Volume 1, Number 1 – June, 2021
Is There a “Stranger at Your Door?”
Charles G. Maples, Sr.
There’s an old Hymn entitled, “THERE’S A STRANGER AT YOUR DOOR,” based, as I recall, on Revelation 3:20, which reads, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone will hear My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and him with Me.”
This is, indeed, a sad scene! In that text Jesus is “outside the door” of His church in Laodicea, pleading for some- one to OPEN THE DOOR AND LET HIM IN! Can you imagine that? – Jesus, the Son of God, Who had died for their sins; had given them the gospel; to which they had given heed; becoming His disciples; and now they have “shut Him outside!” But wait, could this be YOUR door? – the door of YOUR HEART!? You will note that He says, “If ANYONE hears My voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him and DINE WITH HIM, and HIM WITH ME!” Can you think of such an opportunity being offered to you? But it is, if Jesus is not already dwelling in you, and you in Him (consider Galatians 2:20).
Jesus died for YOUR sins! John wrote of “Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Revelation 1:5). The writer of Hebrews says, “But we see Jesus, Who was made a little lower than the angels, FOR THE SUFFERING OF DEATH, crowned with glory and honor, that He by the grace of God, might taste death for EVERYONE”(Hebrews 2:9). That includes YOU! SURLY, SUCH A ONE SHOULD NOT BE A “STRANGER” to you! And surly He should not be closed outside your “door” (Heart & Life)! Jesus says, “If you love Me, KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS”(John 14:15). You will note that hearing His “knocking” is HEARING HIS VOICE! Then Opening Your door would be GIVING HEED TO HIS VOICE (WORD)! The Hebrew writer tells us that, in His suffering, He “Became the Author of eternal salvation TO ALL THOSE WHO OBEY HIM” (Hebrews 5:8-9).
Someone might be a “Stranger” to us because we have never “become acquainted” with them. Or, having become acquainted; even “friends;” we might, for some reason become so “estranged” from them that we no longer recognize them when we see them, but we “recognize that voice!” Hearing the Savior’s Voice: “Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, for the remission of sins…” (Acts 2:38), or “Repent of this thy wicked- ness, and pray to God … that the thought of thy heart might be forgiven you.” (Acts 8:22); HEARING HIS VOICE, will you “Open the door” of your heart; enjoy the wonderful joy of having Him “dine with you;” share your life with you!” Consider also His offer, as seen in John 14:23, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and my Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him!” … NO LONGER A “STRANGER,” but “close friends!” with both the Father and the Son!
Is Jesus shut outside of YOUR heart and life? Please; “We pray you in Christ’s stead; be RECONCILED to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). As another line of that old familiar song pleads, “Open now to Him your heart. Let the Savior in!”
A Meditation on Psalm 103
R. J. Thesman
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:1-2, ESV).
In the stresses of daily life, it’s important to take a break and think about all the benefits of belonging to Christ— all the blessings and the sometimes-forgotten enrichment that God provides for his children. Walking with Christ in a moment-by-glorious-moment relationship provides benefits that go far beyond anything this world has to offer!
Will You Praise Him While You Wait?
If faith is the beating heart of a Christian’s spiritual anatomy, then praise is the healthy pulse. When faith looks back upon God’s wondrous deeds of redemption, we cannot help but praise. We praise him for parting the Red Sea with a word. We praise him for felling giants with a shepherd’s sling. We praise him for sending his Son to suffer and die. We praise him for raising Christ from the grave.
Yet faith goes further still. Not content to praise God only on the far side of deliverance, faith teaches us to praise him before deliverance even comes: not only after he’s parted the Red Sea, but while the Egyptian army still presses in; not only after Goliath lies slain, but as he still taunts the hosts of Israel; not only after the stone rolls away from the tomb, but during the Sabbath silence of the Saturday before His resurrection.
As David shows us in Psalm 13, such praise does not arise effortlessly. Often, it comes on the other side of agonizing prayer.
Without introduction or preamble, Psalm 13 opens in anguish: “How long, O Lord?” The question is a familiar one for most, even if our straits have not been quite so dire as David’s. Pressure builds. Prayer apparently goes unheard. All the while, God’s promises rest unfulfilled.
