Author: Matthew Twenty Twenty-eight

About Matthew Twenty Twenty-eight

Lover of Jesus, Defender of the Faith, Preacher of the Truth, Occasional Blogger, Drinker of Good Coffee, Eater of Things Full of Sugar and Otherwise Bad For You to Eat.

Happy “Spiritual Birthday”to Me

Today is my “spiritual birthday” ~ 38 years ago today, I emerged from the darkest and most difficult period in my life and found Jesus reaching out His nail pierced hands to receive me and to give me His peace {Jn. 14:27} and His rest {Matt. 11:28-40}. 38 years ago today I stopped wrestling with the Lord and instead, I began to cling to Him—and I have clung to Him everyday since.  38 years ago today, I received Jesus as my Savior and made Him the Lord of my life. 38 years ago today (on a Saturday night at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, and in the company of my brothers LD &DJ), I received the assurance that my sins were forgiven and my name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

My heart overflows with gratitude for all that God has done for me in the days, weeks, months and years since. Great is Your faithfulness, Lord, to me…and to mine! The hymn below is an anthem of sorts for me—and it expresses my gratitude on this day, and every day.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father                                                                       There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not.
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided —
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!                                                                     (Thomas Chisholm)

Crossing the Start/Finish Line

 

I have always considered my Christian life/walk with the Lord to be likened to many instances or occurrences of crossing a start/finish line. I cross the “finish line” in a particular season of my walk with the Lord (be it a season of difficulty or delight) as I simultaneously cross the “start line” marking a new season. This new season may be brief or protracted; it may be marked with trials, troubles, temptations, difficulties, heartache and even heartbreak…or it may be a season of triumph and sustained blessing. Either way, it is part of the unique purpose & plan that God has ordained for me to walk through and live out—that in the end it might mold/shape/conform me [my life & character] into the image of His Son (Romans 8:28-29, Eph. 2:10, Job 23:14). Anyway… while listening to some teaching earlier this morning, I heard a quote by the famous Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte which stated the above much more simply & succinctly. He stated, “The victorious Christian life is a series of new beginnings.” What is left to say to that, but “Amen!”

As I was thinking of this earlier, I was reminded of the concluding verse of Psalm 23 and its beautifully picturesque, well known and often quoted words ~ “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6). I’m so very grateful for the “goodness” of God that goes before me, to prepare my steps…and for the “mercy” of God that comes behind me to cover my stumbling’s – putting me back on my feet to continue my journey to the ultimate finish line, where I will be face-to-face with Jesus in Heaven.

Until that time I intend to “…run with patient-endurance the race that has been marked out for me, fixing my eyes upon Jesus: the Author and the Finisher of my faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

 

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…” (Romans 8:28-29)

“For we are God’s workmanship (His own handiwork), born anew in Christ Jesus, that we might do those good works which He predestined for us [taking paths which He prepared for us ahead of time], that we should walk in them – living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live.” (Ephesians 2:10, amplified)

 “For He performs the things that He has appointed for me, and many are such things with Him.” (Job 23:14)

The Cross

This morning—on this ‘Holy Saturday’, the eve of Resurrection Sunday—I am taking the time to employ my two thumbs to tap out an anthem of sorts. It is my own reflection on the Cross. To me, the very heart of the gospel IS the Cross. And when I reference the Cross, I am not talking about the sort of a cross you wear as an earring…or hang around your neck on a chain. I am talking about a cruel Roman cross. The sort of a cross where Jesus hung, bled and died. That cross is the symbol of suffering and sacrifice. It speaks of hurt, of pain, of humiliation, of rejection. The realization of this matter-of-fact creates a “freeze frame” moment for me; the powerful words of the well known Hymn are repeating themselves in my head: ‘JESUS PAID IT ALL; ALL TO HIM I OWE!’

I am shaken awake from my spiritual slumber! I can have no part in a “gospel” message that does not call me to engage with those around me; a “gospel” that involves no sacrifice, or that costs me less than the best I have to give. I have a duty and a responsibility as a follower of Jesus Christ to live as a witness—whose words, actions and attitudes point people to Him. I have not been called to be ‘mainstream’, or to be ‘relatable’; It is no t my “divine right” to be materially prosperous or to live in perfect health; Nor am I (as a “King’s Kid”) entitled to a life free from all trials, troubles or adversity. In fact, Jesus told me/tells us, “In the world, you WILL have tribulation [you will be tried, tempted, tested, afflicted and assayed], but be boldly confident, for I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33). The Resurrection, among other things, declares just that: Jesus has overcome sin & death! Additionally, He has triumphed over Satan, the god of this world! He is the Victor, not the victim—and we are victorious by, in, with & through Him!

