The Rare Virtues of Kindness and Truth

“What is desirable in a man is his kindness,
And it is better to be a poor man than a liar.”

Proverbs 19:22

Reading this morning…

I stopped and considered the opposites of these “delights” and it troubles me how our current Western Culture value system has upended and forcibly cast away these character qualities. We honor the most abrasive abusers by supporting their candidacy for POTUS. This is also most vividly illustrated in the running abusive treatment of the recipients of wrath by authoritarian figures in all social, political and spiritual arenas.

Politicians abuse their positions to advance their personal security and power base by increasing the size of their coffers. The media mocks humility and gentleness and glamorizes the absurd. The church is filled with incompetent, self-seeking frauds in leadership positions whose preparation and labor over the Word consists of opening a sermon outline book a day or two before, and filling in the space between the various suggested points by insertion of interesting anecdotal commentary. A walk with God is unknown to them. I suppose too because I have been the recipient of wrath by pastoral abuse this is especially a salient and painful point with me.

A kind man does not seek his own, but understands the profit of considering others more important. I wonder how are we doing on that? Interesting how the abuser often has the abused Tee as one who has known the sting of rejection… thus the call to mortifying the deeds of the flesh are most relevant in the vigilance of God’s man entrusted with stewardship authority. Notice it is not innate authority, it is granted by the King. How desperately we need recall to put off before putting on as this is the clear, required Biblical principle. 

Where is a kind man? Where is a man of truth? Where is the Psalm 15 man? In my experience when one seeks tenderness to those in need and when one gives to those who lack there can on occasion be a general uprising of the Philistines. People are condemned by acts of kindness afforded the needy in their presence, and hate its overtures for then the Spirit and conscience afflicts the rude, selfish man. If it wasn’t Pastor’s idea then expect it to be torpedoed by the man who has an agenda. 

God help me to put on kindness as Christ was kind. God, may the poverty of the Lord Jesus Christ enrich me with heavenly grace to value and pursue what is esteemed by heaven, not that which is detestable. 

Proverbs 3:3-4 (NASB) 
Do not let kindness and truth leave you; 
Bind them around your neck, 
Write them on the tablet of your heart. 
So you will find favor and good repute 
In the sight of God and man. 

Remember those in Prison as though with Them… A Report of Sorts with an Appeal for Prayer 

#CCC Ministry last PM

Charlie or C Pod

Series: Proverbs 6 on The 7 Abominations that God Hates

Topic: “Feet that Run Rapidly to Evil”

Jesus: He is the antithesis of what God hates…

Jesus is the quintessential fulfillment of the love of God and the life of God as He was and is God Personified. Jesus walked always and only in righteousness.
Of course the warning of feet entering the evil path has the previous proverb precursor of “A Heart that Devises Wicked Plans” which we discussed last week. Our feet walk toward our heart’s desire, thus the charge to keep it with diligence. Thus the need for God to overthrow our ungodly heart of stone and make us to walk with new heart in His way. He makes us to do this! (Ezekiel 36: “I will put my Spirit within you and CAUSE you to walk in My path…”)

Please #Pray for these men. I long to see Christ open their eyes and Christ to finally be formed in them. We walked through Proverbs 7, (one of the saddest chapters in the whole Bible), using the terrible example of the naive young man whose feet led him to a wild night in the bed of the harlot as she opened the door for him to enter hell. The arrow piercing into the young man’s liver (as toxins build and the body slowly poisons itself or he bleeds to death) is a most vivid and eye opening illustration of the wise Father’s counsel to His son. What a vivid warning of sin’s deadly nature. It was pointed and powerful, and the Word rocked us all back upon our heels as the Spirit moved. I feel many are near the Kingdom as interest seems heightened and some alarm over their spiritual poverty seems manifest. The Spirit is such a gentle Dove, and I long to not grieve Him. May He be pleased to appear in cloven tongues of Fire and convict of sin and righteousness and judgment to come.

Fly to Christ with those feet! Get off the path to death and destruction. Find the Way to life in the Author of life!

So pray as God prompts. It’s not some strange doctrine I preach. It is the gospel of grace that tells the love story of the Friend of sinners. He came for these guys who have been routed in life by habitual life choices of sin. Jesus sets the captive free! That’s the good news that fixes the bad news of our condition. 

Hebrews 13:3

“Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.”

Just a Jedi Mind-Trick… or God Incarnate?

And all the crowds were amazed and they said, “This man cannot be the Son of David, can He?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”
And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand.”

Matthew 12:24-25

This accusation of the intimidated and outgunned Pharisees is amazing for it reveals their fears of the spiritual nature of the power inherent in the claims Christ demonstrated in both His works and words. The Pharisees realize what is at stake, and they sense they are losing, so they impugn the character of Jesus by suggesting he is an agent of the devil. (Sounds like something Trump would say about Cruz.)

And then there is the “old Jedi mind-trick” of “knowing their thoughts…” Right… or is He God incarnate who knows all things? I don’t think it required any special exercise of Jesus to know their thoughts; Wisdom incarnate stood before them. “He knew you before He formed you… before a word is on your tongue…” He knows it!

 

Photo by George Dobbs, Adventurer

 
In a moment of open clarity to any who have ears to hear Jesus claims not to be Beelzebul but in fact He declares to be the One who has actually bound up Beelzebul and currently plunders his house with freedom by the coming of the kingdom of God. How does One bind up a spirit being? By the word of power spoken by the Word become flesh. God incarnate inhabited the Lord Jesus, hence we see demonic forces elsewhere crying out for temporary reprieve as they sense judgment is nigh. Why? Because the King has come! Who is gonna logically argue with that? Where can we say the Lord Jesus ever failed against the spiritual forces of wickedness?  Not gonna happen. Prove it you say? Look at His works.  “Satan, begone!” “Let there be light!” And there was light. And there is life everlasting. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” And demons tremble at the sound of His name. 

Amen.

Hail King Jesus! We worship You in the beauty of holiness and for who You are and who You declare Yourself to be.


 

1. Hail to the Lord’s Anointed,

great David’s greater Son!

Hail in the time appointed,

his reign on earth begun!

He comes to break oppression,

to set the captive free;

to take away transgression,

and rule in equity.

2. He comes with succor speedy

to those who suffer wrong;

to help the poor and needy,

and bid the weak be strong;

to give them songs for sighing,

their darkness turn to light,

whose souls, condemned and dying,

are precious in his sight.

3. He shall come down like showers

upon the fruitful earth;

love, joy, and hope, like flowers,

spring in his path to birth.

Before him on the mountains,

shall peace, the herald, go,

and righteousness, in fountains,

from hill to valley flow.

4. To him shall prayer unceasing

and daily vows ascend;

his kingdom still increasing,

a kingdom without end.

The tide of time shall never

his covenant remove;

his name shall stand forever;

that name to us is love.
(James Montgomery)

Passionate Listening that Avoids Volcanic Eruptions

Quote

“Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.”

Jesus in Matthew 10

Do you find it as intriguing as alarming that Jesus taught by graphic illustration that one’s indifferent rejection or hard-hearted rebellion against a God-appointed message or messenger of Truth brings consequences that would make being consumed by a fiery volcanic eruption of hell upon our head pale by comparison. “More tolerable than Sodom and Gomorrah” does not sound a good thing nor right, does it? Volcanoes always wreck devastation wherever and whatever they even come near to touch. Honestly though, haven’t you always discovered that true Truth has a sure and prickly edge on the one side as well as a comforting, inviting touch upon the other? That is why we handle Truth with care, and why we entrust the care and keeping of truth to but few in the high calling of the role of teacher or preacher. We do not play fast and loose with the Word of God as to drop it carelessly in the lap of a novice regardless of how excited he may be for sins forgiven. “…not a novice lest he fall into condemnation incurred by the devil…”

The “good news”

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My boys with Niagara in the background.

that truth brings is fabulous once we embrace the terrible gravity of the bad news of our native condition. So in this case it looks as though the volcano-type threat on the head means precisely what Jesus says by way of calling Sodom and Gomorrah alongside as His witnesses.

Just who was that Angel of the Lord, now? Who was the Captain of the Lord of Hosts? Who issued the command and then passed through Egypt that terrible first night of Passover? The message of Jesus was not only nor simply a message categorized by love: He clearly prescribed wrath as the remedy for rejection. This principle is revealed elsewhere as instruction of accountability and stewardship as taught in the saying, “To whom much is given, much is required.” We would say today, “You snooze, you lose.” (For the faint-of-heart I’m quite sure He possibly ended this gnarly topic with our comfortably familiar and light-hearted adage, “Have a good day now… Y’all come back now.” Or maybe He did not for He presided over His kingdom as a faithful Son who faithfully discharged truth to the children He instructed by never failing to speak the hard sayings.)

