Monday, November 25, 2013

Mountains Turned to Plains

 “What are you, you great mountain? Because of Zerubbabel you will become a level plain! And he will bring forth the temple capstone with shoutings of ‘Grace! Grace!’ because of this.” — Zech 4:7

by C.H. Spurgeon

At this hour a mountain of difficulty, distress, or necessity may be in our way, and natural reason sees no path over it, or through it, or round it. Let faith come in, and straightway the mountain disappears and becomes a plain. But faith must first hear the word of the Lord—“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” This grand truth is a prime necessity for meeting the insurmountable trials of life. I see that I can do nothing and that all reliance on man is vanity. “Not by might.”

I see that no visible means can be relied on, but the force is in the invisible Spirit. God alone must work, and men and means must be nothing accounted of. If it be so that the Almighty God takes up the concerns of His people, then great mountains are nothing. He can remove worlds as boys toss balls about or drive them with their foot. This power He can lend to me. If the Lord bids me move an Alp I can do it through His name. It may be a great mountain, but even before my feebleness it shall become a plain; for the Lord hath said it. What can I be afraid of with God on my side?


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address: Inspired words, appointed man

The Gettysburg Address
by Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States

November 19, 1863
Gettysburg National Cemetery
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal.”

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Life-giving Reality of True Thanksgiving

Autumn days rush headlong into early evening; Christmas decorations peek conspicuously from their high perches above parking lots and city streets. A slight chill in the wind hints at the advent of Advent -- but the Christmas lights aren’t lit yet, and winter is still on the way… because we haven’t celebrated Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving: A mistreated holy day between Halloween and Christmas, stuffed with turkey and football and bloated humans lounging on couches, checking Fantasy Football and Facebook on smartphones. Is this all there is to Thanksgiving? Variably corpulent citizens feeding their faces and then worshiping electronic media?

Hardly. True Thanksgiving is a life-giving reality for both persons and nations. Thanksgiving was revealed as a divine principle in the covenant life of Israel, and recovered in America by faithful leaders who understood its import. We’ve fallen far from this divine understanding of Thanksgiving, but for those who return there is great reward. Consider three components of true thanksgiving, and the restored covenant relation they entail.

Humility. The first confession of true Thanksgiving is that all good comes from God -- not human self or national resources. God warned Israel, “Beware lest you say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms His covenant, which He swore to your ancestors, as it is today” (Deut. 8:17-18). And so the psalmist confesses: “It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them” (Ps. 44:3). Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation confesses the same: “These [national blessings] are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.” Humility before God is the first confession of Thanksgiving -- and the first step toward renewal in covenant life. Confession: “O God, we thank you and praise your glorious name! But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to celebrate like this? For all things come from You, and of Your own we have given You.” Alleluia! (1 Chron. 29:14)

Penitence. The second confession follows the first, as humility cannot be separated from penitence before God. God commanded Israel not only to remember the Source of blessing, but also the path of restoration. He says, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14). Likewise, Lincoln called the American people to celebrate Thanksgiving with “humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience,” with acts of contrite benevolence toward widows and orphans. True Thanksgiving means real repentance. Confession: “I confess the sins that my People, including myself and my father's family, have committed against you. We have acted wickedly and not obeyed your laws. Please forgive us and restore your light upon us, I pray” (Neh. 1:6ff).

Patience. The third confession follows the prayers of the previous, as children bow in humility before God, confessing their sins and the sins of the land… they then choose to faithfully follow God, awaiting His time of favor and restoration. Psalm 147:11 witness: “The Lord takes delight in His faithful followers, and in those who wait for His loyal love.” It is in the long hours between promise and fulfillment that true Thanksgiving is shown. Sometimes such waiting takes a lifetime, like Nehemiah or Daniel -- or, in the case of Abraham, four lifetimes -- but the end is inconceivable blessing: divine favor and eternal life. Confession: “Like the eyes of a handmaiden to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes wait upon you, our Lord God, until you show us your favor!” (Ps. 123:2)

If you love your country, and if you love your family, let this Thanksgiving be a real one -- where you renew your life in the covenant love of God, and bow before Him in humility and penitence, patiently waiting His light and favor. As Jesus said, “Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?” (Lk. 18:7). Truly, He will. But when the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth? May it be so, in your true Thanksgiving, and mine!



Note: This is an article that I wrote for the Sunday, Nov. 17 edition of the Okeechobee News.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Our assurance is in the Lord's renown: His grace is our covenant life

"It is when we enjoy covenant blessings and see our Lord Jesus raised up for us as a plant of renown that we come to a clear knowledge of the favor of God toward us."

Then they will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them, and that they are my people, the house of Israel, declares the sovereign Lord. — Ezek. 34:30

by C.H. Spurgeon

To be the Lord’s own people is a choice blessing, but to know that we are such is a comfortable blessing. It is one thing to hope that God is with us and another thing to know that He is so. Faith saves us, but assurance satisfies us. We take God to be our God when we believe in Him; but we get the joy of Him when we know that He is ours and that we are His. No believer should be content with hoping and trusting; he should ask the Lord to lead him on to full assurance, so that matters of hope may become matters of certainty.

It is when we enjoy covenant blessings and see our Lord Jesus raised up for us as a plant of renown that we come to a clear knowledge of the favor of God toward us. Not by law, but by grace do we learn that we are the Lord’s people. Let us always turn our eyes in the direction of free grace. Assurance of faith can never come by the works of the law. It is an evangelical virtue and can only reach us in a gospel way. Let us not look within. Let us look to the Lord alone. As we see Jesus we shall see our salvation.

Lord, send us such a flood-tide of Thy love that we shall be washed beyond the mire of doubt and fear.



— C.H. Spurgeon

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The secret place where delight and desire meet

Then you will take delight in the Lord, and he will answer your prayers. — Ps. 37:4 NET

I like this translation of Psalm 37:4. It captures the true meaning of delight and desire, which the passage places before us. The verse is often misunderstood, "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." Desire here is sanctified desire, or desire in light of prayer -- desire where the will of the supplicant is one with the will of the Father. Truly it is said that when my will wills to do the will of the Father as its highest good, it is there that predestination and human will become one.

There is much to be considered in these words, "Then you will take delight in the Lord, and He will answer your prayers." C.H. Spurgeon comments:

Delight in God has a transforming power and lifts a man above the false desire of our fallen nature. Delight in Yahweh is not only sweet in itself, but it sweetens the whole soul, till the longings of the heart become such that the Lord can safely promise to fulfill them. Is not that a grand delight which molds our desires till they are like the desires of God?

Our foolish way is to desire and then set to work to compass what we desire. We do not go to work in God’s way, which is to seek Him first and then expect all things to be added unto us. If we will let our heart be filled with God till it runs over with delight, then the Lord Himself will take care that we shall not want any good thing... For a while we may have disappointments; but if these bring us nearer to the Lord, they are things to be prized exceedingly, for they will in the end secure to us the fulfillment of all our right desires.