Keeping it in vs Christ within

Thur., Apr. 7/22

Psychology suggests three primary approaches in dealing with one’s inner destructive propensities: expression, suppression, and diversion (calming). Expression seeks to find some acceptable level or output for one’s behavior. Suppression suggests the individual pause to think about their urge in hopes of converting it to something wholesome. Diversion (calming) directs one to control their internal physical responses such as lowering heart rate, etc until the undesirable urges subside.

These may be of benefit in combating some tendencies, but the Christian realizes the difference between bad learned responses or habits and inherent sinful lusts and works of fallen flesh. Paul writes,

“For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Gal. 5:16-18).

As long as a person is trying to manage these sinful tendencies on their own they will fail. Such a one is trapped in the snare of still attempting to attain righteousness by self-effort… by works, not faith! Paul was shocked when he saw this in the Galatian believers. He wrote, “How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? (Gal. 3:3, NLT). He was “astonished” (1:6) that they would do such a thing saying it was as though they had been “bewitched.” (3:1).

God does not expect you to manage your sin… to keep it inside. (See below). God expects you to surrender it to Him. That was the deal, remember? We give Him our sin, and He gives us His righteousness! He’s already paid for your sin, taken your stripes, your thorns, your beatings, your nails and the spit of others. He bore your cross, took your sin and isolation from the Father. Let Him replace what boils within you. This is what Paul said the Galatians must do: ”Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:16a).

Christ gives us a new heart – His. He enables us to turn the other cheek, walk the second mile, surrender our spare cloak to him who has none, bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, suffer wrongs, hope against hope, bear with one another, sow peace, be salt, and light, boldly witness, humbly wash another’s feet, give thanks in all things and rejoice from within our trials. Allow Him expression through your life and your fleshly lusts will wither.

Press on…

Keeping it inside” is always destructive: Physically, it can lead to elevated blood pressure and heart rate, muscle tension, heart attack, hernia, glaucoma, stroke, hives, asthma, ulcers, migraines, back pain, psoriasis and a general shortening of one’s life expectancy. Psychologically, it can cause chronic anxiety, depression, eating disorders, sleep disorders, obsessive-compulsiveness, loneliness and phobias. Socially, it disrupts relationships and inhibits personal and professional achievement, the individual adopts a mood which alienates them from others including spouse and children. Spiritually, the worst damage of all occurs: it alienates a person from God!

Lesson from the Fig Tree

Wed., Apr. 6/22

In Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 Jesus is speaking to His disciples about the destruction of the temple and the signs of the end of the age when He will most surely return. In each of the accounts* Jesus tells “the lesson from the fig tree.” He says,

As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Words will never pass away.” (Matt. 24:32-35)

Many have puzzled over Jesus’ comment “this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” But all those to whom Jesus was speaking have been dead and gone for many generations and Jesus still has not returned. How are we to understand this?

I think the answer is really quite simple. Jesus said that when the generation that sees the signs of which He had been speaking coming to pass these things will unfold quickly… so quickly that there will be people of that generation who will see them all unfold to their completion and the return of Christ will be imminent. Here He was not speaking of the generation present before Him, but of the future generation which would, so to speak, witness “the leaves come out,” i.e. the final signs of the end.

But there is also another sense one can put to this, for in another place Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matt. 16:28). Now He clearly is speaking of those present before Him. But to what event is Jesus referring? Does He mean the culmination of the ages, or something more immediate. It is a valid question because only six days later do “some who were standing there” (Peter, James and John) witness the glorification of Christ in His transfiguration (Matt. 16:28-17:3).

There may be yet another way in which we can understand Jesus words about “this generation,” for in yet another place we are told the signs of the end will appear repeatedly through history in ever intensifying degree, like “birth pains” (Matt. 24:8; Mark 13:8); “as labor pains on a pregnant woman” (1 Thess. 5:3) and affecting even the earth itself: “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.” (Rom. 8:22). Thus, in a sense, virtually every generation witnesses the signs of His coming and none knowing whether this is that one viewing the fullness of the fig leaves.

I concern myself very little over these things. For to me the more important matter is to so live that I be found ready and about my Master’s work for whenever He should return.

Press on…

* Matt. 24:32-35; Mark 13:28-31; and Luke 21:29-33.

Faith through seasons of dullness…

Tue., Apr. 5/22

If your coming to Christ was a cataclysmic, dramatic and emotional turning full round this was for you a precious and memorable experience. Your awareness of the Holy Spirit coming into you, speaking with you, nudging you in the days after will have been profound. But not every believer comes to Christ in such a manner.

