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    Getting Started

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  •  — Edited

    Recommended Reading: This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence by John Piper The chasm between the biblical vision of marriage and the common human conception is — and has always been — gargantuan. Reflecting on over forty years of matrimony, John Piper exalts the biblical meaning of marriage over its emotion, exhorting couples to keep their covenant as a display of Christ’s covenant-keeping love for the church. He aims to lift the church’s low view of marriage to something infinitely greater, namely, a vision of Jesus’s unswerving allegiance to and affection for his bride. This Momentary Marriage unpacks the biblical vision, its unexpected contours, and its weighty implications for married, single, divorced, and remarried alike. Download PDF https://www.desiringgod.org/books/this-momentary-marriage.pdf
    1.  — Edited

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      1. Tattoos Health Peace

        Peace Be Still

        We live in a fallen world where terrible things happen. We are plagued by wars, rumors of wars, sickness, injury, hunger, etc., that add to the tremendous toll of human suffering. Life is at best fragile. James was correct when he compared our lives to that of a vapor. Now that I am old enough to say that I have “become my parents,” I am able to appreciate more fully how precious each day is as God creates it fresh and new. Yet I am mindful that my presence here will be erased soon enough.


        I had opportunity recently to listen to the recorded sermons preached by the pastor of a large church that I was privileged to attend in the formative years of this faith walk. His observations and insights were crisp and concise, and they provoked my mind to much contemplation. Yet now that he has been in the grave for twenty plus years, the church he faithfully shepherded has not given even an honorable mention of him in their history. We are like a vapor; only the things of Christ will last forever.


        How then are we to face the challenges that are set before us? Simple obedience! Notice that I did not say, “It’s easy, simple obedience!” Obedience is not complicated, but in my experience it has never been easy. My sinful nature rebels at the very thought of any kind of obedience. One could wonder how I thrived in the military for 23 years! Yet I am called to be yielded fully to the mind of Christ, that His will might be at work in me for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:5,13 paraphrase mine). For every time my flesh asserts itself, the arrogant "I" must be made to bow low so that it might be bent into a "C" at the foot of Calvary’s Cross (Roy Hession, Calvary Road, paraphrase mine). For there is only one Lord and it is to Him I now belong. In the simplicity of obedience, I will see true liberty unfold. I need not climb into the heavens (that is, to bring Christ down), nor must I descend into the depths (that is, to raise Christ up). He is immediately accessible because He has chosen to make His abode in my heart: that place of Sabbath rest where neither wind nor rain disturb; that place where Jesus says, "Peace, be still."


        Will the world continue to defile, corrupt, and rail against its rightful authority? Most certainly! Will the winds of despair blow across our paths? For sure! Must we see our loved ones suffer in the midst of many hardships and trials? Without a doubt! Yet Paul challenges me to be “anxious for nothing” and instead to pray thankfully about everything so that the “peace that surpasses all understanding” might “guard” my heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).


        What choices will I make today? Will I kick against the goads, not wanting to walk the path set before me? Shall I cower at the “fellowship of His sufferings,” hoping only for the “power of His resurrection?” (Philippians 3:10) Or will I trust that I am truly yoked to the King of Kings and that my place is to walk beside Him in obedience, trusting that whatever the day may bring is by His sovereign hand, while letting my lips be engaged in prayer for all the saints everywhere.


        Our prayers are the weapons of warfare aimed at an enemy unseen. But they cannot seek the target unless they are launched! We live in a nation founded upon the principles ordained in holy writ. Yet today we see, even in the church, the Word discarded and abandoned while the children of a counterfeit God pray for wisdom and power. And all the while the deceiver lulls us into thinking that we are serving a risen savior when we are really serving ourselves with great zeal—and instead doing real harm to the Body (Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections, paraphrase mine).


