Mar 23, 2016
God, Above All We Might Ask C. Doug Blair, 2011
LET TEARS BEGIN
We weep at our incarnate frailty.We weep at confusion and sin.We weep at the selfish agenda. We weep at the tiger within.
We weep at the child-life departing.We weep at the blush off the bloom.We weep for the ones we offended.We weep at the guile and the gloom.
We weep knowing Holiness watches.
We weep knowing better was planned.We wonder if Holiness offersThe curative touch of His hand.
We weep lately sensing His presence.We weep so unworthy of Grace.We weep at the startling discoveryThat Holiness died in our place!
13-15"Just watch my servant blossom! Exalted, tall, head and shoulders above the crowd!But he didn't begin that way. At first everyone was appalled.He didn't even look human— a ruined face, disfigured past recognition.Nations all over the world will be in awe, taken aback, kings shocked into silence when they see him.For what was unheard of they'll see with their own eyes, what was unthinkable they'll have right before them." (Isaiah 52)
Psalm 119 is the longest psalm. It speaks repeatedly of the wisdom, guidance, comfort, correction, challenge and assurance which David receives from the Word of God.
He looks to scripture and the God of scripture as his main teacher, trainer, moralist, therapist, encourager, protector and reward. Seemingly every verse heaps praise and thanksgiving upon God’s ‘laws, statutes, commandments, ordinances, testimonies, ways, precepts, etc’. Every verse except three.
I would suggest that in these verses one finds hidden the message not of law but of grace:
Verse 90: Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: thou hast established the earth and it abideth.Verse 122: Be surety for thy servant for good: let not the proud oppress me.Verse 132: Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name.
What is being said here? God is eternally faithful. I am trusting in the Almighty Creator and not in myself to reach the finish line. He will guarantee or stand as surety for the supply of all righteousness in my life. I will be forever deficient. He will be forever sufficient. Neither oppression nor condemnation will be able to do me irreparable damage. Such a God compels me through love into obedient service. He is always fondly aware of my state and He constantly extends to me His mercy. This is the heritage of the faithful, of those who seek His face and love to consider His nature/name.
Did David realize that he was foreshadowing all of this some hundreds of years before the Gospel? The Holy Spirit did. (1 Peter 1: 10-12)
Romans 12:6Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
7Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
8Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.
Sometimes these gifts from God listed by Paul are referred to as the "motivational gifts". The other day my attention was drawn specifically to the last one in the list.
It is not enough to follow our Lord in the dispensing of mercy. One must do it in good cheer. No long faces as the meal is shared, or the care basket delivered, or the car drive for errands offered, or the children taken off the mother's hands for a day's respite, or the visit and conversation shared with the lonely senior. We are about the King's business and it must be a joy and a privilege to have the time, health and resources to offer in service.
Charity without honest compassion or joy will prove an insult.
If we are obedient in this fashion, then the line of differentiation between giver and receiver is obliterated. The awkwardness evaporates. We are enjoying the opportunity and occasion together. The Spirit of Christ is noticeably present. "In his presence there is fullness of joy." The only thanks needed by the caregiver will be the spontaneous smile, the shifting of the dark cloud, the new insights received for further prayer, the friendship launched or sustained. We are all in this boat together.
Imagine the atmosphere of high spirits which must have surrounded the miraculous feeding of the 5000 from meager loaves and fishes. Everyone was delighted with the outcome of the day.
Here am I condemned to die,Alone in my shame on the sand.The Pharisees have caught me In passion and lust with that man.
The law of our land has ruledAdulterers surely must die.In chambers I served myselfTo his strength, his charm and his lie.
I know I have no excuse.It is written, “Let both be stoned”.But where is my man of charm?Sadly, I suffer this alone.
Through crowded streets harshly draggedBy priests who now lust for my blood;To the temple I am led,And made to stand marked in the crowd.
All faces now gaze at me.I am stripped, bared and soiled by sin.Harsh judgment these men demand;But the Teacher-light shines from him!
He looks kindly once at me,Then stoops to his knees by the sand;All talk of my stoning hushed…He writes on the ground with his hand.
A long and stern look he castsT’ward these men of cold rite and creed;Then of stoning he suggests:“Let him without sin start the deed.”
Now much to my great surpriseAccusers are shrinking away.Compassion confronts vain pride;They retreat with nothing to say.
Oh Teacher, Jesus, my Lord,I can’t be condemned save by you.Your mercy has won my love.My days in the flesh are all through.
…Fresh hope you have deemed to restore;I will go and will sin no more!
Taken from John 8.
REND THE HEAVENS
Oh that thou wouldst rend the heavens; that thou wouldst come down.