My own recognition of sinfulness, understanding of Christ’s redemption, placing of faith in the efficacy of His sacrifice and commitment to His Lordship all came by a prolonged and reasoned acceptance and deepening understanding. Unable to pinpoint a moment of conversion I arranged one as my personal “Ebenezer” and made a public profession of that faith at an evangelistic rally.

As C.S. Lewis reminds us, our emotions must not be confused with the reality…

“It is quite right that you should feel that “something terrific” has happened to you (It has) and be “all glowy.” Accept these sensations with thankfulness as birthday cards from God, but remember that they are only greetings, not the real gift. I mean, it is not the sensations that are the real thing. The real thing is the gift of the Holy Spirit which can’t usually be—perhaps not ever—experienced as a sensation or emotion. The sensations are merely the response of your nervous system. Don’t depend on them. Otherwise when they go and you are once more emotionally flat (as you certainly will be quite soon), you might think that the real thing had gone too. But it won’t. It will be there when you can’t feel it. May even be most operative when you can feel it least.” – The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III

It is very much like love… true love. You find that better half and are emotionally thrilled. After many months and many years that emotion settles, but you are no less well mated. The reality of your mate’s presence is obvious, regardless of your emotion about it, or any trials you may together experience.

And so in scripture we are urged to steadfastness:

“Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming… be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near… As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered.” (James 5:7, 8, 11). / “…do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. …commit [yourself] to [your] faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (1 Pet. 4:12, 19).

This word patience, or steadfastness, ὑπομονή, means not swerved from one’s deliberate purpose …loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings. The patience required here is not simple acceptance of prolonged boredom, but simple, even joyful, acceptance of prolonged suffering. It is all part of God’s formative plan for us: “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” urges James (James 1:4).

Oswald Chambers writes, “The thing that really testifies for God and for the people of God in the long run is steady perseverance, even when the work cannot be seen by others. And the only way to live an undefeated life is to live looking to God.” – Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, March 6 entry.

Live looking to God, not to your emotions.

Press on…

Something only You can Give to God

Mon., Apr. 4/22

You have something you can give to God, something only you can give Him, and something that He will not have unless you decide to willfully give it to Him. He will not take it from you by force… in fact, He cannot.

Yes, there are things God cannot do: He cannot act in cross-purposes to His Nature… His Attributes. For example, God cannot be merciful to the point that it transgresses His justice. He cannot lie, for it transgresses His truthfulness. He cannot sin for it transgresses His Holiness. Understand that God, the great “I Am,” Is all of His Attributes at all times. He is Eternal, and He is Unchanging!  Man is fickle and fallen; he transgresses his better self many times. But not God.

So what is this thing we can fully decide to give to God, this thing that apart from our giving it He will not have, and which He very much desires, yet which He will not, can not, take from us by His power? — It is our love.

No living being — human, divine, angelic or animal – has power to seize true love from another. And the dead certainly cannot do it! To give love is always and only in the power of the individual. “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act,” urged Solomon (Prov. 3:27)

Jesus said that to love God was the greatest commandment (Deut. 6:5; Josh. 23:11; Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). It is commanded for our benefit, but obeyed (or not) only by each heart and will. John, known for his great love of the Lord, wrote “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love,” and adds “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:8, 19).

To think — a mere mortal has power to make the Almighty smile! And yes, also to cause Him to cry. Which will you do this day? Do you have for Him a gift, or a grief?

O love the Lord, all you His godly ones!” (Ps. 31:23).

Press on…

It’s O.K. to drop your packsack

Fri., Apr. 1/22

The story is told of a weary traveler walking along a roadside carrying a large and heavy packsack on his back. A farmer happens by pulling a horse-drawn cart of loose hay. “Hop on,” he says to the man who very gratefully accepts, climbs up and stands on the wagon. After a few minutes of travel the farmer looks back and notices the man still standing and wearing his packsack. “You might as well remove your packsack and relax,” said the farmer. But the man replied, “Oh no kind sir. I have already imposed upon you to carry me, I mustn’t ask you also to carry my packsack!”

What a silly man, you are no doubt thinking! The horse-drawn wagon is already carrying both the man and his burden. But isn’t this often how we behave before our Lord. We give Him our life, yet continue to carry its burdens. Peter, seeing this tendency, urged his readers “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:7). It’s a verse often cited and was my mother’s favorite. Often through the turbulence of my teens she would speak it to me, frail as she was, tapping on the back of my hand in her weakened attempt at emphasis. Indeed it was her own frailty which testified loudest, for she had no strength of her own, only His.

