Posts Tagged “Galatians”

We all face challenges – some small and some not-so-small. This morning I was praying through my prayer list and I finally came to my name. I took half a pause and then I guess the cry of my heart came out. “Lord, I’m trying so hard,” was my moaning prayer. Almost immediately, I heard His answer in my spirit – “Quit trying! Today, just be with Me.”

How peaceful that response was. How restful it was – and is. Just hearing it lifts a burden from my shoulders and my heart. Ahhhh.

There are some areas in my life in which I’m trying to be more like Christ than I’ve been in the past. I know that trying to be more like Christ honors and pleases God. I also know that there is a thin line that can be crossed when we are no longer pursuing God with our whole heart but are striving in our own strength. I guess I had crossed that line without realizing it.

God is so gracious and compassionate. The moment I went to Him with a heart-felt plea for help, He reached out and lifted me up. Yes, that’s what my prayer was – “Lord, I’m trying so hard” really meant “I’m tired and I don’t think I can do this. Will You help me?”

Friends, are you in a place like me? A place where life isn’t bad, but there are areas in which you’ve started working too hard to achieve what God has for you? If that describes you, hear the word of the Lord today – “Quit trying! Today, just be with Me.”

Notice that God is not saying “Give up.” I don’t even sense Him saying “Stop all your efforts. I’ll supernaturally transform you so that you don’t have to work at obedience and kindness and righteousness and all those other things I want you to be.” It means quit trying and enter into training – quit striving, enjoy God and persistently pursue those things that He puts before you.

Going into training is a conscious decision to slowly, persistently move toward the goal of winning or overcoming. In several of his letters, the Apostle Paul uses the analogy of running a race. Marathon runners don’t walk out their front door one day and run the marathon. They train, slowly increasing the distance they can run. They try different things to improve their distance and speed. Sometimes they rest between exertions and other times they push beyond what they think they can do.

We often approach spiritual growth more like stepping out the front door and trying to run the marathon. That’s a prescription for failure. That’s just “trying” to do it. The better approach is to enter training. In what area is God wanting you to become more like Christ? Identify that area and then set up a training plan. Try some different things to help you overcome your weak areas. Rest in Him when you don’t make as much progress as you’d like. Make an extra effort sometimes to push through to the next level.

Quit trying. Enjoy God! Enter training.

And while you do those things, stay in the Word and in study and fellowship with other believers. Last Wednesday evening our Bible Study group studied Galatians 5.

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)

We had a long discussion about how it can be so easy to fall into the wrong pattern of thinking that what we do makes us acceptable to God. It does not. Faith is what pleases God. Trusting in Christ is what makes us acceptable to God. In all honesty, I didn’t feel like our study had any significant impact on me at the time. But God used it to soften my heart and open my hearing so that when He was ready to speak, I would be ready to hear and respond. God’s lesson for me today – “Quit trying!” is directly related to the discussion we had on Wednesday night.

So, friends, make Bible study with friends a part of your training program. It is the vehicle He’ll often use to speak to you and/or prepare your heart to hear His voice.

God wants us to become more like Christ every day, but He doesn’t want us to become a slave again to the demands of religious expectations and traditions. (I’m a big fan of traditions – I’m not suggesting you abandon them – just don’t become enslaved to them. Don’t depend on them to make you acceptable to God. Remember, only faith makes you acceptable to God.)

Quit trying. Just enjoy God and continue your training.

 

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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013

Make God’s Word the cornerstone of your summer reading schedule. Join us as we read through a few chapters of the Bible each day. Use our Resting at the River’s Edge schedules to stay on track with us. If you fall behind – don’t worry about it! Just keep reading. I am praying that God will reveal Himself to you as you read each chapter. Ask Him to and He will.

Click on one of the following buttons to open a PDF file of the July/August bookmark or all bookmarks. After the file has opened, you can print it or save it to your hard drive from your browser’s file menu.

Click here for the July/August 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

The July Reading Schedule also appears at the end of this blog.

Here’s how the Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedules are organized:

  • The first two columns of the schedule allow you to read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice over a two-year period. You will typically read about three chapters a day if you follow this reading plan.
  • The “Additional Readings” column put you on a plan to read through the entire Bible in one year. You will read between four and five chapters a day if you follow this plan.

I hope you’ll join us! I love the way God’s Word seems to speak to my specific situations as I read through His Word. I know He’ll do that for you, too. I’d love to hear about it. Email me, leave a message on our Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for July is below.

July 2013 RARE Reading Schedule JPG

 

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartI find that there are certain conditions in my life that lead to holy boldness:

Confidence – When I am feeling confident, I am bold, not timid.

Freedom – When I am experiencing freedom, I am bold because there’s nothing that is hindering me from being so.

Security – When I am feeling secure, I can make bold moves instead of playing it safe.

Being loved – When I know I am loved and will be loved even if I fail, I can step out in boldness, not being limited by any fear of what others will think.

Having hope – When I have hope, I can climb mountains that are otherwise too overwhelming.

All of these things are found in faith. All of these things are results of a faith-filled heart. Boldness – holy boldness – comes from a faith-filled heart, and it is the difference between timidly attempting the assignments God has given me and boldly attacking the assignments He has designed for my life.

All these conditions come from our faith in Christ. Let’s look at Scriptures that relate to each.

Confidence – Our confidence comes from Him – knowing what He has done for us and what awaits us:

Since this new way [that is, faith in Christ] gives us such confidence, we can be very bold.
2 Corinthians 3:12 (NLT)

Freedom – Oh, the freedom that comes from knowing God:

He gave himself for us to set us free from every sin and to cleanse us so that we can be his special people who are enthusiastic about doing good things.
Titus 2:14 (GW)

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)

Security – Having security means I am not worried about what will happen to me; I’m not to take action.

But you, O LORD, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
Psalm 3:3 (NLT)

2He sang: “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; 3my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. He is my refuge, my savior, the one who saves me from violence.
2 Samuel 22:2-3 (NLT)

Being loved – Knowing that we are loved brings the greatest freedom and in turn, the greatest boldness. It is what causes us to run freely in the wind and fiercely into battle.

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”
Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)

But God showed [demonstrated] his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
Romans 5:8 (NLT)

Having hope – Hope gives us reason to look forward – reason to live boldly today because of what awaits us tomorrow.

18So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.19This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.
Hebrews 6:18-19 (NLT)

Faith in Christ is the key to conditions of the heart that lead to a holy boldness.

Similarly, there are conditions of the heart that lead to reckless boldness. This may not be an exhaustive list, but I find these conditions to be the most common reason we take recklessly bold actions:

Fatalism – When I believe that “whatever is supposed to happen will happen,” I am less careful about where I step and the path I take. Fatalism is a lie from the enemy. Scripture is clear that we have personal responsibility to pursue God, to choose to obey Him by taking the actions He assigns to us, not waiting to see what will happen and trusting it has been His will.

Utter sense of futility – When “who cares” and “what difference does it make” are phrases that have captured my mind and heart, I either fall into the depression of nothingness or take rash action. Of course these phrases are also whispers from the enemy. They are signs that he has been on the prowl, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). He’s trying to devour you. God cares and He has purposes for your life that reach into eternity.

Rebellion – When I’ve become tired of following my King and decide to go my own way and make my own decisions, all of my actions can be labeled reckless boldness. We can’t blame the enemy on this. This is sin. It is our own selfish pride. It is thinking we have a better plan than God. It requires repentance – a genuine sorrow for our attitudes and actions, a turning to God for forgiveness and a change in our behavior and thoughts.

Disappointment with God – When God doesn’t live up to our expectations (oh, Lord, it is difficult for me to even write this, but I know there are time when we feel like this – forgive us when You are so worthy of our worship even when we feel disappointed) – when God doesn’t live up to our expectations, our hearts can grow cold. Our minds build a case against Him and our attitudes turn to rebellion. Being disappointed with God doesn’t have an easy solution – it’s usually a combination of repentance for our own wrong attitudes with a heavy dose of experiencing God’s great love. It requires an understanding that God’s plan is greater than our earthly desires.

