Tuesday, May 31, 2011

You Can Be Wise (Part 2)

That night God appeared to Solomon and said to him: "Ask. What should I give you?" And Solomon said to God: "You have shown great faithful love to my father David, and You have made me king in his place. LORD God, let Your promise to my father David now come true. For You have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth. Now, grant me wisdom and knowledge so that I may lead these people, for who can judge this great people of Yours?" (2 Chronicles 1:7-10)  Holman Christian Study Bible

Tradition says the wisest person on the Bible's pages was King Solomon, son of David. When he ascended to his father's throne, the Lord appeared to Solomon in a vision and said, Ask. What should I give you?.

What a wide-open question!  Many of us read Aladdin's Lamp as children. At some point each of us figured a way to outsmart the genie.  "You have three wishes," the genie told Aladdin.  Had we been in the boy's place, we thought, our third wish would have been for a million more wishes.
Solomon, it seems, was in a similar once-in-a-lifetime situation.  God appeared to him with a blank check. Ask. What should I give you?  And what did he choose? Wealth? Fame? What purpose would that have served? He already possessed those things. Romance? Solomon had enough of that for a thousand lifetimes.

He considered what he needed to accomplish his purpose in life.  What did he need most to rule effectively, to lead Israel to new heights, to construct his father's dream of a temple and to insure the political and economic future of his nation?  Solomon answered the Lord, Now, grant me wisdom and knowledge so that I may lead these people, for who can judge this great people of Yours?

Solomon’s request for wisdom was an indication that he was already rather wise.  History reveals that God granted his request.  In fact, in 1 Kings it says that the whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom.  Men came from all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom. (1 Kings 4:34)

Can you imagine being so wise that the entire known world seeks your presence?  What must it be like to know what to do in almost any given situation?  To understand right from wrong in the gray areas of life?  To be able to discern the spirits of men and their motives?

You cannot consider wisdom without a look at the book of Proverbs.  It was written by Solomon to declares the power and necessity of wisdom.  In his writings he consistently calls on men to seek wisdom which acknowledges that it is not something man will have naturally.  The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.  (Proverbs 9:10)  Knowing God brings wisdom.  He is the source. 

The good news is that wisdom was not reserved just for Solomon.  There is more than enough to go around just as there is enough of God to go around.  You and I can have a share, as well.  We can be intelligent, regardless of I.Q. or diplomas or any of the other ways in which wisdom is ordinarily measured.  In your prayer today, ask God for wisdom and then seek to know Him better.

Scripture to Claim:
...if you seek it like silver and search for it like hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and discover the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.  (Proverbs 2:4-6)

Monday, May 30, 2011

You Can Be Wise

Now Solomon the son of David established himself securely over his kingdom, and the LORD his God was with him and exalted him greatly. Solomon spoke to all Israel, to the commanders of thousands and of hundreds and to the judges and to every leader in all Israel, the heads of the fathers' households. Then Solomon and all the assembly with him went to the high place which was at Gibeon, for God's tent of meeting was there, which Moses the servant of the LORD had made in the wilderness. However, David had brought up the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim to the place he had prepared for it, for he had pitched a tent for it in Jerusalem. Now the bronze altar, which Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, had made, was there before the tabernacle of the LORD, and Solomon and the assembly sought it out. Solomon went up there before the LORD to the bronze altar which was at the tent of meeting, and offered a thousand burnt offerings on it. In that night God appeared to Solomon and said to him, "Ask what I shall give you." Solomon said to God, "You have dealt with my father David with great lovingkindness, and have made me king in his place. "Now, O LORD God, Your promise to my father David is fulfilled, for You have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth. "Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people, for who can rule this great people of Yours?" God said to Solomon, "Because you had this in mind, and did not ask for riches, wealth or honor, or the life of those who hate you, nor have you even asked for long life, but you have asked for yourself wisdom and knowledge that you may rule My people over whom I have made you king, wisdom and knowledge have been granted to you. And I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings who were before you has possessed nor those who will come after you." (2 Chronicles 1:1-12)

When we say "You Can Be Wise," we’re not talking about I.Q. There are all kinds of smart people around.  Many have very high I.Q. and some are barely more than borderline normal on the test scales. Intelligence cannot be confined to I.Q. tests.  Some people are what is called “street smart.”

