Friday, September 21, 2012

Free Indeed: Slaves of righteousness; free from sin

And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man [Paul] could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.” - Acts 26:32, ESV

Upon first reading this verse, I thought the situation rather tragic. Paul did not have to go to Rome--which proved to be the death of him. He could have gone free. Why did he have to appeal to Caesar? It seemed senseless and unfair. But, later, when God's Spirit was bringing me into obedience and submission to Himself, I realized that Paul could not have gone free, because he was not free in the sense that Agrippa and Festus believed he could and should have been. For Paul said:

"I go bound in the Spirit to Jerusalem..." (Acts 20:22)

Paul was a slave of Christ. He was bound and compelled by the Spirit of God. He knew that he was not his own, but that he was bought at a price. He knew that he was a slave of righteousness. He had no will of his own--only God's will. And it was God's will that Paul testify before Caesar. God even confirmed this to Paul by saying in Acts 23:11, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”

Who does this remind you of? The Man who prayed, "Not My will, but Thy will!" The God-Man Jesus Christ!

Paul himself declares, "Follow me as I follow Christ!" (1 Corinthians 11:1)

The Lord Jesus is Paul's example--the One who was co-equal with God the Father, and yet did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a SLAVE...He emptied Himself of glory and came to serve rather than be served! Jesus Christ never even spoke a word that the Father did not tell Him to speak! He was not free in the sense that we understand freedom--doing what is right in our own eyes. No; He was free in God's definition of the word: COMPLETELY FREE FROM SIN! Not under bondage to sin and free to do that which is right--free to follow God in ALL things!

He offers that same freedom to us: "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free!" And "he who the Son sets free is free indeed!"

In the same way, you and I, if we have submitted our lives to Christ, have said, "Not my will, but Thine." We have no right to ourselves. We have no right to call the shots in our life. If we have submitted ourselves as a living sacrifice, which is our reasonable service, then God calls the shots in our lives, and we humbly obey.

The beauty of it is that God is no cruel task-master! "At His right-hand are pleasures forevermore" and "no good thing does He withhold". God desires that we be satisfied in Him.

As C.S. Lewis once said, "God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing." Let us accept the gift of His grace and be satisfied with all that He is!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Living in Victory: When I don't feel victorious

What about days (like today) when I don't feel victorious? I feel defeated!
What about days (like today) when I'm clearly living in sin? The sin of sloth / laziness / loafing! And fear!
What do I do when prayer and Bible reading are so painful I'd rather have my teeth removed without anaesthetic?
What do I do on such a day?

First, we must diagnose our condition (biblically). If we can't endure reading our Bibles, then we'll have to rely on what little we have stored away in our hearts. What does the Bible say about our present state? Remember Paul's words to the Galatians? "Having begun in the Spirit are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" This sounds a lot like where I am now. I'm looking at myself--my flesh. I'm trying to muster up the courage, the strength, the industrialness--the goodness--to pull myself up by my own bootstraps. But everything in Scripture testifies to the fact that I can't...but God can. "For I can do all things..." by myself? No! "through Christ..." If I find that I have not the power to do what it is that I am called to, then it is because I'm exactly right, I don't have the power. But Jesus does! And He is ready and willing to supply me with that same power, so that I have all I need for life and godliness!

"Abide in Me...for apart from Me, you can do nothing," said Jesus to His disciples. Am I not a branch, empty and useless without the sap supplied by the Vine? If I refuse the Vine's sap, and go on in my own strength, I shouldn't be surprised if I shrivel and die and produce nothing.

So there is my condition: Trying to do in my own strength that which I have not strength to do.

Second, we must prescribe a (biblical) remedy. If we cannot bear the thought of speaking to God in prayer--we don't know what we'd say to Him; we're tired of failing Him all the time; we figure we ought not have been so foolish as to fall into the traps of the devil again--then time may be well-spent considering the character of God. Here, again, one's knowledge of Scripture will be of huge help.

God told the wayward Israelites multiple times, that if they would but turn back to Him--He did not care how often they had strayed before or that He knew they'd stray again--He would receive them with open arms. They were the sheep of His pasture. We, too--as the spiritual Israel--are likened to sheep. Jesus is our Good Shepherd. We may wander, we may stray, we may be weak and stupid creatures, but Jesus has compassion on us. He cares for the sheep, feeds the sheep, loves the sheep, and ultimately lays down His life for the sheep.

My soul, accept the fact that you are a sheep and Jesus Christ is your Shepherd! Allow Him to lead you home!

So in the end, we can come back to the Bible and back to prayer if we acknowledge that we are but poor humble sheep and Christ is our kind, Good Shepherd. Prayer and Bible reading will no longer be dreadful, but blessed to us, if we look to Jesus to safely guide us back into the heavenly fold of His grace and bring us to the Father.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Unmarried Christian: Real advantages

There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband. - 1 Corinthians 7:34, NKJV
The apostle Paul tells us that the unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, but the married woman cares about the things of the world.  This does not mean that the married woman does not care about the things of God or cannot care about the things of God.  Paul is merely pointing out the real advantages of being single.  A married woman cannot devote herself entirely to the work of the Lord; she has a family to care for.  She can't leave at the drop of a hat and become a missionary in a far-off country.  She can't spend an entire day in prayer and fasting; she has duties at home.  She can't give all of her money to the church; she has a family to feed.  A single woman has real advantages in doing the work of God over a married woman.  And as single women, we have the opportunity to be thankful for these advantages and not resentful that God has not yet given us a husband.

