Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Holydays Everyday!

Santa Claus is not the same as God. Santa Claus is fictional. Santa is a likable character (red suit, fluffy white beard, cherry colored cheeks etc), but that is what he is, a character. He's a fictional do-gooder that most everybody likes because he's the great giver (Ho, Ho, Ho!) and that's the way we fashioned him. Can Santa make a a pine tree? Did Santa figure out how to provide electricity to make the colored lights glow? Yet, we, without realizing it, make good ole Santa into a god of sorts. However, there's no need to worry, he's a type of 'idol-lite' that soon disappears only to make way for the cute little easter bunny (colored eggs and lots of candy). It all fits under the label of 'frivolity' (maybe).
What about God? Yes I have heard that certain topics are off limits in "polite company"(Santa and the easter bunny are not on this list). Who made that rule? I can understand politics, sex and religion (organizational Christianity) falling into that category but we should not feel that way about God.

Let say two people buy a Ford pick-up. They both like their trucks. Wouldn't they have something in common to talk about? If a third person approaches them asking them how they like their truck, wouldn't they talk about their trucks. What if one answered, "I have my own thoughts on it" and and then didn't say anything? Wouldn't that be weird?

For those who know how real God is, it is pure joy to continue to get to know Him and the great path of His son. Everyday on that path is exciting and totally fulfilling! Sometimes the tiniest thing He does in our lives makes us want to shout out about it, despite whatever 'polite' rules' in society legislate. Society ain't in that great of shape!

We certainly don't make God into what we want Him to be.  That is nothing short of idolatry. We look to His Word expecting to receive good sound thinking and then we know for real because we see it happen right before our eyes as we apply it:
"He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" Hebrews 11:6b
The word 'holiday' comes from the word 'holyday'. So don't worry about being 'politically correct' when you say 'Happy Holydays', but make sure it's plural so that it applies to everyday of the year.

Ho! Ho! Ho! 
Have a great New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lessons of knitting ... :)

Recently I started knitting again. I guess that is the Granny thing to do. (Actually I enjoyed knitting when I was in my thirties.)  I found an easy pattern for children's mittens and got out my 'knitting made easy' book and tackled the job. It took just a little time reviewing the basics and I was on my way.  Occasionally the pattern called for a little detour that I had to figure out how to do but my 'knitting made easy' book came to the rescue even though it was an old book.

There are things in knitting that are a little tedious. Counting stitches is boring to me but it keeps frustration at bay and in the long run it pays off and adds to the beauty of the finished product. The pattern in my mitten project wasn't readily seen right away, but the farther I got into the project, I could see how it all fit together. There is great satisfaction when the inkling of success starts to appear and you  realize it is a mitten after all!

I had never made a 'thumb' before and that was fun and quick. Making different shapes adds functionality to the project and makes it interesting. (My grandkids need thumbs in their mittens!)  Of course it helps to read the directions carefully so you don't have to rip the whole thing out and start all over again. In the beginning I ripped stitches out a lot, but then I figured out  I did not have to be that drastic and learned a great method  to carefully fix a stitch that looked out of place in the scheme of things.

In a metaphorical way, life, like knitting, requires focus, adjusting, enjoyment and endurance. God has written a 'life made easy' book but utilizing it takes focus and practice.  It helps having a few 'youtube' videos (the example of Christ, others in the Bible and of course the lives of old friends who live the word) to provide examples in action. Lessons in life are not all learned at once but start out with little projects that are mastered over time. What totally amazing patterns emerge as time and seasoning are allowed to reveal the great goodness of God in our lives. Yes there are dropped stitches, tangled knots and distraction mishaps, but
But let patience (endurance) have her perfect (maturing) work, that ye may be perfect (mature) and entire, wanting (lacking) nothing. James 1:4

Have a wonderful week celebrating the holidays with your family and friends!


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Unity Defined By God

Ephesians 4: 4-6
1. one body - I Corinthians 1:12-13
2. one spirit - Romans 8:11
3. one hope - I Thessalonians 4:13-17
4. one Lord - Romans 10: 9-10
5. one faith - Romans 2:25-26
6. one baptism - Acts 1:5
7. one God and Father         
Ephesians 1:6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. 


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Abba, Father

Has the thought of God ever brought up fear in your mind?  Do you ever worry about whether you are really living for God?  When people think this way it becomes a very real fear and can be quite painful. ( I know because at various times in my life, I have experienced this)  Oftentimes it seems that the only recourse is to not think about it and that's what many people do. God becomes one of those topics not mentioned in polite company. 

A fear of God can develop through ignorance and lack of good instruction. There are all too many avenues to learn about God. You have to find instruction that is about God's Word, which helps you to be able to read it for yourself. It is in really delving into it's pages, along with full acknowledgement of His care in one's prayer life, that one comes to a secure and steady knowledge of God . We have access to God. He committed himself to print, we have holy spirit available to guide us and we have the example of His son, Jesus Christ.
Romans 8:15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption (huiothesia (link) ,properly translated 'sonship'), whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
The Word is healing. It calms and soothes an anxious heart. It annihilates fear and sets us free from the sort of bondage that tries to control our thinking. A couple of days ago when I was having a 'wild and wooly' day. I'm sure you've had them too. Jesus Christ had plenty of them. I  plumped up my pillows on my bed with a cup of 'joe' and opened to where I had been reading in Romans. One verse led to another and before I knew it I was energized and refreshed. That just doesn't happen to me when I read ordinary books.  God's word contains life!