There is a woman who is clothes smart.  She can sniff out bargains on clothing the way hunting dogs find a fox.  She also knows the considerable difference between quality and mere appearance.  She is “clothes smart.”
There is a man who was never known to be much of an academician.  In truth, his graduation from high school was more an act of grace than merit. However, he is the most literate man regarding automobile engines whom I have ever met.  He is “car smart.”
Many of us had a mother who was a gourmet cook. She rarely used measuring spoons or cups. She just intuitively knew how much of each ingredient was enough.  She was “food smart.”

Conversely, we all have our gaps in knowledge. Will Rogers used to say, "We are all ignorant, just about different subjects."

A man was assigned as pastor of an affluent 4,000-member congregation.  The church was rich in tradition, prestige and Ph.D.s.  Initially he worried about their level of education and wondered if he would have to labor week by week turning out intellectual treatises.  His fears were short-lived. "Very few of them had ever been inside the walls of a seminary," he said. "In fact, some of the very brightest and best educated were among the most theologically deprived I have ever met. I have encountered educators and scientists who hung on every word of the children's sermons because those moments made new information accessible to them." Indeed, there are all kinds of "smart," and we are all ignorant, just about different subjects.

The background passage in our reading today introduces a series of questions that need to be answered.  Can a man be wise without great knowledge?  Is there a type of wisdom that comes from God and is more than just common sense taken to a new level?  Solomon asked for wisdom when he could have had anything else in the world.  Can we be wise?  This week we will look at wisdom and see if we can learn how to be “life smart.”

Scripture to Claim:
A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel,  (Proverbs 1:5)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Legacy of a Nation

Psalms 33:11-12

During this time set aside on the long calendar year to remember all who have sacrificed and handed down a legacy of freedom let us not neglect to remember the bountiful blessing each of us know as The United States of America and our responsibility to pass on the hope found in liberty and justice for all..  

I.    Remembering Those Who Created Our Legacy
What Were the Characteristics of These Who Bought and Protected Our Inheritance?
·      Strong Sense of Personal Responsibility
·      Gratitude for Benefits
·      Low Sense of Entitlement
·      Sense of Social Responsibility – Loved Their Neighbors
·      Patriotic – Loved their Country
·      Spiritual – Loved their God
·      Family Centered – Loved their Families
·      Respectful of Authority
II.     The Legacy Blesses and Empowers Us
The Bill of Rights takes for granted Responsibility.

III.   The Legacy is Ours to Protect and Hand Down
This marvelous heritage that has grown through history is not just a heritage of the past but a living heritage.
The abuse of liberty is license...
License is inauthentic freedom.
Remember The Four “C’s of a Legacy:”
(Capital, Character, Conduct, and Convictions)
IV.  Four Ways to Build a Legacy:

       1.     Clarify Values –

       2.     Create an Ethical Atmosphere –

       3.     Lead by Example

       4.     Tell Stories

Family stories are powerful instruments of passing on values,
identity and faith.

What are you doing now that will help future generations?

1. How will your character help them?

2. How will your style of life help them?

3. How will the words you speak help them?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Lesson of the Potter’s Way…The Mystery of Double Freedom – to be blessed or cursed

"Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel. "At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. "Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it.  (Jeremiah 18:6-10)

The existence of other vessels in the kiln demonstrates the varied potential for the clay.  Some in the kiln are made to sit on the tables of kings while others will decorate the rooms of slaves.  Romans 9:21  Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?

God does not demand equal attainments from unequal potential.  We see this in Jesus’ parable of the servants as he gave each in regard to his potential.  Different forms of clay make different kinds of pottery.  Here arises once again the question of Divine sovereignty in relation to free will.  On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it? (Romans 9:20)   An example of this is King David.   He could not build his heart’s desire, the temple, but God said, "I know it was in your heart.  But you are made for war.”  We are designed with His purpose in mind. 

In our freedom of will, we have the capacity to resist the hand of the Potter and His design.  God's unchangeable purpose is to work with us allowing us this freedom.  If then He did not take into account the free will in His people, He would not be acting according to His own unchanging principle.  The mystery of how God maintains His sovereignty and allows our freedom is one only He can clarify in eternity. 

Jeremiah’s observation in the Potter’s House turns to vessels that continue being marred and remade.  Make it and break it, make it and break it, etc., until it becomes what the Potter wants. In what seems a picture of futility, we find a message of hope.  God is both power and persistence.  If He were only power we would all be crushed.  If He were only indulging persistence we would never find power for change.

