A PASSION FOR EXCELLENCE

In Christ Jesus, God made us to do good works, which God planned in advance for us to live our lives doing. EPHESIANS 2:10

The push for power has come to shove. And most of us are either pushing or being pushed. I might point out the difference between a passion for excellence and a passion for power. The desire for excellence is a gift of God, much needed in society. It is characterized by respect for quality and a yearning to use God’s gifts in a way that pleases him …

But there is a canyon of difference between doing your best to glorify God and doing whatever it takes to glorify yourself. The quest for excellence is a mark of maturity. The quest for power is childish.

from THE APPLAUSE OF HEAVEN

The Sovereignty of God: Reason for Our Assurance

Romans 8:28

Since eternity past and throughout history, almighty God has ruled with supreme authority. Nothing is hidden from His knowledge or beyond the scope of His control. Because of His sovereignty, we who by faith in Christ are part of His family can live with assurance that:

• God works for our good. Scripture declares that God has the power to work every circumstance in our life into something that is beneficial in His eyes. He has the knowledge and power to accomplish it, as well as the desire. God promises to do this for those who love and belong to Him. Our part is to believe.

• God protects us every day. Scripture declares that “the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him” (Ps. 34:7). Apart from His permissive will, nothing can touch God’s children. When our Father allows painful things to happen, we must trust in His unchanging nature and enduring promises. People and circumstances change, but the Lord’s good and loving character does not.

• God has control over our future. He’s fully worked out a plan for the body of Christ and each of its members—a plan so good that it is beyond imagining (1 Cor. 2:9). We can entrust our future to God because His character and plans are perfect.

Resting in the Lord’s sovereignty will free us from fear and anxiety. If you lack assurance about any of the points listed above, confess your unbelief to the heavenly Father. Ask His forgiveness, and commit to meditate on His character and promises. Then you will experience the strengthening of your faith.

Holy Anointing

“But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.” (1 John 2:20)

The word “unction” in our text is translated “anointing” the other two times it is used (1 John 2:27). That term, and a companion word, are used only seven times in the New Testament, but all refer to the same essential concept often spoken of in the Old Testament.

Both things (tabernacle, temple, vessels, offerings) and people (priests, Levites, kings, ambassadors) were “anointed”—often ceremoniously—to identify them as consecrated or honored for a special service or position. Once anointed, the person or object was to be held in great respect by everyone.

Thus, we who are the “children of God” (Romans 8:16) have been anointed by God Himself (2 Corinthians 1:21) in such a way that the anointing abides, teaches, and is truth (1 John 2:27). This anointing is, obviously, no ceremonial oil demonstrating an honor (Psalm 133:2), but rather the “pouring out” of the Holy Spirit Himself onto and into our earthly bodies, consecrating us to be the very “temple” of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).

This “unction” further designates us to be “kings and priests” (Revelation 1:6) who will one day “reign on earth” (Revelation 5:10). We are called “lively stones” (1 Peter 2:5) being built into a spiritual house for the Lord.

Furthermore, we are to be seen as “chaste virgin[s]” (2 Corinthians 11:2) who are ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20), having been set apart as a “vessel unto honour” (2 Timothy 2:21) in the “household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). We are to know all these things. HMM III

When God puts a burden upon you He puts His own arm underneath you

“As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone did lead him, and, there was no strange God with him.” (Deut. 32:11, 12.)

OUR Almighty Parent delights to conduct the tender nestlings of His care to the very edge of the precipice, and even to thrust them off into the steeps of air, that they may learn their possession of unrealized power of flight, to be forever a luxury; and if, in the attempt, they be exposed to unwonted peril, He is prepared to swoop beneath them, and to bear them upward on His mighty pinions. When God brings any of His children into a position of unparalleled difficulty, they may always count upon Him to deliver them.—The Song of Victory.

“When God puts a burden upon you He puts His own arm underneath.”

There is a little plant, small and stunted, growing under the shade of a broad-spreading oak; and this little plant values the shade which covers it, and greatly does it esteem the quiet rest which its noble friend affords. But a blessing is designed for this little plant.

Once upon a time there comes along the woodman, and with his sharp axe he fells the oak. The plant weeps and cries, “My shelter is departed; every rough wind will blow upon me, and every storm will seek to uproot me!”

“No, no,” saith the angel of that flower; “now will the sun get at thee; now will the shower fall on thee in more copious abundance than before; now thy stunted form shall spring up into loveliness, and thy flower, which could never have expanded itself to perfection shall now laugh in the sunshine, and men shall say, ‘How greatly hath that plant increased! How glorious hath become its beauty, through the removal of that which was its shade and its delight!'”

See you not, then, that God may take away your comforts and your privileges, to make you the better Christians? Why, the Lord always trains His soldiers, not by letting them lie on featherbeds, but by turning them out, and using them to forced marches and hard service. He makes them ford through streams, and swim through rivers, and climb mountains, and walk many a long march with heavy knapsacks of sorrow on their backs. This is the way in which He makes them soldiers—not by dressing them up in fine uniforms, to swagger at the barrack gates, and to be fine gentlemen in the eyes of the loungers in the park.

God knows that soldiers are only to be made in battle; they are not to be grown in peaceful times. We may grow the stuff of which soldiers are made; but warriors are really educated by the smell of powder, in the midst of whizzing bullets and roaring cannonades, not in soft and peaceful times. Well, Christian, may not this account for it all? Is not thy Lord bringing out thy graces and making them grow? Is He not developing in you the qualities of the soldier by throwing you into the heat of battle, and should you not use every appliance to come off conqueror?—Spurgeon.

A living dog is better than a dead lion

“A living dog is better than a dead lion.” Ecclesiastes 9:4

Life is a precious thing, and in its humblest form it is superior to death. This truth is eminently certain in spiritual things. It is better to be the least in the kingdom of heaven than the greatest out of it. The lowest degree of grace is superior to the noblest development of unregenerate nature. Where the Holy Ghost implants divine life in the soul, there is a precious deposit which none of the refinements of education can equal. The thief on the cross excels Caesar on his throne; Lazarus among the dogs is better than Cicero among the senators; and the most unlettered Christian is in the sight of God superior to Plato. Life is the badge of nobility in the realm of spiritual things, and men without it are only coarser or finer specimens of the same lifeless material, needing to be quickened, for they are dead in trespasses and sins.

A living, loving, gospel sermon, however unlearned in matter and uncouth in style, is better than the finest discourse devoid of unction and power. A living dog keeps better watch than a dead lion, and is of more service to his master; and so the poorest spiritual preacher is infinitely to be preferred to the exquisite orator who has no wisdom but that of words, no energy but that of sound. The like holds good of our prayers and other religious exercises; if we are quickened in them by the Holy Spirit, they are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, though we may think them to be worthless things; while our grand performances in which our hearts were absent, like dead lions, are mere carrion in the sight of the living God. O for living groans, living sighs, living despondencies, rather than lifeless songs and dead calms. Better anything than death. The snarlings of the dog of hell will at least keep us awake, but dead faith and dead profession, what greater curses can a man have? Quicken us, quicken us, O Lord!

Sing forth the honour of His name, make His praise glorious

“Sing forth the honour of His name, make His praise glorious.” Psalm 66:2

It is not left to our own option whether we shall praise God or not. Praise is God’s most righteous due, and every Christian, as the recipient of His grace, is bound to praise God from day to day. It is true we have no authoritative rubric for daily praise; we have no commandment prescribing certain hours of song and thanksgiving: but the law written upon the heart teaches us that it is right to praise God; and the unwritten mandate comes to us with as much force as if it had been recorded on the tables of stone, or handed to us from the top of thundering Sinai.

Yes, it is the Christian’s duty to praise God. It is not only a pleasurable exercise, but it is the absolute obligation of his life. Think not ye who are always mourning, that ye are guiltless in this respect, or imagine that ye can discharge your duty to your God without songs of praise. You are bound by the bonds of His love to bless His name so long as you live, and His praise should continually be in your mouth, for you are blessed, in order that you may bless Him; “this people have I formed for myself, they shall show forth my praise”; and if you do not praise God, you are not bringing forth the fruit which He, as the Divine Husbandman, has a right to expect at your hands.

Let not your harp then hang upon the willows, but take it down, and strive, with a grateful heart, to bring forth its loudest music. Arise and chant His praise. With every morning’s dawn, lift up your notes of thanksgiving, and let every setting sun be followed with your song. Girdle the earth with your praises; surround it with an atmosphere of melody, and God Himself will hearken from heaven and accept your music.

“E’en so I love Thee, and will love,
And in Thy praise will sing,
Because Thou art my loving God,
And my redeeming King.”