TRUTH ~ by Man’s Will or God’s Grace?

So then it depends not on human will or exertion,
but on God, who has mercy.

Romans 9:16 ESV

As deists, Voltaire and Diderot attacked Christianity—“their primary weapon aimed at the church was ‘truth’.” (Dr. Bruce Shelley, Church History in Plain Language*)  “We think that the greatest service to be done to men,” said Diderot, “is to teach them to use their reason, only to hold for truth what they have verified and proved.” What did these men know of “truth” in their young years of their own “enlightenment?”  What had they proven by their own “reasoning” in their latter years?  What did they have in the end?

Man may create happiness for himself while he is able to think clearly, when everything seems to be in his control, but this does not last. God has proven His work of grace, not only through His written word (which “reasoning” discards), but in the reality of life to its very end.

God proved the truth of His grace to me in 1994 as I, for three weeks, watched my dad gradually consumed by esophageal cancer.**  How could he “reason” for himself what was happening to him?  What was truth to him, at that point of his life?  He had only the mercy (which he had asked for) and the grace of God, which we all experienced together.  He could no longer eat or drink.  He could do nothing but wait for his final breath. He was never on morphine, and so was aware of everything going on around him. He could hear, (until now I had not realized that as a work of God’s grace) and we had those last days to sit by his side, to sing to him, to read the Father’s precious words of truth.  God’s grace was strikingly evident in Daddy’s humility, and his peaceful spirit of acceptance in his last week, and at the end.  He died on Labor Day—his epitaph, “Rest in the Lord.”

For five years we experienced the devastating effects of dementia in Mother’s life. She had no means of “reasoning.”  Nor could we, even though we could still think clearly—clearly in that we could accept that God was sovereign, in control of all things.   Though we could not understand through our own reasoning, we were learning more and more to trust in God’s mercy and grace for what each day would bring. (And we failed many times—for who is prepared ahead of time for such things.)  Her last month was spent in a nursing home, much to our grief; but we were not able to care for her any longer.  I could not “reason” with that.

But, even there, in her last few days, God’s hand of mercy and grace reached down and held us together.  She had been unresponsive for almost four days.  Jerry and I sat with her those last few hours.  Monday was my birthday, and I prayed, “Father, please don’t let her die on my birthday.”  At twelve midnight the nurses were in and out, checking her vital signs.  The younger nurse asked the older (who was wearing the white cap, and the white uniform), “Shouldn’t we give her something?”  The older nurse answered, “No, she is at peace.”  A few minutes later, as I detected her breathing to be very shallow, and holding her hand, I stood and recited Psalm 23 for her.  When I finished, she took her last breath.  I looked at the clock.  It was 12:38. I could not have willed that; it was God’s grace.

A most recent example is of Ed, 86, still a member of our church, but no longer attending.  He has dementia (Alzheimer’s Disease) and now lives with his daughter, Cyndi,  and her husband in another state.  In her last email she wrote of how she reads the Bible to him, and he will quote with her much of God’s Word, as she reads.  It is not by his “reasoning” but by God’s grace, that he recalls the Word of truth that he has hidden in his heart.

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace,who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore,
confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
This is the true grace of God.  Stand firm in it.
1 Peter 5:10-12 ESV

*Our pastor is sharing this study with our membership.  **”Daddy” was my first book, in which I recorded the working of God’s grace in those three weeks.

Burdens and Beams

Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28

Everyone, in this life, carries a burden on his/her shoulders, and a beam in the eye.  These come with the territory.  Since the Fall this earthly kingdom still has its advantages, but it also has its difficulties, its trails, its tribulation.  Did God know about this ahead of time?  Did he know that Adam would need a place to rest, and food to survive on this planet?  He prepared these ahead of time; He created all things that man would need before He created man “in His own image.”  He knew what He wanted, here on earth, for His people.  He knew what they would need.


We each carry the burdens of fallen humanity, either our own or those of others.  God, our heavenly Father, planned for this too—a place to unload; a person who would carry this burden with us and get us through this wilderness.  He came, in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, to make Himself known to us; to draw us to Him; to take the load—the burden and guilt and power—of sin “off.”  We still carry other burdens—our own and of others we love—but not alone.  People will say to me,  “I don’t want to burden you with my problems.”  Sometimes they want to carry them alone.  It may be that they don’t know how to unload; or, they don’t know how to express what they are experiencing. We bring the burdens of others to the Lord and we rest these on Him.  I have no power to bring rest to others, but He does.  I can intercede fervently, and encourage with the truths of God’s promises.

While Jesus is the only one who can take the burden of sin away, and the one we should come to first with our problems, He has provided sisters and brothers in Christ within the body of Christ, His Church.  We are together as a body—each of us members of the same body—strong enough in Christ, to “bear one another’s burdens.”

