Tag Archives: bible

Judges 3

Rescue Them

I have a pretty good overview of the Old Testament history of the Hebrews. Frankly if I was God I would have abandoned them and started over with a people a bit more receptive to obeying his commands. He certainly had plenty of nations to choose from. But no, he remained faithful even if they didn’t. However, he did discipline them.

Since they wanted to live for themselves, God withdrew his protection and allowed natural consequences to take effect. Soon they were conquered by their enemies and enslaved.

No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. – Hebrews 12:11

Once they experienced the discipline, the consequences of their actions, they cried out for relief. Funny how we always seem to remember God once we are in trouble, but never when we are getting into it.

But when Israel cried out to the LORD for help, the LORD raised up a man to rescue them… – Judges 3:9

And again.

But when Israel cried out to the LORD for help, the LORD raised up a man to rescue them… – Judges 3:15

And again.

After Ehud, Shamgar son of Anath rescued Israel… – Judges 3:31

And the same sad story continues through the entire book. They do evil. God lets them have their way. They are overcome, they are enslaved. They cry for help. God sends rescue.

Isn’t that our story? It is my story.

If I was God, I would have abandoned me long ago and left me to rot. But he didn’t and he doesn’t.

He considers me infinitely valuable.

How do I know that? His Son Jesus created infinity and God allowed him to die to pay the penalty for all of my sins: past, present and future. He rescued me.

Heavenly Father, please continue to create in me the desire to be holy. I want to love the things you love, hate the things you hate. Help me to see everyone through your eyes. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I’m Rescued

Job 38

Then the Lord…

What an amazing three words, “Then the Lord”. Literally anything could come afterward. There is no limit within this or any other realm of existence or thought which constrain his activity or intentions. Then the Lord…

This particular “Then the Lord” comes from the following verse.

Then the LORD answered Job from the whirlwind – Job 38:1

I know that God is the one doing the speaking, but now there are three additional pieces of information given.

1 – It was an answer or response to something.
2 – Job was the questioner.
3 – The Lord spoke from a whirlwind, or violent storm.

The third item sort of jumped out at me. A violent storm? Where did that come from? Did it just pop up the moment God’s voice was heard?

If I go back in the book of Job a chapter I see the following verses when Elihu is pontificating.

My heart pounds as I think of this. It leaps within me. Listen carefully to the thunder of God’s voice as it rolls from his mouth. It rolls across the heavens, and his lightning flashes out in every direction. Then comes the roaring of the thunder—the tremendous voice of his majesty. He does not restrain the thunder when he speaks. God’s voice is glorious in the thunder. We cannot comprehend the greatness of his power… Do you know how God controls the storm and causes the lightning to flash forth from his clouds? Do you understand how he balances the clouds with wonderful perfection and skill? – Job 37:1-5,15-16

I’ve always assumed that these verses were mere poetic language by Elihu, more of him rattling off his knowledge of God’s attributes.

However, now I think that Elihu was borrowing from the current atmospheric condition outside of Job’s home.

Imagine the five of them sitting there on the floor in Job’s home. Elihu is speaking. His back is to the open window and he feels the breeze begin to kick up. He thinks to himself, “That’s right, God controls all of the weather too.” Elihu is so focused on being heard that he doesn’t notice that Zophar, and Bildad, who are facing the window, are now staring wide-eyed straight ahead. They are seeing a storm like they’ve never seen before materializing right in front of them. The storm resembles the shape of a man – legs, torso, and arms. They can’t see above mid-chest as that is above their line of sight. Suddenly lightning flashes from above. Terror grips the duo, Eliphaz now glances toward the window and his blood runs cold. Job is just staring at the ground wishing Elihu would shut up already. Elihu makes some comment about God controlling lightning. The storm engulfs the house, darkness descends like a blanket. Elihu continues to speak. Then the Lord…

Everything changes. Nothing is the same. Then the Lord…

Lord, give us patience to wait on you. Sometimes you speak from and through the storm, sometimes from the stillness. But you are speaking, you don’t withhold your voice or presence from your children. You never abandon your children. Lord, please give us spiritual ears to hear. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Answered! Jan

Job 8

Shoes

A number of years ago I found a terrific brand of black work shoe that I truly like at Payless Shoes. They have an air-pillow insole, leather uppers, and they are oil and slip resistant. The heel is about one inch high, and the sole is about half an inch high. That means they are comfortable and durable. Additionally, being at least half an inch off the ground means that I can step right through most puddles without worrying about getting my feet wet. I hate wet squishy shoes. And living in Florida where it rains a lot means there are plenty of opportunities to find puddles, so shoe-height is important to me.

There is an old Indian proverb that says, do not judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.

If I could remember the brand of shoe I wear, I’d recommend you get some and walk a few miles in them.

Which brings me to Bildad the Shuhite. His opening words to Job must have cut like a knife.

How long will you go on like this? Your words are a blustering wind. – Job 8:2

Translation: “Job, you’re such a windgbag! How long will you go on polluting the atmosphere with your mouth?”

This is a guy who has not stopped to put on Job’s moccasins. He has no true concept of what is really going on in Job’s life, but he’s decided that he knows the path Job has been on and which one Job must take. I think he is walking right into some pretty nasty puddles of condemnation, and Bildad’s shoe-height isn’t enough to keep his feet from soaking in the stinking sop. Instead of simply sitting and mourning with his friend, he joined in the self-righteous parade.

The sad thing is that I’m just as guilty. I may not say things to someone’s face, but in my heart I have. I’ve harbored thoughts and doubts deep down about a person’s motives, walk, and relationship with God based upon their external circumstances. But that is exactly where the crux of the matter lies, the heart. God looks at the heart, not the external. He will allow whatever is necessary to accomplish his result of molding our heart into one that is in the image of his son’s. So, while I’m busy being shoe-deep in crud, thinking self-righteous thoughts, God is shaping someone’s heart to be what he desires it to be.

If I’m honest I have to admit that I’m more Bildad with the rather low shoe-height than I am Jesus. But I want to be different.

Heavenly Father, please give the desire and ability to look at the heart, not the external. Please give me a discerning spirit. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Put on Jesus’ shoes and walk above the puddle. Jan

Job 7

Soul Sick

Many years ago when my first wife and I parted company I remember the nights of anguish, lying on my bed alone wishing, praying for death. I felt that life was over, I was a failure. My soul was sick and everything in life was affected by it. I didn’t care how I looked, what I ate or how much, when or if I slept, how the house looked – nothing mattered.

I doubt if I have ever been in the same league as Job in subject despair, and hope never to be, but I definitely see soul-sickness in the following verse.

Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. – Job 7:11

Most people when they read this verse don’t take the time to analyze what is really being said, what are the words being used. They just assume Job had finally decided to gripe.

However, Job is not saying, “I’ve had it. I’m going to spew out my disgust and bitterness.”

The Hebrew word “mar”, translated as bitterness also means heaviness, or pain. Likewise the the Hebrew word “siyach” is not just complain. It also means to commune, to put forth in thought.

What Job is really saying is, “I can’t hold it in any more. My soul is distressed and sick. I must somehow express the tremendous pain that is in my soul.”

He had lost hope and saw no possible resolution. Yet, as we know, things changed. But it took time. He had to come through the trial.

And for me everything changed too. It took time. Through the care of loving friends and family and God’s grace, I am a totally different person than I was many years ago. I am married once again. My wife is more beautiful than I deserve. The children I have the privilege of calling my own are a true blessing, and I am useful to my Lord and King as a servant in his work.

Thank you Father. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

To God be the glory, great things he has done.
Jan

Job 6

Occluded Vision

When I was younger, nearly every summer our family went on vacation. We could not afford fancy theme parks and hotels, so we would venture into nature. We drove the family van, camped at state parks, and explored the beauty of God’s creation up and down the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. By today’s standards we would have been considered poor. But my brother and I were certainly not aware of it. We saw and did things that many of our wealthier contemporaries only wished they had.

My father often spoke of places he’d seen and places he still wanted to visit. One dream of his was to visit the Western half of the United States; the Redwood forest, the Grand Canyon, Mount Ranier, and Yellowstone were among the places he mentioned.

Sadly, as he began to age his hearing and his vision both began to fail. Where once he could see like an eagle, he had trouble reading without magnification, items in the distance were fuzzballs. Cataracts had occluded his vision. Conversations, in which he could best anyone, became a distant memory as he chose not to engage rather than struggle to make out words. His world, once vast, started to shrink.

Where there is no vision [no redemptive revelation of God], the people perish; but he who keeps the law [of God, which includes that of man]–blessed (happy, fortunate, and enviable) is he. – Proverbs 29:18 amp

When your dreams and hopes for the future start to slip away, what is left?

Job found himself in a similar place. Nearly everything he once knew and held dear was gone and he did not have the strength or health to change a thing. His vision was occluded by grief and pain. David wrote about this form of blindness.

My vision is blurred by grief; my eyes are worn out because of all my enemies. – Psalm 6:7

Job’s world was gone and only grief filled the void. Where once he had hope for a future, dreams for himself and his children, there was only desolation.

But I do not have the strength to endure. I do not have a goal that encourages me to carry on. Do I have strength as hard as stone? Is my body made of bronze? No, I am utterly helpless, without any chance of success. – Job 6:11-13

In order to rise above the circumstances of life, hope for something better must remain. Those who have found themselves in extraordinarily harsh circumstances, such as prisoners of war, earthquake survivors, and extreme injury victims all point to hope, a vision for something in the future, a goal, as being the thing that sustained them. But Job had lost all hope, his vision was so occluded that he could not see any goal other than to plead for death. However, if we read to the end of the book we know that everything changed.

Job lived 140 years after that, living to see four generations of his children and grandchildren. Then he died, an old man who had lived a long, good life. – Job 42:16-17

And like Job, my father had family and friends to surround him in his sunset years. While he never did get to go West, he did experience the joy of seeing his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He got to hold them, to laugh with them, and to share in the joy of the life he had made possible for his posterity. He lived a long, good life.

Lord, thank you for my father. I just hope that I can be even half the man that he was. Please help me to invest in my posterity as he did in his. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Go West young man… Jan

Job 5

Termite

Much effort, time and money has been spent in this country and others to rid ourselves of termites. They are a relentless destructive force that can silently destroy entire neighborhoods before the residents even are aware of it. They are regarded as a menace nearly everywhere.

I think Job’s ‘friend’ Eliphaz the Temanite, while meaning good, has shown himself to be a rather destructive force. Job needed someone to simply grieve with him. He did not need a lecture, or ‘counsel’.

However, even termites it seems can have a useful purpose. One very surprising discovery is that termites can produce nearly half a gallon of hydrogen from digesting a single sheet of paper. Thus, these destructive little insects could prove to be our fuel-supply salvation. That which seemed evil and destructive may be incredibly beneficial.

And I see that even Eliphaz the Termite did have some good counsel mixed with his windbag diatribe.

But consider the joy of those corrected by God! Do not despise the chastening of the Almighty when you sin. For though he wounds, he also bandages. He strikes, but his hands also heal. – Job 5:17-18

I know that it is good counsel because God chose to have it repeated in the New Testament.

For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always right and good for us because it means we will share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. – Hebrews 12:10-11

Wisdom and good can be found in the most unlikely places. Upon seeing it, my responsibility, as with any truth of God, is to choose to live by it and accept it. Or I may find myself fighting against God. And that my friends is a bad place to be. Because, as we’ve just read, he does discipline his own.

Father, may I listen for your rebukes and do what you say so that I don’t need your chastening. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Peace. Jan

Job 3

What I Always Feared

I wonder if Satan perked up and started dancing a little evil jig when he heard Job utter the following words.

What I always feared has happened to me. What I dreaded has come to be. I have no peace, no quietness. I have no rest; instead, only trouble comes. – Job 3:25-26

As a Christian I know that perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). But when you are in the crucible, in the time of trial, it certainly doesn’t feel like love is anywhere nearby. My wife taught me an expression early in our marriage. It is, “Our fears reduce us to lunatics.” From that lunacy all sorts of bad things follow.