        It should not surprise us then when we see the “best and brightest” of this generation chasing after the “impossible dream” of a cure for a nation—who thought they could defy economic gravity with impunity. Is this not the very thing that the Apostle John warns us against when he said:


        “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him, because all that is in the world (the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the arrogance produced by material possessions) is not from the Father, but is from the world.” (1 John 2:15-16 NET.)


        The Greek here shouts at us:


        G212 αλαζονεία alazoneía; gen. alazoneías, fem. noun from the adj. alazṓn (G213), a boaster. Ostentation, boasting about what one is not or does not possess. Someone going about with empty and boastful professions of cures and other feats. An alazṓn shows off that which he thinks or pretends he possesses. An ostentatious quack. A boast or boasting (James 4:16). As joined with “bios” (G979), life, it means “the period of extension or duration of life” as contrasted to “zōḗ” (G2222) which means “the breath of life.” Therefore, alazoneía toú bíou in 1John 2:16 means “showing off to fellow mortals; the pride, pomp, or manner of life; the ambitious or vainglorious pursuit of the honors, glories, and splendors of this life; the luxury of life for the purpose of showing off, whether in dress, house, furniture, servants, food.” (The Complete Word Study Dictionary, General Editor: Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D.)


        Can we not hear John asking, “Where is your treasure invested?” Do we not see our nation and ourselves “alazoneía toú bíou”? We have thought ourselves wiser than the most wise God and chose to live “high on the hog.” But now the herd has run full-tilt over the edge of the cliff and is accelerating toward our just reward at 32 feet per second squared!


        Numbers 11:4 Now the mixed multitude who were among them craved more desirable foods, and so the Israelites wept again and said, "If only we had meat to eat!


        Numbers 11:34 So the name of that place was called Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people that craved different food.


        Psalm 78:18 They willfully challenged God by asking for food to satisfy their appetite.


        Psalm 78:30 They were not yet filled up, their food was still in their mouths,


        Proverbs 6:25 Do not lust in your heart for her beauty, and do not let her captivate you with her alluring eyes;


        Matthew 5:28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.


        Romans 13:14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to arouse its desires.


        1 Corinthians 10:6 These things happened as examples for us, so that we will not crave evil things as they did.


        Galatians 5:24 Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.


        Ephesians 2:3 among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest…


        Titus 2:12 It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,


        Titus 3:3 For we too were once foolish, disobedient, misled, enslaved to various passions and desires, spending our lives in evil and envy, hateful and hating one another.


        1 Peter 1:14 Like obedient children, do not comply with the evil urges you used to follow in your ignorance,


        1 Peter 2:11 Dear friends, I urge you as foreigners and exiles to keep away from fleshly desires that do battle against the soul,


        1 Peter 4:2 in that he spends the rest of his time on earth concerned about the will of God and not human desires.


        2 Peter 2:10 especially those who indulge their fleshly desires and who despise authority. Brazen and insolent, they are not afraid to insult the glorious ones,


        2 Peter 2:18 For by speaking high-sounding but empty words they are able to entice, with fleshly desires and with debauchery, people who have just escaped from those who reside in error.


        Jude 1:16-18 These people are grumblers and fault-finders who go wherever their desires lead them, and they give bombastic speeches, enchanting folks for their own gain. But you, dear friends — recall the predictions foretold by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. For they said to you, "In the end time there will come scoffers, propelled by their own ungodly desires."


        Psalm 119:36-37 Give me a desire for your rules, rather than for wealth gained unjustly. Turn my eyes away from what is worthless! Revive me with your word!


        Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 The one who loves money will never be satisfied with money, he who loves wealth will never be satisfied with his income. This also is futile. When someone's prosperity increases, those who consume it also increase; so what does its owner gain, except that he gets to see it with his eyes?


        Matthew 4:8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their grandeur.


        Psalm 73:6 Arrogance is their necklace, and violence their clothing.


        Daniel 4:30 The king uttered these words: "Is this not the great Babylon that I have built for a royal residence by my own mighty strength and for my majestic honor?"


