Archive for July, 2012

Resting at the River’s Edge provides an opportunity to participate in reading through the Bible in a systematic way. Here’s more details about the plan and our schedules.

Track your reading along with us using the table below, the downloadable half-page PDF or the July/August bookmark.

Share with others what God is teaching you. E-mail me, leave a message on the Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Enjoy God as you begin to enjoy summer!
Sandy

Download All 2012 Bookmarks Here

Download only the July/August 2012 Bookmark Here

Download a Half-Page PDF of the August Reading Plan Here

Here’s the August reading plan:

Aug 2012 Resting at the River's Edge Reading Plan JPG

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Declare His glory…His wonders among all peoples.
Psalm 96:3

This website is chock full of videos that will make you say “Wow!” over and over again. Click on “Chapters” in the top menu to go to a screen of eighteen videos on a variety of topics. I really liked the DNA video. Snow Crystals was pretty cool, too. And for you nerds, there’s E=mc2.

Consider the wondrous works of God.
Job 37:14

Enjoy!

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Well, I can’t see to get away from Ephesians 4!

First we looked at verse 1 in which Paul reminds us that we have been called by God and pleads with us to live a life worthy of that calling, see Saturday’s blog for more on God’s calling.

Then we looked at verses 2 and 3 where Paul instructs us to be humble, gentle and patient – “because of your love.” We looked at these verses in Sunday’s blog.

Today let’s look in a little more detail at the further instructions Paul gives for “living worthy.”

17With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.

20But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. 21Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

25So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. 26And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27for anger gives a foothold to the devil. 28If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. 29Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. 30And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. 31Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.

32Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
Ephesians 4:1-32 (NLT)

Paul gives both the do’s and the don’ts of living worthy.

Don’t live as those who don’t know God.

Do throw off your old nature and the way you used to live because you have met Christ – you have learned the truth of Jesus.

Do let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.

Do put on your new nature, the one that is truly righteous and holy – God’s nature!

Don’t tell lies.

Do speak the truth because we belong to the same family now – the body of Christ.

Don’t let anger stand – for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

Don’t steal.

Do work hard and give generously to those in need.

Don’t use foul, rough, abusive or crude language.

Do guard your tongue so that everything you say is good and helpful.

Do speak words of encouragement.

Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit by the way you live.

Do get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words and slander.

Do get rid of all types of evil behavior.

Do be kind to each other.

Do forgive one another.

Do all of this remembering that Christ has forgiven you.

It’s easy to run through a list of do’s and don’ts and believe we fall into all the do’s and none of the don’ts, but if you pray through the list, I would be surprised if you don’t find yourself in some places you’d rather not be.

Let me pose some questions that relate to the don’ts:

  • Are you a truth-speaker? Or have telling lies of convenience become too convenient? (I hate how convenient those lies can be.)
  • Does anger sometimes control your actions or attitudes? Paul says that “anger gives a foothold to the devil.” Unconfessed sin also gives a foothold to the devil. If you become angry frequently, repent, confess your sin and ask the Holy Spirit to help you change. Enlist the help of a friend or counselor to hold you accountable and work at identifying the deeper issues behind your anger.
  • Are you stealing in subtle (or not so subtle) ways from your employer, customer, spouse or children?
  • Do you engage in abusive or unkind language? Do you say things that are not good, helpful or encouraging? Are you a master at sarcasm? At best, sarcasm is a mask for speaking truth in a straightforward way and in love; at worst it’s cruel and hurtful.

And now a few questions for the do’s:

  • Do you let the Holy Spirit renew your attitudes? It can be so easy (and gratifying to our sinful nature) to hang on to those attitudes that are not pleasing to God. Don’t do it!
  • Do you cultivate learning how to speak the truth in love? It’s not enough to simply speak the truth. Learning how to speak it in love is the greater challenge (and a greater reflection of Christ in us).
  • Do you give generously to those in need? Giving comes in many ways and I’ve found that some people are great at giving financially but not so great at giving of their possessions or their time. Some are better at giving away their possessions but struggle to give financially. Practice giving generously in varied ways. Become a hero at giving.
  • Do you strive to make everything you say be good and encouraging? That would mean no complaining or grumbling. That would mean denying our sinful nature.
  • Are you kind to others – both those close to you and to strangers? I have a pattern of ignoring strangers. I’m trying to change that.
  • Are you forgiving? Are you proactive about forgiving? That’s another of those activities that requires denying our sinful nature.

Sounds like lots of denying of our sinful nature. That’s a good thing. That’s living a life worthy of our calling.

Well, chapter 5 of Ephesians continues with more instructions for Godly living, but I’ll leave that for you to explore on your own. But don’t just read it – pause to allow the Holy Spirit to show you how you’re living and how to live a life worthy of your calling.

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Therefore I [Paul], a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.
Ephesians 4:1 (NLT)

God is worthy. He called us. Paul begs us to lead a life worthy of that calling. Yesterday’s blog dissected this verse in greater detail. If you don’t have it strongly in your mind and spirit that you are of great value to God, re-read yesterday’s post.

Paul continues his letter to the Ephesians by explaining what that worthy lifestyle looks like:

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.
Ephesians 4:2 (NLT)

There’s an interesting phrase in that verse – “making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Have you ever noticed that your children or your spouse or your best friend can “get away with” things that might cause you offense when done by others? That’s called idiosyncratic credit. Your children or spouse or best friend have built up credit with you so their offenses don’t offend. You forgive immediately and easily. When someone else does the same thing, you get annoyed. Maybe it’s not an issue of offense, maybe it’s just a frustration.

Here’s a pet peeve of mine – people who open a can of pop but drink only a little of it. Yes, I know that’s a stupid little thing to have as a pet peeve. But it makes for a good illustration. If Phil opens a can of pop and then doesn’t finish it, I might feel a small irritation, but very quickly my mind and emotions “cover” the offense – “poor Phil, he set his can down and forgot about it – I wonder what’s on his mind today.” Or “that’s my sweetheart, always setting things down and forgetting them – I love him so much!” Or even “what’s with this half empty can of pop? Oh well, I guess he needed a little taste of something but then couldn’t finish it.”

Now if I have a gathering of people at my house and during cleaning up afterwards there are four half empty cans of pop it will annoy me. I have to work at extending grace to the four people who didn’t drink the whole can. I don’t have to work at extending grace to Phil, but others…well, it’s just not as automatic.

So don’t get hung up on my pet peeve (I’m getting over it), but take my point – I’m sure you can identify that you more easily extend grace and forgiveness to loved ones than others. Paul is telling us to treat others as we treat our loved ones. “Make allowance for their faults because of your love.” That’s extravagant love. That’s Christ-like love. It doesn’t come naturally. It takes effort – a lot of effort sometimes. Paul urges us to do just that:

Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.
Ephesians 4:3 (NLT)

Make every effort Paul says. Don’t make a half-hearted effort toward unity, but make every effort. That means making the first move…even if it wasn’t your fault. Because God who is most worthy has considered you – and whoever you might need to make an effort with – worthy.

What follows a few verses later is Paul’s discussion of gifts that God has given to the body – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Interestingly enough, often it can be the gifts God has put in others that frustrates us – because each gift brings some inherent characteristics along with it that are sometimes at odds with the characteristics of other gifts. An evangelist, for example, wants to see the bulk of your church’s effort go toward evangelism. The teacher, on the other hand, wants to see the bulk of your church’s effort go toward building up the body. Without making every effort, differences like that can become issues that keep us from living in unity. And without unity we cannot fulfill God’s greatest commandment:

29Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. 30And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ 31The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
Mark 12:29-31 (NLT)

And lacking in that commandment, we will not fulfill the great commission God has given us:

18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Matthew 28:18-20 (NRSV)

Make every effort to live worthy of God’s calling. Live on purpose and with purpose.

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Therefore I [Paul], a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.
Ephesians 4:1 (NLT)

I like the word “worthy.” The word evokes in me a strange combination of awe and respect and allegiance. God is worthy – He is worthy of my praise, my respect and my allegiance. I love to worship Him by singing/chanting the word “worthy.” He is worthy. He is worthy. Not vain repetition, but heartfelt and sincere adoration. Sometimes I engage my mind more by emphasizing each word and meditating on them individually.

He is worthy. (He is God. God is worthy. Only God is worthy. He is worthy.)

He is worthy. (The one who is and was and is to come – the everlasting God, the God who is ever-present – He is worthy. He is alive and active in my life. He is now worthy and always will be. He is worthy.)

He is worthy. (He has value. He is honorable. He is righteous. He is good. He loves me. He took the punishment for my sin. He paid the price I owed so that we could spend eternity together. He created the heavens and the earth. He knows my heart and still loves me. He is worthy.)

That’s my take, my strongest association with the word “worthy.” So when Paul “begs” me to live a life worthy of my calling I take a step back. Let’s take the end of the sentence first – “for you have been called by God.” That’s the answer to the question “why should I?” I have been called by God. You have been called by God. Invited. Beckoned. Bid. Urged. By God. Who is worthy.

Imagine that you received a personal phone call from ________________. Fill in the blank with the person that you would be the most impressed to receive a call from – the President of the United States, a Hollywood celebrity, a sports icon, the president of the company you work for. How would that make you feel? That such a person found you worthy enough to call. Wow!

Well, friend, the God who created the universe has found you worthy enough to invite to spend eternity with Him. The One I call worthy has called me! I am blown away by that. God’s very act of calling me makes me worthy to be called. The One who is most worthy finds me worthy. Can you imagine that? It’s true. No matter what your experience with me is, no matter what my life experiences have been – the One who is most worthy finds me worthy. By definition, then, I am worthy. Period. I am worthy.

That makes me want to respond positively to the Apostle Paul’s urgings – to live a life worthy of that calling. Let’s not squander the value God has placed on us. Let’s respond by stepping up to that calling. By purposefully stepping away from our own failings and sinful desires and living as He calls us to live.

Paul continues his letter to the Ephesians by explaining what that worthy lifestyle looks like, but I think it best for today to meditate on our value to God. Make that your task throughout the day tomorrow – meditate on God’s worthiness and the fact that you are of great worth to God. What a blessing that is!

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by guest blogger Pastor Dan Caudill

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery”. 
Galatians 5:1 NIV

I think we would all agree that America is facing trying times. I guess you might say that has been true through most, if not all, our 200+ years of existence as a nation. After all, forming, growing, and maintaining a nation based on freedom and democracy is not an easy task. There have been, and will always be, those who would like to take our freedoms away.

The reminders of the trials we face, not only as a nation, but as individual human beings, are as near as the newspapers, radios and televisions we have in our homes. Yet each year, as July 4th rolls around and we celebrate our Independence Day, I am reminded of how much we Americans still have to be thankful for. And for those of us who have found freedom in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have even more reason to give thanks.

I hold dear the freedoms I enjoy as an American citizen. I know full well that these freedoms did not come without cost. They were forged by the courage and sacrifice of men and women who were willing to risk all and pay all, if necessary, to bring forth this “new nation” of religious and political freedom. Many made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their very lives. Thankfully there are those who are still willing to sacrifice. I honor the men and women of our armed forces, wherever they may be in the world, for standing and defending this nation and the freedoms I cherish. Along with them, there have been many “soldiers” who, though they have never worn the uniform of our military, have given and sacrificed and stood, even unto death, for the ideals of a free country. I am grateful.

When we talk of freedom, I think for most of us it brings to mind all that we are free to do. I would like flip that idea upside down and for a moment think about being free to not do some things.

The Scripture encourages us not to use our freedom in Christ for sinful purposes (Galatians 5:13, I Peter 2:16 NIV). Along with our freedom to may we also focus on our freedom not to. We have the power in Christ to rise above the sinfulness of this world and live our lives as a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord. We don’t have to give up or cave-in to the pressure to conform. We don’t have to follow suit or just go along with the crowd. In fact, we have the authority in Christ to “just say no” to the Tempter and his schemes and best laid plans to trap us and lure us into sin (I Corinthians 10:13 NIV). Christ’s death on the Cross provides forgiveness of sins. His resurrection BREAKS the power of sin, so that in Him (Christ), we have the freedom and the power to say NO! Thanks be to God for such a wonderful gift!

So as we celebrate our freedoms as Americans, may we also celebrate the freedom and power we have in Christ. The freedom and power to “not” be like the sinful world in which we live.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is; his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2 NIV

In closing, I would leave us with these words from the book of Hebrews.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning it’s shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1-3

 

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