Job was starting to despair. Thankfully he had his friends there to sit Shivah with him. There is a very old saying, “Joy shared is double joy, sorrow shared is half sorrow.” At least his burden was lightened for a little while.

Lord, I pray that I never go through anything like Job’s testing. Please continue to guard over me an my family. And may I be sensitive to those who are undergoing trials. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Then his ‘friends’ spoke… Jan

Job 1

There was…

Six thousand years ago a guy named Job (pronounced Joe-wb) was imortalized with the following words.

There was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless, a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil. – Job 1:1

I could stop right here. What an epitaph! It doesn’t get any better than that does it.

But it does!

Then the LORD asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and will have nothing to do with evil.” – Job 1:8

God himself said the exact same thing about Job and added that in all the earth he was the best. Wow!

I’m left wondering, would I like my name inserted into that sentence? And would I have enduring faith like Job’s when in the crucible as a result?

Lord, I truly want to please you. Please forgive me for my frequent lack of faith and occasional lapses in integrity. May I have the wisdom to foresee and to stay away from evil. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

… a man named Jan.

Philemon

Mercy Drops

There is an old hymn named “Showers of Blessing”. The words are:

Showers of blessing, showers of blessing we need.
Mercy drops ’round us are falling,
but for the showers we plead.

In my teens my Pastor’s grandson, Tony, was my best-friend; so I spent much time in and around the “Parsonage” (Pastor’s house for those who don’t speak Southern.) Pastor Roy Miller was a merry heart and loved pranks, stories, and jokes – when appropriate. I remember one day that Tony and I were playing indoors and I overheard him singing the following song.

Showers of money, showers of money we need.
Nickels and dimes ’round us are falling,
But for the the green-backs we plead.

As I was reading the book of Philemon I noticed that Paul was euphemistically referencing the topic of giving.

I myself have gained much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because your kindness has so often refreshed the hearts of God’s people. – Philemon 1:7

How would a slave-owner (a wealthy man) refresh the hearts of God’s people? The answer is by supplying their material needs.

While in prison, Paul was responsible for a runaway slave named Onesimus coming to the Lord. This slave was owned by Philemon.

Roman law was quite severe when it came to runaway slaves.

Runaway slaves were branded on the forehead with letters denoting the slave as a runaway (FUG) which was an abbreviation of “fugitivus,” meaning “runaway”. The deliberate breaking of the joints or bones was also a punishment inflicted on runaway slaves.

So, after praising Philemon, Paul went on to ask for a Shower of Blessing from his friend and child in the Lord.

He is no longer just a slave; he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a slave and as a brother in the Lord.

So if you consider me your partner, give him the same welcome you would give me if I were coming. – Philemon 1:16-17

This is no nickel and dime request. No, Paul is asking for green-backs. He is asking for Philemon to forgive a great debt.

If he has harmed you in any way or stolen anything from you, charge me for it. I, Paul, write this in my own handwriting: “I will repay it.” And I won’t mention that you owe me your very soul! – Philemon 1:18-19

How much is a soul worth?

Church history goes on to show that Onesimus was welcomed and the matter was forgiven.

Due to this letter from Paul, Philemon indeed accepted Onesimus as a brother and freed him of slavery. Onesimus was later appointed as bishop of Ephesus following the Apostle Timothy. – Wikipedia.org

I suspect that I’ll never be called upon to make such a huge financial decision for the kingdom of Christ. But should that happen, I pray that I’ll be like Philemon and remember the price that was paid for my soul.

Lord, thank you for showers of blessing. May I never forget them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Green-backs please. Jan

Titus 3

Not doing, Yes doing

I found the following scripture an interesting Möbius loop.

He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us because of what Jesus Christ our Savior did. He declared us not guilty because of his great kindness. And now we know that we will inherit eternal life. These things I have told you are all true. I want you to insist on them so that everyone who trusts in God will be careful to do good deeds all the time. These things are good and beneficial for everyone.Titus 3:5-8

Notice what I highlighted.

We were not saved because of the good things we did. But we are now ordered to be careful to do good deeds all the time.

The difference is the reason. It isn’t about us. It is about others. Even our salvation is about others. We could not do it, someone other than us, Jesus, had to do the good deed for us. Now we are free as a result of his good deed to do good deeds for others too.

Father, may I do good deeds all the time. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

For everyone. Jan

Titus 2

God, Jesus, the Bible

Most Sundays, as we drive home from church we’ll ask the boys what their lesson was about in the youth service. Their answer is usually something like, “God, Jesus, the Bible.” Informative huh? Well at least the 40,000 foot view is the correct one. A bit more detail would be nice.

Sometimes though we don’t need much more detail. We just need to look in the Bible to see what is plainly written there. One question that has often been asked is why do we say that Jesus is God? One very clear answer is in the verse below.

We should live in this evil world with self-control, right conduct, and devotion to God, while we look forward to that wonderful event when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. – Titus 2:12b-13

Who’s glorious revelation is Paul telling Titus to look forward to? Our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ!

What do you know? I guess the answer is God, Jesus, and the Bible; because Jesus is God, the Bible told me so.

Father, thank you that Paul spelled it out so clearly to Titus. May I not get too bogged down in details of unimportance, and truly look forward to your glorious appearing. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

What was your lesson about? Jan

Titus 1

Steadfast

Paul instructed Timothy to be sure that he doesn’t make a new believer a leader (1 Timothy 3:6). I think the following verse, where Paul is telling Titus how to choose leaders, gives some more insight as to why.

He must have a strong and steadfast belief in the trustworthy message he was taught; then he will be able to encourage others with right teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong. – Titus 1:9

If the believer does not have a steadfast belief, one that is fixed, unwavering, unchanging, firm, and unswerving, he can be discouraged into wrong teaching. He could even be moved off course into a rejection of his faith.

Like trees, we must have deep roots to withstand the onslaughts of the enemy. There is a reason our Lord sent his disciples out two-by-two.

Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get a better return for their labor. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

When one wavers the other can help steady his frail friend. But pity the man who is alone – especially the inexperienced acolyte.

Father, may we be wise in whom we promote to more responsibility. Please grant us the wisdom needed and the courage to say no when it is best. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Steadfast is a firm foundation. Jan

2 Timothy 4

Dance of Joy

A few months ago we added a tiny bundle of energy to our family, a  puppy. Tanner has quickly grown into a rather large bundle of energy. From the start we wisely decided to train him to be in a dog-crate when we are not around to supervise. I say wisely because he chews on nearly everything. The bottom of crate is a plastic which makes an interesting clicking, scraping sound when Tanner’s paws move around on it.

In March of 1986 a TV series named Perfect Strangers premiered. One of the characters was a guy named Balki Bartokomous from the Mediterranean island of Mypos.

I bring him up because he was very much like Tanner, the lovable clueless friend to everyone. One other thing they share is the Dance of Joy.

Whenever something good happened in Balki’s life he would dance the Dance of Joy, a mix between the Dosado and the Hokey Pokey. Similarly, whenever Tanner hears someone approaching, he exuberantly dances the Dance of Joy in his crate. The plastic floor amplifies his padding paws and makes it sound almost like a tap-dancer’s shoes. In fact he is so happy at our appearing that his entire body is dancing.

And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his glorious return. – 2 Timothy 4:8

I was struck by the phrase eagerly look forward.

Do I eagerly look forward to my Lord’s appearing?

Do I dance the Dance of Joy at the thought of it?

If I’m honest, I’ll have to admit that I’m not. The enemy of my soul has convinced me deep-down, in the core of my being, that the here-and-now is somehow better than Heaven, the Kingdom restored, the New Heaven and the New Earth. What a filthy thieving scumbag! And I’ve let him do it…

I see that I have a lot to learn from my dog.

Lord, I want to receive the prize. Not because I look for acclaim, but because I truly want to want you more than anything else. Please forgive me for not taking back that which you’ve already given me – the glorious hope of the eternal future. May I do better. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Let your soul dance! Jan

2 Timothy 2

Pure

Interesting how we measure things in different levels of purity. Depending on the thing being discussed, some level of impurity may not be at all harmful or blemishing. However, once you pass a certain threshold it becomes spoiled or impure.

For example, to be considered pure gold, the metal must be 24 karat. That means that only .1% can be some other substance. In China, pure gold is called “Chuk Kam” and can have up to 1% impurity.

There are at least 12 different purity standards for water. And air quality is measured in how many airborne allergens and pollutants it contains. For instance, HEPA filters must remove at least 99.97% of 0.3 micrometre in size airborne pollutants to receive that designation. So depending on the application, purity has many definitions.

I noticed that Paul was referring to several types of purity when he wrote to Timothy.

Pure Teaching

You have heard me teach many things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Teach these great truths to trustworthy people who are able to pass them on to others. – 2 Timothy 2:2

He’s telling Timothy to ensure that the truth is not messed with – teach it to trustworthy people.

Pure Activity

And as Christ’s soldier, do not let yourself become tied up in the affairs of this life, for then you cannot satisfy the one who has enlisted you in his army. Follow the Lord’s rules for doing his work, just as an athlete either follows the rules or is disqualified and wins no prize. – 2 Timothy 2:4-5

Paul tells Timothy to focus on doing things God’s way, doing only that which he’s directed to do. He is not to cut corners or do half-hearted work.

Pure Message

Never forget that Jesus Christ was a man born into King David’s family and that he was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach – 2 Timothy 2:8

Sometimes the simplest things escape us. The purity of the message is that Jesus was born a man – like us. He died, and was resurrected. And because he was like us, and he was resurrected, we can be too. That is Paul’s good news – the good news he wants Timothy to teach.

Pure Speech

Remind everyone of these things, and command them in God’s name to stop fighting over words. Such arguments are useless, and they can ruin those who hear them.

Avoid godless, foolish discussions that lead to more and more ungodliness.

Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. – 2 Timothy 2:14, 16, 23

It is so easy to get caught up in useless arguments. “What about people who never heard about Jesus?” Answer, “Um, good question. But you have heard about Jesus, so what are you going to do now that you know the truth?” These types of questions and arguments, unless avoided, mire us in unprofitable activity and dilute the purity of the message.

Pure Passion & Pure Hearted Companions

Run from anything that stimulates youthful lust. Follow anything that makes you want to do right. Pursue faith and love and peace, and enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts. – 2 Timothy 2:22

There is a reason why Paul tied together fleeing youthful lusts, pursuing faith, love, and peace, with pure companions. It is because when we are in the company of like-minded others it is tremendously easier to do those very things described earlier.

Pure Kindness

The Lord’s servants must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone. They must be able to teach effectively and be patient with difficult people. They should gently teach those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will believe the truth – 2 Timothy 2:24-25

Being gentle and kind to those that are in need of Jesus is a hallmark of Christian behavior. Notice that it isn’t restricted to people we get along with. Paul instructs patience and gentleness with difficult people too.

Purity on many different fronts is the marching order from Paul to Timothy and to us. It must be attainable or he wouldn’t have wasted time putting pen to parchment.

Father, these can be pretty tall orders for some of us. I know I struggle in some of these areas. Please grant me the purity I need, in the areas I need, to be an effective servant of yours. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Pure Love. Jan

1 Timothy 6

Foolish Questions

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? This question can actually be found in a slightly modified form in Richard Baxter’s tract, “Reasons of the Christian Religion” written in 1667. I think the following is my favorite answer to this foolish question.

“Nowadays only four angels can dance there. Formerly there was no limit, but OSHA passed the Angel Safety Law recently, which also requires that the pin must be inspected twice each year for structural defects.”

As Proverbs states, answer a fool according to his folly.

One of my favorite foolish questions is, “Can God create a rock so heavy that He cannot move it?”

Timothy, guard what God has entrusted to you. Avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who oppose you with their so-called knowledge. – 1 Timothy 6:20

In my experience, questions like the one about the rock are thrown out by knaves who lack a true desire for a relationship with God. They merely want to talk about him rather than with him. As Paul wisely told Timothy, avoid those types of foolish discussions. They are a waste of time.