        James 3:15 Such wisdom does not come from above but is earthly, natural, demonic.


        Revelation 18:11-17 Then the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn for her because no one buys their cargo any longer — cargo such as gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all sorts of things made of citron wood, all sorts of objects made of ivory, all sorts of things made of expensive wood, bronze, iron and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, perfumed ointment, frankincense, wine, olive oil and costly flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and four-wheeled carriages, slaves and human lives. (The ripe fruit you greatly desired has gone from you, and all your luxury and splendor have gone from you — they will never ever be found again!) The merchants who sold these things, who got rich from her, will stand a long way off because they are afraid of her torment. They will weep and mourn, saying, "Woe, woe, O great city — dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet clothing, and adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls — because in a single hour such great wealth has been destroyed!" And every ship's captain, and all who sail along the coast — seamen, and all who make their living from the sea, stood a long way off

        (All quotations from the NET Bible)

        1. Memorial Day, Mother's Day, and the National Day of Prayer

          What can Memorial Day, Mother’s Day and the National Day of Prayer all have in common? Grace! “Charis” quite literally is a love that stoops to bring benevolence to another.


          Grace came into this world born of a woman. Motherhood is perhaps the highest calling of all. Every mother has experienced this most miraculous process where a new life is brought into this world. This new life is nurtured within the mother’s body at no small sacrifice until the day of birth arrives. Then for years afterward there is continued nurture and care given the child in patient continuance. Mothers endure unspeakable hardship, with little praise or recognition. During time of war their pain and loss at the combat death of their child brings anguish no man can understand nor fully appreciate. President Abraham Lincoln in just a few words captured (as best as any man can) the breadth of this grief in a letter to a bereaved Civil War mother. Mothers are one of God’s living illustrations of His Grace.


          Memorial Day, in times past, was called “Decoration Day” and was a day of remembrance by us who remain alive for those who have died in our nation’s service. Toward that end there are a great many time-honored traditions that help us to show our appreciation of the fallen and remember their sacrifice. One such tradition is that the 3rd U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more that 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery.


          “This is My commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13 NLT)


          There is no exclusive arena for the fulfillment of this commandment from Christ. The battlefield may be one of the extreme examples where temporal fruition is demonstrated. However, this is not the only example that is available in the war fighting genre. For the many believers in Christ Jesus who also served in our military, the sacrifices started long before their earthly vessels were extinguished. The Grace of God was made manifest in their daily lives, and their investment in others was day by day ─ this daily giving of themselves to others being eternally significant, and their temporal mission being the opportunity for its conveyance. I have said before that the love of God and the love our nation are not mutually exclusive. We are each called to a vocation. The reformers were cognizant of this. But somewhere along the way we have allowed this calling to be hidden in the din of neo-modern thought. Every vocation called of God is “full-time” Christian ministry. It then would be my assertion that the Christian who serves our nation in its military is twice called. Thus, Memorial Day becomes for us a time to remember more than the sacrifice of their earthly temple, but rather the investment of their whole lives in the Gospel of His Grace and the protection of this country raised by Christ’s holy providence.


          Every year our country sets aside a day for corporate prayer. Since before its beginning, our founding fathers have recognized that no nation can rise without the beneficence of the Creator of the universe. As you may recall from previous articles, our Constitutional Convention had reached an impasse in their deliberations. This dispute would have continued were it not for the comments of Dr. Benjamin Franklin who prevailed upon his colleagues to remember the Providence that delivered them from the recent hostilities with England and how they had labored with tears in their prayer closet for His divine blessing. Why was it then that they had abandoned this earnest seeking of God’s favor in their present ministrations? Their successes became our present! The question is, can we learn from this and pray for our future. Or shall we languish in the answered prayers of our forefathers?


          What do Memorial Day, Mother’s Day, and the National Day of Prayer have in common? The grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ!

