Sincerely Wrong

On this date in 1992 God did a work in my heart that has been growing and changing my perspective of all of life. On that day I knew that I had a new heart and a new spirit. I was a babe in Christ, delivered from the power of darkness into His kingdom (Colossians 1:13). He has fed me and led me, brought me and taught me. He has reformed my thinking and continues to transform me by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2). Sounds like a miracle, right? And it is.

To this day I am still amazed at who He is; of the Son that our heavenly Father has given to His children, to which He has drawn me; and the power of the Holy Spirit that is at work in the world today bringing His kingdom into hearts and lives, and His will being done. I did not say, just to me; although at times I, like Elijah, in special times think that I am His only child.

He has so blessed that I have been able to teach my grandchildren things that I did not teach my own children. I did not know these things. I had not grown up in the deep things of God. What I knew of God I had learned in the kiddies’ pool. Never learning to swim I always stayed in the shallow end. But I could speak as loud as all the others of what I knew and stood firmly on it.

img_20130213_091842-1-e1360744480225As He has taken me by my right hand and is guiding me with His counsel, preparing me for His glory (Psalm 73) I am still learning. As my Shepherd, He is still teaching me of His protection, His direction, and His correction. This role for His people, His sheep, comes with the promise of all three. We usually want the first two, but not the last.

From our prideful nature we never think we can be wrong. We hate to be wrong about anything. And as the followers of Christ we think we have everything down pat; so we tend as sheep to stand on our back legs and argue our points. The most powerful means of our growth as lambs is to be corrected; either by the reading or preaching of His word, or by another Christian.

The rod and staff are His means of keeping us on the right path; even if it means humiliation. This is the example set by our Lord. “He learned obedience by the things He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8).

If we are to grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18) we must be humble and open to what other people are saying; but with a discerning mind and heart. We pray daily that He speak to us through His word, through our circumstances and through others. I have discovered myself to be sincerely wrong at times; and grateful that the Lord did not leave me in my ignorance.

The Center and the Periphery
How do we have an open mind and yet guard our hearts with a sure foundation of faith? The center of all things is the most important. If that is sure then everything that revolves around it will be brought into the right perspective. When we are in Christ, and Christ is in us, His Spirit is our counselor enabling us to see everything from His point of view. He is our peace and wisdom in all things. The things closest to Him and His heart are revealed to us. The things on the periphery may not be so sure, but we are not entangled nor our faith disrupted by these things. We can calmly listen; agree; or disagree when it is done in love and humility.

From Christ, His wisdom and perception we are free to open our minds to those who are in Christ. We can discern where they are coming from. It is those who are humble and who share their faith in Christ that we want to listen to. Even if they are sincerely wrong we can, from our center in Christ, reason through as we pray for His guidance. There is no sense in trying to convince others of any point if Christ is not the center. We can get through only when there is an open door. He must open the door of other hearts.

Staying focused through His word and prayer is the key to love and humility. This is the secret to our training, our growing, and the light that draws others from the periphery to the center of all of life, Jesus Christ.

 “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts:
and be ready always to give an answer to every man
that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you
with meekness and fear:”
1 Peter 3:15

 “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you?
let him shew out of a good conversation his works
with meekness of wisdom.”
James 3:13

 Dear Father, sanctify our minds, hearts and tongues today. Fill them with Christ, the truth, your will and your way. In Jesus’ name I pray.

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Faith that Rejoices

Romans 5 is packed with the glorious treasure
imagesof the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul continues to describe the effectual working of the gospel in the life of the believer. In chapter one and chapter sixteen he expresses his purpose in writing this letter to the first church in Rome; “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,” (1:6; 16:26) He keeps building upon the precepts of God’s grace, showing the power and authority that is in His word, to His own glory.

From the pit of degradation described in chapter one we are brought to chapter five to see the glory of the saint that is saved by the power of the gospel that was given to Paul. (Some of what I am saying is redundant, but well worth repeating.)
From the word, “Guilty, guilty, guilty,” God brings us to, “Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice.”
From the wrath of God, because of our disobedience, we are brought, through His own promise, to obedience. And what a glorious promise it is that brings us to this faith. It is the faith by which we are justified. No longer is God angry with us, because He has brought us to Himself through the death and resurrection of His own Son ~ what greater love than this! What would be the natural fruit of that justification, but rejoicing in hope of this promise? This “great salvation” (Hebrews 2:1-4) through Jesus Christ is the greatest news on earth and in heaven. The angels rejoice when one sinner is brought to Christ. (Luke 15;10)

We remember that the gospel is the word of God given for revelation and salvation. Christ is the living word of God, sent to save His people. (Matthew 1:21) He still speaks today through the written word, even as He lives and reigns at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. The power is in His Holy Spirit to finish the work of salvation that was promised, planned from the beginning, and which Christ came to fulfill.

 “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1

Our justification is proven by His love for us (vs. 6-111 John 4:9). Jesus Christ is the heart and love of God given for sinners. We could not know or imagine such a God or His plans for our justification. We are but dead in our trespasses and sin, until He quickens us through His word to new life and faith. This is the power of the gospel that brings us to peace with God.

 “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:2

This grace that has saved us is the grace in which we stand; the grace in which we live, and are being prepared to share His glory ~ the same glory that Jesus has with God the Father. The work of justification is the beginning of the work of sanctification for our glorification. The Holy Spirit carries on the work within each believer so that we rejoice in hope for what He has promised for the future ~ sharing the glory of God.

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing……………………………….

 The power of the gospel in the believer, the grace in which we stand enables us to rejoice not only in the good times but also in adversity. There is intelligence in the gospel, knowledge of its power to build upon our faith (for obedience) and to create the image that God has planned for those who will share His glory. It is His grace, His image, for His own glory. (See also Colossians 1:11; James 1:2-3)

The experience of faith is that of knowing what His grace does in and through us.

knowing that suffering produces endurance,
and endurance produces character,
and character produces hope,
and hope does not put us to shame,

Water-pitcher-pouring
because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  
Romans 5:3-6

It is this love, by which He accomplishes all that He planned in Christ before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:9)

It is through His own will, His plans, His way, His power, that He is creating a people for Himself, conforming us to the image of His Son. (Romans 8:29)

This world and the suffering that has come through the power of sin no longer have a stronghold on God’s people. This is our deliverance in Christ; that we live, enduring the cross that we must bear for His sake. This endurance produces the character of Christ in us, which adds more fuel to our hope, with the understanding and reality of God’s love being continually poured into our hearts.

This is what the gospel does when it brings us by faith to embrace Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

It is not something we wait for after this life. Because Christ died for us while we were yet in our sin, dead and unable to respond, we are now reconciled and have begun eternal life in Him. By His death we are reconciled. By His life (His resurrection) we live, now and eternally in Him. If we hear and believe what Paul is saying it sounds as if we are already there. Yes, but not yet. This is the power of the gospel; that we live in hope and light of the promise that is ours in Jesus Christ.  All of true life is Christ; all is centered in Him.

“We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Romans 5:11 

“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly;
and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Dear Father, thank you again, and again, for your love poured into our hearts that brings us to yourself and spreads throughout our lives.  Thank you that we know this love as Christ, your Son given for us, for our justification, our sanctification and our glorification.  Let us live today knowing your mercy and grace, your love, joy, and peace, your presence and your power within; to love you with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and our neighbor as ourself.  Make Christ evident ~ faith that is the evidence of things not seen, the assurance, the substance of our hope ~ in our lives today.  In Jesus’ name I pray and praise you.  Amen.

The Purpose of Paul’s Letter to the Romans

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The Tomb That Became a Womb

tomb16 “Jesus awakes, as a mighty man from his slumber, unwraps the napkin from His head and lays it by itself; unwinds the grave clothes in which love had wrapped Him and puts them by themselves; for He had abundant leisure; He was in no haste; He was not about to escape like a felon who bursts the prison, but like one whose time of jail-deliverance has come and lawfully and leisurely leaves his cell. He steps to the upper air, bright, shining, glorious, and fair. He lives! He died once, but He rose from the dead! There is no need for us to enlarge here. We only pause to remark that this is one of the most jubilant notes in the whole Gospel scale….Death is overcome! There is found a man Who by His own power was able to struggle with death and hurl him down. The grave is opened! There is found a man able to dash back its bolts and to rifle its treasures. And thus, brethren, having delivered Himself, He is able also to deliver others.
Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)

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The context (John 12:23-33) from which Jesus’ words here are quoted was that which spoke of his impending crucifixion. “The hour has come” for Him “to be glorified.” That glorification awaited Him as He continued to follow the will of the Father; when He would be lifted up, and so draw unto Himself those that receive the truth of His word. These would die to themselves, take up their crosses and follow Him.

Jesus left in the borrowed tomb the seeds of new life for all those who belong to Him. He finished the planting that He came to do. He was raised and now waits and rejoices over every new plant.  His Holy Spirit waters by the word of truth in each heart and brings to life what Jesus planted. Those seeds are eternal, continuing to bear fruit.