Father, please give me the wisdom to see when I’m being baited into a foolish discussion. May I know how to either move it into a more fruitful area of conversation or end it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

And for the record. God cannot make a rock so big He cannot move it. There can only be one absolute. Either God is all-powerful, or the rock is. You can’t have both.

Don’t waste time, you never get it back. Jan

1 Timothy 5

Don’t be hasty

“Haste makes waste.” I’ve heard this expression most of my life. As an adult I learned the phrase, “Measure twice, cut once.” It is referring to carpentry and directly ties in to “Haste makes waste”, since if I don’t measure something right before cutting it, I may end up with something too short, have to throw it out, and then need to purchase another piece of wood.

Earlier this year I helped my cousin purchase a large-screen TV for his home. He had picked out a vacated bookcase shelf for the new plasma or LCD unit. Unfortunately I trusted his measurements rather than checking them myself. The TV that we purchased was about 10 inches narrower than the shelf. There is a lot of wasted space on either side of the unit that could have been filled with viewable screen. Sigh… I guess it could have been worse, it could have been too large. Pity though that we were not more careful.

Last year in my men’s group, Wildmen, there were several guys eager to have a young Christian step-up to more leadership responsibility. The following principle kept rattling about in my brain and I voiced my concerns.

An elder must not be a new Christian, because he might be proud of being chosen so soon, and the Devil will use that pride to make him fall. – 1 Timothy 3:6

Never be in a hurry about appointing an elder. Do not participate in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure. – 1 Timothy 5:22

Despite my reservations, he was put into a position of leadership. I’m not saying he was engaged in any open sin, but his immaturity exposed some wounds, offense resulted, and damage control had to be performed. All because we were hasty. It has taken some time, and things are now better. But it was a situation that should not have happened in the first place.

This does not relate to the situation above, but in looking at the second passage a bit further, it appears to me that Paul is tying the not being hasty to sin and purity. I suspect it is because if someone is put into a position of leadership too quickly, there has not been sufficient time to determine who he really is inside. What is lurking in there? And by putting him in charge of others, we make them participants in his sin if there is any.

I believe that is why Paul gave the following instruction.

Before they are appointed as deacons, they should be given other responsibilities in the church as a test of their character and ability. If they do well, then they may serve as deacons. – 1 Timothy 3:10

In our microwave, fax, text-message, cell-phone, culture, we want things immediately. Rarely are we required to wait for anything; and when we do wait we are annoyed, or outright angry at being forced to do so. However, haste does make waste. We need to be like another metaphor of Paul’s.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. – Hebrews 12:1

The key is endurance, persevering. This is a long-term perspective, not a short term one.

Father, may I think twice and act once. Please give me the wisdom needed to not be hasty. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Slow and steady wins the race. Jan

1 Timothy 4

Atrophy

The word atrophy is defined as:

Disuse atrophy of muscles (muscle atrophy) and bones, with loss of mass and strength, can occur after prolonged immobility, such as extended bedrest, or having a body part in a cast (living in darkness for the eye, bedridden for the legs etc.). This type of atrophy can usually be reversed with exercise unless severe. – Wikipedia.org

My son Caleb has has several casts on his ankles in the last few years due to injuries. Each time a cast comes off, there is a painful time of remobilization that has to happen. His muscles have atrophied to some degree. But what if the cast was not take off for months, or years? the muscles would atrophy to the point where they could no longer be revived. They would have wasted away to virtually nothing.

Notice how Paul directs Timothy to spend his time and energy.

Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next. – 1 Timothy 4:7b-8

I wonder how many Christians who came to know Christ years ago are now spiritually wasted away to virtually nothing?

For those of us who do want to receive a reward in this life and the next, what does spiritual exercise look like? I suspect that writing this, in some small way, is part of that spiritual fitness training. But what else is there? I’m not sure, but I want to know.

Lord, thank you for giving me a mind and body that can be useful to your service. May I train both in such a way that I attain your rewards. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Join me in God’s gym. Jan

1 Timothy 2

Deluded

I wonder, are you among those men who seem surprised when a police officer pulls you over for speeding? After all, it isn’t like your car doesn’t have a speedometer, and it isn’t like the speed-limit isn’t posted. Perhaps since so many others break the law, you have been deceived into thinking that it is not enforced and thereby moot.

In reading the following scripture I wonder if something similar didn’t enter Adam’s mind.

And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. – 1 Timothy 2:14

However, Paul omits a key piece of information in this brief passage. Look at the account of this transgression in Genesis.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. – Genesis 3:6

Her husband, Adam, was with her!

Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. – James 4:17

When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. – Ezekiel 33:8

Adam was right there. He knew what the right thing, the good thing, to do was. He did nothing to stop Eve from sinning.

Eve might have been deceived, but Adam was deluded into thinking that God was not going to act. Perhaps Adam even used her as the food-taster. “Hmm, she didn’t drop dead. I guess it is OK to eat the fruit after all…”

Frankly, Adam sinned first, and in greater measure. It was his responsibility to care for everything in Eden, including his wife. He stood right there, watched what was happening, and did nothing!

How often am I deluded into thinking that my actions don’t have consequences simply because they are not immediate? How about you?

Father, please forgive me for my presumptuous sins. May I live my daily life with an eye to eternity, doing what brings you glory and pleasure. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Don’t be deluded. Jan

1 Timothy 1

Unsealed Orders

During WWII my grandmother, then in a German slave-labor camp with her family, was given sealed-orders to bring to the commander of a different camp to which she and her family were being transferred. Her maiden name was Hoffman and she was trying to convince them that she was of German descent. Non-Germans were often worked to death, whereas those of German origin were treated less harshly.

Prior to arriving at the other camp my grandmother carefully steamed the envelope open, unsealing the orders. They stated that if the commander was not fully satisfied that she and her family were German, they should be taken out and immediately executed.

In reading Paul’s letter to Timothy I noticed some unsealed-orders.