Beams          “First, take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck                               out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:5

How many times have you tried this?  The log has been there since our birth.  It is lodged; it is a part of us; and it prevents us from seeing clearly.  Christ is the only one who can dislodge the beam and remove it.  Why did He not say, “Let me take the beam out of your eye, then you can take the sliver out of someone else’s eye?”  Was it so that we would come to the conclusion that it is impossible for us; so that we all have to come to Him.  We are blind from birth.  Only a new birth—of His Spirit—will give us eyes to see clearly.  “In Christ”—through His eyes—we see others as He wants us to see.  He has made provision through His body—the church—for us to bring others to Him, to His Word.  We come alongside our brethren-in-Christ as “light” for their darkness.  We accept the guidance of others who would, lovingly, as pastors and brothers and sisters, see something we cannot see about ourselves, desiring the continual work of cleansing and sanctification—the working of His grace, and preparation for His glory. (Ephesians 5:26)

Father,  draw us by the power of your own Spirit to Jesus, our Lord.  Lord Jesus, by your two-edged sword pierce our hearts, cut out and remove those things that keep us from seeing you.  Enable us to see you and others in the light of your grace. Amen

The Spirit of Grace ~ Heaven Sent and Heaven Bent

“According to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence,

according to the good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself.

Ephesians 1:7-9

This morning, before I could think “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,” the Father was pouring out His grace.  Before I could say,  “Abba, Father,”  He was filling my mind with His grace, and by His Spirit, filtering it to my heart.  There is never a day that His Spirit of grace is not working to obtain His end.  Before I am even aware of my wakefulness He has already begun His day of faithfulness—to the last that it lead to His glory.  I forget sometimes that He never sleeps.  His kingdom is on-going in heaven and on earth.

I was reminded that on this date, September 7, 2007, He began pouring out a “river” that carried me away. For 50 days I wrote, in prayer and praise of His grace and glory.*  (The season was almost a year after much adversity.  In August, 2006, my mother died, having lived and shared with Jerry and me her battle with Alzheimer’s disease for 4 1/2 years. Barely had we settled her estate, when in September, Jerry had emergency by-pass surgery on his left leg, due to what the surgeon thought was an aneurysm.  This was not so simple a case.  We waited until October to verify the need for amputation.  We were encouraged before this surgery that he would afterward be able to resume some activity with a prosthesis.)  Those 50 days were in the middle of a four-year period of continual dressing of the wound left from the amputation.  The Lord was working in my writing to verify His working of grace in the past and for the future. (Not to leave you hanging–it was discovered that Jerry’s body was rejecting a graft implanted when he had the by-pass surgery. After a four-hour surgery for its removal, and five months with a wound-care specialist, both wounds were healed.  While he still has limited use of a prosthesis, he can do more for himself, and my time of daily dressing wounds was relieved. The Lord is good, and His mercies are new every morning.

His Word, His Grace, His Spirit, does not dissipate here on earth, and does not return to Him void.  He draws us to His Son, binding and bending our hearts and minds to Himself. We cannot resist His Spirit of grace, in what the Father has decreed.  His kingdom is coming, and His will is being done.

For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.”

2 Corinthians 4:15

* “50 Days of Prayer and Praise ~ Articles and Stories of Faith

Centrality of the Covenant

What is central is central, and everything else revolves around it.
(Revelation 4)

As I am writing “Worship That Springs From the Heart of God—a Sheep’s View” it is with a heart fervently searching for this “true worship” that Jesus teaches in John 4:24; the meaning of this worship, and the means whereby this worship takes place.

Believing that “true worship” is for His covenant people, there must be a center in and through which this worship takes place. His covenant of grace is made in and through Jesus Christ.  It is administered in His name, giving all authority and power to Him, and Him alone.  (Hebrews 1:1-4)

Humanly speaking, I see this as a “spin-off.”  The world turns.  Humanity continues to go around in circles, looking for life and fulfillment apart from God.  The Father draws a people to Christ, His Son, through the power of His Holy Spirit, as He speaks through His written word.  These find the center of life in Jesus Christ, “truth” administered to the human heart, “written on the heart and in the mind.”  These hold on to Jesus Christ for dear life, (by faith–we are “in Him” and nothing can take us out of Him) until this world stops spinning, and we find our eternal rest in Him.


Graceful Suffering

Blows that wound cleanse away evil;

strokes make clean the innermost parts.”

Proverbs 20:30 ESV

“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggles against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?”

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.

“It is for discipline that you have to endure.  God is treating you as sons.  For what son is there whom his father does not discipline. If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

“Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”  Hebrews 12: 5-14

These striking words from the writers of Proverbs and Hebrews are truths that are not easy to accept.  So I post these for my own remembrance, (how often I forget), and to share them with those who may not have undergone such trials, or understand the reasoning, the process and end result of suffering. Looking to Christ,”high and lifted up,” keeps me focused as I travel  this “path of righteousness” through the trials and tribulations of this wilderness.  It is the path that He had to take in order to return to the Father.  It was for our sake that He went this way, and now He leads us by His Spirit and His Word to follow Him—all for His glory and our joy.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith, produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and comlete, lacking in nothing.”  James 1:3-4

May you be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy.”  Colossians 1:11

Lord of Grace and Glory (Part 2)

It has only been in the last ten years that I have heard and come to understand the term, “covenant of grace.”  This term scares a lot of Baptists, who know this to be one of the main teachings of the Presbyterian faith. But more and more Baptists are coming to embrace this covenant, without practicing infant-baptism.

