Behold, I make all things new. Revelation 21:5.
The new year should remind us of the greatest renovation project of time and eternity. The first Creation was wrecked by sin, but God began a new race with a new Adam and new creatures with a new life, a new name, a new song, a new commandment, a new heaven, and a new earth!
God is not running an antique shop! He is making all things new!
Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Matthew 28:20.
Alway means "all the days," any day, every day. There will be days when we are not conscious of God's presence, when it may seem that He has forgotten us, but He is there although we perceive Him not. Christ lives in the believer's heart and the Holy Spirit is alongside us to help. There are no exceptions—any day, every day, all the days—the promise holds. This day, today, is the day the Lord hath made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it. You may feel like saying, "This just isn't my day," but it is His day!
Caught up into paradise.... 2 Corinthians 12:4.
When we were with him in the holy mount. 2 Peter 1:18.
Life has its great days, supreme experiences—maybe when we were converted or made fresh contact with God, or when we climbed the utmost height and caught a gleam of glory bright. Maybe it was some outstanding event as when we were married, some outstanding achievement, some red-letter day. We could not live all the time in the rarified air of those dizzy peaks. We may have wanted to build three tabernacles to house those great days, but we must get down the mountain to live out among the cobblestones what we saw among the clouds. We thank God for the great days and He is with us in triumph as well as in trouble.
Oh that I were as in months past.... Job 29:2.
Job is longing for days past when things went well before calamity descended upon him. The good days are not the rare and exciting great days but those times when heaven smiled upon us, when we had health and home and happiness. God was with us then and we need to recognize Him with special devotion for we are likely to take such days for granted. We never miss the water till the well goes dry. We had better let the goodness of God bring us to repentance for our unthankfulness. Make much of the good days while the sun shines and before the storm breaks.
Is there any taste in the white of an egg? Job 6:6.
Job complains that he is reduced to egg white without salt. There are dull days when everything is dry, flat, insipid. No thought worth having comes to mind. The color goes out of living, the romance fades, a sense of things real comes doubly strong. Even black and white become gray. But God is with us on such days.
We cannot kindle when we will
The fire which in the heart resides,
The spirit bloweth and is still;
In mystery our soul abides.
But on such days, tasks in hours of insight willed can be in hours of gloom fulfilled. We can do a lot of chores until better hours return. Monotony wears down the spirit and may be harder to master than times of crisis. We can be bored to death! It just takes longer! But faith can serve God without feeling until better days return.
He hath set darkness in my paths. Job 19:8.
The sun is still there when we cannot see the sunshine. God has not departed because the day is dark. Sickness, sorrow, faded dreams, and broken hearts—how we long for the Land of Unclouded Day! But the brightest songs we sing hereafter may be born on the darkest day here. What we sob over now, we may shout about hereafter. God is with us though we see Him not. "The darkness hideth not from thee" (Psalms 139:12). Darkness and light are alike to Him. We are on the underside, but by prayer and faith we can rise above the clouds, as we do sometimes in airplanes, to where the sun is shining.
Deliver us from evil.... Matthew 6:13.
Evil days are days of temptation when our guard may be down and our defenses are relaxed and the enemy comes in like a flood. Many a saint has yielded to the powers of darkness in his weakness and for the rest of his life has lived in self-condemnation and remorse. "How could I have done it?" is the constant wail of his heart. We are never safe until we get home. The bark may sink in the haven's mouth. So we must be watchful and alert, watching that we may pray and praying that we may watch, not tense and fearful but trusting Him who is with us even on evil days. He does not keep us from temptation, but He can keep us in temptation.
He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. Hebrews 13:5.
The disciples forsook our Lord, and no man stood with Paul at his trial. But the apostle adds, "Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me..." (2 Timothy 4:17). There is no greater test than day-by-day loneliness when loved ones are no longer by our side and friends are busy with problems of their own. The long night when we long for the vanished hand and the sound of the voice that is still; the aloneness in the midst of a crowd which can be worse than solitude... there is no darker place in life's journey than Lonesome
Valley. But the Christian does not walk it alone. We must walk it for ourselves but not by ourselves. Jesus walked His Lonesome Valley for and by Himself that He might walk ours with us.
Wilt thou be altogether unto me as a liar, and as waters that fail? Jeremiah 15:18.
Jeremiah was desperate and even God seemed to have failed him. There come days when nothing makes sense, when the heavens are as brass, when Satan mocks our faith and demonic forces seem to wreak their havoc in unexplainable ways. Sometimes the saintliest souls end their days under a cloud, go out under the blackest of circumstances. You cannot make a uniform pattern from the deathbed experiences of Christians. The "others" of Hebrews 11:35-38 do not fare like their comrades in the preceding verses. In desperation, we leave the enigma in God's hands and press on to a brighter day when we no longer see as in a riddle.
And even to your old age I am he: and even to hoar hairs will I carry you.... Isaiah 46:4.
The senior citizen past his threescore and ten is not left alone in the last phase of his journey. Much attention is paid to the aged today and politicians make many promises, but God is our mainstay and we do not pray in vain, "When I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not..." (Psalms 71:18). These are the days, when, for the Christian, heaven draws nearer, when most of our dear ones have moved to the other side. The curtain between here and hereafter grows thinner as we await the parting of the veil. It is not the end but the beginning of a new day when we are promoted with the prospect that "his servants shall serve him."
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.... Psalms 23:4.
"All the days" includes the last day. It is well to "fore-fancy our deathbed" as one old saint put it, but not in fear for Christ has conquered him who has the power of death, and death, the last enemy of all, is headed for destruction. Death is not the end and our last illness is not unto death, but that God may be glorified as with Lazarus and as God told Peter. We must face it, but we need not fear it. It is the last of all the days and the last can be the best. It opens the door to a new succession of days that have no end.
Let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. Matthew 27:42.
So says the world today: Give us Christ without the cross. But a crossless Christ would mean no more than a Christless cross. We glory in the cross, but it is the cross that the world despises. It is the reproach and scandal of the cross that the world will not accept. "Save thyself," they shouted, but that was exactly what He could not do if He would save others. If He had come down, there would be no Saviour and no Gospel. Men will accept Him as teacher and example but not as the bearer of our sins in His body on the tree. The Paragon but not the Propitiation!
The dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them... to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17.
"Together with them!" That answers a lot of questions. "With the Lord," that is enough said.
With Christ! No more is told.
What more, Lord, couldst Thou tell?
That is enough to satisfy
The heart that loves Thee well.
Astronauts sink into insignificance beside this Ascension! And on our way up, who is so foolish as to fear that we shall not know fellow travelers we loved long since and lost a while?
He that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat.... Isaiah 55:1.
Buy of me gold tried in the fire.... Revelation 3:18.
If we have no money, how can we buy? How can paupers purchase the priceless? God's grace is free, but not cheap. When we become disciples, we become disciples and that will cost us everything. It is the other side of the coin. We give ourselves, but we get Himself and in Him we have everything. Some misinterpret free salvation to involve no cost, no obligation on our part. Ours is the obligation of repentance and surrender of all we are and have. But what an exchange for His gold and garments and spiritual vision—wealth, wardrobe, and wisdom!
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.... Psalms 23:4.
A minister, after his wife's death, walked the floor night after night in an agony of self-accusation and regret. Finally there came to his heart this reminder, the voice of God saying, "I promised to walk with you through the Valley, not wallow with you in it. This is no time for bemoaning what might have been in self-condemnation that serves no good purpose."
Indeed, we ought to repent of mistakes made, confess any wrong, and claim cleansing, learn any needed lessons but walk through the valley, not wallow in it.
I call to remembrance my song in the night.... Psalms 77:6.
