The Will of Last Resort

Thur., Mar. 24/22

When we come to Jesus Christ we come to Him as a last resort. I do not necessarily mean we come to Him only because we have tried everything else and failed, although that may indeed be one’s case. But one need not have done so. One may not yet have tried other things that might have entered one’s mind to try but instead had the insight to see that coming to Christ straightaway was the wisest and most ultimate resource to which to appeal. So when I say “last resort” I mean one comes to He Who most certainly can provide the needed remedy, the same Source to which those in last resort may appeal.

When we come to Christ so utterly we agree with Him regarding our undeserving sinful state, far, far indeed from being holy, and covenant obey Him and make Him Lord. He gives us His life, and we give Him ours… our body, mind and will.

This in itself is an act of will. It is a decision, and rational decisions are reached in the mind and heart but the will is the thing that says “I agree to it!” It is a momentous decision, because thereafter the will itself must move aside. It says though I feel in my emotion this, though my body may be weak thus, though my mind does not understand, nevertheless “Not my will but Thy will be done.”

Oswald Chambers says this,

“Have you deliberately committed your will to Jesus Christ? It is a transaction of the will, not of emotion; any positive emotion that results is simply a superficial blessing arising out of the transaction. If you focus your attention on the emotion, you will never make the transaction.” – Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, April 17 entry.

Thereafter there can be no discussion. The Christian obeys His Lord. Paul obeyed, having “no rest,” “harassed at every turn,” “conflicts outside,” “fears within,” “downcast” (2 Cor. 7:5-6). The Christian, once certain of his Lord’s command, obeys.

The Christian’s body is no longer his own: “…offer your bodies as a living sacrifice… You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” (Rom. 12:1; 1 Cor. 6:9-10).

The Christian’s mind is no longer his own: “ transformed by the renewing of your mind… have the same mindset as Christ Jesus (Rom. 12:2; Phil. 2:5b).

The Christian’s decisions are made not by emotion or self-will, but by surrender and rest in the Will of the Lord.

Paul said it this way, “You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:3). Likewise he says of his own: “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.” (Gal. 2:20).

It is this “last resort” sort of grasp by which we must take hold on Christ, allowing Him to fully wrap round and pull us to deliverance. It is only with realization of otherwise despair that we are willing to embrace self-death, yet only in doing so do we find true life!

Press on…

The Good Tree

Wed., Mar. 23/22

In an old Peanuts cartoon Lucy tells Linus all the wonderful things trees can do: they provide shade, they protect from rain, they prevent erosion, provide wood for construction…. The pair pass by Charlie Brown, all depressed, his head bent forward against a tree. “And when life gets too hard,” continues Lucy, “they are very good to lean against.”

Trees may also make great homes for squirrels, birds, insects and other critters, they may provide fruit and sap to nourish, and provide a vantage point for scouting the land, but they are also just a good solid place on which to lean.

Not all of life will be about accomplishment, about helping others, about doing one’s duty. One must also do one’s self-care and at times that simply means doing nothing at all and allowing the full weight of your cares to fall upon the Lord. At these times it is senseless to do otherwise.

Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” directed Jesus (Mark 6:31). Jesus Himself rested (Matt. 8:24). God the Father rested (Gen. 2:2-3), and both command us also to rest: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work.” (Exod. 20:9-10). He invites us to take His yoke upon ourselves that He might share our load during the heat of the workday, but no oxen toils round the clock!

Cast all your anxiety on Him,” counsels Peter (1 Pet. 5:7). Like the thief of the cross dying beside Christ, lean on Him… with absolutely no strength of your own. Here is a Tree upon which you can lean — in life and in death. Here is a Tree which is stronger than both.

Press on…

  • Photo by Pixabay

Root Problem

Tue., Mar. 22/22

There’s nothing worse than being pessimistic about your own pessimism. As someone once said, “There’s no sense in being pessimistic. It wouldn’t work anyway.” Yet, millions persist with it. They take a negative-first view of the world. If someone is nice to a pessimist such a one’s first response is suspicion. “What’s his motive?” When good news is on the horizon the pessimist postulates what will “most likely” go awry.

After years of observing pessimism I have come to the conclusion pessimists are bitter. They have allowed over many years that much warned about “root of bitterness” (Heb. 12:15) to crop up in their hearts, choking out the good plants of the gospel. These roots grow deep and thick by abundant watering and giving them expression. The good plants become obstructed… choked… Jesus warned about something similar in His parable of the sower: worldly worries and deceitful wealth as thorns which likewise choke and destroy (Matt. 13:7,22).

But Christ is Master Gardener. The cynic, the pessimist, the bitter of heart while they yet have breath may still be rescued. Surrender the weeds to the Gardener’s tug. Breathe again! See the sunshine. It is still a beautiful world. Look past the smoke and debris. See the Lilly dressed better than Solomon, Hear the birds still singing thankfully for their food.