Timothy, my son, here are my instructions for you, based on the prophetic words spoken about you earlier. May they give you the confidence to fight well in the Lord’s battles. – 1 Timothy 1:18

Paul gave him instructions that were going to be crucial in aiding Timothy in the great war in which he was engaged. So what were those orders that inspired confidence to fight well?

  • Don’t let people waste time in spiritual arguments. – 1 Timothy 1:4
  • Cling tightly to faith in Christ. – 1 Timothy 1:19
  • Always keep a clear conscience. – 1 Timothy 1:19
  • Pray for everyone. – 1 Timothy 2:1
  • Plead for God’s mercy for everyone – 1 Timothy 2:1
  • Give thanks. – 1 Timothy 2:1
  • Pray with actions, not just words. – 1 Timothy 2:8
  • Pray free from anger and controversy. – 1 Timothy 2:8
  • Be faithful. – 1 Timothy 3:2
  • Be self-controlled – 1 Timothy 3:2
  • Live well. – 1 Timothy 3:2
  • Cultivate a good reputation. 1 Timothy 3:2
  • Be hospitable. – 1 Timothy 3:2
  • Be a capable teacher. – 1 Timothy 3:2
  • Be temperate (not a drunkard). – 1 Timothy 3:3
  • Be gentle – peace loving. – 1 Timothy 3:3
  • Not motivated by money. – 1 Timothy 3:3
  • Manage your family well. – 1 Timothy 3:4
  • Don’t be prideful. – 1 Timothy 3:6
  • Have integrity. – 1 Timothy 3:8
  • Be responsible. – 1 Timothy 3:10
  • Receive everything with a thankful heart. – 1 Timothy 4:4-5
  • Don’t waste time in arguments. – 1 Timothy 4:7
  • Exercise both physically and even more spiritually. – 1 Timothy 4:8
  • Work hard, suffer if you must. – 1 Timothy 4:10
  • Teach others; insist they learn. – 1 Timothy 4:11
  • Your youth is not an obstacle. – 1 Timothy 4:12
  • Be an example in; life, love, faith, and purity. – 1 Timothy 4:12
  • Encourage others by teaching them from the scriptures. – 1 Timothy 4:13
  • Be enthusiastic in your mission. – 1 Timothy 4:15
  • Let others see your progress. – 1 Timothy 4:15
  • Check regularly to ensure you don’t stray from the truth. – 1 Timothy 4:16
  • Never speak harshly to elders. – 1 Timothy 5:1
  • Speak to younger men as you would your own brothers. – 1 Timothy 5:1
  • Treat older women as you would your mother. – 1 Timothy 5:2
  • Treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters. – 1 Timothy 5:2
  • Ensure that true widows’ needs are met. – 1 Timothy 5:3-7
  • Those who work hard for God should be paid for their work. – 1 Timothy 5:17-18
  • Unless there are 2 or 3 witnesses, do not listen to accusations against leaders. – 1 Timothy 5:19
  • Publicly rebuke those who sin. – 1 Timothy 5:20
  • Be impartial, no favoritism. – 1 Timothy 5:21
  • Take your time in appointing leaders, don’t be hasty. – 1 Timothy 5:22
  • Don’t take part in other people’s sin – stay pure. – 1 Timothy 5:22
  • Take your medicine. Being sick doesn’t help anyone. – 1 Timothy 5:23
  • Workers should honor their employers by working hard. – 1 Timothy 6:1-2
  • Teach these truths to others and encourage others to obey them. – 1 Timothy 6:2
  • If your material needs are being met, be content. – 1 Timothy 6:7-8
  • Don’t let money tempt you and derail you. – 1 Timothy 6:9-10
  • Run from evil things. – 1 Timothy 6:11
  • Pursue, run after, a godly life. – 1 Timothy 6:11
  • Continue to fight God’s battle. – 1 Timothy 6:12
  • Hold tightly to what you’ve come to believe. – 1 Timothy 6:12
  • In purity obey Christ Jesus’ commands! – 1 Timothy 6:13
  • Trust the living God. – 1 Timothy 6:17
  • Know that God richly gives you everything you need for enjoyment. – 1 Timothy 6:18
  • Tell the wealthy to use their money to do good. – 1 Timothy 6:17-19
  • Guard what God has entrusted you with. – 1 Timothy 6:20
  • Avoid foolish godless foolish discussions with those who think they are wise. – 1 Timothy 6:20

Wow, what a list! And I’ve probably missed some.

Father, thank you for inspiring Paul to write this. Please help me to make this part of my life as Timothy did. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

And yes, my grandmother did convince the German commander. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here. Jan

Romans 16

Mission Possible

I used to watch the TV series Mission Impossible. I think every episode started with a tape recording device playing an assignment for the team to undertake. The last thing you would hear from the tapes was, “This tape will self-destruct in 10 seconds. Good luck Jim.” Jokingly, I used to change that to, “This tape will self-destruct, you have 10 seconds to reach minimum safe distance of 3 miles. Good luck Jim.”

I’ve been entrusted with a secret mission. One that my creator planned from the founding of the world.

God is able to make you strong, just as the Good News says. It is the message about Jesus Christ and his plan for you Gentiles, a plan kept secret from the beginning of time. – Romans 16:25

My mission is to tell the world about Jesus. Yet some people won’t believe. In fact some people will oppose me and even lie about me and the message. Just like the self-destructing tape, these people are destined for self-destruction. I’m commanded to keep a safe distance from them.

And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things that are contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. – Romans 16:17

Unless you want to be in the blast radius when God deals with them, follow Paul’s instructions and stay away.

Father, thank you for entrusting me with the mission. May I do my part well. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Good Luck, Jan

Romans 15

Just as I am

The hymn “Just as I am” is a salvation classic (if there is such a term). I would venture to guess that more people have come to Christ hearing that song play than any other in all of recorded history. It was written by a woman named Charlotte Elliot in 1835.

“An elderly man asked Charlotte Elliott if she were a Christian; she felt insulted, and told him to mind his own affairs. But after the man left, she could not get the question off her mind, and she went back to ask the man how to find Christ. He told her to come just as she was. She did, and wrote the beautiful song, “Just As I Am.” – By B. A. Scherr”

I wonder if Charlotte Elliot had any idea of how far her song would go when she wrote it ?

The title of that song came to me as I was reading the following verse from Paul.

So accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified. – Romans 15:7

What kind of person was I at the point Christ accepted me? What kind of person were you? Did you have your life cleaned up, no issues, no problems, no hangups, no idiosyncracies, no prejudices, no sins, no faults?

Or were you like me, a person deserving of hell?

If we’re honest, we all were. Yet Christ accepted us.

Paul very clearly says in the verse above, that just as Christ accepted me, I’m to accept others. That means before they are clean, whole, and holy I am to accept them. Just as they are. And when I do, I bring glory to God. Why? Because I’m behaving like his son; I look like his son and thereby reveal God’s glory.

Father, may I be more like Jesus every day. Please give me that desire deep within that cannot be contained. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Without one plea… Jan

Romans 14

I’m not God

It is so easy to fall into the trap of judging or condemning someone else. They may not be doing work the way that I think it should be done. They might simply be sitting around… Paul had some rather blunt words for people who are quick to judge.

Who are you to condemn God’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should. – Romans 14:4

Although Paul is specifically speaking about eating certain types of foods, and observing or celebrating certain days, the principle holds for nearly everything in life. To emphasize the fact, he reiterated the point one more time.

So why do you condemn another Christian? Why do you look down on another Christian? Remember, each of us will stand personally before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say,

‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow to me
and every tongue will confess allegiance to God.’

Yes, each of us will have to give a personal account to God. So don’t condemn each other anymore. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not put an obstacle in another Christian’s path.  – Romans 14:10-13

Since I’m not God, I have no right to decide how one of his servants is doing as long as they are not in outright sin. However, if I am entrusted with leadership over someone, then delgated authority comes into play and I am commanded to exercise the authority invested in me by Christ.

It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your job to judge those inside the church who are sinning in these ways. – 1 Corinthians 5:12

It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict of sin. It is our job to ensure that the sin is not contaminating the rest of the body of believers.

Father, may I know when to shut-up and when to speak; when to act and when to watch. Please give me wisdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I’m just me. Jan

Romans 13

Love

I know a man who recently posted the following on his web blog. It was about the subject of love.

“What is the TEST” to see if they are really Christians…? Or Not…? Is it ‘Love’… or is it… “Truth?”

Is it “Love”… or is it… “Belief in the Total Authority of the Word of God… that Identifies a “Real Christian”… a believer in “Christ Jesus”…?  I believe that the Teaching of the Word of God… identifies that one… by their… “Validity of the Authority of The Word of God!”

Yes, the strange capitalization and punctuation are his; I did not embellish or alter anything. He is a rather unusual man who, whether he knows it or not, revealed the true problem with his belief system in the above sentences. He does not understand love, nor does he truly intimately know the author of love. If he did, his relationship would not be based on works of law, but on works of love. Paul wrote about works of love in Romans 13. In fact he called it our debt.

Pay all your debts, except the debt of love for others. You can never finish paying that! If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill all the requirements of God’s law. For the commandments against adultery and murder and stealing and coveting—and any other commandment—are all summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to anyone, so love satisfies all of God’s requirements. – Romans 13:8-10

Did you catch that last statement? Love satisfies all of God’s requirements. Period.

Jesus said something very similar.

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. – Matthew 22:38-40

I used the King James Version because I love the symbolism of the word “hang”. Loving God, and Loving People are like two nails, or pegs which up hold the entirety of the law on a shelf or dangling from a rope. If you pull a nail or peg out, the shelf comes crashing down. Now, notice that it isn’t just some ephemeral love. It is specific. Jesus said to love God with all we’ve got, heart, soul, and mind. And we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.

We don’t serve God out of duty or a compulsion to fulfill the obligations of the law. No, we serve out of love for him. Likewise, if I love someone in the same way I love myself, I do not want that person harmed. I want to see good for them, which includes knowing Christ as their savior. By doing this, I’m upholding all of the law in the process.

Father, may I show love, your love, to everyone. Please give me the grace and courage to do so. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, and love some more. Jan

Romans 12

Value by Faith

There is a famous Bible quote about the subject of faith.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1

Sort of cryptic isn’t it?

In a nutshell, it says that faith is the tangible part of the expected, what you don’t have yet. It is the thing that you can sort-of touch, the thing that you have some control over.

In reading today I noticed that we are to measure our value by our faith.

As God’s messenger, I give each of you this warning: Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you. – Romans 12:3

Hmm, I find that a strange statement… measure my value… I was under the impression that we are all equally valuable to God. After all, Jesus died for me. That means that God placed the highest value on me he could when he allowed his son to be sacrificed in my stead. So I guess that means that this passage in Romans is referring to something other than personal worth. But what?

I think the section that follows it brings that to light. Notice the operative words that I’m italicizing below.

We are all parts of his one body, and each of us has different work to do. And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others.

God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you. If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching. If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. – Romans 5b-8

Everything that follows (all the way through the end of the chapter) is in the context of others.

How is your faith lived out? What is your value? How do you know how much faith you have?

It is in the context of how others benefit from it.

Prophecy is for the benefit of others. Teaching is for the benefit of others. Sharing means others benefit. Leadership is helping others get to where God wants them. And the list goes on; honor others, be helpful, be hospitable, bless, share in joy and sorrow, live in peace, do good.

Why?

Never be lazy in your work, but serve the Lord enthusiastically. – Romans 12:11

Because when we do this we are actually serving the Lord.

Father, may I live in such a way as to be valuable. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Faithful one, are you valuable to others? Jan

Romans 11

Little Flowers

Today as I was reading I was reminded of the book, Little Flowers by St. Francis of Assisi. In it is the following account of a trip he took with a fellow friar.