This statement by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 64:1)has been going through my mind repeatedly for last few days. I thought that it was in one of the Psalms but discovered that it was at the tail-end of the prophecy where God is called upon to issue powerful supernatural judgment on the enemies of Israel. No sooner does he speak these words than the prophet acknowledges that all have failed to do the will of God and that 'all men's righteousnesses are as filthy rags'.
God's response is a baby in a humble setting in the City of David, and 'one
who has not come into the world to condemn the world, but rather that the world through Him might be saved'. He intends to love His enemies into fellowship.
Isaiah has an inkling of this agenda as he states in the same chapter:
7And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.
8But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.
9Be not wroth very sore, O LORD, neither remember iniquity for ever: behold, see, we beseech thee, we are all thy people.
SUCH A DEAD DOG AS I AM
David and Jonathan were brothers in a blood covenant, each to bless the heirs of the other to the best of his ability. When Jonathan was killed in battle the nurse-maid of his son Mephibosheth hurried the child out of the camp. She was terrified that David would slay any descendant of King Saul. In her haste she dropped the child and he was rendered a cripple. His name meant "destroying shame".
Several years later, David as king was eager to determine whether any heir of Jonathan remained alive. He was compelled by the force of his covenant and by compassion for the memory of his dead friend. He heard the story of the crippled youth and went with an entourage to find him.
As the band approached Mephibosheth's residence he cowered in fear, expecting the worst. In the intervening years he had often contemplated how the King would hold him in contempt. Disfigured. Disinherited. Dishonoured.
How shocked he was to discover that David only wanted to bless him and to involve him in the royal household and estate. Hear the exchange in 2 Samuel 9:
6Now when Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, was come unto David, he fell on his face, and did reverence. And David said, Mephibosheth. And he answered, Behold thy servant!
7And David said unto him, Fear not: for I will surely shew thee kindness for Jonathan thy father's sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually.
8And he bowed himself, and said, What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?
9Then the king called to Ziba, Saul's servant, and said unto him, I have given unto thy master's son all that pertained to Saul and to all his house.
10Thou therefore, and thy sons, and thy servants, shall till the land for him, and thou shalt bring in the fruits, that thy master's son may have food to eat: but Mephibosheth thy master's son shall eat bread alway at my table. Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.
Mephibosheth did not understand the intensity of the covenant which his father had cut with King David. He had no conception of his real standing or entitlement. His self-estimate was pathetic.
Do we not find ourselves in the same position? God has bound Himself by covenant with Jesus, sealed with the blood of Calvary to bless all of the Body of Christ with the best that he has, and forever. Neither are we "dead dogs" but rather joint heirs with Christ. Stand tall! Rejoice! Come to the table.
TOUCHED WITH OUR INFIRMITIES
What news, the Master visits,To heal the rabbi’s daughter!What news, he comes down our street,Requested by her father!
What shame, my bleeding mocks me,Through twelve years quarantined.What shame, the doctors’ failures,Heartbroken still, and unclean.
But I’ve heard that He’s healing all who simply trust him.Yes, I’ve heard that He’s granting forgiveness of all sin.Oh, I’ve heard that with such power Jehovah Rapha proves him.
What risk! I am forbiddenTo venture out in public.What risk? I know that JesusWill not have me remain sick.
What throng! He passes quickly.A few strides more; he’ll be gone! What throng! Oh man of mercy,My touching him can’t be wrong.
What joy! I seized his garment.My heart leaps like a free calf.What joy! The blight has lifted,Curse broken on my behalf.
Lord Jesus, know that I am giving all of my love to thee.Thy great compassion knew faith’s call as virtue transferred through thee.If only others moved by faith would come and so pursue thee.
LUKE 8:48And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.
MATTHEW 8: 17That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.
HE REMEMBERS IT ALL, AND LOVES
1But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.
2When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.
3For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.
My wife got this scripture with particular force today. It has always comforted us to see how God remembers the man as "cheat" and as "prevailing prince", for these are the meanings of the two names Jacob and Israel.
Could it be that the Lord foresaw the patriarch in both of these dispositions. First as the scheming manipulator who robbed his brother Esau of rights of primogeniture, and robbed his future father-in-law Laban of flocks. Next He saw the vulnerable man wrestling with the angel 'til break of day and refusing to let go until the angel had given his name and visit's purpose and personal blessing.
God now speaks of both men, the same man, in endearing terms of love and support. Past shortcomings are not mentioned. It is the future...the future, which matters. The true Israel of God. A new man inherits this future. He takes with him thankfully a remembrance in his limping leg, the leg wounded by the angel in the night of his change.
In a fallen world the Lord cannot guarantee an easy ride. There will be, however, a "coming through".
15For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
16And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
FOR THE WOMEN
I appreciate the tender and respectful treatment which Luke's Gospel gives to the women of Jesus' time. We must remember that women were effectively chattels with no independent commercial or judicial standing. They were married off by parental arrangement. It was shameful for them to consider training in a trade. They were physically separated from the men in the places of worship. They were subject to the whims of the husband in the eventuality of divorce.
But then Luke speaks of Elizabeth the priest's wife; young obedient Mary of Nazareth; the widow of Nain; the sinful woman at the feet of Jesus in the pharisee's house; the infirm twelve year old daughter of Jairus; the faithful woman with the issue of blood; Mary Magdalene and others who ministered unto Jesus of their substance; the attentive sisters Mary and Martha; the importunate widow of the parable who persevered before the judge; the mothers who brought their little children for Jesus' blessing; the poor widow with her sacrificial offering in the temple; the women who wept on the Via Dolorosa; the women who lovingly came to the tomb for final respects to Jesus' body; the earliest witnesses to the resurrection.
Might I add a thought on that final item. It has been argued that if the disciples were concocting a story of the resurrection of their Master, they would not have used women as the primary and most direct early witnesses. In the prevailing schemes of men at that time women were not competent witnesses. But in the schemes of God...
AS THE FIRSTBORN
A wonderful foreshadowing of Gospel delight appears in Genesis 48. Joseph has brought his two sons by an Egyptian wife to his father Jacob for the traditional blessing. These boys, Ephraim and Manasseh, are half-breeds, not fully of the lineage of Abraham, God's friend.
Their grandfather says the following:
5 And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.
He has chosen to give them the same standing and favour as his first born. They have simply submitted themselves to his gracious blessing.
We are told in Romans 8 that we have been adopted and given the position of joint heirs with God's "firstborn", Jesus. He looks upon us with the same eyes of satisfaction and love which He casts upon His victorious obedient Son. This realization should free us from condemnation and any sense of feebleness.
We understand more clearly now Paul's triumphant declaration in 1 Corinthians 1:
27But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
28And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
29That no flesh should glory in his presence.
30But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
31That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
One more thing to be added about Genesis 48. The grandfather places his hands upon the heads of the two boys while making the pronouncement, the right hand upon the younger and the left upon the older. Joseph attempts to correct this, according to a law of primogeniture, but Jacob remains firm in his decision. The child of mercy and not of law shall have the greater blessing. It is in the grandfather's sovereign discretion. He has crossed over his two arms in making the blessing as he has, foreshadowing the work of the Cross at Calvary.
T.L. Osborne, missionary-evangelist tells the wonderful story of his wife Daisy after a tent meeting in the Far East.
The crowds had been dismissed after a long session of praise, preaching and personal ministry, but Daisy could not leave the tabernacle because the presence of the Lord had been so rich. She walked the rows meditating until she noticed a young mother seated with blanketed baby in arms and sobbing quietly.
When approached, the young woman could only blurt out, “She has died.” Daisy saw the limp form of the little girl and asked to take it from the woman. She began to walk around gently hugging and rocking the child, praying softly for the Father’s mercy and citing reasons why she believed that this innocent little one should be given back life.
When prayer with the understanding seemed finished, she launched into quiet prayer in the Spirit, sensing an inner leading to continue. After several minutes the baby stirred and cuddled closer for warmth.
Daisy returned the child to her mother, whereupon the woman let out an exhausted, breathy scream. “What was wrong?” “Oh, woman of God, assuredly my baby lives! But my baby was blind. This one sees!”
Here we have it! An example of the Lord doing “exceedingly abundantly above all that we might ask or think.” This marvelous grace had been preceded by compassion, submission, courtesy, some uncertainty and the absolute acknowledgment that only God could work.
By comparison, how brazen, insensitive and man-honouring some of our so-called revival or renewal meetings appear.
RAG OF A MAN
There is a time to fight and to lean upon the promises of God:
"With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation." (Psalm 91)
I can think of another story by that revivalist and master storyteller R. W. Schambach.
He was conducting a crusade of several days in an assembly hall and he was approaching the end of the final service. Suddenly he could see a woman of middle age coming down the centre aisle with a look of grim determination and with a bundle in a blanket over her shoulder.
She blurted out, "Preacher I got no more time! My man is dying of cancer! Here, look."
With that she lay down the bundle carefully and unrolled it to reveal a terribly gaunt but tall man clothed only in his pyjamas.
"Pray for him, that he might recover and soon. The doctor has given him only a couple more days. Now, man do what you've been called to do!" She added, "He is a Christian man."
The ghostly shape in the blanket nodded and peered at Schambach through watery eyes. In telling the story Schambach interjected that it was one of those times when he had to determine whether he was sent of God "or just went". He applied the oil. The prayer was short although impassioned. He called upon the saints in the hall to add their agreement to the petition. He then added, "God bless you Brother. Woman, take your man home and believe God no matter what you see. I expect you both to come back to another meeting and report."
Schambach's ushers gentled the couple out of the hall and toward their parked car...
I cannot now remember the interval, but another crusade occurred and a healing line was arranged after the praise and message. At one point a tall man approached Schambach, full and strong, and picked the evangelist up off the ground jumping around.
"Put me down, put me down, man! What's gotten into you. I'm having a meeting here!'
You've guessed it. It was the man in the blanket, whole and well, and serving in Gospel ministry. He briefly told his story.
With that the broadly smiling evangelist interjected, "Pick me up, pick me up, man! We gotta dance!"
Never underestimate the power of a stubborn, faithful, praying woman of God.
OF WHOM SHALL I BE AFRAID?
Psalm 27: 1. The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
I can still hear the powerful tenor voice of Larnelle Harris pounding out this lyric, and repeating "the Lord is the strength of my life".
Dear believer, have you the witness of his all-capable fathering of you? Do you see it in the scriptures? Do you sense it in the hidden man of the heart? Does He come with calm in the midst of a storm? Does He leave you laughing at your strategies when you neglected Him? Does He bring to your recollection the many rescues and guiding impressions. Does a strange word of comfort or assurance startle you in the night?
Toward the end of the Psalm the writer states, "13. I had fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living". I will repeat it... "in the land of the living".
Goodness of this Lord? Did he not shepherd the massive Exodus from Egypt with Moses?
Did He not engulf the armies of Pharaoh in the sea? Did he not enter into David's stone launched at Goliath? Did He not cool the flames of the furnace meant to kill the three Hebrew youths? Did He not sculpt that twisting cordillera that you flew over on your holiday? Did he not whip up the angry storm on the open bay and then, just as easily, bring it to a calm? Does He not delight the oriental farmer with the patter of rain for his only crop? Does He not know the time of calving of that Holstein in the Oxford County field? Does he not observe the hungry young ravens which cry from the cedars? Does he not soothe the jagged nerves of staff in the Emergency Ward? Does He not paint the soothing glory of the evening sky?
And this Father and his goodness are yours, and yours for good. Of whom then, shall you be afraid?
GRACE FOR GRACE
John 1:16And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.
17For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
Grace is the inexplicable initiative of Infinite Love. It is the gift of blessing and inclusion by God which we never could have hoped for, and did nothing to deserve.
But before such blessing could arrive we had to be given another blessing, the softening and ability to receive. Imagine the one year-old, unsteady on young legs, being given a little rocking chair. But first Mother must clear the path to it and help the little one position himself in it.
How winsome and considerate and sovereign is our loving Lord. No persuasive argument, no logical loop, no breathtaking beauty of creation, no heart-moving music, no fiery denunciation of sin will do the job. Only the softening of the heart, the quickening input of the Word of Life and the drawing by the Father.
Hear Jesus' words in John 6:
44No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
SUNDAY WITH THE SPARROWS
Here it is ... the cold of January. Slushy paths. Gloves and hat, if I'm smart. And delightful walks in this testing season. I must admit that I don't have the resistance to cold which I enjoyed in former years.
I can remember times when I needed to get alone over some problem and to
try to assimilate the soothing presence of God.
Invariably He would direct me to the birds. Little sparrows huddled in some leafless bush. Feathers all fluffed out for insulation. Hopping to ground for a morsel and then back to the branches. Seldom alone, but chirping in chorus.
It was as if He whispered to me, "I only expect them to do what they are built to do. I will not deprive them of food or light or shelter. Theirs is but to search. Mine is to carry and protect, and to see through to spring."
My problems shrank. I also felt warmer.
Taken from "Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush" by Ian Maclaren. How providence saw Flora Campbell home...
When Marget came, Flora told her the history of her letter.
"It wass a beautiful night in London, but I will be thinking thatthere iss no living person caring whether I die or live, and I wass
considering how I could die, for there iss nothing so hopeless as tohef no friend in a great city. It iss often that I hef been alone onthe moor, and no man within miles, but I wass never lonely, oh no, Ihad plenty of good company. I would sit down beside a burn, and thetrout will swim out from below a stone, and the cattle will come todrink, and the muirfowl will be crying to each other, and the sheepwill be bleating, oh yes, and there are the bees all round, and astring of wild ducks above your head. It iss a busy place a moor,and a safe place too, for there iss not one of the animals will hurtyou. No, the big highlanders will only look at you and go away totheir pasture. But it iss weary to be in London and no one to speaka kind word to you, and I will be looking at the crowd that issalways passing, and I will not see one kent face, and when I lookedin at the lighted windows the people were all sitting round thetable, but there wass no place for me. Millions and millions ofpeople, and not one to say 'Flora,' and not one sore heart if I diedthat night. Then a strange thing happened, as you will beconsidering, but it iss good to be a Highlander, for we see visions.You maybe know that a wounded deer will try to hide herself, and Icrept into the shadow of a church, and wept. Then the people and thenoise and the houses passed away like the mist on the hill, and Iwass walking to the kirk with my father, oh yes, and I saw you allin your places, and I heard the Psalms, and I could see through thewindow the green fields and the trees on the edge of the moor. And Isaw my home, with the dogs before the door, and the flowers that Iplanted, and the lamb coming for her mik, and I heard myself singing,and I awoke. But there wass singing, oh yes, and beautiful too, forthe dark church wass open, and the light wass falling over my headfrom the face of the Virgin Mary. When I arose she wass looking downat me in the darkness, and then I knew that there wass service inthe church, and this wass the hymn--
"'There is a fountain filled with blood.'
"So I went in and sat down at the door. The sermon wass on theProdigal Son, but there iss only one word I remember. 'You are notforgotten or cast off,' the preacher said; 'you are missed,' andthen he will come back to it again, and it wass always 'missed,missed, missed.' Sometimes he will say, 'If you had a plant, and youhad taken great care of it, and it was stolen, would you not miss
it?' And I will be thinking of my geraniums, and saying 'yes' in myheart. And then he will go on, 'If a shepherd wass counting hissheep, and there wass one short, does he not go out to the hill andseek for it?' and I will see my father coming back with that lambthat lost its mother. My heart wass melting within me, but he willstill be pleading, 'If a father had a child, and she left her homeand lost herself in the wicked city, she will still be remembered inthe old house, and her chair will be there,' and I will be seeing myfather all alone with the Bible before him, and the dogs will laytheir heads on his knee, but there iss no Flora. So I slipped outinto the darkness and cried 'Father,' but I could not go back, and Iknew not what to do. But this wass ever in my ear, 'missed,' and Iwass wondering if God will be thinking of me. 'Perhaps there may bea sign,' I said, and I went to my room, and I saw the letter. Itwass not long before I will be in the train, and all the night Iheld your letter in my hand, and when I wass afraid I will read'Your father loves you more than efer,' and I will say, 'This is mywarrant.' Oh yes, and God wass very good to me, and I did not wantfor friends all the way home.
"The English guard noticed me cry, and he will take care of me allthe night, and see me off at Muirtown, and this iss what he will sayas the train wass leaving, in his cheery English way, 'Keep up yourheart, lass, there's a good time coming,' and Peter Bruce will bewaiting for me at the Junction, and a gentle man iss Peter Bruce,and Maister Moncur will be singing a psalm to keep up my heart, andI will see the light, and then I will know that the Lord hass hadmercy upon me. That iss all I have to tell you, Marget, for the restI will be saying to God."
"But there iss something I must be telling," said Lachlan, comingin, "and it iss not easy."
He brought over the Bible and opened it at the family register wherehis daughter's name had been erased; then he laid it down beforeFlora, and bowed his head on the bed.
"Will you ever be able to forgive your father?""Give me the pen, Marget;" and Flora wrote for a minute, but Lachlannever moved.
When he lifted his head, this was what he read in a vacant space:--
FLORA CAMPBELL.Missed April 1873.Found September 1873."Her father fell on her neck and kissed her."
NOTE: If you can ever get around the brogue Scots you will find that this is one of the most beautiful books ever written about simple Christian community.
THE FATHER’S PLAN UNSEARCHABLE
I can only bless the willing.I will not coerce my child;But will draw him, and will woo himBy my Spirit, meek and mild.I will have no puppet kingdom.All shall be by love and choice.Will each loved one take my offer,And eternally rejoice?
I can only bless the hungryWith sweet manna from above.For the searching, ever searching,For my truth and peace and love.Through the pangs of spirit-hunger,He will come to find the sourceOf the bread that never faileth,Of the living watercourse.
I can only bless the ransomed,Who in Jesus finds his worth.Not in strivings or in doings,Of the kind men praise on earth.
But who, taking Christ’s blood payment,Comes to praise and understandThe completeness, and the justice,And the mercy of my Plan.