What is the end of all this? That I have been called by Jesus (my Master, my Saviour and my King) to “take up the cross daily” and to follow Him. My duty and responsibility as a Christian is to be faithful: faithful to God and faithful to His word…which will manifest itself in me being faithful to love and to serve those around me.

The verse below sums up my thoughts and my response to what I have written above. I wish to thank the Holy Spirit for inspiring the Apostle Paul to state it so simply, clearly & distinctly ~ “Let a man so account of us, as of the servants of Christ, and as stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.” (1Corinthians 4:1-2)

The Morning After

This morning, I sit quietly in the shadow of an event and political accomplishment I did not believe probable, if even possible. As is the case with many of you, my emotions are mixed (for several reasons I will not share here). I have people who are close to me who are wildly elated, others who are deeply saddened and others who are greatly concerned for their families and for the future of their friends, their neighbors and their co-workers who are gay, black, Hispanic, Muslim, in this country illegally, etc.

Someone particularly close to me was in tears earlier this morning, asking the question: “What do I tell these people I love who, albeit imperfect, bear the image of their Creator and now live in fear because of the unknowns connected to our President-elect?!” They know the answer. They point them to Jesus. God-incarnate. The way, the truth and the life.

How blessed I was to hear/receive just such a reminder while doing my devotional reading this morning. I share a few of those words here with the hope that they will bring necessary comfort & encouragement and provide a spiritual-reset of your perspective where needful or necessary ~

“Be assured, if you walk with Jesus and look to Him and expect help from Him, He will never fail you. An older brother who has known the Lord forty-four years and who pens these words, says to you for your encouragement that HE has never failed him! In the greatest difficulties, in the heaviest trials, in the deepest poverty and necessities, He has never failed me; but because I was enabled by His grace to trust Him, He has always appeared for my help. I delight in speaking well of His name.” (George Mueller)

“…for God Himself has said, ‘I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless, nor forsake you, nor relax My hold on you. Assuredly not!’ So then, we take comfort and are encouraged, and we confidently and boldly say, ‘The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm; I will not fear or dread or be terrified. For what can man do to me’?” (Hebrews 13:5-6, amplified)

One thing I desire… that will I seek.

While reading in the book of Exodus this morning, I was reminded that “The Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11). In fact, when Moses returned to the camp of the Israelites after 40 days on Mount Sinai, it was impossible for him to conceal the fact that he had been in the presence of the Lord. Moses’ face – which reflected the glory of God – made that clear.

This poses the obvious question: If your face reflected your God, what would you see when you looked in the mirror?

**Something to ponder. Indeed, it is!

“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4, esv)

Perspective

 

Through my devotional reading these past couple of weeks (especially reading through 2Corinthians and 1&2Peter),  I have been reminded of the importance  of maintaining a heavenly perspective in dealing with our earthly problems. In fact, it is an essential for our Christian lives. In my bible reading of late, I have been encouraged often as I have been reminded continually that my/our inheritance in Heaven is eternally safe and secure. With that being true (I have reasoned), what does it matter if we suffer the loss of a few earthly comforts or possessions in the course of following Jesus? Likewise, if our tried and tested faith is more precious and valuable to us [in the economy of Heaven and eternity] than refined gold, then the “heat” of adversity in our lives can only serve to benefit us, not ruin us.

This is not intended to be a sermon, just a thought. In fact, such thoughts have been the source of my continual “musings” in recent days and weeks. Do any of you care to join me in considering the same?

 

“Therefore we do not lose heart. For even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction – which is, comparatively speaking, for a mere moment – is producing for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory:  while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen;  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2Corinthians 4:16-18)

 

“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is come upon you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you made a partaker of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you…But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.” (1Peter 4:12-16)

 

“By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know Him, the one who called us to Himself by means of His marvelous glory and excellent virtue. And because of His glory and virtue, He has given us exceedingly great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share His Divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires [the fleshly lusts which war against your soul]. In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises by supplementing your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and to your moral excellence add/cultivate spiritual insight, and to your spiritual insight add/cultivate self-control, and to self-control add/cultivate patient endurance, and to your patient endurance add/cultivate godliness [that which is pleasing to God and an example to others] and to godliness add/cultivate brotherly affection (phileo), and to brotherly affection add/cultivate love (agapē). For as you mature and develop spiritually in these areas, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their former sins.” (2Peter 1:3-9, free translation)

 

A very present help…

I have been thinking about (and praying for) the persecuted church this morning; our brothers and sisters who face prison, torture and even death for their faith in Jesus. It has caused me to reflect and realize that for the majority of us, the most difficult decision we will ever face will likely not come at the point of a gun or at the threat of a jail sentence. More likely, we will face situations where we wish we could “die” (in a figurative sense) but can’t. Situations involving confrontation, discipline, repentance, forgiveness and so on. Be that as it may, it is in situations such as these where our living, active and viable faith in Jesus can shine most brightly. When tempted to run from your problem today, run instead to your heavenly Father – your living hope – and ask Him for the victory in whatever circumstance or situation you may face. He is an ever-present help in our time of trouble or need.

God is our Refuge and Strength, a very present and well-proved help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear: though the earth should change and though the mountains be shaken into the midst of the seas, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling and tumult. There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God will help her, and that right early.”
(Psalm 46:1-5, amplified)

There will come a day…

I read the following as a part of my devotional reading this morning. The prospect of such was so encouraging to me as I survey the state of things (spiritually, morally, socially, geo-politically, economically, militarily) in world around me. Read on…and may these words of promise encourage you as they have me ~

“In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s house (the Temple Mount in Jerusalem) will be established…and peoples will stream to it, and many nations will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us about His ways so we may walk in His paths’. For instruction will go out of Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He [Mashiach Nagid] will settle disputes among many peoples and provide arbitration for strong nations that are far away. They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up the sword against nation, and they will never again train for war. But each man will sit under his grapevine and under his fig tree with no one to frighten him. For the mouth of the Lord  of Hosts has promised this. Though all the peoples each walk in the name of their gods, we will walk in the name of Yahweh our God forever and ever. In that day (this is the Lord’s declaration) I will assemble the lame and gather the scattered and I will make the lame into a remnant, those far removed into a strong nation. Then the Lord will rule over them in Mount Zion from this time on and forever.” (Micah 4:1-7, HCSB)

** As a Christian, I live as part of a Kingdom that is both present and future; a Kingdom that is “…already, but not yet”; a Kingdom that has been inaugurated, but is not fully consummated. I long for the day that Jesus will rule & reign over a restored earth and His “shalom” will be experienced by all; for the day that no man will need to teach His neighbor about the Lord, for all men will know of Him – for the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth even as the waters cover the sea. Maranatha! Even so, Come Lord Jesus!

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; Their young ones shall lie down together; And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain (see Daniel 2:31-45), for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, Who shall stand as a banner to the people; For the nations shall seek Him, and His rest shall be glorious.” (Isaiah 11:6-10)

STORMS

I’m studying in preparation to teach at Calvary Chapel Fredrick (Maryland) tomorrow morning, where we be considering the very familiar story of Jesus calming the raging storm on the Sea of Galilee (Cf. Mark 4:35-41, Luke 8:22-25, Matthew 8:23-27).

As I was doing some additional reading on this text – in an attempt to “stand on the shoulders” of some of the great men of God who have preceded me in this pilgrim life – I came across the following from J.R. McDuff. I gladly share it here for your consideration and edification ~

“It is very easy for us to speak and theorize about faith, but God often casts us into crucibles to try our gold, and to separate it from the dross and alloy. Oh, happy are we if the hurricanes that ripple life’s unquiet sea have the effect of making Jesus more precious. Better the storm with Christ than smooth waters without Him. “

Indeed! When Jesus is in the Boat with us – although the storms of life may rock us – we will reach the other side!

 

As C.H. Spurgeon so eloquently said:

“No waters can swallow the ship where lies

The Master of Ocean and Earth and Skies!”

Or D.L. Moody, who said:

“With Christ in the Boat, I smile at the Storm!”

 

And this is the question I want to pose to all of you: Do we ‘smile at the storm’ when we remember that Jesus is in the Boat with us? Speaking for myself, I’m not sure I always do. But I know that I ought to, and I certainly realize that I need to.  Most importantly, I most definitely want to – and I’m relatively certain you all would agree. That being the case, how can we make it a reality? By remembering that God always has His hand upon our lives and that He is completely in control of every ‘storm’ we encounter – whether we ‘perceive’ Him being there, or not!

 

As I was pondering this, I couldn’t help but remember the important and inspiring Words of Job ~ “Behold, I go forward, but He is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive Him: On the left hand, where He doth work, but I cannot behold Him: He hideth Himself on the right hand, that I cannot see Him: But He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold… for He performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with Him.” (Job 23:8-10, 14)

 

Now, if I’m going to be honest, I must confess that there have been those ‘stormy times’ in my life where I have been tempted to believe that Jesus was asleep… or that He was totally indifferent to my situation. And at times like that, I have found myself thinking ~ Lord… the ship is sinking; Lord… we are in danger if going under; Lord… I’m afraid we’re going to lose everything; LORD… DON’T YOU CARE THAT WE ARE PERISHING?! (Can any of you relate?)

 

Anyway… at times like that, I can almost hear Jesus asking me (as He asked His disciples in the afore mentioned story) “Where is your Faith?” And I’m cut to the heart! The reason? After more than 36 years of walking with the Lord and 36 years of experiencing His faithfulness… I’ve come to understand that my lack of faith, calls His Faithfulness into question – and robs Him of His glory!

