In the Shadow of His Wings

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February 21, 2017
In the Shadow of His Wings
“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Verse two of “Jesus, Lover of My Soul” deals with life’s trials and tribulations and begins by presenting our Savior as “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, oh, leave me not alone; still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.

We may be helpless on our own, but in love He beckons us to “the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Our soul need not hang in jeopardy. “He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee . . . we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man may do unto me” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

“There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky. The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:26-27). Help from none other is needed. “Thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory and the lifter up of mine head” (Psalm 3:3). As His sacrificial death drew near, Jesus’ heart nearly broke over Israel’s rejection of His love. “How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37). We dare not reject His loving provision. We can pray with David, “Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings” (Psalm 17:8). The one to whom we pray will answer, for He is Jesus, the lover of the soul. JDM

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Naming Names

Just live by Faith February 19, 2017
Naming Names
“Their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.” (2 Timothy 2:17-18)

Many Christians decry the citing of actual names of those Christian leaders who teach heretical doctrines, saying that such an act is “unloving.” Paul, however, considered it an important evidence of true love to warn against those who would “overthrow the faith of some,” realizing that generalities would be useless.

Not only did Hymenaeus and Philetus make Paul’s list, but so did Demas (2 Timothy 4:10), Alexander the coppersmith (2 Timothy 4:14), the Cretians (Titus 1:12), another Alexander (1 Timothy 1:20), and even Peter (Galatians 2:11-14) when he began to teach legalism. Likewise, John warned against Diotrephes (3 John 1:9) and the Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:6).

On the other hand, Paul was much more generous with name recognition when he was giving out commendations (e.g., Romans 16:1-15; Colossians 4:7-17). We undoubtedly need to follow his example in appreciating by name those who are faithful in teaching and living the truth.

Likewise, we need to be ready and willing to name those individuals, churches, schools, and other organizations that are denying biblical inerrant authority, compromising the doctrine of special creation, requiring humanistic works for salvation, or bringing in other heretical doctrines. We obviously need to be sure of our facts when we do this and also to bring such charges only if motivated by genuine concern for those apt to be led astray if we don’t speak out. But then we must, indeed, “mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17). HMM

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Him That Cometh to Me

a_small_cup_of_coffee February 18, 2017
Him That Cometh to Me
“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6:37)

In this verse and the verses to follow, we find Christ using a marvelous teaching technique. Several times He makes a general, generic statement but quickly advances from the general and impersonal to the particular and personal.

Note that at the first, Christ tells of an abstract gift to Him from the Father of an entire group, (“all”) of which should come to Him for salvation. This is in itself a wonderful truth, for Christ highly values this gift from His Father: “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father . . . gave them [to] me” (10:28-29). The entire group “shall come” to Him.

But Christ switches in mid-sentence from general to specific: “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out,” a concrete statement of the effect of this work on an individual. We are part of a group, without doubt, but also each one of us individually is His precious child.

The passage continues in the same vein. “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day” (6:39). Again, the impersonal passes into the personal, for “this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (v. 40).

From the mass of created mankind, many have come to Christ for salvation. But each one who has believed and been granted everlasting life has great individual worth in the eyes of the Savior. “The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. . . . I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine” (10:11, 14). JDM

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Humility

interactive-worldmap  February 17, 2017
Humility
“He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. . . . and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.” (John 13:4-5)

The Greek word usually translated humility occurs seven times in the New Testament, implying self-abasement and suggesting a meekness of spirit. In Greek literature, it was used to describe a slave’s demeaning of himself before his master—an outward prostration, not an inward character trait.

The idea that a master would set aside his status and voluntarily become a slave was probably incomprehensible to the world of Jesus’ day. Yet, we are enjoined to “let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who . . . took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8). He defined humility by His actions, as in our text, and now we are to voluntarily take up His attitude and “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith [we] are called, With all lowliness [humility] and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).

Christian humility surpasses all other virtues. Expressing itself as more than acting in a humble fashion, it consists of an inward habit of self-abasement, showing consideration to all others.

This characteristic in God’s eyes is seen as one of great value. “Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:5-6). JDM

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Praise of the Generations

Christian_King February 16, 2017
Praise of the Generations
“That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children.” (Psalm 78:6)

Each generation of people tends to regard its own times as the most significant of all, toward which all past history has been merely a preparation. The fact is, however, that God has “been our dwelling place in all generations” (90:1), and He is equally concerned about any generations yet to come.

This is why He stresses repeatedly that the great truths concerning God’s creation, His character, His great work of salvation, and His long-range plans for the ages to come be transmitted faithfully from one generation to another. “One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts” (145:4).

Our modern scientific generation almost idolizes new research, new gadgets, new discoveries. The God of eternity, however, is not so concerned that we develop new ideas as that we not lose what He already has given us. “For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven. Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: Thou hast established the earth, and it abideth” (119:89-90).

Christ said: “That which ye have already hold fast till I come.” “Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (Revelation 2:25; 3:11).

The great principle of true education is given by Paul in 2 Timothy 2:2: “The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” The great account of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, especially, is to be taught forever. “They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this” (Psalm 22:31). HMM

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God Is Able

bible_02  February 15, 2017
God Is Able
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” (Ephesians 3:20)

The Bible portrays God as omnipotent—all-powerful, able even to create all things from nothing (Hebrews 11:3). The individual is portrayed as totally insufficient to do anything but fail. Yet the Bible also teaches that great things will be done in, and through, and to us. How? It is only through God’s power and wisdom that anything of substance will be accomplished. He alone is able. Consider the following sampling of tasks He is able to perform for us.

God is able to do the work of salvation in a believer’s heart. “Wherefore [God] is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). We can entrust that salvation for eternity “unto him that is able to keep [us] from falling, and to present [us] faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 1:24).

In this life we will have physical needs, and included in a passage on the obligation we have to give so that others’ needs will be met is Paul’s claim that “God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Furthermore, He alone is able to equip us for service. “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry” (1 Timothy 1:12).

His able ministry toward us does not stop in this life, for He “shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Philippians 3:21). As our text teaches, He “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” JDM

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Love and the Heart

bible-cups  February 14, 2017
Love and the Heart
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” (Matthew 22:37)

According to Jesus, this is “the great commandment of the law” and this is also the first verse in the New Testament to associate “love” and the “heart.” This “love,” of course, is not romantic love (the Greek word for that love is never used in the New Testament at all), but the divine type of love (Greek agape), as in “God so loved the world.”

The “heart” (Greek kardia, from which come such English words as cardiology) is mentioned often in the Bible, but almost never means the actual physical organ. It refers to the emotional and spiritual components of man’s nature—“the hidden man of the heart” (1 Peter 3:4). We use “heart” for the same purposes in English. Just how this particular date came to celebrate the heart as a symbol of romantic love and to be called Valentine’s Day is uncertain. There were various emperors, popes, and religious leaders named Valentine in the early history of Christendom, including two Roman Catholics designated as Saint Valentine. In any case, Christians should remember that true Christian agape love should be manifested in our lives every day of the year. To that end, “see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” (1 Peter 1:22). True Christian love can only be expressed out of a heart that has been made pure. As Paul wrote young Timothy, “Now the end of the commandment is charity [that is, agape love] out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned” (1 Timothy 1:5).

And remember that, first of all, we must “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment” (Mark 12:30). HMM

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