before the sun goes down

"Be of good courage, and let us behave ourselves valiantly for our people, and for the cities of our God: and let the LORD do that which is good in His sight" (I Chronicles 19:13).

Monday, April 30, 2012

There is a Place By Me

Moses desired to see the glory of God.  This man of faith yearned to know the LORD his God and made his request.  Exodus 33:18-23 relates the account of God answering his prayer.

This is a well-known passage and many believers have heard and read and studied this portion of Scripture, and gained insights on getting to know the God of the Bible.  Some incredible hymns have come from this passage, such as "He Hideth my Soul" and "Rock of Ages".  In Exodus 33:18-23, we can see so much, including...
-the character of God (His holiness, His power, His desire that we know Him).
-the unworthiness of finite and sinful man.
-how we should desire to be close to Him.
-the importance of coming to Him in His way.

I myself have read these verses many times, and yet, this time through the Bible, I am struck by something that I didn't notice before (or have forgotten), to wit, the verse below:

"And the LORD said, Behold there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock" (Exodus 33:21).

The words jumped out at me: "...there is a place by me..."

Moses was NOT told to go up on a mountain to see God afar off through a high-powered telescope.  NOR was he told to catch God's program on the television (tele means "distant").  God wasn't distant in His response at all.  Instead, He said, "There is a place by Me."

All of us are born sinners, and headed for the destruction we deserve in Hell (Romans 3:23).  We are separated from God by our iniquities (Isaiah 59:2).  However, God has made the way of salvation open to all who will come to Him through faith alone in the atoning work of Jesus (II Samuel 14:14).  "But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ" (Ephesians 2:13).

Paul preached to the men of Athens, that God desired lost souls to come to Him, telling them...
"That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us" (Acts 17:27).

Once you know the Lord Jesus as your personal Saviour, He "...will never leave thee nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5).  As His people, we should stick close to His side in open fellowship.  As we live each day, abiding in Him and in His word (John 15:5,7), we can with great joy proclaim with the psalmist, "Thou art near, O LORD; and all thy commandments are truth" (Psalm 119:151).

  What a challenge to me and every believer, to respond to God's invitation to be "BY" Him!  He certainly "is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24).  Often we are tempted to go our own way, and drift from Him, even as believers.  The world lures us, the flesh pulls us, and the devil assures us, that we don't really need to stay THAT close to the LORD.  After all, God doesn't care if we stray a little, does He?  But the truth is GOD DOES CARE!  If we say it doesn't matter, we are "deceiving our own selves" and miss out on truly getting to know Him better and seeing Him work mightily in our lives.

BUT when we learn to trust Him and stay near Him, we find that it beats the life on the brink all to pieces!  It was when Moses was by the Lord, that he saw His glory in a special way!

The last line of verse 21 also jumped out at me: "...thou shalt stand upon a rock" (Exodus 33:21).

How wonderfully assuring it is to know that when we are staying close by the Lord, we can know that we are standing on a good foundation.  Not on sand, not on boggy earth, but "upon a rock".

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

DON'T Follow Your Heart!

The world says, "FOLLOW YOUR HEART!"  We hear that from the media, scores of movies, friends, books, and other sources.  However, we find that the Scripture gives us warnings about this:

#1 - "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered" (Proverbs 28:26).

#2 - "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).

#3 - "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thought, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:" (Mark 7:21-22).

So, if we are not to "follow our heart", what should we do?  The Bible tells us the answer to this too!

"Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way" (Proverbs 23:19).  We should hear the words of the LORD, wisely heed them, and LEAD OUR HEART, following the way of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This truth is found in the longest psalm in the Bible:

"Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.
Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek his with the whole heart.
The also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways..." (Psalm 119:1,2,3).  And on it goes for 176 verses!

So, let us turn to the Lord and follow God's ways, not simply our own hearts!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Of Ships and Souls

Some years ago, I was on board a cruise liner on the Aegean Sea.  An urgent voice came over the intercom.  I swiftly slid my life jacket off the shelf in my cabin and donned it.  Then I made my way to the eighth deck.    

Thousands of other passengers followed suit.  I sat on the long bench outside under my lifeboat waiting.  Crowds were pressing all around me.  But the lifeboats were not lowered.  Not one passenger or crew member got away from the ship.  Why not?  Simple.  There was no emergency.  The whole thing was a practice drill.

