Wednesday, 11/14/18 – Pressing on…

cross jesus summit cross

The thief, dying beside Jesus on an adjacent cross, believed and cried out to Him “Remember me!” (Luke 23:42). Instantly Jesus assured him, saying “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Twice the author of Hebrews states the divine promise to those who repent (turn from sin and follow Christ Jesus) “their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” (Heb. 8:12; 10:17)

Our Creator’s heart is to remember the sinner and to forget the sin! This is amazing! In fact, special words are necessary to describe it: Agapé: the love that motivated it, Grace: the un-earned kindness extended to us, and Mercy: the undeserved pardon only He could grant.

This willful remembering and forgetting on God’s part has all to do with His overriding desire for fellowship with us — His free-will creatures who can decide or not to love Him in return.

What can be our response to such an initiative?

This past Sunday at Lincoln Baptist Church Pastor Andrew directed our focus to the response of David in Psalm 103…

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my souland forget not all his benefits

  • who forgives all your sins
  • and heals all your diseases,
  • who redeems your life from the pit
  • and crowns you with love and compassion,
  • who satisfies your desires with good things
  • so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

(Ps. 103:1-5)

Stuff you learned in kindergarten really, but stuff sin led you to forget: say thank you, remember how blessed you are. Paul encouraged Timothy to remind his charge of these basics as “a good minister of Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 4:6). “Remember Jesus Christ raised from the dead,” he urges (2 Tim. 2:8). What a pitiful lot we are that we can so easily forget!

David ends his psalm as he began it, instructing his soul “Praise the Lord, my soul.” (v.22)

What things must you remember?
What things must you forget?
Which way is your soul going?

To every man there openeth a way and ways and a way.
The high soul treads the high way and the low soul gropes the low,
And in between on the misty flats the rest drift to and fro.
But to every man there openeth a high way and a low —
And every man decideth the way his soul will go. – John Oxenham

Christian: Remember!
Lost one: Repent!

Press on…

Tuesday, 11/13/18 – Pressing on…

“You don’t have a soul,” wrote one highly respected Christian apologist – and I quite agree with him.

agreement balance blur business
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We’ve all read books or watched films where some desperate individual makes a deal with a devil and agrees to swap their soul at a future date in exchange for some power or fortune in the present. These folk, overcome by their immediate avarice, mistakenly think the soul a barterable commodity.

But one’s soul really is no currency for trade at all. Not one of us has a soul that we can give. OK, OK, before you make ready to burn me a heretic at some stake I will explain. The full quote I began above is this: “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”- C.S. Lewis.

You see “you” are soul. “You” are that “breath of life” bestowed by God… breathed into the first man Adam (Gen. 2:7). What had been mere clay became life by the entrance of that breath, “and man became s living soul.” “You” dwell here living in that decaying form until It cannot function longer. At that instant it will surrender “you” while itself returns to the dust from which it came (Gen. 3:19). But “you,” however can not die! “You” are an eternal thing … an eternal soul.

Where will you then go next? You cannot roam the earth like the devil and his demons. Ghosts are but his lie, a ruse to cloud your mind from the real alternatives.

Jesus came to tell us plainly our options. He said to His faithful, “I go to prepare a place for you….” (John 14:1-4).

He wants us to forever live with Him. That is why He came… to save souls, “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Not bodies, not religions, not kingdoms, not planets, but souls. His children. His Church.

Where then shall the souls go who turn away from Him? Where those who hear of His love and know of His Way but refuse Him?

There is no other place but the one prepared not for them but “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41).

Every one of us is an eternal soul. After our bodies die, we will continue on… forever… It is the business of this life to determine just where that will be.

C.S. Lewis again,

“You have never talked to a mere mortal….  it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.” – C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (italics mine).

Would you like to settle this matter? Call out to this Saviour! Need help? Use the Contact page and we’ll point you to Him.

More tomorrow…

Monday, 11/12/18 – Pressing on…

20181107_124514As it was Remembrance Day this past Sunday I decided to search the scriptures for a quick skim through what they had to say about remembering. There were hundreds of appearances of the word in scripture but even a quick skim revealed a number of recurring contexts.

God it seemed was always remembering his Covenant and remembering His people. His people however were often remembering how good it was back in sin and forgetting the very things God has told them to remember. Often God even had to remind His people to remember Him and all the wonderful things He had done for them!

alone calm faith light

Oh sure enough when this or that person got into a real bind because of this forgetfulness they plead with the Lord to remember them and their need and to intervene on their behalf. They sometimes reminded God of his very attributes and Nature — though it was not He but they that forgot. They begged God to demonstrate His goodness and mercy in their situation even though their own sinfulness or waywardness had caused it.

