Saturday, 2 February 2013

Man Proposes, God Disposes

One thing about the Lord is this – He’s never short of surprises and variety in how He deals with us, or last minute changes to what we thought were well-laid plans.  But as Scottish bard, Robbie Burns, once wrote, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley.” (often go astray).  That’s how we sometimes see them, but from God’s perspective, nothing goes astray.  The variety of His sovereign working is utterly amazing.

How true it is that “man’s disappointments are God’s appointments.”  We do not know why certain things come to pass, but being surrendered to the Lord’s good will, we accept it with thanksgiving.  It would have been good if what we had expected could have commenced today, but we are in the hands of our blessed Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ.  “Man proposes but He disposes.”  And we are deeply happy with that. 

I find it now a bit embarrassing to keep on writing to you about this situation, but I feel I have no alternative but to go on doing so.  This is a testing time for us, especially for our patience, though not for our faith.  Our trust is in the grace and goodness of the Almighty, and we are content to remain there.  To walk with the Lord is to walk in safety, but to stray from Him is to live dangerously.  Whatever He sends us is right and good and pleasing; and we accept it all. So at the end of the day, He knows better than we do, and He can see what’s down the road, something that is mercifully kept hidden from us.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

He Cares.

When cancer enters a family and loved-one, it has a wonderful way of concentrating the mind on eternal matters – a bit like hanging.  Cancer is closely associated with death in the minds of many, and in many cases this is what follows cancer.  Thankfully, today, God in His love and providence has given men wisdom and skill to deal with many cancer types, and do so successfully.

However, the ugly thought of the possibility of death seems to hang over you throughout this process.  So it is important that we realise some facts about this “last enemy” that shall be “destroyed” (1 Cor.15:26).  Death is the ugly reality of life that was not part of God’s original creation.  It entered by one man’s sin – Adam (Rom.5:12-21).  Now, one out of one dies – not an impressive or encouraging statistic.  Everyone dies when they reach the end of their lives – but we do not know when that will be.  That is one of life’s unknowns, but it is an appointment we all have to keep (Heb.9:27).  “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Cor.15:22).

The Christian has only one prayer when it comes to departing this world and going to be with Christ forever – which is far better. Allow Henry Francis Lyte to explain in his lovely and widely appreciated hymn:

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Or, in the words of the apostle Peter, “an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11).  Have you ever prayed for that?  Is that your desire – to enter heaven abundantly?  Christians, by God’s grace alone, are going to enter heaven where Christ lives and reigns; but how do you want to enter it?  Do you want the Saviour of the world’s Cross held before your closing eyes?  Why this?  Because in the Cross of Christ alone is life – real, eternal and everlasting; and there alone do we see death defeated forever.  And if it’s defeated, then it hold no real fears for the believer in Christ.

This should be the prayer of everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord.  Why do we not do that?  Because this sinful world has such a hold on us that we just do not want to leave it.  And on top of that, we are not really sure whether there is any life with Christ after death!  Doubts invade our thinking, so we hold on to this life with much too tight a grip.  Our assurance of God’s grace takes a back seat when we think about this world and ponder the next. 

More About Marriage.

The third installment on Marriage Minutes is now available.  I think the evidence against re-defining marriage is overwhelming.  Do you know what is happening in other countries where same-sex marriage has been legalised?  What this short video to find out more.

Additional information may be found by clicking here. Decision day is not far away, so Christians are called upon to pray earnestly that God might defeat this corruption before it becomes law.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Faith - in Hospital

Recently, I had to undergo minor day surgery, and my surgery was first on the list for that day, so I was taken early.  Everything well very well, and was brought home by my son, David, in the afternoon.

Your prayers for today have been answered.  What made it even more delightful for me was that I had two men with the initials J.C. with me, the most important being Jesus Christ; the other was John Calvin.  It was simply amazing how conscious I was of the Lord’s presence right from getting up this morning, and I just wanted above all else to be in His gracious company.  Fellowship with the Lord was so sweet and encouraging, and Calvin brought His truth to me in a most practical way.  I felt so relaxed and joyful as I sat awaiting to be called to the Theatre suite.

A patient beside me was very fearful about his operation, which was not as serious as mine and his was done by local anaesthetic.  His wife told me of his worries and concerns, and while waiting in the ward, he was so quiet, subdued, thoughtful.  After his surgery, he was telling smutty jokes to a nurse.  Isn’t it amazing how shallow an impact the prospect of eternity has on some poor souls!  As soon as they perceived pressing danger is past, they revert to their godless way of life.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Most Blessed People in the World

We have been, of all Christian people, the most privileged and blessed people around.  God has been exceedingly good to us and has blessed us beyond our wildest dreams.  He has given us great family and friends who have supported us fully; and He has met with us by His Spirit on a frequent basis.  At times we were not aware that He was near, but then there were other times when it was unmistakable that He was with us and in us.  It was nothing short of the witness of the Spirit of Christ with our spirits, which is the highest form of assurance.  To have missed this would have been absolute poverty.  Christ “manifested Himself to us,” and that is the greatest blessing of all.

