All Things New

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:
old things are passed away; behold, all things
are become new
.
2 Corinthians 5:17

In awe for the last decade, I have been given another new year to express the all-glorious presence and blessings of our Almighty God. Ten years ago, I was thinking how close I might be to leaving this planet to be with our Lord. Now in my eighth decade, I sense more and more my weakness and dependence on my Creator and Redeemer as He continues to prepare me for eternity with Him. It is a second childhood I heard about in my first childhood, but, oh so much more than I had imagined. And, I am loving it!

Learning to leave behind those things I thought were so precious years ago, I have been blessed for the Lord to reveal His kingdom of grace in me enabling me to experience a taste of that which is to come.

Trust in the One Who Gives Life
Did I say that these years have been comfortable and pleasant? Not by any stretch of the imagination; they are being spent in trust and leaning upon the One who gave me life twice ~ as Creator and Redeemer ~ a new life that will never end.

Giving me the responsibility as a full-time caregiver for Jerry has been the Father’s way of grooming me as His servant. And there is no greater joy than this. Having served in many roles (too many to list) the role of a servant tops the list for joy and fulfillment in His kingdom.

With one of my favorite verses of His Word, I end my first prayer each day before getting out of bed.

“And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us; and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.” Psalm 90:17

There is always new work to do. With this expectation, we know this new year of our Lord, 2019 will be filled with newness of life. With every day and every trial in the last several years, we have experienced a greater sense of His presence and His goodness.

Lovecraft ~ A New Look
After eight years of blogging, we are using a new format. In searching, I chose a fitting theme Lovecraft~ not knowing the name of the theme until afterward. We will be tweaking it until we decide on the final look. One difference in this theme is the overlay of the area for the text. Images are good, but we want to focus on the truths of God’s Word and His kingdom. A physical image cannot aptly portray the spiritual truths of His love and grace.

We have also just published a new book which we will review the end of this week; What the Holy Bible Says about The Word of GOD, second in the series What the Holy Bible Says.

Our God is the Living God, the God of wonders, the God who never leaves us. He desired us before the world began and sired us in His timing ~ to bring us to Himself through His Son’s redemptive work and the power of His Holy Spirit. He continues to show us great and mighty things we have not known (Jeremiah 33:3) ~ to us, in us and through us. All this; all that He does is for His glory and our joy.

Dear Father in heaven, you have called us unto your eternal glory through Jesus Christ, your Son. We thank you for your mercy and grace, by your Holy Spirit, to accomplish all that you have planned for us in this new year. Whether to keep us here to proclaim the legacy of your kingdom or to bring us home with you, we praise you now. Continue to fill us all with the outpouring of your Spirit to speak and write the truth of your Word that others may know you and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. In His name, I pray. Amen.
Fran

Image is from Christian Poetry by Deborah Ann. 
You would be blessed to visit her blog.

Persecution in China

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution,
or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”
Romans 8:35

As we prepare to spend an hour or so in a comfortable worship environment tomorrow, please consider that not all Christians have this privilege. Such is the church in China. Please read the following statement written by Pastor Wang Yi before he and his wife were arrested.

“Editor’s note: Over 100 members of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, China, were arrested beginning Sunday, December 9. At the time of publication of this translation, arrests are still being made. Among those taken away were Pastor Wang Yi, senior pastor of Early Rain, and his wife, Jiang Rong, who have not been heard from since Sunday. 

Foreseeing this circumstance, Pastor Wang Yi wrote the declaration below to be published by his church should he be detained for more than 48 hours. In it, he explains the meaning and necessity of faithful disobedience, how it is distinct from political activism or civil disobedience, and how Christians should carry it out.”  

The translated statement can be read from the December 12 post of China Partnership.

I pray that we begin to understand what freedom and blessings we have, now. But also that we see the need to prepare, at least our children, for the persecution that lies ahead for those who follow Christ. Let us pray for those who stand firm for the gospel of the kingdom of our Father and His Christ in China and throughout the world. Fran

The Power of Redemption

As I continue to study Andrew Murray’s, Humility ~ the Beauty of Holiness, the end of this year seems a good time to share some treasures from this book. We can take into the new year these special truths that can change our thinking and our lives. Considering if we live in pride or humility is to know if we live by the flesh as in the first Adam, or by the Spirit in the second Adam.

Think of the power of sin that was within us before we were born of the Spirit. Then meditate on the following quotes from Andrew Murray. Let us take these with us into the new year as we continue to study the power of the new life, the life of redemption that is ours in our Lord, Jesus Christ.

“Even as we need to look to the first Adam and his fall to know the power of the sin within us, we need to know well the Second Adam and His power to give within us a life of humility as real and abiding and overmastering as has been that of pride.  We have our life from and in Christ, as truly, even more truly, than from and in Adam.”

