The Weightless Disciple

Dear Ones:

We all have perhaps a picture in our minds of a fisherman, standing in a boat, on the shore, or in shallow water, casting his net.  The action of that fisherman is very interesting to analyze.  He takes a firm grim on his net, swings it behind him, and then, at the right time, releases it entirely, as it flies from his hands.  The christian is one that is called to “cast.”  There are several uses of this verb to express different objectives.  The first would be the “casting of bread upon many waters.”  It speaks of an act of faith, in the spreading of the truth, trusting that many “fish” will be caught, many souls coming to Christ.  The second is the “… casting pearls before swine.”  It is possible to cast that which is most precious to that which will not only reject it, but will trample it into the mud. It is a waste.  The third use of this verb “to cast,” has to do with burdens and weights.  Peter writes to the “strangers (sojourners)” scattered throughout the then known world:  “…Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: casting ALL your care upon him; for He careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)  If ever there was a need of understanding how “weightless,” and unburdened we should be as Christ’s disciples, it is found in these two verses.  Essential to this experience is an understanding and practice of “casting.”

First, we need to understand that Christ came to remove the yoke of imposed burdens upon us, and this, by the world, sin, and Satan.  “Come unto Me, ALL ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)  The weights of guilt, condemnation, wrong doing and errors (which all have repercussions in this world…), are very heavy.  Beyond this, the weight of “concern and care” can be such a weight as to crush the sensitive spirit.  The preoccupation with basic needs, and the dominance of the “thought of tomorrow,” can weigh the soul down to the point that there is hardly any following of Christ.  One can be so preoccupied with need, within and without, that there is no liberty to run the race.

Peter’s admonition is an imperative declaration.  We are to “cast,” (take a firm grip upon the burdens, and throw them, releasing them…) ALL care upon Him; FOR HE CARETH FOR YOU.” (V.7)  A sheep is not built to bear burdens (we are Christ’s sheep)…it is not a burden bearer.  The cares of this life are to be cast upon the Lord, believing Him to take them entirely.  Why? Because He IS our burden bearer.  Our “light burden” is to follow Him…the gracious Shepherd.

It was Hudson Taylor who penned the following words of the Lord to his own heart:  “Bear not a single burden, ONE is too much for thee.  The work is Mine and Mine alone, thy work to REST in Me.”  O that we would learn the discipline of casting ALL care upon Him, that we might run this race, and serve Christ with freedom of spirit, and joy.

Love, Dad

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The Servant’s Secret

Dear Ones:

Perhaps one of the great stories of the Bible concerning the transformative power of Christ, is the life of Peter the Apostle.  First called Simon, his name would be changed to Peter (Petros…Rock).  Why?  Because of what Christ would put into him.  When the day of Pentecost came, though already named Peter, the character of “the Eternal Rock,” would enter his heart, and the transformation would rapidly manifest itself.

We know that Jesus called Peter to be His disciple.  And yet, in his second epistle, Peter writes this introduction:  “Simon Peter, a SERVANT and an apostle of Jesus Christ…” (2 Peter 1:1)  Peter was first a servant before and even during his apostleship.  As a servant of Christ, he learned a very important secret, one that would be the transforming power of his life.  It was that same “secret” that the Apostle Paul had to learn, which was the key of his life and service to Christ.

In 2 Peter 1:3-4, we read, “…According as His (Christ’s) divine power hath given unto us ALL THINGS that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue:  whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that BY THESE we might be partakers of the divine nature…” We see these parallel truths in Paul’s epistle to the Colossians, “…For In Him (Christ) dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.  And ye are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power.” (Col. 2:10)  What is the secret that Peter and Paul have discovered, by which, all becomes possible for them?  It is that God has “…blessed us with EVERY spiritual blessing in heavenly places IN CHRIST.” (Eph. 1:3)  Because of the fact of the believer’s union with Christ, all that Christ IS by virtue of His sinless, virtuous and victorious life, the believer has become.  He is complete…nothing lacking.

How then are we to live?  By laying hold of the “exceeding precious promises,” those specific declarations by God concerning the gifts, commitment, and blessing of God, abiding on the believer because of Christ’s work.  The believer, inseparably one with Christ, has access by faith into all the resources in/of Christ, so that he is to live BY, FROM, and FOR Him.

“Complete in Thee! Each need supplied, And no good thing to me denied; Since Thou my portion, Lord, wilt be, I ask no more, complete in Thee.”