Why do we hesitate to trust Him? Perhaps Peter suggests one reason in the context of his admonishment:

“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’* Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:5b-7).

Humility is required to admit one’s need of God. The root of all sin is pride and humility is its only antidote. We must each learn this and submit to it. Do you need to be lifted up? James concurs with Peter, also citing Solomon, and urges “…Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’* Submit yourselves, then, to God… Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (Jas. 4:6-7,10).

There is really only “one thing”** needed to walk in the footsteps of Jesus: Complete and utter surrender and reliance upon Christ. — It’s O.K. to drop your packsack.

Press on…

  • *Prov. 3:34
  • **A most enriching study is to research all occurrences of the phrase “one thing” in scripture

The Lesson in Your Limp

Thur., Mar. 31/22

In the Focus on the Family 7-part video series “What to Do When You’re Not Okay,” counselor Debra Fileta discusses how the residue of some traumas may linger one’s lifetime. She points to an episode in the life of Jacob.

Jacob had deceived his brother Esau into surrendering to him his birthright and for this deception Esau had sought to kill Jacob. Being warned by his mother of Esau’s intentions Jacob fled for his life. Now, twenty years later, Jacob was about to meet Esau again and was fearful for his life. Attempting to appease his brother Jacob sent gifts on to Esau in advance and sent on ahead his household and possessions. Now Jacob was alone, anxious and uncertain…

“So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’” (Gen. 32:24-26).

Jacob clearly understood this man to be an angel for he says, “…I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” (v.30), and in the end Jacob receives a blessing and a new name. But, as vs 31 indicates, Jacob also received a lifelong limp: “The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.

We see a similar situation in Paul’s life. Three times Paul had asked the Lord to remove from him what he calls “a thorn in the flesh… a messenger of Satan” (2 Cor. 12:8), but the Lord refused. As Paul reports, “He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” And Paul concludes “When I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9, 10). For Paul, and for Jacob, their unfinished healing reminded them of their daily ongoing need for God.

What about you? As you follow our Lord Christ do you “Walk with a limp?” if so, what is you heart attitude before God about it? Are you angry? Accepting? Perhaps the Lord has left this lingering limp with you to remind you to always rely upon Him. Perhaps this limp is your greatest asset.

Press on…

The Wandering Teabag

Wed., Mar. 30/22

“I’m accomplishing nothing just sitting here in this water… laying here in the bottom of this teapot!” whined the teabag. “I’m leaving!” And so it did.

It slithered up the inside of the pot, scrunched itself against the inner lip for grip and pushed with all its might against the porcelain lid. It flattened itself as thin as it could and squeezed through the opening crevice. It tumbled down the smooth extetrior pot curve and with a “SPLAT” landed on the countertop.

Adjusting to the light and straightening itself up the teabag looked about then began to inchworm its way toward the countertop’s edge. Below, sleeping on the floor, was the household’s cat. The teabag jumped…. the cat bolted… the teabag jolted… When it was all over the teabag awoke in a cluster of dust at the bottom of an air vent on the living-room floor.

Unfortunately this adventurous teabag eventually perished in the vent! It was not till weeks later that his dried and dusty form was found. Everyone wondered how it had got there, but only momentarily. Then it was scooped up and deposited in the trash!

What a waste! Had the teabag stayed put in the pot its laying there would have accomplished much indeed, it would have fulfilled its purpose and provided one, two, possibly three cups of tea to warm and cheer the cold and thirsting.

Remain in Me,” instructed Jesus. “If you remain in me… you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5).

Saint, stay put — “your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). Stay “in Him.” Speak with Him daily, listen to His indwelling Spirit, spend time with those who spend time with Him, worship Him, obey Him. You will find fulfillment nowhere else, and whether you see it now or not you will be accomplishing His purposes for you upon this earth!

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11).

Press on…

Beethoven’s Becoming — And Yours

Tue., Mar. 29/22

Beethoven’s becoming was made known to the world on this date (March 29) in Vienna in 1795. It was then that the twenty-four year old Ludwig van Beethoven made his debut performance as a pianist. Though his father had been grooming him for musical fame from infancy, it had only been a little over two years earlier that he had received his first lesson in music composition. Mind you, he had a pretty good teacher: Franz Joseph Haydn.

By 1811 ongoing hearing loss since his late twenties forced Beethoven to cease public conducting and performing but he continued to compose producing yet some of his greatest work. Beethoven is gone now, but his life has continued to impact generations long after.

Beethoven’s life was marked by great victory amid adversity. Fitting indeed that in 1941 the BBC World Service began to play the Morse code dot-dot-dot-dash sequence “V” for Victory using the opening notes of Beethoven’s 5th symphony.

Beethoven was not known to be a believer in Jesus Christ. If anything he was Deist, accepting the existence of “an impersonal ultimate, benign, and intelligent Power.” * Beethoven’s life became something it’s obstacles would seem to negate largely by upbringing, sheer stint of will, obsession and determination. Imagine what Beethoven might have accomplished for the glory and kingdom of God had he been as committed a Christian as he was a composer!

Beethoven’s becoming is done, but your’s has not yet ended. You may have weeks, or years, or decades yet ahead and if you have made Christ your Saviour and Lord then your “becoming” has just begun. Your becoming has all power and authority at work within you, and your becoming has all eternity ahead!

  • “…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Phil. 2:13).
  • “…now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known…” (1 John 3:2).

Give yourself fully to Him and see what He will make you to become!

  • “…can I not do with you as this potter does?… Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand…” (Jer. 18:6).

Press on…


When the cat gets the remote…

Mon., Mar. 28/22

When the cat gets the remote you know you’re in for some tedious TV.

The sorts of shows the cat likes are seldom detective dramas, rarely cooking shows, never sitcoms, newscasts, or game shows. The sorts of shows cats watch may be nature footage of birds, mice, or snakes, cat food commercials, fireplace and aquarium stations, and mesmerizing psychedelics on rock station videos.

When the cat gets the remote you just have to wait it out. Oh, you could force it from her, but for her glare. Her glare tells you she has claws and you don’t. It reminds you how loudly she can meow drowning out your reality show, and that there’s that plant she knows to munch on to produce disgusting things for you to clean up! Yes, the shortest distance to the remote is to wait it out.

Many things in life are best dealt with by “waiting them out.” From a hard boiled egg to “the fullness of the time” (Gal. 4:4, kjv) many things take as long as they take and none shorter.

Life often asks us to wait: we wait on phones, we wait in lines, we wait on others, on mail, on traffic and on appointment dates – we even build entire rooms in which to wait!

There’s a real lesson to be learned in waiting things out. In waiting we discover very quickly our own impatience, whether or not we too may have unknowingly entered the “rat race” and if so our positioning in it and our zeal to finish it. Waiting forces us to “be still” – a skill we have been commanded to practice (Ps. 4:4; 46:10) and necessary if we truly wish to know God.

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,” wrote Jeremiah (Lam. 3:25 ESV). “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” chimed David (Ps. 27:14 ESV). And Isaiah reminds, “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isa. 40:31 ESV).

If ever Jesus made a single most irreducible statement of what we are to do in this world it would be this: “Abide in Me.” (John 15:4). Abide, i.e. Remain in Me, He says, just be still… be in Me… and stay there. Then “you will bear much fruit.” It is important to learn the discipline of waiting.

Well, that’s a pretty good lesson from a sassy cat. I guess we’ll keep her.

Press on

Just hold your cup steady

Fri., Mar. 25/22

“Would you like some tea?” our hostess asked raising the pot in my direction.

“Certainly, thank you,” I replied, and she walked toward me pot in one hand, cookie plate in the other.

“Just hold your cup steady,” she said and before I knew it I had begun to do so, raising it up towards her from my place on the couch.

She was already a-pour when I began to second think my reflex. This is rather awkward, I thought. My arm is in a weakened position and she has two handfuls to balance as she tips the pot to complete the pour. The tea is steaming… very hot indeed! If she were to falter… to splash… Why, I would be very burned indeed… my scalded hand would bolt back… the tea in my cup would fall toward me… there would be secondary burns on my thigh, or possibly my face! Oh dear… this was not good at all! My hand holding the teacup began to twitch a bit, then slightly tremble.

”You know,” I said, looking toward her tea-focused eyes, “I believe that’s enough.” Mercifully, she stopped. “Would you like a biscuit?”

Reflecting on this I realize the folly in my faithlessness. Our hostess was a competent pourer, but my faith in her competence was shallow. I pulled back and received less than I might have had I greater faith in her ability. I could not blame our hostess for my half-cup of tea. It was a consequence of my own lack of trust.

Jesus says to us something similar: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink,” He said. “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:37b-38). Just believe. Place all your confidence and safety in Me, He says… Trust in My ability… and you will come away not only filled, but flowing – flowing out Life to others.

Look up to Him… hold your cup out… and

“’You of little faith,’ He said, ‘why did you doubt?’” (Matt. 14:31)
When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” (Matt. 28:17)
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
“…when you ask, you must believe and not doubt” (James 1:7)
Be merciful to those who doubt.” (Jude 22)

Just hold your cup steady.

Press on…

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