Monday, September 26, 2016

The Grace of Life

Life! What a Name, the Son of God to proclaim.
Life! Abundantly! Sin forgiven, now we are free.
Life! Old man dead, Christ our Life is now our Head.
Life! Victory! Resurrection certainty.
Life! Eternity! We with God will ever be.
At the beginning of John’s gospel in verse 4 he stated, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”  In John 3 Jesus said that those who believed in Him were being “born again” and would have everlasting life.  In John 4 Jesus told the woman at the well that He could offer her living water unto everlasting life.  In John 5 Jesus said that He had life in Himself.  In John 6 Jesus said that He was the Bread of Life.  In John 8 Jesus said that He offered the light of life.  In John 10 Jesus said that He came to give life abundantly.  In John 11 Jesus said that He was the resurrection and the life.  In John 14 Jesus said that He was the way, the truth and the life.  In John 17 Jesus said that eternal life was knowing the Father and the Son.  In John 20 John concluded his gospel by saying that all these things were written that people might believe in Jesus Christ and have life through His name.
Life is pretty important stuff. Scientists who deny Christ spend billions of dollars to find the source of life.  They could buy a lot of Bibles to distribute to a lot of lost people with those billions of dollars and then everyone would know the source of life.  All things, the Bible says, were made by Him.  He is the life. 
Life is pretty important stuff.  We spend billions of dollars each year to learn how to extend life for a year or two.  That money could be spent preaching the word of God so that millions could learn how to extend life for eternity.  Jesus is everlasting life. 
Life is pretty important stuff.  We spend billions every year preparing for the life we will lead for the next 30 or 40 years.  During that time we will actually change professions a half dozen times and forget half or more of what we were supposed to learn to do the thing we set out to do.  That money could be spent to train people how to do something that will last forever.  Jesus told His disciples to bear fruit for Him and that the fruit they bore would remain for eternity. 

Life!  What we most want in it is joy, peace, fulfillment and a lasting effect.  That is what we find in life in Jesus Christ.    

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Friday, September 23, 2016

The Gracious Map

The glove compartment of my car is full, jammed full.  There are no gloves in it, however.  It is full of maps.  We have an Iowa map, an Illinois map, a Minnesota map, an Indiana/Ohio map and a mini map of major US highways.  What we are missing is a Wisconsin map.  We have never yet found a Wisconsin welcome center where maps are available.  Since we visit there often, a state map would be very helpful.  Why all the maps? I don’t want to get lost and those maps are from places we visit often.  Being lost can be a terrifying experience.  A good road map can help avoid it.  That is true on the road.  It is also true in life. 
In life we all start out lost.  We are born in sin and the condemnation that sin brings.  We walk in a way of self-directedness that leaves us wandering in the wilderness of life’s mind boggling choices.  Which way do I go? Which road do I choose?  Is there a shortcut?  Which road brings the greatest happiness?  Which road brings the greatest financial success?  Which road will get me to a hopeful eternity?  Is there a town along this road that will give me comfort in sorrow and pain?  Is there a city where I can live in peace? 
There is a roadmap that points to the Way.  The roadmap is God’s word and the Way is Jesus.  Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life, no man comes onto the Father but by” Him.   Jesus is the city of Hope and Comfort.  He is the city of peace and joy.  He is the road to success that matters.  He is the road that leads to eternal life in heaven.  Jesus is the Way.  That is one of His great names.  Once we believe in Him as the Way, He will guide us along all the roads of life. When we follow we will find all that we are looking for. 
I am The Way, the Savior said, The Way to life indeed,
I am The Way that you will find in life all that you need.

I am The Way the Savior said, The Way to peace and joy,
I am The Way to heaven above if faith you will employ.

Come, followMe, the Savior said, to find the way of rest,
Come through This Way, the Father know, and be forever blest. 

(Metric: Common Meter   Tunes: Amazing Grace, Joy to the World, Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee)

The Friday Benediction
Until Monday, my friends, may the good God envelop you with His grace; may you prove the common confession of faith, “I believe in the holy Christian church and in the fellowship of the saints”, and may you be enriched with joy and hope as you exercise that confession this weekend.  Amen

