Order out of Chaos

While doing some reading this morning, I came across the following brief story. I did my best to verify its veracity but I could not do so with any certainty. Nevertheless, the lesson it conveys and the truth it communicates is so clear and necessary, I gladly share (an edited and condensed version) of it with you here. Read on. I believe you will glean from it as I did.

The story is set some years ago in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. As the story goes, visitors are led by a museum guide to a dimly lit room where they find themselves looking up at some sort of a display. To their untrained eye, it was not much more that a tangled mass of string, color, and apparent chaos. After giving the visitors a few moments to take in the sight, the guide questions them by asking, “Do any of you know what this is?” As the story goes, no one offers a reply and an awkward silence prevails. At that point (as if on cue) the guide says, “follow me” and he leads them through a door, up a flight of stairs, around a corner and along a corridor – which opens into a much larger room. This room is described as being nearly dark. The guide leads his group of visitors to stand along a railing, placed atop a low-standing wall, with the instruction to “stand here and watch.” As the group peered over the railing, their guide switched on the lights. It was instantly apparent that the mass of jumbled, chaotic and colored string seen just a few moments earlier was, in fact, an enormous tapestry viewed from the back side. They were looking at the famous “Christ’s Charge to St. Peter” depicting in beautiful detail the story contained in the 21st chapter of the Gospel of John. (1)

Whether factual or fictional, there is a clear moral to this short story, and it’s this ~ The “work” had to be seen from a different perspective to understand what the artist was creating.

And so it is with God and His ways. We often look at them and ask questions such as “Why is this happening?” and/or “How is this going to work for anyone’s good?” This we do because we are on the wrong side of eternity, and thus (without an “eye of faith”) we are lacking the necessary perspective required to see and understand the order and pattern of God’s workmanship (poiēma) in our lives.

No doubt, this is something to think about as we consider what many of us perceive to be nothing more than a ‘jumbled mass’ of twisted and unrelated circumstances and situations that comprise the ‘patterns’ in our lives.

God is at work, bringing order out of chaos. Working the things in our lives together for His glory and our good; molding us and making us, day by day, into the image of His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

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

“For we are God’s own handiwork – His workmanship, born anew in Christ Jesus, that we may do those good works which God planned beforehand for us: taking paths which He prepared 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)

(1) My research determined that this was one of ten works commissioned by Pope Leo X and designed by the renowned Italian painter Raphael. The work was completed in 1519.

God be thanked…

“Every gift from above is an invitation to take our thoughts and sayings above. God’s gifts are intended to lift up our faces to His, to awaken us to love Him. Every bad and imperfect thing drags us down to darkness; every good and perfect gift woos us into the light. Consider the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, they are His appeal to trust Him. Yea, from the stately order of the heavens, to the beauty of nature, to the beauty of holiness, to the perfect love of which they are but dear fragments – may God be thanked for His supreme appeal to us…to remember Him in all things. And God be thanked for His good and perfect gift, that gift unspeakable: His life, His love, His very self in Jesus Christ.”  (Maltbie Babcock, “Thoughts for Everyday Living”)

“Consider the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And…consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:26, 28-30)

Pressing On in the New Year

Since early this morning, I have been “musing” over the following; one of my favorite ‘New Year’ passages of scripture ~

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 3:13-14)

I realize that regardless of our personal circumstances today, we all share one thing in common: we are standing on the threshold of another New Year – 2015. For some of us, it will be a year of many blessings; for others of us, it will be a year of trial and struggle; and for the rest of us, perhaps a combination of both? Regardless, in this time of New Year “Resolutions” let us resolve follow the Lord – He who has promised to go before us as a guiding light, a constant protection, an unfailing friend, a Wonderful Counselor and a Mighty God!

As I was doing my devos this morning, I came across a familiar entry by D.M. Panton, originally written at such a time as this – the dawning of a New Year. I include it here for your consideration ~

(he writes) “Today is a slender bridge which will bear its own load, but will collapse if we add tomorrows’. In every new year there are 365 letters from the King, each with its own message – ‘bear this for Me.’ What shall we do with the letters? Open them one day at a time! Yesterday’s seal is broken; lay that letter reverently away, for yesterday’s cross is laid down – never to be borne again. Tomorrow’s letter lies on the table; do not break the seal. For when tomorrow becomes today, there will stand beside us an unseen figure who will place His hand on our shoulder and say with a loving smile: ‘as thy days, so shall thy strength be.’ Let the summary of our life be this: as to the past, a record of gratitude; as to the present, a record of service; as to the future, a record of trust.”

