Archive for September, 2012


All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 1 Number 34

September 27, 2012

God’s Lovingkindness

From Pastor Bordwine

 

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

(Psalm 23:6)

My goal in producing these weekly devotionals is to provide us with an uplifting thought or two after we are well into our week and have, once again, faced the adversities associated with living for God’s glory in a world thoroughly corrupted by sin. Typically, I concentrate on some aspect of our faith that will encourage us and remind us of the marvelous work God has done for us in His Son. This week, I want us to meditate on God’s lovingkindness.

This term “lovingkindness” (Hebrew: checed) has a particular significance in Old Testament revelation. In passage after passage, this word is applied solely to the redeemed. It is an expression that embraces all that we have received by the grace of God with a special emphasis on His mercy.

Because we face a multitude of obstacles as we seek to honor God, it is easy for us to forget one of the most essential factors of our salvation, which is God’s lovingkindness. We need to keep in mind that our struggle in this fallen environment is not for our survival. We are not responsible for maintaining our standing before God, nor are we charged with earning God’s blessings. We have been chosen and secured by God in Christ and that status can never change.

Regardless of how well or how poorly we conduct ourselves on any given day, we are never in danger of being cast off by God. There is no possibility that He might grow tired of our stumbling and half-hearted efforts at holiness. If we were responsible for maintaining our status before God and if we were required to earn God’s favor by our behavior and if we were in danger of being dismissed by God for straying from the path of righteousness, then the idea of lovingkindness would not exist.

Lovingkindness represents the opposite of self-reliance and personal responsibility for our redemption. Lovingkindness implies another source for our deliverance. Those who experience lovingkindness are those who are acted upon from without—that is, by God through Christ.

Consider Psalm 23, from which I quote above: “Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” This verse verifies the point I’m making. It is God’s lovingkindness that is responsible for our salvation and, as David says in this verse, for our perseverance through this life and into the next. The lovingkindness of God guarantees eternal life because, once shown, it cannot be withdrawn. Therefore, the state in which the lovingkindness of God puts us continues forever.

We did not call ourselves from darkness into light; we do not sustain ourselves in this condition. It is all of God and all through His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. When the pressure of this world’s opposition bears down upon you or when you feel overpowered by your struggles to live according to the will of God, remember the “lovingkindness” of God. Refresh your heart with the knowledge of God’s all-encompassing grace. Take courage in the fact that God’s lovingkindness guarantees that you will persevere through all challenges so that your journey will end in His holy presence.

 

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All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 1 Number 33

September 20, 2012

Holy Fatigue

From Pastor Bordwine

 

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. (Galatians 6:9)

Some aspects of our experience in this world involve life-long obligations. These commitments are specific and have well-defined goals. I’m going to use marriage to illustrate a couple of points.

To function properly and profitably, a marriage requires diligence and a measure of self-sacrifice. During the course of a marriage, there are times when the husband or wife experiences fatigue in regard to the duties of that relationship. A stable marriage, one that honors God, therefore, requires each party to persevere in doing what God, who ordained this institution, commands.

If the husband, for example, allows the challenges of his marriage to deter him from giving all that he should, then that relationship will suffer and deteriorate. He must always be on guard against mental and emotional exhaustion. The husband must keep in mind both the teaching of God concerning this relationship and the ultimate goal, which is to fill the role assigned to him with distinction. These same things, of course, could be said regarding the wife’s involvement.

My point is simple. Any relationship that involves life-long dedication is going to present many challenges and, to put it plainly, will wear us out from time to time. That is when our focus on the ultimate goal can be most helpful. With that goal in mind, we will find it easier to fight against complacency and frustration. We’ll also be motivated to take steps that prevent fatigue.

When we are born again, we enter into another life-long relationship, one that is the most important relationship we will ever know. We become children of God and that calling comes with specific directions and a well-defined goal. It is a calling that puts us in direct contention with the world in which we live, however. Moreover, we find that our own flesh is set against the accomplishment of the work that the Spirit is doing in us.

In summary, we are commanded to live contrary to our natures. Our goal is to become a reflection of Christ. But along the way, we must endure opposition. And this opposition is not the kind that comes only once in a while; this opposition is constant. Although it varies from day to day, obstructions to our pursuit of holiness are never completely absent. It should not be difficult for us to understand, therefore, that it is possible to grow weary in our attempts to please God.

It is not a case where we tire of loving God or tire of being loved by Him. It is a case of being involved in an unending battle that inevitably drains us of spiritual strength. In that state, we are in danger of taking our focus off the path of righteousness. We may find ourselves almost overwhelmed because we live in a world that actively seeks to prevent us from living as God commands. This hostility never disappears.

These facts are behind Paul’s exhortation quoted above: “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” Paul understood the struggles of the Christian life as well as any man could. He knew that God’s people have been given instructions and are expected to conform to God’s will in all things. Paul also knew, of course, that this assignment is not fulfilled with ease.

