Thursday, December 27, 2007

Life Is But A Vapor

Having just celebrated my 37th Christmas, I can conclude it was not like any other and that this one will never be replicated.
I know you might be thinking, "Oh gee I'm sure something really far out happened." Well, no. Life happens, and life is but a vapor. That was realized, and that really changes things for me.
First of all, Rach's dad was there. In that we rejoice and give thanks to the Lord. God has kept him alive. Doctors, several months ago did not hold out much hope. God has given him life, and life is in His hands.
My Dad was there. Battling lymphoma and the wretched effects of chemotherapy, Dad enjoyed his Christmas with his family, in his house. My precious, Godly mother was right there beside him. She, unaware of the battle that she is engaged in, smiled and rejoiced in the "impromptu party" we had. She has Parkinson's disease, and it is taking its toll.
Rach's grandmother and grandfather (maternal) were there too. Her paternal grandmother was not -- for the first time in Rach's life.
Neither of my brother's two wives were there. For years we celebrated with one, and their children; they divorced; then he remarried a woman with 2 girls -- they came for several years, then that was over.
Who will not be there for Christmas 2008? I am not sure. I do know that life can change in an instant. There is a time to be born and a time to die, that I know. There is a time to laugh and there is a time to cry; a time to mourn and a time to dance.
I also know and rest in the One who never changes. Jesus is the same -- yesterday, today and forever. I know that as His child, nothing can separate me from His love. I know that He is my joy, my peace and my hope.

Friday, December 21, 2007

That The Son of God Might Be Glorified

We wrote here a little bit ago about the glory of God. We talked about how this is IT. God loves His glory, for there is nothing higher. Everything that we do, we are told in Scripture (1 Cor 10:31) we are to do it all to the glory of God.
Jonathan Edwards has written . . . "all that is ever spoken of in the Scripture as an ultimate end of God's works is included in that one phrase, the glory of God."
As Piper points out, God is God-centered. This is not soothing to man's pride. We like to think of God as being totally man-centered, thus we can then consider being God-centered people. The fact is that God loves His own glory even more than He loves us, and this is the foundation of His love for us.
I know this is hard to grasp, at least it has been for me. It is challenging. Haven't we been taught that "if God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it"?
Well, I have been reading the Gospel According to John, and plan in the new year to begin preaching through the Gospel. As I came today to the story of Jesus and the death of His friend Lazarus, I see further evidence that God's glory is IT.
Jesus gets word that His friend Lazarus is sick unto death, "he whom Thou lovest is sick" his sisters said. And yes indeed, Jesus truly loved Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. We read it right there in John 11:5. He loved them, oh how He loved them! But He loved something else more.
Look at verse 4, "When Jesus heard that (of Lazarus' sickness) He said, 'This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.'"
God's glory is the greatest. That's what it is all about. Jesus wanted His followers to see this.
Later, Jesus announces that indeed Lazarus had died. verse 14. And He then says something astounding -- "And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe."
I believe He wanted His disciples to see that all of this was happening that the Son might be glorified -- which is the highest, most important thing that there is.
Jesus would go to Bethany. He goes there and He weeps. Why does He weep? Well, we know that He had compassion, He could sincerely, like no other, feel our pain. He knew the hurt that Mary and Martha were feeling. He loved them, and when they were hurting He wept with them. This too is simply astounding. That the King of Kings and Lord of Lords would so love His sheep -- poor pitiful sheep. There He stands, He who created the universe and sustains all things with His omnipotent right hand, at a dusty Palestinian graveside with two sisters, weeping. Amazing love, how can it be?
Anyway, He is taken to the grave itself and told those standing around to open it up. Martha interjects, "but you know it is bound to stink -- he's been dead for four days." Perhaps she thought Jesus wanted one last look at His friend Lazarus. But then Jesus says something to her that speaks to this truth about God's glory:
Jesus saith unto her, "Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?"
Not, "Oh dear sister you will see your dearly beloved brother once again." But, "You will see something infinitely more better -- the glory of Almighty God." That's it.