"Abba" is an endearing word. It is like when a child says 'Daddy'. We have that kind of access to God. 
Galatians 4:6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
What God wanted all along is a personal relationship with us! There is absolutely nothing to fear!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thankful for The Mystery

The mystery  is the great topic of the church epistles written by Paul.  Very few people really understand it completely. It is not nearly as hard to understand as it is to put into practice. Yes, it is "Christ in you" ( Romans 8:16-17, Ephesians 3, Colossians 1:27),  but what does that mean in practical living?

In Ephesians 1:18 and 19 God says:
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
And there is a lot more where this comes from! What does it mean?  It says that the believer can see and know and utilize the power that God has given us.  Imagine that! If God has enlightened our eyes, and given us all this power, why don't we use it? We don't because we haven't dared to believe it! Many things in the world talk us out of it. The world is all too ready to offer alternatives to believing God. We have not been taught how to practically live it.

When I was first learning how to read the Bible for myself,  I had a wonderful friend that loved to teach the Word.  One day I asked him about something I was having a problem with and he told me he knew how much I loved God's Word and that I needed to check in with God as to how to handle the problem. (Hey! listen, I had been raised behind the altar rail in the pews and still had somewhat of a stained glass idea of religion. My friend had at one time been there too and he was an expert on how to get out of that mindset) It was a huge turning point in my approach to God. I truly began to get real answers for myself.

It starts in Romans in realizing what has been actually been accomplished for us that none of us really deserved. That includes everybody! (Mother Teresa, the Dalai Llama, even the apostle Paul are no exceptions)  Romans is the book that when we get finished reading and assimilating, we are extremely thankful. Next, there are so many things brought up in Corinthians that help people to see how to live that thankfulness and not get caught up with things that pull people down. Natural man is pretty self-centered and seeks his own remedies for fear. The culture very quickly tries to explain human nature away and make excuses for that fear.

This precious thankfulness is further protected by the book of Galatians when man attempts to outdo God in perfecting his own practice of religion. Man sets up his own levels of accomplishment and in the process pushes God aside to watch. It is brutal to others who have not reached man's estimation of what is required. God makes it plain in Galatians in clear, straightforward grace. Believing pleases Him. Sometimes people get so wrapped up with the "Believing is action" performance mentality that they forget that believing starts with 'God so loved the world'! We love Him because He first loved us (I John 4:19).

As we wind our way to reach Ephesians, the groundwork in Romans, the weeding of Corinthians and the rock removal of Galatians helps our hearts to readily receive the unlimited supply that the big heart of God offers us without reservation. God has always been faithful. The problem is not with God; it is in man's heart where the problem lies. We could blame it on someone else like Adam. ("Why wasn't he thankful in Eden?") Adam was Adam; but Jesus Christ opened a new door for each of us.  We have nobody to blame. Thankfulness starts with each of us individually and it turns everything around!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Joseph the Prototype of the One To Come

A significant portion of Genesis is devoted to the life of Joseph. It the story of family, government, investment and prosperity in a down economy, relationships, discretion and everything else that life presents today. It is no wonder that God lays out in the very first book a great example of life at its fullest. The greatest lesson of all is Joseph's life with God. He is in a sense a prototype of Jesus Christ.  We can learn much from studying the lives of the men and women that God highlights in the Bible. They show us each individually pieces of what the ultimate life of Christ embodied.

Joseph's life was by no means easy, but it was full of success. Most everyone knows the story of how his brothers threw him in a pit and he was captured and taken  to Egypt and ended up at the right hand of Pharoah to handle all his business (prototype alert - who is at the right hand of God?).  Pharoah was not a right-winged Israelite, but he could recognize that the spirit of God worked in Joseph when Joseph's brother did not. Imagine that!
Genesis 41:38 And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?
Joseph was good at what he did and the whole country of Egypt thrived even when the the world was in famine. Joseph respected and listened to God.  It was more than just obedience, it was love,  respect and thankfulness for all God can do. I imagine Joseph had great human qualities but it was God that was the wind in his sails. He was human just like us. He experienced hurt and injustice throughout his life. In forgiving his brothers, he listened to God so as to bring about change, restoration and help for them.

Forgiveness can be slow. It can take time, not because God is dragging His feet, but because the humans involved may be slow in believing. God can work at lightening fast speed if we let Him. Joseph wanted his family restored immediately but it became a developing story because of human lack of understanding and receptivity. So he trusted God to help him with the timing. God will do that for us too when we rely on his wisdom and grace. Sometimes God has to teach us to move on in some cases for our own well-being. Regardless, God has our best interests at heart.

Egypt got the benefits of God because Joseph obeyed God. Pharoah listened to Joseph. He realized it so much so that he acted on what he recognized and respected Joseph and the God that he represented. God desires the best for everyone including Pharoah and the Egyptians. Today everyone can have the spirit of God residing in his own heart because of what God provided through Jesus Christ.  That is amazing! We are coated with amazing technicolor spiritually as we move through life and its ups and downs. As we respect God and as we recognize the work of His son, Jesus Christ, we realize the spiritual side of life down to the smallest details through the three 'R's' of the divine life: recognizing, realizing and respecting. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Maturity

Newborn babies receive milk from their mothers. It is food that has already been digested, filtered and repackaged in an easily digestible form for those whose digestive systems are immature and are not fully ready to receive solid food and break it down for themselves. Solid food has to be introduced later gradually as the young infant's system is able to break down complex chunks of food and utilize the nutrients for growth.

Paul speaks about the symptoms of immaturity in the body of Christ  throughout the book of  I Corinthians:
I Corinthians 3:1-3 Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk (link-milk- gala), not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? (NIV)
To grow up in Christ takes time, the Word, and practice. In Romans, God shows us the beautiful wholeness we have in Jesus Christ. What God wrought in Christ is the foundation of our believing and as we believe we have the completeness and assurance that only God can give. The wisdom and understanding of God's heart is given to us and we become more and more seasoned in that assurance. We exhibit that confidence in our relationships with others. We grow up.

In Corinthians, we can read about the failure to practice that which has been set out in Romans. It is a reproof epistle, so things like, quarreling, jealousies, following one man over another, division and several other things are addressed. If we look at Christianity today, we cannot help but wonder what God thinks of so many denominations, non-denominations and organizations who claim to be the body of Christ. Honestly, religion seems very divisive. We all recognize this.

The subject of growing in maturity in God's word is a topic in Hebrews 5:12-14:
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat (link- meat - trophe) belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
When we get to the place where we take on the responsibility to work the Word for ourselves and not just sheepishly (baa!) accept somebody else's pre-digested material without even thinking about it, we grow. It is not wrong to have teachers, but not to the end we become spiritual hitchhikers and passively accept infant pablum. As we practice the Word in our lives we learn to exercise discretion and biblical perception in handling life's situations. That is when we, ourselves, become good teachers.

Off the Treadmill - God's Moment!

The greek word for 'time' in Ephesians 5:16 is 'kairos'.
 13But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. 14Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.15See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,16Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:13-16)
According to EW Bullinger in his Companion Bible, Appendix 195, defines two words for time:
1. chronos, time, duration unlimited unless defined;
2. kairos, a certain limited and definite portion of chronos, the right time or season;
I am so excited this morning because this distinction has brought clarity to something I practically have known for a while. 'Kairos' is an opportunity; 'chronos' is the continuum of time.  I always thought this verse meant 'get busy!' and that may very well be a small part of it.  Greek is a specific language so there is difference between kairos and chronos even though they are both translated as 'time'.  So often we schedule ourselves into a busy lifestyle with good intentions, 'burning the rubber on the road' without producing the results we would expect for all that activity.  So how is that 'redeeming the time'?


I found another usage of 'kairos'  in Galatians 6:10 in the word 'opportunity'.
As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. 
This shows the focus on quality of the moment, rather than the tick tock motion of time. It makes perfect sense to me that the opportune moment from God is the most fruitful moment! These types of moments are acquired (notice I did not say 'achieved'). One can't 'work' for opportune moments, they are provided by believing grace.


We are to grab those moments, open doors, opportunities and make the most of them, not backing away nor overdoing them. There is a season for action, (remember the Pete Seeger song? or better yet how about Ecclesiastes 3:1ff) a time to "Turn, Turn, Turn".  Nothing is static and when an opportune turn shows up, seizing the moment and making the most of it is what we need to do. Time in 'redeeming the time' is the 'moment of God'. The more and more one understands God and believes, these moments pop up everywhere! It is not conditional on your station in life, or your career choice; it is about knowing and believing. This kind of time is certainly not mundane or boring. It is exciting!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

False Security of Privilege vs True Completeness

The Bible says numerous times that God is no respecter of persons (link - respect of persons). God makes it clear that all believers in this administration of grace were meant to receive holy spirit.  God is able to have a relationship with each and every person who chooses to believe.

God is the author of justice and fairness. Just the concept of providing a one-time sacrifice in His son Jesus Christ to justify all of mankind (John 3:16 For God so loved...) is a huge example of God's desire for justice and justness is love. This is clearly laid out in Romans.

