Thursday, May 9, 2013

Don't Kick Against The Goads -- Listen! ("Steps To Christ" Chapter 3)

It's funny, I started out with some trepidation 'cause these are some hard truths and, ya gotta admit, this is not a world and we are not people accustomed to taking hard truths very well. But as I read I was soothed and encouraged, and am in the end left with nothing but Truth -- hard only if I resist it  [reminds me of what Jesus told Paul at his conversion on the road to Damascus: "It is hard for you to kick against the goads."]

So here are the highlights for me from Chapter 3 (there's much, much more, but we'll be talking about it later I'm sure :-)  These, though, I love. Thank you God!

Just here is a point on which many may err, and hence they fail of receiving the help that Christ desires to give them. They think that they cannot come to Christ unless they first repent, and that repentance prepares for the forgiveness of their sins. It is true that repentance does precede the forgiveness of sins; for it is only the broken and contrite heart that will feel the need of a Saviour. But must the sinner wait till he has repented before he can come to Jesus? Is repentance to be made an obstacle between the sinner and the Saviour?
The Bible does not teach that the sinner must repent before he can heed the invitation of Christ, "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28. It is the virtue that goes forth from Christ, that leads to genuine repentance...Christ is the source of every right impulse. He is the only one that can implant in the heart enmity against sin. Every desire for truth and purity, every conviction of our own sinfulness, is an evidence that His Spirit is moving upon our hearts. (p. 26)

The same divine mind that is working upon the things of nature is speaking to the hearts of men and creating an inexpressible craving for something they have not. The things of the world cannot satisfy their longing. The Spirit of God is pleading with them to seek for those things that alone can give peace and rest--the grace of Christ, the joy of holiness. Through influences seen and unseen, our Saviour is constantly at work to attract the minds of men from the unsatisfying pleasures of sin to the infinite blessings that may be theirs in Him. To all these souls, who are vainly seeking to drink from the broken cisterns of this world, the divine message is addressed, "Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Revelation 22:17...
We may have flattered ourselves, as did Nicodemus, that our life has been upright, that our moral character is correct, and think that we need not humble the heart before God, like the common sinner: but when the light from Christ shines into our souls, we shall see how impure we are; we shall discern the selfishness of motive, the enmity against God, that has defiled every act of life. Then we shall know that our own righteousness is indeed as filthy rags, and that the blood of Christ alone can cleanse us from the defilement of sin, and renew our hearts in His own likeness.
One ray of the glory of God, one gleam of the purity of Christ, penetrating the soul, makes every spot of defilement painfully distinct, and lays bare the deformity and defects of the human character. It makes apparent the unhallowed desires, the infidelity of the heart, the impurity of the lips. (pp. 28-29)

The drunkard is despised and is told that his sin will exclude him from heaven; while pride, selfishness, and covetousness too often go unrebuked. But these are sins that are especially offensive to God; for they are contrary to the benevolence of His character, to that unselfish love which is the very atmosphere of the unfallen universe. He who falls into some of the grosser sins may feel a sense of his shame and poverty and his need of the grace of Christ; but pride feels no need, and so it closes the heart against Christ... (p. 30)

Every act of transgression, every neglect or rejection of the grace of Christ, is reacting upon yourself; it is hardening the heart, depraving the will, benumbing the understanding, and not only making you less inclined to yield, but less capable of yielding, to the tender pleading of God's Holy Spirit...Even one wrong trait of character, one sinful desire, persistently cherished, will eventually neutralize all the power of the gospel. Every sinful indulgence strengthens the soul's aversion to God. The man who manifests an infidel hardihood, or a stolid indifference to divine truth, is but reaping the harvest of that which he has himself sown. In all the Bible there is not a more fearful warning against trifling with evil than the words of the wise man that the sinner "shall be held with the cords of his sins." Proverbs 5:22. (pp. 33-34)

"Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart"--the human heart, with its conflicting emotions of joy and sorrow; the wandering, wayward heart, which is the abode of so much impurity and deceit. 1 Samuel 16:7. He knows its motives, its very intents and purposes. Go to Him with your soul all stained as it is. Like the psalmist, throw its chambers open to the all-seeing eyes, exclaiming, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139: 23, 24.
Many accept an intellectual religion, a form of godliness, when the heart is not cleansed. Let it be your prayer, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me." Psalm 51:10. Deal truly with your own soul. Be as earnest, as persistent, as you would be if your mortal life were at stake. This is a matter to be settled between God and your own soul, settled for eternity. (pp. 34-35)

