Wednesday, October 28, 2015
For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary...
They wandered in the wilderness...; They were hungry and thirsty; Their soul fainted within them. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble; He delivered them out of their distresses."
Psalm 107: 1,2, 4-6
Did you ever think of the lyrics to the refrain in the hymn, Jesus Paid it All written by Elvina Hall? It says: "Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow." Does that sound like it might just be too good to be true, that we must have to do something? No, but the gospel really is good news for people who could not save themselves in a million years no matter how many chances they were given. The enemy of our souls doesn't want us to think of Christianity as "good news" but somehow reforming ourselves and never having fun anymore.
What a lie. I don't know about you, but Jesus came to give such a peaceful rest to my soul. He wants us to have His burden, which is light and gracious, instead of trying to bear our own. I don't have to pretend anything before God. He knows I am but dust. And so, He did everything that I needed in order to have a righteous standing with God. I remember hearing it like this once: It was like I am chauffered to the most fancy restaurant (one that accomodates the stars) for an exquisite dinner. After a succulent nine course meal with delicious beverage and dessert, I start to get nervous about how much the bill is going to cost me.
But then the maitre deux comes over, just as I am wondering if I am going to go over my credit limit paying for this meal, with the most wonderful news for me. The dinner, chauffeur, the tips and all other expenses related have been completely covered by an anonymous donor. I don't have to pay a penny for it.
That is what Jesus did in providing our salvation. He did it all, there is nothing we can add but to simply say "thank you." A thankful heart knows that all that he or she has was provided without cost by Another for a very expensive price. A price that we cannot fathom. All that is left is to say thank you.
I love the Romans account, stating so clearly that salvation is without cost to whoever believes. "What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited for him as righteousness.' Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.' Romans 4: 1-5 (emphasis mine)
Christ justified me not when I got "good" but when I was still ungodly!`William Newell, in his commentary on Romans, has this to say about "But to him that worketh not..." "to him who 'casts his deadly doing down'; who, seeing his guilt, and his entire inability to put it away, ceases wholly from all efforts to obtain God's favor by his own doings, or self-denyings,--even by his prayers: but believeth on the God that declareth righteous the ungodly-- not the godly or the good!...If we say, God, indeed has some special cases justified notoriously, openly, evidently ungodly ones; while His general habit is to justify the godly (which is what human reason demands), then we at once deny all Scripture."
Romans Verse by Verse, by William R. Newell, p.132-33 copyright 1994, Kregel Publications
What is left then but to be thankful? Our Heavenly Father knows everything about us, and yet still loved us when we were dead in our trespasses and sins. He wanted so much to be able to fellowship with us broken people that He provided everything, so that man just needs to acknowledge the price was paid by Jesus. Again, it's just like eating freely at the fanciest restaurant and finding out your meal is covered. Your Best Friend, the one who sticks closer than a brother, paid it all for you just so He could get to know you and call you a part of His family.
Psalm 25: 1-2 "O LORD, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness."
Thank You God, for Your perfect faithfulness to me, in including me as part of Your family through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Monday, October 19, 2015
silver will not
be satisfied with silver;
Nor he who loves
This also is vanity."
Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones had it right. Without Jesus, there is no satisfaction. They are only agree with Solomon, who said everything was vanity. Even if you have lots of money, or fame, or (you fill in the blank with what you think would make you happy.)
One pastor described it as the soul's "frantic search for happiness." We think, if only I had this thing or that thing, then I would be happy. But then somehow we get that thing, and in the back of our minds the nagging question remains, "Is this all there is?"
Been there, done that, too many times. It seems the more technologically advanced we are, there's less satisfaction even though we are "connected" with the whole wide world. I know of only one place I can return to to hear that still small voice of satisfaction, and it has nothing to do with what is going on around me, only on what is going on inside me. That is, I am in communion with God. Only there does my heart rest at peace. There is nowhere else I can run on this planet to receive that grace and peace.