When the time is right, God places us in the heat of the fire for the necessary hardening and empowering.  What is made on the wheel is worth nothing until it is fixed in the fire.  The testing of fire brings out the brilliance of the colors and beauty of His creation.  

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o'er my being absolute sway.
Fill with thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me!

Scripture to Claim:
"Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, 'My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure';  (Isaiah 46:9-10)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lesson of the Potter's Word ... "The Potter's Word is Sure and Can be Trusted"

The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.  (Psalms 19:7-10)

Jeremiah 18:5-6  Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying:  "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?" says the LORD. "Look, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!

Jeremiah received this message from God only because he was in a spiritual place in his life. What if Jeremiah had not been listening?  Surely he would have missed the important lessons of Potter's house.  What if you or I are not listening for the word of God? The Word of God is sure and will give us hope that God is present and working to shape our lives.

No mar in the clay (sin in our lives) is too much for the Potter to deal with.  He is able to remove any impurity and reshape and fashion us into something useful.  Listen to the Potter's words, "...can I not do with you...so you are in My hands".  He says, "I am able and willing and able to restore you to your purpose!"

With the Potter's sure word, you can bring your hurts, failures, and sin to Him to receive forgiveness and feel once again His hands upon you to lovingly mold and make you after His will.  There is promise, potential, and possibility in every life.  To spend my life arguing with God concerning the circumstances and not working to being conformable is nonsensical. 

There are many types of clay from many different places and each has uniqueness.  In other words, it does make a difference where, to who and when you were born.  But that does not automatically dictate what we will be.  Birth finds every man with a plasticity which allows for his development as God leads.  Life will either harden the clay or soften it.  Keeping our lives moldable is our goal.

Among men born at the same time and under the same circumstances we find some marred and some mastered.  Judas and Peter followed the same Lord at the same time and under the same circumstances; but their ends were far different.  Peter ended up preaching at Pentecost.  Judas ended up buried in the Potter's field with the discards of life.

The marring of a man is not to be blamed on the Potter.  There is nothing wrong with the Potter or the wheel.  The marring is the direct result of the resistance of the clay to the potter and the wheel (his tool).  Some try to blame the Potter for failure. (Adam began this.)  Some blame the wheel of life.  But the one who says such only confesses their own rebellion against the hand of God.  The greatest determinate of what the Potter can do is the quality of the clay. Our own rebellion and self-centered lives are our problem. 

So, what is our responsibility to the Potter?  Is it to try to mold ourselves into our desire or remain sensitive to His touch to conform us to the image of His Son?  The lesson of the Potter’s House is clear...

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o'er my being absolute sway.
Fill with thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me!

Scripture to Claim:
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lesson of the Potter's Will ..."The Potter Shapes the Clay to an Intended Purpose"

You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, that what is made would say to its maker, "He did not make me"; or what is formed say to him who formed it, "He has no understanding?" (Isaiah 29:16)

Jeremiah 18:4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.

The nation of Judah had grown hard and brittle ... a pot ready to be thrown to the potsherd (a place for broken pottery).  They had sinned against their creator, their potter ... Almighty God. 

For my people have done two evil things: They have forsaken me--the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!  Jeremiah 2:13
NLT  They were "cracked pots" looking to have their own way.  Their lives were in need of the Potter's work, will, word and way.

Can you see yourself as a lump of clay in the hand of God? Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.  Here is the first time God touched our lifeless clay.  We have been given life by the Potter!  There are certain things we must remember.  The first is that we are clay. The relationship cannot be overstated ... God is the Potter and you and I are the clay.  Taking hold of this truth, the lessons from the potter's house are applicable to our lives.  

Next we must remember God is sovereign.  There are many circumstances and people who try to shape the clay but always remember that He is the only potter who made the clay and can make no mistake in molding it.  When we were born we were capable of being molded.  But, in time (just like clay) we become hardened.  Unlike the clay, we are prone to go one step further and try to leap off the wheel.  But our lives, like the marred clay, can be refashioned and made into something useful, when respectfully placed in the Potter's hand.

