Goodbye Ordinary

I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us. Isaiah 63:7

A Lesson in Thankfulness June 9, 2014

Filed under: Bible Study,Faith — Lori @ 1:16 pm

 

ImageWe have been studying Ephesians in Sunday school.  That has always been one of my favorite books.  The first three chapters are a great exposition of the truth of the gospel and the foundation of our belief as a Christian.  The last three books are teaching us how to live out our lives based on the foundation of the first three chapters.  In other words, because these things are true – this is how I should live.

What is true:

Ephesians 1:3-10:  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Ephesians 2:1-10:  And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christby grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Those are some of my favorite verses!  What wonderful and inspiring truths there are for us.  These verses have everything to do with what Christ has accomplished and given to us.  Our only participation in these verses is that we were graciously gifted with these things and did absolutely nothing to earn them!  The first few verses in Chapter 2 tell us how much we deserved God’s love and favor. We were dead in our trespasses and sins.  We were following Satan and carrying out the desires of our own flesh.  And then those great words – But God!

At the end of the verses in Chapter 2 we learn God’s purpose in choosing us and redeeming us – 1) To show his immeasurable grace in the coming ages, in other words to bring glory to Christ, and 2) We are his workmanship, created for good works.

The last three chapters of Ephesians spell out the good works that he created us for.  Chapter 4 talks about the unity of the body of Christ and the author, Paul, (inspired by the Holy Spirit) also begins to tell us how to walk this Christian life.  He reminds the readers that they are to “put off” the old self (the self ruled by our own desires and by Satan) and to “be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”  Ephesians 4:23-24

Chapter 5 just doubles down on everything that is listed in Chapter 4.  This is where we get hit with both barrels. 🙂

Ephesians 5:1-2:  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

There are a lot of directions in this Chapter about how we should walk and how we should not walk, but one thing really stuck out to me this Sunday when we were studying the first 21 verses.  Twice it mentions to give thanks and it also mentions singing to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs –  v. 4 – Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving., v.19-20: “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Praising God and thanking Him for all He is and all he has done for us brings our focus back to where it needs to be.  Away from our circumstances, away from difficulties with people, even away from focusing on our own failures.  Have you ever tried to pray what you are thankful for when you really just want to complain?  It really does change your thinking.

Levi struggles mightily with anxiety.  From my perspective his worrying about everything takes his mind away from the fact that there are a LOT of things he DOES know and that he CAN count on.  I am reminding him to stop and be thankful for those things.  I hope that at some point it will become an automatic habit and that it will change his heart and mind.

So, my message is quite simple.  When you find yourself worrying or complaining or just plain old in a bad mood because of the circumstances in your life, take a moment to be thankful and praise the Lord for Who He is and what He has done for you.  One reason I included the Ephesians scriptures is because those are a great starting point for us in thinking of the blessings God has showered on us.

Advertisements
 

Lessons in Job January 29, 2011

Filed under: Bible Study,Faith — Lori @ 11:55 am

I am reading through the Bible chronologically this year.  I have always wanted to do this.  I am in Job right now, which means that I am already a week or so behind!  🙂  Anyway ….. I am always struck by something when I read in Job.  Since Grant’s death four and a half years ago I feel like I read Job differently than I used to.  I guess I understand his grief which turns into questioning God.  I have several observations that hit me this reading.

There is the obvious observation that God pointed out Job to Satan and allowed Satan to have his way (up to a point) in Job’s life.  Wow.  It reiterates to me the truth that God is sovereign in ALL things and that nothing comes into my life that does not come through His hands.  It also reminds me that one of the reasons that God allows or causes trials in our life is so that our faith is tested and made stronger.  This point deserves an entire book to explain it and I am not up to that task!

Another observation (even more obvious than the first) is that those first three self-righteous, condemning “friends” ought to have had their mouths washed out with soap!  Obviously, they had never experienced the kind of pain that Job had been going through.  If they had, they would have had a clue.  The lesson for us:  be careful not to judge when you have not walked in someone’s shoes.

Another observation is the patience of God.  He lets Job wallow in his sorrow and questions.  Job struggled with an issue that I often deal with – having his focus on his circumstances and himself, instead of focusing on God.  Job was trying so hard to defend himself and show that he had not done something to deserve what was happening to him that he was losing sight of the character of the God he served.  I do this ALL the time!

