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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Lighting Up Your World

“…And let your living spill over into thanksgiving” (see Col_2:6-7, The Message).

The end result of a life well-lived is thanksgiving, not only from the one who lives the life — but from those all around who have been benefited by that person’s living.

The differences between a thankful person and a thankless person are many. One is a blessing to be around, the other is a burden. One brings hope and joy everywhere they go, the other brightens up a room by leaving!

When you live a grateful and thankful life, others end up thanking God for sending you their way. How good is that? This is the life that makes a difference. Yes, this is the life that brightens even the darkest corner.

And this is why Paul tells us to “do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may be innocent and pure as God’s perfect children, who live in a world of corrupt and sinful people. You must shine among them like stars lighting up the sky, as you offer them the message of life” (Php_2:14-16, Good News Bible).

The Message puts it this way — “Do everything readily and cheerfully — no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night.”

You can be light in some-body’s darkness. You can bring color to some-one’s grey and dreary world. You can bring cheer to a soul that is saddened, joy to a heart that has been broken; hope to those who have lost their way in the fog. You’ve got what it takes to live the life that pleases God and blesses others.

Now just do it — and have a blast!
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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

An Action Carried Out toward Earthen Vessels

For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2Co_4:11)

The treasure who lives within us (Jesus) is to get glory and honor as we trust Him to live in, and be manifested through, the vessels of our humanity. "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us" (2Co_4:7). Our previous meditation reminded us that we are to embrace an attitude of "death to self" that facilitates this plan: "Always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body" (2Co_4:10). In addition, there is an action carried out toward earthen vessels that also advances this great purpose of God. This matter is also about dying in order to live.

This action is taken toward earthen vessels: "we who live." We who have found new life in Christ are the ones who are "delivered to death." Our God places us into (or allows us to be put in) situations that are far more than we can handle. Even the Apostle Paul had to undergo this action taken toward him. "For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves" (2Co_1:8-9). This was not an isolated incident. Paul was frequently in such impossibilities. "From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep" (2Co_11:24-25).

Since we are earthen vessels, this is the way life unfolds. Clay pots are characteristically inadequate and vulnerable. Consequently, the situations that our all-loving and all-wise God leads us into are consistently like being "delivered to death." However, this action toward us is "for Jesus' sake." In our continual impossibilities, Jesus has repeated opportunities to manifest Himself. Our heavenly Father places us in circumstances we cannot handle by our own resources. We cry out to the Lord, putting our hope and trust in Him. He faithfully goes to work in us. The result is "that the life of Jesus [is] manifested in our mortal flesh."

Dear heavenly Father, forgive me for the many times I resist Your delivering me over to death. You know that I prefer it when I can handle the events that come my way. Remind me to view my impossibilities as Jesus' opportunities to manifest Himself in and through the vessel of my life. This I humbly ask, in Jesus name, Amen.
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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

THE SLEEPLESS WATCHER

"He that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is thy keeper." — Psa_121:3-5.

THIS PSALM has been called the Traveller's Psalm. When the pilgrims started forth from their distant homes to go up to the Temple, not one of them could forecast his experiences before he reached home again. There were perils of rivers, perils of robbers, perils in the wilderness, perils in travel from wild beasts. It was well, therefore, that they should commit themselves and their dear ones to the care of One who neither slumbered nor slept. It is not enough for the body to be kept; we need the soul to be kept from all evil, as we go out into the world with its microbes of temptation, or come back to the luxury and comfort of our dwelling. There is temptation everywhere; not for one moment are we absolutely immune.

There is a difference between slumbering and sleeping. The mother or nurse watching the child may sometimes get a few moments of slumber; it is not very restful, yet there is a brief pause of unconsciousness. But this never comes to God. Not for one moment does He slumber, or ceases His watchful care of us. God keeps us by besetting us behind and before, and lays His hand upon us (Psa_139:5). As a sentry goes to and fro before the palace given to his charge, so God's peace, like a sentinel, keeps watch and ward around the soul. We speak of the castle-keeper, the inner circle of defence; so God's Presence is our Keep. We think also of the safe, around which the fire may play, but cannot touch its contents; so the child of God may walk in the midst of peril and temptation, but God is round about him; he is inside the secret place of the Most High, and no weapons formed against him can reach that inner sanctuary. Let us hand over the keeping of our souls to Him as to a faithful Creator (1Pe_4:19).

The closing words of this Psalm remind us of Joh_14:1-6. There will be one last going out and coming in, when the house of our life shall be left vacant, and we shall go forth to the Father, to the House of many mansions, to the great company which awaits us on the other side. Then in the transition between this world and the next, and amid all the mysteries that shall crowd upon us, we need fear no evil, for whatever Eternity may bring to us, we shall always be sheltered and kept by Almighty care.

PRAYER
Almighty God! Thou knowest that I have no power of myself to keep myself. Keep me outwardly in my body and inwardly in my soul, that I may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul. AMEN.
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Monday, May 22, 2017

An Attitude Carried About by Earthen Vessels

Always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. (2Co_4:10)

As earthen vessels, we are to live by trusting in the treasure (the Lord Jesus) who dwells within us: "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels." (2Co_4:7) Also, we are to give Him all honor and glory as He sustains us day by day through the trials of life: "that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us." In addition, to help us magnify the treasure who lives in us, there is to be an attitude (an outlook) carried about (embraced) by the earthen vessels.

The particular attitude that results in magnifying the treasure is the perspective we hold concerning the death of Christ: "Always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus." This is about dying in order to live. Jesus taught this. "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it" (Luk_9:24). Those who hold on to the life they received from Adam lose what they are trying to guard and develop. They never find true life. However, all who renounce their sinful natural life and trust in Jesus find a new life from Him. This is the attitude that followers of Christ are to carry with them. "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me" (Luk_9:23). Day by day, our perspective is to include a rejection of any life that we could produce on our own ("deny himself"). We are to agree with God that the self-life always deserves the cross of Christ ("take up his cross daily"). This leaves us with only one option: pursue after Jesus for the life that He alone can provide ("and follow Me").

Such confessions are in harmony with what actually happened to us at the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. "Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism [that is, through identification] into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom_6:4). When we placed our trust in the Lord, His death and resurrection became our death and resurrection! This is to be our confidence continually. "Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom_6:11).

When we carry about this attitude, we are actually trusting the Lord Jesus (the treasure who dwells within us) to live in and through our "earthen vessels," our humanity: "that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body."

Dear Lord, I want to carry about with me Your dying. I want to embrace all that Your cross proclaims and provides. Thank You for dying in my place. I rejoice that I died there with You. Now, I ask You to live in and through me day by day, Amen.
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Monday, May 22, 2017

Deeply Rooted in Him

“You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him.” (see Col_2:6-7, The Message).

Paul tells us, in so many words, to “get with the program.” He basically removes all of our excuses for living a life that is less that what Christ has secured for us, and shows us in the simplest of words that we already have what it takes to go the distance.

He says, “You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith.” The Amplified Bible reads this way, “the roots of your being are firmly and deeply planted in Him, and you are continually being built up in Him, thereby becoming increasingly more confirmed and established in the faith.”

Putting it simple and straightforward, Jesus has this thing all worked out from start to finish, and now your life is being lived out by faith in His faithfulness. Your roots go deep, so nothing can displace you. Your life is well-constructed, so nothing can dismantle you. And you know your way around in the Faith, so nothing can dismay you.

And in a day when so many are being displaced, dismantled and dismayed — can you not see the opportunity that the Lord has set before you? Indeed, He has set you in the midst of a situation filled with those who need a drink from your well, and a slice of that thing called the Bread of Life (which you carry about with you).

Isn’t it time you started feeding the multitudes?

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Monday, May 22, 2017

THE PSALM OF ASCENSION

"But God, being rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, quickened us together with Christ, and raised us up with Him, and made us to sit with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus." — Eph_2:4-6.

THIS 24th Psalm is apparently in two parts, and yet there is one theme, the ascent of the holy soul and the triumphant Saviour into the presence of God. For us, the ascension of our Lord precedes our own; but in the days of the Psalmist that order was reversed.

Our Lord's Ascension. In an outburst of poetry, kindled by the Divine Spirit, the Psalmist anticipates the coming of the King of Glory to the doors of the Eternal City—that ideal City which through the ages has beckoned forward the hearts of saints and patriots, and which in Rev. 21. is seen descending to our earth. It was as though the doors of the Unseen barred His entrance. They had opened to God, but never before to "God manifest in the flesh." It was a new thing that He should take our nature with Him into the unseen and eternal world.

The soul's ascension (Psa_24:3-6). In Christ we have ascended and are seated at God's right hand. No change in your emotions, not even the being overtaken by a fault can alter that. But we have to make our calling sure. What is ours in the divine purpose must be claimed and appropriated as a living daily experience. There are certain qualities of character which are requisite to those who should be accounted worthy to stand before the Son of Man, not hereafter only, but now and here and always (Luk_21:36).

We must have clean hands. The money that we earn must be clean money. If we are writers, artists, mechanics, professional or commercial men or women, we must never produce anything which would defile the imagination or heart. We must have a pure heart. In Isa_33:14-17, which is a parallel passage, the Holy Spirit is compared to a devouring fire, in the presence of which no evil thing can live. Let us ask Him so to possess us, and to cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by His inspiration. We must not lift up our soul to vanity, i.e., we must not allow ourselves to be inflated with the applause or rewards of the world. Many sell their souls for these, and only at the end of life awaken to discover how worthless they are. We must not swear deceitfully, i.e., we must be absolutely transparent and sincere, for only the true can stand in the presence of the King of Truth.

PRAYER
May we live as those who have been raised with Christ, and who are seated with Him. AMEN.
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Saturday, May 20, 2017

THE PSALM OF THE DOORKEEPER

"For a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the House of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness." — Psa_84:10.

THIS PSALM has been a favourite with God's people in all ages. When Carlyle was leaving, in doubt and despondency, his quiet mountain home at Craigenputtock for the untried tumult of London, he quoted this Psalm for comfort to his brother and himself, saying: "I turn my thoughts heavenwards, for it is in heaven only that I find any basis for our poor pilgrimage on earth. As surely as the blue dome of heaven encircles us all, so does the providence of the Lord of Heaven. 'He will withhold no good thing from those that love Him.' This, as it was the ancient Psalmist's faith, let it likewise be ours. It is the Alpha and Omega, I reckon, of all the possessions that can belong to man."

In absence and distance, the heart of the true believer turns to God. He believes that he has direct access to Him, and that his prayer will be accepted (Psa_84:8). David, as the anointed King, had the right to ask that God, who was his Shield, should look upon his face; but we have even a better plea, for we may ask that God would look upon the face of His own glorious and beloved Son, and accept us in Him (Psa_84:9).

Let us imitate the humility of this man, and be willing to take the lowest place (Luk_14:10-11); but we must be on our guard against being proud of our humility. Some people take the back seats that they may be asked to come to the front. They mistake the Lord's words. It is said that there is always room at the top; it is equally true that there is plenty of room at the bottom; and if men and women will really gird themselves with a towel and wash the feet of the disciples, if they are prepared in the literal sense to be doorkeepers and to give themselves in service, they will be allowed to do their work with little praise save that of the King Himself.

To all such lowly souls God gives grace and glory (Psa_84:11). With both hands He will give and give again. Only we must practise the habit of taking. Grace is the bud of which Glory is the flower. If God has given the one, He will not withhold the other from. Psa_84:12). If anything is withheld from us, we may be sure that it is not absolutely for our good. No good thing will the Father withhold; but He will not give us scorpions, however beautiful their appearance; nor stones, though painted to resemble bread.

PRAYER
Teach us to abide with Thee in our daily calling, and to realise that each sphere may be a temple for priestly service. AMEN.
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Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Power within Redeemed Earthen Vessels

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. (2Co_4:7)

In our previous meditation on this same verse, we saw that God has placed extraordinary heavenly treasure in ordinary earthen vessels. "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels." This is true of every person who has been redeemed by the blood of Christ. The Lord has arranged it this way so that the vessels (you and me) must rely upon the treasure (Jesus Christ), not upon ourselves: "that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us." Also, this arrangement is to bring attention and glory to the Lord, not to the vessels.

The Lord is the treasure in the "clay pot" of our redeemed humanity. He is to be the "excellent power" in our lives. He is the one we are to trust in as our strength for daily living. When the battles grow fierce, trust in the Lord. "You have armed me with strength for the battle" (Psa_18:39). When we need patience or endurance, trust in the Lord: "Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering" (Col_1:11). When we need strength for our latter years, trust in the Lord. "The LORD has kept me alive . . . here I am this day, eighty-five years old . . . yet I am as strong this day as I was on the day that Moses sent me" (Jos_14:10-11). Even in times of extreme personal weakness, His strength can be especially apparent. "I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me . . . For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2Co_12:9-10).

The temptation is to trust in our "sturdy structure" (or in those who claim to be able to strengthen or reinforce weak vessels). Our personal resources will fail, but the Lord who dwells in our hearts will not fail. "My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Psa_73:26). The world system with all of its impressive riches calls us to place our confidence in their resources. The Lord warns us that such misplaced trust becomes our downfall. "Woe to the rebellious children . . who . . . go down to Egypt . . . to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh . . . the strength of Pharaoh shall be your shame" (Isa_30:1-3).