          1. Natural Law

            The law of gravity tells you what stones do if you drop them; but the Law of Human Nature tells you what human beings ought to do and do not.” C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity


            There is the unwritten law in the mind of humankind that I call the law of “expectation.” Depending upon the circumstances, our minds will have certain preconceived notions as to how things ought to be. This is a good thing because it enables us to see. According to the experts, sight is 90 percent imagination. If it were not for our experience, our minds would not be able to rightly interpret the images that our eyes deliver to our cerebral cortex. Our sight and our memory play a harmonic role in allowing us to see both familiar things and those things new to us without becoming disoriented.


            However, when it comes to actions, we have another law in effect that is called prejudice. It is also based upon experience (whether good or bad, right or wrong). We see, we judge, and we react accordingly. This allows us, more often than not, to operate our automobiles alongside those belonging to our neighbors, in rather close proximity without creating a total catastrophe. But what happens when our expectation leads us to a false prejudice? We pick up the phone and call our insurance agent to inform him that we have had an accident. Hopefully it was not beyond the scope of repair for the car and healing for our bodies!


            Unfortunately, in our personal relationships with others this law of expectation takes on unrealistic proportions. We often expect of others what we do not demand of ourselves. We may have a whole host of societal standards based upon where we live, work, or worship. These standards may or may not match those held by someone else. What results is the inevitable collision of standards of conduct where feelings are injured, and relationships destroyed. “But like a good neighbor, State Farm” isn't there to help you pick up the pieces.


            Let us now call in the accident investigator to determine the cause of the calamity. Perhaps we can listen to the cockpit voice recorder and hear what was really said in the minutes that preceded the event. We could check the flight recorder (black box) in order to ascertain the attitude of the heart. Perhaps we could check the weather forecast to see if there was an air of deception present that hindered visibility. The accident investigator looks through all the evidence and then comes to the conclusion that this accident was preventable and assigns fault (oftentimes to both parties).


            The world looks upon us believers as though our faces were engraved upon Mount Rushmore. There is an expectation of absolute perfection in all we say or do. It is a bit like being an airline pilot whose reputation is only as good as his last landing. It would not matter if the pilot had made thousands of perfect landings if the last landing resulted in a crash. When the world holds us to account in response to these crashes, some of us believers would say of our own conduct, “I am not perfect, just forgiven!” When we are rebuked by the brethren, we counter with, “Judge not, lest ye be not judged” ─ the mantra of those who use Grace to self-justify a careless life.


            It was no accident that the Apostle Paul called upon us to, "clothe yourselves with the armor of right living, as those who live in the light" (Romans 13:12b NLT1996). Perhaps said another way, the word used could be “virtue.” Virtuous living is no accident; it is a volitional choice that is based upon right experience. Right experience leads to right expectation, and right expectation leads to right prejudice.


            But where does the right experience come from? Answer: “The Light!” The Light has a Name, “Jesus.” In Him there is no darkness at all! Therein lies the whole answer to the whole question. The near context of the verse quoted is:


            “Another reason for right living is that you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for the coming of our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So don't live in darkness. Get rid of your evil deeds. Shed them like dirty clothes. Clothe yourselves with the armor of right living, as those who live in the light. We should be decent and true in everything we do, so that everyone can approve of our behavior. Don't participate in wild parties and getting drunk, or in adultery and immoral living, or in fighting and jealousy. But let the Lord Jesus Christ take control of you, and don't think of ways to indulge your evil desires” (Romans 13:11-14 NLT1996).


            Sound familiar? It should! Let us render this in a more literal update of this same translation:


            “So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living…Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13 NLT2004)


            Paul says in Ephesians:


            “throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception”

            (Ephesians 4:22 NLT2004).


            We are tested every day, all day, even while we sleep! We are only as good as our last landing! Collisions occur with the world and with the brethren. They are caused by expectations that are corrupted by lust and deception! This causes us to trip! And when we trip, we should know that it was Jesus, the “Chief Cornerstone,” over whom we stumbled. Another landing failed!


