Posts Tagged “2 Timothy”

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 September/October Bookmark.

September offers an opportunity to start anew as routines change with the changing weather. If your reading declined during the summer months, jump back in and join us. We’d love to have you share 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.

Word of God, speak to us this month!
Sandy

Download all 2012 bookmarks here Download only the September/October 2012 bookmark here

Download a half-page PDF of the September Reading Plan here

Here’s the September reading plan:

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Tuesday’s blog was all about God’s desire to transform our minds – to rearrange the way we think so that the way we live is ultimately rearranged.

 “Faith is not idleness, it’s an action word,” my pastor said recently. He went on to say “God wants to entrust this world to us.”

Isn’t that exciting? It is for me:

  • First, I’m excited that faith isn’t just sitting piously in my prayer room. (I’m not dissing praying! Prayer can be pretty exciting, too…Hmmm…I should blog about that soon!) Faith is an action word! Read the New Testament and you won’t find much idleness.
  • Second, I’m excited that God wants to entrust this world to us! It is our responsibility to bring His Kingdom to earth. We learn about that Kingdom through His Word and our obedience. As we obey – that is, as we take actions to do what His Word teaches, not simply give mental assent to it, He responds by giving us the keys to the Kingdom, by entrusting this world to us.

There’s a degree to which, we have to mature into that trust. You don’t give the keys to your best car to your teenager the moment he or she turns 16. No, you watch to see that they have developed the maturity required to handle the car you give him the keys to. Likewise, God is going to give us keys to the Kingdom, but He’s going to do it progressively as we mature. That means not only rearranging our thoughts, but also rearranging our actions. Because God doesn’t only want us to think differently, He also wants us to act differently.

Faith is an action word! It is a way of living.

For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.
1 Corinthians 4:20 (NLT)

The Kingdom of God is not in the rearrangement of words, either on paper or in our minds – it is living by God’s power. God first rearranges our thoughts – causing us to think differently, but in the process we are transformed…so that we act differently and can transform our world. We are renewed so that we can live by God’s power.

For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.
1 Corinthians 4:20 (NLT)

When God highlighted that verse to me this week, the thought that immediately followed it was “we settle for too little…” and “we expect too little from God!”

Scripture uses strong language –

  • Be transformed, renewed (Romans 12:2a)
  • By Scripture that is alive and powerfulRemember, the word that was translated as “power” is the word “energace” from which we get energy – active power, effective power (Hebrews 4:12)
  • By that is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16)
  • So that you are living by God’s power (1 Corinthians 4:20)– the word translated “power” here is “dunamis,” from which we get dynamite  – miraculous power, explosive power!

We settle for too little. The Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk – it is living by God’s power. That’s not the power to get through the day. That’s not the power to overcome the things of everyday life that those who don’t know Christ overcome by simply getting on with life. It’s power to live differently – power to change – transform the world. It’s the power to think differently. I said in our small group last week that I’m tired of negativity in my life – tired of expecting bad things to result. When I face challenges, I want to anticipate God’s energace and dunamis power – His effective, active, explosive power.

I have a magnet on my task board at work that says “Only those who attempt the ridiculous can expect the miraculous.” I’m not suggesting that we all go out and attempt ridiculous things. There’s a difference between presuming upon God – that is, simply stepping out into whatever we want to do and expecting Him to “rescue” us. There’s a difference between that and stepping out in faith into what God has called us. Yet often, God calls each one of us – not just the “professional” Christians, not just missionaries, not just extraordinarily gifted people – each one of us, to things that are bigger than we are. And it’s not until we attempt those “ridiculous” things that we’ll see God’s energace, dunamis power.

For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.
1 Corinthians 4:20 (NLT)

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Matthew 6:10 (KJV)

energace…dunamis

I expect too little from God. And I don’t believe it honors Him. I look at what I have to do and I can’t get it done and I hope He’ll help me meet my deadlines. He will and He has, but He has bigger things He wants me to do. I want to pray for and believe for those bigger things and live my life accordingly.

I have a two-fold assignment for you this week. (Yes, I’m giving you an assignment.)

  • First, read Scripture every day! Challenge yourself to pray, ask God to open your spirit, then read. God’s transforming power comes first and foremost through His Word. Read Scripture every day with the attitude “Lord, teach me from your Word.”
  • Second, trust God for one thing that is bigger than you’ve ever trusted Him for before. If you know what that thing is, if something has already come to mind, write it down and carry it with you. If you don’t know, maybe your one thing needs to be asking Him to show you a bigger thing to trust Him for.