I prefer some of the old tunes like "How Tedious and Tasteless the Hours," "O Thou in Whose Presence My Soul Takes Delight," and "Lead, Kindly Light" to the jingles of the modern Happiness Boys. "Abide With Me" may seem too melancholy, but the old-timers made their way "o'er moor and fen" and to them "the darkness deepens," "the encircling gloom," and "bid my anxious fears subside" grew out of grim reality. Blithe souls who have never known trouble have little to offer when the tempest rages and the floods descend. Then we turn to David and Jeremiah and Job and John, on Patmos, and our Saviour saying, "Now is my soul troubled and what shall I say?"
And Joseph also went up from Galilee.... Luke 2:4.
Against the background of the mighty Augustus and worldwide taxation, how insignificant Joseph and Mary must have appeared! Yet the stream of God's purpose moved with them and Caesar Augustus was incidental. The true historian is he who can chart "His Story" in history. Compare Luke 3:2 and see John the Baptist against the window dressing of big names beginning with Tiberius Caesar. All that really matters is what God is doing. Man's busy little movements get the headlines, but they mean little except as they contribute to the outworking of God's great plan. The Bible is the textbook of God's history, disregarded in our educational system, but the only reliable explanation of the meaning of all other histories.
Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.... And it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. John 19:19, 20.
The world stage was set for the coming of the Saviour. There was the Roman world of government, the Greek world of culture, and the Hebrew world of religion. The Roman world had law and order, peace for a while, roads and commerce and means of communication. The Greek world had a flexible language for the propogation of the Gospel. The Hebrew world had one God and looked for the Messiah. The superscription on the cross bore witness that this was no accident of history, but the stage setting for Him who alone gives meaning to history.
Who is worthy to open the book...? Revelation 5:2.
Only Jesus Christ can open the seals and unroll the meaning of history. Mr. Durant and Mr. Toynbee do not have the key. Without Jesus Christ, secular history is only a tale told by a fool, full of sound and fury and signifying absolutely nothing. It is well to know the facts of history and God makes them fit into His design. Today truth may seem forever on the scaffold and wrong forever on the throne, but behind the dim unknown standeth God within the shadow keeping watch above His own. And, to those who are His own, all things work together for good, for they are the called according to His purpose—His purpose for the individual and for creation.
Weep not for me.... Luke 23:28.
There are those today who make a show of sympathy for the suffering Saviour, especially on Good Friday. He bids us still, "Weep not for me." He did not climb Calvary's hill as the helpless victim of a mob. He could have called down twelve legions of angels. He went up the slopes of Golgotha on purpose to give His life as a ransom for many. We had better weep for ourselves and our children. Things are in a bad way for us and them. Judgment looms ahead and our Lord is saying, "If they do these things in a green tree, what shall they do in the dry?" Then, the fall of Jerusalem lay ahead, today the end of the age.
Why weepest thou? John 20:15.
Mary wept because she could not find the body of her Lord. She was seeking the living among the dead. So do we today. But we do not worship at the tomb of a dead Saviour. The Emmaus disciples trudged along a lonely road in sadness. It was the third day since His Crucifixion and, since it was, they should have been singing instead of sighing for He had promised to rise on that very day!
When Mary did see the Lord, she thought He was the gardener. We shall make all kinds of mistakes until we believe in a risen Saviour. Mary was synonymous with misery until she recognized Him as Master. Then He gave her a message and a mission. Let us dry our tears and tell it everywhere, "He lives!"
And I wept much.... Revelation 5:4.
John wept because no man was found worthy to open the scroll and loose its seals. But one of the elders said, "Weep not." The Lion of the tribe of Juda would solve the problem! When John looked, he saw not a Lion but a Lamb. It is not as a conquering Lion but as a suffering Lamb that our Lord prevailed. One day He will return as the Lion in judgment to avenge His own elect. This is God's history within history, the redemption of man and the whole creation. Bewildered men might well weep today that no man can unravel the future, but there is an answer: "Worthy is the Lamb!"
Jesus wept. John 11:35.
Some say he wept because raising Lazarus meant bringing him back into a world of sorrow and suffering. He certainly was identifying with our grief. We are to weep with them that weep, yet not sorrow as those who have no hope. Our Lord asked, "Why?" that we might never ask it. "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" (Psalms 30:5). "There shall be no more... crying" (Revelation 21:4). God shall wipe all tears from our eyes. I am glad He gives it His personal attention!