            “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that will make them fall” (1 Peter 2:8 NLT1996).


            Virtue or vice, the choice is ours, and the fault of our failures lies within.


            The final questions (plural) remain. How are you doing? Even more importantly, how are we (the Body of Christ) doing? Answer: Abysmally! Don't believe me, just ask your neighbor! Read the newspaper. Jesus changed the world with twelve unaccomplished men. Yet we live in a time when “mega-churches abound” and sin super-abounds. If the law of proportion applies, then a mega-church should change the universe. What was that thing that happened in 1740? An awakening? Who was that guy who was preaching then? What was that phrase we just passed over? “Wake up, for the coming of our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”


            As it seems to challenge an excellency above all His other perfections, so it is the glory of all the rest; as it is the glory of the Godhead, so it is the glory of every perfection in the Godhead; as His power is the strength of them, so His holiness is the beauty of them; as all would be weak without almightiness to back them, so all would be uncomely without holiness to adorn them. Should this be sullied, all the rest would lose their honor; as at the same instant the sun should lose its light, it would lose its heat, its strength, its generative and quickening virtue. As sincerity is the luster of every grace in a Christian, so is purity the splendor of every attribute in the Godhead. His justice is a holy justice, His wisdom a holy wisdom, His arm of power a “holy arm” (Psalm 98:1), His truth or promise a “holy promise” (Psalm 105:42). His name, which signifies all His attributes in conjunction, “is holy,” (Psalm 103:1) Stephen Charnock, Existence and Attributes of God,1682.

            1. Mr. Wheeler: Saved Soul - Lost Life

              Once upon a time there was a High School Drivers Training class that was shown a Walt Disney cartoon. In it a mild-mannered sort of fellow turned into the aggressive, obnoxious, high-speed and dangerous driver, Mr. Wheeler. This was probably an attempt at visual hyperbole endeavoring to imprint an important lesson in the minds of the young student drivers (a right attitude is everything).


              Today in America we have accomplished the impossible! We have paved paradise and put in a commuter lane! If you travel to our large metropolitan cities these days you will find highways that are six lanes wide. The large majority of the inhabitants travel these concrete behemoths at speeds in excess of 85 mile per hour even though the posted limit is 55. Some even accomplish this fete while carrying on intense conversations using their cell phones. I suppose they were practicing for their victory interview after breaking the land speed record. One could argue that this is not atypical of the current American attitude. Said another way, “hey, you, get out of my lane.”


              When these people finally enter into the safety of their castle, they are probably looking for some peace and tranquility. Toward that end, they drop into their favorite easy-chair and reach for the remote control. The next several hours are spent paying homage to the flat screen, high-definition, one-eyed monster, complete with home-theater surround-sound, that has become their altar of life. With frazzled mind focused in a catatonic-like state, the pictures flash by in front of their eyes while cycling through 200 channels seeking some sort of illusive solace. For thirty hours this week they will seek the fruit of the television-spirit which is love (Desperate Housewives), joy (Dawson's Creek), peace (Everwood), patience (Judging Amy), kindness (Oprah), goodness (Seventh Heaven), faithfulness (Cheaters), and self-control (Dr. Phil). If you want to see a tsunami, just get between them and Monday night football. Is this a picture of walking with the Son—-or rather a comet traveling too near the sun?


              At Sunday morning worship services these same folks have the widest smile of greeting, the loudest voice in praise, and the largest hole in their heart (that is bleeding copiously). In short, their life is crying out in pain! But when you ask, “How are you doing?” The answer most heard is “fine.” (FINE: Fully Internalized Nuclear Explosion). They have become one of those “fair shows and glistering appearances”1 masquerading as a follower of Christ. Not only are they not following, but are totally ignoring Him! When the calamities of life come their way it becomes clear that they are all chrome and no steel—all hawse pipe and no keel!2 Sound familiar? (1 The Religious Affections—Jonathan Edwards. 2 Hawse pipe: The hole in the side of a ship through which the anchor chain falls. Keel: The backbone of a ship.)