A few weeks ago I wrote a series titled “Living…Like Someone Left the Gate Open.” My key passage for the series was 2 Corinthians 3:12 and 17. Let’s expand that passage by one verse:

12Therefore, since we have such a hope [that is, the hope of our glorious salvation], we are very bold….17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
2 Cor 3:12, 17-18 (NIV)

 

God’s power – energace and dunamis power – at work in and through us transforms us so that when we boldly live like someone left the gate open, we reflect the Lord’s glory to the world. Hallelujah! Look in the mirror – are you beginning to see a new you that is reflecting the glory of the Lord? It’s often difficult to see it in ourselves, but if you are pursuing God diligently, if you are asking Him to transform you and reading His Word regularly, He will do it. And the world will see Christ in you – you will reflect His glory! I’ll take that. I’m willing to sacrifice for that. How about you? Let’s pursue transformation together. Let’s rearrange our lives around Christ and His purposes.

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Two weeks ago my pastor made this comment in his sermon: “we must rearrange our lives around living through Christ.” When he said that, my brain exploded a bit. Every significant thing that happens in our lives requires rearrangements – a changing of patterns. When you got your first job…your life was rearranged. When you got married…your life was rearranged as you learned to live as a couple instead of as two individuals! When you had children…your life was really rearranged! When you came to Christ…was your life rearranged? I hope so. I trust that it was, because serving God means rearranges our lives:

  • Get up earlier to spend time with Him
  • Our schedules are rearranged when we honor Him by giving Him one day of our week
  • Our finances are rearranged when we begin to tithe and when we give offerings as He directs
  • Our lifestyle is rearranged as we pursue Christ more and more, leaving behind things that aren’t pleasing to Him

Looking at that short list, though I see that they are all rearrangements of our schedules and activities…but God wants to rearrange more than our schedules and activities – He also wants to rearrange how we think.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…
Romans 12:2a (NIV)

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think…
Romans 12:2a (NLT)

The word “conform” means “follow the pattern of” – it’s related to the word that we get the word “schematic” from.

Schematic…pattern…blueprint…

Don’t follow the patterns created or established by this world but let the power of God transform you by changing the way you think. Let God rearrange the way you think! Continually!

How do we do that? The process starts by studying God’s Word for ourselves. There is no substitute for letting God speak to you by studying the Bible. It’s why I create our Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedules – as an encouragement and aid to help you – to help me – read through the Bible consistently. And if reading through the Bible in 2 years is too much for you, take it slower. Read only the New Testament this year. That’s only 1 chapter a day five days a week. You can do that! You don’t need my permission, but I give you permission to ignore the other two columns in the schedule! Whether one chapter or ten, be in God’s Word every day.

In Romans 12:2, the word translated “renewing” in the NIV – “transformed by the renewing of our mind” – the word “renewing” carries the connotation of repetition. It’s not just made new or made new again, but made new again and again and again.

We need to continually allow God to rearrange our thinking – to challenge us. What kind of an attitude does it take to be challenged in our thinking? A humble one. We don’t go to God’s Word with the perspective “I’m going to read this and determine what it means. No, we go to God’s Word and say “Lord, will you teach me?”

In a good marriage or a good friendship, your life and your relationship is rearranged many times as you each grow and change. Phil and I have been married almost 34 years…about 3 years ago Phil developed an interest in tea. That interest literally lead to a rearrangement of our kitchen to make room for the new tea cabinet and our counters to make room for the teapot and various accoutrements that go with it. Phil’s developed another new interest lately. We’ve had long discussions – because I process things by talking about them – so we’ve had long discussions about schedules and finances and possessions and even our theology as our lives are rearranged simply by Phil developing a new interest.

Our relationship with God is not so different. It’s not that He changes His interests, but as we grow in Him, He reveals more and more of His heart to us and His desires for our lives.

As the bride of Christ…is your life being rearranged by Him regularly?

Studying God’s Word on a regular basis provides the instructions for rearranging our lives around Christ. When we meditate on Scripture, it provides the conversation, if you will, that allows us to process those instructions…to understand and to “own” them.