Notice that Paul defines our calling as “doing good.” We are in the process of doing good as our days come and go. As Christians, our very existence is characterized by that which God approves, that which Paul labels as “good.” We live for God’s glory. We live to prove the reality of the gospel. We live to show the sure victory of Christ over the adversary and all of his assets.

And notice also that the apostle teaches that, if we are faithful in living according to our calling, which is another way of saying we are “doing good,” we will realize a blessed end to our struggles. Perseverance through this fallen world is no small accomplishment. And when we do find ourselves growing weary, when the challenges leave us exhausted, and when the schemes of the wicked astonish us, there is an effective way to respond so that we are not overcome. We respond by reminding ourselves of this counsel from the apostle Paul.

The Christian life is not just the passage of years, it is the one opportunity we have to honor God and our Savior by resisting temptation, building up that which has fallen, encouraging those who have lost their way, speaking well of Christ, and giving ourselves to God as humble servants through which He accomplishes His holy will. It is true that the Christian life is filled with impediments, but it is in the overcoming of those hindrances that the grace of God shines through us.

The world comes against us, but we continue our journey. The world seeks to deplete our strength and undermine our determination. Nevertheless, even though we sometimes feel as if we have reached the end of our endurance, we do not give up. We may slow down, but we never stop. We may stumble under the burden, but we never fall. We may tire, but we never quit. This is holy fatigue and I think there is a particular beauty in it.

All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 1 Number 32

September 13, 2012

Empathy

From Pastor Bordwine

 

 

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

(Romans 12:15)

The apostle Paul addresses the concept of empathy on several occasions. For example in Second Corinthians 1, he relates how God had comforted him in his afflictions so that he might be able to extend comfort to others when they experienced affliction. The idea is that Paul would have a genuine empathy for anyone having to endure hardship. In the context of his remarks, Paul is thinking of those who would face persecution for the sake of the gospel. There are other passages, however, in which Paul appears to be speaking in a broader fashion.

In Romans 12, the apostle covers a number of issues and obligations for the edification of believers. Many of Paul’s commands in this chapter are easily applicable to life in general. One of the more interesting exhortations is the one quoted above: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” In essence, Paul teaches that we should take note of and respond to the various experiences of those around us.

When someone is joyful, it is easy for us to join in the celebration and experience a measure of gladness ourselves. Paul does not stop with empathetic joy, however. He also includes our duty to “weep with those who weep.” When someone experiences a tragedy or is passing through some circumstance that causes them much distress, it is possible for us to sympathize with that person. While we cannot experience the exact measure of their grief, we can still comfort them, pray for them, and sometimes do something to lessen the burden of grief.

On Tuesday, Christopher Stevens, our country’s ambassador to Libya, was murdered during a well-planned attack by Islamists. I did not know Mr. Stevens, but I certainly was moved by the report of what happened to him and several others who were filling roles designed to help liberate the very people who carried out this attack. To get to the point, let me say that I immediately felt great empathy for the friends and family of these Americans. The only thing that I could do, in terms of a response, was pray for those who had lost loved ones. And so I did ask God to comfort them and give them peace in their time of mourning.

As noted, praying was the only response I could give, but that doesn’t mean my reaction was insignificant. On the contrary, I think God is pleased any time His people are touched by the suffering of others in this world. I think He is also pleased when we call upon Him to bring relief to those who are grieving. Most of us, at some point in our lives, have been on the receiving end of empathy. We have had people in our lives who came alongside us during a time of suffering and we were greatly comforted by this act and we definitely cherished their promises of intercession.

Empathy is, I believe, a godlike characteristic. This fact is established by the ministry of our Savior. Speaking of Christ, the writer of Hebrews states: “For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.”(Heb. 2:18) The temptation of Jesus was genuine and, as we know, He maintained fidelity to the will and word of His Father. He does understand, therefore, the nature of temptation and is able to serve us as our empathetic high priest. As I said, responding to the troubles of others with words of comfort or prayer amounts to the imitation of Christ in His relationship with us.

The family of Christopher Stevens is experiencing deep and prolonged agony; the same is true for the families of the others who were killed. It is unlikely that any of us have a personal connection to these families, but we can still be of help to them through our prayers in which we seek the grace of God so that they may be blessed and He may be glorified. There are a multitude of issues and questions related to this attack on our embassy, but our primary obligation, I would maintain, is what I just described. Remembering how you were helped by the empathy shown to you in the past, I would urge you to pray for the friends and families just mentioned.

All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 1 Number 31

September 6, 2012

Restoration

From Pastor Bordwine

 

 

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature;

the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

(2 Cor. 5:17)

Among the most popular television shows these days are those having to do with the restoration of old, worn-out products to a “like new” status. The process can be quite tedious, although most of the gritty details are left out of the final video presentation. Typically, the audience sees the “before” picture that shows how dilapidated the item is and how improbable it seems that it could ever be returned to an attractive and functioning condition. After letting us observe a few of the steps involved, such as finding rare parts and straightening bent metal, the show focuses on the finished product, which is always a surprising and pleasing contrast to the original.

