Monday, April 23, 2012

What You May Need is a Need

“I know both how to be abased, and how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need…But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:12 &19)

         My husband used to preach a message greatly used of God that pointed out the seeming contradiction of these two verses in Philippians. In verse nineteen, Paul promises that God will supply all our needs, yet in verse twelve he lets us know that under the tutelage of God, he learned not only how to abound but how to be abased, how to be either full or hungry…and how to “suffer need.”  Suffer need? But God said He’d supply our need. “That’s just it,” my husband would say, “Sometimes our greatest need is to have a need; and you can count on God to supply it.”

         Why might we need a need, you may ask. Well, the Psalmist said that looking back, he could see that his affliction had served to teach him the statutes of God (Psl. 119:71). Not a bad thing. Then, I’m reminded of Absalom in 2 Samuel, chapter fourteen, who, finding no other way to get the attention of his father’s captain, Joab, finally set the man’s barley fields on fire. It worked. And sometimes God has to do the same thing with the barley fields of our lives to bring us to His side.

         If you have been a Christian any time at all, you realize that the greatest answer to any of your prayers is God Himself. He is our greatest need; and sometimes He must create another need to meet our greatest need. I read something recently by George MacDonald that I think says this best:

What if the main object in God’s idea of prayer be the supplying of our great, our endless need—the need of Himself? What if the good of all our smaller and lower needs lies in this, that they help to drive us to God? Hunger may drive the runaway child home, and he may or may not be fed at once, but he needs his mother more than his dinner. Communion with God is the one need of the soul beyond all other need; prayer is the beginning of that communion, and some need is the motive of that prayer. Our wants are for the sake of our coming into communion with God, our eternal need.

         I once heard a preacher, who was preaching on fervency in prayer, ask the question, “What’s on your ‘gotta have’ prayer list?” When I heard that, I thought to myself, after nearly sixty years of walking with God, I find that particular list to be short indeed. In fact, most of the time, there’s only one name on it. Not that I don’t have other “needs,” it’s just that they no longer belong on my “gotta have” list. My most precious prayers are the ones when I tell God, “I seem to need this, and I’d like to have that…but I “gotta have YOU!”

Friday, April 20, 2012

What More Can He Say?

“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?  He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things” (Romans 8:31-32)  

         In the great hymn of the faith, How Firm a Foundation, which extolls the Word of God, the writer asks, “What more can He say than to you He hath said?” Then he goes on to cite verses where God has promised in His Word to stand with us for as long as we live, in times of trial, temptation, and danger. When we understand to power and glory of our God, Paul says in verse thirty-one of Romans eight, “What else can be said other than if God is for us, who in the world could be expected to stand against us?” It’s a rhetorical question, with the obvious answer, “No one!”

         Then in verse thirty-two, he gives us a reasonable explanation of why we should never doubt that God has always had, and always will have, our best interests at heart. Answer me these questions, says Paul:

What More Can He Do?

         What more could God in Heaven do to prove His love for you and me than to kill His own Son for us? He handed Him over (“delivered him up”) to wicked men to be tortured and put to death “for us all.” When you or I ask, “Where is God?” when we find ourselves tempted or tried or betrayed, we can know the answer is that He’s in the same place He was when His own beloved Son was tempted, tried, and betrayed: standing in the wings, waiting for the right time to deliver Him from death. When you’re tempted to doubt God’s love, look to Calvary and bow your head in shame.

What More Can He Give?

         If you’re wondering what God has planned to give you, remember that He’s already given the dearest thing to His heart, so as Paul says, you can mark it down, He’s been planning all along to “freely give us all things.” Someone has said, “If He’s given His best, will He spare the rest?” “But,” you ask, “Why don’t I have all things?” For the same reason your own children don’t get everything they ask for. Loving parents give only good things to their children, and only at appropriate times. I like what J.I. Packer has said about this promise of God, in his book, Knowing God.

One day we shall see that nothing—literally nothing—which could have increased our eternal happiness has been denied us, and that nothing—literally nothing—that could have reduced that happiness has been left to us.”

            What more can God do to prove His love than to give His only begotten Son for us; what more can He give us than everything; and what more can He say than what He has said in His Word? He has done and said enough on which to build a victorious, meaningful life here on earth and all eternity in Heaven with Him. If you or I feel deprived or put upon in any way, it’s because we don’t believe Him. It’s as simple as that.

Doubt sees the obstacles;
Faith sees the way.
Doubt sees the darkest night;
Faith sees the day.

Doubt dreads to take a step;
Faith soars on high.

Doubt questions, “Who believes?”

Faith answers, “I!” 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Fool, Twice Over

“For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)

         The people described by the prophet Jeremiah in this verse were fools, twice over. To turn your back on a fountain of waters (in this case, “living waters”) for the risk of a man-made, artificial tank or reservoir is to show yourself to be lacking in good judgment…especially when it turns out the cisterns are broken. In a case like this, a man or woman could spend a great deal of his or her life thirsty, perhaps even dying of it.

         Now, here’s the real clincher: the fountain in this verse is God Himself (“…they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters…”). Still, who of us has not seen (or experienced) this very thing? Trading peace with God and purpose of life for turmoil, stress, and aimlessness, just to do things our own way—dig our own wells, if you will. We should know that any self-devised plan for our lives that turns away from Biblical precepts in favor of so-called “popular wisdom” will leave us high and dry every time. The mark of such a man or woman (saved or lost) is a broken life, a broken heart, broken promises, and broken relationships.

         Only the water that Jesus offered the Samaritan woman in John four possesses qualities capable of quenching eternal, internal thirst. Anything else—philosophy, psychology, self-help, positive thinking, “visualization,” mood-elevating drugs, etc.—are all simply broken cisterns, and when push comes to shove, they just won’t hold water. It goes without saying that a wise individual will leave such unreliable sources for the God, the Fountain of Living Water; because only a fool would choose bottled water when there is an artesian well at your disposal.

         Can you say with the Psalmist, “For with thee is the fountain of life…” and “…all my springs are in thee”? (Psalm 36:9; 87:7)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Dead End

                      “[S]in when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”  (James 1:15)

            “Every sin in our lives sets us up for the death of something; it’s a spiritual law.” I heard our pastor pronounce this solemn warning several years ago, and it reverberates in my mind to this day. Besides the death of the body, the end of sin’s road is eternal death in hell; and without Supernatural intervention, nothing will keep us from reaching that destination. It is a law as sure (and even more so) than any law of nature.  Sin required the death of Jesus Christ to answer for it, and His Resurrection to make its absolution available to repentant sinners.

Sin is its own extreme. Not only is it an offense to our own bodies, it’s an affront to God Almighty; and for that reason, sin by its very nature becomes “exceeding sinful,” according to Romans 7:13.

            But sin deals a mortal blow to other things besides a body and soul. It’s a killer of joy, peace, reputation, trust, and hope. It can dissolve a church, a friendship, or a marriage. Sin leeches spiritual strength like a slow leak in a tire, until life is flat and we find ourselves at a standstill. Often, like high blood pressure, it’s a “silent killer.” The gross, overt sins that shock us (and others) are actually old secret sins come to light. We can harbor them only so long in our bosoms until they belch forth into our visible lives. And all of them—the ones we hide and the ones we flaunt—are dead ends of one kind or another.

            By the way, our pastor said one other thing that Sunday morning that should be a warning to those among us who like to play cat-and-mouse with sin:

                      Toying with temptation will spring the trap.”   — Perry Kallis 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Miracle of the Resurrection: The Incarnation

“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3)

         First, let’s get one thing straight: God cannot die. He cannot die, as we die, because He does not live as we live. He never was, or will be; He only is. It’s our body and soul that make us alive; and God has neither. God is a Spirit (Jno. 4:24). But, we know, God, in His great love and wisdom, chose to become a man. John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son…” Not as I once heard the text rendered, “his one and only Son.” The Bible speaks over and over of God’s “sons”; but there was only One that entered this world with the Seed of God in the womb of a woman. No, this was a sinless God, allowing Himself to be “begotten” of a sinful woman. This was unheard of.

         J.I. Packer has made the observation that the miracle of Easter is not the Resurrection; of course, Jesus Christ, who said of himself, “…I am the life,” would rise from the dead. How could He not? The miracle is that He died in the first place. It would have been impossible without a human body. All human bodies die, and as long as long as Jesus was in that body, He was susceptible to hunger, thirst, fatigue, sickness, pain…and death. God, who cannot die, performed the greatest of all miracles, when He put Himself in the precarious, death-driven position of humanity, in order to redeem those He loved.

         For you and I, in our own human bodies, death is also a given. Barring Christ’s return, it’s inevitable; and the miracle for us will be when we are raised with a new body and a new kind of life, like the one that Jesus enjoyed those forty days on earth, after His resurrection. As children of God, we will experience the Resurrection of the Man, Christ Jesus. “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Rom. 6:5).

He lived so that He could die; He died so that we could live; and He rose so that we could be raised. As Thomas Watson said, “We are more sure to rise out of graves than out of our beds!”   

         It has been (rightly) said that we should look past the Babe in the manger to the Cross and the Empty Tomb; but I would submit, when we look at the Cross and the Empty Tomb, we should remember the Babe in the manger, for without that miraculous birth, all the rest would be an empty dream.