Words can rearrange our thinking, but it requires more than simply words to transform us into the people God wants us to be. Transformation requires the power of God. That power is alive in the words of Scripture. Hebrews tells us…

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.
Hebrews 4:12 (NLT)

Scripture doesn’t just inform us, it doesn’t just teach us, it transforms us by the power of God. The word translated “power” here is “energace” – energy – active power, effective power! When we start with prayer, asking God to open our hearts and minds and spirits, Scripture becomes alive and powerful. The words take on the power, the breath, of God.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.
2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV/NLT)

Some translations say “All Scripture is ‘inspired by God’” – “God-breathed” is actually a better translation because the word translated as “inspired by God” is one word in the Greek. Scripture is “God breathed” – it’s not just inspired by God – it is the very essence of God – His breath. It’s that miraculous relationship that God has with Scripture that enables it, that gives it the power to rearrange our thinking and transforms us.

Let’s let God’s Word transform our minds…who knows what exciting rearrangement of our lives that might bring!

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If you’re reading along with us using the Resting at the River’s Edge reading guides, you started the book of Leviticus this week. I’ll be honest with you – as I read about the various offerings this week, I was a little less than excited about what I was reading. I know there’s more to the book and I knew I was missing it. So I began to do a little research, and of course, that research becomes a blog…but not for today. As I started to write the first blog on Leviticus, I found that my “premise for writing” encompassed a full blog on its own, so I’m going to run with it. I’ll share what I’ve learned about the book of Leviticus in upcoming blogs. In the meantime…on to the premise.

I knew I was missing something as I was reading Leviticus because I start from the conviction of 2 Timothy 3:16-17:

16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (NIV)

I love the phrases used in this translation – “God-breathed”, “useful for…” and “thoroughly equipped for every good work.” All Scripture is all those things. How can I discount major portions of Scripture when it is all God-breathed? How can I not honor it when its purpose is to equip me – thoroughly equip me – for every good work. As I wrote in my last blog, God has ordained works for each of us. Scripture prepares us for that work. Whew! Or perhaps more appropriately – “Hallelujah!”

This year I’m reading through the Bible using the New Living Translation. While it is not as accurate as some other translations, it offers a more every-day language experience while reading. The NLT translates the passage this way:

16All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. 17It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do. (NLT)

We have some of the same words, yet some words and phrases that are expressed differently. I like the phrase “make us realize what is wrong in our lives.” Yep, I need that sometimes. OK, all the time. I also like the phrase “It is God’s way of preparing us in every way.” Yes the meaning is the same (of course) as the NIV translation, but it reminds me that God is preparing me – in every way – for the work He has for me.

Dwight Moody put it this way in his book The Pleasure and Profit in Bible Study (copyright 1895 by Fleming H. Revell Co.):

“I never saw a fruit-bearing Christian who was not a student of the Bible. If a man neglects his Bible, he may pray and ask God to use him in His work; but God cannot make use of him, for there is not much for the Holy Ghost to work upon.”

It is Scripture that teaches us God’s way of thinking, God’s way of living, and God’s way of loving. Learning those things makes us usable in the Kingdom – to accomplish the purposes God has prepared for us.

Two words that these translations have in common that apply to our upcoming look into the book of Leviticus are those two words at the beginning of verse 16: “All Scripture”. It doesn’t say that some Scripture is useful, it says that all Scripture is useful. Which takes me back to reading Leviticus. It is a book of codes and regulations. Is there application for me today? According to 2 Timothy there is. Join us as we explore the book in the coming weeks.

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“Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.”
2 Timothy 1:12b

As I read that Scripture today, my mind drifted to the topic of needless worry. Even as I type the phrase, I realize that the word “needless” is…well, needless. It’s not necessary – because it is true of all worry. It’s not like some worry is needed and some is needless. All worry is needless. There is no worry that is justified.

What captured me about this verse is that it gives me both:

  • the reason that worry is never justified, and
  • the method for achieving a “don’t worry” lifestyle

The reason – He is able

“He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.”

God is able. Period. He is able to guard whatever we’ve given to him. What value is worry? It doesn’t add one inch to my height (Matthew 6:27) and it doesn’t make me happy or content. More likely the weight of the worry slumps me over, gives me gray hairs and wrinkles, and fills my day with negativity.

You already know lots of verses about God’s faithfulness and capability, but let me remind you of just two:

My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory. (Philippians 4:19)

5Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  6So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

The method (1) – Entrust your life and life situations to Him

“He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.”

What is He able to guard? That which I have entrusted to Him. What are you worred about today? Have you entrusted it to Him? Have you cast your cares upon Him (1 Peter 5:7)? Or are you holding them in your heart…so that they leave no room for God? God’s perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18)! Use that perfect love to cast your fears back upon the Lord.

The method (2) – Know God

“I know whom I have believed, and am convinced…”

Do you really know God? Do you know Him well enough to be convinced that He is able? Further, do you allow that knowledge to convince you of it? Knowing something is different from being convinced of it. Being convinced of something generally requires either a testing of the knowledge we have to prove it as fact or an overwhelming stack of evidence that make the knowledge irrefutable.

I’ll be honest – the first time I said “yes” to God I didn’t know him very well. I knew the central points of the Gospel:

  • God was a reality (a major stepping stone for me because I had rejected that point most of my life)
  • That the Bible was the Word of God (not a book of Grimm’s fairy tales as I had been referring to it)
  • That I was a sinner (that was a pretty easy one)
  • That Jesus paid the penalty for my sins by dying on the cross
  • That I needed to accept Jesus’ gift of forgiveness of my sins in order to spend eternity in heaven (I didn’t quite know what this meant, but the alternative wasn’t at all appealing)
  • That if I rejected Jesus’ gift I would spend eternity in hell

For about a month before accepting Jesus as my Savior, I was convinced of all of these central points except the first one! I had read enough of the Bible and enough about the Bible that I was convinced it was not a book simply written by men to tell a story we wanted to hear. It was too full of fulfilled prophecies and the realities of life for that. The evidence was stacked up so high that I could no longer deny that Scripture is valid and true. Once I was convinced of that, the points that follow were no-brainers.

Yet still I struggled with that first point – truly believing that there is a God who existed before time began and will exist forever. Such a concept was (and still is) outside my ability to comprehend. It took an experience with God for me to be fully convinced that He existed and that He cared for me. I found myself in serious danger one night – in a situation in which I was totally defenseless. When I emerged from the situation totally unharmed, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God had intervened. At that moment I became convinced that He was real and that He had intervened in my life, even if I didn’t understand or acknowledge His existence. (It has since dawned on me that if I could comprehend this God I serve, He wouldn’t be worth serving – duh!)

Since that time God has shown Himself to be real and alive and strong over and over again. Each experience I have with Him enables me to say as Job did “I know my Redeemer lives and that in the end He will stand upon the earth.” (Job 19:25) Often when this verse is quoted, the last half of that verse is left off. Let’s not do that! It is an affirmation just as Paul’s affirmation in 2 Timothy. Job knew that no matter what happened on this earth that one day his Redeemer would “win.” Paul says that he is convinced that His Redeemer is able to keep everything that he entrusts to Him – in other words, that Jesus will win over any and all that the devil throws at Him.

Do you know Him well enough to know that He will hold what you have entrusted to Him? I hope so. Yet we all have times when our faith waivers. Whether you’re just getting to know Him or have known Him for years but find your faith waivering, the process of knowing God and becoming convinced of His awesome power are the same: Spend time with Him in many ways every day.

  • Read His word.
  • Talk to Him.
  • Listen for His response.
  • Worship Him.
  • Serve Him.
  • Talk about Him with your friends.

Frends, I challenge you to give God a chance to further convince you of His faithfulness, power and great love by entrusting your biggest concern in life to Him today. Yep, today.

  • Stop for a moment here and consider what is the most pressing issue in your life.
  • Now take a few moments to entrust God with that issue. Go ahead – say it out loud so that you hear yourself giving it to God.
  • Now, rest in your confidence that He is able and begin to look forward to watching God move in that area of your life.

I think I’ll close and do that myself. Let me know how it goes for you!

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Resting at the River’s Edge in September – Let’s Pursue Wisdom

The theme for this month seems to be wisdom. We’ll spend a significant amount of time in the book of Proverbs. The book was called Sophia by early Christian writers, a Greek word that means “wisdom.”

Solomon is the writer of most of the Proverbs and he establishes his purpose in the very first verses:

1The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
2for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; 3for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; 4for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—5let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—6for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.

Proverbs 1:1-6

Then, of course, Solomon establishes the place to start:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
Proverbs 1:7

God has used the Proverbs to correct or warn me very specifically on a number of occasions. I remember being pressured by a boss to lie to his boss and struggling about how to handle the situation. The morning I was to meet with my boss’s boss I read Proverbs 12:22 during my devotions:

The LORD detests lying lips,
but he delights in men who are truthful.
Proverbs 12:22

The situation became incredibly clear to me – did I want to please my boss and have the Lord detest my actions or bring delight to the Lord and displease my boss? Hands down, I wanted to please the Lord. I did and He honored those actions. Very soon thereafter I quit that position and stepped into a much better job.

We’ll also spend a considerable amount of time in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. They seem an appropriate paring with Proverbs because they provide guidance about caring for and protecting the Church. The three letters focus on leadership qualifications and responsibilities as well as church life. 1 Timothy focuses on sound doctrine while 2 Timothy focuses on encouraging steadfast Christian living despite the circumstances we find ourselves in. The book of Titus carries a little of both topics.

Here’s to being much wiser by the end of the month!

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for September is below.

To download a PDF of the September 2011 recommended reading plan, click here.

Watching the Church Grow & Develop and Reading some Poetry

As we Rest at the River’s Edge in May, we’ll spend most of our time doing two things:

Watching the church grow and develop as we read through the book of Acts

Enjoying poetry as we read some Psalms and the Song of Songs (often called Song of Solomon)

As spring develops, don’t lose focus on what’s important, but feel free to take your Bible and notebook outside and enjoy some spring weather!

Blessings,
Sandy

 

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The History of a Nation and
Guidance for the Newly Formed Churches

Kings, Kings and More Kings
We will spend the bulk of our Old Testament reading First and Second Kings. Don’t lose sight of the message in the succession of kings and their exploits. The two overriding messages in the books of Kings are:

  • God is faithful and His people (i.e., us and our forefathers) continually turn away from Him. In the book of Kings, we see his judgement ultimately play out in the exile of the Israelites to Babylon.
  • Nations follow their leaders. We will see again and again that the spiritual climate of the Israelites very much followed that of their leader.

We’ll follow up our reading in First and Second Kings with the book of Ruth – a book that is all about courage, faithfulness and redemption. Many see it as a love story, but it is so much more than romance. It is the courage of a young woman, the faithfulness of God and the redemption of God’s people. That makes it a great book to cleanse our palates after reading Kings.

Forming a New Nation of Believers
As we read the books of Kings, we’ll also read what is commonly referred to as the “Pastoral Epistles” – the last writings of Paul, which are letters to Timothy and Titus. These letters provide instruction and guidance about caring for and protecting the newly born churches. The letters focus on church life, as well as leadership qualifications and responsibilities. The recurring themes in these books is keeping true to sound doctrine and living a life of godliness.

While it may seem that we are reading these books out of order (we’ll read 1 Timothy, then Titus, then 2 Timothy), this is the order in which they were written. 2 Timothy is widely believed to have been written shortly before Paul’s execution in AD 66-67. As you read this last letter of Paul’s keep in mind what he penned in chapter 4:

6As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. 7I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. 8And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his glorious return.

There was a time when I didn’t much like the Apostle Paul. Now, I want to be like him when I grow up. How about you?

Blessings as you read this month. May God speak to your heart and spirit.

The recommended reading schedule is below.

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

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In my last blog in the “Heart of a Worshipper” series (HWS). I wrote that we must have a willing heart, allowing God to use us in whatever way He wants. The very exciting thing about serving God is that when we are willing to let Him lead, the paths He takes us lead us into ever increasing freedom. Read on as I look at three ways that the heart of a worshipper is a free heart.

A Free Heart

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
          2 Corinthians 3:17

Regularly worshipping God means regularly entering into His presence – allowing our spirit to encounter the Spirit of God in a stronger and more intimate way. That experience changes us forever. As we learn more about God and who He is, we learn more about the insignificance of this world. And that’s freedom! It unencumbers your heart and mind. It releases you from the bondage of this world. It sets us free.

In what ways has the Lord set us free? Let’s look at just three of them.

Freedom from Condemnation
You probably know Romans 8 verse 1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” But did you realize that verse 1 ends in a comma? The statement is incomplete. Let’s look at the full sentence (verses 1 and 2):

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
          Romans 8:1-2

There is no condemnation because Christ has set us free from the law of sin and death. When we recognize Him as Savior and receive Him as Lord, we are freed from eternal judgment and given the Spirit of Life. I am not condemned. Period. And if God can forgive whatever I’ve done and all that I’ve done, it seems a bit prideful to me not to forgive myself. When I don’t forgive myself, I am setting myself up as judge above God – I am overriding (or overturning) His “not guilty” decision. I really try not to trump God. I’ve found that it doesn’t work in the long run! God has declared me “not guilty.” I choose to agree with Him (regardless of how I feel on any given day). Again, I choose to agree with Him.

Freedom from Fear
A little further in Romans 8 we find the following verses:

because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
          Romans 8:14-15

These verses tell us that we have been released from a spirit of fear and have been given the opportunity for an intimate relationship with God (“Abba” can be translated “Daddy”) – the Spirit of sonship.

2 Timothy 1:7 is a verse that many people memorize:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity [or fear], but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline [or a sound mind].
          2 Timothy 1:7

Fear does not come from God. Faith comes from God. Assurance comes from God. Love comes from God. I don’t know what your greatest fear is, but I do know that spending time in God’s presence can give you His perspective on things. His perspective includes, among other things, the following facts:

  • That God is good and desires good things for me (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • That He knows me and understands me better than I know and understand myself (Psalm 139:1-3, 13)
  • That He is the One who controls all that happens to me today (Proverbs 16:9, 24).
  • That He will provide all that I need (Philippians 4:19, 2 Corinthians 9:8)
  • And that He is the One who has said “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

Meditating on these statements and verses pushes fear away. And while you’re meditating, here’s something else to think about: If you look up the verses I referenced in the short list above, you’ll find that you are familiar with nearly all of them. If I can come up with a list like this from the most commonly known Scriptures, imagine how much longer the list could be if you or I were to dig further. If you struggle with fear, let me encourage you to focus on the character of God. As you read your Bible today and tomorrow and the next day, ask God to show you His goodness, compassion and love and His awesome ability to hold you near to His heart. Ask Him to allow you to see yourself, those around you and the world through His eyes.

Freedom to Obey and Serve
There is tremendous freedom in knowing God and being willing to obey Him – to do what He calls you to do. Many years and several states ago, I had a good friend who was afraid to give herself fully to God because she was afraid that God would require too much of her. He’d ask her to become a missionary to Zimbabwe or he’d allow her to become paralyzed so she could have a ministry like Joni Erickson Tada. (Perhaps she’s never heard Joni’s full testimony. I’ve heard Joni say that she’d rather spend the rest of her life in her wheelchair with God at her side than to have spent one minute of her life without Him.) Knowing that you are willing, are doing and have done what God wants you to do is tremendously freeing. Withholding from God, or being outright disobedient to God carries a whole lot of emotional baggage. It’s like a constant nagging in your heart and soul. My friend was never free from the knowledge that she wasn’t living God’s best for her because she wasn’t willing to give herself entirely over to Him. It pulled on her spirit and dragged her down. And perhaps appropriately so – she was grieving God’s heart. But doing His will brings a lightness, a freedom to our hearts. Even the difficult tasks bring with them the peace that comes from knowing that God will enable and supply. And that allows us to be free from worrying about the results.

Let me give you just a couple of verses to meditate on:

But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he will be blessed in what he does.
           James 1:25

This verse describes God’s law as “the perfect law that gives freedom.” This seemed strange to me when it first registered with me because I had never thought of God’s law as bringing freedom, but I now understand that obedience brings freedom. When you’re driving on the freeway within the speed limit, you have no fear of who’s around the corner. When your foot is heavy on the gas pedal, there’s a bit of wariness that leads to stress.

I will always obey your law, for ever and ever. I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.
          Psalm 119:44-45

The Psalmist is saying that because He has studied what God wants and has decided to obey, he will walk in freedom. Obedience brings a freedom of spirit that is life-giving. It is a freedom that brings light-heartedness in difficulty.

Freedom Here We Come!
We value freedom very highly in this country. Christ has come to bring a degree of freedom to our lives that is beyond any freedom we can experience at the hands of men. That freedom comes about by getting to know God better. The heart of a worshipper is a heart that is free! Spend some time today in worship!

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Note: There are many references to Scripture in this blog. All are to the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible unless otherwise noted.

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
1 Corinthians 1:1

Yesterday’s blog about Paul’s calling (and my calling and your calling) encouraged me to dig a little deeper. Simply by looking up the other usages of the word that is translated “called” The word is only used eleven times, and in all cases it is used one of two ways: (2) by Paul referring to his calling as an apostle and (2) by various authors to refer to those who are children of God. Yesterday we looked at Paul usage of the term. Today, let’s look at how it is used in relation to others who trust Jesus:

  • In writing to the believers in Rome, Paul says we are called “to belong to Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:6)
  • Paul addresses his letter to the Roman believers as those who are “called to be saints.” (Romans 1:7)
  • In 1 Corinthians, Paul describes us as being “called to be holy.” (1 Corinthians 1:2)
  • Later in that chapter, Paul writes that for those who are called by God, Christ is the power and wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:23-24)
  • In the book of Jude, those who have been called, are described as those “who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:1)

In each of these cases, the word translated “called” means “ongoing (or continuing) choice.” It is the derivative of a word that is also translated “called” but refers to the single act that is done or has been done. Looking at this word gives us more insight into our calling. Read over this list slowly to understand who you are in Christ and what you are called to do or be.

  • We are called into fellowship with God’s Son Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:9)
  • We are called to live in peace. (1 Corinthians 7:15c, Colossians 3:15)
  • We are called “by the grace of Christ” (Galatians 1:6)
  • We are called to “freedom” (Galatians 5:13, NRSV)
  • We are called to live a life “worthy” of the calling we have received (Ephesians 4:1)
  • We are called to “one hope” (Ephesians 4:4)
  • We are called “into His kingdom glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12)
  • We are called to “live a holy life” (1 Thessalonians 4:7, 2 Timothy 1:9)
  • We are called to “share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:14)
  • We are called to received the “promised eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15)
  • We are called “out of darkness into His wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
  • We are called to suffer unjustly (1 Peter 2:19-21)
  • We are called to return evil or insults with a blessing (1 Peter 3:9)
  • We are called to God’s “eternal glory in Christ” (1 Peter 5:10)
  • We are called to “the wedding supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9)

That’s quite a list! As I created the list there were several items that caught my attention. Rather than talk about them, let me give you an example and a challenge, then offer an encouragement and a prayer.

The example: As I typed “to live in peace,” the questions came into my mind “Am I living in peace? Am I appropriating God’s peace?”

The challenge: Read over the list prayerfully. Which of the things you are called to would God like you to experience more fully? Make it a part of your daily prayers for the next two weeks.

The encouragement: God doesn’t call us to anything He cannot give us or enable us to experience. If He has highlighted one of these “callings,” it is His desire to help you attain it.

The prayer: I pray that this week you will apprehend the grace that God has for you. And I bless you with a supernatural ability to see God working in your life as you pray to bring about His calling this week.

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This blog is a part of a blog series called “The Heart of a Worshipper” series, or HWS. My prayer is that you will be blessed and transformed as you grow in your own worship of the King of Kings.

“Heart, Soul, Mind & Strength” Worship, Part 2

In Part 1, we began to look at Warren Wiersbe’s definition of Worship:

“Worship is the believer’s response of all that they are – mind, emotions, will, and body – to what God is and says and does. This response has its mystical side in subjective experience and it’s practical side in objective obedience to God’s revealed will. Worship is a loving response that’s balanced by the fear of the Lord, and it is a deepening response as the believer comes to know God better. And what should be the result of all this? Transformation.”
     (page 26, Real Worship)

The blog title came from comparing Wiersbe’s definition with Mark 12:30:

Mark 12:30

Wiersbe’s Definition of Worship

Love the Lord your God with
all your…
Worship is the believer’s response
of all their…
     Heart      Emotions
     Soul      Will
     Mind      Mind
     Strength      Body

Today we want to look at what it means to worship God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

With All My Heart and Soul (Emotions and Will)
Good worship defies description because it is a time when we experience the indescribable God. Psalm 34:8 says “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” I don’t know about you, but that has always seemed kind of strange to me. “Taste and see.” It speaks of both the experiential and the objective. Have you ever tried to describe how something very unique tastes? Well, our God is unique in the truest sense of the word – there is none like Him. Or how about describing to someone who’s never been in love what it feels like to fall in love. There are many words that you might use, but none are adequate to convey the experience. Similarly, true worship often defies adequate description. It includes adoration and subjectively experiencing the Presence of God or hearing the Voice of God.

In the first blog in this series, I quoted William Temple, the archbishop of Canterbury in the 1940s. He describes adoration as “the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.” I can’t be sure, but I’m guessing that you’re a lot like me and you could use some of that remedy for self-centeredness.

How should our emotions be involved in worship? We worship God because He is worthy and because He commands us to, not because it makes us feel good or because it’s fun (even though it is fun and it does make us feel good!). True worship must begin with the character of God. True worship involves a revelation of who God is – the Holy Spirit reveals God’s nature and character to us and we are compelled to worship Him. It’s not an emotional thing, it’s our response to the truth of God’s nature and character.

Our response should involve our emotions, however, because one can’t look upon the nature and character of God without responding emotionally. To hold back those emotions or to deny them is being dishonest with ourselves and God. It also cheapens our worship. Our emotions are part of what it means to be created “in the image of God”. We worship and serve an emotional God – not one who is ruled by His emotions, but certainly one who experiences them. To deny our emotions is to respond dishonestly to what the Spirit is revealing to us. But worship isn’t based on our emotions or how we’re feeling; it’s based on the character and nature of God.

With All My Mind and Strength
Some friends were discussing some doctrinal issues and differences. I made a comment about sometimes becoming frustrated with discussions about seemingly minor points of doctrine that have no practical application. One of them appropriately corrected me, saying “But Sandy, this is loving God with our mind.” He wasn’t saying that arguing about doctrinal differences is OK; rather that honest discussions about what Scripture teaches sharpens our knowledge and understanding of it. 2 Timothy 2:15 says “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. (NASB)

We love God with our minds by studying Scripture (even those parts that seem to us to have no practical application), by memorizing it so that we can carry it with us, by meditating on it so that God can reveal the full meaning of it to us, and by discussing it with others. I think it brings a smile to God’s face and a warmth to His heart when His children excitedly discuss His word. After all, He wrote it. Scripture tells us that ” All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV)

But it’s not study, study, study all the time…there comes a time to implement what we learn! Wiersbe describes this as the “practical side” of worship – “obedience to God’s revealed will.” Phil and I often jokingly say to one another “If you really loved me you’d ____________.” We fill in the blank with whatever chore it is that we don’t want to do at the time – wash the dishes, visit a client, be the first one to get out of bed and into the shower! We’re joking, because we know that our love isn’t conditional upon doing those things. But there is also truth in the statement. When we love someone, we do things to please and help them. Those actions demonstrate or show our love.

In the Lord, that means that we are obedient to God’s revealed will. What is God’s revealed will? It’s first and foremost the whole of Scripture and secondarily those things that He has revealed to use as His will for our lives (such as being called to teach Children’s Church or participate on a worship team or lead a small group). It sometimes seems like the equivalent of washing the dishes for the one you love, but when it’s done out of love and devotion to God, the “chore” becomes an act of adoration.

Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength Worship…Brings Transformation
True worship also must touch God’s holiness. Returning to Weirsbe’s definition, “Worship is a loving response that’s balanced by the fear of the Lord, and it is a deepening response as the believer comes to know God better.” No matter how near we draw to God, our worship must remain authentic (real) and respectful. God is not fooled by displays of worship that do not come from repentant and loving heart. As we worship God in holiness and truth, He reveals more of Himself to us. He allows us to gaze upon His beauty and to experience His love in a greater way. This evokes in us a deeper response in us.

Scientists have proven that looking at a picture of someone we are passionately in love with releases the same chemical in our brain that causes a person to become addicted to drugs. When we are in love with Jesus, gazing upon His face can have the same affect! I want nothing more than to become addicted to Jesus! I want my worship of the Lord to be “all gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable.” True worship brings us to the point of surrendering all that we are and all that we have to God’s purpose. That’s the transformation that Warren Wiersbe talks about.

It’s the transformation that Paul talks about in Romans 12:1-2. Notice that this is a passage about worship:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. 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. (italics mine)

Lord, Help Us to Worship You
Worship has both an experiential and an objective element. So we pray, Lord, free our minds and our emotions to respond as You would have us respond. Give us a willingness to be touched by You in worship, both experientially and objectively.

Worship is based on God’s revealed nature and character; it touches God’s beauty, His holiness and His heart. So we ask: Holy Spirit, reveal more of God’s nature and character to us. Lord, we ask that you reveal Your beauty and holiness to us. We ask that You show us Your heart. Give us Your heart, Lord.

True Worship requires that our total devotion and attention focused on God. So Lord, we ask for your help. We confess that we are easily distracted, and we don’t want to be. We want to focus on You and You alone.

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