GIANT SLAYS KING DAVID

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A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man. (Proverbs 6:10-11)

Does today’s title strike you as odd? Whether we grew up in a Christian home or not, just about everyone remembers the story as being just the opposite: David slays the giant! The shepherd boy David was the anointed of God, chosen to be the next king of Israel. Along the way, David stepped up for his nation and accepted the challenge from the giant Goliath. Armed with only a sling, five smooth stones, and unwavering faith in his God, David slew the giant.

But there is another giant in David’s story. Let’s take a look.

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army . . . But David remained in Jerusalem. One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her.  (2 Samuel 11:1-4)

Up until this time in David’s life, he had known only victory. Why? Because David was more focused on God than he was himself. David was living according to God’s will for his life rather than for his own will. But now something was different . . . very different. David was more concerned with satisfying his desires than living out his devotion to God. Many Christians see the giant that now confronted David as the giant Lust, and that is certainly true. But there was another giant that challenged David long before his lustful look at Bathsheba.

You see, springtime in the Near East was the best time to engage in a military campaign. The winter rains would have subsided and the fall harvest had not yet arrived. So when we read that David sent Joab and the entire Israelite army out “in the spring, at the time when kings go off to war,” the Holy Spirit intends to arrest our attention and cause us to look for the deeper meaning in the text. King David should have been leading in battle, but he chose to send Joab in his place and relax at the palace. David neglected his calling as king and his purpose in leading the Israelite armies in the battles of His Lord. Instead of doing battle in the fields of Rabbah of the Ammonites, David lounged in his bed in Jerusalem. The giant of Sinful Slumber slew King David long before the giant Lust unlimbered its deadly sword. When David abandoned his purpose he paid a very heavy price, as did all those he was responsible for leading.

We are rightly inspired when we read of David’s glorious victory against Goliath, but may his appalling failure also inspire us as we begin another year. Let us stay focused and committed to our calling, regardless of the cost or circumstance, knowing that “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest” may very well lead us into ignoble defeat, just as the great king David  was conquered by the giant of Sinful Slumber.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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UNALLOYED JOY

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Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  (James 1:2-4)

As we awake on the first morning of yet another year, it is my prayer, if God is pleased to give us the next 365 days, that those days will be marked by unalloyed joy—or, in the words of James, “pure joy.” Now, I understand being joyful is not an easy thing to do when the waves of challenge begin to roll up on our shores. But if our confidence in the sovereignty of our Savior is in active exercise, make no mistake, it will give us unalloyed joy, regardless of the cost or circumstances we face.

James is telling us to keep the sovereignty of God in view when we are facing seasons of struggle and suffering in life. If we fully understand and accept that nothing happens to us that does not first pass through the loving, nail-scarred hands of Christ, we will respond with unalloyed joy, even when our world gets turned upside-down. When we see God’s perfect purpose being worked out through everything that is happening to us, we begin to understand His purpose in our pain. When the sovereign winds of struggle and suffering blow our way, God is testing our faith—not for a pass/fail grade, but rather to produce the perseverance that matures us in our faith.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  (1 Peter 1:6-7)

Think back over 2017 and some of the storms you went through. When you were in the middle of those trials, it was much harder to see the loving purpose of God in your pain. But now, looking back, you can see that God was using all of it—not to break you, but to build you up in your faith. God is conforming you to the image of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and much of that shaping takes place through the storms of life.

Experience has taught me that very little maturing takes place when the sky is blue, the clouds are fleecy, and the sun is shining brightly. But oh . . . what sanctifying power there is in the storms God sends our way!

Here are two things to remember as you launch out into 2018:

  1. Pressure creates diamonds.
  2. It is the crushed flower that gives off its perfume.

It is in the pressures and pains of life that we find the true persevering power of our God. God did not bring you through 2017 just to abandon you at the threshold of 2018. He who began the good work in you will bring it to completion . . . but that will never happen with you living inside a bubble of comfort.

Trust God even when you cannot trace Him, and you will experience unimaginable, unalloyed joy unlike anything you have ever experienced in the past. Let these words from A. W. Tozer put a fine point on our word of encouragement for today:

It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

 

 

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FINISHING WELL – Part II

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With only three days left until the beginning of a new year, let’s close out 2017 with some more thoughts on finishing well, rooted in these words from Paul to Timothy:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

On Wednesday we gave thought to fighting the good fight and finishing the race. Today let’s take a closer look at Paul’s final phrase …

I have kept the faith …

Here Paul is talking about the faith found in the truth of the wisdom of God. Paul had, by the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling him, pondered it, preached it, practiced it, protected it, and praised it whenever and wherever God gave him opportunity. He fearlessly contended with those who sought to distort the truth of God’s Word and those who would water it down.