The antidote to all of these conditions that lead to reckless boldness is faith. A faith-filled heart is the greatest weapon against these conditions. A faith-filled heart is the greatest weapon against reckless boldness. That faith comes from being with Jesus. We see it again and again in the New Testament.

The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.
Acts 4:13 (NLT)

Because the men had been with Jesus, they had a holy boldness that confounded the leaders. We can have that same holy boldness.

It is also because of our faith in Christ that we can come into God’s presence freely – and it is in God’s presence where we find the source of all the conditions that lead to holy boldness:

Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.
Ephesians 3:12 (NLT)

And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus.
Hebrews 10:19 (NLT)

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Hebrews 4:16 (NLT)

Our faith-filled heart enables us to fulfill God’s purposes in our lives – it gives us the holy boldness we would otherwise lack and it keeps us from acting recklessly, without caution or care.

We have been studying Ephesians with our nursing home Bible study group and I have been so strongly impacted by Paul’s prayers for the Ephesians. I have been praying this prayer at every gathering since we studied the passage and regularly for myself and Phil. It seems so appropriate to every venue. And it is totally appropriate here. I pray for you as Paul prayed for the Ephesians:

16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)

I can’t pray it any better. Knowing the vastness of God’s love for you, may you be filled to the “measure of all the fullness of God.” Whew! That’s gonna lead to some holy boldness!

If this blog has blessed you or helped you live in holy boldness, please share it with others. You can use one of the buttons below to share. Let’s help one another become a people worthy of God’s calling (Ephesians 4:1).

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I have a dear aunt who is dying. [Footnote: My aunt has died since I wrote this. Thank you for your prayers for her family.]

Death is such an affront to us. It’s a slap in the face even when it is expected. When unexpected it’s a punch in the gut. Actually, it’s a punch in the gut even when it’s expected.

God didn’t intend it to be this way. And He makes it possible for death to be only a temporary separation from our loved ones. For those who accept Christ as their Savior, death is simply an entry way into the full presence of God and His eternal Kingdom.

Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
1 Corinthians 13:12 (NLT)

When faced with death I am reminded that God uses all things – even death – for His purposes. Several things become clear to me when I meditate on the end of someone’s life.

Life and death are in the hands of the Lord. That is sometimes a harsh reality, but it is a reality. We are often tempted to ask God why a loved one is taken from us. Often too young. Always too soon. I can’t answer those questions, but I am convinced that life and death are in His hands (Deuteronomy 32:39, 1 Corinthians 3:22). He determines the times and places we are to live (Acts 17:26) and He has our days numbered before we are born (Job 14:5).

God is present at every death. Whenever it occurs – or perhaps I should say each and every time it occurs – each and every time someone dies, God is there. I don’t have lots of answers but I know my God and I know His compassion and I know that the One who values life so much that He knows the number of hairs on each person’s head (Matthew 10:30) and the One who loved each one of us so much that He willingly died for us (Galatians 1:4, Titus 2:6, 1 John 3:16) – that God is present at the point of death. He grieves over sin if the death is untimely, but He is there for the dying. He is even there for the dying one who has spent a lifetime denying His existence. He gives them one last chance to recognize the reality of the One True God and submit their life into His hands.

There is a spiritual realm. That might seem like a strange statement to follow the first two, but my experience and the experience of others who have lost loved ones attest to the reality of a spiritual realm. I wrote about it this way in a blog a few months after my dad died:

I’ve come to the conclusion that there is some kind of spiritual connection among the living and when someone dies that connection is broken. When Phil’s mom died, he came up with this analogy: when a computer network is turned on, the system is always sending out impulses to other computers, checking to see if they are still connected. This is called “pinging” and it’s a continuous process. Without us being aware of it, it seems that our spirits “ping” for the spirits of those we love constantly and we receive an unconscious knowing that they are there. When someone dies, that ping goes out from us but is not returned. At an unconscious level there is a brokenness, a void, a missing connection that pushes itself into our consciousness and alerts our brain that “something is very wrong here.” Our brain then transmits that information to our emotions.

Birth and death are “holy-days” in a very true sense – days to set aside for reflecting on their purposes. Of course the fact that God is present makes them holy-days, but there is more:

  • The wonder of a newborn. The awesome creative power of God given to humans enabling us to create life. The instant and intense love that binds the newborn to his parents.
  • The crash of death. Reminding us that life has its limits that we cannot outwit, outlast or outplay. Reminding us that life is for the living and we ought not to waste time on petty, insignificant differences – or even the big ones. Life is for loving and bring glory to God. That’s the earthly side. There is a heavenly side for believers making it the most holy of holy days. It is the day in which we meet our Savior face to face. It is the day in which we worship as we’ve never worshiped before. It is the day of our true and final birth.

Lord, death is hard. Help me to introduce others to you so that they may experience not only a second birth (John 3:3-7), but a final birth into Your heavenly kingdom.

LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered — how fleeting my life is.
Psalm 39:4 (NLT)

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Remember Who You Are In Christ

Faith is the confidence, assurance and substance of things hoped for – things we confidently expect to happen. It is the conviction and evidence of things not yet seen.
Hebrews 11:1 (expanded translation using NLT, NASB, NKJV, NRSV and Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary)

Faith is confidence…but sometimes our confidence lags a bit. My husband occasionally says that he’s shocked at how insecure I am. I usually project an air of confidence, but there are some common (that is, every day) situations that send my insecurity meter off the charts. The key to being confident (that is, faith-filled) is the object of our confidence – the object of our faith. My confidence lags when my focus changes from God to myself. How will I look to others? How will I be perceived? What if I say or do the wrong thing? What if I forget something important?

Our first faith building action refocused our attention off ourselves and onto God through praise. When we look at the One who created the universe, knowing that He is on our side, our confidence soars. Our second faith building action brings the focus back to ourselves, but in a way that allows us to see ourselves through God’s eyes.

Faith Building Action 2 – Remind Yourself of Who You Are in Christ
Here are a just few of the ways that God sees you. Meditate on these elements of your identity in Christ to build your faith.

Forgiven – Being forgiven means there is no longer any condemnation or shame associated with your past (or present or future) life. It means all penalties or payments required to make up for your wrong actions have already been paid. Welcome to freedom! Your life sentence of being a slave to sin has been commuted.

1So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
Romans 8:1-2 (NLT)

No condemnation, friends – and freedom from the power of sin.

Child of God – Of course that forgiveness also makes you a child of God – someone who is born not only of flesh and blood but of the spirit. Someone who has the promise of spending eternity with Him. Someone dearly loved by the Father.

3Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God…5I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.”
John 3:3, 5-6 (NLT)

1How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.
1 John 3:1-3 (NIV)

That hope gives us confidence in today and tomorrow. What love the Father has lavished upon us!

Child of Abba-Father – There are many ways to view being a child of God. One picture that often escapes us is the intimate picture of a child reaching up his or her arms to be lifted up by their Papa. That is the image portrayed in this verse:

14For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”
Romans 8:14-15 (NASB)

We’re not given a spirit of fear – rather, when we are tempted to fear we are reminded that we have been adopted as a child of God and we can cry out for His help – “Abba! Father!” My parents were divorced when I was in my teens and I felt disconnected from my father. It was only after I grew older that I began to understand that if I needed anything and called out “Daddy!” he would do his best to move heaven and earth if necessary to come to my aid. And he was an earthly father – quite imperfect when compared with my heavenly Father. My heavenly Father actually has the power to move heaven and earth to come to my aid. My heavenly Father invites me to cry out “Daddy!” Matthew Henry writes that this verse “denotes an affectionate endearing importunity” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible.) He’s my father with whom I can be affectionate, who finds me endearing, and who encourages me to seek Him and His help.

Joint heir with Christ – When God made us His children – or perhaps I should say when God set in motion the plan for Christ to pay the penalty for our sins and when Christ agreed to leave the glories of heaven for the pain and suffering of earth and when we accepted Christ’s gift as payment for our sins – we also became joint-heirs with Christ. In the breath that Christ said “forgive them,” He said “I’ll share all that is mine with them.”

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16 (NLT)

16The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…
Romans 8:16-17a (NASB)

All that the Father has belongs to the Son. We have become fellow heirs, joint heirs, co-heirs with Christ.

Beloved Bride of Christ – We are not only a friend of God and co-heir with Christ, but Paul told the Corinthians that he had “promised [them] as a pure bride to one husband – Christ” 2 Corinthians 11:2 (NLT). Revelation 19 describes the wedding:

7Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself. 8She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.” For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people. 9And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are true words that come from God.”
Revelation 19:7-9 (NLT)

We will be the bride who has made herself ready. We are the bride who is making herself ready. We have been invited to the wedding feast not as a guest but as the beloved bride. Christ is our husband and He longs for the day when we will become His bride.

There is a passage that puts all these relationships together:

4But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” 7Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.
Galatians 4:4-7 (NLT)

We have gone from slave to son. We have gone from deserving death to being an heir. Our confidence – our faith – grows as we understand who we are in Christ. This powerful video with Jason Gray’s song Remind Me Who I Am illustrates the point.

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This has not been an exhaustive list of who we are in Christ. There’s much more! Scripture also says that we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), a chosen people (1 Peter 2:9), created in God to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). And more, and more.

Move beyond discouragement to faith – meditate on who you are in Christ.

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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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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 May/June 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 May/June 2012 Bookmark Here

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

Here’s June’s reading plan:

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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 May/June bookmark.

Share what God is teaching you with otherse. 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 watch spring unfold!
Sandy

Download All 2012 Bookmarks Here

Download only the May/June 2012 Bookmark Here

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

Here’s May’s reading plan:

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“God is still in heaven”… God immediately brought that phrase to my mind when I woke up at 4am this morning aware of several significant prayer requests for today. Yes, today is filled with sorrow and anxiety for many today. My uncle may go home to be with the Lord today. My heart grieves for my cousins. My step-mother travels to her hometown for her sister-in-law’s funeral. My heart grieves for the family. Another friend will have a double heart catheterization. She is still young in the Lord and I know she is scared. My heart is with her even though I can’t be there. I have a doctor’s appointment that was moved forward three weeks. My world was rocked a little when I got the phone call saying “the doctor would like to see you tomorrow.”

“Lord, it’s a day of big requests in my world, but I know that you are still in Your heaven and because of that, it is well with my soul.”

The verse comes from Psalm 115 and I’ve sometimes been disquieted by it:

2    Why do the nations say,
     “Where is their God?”

3    Our God is in heaven;
     he does whatever pleases him.
Psalm 115:2-3 (NIV)

When life seems to be falling apart, we are tempted to lay the disasters at the feet of God. Does what has just happened please God? What kind of God is pleased with such things? Can such a God really be good?

I am thankful that I came to the Lord in my early twenties – it gave me the opportunity to become well-grounded in the confidence of God’s goodness before the challenges of my life became overwhelming. You may or may not be in that situation – like my friend having heart surgery, perhaps you have recently come to the Lord and are facing serious situations. Let me reassure you of two things:

God is still in heaven and He does whatever pleases Him.

What pleases God is always for our ultimate good.

Let’s look at a couple of verses that tell us what pleases God.

19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Christ], 20and through [Christ] God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
Col 1:19 (NIV), 1:20 (NRSV)

It pleased God to have all His fullness dwell in Christ – even though Christ would come to earth and live as a human, never sin and yet submit to die a tortured death. How can that please God? Verse 20 answers that question. Scripture doesn’t say that God was pleased that Christ was crucified. It says He was pleased to reconcile all things to Himself through the blood of Christ. There is a big difference.

Crucifying Christ was a sinful act. God takes no pleasure in sin. What pleases God is our reconciliation with Him. Without the fullness of God dwelling in Christ, He could not have lived that perfect, sinless life. His death would not have been the acceptable sacrifice which reconciled us to God. So God was pleased to have His fullness dwell in Christ.

God does whatever pleases Him. What pleases Him is to make a way for us to spend eternity with Him.

A few verses later we learn something else that pleases God.

27For it has pleased God to tell his people that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. For this is the secret: Christ lives in you, and this is your assurance that you will share in his glory.
Col 1:27 (NLT)

It pleases God to share the riches and glory of Christ not only with the Jews, but also with the Gentiles. It pleases God to share the secrets of salvation with the world.

God is in heaven, and He does what pleases Him. It pleases Him to make the gift of salvation available to all people. “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16a) it pleased Him to make salvation available to all.

Let’s read the Apostle Paul’s testimony to learn more about what pleases God:

13You know what I was like when I followed the Jewish religion—how I violently persecuted the Christians. I did my best to get rid of them. 14I was one of the most religious Jews of my own age, and I tried as hard as possible to follow all the old traditions of my religion.

15But then something happened! For it pleased God in his kindness to choose me and call me, even before I was born! What undeserved mercy! 16Then he revealed his Son to me so that I could proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles.
Gal 1:13-16a (NLT)

It pleases God to show mercy to those who don’t deserve mercy. It pleases God to choose each of us and call each of us to know Him and serve Him. It pleases God to reveal His Son to each of us so that we can partner with Him in sharing the Good News.

God is still in His heaven, and He still does what pleases Him. It pleases Him to show mercy. It pleases Him to reveal His Son to us.

I’m so very thankful I serve such a God. And I’m so very thankful He is STILL in His heaven and that He does whatever pleases Him.

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1   To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven.
2    A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
3    A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to rebuild
4    A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
5    A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
6    A time to search and a time to lose.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7    A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak up.
8    A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)

4But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6And because you Gentiles have become his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, and now you can call God your dear Father. 7Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, everything he has belongs to you. Galatians 4:4-7 (NLT)

Scripture says that there is “a time for every purpose under heaven.” Under heaven means here on earth. It also says “When the time was right” or “When the fullness of time had come” God sent His son…

When you put those Scripture together, I get excited.

There was a story in the news earlier this year about a study done by the Oxford Dictionary. The Oxford Dictionary is the dictionary to beat all dictionaries. Here in America, when we think of dictionaries, we think of Webster. In London, they think of Oxford. The study identified the 25 most commonly used nouns. The noun that is used more than any other noun is the word “time”. Also in the list of top 25 nouns are year, day, and week. So 4 of the top 25 words relate to time… The world is obsessed with time!

So obsessed that the US Government has two different agencies that are responsible for keeping the “official time” of the United States. Seems to me that one agency would be sufficient.

I think the reason we’re obsessed with time is because we can’t control it. It continues moving forward no matter what we do. Sometimes it seems to move more quickly and sometimes more slowly, but no matter what we do, it continues on.

We try to control it. We talk about managing our time. I googled “time management” and got 43,900,000 hits! Nearly 44 MILLION!

That made me curious, and since searches are so quick and easy, I decided to google just the word “time.” There were more than 14 BILLION references to the word time.

Yes, I’d say we’re obsessed with time.

I think we’re also obsessed with time because we don’t really understand it. Sometimes it seems to move quickly, sometimes it drags. It seems to just disappear sometimes and when we’ve taken an unexpected nap we can become totally disoriented – largely because we can’t figure out what day/time it is.

In all this stress over time, there is reason to rejoice and have peace. Let’s look at some of the things Scripture tells us about time.

1) God exists outside of time. Now I don’t understand what that means or how that happens, I just know that it is. Scripture is clear that God is eternal. That means He existed before time began and he will exist after time ends. There was never a time when He didn’t exist and there will never be a time when he won’t exist.

Isaiah 57:15 says that God  “inhabits eternity” – in other words, He lives in eternity.

In Isaiah 43:13, the Lord Himself says this: “From eternity to eternity I am God.”

Another phrase that you’ll find many times in the Bible is “from everlasting to everlasting.” It’s often used with an exhortation to “praise Him, because He lives from everlasting to everlasting.”

2) God created time.

1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

3And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
Genesis 1:1-5

At the moment God created the first day, He created time as we measure it. The creation continues story by identifying what God did during the first seven days of the existence of time as we know it. Since God created time, we can trust Him with our time. When I am stressed because I have too much to do and too little time, I can take a step back, remember that God created and controls time, and rest in Him.

3) God has a purpose for our time and wants to be involved in our lives.

Did you ever wonder why you were born when you were born? I think girls especially sometimes look at history books and maybe they see the pretty clothes of the Victorian era or some other time and they begin to wish they had lived in another time.

Acts 17 tells us something interesting about the time in which we live:

26From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 
Acts 17:26-27

Ecclesiastes 3 says that there is a time to be born and a time to die. This passage says the same thing, but it goes a bit further. It says that God determines the time for us to be born and the time for us to die. He also determined the exact places where we should live. Why? So that we would seek Him and reach out to Him and find Him.

God’s actions throughout history have been aimed at one goal – that we would seek Him; that we would reach out and find Him. It’s so important to God that we have a relationship with Him that He sent His Son to earth. He understood that it can be hard for us to understand what we can’t see. So Jesus said “I’ll go! Send me.” Then He stepped out of eternity and stepped into time.

And that was such a climactic event in all of human history, that time is measured before and after it. We live in the year 2011 AD – in other words, 2011 years after Jesus lived.

4But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6And because you Gentiles have become his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, and now you can call God your dear Father. 7Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, everything he has belongs to you. Galatians 4:4-7 (NLT)

This passage says that God sent His Son, Jesus, to buy freedom for us so that we could be adopted as God’s own children. And when we are adopted as His own children, everything He has belongs to us.

God’s highest purpose, is to give each of us an opportunity to be adopted as His son or daughter.

Romans 5 explains how that happened:

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.
Romans 5:6

“At just the right time” Christ “died for us sinners.” You see, even when we find God, we have a problem. That problem is called sin. We have lived our lives apart from God, doing what seemed right to us, not doing what God considered right. There is a punishment due for that sin – a penalty. The penalty, Scripture says, is death. So that we might escape eternal death, Jesus stepped in and said “Father, I’ll die in their place.”

Again, Romans 5:6 says:

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.
Romans 5:6

The passage continues with one of my favorite verses in all of Scripture:

8But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s judgment. 10For since we were restored to friendship with God by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be delivered from eternal punishment by his life. 11So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God—all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends of God.
Romans 5:8-11

“Now we can rejoice,” Scripture says, because when we believe what Scripture teaches and trust Jesus for our life, God adopts us as His sons and daughters and all that He has is ours. Remember, one of the things He has is eternal life…He lives in eternity. When we trust Jesus, we will live in eternity with God. Yes, He has still appointed a time for us to die, but it’s not an eternal death, it’s merely a crossing from this life into life with God for eternity.

Like I said earlier in this blog, I don’t understand eternity. You know what? That’s OK, because what I do know is that spending eternity with God is a GOOD thing. When my time on this earth is done, when God’s purposes for my life on this earth are accomplished, God has appointed a time for me to die. But He is arranging the events of my life so that I will seek Him and find Him.

When your time on this earth is done, when God’s purposes for your life are accomplished, He has appointed a time for you to die. In the meantime, He’s arranging the events of your life so that you will seek Him and find Him. If you haven’t found Him, I encourage you to continue to seek Him. You can read more about how to find Him here. The time is right! ’Tis the season.

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