“You snooze, you lose, sucker,” is another way we express neglectful indifference today.

It is probably not ordinarily in our ever-flowing stream of typical thoughts that when we sit under the sound of the gospel this day, (or any day), it is to be with a reverent accountable attentiveness befitting one who has privilege to hear the direct proclamation and instruction of our Creator and Owner, upon threat of death and hell for simple indifference or disregard of the messenger, regardless how ugly he is. (Good gosh! Do they make an automated shock collar for one who tends to doze off during the sermon?) To listen carelessly or to adorn our response with the smock of indifference exposes our very life to grave danger. It is no small matter to attend to preaching adorned with “words of life and beauty as they teach faith and duty.” (Phillip P. Bliss) I suspect such truth-oriented preaching that brings such hideous consequences for ungodly indifference is more rare today than we suspect. “To the one it is an aroma of life… to the other an aroma of death…” (2 Corth 2:16) Horrible thought… though I must confess it forms a facet of the basis of my ministry to prisoners. I earnestly plead with them to receive, to choose life, to flee the wrath, but it is with a clear presentation that we tinker with matters eternal of life and death, heaven and hell. These are things eternal upon which we live, and of which Lewis stated, “All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.” That is why Truth matters and why it matters how we respond to it.

_MG_6269

Danger is just over the rail. It is that close. Danger is always at hand, crouching where truth and beauty reside. Amy responded appropriately to the implied threat of the guard-rail, and I did not have to tell her to GET OFF the rail. We see signs. Do we hear God?

“All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.” Lewis

Yet how safe we are from peril and destruction in the one Refuge so freely offered in “the only name given under heaven among men by which we MUST be saved.” And again, how naked and bare, how stripped and undone we see ourselves as we are exposed to wrath not deferred, (not propitiated), should we do as the Jews who deemed themselves unworthy of eternal life as they rejected truth in Jesus as proclaimed by Paul. Their deference was to self and tradition, and their desire was to remain slavishly in blind bondage rather than received fulfilled law in Christ by the free grace Paul preached.

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe.” When we listen and when we purpose repentant obedience to the King’s gracious life-giving commands that proclaims a message of Divine accomplishment, we are actually actively running further into the Kingdom by Way of the road of holiness as we draw nearer, nearer to the throne of grace, from whence our Help comes. Listening is an active life-saving activity and not a spectator sport that allows you to “time-out” and sit upon the sidelines as preacher preaches. “Waiting upon the Lord” means I engage God where I am. Paul referenced personal responsibility this way:

1 Corinthians 9:26-27 (NASB)

“Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

Here is a concluding poem once known and sung by many it seems almost in another age…

Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life,
 Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life;
 Words of life and beauty teach me faith and duty.

Refrain

Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life,
 Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.
Christ, the blessèd One, gives to all wonderful words of life;
 Sinner, list to the loving call, wonderful words of life;
 All so freely given, wooing us to heaven.

Refrain
Sweetly echo the Gospel call, wonderful words of life;
 Offer pardon and peace to all, wonderful words of life;
 Jesus, only Savior, sanctify us forever.

Refrain

Phillip P. Bliss

 

God calls us to prepare this day to tremble before His word. In this hell of mess we witness in our world as the devastating consequences of sin advances into land and home, we have hope and there is light in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God says to not fear nor be dismayed, He will be with us and help us. Consider these Truths worthy of implementation as we listen today with a passion and an expectation that pleases the Father. The message of Heaven brings:

1. His pervasive presence.

2. His unfailing promise of a righteous cause.

3. His sure providence that accomplishes His purpose.

Careful. Better Re-Read the Entry Requirements. (This may be easier than you supposed.) But remember…there are no mulligans and no grading on the curve. 

“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”Jesus

  
How paradoxical that you lose if you try more than believe. You lose if you work to the neglect of His work. The beauty of completeness of God in Creation as I see represented in George’s picture cannot be improved upon. It was all “very good.” In similar fashion the work of the new creation established by Christ by His labor for profit of His people is complete, “It is finished.” He entered into His rest. He sat down at the Father’s right hand “after He had made purification for sins.” Heaven and earth are one. Reconciled. All rebels are called to stack arms and sign terms of peace. We “have peace with God through Christ…” Herein we too find rest through and in Him. We bring nothing to the table but need and thirst that He alone can satisfy. “In Him we are made complete. And He is the Head over all things…” We enjoy peace; hostilities have ceased. “He has commanded all men everywhere to repent and believe.” Now how hard is that?



These principles of representation and substitution are at the heart of the gospel of peace, for therein is the imputed righteousness of Christ revealed. (That’s the one that counts!) The righteousness that sustains us in the coming Day is righteousness revealed to those who become as children in the Gospel, “from faith to faith, just as it is written, but the righteous man shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1)

We who believe embrace the truth of Jesus’ words, “The flesh profits nothing. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and are life.” Those who rest in Christ are beginning to understand the paradox that the harder we work to outdo the scribes and Pharisees the more of their likeness we embrace. Righteousness is not a badge of honor to be adorned and worn as we stand and primp in front of a mirror gazing upon our own beauty; it is a gift to be received as we gaze upon His beauty, His stunning and redemptive perfection. We are content to boast in the Lord. “Look unto Me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.”

I recently heard Doug Wilson say, “If you have never been accused of antinomianism you probably are not clearly preaching the gospel of free grace.” (I had basically just accused him of that, kinda-sorta, for liberty he took in some statements of “God not caring about a believer’s sin,” and he graciously gave helpful clarification at the recent 2016 Auburn Avenue Pastors’ Conference.) His defense of grace made an indelible impression upon me. I believe it true. Wilson pointed out that Paul spent an abundance of his time defending His gospel against this very charge. 

Why not close here?
Philippians 3:7-11

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 

Spittle and Dust, Light from Darkness

“As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth.”John 9:1

  

So here is a blind man. He has never seen the faintest flicker of light in the totality of his life. Not even a shadow. Not one ray of sunshine though he stared straight into the full noonday sun. No twinkling stars, no bright and full moon. Nothing. Blackness. Darkness is his dungeon and he has ever been swallowed and imprisoned therein. He is lost as any man apart from the illumination of divine Light. 

Unbeknownst to him in his blindness the Light of the world passes by in resplendent display of eternal glory, seen by some, yet missed by most. The Glory pauses to make clay of spittle and dust. The paste is applied to flawed eyes which were purposefully created imperfectly for this most perfect moment of the glory of God revealed. Something unseen happens, but not yet. Amazed wonder must sweep the crowd as the Ancient of Days advances His purpose. This feeble, fundamental obstacle of blindness becomes the vehicle of the works of God declaring Immanuel is with us. 

Do you see how this expands? Isn’t it absolutely stunning how visible hope, light and life are freely imparted to the hopeless, to the blind, to the dead? Help Personified comes to the helpless as a great Light dawns in the midst of our fading darkness… a Light of revelation, a light of hope. 

 “What causes you to differ?” Aren’t you formed of the same stuff? The same clay? What flaws and imperfections has God built into you that scream for His touch, His power, His glory in repair? Has He purposed to pause before you, to touch you, to heal you that your imperfections might manifest His glory through your weakness as He makes you strong in the strength of His might? His power is perfected not in your strength nor by your strength but through your exposed weakened frailty. If God scooped up a handful of dirt “in the Beginning” and created Man, then isn’t it reasonable that the Lord of life may be pleased in this case to take another handful of dust turned to mud and heal sightless eyes? Or heal whatever? He is not doing something new here. His act is not without precedence. “The works that the Father does, these I do.” The process of light from darkness is His way. “Let there be light.” Need He say more, for what He says is. His word is our command. 

When we look in the mirror each morning we see reflected flaws and little imperfect irritations of our creation. Did God err? Cry to Jesus! More significantly when we stop and listen to the voice that speaks to us from the Word of God, we hear God speak of our true need and our brokenness calls for His healing touch. Fly to Jesus! I think our right response ought move toward imitation of the Centurion who said, “Lord, I am not worthy of You to come to me. Just say the word and my servant will be healed.” I like that. The clay and spittle are optional, thank you very much… His mercy and grace and glory in His word and touch are non-optional; they are essentials. “He was born blind not for his sin, nor for his parents sin, but for the glory of God.” That’s a principle I suppose I need claim every day. What of you?

This blind man in obedient, unseeing but trusting faith responded to the command of Christ and went submissively to the pool of Siloam to wash his eyes. He returned seeing. After his subsequent rejection by the suspicious, hypocritical, unbelieving, religious professionals of the day, Jesus comes to him again. Jesus seeks him out. We need to learn something there. God seeks man, man in blindness cannot seek nor find that which is hidden from our eyes. “Christ is hidden too far in God for man to see Him unless the Father reveals Him.” (Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress)

Prayer: God reveal my life purpose then to me as that which is hidden with Christ in God. Show me the Son that the Son might show me the Father. Lord I come. (Col 3, Matt 11)

For the first time ever the blind man who now sees gazes upon the Light of the world, who further discloses His identity as the Son of Man. He who was blind now truly sees, he believes and he worships the King of glory. 

Our imperfections and struggles in this life call to the Light of the world. We need his touch now more than ever. We need light to see our way through this dark world as sin and stumbling stones abound and hinder. Thank God for our High Priest who understands, sympathizes, then heals and helps the downcast broken-hearted. Lord, you need not make the clay of spittle and dust, but that’s okay too. I really need you to just say the word and make me whole.


As the leper made request, “Lord, if You are willing, please heal me.”

“I am willing” and He stretched forth His hand and touched him. And he was made well. 


Photo courtesy of the modern adventurer and friend George Dobbs.  

The Advent Renewed by My Daily Walks in the Psalms

With good reason I start my day with a reading and reflection upon the Psalms:God speaks to my need and renews my vision of glory therein. A great Light appears where there was darkness. That Light is sufficient and relevant today. Whether cloud or pillar, He leads. Stand and see His salvation.
Psalms 113:3-7 (NASB)

“From the rising of the sun to its setting 

The name of the LORD is to be praised.

The LORD is high above all nations; 

His glory is above the heavens.

Who is like the LORD our God, 

Who is enthroned on high,

Who humbles Himself to behold 

The things that are in heaven and in the earth?

He raises the poor from the dust 

And lifts the needy from the ash heap…”

 
#Perspective

Isn’t all of life about perspective and worldview? Who do you believe? What do you believe? How do you act upon what you believe? Show me faith by works. Let’s move beyond word-faith. “Talkative.” What are you given to pursue? Do you chase trinkets or true treasure? Do you know affliction or shared blessings? God has not changed. He is “patient toward you not willing that any should perish but that all might come to repentance.” It is His kindness manifested that acts as the tentacles of love that draw you irresistibly toward the Manger to consider the Babe, and then to Behold the Man lifted high to die as One cursed of God on the Tree, whose cry of finality in death sprung the captives unfettered and Free into the Most Holy Place. We still “call His name Jesus, who saves His people from their sins.” From the guilt. From the power. From the pollution. And finally in glory, from the presence of sin. Jesus. There’s something about that name…

“No more let sins or sorrows grow.

Nor thorns infest the ground.

He comes to make His blessing known,

Far as the curse is found,

Far as the curse is found.”

 

He speaks still. He commands as King, “Come unto Me all ye that are weary and heavy-laden. Rest. I give you rest and an easy yoke… Learn. Follow. Live. Love. Dance with joy!” His sheep still hear the Voice of the Shepherd. The call shall forever ring throughout the ages, world without end until that final Day, “Adam. Where are you?” Then we shall know. “We will see Him as He is and be like Him.” Glory. Throughout all the ages to come, we shall bask in His glory and dance in His Light.
The Psalms put all these things into perspective for me and daily drives my heart to constraint of love and worship of the King as the shepherds and then as the Magi of old. “The things of the world glow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”
“Mary treasured all these things in her heart.” The shepherds returned to their labors changed, full of joy and worship. What do I return too? Who has my heart? Do I worship a “what” or a “Who” or my “Self”? Or do I worship Christ the newborn King? Joy to the World! The Lord is come!
#GloryToTheNewBornKing who is birthed again through the Psalms with fresh urgency and relevancy to me in my walk through life. Today. And all days. “World without end. Amen. Amen!“
#ILoveChristmas
#YadaYada
I’m afflicted. But I’m loved of God. What else matters? Nothing. Nothing at all.