May we pray and say with Moses, "I beseech Thee, shew me Thy glory." Yes, Lord let it be.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Here It Is

A while back a dear friend gave to us a really nice bird feeding "system". I use the word "system" because this goes beyond what I have always been accustomed to in bird feeders. I have been accustomed to a rigged-up pole (usually an abandoned clothes line pole) and a plastic feeder from Wal-Mart that the squirrels would quickly take over, clean out and I would say, "Forget this man, I ain't payin' to feed no yard rats." Then weather would claim the empty forsaken feeder. There would be few birds in my yard, and if they wanted satisfaction, they would have to find it elsewhere.
But now, things are different. With the "system" I have an engineered pole, that fits snugly into our dry NC dirt. It is telescopic, and add-ons are available. Mine has a squirrel baffler, half-way up that prevents them from climbing up to the food. There are two branches coming off the pole that allows me to hang two feeders of my choosing. Our friend gave us a narrow, cylindrical feeder, with yellow highlights, that holds thistle for small chickadee-type birds. They love this stuff and eat at it all the time, fighting one another for space on the feeder. On the other branch there hangs a Yankee dipper. It is larger, cylinder-shaped and it holds more of a classic feed -- sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, just a dash of corn kernels to really tempt the squirrels. Now the neat thing about this larger one is that the little stands on the feeder are collapsible, they will not hold the weight of a yard rat. IF they COULD get to the feeder, they couldn't stay on it -- HA, HA!
It didn't take long after assembling the "system" to get the birds to come and get it. Now, I am really attentive to keeping the tubes filled, especially on a day like today when it is cold and precipitation is on the way. It sits right outside the computer room window so as Rach works she can see the birds. We have a bird book, a field guide, given to us by my dear sister several Christmases ago that also comes in very handy. Who knows, I might become an ornithologist (or whatever that fancy word is for bird-watchers) one day.
Anyway, as I think about all of this I think about the invitation to come and dine from our Lord Jesus Christ. He says, "Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me." (Rev. 3:20)
He is there, He alone can satisfy the hungry soul, He invites us to "Come" to Him. He is the "bread of life." In Him we are safe, no one can pluck us out of His hand.
There is no need to keep searching, "Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food." (Isaiah 55:1-2)

What a gracious, all-satisfying Savior we have! He is no "system", He is a real Person Who loves and abides and keeps and Who never runs out and Who never leaves nor forsakes.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Glory To God In The Highest

Thus sang the heavenly hosts in announcing to the shepherds the birth of the Savior -- see Luke 2:14.

It has amazed me recently at some of the discussion concerning the glory of God.

God's glory -- this is IT! This is what it is ALL about. I am teaching my son the old truth, "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." Or if you wish to get a little more Piper-esque, " to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever."

We are saved for God's glory. We exist for God's glory. C S Lewis says that this is the business of life, bringing glory to God.

I remember in my seminary Church History class, Dr Fred Grissom (the last hold out at SEBTS after the Patterson regime came to town) lecturing about Calvinism and Arminianism. Ol Fred came down this way, that he would rather stand guilty of giving God too much glory and credit for his salvation than not enough. I agree. God does not share His glory; He is a jealous God. "I am the Lord; that is My name: and My glory will I not give to another." Is 42:8

The amazing thing is that when we (by His grace) come to this conclusion, that it is all about Him and His glory, that we really find peace, joy and satisfaction. Jesus said that the person who loses his life will find it. Jesus called those who wanted to be His disciples that they must first deny themselves. We must get to the place of Paul when he wrote, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me."

It shouldn't be an issue -- that it is all about God's glory. It doesn't seem to an issue in heaven.