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Grace and Holiness

There is a command of God that keeps popping up in various ways throughout the Bible.  In its clearest form it first appears in Leviticus and last appears in I Peter.  But in reworded form it is on page after page of the Scriptures.  What is this command?  Be ye holy for I am holy. 
How are we going to do that?  We are not holy.  We are sinful.  Our heart’s desire at birth is to choose our own way.  The desire of the flesh, even after we are saved, is still to go its own way.  God is certainly holy.  That is His nature. But it is certainly not ours, so how can He say to us, “Be ye holy”?
The key hope for the believer is that we don’t have to do it alone.  God has sent His Holy Spirit to dwell within us.  He has sent His Holy Spirit to convict and teach us.  He has sent His Holy Spirit to empower and enable us.  He has sent into our hearts His gracious Spirit who is Holy.  That is His name.  That is our hope and strength.
Holy Spirit be my guide, my intemperate will o’er ride,
Guide my eyes God’s grace to see, guide my feet sin’s call to flee,
Show me ways of righteousness, Teach me to my Savior bless,
Reach into my sinful soul, make it pure and make me whole. 
(Tune: Jesus, Lover of My Soul)

By God’s great blessing we are not left alone in this world.  We are not abandoned by the Father, Son or Holy Ghost.  Everything that God calls upon us to do, we are enabled to do by the grace of His presence.  The Father is there to hear our prayer.  We can climb up in His lap and cry into His ear, Abba, Father.  The God who is There will hear.  The Son is there as we are called upon to bear fruit for Him.  The True Vine, by whom alone we can bear any fruit, is ever present to enable us to produce fruit that remains.  His power and authority which encompass earth and heaven will enable us to do the work He left us to do.  The Holy Spirit is there.  He is God’s seal of redemption on us.  He is the Keeper of the flock who have entered by the Door of Christ.  He is the enabler of the Church to walk in holiness with the Father.  God’s call upon us to be holy can be fulfilled in us by the presence of His Holy Spirit.  What a blessing of assurance and help we have in that great Name. 

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Our Gracious Banner

Banner of my life be praised, Exalted Name of God’s great grace,
Banner of my life lift high, Thy glorious Name above the sky,
Banner of my life may all, See Thy grace and on Thee call,
Thou art blest forever blest; Thy banner gives to us our rest,
Banner of my life, my love; I give to Thee who reigns above. 
(Sung to tune: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing)
One of the beautiful Old Testament names of God is The Lord is my Banner.  The grace we find is clearly seen in the little word “my”.  God has given something very special to His people.  There is a covering that does not cover the entire world.  It covers those who by faith will come under it and it will provide them with all the promises, power and blessings that the banner provides.
This Name was used of God when the Israelites were on their exodus from Egypt.  They were attacked by a very warlike and hostile tribe.  A group of slaves were facing one of the most aggressive armies of the day.  How could they prevail?  Moses went up on a mountain to watch the battle and pray.  With the assistance of Aaron and Hur Moses prayed throughout the battle and the Israelites prevailed over the powerful enemy.  When the battle was over Moses erected an altar and named it “The Lord is my Banner”. 
What banner do we have from God?  We have the banner of His Name above us.  We follow the most powerful Name in the universe.  As we go forth to battle each day against spiritual powers, we go forth under the banner of the Name of the Lord.  The victory was offered to the people as prayer was made to that great Name.  God enjoins us to daily be in prayer to Him.

His banner over us is also the banner of love.  In Song of Solomon 2:4 we find that “His banner over me is love”.  What marvelous grace to be loved by the God of the universe.  What marvelous peace to know that He who can do all things loves us.  What marvelous hope that we are not alone in each event we face in life.  The Lord our Banner of victory and love is always with us.  We need to simply look to Him in prayer.  We need to simply call upon Him for He gladly hears His children.  He delights to extend over them the banner of His grace. 

                                          The Friday Benediction
Until Monday, my friends, may the good God envelop you with His grace; may you prove the common confession of faith, “I believe in the holy Christian church and in the fellowship of the saints”, and may you be enriched with joy and hope as you exercise that confession this weekend.  Amen

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Grace on a Solid Foundation

How important is a solid foundation?  In Iowa the frost goes fairly deep. Without a solid foundation the house will shift when the frost comes out of the ground each spring.  Over a period of years that can cause a lot of shifting leaving everything out of shape and the roof in near condition of collapse.  In Iowa we need a sure foundation.
In Scripture Christ is frequently referred to in terms of being a foundation or corner stone of our faith and life.  In I Cor. 3:11 Paul said, “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”  Isaiah 28:16 gives this prophecy about the coming foundation stone of God, “Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation.”  The psalmist in Psalm 118:22 prophesied that “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.”  Peter quotes both Isaiah and Psalm 118 in I Peter 2. 
An ancient hymn of the church, dating possibly as far back as the 600’s, extols Jesus Christ our sure foundation.  This hymn, “Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation” was translated in the 19th century by John Neale.  The first stanza of this hymn reads, “Christ is made the sure foundation, Christ the head and cornerstone; Chosen of the Lord, and precious, binding all the Church in one, Holy Zion’s help forever, and her confidence alone.”  Samuel Stone wrote another hymn about Christ being the foundation, “The Church’s One Foundation.”  His first stanza reads, “The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord, she is His new creation by water and the Word. From Heav’n He came and sought her to be His holy bride; With His own blood He bought her and for her life He died.”