“The life of God, which in the incarnation entered human nature, is the root in which we are to stand and grow.  It is the same almighty power that worked there, and from then on to the resurrection, which works daily in us.  Our one need (now) is to study and know and trust the life that has been revealed in Christ as the life that is now ours.”

There is no greater blessing than a life of humility; serving the Lord and others.

Gracious Father, we thank you for the new life that is ours in Christ. We praise you that you showed your power in His incarnation, resurrection, and redemption so that we can experience the power of His humility working in us. In Jesus’ name, we thank you and praise you. Amen.
Fran
Have This Mind Among Yourselves
Philippians 2:5-11 Music

Suggested Reading: A Broad Review of Andrew Murray’s Humility

Heavenly Overtones

Music is designed with a melody that runs throughout the whole piece.  Other parts add harmony.  The melody is the beginning, and the ending.  It is what holds the piece together.  Lose the melody or make it a monotone—the same tone over and over— and it ceases to be music.  Overpower the melody and the music loses its meaning.

Music is a sound that began in heaven with God, our Father and Creator.  It is a major means that He provided to help us worship Him—“Holy, Holy, Holy”—one for the Father, one for the Son, and one for the Holy Ghost, is sung by the angels in heaven. (Isaiah 6:3  and Revelation 4:8)

Anthems are compositions for music that include all parts —melody, harmony, and sometimes, a descant.  A descant is a part that is sung by a higher range of voices.  It is not meant to overpower but provide an extra lift to the other parts.

Together all the parts speak to the senses to lift the spirit and the heart toward God.

In Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs we worship with Biblical texts and heavenly music (Ephesians 5:19).

I picture it according to His Word—the melody was begun in heaven with Jesus, His Son—“Holy, Holy, Holy”  from the foundation of the world.  He would not only be the beginning of music but the melody throughout the span of time here on earth, onward into eternity.

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes…”

The melody of heaven was here
~ He was wrapped in our humanity ~
to gather around Him those that would
add the harmony to Himself,
and provide the music for His family,
the music that the Father wanted to hear.

“On the same night, there were shepherds with flocks of sheep in the field. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them”

 ~ the music and the worship were about to begin.

And the glory of the Lord shone round about them with good tidings of great joy”

  ~ the prelude
the introduction to the first anthem of true worship.

To all people—unto you is born a Savior, Christ the Lord”

 the music begins.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly hosts praising God, and saying,  Glory to God in the highest”

 ~ the descant.

“And on earth peace.” Luke 2:7-14

Christ Jesus, our Lord, is the melody of heaven, the melody of life, as God has composed it, and plays it for us by His Spirit and through His Word.

“I will declare thy name (the Father) unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. Behold, I and the children which God hath given me.”  (Hebrews 2:12-13)

~ the harmony of His family.
Now He has a full choir.

The Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs that we learn throughout our childhood are the anthems that are carried into heaven with us, as we join that celestial choir. Others are added along the way as He gives us a repertoire.  The only soloist is the one who carries the melody—Christ, Himself.

As we live by the Spirit and walk by the Spirit, He opens our ears to hear the melody and to follow Him.  Our off-keys and monotones are tuned to harmonize with other voices.  And walking humbly with Him in the obedience of faith, loving the Lord, our God, and our neighbor, we are surrounded by the heavenly overtones echoing His praise in heaven and earth. In our devotion to Christ, He opens our hearts to hear compositions we have never heard or sung before, especially during the difficult circumstances of life.

I pray that we know the Lord as our strength and song (Exodus 15:2).

I pray that we would experience “the new song as He fills us with His Spirit (Psalm 149:1).

On the Lord’s Day, we go to His House with a great expectation of hearing the melody—a strong and sure foundation for our worship—hearing the other parts, and the distant sound of the descant of the angels in affirmation that our worship is accepted.

I pray that each day we will practice our singing, individually, and in family worship, so that we are prepared for worship on the Lord’s Day—all in preparation for the great day when we see Him and praise Him in all His glory with the angels.

Our Father has composed the music
and directs the choir.

Let us sing with full hearts
to His glory and our joy.

“Holy,—-Holy,—-Holy,

The LORD of hosts:

The whole earth is full of His glory.”

Fran ~ Lord’s Day 9/23/07 (Article from Waiting Is Not A Game ~ Articles and Stories of Faith. Unpublished)

A Panoramic View

How blessed we would be if we could see in God’s Word a panoramic view of Him working from beginning to end —the Alpha and Omega— through it all to bring the first and the last scene together.

How blessed we are to be in the middle as God’s people—the body of Christ—to take it all in; turning from page to page to behold His glory, His kingdom, at work in His people; His strong arm upholding His sovereign will and authority over life and death, His hand holding and molding each heart and life taken out of the degradation of sin.