I hate to waste time, so while we were waiting to be dismissed, I told a story. I pulled out my wallet and showed a photo to those around me.  It was a picture of John Harper, the last hero of the Titanic.

He was a Scottish preacher on board the Titanic during that fateful voyage.  When the ship struck an iceberg, it was John who shouted, “Women, children, and the unsaved first into the lifeboats!”  When the ship went down and he was thrown into the ocean, John swam about declaring the Gospel.  Above the screams of the perishing, his voice rang out, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved!” 

He swam to one fellow who desperately clung to a piece of wreckage. 

“Are you saved?” John called.

The answer came, “No!”

“’Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved!’  Do you want to trust in Jesus?”

The man, in shock, replied, “N-no!”

Said John, “Then you need this more than I do,” and threw his own life preserver to him.  Then John swam away, sharing Christ with the many others struggling to stay afloat in the freezing waters.

Sometime later, he returned to the man on the wreckage. 

“Are you saved?”

“No,” was the repeated answer.

“'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.’ Are you ready to trust in Jesus?”

This time the answer was “Yes!”  John led him to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Then, swimming to tell others, John finally succumbed to the cold.  He sank beneath the waves, his last words being, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved!”

I told this story to those around me as we huddled on the deck.  I finished, saying to all who could hear, “I don’t know if we will sink on this trip, but I want to go on record as saying: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.’”

That was March of 2007.  While on the cruise to various Biblical sites, I was able to witness to a number of people.  I wish I had done more.  The name of the ship I traveled on?  The Sea Diamond.

On April 5, 2007, a month afterwards, that very ship--the Sea Diamond--sank off the coast of Santorini!  Although there were some deaths, nearly everyone escaped. Thank God for His mercy and longsuffering.  I pray that the crew members that I met and gave tracts to who survived the catastrophe, that they will be drawn to salvation through Jesus Christ, through the seed of the word planted.

Let me ask you a question: “Are you saved?”
If the answer is “Yes,” then here are a few more questions.  What’re you doing on Earth for Heaven’s sake?  Are you studying the Scriptures to shew yourself approved unto God (Ephesians 5:10)?  Are you a workman that needeth not to be ashamed (II Timothy 2:15)?  Are you abiding in the Vine, staying close to Jesus (John 15:5)?  Are you on your knees often, praying for the lost souls in your family, circle of friends, country, and around the world (I Timothy 2:1-4)?  Are you standing up for the truth (Ephesians 6:14) and standing against the evil in our midst (Proverbs 31:8,9)?  Are you spending time with godly friends (Proverbs 13:20), so you can edify each other (Proverbs 27:17) to be doers of the Word (James 1:22)?  Are you taking advantage of opportunities to share the gospel with the unsaved (I Peter 3:15)?  Hold fast to the Word (II Timothy 1:13), brethren, and may He who is coming find you so doing (Luke 12:43)!

But if the answer is, “No,” then I have a message of good news for you, called the Gospel: 

God created the earth and it was perfect (Genesis 1).  Mankind has fallen into sin (Romans 5:12) and must be punished (Romans 6:23).  The judgment is death and Hell (Hebrews 9:27).  All of us, you and I included, have broken His law and deserve the coming eternal wrath of God (Romans 3:10).  But God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, gave His own life’s blood on the cross in your place, was buried, and came back to life (Romans 5:8, Ephesians 1:7, I Corinthians 15:3,4).  Because He took your place, you can be saved from Hell and instead go to Heaven when you die (John 3:16).  He is the only way (John 14:6, Acts 4:12).  Turn from your sin and trust in what Jesus did for you to save you (Romans 10:9,10,13).  Then follow what He says in his Word, the Bible (I Peter 2:2)

You may choose to put it off.  But remember, you are not promised another hour.  Those on the Titanic, the passengers of the Sea Diamond, and those living all around you have at least one thing in common with you.  Not one knows exactly when he or she will take his or her last breath.  And so, I urge you, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”
The Titanic wrecked April 14th, 1912, 100 years ago. 

To learn more of the man John Harper, read The Titanic’s Last Hero, by Moody Adams.