I can only bless the servingWho will flee all worldly fame,And delight me with small love-tasksGiven solely in my name.As he dons the towel of service,Washing feet of worldly grime,He will know the heart of Jesus.He will know the joy sublime.
I can only bless the givingWho will spend without restraint,For the spreading of the Gospel,For the healing of the faint.With example of my givingOf my precious only Seed;That his death would bring a harvest,And his life the nations feed.
I can only bless the watchful,As eternity nears dawn;Who has seen the promised Canaan,And who yearns to travel on.Like the wise and trusted servantWho awaits his absent Lord,And whose faithful expectationWill receive a rich reward.
I can only bless the chosen,Who are willing, and who thirst,Who are blood-bought, and so eagerTo perform my service first.Who are givers of their substance,Patient watchers of my Plan;Who were seen in my omniscience,Long before all time began.
ROMANS 11: 33O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
PSALM 40: 7, 8Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me,I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.
A COURTROOM SOMEDAY
The judge is so stern.He frightens me.The case is my life-What end shall be?
The gallery is filled,An angel crowd.The docket is called-
My name read loud.
Accuser declares,His brief is packedWith evil I did,With grace I lacked.
All constables standAlert today.Strong chains are in placeTo lead away.
I turn from my boxTo seek a face.Friends out of my past?But not a trace.
The clerk of the courtAsks me to rise:“Which lawyer serves youAt this assize?”
I tell him of One,Jesus, by name,Who came to my cell,My case to claim.
I called for His helpUpon arrest.My case was severe;He was the best.
He asked for no fee,Just trust in Him.The judge was quite fair;Our case would win.
I told Him with tears,With grief and shame,The charges were true.
I was to blame.
But somehow, this man,With eyes so clear,Commanded my trust,Relieved my fear.
“Jesus the ChristArgues today.See, His arrival;Hear Him, I pray.”
The great Advocate takes his place.(Accuser looks nervous and frowns.)This Jesus- light shines from His face,Makes challenge on primary grounds.
“My Lord, there is precedent here.A case can be tried but one time.The charges at bar were all cleared.Remember the trial, it was mine…
On Calvary’s hill I was nailed;And judged in your eyes as all sin.In Hell’s dungeon halls, Light prevailed,And you ruled: ‘Enough for all men’.
This dear contrite soul has my plea,By taking my name for his case.And justly, you must set him free,For, Father, I died in his place!”
His Lordship then smiles to the courtAnd looks upon me with changed eyes:“Your faith has brought this good report,A friend of my Son never dies.”
JOB 9: 1, 2, 32, 33Then Job answered and said, I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God? If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a
thousand…For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment. Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both.
TAKE ME TO THE SINNERS
A remarkable story is told of evangelist-church planter Aimee Semple McPherson (born at Salford, Ontario in 1890 and died at Oakland, California in 1944)
It was during her itinerant ministry days and before the establishment of Angelus Temple and an enormous radio and publishing enterprise. She was in Winnipeg at the invitation of several churches. She arrived much earlier than the appointed meeting times, and asked where she might find the sinners in that city.
The pastors, cleared their throats and suggested that perhaps it would be inappropriate to take a woman to such a place.
"Well, what's it all about, men? Where is this place?"
"Oh, Sister Aimee, it is a dark district filled with prostitutes and the men who feed the wicked industry."
"That's just where I want to go, sirs!"
The scene shifts to a street corner in late afternoon with Aimee on the sidewalk and a place cleared for her to speak. Women with over-much make-up and garish clothes observe from a distance. She speaks of a Saviour who comes to bless and to heal the sick, not to flatter or coddle the self-righteous. Her clear, frank and assertive speaking voice seems much unlike the manner of other church women seen by these prostitutes. She reminds the listeners that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but rather that through him the world might be saved. She walks toward a few of these women. Asks their names. Shakes their hands. Suggests that her
meeting will begin at such-and-such a time and at such-and-such a place. Then she is gone.
That evening as Aimee delivers the Good News, she scans the crowd for faces recognizable from the afternoon's visit. She is not disappointed.
(Told as recalled from "This is That", Aimee Semple McPherson, Echo Park Evangelistic Association Inc.)
SONG TO A CONFEDERATE
Yankee lad,A midnight sentry.On the graveyard watch tonight.In this bitter autumn campaignAs our Rebels hold ‘em tight.
Fighting sleep,The soldier’s struggle,With the lives of troops at stake.Fighting dampness, all a-shiver.Singing, just to stay awake.
Perched on bluff,And silhouetted,With a chilly moon behind.Easy target for my Springfield.Morning sun-up, corpse they’ll find.