Natural man is self-centered and tries to initiate a measurement system himself that favors his own privilege.   Man always tries to insure his own success.  He seeks to fill his own incompleteness with fillers and value those things that seemingly add to his value. In his relationships to others he constructs a measuring stick by which he can measure his success.  This gives him a false security when he perceives his stock is higher than someone else's. It is no surprise that in his strivings, he compromises certain tenets to maintain his position. This is very evident today in the media, politics, religion, sports, the arts and philosophy. It is everywhere.
Romans 9:29 And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha. 
In his justness, God has provided the human race with an out to striving. It doesn't matter who you are, the playing field is even and Jesus Christ is passing the ball. Who ever heard of one player on a team trying to interfere with another player on the same team so he could get the ball and score the points and do the touchdown dance? It is certainly not easy to win that way! Jesus Christ calls the play, each of us does our individual part and that's how the game is won.
 2 Corinthians 10:12For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. (link - comparing with/among)
God says it is stupid to compare ourselves to one another.  We need to believe in the our completeness in Christ, do our parts heartily and reap the benefits. No one else can define our playbook.
Romans 14:4 Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
There are some amazing things God works through each individual when he/she lets God define the walk. Every person is capable of generating fruitful work for God.
1 Corinthians 2:13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
Check out Luke 11:13! Why would God empower each person with the same measure of spirit if that were not so?

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Love of God is God is Love is God


So often when we refer to the love of God, we define His love by what we know from past experiences, or by definitions man has developed from his own vantage point.  The greatest source of what God's love is comes from God, himself. 
We love him, because he first loved us. I John 4:19
God's love is unmistakeable but there are many born again people who have not fully realized how much God loves them. The reason for this is because of misinformation, mis-teaching and wily forces of manipulation. God, however, has not left us without witness (Romans 1:19, Isaiah 44:24, Acts 17:24-31, Psalm 19, Job 38-41) :
Acts 14:17 Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.
God's love cannot be defined by man, the media, psychologists, scientists, and even theologians if they haven't recognized it for themselves. It is impossible to love others the way God would have us to love, if we don't know God's love.


The first step is becoming a child of God. Next, it is vitally important that one continues to get to know God.  The third step is believing it.
 I John 4:1b Beloved, let us love one another:for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 
I John 4:16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
When we recognize how much God loves us, then it overflows to others. It is genuine love based on truth. It is not messy, sentimental, human love. We get to the point that even when people act weirdly or hurtfully towards us, we can still love them because we know they just haven't seen or refused to believe how much God loves them. Some have filled the gaps in their hearts with other forms of of caulk to keep them busy.  That doesn't mean we put up with nonsense, God's standards are love.  God, in His infinite wisdom, shows us in His word and by holy spirit how to personally deal with such scenarios and that's love too! That kind of love is fearless!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Idol Work is Idle Work



Isaiah 44:12-20

12The smith with the tongs both worketh in the coals, and fashioneth it with hammers, and worketh it with the strength of his arms: yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth: he drinketh no water, and is faint.
 13The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house.
 14He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it.
 15Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto.
 16He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire:
 17And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god.
 18They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.
 19And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?
 20He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Luther and Justification

October 31 is Reformation Day commemorating the day in 1517  when Martin Luther tacked up his '95 Theses' on the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany. In this document was strong denunciation of the sale of indulgences purported to release people from the penalties of sin. This activity was nothing more than a greedy guise for gain on the part of the corrupt church at that time. The love of money produces all sorts of evil even in ecclesiastical environments. 


Luther took a stand on the principle of justification by faith (Romans 1:17) alone. All the money, indulgences, works, adherence to the law or religious piety in the world could not provide salvation for even one soul. 


We are made whole by believing in God's finished work in Christ. Luther wrote:  
"Sin is not canceled by lawful living, for no person is able to live up to the Law. The Law reveals guilt, fills the conscience with terror, and drives men to despair. Much less is sin taken away by man-invented endeavors. The fact is, the more a person seeks credit for himself by his own efforts, the deeper he goes into debt. Nothing can take away sin except the grace of God. In actual living, however, it is not so easy to persuade oneself that by grace alone, in opposition to every other means, we obtain the forgiveness of our sins and peace with God." (Commentary on Galatians)
Romans 7:4-6 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
There is such freedom as we walk in the newness of life God has provided. We live 'exceedingly abundant' as Ephesians 3:20 relates and we become a breath of fresh air to others when they see our excitement  and confidence in knowing the one true God.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Righteousness and Justification?

In working my way through the book of Romans, I am amazed at the depth of the wholeness given to us in this age of grace. Romans is the foundational book of the New Testament. Essentially it is the "bottom line" of believing. Ephesians springs off of this bedrock not the other way around. It represents the humility required to walk the  'walking worthy' in Ephesians 4 and the understanding how God has rescued us (quickened us)  as referred to in Ephesians 2:1-5.

There are some very key words repeated over and over again in Romans. Faith/believing occurs 59 times times. Sin appears 47 times.  Righteousness/righteous appears 43 times. Justify, justification, judicial sentence is used 22 times.