Some of my favorite chapters in Job begin in 38.  God answers Job’s complaint and He NEVER mentions anything about Job’s current situation, nor does he give a reason for it.  He only tells Job Who it is that he is questioning. 

Job 38:1-11
1Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
 2“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
3 Dress for action like a man;
   I will question you, and you make it known to me.
4“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
   Tell me, if you have understanding.
5Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
   Or who stretched the line upon it?
6On what were its bases sunk,
   or who laid its cornerstone,
7when the morning stars sang together
   and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
8“Or who shut in the sea with doors
   when it burst out from the womb,
9when I made clouds its garment
   and thick darkness its swaddling band,
10and prescribed limits for it
   and set bars and doors,
11and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
   and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?

Isn’t that amazing?  I mean, I completely believe that God made the earth and all that it contains.  I believe that He sustains and holds it all together.  But, I don’t think about it in this kind of specifics.  God begins his speech to Job with a detailed list of observable truths seen in creation.  In chapter 40, verse 4, Job answers the Lord that he will lay his hand on his mouth – he has nothing to say in response.  I should do that more often!

God adds more after this comment from Job.  Finally in chapter 42 Job once again answers the Lord:

Job 42:1-6
1Then Job answered the LORD and said:
 2I know that you can do all things,
   and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?
‘Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
   things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
4‘Hear, and I will speak;
    I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
5I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
   but now my eye sees you;
6therefore I despise myself,
   and repent in dust and ashes.”

This is the attitude that I want to have when I face trials in my life.  I want to remember the character and power of the God I trust in.  

~Lori

 

Christ – Our Mediator Who Understands October 27, 2010

Filed under: Bible Study,Faith — Lori @ 10:48 am

Mount St. Helens

The girls and I were doing a Bible devotion on the temptation of Jesus the other day.  It was both thought-provoking and comforting as I was reminded that Jesus was tempted just as we are and yet He withstood the temptation and never sinned.  This is comforting in several ways.  Jesus obeyed God’s law perfectly so that He satisfied God’s demands and was the perfect sacrifice – paying the debt I owe for my sin!  The other way that it is comforting is that Jesus is our Mediator – He stands beside God the Father and intercedes for us.  He knows our struggles and He knows that we are unable to withstand on our own.

Thinking of that led me to think of other things that Jesus experienced that we experience in a similar way.  Have you ever felt like God was not there?  Have you felt so deep in a pit of despair that you could not “feel” God’s presence?  I have.  The darkest time of my life was after our son, Grant, died.  I felt abandoned by God.  That wasn’t true though, was it?  We feel as though we can’t hear God or that He isn’t with us, but He always is – if we are His child.  Jesus actually experienced the loss of the presence of God.  He knows by personal experience – by an actual occurrence – what we “feel”, although it is not reality.  God turned away from Jesus when He took upon Himself our sin on the cross.  I don’t know how long that was, but I can only imagine how painful it must have been.  In fact, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God!  Why have you forsaken me?”

David penned those words in Psalm 22:1-2, a Psalm which is full of prophecy of the coming Messiah and what He would suffer.

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?  2O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.

David’s anguished cry is much like our own.  We feel God is far away, sometimes just because He does not seem to be answering our prayers.  (Of course, God always answers our prayers!  Sometimes His answer is “wait”.)  But Jesus, who spoke the exact same words really did experience abandonment of God.  Incredible, isn’t it?

I am revelling today in the Savior Who not only lived a righteous life in my place, died the death I deserve, and also rose victorious to daily intercede on my behalf.  He is a loving, tender, understanding High Priest for us.

Hebrews 4:14-16   14Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

 

Free Online Books January 5, 2010

Filed under: Bible Study,Books,Faith — Lori @ 4:14 pm

I found a link to some free books you can read in PDF files online by D. A. Carson.  One of them is a fairly short book (93 pages) entitled The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God that was written from several lectures he gave on this subject.  An excerpt explaining why the doctrine of the love of God would be described as “difficult”:

Suddenly the Christian doctrine of the love of God becomes very difficult, for the entire framework in which it is set in Scripture has been replaced. To put this another way, we live in a culture in which many other and complementary truths about God are widely disbelieved.  I do not think that what the Bible says about the love of God can long survive at the forefront of our thinking if it is abstracted from the sovereignty of God, the holiness of God, the wrath of God, the providence of God, or the personhood of God—to mention only a few nonnegotiable elements of basic Christianity.The result, of course, is that the love of God in our culture has been purged of anything the culture finds uncomfortable. The love of God has been sanitized, democratized, and above all sentimentalized.

This process has been going on for some time. My generation was taught to sing, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love,” in which we robustly instruct the Almighty that we do not need another mountain (we have enough of them), but we could do with some more love. The hubris is staggering.

He goes on to say that is isn’t just the world that believes incorrectly about the love of God.  Unfortunately, we often hear a one-sided view of God’s character even from believers.  This is a really good book that will get you thinking about what you believe about the Biblical teaching of the love of God and how that affects the way you view Him.

Take a few hours and read this book.  I think you will enjoy it!

 

There’s More! November 18, 2009

Filed under: Bible Study,Books,Faith — Lori @ 11:50 am

A few weeks ago I wrote a post called Take Up Your Cross.  I didn’t really cover that subject from all sides and wanted to elaborate on it. 

The Lord graciously spoke to me recently when I was watching a DVD called, “The Blazing Center” by John Piper where he delivers a teen version of his “Christian Hedonism” theme (devoting yourself to finding your joy solely in God) from his famous book, Desiring God.  (As a side note, I will mention that many things seem to be on sale at the Desiring God bookstore if you are interested in shopping.)

I was reminded that we are not only commanded to obey God, we are commanded to obey God with joy – or a right attitude.  I demand this from my girls all the time.  Our mantra is “obey right away, all the way, and with a joyful heart.”  That is exactly what God wants of me as well.

Psalm 100:1,2  Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth!  Serve the Lord with gladness!  Come into his presence with singing!

Philippians 4:4  Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I will say, Rejoice.

Psalm 37:4  Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Doesn’t it seem as though God is commanding us to be joyful and to delight in Him?  It is just another command that we do not obey in our own strength, but with God’s grace helping us.

There is another aspect to joy.  That is that we, as God’s children, are promised a heavenly or future reward.  I think of how the author of Hebrew’s described Jesus:

Hebrews 12:1,2   Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus certainly had a hard road to walk during His incarnation.  He endured it – in part – because He knew the joy that was before Him.  The joy I think He looked forward to is partly what it says at the end of verse 2, “and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  He had joy knowing there was a reward.  Of course, He also had joy that He was obeying His Father and giving Him glory – just as we should.

Do you think we shouldn’t be joyful knowing there is a reward at the end?  The Bible says that Moses did.

Hebrews 11:24-26  By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.  He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward

I guess I am trying to remind myself that although I may face trials and suffering in this life, the reward – not just in the future, but even the blessings God has for me now in my trial – are worth far more than any pleasure I might find in living my life for my own fleshly desires.

The most recent part of the Blazing Center DVD I watched talked about our vertical relationship with the Lord and that when we find our joy and contentment in that relationship it allows that joy to overflow out of our life – horizontally – into the lives of others.  That is how the world sees Jesus’ love in us.

Now, isn’t that what the Christian life is REALLY about?

 

Take Up Your Cross October 26, 2009

Filed under: Bible Study,Faith — Lori @ 11:51 pm

I was thinking about this verse recently and what it really means.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.   Matthew 16:24

……let him deny himself.  Not a real popular sentiment in America.  What does it really mean to deny myself?  That nothing in my life should mean more to me than Jesus does.  Nothing should be put ahead of Him.  That I relinquish my will to Him.

…take up his cross.  Why does he mention a cross?  Jesus has just told them that he is going to suffer and die. (From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.  Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Matt. 16:21-23) 

Then he tells them to take up their cross and follow Him.  He had just told them he was going to be killed.  What must they have been thinking?

 How about you?  What do you think of when you think of Jesus and the cross?  When I think of the cross I am remembering His sacrifice – Jesus taking God’s wrath for MY sin in my place.  I think of His submission to the Father.  Jesus prayed in the garden, “Not my will but thine.” 

Read this explanation of Matt. 16:24-28 from Matthew Henry’s commentary:

Christ reveals his mind to his people gradually. From that time, when the apostles had made the full confession of Christ, that he was the Son of God, he began to show them of his sufferings. He spake this to set right the mistakes of his disciples about the outward pomp and power of his kingdom. Those that follow Christ, must not expect great or high things in this world. Peter would have Christ to dread suffering as much as he did; but we mistake, if we measure Christ’s love and patience by our own. We do not read of any thing said or done by any of his disciples, at any time, that Christ resented so much as this. Whoever takes us from that which is good, and would make us fear to do too much for God, speaks Satan’s language. Whatever appears to be a temptation to sin, must be resisted with abhorrence, and not be parleyed with. Those that decline suffering for Christ, savour more of the things of man than of the things of God.

Take up your cross and follow me.  Only if it doesn’t hurt too much, or cost too much, or take too much away from me.  Right?  Am I willing to take up my cross and follow Jesus – deny my wants, my possessions, the people I love – and do whatever is being asked of me without thought to the cost?  Yes!  That is my prayer and it will continue to be my prayer until the day I die because it is not a natural action for me. 

Only the power of the Holy Spirit working in us and the truth of the gospel can give us the grace we need to obey that charge – to take up our cross and follow Jesus.  I am relieved by the testimony of Peter.  He stated that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God – something he couldn’t know in his own wisdom – it was revealed to Him by the Holy Spirit.  Then he turns around and counsels Jesus to avoid suffering and death.  He later fails the Lord again by denying Him, but in the end Peter was obedient.  He took up his cross and he followed Jesus.  That isn’t because Peter was great.  That is because our Lord is great.  He preserves us to the end.  In His power we will accomplish what He asks us to do.

 

The Flesh and the Spirit August 7, 2009

Filed under: Bible Study,Faith — Lori @ 8:23 am

In my Bible reading this week I came to a very familiar passage in Romans 7:

18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

 21So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

The notes in my Bible say this of the above verses:  “Paul is describing himself and Christians generally, who, although in Christ and free from the condemnation of the law, (Romans 8:1) do not yet perfectly fulfill the requirements of the law.  Paul’s self-analysis here of elements found only in persons who have been united with the risen Christ to new life in the Spirit (Rom. 6:4-11; 7:6; 8:4-9).  Paul is aware that God’s law is “spiritual”  (v. 14).  He actually delights in God’s law, desiring to fulfill it perfectly (v. 15-23), and he is distressed that sin in him opposes that desire.  He is grateful at the prospect of future deliverance from this frustration (v. 24; 8:23).  He distinguishes between his “mind”, which aims at obedience, and his “flesh” which continues to sin (v.25). 

Paul is actually describing a profound conflict that every Christian finds inherent in his life in Christ:  Christ dwells in him (Gal 2:20), yet sin also dwells in him (vv. 17, 20).  Perfect conformity to God’s will is at present out of his reach.  Salvation has “already” and “not yet” dimensions.”  ESV Reformation Study Bible

Now we know that Paul is not condoning sin.  The Bible never says that it is okay that we sin because we have a human (sinful) nature.  In fact, in Romans 6:1-4 it says:  1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

I am not sure if I will ever TOTALLY understand this, but here is my feeble attempt at this point in my spiritual journey.  When we come to faith in Christ we are declared “dead to sin”.  We have at our disposal God’s grace and Spirit within us to give us the ability not to sin.  However, this is a daily struggle as our flesh still desires to sin.  We become more and more aware of sin in our life as we advance in our sanctification and our desire becomes stronger to die to that sin and live in Christ and His power.

Thankfully, the power to defeat sin in my life does not come from my weak body!  And, even better – Romans 8:1-11:

1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

 9You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

“The Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q. 35), says that sanctification is “the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.”  It is a continuing change worked by God in us, freeing us from sinful habits and forming in us Christlike affections, dispositions, and virtues.  It does not mean that sin is instantly eradicated, but it is also more than a counteraction, in which sin is merely restrained or repressed without being progressively destroyed.  Sanctification is a real transformation, not just the appearance of one.” (ESV Reformation Study Bible)

So, what do we do about this?  By watching – being alert to temptation – and praying against it, and cultivating opposite virtues – opposite meaning opposed to our fleshly desires – we may through the Spirit’s help put to death sin in our bodies.  We must be prepared with scripture that we either have memorized or have the essence memorized so that we can resist our flesh and Satan’s temptation.

We do not have a passive role in this.  I am reminded of Pilgrim’s Progress and how important it was that Christian was clothed in armor when he met with one of the evil princes in battle.

Ephesians 6:10-18    10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

Maybe it isn’t as complicated as I like to make it out to be.  Maybe it is just that I need to be more faithful in my preparation for “battle” and not expect that I will obey God and become more like Christ just because I would like for it to happen.  The Christian life is not a passive activity!

 

 
%d bloggers like this: