Archive for May, 2010

I do not believe God wants us to fail. However, I believe God wants us to risk failure to spend time with him, to live life his way. God is calling us to deep relationship, and that requires some time and some sacrifice. It requires trust – trust that God’s way is better than our way.
from Attending to the Trinity blog on “Humble Future 2”

Josh Broward provides an excellent blog for today, Trinity Sunday. You can find it here.

It’s quite long and worth reading the whole blog. If, however, you feel inclined to bail out before even starting, let me suggest that you skip the history at the beginning of the blog and start after the first break in the blog where the author writes “But what does it mean? What is the point?” You won’t have missed anything substantive. Additionally, there are two videos totaling about six and a half minutes. I didn’t particularly like them, but they make the author’s point. Skip them if you’re pressed for time.

But don’t skip the blog altogether. Consider it part of your observance of this special Lord’s Day (Christian Sabbath), Trinity Sunday.

Which of the author’s three suggestions are you going to implement this week? Since this is the second thing I’ve read recently suggesting a practice similar to what he calls the “HOLY 5” I think that’s where I’ll start.

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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2010-2011

Six Books in One Month – A Treasure Trove of Good Stuff!

During the month of June, we’ll be reading from six different books! It’ll be one of our busiest months, in terms of books, but it will still be maintaining our pace of three chapters a day. Here’s where we’ll be:

Joshua: I am thoroughly enjoying this book! Seeing how God passed the baton to Joshua and solidified his leadership among the Israelites, and then reading about how God’s unique strategy for taking the city of Jericho has me looking forward to the rest of the book.

Judges: After Joshua we’ll move on to the book of Judges. It’ll be “déjà vu all over again” as the Israelites fall into the cycle of following after other gods and finding themself in a jam, crying out to God for help, God raising up a righteous Judge to lead them and then the Israelites repenting and following God…until that judge dies and the cycle starts again. The book ends on the following very sad note:

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.
Joshua 21:25

Israel had forsaken their true King and everyone did as they pleased.

Psalms: After Judges we’ll take a break from the history for a few weeks by reading through the first 41 Psalms. The book of Psalms is broken into five “books” or “collections.” We’ll be reading the first one. It’s interesting that these divisions probably existed as early as the third, and perhaps even the second century B.C. Some think that the five-part division may have been deliberate, matching five books of praise with the already existing five books of the law (i.e., Genesis through Deuteronomy). Each of the books end with a final verse or psalm of doxology (praise).

Galatians: After we finish the last chapter of 2 Thessalonians, we’ll read Galatians. Paul is writing to correct heretical teaching that has infiltrated the church and writes about grace vs. the Law. My favorite passage of the book (favorite because the Holy Spirit brings it to my mind often when I need to hear it) is this:

1You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
Galatians 3:1-3

Lord, let us not fall back to relying on our own efforts, our own strength (or lack thereof), but to fully trust You for everything in our lives.

1 & 2 Corinthians: Finally, we’ll read 1 & 2 Corinthians. These books might be summarized as being about a church behaving badly. We’ll find many verses we quote regularly and I trust God has some new nuggets for us as well.

Be blessed as you read this month! May God reveal His Word for you.

The recommended reading schedule is below.

To download a PDF of June’s recommended reading plan, click here.

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6Now the men of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. 7I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, 8but my brothers who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt with fear. I, however, followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly. 9So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.’

10“Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”

13Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. 14So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly.
Joshua 14:6-14

In our Resting at the River’s Edge reading today, we read about Caleb receiving the land that was his inheritance. It had been 45 years since Moses promised the inheritance to Caleb. He was now 85 years old. He had wandered around for 40 years because of the disbelief of the other Israelites.

Forty-five years ago, Caleb, Joshua and 10 other leaders had been sent to check out the land that God had promised to give them. Caleb had stood with Joshua and had believed God and urged the people to follow Him. The other spies were afraid, however, and convinced the people that they could not do what God said they could. So instead of taking the land and receiving his inheritance in a matter of months or a few short years, Caleb wandered in circles with the other Israelites until the entire generation, except for Caleb and Joshua, died.

Five years ago, Joshua was given leadership of the Israelites and they began to take the land that God had promised. Caleb valiantly fought battle after battle to secure the land for other tribes. Many of those tribes had already received their inheritance. Still, Caleb had not.