We are to trust the Lord to be our strength. "The LORD is my strength and my shield" (Psa_28:7). Then, we are to give the Lord glory for the strength He supplies. "My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I will praise Him" (Psa_28:7).

O Lord, the strength of my life, forgive me for relying upon myself and for looking to worldly resources. I want to place all of my trust in Jesus, the treasure who lives within me. May all glory be unto Him, in His mighty name, Amen.
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Friday, May 19, 2017

THE SILVER LINING IN THE DARK CLOUD

"Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise Him, Who is the health of my countenance, and my God." — Psa_42:5, Psa_42:11; Psa_43:5.

THESE TWO Psalms are evidently one. See how the same refrain rings through them both! They are generally allocated to that sad time in David's history, when the rebellion of his favourite son, Absalom, drove him as an exile beyond the Jordan (2Sa_15:14). But amid the great sorrows that rolled over his soul, there was one glad ingredient. Thrice over the Psalmist encourages himself to Hope! For many a sorrowful soul, this is a true emblem. Amid all the disappointment and despair of life, there is always one chord of Hope—God! We may stand amid the wreck of our earthly hopes. Through misconduct or mistake, as the result of folly or sin, we may have reduced ourselves and those dear to us to the last degree of misery; but the soul may always turn from its low estate to God, sure that He will have mercy, will abundantly pardon, and will turn again the adverse pressure of the tide.

See how the broken-hearted may still speak of God! This man had grievously sinned. He seemed to have forfeited all claim on God's recognition and care. He had brought shame and disgrace on the cause of religion. All down the years the story of his wrong-doing would give the enemies of truth abundant reason to blaspheme. And yet see how he dares to speak of God! He describes Him as the God of his life, as his Rock, as the Health of his countenance, the God of his strength, and the Gladness of his joy. This is a great lesson! We may change, but God changes never. We may turn our face from Him, or allow some evil thing to loom between ourselves and the clear shining of His face. But he shines on, and when we confess our sins, and put them away, we find ourselves afresh in the clear shaft of His illuminating rays. You may have lost all hope in yourself, your friends, your circumstances, but you must never lose your hope in God.

The past, which can only be viewed with repentance, is forgiven; the present, in which God is willing to be All-in-all; the future, when again the soul shall praise Him with joyful lips. Hope looks into the future. "I shall yet praise Him."

PRAYER
Our Father, forgive, we pray Thee, our murmuring and discontent, our perverseness and waywardness. Teach us to discern the silver edge of the lowering clouds, and to trust Thy love, which is leading us safely and by a right way to our home. AMEN.
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Friday, May 19, 2017

The Miracle of Our Ministry

For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2Co_4:6)

As new covenant servants, we proclaim "the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ" (2Co_4:4). While holding forth this magnificent message, we earnestly pray that God will prepare darkened hearts to embrace the redeeming light of His grace. Each person who responds will experience a miracle more distinct than when light first shined into the darkness of creation.

On the first day of creation, the earth was in darkness. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep" (Gen_1:1-2). The Lord spoke light into existence in that darkness. "Then God said, 'Let there be light;' and there was light'" (Gen_1:3). By the word of His mouth, He caused light to shine where there had been none. What a majestic miracle!

When Jesus came to this world, light was penetrating darkness. "The people who sat in darkness saw a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned" (Mat_4:16). When the light of the gospel of grace is proclaimed, it is shining upon spiritually darkened hearts. "Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened" (Rom_1:21). When darkened hearts respond to that light, they are given new life. "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life" (Joh_8:12).

This is what has happened to those of us who follow Christ. The God of creation, who spoke forth physical light into physical darkness, has spoken forth spiritual light into our spiritual darkness. "For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts." This light that was shining through the gospel. This good news of God's grace painted a portrait of the Lord Jesus Christ. In that portrait of words, we saw the glory of God and His great salvation. We saw by faith "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." Now, we are called to proclaim this gospel of grace that others also may come out of darkness into His splendid light. "You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1Pe_2:9).

Dear Lord of light, I praise You for bringing me out of darkness into Your gracious light. Grant me grace to proclaim Your excellencies. Shine Your light into the hearts I hope to reach. Grant them the miracle of new birth, in Jesus name, Amen.
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