** I’m sure most of you would agree with me that we often create our own hassles and hindrances by being anxious over two days we can do little, if anything, about – ‘yesterday’ and ‘tomorrow’. That said, consider this: our Lord, Jesus Christ, has done all He can to free us from every weight…giving us forgiveness from the past, help in the present and assurance for the future. Amen! That being the case, let me suggest to you that as you face the coming days of the New Year, not knowing what they may hold, yet knowing that each passing day brings the Lord’s return nearer – let us heed the exhortations of scripture and ‘lay aside every weight of sin…’ and ‘let us press toward the mark’ with singleness of heart… ‘looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.’ (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Is Your Name Written in the Book of Life?

My current devotional reading has me ending the year by reading the concluding chapters of the book of Revelation. As I read, I’m reminded that God’s judgments are not only just and true, but they are certain. Although He is a patient, loving God who is “not desirous that anyone should perish” untold multitudes will perish if they do not heed His call to repentance.

What about you? Is your name written in the Book of Life? Have you experienced God’s mercy — or are you in line for God’s judgment?

There is no better time than the present – standing on the threshold of a New Year – to come to God in Heaven by repenting of (turning away from) your sin, and by placing your faith and trust in the work and person of His Son, Jesus Christ…so that you too can sing the song of the redeemed: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord, our God.” (Revelation 19:1)

What Child is This?

I’ll begin my “Musings” this Christmas eve with a verse from one of my favorite Christmas Carols, lyrics that are likely familiar to all of us ~

“What Child is this who lay to rest on Mary’s lap a sleeping?

Whom Angles greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping.

This, this is Christ the King…whom shepherds guard & angels sing;

Haste, haste to bring Him laud, the Babe, the Son of Mary!”

What Child is this? The Baby in the manger is the omniscient, omnipotent King of the Universe, maker of heaven & earth and all that is in them.

Consider the words of Isaiah 9:6 ~ “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given… and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

What child is this? This Child is the embodiment of the “good news” / “glad tidings” of God’s answer to all of the confusion, all of the chaos and all of the conflict of life.

  • UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN! – From the human perspective, He is but an ordinary, innocent child.
  • UNTO US A SON IS GIVEN! – From the perspective of heaven & eternity, He is a wise and Wonderful Counselor and a Mighty King; both the Father of Eternity and the Prince of Peace!

What child is this? He is Immanuel – God with us! It’s a marvelous mystery: that He who is the Author and Creator of all, humbled Himself – laying aside His glory and divesting Himself of His divine privilege – and was Born of a Virgin, born under the law, that He might redeem those who were under the law, providing them the privilege to become the adopted sons & daughters of God.

Quoting poetess Annie Johnson Flint ~

Unto you is born this day a Saviour / Which is Jesus Christ, the wondrous Lord;

Not a ‘Teacher’ not a ‘Good Example’ / But the Son of God; the Living Word.

 No ‘Philosopher’ his fancies weaving / Warp of dreams and  woof of visions vast;

Not a ‘Prophet’, peering down the future / Not a ‘Scholar’, delving in the past.

 BUT, unto you is born this day, a Saviour / Earth’s one hope; The Life, The Truth, The Way;

Mighty God and glorious Redeemer / Jesus Christ, the Lord, was born this day!

Consider again the Christmas “reality” of Isaiah 9:6 ~ “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

Consider with me that His shoulders are broad enough to bear the Government for an Eternal Kingdom… and yet, His compassion is such that He offers His forgiveness and He offers His Peace to the likes of you & me ~ undeserving sinners!

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given!”

 Who is ‘US’? Is US representative of all men, everywhere? No. In the context here Isaiah is speaking of those who believe; those who rejoice in God, their Savior! For the truth is, there is no Savior, no Hope, no Peace, no Eternal Life; There is no Mighty Power & no Wise Counsel for any of those who do not know Jesus Christ in a personal and intimate way. But, for those who do? Theirs is The Kingdom! Their lives are redeemed & transformed by His power! He is their Peace, and He becomes their Wonderful Counselor!