There is much discussion about justification and righteousness (Link to word study) as these words come from the same root in Greek. They are intertwined and in the religious world come loaded with weighty definitions. In regards to the Old Testament Hebrew, here's a quote from Canon R.B. Gladstone in his Synonyms of the Old Testament (quoted in Charles Welch's The Just and the Justifier):
"It is unfortunate that the English language should have grafted the Latin word justice, which is used in somewhat of a forensic sense, into a vocabulary which was already possessed of the good word righteousness, as it tends to create a distinction which has no existence in Scripture.... No distinction between the claims of justice and the claims of love is recognized in scripture.... We have no one word which can convey the idea of righteousness, and that of justification, as they are set forth  in Scripture.... We see the wisdom of God in selecting Hebrew as the means of communication with His creatures, because here the ideas of righteousness, justification, and acquittal all cluster round one verbal root, and are seen to be parts of the whole."
All these words form the inner and outer structure of Romans. In the outer structure the major theme is justification by believing and righteousness (Romans 1:1 -5:11, 9:1- 16:24). Jew, Gentile, Abraham and David are mentioned in these outer sections. The creamy caramel inner core of Romans is about the first Adam and the second Adam, Jesus Christ (5:12-8:39, 16:25-27) and the result of ‘Sin” (It means the root of sin as being alienated from God. It is used 41 times). ‘Sin’ is used 6 times in the outer sections.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Identity

Jesus Christ is the way out of the mess in this world. He is the 'Mess-iah'. Israel was aware that there would be a Messiah. They had a tough time holding on to that thought and then when he actually showed up, most didn't recognize him. The law had become their Messiah.  The gentiles were another story. They didn't have a law. They had no Messiah. They were literally nobodies to the Judeans. Yet they too were offered the gift of salvation. Both groups of people were given the opportunity for a new identity as sons of the living, powerful God! 
Romans 3:21- 26 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (NIV)

Everybody wants identity. This is a driving force behind why people join clubs, causes and careers. These become defining factors in their identities. Our identity with Christ is different. We actually become sons of God defined by His power and love. When we recognize our identity with Christ, our lives change. True humility flows from this recognition and that is what unites us (Ephesians 4:1-3). Our trust, strength, power is in God just as Christ's trust, strength and power was in God.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Between the 'Loosey Lefty ' and the 'Uptighty Righty'

 At the time when Romans chapter one was set down on parchment, the world had two parties: the Judeans and everybody else (right wingers and left wingers biblically). The Judeans were considered the chosen ones of God, the rest were the wild and wooly unbelieving pagans. It was law behavior verses no law behavior.

In the beginning there was Adam.  There was no one who could fit the bill better than Adam of being the chosen one. There was no one else around until Eve. When Eve arrived, along came the dual opportunity of someone to be chosen and someone not to be chosen.  God is not sexist so the choice was not between Adam and Eve, but between them and God's instructions. They chose.

You might say the poor pagans don't have a chance. It's not like God is walking with them in a garden. Wait a minute look around, don't they have a choice too?
Romans 1:20a But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can't see: eternal power...... (The Message)  
There is an epistle growing in our front yard. It's a tree. Trees are incredible. The roots dig down deep to provide sustenance. The trunk shoots upward in an amazingly entirely different direction for life energy. The branches fan out so every leaf with its flat, upturned architecture gets an equal shot at the sun. The whole organism works together with intricate precision to do its thing. It wasn't by 'luck' that a tree became a tree (sorry Darwin) and yet God's word is even better than a tree. It's roots run very deep and it would take more than a lifetime to dig it out. It's trunk (Christ) is sturdy and holds us up stalwartly to get the best from God. It's leaves are equal-opportunity positionally! 'The basic reality of God IS plain!' It is simple. We choose to accept it. God has put the beautiful things of His creation right in front of our eyes. It's our choice to see them.

God is big on freewill choice. If He wasn't, how hard do you think it would be to make everyone in this world believe Him? Think about it! He's God! He had to go and give us all freewill choice! There is no determinantly chosen spiritual elite. God doesn't operate like that. Everybody had, has and will have a choice! The poor pagans are without excuse! We don't have to feel sorry for them.

Just as the pagans changed the truth of God's creation into strange twist and turns, ignoring the perfection with which it was designed, Israel went  to another extreme. They became experts eventually of pushing the letter of the law way beyond God's intention, landing in the ditch of judgmentalism. Both roads are miserable and are described in Romans chapters one and two.
Romans 2:4(Amplified Bible)Or are you [so blind as to] trifle with and presume upon and despise and underestimate the wealth of His kindness and forbearance and long-suffering patience? Are you unmindful or actually ignorant [of the fact] that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repent (to change your mind and inner man to accept God's will)?
The big point that is made is that God's goodness and love are readily observable in all that He created and not to be taken lightly. God is all good. The darkness of this world is from another source. It is our choice to accept or reject, real life or the ditch.

There are lots of versions, translations that foster denominations, non-denominations and undenominations. Regardless of this, there is still one body of Christ. A tree is a tree whether it is an oak, an elm or giant redwood. Basically, lightsynthesis (or photosynthesis) involves first God, then His Word, Christ, and the gift of holy spirit. All these sources of light operate effectively in our lives when we choose to center our lives appropriately.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Change in Plans and the Will of God

Romans is a book that presents the 'big picture' of believing.  Everything in this basic treatise teaches the doctrine and practicality of the foundation of the grace administration as it rests on believing God and what he has provided through Jesus Christ.