As you see the enormity of sin, as you see yourself as you really are, do not give up to despair. It was sinners that Christ came to save. We have not to reconcile God to us, but -- O wondrous love! -- God in Christ is "reconciling the world unto Himself." 2 Corinthians 5:19. He is wooing by His tender love the hearts of His erring children. No earthly parent could be as patient with the faults and mistakes of his children, as is God with those He seeks to save. No one could plead more tenderly with the transgressor. No human lips ever poured out more tender entreaties to the wanderer than does He. All His promises, His warnings, are but the breathing of unutterable love. (p. 35)

When Satan comes to tell you that you are a great sinner, look up to your Redeemer and talk of His merits. That which will help you is to look to His light. Acknowledge your sin, but tell the enemy that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" and that you may be saved by His matchless love. 1 Timothy 1:15...We have been great sinners, but Christ died that we might be forgiven. (p. 36)

You've been prayed for today...


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Am I Stuck Or Am I Free Indeed? ("Steps To Christ" Chapter 2)

So today's excerpt (from Chapter 2 of Steps To Christ) has some hard truths for us -- if we're willing to look. And that's a mighty big "if" -- you may have noticed that our society as a whole is not particularly enamored with taking hard looks and hearing hard truths. And oh-BTW, lest we get too smug, as denizens of this planet and this society specifically, we're at least a tad bit susceptible to that mindset, so heads up! We have to take James' admonition to heart:

"But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it."
James 1:22-25

So here we go, and remember: only in looking hard and seeing and accepting and incorporating Truth are we set free (John 8:36 says, "If the Son sets you free you are free indeed." I hear it say, "ONLY if the Son sets you free are you actually free. Anything else is temporary and unreliable; don't buy it!").

Here're Chapter 2's thoughts...

...Selfishness took the place of love. His nature became so weakened through transgression that it was impossible for him, in his own strength, to resist the power of evil. (p.17)

It is impossible for us, of ourselves, to escape from the pit of sin in which we are sunken. Our hearts are evil, and we cannot change them. "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one." "The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Job 14:4; Romans 8:7. Education, culture, the exercise of the will, human effort, all have their proper sphere, but here they are powerless. They may produce an outward correctness of behavior, but they cannot change the heart; they cannot purify the springs of life. There must be a power working from within, a new life from above, before men can be changed from sin to holiness. That power is Christ. His grace alone can quicken the lifeless faculties of the soul, and attract it to God, to holiness.  (p.18)

[Reminds me of the words of Jeremiah:
“The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
'I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind...'"

Jer. 17:9-10]

In the apostasy, man alienated himself from God; earth was cut off from heaven. Across the gulf that lay between, there could be no communion. But through Christ, earth is again linked with heaven. With His own merits, Christ has bridged the gulf which sin had made, so that the ministering angels can hold communion with man. Christ connects fallen man in his weakness and helplessness with the Source of infinite power. But in vain are men's dreams of progress, in vain all efforts for the uplifting of humanity, if they neglect the one Source of hope and help for the fallen race. "Every good gift and every perfect gift" (James 1:17) is from God. There is no true excellence of character apart from Him. (pp.20-21)

Shall we not regard the mercy of God? What more could He do? Let us place ourselves in right relation to Him who has loved us with amazing love. Let us avail ourselves of the means provided for us that we may be transformed into His likeness, and be restored to fellowship with the ministering angels, to harmony and communion with the Father and the Son.  (p.22)

Gonna not write and rather let that marinate for a while -- you?
Actually, another couple of lines from this chapter really leapt out at me (then we can let the marination begin):

"People who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means."  1 Corinthians 2:14

Overarching it all for me, though, was this idea:

"The heart of God yearns over His earthly children with a love stronger than death."

That's who He is, that's what He's about. Praise God.

Shall we not regard the mercy of God?
What more could He do?