Is the Government of your life on His shoulders this Christmas Eve? It should be. It can be. Have you ever wondered what sort of a Christmas “gift” you give to the God of the universe, the maker of heaven and earth and all that is in them – the King of kings and the Lord of lords? You give Him yourself; Your life; Your all-in-all. And if that is something you’ve never done, I urge you not to let another day pass before you do. Come to Him as a sinner, in need of a Saviour. Come in faith, repenting (turning away) from your sin and call upon His name — for whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord in that way, shall be saved (Romans 10:13).

Christmas Promise

My musings this morning have focused upon the beauty, the simplicity, and the profundity of the following, taken from an Advent sermon delivered by Dietrich Bonhoeffer on December 21st, 1930. I include it below for your consideration and edification. I invite you to read on ~

“The great promise of God (found in Genesis 3:14-15) is fulfilled at Christmas. The Bible proclaims that the great miracle of the incarnation has happened as an act of God, without any human doing. What happened? God had seen the misery of the world and had come Himself in order to help. Now (through the miraculous circumstances surrounding the birth of a baby in Bethlehem) He was come, not as a mighty one, but in the obscurity of humanity, where there is sinfulness, weakness, wretchedness, and misery in the world. That is where God came and where He still comes, and there He lets Himself be found by anyone who would believe. And this proclamation moves through the world anew, year after year, at Christmastime.” (edit jfo)

“At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a Son. She wrapped Him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them in the Inn.
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior — yes, the Messiah, the Lord — has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize Him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” And suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others — the armies of heaven — praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is please.”
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the Baby, lying in the manger. After seeing Him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this Child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. And the shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.” (Luke 2:1-20, nlt)

Great Saints Who Have Gone Before Me…

While driving home from my recent ministry trip to New England, I was listening to a lecture given by Dr. Wilbur Smith (about 40 years ago) to the students at Moody Bible Institute. One of the challenges he gave to the students was to learn from some of the great saints that had gone before them (there at Moody), something they could do by reading their published sermons, their other writings and in some cases, their biographies. (As an aside, Wilbur Smith was renown for his enormous personal library and for being a voracious reader.) But getting back to his challenge to the students to learn from those that had gone before them, Dr. Smith suggested they would observe to very important things about all of them:

  • #1) Their absolute dependence upon the person & the power of the Holy Spirit;
  • # 2) Their practice of committing everything to God in prayer.

While doing my devotional reading this morning,  I was reminded of Wilbur Smith’s lecture and the points he made, particularly the point regarding prayer… and this carried over into the afternoon where I found myself searching my archives for a few of my favorite quotations on the subject — some of which I have taken the liberty to include below ~

The first is from D.L. Moody himself: “Prayer does not mean that I am to bring God down to my thoughts and my purposes, and bend his government according to my foolish, silly, and sometimes sinful notions. Prayer means that I am to be raised up…into union and design with Him; that I am to enter into His counsel and carry out His purpose fully.”

The next from Moody alumni R.A. Torrey: “Prayer is the key that unlocks all the storehouses of God’s infinite grace and power. All that God is, and all that God has, is at the disposal of prayer. Nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer, except that which lies outside the will of God.”

The next is from E.M. Bounds: “Prayer is the highest activity of the human soul. Man is at his greatest & highest when, upon his knees in prayer, he comes face to face with God; for when a man is speaking to God in Prayer, he is at his pinnacle!”

The next, from Andrew Murray: “Beware in your prayer, above everything, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do. Expect unexpected things…above all that we ask or think.”

