Thursday, 27 January 2022

The Book Of Loopholes

Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.
      
      Charles Spurgeon said, “We shall not adjust our Bible to the age; but before we have done with it, by God's grace, we shall adjust the age to the Bible.”
      As I was reading my bible or The Book Of Loopholes as it is sometimes used in that way, I was struck by the fact that I caught myself looking in the scriptures for a way out of doing something God asked me to do, rather than being humbled that God asked me to do something for Him. Why is it, when I am walking right with the Lord, the illuminated word of the Bible becomes a lamp for my steps in life and a light to make the road ahead clear to see? Psalm 119:105  Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. However, when I am falling into an area of sin, then the convicting word of the Bible becomes the book of loopholes that I am using to try and justify my poor choices. I find myself using the same book in two entirely different ways.
      As the Apostle Paul said in exasperation, "Oh the wretched man that I am." Rom. 7:24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? If we are going to participate in stretching the truth to suit our moods, then we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. Self-deception can be worse than being deceived by Satan because when the deception has been fully exposed, there is an added feeling of stupidity on top of the shame and guilt Satan is accusing us of. Then we beat ourselves up with accusing questions of "Why of my own free will, did I do these stupid things? It was clearly a bonehead thing to do, and yet, I talked myself into this mess." Prov. 14:12 There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.
      Within the human race, there is a tendency to try and save ourselves. The fact is that Jesus is the only saviour who can wash away our sins and create within us a new heart of praise for the Lord. As Jesus said, "You cannot patch up old garments with a new cloth," There has to be an entirely different way of getting the real results God wants in our life. Mark 2:21 No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. We often think we have a new idea to fix our old problems but as the scripture says the method of repair has to be a whole new way of getting our souls and hearts healed. It cannot be the same old thing packaged as a new cure. It has to be God's way of doing things and His way is through Christ. It is not a patchwork of our own doing, it is a clean and holy finished work of the Lord's doing.
      It does not matter the cleverness a person puts into searching the word of God to make it say what the reader wants it to say. The loopholes are not there. The interpretation of what is there can be made to become a loophole, but at the end of all the mental wrangling and carnal invention persuing this vanity, the word of the Lord speaks plainly. It does not say, "Thow shalt not steal between the hours of." It says, "Thou shalt not steal!" The word of the Lord does not imply, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour unless he is with the Republican party." No, it says, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour." There are no loopholes to suit your personal bias and judgments unless you make them up. Prov. 30:5 Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.
       There is a story in the book of Daniel where the magicians, governors, and princes of Babylon were trying to destroy Daniel because of the favour Daniel had with King Darius. The schemers concluded the only way to attack Daniel was through the law of his God. They produced a plan that would appeal to King Darius' ego - that no one in the kingdom could make a prayerful request for anything to a man or God. Only the king himself could be petitioned for thirty days. Dan. 6:8 And now, Your Majesty, issue and sign this law so it cannot be changed, an official law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be revoked. However, Daniel continued to pray three times a day and give thanks to the Lord. 
      Daniel was reported to the king for praying to God, and now, the king had to act on the law that was unchangeable. There were no loopholes for the king to use to deliver Daniel, and therefore, Daniel was lowered into the lion's den. The king was overjoyed when he found out the next day that the true God had delivered Daniel. We have to be careful in creating doctrines and rules to suit personal bias, because as the magicians and governors found out - that by creating a scheme that had no grace for Daniel, also had no grace for the same jealous people who had plotted a vengeful ruse. Dan. 6:24 Then the king gave orders to arrest the men who had maliciously accused Daniel. He had them thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. The lions leaped on them and tore them apart before they even hit the floor of the den.
     The word of God is a light for my life's righteous journey and not a book of loopholes to ingratiate my whims. Like the magicians and governors, the loopholes that are looked for to have our own way can come back to damage the real relationship that we have with God. Yes, God is always there to love and heal us, even from our own stupidity, but why make it harder on ourselves than it has to be? Why look outside of God's holy leading? Why look for loopholes, isn't God's grace enough? Isa. 59:1 Listen! The LORD’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. Yes, saints, God is more than enough. Amen!

Thursday, 20 January 2022

By Himself

Proverbs 14:26 In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge.
      