But the songDrifts cross the valley,In his soothing baritone,Of a loving, reaching Saviour.One, by mother’s side, I’d known.
Something of A calling Jesus;And a wanderer’s cry for peace;And one bitter night’s unloading;And the Spirit’s sweet release.
I had lovedMy Mama’s rendering,But I would not heed the call.And with years of tramps and camps, since,I’ve no heart for it at all.
So tonightOh foolish Yankee,I will put the song to rest.With a careful eye, a long breathAnd a bullet through your breast.
Though sitedDown the cold, gray steel,I cannot make this kill.My trigger hand’s a-shakin’And it isn’t from the chill.
Oh, blue-coat boy,You’re “saved” againTo see the sun’s first rays.I’ll not have Mama’s ghost, and yours,To haunt me all my days…
…A million milesI’ve traveled since.And countless moons I’ve seen.A business came, prosperity.The war seemed but a dream.One Christmas Eve,Some long years’ thence,I chanced to be afloat.A break from work. A change of scene.
A festive riverboat.
And word got ‘roundThe evening’s sportWould be a talent fair.“The lights, the song. Oh come along.We’ve got to see you there.”
The program came.I went outside.I’d no love for this day.And aft, I watched the big wheel churnIts frigid wake away.
Another year.Another gain.By rights a sound success.But like those waters swirling there,Inside I was a mess.
Too cold it was.I joined the throng.I sat right at the rear.A special guest, evangelist,One Ira Sankey, here.
I’d heard the news.I’d read the press.His tour of Britain’s hallsWith Moody; their effectiveness,Their skill in Gospel calls.
And after songsOf Yuletide hope,This tall man took the stage.His frame so straight, his dress so fine.A prince in any age.
And then the voice.That baritone!
My mother’s song begins.Not Christmas cheer; the sentry’s hereTo call me from my sins!
How’s this, I quake?It must be so.I’m here, but by some plan.Oh Mama dear, I think thatNow I understand the man!
His words so true.His voice so rich.God’s presence fills the place.I’ll leave my night. I see the Son.I’m saved and by His Grace.
(A life was spared.A song was sung.His Christ had seen him through.I’d heard the song. I’d come along.And now, his Christ I knew.)
MANASSEH, BAD APPLE!
Hezekiah had exercised a righteous influence over Judah. He had removed idolatrous worship. He had boldly resisted the threats of the mighty King of Assyria, Sennacherib, outside his walls. He had sought the input of the prophet Isaiah on many important issues. He had prayed his way through a life-threatening illness. One of the mighty prayers of the Old Testament is his. (Isaiah 37:15-29)
But his son was another matter. Doubtless he had seen Manasseh rolling his eyes at traditional worship and looking with interest at the idols and lasciviousness of the neighbouring nations. Doubtless Hezekiah had taken
his son's tendencies before the Lord in ernest prayer. But the old King died without concrete evidence that his prayers were being answered.
The new king in time totally reversed the measures of his father. Bringing in an abominable variety of idols, temple prostitution, spiritualism, child sacrifice, desecration of the house of God (installing a monument to the Queen of Heaven). But God would not allow this to continue. Read the account in 2 Chronicles 33:
10And the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken.
11Wherefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon.
12And when he was in affliction, he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers,
13And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God.
14Now after this he built a wall without the city of David, on the west side of Gihon, in the valley, even to the entering in at the fish gate, and compassed about Ophel, and raised it up a very great height, and put captains of war in all the fenced cities of Judah.
15And he took away the strange gods, and the idol out of the house of the LORD, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the LORD, and in Jerusalem, and cast them out of the city.
16And he repaired the altar of the LORD, and sacrificed thereon peace offerings and thank offerings, and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel.
Are you praying for the reform of a child, a spouse, a neighbour, a friend, a civic leader? Remember the effectual fervent prayers of Hezekiah and the wicked son brought back home. The reversal of heart in this story almost defies belief!
NOT TO BE DISCOURAGED
Martin Luther once said something to the following effect:
"A little bird flies past your head and you sense the breeze, and for a moment you are curious, and perhaps interested. That is temptation. A little bird flies up to your head, hovers, and then you invite him to build a nest in your hair. That is sin."
This was the observation of a man who in his early days was tormented by the nature of thoughts which came to his mind. As a young priest he struggled incessantly to remain holy before an awesome God, but all to no avail. Then he discovered grace.
We know from the scriptures that it is possible to be tempted and yet not found in sin. Even Christ encountered this. Consider Hebrews 4:
14Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
15For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
We hear this teaching a dozen times, and yet when the angry or lustful or deceitful or envious thought comes, we collapse in self-pity and condemnation. Satan uses the occasion to whisper over the shoulder:
"Some representative of Christ you are! That kind of tendency is disgusting. You are either a failure or a fraud. You might as well give up on the Christian effort. It is too difficult. You are missing out on a good time. It was never really meant for you."