No matter where David looks, comfort eludes him. Above, a wall of clouds hides God’s face (Psalm 13:1). Within, cares and sorrows swirl (Psalm 13:2). Around, enemies threaten the tottering king (Psalm 13:2). Four times in two verses, David repeats his question: “How long? . . . How long? . . . How long? . . . How long?”
Yet even here, faith has not forsaken him. For all the misery wrapped up in David’s question, he knows that God’s intervention is a matter not of if, but of when — not of “Will you?” but of “How long?” His is no cry of despair thrown up into a godless sky, but rather the song of distressed trust.
With each breath in the psalm, faith grows firmer. By verse 3, God is not only “O Lord,” but “O Lord my God.” At the same time, lament gives way to petition: “Consider and answer me . . . light up my eyes” (Psalm 13:3). Genuine faith may often speak the language of lament and complaint, but eventually it takes up the language of specific request.
David follows his prayers to be seen, answered, and revived with three reasons: “Lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed over him,’ lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken” (Psalm 13:3–4). These reasons may seem, at first, simply like the logic of desperation: “Answer me or I will die!” But more is going on here than that.
David, desperate as he may be, is appealing to God on the basis of his own promises. Early in David’s public life, God pledged that the shepherd boy would sit on the throne of Israel. Then he sealed that pledge with covenant promises: “I will make for you a great name… I will give you rest from all your enemies… When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you” (2 Samuel 7:9, 11–12). In Psalm 13, those promises seem to be in jeopardy. So David sends them back to God, wrapped in prayer.
When we merely give vent to the chaos within us, our prayers often leave us right where we started. But when we pray in the slipstream of God’s promises, we often find, with David, faith slowly rising.
Many Christians are familiar with the famous “But God” statements of the New Testament (Ephesians 2:4, for example). Yet we can look not only at our sin and say, “But God”; we can look also at our despair and say, “But I”:
“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:5–6).
No circumstance has changed; no prayer has been answered; no deliverance has arrived. Yet in a moment, enemies grow small, sorrow and care loosen their grip, and lament gives way to praise. Why? Because David’s prayerful meditation on God’s promises has reminded him of something more powerful than his enemies, more certain than his sorrow: “your steadfast love.”
Another psalm of David shows us why steadfast love had such an effect on the fainting king. From the perspective of time, the steadfast love of the Lord is “from everlasting to everlasting”; from the perspective of space, it is “as high as the heavens are above the earth”; from the perspective of God’s character, it flows from him with abundance (Psalm 103:8, 11, 17). Such stead- fast love is the pledge of all God’s promises. No wonder David sings.
Today, we have even greater assurances of God’s steadfast love: a bloody cross, an empty tomb, and a Savior who sits on the throne. And if this steadfast love is ours, then we too can sing with abandon, far before deliverance comes. For if Christ has come, and if we are in him by faith alone, then God will not fail to deal bountifully with us.
Volume 1, Number 2 – June, 2021
The Importance of One
It is easy for us to overlook the importance of a single word, even of a single letter, as we speak. An illustration of this is shown in the adage, “The only difference in united and untied is where ‘i’ is found.” One single letter moved one space totally changes the meaning of a sentence where it is found. This is why it is important to take time to look at individual words/letters as we read the Bible.
Look at these two lists and see if you notice how one letter changes the word of God. The Bible speaks of: His doctrine (Matt. 7:28); the apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2:42); your doctrine (Acts 5:28); the doctrine of the Lord (Acts 13:12); sound doctrine (1 Tim. 1:10); the doctrine of Christ (Heb. 6:1); etc.
Now, look at the second list: the doctrines and commandments of men (Matt. 15:9; Mark 7:7); the commandments and doctrines of men (Col. 2:22); the doc- trines of devils 1 Tim. 4:1); and strange doctrines (Heb. 13:9). Did you see the difference? It is the letter “s” to show a distinct difference between the words “doctrine” and the word “doctrines.”
The Bible uses the plural, doctrines, to refer to false teaching, but it never uses the plural to refer to the teaching from heaven. It rarely uses the singular to refer to teaching coming from the heart of man, and every time it does, it clearly identifies its origin.
The One Faith/Doctrine
On any Bible subject there is only one teaching. In our society, we have the concept that one doctrine is as good as another. That is why people say, “That’s what you believe about it. Let me tell you what I believe about it.” This language ignores the fact that our God is one and when He speaks it is always singular. There is no way that He, who cannot lie, can teach one thing in one place and a contrary thing in another.