These are just two of the great hymns of the faith that recognize Jesus by His gracious Name: the Foundation or the Cornerstone.  This Name means much to the believer. It tells us of our security in Him.  He is a foundation that cannot be moved, and all those who live in Him cannot be moved by the forces of the world either.  We have an eternal house built that cannot fall down.  When we go to sleep in Jesus we know that the house is still built and we are still secure in it.  The forces of Satan may try to shake this house, but the foundation will keep it erect in every tremor of life.  Praise God for this Foundation of Jesus Christ our Lord.  

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Monday, September 12, 2016

The Grace of Abba's Breath

Our children, as well as everyone else’s children, have had their fair share of boo-boos while growing up.  After kissing away the hurt I would blow on the “seriously” injured spot.  It was like blowing away the pain.  Somehow, in my children’s minds, that breath of Daddy was a help.  The Breath of Abba still is.
Edwin Hatch is credited with writing only three hymns, but one of them is a timeless classic “Breathe on Me, Breath of God”. One of the names of the Holy Spirit is the Breath of God.  If Daddy’s breath could restore a hurt knee or elbow, how restorative is the Breath of God? 
Job said, “The Spirit of God hath made me and the Breath of the Almighty hath given me life.”  Job 33:4 (KJV) That is pretty powerful breath.  We see it earlier in the Scriptures in Genesis 2:7 where God breathed into man and he became a living soul.  Again in Ezekiel 37 we find God breathing into the dry bones of Israel and restoring life to the dead nation.  In the New Testament we find in II Timothy 3:16 that all scripture is inspired by God.  Literally that means that all scripture is breathed by God or the Breath of God.  That would be borne out by what Peter says in II Peter 1 where we find that “holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”  The Breath of God in the living Word of God then breathes new life into those who hear it.  Paul said in Romans 10 that “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”

All I can do with my feeble breath is blow away the pain of a boo-boo.  What God can do is to transform the dead to life.  The Holy Spirit of God brings us to life in Christ and fills us with power for living for Him.  Hatch called for the Breath of God to give life, purity, obedience and eternal life.  Carry these lines in your heart today.  “Breathe on me, breath of God, fill me with life anew, that I may love what Thou dost love, and do what Thou wouldst do. Breathe on me, breath of God, until my heart is pure, until with Thee I will one will, to do and to endure. Breathe on me, breath of God; blend all my soul with Thine, until this earthly part of me glows with Thy fire divine. Breathe on me, breath of God, so shall I never die, but live with Thee the perfect life of Thine eternity.”

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

The God Who Changes Not

O Thou God Who Changest Not, Who our sinful soul has bought,
We find Thee our surest Friend, Who is with us to the end,
We find Thee our steadfast Guide, Whose light to us will never hide,
O Thou God always the same, Who Changest Not is Thy great Name,
Thee we praise with hearts of Joy, With praise to Thee our tongues employ.
(Sung to: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing)
Everything seems to change.  My beloved bride reminds me that isn’t so.  The arrangement of our living room has not changed in 15 years she readily points out.  So, almost everything changes.  That is safe and true.  There is something, however, that is more surely not going to change than the arrangement of our living room; that is God.
God employs the phrase, “For I am the LORD, I do not change” as an assurance to Malachi of both the goodness and severity of His promises.  I have heard parents promise their ill behaved children, “One more time and you’re going to get it.”  The child has figured out that “It” is another warning.  God is reminding Israel that “it” is judgment for sin and blessing for obedience.  He has never failed to keep either promise.
There is certainly something to be said for certainty.  We live in an uncertain world.  Promises made by employers to employees are kept as long as the employer wishes to keep them.  Then they are abandoned.  Warranties on products have lots of fine print.  “But that is not covered and since that was the problem that led to the covered problem, well, then the covered problem is not covered either.  Sorry.”  Between forty and fifty per cent of first time marriages fail.  “Til death do us part” is not a guarantee that couples will make it to their 5th anniversary let alone death.  That is the way things are in the world. 

Things are not that way with God.  God stands by His word.  Every promise He made He will keep.  He is the God Who Changest Not.  Paul told Titus to remind the people in His church that God cannot lie.  The author of Hebrews reminded his readers that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever”.  The psalmist declared, “Forever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven”.  Those are things that change not.  What has God promised us that we can depend on?  That’s simple: everything that He has promised us.  Praise God for His steadfastness.  Praise Him that He is the God Who Changest Not.  

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