What’s It Mean?

“A righteousness has been made known” ~Romans 3:21 

   After their weekly Bible Study, Phil and James always took time to share coffee, muffins and their thoughts about the study at The Daily Grind.

“Do you have a Bible reading plan, Phil?”

“I used to, but no matter which system I’ve tried it always ends the same with feelings of disappointment, guilt and frustration that I don’t keep up the pace.

“The last one I began combined the Old and New Testaments with portions of the Psalms and Proverbs.”

“I don’t get it. That sounds like a good idea, Phil. How did it bring about a negative experience?”

“Life! All the requirements in my life got in the way. I found that attempting to add one more obligation was one too many. Instead of looking forward to reading the Bible in a year, it became a weight on my shoulders. Just another “thing” I had to accomplish. After the first month, I found myself significantly behind which brought guilt and disappointment in myself. Instead of basking in reading through God’s Word, I felt like a loser once again. I knew I would never catch up. What was wrong with me? I couldn’t even read the Bible regularly”

James chuckled as his friend poured out his heart. “I’ve been there and done that just like you. And guess what? I had the same results each time. So don’t feel like a loser. You just have to find a system that works. We know the Lord wants us to read the Bible which means I can go to Him for help.”

“Funny,” said Phil. “Going to the Lord asking for help in reading the Bible seems like a no-brainer but I’ve got to admit, I haven’t done it. At least not specifically.”

“What I do is really simple. I choose a section of the Bible to read with no time constraints at all. I may read a chapter at a sitting or I may read one verse. The Holy Spirit guides me with no regard for accomplishing anything. Instead, my goal is to understand what God wants me to understand. The number of verses does not enter into the experience. As you know the Book of James reminds us we can ask God for wisdom but we must believe without doubting. I discovered that asking God for wisdom should always precede our Bible reading and study times. For example, let’s see what God wants to show us in a couple of verses in 1 Corinthians.” They prayed and then opened to that section:

1 Corinthians 2:1-2   

“When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.”

If you’ve not tried this method, do so now. Ask God to give you His wisdom regarding this section of 1 Corinthians and believe that He will. Then take your time, don’t hurry through thinking it’s important to achieve a reading goal. That’s not important. What is important is what God will reveal to you and how that will change your life in some way.

Imaginary Roadblocks

“God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness” ~2 Timothy 1:7

I’m 37 and not married. 

I’m married but can’t have children.

I don’t know who my mother/father is.

I am not clever or articulate.

I am short and  chubby.

I didn’t invest my money and now I am living on a minimal income. 

I made bad choices and I am a loser.

These are imaginary roadblocks and those who hold these ideas think they are losers, failures; they think life has passed them by and the Lord is not playing fair with them. They believe if these so-called problems were rectified, life would be so much better. They would be satisfied and content. Not true.

Many years ago I was at a conference led by a Catholic priest. During one of the classes he said, “You cannot listen to your feelings. We all have them but you cannot allow them to lead your life. Feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just are!”

At first I rejected his statement as ridiculous. But after a few hours of ruminating, I realized he was correct. Feelings are just that, feelings. Let’s go back to the list above. Each of these statements are tied in to feelings. For example, I’m 37 and not married. Possible feelings: “I am never going to find the right guy and enjoy family life. What is wrong with me?”

I don’t know who my father is. Possible feeling: “I am a loser not knowing who my father is. I have no sense of identity.” Another person may say, “I know who my father is and he was a terrible, mean-spirited, drunk who caused great sadness and fear in our family.”

If we focus on what we don’t have, we allow those pesky feelings to rule our lives. A man was overheard to say on the day of his college graduation, “I am so frustrated. I missed graduating with an A average by just a couple of grade points. I feel like the whole experience was a bust!

Another graduate who held a great celebration party just graduating college, cannot understand the other person’s attitude. They would think it strange to find disappointment in such success. Feelings can take you down.

2 Timothy 1:7 “God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and a sound mind.”

Pause a moment. God. The creator of everything says He has not given us a spirit of fear but one of power, love and a sound mind! That is a promise. Do we believe it? Or do we allow our feelings to trample on this promise?

Fear sneaks in right behind doubt and we fall apart. The what-if’s come roaring in followed by I’m not worthy and we reach for our well-worn loser hat and slink down the road, muttering, “I knew it was too good to be true. I knew it wouldn’t last.”

Guess what we are actually saying? “God is a liar!” Shocking isn’t it. Of course we never utter those words but that is what we secretly believe. 

“I’d never call God a liar,” we shout pounding on the table. “That would be ridiculous and just wrong.” However, when we read 2 Timothy 1:7 and allow fear to tear life from our grasp, we are proclaiming loudly that it is not true. Faith in Christ brings new life, life built on the foundation of God’s love, grace and mercy. The unifying element which ties this all together is forgiveness, God’s and ours. Reading His Word, talking to him openly (known as prayer), brings God-given results in every situation, no matter how we feel!

We must resist our negative feelings and “rely on the power of God, who has saved us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.” 1 Timothy 1:8-9

Living God’s Word

“My sheep listen to My voice” ~John 10:27

Charles and Ike were leaving the gym after a good workout. Ike seemed sidetracked.

“What’s bothering you, Ike?”

“Let’s talk at the coffee shop.”

In a few minutes they slid into a booth and ordered breakfast.

“Ok, shoot. What’s up my friend?”

“I feel like a failure with the Lord. I keep failing in my attitudes and actions. I sin. I ask forgiveness and then the next thing I know, I am sinning again. I guess I’m just a failure at being a Christian. I feel terrible.”

“Ike, we all fail. The Lord is at the right hand of the Father, forgiving all our sins. Once we accepted Christ as our Savior, His forgiveness is forever. Let’s look at some verses.”

John 11:25-26 “Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this?”

1 Peter 1:3-5 “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.”

John 6:35-40 “Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty…However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.” 

Romans 8:38-39 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

“Ike, our struggle with sin is ongoing and will be a battle until our final breath. Fortunately, our forgiveness is also ongoing and never-failing. It’s important to remember that our Lord’s death on the cross and three days later His resurrection has made it possible for all our sins to be forgiven. All OUR SINS! 

“It would be a cruel joke if the Lord suffered and died for us, experiencing the horrific pain to become the perfect sacrifice for our sins and then tell people struggling with sin, “Sorry. This sin is not forgiven. You didn’t try hard enough. Your name will be erased from the Lambs Book of Life 

“Keep in mind how John described Jesus as he saw Him walking towards him in John 1:29, “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” It is Jesus who takes away the sin of the world. We did not earn our salvation. Neither can we lose it by poor behavior. However, repentance is an essential element in our life with Christ. If we do not repent daily, we needlessly carry guilt. Confess your sins and give those burdens to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

Ephesians, Part 4

coffee cup in hand (2013_06_21 16_53_37 UTC)

“Put on your new nature and be renewed” Colossians 3:10

Ephesians Chapter 1

4 “Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes.”

Talk about a mind bender! How do we wrap our human minds around this simple verse? “Before He made the world, God loved us?” How can that be, we ask? First we struggle with the idea of whether or not God made everything in six literal days and now— we read that God loved us before we existed; prior to making any of the heavens or the earth. This is a stunning concept truly beyond human comprehension.

Of course it is beyond human comprehension, we are His creation and He is the Creator. Can you remember back to a time in school when you began a new class and your mind was in utter confusion, struggling to understand the necessary concepts? I can recall a class in which I was completely in the dark, ready to give up. As I shared my confusion with the professor one day he said, “Oh I know how hard it is to grasp this concept but don’t give up. I can tell that you are just about to break through. Don’t give up!” Fortunately I listened to his advice. Within that very week, the understanding exploded into  my mind. I was so joyful. I had faith in the professor’s observation.

In a way, attempting to understand all of God’s mysterious Scriptures while we are still living on earth is similar. But the complete revelation of God’s truths is yet to come. “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a 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 Cor. 13:12

The first verse of the first book in the Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 Do we understand what this means? Can we imagine this act of creation? Absolutely not. We understand the words and the idea but not literally. We are totally dumbfounded. It is beyond human comprehension. And so is the idea that verse 4, above,  expresses. Before God made our world He loved us. God loved me personally before he created the world! Then surely I owe my allegiance to Him.

Not only has God loved us before He made everything, He “chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes.” Holy and without fault? Will everyone who feels holy and without fault please raise your hand! We shrink back from the very idea. If you only knew me, we think. Holy and without fault? Far from it. And yet, through the filter of Christ’s blood, God does see us as holy and without fault. Not only that, before He created the world He saw us in this way.

God says to you, “I love you and have loved you before I created anything!”

Ephesians, Part 3

“The Word of the Lord endures forever!” 1 Peter 1:25

 

Ephesians Chapter 1

2 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

Paul continues with his earnest desire for all the followers of Christ; that the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father pour out supernatural grace and peace on their lives. This is not a casual thought or passing greeting as we might say, “Have a great day!” Far more, this is from Pauls great desire that each follower of Christ walk in God’s grace and peace. Imagine those days when the whole ball of wax of our lives seems to melt before your eyes. Paul’s hope is that we will walk through the trials of life, understanding we have God’s eternal grace and peace every minute of every day.

3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.

Stop and think what we’ve just read. Have you relished the power of these words? Go back and read them again. This is not a to-do list, a grocery list, a few reminders. These are God’s Words! The living Word of God, passed down from the beginning of time according to His holy plan.

Do you have a favorite book? One you take off the shelf once a year or so, knowing how you relish the story, the writing style, how it speaks to you with each reading? There’s just something you love about the book. You value it. As believers, that book should be the Bible; Written by God as He spoke the words via His Holy Spirit into the hearts of all the authors. Clearly then, reading our Bible should be an act of joyful anticipation, expecting the Holy Spirit to give us personal revelation.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,—” Not some or lots of— ALL praise to God. How many billions of people inhabit the earth? How many billions have passed into eternity since the beginning of time? If we could fill the planet with every soul who has lived and every voice would continuously sing praises unto God— that would not be too much. He is worthy of all praise. His purity and perfection should generate spontaneous peals of HALLELUJAH! (Praise You, Jehovah!)

Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms—” What can this mean? Do we understand such a glorious proclamation from God? In short, we do not understand this promise. And it is a promise from God. This must mean that in spite of our feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, and failure, we have been blessed with spiritual blessings by God. Specifically, every blessing in the heavenly realms. Since this is so mind boggling, we are tempted to set it aside as too hard to understand. Don’t do it. God does not lie and He has written in the Bible that we have been blessed with specific heavenly blessings whether or not we can grasp this fact. Pray about it. Ask God about it. Search the bible for the answer. Have faith! “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1)