For Paul, keeping the faith meant keeping the all-consuming call that God had placed on his life in view at all times. He refused to let anything take him off course. Paul lived a life of fidelity to His faithful Savior and poured himself out in unwavering service to his Lord. Yes, he did it imperfectly, but he did it with all of his heart. There was no half-hearted effort in the life of Paul. As he wrote to the Christians at Philippi:

I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

Think about it this way: everything he did as Saul prior to meeting the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus, he did with all of his heart. Now, as Paul, everything he did was done with all of his heart for the glory of the One who had called him. In closing out this year, let me suggest three key words that marked the life of Paul:

  • Sold-out
  • Steadfast
  • Single-minded

Paul was able to fight the good fight because he was sold-out in fighting it. Paul was able to finish the race because he was steadfast in running it. And Paul was able to keep the faith because he was single-minded in focusing on it.

It is my prayer that you will look back on this past year and see all the good God has done, both in you and through you. Learn from the times you fell short of the intended mark and take that lesson into 2018 with the confident assurance that He who began the good work in you will complete it . . . just as He did in the apostle Paul’s life.

Thank you for spending time with me this past year. May God bless you and yours. Lord willing, we shall do it all again next year—lifting our eyes to heaven and receiving, by faith, the grace we all need to run our race well.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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FINISHING WELL – Part I

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I would like to close out 2017 with a two-part message on finishing well, rooted in these words from the apostle Paul to his protégé Timothy.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

I’d like to examine the three phrases Paul used to sum up all that God had done in His life after his encounter with the resurrected Christ on the Damascus Road. We can use these God-breathed phrases to evaluate how well we have lived throughout the past year. We will look at the first two phrases today; on Friday we’ll examine the final one.

I have fought the good fight …

If Paul had said “I have fought A good fight,” he might have been speaking about any fight he had engaged in. But he didn’t phrase it that way; he said he had fought “THE good fight,” and the only truly good fight is the one God has called us to. God turned Paul’s life upside down when He changed Saul into Paul, transforming him from the persecutor of the church into the preacher and pastor to the church, and Paul endured innumerable hardships in order to pursue his calling. Indeed, Paul fought THE good fight God had called him to fight.

Next, Paul said . . .

I have finished the race …

Paul frequently compared his life to a race. And make no mistake, he did not compare it to a sprint, but rather a marathon. Paul lived a life that was reflective of the truth that He who begins a good work in us will certainly complete it. Yet Paul knew that he had to continue, by God’s grace, putting one foot in front of the other every day, every step of the way.

As we draw near to the end of 2017, let me encourage you to take some time to consider both these phrases from the inspired pen of the apostle Paul. Are you able to say the same as Paul? Was 2017 marked by fighting the good fight of faith and running with purpose and prayerful determination in the race God has set before you? Did you run in the strength of the Almighty?

Please understand that I am not suggesting that you should have fought the good fight and run this year’s race perfectly. Everything we do we do imperfectly, just as Paul freely admitted about his own life (Romans 7:14-24). But here is the question I believe we should all meditate on during these final days of 2017:

Did we make God’s plan for our lives our primary passion and pursuit throughout the year?

I hope you’ll come back on Friday for Part II—our final article for 2017.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Merry Christmas!

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We all have our favorite Christmas holiday movies and television shows. Since I was a child, my favorite was A Charlie Brown Christmas, which first aired in 1965. Back then, Mom would have to check the TV Guide to make sure we knew when this “special” (and back then, it really was a special occasion) would air, or we would miss it and have to wait an entire year to see it again. Today, the Boland family has Charlie Brown Christmas on DVD and we watch it any time we want, as often as we want—no longer a slave to network programming.

My absolute favorite scene is where Charlie Brown has just picked out a less than desirable Christmas tree for the play he is directing, and his friends let him know it by calling him a “completely hopeless.” In abject frustration, Charlie cries out, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” To which Linus responds, “Sure Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about,” and proceeds to declare the true Christmas story from sacred Scripture. If you’d like, you can click here and watch this lovely moment.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:8-14 KJV)

Linus concludes with these words, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” Truer words were never spoken!

My prayer is that we all will remember the Christ of Christmas—not only on Christmas Day, but every day throughout the New Year.

Merry Christmas!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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The ‘Who’ of Advent

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I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me. (John 14:6)

This is the third and final installment in our Advent Devotional Series. We’ve looked at the “Why” and the “How” of Advent; our verse today moves us to behold the “Who” of Advent.