In  Romans chapter 1, Paul records his desire to go to Rome but the "right time" had not presented itself.
Romans 1:8-13 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. For I long (Link -epipotheo) to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.  Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.
In Proverbs 16:1, God's Word says
Plans pertain to the heart of man, but the last word is from the Lord. (NIV)
God's answer to anything exceeds whatever plans man makes. Humans often pride themselves on the integrity of their word. "It may appear to be a very high standard of righteousness that makes a man's word his bond: it may actually be a higher one still for a man to appear untrustworthy because he desires ever to obey the higher will of God. …… Consistency has sometimes been obeyed before the claims of added light, and then consistency becomes self-will and pride.  It is certainly humbling for a leader to confess to making a mistake, but what a trustworthy leader is he who will make the confession!" (Charles Welch, The Just and The Justifier).

In Chrysotom’s translation [early church leader] of II Corinthians 1:17 Paul talks of the will of man and the will of God:
17 Do I plan after the flesh, that the yea with me must be always yea, and the nay always nay, as it is with a man of the world who makes his plans independently of God’s overruling of them?
Paul's example was Jesus Christ who always did the Father's will. There are many other records in both the Old Testament (the Joseph record in Genesis is a good example) and New Testament (John 11 - raising Lazarus from the dead) where men and women  kept to the 'God first' priority.

During Paul's life, he got several green  and red lights. He blew a big red light when he went to Jerusalem, but stopped at the Bithynia and Asia intersection and ended up taking a better route to Macedonia. We can learn a great deal about believing by examining these records.

Paul's example was Jesus Christ who always did the Father's will.  God's ultimate sovereignty should never be considered lightly in any situation.  Call it 'lowliness', 'poor in spirit', or humility, this is  quality of believing in someone's life that is of the utmost importance.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"Please turn off electronic devices and fasten your seat belt for take-off."

How about this: as you are talking on the cell phone, the house phone rings, the cell phone bings with email, then plays another sound for text message and your husband asks you a question. This is just a small part of life and yet all encompassing at times, especially when you are supposedly retired!


We need some uninterrupted time. "Please turn off electronic devices and fasten your seat belt for take-off." Never were truer words ever said. A sound mind requires this.


On airplanes, the pilot asks you to turn off certain devices below an altitude of 10,000 feet. The electromagnetic signals could interfere with vital transmissions to the cockpit. This happens to us too! The vital transmission from God via His Word can  be effected by incoming static if we don't give it our undivided attention.


So many things draw our attention.  We are bombarded by phones, computers, TV, movies (DVD or otherwise) and radio.  We are exposed daily to hundreds of opinions. We don't have to adhere to them, but they take up our headspace even when we disagree. We just drift along accepting and rejecting this or that without realizing how much time is eaten up by stuff that we can't do anything about.


Electronic communication is not bad in and of itself. There are great benefits, like being able to text a picture of a sleeping baby to new parents when they go out on date night, sending great Bible verses to someone who needs to be encouraged or hearing the gunfire live from the duck blind in North Dakota! I can fellowship with anyone any moment, any hour!


In order for our lives to be really rich, however, we need to protect our 'uptime' with God. He can communicate sometimes faster than a text message, but we have to be able to hear it. Wouldn't it be great if there was a device that would turn everything off by one single button (Do I need to copyright this idea?) 
Be eager to find out all about God and what he approves, a seeker of truth who has no cause to be ashamed, analyzing and correctly applying it to life. II Timothy 2:15 (my modified version)
By focusing on God consistently we can soar to greater altitudes (It's the seated-in-the-heavenies view. The world looks so small from an airplane!) and we are not so dependent on 'speed dialing' only in emergencies!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Christian Independent

There is a lot of talk these days of the 'independent voter' as election time draws near. The word 'independent' has three parts: 1. 'in' - meaning 'not'; 2. 'depend' - from the French word 'dependre' translated 'to hang down'; 3. 'ent' which is a suffix used to change a verb into a noun or adjective.
When God gave us the absolute grace of providing holy spirit to people, he was providing for a unique independence from anything that  could separate us from Him. This is something he provides contingent on our free-will choice. God does not control us, nor does he want to. The gift of holy spirit does not control either.

Being 'poor in spirit' (Matthew 5:3) is humbly recognizing God's resources.  It is an active recognition, not like the little guy in the picture above who is passively dependent on the hammock and tree limbs to hold him up.  He is stuck in  a rut-like mode with learned dependence on the curvature of the net holding him. Just let him try to stand up or even sit up for that matter!  God's truth sets us free from molding entanglements and control helping us to take action with confidence. 
Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV)
There are very important times in our lives that God helps us to break certain patterns in our lives. It is all a part of our growth and maturing as Christians. Our culture, society, our families and associations all exert a gentle influence on the way we think, some good and some not so good at times. However, equipped with the resources that God provides we can be free from that which 'hangs us down' in a detrimental way and be free to live above the mundane.

God provides us with the ability and power to live active and fruitful lives. His spirit at work in our lives provides strength, comfort, protection, love, knowledge, wisdom, power and a home in the body of Christ. None of these qualities control us, they are tools that help us as we live in this world.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Rich Fellowship!