Love, Dad

The Measure of Usefulness

Dear Ones:

The bond between John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus was an uncommon one.  Not only were they the children of Elizabeth and Mary, who were cousins, but they were both filled with the Spirit, with a passion to do the will of God.  To say the least, they were of a kindred spirit that was unique because they were both dominated by the presence and power of the Spirit of God.  What a blow it was to the Lord Jesus to learn that John had been killed in prison by Herod.  Not only was there most certainly the tremendous sense of loss,  and the pain associated with it,  but also, there was in that act by Herod the pulling back of the curtain once again to see the utter depravity of man, and what he is capable of.  It has been said that Christ was crucified in his spirit long before he was crucified on the cross.  Such is what happens at times when the blatant reality of the true nature of man is revealed.

What was the reaction of Jesus to the news of John’s death?  Scripture tells us that, “When He heard of it (the news of John’s death), He departed thence by ship into a desert place apart.” (Matt. 14:13)  This would be a normal, natural reaction of one who had suffered great loss.  But then something occurred which reveals to us the heart of God, and the dominant motivation of Christ.  A multitude of people followed Jesus to that “desert” place.   They had followed Him on foot out of the cities.  It was, as Jesus looked upon the approaching multitudes, that Scripture says:  “…Jesus…was moved with compassion, toward them and He healed their sick.” (v.14)  He would certainly speak to them of the kingdom of God, and afterwards, feed them all…”…about five thousand men, beside women and children.” (v.21)  If there is a clear lesson here of what determines one’s usefulness, it is the “measure of one’s compassion.”  Here was Jesus, certainly greatly hurting from the loss of John, and yet, his compassion for the multitudes would enable Him to rise above His pain, to reach out to those in need.  He was dominated by compassion.

So, today, may we ask the Lord Jesus, and trust Him, for His compassion to dominate us.  We shall all suffer loss in this life.  It is the nature of this world.  But there is a power that is stronger than death, and it is love.  One specific expression of that love is compassion, being moved to reach out and minister to those in need.  Dear Lord, give us THY compassion, and this in such measure, that we too will overcome every obstacle within and without to love and serve others in Thy will, in Thy way, for Thy glory.  Amen.

Love, Dad

 

From This Day I Will Bless You

Dear Ones:

One of the most marvelous things about Christianity, and faith in God, is that He is NOT like we are.  We can become “as He is,” but He will never become “as we are” in our fallen, and sinful state, except to take flesh and dwell among us.  He carries heaven with Him wherever He goes, for He is the very essence of Heaven, in His goodness and mercy, greatness and love.  As such, He is Almighty, and the Sovereign of the ages.  He will do that which pleases Him, in perfect accord with His perfect nature, righteousness and love.  One of the greatest revelations of these truths is in God’s dealings with Israel, even before the end of the nation’s exile, and then, accomplished upon their return to the land.

In the minor prophet, Zechariah’s prophecy, the Lord declares:  “I AM returned to Jerusalem with mercies: My house shall be built in it…” (Zech. 1:16)  In the minor prophet, Haggai, the Lord declares:  “Consider from this day and upward…from THIS DAY will I bless you.” (Hag. 2:18,19)  What we see here is the commitment, and thus, total involvement by God in the history, and the life and expectations of Israel.  The whole of the return from the exile is based upon the intervention, this commitment of God…a commitment to bless…today.

Now, what should this do for our faith?  The knowledge that God is WITH us, and FOR us, is the same as His promise to bless us.  The problem arises in believing it.  If we have trusted Christ for cleansing, thorough cleansing in mind and heart, and if there is no cloud between “my Lord and me,’ then there is no reason to NOT believe Him, believing in His blessing where we live, and in what we do.  We believe that God is faithful, but do we believe that He is faithful in my circumstances TODAY?  Or are we just waiting on Him for tomorrow?  There is “bright hope for tomorrow” because of living in the expectancy of His working and intervention today.  He declared to Israel:  “…from this day I will bless you.”  Can we believe Him for this blessing today, individually and together?” WILL we believe Him?

I always like to see in the spring baby birds in their nests, just waiting for their mother to feed them.  As soon as they sense that the mother is present, even though they might not yet be able to see , they open their little mouths as wide as possible, stretch upward toward the mother with all their capacity, and quivering with expectation, expect the mother to fill those waiting mouths with food.  The Lord told Israel, “…open thy mouth wide, and I will FILL it.” (Ps. 81:10)  Will we choose to live in the expectation of His fulness?  Indeed, He is waiting to be gracious to us, especially to those who will truly trust Him.

