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Posts Tagged “Romans”

“…all who believe in him are made right with God.”
Romans 10:4b

As I read this passage morning, I was struck by the phrase “made right with God.” It seemed to stir an old memory that is only half there of my mom telling me to “make it right.” It seems that was something she would say after we kids got into an argument. As I said, it’s only what I call a “half memory” – I don’t know if it really happened, but there’s something stirring in my mind.

We would go from fussing and fighting about something to saying we were sorry and hugging each other. Now I’m sure that good feelings didn’t abound at the time, but there was a degree to which we were reconciled.

When we believe in Jesus Christ, God brings complete, full and perfect reconciliation between us and Him. He doesn’t harbor those residual ill feelings we had as children toward our siblings (or we have as adult toward those who offend us). No, he promises that He will “never again remember [our] sins.” (Jeremiah 31:34) “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” (Psalm 103:12, NLT)

This is not a small thing. We have been made right with God. The Creator of the Universe whose majesty surpasses anything we can imagine, whose justice is perfect and whose righteousness is a standard that none of us can come close to meeting has made us right with Himself.

That reconciliation is made possible through our faith in Jesus Christ and his substitutionary death on the cross for us. It’s not made possible simply by believing in God. Let’s look at the verses that lead up to our key verse:

1Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. 2I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. 3For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. 4For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God.
Romans 10:1-4 (NLT)

Paul makes it clear that one can have great zeal for God without knowing Christ. He calls it “misdirected zeal.” He makes it clear that we can pursue God in our own way – cling to the way that we want to be forgiven instead of accepting God’s way – and that it doesn’t lead to our salvation. Accepting God’s way leads to salvation. God’s way is believing and embracing what Christ has already accomplished – accepting His free gift, His substitionary death as fulfilling the payment or penalty required for our sin.

When we do that, we “who believe in Him are made right with God.”
Thank You, Lord. For making me right with You!

The Apostle Paul wanted to make sure everyone understood what he meant by that first paragraphs in Romans 10. A few sentences later he wrote this:

9If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.
Romans 10:9-10 (NLT)

Have you been made right with God? If not, I urge you to take Paul’s advice – confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead. Believe it. Make Jesus the Lord of your life. Tell someone about it. Leave a comment on this post or email me – sandy@ApprehendingGrace.com.

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

Join us as we read through God’s Word a few chapters each day. Our Resting at the River’s Edge schedules help you stay on track with us…but if you fall behind, don’t worry. Just keep reading. Before you begin reading, ask God to reveal Himself to you – He promises that He will.  God will meet you and you will be blessed.

Our Resting at the River’s Edge schedules provide two reading plans. The first two columns of the schedule allow you to read through the entire Bible over a two-year period. During those two years we read through the New Testament twice and the Old Testament once. The “Additional Readings” in column 3 put you on a one-year reading plan. If you read through both the scheduled and additional readings, you will read through the entire Bible in 2013.

I hope you’ll join us! Reading through the Bible each year is one of my favorite things to do. I know that God will speak to you and your needs as you read. Since God usually speaks to me as I am reading His Word, you’ll find that many of the blogs I write relate directly to the Resting at the River’s Edge readings for that week (or sometimes from the previous week because I fall behind in the readings sometimes, too).

Click on one of the following buttons to open a PDF file of the May/June 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.

[button_round color=”blue” url=”http://apprehendinggrace.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Bookmark-2013-03May-Jun.pdf”] Click here for the May/June 2013 recommended reading bookmark. [/button_round]

[button_round color=”purple” url=”http://apprehendinggrace.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/2013-RARE-Bookmarks.pdf”] Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013. [/button_round]

I hope you’ll join us in Resting at the River’s Edge, and that you’ll email me, telling me how it’s going. You can also leave a message on our Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog. What has God spoken into your heart today? Share it with us so that we might also know Him better.

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for June is below.

Resting at the River's Edge - Reading through the Bible in 2 years - June 2013 Schedule

 

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

Get to know God better by reading through the Bible a little bit every day. Pray, ask God to reveal Himself to you, then read. Our Resting at the River’s Edge schedules help you stay on track…but if you fall behind, don’t worry. Just keep reading. God will meet you and you will be blessed.

Resting at the River’s Edge schedules provide two reading plans. The main readings schedule readings that allow you to read through the entire Bible over a two-year period. During those two years we read through the New Testament twice and the Old Testament once. The “Additional Readings” in the schedule put you on a one-year reading plan. If you read through both the scheduled and additional readings, you will read through the entire Bible in 2013.