When we turn to the New Testament we don’t see much better!

Jesus had to remind his disciples that they had just witnessed the feeding of thousands. Peter remembered too late that the Lord had foretold his triple denials. And it seems that after Jesus’ crucifixion and burial everyone had forgotten that He had said he would rise again!

Jesus knew His Church would need some helps moving forward with all this remembering business. The night before he was betrayed He instituted a supper using the most staple of items present at every meal to remind His disciples that He indeed was their nourishment and life. He told his disciples to wait until they receive the Holy Spirit Who would come alongside them and empower them and remind them of everything He had taught.

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26)

opened bible on wooden surfaca
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And He left us Himself in printed text as well, the Word of God to which we can turn when we forget, or better yet which we can hide in our hearts so we do not.

Because we are a forgetful lot we are told to always to remind each other of the truths and expectations of God.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” – Heb. 10:24,25

This was forgetful Peter’s ambition…

“…I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.” – 2 Pet. 1:12-15

And it must be ours as well.

More tomorrow…

Wednesday, 11/7/18 – Pressing on…

20181105_072139“God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full—there’s nowhere for Him to put it.” – Augustine

Yesterday I talked about bone dropping. I mentioned how tightly a dog will grip a bone unless presented with something much better. I presented Christ as the Ultimate Transformer of lives. But to receive Him we must surrender – you know… hands up… palms open… dropping everything… bones and all…!

Many who read this blog have done this, maybe many years ago. But perhaps in that long interim you may have found a bone or two to pick as well. Perhaps by now you’ve accumulated a pantry full of them… you know… just in case.

Well, in case what?

If you are honest, the only possible answer is ‘in case Christ fails me!’ Just in case Christ fails me I will keep these bones to gnaw on… just maybe they will yet provide nourishment.

black and white rainy portrait canon

I know you don’t like to look at this with such raw realism. But there can be no other meaning. It is time for you to stare down your pantry and take brutal inventory of its contents. It is time for you to fill it further with Christ till there is no room for old bones.

Hear again from Thomas Chalmers

“We know of no other way by which to keep the love of the world out of our heart, than to keep in our hearts the love of God—and no other way by which to keep our hearts in the love of God, than building ourselves up on our most holy faith.”

The Apostle Paul is even more direct…

“If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker… if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! …Who has bewitched you? …Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” (Gal. 2:18, 21; 3:1a,3)

What might some of these ‘bones’ be? Could be a return to an old sin, to alcohol, drugs, pornography, fantasy, virtual reality. Could be acts of benevolence or service, self-sacrifice, church membership, baptism, religious activity, self-harm or purging. Could be a love of money, success, fame or infamy.

person s holds brown gift box

All of these may bloat the belly, but they provide no nourishment to the soul. Throw them out! Far away! Grasp tightly the Gift of God.

Again, Augustine…

“God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full.”

Let go, grab hold, and

Press on…

Tuesday, 11/6/18 – Pressing on…

Have you ever tried to take a bone away from a possessive Rottweiler? Or German Shepherd…. Or Chow….Or I suppose even a poodle?

black rust rottweiler showing tongue lying on concrete pathway

Well, neither have I. But I suspect it’s not like “taking candy from a baby”… or wait… may be it is! I think I have seen that post-Hallowe’en attempt before and as I recall it went very badly.

But those who know, say it is easy–in fact very easy to acquire that aforementioned bone!

20181103_162217The trick involves a whole new strategy: you don’t even try to ‘take’ the bone at all. Instead, you offer the critter a meaty, juicy T-bone steak. Miraculously the bone can now be yours without incident.

Our 19th century preacher friend Thomas Chalmers said it like this,

“The love of God and the love of the world, are two affections, not merely in a state of rivalship, but in a state of enmity and that so irreconcilable, that they cannot dwell together in the same bosom.”

“The heart is not so constituted; and the only way to dispossess it of an old affection, is by the expulsive power of a new one.”

“When he is told to love God supremely, this may startle another; but it will not startle him to whom God has been revealed in peace, and in pardon, and in all the freeness of an offered reconciliation.”

The psalmist invites us “taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm. 34:8)

As the late internationally known evangelist Billy Graham observed,

“I have never known a man who received Christ and ever regretted it.”

20181103_163757Are you gnawing on some bone that has on it no nourishment? Are you thinking that if you just gnaw long enough you may find some sustenance?

But the gnawing in your gut is shouting something quite different. The men we heard from this past Sunday are telling how Christ has satisfied their longing. Finding Him, they have gladly dropped their former ‘bones’ to embrace Him.