We Will Not Tremble: Response to trouble

So we may boldly say: "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" - Hebrews 13:6, NKJV
With the anniversary of September 11, 2001 and attacks on US embassies this past Tuesday, there are plenty of baits for fear.  As a single woman, it is easy to begin wishing that there were a strong man around for protection and guidance in precarious situations.

However, as a Christian, the Lord God is my Helper!  And I am to fear no one but Him.  After all, what can man do to me?  Man can only kill the body and afterward, nothing; God is infinitely more powerful than that.  He needn't take my life; He need only cease to give me breath.  He also has full authority over the destination of my soul.  Jesus said to "fear Him who can cast both soul and body into Hell." (Matthew 10:28)

No man is my refuge!  God is my refuge!  He is my ever present help in times of trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

But don't start thinking that I'm perfect.  Far from it!  I still find myself at times gripped with terror--whenever I fail to remember how big, how mighty, just how awesome my God is.  Because if we remember, and truly believe in the God who saved us from eternal destruction, the heavens and earth may dissolve right before our eyes, and we will not tremble.

The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?

Join me in praying for the safety of US diplomats all around the world tonight; particularly those in hostile territory.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Esteeming and Yielding: How should I think about marriage?

Christ yielded Himself completely to the will of the Father, and in so doing gave us an example of perfect humanity--that is, how we ought to and must submit ourselves to the will of God.

As single women, that means submitting ourselves to the will of God that we should be single at this time.  Though we desire a husband--our will dictates that we ought to be married now--we are required as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ to do as He did, deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.  We, too, are to submit ourselves unequivocally to the will of God, just as Christ submitted Himself to the will of the Father.  After all, we are in Christ--in Him we were crucified and in His resurrection, we have new life.  In Christ, we are conformed to the character of Christ, and Christ yielded Himself completely to the will of the Father.  Therefore, we yield ourselves completely to the will of God for us--His will that we should be single at this time.

This is a difficult thing.  One is tempted to have a bad attitude and/or to console oneself with thoughts that marriage isn't all it's cracked up to be anyway.  There are many problems with this type of thinking. Not least of which is that this is contrary to the design of God.  Marriage is a beautiful thing.  Indeed, marriage is honourable among all and the marriage bed undefiled (Hebrews 13:4).  Children are a gift, and they are produced from the marriage union.  Therefore, if we are to have the mind of Christ--the mind of God--on the matter of marriage, we must reverence and esteem marriage, even while God withholds earthly marriage from us.

God is good, marriage is good, His will for us is good.  By humbling ourselves before Him and accepting everything He gives us, and realizing that He will work all things for our good to conform us into the image of Jesus Christ; by believing our God, we give Him honour and glory even when we seem to have a good thing withheld from us.

Dear sister, God does you no wrong by not giving you an earthly husband.  If you have been set free from sin by the blood of Jesus Christ on your behalf, then you have had your greatest need met--salvation from the wrath of Almighty God against your sin--and you have Jesus Christ Himself as your Heavenly Bridegroom.  Rejoice and be exceeding glad!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

More Than Words: Experiencing the Living God

Today, I seriously considered deleting this blog.

Why?  Because I don't just want to talk about Christianity.  I want to live it out.

Too often I find myself writing about the Christian experience and I have to ask myself: Is that what I'm experiencing?  I know all the right answers, but have I experienced God?

I mean, I don't want to be chasing a feeling.  Feelings come and they go.  That's their nature.  In the same way, I don't want to be chasing a subjective "experience".

However, the Bible teaches that God is personal.  His name?  The Eternal Ever-Existent One: The Great I AM.  He is pure, untainted personality, and you know something miraculous?  He wants us to know Him intimately!

"Seek Me!" He says.

"Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other."
- Isaiah 45:22

Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. - Isaiah 55:6

One can have a real, objective experience of a person!  Indeed, such an experience is IMPERATIVE to saving faith!

Paul Washer says it this way:
Let’s imagine that I show up late and I run up here on the platform, and all the leaders are angry with me and say, “Brother Paul, don’t you appreciate the fact you’re given an opportunity to speak here and you come late?” 
And I’d say, “Brothers, you have to forgive me.” 
“Well, why?” 
“Well, I was out here on the highway, and I was driving and I had a flat tire and I got out to change the tire, and when I was changing the tire, the lug nut fell off, and I wasn’t paying attention that I was on the highway and I ran out and I grabbed the lug nut, and as soon as I picked it up in the middle of the highway, I stood up and there was a 30-ton logging truck going 120 miles an hour about ten yards in front of me, and it ran me over and that’s why I’m late.” 
Now, there would only be two...logical conclusions. One, I’m a liar or, two, I’m a madman. You would say, “Brother Paul, it’s absolutely absurd. It is impossible, Brother Paul, to have an encounter with something as large as a logging truck and not be changed.” 
And then my question would be to you–What is larger? A logging truck or God? 
How is it that so many people today profess to have had an encounter with Jesus Christ, and, yet, they are not permanently changed?

Christianity IS an encounter with--an experience of--the living God!  I must ask myself: Have I had such an experience?  Have you?