Thursday, December 24, 2015

The King of Hearts

“And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation…saying that he himself is Christ a King.” - Luke 23:2

When Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, the question was one of authority. He was accused of claiming to be a king. And when Pilate, in the next verse, asked Him outright, “Art thou the King of the Jews?” Jesus responded, “Thou sayest it.” (“You said it!) Even a casual reading of the Bible would tell you that its most undeniable truth is that Jesus Christ was and is King of Heaven and earth. He is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15). He was a king before He was born; and He was born The King. He is “the King of saints” (Rev. 15:3).

You see, before you and I were born, we did not exist, except in the mind of God, but God, the Son, existed throughout all eternity past. Mary may not have understood all of this, but she did know that God meant for her Son to one day sit on the throne of David (Luke 1:32). As a song I love to sing at Christmas puts it: “From the cradle to the Cross to David’s throne/From the cradle to the Cross to David’s throne/Little King Jesus, born in a manger/Coming back someday to claim us for his own.”

It is only fitting that a king should receive gifts and homage from his subjects. The three wise men understood this, even though the King was just a Baby. But what can you and I give to such a King? For as David said, all things come from God, therefore we can only give what came from Him in the first place (1 Chron. 29:14). In the case of our King, we already know the gift that will please Him most. “My son [and daughter], give me thine heart” (Prov.23:26). He wants what is inside of us that makes us who we are. 

He rules today in power, but one day He will rule in Person. And when He does, the question will be, “Is He the King of my heart?” In my first morning prayer, I acknowledge Him as my Father, my Savior, and my King. I tell Him to rule and reign in my heart this day. 

Who is the King of your heart? Who reigns as Absolute Monarch with unquestioned authority? Will you bow the knees of your heart now and say with the song writer… “King of my life, I crown Thee now…

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Other Incarnation

“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” John 5:39

         Did you know that the word “incarnate” has another meaning besides the one we are most familiar with: a person who embodies in flesh a deity as in the Incarnation of God the Son in human flesh as Jesus Christ.” But there is at least one other meaning: “to put (an idea or another abstract concept) into concrete form.”

         I know this because I recently was reminded of a great old hymn of the Church, entitled, “O Word of God Incarnate,” written by William W. How. It had been so long since I heard that I had forgotten that is wasn’t about Jesus Christ, who we know from John one is the Incarnation of the Word of God. When I read the song again, I saw that it was not about Him, though, which made me curious about the other meaning:  

         O Word of God incarnate, O wisdom from on high,
         O Truth unchanged, unchanging, O Light of our dark sky:
         We praise You for the radiance the from the hallowed page,
         A Lantern to our footsteps, shines on from age to age.

         The Church from You, our Savior, received the Gift divine,
         And still that Light is lifted over all the earth to shine.
         It is the sacred Vessel where gems of truth are stored;
         It is the heaven drawn Picture of Christ, the Living Word.

         The Word of God is “settled in heaven” and it “liveth and abideth forever.” But it was an “abstract concept,” as far as we were concerned, until God gave it to us in “concrete form.” Jesus called it “the scriptures,” something written down. And lest we think this incarnation is of less importance than His, Jesus told us words of this incarnation hold the message of eternal life, and they speak of Him.

History would have told us that Jesus died, but Paul told us He died for our sins; that’s New Testament doctrine, “according to the scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3). Without the Scriptures, we would never know that the birth of Jesus Christ was the Incarnation of God. Indeed, those who refuse to accept the Bible, as it is in truth, the Word of God, would argue that it wasn’t. In his book, Taking God At His Word, Kevin DeYoung speaking of the importance of the written Word, says: “All this matters because it means the authority of God’s word resides in the written text–the words, the sentences, the paragraphs–of Scripture, not merely in our existential experience of the truth in our hearts. Some people don’t like written text and propositions because they imply a stable, fixed meaning, and people don’t want truth to be fixed.”

         This year, as we celebrate the Incarnation of the living Word of God in human form, Jesus Christ, let’s not forget to celebrate the other incarnation, the one that gave us the living Words of God, the Holy Scriptures. Believe it, handle it, open it daily, cherish it, consume it, and follow its percepts, knowing it is God’s final word and our only Authority.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

What a Pity!

 “…Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” – James 5:11

         Does it not seem strange that as an example of God’s pity, James offers Job’s story? I can think of other instances in Scripture where God or Jesus had compassion on someone in need, and more to the point, someone whose need was not a direct result God intervening in his or her seemingly tranquil life. I’ve heard preachers say, “Job got in trouble because God bragged on him!” (Job 1:6-8). And it does seem that way. But, of course, you and I have the advantage of hindsight. We know the end of the story. We have “seen the end of the Lord.”  We know that “the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning” (Job 42:12); and it wasn’t just materially and physically. As Job himself witnessed “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee” (Job 42:5). But, as I say, while he was in the throes of his great trial of faith, God must have seemed anything but “pitiful” to him.

         By the way, don’t get hung-up on the word “pitiful,” any more than “careful” in Philippians four six. It means just what it says: full of pity, as the great old hymn of the Church says, “Jesus ready stands to save you, full of pity, love, and grace.” As with so many of our English words, we have added meanings, but Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines it best: “Full of pity; tender; compassionate; having a heart to feel sorrow and sympathy for the distressed. [This is the proper sense of the word.]”

And truly, that is our God! Isaiah says of Him and His relationship to His children, Israel: “In all their affliction he was afflicted…in his pity he redeemed them…” (Isa. 63:9). King David tells us, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him” (Psl. 103:13). You and I, as Blood-bought children of God, have a Heavenly Father whose pity is akin to that of an earthly father, but without it’s human limitations. It is unwavering, inexhaustible, and unfathomable. We have no redeeming qualities, yet He redeemed us. When He allows pain, grief, and sorrow, He wipes away our tears with His very presence. And if He still had the tears of His earthly Body, He would weep along with us, as He did at Lazarus’ grave.