Love, Dad

No Ph Ds

Dear Ones:

We live in an age when there is the worship of “knowledge,” and of those who seek to dominate others by such.  Though the knowledge of the truth is necessary, even essential,  in the domain of our work, and in our living, we need to remember that our knowledge is nothing compared to the One, “…in whom are hid ALL the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”  (Col. 2:3)  Now, why is it so important to understand this, especially at this time of year when we celebrate Christ’s birth?

When Zacharias had the vision of the angel, announcing to him that a son would be born to him in his old age, one that would be the precursor to Christ, we see a “learned” man, but not possessing a Ph D.  When we see Mary, the mother of Jesus, we see a young woman who is evidently intelligent, but with no degree except that of “faith” in the University of God.  When we look at Joseph her husband, charged with faithfully following the direction of God in the care of Mary and her infant Son Jesus, we see a man who is a carpenter by trade, but not distinguished by the title of Ph D.  Now, we would not minimize the title, or merit associated a Ph D.  But what we would emphasize is that in God’s economy, “…knowledge shall vanish away.” (1 Cor. 13:8)  “…  but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” (1 John 2:17)  Does it not stand to reason that the One who IS knowledge, truth, wisdom…does not want us to make a god of such?  So, what is God declaring to us concerning the birth of Christ, this Savior who came to save us all?  It is that His ways and thoughts are NOT ours.  His value system is “not of this world.”  When Jesus says that we are to pray, “…Thy will be done, as it is in heaven, ” He speaks of another realm, a realm of blessing and life that are known as we humbly receive the truth of Him, and what He says.

In this season leading up to Christmas, the great calling and purpose of God, remains every moment the same…”that we might KNOW Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ who Thou hast sent.” (Jn. 17:3)  Christ is not known in the great halls of man’s “knowledge” but in the lowliness of a stable, the humbleness of simple beginnings and living, and in the quietness and confidence in His presence.  When the wise men from the East came to find Christ, this “King of the Jews,” they did not find Him in a palace.  And their worship of Him was very simple… bowing before Him, presenting Him with precious, worthy gifts.  What a contrast…shepherds who came to do Him homage, and wise men who came bearing valuable gifts.  Shepherds and wise men…all the same at the feet of Jesus the King.

So, let us remember that God is not known by the position we might hold in society, nor by the amount of knowledge on any subject that we might have.  He is not known by going to a palace, nor by personal wealth and prized possessions.  Jesus Christ is known in only one way…by faith, believing wholly in Him.  There is no price that one can put on that.  It is a gift, an immeasureable gift from heaven, that is given to shepherds and wisemen alike…and to those who will humbly receive it.  Dear Lord, grant that we shall not only be those who wholly commit ourselves into Thy loving hands, but learn to receive humbly, every day, of Thy fulness and goodness.  Enable us indeed, to walk humbly with Thee.

Love, Dad

 

In Quietness and Confidence

Dear Ones:

There is nothing in the Christian life that is passive.  We often confuse “peace” with “passiveness.”  When we examine the life of the Lord Jesus, and His ministry on earth, John writes: “…there are also many other things which Jesus did…if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” (John 21:25)  The life and ministry of Christ was filled with good works, activity.  How then can we reconcile the idea of “peace” with “activity and work?”  We can do so when we understand that the peace of God is that blessed experience of being in conformity with God’s purpose, will, and way.  It is as Christ abided in His Father, was one with Him, in love and joy…that He knew the Father’s peace in all that He did and wherever He went.  The experience of this life of peace, that very peace of
God, was known because of conformity with the mind and heart of the Father.  The life and love of the Father was known, and experienced continually by the Son.

In Isaiah we find a great deal written about peace.  “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.” (Is. 26:3)  “…In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” (Is. 30:15)  The Apostle Paul picks up the theme in the letter to the Philippians when he wrote:  “…and the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7)  He goes on to say in verse 9, “…and the God of peace shall be with you.”  So then, how shall we know this peace of God that comes FROM God?  It is simply as we abide in Christ, walk in fellowship with Him, living in conformity with His purposes and ways, that the Spirit of God will give to us His peace…for the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, and peace.

Today, may we trust the God of peace to bring us into conformity with Christ, in mind, heart, soul, spirit, and body…believing Him to lead us in His peace, as we serve Him.  It is then that we can walk, work,  and war (fighting the good fight of faith…), in His peace…a peace that passeth understanding.

Love, Dad

Praying Truth

Dear Ones:

It was said of John Wesley, before he came to faith in Christ, that the idea of justification by faith was not real to him…he could not really grasp it.  A wise brother in Christ instructed him to preach it… until it becomes real.  This he did, and then he saw and grasped the reality of it.  It changed his life, and as a result, thousands have come to Christ.

Someone has said that, “… truth is not mine, until it becomes me.”  The Word (the Truth) became flesh…and dwelt among us.  Christ is not only the objective truth, but the Person who IS truth.  The eternal Christ took upon Himself human flesh, and dwelt among us.  That which was true of Him in eternity, became flesh and blood in time and space.  And so, the call to us is the similar, to believe the eternal truth, until the eternal truth becomes real in us…His life, His love, and His power…in flesh and blood…ours.

From a practical standpoint, how is this done?  How do I take the “truth” and truly make it mine?  First of all, we always begin by the reading of the word of God.  It is as His word enters our hearts and minds, that light penetrates our darkness and ignorance.  Secondly, trusting the Spirit of God as we read and study Scripture, we will certainly be impressed by certain truths, certain concepts…God calls them His thoughts and His ways. (Is. 55:8-9)  But then, thirdly, we come to the moment where we must decide what to do with that which the Lord is showing us.  If we are to grasp, believe, make our own these truths, then we need to PRAY them.  It is a practical step towards grasping them, believing them.

In Isaiah 45, we discover the Lord’s words to Cyrus.  They are very specific, and deliberately given to accomplish a certain purpose.  For example:  “Thus saith the Lord to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him, and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates: and the gates shall not be shut.” (v.1)  He goes on  to say of Cyrus:  “…I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways…” (v.13)  Now, if we are sure that the Lord is speaking to us concerning these truths, should not we pray them back to Him for their realization by Him in us?  Most certainly.  We are to take that which is true, what God has revealed to us in His word, and bring it to Him, trusting Him for the realization of it in us.  This He will do.

It is in grasping the truth, believing it, and looking unto Christ for the realization of it, that He makes it real…He makes Himself real to us.  Then there will be the realization of the prayer:  “O Jesus Christ dwell Thou in me, and all things else recede; My heart be daily nearer Thee, from sin be daily freed.”

Love, Dad

The Bottom Line

Dear Ones:

We live at a point in time and history, where the occupations and “things” of life are so abundantly numerous,  especially with the advent of computers, internet, and now AI, that we can easily lose sight of “the bottom line.”  I speak of that most common denominator of our existence, that great essential which is the bedrock of the meaning of life, the true, experiential relationship with God by Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 1:20, we find “the angel of the Lord” speaking to Joseph, the espoused of Mary.  He instructs Joseph concerning the child, Jesus…”Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.”  John the apostle would later write similarly:  “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)  The point is this, regardless of all the “advancements” of culture and civilization, all the “things” that we are occupied with, and the “objectives” that we might have in life, …if something is not done BY GOD concerning our SINS against God, then, not only will our life count for nothing, but we will remain under the wrath of God.  No amount of culture, possessions, family ties, or education, can deliver us from the consequence of unforgiven sin. The child of Bethlehem came to deal with sins…all of them.  Why?  Because of the holy nature of God, which will judge sin…every last one.  Christ came to “…to become sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  He came to remove the guilt, the judgement and the condemnation, the rejection and consequently, death, that always accompanies sin.  He was born to take the sin of the entire world upon Himself, to be stricken in our place, that we might not be judged.  The bottom line is this…Christmas is about Christ, a Savior who came into the world in a most lowly, and humble fashion, in order to become the “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”  On this side of Calvary, so greater should be our response than that of the wise men when they found the child, the Lord Jesus.  They “fell down and worshipped Him.” (Matt. 2:11)  They were overwhelmed with the sight, for they KNEW they had been led by God to the very place where they would witness “The King of the Jews.”  Though the sight be a simple one, and there be no fanfare of shouting and commotion, yet, there in the quietness of that moment, three men came face to face with the “Savior of the world,” the King of the Jews.  They are overwhelmed, and thus they worship.  They are overwhelmed, and thus, they give.

If we have grasped anything of the true significance of Christmas, the bottom line, then we too will fall at His feet…feet which were pierced for us.  Then, there we will worship, and declare unto Him, “…Here Lord I give myself away (to Thee), t’is all that I can do.”