And I can have that grace and peace anytime, anywhere, thanks to the great sacrifice Christ made to forever declare me right in God's presence. I didn't do anything to get right with God. I received it as a totally free gift. And just as I received that gift, the only way I make progress in my Christian life is not to strive to do, but again to receive it.
It is all about receiving from Him:
Colossians 2: 6-7 "As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving."
I Cor. 4:7 "For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?"
John 14: 1-4 1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
There is peace in these words that tell me simply that My shepherd will take care of me in this world where there really is no satisfaction apart from Him.
"The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want."
I will be satisfied when I see His face, not in this world or its many distractions:
"As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness;
I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness." Psalm 17:15
I determine that God will be my place of peace today and my satisfaction. When life becomes confusing, all I need do is run back to Him. For He is there, waiting for me.
Speaking of grace and peace, check out my new book Sure Mercies: Hope for the Suffering, for stories of those who have gone before, who ran their race, and took the help God gave them through His Word to live as overcomers. It is available from 4RV Publishing.com, on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com.
Thursday, October 8, 2015
"As you do not know what is
the way of the wind,
Or how the bones grow in
the womb of her
who is with child,
So you do not know
the works of God
who makes everything.
Yesterday I wrote a blog post, but felt utterly unable to post it. The post wouldn't really reflect my true thoughts, because I was a hypocrite. It was one of those days when I woke up with a migraine and the day went downhill from there. You know, one of those ice-pack on the head kind of days?
By the end of the day, though, I saw once again the futility of trying to have things my way. I sought desperately for a fresh word of encouragement from God. I found an old writing, from 1659, on the BlueLetter Bible website, called The Mute Christian under the Smarting Rod by Thomas Brooks. Yes, I'd been under a smarting rod alright! Brooks' writing was antiquated, to be sure, but even the dedication resonated with me:
"To all afflicted and distressed, dissatisfied, disquieted, and discomposed Christians throughout the world.
(Yes, those words certainly described me...)
Dear Hearts,—The choicest saints are 'born to troubles as the sparks fly upwards’, Job v. 7. 'Many are the troubles of the righteous;' if they were many, and not troubles, then, as it is in the proverb, the more the merrier; or if they were troubles and not many, then the fewer the better cheer. But God, who is infinite in wisdom and matchless in goodness, hath ordered troubles, yea, many troubles to come trooping in upon us on every side. As our mercies, so our crosses seldom come single; they usually come treading one upon the heels of another; they are like April showers, no sooner is one over but another comes. And yet, Christians, it is mercy, it is rich mercy, that every affliction is not an execution, that every correction is not a damnation. The higher the waters rise, the nearer Noah's ark was lifted up to heaven; the more thy afflictions are increased, the more thy heart shall be raised heavenward."*
*Brooks' words italicized
I had just written something quoting that exact verse from Job, thinking about the many sparks have flown up during the course of my life. But Brooks said the troubles follow one another like April showers, but these troubles lift us up ever closer to heaven. If only I can believe that He is in the midst of them, with me. Even though I don't deserve it.
After arguing with my husband ( I hate to admit it), I was glad to see the day come to a close. I found a few freebie downloads for my Kindle, written by the hymn writer Frances Ridley Havergal. One of them was about the hymn (to which she wrote the lyrics) Take My Life and Let it Be. Havergal encouraged me in Chapter One when she wrote that we can't even trust our own trusting ourselves to Him, but we can trust Him to do in us that which we can't do for ourselves. In other words, He alone consecrates our lives to Him, if only we are willing. Once again, the word of His grace built me up.
I awoke this morning to the thought that this was a new day, and instead of wallowing for the bad day yesterday, the promises of God were ever fresh and new. I knew I didn't deserve anything from God, so it helped me to forget expecting anyone else to act deserving either. My headache was gone, too.
Christ's death on the cross for my personal sins, His burial and resurrection reminded me that I too, have resurrection life as a totally free gift. Every day is a fresh new day to start over, no matter how many times needed, looking away from myself and unto Him. As Thomas Brooks says, the multiple trials only draw my ark closer to Heaven. One day soon, time will be no more and all the things I got so worried and worked up over will no longer matter.