Who Does God The Father Say He Is?

After Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, plunging all of humanity and creation into ruin, God did not abandon them. He did not leave them as ruinous rebels, guilty and ashamed in their sin. He pursued them; and in their presence, He made this promise to the serpent who had deceived the woman:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel. (Genesis 3:15)

God promised Adam and Eve that He would send a Savior who would redeem them from the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and ultimately the very presence of sin. And at the end of the third chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, God the Father announced that this promise was fulfilled in His Son, Jesus, in whom He is well pleased.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:16-17)

Who Does Jesus Say He Is?

The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ), when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” (John 4:25-26 NASB)

When the Samaritan woman at the well used the term “Messiah,” she was speaking of the expected King of the Jewish people, who had been promised by God and anticipated by the nation of Israel for hundreds of years. There are many Old Testament prophecies of a promised descendant of David who would come down from heaven and save His people. Those promises are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Here is how Jesus framed who He was to His disciples.

I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me. (John 14:6)

Who Do You Say He Is?

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13-17)

Jesus made it crystal clear that only God can open the eyes of our hearts to know Jesus. This knowledge does not come through human reason; it does not come through the witness of miracles; it will not come through a burning bush or a Damascus Road experience. It will only come through the revelation of God, which makes the blind see, the deaf hear, and the dead rise to new life in Christ.

So . . . as Christmas Day approaches . . . what will you do with this Jesus, who is called the Christ? Who do you say this Jesus is? This is the most important question you will ever answer.

It is my prayer that this brief Advent Devotional Series served to sharpen your focus on the Reason for this season . . . the One and Only King of kings and Lord of lords, the Savior of the world: Jesus Christ. He laid aside the glories of heaven to be born in a stable . . . and ultimately to die and rise again from the grave . . . so that by believing in Him you may have eternal life. 

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

 

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The ‘How’ of Advent

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For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  (Isaiah 9:6)

This is the second installment in our Advent Devotional Series; on Monday we looked at the “Why” of Advent; today we will see the “How” of Advent revealed in today’s verse; on Friday we will behold the “Who” of Advent.

At first glance, this verse might seem to contain an unnecessary repetition of the same idea: “a child is born . . . a son is given.” But make no mistake, there is an incredible distinction to be made between “a child born” and “a son given.” Let’s take a look.

A Child Is Born

All the way back in the Garden of Eden, as Adam and Eve stood trembling with fear before God, clad in the flimsy fig leaves of their own self-righteousness, God told the serpent that a child would be born as a descendent of the woman Eve.

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your
offspring [seed] and hers [Seed]. (Genesis 3:15)

In spite of Adam and Eve’s dreadful act of cosmic treason in the Garden, God graciously, lovingly chased down those rebels on the run . . . not to punish them, but to promise the solution to their sin problem: a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

When the time had fully come, God sent his Son,
born of a woman, born under law. (Galatians 4:4)

Just as any child was “born of a woman,” Jesus was born of a woman too. However, there is one critical difference: the “seed” of every child born of woman belongs to a man, but the “Seed” of Mary belonged to the second person of the Trinity—the Son of God—and did not originate from a human man. It was a virgin conception and birth, but a birth nonetheless; and in His humanity Jesus was a child born.

A Son Is Given

There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. (Luke 2:8-12)

In His humanity, Jesus Christ was indeed a child born. But as the second person of the Trinity, God’s only Son, He was not born, but given as the Savior of the world, begotten of His Father from eternity past.

A voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love;
with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)

The “prince of preachers” from the 19th century, Charles Spurgeon, beautifully captured the essence of this truth:

The doctrine of the eternal affiliation of Christ is to be received as an undoubted truth of our holy religion. But as to any explanation of it, no man should venture thereon, for it remaineth among the deep things of God—one of those solemn mysteries indeed, into which the angels dare not look nor do they desire to pry into it—a mystery which we must not attempt to fathom, for it is utterly beyond the grasp of any finite being.

As well might a gnat seek to drink in the ocean, as a finite creature to comprehend the Eternal God. A God whom we could understand would be no God. If we could grasp him he could not be infinite, if we could understand him, then were he not divine. Jesus Christ then, I say, as a Son, is not born to us, but given. He was not born in this world as God’s Son, but he was sent, or given, so that you clearly perceive that the distinction is a suggestive one, and conveys much good truth to us.

Unto us a child is born . . . unto us a Son is given . . . and He was given that you and I might have life in Him for all eternity.

On Friday, we will lift the eyes of our hearts to the glorious “Who” of Advent.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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