"How I wish there were some wonderful place
called the land of beginning again; 
Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches
could be left like a shabby old coat at the door
never to be worn again. "

God is willing and ready to give us a second chance.  There are many who believe that God was merely creator and that He had His hands on everything that was created but then just gave the world a spin and lets it run as He watches what happens.  The sovereignty of God is not a popular subject in the midst of a self-sufficient, pride-filled world.  But God is intricately involved in our lives and will work to mold us even when we harden ourselves to His design.

Lastly, we must remember that the wheel is the circumstance of life.  Sometimes the wheel spins slowly and at other times it spins swiftly.  Through experiences of grief and love, loss and gain, our lives are shaped as they spin on the wheel.  The Potter knows what is needed to mold the clay.
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me I pray!
Power, all power, surely is Thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine!

Scripture to Claim:
The precious sons of Zion, valuable as fine gold, how they are regarded as clay pots, the work of the hands of the potter!  Lamentations 4:2

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lesson of the Potter's Work - The Potter is Always at Work on the Clay

Lamentations 4:2 The precious sons of Zion, valuable as fine gold, how they are regarded as clay pots, the work of the hands of the potter!
"The clay is not attractive in itself, but when the hands of the potter touch it,
and the thought of the potter is brought to bear upon it,
and the plan of the potter is worked out in it and through it,
 then there is a real transformation."
 J. Wilbur Chapman, Revival Sermon

Jeremiah 18:2-3 "Arise and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause you to hear My words." Then I went down to the potter's house, and there he was, making something at the wheel.
As Jeremiah watched the potter at work he understood that this was a picture of the sovereign will of God bringing sinful man into conformity to His will.  It was the potter's hands working diligently and patiently to shape the clay to his desired end.

How does the potter work?  The potter brings the clay into the "center" of the wheel to shape it to its intended purpose.  Some he makes into decorative pots and others functional pieces for daily living.
When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn't he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? Romans 9:21 NLT

When the clay is in the center of the wheel, it is ready to be fashioned.  At the center of the wheel, the hands of the potter have more bearing on the clay than the spinning of the wheel.  In other words, the circumstances are not as much in control of the shaping of the clay as the fingers of the artist.  Clay outside the center of the wheel is not able to be fashioned as easily as that in the center of the wheel.  The picture is clear...when we are in rebellion to the will of God we are not able to be fashioned to His purpose.
Destruction is certain for those who argue with their Creator.
Does a clay pot ever argue with its maker?
Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying,
“Stop, you are doing it wrong!”
Does the pot exclaim, “How clumsy can you be!” Isaiah 45:9

The patience of the Potter is without end.  Regardless of our rebellion, the Potter is never frustrated with His work but purposely works out for good the impurities and imperfections found in the clay. (Romans 8:28)

PROVIDENCE is real.  For a man to deny the hand of God in life's circumstance is to lose the impact of the message from the potter’s house.  The PRESENCE of the potter is of the utmost importance.  The wheel never turns without the his presence. The potter's commitment to fashion and shape the clay is a picture of God's working out His will in our lives on the wheel of life.  Remember these things as you spin on the wheel of life:

1.    God has a plan in mind and has since the day you were born.
2.    God has the power to bring it about.
3.    God is able to work on countless pieces at one time. He is at work not only on our lives, but on the lives of others around us as well.
He is able to so shape one so it relates to what he does with all the others.
4.    God has patience and will bring it to completion.

Scripture to Claim:
Philippians 2:13…for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lessons from the Potter's House

The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying: 2 "Arise and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause you to hear My words." 3 Then I went down to the potter's house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. 4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. 5 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 6 "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?" says the LORD. "Look, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!” Jeremiah 18:1-6

God often uses the commonplace to teach spiritual lessons.  Jesus, the Master Teacher, used parables for the same reason.  God did not send Jeremiah to the temple or a house of prophecy.  Instead he was led to the Potter's house for a very important lesson.  The making of pottery is among the oldest and unchanging crafts in the world and would seem an unlikely place to receive a revelation. 

Why go to this potter’s shop to learn?  Are there not other places where teachers and guides could speak lessons we need to hear?  Yet, it is in this unpretentious place Jeremiah observes a picture carrying a profound lesson.  It is in the simplest of places that the most insightful things of life are learned.  Profound thought may come from places where complexity of human rationale has not corrupted its purity.

Have Thine Own Way. Lord
It really doesn't matter what you do with us, Lord-just have your way with our lives...
This simple expression, prayed by an elderly woman at a prayer meeting one night, was the source of inspiration that prompted the writing of a popular consecration hymn, in 1902.  From that time to the present, it has been an influential hymn in aiding individuals to examine and submit their lives to the Lordship of Christ.