              “Don't be misled. Remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow! Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful desires will harvest the consequences of decay and death. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time. Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters.” Galatians 6:7-10 NLT


              Ignore: pay no attention to; take no notice of; close the eyes to; pay no heed to; disregard; do not take into account; overlook; discount; dispense with; turn your back on; flout; snub; look right through vs. Ignorant: unaware; uninformed; badly informed.


              “God’s promise of entering his place of rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to get there. For this Good News—that God has prepared a place of rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t believe what God told them. For only we who believe can enter his place of rest.” Hebrews 4:1-3a NLT


              “As the most dangerous winds may enter at little openings, so the devil never enters more dangerously than by little unobserved incidents, which seem to be nothing, yet insensibly open the heart to great temptations. It is good to renew ourselves, from time to time, by closely examining the state of our souls, as if we had never done it before; for nothing tends more to the full assurance of faith, than to keep ourselves by this means in humility, and the exercise of all good works.” A Plain Account of Christian Perfection—John Wesley


              “But there is something very strange. If we ourselves are often irritated, angry, bitter, jealous, untruthful, impulsive, we usually do not get at all excited and do not take offense at ourselves. Perhaps just because of the fact that we believe in Jesus Christ, we are convinced that we have the assurance of salvation; we are in the ‘boat’ that will lead to heavenly glory. But we do not sense how Satan is perhaps scornfully laughing at us—and justifiably so. Without our knowing it, he has taken our boat into his hands, because we are persisting in sin.” You Will Never Be the Same—Basilea Schlink

              “Yes, there is a power, a blessing, an assurance, a rest in the presence of the Holy Ghost. You can feel His presence and know that He is with you. You need not spend an hour without this inner knowledge of His holy presence. With His power upon you there can be no failure. You are above par all the time.” Ever Increasing Faith—Smith Wigglesworth

              “Repose in the blood of Christ; a firm confidence in God, and persuasion of His favor; the highest tranquility, serenity, and peace of mind; with a deliverance from every fleshly desire, and a cessation of all, even inward sins.” Arvid Gradin


              Walking with Jesus in this life is more about the journey NOT just the destination assured. It is a journey of discovery! The discovery of fellowship, in the Spirit, with the Father, through the Son. Don't miss a single day of rest in the Savior!

              1. Men are from Mars...Women are from Venus

                “So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned?  It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 14:33-35 NASB).


                I often give newlyweds a book entitled “Men Are From Mars and Women Are From Venus.” I think it is helpful for couples to learn how differently men and women think, act and communicate. When we begin to understand one another, we begin to appreciate one another, and as a result may find true love. The two becoming one flesh is not, contrary to popular belief, the woman becoming the female version of the husband, but rather the two becoming more as one than they were as two (God's math).


                I once had a the opportunity to view the stereotypical man-woman conversation in progress. The wife, in exasperation, told her husband, “You never listen to me!” He replied, “Of course I listen to you, I can repeat back every word you said!” Was the husband really listening? I think not! Ironically, perhaps even providentially, as I have lost much of my hearing, I have learned to become a better listener! But I must confess that I have been not unlike our stereotypical husband. Not only so in temporal life but also in the spiritual realm as well. I am part of the “Bride of Christ” yet I am sure that I have said to “the Most High,” “I hear you Lord, I can repeat back to you everything you say!” In doing so I was rebelliously and disobediently ignoring His words, “Take heed what ye hear” (Mark 4:24 KJV) . Instead I was hearing only the weeping of the Holy Spirit as He grieved over my sin, because I was forsaking not my sinful will for His most perfect and holy will! “Jesus help me follow.” And Grace answers:


                “And now that I am away you must be even more careful to put into action God's saving work in your lives, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:12b-13 NLT).