Romans 1:11-12 Amplified
For I am yearning to see you, that I may impart and share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen and establish ('establish' Link) you; that is, that we may be mutually strengthened and encouraged and comforted by each other's faith, both yours and mine.
This is not talking about activities or a social event, this is talking about the full sharing of like-minded people among whom God moves and energizes their relationships. The "yearning to see you" is because of the richness of the energized spirit of God. ('yearn' or 'long' Link)  Paul wanted to let them know he wanted to see them even though something was holding him back at that time.

It is not about meetings, pulpits, pews, song books, the ladies auxiliary, circle suppers, politics, denominations, or formula Christianity. Some of these things may be props, but they sit at the perimeter, not the center of life with God.  God is true, real and individually a part of our lives.  Unity based on the Spirit of God in each one of us is the ultimate goal for true fellowship. ('koinoneo' Link)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Paul, a Servant

Paul, right out of the gate, in Romans, labels himself 'a servant' in Romans 1:1. He is a servant of Jesus Christ  before any of the rest of his credentials.  Later on in the same chapter, Paul expresses this heart  in:
Romans 1:11  For I long to see you, that I may impart (Link- Metadidomai) unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;
His desire to give was all wrapped up in establishing (Link - sterizo) others. Any person who loves God has the same calling if he or she has recognized the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was the servant of all servants (Philippians 2:7)!

As we recognize what God has done, is doing and will yet do for us, we cannot help but love Him and love others with the same love. That's the way it is supposed to work.

The word 'impart' is an interesting study .  It's the 'what do we do?' in practice.  Paul was studied in the scriptures, passionate about God and had a unique awareness of the meaning of God's gift of His Son and the role of the holy spirit in our lives.  That is what he gave. He has openly laid out the truth of the mystery (God's intent with the death, resurrection and ascension of His son in helping us to become powerful sons and daughters). He helped people by setting them firm in God's love. That was his gift that he imparted to the Romans and us as well.
Romans 1:12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
Paul's humble attitude is so clear in verse 12. He himself benefited from their 'mutual faith'.

Each of us has something unique to give others and receive in return.  However, doing good for the sake of doing good is not what this is about. Servants have a master; it is our master's business we must be about in order to produce the satisfying, mutual fruit of God. It is then we can truly 'distribute (link - koinoneo) to the necessity of the saints' as servants.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Philippians 3:3

For we are the circumcision (figuratively), which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice (boast) in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hypocrisy




Superstition, idolatry, and hypocrisy have ample wages, but truth goes a-begging.” Martin Luther




Romans

The treatise of Romans is part of the 'all truth' that Jesus Christ spoke about in John 16:13. In verses 7-11 that truth is laid out:
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 
Of sin, because they believe not on me;
Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more: 
Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
Three important subjects are covered in the seven church epistles: sin, righteousness and judgement. These are  the subjects of the great treatises, Romans, Ephesians, and Thessalonians that beautifully show what God has made us to be in light of the death, resurrection and ascension of His son.

Romans reproves the world of sin. Sin is the inattention to what God has done for us and the symptoms that result from that lack of attention. The recurring theme in Romans is believing in the grace and finished work of Jesus Christ.  Chapters 1-11 teaches about how the work of Christ has brought us to the place of also being called God's sons. Chapters 12-16 teaches how to practically live in light of this.

Ephesians is the treatise about our righteousness and a Father's love.
John 16:25-27 These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you:For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.
Chapters 1-3 of Ephesians specifically teach  about our righteousness, while chapters 4-6 is about how to practically apply it.

Thessalonians is about the hope, our future as believers lifted out from the present world and its dominions and spiritual lawlessness. It points to the eventual return of Jesus Christ.

The book of Romans is absolutely essential for our freedom in this life. It lays the foundation for living a life that honestly glorifies God. God has always desired to have a relationship with man. It started in Eden. Adam and Eve decided to ignore God's instructions and fell.  Jesus Christ took the fall and got up so that our relationship with God could be on a permanent basis. Ignorance is not bliss in this case. Romans is a book to pay attention to.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

God Surge and Word Impact

On the weather channel today there are a constant replay of scenes of reporters standing fighting wind and rain while describing the on-scene evidence of hurricane activity. Storms, earthquakes, and economy are the fruits of this world. It just never stops.

Psalm 91 is a beautiful song of deliverance to our hearts and contains so many embedded gems.  In verses 1 and 2, four names of God are used:
He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High (elyon -possessor of heaven and earth) shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty (Shaddai - all-bountiful giver of grace).  I will say of the LORD (Jehovah who has a relationship with those who love him), He is my refuge and my fortress: my God (Elohim- the creator of heaven and earth); in him will I trust. 
When you read through the rest of the Psalm with these names in mind, it truly is a song! In the King James Version the word 'deliver' is used three times.
verse 3: Surely he shall deliver thee
verse 14: therefore I will deliver him
verse 15: I will deliver him
These are beautiful verses especially when you look up the word 'deliver' in each verse. These three are actually different words!
verse 3 is natsal (Strongs#5337) meaning to snatch, take away or strip from
verse 14 is palats 3 (#6403) cause to escape
verse 15 is chatats 3 (#2502) draw off or out, withdraw
We certainly could get the message if it was the same word, but as workmen there are special joys when we dig a little deeper to mine the diverse gems of truth and let God take care of His own commentary!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Work the Works?