The “trilogy” that follows addresses the connection between prayer and spiritual warfare ~

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil; He mocks at our wisdom…but he trembles when we pray.” (Samuel Chadwick)

“Do we know the power of our supernatural weapon of prayer? Do we dare use it with an authority of a faith that commands as well as asks? God baptizes us with holy audacity and divine confidence! He is not wanting great men, but He is wanting men who will dare to prove the greatness of their God.” (A.B. Simpson)

“Prayer could set at your right hand an angel whose touch could shatter a millstone into smaller dust than the flour it grinds, and whose glance could lay an army low. ‘What will prayer do for you?’ I answer: ‘All that God can do for you’.” (F.W. Farrar)

“For the weapons of our warfare are not physical weapons of flesh and blood, but they are mighty before God for the overthrow  and destruction of strongholds, inasmuch as we refute arguments  and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the true knowledge of God; and we lead every thought  and  purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ.” (2Cor. 10:4-5, Amplified)

 

A simple prayer

“Be it ours today, O gracious Spirit, to be ruled and governed by Thy divine authority, so that nothing false or sinful may reign in our hearts, lest it extend its malignant influence to our daily walk among men.” (Spurgeon)

“Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice deeds of wickedness ith men who do iniquity; And do not let me eat of their delicacies.” (Psalm 141:3-4)

“For this is the will of God: that by well doing you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— as free [having liberty] , yet not using your liberty as a cloak for vice or indulgence, but as bondservants of God.” (1Peter 2:15-16)

Standing On The Promises of God

“The Bible is full of God’s promises; the precious word is teeming with them, and we must believe them in the present tense, not merely for the future. God proposes a present pardon, and our faith should take it as present. When we go to God in this way and pour out our hearts to Him, let us remember His “exceeding great and precious promises” given to us, and ask that they be fulfilled in us in our everyday experience. Let us ask Him to continue the manifestation of His love, grace and power. Then – going to His blessed word, from Genesis to Revelation – let us gather up the promises, and hold them in the exercise of unwavering faith, trusting in these words of God…and there, rest our case. God never varies. Every jot and tittle shall be fulfilled.” (Henry Foster)

As the hand of Providence would have it this morning, some additional devotional reading from today’s installment of Spurgeon’s Morning &  Evening provided a second “witness” to the reality & reliability of God’s promises. Read on and enjoy ~ “If all these (the promises of God) are to be had by merely knocking at mercy’s door, O my soul, knock hard this morning, and ask large things of thy generous Lord. Leave not the throne of grace till all thy needs have been spread before the Lord, and until by faith thou hast a comfortable prospect that they shall be all supplied. No bashfulness need retard when Jesus invites. No unbelief should hinder when Jesus promises. No cold-heartedness should restrain when such blessings are to be obtained.” (Morning, December 5th)

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellent virtue, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2Peter 1:3-4)

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1John 1:9)

 
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting…” (James 1:5-6)
 

The Return of Jesus

My devotional reading the past couple of days has had me reading through 1 & 2Thessalonians. One of the common themes between them concerns the Lord’s return for His church. How does this prospect (that of the imminent return of Jesus for His church) effect the way you live your daily life? Would a casual observer detect something is different about your life because you are living in light of Jesus’ promise – as He said to His disciples, “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; If it were not so, I would have told you otherwise, for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:2-3, nasv) Although no man knows with any certainty the day or the hour of Christ’s return for His church, He Himself told us the things to look for so that the “day” would not find any of us unprepared (See Matt. 24:6-8, 42-41; Mark 13:32-37; Luke 21:9-12, 25-28).

The point I am seeking to make is that the prospect of Jesus’ imminent return should produce a clear evidence in our lives. It provides us with both a present and a future sense of perspective and it helps us to establish priorities for our lives that honor God while providing a witness to others.

Are you living your life is such a way that it would suggest to others that you expect that Jesus could return at any moment to “catch/snatch away” His church?

There is no better time than this present moment to consider you life’s witness and priorities and, if necessary, make a course correction. In the words of the Apostle John, “Beloved, now are we the children of God, and yet it is not apparent what we shall ultimately be: but we know that, when He shall appear (at His coming for the church), we shall be made like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in Him purifies himself, even as He is pure.” (1John 3:2-3)

“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep (experience physical death), but we [born again believers in Jesus] shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead in Christ will be raised incorruptible, and we [who are alive on the earth at time] shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’.” (1Corinthians 15:51-54)

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then, we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, brethren, comfort one another with these words.” (1Thessalonians 4:16-18)

Living in the mad, sad, lost & broken world I/we live in today, it is a comfort to know that Jesus is coming again. In fact, according to the signs Jesus told us to look for, He could come at any moment. It might be today. Are you ready? Maranatha! Behold, the Lord is coming; even so Lord, come quickly!