Only beholding Him will matter then. For:
"As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness;
I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness." (Psalm 17:15)
I hope these words may help someone else who has an ark of difficulties reaching toward heaven. If you want to read encouragement from stories of victorious Christians from all throughout the Church Age, you may want to check out my new book Sure Mercies: Hope for the Suffering available here: http://www.4rvpublishingcatalog.com/megan-vance.php and also on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sure-Mercies-Suffering-Megan-Vance/dp/1940310334/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1444347894&sr=1-1&keywords=sure+mercies
Thursday, October 1, 2015
Like it or not, we are in a battle. If you haven't noticed, it is raging more and more with every passing day. In fact, I am sure you have noticed. Each day, we have a choice: to be defeated and dejected or to use the weapons God has provided us to walk in spiritual victory.
I have not learned this in an easy way. Nor have I learned it to the extent I need to. No way. For me, the battle is in my thoughts. How about you? In sermons, I have heard this statement: "A thought can make or break you." Every day, we are inundated with thousands of thoughts. The one secret I have learned is that I do not have to accept the thoughts that come into my mind as my own.
For we are surrounded by an atmosphere around this earth and this atmosphere is under the domain of God's enemy, the devil. He is called the "prince of the power of the air" in Ephesians 2.
1 "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others."
The thoughts, ideas, and opinions of this world system stand opposed to God's thoughts. God tells us in Isaiah 55 how our thoughts compare to His thoughts. There is no comparison.
8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts."
Today I read in I John 2 and was struck again by how the world system is totally opposed to God's way of thinking. John tells us
"15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever."
So, that is one way I can test my thoughts. Is it concerning the lust of my flesh or eyes or having to doing with pride in my achievements? Then I can be certain it is not from God and I can cast it down as a vain imagination that rises up against the knowledge of God. For every thought has one of two origins: either from God and devoted to His glory or against God and devoted to the enemy's lies and destruction.
I used to foolishly think God was selfish in order to want every thought to be for His glory, until I learned that His glory gives the highest and best to fallen creatures such as us. Think of what happens when the opposite occurs: what is the benefit of evil being glorified? Only misery and bondage and death.
GOD is LIGHT! In Him there is no darkness at all! (See I John 1:5) When I summon the courage to deny a thought that comes into my head as not being true, and cast it down, I walk in the light with my God. Sometimes, this is hard for me because my mind is screaming that the thought just has to be true, but if I resist it, the devil will flee. James 4 reveals:
7 "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up."
Even if it is hard, even if it seems we are in a constant uphill battle, we will overcome if we do not lose heart. We destroy the mountains of lies that the enemy whispers in our ears one by one, like tearing down a brick wall. And then, as that wall of untruth tumbles down, we fill our mind with good things, the things God has for us, and promises for the life to come.
9 But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” I Corinthians 2:9
If we do not faint today but let God's Word pour into us, we will have strength and courage to cast down the lies the enemy sends to defeat us.
Andrew Murray, quoted in the devotional, None but the Hungry Heart for the day 12-30 says: "The Father works to will, and He is ready to work to do, but, alas! many Christians misunderstand this. They think because they have the will it is enough, and that now they are able to do. This is not so. The new will is a permanent gift, an attribute of the new life in Christ. The power to carry out this will is not a permanent gift, but must be each moment received from the Holy Spirit. It is the one who is conscious of his own utter powerlessness, as a believer, who will learn by the Spirit alone he can live the Christian life."
We receive hope and help moment by moment as we cast down vain imaginations which lie against God and His Truth.
I hope these thoughts have encouraged you today as you face the many thoughts that come your way. And speaking of hope, I would like to announce the publication of my book Sure Mercies: Hope for the Suffering is now available through 4RV Publishing.(It will also soon be on Amazon.) It tells the story of believers throughout the Church Age who overcame huge obstacles by their overcoming faith. http://www.4rvpublishingcatalog.com/megan-vance.php