The gospel is not a gospel of grace only, but the truth that we have abominably rebelled against our Maker! We are sentenced to death, and death even now is at work within us.

You deserve nothing, yet still He gives you all things. You have a right to nothing! Stop complaining. Give Him praise. He is more important than you. Instead,

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Heb. 12:14-15).

Much to your surprise, having humbled yourself in full sincerity, you will find He loves you indeed, and what He has said all along is true: “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35).

Reach up… Rejoice!

Press on…


Mon., Mar. 21/22

Clocks ahead… clocks back… clocks not changing at all. What time is it? Well, that depends. My birthday, on a Wednesday, but not in China. Fly to Beijing and I was born eleven hours later, on a Thursday — not in evening, but in morning!

WHAT TIME IS IT? Depends on perspective. In fact, its all very arbitrary. A year on earth may average 365 days… Earth days that is, 24 hours, the approximate duration of the planets single rotation, and an hour being determined by a fraction of its 40,000 km circumference. All of these numbers are something entirely different on Venus, or Mars, or on any other orbiting orb.

Watch a movie, read a book… time passes differently. Look back on a book once read or a movie previously seen and from the perspective of memory the whole thing is known instantly! It’s all relative.

God is eternal. He sees things from the perspective of eternity. For God, time does not exist! In fact, if I read my Bible rightly, He invented it! He invented time for us.

In the beginning… the earth was formless and empty… And God said, “Let there be light,” …God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” (Gen. 1:1-5).

Peter, in writing of the certainty of the coming Day of the Lord, reminds his readers of the timeless context of the Almighty. “Do not forget this,” he writes, “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2 Pet. 3:8). Christ Himself “Alpha and Omega,” Unchanging, always Beginning and End, simultaneously, eternally. That is what it is to be the “Always” Being.

So when we here below quibble over first and last I wonder, is God amused? Is He distressed? Does He long for the revealing of that day when cloud will become clear and we will be eternal. There is no need of time for eternals.

But now… now we dwell in time. Our Lord watches to see what we will do with it. Waste it? Invest it? Redeem it? Volunteer it? We have been given time too as a grace. A space in which to acknowledge Him. A time for salvation! A time that will very suddenly be passed.

Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:2).

What time is it for you?

Press on…

The Immutable

Fri., Mar. 18/22

Last Friday I wrote about “The Mutants.” The X-Men of Marvel Comics fame and the God-Man Christ, the Almighty Who took upon human mortality. We are the ones mutated, marred by sin, yet enabled by Christ be become like Him!

Today I speak of “The Immutable.” He Who does not change. He cannot change for change would make Him something greater or something less, both impossibilities for He Who is eternally perfect.

In his book Knowing God J. I. Packer writes…

  1. God’s life does not change. God exists forever. He neither gets better or gets worse. He neither matures nor regresses. He has a perfect permanent life.
  2. God’s character does not change. God’s mercy, love, faithfulness, justice never change. Although he may deal with people in different ways, they will all be consistent with his fundamental moral character which is immutable.
  3. God’s truth does not change. The word of the Lord endures forever. It is trustworthy and true and therefore can be relied upon.
  4. God’s ways do not change. God is not capricious in the way he deals with people. He punishes sin consistently. He bestows grace freely.
  5. God’s purposes do not change. Nothing catches God by surprise. He doesn’t need to change his plan or adjust with mid-course corrections because his plans are set from eternity past. There is simply no need to change.
  6. God’s Son does not change. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb. 13:8).

When Moses asked the Lord His Name God said, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exod. 3:14) – the ever being One. To Malachi the Lord declared, “I, the Lord, do not change.” (Mal. 3:6). The author of Hebrews writes of “the unchangeableness of His purpose” (Heb. 6:17) and James of the constancy of His nature: “…the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (Jas. 1:17).

C. H. Spurgeon adds, “God writes with a pen that never blots, speaks with a tongue that never slips, acts with a hand that never fails.” And R.C. Sproul notes, “God’s plan never changes because He never changes and because perfection admits to no degrees and cannot be improved upon.”

Here is a trustworthy saying,” writes Paul, “…if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:11, 13). On this passage Oswald Chambers comments: “God remains God even when we are unfaithful. Never interpret God as changing with our changes. He never does; there is no variableness in Him.”

God’s judgment is reserved by God’s mercy. God’s Love is bestowed upon us by God’s grace. God’s salvation is made possible by God’s Son and God’s Holiness maintained throughout it all. God does not change, we do. If we will approach Him it must be on His terms, asking him to make us more and more into His great image!

“When God is our Holy Father, sovereignty, holiness, omniscience, and immutability do not terrify us; they leave us full of awe and gratitude.” – C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Rest in God. He will NEVER change.

Press on…

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8)

Confronting Covid Phobia

Thur., Mar. 17/22

For the past two years now many believers have experienced seasons of or ongoing lockdown due to Covid-19 and its variants. During this time online church services became the order of the day. We settled in — “normalized” – and some became trapped – trapped in the debilitating anxieties of agoraphobia!

The term “Agoraphobia” derives from the Greek words “agora” (the open marketplace) and “phobia” (fear). The sufferer fears and avoids places in which they feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed. “You fear an actual or anticipated situation, such as using public transportation, being in open or enclosed spaces, standing in line, or being in a crowd… The fear can be so overwhelming that you may feel unable to leave your home.”*

Agoraphobia is often treated by helping the individual “understand connections between thoughts, feelings, and actions.”** And thereby “slowly and safely face the situation that creates anxiety and subsequent avoidance.”** Medications are sometimes also used.

So, why am I talking about agoraphobia in a contemplative Christian blogsite? How does an anxiety issue relate to our walk with and obedience to Christ?

It is important that every believer understand the holistic nature of surrender to Christ. Paul prayed in his letter to the Thessalonians, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess. 5:23). God did not make us compartmentalized creatures. He made us like Himself, in His Image, a completely integrated unity. Jesus experienced humanity in all areas. The historian Luke records “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52). That’s mentally, physically, spiritually and socially. He demonstrated a life of godly interconnectedness of them all.

Agoraphobia can be beat! — I know, because I’ve beaten it myself. I suffered many illnesses as a child, illnesses which pulled me from traditional grade and high schools to in-home tutors and courses by correspondence. The possibility of a seizure at any time kept me from many typical teen activities. Home became the boundaries of my world. It was not until my late teens that venturing beyond it became safer and more reasonable. But now I was afraid!

Ever so slowly I began setting out. My first venture was only three houses from home. I took a small transistor radio with me as a distraction and the next day managed five houses from home. Ever so slowly I extended my reach. Eventually I made it to the corner variety store a full block away! It was a landmark moment. I could now walk to the store, buy something and return home again. Day after day I pushed farther… two blocks… three… a full mile from home!

Then, something snapped! Something wonderful. A full mile from home I was too far to quickly run back. Suddenly it didn’t matter how far I went. I was free from agoraphobia! It was a wonderful moment. I journeyed miles from home.

Yes, we are all one piece: mind, body, spirit and soul. We must fight the fears of our flesh on all fronts. As we all adjust to the new challenges of this brave new world let us “Fight the good fight of the faith” and “Take hold of the eternal life” in all the aspects of our being! (1 Tim. 6:12).

Press on…

Minimal Animal

Wed., Mar. 16/22

These are all the dishes and utensils I needed while my wife was recently away for eleven days. I ate out a few times, made wraps and bagel sandwiches, ate bananas, dates, nuts, carrots, muffins, dates squares, boiled eggs and chunks of cheese. When a utensil or my one plate was used I just washed the item off, ready to use again.

I wasn’t intentionally trying to be minimalistic. Rather, at about five days in, I just happened to notice I wasn’t running the dishwasher or filling the sink like I used to… in fact, not at all. The experience emphasized to me afresh that what I need is all that I need. Enough is indeed enough. More than enough is too much. Too much is just wasteful.

Have you ever noticed: Nature (God’s creation) wastes nothing! Noted scientist and environmentalist David Suzuki states: “In nature there is no such thing as waste. In nature nothing is wasted; everything is recycled.” God has built into His creation Decomposers, Scavengers, Detritivores, Bio-degradation and remediation.

Decomposers are organisms that transform the bodies of both plants and animals back into their basic constituents. They are mostly Bacteria and Fungi. Scavengers are organisms that consume remains of other dead organisms or their waste products. Scavengers open up dead bodies preparing them for further decomposition. Detritus Feeders, or Detritivores are smaller organisms that feed on detritus or decomposing organic material, primarily vegetation, and prepare it for final disassembly by bacteria and fungi.

We see a reflection of this care in the Old Testament commands on harvesting:

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 19:9-10. Repeated in Lev. 23:22).

Ruth gleaned in the fields of Boaz (Ruth 2:2,8,23) leading eventually to Boaz taking her as his wife. It was from this union that Ruth gave birth to Obed who became the father of Jesse, the father of King David through whose line was born the Christ, the Savior of the world! (Ruth 4:21-22).

We see this heart also in Christ Jesus who, following the feedings of the multitudes, commanded  “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” (John 6:12, NIV). We should see this attitude in every believer as well. Paul urged, “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. 6:8).

