Because God Has Said

"Because God has said. . .so we can say with confidence. . ."

". . .because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Heb. 13:5-6)

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? (Rom. 8:31-32)

"You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." (1 John 4:4 NKJV)

During the praise and worship portion of any given Sunday service I'm sure we would find almost unanimous agreement with the words of Chris Tomlin's song, "Our God". Parroting the query of Romans 8:31 we should indeed demand to know, "who-ever might prevail over His children?"

"Because God has said. . .so we can say with confidence. . ." If we could only grasp these words by faith, we would have an all-conquering weapon at hand. What doubts we would allay; what fears could we calm, what burdens might be overcome!

Charles Spurgeon wrote, "Will not the distresses of life and the pangs of death; will not the corruption within, and the snares without; will not the trials from above, and the temptations from beneath all seem but light afflictions, when we can hide ourselves beneath the bulwark of "he hath said"? Yes, whether for delight in our silence or for strength in our conflict, "he hath said" must be our daily resort."  (Morning by Morning)

Some quick counts from a concordance reveals that "thus says the Lord" appears over 500 times, and "declares the Lord", 250 times in the Old Testament. Then we have "the Lord has said. . ."

My point is that God is speaking to us. Many of these "thus says the Lord" and "the Lord declares" we would surely want to avoid as they were words of wrath spoken to a rebellious nation of Israel, but we cannot and we see the results of His wrath on our nation as it has turned away from God just as the Israelites did over and over again.

Many of these verses are God's promises to those who would obey Him, and those promises we can today appropriate for our own lives and that of the church.

What greater motivation for Bible study could there be than to know there are promises of rewards and blessings unknown to you now! There may be a promise in the Word that would exactly fit your case, but you may not know of it; therefore, you miss its comfort. You're like a prisoner in a dungeon with a 'get-out-of-jail-free' card at hand and you know nothing of it. There may be a potent medicine in God's great pharmacy waiting to cure your sickness, but you failed to look for the prescription He designed for you. You may continue to be sick unless you examine and search the scriptures to discover what "the Lord has said".

Since "the Lord has said" is the source of all wisdom and the fountain of all comfort, let it dwell in you richly, as "a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life". (John 4:14)

May He abundantly bless you and yours.

My Grace is Sufficient

"Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 5:20-21 ESV)

But He [God] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you. . ." (2 Cor. 12:9a NIV)

So how much grace is sufficient and how can we know we receive the promised grace that 'washes us white as snow'?

We should understand that the grace to cover your sin is not the same as the grace I need to cover my sin. God does not spray paint His grace.

I cannot compare your pain, nor your pain tolerance with mine. You may say that on a scale of 1-10 your pain level is 3. Were I to experience that same exact pain I might insist it is a 6.

Likewise your trespass and mine, even though we think them alike, are not alike because of the contriteness of our hearts, the sincerity of our sorrow, the understanding of the grief we have caused our Lord, and other considerations.

I cannot know the level or amount of grace, how big a helping of grace is required to cover your trespass, but I can promise you it is not the same as mine, or your child's, or your husband's or wife's. It is not equal to or the same as that needed by anyone you know or anyone you might encounter.

Jeremiah wrote of God's grace in his book, Lamentations. He labeled that grace as 'compassions', and said, "They are new every morning".

Read with me chapter three of that book. Jeremiah is in despair. Though one could assign his woeful laments to all of Zion, or even appropriate them personally, we find in this chapter the outpouring of the author's own sorrows. No person, save Jesus, was treated with more contempt than Jeremiah in all the Bible.

And yet, like a match struck in the dark, there sandwiched by so many travails Jeremiah proclaims the soul saving grace of God:  "Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,  for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning great is your faithfulness." (Lam. 3:22-23 NIV)

Again I tell you, God does not spray paint His grace. Just as He has counted the hairs on your head (Matt. 10:30), just as He has ordained the number of your days before you were born (Ps. 139:16), and just as He has devised a plan for your life (Jer. 29:11), so too has He conceived and formulated the level of grace you need for today.

That is not the same grace you needed yesterday, nor the same you will need tomorrow or next week. It is the grace you need for today, for right now. If tomorrow your trespass is greater than today's, then His grace is greater still than today's.

The English versions of many verses in the Bible loses much in translation, and such is the case as we dissect Romans 5:20.  "…where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…" Several translations use the same English word for 'increased' and 'abounded', i.e.., 'where sin increased, grace increased', or 'where sin abounded, grace abounded'.

It is important to note that in the original Greek the two terms used different words altogether. I think it important that we see and understand the difference. The Greek word in the first instance is "pleonazō" (Plain-Jane increased or abounded), whereas in the second instance the Greek word is "huperperisseuō" meaning super-increased or super abounded, and the difference in meaning is as great as natural and super-natural!

Mankind may "pleonazō" his sin, where, as only He can, God provides "huperperisseuō" grace.

And – "They are new every morning"! Great is His faithfulness!!

Spiritually Blind

 

"The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor. 2:14)  

"In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Cor. 4:4).

Wonder of wonders! How enlightening it is to have the Bible speak to your soul! You may not have read the Bible much before your surrender to our Lord; I did. In and out of the church for many years afforded me an abundance of biblical history, and while I would not have tagged my knowledge 'foolishness', it made no impression on my soul. My cognizance of the Bible was in its history, wise sayings, and of a law I could never keep. It spoke of heroes who were as flawed as me, as unable to keep the commandments as I was. It was only following my salvation that I would realize that the Book wasn't about its 'heroes'; it was about God using these imperfect, weak-willed, failures to exhibit His power, His majesty, and His love for His creation, and how, when the scales are removed from our eyes, we could now taste and see the glory of our God, and in our humility we too could be used by Him.

The Bible has much to say about blindness, both physical and spiritual and I often see that the two dissolve well, one into the other. The 27th chapter of Deuteronomy is that which lists many of the transgressions for which God says we are cursed and among them, in verse 18 is, "cursed is the man who leads the blind astray on the road." Surely we cannot be shallow as to presume this would only apply to the physically blind.

In the ninth chapter of John we read of Jesus healing a blind man. The passage begins with the physical healing of his blindness (vs 6-7). After much agitation and furor by the Pharisees the man was reunited with Jesus who asked him "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" (vs 35). The man said "Lord, I believe" and worshiped Him (38). Then Jesus makes a somewhat cryptic statement. “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” (39) Responding to the Pharisee's question of "are we also blind?", Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would have no guilt, but now that you say, 'We see', your guilt remains" (41). His point was that the spiritually blind, the uneducated; those without knowledge of Christ, were without guilt, but those with this knowledge, the Pharisees claiming spiritual sight, were the guilty ones.

There is an account of the 18th century French electrician, Ampere, who spent much of his life extremely near-sighted without being aware of it and when per chance he became conscious of his defective vision through the casual use of the eyeglasses of a friend, burst into tears as he realized how much he had missed throughout his life of the wonderful beauty and interest of the world around him.

It is my prayer that I could see the beauty of God's creation as He does. Having traveled over much of this earth I have beheld many of our Lord's masterpieces, of which Genesis relates, "and God saw that it was good" . Yet it is only following His creation of mankind that He said "it is very good". I pray that we all, in lock-step with John Newton, understand the significance of being blind, but now we see, being lost, but now we're found.

It is only through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit that we can indeed 'spiritually discern' the things that come from the Spirit of God; those things being an understanding of His holy word, of the miracle and wonder of Calvary, and of the power of prayer.

Be blessed.

“Bring it on!”

 

There are only a few verses in the Bible that use the term hero, and the title is not always complimentary. Of the few renderings found in the NIV (none in the KJV, and only two in the NKJV) the Hebrew gibbôr is interpreted "mighty men", and the occasion refers mostly to  pompousness or worldly recognition of self. 

The characters we typically think of as Biblical heroes and heroines are never labeled as such. The great King David, Moses, Gideon, Joshua, Paul, Rahab, John the Baptizer, Esther, Daniel and his young friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – these are just a few of whom we most often envision as heroes and heroines. These are the people who looked death – and most often a cruel and painful death – in the face and said 'bring it on, I'll not deny my God'. We do not find that even Jesus is ever referred to as a 'hero'. Certainly in our vernacular He was a Hero.

What makes someone a hero for the faith? I would say it is that person who knowingly and purposefully put his or her life in harm's way in their dedication to glorifying God. I think the two qualifiers are essential for such an identity. First of all they know their actions and their words will offend someone so grievously that they must be quieted by any means, and then with this knowledge they go forward anyway. "Bring it on!"

A wonderful thing about heroes of the faith – be they Biblical or of a later date – is that they were men and women just like you and me. People with aches and pains, people suffering financial burdens, people with up-side-down relationships, people with addictions, all of them – all of us weak – in many ways.

Look at Jonah – what a loser this guy was. Not only did he disobey God when he was called, he ran away. Then when God finally gets Jonah on the right track he reluctantly goes to Nineveh and by his God given message brings the city to salvation. But the concluding chapter of the book relates that Jonah is angry at God for their salvation. What kind of hero is that?? I have wondered why God would have inspired the author of this book to document such a reluctant servant of the Lord.  

I think it is a message to show all of us who read these words that God is declaring that He can use anyone, regardless of their attitude, their self-assessment, or their own personal agenda, to His glory. Paul wrote to the church at Philippi that God can bring His message of salvation even through a heretic or false prophet. (Phil. 1:15-18)

Outside the Bible we look at Wilberforce who took on all the courts of England in defense of the abolition of slavery, Bonhoeffer who defied the Third Reich with his message of freedom for the church in Nazi Germany, and Luther who stood up to the Vatican with their religion of salvation by works and monetary installment.

My point in this is to say that you and I are as able and desired by God to serve in His kingdom as was David, Esther, or any other of our favorite Biblical heroes. We have all heard the axiom that God will not bring you to it unless He will bring you through it. Paul tells us that those whom God calls to His work He 'justifies' (Romans 8:29-30).

How would we have the fortitude to strike out for the kingdom of God if all the 'heroic' examples were of unfailing and perfect character? How could I relate to Elijah being such a Godly hero if I did not also see his fear of worldly threats and stating that he would prefer to just lay down in the desert and die than face his adversaries? How might I have the courage today to stand against contemporary morality, knowing my sinfulness, without also knowing that God used people with a sinful and rebelliousness character, much as mine, to glorify Himself.

Can we not see that God, in using our weakness to better His kingdom and proclaim His gospel, proves His might and majesty? If Moses was indeed as depicted by Charleston Heston a strong and mighty man, rather than the weak willed, tongue-tied wimp as scripture chronicles, would God have been glorified or would Moses?

Our Father God uses us only as we are weak in our selves. (1 Cor. 1:27-31). Any strengths we claim is worldly in nature – born of self and not of God. 

One of the most often recurring themes of Oswald Chambers' "My Utmost for His Highest" is submission, surrender, and obedience. It is only as we do these things – submit, surrender, and obey – that we become powerful and productive in God's kingdom. Not my will be done, but thine. Even Jesus recognized as He prepared Himself for Calvary that He too must surrender to God's will and in doing so became the HERO of all time and circumstance.

I thank God today for His wonderful examples of Biblical heroism. Rahab, who had to know that if her secret were to be found out would suffer terribly; Stephen who had no illusions of the horror he faced, and Paul who endured so very many rejections, beatings, stonings, whippings – all for the message of Christ – these heroes/heroines of the Bible have left an indelible image for us – but so many, so very many unnamed more went to their death in the most excruciatingly painful manner rather than surrender their life to anything other than Christ. They were eaten alive by bears, lions, wild dogs and who knows what more. They were covered in tar and set ablaze as torches for the Roman Emperor's entertainment.

Today, as you may read this Christians are standing up for Jesus at their sure peril in China, India, Nigeria, Egypt, and dozens of other countries around us. Some of these are heroes with a capital H; some without the capital are heroes and heroines just the same. 

My present hero is my wife who faces a dark valley that neither she nor I anticipated. But she is sure that God is going to see her through this valley and from and through her faith I am inspired to support her walk through the valley.

Our heroes of the faith don't wear a form-fitting Superman or Wonderwoman suit, they don't wear a white hat, and they don't stand out from the crowd. They are often fearful, in doubt, and failing in their walk with Christ. We are human, we are frail, we are trespassers. But we are also called by God as saints, disciples, and heirs to His kingdom. He says we are His friend and for us He has given His precious and perfect Son, and to lead and guide us He has implanted His Holy Spirit within us. We are God's earthly heroes and heroines if we will only allow His work to be done through us. Surrender and be glorified in His kingdom.

A Fearfully Wonderful Body

There are several verses that speak to God's loving and meticulous manner of bringing each one of us to life.

One of my favorite passages is from Psalm 139. It says, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." (Psalm 139:13-14 NIV). (See http://www.weeklywitness.com/a-love-letter-from-god/)

The KJV and NKJV weakly translate 13b as "You covered me in my mother’s womb." The word 'covered' only partially interprets the original Hebrew "sakak". The better, more complete rendering is to weave or knit.

Albert Barnes, in a late 18th century commentary, explained the verse thusly: "The word here rendered cover means properly to interweave; to weave; to knit together, and the literal translation would be, "Thou hast woven me in my mother womb," meaning that God had put his (hers/yours/my) parts together, as one who weaves cloth, or who makes a basket…. The original word has however, also the idea of protecting, as in a booth or hut, woven or knit together. . .of boughs or branches…."

We should see, as David did, the human body as an especially designed covering, and a vehicle for an especially designed personality. Aside from a spiritual or scriptural view of the body, any scientific study of the harmony, the orchestration of the intricate working of muscles, organs, and mind leaves me wonderstruck.

Following this assertion of intricately divine creativity is David's own proclamation, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made…" 'Fearfully' is in the sense of being in awe or reverence. David says he is awed by the wonder of his physical being and the soul in residence. He goes on to speak of God's omniscience in that He saw "my unformed body" before it was made (Ps. 139:15), and that He established the days of my life before they came to be (vs. 16; Jer. 1:5).

What consideration do we make of our bodies. To agree that we are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made only scratches the surface of our duty to maintain and protect this earthly shell.

Paul said our bodies are as houses or tents, yet Job said these houses are of clay and their foundations are of dust (2 Cor. 5:1; Job 4:19). Both Peter and Paul likened our bodies to tabernacles or temples (2 Peter 1:13 ASV;  1 Cor. 3:16-17), and Jesus warned us about the foundations we choose to build our house on (Matt. 7:24f). We are commanded to sacrifice our bodies (Romans 12:1) and to honor God with our bodies (1 Cor. 6:15; 18-20).

How wonderful is it that God is busy designing a physical shell for you and me while at the same time He has built a  home, and has provided a lighted path to that home, for the day our shell is no longer needed. Think also about the fact that your body is unlike any other body ever created. We've all heard the complimentary adage "When God made him/her, He threw away the mold!" Well my friend, that's exactly what happened when God made you – He threw away the mold. He has never, and will never make another person just like you. There are no clones.

Before you were ever a smile on your parents face, God had a need. He needed someone with a specific and unique role for His kingdom and so He designed you to fit that role. No one else can or will fulfill that purpose. If you don't fulfill it, then it will go unfinished – empty – forever lost.

That is why you are so important to Him. If you have ever designed and/or built anything unique you can begin to understand how precious you are to God. Think about the possibility of designing your child before conception. Consider how diligent you might be in choosing their personality, skills, intellect, physique, etc. Then as you first hold this perfect design imagine your elation of knowing you have contributed to the wonderfulness of who this child is. This is what I think God sees at our birth.

That we have red hair, black hair, or no hair; that we are articulate of speech, or stutter as did Moses; that we are leaders or followers; whatever characteristic or attribute we enjoy, or thorn in the flesh we might be  burdened with, is by God's will and plan. Yes I believe God even designs our shortcomings – not our sins – but which of the Biblical heroes were not afflicted with some failing characteristic, and how often did God not use that characteristic to show His glory? God did not intend mankind to be afflicted with the great maladies and calamities brought about by the fall, but He certainly can use them to proclaim His glory as we are victorious over these things in His name.

Take heart my friend and rejoice in knowing that you are special – no – more than special – you are uniquely designed by God for God, and with that knowledge you should stand tall, shoulders back, proudly proclaiming God's personal stamp of approval on your individuality. Do not dismay that your contribution may not shine as brightly as another. There have been many great preachers, but only one Charles Spurgeon, many great evangelists, but only one Billy Graham, and many great missionaries, but only one Mother Theresa.

Remember God's promise from the prophet Jeremiah – "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Be blessed.