It had been a pretty busy and hectic five years, I’m sure, but I can’t help wondering if Caleb ever became discouraged at waiting so long for his inheritance. There’s no indication of it in the text, but human nature being what it is, I wouldn’t be surprised if there weren’t times, perhaps in the dark of night, when he despaired that his dreams of an inheritance would ever be realized. Perhaps he did, perhaps not.

I find three things in the text, though, that are an indication of how he encouraged himself either to avoid such thoughts or to stand against them.

  • In verse 8, Caleb says “I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.” Caleb knew in his heart that he had followed the Lord wholeheartedly, and he knew the Lord well enough to know that He is faithful to keep His promises and that He rewards our obedience. My favorite Scripture that promises this comes from the New Testament:

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Hebrews 11:6

God rewards those who diligently seek Him. Caleb followed the Lord “wholeheartedly.” Caleb was continually and diligently seeking God. Knowing God gave Caleb confidence that He would receive his promised inheritance.

  • Caleb reiterates Moses’ promise to give him an inheritance in the land in verse 9. In the following verse, we read that Caleb understood it wasn’t just a promise from Moses, but it was God Himself who was promising Caleb his inheritance. Caleb trusted in that promise. Perhaps he held God’s own words in his heart – the words God spoke to Moses on Mt. Sinai about being “abounding in love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6).

When we are tempted to grieve because of the inheritance we have not yet received, we can remind ourselves of the promise God gave us and of God’s faithfulness in keeping His promises.

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “yes” in Christ. And so through him the “amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
2 Corinthians 1:20

God’s faithfulness is a fact, a truism, about God. It is His nature to be faithful. It is impossible for Him to be unfaithful. So when we are tempted to despair over the fulfillment of His promises to us, we can remind ourselves of those promises and of His faithfulness.

  • Finally, Caleb saw God at work toward the fulfillment of the promise. In verse 10 he declares that he is as physically fit to take the land as he was 45 years ago. Why did Caleb add that detail to the story? It wasn’t a necessary ingredient for him to receive his inheritance. Yes, he still had to fight the inhabitants of the land, but there were many others who could help in that fight. The fulfillment of the promise wasn’t dependent on Caleb being in good shape when he received it. When I read the statement, I had a sense that Caleb was saying “look at me – I haven’t aged a day – God is keeping me alive and well as a sign of His faithfulness to me.”

I am not saying that God will keep each of us healthy and strong until He fulfills His promises to us. God treats each of us in a way that is uniquely suited to our talents, our personalities, our faithfulness to Him, His promises to us, and His purposes for our lives. In Caleb’s case, God used the supernatural health that Caleb enjoyed as a sign to him that God would fulfill His promises.

What is God doing around or in you that gives you assurance that He will keep His promises? It may be something quite small or it may be something dramatic and miraculous. But there is something. Ask God to open your eyes to see eternity in the everyday things around you. Then hold on to those things that He is doing in and around you as signs of His ultimate fulfillment of His promises to you.

Does it seem like God is taking a long time to fulfill His promises in your life? Encourage yourself as Caleb did. Remind yourself regularly of those promises and of God’s faithfulness, then look for God at work in your life today. Be encouraged. He will do what He has promised to do.

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The following question was asked in a Christian forum of a professional social network I’m a part of:

What do you think – Is every Christian in the workplace just there to work, or are they called/placed by God to be a full time missionary in that workplace?

That’s an easy question for me – I’ve always viewed myself as called to the workplace. For years it was the place where I was most effective and had the most significant influence. I am blessed that my ministry now rivals my secular job in the areas of effectiveness and influence, but I am still called to be a part of the workplace. And I believe that we are called as missionaries wherever God has placed us, no matter how permanent or temporary that place might be.

The question challenged me anew, though, as I realized that I had become lazy about thinking of myself as a full time missionary at work each day.

I participated in a missions trip to Mexico City a number of years ago. I remember the emphasis we put on something as simple as always smiling because we didn’t want to communicate anything but the love of Jesus while we were there. Throughout the trip we had a heightened sense that everything we did had an impact for Christ. We looked for opportunities to share Christ. We were careful how we interacted with people. We were conscious of not offending because of the difference in cultures.

We were always aware of our purpose during that trip – to represent and present Christ to those around us. If we have a missionary mindset (now often referred to as a missional mindset), we view that as our purpose in all that we do throughout our day. I’ve lost some of that purpose in recent years. I’m not saying that I haven’t felt called to the workplace or that I haven’t represented and presented Christ during that time. I’m saying that I’ve lost the “always aware” part of the formula. I was glad to be challenged by the question – challenged to re-orient my thinking back to that of a missionary in my world.

You, too, are a missionary in your world. It doesn’t matter if your world is the workplace, caring for children or your retirement community – if God has placed you there, it is to represent and present Christ to those around you.

Let’s begin to take our missionary responsibilities more seriously. Think about representing Christ to everyone you meet or talk with today. Ask Him who you should be more forthright about presenting Christ to.

Father, help us to begin each morning with praise and then a dedication to represent You throughout the day. Open doors for us to present Christ to those who are ready to meet Him.

31So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—33even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
1 Corinthians 10:31-33

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1Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.
Joshua 2:1

1A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,

5Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
6and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,

15Eliud the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
16
and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

Matthew 1:1, 5-6, 15-16

Because of her faith (Joshua 2:9-11) and kindness to the spies that Joshua sent into Jericho, Rahab the prostitute not only saved herself and her family, but she is in the lineage of Christ and honored to be mentioned in Luke’s gospel. We never know how far-reaching our faith, obedience and kindness to others will be.

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6“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. 7Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:6-9 (NIV)

Do you want to know the key to success? Have you wondered what it takes to become prosperous? God puts it pretty bluntly in this verse – meditate on His Word so that you will know it and be able to follow it.

Meditate on it – contemplate it, reflect on it, turn it over in your mind, pray about it, ask God to reveal the full meaning of it. Don’t just read it and then let it fall from your brain. Let it seep into your spirit and soul. Let it come alive in your mind. Imagine what following it looks and feels like. Talk about it with fellow believers. Journal your thoughts about it and what God teaches you about it.

Why? So that you may be “careful” to do everything written in it. I like the word “careful.” It carries with it a purposefulness – take care to live according to God’s Word. Don’t just let life happen, decide in advance to live according to what you read in Scripture each day. Meditating on God’s Word keeps it at the forefront of our thoughts so that we don’t act carelessly – without taking care – without being purposeful.

Live your life on purpose – meditate on God’s word daily, be careful to do what it says. THEN, you will be prosperous and successful.

We often have it all backwards, don’t we? We think “I don’t have time for devotions today, I have too much work to do.” God says “meditate on my word, then implement it, then you will be prosperous and successful.” Don’t let the world or pressures of life convince you to try it the other way around.

Be strong and courageous – live your life on purpose! Read, meditate, implement. Trust God with the results. Go ahead – give it a try! You can trust Him to come through for you!

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Well, if you’re reading through the Bible, you’ll eventually come to the book of James. That’s where we are in our Resting at the River’s Edge readings. My reaction to the news – sigh. So many people seem to love the book of James. I’m not particularly one of them. Don’t get me wrong. I do like it…but I don’t always like it. Those first few verses – seems like they’ve been quoted and taught so many times, but the teachings always seem to come across as wishful thinking to me – you know – “wouldn’t it be great if we did this?” kind of teachings.

It seems cowardly to avoid the passage, though, so I thought I’d dig a little on my own. I did what I often do – looked up the key words. I found some interesting things that helped me with the passage.

First, two translations of the passage, then I’m going to break it down and eventually put it back together.

2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:2-4, New International Version (NIV)

2My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
James 1:2-4, New King James Version (NKJV)

“Consider/count it all/pure joy”
While I typically prefer the NIV translation over the NKJV, in this case, I think the NIV does the passage a disservice. The Greek word translated “consider/count” is actually a very strong word. “Consider” doesn’t seem to carry the command or authority that the Greek word actually encompasses. When I read “consider it pure joy,” I think of a philosopher musing about the beauty of the white puffy clouds in a beautiful blue sky. The context here is more of “decide that you will respond in joy” – it is a command to be joyful, not an invitation to muse about being joyful.

I used to think that “consider it all joy” meant “consider everything that happens (i.e., all of it) joy.” Actually, the word translated “all” means (conveniently) “all,” but is translated “pure” in the NIV because it modifies the word joy. In other words, James is telling his readers to count the trials as “all joy” or complete joy. Much different perspective. It’s not saying to consider it all joy, it’s saying to consider it all joy. Hmmm. Complete joy. Maybe I need to know more about that word joy.

“Joy” – here’s where the greatest change in my perspective comes in. I’ve never thought of myself as being very good at the joy in the midst of trials part. I’ve heard the teaching about the difference between being joyful and happy, but I really haven’t grasped them deep inside – intellectually, yes; practically, no. Looking at the definition of the Greek word helps me here. One of the first definitions of the word translated “joy” is “calm delight.” I like that. I can be calm and I can delight, by faith, in what God is doing and will do. “Calm delight” and “joy” seem like two radically different concepts to me. When my husband had his heart attack, I experienced calm delight. In the midst of a rocking worship service, I experience joy. The Greek word encompasses both meanings. I had never heard the former.

“whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance/produces patience”
The word for trials/temptations is interesting – it literally means “a putting to proof.” I love it – our trials are our opportunity to prove our faith.

Hang on – it gets more exciting!

The word used for testing here means “a testing; by implication trustworthiness.” Did you catch that? Your opportunity to prove your faith is accomplished through opportunities to be trustworthy or show our trustworthiness. It’s not about painfully enduring trials, it’s about being given opportunities for proving or demonstrating my faith by showing the character of God to the world.

And doing so, develops or produces (accomplishes is another definition) perseverance or patience. The words mean “hopeful endurance or constancy, patient waiting.” Again, not painful endurance, but hopeful endurance and patient waiting. That sounds to me a lot like “calm delight.”

Of course, the passage ends with the wonderful promise this hopeful endurance or patient waiting brings us into maturity, completeness, not lacking anything. What a wonderful promise!

The Sandy Hovatter interpretation of James 1:2-4 reads like this:

Respond in calm delight when you face trials because they are opportunities to prove your faith and to show your trustworthiness. These opportunities produce in you a quality or spirit of hopeful endurance and patient waiting. That calm delight and patient waiting brings you into maturity, so that you are fully complete and do not lack anything. (my interpretation of James 1:2-4)

I can get excited about that.

Calm delight – Lord, with Your help, I can see myself doing that
Trustworthiness – Lord, what a privilege to prove my faithfulness to You. I know that I will fail, sometimes, but I can look forward to opportunities to learn to trust You even more.
Hopeful endurance – When I have to endure, I want it to be in hope, Lord.
Mature, complete, not lacking anything – Lord, it is my destiny in You. Thank You!

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“Almost none of us learns the most and deepest things about God in the rosiest of times but in the worst of time, and the knowledge of God is the most precious thing in the world. And therefore, it’s not obvious to me that an economic downturn is bad for our souls. It might be bad for our pocketbooks and bad for our stomachs and bad for our egos, but not necessarily bad for our souls.”  John Piper

For more from John Piper on the economic downturn, click here.

Trust me – the rest of the message is more encouraging than the above quote, but I found the above quote to be compelling.

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28We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Romans 8:28-30 (New Revised Standard Version)

We’ve already learned a bit more about being predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ and being called. Today’s blog will look at the last two actions God has taken on our behalf – He has justified us and He has glorified us.

Justified
“Those He called, He also justified.” Justified – He has made us righteous. He did what we could never do – make ourselves holy enough to stand before a holy God. At the moment we trusted in Christ, we were justified. We dare not take this for granted, although it becomes so easy to do so. God has made us righteous. He has set us apart as holy. The separation between sinful man and a holy God is broken and we can have fellowship with Him.

In the passage we’re studying, God has predestined us, He has called us, He has justified us and He has glorified us. Of those four things, justification is the most important because without it, we would have no relationship with Him and He would not have done the other things.

Glorified
Finally, He has not only predestined us to be conformed to the image of Jesus, He has not only called us, He has not only justified us, He has also glorified us. The word translated “glorified” is doxazo – the same word from which we get “Doxology.” It means:

  • To praise, extol, magnify or celebrate
  • To honor or to hold in honor
  • To adorn with splendor
  • To impart glory to, render excellent, or to make renowned
  • To cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged*

Wow! Scripture says point blank that God has glorified me. He has praised me. He has celebrated me. He holds me in honor. He adorns me with splendor. He imparts His glory to me. He renders me excellent. He makes me renowned. He causes my dignity and worth to become manifest and acknowledged.

And what I love about this is that He’s ALREADY done it! God’s Word says that that I have already been glorified. My dignity and my worth has already become manifest and acknowledged. Are there times when you feel worthless? Are there times when you feel like there is nothing about you that could or should be celebrated? Your feelings are too late, my friend, because you have already been celebrated. Your worth has already been acknowledged. Your feelings are inconsistent with God’s Word because His word says that you have been programmed to be conformed to be like Christ and God has already made you righteous and has glorified you. Hallelujah!

Taking Hold of the Me God Says I Am
Earlier in the year I did a series of blogs based on 1 Timothy 6:12:

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

I talked about how we tend to think of eternal life as that thing which waits for us when we pass from this life to the next one, but that Paul’s writing to Timothy makes it clear that the eternal life to which we have been called is something we’re to take hold of in this life as well. I wrote several blogs about what it means to take hold of eternal life while we’re living for Christ on earth.

As I complete this series of blogs on “The Me I Don’t Even Recognize,” it seems a continuation of the same theme as 1 Timothy. If we were to take hold of the “me” that God says I am – predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, called, justified and glorified – how differently would we live? I think the difference would be dramatic.

I’d like to shed any old self-image and put on the Me that God says I am. Will you join me? Let’s begin to act as if we are conformed to the image of Christ. Let’s begin to act as one whose name God has spoken in heaven and who has given the title “Christ-follower” in this life. Let’s begin to walk in the forgiveness that enables God to say we are fully justified. Finally, let’s begin to act with the confidence that comes from knowing that God has already celebrated us and made our worth to become manifest – seen and known.

Lord, open my eyes to attitudes and behaviors that belie all You’ve done for me and help me to walk in the identity you’ve given me – predestined to become like Christ, called, justified and glorified.

*All definitions come from Thayer’s Greek Definitions.

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28We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Romans 8:28-30 (New Revised Standard Version)

Called – Hallelujah!
I hope yesterday’s blog began to give you a glimpse of a new you. Today, I hope to take it a step farther. Not only have you been predestined to be conformed to the image of God’s Son, but He has also called you. I was incredibly blessed when I did a little research on the word “called.” The word translated “called” is kaleo? and it means several things:

  • To call aloud/utter in a loud voice
  • To invite
  • To give a name to
  • To bear a name or title (Thayer’s Greek Definitions)

From the heights, breadth and depths of heaven, God uttered my name aloud to invite me to join Him for all of eternity. He spoke my name – as Jesus did for Lazarus who was dead and buried. “Lazarus, come forth!” I was spiritually dead, and God spoke my name in a loud voice. He said “Sandra, come forth!”

He didn’t delegate it to His angels. He spoke the word Himself. He spoke my name aloud in heaven to invite me to spend eternity with Him.

I don’t know why, but that does something significant and wonderful in my spirit. There is something special about hearing one’s name. I remember watching the television program Romper Room as a child. I think every child’s favorite part of the show was at the very end when she would hold up her magic mirror and say that she was looking out at all the children watching television. Miss Barbara would then say “I see Tom and Sue and Joe and…” What a thrill to hear her say your name! God speaking my name out for all eternity to hear is way bigger than hearing Miss Barbara speak my name!

At the end of time as we know it, God will give each of us a new name, perfect for us and known only to us. At the marriage supper of the lamb, Christ will take me by the hand (you, too) and lead me to His Father and say “Abba, let me introduce you to my bride. I remember when you spoke her in heaven and I have been waiting for this day to present her to you. Father, I present to you Sandra.” And the Father will look at me and say “Daughter, I’ve been looking forward to meeting you in person. And you will no longer be called Sandra, but you will be called __________” I don’t know what my new name will be, but I know it’s special and perfect for me.

In the meantime, He has called me to bear the name Christian – follower of Christ. And He’s enabled me to become that because He has predestined me to be conformed to the image of Christ.

What a privilege to be called by God. It’s so much more than I had understood it to be!

Tomorrow we’ll look at the rest of the verse – we have been justified and glorified. Stop by to read it. You’ll be glad you did!

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