Paul says that there are precisely the same number of “faiths” as there are gods. “There is one body, and one Spirit…one hope…one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God…” (Eph. 4:4-6). The Bible does not make provision for me to have one faith and you have another faith. Our faith comes from the doctrine we are taught, and the Bible never, even one time, speaks of the doctrines of God.
Religious division mocks the prayer of Jesus for unity among His followers. If I believe and teach the only doctrine found in the Bible and others teach only the same doctrine from the same source there will be unity. There is a vast difference between doctrine and doctrines!
Do You Find Comfort in Christ’s Coming?
In 1 Thessalonians 4:18, Paul closes out his message on preparing for Christ’s return by telling the Thessalonians to “comfort one another with these words.” I would like to pose the following question: How much comfort do we find from this passage?
If we do not find comfort in the fact that Christ will return, then I implore you to ask yourself why, because the only people who should not find comfort in these words are those who are not “in” Christ. Consider Romans 6:3, where the question is raised, “Know ye not, that so many
of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” Likewise, in Romans 8:1 we see that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
If you are not “in” Christ by either not yet obeying the gospel or falling away from God’s commandments, I encourage you to read the succeeding chapter of 1 Thessalonians 5. There we learn “the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night” (v. 2). In light of this knowledge, we must not fall into “darkness” (v. 4) through disobedience to God, but, instead, must enter in or return to the “light” (v. 5) through faith, baptism, repentance, and obedience.
Eating Flesh and Drinking Blood
Difficult words, no doubt. No less for John’s readers than for Jesus’ hearers. For many that day, it was too much, so they walked away. Just the day before, Jesus fed five thousand people from five loaves of bread and two fish (John 6:1–14). Once they were well fed, having enjoyed the benefits of Jesus’ miracle, the people concluded, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world,” and they decided that He should be king (vv. 14–15). What a difference a day makes.
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. (John 6:53–56)
What did Jesus mean by eating His flesh and drinking His blood? To the Jewish crowd, this was offensive. After all, eating blood is unclean according to the Mosaic law (Lev. 17:12). For people today, His words can sound obscure and off-putting, even if not taken literally. Though we may not walk away because of them, we might practically ignore them.
The meaning of Jesus’ words is found a few verses earlier where Jesus says something similar. Instead of talking about eating flesh and drinking blood, He says, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and
I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40). Jesus uses graphic language to point His hearers to the true instrument of eternal life — faith in Him alone. Jesus invites us to find everlasting nourishment in Him by faith. Similarly, Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (v. 29).
In the wilderness, God provided manna for the Israelites (vv. 31–32; Ex. 16), and with it their faith was tested. They had to believe that God would give them exactly what they needed every day, so they were told not to collect more than they needed each day. Manna foreshadowed the bread to come — Christ. We must believe that in Him we have all we need. Jesus’ words cause us to consider that we can only live through Him. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:22). Jesus’ words call us to lay hold of Him alone by faith—the One who shed His blood for our sins and who rose from the dead to give us eternal life. He is the true bread that comes down from heaven. In Him, we “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8).
The Purpose of Prosperity
“Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need”
There are three levels of how to live with material things: (1) you can steal to get them; (2) you can work to get them; (3) or you can work to get in order to give.
Too many professing Christians live on level two. We glorify work over stealing and mooching, and feel we have acted virtuously if we have spurned stealing and mooching, and given ourselves to an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. That’s not a bad thing. Work is better than stealing and mooching. But that’s not what the apostle calls us to.
Almost all the forces of our culture urge us to live on level two: work to get. But the Bible pushes us relentlessly to level three: work to get to give.
“God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work”
(2 Corinthians 9:8).
Why does God bless us with abundance? So we can have enough to live on, and then use the rest for all manner of good works that alleviate spiritual and physical misery — temporal and eternal suffering. Enough for us; abundance for others.
The issue is not how much a person makes. Big industry and big salaries are a fact of our times, and they are not necessarily evil. The evil is in being deceived into thinking that a large salary must be accompanied by a lavish lifestyle.
God has made us to be conduits of his grace. The danger is in thinking the conduit should be lined with gold. It shouldn’t. Copper will do. Copper can carry unbelievable riches to others. And in the very process of that giving we enjoy the greatest blessing (Acts 20:35).