      As a grandparent, it is fun to hear our children point out all the things, the grandbabies did, 'all by themselves.' With wonder and exuberant voices, the description of the antics and monumental feats the babies have accomplished in their very short time from birth is awe-inspiring. We are told with a wide-eyed wonderment that the child is climbing out of the crib once the lights are out, scaling the bookshelf, and emptying the cabinets of all the pots and pans during the crawling stage. These grandiose achievements are reported and documented like the biggest world events going on in our time. "She did it, all by herself, and he did it, all by himself," is the admiration being expressed. And why not be excited, they are our prodigy. Psalm 127:3 Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.
      Our Heavenly Father says the same thing when it comes to the finished work of the cross where Jesus gave His life. There is total agreement from God the Father and the Holy Spirit, saying that Jesus Christ by Himself saved mankind with His own precious blood. Heb. 1:3b When he had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. There is nothing we can do to enhance the work Christ accomplished through His sacrifice. It was God's idea, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus saved our souls. The Godhead put their perfect salvation plan together and there is nothing we can add to it. All we can do is accept this amazing grace-filled gift of our Lord's salvation. Eph. 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.
      All by Himself, Jesus Christ put His life on the cross, that we could have an eternal relationship with our Heavenly Father. Throughout the scriptures, God makes it very clear that mankind cannot do anything in himself to measure up to God's standard of holiness. No amount of manmade works or sacrificial output could meet the requirements of an acceptable sacrifice to take away the sins of mankind. God has always said to look to Him and no other for salvation. Isa. 45:22 Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.
      Charles Spurgeon had a wonderful understanding of our Lord's grace and salvation. His simple statement of "Look to Christ and live," says it all. His realization of (not by works are you saved) was made clear to Charles. He expressed that all we could do from our fallen state was - look to Jesus. Everything else was mankind's mangled attempt at working for salvation. I just love the simplicity of this insight. Look to Christ and live, is all I can do to be accepted by The Mighty God of all creation. Wow! No wonder Jesus said, Matt. 11:28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Jesus knew what heaviness man was carrying within his soul. The need to be accepted by God but not knowing how to get there.
      Jesus could see all the human effort that was going into trying to save themselves had become a tiresome, laborious burden in life because God's requirements could not be met or even found. Salvation was a mystery hidden in Christ. Therefore, the Lord's statement "I am the way, and the truth, and the life," must have been a refreshing balm within the souls of all who truly heard Him. A confident awakening would have been realized because the words Jesus was using had life. Prov. 14:26 In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge.      
      By Himself, Jesus endured the punishment and shame of the cross so that I would not have to go there. By looking to Jesus, I became crucified with Him. The Lord's work is my eternal reward. Gal. 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Yes, in a similar way that we smile at our children's accomplishments, our Heavenly Father smiles at His son Jesus, because by Himself, He secured our eternal inheritance. Thank you, Jesus, that we can lay down our striving and burdens at your scarred feet. What a wonderful saviour we have. Amen!

Thursday, 13 January 2022

Resolutions Need Resolve

Proverbs 17:27 A man of knowledge restrains his words, and a man of understanding maintains a calm spirit.
      
      I was reading that the average length of time a new year's resolution is honoured and stuck with, ends around January 17th. That is it. The full ability of man within his own strength is a whole seventeen days of fortitude, gut-wrenching willpower, and bravado to accomplish a resolution that would have brought satisfaction and healthy changes to one's life. Ha! It would be funny if it were not so pathetic, but there it is. It would have been better to not have made the resolution at all because the condemnation of failure only adds to the depression the person feels and lives with already. The sense of failure is right in their face, accusing them of having no resolve to do anything. 
      The problem with resolutions is that the entire focus of the resolution is based on what is believed to be wrong or negative in a person's life. Lose weight, get in shape, stop eating the whole box of chocolates, stop watching so much trash television, stop polishing off the whole tub of ice cream and read more than just memes and scandal tabloids. The list is endless of what people perceive to be wrong with themselves, and it seems that is all they can focus on. Yet, there seems to be a segment of society that just gets things done the moment they set their hearts to it. I believe they have found the secret to what the Lord was saying when He said, "Let your yes, be yes, and let your no, be no because everything else is just frothy embellishment." Matt. 5:37 Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.
      As the scripture says, all other elaboration and exaggerations beyond a plain yes or no are promoted by the evil one. In other words, talk is cheap, and Satan will help you spit out words with no intention of following up on them. Spouting off resolutions with no resolve to do them is child's play. To be determined is a choice to become disciplined. Some people say they have no motivation to be disciplined. They seem to think that people who get things done are in a constant state of motivation. This is not so, they are disciplined to do what they had been motivated for in the first place, then, they became determined to go forward. They do what is on their heart to do, rather than just talk about it. Prov. 17:27 A man of knowledge restrains his words, and a man of understanding maintains a calm spirit.
      As I once said, when asked - what motivates you? "Motivation might help you get started, but discipline keeps you going. Discipline helps you overcome failure because failure teaches what needs to be done and what resolve has to be applied. You cannot stay continually motivated, but you can work on being continuously disciplined. Stay disciplined and motivation will inspire you to see the rewards that will come." We need the Lord's help to stay disciplined because without purpose and directions we become adrift like a ship with no rudder being tossed here and there going nowhere. Prov. 29:18a Where there is no vision, the people perish.
      We need God's direction to do what He has sown within our hearts. Don't be afraid to ask God for the ability, strength, and fortitude to do what is in your heart to do. If God gives you the vision, then He will also give you the resolve and strength to accomplish the work. When we know God has sent us forth, we can also rely on His empowering grace to get the job done. Yes, there may be some great trials and tribulations, but the Lord's resolve within our hearts will wake up the courage needed for the mission. Are there possibilities of failure? Of course there is, but we will learn from the experience. As often is said, "The greatest fear is the fear of failure," and this stops people from trying. What can we ever learn if we do not learn to pick ourselves up after messing up?
      We see this very thing taking place when Peter and the Apostles were threatened and commanded to stop preaching Christ. It looked like they had failed at what they were supposed to do. However, they asked God for strength to accomplish what God had put within them. Acts. 4:29 And now, Lord, consider their threats, and grant that your servants may speak your word with all boldness. They might not have had all the answers to what God was leading them into, but there was some resolve in their character to do what God had asked them to do.
      If we are going to make declarations and resolutions of faith, then let our characters be filled with the resolve to just say yes and no at the time of decision. For whatever reason we have been held back in the past, our resolution and determination for this year should be to break through into victory with the grace of the Lord leading the way. Let us be courageous with the vision God has given us. Say, "Yes Lord, with you, I can do it!" Heb. 12:1b And let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Blessings.