"And when those beasts give glory and honor and thanks to Him that sat on the throne, who liveth forever and ever, the four and twenty elders fall down before Him that sat on the throne, and worship Him that liveth forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 'Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.'" -- Revelation 4:9-11

"Not unto us , O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy, and for Thy truth's sake." Psalm 115:1 May we echo this with our mouth, with our lives, but most importantly with our hearts and minds.

In salvation
In life and in death
In heaven and on earth
"Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen."

Monday, December 10, 2007


"No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." -- 1 Corinthians 9:27

That is the first verse of Scripture that came to mind as I just finished reading a story about a 39-year old pastor of a large SBC church in Alpharetta, GA who resigned as Senior Pastor after being charged with domestic abuse against his wife. It seems that the pastor and his wife got into a fight after a charge about an affair was leveled. She claims that he pulled her hair and then pulled out a shotgun. She called 911 and had him arrested. The newspaper report said that after he announced his resignation from the church that the congregation gave the man a standing ovation. For what, may I ask? For being a wife-beater? Or for a being a dudley-do-right young pastor (CEO?) who always said the right things and who made the church grow, GRow, GROW! And they hated to see him go away.
Admittedly I have never met Pastor Witcher, but I do know (based on the reported facts) that something was/is seriously wrong in the man's life. Instead of clapping, the congregation should have been weeping and mournful over his sin and theirs too, crying out to God for help and mercy.
This is something I have found I must do constantly -- cry and plead for God's help and mercy. I am a sinner; I need a Savior. Apart from HIM I can do nothing. I also know that the enemy is real and dangerous, prowling around like a roaring lion seeking (a pastor, a church, a Christian) whom he may devour and destroy and besmirch the name of Jesus all over the Atlanta (and world) area.
Yes, my dear brethren, weep, mourn, seek the Savior.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

What Are You Giving for Christmas?

It was reported recently that on Black Friday Americans spent over $10 billion to kick-off the Christmas season -- the consumerism season. In the world's wealthiest and most materialistic nation, it should not surprise us that we spend so much money, time and energy and get so stressed out about things. It does however discourage me to think that we as Christians, believers of the Lord Jesus and His followers, get caught in it as well.
We are prey to the forces of marketing and much more evil forces that wrestle against the Spirit within us.
This is not why Jesus came -- for us to glutton on things of this earth. He came that we might feast upon Him and His riches. He came that we as sinners, alienated from God, might have peace and joy that comes from the salvation that He alone can bring. He came to secure this for His people, not -- I don't think -- earthly comfort and ease and gluttony.
I know that we like to give gifts, it is a way to express our love for someone. God expresses His love the same way, by giving (see Jn 3:16). But do we have to do it according to the world? Isn't there a better way to express love for someone --yes even with giving -- that doesn't involve malls and cheap, plastic junk?
I remember when I was a kid and my aunt Alice would always bring a tin of her homemade cookies to us kids for Christmas. I looked forward to these every year. She didn't get these from a gourmet on-line bakery or some fancy dessert shop in town. No she made them -- in her own kitchen, with her own hands, some of herself went into those cookies (not literally of course) -- and an eight year old kid could not have been more pleased. Now I think what we buy, buy, buy for our own nephews and nieces and our own children -- something marketed to us by media, something overpriced with no emotional attachment at all, just something plastic from a big-box retailer that the world says they need.
I don't remember every gift I have ever received, do you? Many of the "gotta haves" were discarded, broken, lost, forgotten and erased from memory shortly after opening. The cookies from my aunt -- never have forgotten them.
What will we give this year?
May we learn from our Savior and give ourselves.

PS -- This past Saturday morning I had the wonderful privilege of speaking to Dads & Sons at Monroeton School. I did a little survey as part of my talk -- "what does your Dad do that you love the most?" I asked the boys. You know the answers? Did any one say 'when he buys me stuff' ? No, that wasn't heard. What I did hear was 'when he plays with me.' When he is with me -- that's what kids want -- you. Give yourself away.