Contrast this with the Old Testament evidence of God’s blessing (where many Christians live, alas) and there you will see that the signs of God’s blessing are in the acquisition of wealth – lands, property, herds, slaves.  These signs are all material signs.

However, in the New Testament, things are very much different.  John the Baptiser lived in the desert places and ate what he could from what creation provided – locusts, and wild honey.  Jesus Himself was raised in poverty and lived in poverty – during His public ministry, He did not even have anywhere to lay His head, the very birds of the air being better off than He was in this regard. The disciples renounced everything in order to follow Christ; they left all, homes, lands, families and friends, and threw in their lot with the Saviour of the world. 

Take the Huguenots in France under the tyrannical rule of Catholic King Louis XIV.  They were hounded because they embraced the true Protestant reformed faith, many losing everything, even their lives.  Yet were there holier people who witnessed for Christ than they?  The Puritans and the Scottish Covenanters experience similar things.  But as Paul tells us, “Everyone who lives a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” The Kingdom of heaven can only be entered by many tribulations.  Pity those who know nothing of persecution for their faith in this apostate and exceedingly wicked age where darkness reigns.

No, we are mightily blessed.  At the end of the day, nothing matters but being in fellowship with Christ.  Knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings – that’s to be really blessed.  Material possessions and worldly success do not signify God’s favour – some of the most evil and depraved people in the world have all these things. 

How many there are who are like Job’s friends!  They can talk and talk, but they do not always know what they are talking about.  They are so self-righteous that all their talk does nothing to help poor Job.  They only plunged him into deeper depression.  For them to say that it was because of something in Job, something sinful he said or did, that explains his plight, was to get it totally wrong.  They spoke as if they had total knowledge of Job’s situation, but they knew nothing.  Isn’t it interesting that it is those who know least who talk most!  Empty barrels still make the most noise.

Job’s friends needed to have walked a few miles in his sandals for them to have known anything about him and his situation; but they didn’t.  Yet they talked and preached and advised and counselled and criticised this godly servant of God.  Job’s friends are still around today.  They jump to all kinds of wild conclusions as to why certain things happen, and only succeed in making life more difficult for those who are suffering. 

Do not look at external things to discover whether or not a man has been blessed by the Lord.  Is he enjoying felt fellowship with Christ, regardless of his circumstances?  Is his love for the Lord obvious?  Does he submit himself joyfully to God’s sure providence in his circumstances?  Does he love Christ more than everything else?  Is he experiencing Christ in a real way?  Does he know God’s Spirit witnessing with his spirit that he is a child of God?  

Christ Satisifies

Through this trying time, we are learning to be content in Christ and with Christ – not always easy.  We want to let Christ satisfy us to the full that we might find our total satisfaction in Him alone.  As Charles Wesley put it:

Thou, O Christ, art all I want; More than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, Heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy name; I am all unrighteousness,
False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace

But be very, very careful; He might take you at your word, and withdraw everything from you, and leave you with Him alone, and nothing else.  It is then that you will prove Him as you’ve never done before.

When God, in His sure providence, takes your job from you, and with it your earning power, and when He threatens to take your wife and the mother of your children from you, life becomes profoundly serious.  It is then that you find yourself locked up to Christ alone.  He is enough, and we’ve proved that numerous times; but I’d still like to have Margaret around for many years to come.  It is a stark reality of God’s dealings with us that He sometimes takes us at our word, and gives us exactly what we have asked. He did that to us and we didn’t realise it.  We wanted Christ alone, and He is giving us that.  We have Him, and we are more than satisfied with Him.  The hymn-writer puts it well when he says, ”Take the world but give me Jesus.”

But you can see the inconsistencies of this the moment you write something like this down.  Satisfied with Christ alone, yes; but we want our loved ones healed of their illnesses to be around us for many years to come.

I think Christ understands these inconsistencies and contradictions in our faith.  It is a case of “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” (Mk 9:24).  We have put our faith in Him, but our lack of real trust when it is most needed is annoying.  And He does help us; He comes to our aid and assures us that we are His always.  That’s why we can say with the Psalmist in total honesty, “I love the LORD because He has heard My voice and my supplications.(Ps.116:1).  Israel was facing a great crisis, and was in a time of great need, so her response was to put the God Who is alive and sovereign first.

What a fine thing it is, then, to be a Christian!  Why do sinful people not want to know and trust this wonderful Saviour?  What reason can they give for staying away from the Redeemer of the world?  There is none. 

If anyone reading this does not know Christ personally, ask yourself, why not?  Look how good He is, the Man Who went about doing good; the best Man the world ever knew.  Why are you staying away from Him?  He wants you to come to Him and trust Him with your soul.  My friends, He is altogether lovely, the bright morning star, and the fairest of ten thousand to my soul.  That’s our Saviour.  Our souls want nothing but Jesus, for in Him we have more than heart could desire.