Love, Dad

Four Imperatives

Dear Ones:

Joshua begins his book in a very deliberate, factually realistic manner:  “Now after the death of Moses, the servant of the Lord…” (Josh. 1:1)  He goes on to write that the Lord then told him, “Moses, my servant is dead, now therefore arise, go…” (v.2)  Most certainly the fact that Moses was no longer present as an example, help, inspiration, made a very deep impression on Joshua.  And the Lord wanted him to realize this.  Why?  Because the time had come for Joshua to know the Lord in a deeper way.  Now Christ would of necessity need to be to him a living, present reality, upon whom he would count for everything.  How does the Lord deal apply this expanded venture to the life of Joshua?  First of all, by the commandment that he is to rise up, and go over the Jordan, taking the people of Israel with him that they would inherit the land.  With the commandment comes the promise of victory:  “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon….there shall not any man be able to stand before you all the days of thy life.” (v.4-5)  Every place, and no man…these are the promises associated with the commandment to “arise” and “go.”

Question:  How can Joshua accept such a “commission?”  How can he fill the shoes of Moses, in the face of such a daunting task?  Again, the answer comes from the Lord, and it is directed at what Joshua must BE…but BE by the grace of God.  He has prefaced this requirement by declaring to Joshua:  “I will be with thee; I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” (v.5)  The promise of His presence is also the commitment of His resources…His unfailing resources.  This declaration reminds us of Christ’s words to the apostle Paul, “…my grace IS sufficient for thee.”  But, specifically, what must Joshua CHOOSE to be, by the grace of God?

“Have not I COMMANDED thee? Be strong (1) and of a good courage (1).  Be not afraid (3), neither be thou dismayed (4):  for the Lord thy God IS with thee, whithersoever thou goest.” (v.9)  There is no leeway here…the attitude of Joshua is to be one of strength (Christ’s strength), and Christ’s courage.  All fear is to be refused, as well as the disappointment that leads to discouragement.  If Joshua is to fulfill his mission, then he must believe God for the strength which He supplies through His immortal Son.  And so do we.  This is why Paul writes to the Ephesians, “Be strong IN THE LORD and in the power of HIS might…” This is what we are to be, and it will be so, as we are looking unto Jesus, believing Him for His life to be revealed in us…today.

Love, Dad

 

The Unseen Bond

Dear Ones:

When Paul wrote that “We walk by faith, and not by sight,” he was speaking of a commitment to the objective truth rather than the “perception” of the eye.  The very term,”walk,” means engagement, action in motion.  We ACT upon that which we believe to be true, and fiercely refuse any notion to the contrary.  One of the hardest truths to get our minds around is that of our union with Christ by the Spirit.  And yet, this truth is the very basis for all “walking, ” worshipping, and warring in this spiritual conflict.

I once heard a preacher say in regard to this truth of being IN CHRIST, “Stay in your tank.”  The context was that of spiritual warfare, and the successful application of this truth in that conflict.  Our enemy is always seeking to “divide and conquer.”  There are personal divisions which may be targeted, one person divided from another.  But here the attempt is made by the enemy to create a division FROM Christ, a separation from Him, a “dissolution” of this union, in our minds.  The believer has received the Holy Spirit as the very seal of his belonging to Christ.  With that seal comes the declaration that he IS justified, sanctified, redeemed, “complete in Christ.”  He has been sealed until the day of redemption…that day when the full expression of being redeemed shall be revealed for time and eternity.  So, what does our enemy do in order to hinder us from following Christ, and this, from victory to victory?  He seeks to separate us in our mind from Christ, believing that we are left alone, have been forsaken, or that God has for some reason taken leave of us, and will not intervene.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  Scripture declares that we have been put INTO Christ (1 Cor. 1:30),  inseparably one with Him…to live from, by, and for Him.  Christ IS our life, and hope of glory “…NOTHING can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus…” (Rom. 8:38)

If we have “clean hands and a pure heart,” there being no cloud between the Lord and us, then all that this union with Christ means to God is available to us.  We can live by HIS victory, His strength, His love, His devotion, His faithfulness…the list goes on and on.  I am convinced that David’s great secret, beyond that of being a true worshipper of God, was that he learned early how to appropriate the Lord Jesus for every need.  Examine the Psalms and you will see this.  He TAKES the Lord Jesus to BE what he needs.  We have all in Christ, and as one hymn writer put it:  “Complete in Thee! each need supplied, And no good thing to me denied; since Thou my portion, Lord, wilt be, I ask no more, complete in Thee.”

So, today, let us lay hold afresh upon the wonderful reality of our union with Christ, and that we have ALL in Him.  “There is NO difficulty inward or outward which He is not willing and able to meet in us today…”  All for His glory and honor.

Love, Dad