I hope you’ll join us! Reading through the Bible each year is one of my favorite things to do. I know that God will speak to you and your needs as you read. He always does. Since God usually speaks to me as I am reading His Word, you’ll find that many of the blogs I write relate directly to the Resting at the River’s Edge readings for that week (or sometimes from the previous week because I fall behind in the readings sometimes, too).

Click on one of the following buttons to open a PDF file of the May/June 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.

[button_round color=”blue” url=”http://apprehendinggrace.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Bookmark-2013-03May-Jun.pdf”] Click here for the May/June 2013 recommended reading bookmark. [/button_round]

[button_round color=”purple” url=”http://apprehendinggrace.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/2013-RARE-Bookmarks.pdf”] Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013. [/button_round]

Join us as we read, then email me, leave a message on our Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog. What has God spoken into your heart today?

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for May is below.

Resting at the River's Edge May 2013 Reading Schedule

 

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 (RSV)

Our part in the equation of this verse is that we confess our sins to God. In our first blog about a repentant heart, we learned that repent means to “think differently” about our sin. The word translated confess in the above verse is very similar – it means “come into agreement with” God about our sin. When we confess our sins, we are no longer thinking about them in a positive light, but rather coming to God saying “Lord, I agree with you that what I’ve done is wrong. Forgive me.”

After we’ve done that, the heavy lifting is all up to God. This verse promises us that if (when) we confess our sins:

God is faithful – He will do what He says He will do. He does not change His mind about it. He doesn’t look at our sin to determine whether or not it is forgivable. Instead, when we confess our sins, God is faithful – to His character, His Word, and to the promises He’s made to us.

God is just – It would not seem to me that a just God should forgive all my sins, but He does. He forgives all my sins because the required punishment has already been given and received. He forgives my sins because the required price has already been paid. To not forgive the sin would be requiring more than what God has already said is required. Romans 6:23 states clearly that the penalty for sin is death. It goes on just as clearly to explain that the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23 (NLT)

Christ died as payment in full for my sin. Paid in Full! Punishment has been already been given and received. God is faithful to His Word and God is just. To require more of me today than God has already defined as the set penalty or punishment would be unjust.

God will forgive our sins – With the penalty already paid, God fully – fully – forgives our sins. Any residual guilt we may feel is one of two things (or both): A lie from the enemy that we are believing or a refusal to believe God. You may wonder “why would anyone ever refuse to believe God – especially about something so wonderful?” It’s a fair question. But I suspect that if you think carefully you can identify times in your own life when you chose to hold on to guilt instead of receive God’s forgiveness. Perhaps you felt that you didn’t deserve forgiveness; perhaps you were enjoying wallowing in your guilt; perhaps you were just being rebellious or stubborn. In the light of day that sounds horrible, but we do it. At some point (or at many points in our lives), we must choose to believe God in this area – believe God that if we have confessed our sins, He will and has forgiven us.

God will cleanse us from all unrighteousness – I am so glad that God added this last phrase! It says that not only will He forgive the sin that I’ve confessed, but that He will cleanse me from all unrighteousness. We don’t have to worry that we may have forgotten to confess some sin and therefore have not been fully forgiven. God cleanses us from all unrighteousness. And as I suspect you’ve heard many preachers say – all means ALL! When we live with a repentant heart, we confess our sins as God brings them to our attention. He then immediately forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

As I’ve meditated on this aspect of God’s faithfulness and justice over the past few days I’ve had two thoughts:

  • First, what an awesome, mind boggling thing it is that Jesus did for us. He took all the sin we have committed and ever would commit upon Himself as He hung on the cross. In that moment when God looked away, in that moment when Jesus and God were separated by the blackness of my sin, Jesus didn’t condemn me, He forgave me and He cleansed me. He made it possible for me to exchange the blackness of my sin for a pure heart.
  • Second, sometimes we feel unclean because of sins against us. When we confess our sins, we are cleansed from all unrighteousness. When we have been sinned against, even if our response has been pure, we feel unclean, just as we might feel unclean when we visit a garbage dump. It’s not our fault and we are not condemned for having visited the dump, but upon leaving we feel unclean. When we come to the Lord, He cleanses us of all unrighteousness. If you are struggling with feelings of unrighteousness – feeling that you have been sinned against and will never be clean – go to God. Confess your sins (read that carefully – confess your sins, not those sins others committed against you) and know that God will cleans you from all unrighteousness. Believe it! Live it! Holding on to feelings of unrighteousness are unnecessary.

When we confess our sins, God is faithful to His Word and His promises to us. When we confess our sins, God is just – not requiring a greater penalty than His Word says is required. When we confess our sins, God forgives them – we can live in freedom. When we confess our sins, God cleanses us from all unrighteousness – he exchanges the blackness of our sin for a pure heart.

A repentant heart leads to a pure heart. And living from a pure heart is living in freedom and joy.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 (NRSV)

1In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, 2“Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”
Matthew 3:1-2 (NLT)

Remember, the word “repent” literally means “think differently” about your sins. We need to think differently about them because we tend to like them! Before we came to Christ were happy to indulge in many of them. But we’ve been called to repentance. We’re to think differently…But repenting isn’t only about thinking differently…

Skipping down to verse 5, Scripture continues…

5People from Jerusalem and from all of Judea and all over the Jordan Valley went out to see and hear John. 6And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. 7But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to watch him baptize, he denounced them. “You brood of snakes!” he exclaimed. “Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath? 8Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.”
Matthew 3:5-8 (NLT)

The way that we prove that we have repented – the way that we prove that we think differently about our sin – is by living differently. “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.”

Just as God’s actions prove His love for us, our actions prove our love for Him.

But what are those actions that prove we love God? Let’s look at what Colossians says:

1Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand….
5So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. 6Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. 7You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. 8But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.

Colossians 3:1-10 (NASB)

The first part of the chapter tells us that we’re to think differently about our sins – that we’re to repent of them, and not only think differently about them but to put them to death. Since we’ve been raised to new life with Christ, we’re to put to death the “sinful, earthly things lurking within you.” Whether we’ve been Christians for a few days or a few decades, when we’re honest with ourselves and God, we recognize that there are still sinful desires lurking within us.

Those sinful desires hang around the edges and wait for the opportunity to pounce. What are they? Paul doesn’t list all of them in this passage, but he lists these:

  • sexual immorality
  • impurity
  • lust
  • evil desires
  • Being greedy (for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world)
  • Anger
  • Rage
  • malicious behavior
  • slander
  • dirty language
  • lying

Paul says we’re to put these things to death. That requires action on our part.

Paul doesn’t say “watch them die,” he says “kill them.”

  • That means when you are tempted to lie, what should you do? Kill the lie – don’t let it live – don’t give it breath – instead, kill the lie by telling the truth.
  • When you are tempted to be greedy, what should you do? Kill the greed by being generous – giving something away that you love.
  • When you are tempted to be angry, what should you do? Kill the anger by showing love.

Becoming a mature believer doesn’t just happen because we come to church on Sunday and pray throughout the week. Becoming a mature believer doesn’t happen just because we read our Bibles every day. Becoming a mature believer happens as we think like God thinks about our sins – we repent of them and put them to death.

And I know that’s not easy, but this Colossians passage has helped me over the past month because of the imagery. As Paul wrote in verses 9 and 10:

Don’t lie to each other for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.
Colossians 3:1-10 (NASB)

Paul uses the imagery of putting on our new nature and he continues it. Let’s skip to verse 12.

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved,…
Colossians 3:12 (NASB)

I love that intro. Paul started chapter 3 by saying “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand…” now he begins the second half of the chapter by saying “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved…”

Paul is giving us instructions how to prove our love to God, but he fills the chapter with words that reassure us that we are loved by God. God has already proved His love for us.

12So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
Colossians 3:12-14 (NASB)

Those 5 verses are chock full of instructions for living in a way that pleases God. I want to look at them a little more closely this afternoon. What do they say?

V12 “Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

“Put on” – Like you put your clothes on each morning! And we have to do it each morning because those characteristics, those qualities, don’t come naturally to most of us. So each morning, and sometimes many times throughout the day, we have to consciously think “I am going to put on patience right now.” Or “I am going to put on kindness right now.”

I put my sweater on a dozen times a day because I get cold. I need to put on compassion and kindness and humility and gentleness and patience just as many times because my heart grows cold and I want to be impatient and selfish and demanding. (I know that’s hard to believe about me, but it’s true.)

V13
“Bearing with one another, forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”

“Bearing with one another” means putting up with each other! But doing so with patience and kindness and gentleness and compassion and humility! You know, sometimes my husband really gets on my nerves! Not very often, but it happens! And when that happens, I have two choices: Be frustrated with him and snap at him, or take a deep breath and put on patience and bear with him.

And if he has done something to offend me, I’m to forgive him – just as the Lord has forgiven me.

V14 “Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.”

We are most like Christ when we love one another. Scripture describes love as the perfect bond of unity. It is what Jesus prayed for us before His crucifixion:

20“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
John 17:20-21 (NKJV)

Jesus prayed that we would be one. That requires putting on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. So when we get dressed in the morning, we also pray “Lord, help me to love like You love today.” Because I can’t do it on my own. I need His refreshing and His filling each day.

Jesus gave us the example of perfect love:

But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 (NRSV)

When He has done so much for us, let’s commit again to prove that we love Him. As He prompts us this week, let’s put our repentance into action – let’s put to death the deeds of the flesh and put on patience and kindness, forgiveness and love.

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One would have to be in a pretty bad place for prison to be considered a promotion…at least as we view things. Perhaps, however, we’re not seeing with God’s eyes.

The story of Joseph is an interesting one. Sold by his brothers to traveling merchants, he ended up in the household of the Pharaoh’s (King’s) Chief of Security, Potiphar. He was quickly promoted to being Potiphar’s personal assistant and placed in charge of his entire household. Potiphar’s wife found Joseph quite attractive and begged him (repeatedly) to have sex with her. When Joseph refused, she accused him of trying to rape her. Without any investigation or even listening to Joseph’s side of the story, Potiphar had Joseph thrown into prison. For the second time in his life, Joseph was dealt a tremendous injustice.

I don’t think there are any of us who would consider Joseph’s change in position a promotion. Yet when we see the whole of the story, we can see that it was.

Before long, the warden put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison.
Genesis 39:22 (NLT)

In Potiphar’s home, Joseph learned how to run a home. In prison, Joseph learned how to run a prison. He got practical experience in how to manage the prison for the Pharaoh of Egypt. Yes, he was a slave in both cases, but running a prison is a much larger responsibility than running a home.

Being in prison also put Joseph in the place he needed to be to receive his next promotion. It was in prison that he met the Pharaoh’s chief cup-bearer and baker. It would be the cup-bearer who would introduce the Pharaoh to Joseph. It would then be Pharaoh who promoted Joseph to Prime Minister of Egypt. It is this promotion that put Joseph in a position to save his brothers (yes, the very brothers who had sold him into slavery) and his father from dying of hunger during the severe famine. He learned and refined the skills he needed during his time as Potiphar’s assistant and head of the Pharaoh’s prison.

In each situation, God was preparing Joseph for his next assignment.

I can’t imagine that Joseph was happy about being sold to Potiphar or being thrown in jail. Nevertheless, he was faithful to God – which means more than praying – he was faithful to do his best in the situation God had placed him.

It’s painful to realize that it is God who has placed us where we are when we’re not where we want to be or where we think we deserve to be. I remember an exceedingly painful time in my life when thinking that God had allowed what had transpired to happen only magnified my pain. Joseph’s situation was worse than mine. I may have been betrayed, but I wasn’t sold to others and I wasn’t thrown into prison for staying faithful to God.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

But “working things together for good” is a process. The start of a project – whether it’s a painting or a building or cleaning the house – is often messy. And those involved in a project from the start can get pretty messy before they receive accolades for the finished product.

Our role in all this is to remain both faithful and full of faith – faithful to be obedient to One who knows the end before we even see the beginning and full of faith that He is good and is working for our good.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)

Are you being challenged to be faithful or full of faith today? Don’t give up. God is working – in you, in those around you, in the situation and in your future. In the meantime…

  • Focus on God, not on your situation.
  • Remember His goodness and His faithfulness.
  • Know that His ways bring blessing even if your current circumstances seem to prove otherwise.
  • Remain thankful. Look for opportunities to be thankful.
  • Practice the sacrifice of praise – praising God in the midst of challenging times.
  • Find a church family whose love will help you through to the other side.
  • Seek His presence regularly.

These things sound like platitudes, but they are foundational actions that will help you remain steadfast during the challenging times in your life. They will help you remain both faithful and full of faith.

By the way…did you notice that all the words first words in the above list are verbs – action words. Be proactive when you’re in challenging situations. Work at staying close to God. Work at staying faithful and full of faith.

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Looking toward 2013 – Fear isn’t Part of God’s Plan, Don’t Make it Part of Yours

24Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, “Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.”
Matthew 25:24-25 (NLT)

In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:11-27), the third servant did not use the talent given to him because he was afraid (Matthew 25:25, Luke 19:21). I wonder how often we let fear cripple or hinder us? Or how often is it an excuse for laziness? The master responded to the servant by calling him lazy (Matthew 25:26, Luke 19:22).

As we look toward 2013, I don’t want us to lose out on God’s tremendous plans for our lives because we are afraid. Afraid of success, afraid of failure or afraid of plain old hard work. I want to approach the new year with an attitude that says “Yes!” to whatever God has in mind. I suspect that will mean looking fear square in the face sometimes…

If that’s the case, perhaps it will help to remind myself what else Scripture has to say about fear. Here are a couple of verses:

God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love and sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

For the Spirit that God has given us does not make you a slave and cause you to be afraid; instead, the Spirit makes you God=s sons and by the Spirit=s power we cry to God, “Father! My Father!”
Romans 8:15 (TEV) (or “Abba! Father!”)

What a picture of God’s love! Think of the small child who is frightened – he runs to his papa, throws his arms up and cries “Father! Father! Protect me!”

And He will! We’re also told in John 16:33 “These things I [Jesus] have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

There are 2 parts to this verse:

Part 1: Jesus promises us peace
Philippians 4:7 says that His peace, which passes all understanding, keeps our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. When will this happen? Philippians 4:6 says it will happen when we reach up to Jesus, crying “Father, Father! Protect me!”

Part 2: Jesus tells us to take courage – He has overcome the world.
1 John 5:4 says “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.” (See Romans 8:14, 1 John 5:6 for more.)

If fear is not of God, what is its source. Its source is satan. Satan has a very poor substitute for everything God has – his substitute for faith is fear! Fear is really faith that satan will win instead of God! But God tells us that the victory that has overcome the world is our faith – our faith in Jesus Christ and God the Father to do what He promises to do:

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
1 John 4:4

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:37-39

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13

In light of all this:

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:57-58

Whew! Lots of Scripture in this blog! Meditate on them if you feel yourself being pulled toward fear. Don’t go there and don’t let satan take you there!

Friends, let’s look toward 2013 with a “yes” in our heart to the things of God. Don’t let fear cause you to lose the tremendous blessings He has for you.

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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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I have been captured by the song Word of God Speak by MercyMe this week. You can read about it in yesterday’s blog. You can purchase the CD here.

In yesterday’s blog, I included a YouTube video that intermingles images and Scriptures while the song plays in the background. The video includes great verses about God’s Word, but as the video was ending,  I realized that the song brought a different verse to my mind:

Where there is no vision (revelation, prophetic vision, divine guidance), the people perish (cast off restraint, run wild), but happy are those who keep the law (whoever obeys the law is joyful).
Proverbs 29:18

The Word of God brings vision, revelation and divine guidance. Even when He is speaking discipline, that discipline comes wrapped in a package that includes vision for a better future – that we can be more than we are currently pursuing. It holds the hope of what can come next and the promise that God will help us get there.

By the way, that’s the difference between condemnation from the enemy and conviction from the Holy Spirit. When the enemy speaks it is in condemnation and it doesn’t come packaged with the vision for a better future. It doesn’t come wrapped in hope and a promise for help. It comes wrapped only in accusation, the sense of defeat and assurance of destruction. And in the face of such a future, we cast off restraint and step into that future of defeat.

When God speaks, good things happen:

1. Hope arises in our heart as we glimpse God’s vision. When He speaks, we begin to understand things from God’s perspective.

“He cares enough to speak to me, even though I have failed Him.”

“He has a vision for my future even when my sight is blurred or failing.”

“With Him, I can become the man/woman He wants me to be.”

“He has a part for me to play – a role in His eternal plan.”

2. Faith is ignited in our spirit when His Word speaks to us.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:17 (NIV)

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

3. Faith brings an increased measure of grace into our lives enabling us to hold onto and step into God’s vision. Our God is a God of the future. Yes, He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, but He forgives the past and enables the future. When He speaks, His message offers us an opportunity to enter into that future – that vision He has given.

Word of God speak. To me. To my readers. To Your people. We need to hear Your voice. We need Your prophetic vision. We need it to instill us with hope, increase our faith and activate grace in our lives.

We need these things because without them – without hope, without faith and without God’s grace, we see and hear only what the enemy is doing around us and whispering in our ears (“failure”, “defeat”, “no way out”) and sensing defeat we cast off restraint. We run wild because we don’t see God’s vision and our part in it. And we run into our own destruction.

Word of God Speak.

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