Saturday, July 26, 2014


“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. – Philip. 4:13

In his book of illustrations, “Feathers For Arrows,” Charles Spurgeon quotes an old farmer who was asked if he knew how to read Greek. “I don’t know, replied the optimistic fellow, “I never tried.” We smile, but isn’t that the way we should all look at some new challenge placed before us? Until you’ve tried, you can never say for sure that it was beyond your capabilities. Paul wrote these words in chapter four of his letter to the Philippian believers from a prison cell. And he did so after having instructed them to persevere in the Faith, be a help and encouragement to one another, rejoice in any and all circumstances, practice moderation in all things, dissolve their cares in prayer, monitor their thought lives, and provide for his own needs from time to time (vv. 1-11). It would seem to me, this was the perfect place to insert those ten words: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”  What do you think?
Why are some of us more fearful to embark on a new challenge or endeavor than others of us? Some, no doubt, were prepared for failure more than success as children, but since it cannot be undone, to dwell on that instead of where we are today, is to provide ourselves an excuse, but not a remedy.  Sometimes there may be a legitimate physical fear that we’re called upon to face. At such times, verses like Deuteronomy 31:6 and Isaiah 41:6 can bolster the faintest of heart. And consider these powerful words of encouragement found in Ezra: “Arise; for this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage and do it” (10:4).
To my way of thinking, however, Proverbs 29:25 and Job 12:4 come closest to the nub of the problem. “The fear of man bringeth a snare”; “I am as one mocked of his neighbor…the upright man is laughed to scorn.” We’re afraid of being ridiculed for our less than spectacular performance. It goes without saying, this is a sure indication of seeking the praise of men more than the praise of God. And just remember, when it comes to being “laughed to scorn,” it happened to the Best of us (Matt. 9:24). It was Jesus who praised Mary’s initiative by saying, “She hath done what she could.” (Mk. 14:8). But she wouldn’t have earned the praise of God if she hadn’t taken the initiative; if she hadn’t tried.
The “all things” of Philippians 4:13 are accomplished “through Christ.” Paul did not part the Red Sea or raise the dead, but he did saturate Europe and Asia with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and was able to legitimately tell the believers in Philippi, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do…” (v. 4:9). And when it came time to die, he could say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).  But he would not have done any of it if he hadn’t tried.

I’m doing things today I would never have dreamed possible ten or fifteen years ago.  And I still have aspirations that would probably make you roll your eyes or laugh…maybe even laugh me to scorn. J By God’s grace, I want to make sure I give every one of the “all things” God puts before me a good try. When someone asks me, “Can you do such-and-such?” if I haven’t, I want to say with confidence, “I don’t know; I’ve never tried….yet!”

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Still Waters

“…he leadeth me beside the still waters.” – Psl. 23:2b
“Still waters run deep.”
If that old saying is indeed the case, if you or I want to have any depth at all, we’re going to have to perfect the art of being still. This is no small accomplishment. It isn’t about less outward movement, which is probably not a bad idea, but less inner turmoil and frenzy. The Shepherd in the Psalm may lead us in “green pastures” by “still waters,” but He also asks us to eat with our enemies at times, and face the prospect of death at least once, and possibly more times.
I tend to agree with the old saying. I think the Bible bears it out. How important is my ability to “be quiet” to my spiritual growth? Well, for starters, I’m never going to truly know God until I’m willing to “be still” (Psl. 46:10). How’s that for motivation? I can’t concentrate on the greatness of God and the wonders of His Word while I’m stewing inside over everyday worries and cares, rehashing the past, or micro planning the future.  If you’re like me, these inner thoughts scream for your attention, even during what is supposed to be your “quiet time” with the Lord. Oh, my friend, during these times of uncertainty and fear, it’s vital that you and I know the God who is in control; and the only way we can know Him is to be still within. And, by the way, the more we know Him, the easier it will become to be still.
Then, God says in Isaiah 30:15 that if I want strength—strength of character, purpose, and endurance, it’s found in “quietness and confidence.” Not confidence in myself but in Him. Lack of confidence always shows itself in agitation. Scottish pastor, author, and hymnist, George Matheson (1842-190610, wrote, “If you want to measure the strength of a man’s hope, you must measure the quietness of his waiting. Our hope is never so weak as when we are excited.” Be strong in the Lord. Be still
Finally, when my soul is worn out and failing, I can go to the reservoir of “still water” within me, dip in, and be restored. “…he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul…” There’s a direct correlation between the swiftness of spiritual restoration and depth of soul; and it’s the still waters that run deep.
How deep am I?

How still am I?  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Who's In Charge?

“Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” – Rom. 6:16
You’ll find many definitions for the word “freedom” in the dictionary. That’s because it means different things in different situations. It can refer to being able to do, say, or think without restraint, or not living under the dominion of an oppressive government, or not being physically imprisoned or restrained in any way, just to name a few. Perhaps the most fundamental use of the word is having the power of self-determination attributed to the will. And this, I would argue, is the most deceptive of all, when you realize that coercion can be both overt and covert.
Verse sixteen of Romans says we have an option of one of two masters in life: “sin unto death,” or obedience unto righteousness,” and freedom from one automatically makes you a servant to the other. There is no other alternative. By the way, to insist that you have the “freedom to do your own thing” is a dead give-away that you’re under the jurisdiction of sin.
You see, there is a kind of freedom associated with both these masters. As Paul says in verse twenty, “For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.”  All the time people revel in our freedom from God’s restraints as found in His Word, they’re saying, “Yes, sir” to the devil and his minions. On the other hand, Paul is talking to believers in this chapter, who, because of their identification with Christ’s death and resurrection, are no longer under the dominion of sin, and are both free and able to obey the commandments of God.
As I said, this book was written to Roman believers. It’s possible to be judicially free, but practically enslaved. We have pledged our allegiance to Jesus Christ, acknowledged Him as Lord of our lives, yet Paul still admonishes us to “yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God (v. 13). Paul makes it abundantly clear that we have to let sin “reign” in our bodies (v. 12). When Satan tempts us, claiming primary ownership, remind him the person to whom he’s referring is dead to him, but alive to God, the rightful owner! Do it every time he raises his slimy head, and watch him slither away in defeat.
In closing, I’d like to quote from Warren Wiersbe’s book, Real Peace: Freedom and Conscience in the Christian Life.
         “A famous British preacher, Dr. P. T. Forsyth, used to say that our purpose in life is not to find our freedom but to find our master. When you find the right master, then you will have the right kind of freedom.”

Have you chosen the right Master? Then yield to Him daily and bask in the glorious freedom of a life lived wholly for Him.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

"God Cannot Be Audited"

"So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” – Rom. 14:12

Our pastor interjected this brief sentence in his sermon this morning on the Justice of God. He didn’t elaborate on it, but my mind did. And the more I thought about the idea of auditing God, the more it became both audacious, as well as the fallacious, to me.
The definition of “audit” in relation to academia is to “attend (a class) informally, not for academic credit.” You will not receive a credit toward a degree, but on the other hand, and perhaps the greaest enticement, is the assurance you will never be held responsible for anything you hear or learn in that class. No tests, no compulsory participation of any kind. You can do this in a classroom, but according to Paul, it’s not an option when it comes to God or His Word.
When a man or woman is faced with the reality of God, the Creator, in nature or God in His Spoken Word, the Bible, but especially in God, the Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ, that man or woman will “give account of himself [or herself] to God” for that knowledge. When God illuminates, a passive acknowledgement will not do. A choice is always required: accept or reject. It’s true for unbelievers and believers. We cannot say to God, “Thanks for the lesson; it was interesting. But it has nothing to do with me. I’m just “auditing.”
I have always been struck by a verse in Hebrews, that says, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13). It’s those last seven words that get me: “him with whom we have to do.” We may say, “I don’t have anything to do with that person.” But we can never say it about God. To try to ignore Him or His precepts only shows our willful ignorance.
God cannot be audited, nor can He be escaped; but He can be appeased and pleased. His judgment has been appeased by the death of Jesus Christ, and by repenting of our sin and trusting in Him, He becomes a loving Father to us. Then, as believers, we’re able to please Him daily by making Him the Lord of our lives.

The God “with whom [I] have to do” is the One with whom I’m glad to do…everything. He is “…the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever” (Psl. 73:26).