How blessed we are to be turned by the power of His own Holy Spirit to see Him greater than all the circumstances of the human will and the power of the enemy combined; triumph shared with His people for eternity.

This is a view that comes through a lifetime here on this earth. The view is so breathtaking that we cannot bear it except slowly and as God, the Father, in the wisdom He gives through the righteousness and atoning work of Jesus, His Son, prepares our hearts by His Holy Spirit to conceive of Divine reality—“enlightening our eyes” to see what He allows our ears to hear.

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

The tour through His Word is conducted one-on-one so that we do not miss anything that He has for each of us. It is the preparation for that which will come in eternity ~ from glory to glory ~ so that we will share in His glory forever.

The glory of God is hidden in Christ and it will take an eternity for us to behold.

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:19

Dear Father in heaven, we praise you for all that you have prepared for us, what our physical eyes cannot now see; what our ears cannot yet hear; the glorious life for which we are being prepared. Continue to work by your Holy Spirit, in light of the truth of your Word, in our minds and hearts to look beyond this present world to the glory that awaits us. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Fran

Image:Pixabay

 

Words of Life ~ Ambassador

We are blessed to have Jim, a brother-in-Christ and a fellow-blogger, offer this guest post in our series Words of Life. He writes from the knowledge and experience of being a servant of our King; a pastor and an ambassador to other countries. You can find his blog here. Thank you, Jim ~ the Lord bless you and your ministry for Him.

*******************

Did you realize that if you are a Christian you are called by God to be an ambassador of Christ? What does that mean and what does God require of you if you are called to be His ambassador?

First, we must ask this question: What do we think about when we hear the word “Ambassador?” For many of us, we picture a man or a woman dressed in a dignified manner in a prestigious overseas assignment as a representative of one’s own country. We picture him/her being welcomed and even honored by those to whom they are sent. But is that what the Scripture and God have in mind when we are to be ambassadors of Christ? Ultimately we want to know what the word “ambassador” means as it appears in the Scriptures?

The best-known passage that talks about being an ambassador for Christ is 2 Corinthians 5:20-21. This is what it says in the New American Standard Bible:

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

The Greek word for ambassador is a first-person plural form of πρεσβεύω. The verb πρεσβεύω appears only in one other place in the Bible: Ephesians 6:20:

for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

We will focus on 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 to see four characteristics of an ambassador of Christ so that we will faithfully represent Christ to others. However, when we look at the fourth characteristic, Ephesians 6:20 will come into play.

Characteristic #1: An ambassador is one who knows God well.
The point here is that if we are going to be ambassadors, we need to know God and know Him well. Recall 2 Corinthians 5:20: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ.” It is important to know what the leaders really want, otherwise, an ambassador might make a decision that is unfaithful and unwise for the country/state/leaders. Who do we represent as ambassadors? The passage says, “Christ.”

We must know Christ in various ways. Paul says that Christians are to know what the will of God is: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2).  Specifically knowing God’s will involves knowing that “which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Notice here that knowing God will transform us. Where do we turn to know God’s will and also for that knowledge to transform us? The Bible!

We are not just to be familiar with rules of God but also to know Christ and what He has done: “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10). Did we catch that?  We are to know three things: “the power of His resurrection,” “the fellowship of His sufferings,” and “His death.” We also must get a taste of suffering if we are to have “the fellowship of His sufferings”

As an application: do we know God’s laws and rules? If not, how can we represent Him?

Ambassadors would read letters from the leader that sent him or her. Do we read regularly the Bible and vow to learn it more deeply so we know who we represent and what His will is for all circumstances?

A good ambassador who knows the will of the one who sent Him will also act with integrity so as not to undermine the character of the one who sent Him. How much more then, does our knowledge of God lead us to act in such a way that presents a good testimony to people around us?

Characteristic #2: An ambassador is someone who is sent for a purpose.
As an ambassador, we need to know our purpose.  Recall 2 Corinthians 5:20: “as though God were making an appeal through us…” There’s a challenge here: An ambassador is not just living for himself; he lives for his king. As Christians, our purpose is to live for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!! 2 Corinthians 5:20 goes on to say “we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Yet with the challenge, there is also encouragement:  After identifying us as “ambassadors of Christ,” Paul speaks as if God is working through us when we make our appeal.  God is working through us as His ambassadors!  Let us be encouraged. He will help us if we rely on Him!

An ambassador might sometimes be in a country with which his own country does not get along. Dignity and honor might be shown to him from the other country. There may be temptations in that country to cause him to forget why he is there.