We understand that God has always related to man through covenants; with the last and “everlasting covenant” promised and fulfilled, in and through Jesus Christ.  In Heaven Opened, The Riches of God’s Covenant by Richard Alleine, we see in the first three chapters that He has given us Himself, Christ, and the Holy Spirit in the covenant.

In the second chapter we see who and what Christ is in the covenant.  First of all—He IS the covenant.  And as the covenant He is described as:

The Light of Life

The Lord our Righteousness

Lord and King

Head and Husband

He is more to us than these, but these are the major ones.  What seems to be missing?  There is no mention here of Jesus as Savior.  Why?  After meditating on this I believe that it is because He is all these before He ever becomes our Savour.  I see His sovereignty in this?  Jesus Christ was “the Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world.” Before we ever knew that we were sinners, in need of a Savior, God was reconciling us to Himself in the death of Christ.

He was the Light of Life before I was born.  He had taken my sins on Himself before He shined that “light” into my heart.

Who but a Lord and King can save His people; protecting them, and bringing them to the place of repentance and faith in Him? It is Christ, in His exalted position as The Lord our Righteousness, our Lord and King in His authority and power, who is able to save us.  A servant does not choose His own Master, neither does a subject choose his own king.  If we are to be saved from “this untoward generation,” we need such a King as our Lord Jesus Christ. As Lord and Master of all of life—by whom and through whom all things were madeHe was before all things and all things consist in Him; in whom all fullness dwells.”

He was already the Head of His church, a bridegroom prepared for His bride, and all things were made ready, before He called me into the covenant. When He saved me (brought me to Himself) He revealed Himself as all these things to me. He first, bought me, then sought me, brought me, taught me, and wrought in me all that I need for my salvation; and assures me that I am His.  Andrew Murray speaks of this as a “supernatural, spiritual, heavenly, divine reality.”  When I wander from His side, or wonder about my relationship with Him, it is He, as my Lord and King that knows what to do—through His Word and His Holy Spirit—to restore me.

Should we wonder that He is called “the Lord of glory” in 1 Corinthians 2:8; and “the King of glory,”  in Psalm 24:7-10

Our Father in heaven,” shine that light into our hearts, that we may, by the power of your Holy Spirit, “open the gates, that the King of glory may come in” and establish His throne—that “your name may be hallowed, your kingdom come and your will be done here on earth, as it is in heaven.”  In Jesus name we pray, Amen

Lord of Grace and Glory

For the last several weeks I have been mentoring a young woman who came to our church because of her interest in reformed Baptist theology.  Like me, and so many of our membership, she comes from a Southern Baptist background.  And as so many others I have met, she questions the decision that she made when she was a child—a decision to accept Christ, so as to escape hell. As with many who grow up and encounter a different gospel—the truth that she never heard before—she is finding that fire insurance does not necessarily provide eternal assurance.

I cannot, nor can any minister, family member, or friend, assure her that her decision as a child was valid.  Only the word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit can apply this”seal” to her own mind and heart.  We’re not saying that childhood experiences of faith are not real, but, that if they are, they will last.  They not only last, but they grow.  Even when we have doubts, these may be means of God’s grace to establish our faith and relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is not where we were ten or twenty years ago that counts for salvation, but where we are today, in our relationship with Christ.

From my own experience—and so many others who have walked the aisle, shook the pastors hand, done the baptism and church membership—these made little difference in my life. I compare it to the birth of a newborn baby.  We don’t bring the baby home, put it in a crib and leave it there.  We personally hold it, feed it, teach it, bring it to maturity and adulthood.  Discipleship in the church for the past decades has been almost nil.  When church conventions started looking at numbers the emphasis was placed on getting as many as possible to sign “on the dotted line.”  From that point salvation was done, left to the individual, whatever the age. Evangelism has become “the thing” in a lot of churches.  Getting the decisions are the big thing, but how much emphasis is on discipling the new converts.  How many are able to disciple those who are “won to Christ?”

The first part is the exciting part, mostly emotional for a lot of people; but afterward we are required to give ourselves to “sanctification” in “obedience of faith;” to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  It is the Word of God that feeds us and the Spirit of God that satisfies our new heart’s desires.  We know nothing of  these things, except as we have someone to teach us.  True, many have on their own, grown without personal help, but this is rare.  We need the whole body of Christ, and someone in particular to take us by the hand, under their wing, and with the truth lead us in the truth; with the “milk” until we are ready for the “meat.”

In part II of this article we will share what Linda and I have recently discovered about Christ, the Lord of  grace and glory, in “Heaven Opened—the Riches of God’s Covenant” by Richard Alleine, a Soli Deo Gloria Publication.