You've been prayed for today.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Welcome [Back]! ("Steps To Christ" Chapter 1)

Welcome (and welcome back, some of you) to the (woefully neglected) RST blog, and especially welcome Bonita Valley Adventist Church folks who are reading Steps To Christ this quarter. As Sharon said, we'll post here early in the week (well, it'll be "early" starting next week -- this week, not so much :-)  Feel free to jump in, comment on these or any posts (or the emailed questions), wander through the archived RSTs, whatever, make yourselves at home. Alrighty then -- here we go! Here's what really jumped out at me from Chapter 1 (as you'll notice, most posts are much shorter than these so don't panic).

God has bound our hearts to Him by unnumbered tokens in heaven and in earth. Through the things of nature, and the deepest and tenderest earthly ties that human hearts can know, He has sought to reveal Himself to us. Yet these but imperfectly represent His love. Though all these evidences have been given, the enemy of good blinded the minds of men, so that they looked upon God with fear; they thought of Him as severe and unforgiving. Satan led men to conceive of God as a being whose chief attribute is stern justice--one who is a severe judge, a harsh, exacting creditor. He pictured the Creator as a being who is watching with jealous eye to discern the errors and mistakes of men, that He may visit judgments upon them. It was to remove this dark shadow, by revealing to the world the infinite love of God, that Jesus came to live among men...In describing His earthly mission, Jesus said, The Lord "hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised." Luke 4:18. (pp. 10-11)

I'm always struck, when I allow myself the time/space to think about deeper things, by the relentlessness of God's pursuit of me, of His immeasurable love for me and His unflagging drive to make me aware of His actual, literal, tender affection and mercy toward me. He's not mad; He loves me, yes, tenderly, and fiercely, but mostly irrevocably. Turns out He's crazy about me.
And then I'm also struck by the flip side: the relentlessly malevolent, angry, and bitter assault of the Adversary. He is the Father of Lies, and lie about God he does. Too many of us buy it, too. Before you think about it too much, take a quick inventory and see: do you feel like God is warm and affectionate and darned-near mushy crazy about you? Or does He feel cold, hard, distant, judgmental, vindictive?   Read Jesus' own words above from Luke 4 (reading about Himself from Isaiah 61). That's what He said He was about; why do I (sometimes? often?) believe otherwise about Him?

Jesus did not suppress one word of truth, but He uttered it always in love. He exercised the greatest tact and thoughtful, kind attention in His intercourse with the people. He was never rude, never needlessly spoke a severe word, never gave needless pain to a sensitive soul. He did not censure human weakness. He spoke the truth, but always in love. He denounced hypocrisy, unbelief, and iniquity; but tears were in His voice as He uttered His scathing rebukes ... His life was one of self-denial and thoughtful care for others. Every soul was precious in His eyes. While He ever bore Himself with divine dignity, He bowed with the tenderest regard to every member of the family of God. In all men He saw fallen souls whom it was His mission to save. (p.12)

I love how Christ did the consistent living-out of who He was and what was written about Him in scripture (like the passage from Isaiah above). He truly  exemplified for us CHRISTians what The Way looks like. Now for the pointy end of the stick: how am I doing living out my credo? Do I look like Him, or do I just say I do?

The more we study the divine character in the light of the cross, the more we see mercy, tenderness, and forgiveness blended with equity and justice, and the more clearly we discern innumerable evidences of a love that is infinite and a tender pity surpassing a mother's yearning sympathy for her wayward child. (p. 15)

Yep. That about covers it; it takes effort, and a little faith, to see beyond the deception the Adversary crafts and sells so effectively. God is love. No, seriously; God is so loving He actually is love. I just have to look around at the "innumerable evidences" and remember.

You've been prayed for today...

Friday, May 4, 2012

Your "Armor of God" -- nice and shiny?

Here's one that had been saved in an old email folder since 2007. It's based on thoughts by Jim Weidmann, a VP at Promise Keepers.

I enjoyed playing football at the Air Force Academy. I’d pass by the full length mirror on the way to warm ups and feel pretty impressed with myself; decked out in my football armor of helmet, pads, and a bright white and blue uniform emblazoned with lightning bolts. I soon became aware there was an unwritten rule of being on the squad:  DO NOT return to the locker room wearing a uniform as clean as when you went out!  The proof that you had engaged the adversary on the football field was seen in coming back with a “well used uniform” containing grass and blood stains. Ending the game in a clean-as-new uniform proclaimed to everyone that you hadn’t even made it off the bench and onto the field.