 

Remember this: Life’s difficulties are but opportunities for our Great God to display His power. And that the storms of life are but opportunities for Him to demonstrate His loving concern for us. And, what’s more, that even in those times when we are faithless, He abides Faithful! (cf.2Tim. 2:13)

 

Let me conclude with the words of Mark 5:40; Jesus’ question of His disciples ~

“Why are you so fearful; Where is your faith?”

Personalize it ~ Why are you so fearful? Where is your faith? Who or what is the focus of your faith & trust? Let me ask it this way: If someone close to you (a close friend, a family member, a spouse, a neighbor, a co-worker) were asked,  “At a time of trial or testing, or during a crisis, ‘where’ / ‘in whom’ does  ­­­_______________  place their trust” what might they say?

  • Their “Roth IRA?”
  • TD Ameritrade?
  • The FDIC?
  • Blue Cross/Blue Shield?

 

I leave you with the familiar words of a favorite hymn ~

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,

All other ground is sinking sand!

                                      (Edward Mote)

 

“Faith makes the uplook, good; the outlook, bright; the in-look, favorable… and the future, Glorious!” (Warren Wiersbe)

 

FAITH! ~ Forsaking All, I Trust Him!

36 Years and Counting

This past Tuesday was my “spiritual birthday” and over the last several days, I have spent a fair amount of time pondering all that the Lord has done in my life and through my life over the past 36 years. But more than that, I have been pondering my “story” – from my beliefs as a small boy, to the place where I received Christ as my saviour on August 25th 1979.

To say it another way, I have been musing over the difference between believing in God in my heart, and believing with my heart.

Let me see if I can explain. I was born into an Irish-Catholic family in the early 1950’s. My parents were likely not known as being “religious” people – but they were devout, church going people; people dedicated to God and determined to raise their  children (I was the third of twelve) in the Christian faith and as Roman Catholics. Consequently, from the time I was a young child there was never a question in my mind of God’s existence or of my responsibility to acknowledge Him and relate to Him accordingly (ie. through keeping the 10 commandments, adhering to the teachings of the RC church, receiving the sacraments, etc). Here’s the bottom line: Where essential, orthodox belief and doctrine were concerned, I had always believed ‘all of the right things, about all of the right things’. There has never been a time in my memory where I have not believed in God; nor have I ever doubted His existence, the veracity of the Bible, or the essential Gospel message centered around the person and the work of God incarnate – Jesus, the Christ: the belief in my heart (not my intellect, but in a place down deep inside of me – a place that I would now refer to as the core of my being) that He was supernaturally conceived and born of a virgin named Mary, that He lived a sinless life, that He died a vicarious death,  was buried, rose again from the dead three days later and forty days afterward ascended to Heaven and was/is presently seated at the right hand of God the Father. I was not always sure what He was doing there (at the right hand of the Father) but I believed He would remain there until the precise moment He would return to the earth “to judge the living and the dead…” – just as the Apostles Creed had taught me.

These are the things that I have believed about God – not merely with my intellect, but in my heart – without doubt or wavering. I was not always ‘right’ with Him (where my understanding of what constituted ‘right’ was concerned) nor did I live for Him. In fact, I lived a life that was contrary to His teaching & example. Nevertheless, I always believed the above stated in my heart.

All of that changed on an evening in late August of 1979 when I came face to face with God, my sin, my need for a Saviour and the realization that I could not produce the “righteousness” required to stand justified in the presence of a Holy God – even by offering to Him my very best “self” for the sum total of all the self-sacrifice and benevolent deeds I could produce over the course of the remainder of my earthly life. So what did I do? I began to believe the things I had always believed in my heart, with my heart. In other words, I opened my heart to Christ and accepted His salvation – and I did so according to all the conditions He had given: to repent of my sin and to take hold of the finished work of redemption – the finished work of the cross of Calvary – by faith, alone.

I cannot tell you how I understood it, but in a mere moment of time I seemed to understand that to believe with the heart was to put my entire being into communication and relationship with Christ. And that is what I did. As a person who (prior to that moment) accepted and believed intellectually, I was not able to conform myself in any way to the pattern and the practice of God’s word or His will. But when I opened my heart to Christ, He entered in, and by a work of the Holy Spirit, He took away my old heart replaced it with a new heart; a heart that He now occupies; a heart that He continually transforms and conforms into the image and likeness of His heart.

Among other things, this is what it is to believe with the heart.

“If you acknowledge and confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and with your heart believe that God [the Father] raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart a person believes (adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Christ) and so is justified, declared righteous and made acceptable to God, and with the mouth he confesses [declares openly and speaks out freely his faith] and affirms his salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10, amplified bible)