 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
John 1:1

  “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:11

Grapes Desktop Wallpapers-023“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you,
that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain:
that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”
John 15:16

Dear Father, today, please bring forth new plants for your joy; and water what you have planted within us by your Spirit.  Let the word of Christ dwell in our hearts richly so as to bring forth the fruit of your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and temperance.  In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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Abraham and Paul ~ Heirs of Promise

How exciting is our God!
The Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ continues to amaze me as I sit under the preaching of His word.
It is a joy to have my heart and mind opened to the truths that are expounded through the messengers that He has chosen. Such is the case as I am experiencing the preaching of Paul’s letter to the Romans. I have read it many times and studied it; but never before heard and seen what I am seeing now. So had Martin Luther, and God changed his understanding, his life, and the church.

In Romans 4 there is a remarkable revelationimages of how well the apostle Paul knew Abraham. Should it not be so, since Abraham was his father ~ twice born?
Jews throughout history have claimed him as their father. But, Paul gives us a backward view of who has a true claim to this relationship.

God, the Father, chose Abram to be the father of many nations, not just a nation called Israelites. He made an everlasting covenant through him for all nations and changed his name to Abraham. He chose Abraham, made a covenant with him and gave him a promise to bless people from all nations through his obedience of faith.  This is how he became the “father of faith” to all nations.

Let’s look back in time to this covenant blessing upon Abraham that is our blessing, too. We cannot skim over this, but we need to take the time to see the truths here.

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless,
that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.”
Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him,
“Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.
No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.
I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.
And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. Genesis 17:1-7

The Lord appeared to a mere man on this earth, gave him a promise that through his physical seed a new nation of people would be born; a covenant that God, Himself would fulfill ~ an everlasting covenant ~ not just to the nation of Israel; and not just for a certain time, but a promise and covenant forever to all who believe in His promise.  God is a God of covenant; a faithful God to His people who accept His word as truth.

How would this covenant be established except through Abraham’s physical offspring, a son that God promised to Abraham? Through him would come the Messiah promised by God since the beginning (Genesis 3:15). But do we see the catch ~ Abram was ninety-nine years old and had no offspring. There was yet no son through whom a people would be born.

But God promised. And Abraham believed what God promised, though it was physically impossible. His faith was counted as his righteousness before God.  As difficult as it was for him to believe is it impossible for us to believe through our own insight.  We are each in our own country, our own little worlds until God speaks through the power of the gospel to us.  By human thinking we cannot see the incarnation, the righteous life of Jesus Christ, his death, resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father in heaven.  It is by His grace, and His light in our hearts (2 Corinthians 4:6) that reveals Christ to us and gives us the new birth by His Spirit, so that we see and believe. (John 3:3; 6:44-45)

The essence of Romans 4 is that Abraham’s faith preceded his action of circumcision. It was his faith in what God promised that made him righteous, not his works. His obedience to God’s command for circumcision was a result of His believing God’s promise.

(Remember the purpose for Paul’s letter was to bring a people from all nations to the obedience of faith. His preaching the gospel was not to tickle the ears, but to lead people to faith in the gospel and therefore to proof of salvation and righteousness by obedience to God’s word.)

How well Paul relates to his father Abraham; and how well he knew his own people who trusted in their circumcision and the law for their righteousness before God.
The Lord had chosen Saul, appeared to him, changed his name to Paul, and sent Him, first to his own people. They tried to kill him, because they did not like the good news of faith in Jesus Christ. They proved themselves not to be true offspring of Abraham, because they did not believe that God had sent His Son for their salvation.

And so, Paul was sent with the gospel to the Gentiles; and all who believe God are the heirs of the promise; joint-heirs with Christ, Abraham and Paul.

 “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.
But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also.
It will be counted to us who believe in him
who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord,
who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
Romans 3:4, 24,25

 Gracious heavenly Father, thank you for calling Abraham out of his own country to establish a new country, a new people of faith and obedience to your word. Thank you for stopping Saul from persecuting your people, that he might become your servant to all nations with the good news of our salvation. Thank you for giving us your word and your promises through others of faith. Thank you calling pastors to preach the gospel in our time. Thank you for calling each of us as your people, by your Spirit and through your word, that others may see and know who are your children; though there are those who will reject your promise and persecute us who live in obedience of faith.  Today make us to know who you are, that we may know whose we are ~ heirs of promise. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Obligated and Eager  Romans 1

Do You Know Where You Are?

Awareness is a rare gift. Some are born with it. Others receive it at a special time in life. To see beyond our own peripheral vision can be a blessing or a curse. Being aware of others’ faults, mistakes, and weaknesses; judging and condemning them is a curse to others and ourselves. It is the gift that the enemy of our souls uses to work an oppressive spirit within us and toward others. This curse keeps us in a state of oppression and sin. We see in others a reflection of ourselves and continue in this state of oppression until we, like the prodigal son “came to himself.”

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He realized where he was. The gift of awareness enabled him to see his condition, and his surroundings. He saw himself in reality of his sin and rebellion.

But, beyond himself he saw the blessing of forgiveness and reconciliation; he saw the means of returning to the father that loved him.

Awareness is a blessing when we are able to see and confess that we live in a fallen world. John said in John 5:19 “the world lies in the power of the evil one.” We were born into it, with a death certificate in our hands. We grow up in it. We are an integral part of it. And we will die in this state of oppression; of sin and misery, except as we are brought to ourselves; to see where we are and our own condition.

Every Good and Perfect Gift
The awareness that is a blessing enables us to see beyond our own, and others’ failures, to see the giver of this gift from heaven, which comes down from the “Father of lights.” (James 1:17)   Not only are our eyes opened to see where we are in this wilderness, but we see Almighty God, our heavenly Father, ruling and reigning over all things; our shepherd, our keeper, our shield; our God “who supplies all our needs according to His riches in glory.”

desert-streamWe are aware of His presence and power in and through, and over all things. In His covenant with us through His Son, Jesus Christ, we are assured that He will always be with us. He will never leave us nor forsake us. These truths lived within us will be a blessing to others.

 “He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure:
for this is all my salvation, and all my desire.
2 Samuel 23:5

Dear Father, please open our eyes today, to see where we are; to accept the conditions in which you have placed us.  Let us see Christ as you continue to reveal Him to us, in us, and through us.  Make us aware of your presence and power as we live, love, and rejoice in you.  Be a light, life, and blessings to us all.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

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Heart Burn

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Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road,
while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

Luke 24:13-24

 After the resurrection two of Jesus’ disciples were returning home. Jesus caught up with them, and although he already knew what was in their minds and hearts, asked them what was going on. Then He spoke to them words that burned on their hearts and opened their eyes to see Him. Believing, they returned to Jerusalem to meet the other disciples, and to be a part of what God had planned.

When we want to save something we use the proper device to burn the information that is essential for our purposes. We use monitors to listen in where we want to hear. Our technology from man is astounding to us; and yet we have trouble hearing and believing God.

Before man was created God’s plan was in place. We were born with monitors. God knows each human heart. He knew from the beginning that we would need a new one on which to burn what He wants us to know and remember.

 “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.
And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh
and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26

 With this new heart and new spirit we are receivers of His new covenant of grace.

 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days,
declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,”
Hebrews 10:16

 He writes on our new heart what He wants us to know from His word. Continually writing He enables us ~ burns in our hearts the authority of His word; commanded by His Holy Spirit within us to receive and obey.   It monitors, and we receive from Him, through our reading and study of His word what we need to know and do as His people, His children.

 “But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.” Luke 5:38

 The old heart, the old wineskin will not receive and keep the new wine. It is too strong for the old heart.

“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”
has shone in our hearts to give the light
of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, 

to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”
2 Corinthians 4:6-8

Dear heavenly Father, you know our needs. We need you; we need Jesus; we need your Holy Spirit today to teach us, to write on our hearts what we need to live in obedience to you. Let your word today, read and spoken, burn within our hearts all that you want to do in us. Leave your mark upon us today. In Jesus’ name I pray.

PLEASE HOLD ~ GOD is Not Finished with Us Yet

Since Jerry’s leg amputation seven years ago, with the diagnosis of arteriosclerosis and diabetes, we spend a lot of our time in doctors’ offices. We were in an old facility yesterday, which houses the temporary offices of a group of vascular surgeons. Their offices will be in the new hospital in January. I read the sign in the restroom as speaking for more than just an old toilet.

Scan 142210001 We used to be younger and could do all that others now do. But we in our aging are limited and have had to slow down. When you are behind us please be patient and consider also those who are in front us.  We need to move slower so that we don’t run into them.

We don’t think as fast as we used to. So please hold on while we try to put our words together. Please listen so you can know what we are trying to say.

“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 
that he might sanctify her,
having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
 

so that he might present the church to himself in splendor,
without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,
that she might be holy and without blemish.”

Ephesians 5:25-27

God is still in the process of our sanctification; purifying, cleansing, and making us ready for Himself and His kingdom, where all things are new, forever.  He is still working, even when we can’t; and teaching us to be patient with others.

One day we will be in our new home. You won’t see us then; but you can rejoice with us; now, and then. In the meantime, PLEASE HOLD us; encourage us; and pray for us. If the Lord blesses you, you will be old one day, too.

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“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self  is wasting away,
our inner self is being renewed day by day. 

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us
an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
  

as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.
For the things that are seen are transient,
but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Dear heavenly Father, thank for holding us and keeping us in your care.  Prepare us today and each day for each Lord’s Day worship, which will one day be an eternal worship for your glory and our joy.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen

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