The author of this hymn text, Adelaide A. Pollard, was herself experiencing a "distress of soul" during this time.  It appears that it was a period in her life when she had been unsuccessful in raising funds to make a desired trip to Africa for missionary service.  In this state of discouragement, she attended a prayer meeting one night and was greatly impressed with the prayer of an elderly woman, who omitted the usual requests for blessings and things, and simply petitioned God for an understanding of His will in life.  Upon returning home that evening, Miss Pollard meditated further on the story of the potter, found in Jeremiah 18:3-4.

Before retiring that evening, Adelaide Pollard completed the writing of all four stanzas of this hymn as it is sung today. 
"Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the potter, I am the clay!
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
while I am waiting, yielded and still."

As we look into the potter’s house this week, may God help us better understand His claim on us and desire to mold us.

Scripture to Claim:
But now, O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand.  Isaiah 64:8

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Family Legacy

Deuteronomy 32:7-9

Too many in our world live with no sense of purpose. Such a condition leaves people to wander aimlessly seeking temporary pleasure in whatever they can find to distract them from their empty condition. Sadly this same problem has impacted the family. Families without purpose fail to provide a healthy legacy for those who follow.

Families aren't failing; we are failing the family. 

We must learn to raise our families instead of our children.

I.    What’s in a Name? – Genesis 17:5
Whatever name your parents gave you, you will give it meaning.
Your name should be treasured for in it is your reputation, purpose, value and legacy.
II.   The Family Legacy 
Token acceptance of your name without responsibility for its reputation is thoughtless disrespect for those closest to you.

Family legacies are created by groups and not a single individual.

A family legacy is the overriding impact, influence and/or materials passed down to the next generation from the actions or resources of the generation(s) before.

The Four “C’s of a Legacy:

1.CAPITAL - Genesis 28:4

2.CHARACTER - Philippians 3:17

3. CONDUCT - James 1:22

4.CONVICTIONS - Romans 14:22

Friday, May 20, 2011

God, His Plan and His Gifts (Part 5)

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.  James 1:17-18

Saved By His Action
James emphatically declares, “He brought us forth by the word of truth.” We sometimes make the statement, “So-and-so was ‘born again’ last week.”  Often as that term is used it refers to the decision made on the part of the person recognizing his need for Christ, so that he repents and believes.  But the biblical use of this term refers to an action taken by God on behalf of the sinner to give him the capacity and desire to believe.  It is an action by God that brings the enslaved will into freedom and the darkened understanding into light and the dead heart into life.

If we keep in mind that man is spiritually dead, then it makes sense that in order to believe (or to “decide for Christ”) he must first be made alive.  While James simply makes the statement, other biblical writers amplify on its meaning. 

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). Ephesians 2:4-5
Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; ... I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. Ezekiel 36:26-27

Saved By His Word of Truth
The agency for this action, according to James, is the word of truth. The gospel of Jesus Christ is applied first inwardly, then externally by the Holy Spirit, bringing the sinner to life. Therefore, our salvation is all of God. It is not our good intentions or great minds or fair motives that bring us to Christ. It is God’s doing through “the word of truth”; through the gospel.

Saved With His Purpose in Mind
James states that the purpose of God in this work is so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.  The first fruits were always the best of the harvest that was reserved for the Lord.  God has set apart those he has regenerated as the first fruits, or the best of the creation for himself.  It is not that we who are regenerated are better by our labors, but our worth is due to the work of God in our hearts. We are therefore, as the first fruits, to be the evidence of God’s gracious work, care, and purpose for his creation. 

The great significance of the “first fruits” is that they belong to the Lord. They were not for common use, but for God’s own purpose. Is that not what happens when we are born of God? We become “holy to the Lord,” “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession,” “children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,” “a holy temple in the Lord,” “a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”

Because the Lord does not change and because he has done a regenerating work in everyone who is a believer among us, then we can press forward in dependence upon him.  Neither trials nor temptations can change the work of God in our hearts.  Let us live as those who have been raised from the dead by the power of the word of truth, knowing that our salvation is all of God. That which he does lasts forever!

Scripture to Claim:
Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. Colossians 2:6-7

Thursday, May 19, 2011

God, His Plan and His Gifts (Part 4)

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.  Ephesians 2:8-10

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. (James 1:17-18)

God is Decisive
Now James moves into the arena of God’s saving work in our lives.  The unchanging God has taken action on behalf of helpless, sinful men, to give light where they lived in darkness and life where they experienced death.  “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth.”

Saved By an Exercise of His Will
This is one of a number of clear texts that speak of God’s action in our salvation.  The emphasis in the Bible is that salvation is all of God.  It is not a combination of God’s help and our diligent work.  James has already set this forth in verses 1:14-15 when he explained the heart and nature of man as continually inclined to sin.  If man is as sinful and helpless as the Word of God describes, then unless God intervenes in saving grace man will not have even the least desire for seeking after God. 

Saved By the Expression of His desire
It is God’s action prior to our own action and God’s will prior to our will being exercised that is necessary for our salvation.  What else can this statement mean: “in the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth?”  Can we soften it to still include man’s ability at the heart of his salvation?  Can we shift the wording a bit or use creative interpretation to get around the reality of our own spiritual deadness and the necessity of divine grace preceding even our desire for Christ?  Or can we suggest that God exercised his will only after He saw what our will would be, as if God had suddenly become dependent upon us for his actions?

The word translated His will literally means His desire.  In other words, it was divine choice prior to our choice that determined ultimately our salvation.
But, someone might say, I just had a great desire to trust Christ before I knew anything of God’s grace.  That is true from your side, indeed, but behind it all, James is explaining, God exercised his eternal will, choosing you for himself.  As our Lord expressed it, You did not choose me, but I chose you” John 15:16; or as Paul put it, But by His doing are you in Christ Jesus.  I Corinthians 1:30  In the same way that your physical birth was the decision of your parents, your spiritual birth is the decision of the Lord, who graciously gives.  Without God demonstrating mercy toward us, we will never take the action to seek after him nor to love him with our hearts.

When I praise God for my salvation I praise Him for ALL of it.  He drew me to Him and revealed to me my sin and lost condition.  He gave His Son for me and redeemed me through His blood.  He secured me with the Holy Spirit and holds me until the day of my completion in Him!  HE is to be praised!  

Scripture to Claim:
I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the LORD.  Psalms 40:1-3

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

God, His Plan and His Gifts (Part 3)

The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him." The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.  Lamentations 3:22-25

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. (James 1:17-18)

God Is Immutable
The word immutable means that God is unchanging, completely reliable, always the same.  Through the prophet Malachi, the Lord declared, “I, the Lord, do not change” (3:6).  James adds that God is “the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”  As the “Father of lights,” he points to God as Creator, the one who made the lights in all their patterns of existence. 

The sun, moon, and stars vary in their projection of light by the rotation of the earth and the galaxy.  They experience surges in their intensity.  An eclipse can hide the light of the sun or the moon.  But God is unlike his creation, for he is unchanging, unvarying in the intensity of his gracious acts.  He is distinct from his creation in that the creation does not have the attributes of God.  God alone stands as the one who never changes.  The light of the sun will one day cease, but not the eternal light of God’s nature.

The Graeco-Roman world had grown accustomed to the fickle nature of its gods.  They might be favorable one day and angry the next.  The worshipers never knew if they were in the good graces of the gods.  But the eternal God has revealed himself as “I AM THAT I AM,” (Ex. 3:13ff), that is, he is the one who will be the same a billion years from now as he was in eternity past. 

He does not change and adjust His actions according to the changing of the millennium or the whims of the world.  He is unaffected by the movement of the solar system or the level of worship found across the globe.  He stands forever as the immutable God.  It is this God, revealed in Jesus Christ, in whom the believer finds the security of eternal salvation.  He does not save us one day, only to change his mind the next.  He does not forgive at one point, but dredge up the past sins again to torment us or to accuse us. 

The fact that God does not change brings great joy to our hearts as we remember His love.  It never changes and it never grows old for it meets us every day at the point of our living.  It is new every morning and as old as eternity!  

As the Father, so is the Son.  The writer of Hebrews expresses this in the simple statement, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (13:7)  The nature of God is the nature of Jesus Christ, His Son.  Our salvation is secured in His gift and His unchanging love.  Also, He has given us His Spirit as a down payment to because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.  Romans 5:5  A trinity that never changes!
God is ready to face the new day with you and bring you every good and timely gift. 

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

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