In John 6 after the record about the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus had left the scene and people started looking for him.  When they found him, he told them (John 6:26-29):
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed (link-sphragizo). Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
I know so many people who have asked that question"what shall we do, that we might work the works of God?" Jesus Christ's answer is still true today. He is the living focus, path, and reality to us in this age also.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Gen X,Y,Z? What about A,B,C?

Recently I was reading an article on the subject of  the generation gap and I wondered what the Bible says about it.

As a high school teacher, I was constantly faced with understanding 'generational issues'.  This not only had to do with students, but also with younger teachers as I grew older. I never labeled generations as X and Y, but I do recognize every generation has it's unique distinctions. I grew up in the 60's. The youth of that time had it's distinctive characteristics due to the culture at the time. Every age has it's uniqueness and its contributions. They are not all the same.

 There are those who love to magnify generational differences and rationalize differences in corporate circles. The world seems to credit older people with seasoning experience, younger people with energy and enthusiasm. I have known many older people who have enthusiasm and energy, and I have known many younger people with no energy and enthusiasm.  I have also met younger people who seem wise for their age and I have met older people that are not so wise. It isn't about age, it is about what we learn and continue to learn. I am still growing up in my 60's because growing up will never stop.

The Bible says it is Christ who strengthens us as we believe. The secret that God had hidden became available to us after the resurrection and is fully taught in the epistles written by Paul and it transcends all age groups, from the youngest child to the oldest elder.
Colossians 1:26-27 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
A, B, C cannot live without X, Y, and Z and the rest of the alphabet for that matter to make words that communicate whole thoughts. The same is true for each member of the family of God in working together to produce genuine results.  Respect for the Christ in each other regardless of age, sex, race or whatever else tries to split and separate the body of Christ is important. It is without these obstacles and divisions that we can truly continue to grow and learn and the outcome will be:
Psalm 145:4: One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

In The Bubble

Bubbles are so much fun; just ask any kid!  They love to chase them and try to catch them! They are so kinetic and pretty.

When I read God's Word  and retain it in my mind by believing, I feel like I'm walking around in one of those beautiful bubbles. It is the bubble that God provides us as he reveals himself to us.


In Romans 12:2, Paul writes:
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
It is the renewed mind that is the source of all power.  It is one thing to read the words on a page, but it is quite another thing to have the words on a page transform your mind.  God's Word is no ordinary book. God's heart is magnified to us as we read and understand the truth that pertain to our specific situations, properly applied. It is 'gold' to us and puts us in the zone!
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. (Proverbs 25:11)
The bubble is transparent, we can see through it. We don't walk around blind to life. The challenges of any day can be seen and can seem to press against the curve of the bubble, but we can stay within its boundaries in our minds to accomplish whatever we have to do.This bubble doesn't have to pop! The renewed mind is not a 'grit your teeth and bear it' thing; it is living and acting in that deeper meaning of life, knowing and trusting the God that truly loves us.  It is really kinetic and pretty! That is when our life bubbles over to others.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Holding the Head

In light of the current news hype and dismal proclamations, it is a temptation to be drawn into the melancholy and frustration of the times. It is apparent that everyone seems to have the answer, but at best things seem unyielding, full of contention with constant striving and politico.
Thank God for for the book of Colossians! It is a 'seated in the heavenlies' view of real life and keeps our focus in the right place so that we don't get pulled off of our perch and into the muck. God warns us in Colossians 2 about several things.
Colossians 2:6-10 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit (link - apate), after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead (spiritual nature of God) bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
We are complete in him and he is the head and we 'hold' the head.
Colossians 2:18-19 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. 
E. W. Bullinger in his A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament  defines the word 'holding':
krateo - to be strong, powerful; to have power or rule over; to have and to hold in one's power, to be master of, and so, to hold, hold fast, to attain and maintain power over.
Thayer and Smith define 'krateo' as:
to have power, be powerful, to be chief, be master of, to rule, to get possession of, to become master of, to obtain, to take hold of, to take hold of, take, seize, to lay hands on one in order to get him into one's power, to hold, to hold in the hand,to hold fast, i.e. not discard or let go, to keep carefully and faithfully, to continue to hold, to retain, of death continuing to hold one, to hold in check, restrain.  
The head sits on top of the body. The body elevates the head. It is an interesting analogy and a nice 'holding pattern'.
Jesus Christ is alive today and at the right hand of God. We are part of a time in history where we are part of the body of Christ and Jesus Christ is the head. God set it up that way. It is a great way to be nourished, knit together and increased with the increase of God. In confusion and frustration we have peace and live above the fray because of what God has given us. That's plenty to be thankful about!

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend and we got to talking about respect and the current culture. He made a statement to me t...