Thursday, 6 January 2022

Childlike Faith

Proverbs 7:24 Now therefore, listen to me, my children; pay attention to the words of my mouth.

      Childlike faith is not complicated, and this is why it works. You do not have to explain to a child the ten steps to receiving and six ways of affirming, plus three levels of asking God's favour to answer prayers. Children just ask, believe, then get on with playing. Now we who are supposed to be wise and full of the Holy Spirit tend to mess this simple process up with multiple steps and hoops to jump through to get God's attention, let alone answered prayer. Maybe this is why Christ wanted us to observe the simple faith of a child. Matt. 19:14 But Jesus said, "Permit the little children, and do not forbid them to come to Me, for of such is the kingdom of the heavens." 
      Matt. 18:3 “Truly I tell you,” He said, “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Childlike faith is not to be mixed up with childish faith which is a presumptuous and foolish fatalism. 1Cor. 13:11b I put aside childish things. We are not to be childish and immature in our faith but rather we are to respond by believing what God says about our lives and situations in the same way a child believes when a parent lovingly explains certain facts about life that are going on around them.
      The heart of God is moved by childlike faith because children have a simple confidence in the love that God has for them. 1John 5:15 This is the confidence we have before Him: If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked of Him. God's will toward us is that we would be willing to believe the love God has for us and that we have a repentant heart toward Him. 2Pet. 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. Childlike faith understands friendship with God because the child's heart is open to believing anything is possible.
      At the wedding of Cana, the servants obeyed Mary with childlike faith by doing what Jesus told them to do. John 2:5 Do whatever He tells you,” his mother told the servants. The servants may have been asked what they were doing filling six thirty-gallon clay pots with water. Their response would have been a simple, "Jesus said to do it." Blind Bartimaeus said without doubt when asked by Jesus what he wanted. "I want to see," was his response, and his eyes were opened. There does not seem to be much indecision when childlike faith is being used. Heb. 11:6 Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.
      In the Gospel of Mark, we read the story of the four men who carried a paralyzed man to Jesus on a stretcher. When they could not reach the Lord because the crowd was too large and was blocking the entrance, they went on top of the dwelling place where Jesus was ministering. They broke through the roof and lowered the man toward Jesus. The word records the Lord's reaction to their faith. Mark 2:5 When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” When Jesus saw their faith, - is a powerful statement. What did Jesus see that so moved the Lord to have it recorded this way? The four men may have said, "If we can get him in front of Jesus, then he will be healed. A child would reason in the same fashion. Just like the woman who was afflicted with the issue of blood said, "If I can touch the edge of his garment, I will be healed!" These are statements that need no signs or course studies in faith.
      We can all remember at some time, the Lord answering a prayer we simply asked to be met. We left the request at the altar of God's divine goodness. Like a child, we smiled and said, "Praise the Lord," when the answer came through on our behalf. In most cases, the answered prayer was beyond what we had asked or even thought possible. The joie de vivre we experienced was so exuberant that we knew the Lord had blessed us with His favour and love. Faith in God is just that, it is faith in the love God demonstrates toward us through our relationship with Him. 
      Sometimes, our forced assumptions as to what we think faith is can cause all kinds of problems within our walk with the Lord, plus create division between our brothers and sisters in Christ. We can become childish in our reactions to what God is doing because we assume a misguided understanding of faith. God's word is the foundation of faith and from His word we approach God as His children. Prov. 7:24 Now therefore, listen to me, my children; pay attention to the words of my mouth. Childlike faith says, "Yes God, Your will be done according to Your word." May God's face shine on us and give us the desires of our heart, that we may be the blessing of the Lord He intended us to be. Have faith in God. Amen!