May I point you to another illustration? In that beautiful film "Chariots of Fire" (1981) Harold Abrahams, an Olympic runner in the 1924 competition, is being trained behind the scenes by Sam Mussabini, a professional sprinting coach. There is a mixture of comedy and courageous resolve in the collage of scenes of the training. All sorts of ground conditions, weather and times of day. The comical little coach, complete with walking stick is determined to achieve that perfect start, style and acceleration. He poses, squats, jumps, high-steps, gesticulates, rants, cajoles, smiles and cheers. The athlete keeps on listening, trying, stumbling and eventually succeeding in all phases of the training. Periodically the look on his face betrays discouragement and almost defeat. But the trainer never gives up. He has taken on this assignment. He will see it through.
Can anything less be said about a loving, all-powerful Heavenly Father who has chosen you, fellow Christian, unto glory, for reasons known only to Himself?
Is there news of his arrival? Have they seen him on the way? How we need his hand of healing, How we need his strength to pray! Yet this waiting, wretched waiting, While our brother slips away.
Was the message given promptly? Was he begged to make all speed? Was he told our fears for Lazarus? Was he made to see our need? Oh be coming, please be coming, Jesus, hasten! Intercede!
Down the road at last, his figure, But alas, then much too late. “Had you been a little sooner, Lord, you might have changed his fate. But our brother, precious brother Has already passed death’s gate.”
Then he asked that we might take him To the place where Lazarus slept; And we passed through friends and family, All who tearful vigil kept; And we heard the Master groaning. And we watched as Jesus wept.
At the tomb door, still our champion, Praying through our wicked doubt, He addressed the bitter fact of death With victory and a shout; There the Master, still the Master, Crying, “Lazarus, come out!”
And the place of death was shaken By the challenge which he hurled. And the soul of him once taken Was recovered to our world.
Thank you Jesus for our brother! And the graveclothes were unfurled.
How I pale now at the memory Of my thoughts and words of fear, And of pitiful self-pity Which would deem Christ insincere. He was caring, deeply caring, Ever strong and ever near.
He had purpose in delaying Which was far beyond our view; And when everything seemed lost he proved Both trustworthy and true To a mighty love that neither Grave nor death could e’er subdue.
The congregants of Anwoth in the south-west of Scotland were deprived for a time of the services of their beloved pastor, Samuel Rutherford. He had refused to pledge allegiance to an episcopalian order in the land and was banished to house arrest in Aberdeen in the far north-east.
No longer able to preach, he devoted his shepherd energies to correspondence with the flock, the famous “Letters of Samuel Rutherford”.
In one letter to Lady Ardross dated February 24, 1646, he gave a foreshadowing of the conditions in Heaven. For me it poses a more desirable promise of happiness than any of the pictures drawn by today’s prophecy teachers concerning future glory:
“A very considerable land, which hath more than four summers in the year. Oh, what spring-time is there! Even the
smelling of the odours of that great and eternally blooming Rose of Sharon for ever and ever! What a singing life is there! There is not a dumb bird in all that large field; but all sing and breathe out Heaven, joy, glory, dominion to the High Prince of that new-found land. And, verily, the land is the sweeter that Jesus Christ paid so dear a rent for it. And He is the glory of the land.”
TAKING THE WINGS OF PRAISE!
Morning is up!Whate’er the weather,Night yields to praise,Singing in feather.
Chorus of joyStarting the day’s chores.Still heard at duskThanking for day’s stores.
Might all our waysCopy the wee bird,Filled with God’s praise,Ever by him heard.
Then so much moreBless’ed a sojourn,Would we but sing;His tune of trust learn.
Life is a thrill,Vivid and stirring,Join in the song Each day occurring.
Father in HeavenWaits with rich treasure,Loosed by our praise,Giving him pleasure.
Sometimes the sunWarms all our heartstrings,Bursting with songFor gifts his love brings.
Other times, praise, Sacrifice dearest,Meets cloudy days,
Singing faith clearest.
Whate’er befalls,Music uplifted Always enthrallsThe breast so gifted.
Yet ours much moreGladsome a chorus.Jesus preparesEndless spring for us!
PRAYER FROM THE HEART
Father, we thank you that for reasons known only to you we are chosen to repentance, to insight of the Highest, to whisperings of your comfort and presence, to assurances of your keeping care, to flashes of guidance and courage in time of need, to your family in the Beloved, our forerunner Jesus Christ. Amen.