The theme of restoration permeates Scripture. It is one of the primary aspects of the gospel, in fact. That which is ruined and offensive is rescued, recreated, and restored to a place of dignity. I’m referring, of course, to us—fallen men and women who were ruined and had no good or honorable purpose to serve except to be the objects of God’s righteous indignation. Although we came from the hand of God pure and capable of bringing glory to Him, disobedience rendered us useless; we became unable and even unwilling to honor our Creator and dedicated ourselves instead to self-promotion and self-preservation.

God would have been completely just had He left us in our state of sin and misery. In spite of His clear warning, our first parents ignored the commandment of their Maker and acted according to their own wisdom. The result was catastrophic. But then a love that we can barely comprehend was manifested toward us in the form of a Savior who was God in the flesh. The penalty of our sin fell upon Jesus, our Substitute. The Holy Spirit gave us new life and began to build us all over again, from the inside out, so to speak.

Any restoration requires at least two critical elements: knowledge of how the finished product should look and the skill to achieve that end result. When it comes to the human soul, only God, our omnipotent Designer, has both knowledge and skill. Salvation, therefore, is a restoration project in which a fallen, deformed, and corrupted creature is returned to a state of honor. This is the most amazing restoration of all and this is how the Bible describes what happens to the sinner who is called out of darkness into the light of redemption.

In the case of a sinner, the primary issue in need of attention is his history of transgressions. This is what stands between the creature and the Creator and this is why the wrath of God hangs over the head of the fallen individual. Therefore, God’s restoration of us includes a provision for taking away our guilt. As just mentioned, that provision is Jesus Christ. By dying in our place, He enabled our full restoration by the Holy Spirit.

As Paul indicates in the verse quoted above, what we were is replaced with what we are becoming. We are “new creatures,” he writes. Throughout our lives, we are engaged in the restoration project. Gradually, the Holy Spirit returns us to a state of purity and dedication to our original purpose, which is the glorification of God. Some days, you may feel as if the work on you has ceased or has been unproductive, but rest assured that, once begun, your restoration will be completed. This is the inevitable conclusion to the sacrifice of our wonderful Savior.

All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 1 Number 30

August 30, 2012

Remembering God’s Blessings

From Pastor Bordwine

I shall remember the deeds of the LORD;

surely I will remember Your wonders of old.

(Psalm 77:11)

One of the most frequently given commands in Scripture is “remember.” Repeatedly the people of God are exhorted to remember His covenant and to remember His deliverance of them from captivity and danger. These episodes were important for several reasons. Such acts of God demonstrated His love for His people and His control of all circumstances. Moreover, the works of God became a means of instruction for coming generations.

Various ordinances and structures were ordered by God to commemorate significant acts that He accomplished for His people. Consider, for example, the Passover meal (Ex. 12:24-27) and the creation of a stone monument under the leadership of Joshua (Josh. 4:6-9). Whenever the Passover was observed, it would remind the present generation of that last night in Egypt when God struck down the firstborn of every dwelling except for those that been marked with the blood of a lamb.

And when future generations asked about the meaning of Joshua’s memorial, which stood in the middle of the Jordan River, they would hear the story of how God stopped the flow of the water so that the people could enter the Promised Land.

We may think that the benefits of commemorating God’s blessings are no longer ours to enjoy because we have no such dramatic expressions of His power in the recent history of God’s people. This conclusion would be mistaken. We receive the blessings of God frequently. To illustrate this truth, let me recall a few of the acts of God in my life.

In that little more than a month, October 15th to be specific, I will take time to remember that on this date in 1975 I was born again. This happened at a critical period in my life, a period during which I felt confused, frustrated, and hopeless. Thirty-seven years ago, God delivered me from my captivity in sin by awaking my heart to the truth of the gospel. The character and course of my life were forever changed and it is a privilege for me to offer special prayers of thanksgiving to God on this date each year. Remembering this event renews my humble appreciation for the kindness and amazing grace of God.

In 1980, the LORD gave me a wife who, next to my regeneration, has been the most significant and humbling blessing from God that I have experienced. Although I was totally undeserving, God provided a companion of extraordinary Christian character and unshakable dedication to the Savior’s glory. I can also point to the gifts of two sons, one in 1985 and the other in 1991. Beyond these most significant works of God in my life are the answers to prayer during troubled circumstances and the guidance God has provided at critical points in my journey.

I must conclude that I have many blessings of God to commemorate. I remember them and I tell other people about them, which is my obligation and privilege as one of God’s redeemed. I imagine that you also have events in your life that resulted from God’s loving intervention by some means. What comes to mind right at this moment? Perhaps you’re thinking of your own born-again experience or your marriage partner or your Christian upbringing or your employment or your recovery from sickness—this list could go on and on. My point is that we all have received blessings from God, some highly significant and others less so, but all are evidences of God’s lovingkindness and wisdom.