Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Making Gold Out Of Manure

Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world. ~ Philippians 2:14–15

I memorized these two verses in my first year as a Christian.  Why?  Because I was a world class complainer.  I could go toe to toe with the best of 'em and living in America with most of the world's greatest whiners and ingrates only strengthened my game.  Nothing has changed with my nation of birth as far as rank goes.  In fact, we've gotten better at our complaining.

"It's too cold."  "It's so hot."  "I can't wait for summer."  "Oh, when will winter get here?"  "It gets dark too early."  "That's not fair!"  "I should get a raise." "People should treat me better."  "Ah man what's with all this traffic?!"  "Why do I get all the bad breaks?"  "My car broke down."  "I have to use that money I earned to fix it."   "Why the sickness?"  It goes on and on and on and on.....

I'm reminded of my good friend Mikie who would say, "I used to complain about not having shoes until I met a man who had no feet."  Face it, we're spoiled rotten children who have grown up in a culture of thumb-sucking misfits. 

So I say dear Christian friend, how much do you complain?  How often?  How vociferous?  Do you even realize it?  Have you minimized it, excused it?  Do you understand exactly who you are laying your charges against?

       Man’s steps are ordained by the LORD,
         How then can man understand his way?
         ~ Proverbs 20:24

Another verse that was memorized back in 1991, at the death of my father has guided me.  It centers me where I need to be and comforts me knowing that the Lord will never let me face plant on the asphalt. No doubt I'll scrape my knee.  But plant?

         The steps of a man are established by the LORD,
         And He delights in his way.
         When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,
         Because the LORD is the One who holds his hand.
         ~ Psalm 37:23–24

Whether you believe in the absolute sovereignty of your God or not, He is Sovereign and He prepares our steps for our growth.  Being God, He knows exactly what we need and how we must get there. Oh, it may hurt.  It may sting.  We might get frightened or even mad.  But we must stop in our tracks and take every thought captive.

Think about it.  Who are we to question His ways?  Do we know more than He?  Are we wiser than our Creator?  Have we better understanding of what is best?  

Maybe you didn't get that raise because God wants to prompt you to look for a better job that He has laid out for you.  Maybe that traffic kept you from leaving your kids orphaned or your wife widowed. Maybe the huge auto repair bill was to remind you that God provides and He wants you to trust Him in it.  Maybe that illness is to remind you of your frailty and to give you hope for the new body that awaits.  Maybe, no likely, He wants to show Himself strong on your behalf so that you see Him in all things, you see His gracious hand in all situations, you trust His loving mercy in the most difficult circumstances.


For 38 chapters Job and his three stooges questioned God and what did God say 

    Then the LORD said to Job, “Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
         Let him who reproves God answer it.” ~ Job 40:1–2

The appropriate reply was

Then Job answered the LORD and said,

“Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You?
I lay my hand on my mouth.
“Once I have spoken, and I will not answer;
Even twice, and I will add nothing more.”
~ Job 40:3–5

That ought to be every single one of us, every, as in all, every one without exception!  I say this as I look in the mirror and slap myself.  We're talking God here!  We're talking the absolute perfect, holy, righteous, omnipotent One.  He does all things good.  All.

Where would a post like this be without pulling out the classic text?  But you must notice who this applies to.  This is no blanket statement that every moralist can cling to.  This is no trite saying that the irreligious can run to. This is for and to the one who has placed his trust, his entire weight, his eternal hope, his assurance of sin forgiven upon the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the Messiah, Redeemer, the Lord over all, the Great Shepherd of the sheep.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. ~ Romans 8:28 

Yes, the events of life have a purpose and it's found in the very next verse, to conform us into the image of His Son.  What a glorious truth!  Will you, will I, look at the bad in life as bad or will we look at it as an opportunity to have a few more barnacles knocked off our rusty hard shell and as our Gracious Lord and Master wiping away the dross of our sinful body that He might bring us forth as gold, pure gold?

So the next time you're tempted to complain think about Whom you represent. Think about what you have and what you didn't rightfully get.  Then fall on your face and thank the One who spared you by showing mercy and showering grace.  

~ He must increase!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Mostly Dead?

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. ~ Colossians 3:2–3

As I drive my 63 miles to work each day and then back again my brain is a flood with thoughts.  Yet they always seem to come back to one central resting place, holiness, Christ-likeness.  I didn't come to Jesus, answer His call, just to be saved from hell, although that is a benefit beyond words! Coming to Christ was an earnest cry for deliverance from my heinous and disgusting sins. Over 20 years ago I heard John MacArthur say that wherever I go and whatever I do I have the Lord Jesus Christ right at my side.  At least that is what my thumb sucking infant mind in Christ recalls. With that truth implanted in my pea brain I began a journey of faith always mindful that the last thing I desired to do was drag my Jesus through the filth of my sin.   So hoping not to bore you or be too redundant my intent is to address the call for every Christian and what our gracious Lord has saved us for, conformity to the image of His Son. ~ Romans 8:29

Since my very first steps in Christ I knew without a doubt that my sins were in need of giving up.  Oh what a task, for these were quite comfortable and automatic to me.  But go they must and quickly!  However, they did not go easily nor quickly.  Many a mighty battle did we have and oh how many times they slew me but little by little their stronghold was losing ground.  What was confusing to me at that young age was the throngs who professed faith in this Christ, this Savior whom I had recently embraced and found forgiveness in, yet walked and talked so much like that dead, rotting man that I had just left at the foot of the cross.  How could this be so?

having been set free from sin we have become slaves of righteousness ~ Romans 6:18

Were they really free from sin?  Are you really free from sin?  Are you perhaps in your Christian teens or early 30's and still playing with worldy toys, watching things you ought not to watch and able to give a great discourse on passing fancies?  Do you know more about the stats of your fantasy league players than your Savior's divine election?  Can you name more hit movies than apostles?  Are you more concerned with the political landscape than the edification of your brother?  Have you a reasonable answer for those who ask you?  Or are you still stuck on Jesus Loves Me This I Know?

Indeed we are to set our minds above, we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, not conformed to the world. ~ Romans 12:2

Oh the horror of being lazy in my sins and staying bound by their web.  We must cast off the works of darkness for the day is near and the night is far spent. ~ Romans 13:12  We are to pursue holiness without which no one will see the Lord. ~ Hebrews 12:14

It is no suggestion that we gird (our) minds for action, nor to keep sober in spirit.  It is essential that we fix our hope completely on the grace to be brought to (us) at the revelation of Jesus Christ. ~ 1 Peter 1:13      

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance. ~ 1 Peter 1:14

Notice the past tense? They are former lusts and in our ignorance.  Dare I suggest that if they are present lusts then you are still ignorant and dead in sins.  And the soul that sins must die.  

Brethren, we have been given these exceedingly great and exceeding promises. ~ 2 Peter 1:4  

We were once afar off but now have been brought near by the blood of Christ. ~ Ephesians 2:13 

We who once were enemies but now seated at His table.  Shall we do the very things we were saved from?  Shall we be enthralled by the things of the world that pass away while we miss our very Lord who begs us come out and be separate? (2 Corinthians 6:17)

Are we increasing in our desire for Christ?  Are our sinful habits diminishing? Do we easily choose righteousness?  Or do we quickly fall headlong into sin? Do we even call the very things Christ calls sin, sin?  Have we drank the poison of the serpent and hissed, "Hath God said?" 

Since we, the elect of God, holy and beloved (Colossians 3:12), are seated in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:6) where Christ is seated (Colossians 3:1) and His righteousness has been imputed to us while our filthy sins have been placed upon Him (2 Corinthians 5:21), will we continue to live in them?  If the answer is yes, than we know nothing of His grace and forgiveness and will one day hear the dreadful words, "depart from Me, I never knew you!" ~ Matthew 7:23