                The words that proceed our quote from Luke speak of counting the cost of following Jesus Christ. I know you must have counted the cost before you gave up your freedom to join the list of the thousands of American warriors who have gone before you into the battle. When I was in the Navy and gave someone an order, I expected immediate action and if not observed an act of correction ensued. Yet when the King of Kings commands (“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” Matthew 28:19 NASB) we find new and clever ways to rationalize our “direct disobedience to a lawful order.” So it ought not to be a surprise when we are chastised by the Lord. He does not even have to raise a finger but allows us to fall prostrate upon the threshing room floor under the weight of our own sin.


                “My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when you are punished by him; for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts” (Hebrews 12:5b-6 NRSV).


                If we say we love Christ and yet live in disobedience to Him we are deceived! Then what we see today touted as Christianity begins to make sense. It is another gospel (Galatians 1:6), or living a “form of godliness but denying the power thereof from such turn away” (2 Timothy 3:5 KJV). But if we belong to Jesus, He gives us the “desire to obey” and the “power to do what pleases Him.”

                1. Made in the Shade

                  In our fashion-conscious world, it is amazing how much time and money is devoted to improving the external appearance. Hours are spent each day trying to make hair softer, shinier, and sexier. Preparations are offered to protect our skin from the sun and at the same time produce the coveted golden tan. Some even gain their brown exterior in an artificial way with “space age, state of the art” tanning machines. A movie star complexion can be attained by investing just minutes each day.


                  What if, as a Christian, I spend too much time and energy on my exterior? I am talking about that part of me that I show to the world. Christians are expected to look and act a certain way. Even among ourselves, we maintain appearances. It would be very easy for me to put on my Sunday face and appear to be something that I am not. Armed with everything I have heard at Sunday service, seen on Christian television, and read in Christian books I could venture forth into this world displaying a face that glows in the dark. Now I am “looking good!” I really have it “made in the shade,” right?


                  “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (I John 1:6 NAS).


                  How does shade fit into this verse? The darkness mentioned in this verse represents sin. I believe that anything in my life that gets in the way of my relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is sin. Within this definition, sin may not appear as darkness. It might appear as shade or even light. But God is not a half-stepper, “...God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all…” (1 John 1:5b NAS). If I am not walking fully in His light, then I am walking in darkness.


                  How can I use this in my life each day? Let me try to explain. Flashlights are familiar objects to all of us. They're made up of batteries, a bulb, and a switch. Turn on the switch and light emanates from the bulb. But what happens if the switch is left on too long? The light grows dim. Why? Some would say that the batteries are weak. I think it is because they are full of darkness. Batteries, contrary to popular belief, are dark absorbers. I am also an absorber. The Lord Jesus wants me to be full of light, but I can absorb anything I choose. Now if the battery in my car goes dead, I may be able to start the engine by getting a “jump start” from another battery. But this will be only temporary if my car’s charging system is inoperable. Likewise, if I do not make time each day for fellowship with the Lord Jesus, I am depending on a “jump start” instead of plugging into the Source.


                  When I became a Christian, I discovered the ministries of the Holy Spirit. First, He came to live inside me (indwelling). Second, I learned that if I asked, He would fill me with His presence (filling). However, here is a key problem. I cannot be full of light if I am already full of shade; “but if I confess my sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive my sins and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9 NAS). Having been cleansed by God Himself, there is room to be filled with His light, and I can have fellowship with Him, “...and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (I John 1:3b NAS). He speaks to my heart through prayer. He feeds me through His Holy Word. If I fellowship with the T.V. instead of the Master, I have in effect chosen the sun lamp instead of the SON LAMP! The tan may look the same, but we know it was made in the shade.

                  1. May 16th Devotional “He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live.”—15:27. Interpretation.—The avaricious man is a troubler of his own family in many ways. Contrasted with him is the man who hates avarice and all ill-gotten gain—as, for example, the receipt of bribes so common in the East, or usurious transactions, to which the Jews as a nation have always been addicted. The first of these two characters, it is implied, will not be happy or prosperous in the true sense of the word; the second shall live to good purpose, enjoy life, and achieve prosperity. Illustrations.—Lot, yielding, perhaps, to his wife’s influence, brought great trouble and disgrace upon his family by settling down, for the sake of gain, in a vile neighborhood. Laban, by his sordid dealings, saddened the hearts and lost the services of those who might have been a comfort and a help to him in his declining years. Achan, whose greed of forbidden treasure drew down God’s wrath upon the tribes, is reproached by Joshua as having troubled them. Gehazi involved his posterity in evil by giving way to covetousness. But Abraham had strength of principle to reject the gifts of the King of Sodom, and St. Peter those of Simon Magus. And Samuel contrasts most favorably with Eli’s two sons ravening for their fees in flesh (1 Sam. 12:3, 4; 2:15, 16). Application.—How base a passion is the love of money, even judged of only by what we see! Well has it been called “the root of all evil” (1 Tim. 6:10), for all manner of evils may, and as a matter of fact do, arise out of it. Domestic troubles are specially glanced at here as among its progeny, and their name is “Legion.” If the passion be to hoard, the man becomes “a miser,” an epithet which proclaims both his own condition and that of his household as miserable. For, in order to save money, he will reduce the comfort and happiness of all under his power to a minimum, giving full scope to his own exacting, irritable, hard temper. But if to lavish money be his aim in raking it together, then what temptation is there to hazardous speculations, risking all to make more, and indeed, to iniquitous methods of various kinds, which not seldom terminate in disgrace! The anxiety and distress these cause to wife and family cannot be described. Too often present ruin or a harvest of future difficulties are their sad outcome. Be it mine, as an heir of glory, to guard against those two extremes by “using this world as not abusing it.” The family is God’s handiwork, which He will not suffer to be troubled with impunity. The gain of which this is the price is unjust, and all such gain is loss. Pearson, C. R. (1880). Counsels of the Wise King; or, Proverbs of Solomon Applied to Daily Life (Vol. 1, p. 137). W. Skeffington & Son. (Public Domain)
                    1. Love is...

                      Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT)


                      Virtues are not much in our conversation these days. Perhaps it is because of the current culture of relativism where everybody does what is right in their own eyes and do not recognize any moral absolutes. The phrase often used is, “what is true for you may not be true for me.” (I hope that those following that philosophy are not keeping track of the balance in my checkbook!) But the reality is that we are seeing the effect of this kind of thinking in our current economic situation, where those who were responsible for the billions in our economy did unthinkable things for which now everyone will suffer the consequences.


                      C. S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, describes virtue as residing in two groups (Cardinal and Theological). Cardinal (a word coming from the Latin for “hinge of the door”) describing those virtues that are “pivotal” —Prudence, Temperance, Justice, and Fortitude) that all civilized people recognize. Lewis describes “Prudence” as practical common sense; “Temperance” as going the right length and no further; “Justice” being more aptly described today as fairness, honesty, truthfulness, and promise-keeping; and “Fortitude” as courage that faces danger and remains under pain (Guts).


                      The “Theological” virtues will be more familiar to the ears: “Faith,” “Hope,” and “Charity.”


                      “Faith” in the common sense is the “art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.” In the higher sense, it is trust that the promises of God are true even though I may not see them except through a darkened glass.


                      “Hope” is described as looking forward to our heavenly estate and—because of this—changing the world in which we live.


                      “Charity” in the original definition means more than alms but rather, “Love” in the Christian sense, which is to say love as a state of the will and not an emotion.


                      Perhaps the mind would see better if in 1 Corinthians 13 we would say, Jesus is patient and kind, Jesus is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude; Jesus does not demand His own way, is not irritable, and keeps no record of being wronged. Jesus does not rejoice in injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out; Jesus never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.… For when we see Jesus, then faith, hope and charity abide in us because of His presence and not our self-effort.