Monday, December 30, 2013

His Path Our Path

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13–14, NASB95) 

Nearly a hundred years ago Robert Frost wrote the poem, “The Road Less Taken.” It spoke of a choice between two roads diverging in a yellow wood with equal freedom to travel either one. He stood there and considered his options, looking as far as he could down the roads trying to determine which one proved most promising. In making his choice he selected the one less traveled by with the thought that he would likely never come back to this point because life has a way of leading from one path to another. The poem ends with, “I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence: two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

There are so many times in our lives that we might be tempted to ask, “What if?” Robert Frost recognized in looking at those two paths that the ‘what if’s’ of life are typically not an option for us. Our lives are so comingled with others and all of the various life events that there is no way to untangle them in order to go back and start again. Rather, the question is what are we going to do with the paths that are before us right now, and what or who is going to guide our decisions? Where are we going to place our hope regardless of what that path may look like? And, how are we going to travel that path once we select it? There are probably a large number of other related questions, but the general idea is that life is not to be relived, but lived.

The Bible has so much to say about God and His direction of our steps, including how He lights our paths, how He brings us through the dark valleys (Psalm 23), and how He provides for us along the way. It speaks of how we order our priorities, how we interact with others along the way, and where that path ultimately leads.

I began with the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 7, where He spoke of two ways or paths that people travel. There is the broad one that is widely traveled which leads to destruction and the one that is narrow leading to life. As we look around us we see so many different theologies or religions or even lack of them out there. But the Bible tells us that all of these lead to destruction. There are the simple yet powerful verses of the Bible which declare that there is not a single one of us who is righteous (Romans 3:10), that all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and that the wages or just due for that sin and unrighteousness is death or destruction (Romans 6:23). This is the wide path; the path that says that what we do matters and we can do it if we try. But its deception is that the end is disappointment and death.

But the narrow path says that there is nothing we could do on our own to make our path straight and our salvation certain. In Proverbs 3:5 and 6 we are told that if we place our trust in God that He will make our paths straight. Something that we cannot do on our own, God does for us if we trust Him.

In Acts 16 the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved, and in verse 31 they replied, “They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31, NASB95) Then they spoke the word of God to him and all who were in the house and they were saved. At that moment the jailer and the rest in his house who believed chose a path that set them straight for eternity. They did nothing to earn it, and to be honest, they likely did not go to sleep that night wondering about it. But when the ground shook and they were presented with the message of salvation they believed and the path they began was settled forever. And this path does ends in life and fulfillment.

“and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” … “just as it is written, “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”” (Romans 5:5-5; 9:33, NASB95)

For them, and all who have placed their trust in God for salvation before and since, our lives instantly became intertwined with God’s Son and indwelled by His Spirit. We have been given His Word to be a lamp to our feet and a light on our path (Psalm 119:105). This does not mean that what we are to do will always be obvious, and there are times when it will likely be very difficult, but our God has promised to be our strength and our help and even to give us His wisdom. There are days when we might not see the next stepping stone, let alone the next bend in the road, and it is even here that God has promised to enclose us before and behind, having His hand on us, and never leaving us alone.

“O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways.” … “My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” (Psalm 139:1-3, 15–16, NASB95)

In those days cry out to God as the psalmist, “Make me know Your ways, O LORD; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day.” (Psalm 25:4–5, NASB95)

And as we know His presence and His leading and even as we wait on Him with assurance we can praise Him. “You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” (Psalm 16:11, NASB95)

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5–6, NASB95)

God has called us with a purpose, and that includes continually looking to Him and following Him in worshipful service. Paul said in Romans that the only reasonable thing we can do in response is to give ourselves fully back to Him in that way. In Hebrews 12:1-2 we read, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1–2, NASB95)

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (12/30)

I am leading you along a way that is uniquely right for you. The closer to Me you grow, the more fully you become your true self—the one I designed you to be. Because you are one of a kind, the path you are traveling with Me diverges increasingly from that of other people. However, in My mysterious wisdom and ways, I enable you to follow this solitary path while staying in close contact with others. In fact, the more completely you devote yourself to Me, the more freely you can love people.

Marvel at the beauty of a life intertwined with My Presence. Rejoice as we journey together in intimate communion. Enjoy the adventure of finding yourself through losing yourself in Me.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NASB95)

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, NASB95)

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7–8, NASB95)

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4, NASB95)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Trusting When the Waves Pound

“The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice, the floods lift up their pounding waves. More than the sounds of many waters, than the mighty breakers of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty.” (Psalm 93:3–4, NASB95)

Walking in the aftermath of the passing of a loved one or some other traumatic event in some ways can be like getting hit by a rogue wave while walking on the beach. Initially it may seem like a constant storm, but as time passes the storm gives way to healing and adjustment. There then becomes a certain amount of ebb and flow that happens during our days as we move further away from the incident in both time and healing. But even in the increased adjustment there will likely be those moments when a wave of emotion crashes in and you are reminded of your loved one or the way things once were.

