Thursday, July 5, 2018

I was thinking today that we call ourselves Americans. 

Do Mexicans call themselves Americans? Do Canadians? Because technically, they are also Americans — they live in North America.

And so we in the United States should not be laying sole claim to the name American. 

If people in Mexico are Mexicans, should we be Statesans?
If people in Canada are Canadians, should we be Statesians?
If people in Great Britain are British, should we be Statish?
If people in France are French, should we be Stench? (Oh, that took a wrong turn.)

My point is are we calling ourselves what we truly are? 

Or do we pick a category with which to define ourself?

Nationally: American, Russian, Korean, …?
Economically: rich or poor?
Politically: Democrat or Republican or other?
Occupationally: Doctor, teacher, lawyer, cook, …?
Personality: Extrovert or introvert?
Racially: Black, white, brown, …?
Religiously: Christian, Muslim, Jew, Agnostic…?
Socially: Shy, gregarious, ….?

When we define ourself by a category we place ourself within a group that is in contrast to another group. 

What if we all just chose the group “human” and then became the best human we could be?

Human: One capable of great thinking and creativity. One who can push themselves physically to accomplish more than they have ever done before. One made up of body, soul, and spirit. One capable of amazing good and yet often makes many mistakes. One who can reach great heights but sometimes falls to extreme lows. A creature who can “be” and “do.” One with a huge capacity for grace, love, and forgiveness. 

Yep, that’s my new answer. Who are you? 

I’m human.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Romans 5:12-21 Sin vs Righteousness

Read Romans 12-21.

Paul repeats several times in this passage in various ways this one phrase:

"For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!" Romans 5:15

Through one man, Adam, sin and the consequence of death came to reign in man. We live with that reality daily. We see sin constantly on the news, in our workplace, in our homes, and in our own heart. You can't escape sin because all people are born with a sin nature.

HOWEVER, through one man, Jesus Christ, we have the gift of righteousness. All people have this gift. But as with any gift, you must choose to receive it -- incorporate it into your life. Righteousness is not a natural occurrence in mankind now since sin entered the world through Adam. It is lived out only through Jesus Christ. And it is a daily decision.

Are we living in the righteousness we have received or toying with the old sinful nature. Look to Jesus. I was reading Oswald Chambers last night, and he was talking about we don't need to seek salvation or sanctification. We need to seek Jesus. He is all we need.

Share Jesus with someone today. He has a gift for someone you know. His love, power, and righteousness will conquer all. We only need to receive Him.

Father, thank you for the gift of Jesus Christ and the righteousness He brings to overcome sin and death. Give me opportunities today to share that gift of Jesus with others who need Him so desperately. So be it.

Further Thoughts:

  1. Who do you live with or work with or see every day who still needs to know about Jesus?
  2. To whom are you paying homage with your life - Adam in sin or Jesus in righteousness? 
  3. How do we remain focused on the gift of Christ?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Romans 5:9-11 An End to the Hostilities

9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! 10 For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Romans 5:9-11

Reconciled means "to put an end to hostility." Have you ever thought of yourself before you received Christ as being hostile toward God? That's a very strong word. Hostile means "unfriendly, antagonistic." Some synonyms for hostile are "unkind, bitter, unsympathetic, malicious, vicious, rancorous, venomous, poisonous, virulent." Wow, that escalated quickly - from unkind to virulent. 

That's how we were toward God - virulent. I think of all the hostilities occurring around the world - civil wars, terrorists, hatred between different people groups, rebellion - and that is how I was behaving toward God. That truly grieves my heart.

But through Jesus Christ, that is over. I am now in right relationship with Him. I am not working against Him but with Him. I am not His opponent, but His ally -- all because of Christ's sacrifice and my acceptance of that gift. Such a profound act on His part, such a simple one for me. Accept. If only all hostilities could end that quickly. I guess they could if someone was willing to make the sacrifice first. 

And He did -- He is the One who brought peace, eternal peace into my life.

You know what's interesting -- even when I lived in hostility toward God, He was loving me all the time. Amazing.

Father, thank you for your love. Thank you for your sacrifice. Forgive me for my hostile heart toward you. The war is over. May my life forever be a shadow of the love you showed me. So be it.

Further Thoughts:
  1. Reflect on how you lived in hostility toward God and give thanks for His love through it.
  2. How does being reconciled to God change how you live?
  3. Who do you know who needs to hear about God's amazing love and gift of reconciliation?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Romans 5:6-8 We Didn't Deserve It

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8 NIV

We recently celebrated Veteran's Day. What a wonderful time to recognize all the men and women who have served our country past and present. These people left home, risked their lives, multitudes giving their life so we could live free and safe here in the United States. Sometimes that thought simply overwhelms me to stillness. I am so grateful for what they have done and are still doing.

But I didn't deserve their sacrifice.

They don't know me. They don't know if I am a good person who should have a safe place to live free. For all they know they sacrificed for the worst human being in the history of mankind. 

That's what Jesus did. He sacrificed his life even though I nor anyone else deserve it. In fact, we don't deserve it because we had turned away from our God and followed our own ways. But He did it anyway. 

And His sacrifice wasn't for safety or freedom for my body. It was for eternal freedom from condemnation and the promise of eternity with my Lord. 

If the sacrifice of warriors moves me to stillness, I am paralyzed by the realization of my Lord's sacrifice for my very soul.

Father, the sacrifice of your Son is nothing that should have been done for me. Forgive me for taking that gift for granted. Help me to share His sacrifice with others so they too can live in the true freedom of the soul. So be it.

Further Thoughts:
  1. How has your life been transformed by Christ's sacrifice for you? Reflect on how far you've come from that undeserving sinner.
  2. Read John 3:16 slowly and think about the full scope of its meaning.
  3. What hope do you have now and for the future because you made that decision to follow Christ?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Romans 5:2b-5 Hope and Sufferings and Hope….and Love

Read Romans 5:2b-5.

Since our faith is in Jesus Christ and that gives us hope - the hope of eternity with Him, the hope of His Spirit guiding us each and every day, the hope that He is in control, the hope that the Enemy does not win in the end and receives his punishment - then we can rejoice. We know our future and it is fantastic!

But for now, we suffer. Now there are varying levels of suffering and if you are looking here for an answer to that one, I do not have it. Jim and I always say we are blessed beyond what we deserve because we have not had to suffer much at all. Our difficulties have been light compared to what so many others have endured. Would I want to trade places with others less fortunate to diminish a sense of guilt over an "easier" life? Not really. Do I wish there was less suffering in the world? Absolutely! Some have brought the suffering on themselves by the choices they have made, but many have just had to endure living in a fallen world where suffering exists. And it will continue to exist and in fact get worse befor it gets better.

One of the hopes through suffering is as I stated above, it will not endure forever because we know one day the Enemy will be stopped. But that also may not happen in our lifetime. So we must persevere, but we do not do it alone.

Another hope in suffering is that God promises that He is molding and shaping us into the people He needs us to be to serve Him best. Isaiah 64:2 says:
"Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand."
There is so much hope in that there is truly a purpose to our life, even in our suffering. We are being made into a better version of ourself if we allow perseverance to grow within us….if we let that perseverance develop our character, and the person we are is then our hope to endure to the end faithful and committed to following our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Therefore, we can rejoice in our sufferings. Not because of them, but in them. For we know that we are not alone in this journey of suffering or health for God has "poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (vs 5)

The shaping and molding of our humble clay bodies through suffering is not enjoyable. Sometimes it comes with a pain we simply do not believe we can endure. But through the power of the presence of the Holy Spirit, we can. His love endures forever, and by His power, we can, too.

Father, suffering is a part of our life because we chose to rebel against You. Thank You, that even in the suffering there is joy and hope because You have a much bigger plan for us. Help us to persevere, grow in character and hope, and remain in the power of Your love. So be it.

Further Thoughts:

  1. Read Job and his encounter with suffering.
  2. How does positivity affect our outlook on our suffering? How do we remain positive in suffering?
  3. How can you give hope to those who are suffering more than you?

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Romans 5:1-2a Peace from War

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peacewith God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. Romans 5:1-2a NIV
I always start with the "therefore" because I need to know what it is "there for." The previous chapter talked about Abraham and his righteousness by nothing that he had done, but only by his faith. And that God will also credit righteousness for us who believe.

THEREFORE, we have peace through Jesus Christ because we have received grace through faith.

Here is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary's full definition of peace.
1   :  a state of tranquillity or quiet: asa :  freedom from civil disturbance
b :  a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom (a breach of the peace)
2   :  freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions3   :  harmony in personal relations4   a :  a state or period of mutual concord between governments
     b :  a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity 
5 —used interjectionally to ask for silence or calm or as a greeting or farewell 
— at peace
:  in a state of concord or tranquillity
There are several areas that we can have peace - within ourselves, in our community, across personal relationships, within our government or between governments.

But let's look at the descriptors that occur in the definitions:

  • tranquility
  • quiet
  • freedom
  • security
  • order
  • harmony
  • mutual accord
  • silence
  • calm

Don't you just take a deep breath, let our a loud sigh, and your entire body relaxes when you read these words? Mine does. Just reading the description of peace brings a feeling of peace to my spirit. And I appreciate that, but the peace we obtain through salvation is so much more.

I love the NIV footnote in the study Bible for 5:1:
"peace with God.  Not merely a subjective feeling (peace of mind) but primarily an objective status, a new relationship with God: Once we were his enemies, but now we are his friends."

You see, when I first read through the definitions above, my mind started to discount any reference to war or enmity between two factions. But I was wrong. Before accepting the gift of salvation, I had been at war with God. My life, actions, view of myself, view of others, etc. were all centered within me. My focus was how will I benefit, how will I be hurt, what will this gain me? That life philosophy was in direct opposition to a life surrendered to the Father. So I had made Him my enemy and was warring against Him.

But no more. There is peace from that battle. He is the ruling Master and I, His servant. And that fact not only brings a respite from war, but a tremendous feeling of peace that comes from the surety of His presence and control. Do I still go through times of turmoil, confusion, upheaval? Of course. I'm human, and I live in a fallen world.

But here's the cool thing. Even when I am in the midst of uncertainty, if I take the time to go to my Father, spend time with Him - pour out my heart to Him - read His Word, then I am in the Presence of peace and feel peace even in the midst of the storm. It's like sitting for a time in the eye of a hurricane and then being embraced in concrete when the calm passes and the storm hits again. I can withstand the wind and the rain because I have remembered Who is in charge and Who is my protector in the storm. That is peace.

Father, thank you for the peace of surrender to Your will and Your ways. Holy Spirit, help me remember to remain close to that peace in the storms. You are my fortress of peace. So be it.

Further Thoughts:

  1. Give thanks to the Father for the peace that has come through salvation. You are no longer at war.
  2. List the ways being at peace with God has transformed your life.
  3. Read Philippians 4:7.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Romans 4 Fully Persuaded

Read Romans 4

3 What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." NIV
The power of God counting someone as righteous! As David is quoted as saying in verse 8, "Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him." That is righteousness. Our sin is gone as far as the east is from the west, and God remembers it against us no more. What amazing mercy and grace is demonstrated in counting someone as righteous. 

Because you understand, Abraham had done nothing but go where God had sent him when this statement was made about Abraham in Genesis 15:6. Abraham's righteousness even came before the act of circumcision. And this was way before he was willing to sacrifice his son on an altar. Abraham's "belief" was in God's promise that he would be the father of many nations even though he was old and childless. He simply trusted in the power of the Almighty to do as He said He would do. 

I love what it says about Abraham in verse 20:
20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. NIV

It begs the question, am I fully persuaded? And I don't mean in whether God has the power or not. I believe He does. Nor if He will keep His promises. I believe He will. To do otherwise would go against His nature, and He doesn't do that.

But to truly be fully persuaded would mean to live each day completely dedicated to Him and His mission. Am I doing that? Am I living in love for others each day? Am I devoted to study of the Word and prayer? Am I helping the poor, the widows, and the orphans? Do I truly care that people are going to hell? These are the thoughts that make me question if I am living FULLY PERSUADED. I suppose I don't waver in believing in who God is. I waver in believing in who I am in the full scheme of things. Do you?

I know the enemy works very hard to confuse us and to discourage us in our walk as believers in God. Doubt is one of his favorite tools of deception. So I suppose when I am feeling this way, I say:
1. I believe I am loved by God.
2. I believe I am made righteous by belief in His Son's sacrifice.
3. I am fully persuaded that He is able to do all He says He will do.
4. I am His child, a co-heir with Christ, and will walk in His love and by the power of His Holy Spirit.
5. I will do whatever He calls me to do.

This is my creed, and I choose to walk in it today.

Father, thank you for righteousness and that you loved us so much as to make that path even possible. Deliver me from the enemy's lies, and guide me to live out Your love each and every day - living fully persuaded. So be it.

Further Thoughts:

  1. What do you do to combat the feelings of not be fully persuaded?
  2. Read Hebrews 11 about all those who demonstrated faith in amazing ways. 
  3. What is challenging your faith? Write your creed and speak it out loud.