He can work His love into us. Just as the Psalmist told us in Psalm 119:9:
"How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word."

If we treasure up His Word inside us, it gives the Holy Spirit a basis from which to work. So, it is not us doing, but the Word of God inside us. Paul told us that the Word does the work in I Thess. 2:13:

"For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe."

So, we can all take heart today. If we have faith in Jesus only to be our righteousness and sanctification, it will give us hope in the storms of life and eventually produce His own agape love inside us. This love will outlast the material universe. Praise His Name!

"But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.” (I Cor. 1: 30-31)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Rejoicing at the End of Day

Psalm 65:8 "... thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice."

The other day I was struck by this small verse tucked away in Psalm 65. He makes the coming and going of mornings and evenings to be happy? This verse gave me great comfort, for I don't naturally "like" the "outgoings of the evening."
When I look at dusk approaching, naturally a sense of gloom comes over me, for some reason, I don't know why.

I am getting near to my next birthday and it seems that one day goes faster than the day before. They all seem to get lost in a giant blur. And getting through the winter months is toughest of all. I look at current events and see nothing but one disaster upon the heels of another.

But God is not affected by these gloomy thoughts. He is perpetually happy, because He is satisfied with what His Son did to satisfy His righteous judgment on the sins of this world. (Romans 5: 6-8) Oh, He knows it is getting worse down here by the day. But He is not fretting, like I tend to do.

He is rejoicing, according to this verse, with the comings and goings of our days and nights in our brief stay here upon this planet. In fact, He already sees us with Him in eternity. It is like we are already there. But I take comfort that as I see the darkness each night start to encroach the planet with its blanket of darkness, God is still there. He is still with me. He is with me at night just as much as He is in the midst of a sunny day.

I cannot say I do not get affected by the darkness of the winter days. I do. I remember fondly one of my dear children always imploring the Lord, "Make it a sunny day today." They had a hard time with the dreariness too.

But to the Lord, one day is as another. Psalm 74:16 tells us: "The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun."

I can go on, face another day, when I know that it ultimately belongs to Him.

In Psalm 104: 20-23 it tells us more about why God created the days and the nights:

"Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth.

The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God.

The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens.

Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening."

It is all part of God's established pattern for us while we dwell here in time.

Psalm 136: 8-9 tell us that mercy is available both day at night, at all times, for God, in His provision, has given us:

"The sun to rule by day: for his mercy endureth for ever:

The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever."

There is grace for each day and just enough for that day, not for tomorrow.

There is comfort in this established pattern God has set for us. He promised us it would be this way until the end of time, for He said in Genesis 8:22 "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease."

Is the earth remaining? Yes, it appears to be. Then I can rely upon the fact that when I see the darkness creep up after another day has passed away forever, that God will make the outgoing of that day rejoice.

I can trust He will be with me for the next day, for my life. In fact, all my days are numbered and I am held securely in His nail scarred hands.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Like Newborn Babes...

"Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious." I Peter 2:1-3

I recently became a grandmother, and came home from my trip to see my beloved grandson. The first time I held him, I felt this overwhelming sense of love and the reminder of how helpless a newborn baby is. It is interesting that Peter asks us to be like newborn babies. I am reminded of how much we are like them by watching my grandson.

He could not hold his little head up, but had to be supported when we transferred him from one lap to another. Isn't that like how we must depend on God to lift our head? In Psalm 3, we find David's lament when he had to flee from his own son who wanted to steal the kingdom from him. He, like my grandson, needed help from outside of himself. He says:

"But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts my head." Psalm 3:3

The next verse says, "I cried to the LORD with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill." This also reminds me of how we are like babies. My little grandson makes a lot of cute baby noises: squeaking and what I call "rooching" as he fusses a bit and squirms to settle and calm himself. And when his little tummy starts to rumble, he cries. Just like God the Father, his needs are met with his feeding, which is promptly made ready for him.

For us, that milk that we hunger for is God's Word. At first, we may not recognize that it is the substance we are truly longing for. But when we become new creations in Christ, we receive the Holy Spirit and this spirit is not satisfied with the things of this world. Sure, there are so many distractions, but none of them will fill us like the Word of God will.

But Peter gives us a clue as to when we will want the milk of the Word of God, and that is if we have tasted that the Lord is gracious. It is easy to avoid the Word of God if we are fearful of being condemned, but Peter says we must know the Lord's grace to desire the Word. I believe the more we look into the Word, the more gracious we will know Him to be.

But we must approach Him like that newborn baby. The baby doesn't have any pretenses.Their little belly is growling;that's all. So we must approach God's word as needing it as desperately as the baby does its milk.
I have a habit of reading the Word in the morning and sometimes I feel as if the enemy whispers that I am just going through a daily ritual. But not if I ask the Lord to reveal Himself to me in a fresh new way, that I might know more of His gracious kindness.

"Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from your law." Psalm 119:18

Is the Bible wondrous to us? It is if we know it speaks of grace from Genesis through Revelation. God's very first action after Adam and Eve sinned was to clothe them with skins, which tells us how our sins were covered when Christ bore them on the cross for us. David, who did not have the completed canon of Scripture, understood this when he said:

"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered." Psalm 32: 1

If the Word seems stale,we can read through Psalm 119, where the Psalmist continually is asking for more revelation of the Word. We can ask of God the petitions just like the Psalmist did. If we see that God Himself has provided everything we need, then we can be just like little babies who cry out for our daily feeding of God's Word. God will answer, and provide that milk, in which we find our heart's deepest longings have been met through the Person of Jesus Christ.

"Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in HIM." Psalm 34:8

We admit that we can do nothing without Him. Just like my grandson, who slept peacefully in my arms after his feeding, we too can rest in His complete provision, which we learn of daily through the gracious milk of the Word of God. Corrie ten Boom once wrote a book called: Don't Wrestle, Just Nestle. That title seems to sum up the privilege we have as God's helpless little children.

Now we too can rest: "Return to your rest, O my soul, For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. For You have delivered my soul from death, My eyes from tears, And my feet from falling. I will walk before the LORD In the land of the living." Psalm 116: 7-9

and finally, Psalm 23:1, 2 "The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures...