Wednesday, September 11, 2013

This article is a good one on confession and fellowship. It is worth reading.  In His Grace, Betty

Thanks, Betty and Ted, for sending this precious piece along.  It is a challenge, a deep one.

Ray Ortlund: Christ Is Deeper Still

Posted: 10 Sep 2013 08:35 AM PDT

David said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord” (Psalm 32:5).  Why?  Because “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer” (Psalm 32:3-4).  People living with unconfessed sin groan.  They groan about this, they groan about that.  But really, they are admitting that they have sins still unconfessed.  Their strength is dried up.  They are sluggish, unmotivated, always looking for ways to minimize their obedience, because the joy is gone.

Living with unconfessed sin saps a believer’s spiritual strength.  But living moment by moment in confession and honesty and realism – “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!  Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!” (Psalm 32:1-2, NLT).

In some churches, nobody admits anything.  Confession would be foolhardy, because it would be used as evidence against, rather than for, a person.  If not dead already, such a church eventually will be.  But God welcomes all of us sinners to confess and get free forever.  It’s like being born again again.

Biblical confession also includes a horizontal dimension – confession to one another, where we find powerful healing.  Confession to God alone often does not lift us into the freedom we desire.  With God alone, confession can be too easy.  It is too easy to save face, and there is no healing, no release, in saving face, however earnest the confession to God might seem to be.  Confession to God alone can be a way of not really facing ourselves and our sins.  James 5:16 shows us where freedom can be found: “Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in Life Together, writes, “You are a sinner, a great, desperate sinner; now come, as the sinner that you are, to God who loves you.  He wants you as you are; he does not want anything from you, a sacrifice, a work; he wants you alone. . . . You can hide nothing from God.  The mask you wear before men will do you no good before him.  He wants to see you as you are, he wants to be gracious to you.”

Then, with James 5:16 in mind, Bonhoeffer also writes, “The last stronghold of self-justification is abandoned.  The sinner surrenders; he gives up all his evil.  He gives his heart to God, and he finds the forgiveness of all his sin in the fellowship of Jesus Christ and his brother.  The expressed, the acknowledged sin has lost all its power.  It has been revealed and judged as sin.  It can no longer tear the fellowship asunder.  Now the fellowship bears the sin of the brother.  He is no longer alone with his evil, for he has cast off his sin in confession and handed it over to God.  It has been taken away from him.  Now he stands in the fellowship of sinners who live by the grace of God in the cross of Jesus Christ.  Now he can be a sinner and still enjoy the grace of God.  He can confess his sins and in this very act find fellowship for the first time. . . . If a Christian is in the fellowship of confession with a brother, he will never be alone again.”

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

September 10, 2013

Now again, I think we all need to walk humbly in a Wesley hymn.  This one touched me today.  In our society we so quickly forget the way of faith, the way of Calvary. Wesley broods on the cross and our life therein. 

This is HYMN 26 from his book of hymns – a work that has blessed me innumerable times.       

I thirst thou wounded Lamb of God, 
wash me in thy cleansing blood:
To dwell within thy wounds: then pain  
Is sweet and life or death is gain.

Take my poor heart, and let it be 
For ever closed to all but thee!
Seal thou my breast, and let me wear 
at pledge of love for ever there!

How blest are they who still abide 
Close shelter'd in thy bleeding side!
Who life and strength from thence derive, 
And by th
ee move and in thee live.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bless dear Chuck! Let us rejoice with him.

My Friend in Jesus,

I must share this with you. When Marge breathed her last breath I was suddenly gripped with a grief deeper than any other before, even greater than the grief I suffered at 10 yrs. of age when my mother died.

I prayed the Lord would help me to gain a perspective of this experience in which what I was missing by her death to what Marge was gaining. Naturally we all suffer from the loss of a loved one. But I didn’t want that to be my focus stealing from me and others something that would bring a priceless joy and hope she has been given that we could now share together with her.

I was reading John 14 from “The Living Bible” words Jesus spoke to His disciples just before He was to leave them: “If you really love me you will be very happy for me, for now I can go to the Father Who is greater than I am.” (Jn. 14:28 LB) THAT’S IT! It was as if Marge was speaking to me! All at once there came such peace and a joy flooding my spirit and soul! I can now share with her that Joy beyond all joys of going to the Father!! Since then I’ve thought of that show “The Price Is Right”, when one wins the “Big One” the winner dances up and down and runs around screaming with delight. Guess what? Everyone else in the audience is doing the very same thing: dancing up and down with the winner!! You would think everyone in the audience had also won. I choose to dance up and down with Marge for having won her contest of receiving the price Jesus paid for her grand entrance into her place already prepared for her. So....let’s all, each and everyone of us, start jumping up and down screaming our joy-filled delight with and for her because her win is ours, too! God will then be glorified. Amen?....AMEN!!

November 28, 2012

chuck (‘n marge)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Joseph of Arimathea and the Kingdom

Mark 15:42 and onward.

“Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Counsel, who was waiting for the Kingdom of God.” This man’s hope drove him – a hope that the Kingdom of God would appear on earth. That desire was so intense that it drove him to do something that took more courage that I can imagine. That is, after a criminal died by crucifixion or any other means, the body, if not to be thrown on to a pile, is to be handed over to the family. Jesus has no family there – just Mary, and she was from Galilee. What could she do, in any case?
Whether Mary hoped to do something or not we do not know. What we do know is that a man named Joseph, a notable Jewish Councilman of Judea, stepped out and did a most amazing Kingdom-like thing. Before his fellow hateful Councilmen and before all Jerusalem, he determined to be the one to receive the lifeless body of the supposed terrorist, Jesus, and dispose of the body in some way or other. He had to obtain permission from the Roman official, Pilate. He did so without hesitation. I wonder what Pilate thought. He may have had some sympathy with Joseph because he could see no evil in Jesus.

Then he bought some linen cloth, and (it is hard to believe) “he took down the body” from the accursed cross. What a scene. This is something quite extraordinary. Joseph took the body of Jesus. If Joseph had hoped that Jesus would set up his Kingdom, what hope did he now have, because Jesus is dead! Evidently the compelling hope that the Kingdom of God would appear could not be squelched in Joseph – even though all the evidence before him should have shattered that hope. Jesus is dead!

Was Joseph burying a broken dream – an unfulfilled promise? We know not what prompted him to do all this.

As for us, we know that Jesus’ death was not the end of the Kingdom dream, but was absolutely necessary to bring about that Kingdom. We stand amazed at what this man did – in face of popular hate and vilification. Joseph actually embraced and identified with this suffering, dead Jew.

If Joseph did this driven by hope, then I should do so driven by the knowledge that the Kingdom is come, it is here, because of the finished work of eternal atonement wrought by Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A brother reflects - night when ballots were counted

Dear Saints,

I have as most if not all of you been seriously stalking the Presidential campaign as it unfolds with earnest desires and prayers. I was viewing the election procedure Tuesday night with a growing uneasiness as “my” candidate began well but was fading as key states were being counted against him. Wearily I crawled into bed but got up hopefully at about 4:30 this morning only to realize “my” man was out of it!

A few days ago I was thinking what if the “other” candidate won, “How then shall I live?” As I sat there praying asking God that question it seemed He was revealing to me that I should keep on living as I have been: with hope, “by grace through faith” just as I did starting out on this wonderful journey.

But then, as I sat there watching the proceedings it suddenly hit me: “my man” didn’t’ve gotta be kidding! This idea of living by grace through faith thing was to become my mode for living in whatever circumstance may develop from this election on! But then....while I was sitting there mourning “my” man’s loss I turned and looked out the window and saw this star in the eastern sky shining brightly. It was the morning star shining ever so brightly! It was announcing to the world that the dawn of a new day was approaching soon.

Looking at that star I began rejoicing! You know why don’t you? One of the names describing Jesus is our “Bright Morning Star”! Our world is a dark foreboding dismal swamp getting darker and darker. To the believer Jesus is our “Bright and Morning Star.” (II Peter 1:19, Rev. 22:16) He is shining brighter and brighter announcing the dawn of a New Day that’s coming soon! I decided at that moment I am going to keep looking up at that Morning Star no matter what develops around me inviting others to join me in that anticipation. So, Saints, that Star is still shining and will continue to become brighter and brighter until that sudden daybreak! “How then shall we live?” Live by grace through faith in the unfading hope that a glorious New Day is dawning...very soon

Charles E. Higgins

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mark 14: 10, 14

Mark 14:10  Judas struggled with the claims of the two kingdoms.  Either follow Christ as King and Lord even though it looks like things are going dreadfully wrong - or trying to figure it out for himself.

Mark 14:12.  On the first day of the feast.  The setting for more lessons about what Jesus came to do - establish an absolutely new thing on the earth - the Kingdom of Heaven with Jesus as king.

The disciples prepared the Passover.  Little did they know that the greater Passover was being prepared that will institute Christ's reign among all mankind. This Kingdom will be established, not on the blood of a lamb but on the Blood of Jesus Christ, God's son and Messiah.

I note that the disciples did not choose the place for the meal - Jesus did - but they played a key role in the Kingdom by doing what they are asked to do - and doing that as well as they could.  They prepared as best they knew how and obviously did well - making sure everything was there and in place.

Life in the Kingdom of Heaven is in reality taking one step after another in obedience to what the Holy Spirit desires.  It is not always logical, on our terms, but that should not daunt us.  Obedience is the hallmark of life in the Kingdom, not human logic that says yes or no depending on what seems right.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Signs of the Kingdom in Mark 14

Jottings on Mark 14 – reflecting on the Kingdom of God.

The events in this chapter delineate the fundamental truths concerning the Kingdom of God. In Chapter 13 Mark recorded Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom. In Chapter 14 he describes the narrative of how it proceeded, in stark detail.

V 1. Now. The climax is just ahead. The ultimate show-down between the two kingdoms, the kingdoms of this world and the Kingdom of God.

V 3. First, however, I see Kingdom values in what happened in the home of Simon, the leper. I am trying to grasp what was happening here. Had Jesus healed Simon in the past? Probably so. At least, I am assuming that Simon was healed and pronounced clean in the way stipulated in the Levitical law. So the home was probably ritually clean even though it had a history of leprosy. A clear sign of God's grace at work. In any case, it was the home of a person who knew of the grace of God personally. Any leper who recovered was a recipient of God’s grace. So, was Simon not a thankful beneficiary of God’s grace, even if the details are not given?

Then enters this woman. John tells us she was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Their houses were probably near to one another in Bethany, near Jerusalem. I can not recall that we have record of what Jesus may have done for Mary, except raising her brother Lazarus from the dead, perhaps. She loved Jesus dearly and hung on to his every word. As I read this, therefore, it does not appear that she is offering a thanksgiving sacrifice but an offering of spontaneous love for Jesus – not really knowing rationally what she is doing. It was the result of spontaneous, overpowering love.

But Jesus knew, and for him it was a word from heaven – he was being anointed with funerary ointment not after but before his death. Jesus’ Father in heaven moved Mary, I do believe, to do this utterly unexpected thing that defied explanation as an insight into what Jesus was about to do, pour out his life for sinners.

So what Jesus was about to do echoed the theme of Mary’s anointing – we stand surprised by that unfathomable gracious act, his self-giving to death that we might live, carrying our sins upon himself – making reconciliation with God possible and near. It is inexplicable but comfortingly true.