To drive the point home, we must ask ourselves these questions: Do we know our purpose in life? It is not enough just to know; are we living as representatives of God towards others? Do we desire a different purpose than what God has given us?  If this is the case, we are in sin. We must realize every other purpose in life would disappoint if it is not centered on God. Is God working through us? When we are making an appeal to others to come to know God, do we realize it is God working in us? This should encourage us?

Characteristic #3: An ambassador is one who is faithful.
Let us look at this portion of 2 Corinthians 5:20-21: “we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” An ambassador’s message is not one that he creates.  A good ambassador is measured by how faithful He is to the one who sent Him.  What is our message? The passage states the purpose of our message: “we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20b).  How we are reconciled with God is the Gospel!  “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This message tells us that we are sinners. This message tells us about Christ; that Christ is our substitute.

An ambassador is to please the one who sent Him and not those to whom he is sent; can you imagine if the country is an enemy of His country and the ambassador decides to change his message to make the enemy like it? This ambassador is not faithful; in fact, he has betrayed his country.  He is now an enemy by becoming friends of the enemies of his country.

Now, what about us? Are we faithful to the Bible’s message? Or do we try to remove the parts of the Bible we don’t like? Are we trying to be faithful or are we trying to be liked by others?

Characteristic #4: An ambassador is one who is willing to suffer.
As ambassadors, we must be willing to suffer. Remember Ephesians 6:20 states: “for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” There is the real possibility of suffering as indicated by the mention of chains in the example of Paul’s life.

Some background information might be in order. There are two kinds of ambassadors. Here’s a summary:There are ambassadors (another Greek word is used here: Legati) sent from Rome to foreign nations and into the provinces.”[1]There are also ambassadors (Legati) “who accompanied the Roman generals into the field or the proconsuls and praetors into the provinces.”[2]

Here’s a description of the first kind of ambassador:

“Legati to foreign nations in the name of the Roman republic were always sent by the senate (Cic. c. Vatin. 15); and to be appointed to such a mission was considered a great honour which was conferred only on men of high rank or eminence; for a Roman ambassador, according to Dionysius, had the powers (ἐξουσία καὶ δύναμις) of a magistrate and the venerable character of a priest. If a Roman during the performance of his mission as ambassador died or was killed, his memory was honoured by the republic with a public sepulchre and a statue in the Rostra (Liv. IV.17; Cic. Philip. IX.2). The expenses during the journey of an ambassador were, of course, paid by the republic; and when he travelled through a province, the provincials had to supply him with

Here’s a description of the second type of ambassador:

“The persons appointed to this office were usually men of great military talents, and it was their duty to advise and assist their superior in all his undertakings, and to act in his stead both in civil and military affairs (Varro, de Ling. Lat. V.87, Müller). The legati were thus always men in whom the consul placed great confidence, and were frequently his friends or relations; but they had no power independent of the command of their general (Caes. de Bell. Civ. II.17, III.51; Appian, B. C. I.38). Their number varied according to the greatness or importance of the war,”

What kind of ambassador did Paul have in mind? ~ the second kind; those who are sent to dangerous places.

Paul said “we are ambassadors for Christ,” based on his life filled with hardship, danger, and suffering.  In 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 and 2 Corinthians 11, we see his suffering and trials. When Paul said “we are ambassadors for Christ” he included all who would bear the same sufferings.

I think the closest analogy today to the kind of ambassadors  Paul had in mind are military service members. I remember in Iraq working with a Marine officer who was in Civil Affairs. He’s a Marine still ~ and still armed. But he’s working with the people and the local leaders. He’s there in a spot too dangerous for civilians. We are that Marine, not the ambassador and staff in the luxury hotel of a safe capital socializing all night.

This changes the way we view our mission as ambassadors. Do we understand that we will suffer as a Christian, especially to the degree we represent him and share the Gospel? Are we presently suffering for the Lord in representing Him? We must search our hearts to see if we are compromising, fearing man, etc, and confess our sins to God. He will forgive us; and not only that, He will cleanse us in light of 1 John 1:9!

For any who may be suffering right now for the sake of our Lord, we pray that you find your comfort in Christ. Turn to Him and rest in Him! Abide in Him, commune with Him! Let Him comfort you!

(Gracious Father in heaven, we thank you for Jim, who serves you well as one of your ambassadors. We ask that you send your Holy Spirit to search our hearts. Convict, through the power of your Word, how and where we may be misrepresenting you. Show us your purpose for us as your children and your ambassadors. Open our eyes to see Christ and His sufferings on our behalf and move us to offer all that we are to know Him and to be where you want us to be. Thank you for sending your Son as your ambassador to a people held in bondage to sin to save us and bring us to yourself. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Fran)

[1]http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/secondary/SMIGRA*/Legatus.html

[2]Ibid.