I am so thankful that my God is “very pitiful.” I need that kind of pity. I may be undeserving, but because of Calvary, I’m eligible. There is no pity like His. What a comfort…what a God…and what a pity!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving By Faith

“And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it.” – Matt. 26:27

         We’re told of three specific times in the life of our Lord when He gave thanks to His Father. I feel sure these were not the only times, but they were the only ones the Holy Spirit has set down for us in the written Word of God. The first is found in Matthew 11:25 and Luke 10:21, where He Jesus was so overwhelmed in spirit that God would choose to reveal Himself to the lowly and untrained (mere “babes”) instead of the worldly wise and lofty. Then again in Matthew 15:36 and Mark 8:6, on the occasion of the feeding of the four thousand. Here too, He “gave thanks.” But it’s the third occurrence which has drawn my attention today, this day before Thanksgiving.

         We’re told that before partaking of both the bread and the cup at the Passover with His disciples the night of His arrest, Jesus Christ “gave thanks” (Matt. 26:27; Luke 22:19). Knowing what the bread and the cup represented – His soon to be broken body and poured out blood – He raises a prayer of thanksgiving to His Father. Even knowing He would suffer betrayal, mockery, torture, and abandonment from both man and God, Jesus Christ, the Man, was able to see past the Cross to His restored seating place “at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). He was able to see past the pain to the joy.

         Are we? I wonder. Thanksgiving is a time to remember both the blessings and trials that have brought us to where we are today. But what about the future; can we thank God by faith for what may lie ahead? Paul “reckoned” that the sufferings of this life weren’t even worthy to be compared with all the glory that will one day be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18). Is this not something for which to be thankful too?

Oh, I want to be thankful by faith…today, tomorrow, and always!

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Man (or Woman) of Few Words

“He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Even a fool when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” (Prov. 17:27-28)

The man or woman who knows the most says the least—so says God. If this is the case, would it not be true that the man or woman who knows the least says the most? An observation we’re quick to apply to others more often than ourselves. Some may just naturally be more sparing of words than others, but few of us fall into that category, it would seem to me. No, from all appearances, a great host of us (and I do mean us) are not blessed with this natural inclination. On the contrary, for most of us, if one word, sentence, story, or lecture, is good, two (or more) is better!

         Proverbs has much to say about the tone and timing of our speech, but, as with other things in life, you can get too much of even a good thing; and I, who have had a love affair with words for many years now, need to be reminded regularly that it’s possible to handle a truth or an idea so much that there is a danger of it becoming, if not worn out, at least, wearing on others. Verses like these in Proverbs that are themselves so succinct, provide a warning for people like me. They are proof positive that words are effective, very often, in direct proportion to their economical use. Real wisdom is portable, able to be carried handily through life.

I’ve heard the first half of verse twenty-eight paraphrased something like this: “It’s better to be silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt!” And that’s true. We are only considered fools for the foolish things we say, not the foolish thoughts we have.

There is a companion verse to these found in Proverbs 29:11, where we read, “A fool uttereth all his mind: but the wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.” In other words, there are things that definitely need to be said, but a wise man will keep it to himself till later. After what? Any number of things. Perhaps there are things that should not be said till passions have cooled, other events have transpired, or possibly, even not till after a death. Hold it in, says Solomon, like something that is trying very hard to escape (like a rising, offensive burp, perhaps?). Even if you have to bite your tongue, clench your teeth, or put your hand over your mouth—whatever it takes—hold your peace “till afterwards.”

One of the great benefits of talking less is that it gives us the opportunity to hear more. We should remind ourselves often that there is a wealth of knowledge we will never know as long we spend all our time telling what we do know. It would be good to ask ourselves at the end of each day, “What did I learn from someone else today?” Sadly, many of us would have to admit we never gave anyone else the chance to teach us.

These words, like so many that I write, stare back at me accusingly from the computer screen. I share them with you, not from a lofty height, but from a lower deck. But they are true, all the same, and they need to be said. Remember the little children’s rhyme:
A wise old owl sat in an oak;
The more he heard, the less he spoke;
The less he spoke, the more he heard;
Why aren't we all like that wise old bird?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Don't Forget Your Wings!

“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles…” – Isaiah 40:31

         Did you know that grasshoppers have two sets of wings? You may not have even known they have one set, because they use them so seldom. It takes something like a menacing predator to drive them high in the air. For the most part, they’re satisfied to go on foot or skillfully hop to their destinations. This may be all right for grasshoppers, but it won’t suffice for “winged creatures” such as you and me.

         Isaiah says we have wings, and not just ordinary ones. We have wings like an eagle. For instance, I have read, “The wings of an eagle are a miracle in lightweight design. A female Bald eagle can have wings that are over 8 feet long ­– and yet weigh less than 2 pounds…Pound for pound, and eagle wing is stronger than the wing of an airplane.” (Read Deuteronomy 32:11.)

         So why then do you and I find ourselves so often dragging our Spiritual feet, defeated and deflated, as though we were earthbound creatures? Yes, we must walk; and yes, we must run; but we also can fly. In fact, we can mount above this earth’s atmosphere all the way to God’s celestial sphere at any given moment, where we’re able to sit in the presence of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:6), renewing our strength and restoring our souls. Then…then we can return, refreshed for the battle.

         So walk, run; hop, if you will, on the rough road of life. But, O, child of God, don’t ever forget your wings!

“My religious organs have been ailing for a while past. I have lain a sheer hulk in consequence. But I got out my wings, and I have taken a change of air!” – Anonymous