The rise of the Roman Empire was due in no small part to the well-equipped Roman soldier, so much so that the Apostle Paul uses the Roman soldier's armor as a visual example to describe the Armor of God.  In Ephesians 6:10-18 we are told to put on this whole Armor of God — powerful both on defense and offense — so we "can take our stand against the devil’s schemes."  We are instructed to put it on with the intention and understanding that IT WILL BE USED; and by the way, nowhere are we told to take it off.

Christians, we forget that God’s armor equips us for battle with our very real, relentless, powerful, malignant enemy.  If we are making a difference for the Kingdom (and thus making inroads into Satan's dominion), we can expect many skirmishes with that enemy.  By the time we reach the end of the day we should expect our armor to be dinged, dented and “well used.”  Coach Mac, PK’s co-founder, once asked: "We are at war, but have we been *in* the war?"  Put on your armor and engage the enemy in your sphere of influence – and remember that the fight comes to you whether you are ready for it or not. What you do with it is up to you. Will you stand? Or will you cave?

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

"Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people."

(Ephesians 6:10-18)

So, following Paul's exhortation:

You've been prayed for today.


Friday, August 6, 2010

"Mightier than the breakers of the sea"

Hey, Y'all,

A few days ago we had church at the beach and we discussed Psalm 93 (thanks, Pastor, for the reminder) -- here are a few verses to chew on...

Your throne was established long ago;
you are from all eternity.

The seas have lifted up, O LORD,
the seas have lifted up their voice;
the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.

Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea--
the LORD on high is mighty.

Been thinking about the many different coastlines I've been fortunate enough to visit over the years: some cold and others tropical, some rocky and others sandy -- from black to sugar-white, with waters ranging from grey to green to deepest blue. Invariably they draw me, almost magically, (siren song?) and alternately hypnotize and humble, strengthen and soothe, energize and awe...

Why is that exactly? Is it the oceans' inscrutable depths? The neverending horizons? Or is it the seemingly unlimited variations on "Green" and "Blue"? Or the comforting constancy of the breeze, with its clean, briny scent? Is it the pounding thunder of the breakers? Or the hisssss as they recede back down the sand? What about the sound of utter silence interrupted only by the soft lapping of gentle waves on the shore (or against the side of a gently rocking boat) while enjoying the sheer bliss of eyes-closed-warm-sun-bare-skin?

What is it about the ocean?

What is it about us?

What is it about God?

You've been prayed for today...


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What Is God Like? He rejoices over you...

This is what Zephaniah 3:17 says, little Lea...

The LORD your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with his love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.

You've been prayed for today.

(Thanks mon frere Mike R. for the reminder) .


Monday, March 8, 2010

"The Influence of Grace"

Hey, y'all,

Have had this sitting in my "on-deck circle" of RSTs for months -- seems like a good place to talk about it.

"...No man who has the true ideal of what constitutes a perfect character will fail to manifest the sympathy and tenderness of Christ. The influence of grace is to soften the heart, to refine and purify the feelings, giving a heaven-born delicacy and sense of propriety...

"A religion that leads men to place a low estimate upon human beings, whom Christ has esteemed of such value as to give Himself for them, a religion that would lead us to be careless of human needs, sufferings, or rights, is a spurious religion...

"It is because men take upon themselves the name of Christ, while in life they deny His character, that Christianity has so little power in the world."

—E G White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, pp. 135-137

A couple of 'ouches' there:
Can't say I haven't (on a regular basis, good grief!) failed to "manifest the sympathy and tenderness of Christ" -- but I'm sure it's probably just me :-). And that's pretty potent stuff there at the end: "It is because men take upon themselves the name of Christ, while in life they deny His character, that Christianity has so little power in the world." How true is that?!? And how significant exactly is my contribution to that depressing little equation?

Interesting how grace isn't described as some namby-pamby soft-and-fuzzy little nothing; it's characterized as having powerful, transformative power. Thus, if I'm not being consistently changed by my acceptance of God's grace (manifested as a vital, life-altering relationship with Him), how authentic was the 'grace experience' really?

You've been prayed for today...