A time to weep.... Ecclesiastes 3:4.
We do well to weep for ourselves and our children, for the sad state of the Church, and for a lost world. It is well to weep when dear ones depart. God does not despise human grief. It is a safety valve in sorrow. The Psalmist prayed that his tears might be put in God's bottle. Not a tear worthily shed is ever lost though we seem to weep in vain. But shed no tears that serve no purpose. Weep not seeking the living among the dead. Weep not because men cannot read the meaning of history and the secret of destiny. And press on toward the day when God shall dry our tears forever!
Why feignest thou thyself to be another? 1 Kings 14:6.
America is laughing itself to death in a vain attempt to drown its sorrows and forget its fears. Behind a thin veneer of hilarity, there are more broken homes, hearts, minds, and lives than ever in our history. After preaching for sixty years, I am not deceived by the masks we wear in church on Sunday morning. Many a smile is only a front to hide the marks of a sleepless night and many a poker face conceals a pressure-cooker mind about to explode. One night in my meetings, a man was awarded a prize for bringing the most people to church only to go home and hang himself. This wild and weary world is a weeping world, no matter how cleverly it hides its grief.
Acquainted with grief.... Isaiah 53:3.
Never forget that Christianity began with a Man of sorrows acquainted with grief. Joel called on God's ministers to weep between the porch and the altar. Paul warned everyone day and night with tears. The joy of the Lord is not to be confused with the religious levity that has no root or depth. Churches have become second-class theaters as though the Gospel were a form of entertainment. The joy of the Lord is not a "happenness" that depends on what happens. It smiles through tears and rejoices in spite of what happens.
Weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 25:30.
The most gruesome details about the future state of the wicked come from the lips of our Lord Himself. Call it imagery, symbolism, what you will, it is a fearful picture and we dare not tone it down or call it an accommodation to the prevailing ideas of the time. Dives in hell was a personality in torment and anguish with memory intact. The word lost has almost disappeared from our vocabulary and any mention of eternal punishment is smiled away as a leftover from a dark theological past. There will be tears throughout eternity in remorse and regret for the lost opportunity to have been in heaven instead of hell.
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.... 2 Corinthians 6:14.
The Christian and the Church must not accept the help of the world in the work of God. This world has neither part nor lot in the matter. When we accept subsidy, we surrender sovereignty. The man who pays the fiddler calls the tune. The assistance of the world has its price. There are strings to it and out of these strings a noose is formed. It is the strategy of the devil to join churches these days, not fight them, and gradually to control them. It is the policy of false teachers. Even the state by subsidizing religious education achieves the same ends.
According to your faith be it unto you. Matthew 9:29.
I like to make an acrostic of that little word F-A-I-T-H. For All I Take Him. For All I Trust Him. For All I Thank Him. For All He Is I Take Him. For All My Need I Trust Him. For All His Gifts I Thank Him.
I do not just take Him as this or that. I take Him! He is Alpha and Omega and all the letters between. "As many as received him..." (John 1:12)—period!
He was alone.... Luke 9:18.
E. Stanley Jones wrote The Christ of the Indian Road. It had a wide circulation and was followed by various books about the Christ of other roads. My Lord was also the Christ of the Lonely Road, often in solitude, persecuted, misunderstood, crying at last on a cross, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
We who follow in His steps find that the way is not crowded. "Few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:14). But we are not alone though often lonely. "Lo, I am with you..." (Matthew 28:20).
And His road is the only road. "No man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).
Compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses.... Hebrews 12:1.
We cannot communicate with the dead, but the communion of saints includes all past, present, and future believers—the family of the children of God. The cloud of witnesses holds us in full survey and we can sometimes feel the Presence we cannot touch. We are all in Him though we are on this side and they on the other. How much they see and know of what goes on here we may not know, but they see from the other world—as God sees—so what might disturb them if they were here, gives them no pain.