These moments demonstrate the ties we have in our lives and how important they are to us. This is true of our relational ties to our parents, spouses, children, and close friends. It is also true of our ties to our health and physical prowess or our ability to work and provide or be provided for. There are no clean lines of separation in any of these because so much of what we do is woven throughout the lives of others and our activities. Any significant change to one has an impact on the others.

The question then becomes, “How will we adjust to the daily walking and then to those heightened moments when the waves hit hard?” And the answer for both has to do with our trust in God and the hope we have in Him. If we trust Him and look to Him in the daily routines, it becomes more and more likely that we also will look to Him with greater confidence in those more intense moments.

I remember lots of days of walking and bouncing in the break water at the beach as I played in the water. Most of the time I found that I had firm ground under me. But occasionally the water would come in a little harder and I would be knocked off my feet, maybe even stumbling. After possibly floundering a bit I would get my feet back under me and continue with my fun (actually it made it more fun). Sometimes, however, I might have been in a little deeper when losing my balance and I had to figure out real quick which way was up. Again, it was a matter of finding the bottom and replanting my feet. As I moved out further and the water would get over my head and I was no longer in contact with the bottom, but treading water, even then if I got disoriented it was still a matter of keeping calm, figuring out which way was up, and then moving in that direction. And of course, as a young person I would spit out the water and do it all over. The thing that made this so acceptable was first of all that I knew up from down and secondly that I knew how to navigate between them (learning to swim and paying attention to my surroundings).

Life as a Christian is intended to be lived with our eyes firmly on God and trusting Him no matter what may be going on around us. It is also intended that we do this as people who hide His word in our hearts, learning His statutes and ordinances, and growing in wisdom which He freely gives. Our God loves us so incredibly much and He gives us what we need to navigate this period of time between trusting Him for our salvation and hope and that time when our hope will be fully realized and salvation results in glorification.

“Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for You are my praise.” (Jeremiah 17:14, NASB95)

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7–8, NASB95)

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (12/29)

Trust Me with every fiber of your being! What I can accomplish in and through you is proportional to how much you depend on Me. One aspect of this is the degree to which you trust Me in a crisis or major decision. Some people fail miserably here, while others are at their best in tough times. Another aspect is even more telling: the constancy of your trust in Me. People who rely on Me in the midst of adversity may forget about Me when life is flowing smoothly. Difficult times can jolt you into awareness of your need for Me, whereas smooth sailing can lull you into the stupor of self-sufficiency.

I care as much about you tiny trust-steps through daily life as about your dramatic leaps of faith. You may think that no one notices, but the One who is always beside you sees everything—and rejoices. Consistently trusting in Me is vital to flourishing in My Presence.

“How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust, and has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.” (Psalm 40:4, NASB95)

“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?” (Psalm 56:3–4, NASB95)

“Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.” (Psalm 62:8, NASB95)

“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. “Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock.” (Isaiah 26:3–4, NASB95)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Content and Not Complacent

“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.” (Philippians 4:10–14, NASB95)

The apostle Paul is such an encouragement to people who struggle with the issues of life—goals, planning, and provision. He went through a lot and he was open in sharing those struggles with us so that we would also be encouraged and also that we might have examples of how to respond to our own struggles as well as how to help others. This passage in Philippians is one often quoted when the issue of contentment comes up, and for good reason.

Paul served as a missionary and as such he traveled devoting most of his time to ministry. As a consequence there were long periods of time when he was unable to provide for his own needs or the expense of his travel. Yet he also was committed to not being a burden on those to whom he was sent. This meant that he at times would do other work on the side (as a tentmaker) or that other believers would provide his support. He had times when the support was plentiful and he had times when the support was lacking. He also had times when the road was positively responsive and other times when people would respond with hatred and even harm. He found times when the doors were opened for effective ministry and other times when the ministry was done in confinement. Paul endured a wide spectrum of things is his following after God, and in all of them he refers to the ability to do that as having learned a secret, and that secret was that he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him.

This past year and a half we, like many we know, have experienced the process of learning anew this same secret through some difficult life changes. And like Paul, we even experienced being encouraged as our year closed with a group of hearts being moved in their concern for us which touched us greatly. And while we don’t know specifically who to thank, we know that the ultimate praise and thankfulness needed to be directed to God who provided for Paul and for all who have called upon His name through the ages.

Paul learned contentment as he sought after God whether God was moving him or keeping him in chains. There is another word which can be sometimes be a thin line in relation to contentment, and that is the word complacent. While contentment is the ability to be at peace in all circumstances, complacency has more to do with not really caring about the circumstances and maybe even giving little thought to any change in direction. Often times it can be a subtle slide from contentment to complacency when time marches on and things don’t change.

It is here that we need to make sure that our hope remains in God, that our eyes remain firmly on Him, and that we are seeking and trusting Him to direct our steps as we move. And if in the moving, He tells us to keep waiting, then we need to trust Him in that as well. But it may also mean stepping out at times into unknown areas in order to see what He does. Paul prayed that he might have doors opened for him for effective ministry, and then he prayerfully stepped out. I wish there was an easy 1-2-3 answer for knowing the will of God, but I can’t think of one other than continuing to read His Word, pray, ask, and wisely combine stepping out and waiting—seeing what God does in the process.

As we near the end of another year with God, it is my hope and prayer that we would all know His love, hope, and peace for the days and events ahead.

“For You are my lamp, O Lord; and the Lord illumines my darkness.” (2 Samuel 22:29, NASB95)

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (12/27)

I am preparing you for what is on the road ahead, just around the bend. Take time to be still in My Presence so that I can strengthen you. The busier you become, the more you need this time apart with Me. So many people think that time spent with me is a luxury they cannot afford. As a result, they live and work in their own strength—until that becomes depleted. Then they either cry out to Me for help or turn away in bitterness.

How much better it is to walk close to Me, depending on My strength and trusting me in every situation. If you live in this way, you will do less but accomplish far more. Your unhurried pace of living will stand out in this rush-crazed age. Some people may deem you lazy, but many more will be blessed by your peacefulness. Walk in the Light with Me, and you will reflect me to the watching world.

“For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, nor has the eye seen a God besides You, who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.” (Isaiah 64:4, NASB95)

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NASB95)

“For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.” (Psalm 36:9, NASB95) 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Suddenly There Appeared

“And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.””

I got up this morning thinking about the mixing of the secular and the sacred that are brought together in a night of expectation and joy. Both of them are thought of to one degree or another in a sudden appearance. For those who look to celebrations and fun of Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas there is the poem by Clement Clarke Moore, “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” and the stories of the expectant coming of a jolly man in a red and white suit bringing gifts to all.

“'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

“The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads. And Mama in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap, had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap.

“When out on the roof there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutter, and threw up the sash.

“The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the lustre of midday to objects below, when, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.

“With a little old driver, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick. More rapid than eagles, his coursers they came, and he whistled and shouted and called them by name:

““Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen! To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall! Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

“As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky so up to the house-top the coursers they flew, with the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

“And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof the prancing and pawing of each little hoof. As I drew in my head and was turning around, down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

“He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot. A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

“His eyes--how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, and the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.

“The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath. He had a broad face and a little round belly, that shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.

“He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself. A wink of his eye and a twist of his head soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

“He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, and filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk. And laying his finger aside of his nose, and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

“He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, And away they all flew like the down of a thistle. But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”“

This story properly told is filled with excitement and expectation. It paints a picture of a great event and proclaims a message of happiness to all. Yet eighteen hundred years earlier there was a greater delivery made, one that intended more than seasonal happiness and good wishes, but promised real joy and enduring peace to all. Luke records this for us in the following way:

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

“In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

““Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

“When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.” (Luke 2:7–20, NASB95)

Our kids love Christmas and what comes with it. It is my hope that we would always treasure the greater gift given to us—the gift of a Savior born and laid in a manger yet risen again to be the Lord of lords and the King of kings. There is so much more to Christmas than just a holiday. It truly represents the remembrance of a holy day when the angels proclaimed the birth of our “Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Truly we can proclaim with them, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (12/24)

  I speak to you from the depths of eternity. Before the world was formed, I AM! You hear Me in the depths of your being, where I have taken up residence. I am Christ in you, the hope of Glory. I, your Lord and Savior, am alive within you. Learn to tune in to My living Presence by seeking Me in silence.

As you celebrate the wonder of My birth in Bethlehem, celebrate also your rebirth into eternal life. This everlasting gift was the sole purpose of My entering your sin-stained world. Receive My gift with awe and humility. Take time to explore the vast dimensions of My Love. Allow thankfulness to flow freely from your heart in response to My glorious gift. Let My Peace rule in your heart, and be thankful.

“Before the mountains were born Or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” (Psalm 90:2, NASB95)

“to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27, NASB95)

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15, NASB95)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Fully God - Fully Man

“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4–5, NASB95) 

This time of year we hear quite a bit about the ‘incarnation’ of Jesus. It is in our hymns, our sermons, and even in our speech. But what does it mean for Christ to be God incarnate? In its most basic form it simply means to take on earthly form, and this is what Jesus did for us when He was born of a virgin. The long awaited Savior of mankind became man to pay the penalty for our sins. But is there more to it? Clearly we see in Scripture that Jesus willingly laid down His life and He had the power to take it up again. We see in Scripture that He knew things that someone simply man would not know. He had power to heal and to even bring back life. He told us that He and the Father are One and that They are One with the Spirit-the Trinity.

No, God incarnate is not merely man. But then, is He always God and if so then was there ever really any temptation to sin or anything else that we might consider normal to man? The Bible teaches us that Jesus is, has been and always will be God. He cannot alienate Himself from who He is. It also teaches us that He is man and that He endured hardships as man and lived victoriously as man.

Somehow we just have to accept that both of these are true. Our Savior and Lord is fully God and fully man, not an enhancing or even minimizing of one or the other. There is a theological term for this—hypostatic union. Moody’s Bible Handbook explains it as “a theological expression that refers to the dual nature of Christ. God the Son took to Himself a human nature, and He remains forever true God and true man—two natures in one Person forever. The two natures remain distinct without any intermingling; but they nevertheless compose one Person, Christ the God-Man.” John MacArthur in answering a question in “Grace To You” wrote, “The theological term "hypostatic union" has its origins in the Council of Chalcedon and emphasizes that Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man at the same time. It is used to affirm the union of Jesus' divine and human natures in one person--that Jesus Christ is perfectly God and perfectly man. Or, as theologians say, He is consubstantial with God as to His deity and with mankind as to His humanity.”

I tried to think of analogies, such as oil and vinegar, but not one of them holds up to scrutiny. For the oil will always be oil and the water, water. They can be blended for a brief time to make a nice dressing, but then they separate again and they can also even be fully separated at any time in the future. Jesus represents both fully, distinctly, and permanently. For me it is simple to grasp though I might not understand it, because in grasping it has to do with me trusting God and the truth of His Word. Understanding is something that He grants through the study of His Word and the illumination of that Word by His Spirit. Some mysteries belong to Him and some are revealed to us, even in varying degrees.

In an effort to clarify confusion of teachings on the nature of Christ, in A.D. 451, a large church council in the city of Chalcedon formulated the following establishing an accurate theological statement concerning the person and nature of Christ: (source:

“We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [coessential, of the same substance] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the God-bearer, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeable, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God, the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has been handed down to us.”

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” … “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-3,14, NASB95) 

Christmas is an incredible time in many ways, and one of them is the abundance of songs written and sung about our God and His love for us. Scripture tells us how to respond to the great salvation given to us through the Son of God. We are to bow in worship and praise and to go out in service and obedience. Jesus not only is our God whom we worship, but He personally taught and showed us how to live for Him.

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5–11, NASB95)

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (12/23)

I am King of kings and Lord of lords, dwelling in dazzling bright Light! I am also your Shepherd, Companion, and Friend—the One who never lets go of your hand. Worship Me in My holy Majesty; come close to Me, and rest in My Presence. You need Me both as God and as Man. Only My Incarnation on that first, long-ago Christmas could fulfill your neediness. Since I went to such extreme measures to save you from your sins, you can be assured that I will graciously give you all you need.

Nurture well your trust in Me as Savior, Lord, and Friend. I have held back nothing in My provision for you. I have even deigned to live within you! Rejoice in all that I have done for you, and My Light will shine through you into the world.

“which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.” (1 Timothy 6:15–16, NASB95)

“Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice,” (Psalm 95:6–7, NASB95)

“So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:19, NASB95)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

He will Act

“Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.” (Psalm 37:3–5, ESV)

I remember traveling and coming up to a train track to be stopped by a train, a long, long, very long train. As I sat there counting cars I would get confused about exactly how many I had counted because the train just kept going and going. Others times I’ve tried to limit myself to how long I would wait on something by counting to some out of the blue number, which often gets stretched or doubled because at the end the person or thing I was waiting on still had not come. I’ve also gone hunting and fishing and bargained with God about what how appreciative I’d be if He just brought that one thing I had been out searching for. There are so many things in our lives that we wait on, and among them there are probably countless ones over which we have no control over the manner or the timing of their resolution or whether or not the path would be altered or even blocked.

All of these are indicative of our desire to plan our days and our ways and our hope that they go as we intend. This can be done apart from seeking God and we can even do this to varying degrees in our walk with God. We are wired to have expectations and to look forward in hope. It is also part of our makeup to be disappointed when those expectations are not met and our hopes are frustrated. We expect when we start something that we will be able to see it to a successful end.

This is a great tension with which we live, a tension between waiting with our own desires and trusting God to shape and provide for His desires for us.  Scripture tells us to trust in the Lord, to delight ourselves in Him, to commit our ways to Him—and He will give us the desires of our hearts. Yes, He will act. As we look at Psalm 37 we see where our seeking after God and finding our joy in Him brings us to a point where we also enjoy seeing our heart’s desires met as He acts. Somehow even our disappointments in this process are a part of Him working to grant those desires, and even shaping those desires in ways that we might not have ever imagined.

I know many believers who are struggling with issues in their lives right now, whether it is the loss of a loved one, the imminent losing of a loved one, the loss of a job, or some other significant struggle. It would be so easy for any of these people to cry out to God and ask Him just what he is doing. This is not happening the way we wanted it, nor is probably the thing happening something we would have wanted. It would be so easy to question God’s goodness or even our sinfulness and subsequent rejection.

But to do either of these is to neglect the most important part of Psalm 37 and the rest of Scripture, which is to set our eyes fully on God and in worship trust Him to do His perfect good in our lives. James tells us to consider it all joy when we encounter various trials. This is not because hardship is fun, but because it is through that very hardship that God shows Himself most faithful and loving to us, that He grows us and gives us the ability to endure even more leading to our full maturity.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2–4, NASB95)

Clearly we don’t know everything. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, or for that matter what the next hour might hold though we might often make good guesses based upon our actions and past consistencies. But the reality is that all of this can change in a minute, and in that we can do nothing but trust our good God who holds every minute in His loving and powerful hands.

“O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it.” (Psalm 139:1–6, NASB95)

Psalm 119 is an incredible psalm about God’s active character and our submissive, trusting, and obedient response, even showing how these go hand in hand with each other.

“The Lord is my portion; I promise to keep your words. I entreat your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise. When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies; I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments. Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law. At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules. I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts. The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes! You have dealt well with your servant, O Lord, according to your word. Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.” (Psalm 119:57–68, ESV)

God really does know what He is doing with each and every single one of us, and we can know that on those days and in those seasons where things look darkest to us, when the mountains look most steep and unsurmountable, when pressures are weighing heavy on us and time is pressing us in that God is at work—He will act.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (12/21)

My plan for your life is unfolding before you. Sometimes the road you are traveling seems blocked, or it opens up so painfully slowly that you must hold yourself back. Then, when time is right, the way before you suddenly clears—through no effort of your own. What you have longed for and worked for I present to you freely, as pure gift. You feel awed by the ease with which I operate in the world, and you glimpse My Power and My Glory.

Do not fear your weaknesses, for it is the stage on which My Power and Glory perform most brilliantly. As you persevere along the path I have prepared for you, depending on My strength to sustain you, expect to see miracles—and you will. Miracles are not always visible to the naked eye, but those who live by faith can see them clearly. Living by faith, rather than by sight, enables you to see My Glory.

“for we walk by faith, not by sight—” (2 Corinthians 5:7, NASB95)

“Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”” (John 11:40, NASB95)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Productive Distractions

“Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.” (Proverbs 4:25–26, NASB95)

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33, NASB95)

Many years ago I used a term when teaching time management to commissioned sales people whose days were flexible and varied. The term was “productive procrastination,” and it was used to refer to those little often unnecessary things that we do in order to avoid the other more necessary things. I am a time management and to-do list kind of kind of person. When I wore a watch it was one that had an analog (dial with hands) face so that I could look at its pie-like dial and slice my day up into its various pieces.

On one side of doing this there was a tendency toward rigidity, but on the other side there was an awareness of the time I had available and the things I had scheduled to do. This provided me with an ability to get through my day more productively, paying attention to the big things and not letting the little ones swallow up my time. It also provided another benefit which I really came to appreciate, which was the ability to adjust my day when something else came along that needed my attention. With this picture in my mind (and my Daytimer or whatever scheduler I was using at the time) I was quickly able to reassess what truly was most important and shed that which could be pushed away to a later, more convenient time. This included not letting the business of my schedule during those seasons to hinder what a friend of my told me I needed more of which was spontaneity. Yes, I even put that into my scheduler—planned spontaneity and I learned to practice it to varying degrees and at various times better than others.

Participating in productive procrastination, on the other hand, generally came about because there was no picture of the bigger things and how everything fit into the day, or because there was an unwillingness to focus on those bigger things and a subtle sense of feeling good by at least tackling the smaller less significant ones. This does not mean that one is exclusively good and the other is exclusively bad, but it does point to that tendency in most of us to wander unless we focus our attention.

Being extremely one way or the other around people who tend to be the opposite can generate friction at times. It can create friction between husbands and wives, but it can also create friction in our walk with God. Being to the point and task oriented can lead to us to a what we have to get done focus in such a way that we even approach God as another thing to get accomplished and checked off of our list. Being unscheduled and meandering can also lead to wandering in our time with Him and even not spending time with Him because it is not gotten around to because we did not make Him a priority in our lives.

I’ve lived most of my life in the first area spoken about, but I’ve also lived seasons in the later. In both of them I’ve been challenged to combine both diligence and fluidity in seeking Him, reading His Word and hiding it in my heart, meditating on Him and His Word throughout the day, and being sensitive to the leading of His Spirit. I am continuing to learn how to practice living in His presence in the midst of whatever might be going on in my life, of learning to look to Him and depend on Him when I am busy and learning to come before Him and trust Him when I am not. I’ve learned and continue to learn anew that what I thought was mine is really His, and it is imperative that I seek His leading in all things.

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25–34, NASB95)

“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice,” (Psalm 95:1–7, ESV)

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (12/19)

Do not be weighed down by the clutter in your life: lots of little chores to do sometime, in no particular order. If you focus too much on these petty tasks, trying to get them all out of the way, you will discover that they are endless. They can eat up as much time as you devote to them.

Instead of trying to do all your chores at once, choose the ones that need to be done today. Let the rest slip into the background of your mind, so I can be in the forefront of your awareness. Remember that your ultimate goal is living close to Me, being responsive to My initiatives. I can communicate with you most readily when your mind is uncluttered and turned toward me. Seek My face continually throughout this day. Let My Presence bring order to your thoughts, infusing Peace into your entire being.

“Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3, NASB95)

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33, NASB95)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Even Our New Normal is Temporal

“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, ESV)

I’ve heard the phrase “new normal” used a lot to refer to a significant change in someone’s life. Having an inquiring mind (a popular marketing term for a magazine in the 80’s) and wanting to know more of the history of the phrase, I went to the internet to look up any information on the source that I might find. According to many sources, it appears that the phrase was either coined or at least gained popularity when Mohamad El-Erian, the CEO of PIMCO (a large bond fund manager) in 2009 used it to describe a period of economic malaise that the U.S. would experience in the wake of the biggest recession of a generation. The "new normal" was characterized by below trend growth, high unemployment, and ultra-low interest rates as the U.S. suffered the economic consequences of the crisis. Well, earlier this year El-Erian said that the “new normal” may soon be over, to which another analyst said we might be nearing “The Big Turn.” (source:

Personally I have been very uncomfortable with the phrase for a variety of reasons. While it may be based upon a somewhat new norm that people may be experiencing because of the loss of someone close, or a significant change in health, or maybe a change in financial condition. Clearly, when this phrase is used it is intended to refer to this change and the subsequent learning to live under the umbrella of that change.

Even as we can see from the originator of the phrase, that new normal was only a temporary one. It might have endured for six or so years, but it did not endure indefinitely. And the reality is that nothing we experience in this life is going to endure forever without significant change. Well, everything we know except God.

Last year one of my aunts died, and this weekend my uncle is getting remarried. He went through a very difficult season, but even in that season there was a changing of his heart and his ability to stand after the loss of his wife. And now, at least for him, there is a new joy in his life and a new expectation for the coming years. Sure, my aunt will always mark him with her love and the joy and commitment they shared for so many years and the wonderful children which they raised together and even the grandchildren which they got to know and enjoy. But with her passing things did not remain stagnant. There came healing and even hope in the days and months which followed. It is very normal for people to die. It happens to all of us. And it is very normal to mourn their loss and to have to adjust to life without that individual as unpleasant as that might be. But even here there is change which will occur over time.

With the loss of health there also comes change to lifestyle and continual adjustments to how we deal with those health issues. With the loss of a job there comes hardship, but there also comes the adjustments as new work is sought and life is tweaked. All of these might seem to point to things that were once normal now needing to be approached differently and even becoming somewhat normal in that difference. But with that, we also know that these changes are not the last ones we will make.

When people speak of their new normal, I am frequently reminded of their immediate loss but also led to reflect on the hope that comes for their future. Earlier I pointed to our God who does not change, and with His steadfastness there comes a dependence which we can have in Him for our future. As Christians there is so much that we have to look forward to, realizing in the light of eternity that even the most enduring change to normalcy here is only a drop in eternity. But we also can know that this drop in eternity has not missed our God’s attention. He knows every hair on our head. He knows our every thought. He knows when we stand up and when we sit down (Psalm 139). And He knows the plans which He has for us, plans not for our welfare and not calamity, but to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

I used to hear another phrase, “This too shall pass.” At one time I seem to remember a sermon that touched on it by pointing to a couple of polar issues. The first is that the worst that we can experience here is only temporary in nature, and it most certainly will pass either in this life or when we pass into eternity. The other is that even the best that we can experience here is only temporary in nature, and it most certainly will pass either in this life or when we pass into eternity. (I don’t remember the exact wording, so I made up my own in order to convey the idea.) This phrase, while portrayed as biblical, is not found in the Bible. It is inferred from 2 Corinthians 4, which is quoted above.

In the New Living Translation we read, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4:17–18, NLT)

This does not mean that we are to live in denial about our present struggle. Living in denial is to live as if none of this happens or matters or as if there is no hope for anything better. Living with hope means to recognize that what God is bringing us through now is a down payment on eternity. In the good we see His blessings and in the difficult we see His comfort and His strength. In all of them we know His faithfulness to bring us through and we look forward to each step of our lives in the direction of His presence—which is our hope for today founded in eternity.

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NASB95)

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (12/18)

When you are plagued by a persistent problem—one that goes on and on—view it as a rich opportunity. An ongoing problem is like a tutor who is always by your side. The learning possibilities are limited only by your willingness to be teachable. In faith, thank Me for your problem. Ask Me to open your eyes and your heart to all that I am accomplishing through this difficulty. Once you have become grateful for a problem, it loses its power to drag you down. On the contrary, your thankful attitude will lift you up into heavenly places with Me. From this perspective, your difficulty can be seen as a slight, temporary distress that is producing for you a transcendent Glory never to cease!

“Although the Lord has given you bread of privation and water of oppression, He, your Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher. Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.” (Isaiah 30:20–21, NASB95)

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,” (2 Corinthians 4:17, NASB95)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Filled and Flowing

“…be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;” (Ephesians 5:18–20, NASB95)

Recently when we had a major freeze in our area, one from which some are still trying to recover. I woke up to a brief flow of water from our shower head and then nothing. The water went away. It wasn’t flowing. Yet I did not ask where it went because I knew that it was still there, but something was preventing it from flowing through our pipes. So I got dressed and went out to the well, where there was no water pressure, indicating that something out there had frozen. I grabbed a heater and put it in the well house and waited. It wasn’t terribly long before we got our water back. The pipes were filled and we were blessed once again with their overflowing bounty. While we later had some other minor issues as the pipes thawed, we were only inconvenienced in minor ways as compared to some.

I think it fairly safe to say for all of us that there are times in our lives when maybe we feel empty like those pipes. There may be any number of reasons we feel this way. It may be because we’ve sinned and we need to deal with it before God. It may be because we’ve been looking at a looming problem or being weighed down by a significant loss. It may also be because we’ve let distance come between us and God in our walking with Him, looking to Him in prayer and daily trust, hiding His Word in our hearts, stepping out in service, and any number of other relational breakdowns. And it may be because we are in a desert season where we are simply called to keep trusting for that which we cannot see.

I can’t pretend to know all of the ways or reasons that we don’t sense God’s presence. But what I do know is the truth that God has not turned His back on us. He has not let loose of us from His hands. He has not altered His eternal purpose. And He is the same always present, forever good God Who created us and Who called us as His children to return everything back to Him in worshipful service. He is the same God who dwells in us through the Holy Spirit, Who empowers us to understand His truth, to grow in wisdom, and to step out in service.

We are guaranteed that God’s pump house will never freeze, and though we may not turn on the tap, we know that the full presence and power is there. In both the Old and New Testaments we see some pretty incredible things happen when people are “filled with the Holy Spirit.” The reality is that as believers in Jesus we cannot have any more or less of the Holy Spirit in us. The issue may be whether or not we walk by that power or we trust in our own feeble efforts or something else. I started with a quote from Ephesians 5 that began with “…”. The “…” said “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation [wastefulness], but” and then it went on to say, “be filled with the Spirit….”

For me, when I feel empty it is a fairly sure sign that I have taken my eyes off of God and that something is weighing me down. And when I feel this way, it is a great time for me to turn my attention to God, praying with thankfulness and resting in what I know to be true of Him. And while I may not instantaneously feel His presence, I know that He is there just as He always is and that He is good and faithful. I can trust Him in time to also warm my heart in incredible ways just as the heater warmed our pipes and brought fullness back to our lines.

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14–21, NASB95)

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (12/17)

Come to Me with your gaping emptiness, knowing that in Me you are complete. As you rest quietly in My Presence, My Light within you grows brighter and brighter. Facing the emptiness inside you is simply the prelude to being filled with My fullness. Therefore, rejoice on those days when you drag yourself out of bed, feeling sluggish and inadequate. Tell yourself that this is a perfect day to depend on Me in childlike trust. If you persevere in this dependence as you go through the day, you will discover at bedtime that Joy and Peace have become your companions. You may not realize at what point they joined you on your journey, but you will feel the beneficial effects of their presence. The perfect end to such a day is a doxology of gratitude. I am He from who all blessing flow!

“For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6, NASB95)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” … “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:3,6, NASB95)

“For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;” (Colossians 2:9–10, NASB95)

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 150:6, NASB95)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Wiping Away the Fog

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:12–13, NASB95)

Generally people live the greater part of their lives without any real thought of eternity and any real concern about what is held in store for them. It is when something happens that calls into question the love and security they experience here that many ask about what’s out there. The tension between living on here and passing into eternity is greater in some than others, and it is probably heightened or lessened on some days as opposed to others.

We are relational beings, and we build most of our lives around those relationships with much of our joy arising from the health of them. But when God calls us as one of His children and we place our trust in His Son, Jesus Christ, for our salvation we enter a whole new awareness. We become dual citizens of a sort. We remain on here in the lives He has granted us with all of the joys and blessing and all of the struggles and even hardships and losses. But we also become aware that there is hope beyond what we can see, and touch, and know. We learn about our God who loves us and who created us to know and love Him, and we learn that what we have here is only a shadow of the depth of love that we will know in His presence. It is pretty mind-boggling to grasp that we have a hope in heaven that will not disappoint and that can surpass our greatest joy here.

But at the same time, we are given the assurance and peace of knowing that God knows each one of us personally and He has individually numbered all of our days according to His plan written for us before there was even one day to our lives. We know that our God could have instantaneously snapped us out of here at the moment we were saved, but He chose to keep us here for so many reasons, of which He tells us some in His Word. And in doing this, He provided for us by giving us His Holy Spirit to indwell us and work in us amazing things and He gave us His church through whom He knits us together to speak to the world and be prepared as the bride for His Son.

As we look to the wonders of God and what He declares about Himself in His Word, we grow in our appreciation of Him and even in that glint in our eyes and the desire in our hearts to be with Him forever. And as we engage in the world, we are encouraged by the wondrous ways in which He works in and through us and others to show us Himself with flesh on. Our relationships here with His children (and even the cutest grand-children ever) point us toward a relationship that we one day will know in fullness. And our relationships here with those who don’t know Him remind us of the work that still needs to be done, that others might also come to know Him as we do. And the rough stuff reminds us of His constancy and His faithfulness.

Some days and some seasons are going to be more joy-filled than others and some come with greater brokenness and longing. This is the tension we know here and now, one which one day will be satisfied fully. But for now we are told to live with the hope of heaven in our hearts and an anchor for our souls.

Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20, NASB95)

“Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:6–8, NASB95)

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith,” (Philippians 1:21–25, NASB95)

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (12/15)

Your longing for heaven is good, because it is an extension of your yearning for Me. The hope of heaven is meant to strengthen and encourage you, filling you with wondrous Joy. Many Christians have misunderstood this word hope, believing that it denotes wishful thinking. Nothing could be farther from the truth! As soon as I became your ultimate destination. The phrase hope of heaven highlights the benefits you can enjoy even while remaining on earth. This hope keeps you spiritually alive during dark times of adversity; it brightens your path and heightens your awareness of My Presence. My desire is that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

“And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” (Romans 8:23–25, NASB95)

“so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 6:18–20, NASB95)

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13, NASB95)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Called as Holy

“to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:7, NASB95)

“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:” (1 Corinthians 1:2, NASB95)

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus:” (Ephesians 1:1, NASB95)

“Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons:” (Philippians 1:1, NASB95)

“To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.” (Colossians 1:2, NASB95)

Above are a sampling of Paul’s introductions to his letters. Notice that there is a common term that he uses in order to refer to his readers. He calls them “saints.” This term is not reserved for an elite or arrived group of people, but is used to refer to all of the believers to who Paul wrote. But the term “saints” in itself is not really what Paul calls them. The Greek word is ‘hagios’ which means ‘holy.’ In writing these letters, Paul refers to his readers as God’s holy ones, and this identity has everything to do with who they are in Christ.

Scripture declares there is not a single one of who are righteous (Romans 3:10) and that every one of us has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). So how is it that Paul can call holy those who are not righteous and who have fallen short of God’s glory? It’s simple! At the time of our salvation Christ’s righteousness was put on us as a free gift. “For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17, NASB95) This new identity is further expanded in the next several chapters of Romans, along with a consideration of the tension created concerning how we should live in response.

Scripture refers to us as “saints,” as God’s holy ones, and then it calls us to live according to who we are. Following are just some of the verses:

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”” (1 Peter 1:13–16, NASB95)

“So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind,” … “But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (Ephesians 4:17,20–24, NASB95)

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3:12–17, NASB95)

Paul summed up this response of worship in Romans 12:1-2, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 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 12:1–2, NASB95)

And should we ever get tempted to give up and say that we can’t do it, it is a good reminder to know that we didn’t do it in the first place. God saved us and declared us righteous based upon the righteousness of His own Son. And it is in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit that we are also enabled to live holy lives.

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” … “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,” (Romans 8:1-2,5-6, NASB95)

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” … “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16,25, NASB95)

Sarah goes on in her devotional reading for today to briefly discuss the meaning and impact of being ‘holy.’

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (12/13)

Take time to be holy. The word holy does not mean goody-goody; it means set apart for sacred use. That is what these quiet moments in My Presence are accomplishing within you. As you focus your mind and heart on Me, you are being transformed: re-created into the one I designed you to be. This process requires blocks of time set aside for communion with Me.

The benefits of this practice are limitless. Emotional and physical healing are enhanced by your soaking in the Light of My Presence. You experience a nearness to Me that strengthens your faith and fills you with Peace. You open yourself up to receive the many blessings that I have prepared for you, You become a cleansed temple of My Holy Spirit, who is able to do in and through you immeasurably more than you ask or imagine. These are just some of the benefits of being in My Presence.

“when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.” (2 Thessalonians 1:10, NASB95)

“One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4, NASB95)

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19, NASB95)

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,” (Ephesians 3:20, NASB95)