So can you!

More tomorrow…

Monday, 11/5/18 – Pressing on…

What causes radical transformation in an individual?

I Googled this just now and found much of the data revolved around social or economic transformation. Change in an individual it seems is greatly related to one’s decision to conform (or not) to wider social changes. The desire to be like the masses motivates many. But what causes an individual to change apart from any sociological influences?

afterglow backlit beautiful crescent moon

Psychological sources cite four types of motivators: Internal-positive, External-positive, Internal-negative, and External-negative. All of these, the literature says, require effort, dedication, a support network, and a conducive environment to bring success.

So what accounts for the sudden and dramatic transformations like the testimonies we heard this past Sunday at Lincoln Baptist Church?

Our guests were young men from the Village of Hope, “a faith-based residential drug rehab program, dedicated to helping men of all ages overcome life-controlling drug and alcohol problems.” One after another they testified to the transformations wrought in their bodies, minds and hearts through relationship with Jesus Christ!

Sceptics of course denounce such possibility, but what then can they put in its place? They become like the religious leaders trying to silence Peter and John but having to admit “truly a notable miracle has been done!” (Acts 4:16)

20181102_165922Thomas Chalmers was a Scottish preacher of the early 19th century. His sermon “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection” is a classic presentation of the power of Christ to transform. In it Chalmers boldly affirms that one’s love for sin is broken only by a greater love for Christ. As Chalmers puts it in 19th century vocabulary,

“The ascendant power of a second affection will do, what no exposition however forcible, of the folly and worthlessnes of the first, ever could effectuate.”

We see something of this principle at work when many a young woman motivated by the new affection, to please her new beau, finds motivation to diet and preen herself more than ever before. Or consider the willing endurance of the athlete in training motivated by the new affection of an Olympic gold coming into reach.

You see, we were made to worship. We cannot escape it. And if we have not made Christ it’s object we will lock in to almost anything else, regardless of how ineffective or damaging it may prove to be.

Chalmers again,

“Such is the grasping tendency of the human heart, that it must have a something to lay hold of and which, if wrested away without the substitution of another something in its place, would leave a void and a vacancy as painful to the mind, as hunger is to the natural system.”

Only Christ can fill that void. Only Christ can effect transformation like that experienced in the lives of Sunday’s speakers. And only Christ can transform you!

More tomorrow…

Wednesday, 10/31/18 – Pressing on…

A cartoon shows a group of rats running through a corridor of a maze. Written on the wall ahead are the words ‘WORK HARDER…’ Rounding the corner the rats run along the next corridor. Ahead on the wall are the words ‘EARN MORE MONEY…’ The rats round that corner and another wall greets them with the message ‘BUY MORE…’ The rats scamper on vyjng for the lead… Rounding the next corner they see the words ‘KEEP GOING…’ on and on they go, certain their reward is ‘just around the corner,’ but never arriving.

There is a certain kind of ant called a ‘processional ant.’ They are so-named because of their tendency to blindly follow the processional ant in front of them. An experiment was done placing these ants around the rim of a glass. The result? They followed each other in a circle until eventually, one by one, they died and fell into the glass.

Mad, pointless following. It seems that if we are not following Christ, we will follow almost anything.

Why?

Because we know we need a guide, but refusing Christ, we are lost!

It is a curious fact about human nature that the more lost we are, the faster we go! Lostness brings with it it’s own frantic desperation. We get in a mad rush to create more and more Facebook “friends” while really having no one to hold your hand in a crisis. We work harder… We earn more money… We buy more… We keep going…

20181028_185711Prosperity becomes addictive. It creates only further discontent. Solomon – the wisest and richest of men — observed, “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.” (Eccl. 5:10) We are ensnared, but do not know it.

C. S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters has Senior devil Screwtape advising junior demon Wormwood how best to use prosperity to draw a man away from Christ…

“Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it’, while really it is finding its place in him. His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of being really at home in earth, which is just what we want.” – C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

But we were made for better things than that. You were made for better things than that.

We are called to become Citizens of God’s eternal kingdom, not merely Consumers of this world’s temporary wares.

“Your Jesus is just a crutch!” our critics taunt. But wise is the man who reaches for this crutch when he sees his legs are broken! Foolish is the man who limping on wonders at his pain.

Jesus warned “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:14)

Paul warns Timothy, “…people of corrupt mind… think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (1 Tim. 6:5-8)

The author of Hebrews writes, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” – Heb. 13:5-6 (NIV)

Do our Lord proud…

Press on…