Let us as His representatives ask not “How much can I get?” but “How little do I really need?”

Press on…

Prayer and Deep Knee Bends

Tue., Mar. 15/22

Monday morning and I am feeling particularly stressed again. Unable to sleep I rise, feed the cat, and begin my morning exercises. Do familiar things, the experts say, things you find calming… normal. As a Christian, I pray as I work through the movements. I ask God for that ”peace which passes all understanding” and which He promises His children (Phil. 4:7). Nothing!

Still stressed, I pick up an online crossword printed on scrap paper. Deep knee bends accommodate themselves to crosswords and crosswords help distract the monotony. On the backside of the scrap paper, a handout apparently from some seminar, some time, some place, I notice the neatly typed notes:

Four things that I must understand in the midst of my trial:

  1. HE BROUGHT ME HERE. (Isa. 48:17).
  2. HE WILL KEEP ME HERE, IN HIS LOVE. (Rom. 8:35).

Beside them were scrawled the scriptures,

  • I am the Lord your God, Who teaches you what is best for you, Who directs you in the way you should go.” (Isa. 38:17).
  • Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?…” (Rom. 8:35).
  • The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.” (Job 42:12).
  • Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to his anointed.” (Ps. 20:6).

A simple moment. A moment many would call “chance.” But a moment in which the insightful Christian sees clearly the hand of God. I thanked our Lord for this encouragement, even as I counted of my deep knee bends. I thanked Him too that He is now. In my everyday moments, as I go about my everyday things. He is with His own at all times… mine, and yours.

“…He made all the nations… that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’” (Acts 17:26-28).

Press on…

No going back!

Mon., Mar. 14/22

Today in our area is recyclable plastics pick-up day. In just a few moments a big crusher truck will appear, collect our blue bin contents and be off. As far as I’m concerned we’re done with it! But for the plastic, the journey has just begun…

Boy, after a day like that our plastics must be thinking like Alice, “I knew who I was this morning, but I’ve changed a few times since then.” And, “I can’t go back to yesterday, because I was a different person [er, plastic] then.”*

The journey of life is much like that. I am now 70. As much as I think I might like to, I can’t go back and be 35 again… I can’t undo the changes in my body… the changes in my life decisions… or their consequences, positive or negative. I can only go forward… to more changes… changes that will not allow me to come back to now.

It can be scary and strange undergoing great transformation. You can become nervous, uncertain even who or what you are… what you will yet become. And, like Alice, there is no going back to what you once were.

At this juncture it is best to reflect upon the well-known wisdom of American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

There’s no going back, so we may as well embrace what is ahead. For those who look to the Creator, trusting in the Christ, the day will soon come when our transformation will be complete. Then we shall find ourselves a wonderful new creation — a creation which now we cannot imagine!

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared for those who love Him.
” (1 Cor. 2:9, NLT /Isa. 64:4).

Press on…

* Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland / Through the Looking-Glass

The Mutants

The ❌-men

The X-Men issue #1 first hit the comic book stands in 1963. A devout Marvel fan I had that comic, plus many subsequent ones. The X-Men were an elite group of humans with what was called the ‘X’ gene. They were mutants, but with a mutation which granted them superhuman powers. Initially the cadre consisted of five: Cyclops, Iceman, Beast, Angel, and Marvel Girl – yes, Marvel Girl, but this never seemed to affect their moniker.

The lot of them were assembled together under Dr Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, which actually served as a training ground for mutant superheroes. Since then the team itself morphed into many renditions until today they have a whole new box office appeal.

The ✝️-man

But if ever there be an actual cut-above kind of human it is this man. Call Him the Cross-man. The Deity Who dared take on mortality, the God-Man. Not half-God, half-man, but fully God and fully man. Though He laid aside the full infinitude of His Being, He at all times had access to it. Yet instead He chose to walk among us, to teach us and prepare us too to become like Him — beginning here and now, and ultimately realized in eternity. “We shall be like Him,” writes John, “for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2).

The transformation He works in mortals is not by chance of mutant gene, but by invitation of a submissive spirit. He offers this transformation to all, saying: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink (John 7:37); Prophets and Apostles agree “…whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Joel 2:32; Rom. 10:13; Acts 2:21); “…whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). He asserts “…whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” And He asks, Do you believe this? (John 11:26).

You were meant for eternity, meant for happy fellowship with the Father, your Creator. This transformation He makes possible is not a mutation to something abnormal. Rather the mutation was sin, a marring of the Imago-Dei making us far less than the original design. This transformation He makes possible is a redemption, a re-birth, a return to all that humanity was meant to be… to be like Him, for ever.

Nothing else in all space and time matters more to you than your answer to this question: Do you believe…?”

Press on…

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