CHAPTER VIII
HOW ST FRANCIS, WALKING ONE DAY WITH BROTHER LEO, EXPLAINED TO HIM WHAT THINGS ARE PERFECT JOY

One day in winter, as St Francis was going with Brother Leo from Perugia to St Mary of the Angels, and was suffering greatly from the cold, he called to Brother Leo, who was walking on before him, and said to him:

“Brother Leo, if it were to please God that the Friars Minor should give, in all lands, a great example of holiness and edification, write down, and note carefully, that this would not be perfect joy.”

A little further on, St Francis called to him a second time: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor were to make the lame to walk, if they should make straight the crooked, chase away demons, give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, and, what is even a far greater work, if they should raise the dead after four days, write that this would not be perfect joy.”

Shortly after, he cried out again: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor knew all languages; if they were versed in all science; if they could explain all Scripture; if they had the gift of prophecy, and could reveal, not only all future things, but likewise the secrets of all consciences and all souls, write that this would not be perfect joy.”

After proceeding a few steps farther, he cried out again with a loud voice: “O Brother Leo, thou little lamb of God! if the Friars Minor could speak with the tongues of angels; if they could explain the course of the stars; if they knew the virtues of all plants; if all the treasures of the earth were revealed to them; if they were acquainted with the various qualities of all birds, of all fish, of all animals, of men, of trees, of stones, of roots, and of waters – write that this would not be perfect joy.”

Shortly after, he cried out again: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor had the gift of preaching so as to convert all infidels to the faith of Christ, write that this would not be perfect joy.”

Now when this manner of discourse had lasted for the space of two miles, Brother Leo wondered much within himself; and, questioning the saint, he said: “Father, I pray thee teach me wherein is perfect joy.”

St Francis answered: “If, when we shall arrive at St Mary of the Angels, all drenched with rain and trembling with cold, all covered with mud and exhausted from hunger; if, when we knock at the convent-gate, the porter should come angrily and ask us who we are; if, after we have told him, ‘We are two of the brethren’, he should answer angrily, ‘What ye say is not the truth; ye are but two impostors going about to deceive the world, and take away the alms of the poor; begone I say’; if then he refuse to open to us, and leave us outside, exposed to the snow and rain, suffering from cold and hunger till nightfall – then, if we accept such injustice, such cruelty and such contempt with patience, without being ruffled and without murmuring, believing with humility and charity that the porter really knows us, and that it is God who maketh him to speak thus against us, write down, O Brother Leo, that this is perfect joy.

And if we knock again, and the porter come out in anger to drive us away with oaths and blows, as if we were vile impostors, saying, ‘Begone, miserable robbers! to to the hospital, for here you shall neither eat nor sleep!’ – and if we accept all this with patience, with joy, and with charity, O Brother Leo, write that this indeed is perfect joy. And if, urged by cold and hunger, we knock again, calling to the porter and entreating him with many tears to open to us and give us shelter, for the love of God, and if he come out more angry than before, exclaiming, ‘These are but importunate rascals, I will deal with them as they deserve’; and taking a knotted stick, he seize us by the hood, throwing us on the ground, rolling us in the snow, and shall beat and wound us with the knots in the stick – if we bear all these injuries with patience and joy, thinking of the sufferings of our Blessed Lord, which we would share out of love for him, write, O Brother Leo, that here, finally, is perfect joy.

And now, brother, listen to the conclusion. Above all the graces and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ grants to his friends, is the grace of overcoming oneself, and accepting willingly, out of love for Christ, all suffering, injury, discomfort and contempt; for in all other gifts of God we cannot glory, seeing they proceed not from ourselves but from God, according to the words of the Apostle, ‘What hast thou that thou hast not received from God? and if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?’ But in the cross of tribulation and affliction we may glory, because, as the Apostle says again, ‘I will not glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Amen.”

I was reminded once again that there is nothing that we can give to God to compare with what he has given us.

For who can know what the Lord is thinking? Who knows enough to be his counselor? And who could ever give him so much that he would have to pay it back? For everything comes from him; everything exists by his power and is intended for his glory. To him be glory evermore. Amen. – Romans 11:34-36

The only thing we have that we can give God, that has any worth whatsoever, is how we respond to circumstances of this life. Do we bring him glory through it or not?

Father, may I bring you glory in whatever comes my way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Practice Perfect Joy. Jan

Romans 10

Been there, Done that

Have you ever done something in a way where you are convinced, even adamant, that your way is the right way, only to find out later that you were wrong? Dead wrong?

The Apostle Paul was just such a man. He was raised to be a leader among men, taught by the best teachers. He knew the Law and the Prophets better than most. When Christianity appeared on the scene he was convinced that it was perversion of all that he knew and held to be true. Only when confronted by Christ Jesus himself on the road to Damascus did he recognize the depth and breath of his error. His enthusiasm and zeal for what he thought was right had actually been working against the very thing he’d been working for, hoping for, and longing for his entire life. So, when Paul penned his letter to the Roman Christians, he knew that he’d been there, done that.

I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Instead, they are clinging to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. They won’t go along with God’s way. – Romans 10:2-3

Eventually, as we know, Paul did go along with God’s way. He listened to the Good News.

Yet faith comes from listening to this message of good news—the Good News about Christ. – Romans 10:17

God can use anything from our past to help someone else, even ourselves. But we need to let him.

Lord, thank you that Paul did listen. Help me to look for ways to encourage others with the lessons that you’ve taught me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Don’t go there, don’t do that, Jan

Romans 9

My Purpose

I used to joke with people that the purpose of my life was to serve as a warning to others. The statement comes from a de-motivational poster.

However, today I read this from the Apostle Paul.

For the Scriptures say that God told Pharaoh, “I have appointed you for the very purpose of displaying my power in you, and so that my fame might spread throughout the earth.” – Romans 9:17

Um, kinda sounds like the poster. The purpose of Pharaoh’s life was to serve as a warning to others.

But imagine knowing your purpose, knowing exactly what you were built to do and then following that path unwaveringly. Appealing isn’t it?

My family and I have been watching a SciFi channel program on DVD, StarGate Atlantis. In a recent episode, Dr. Rodney McKay created an artificial human using nano-technology – a Replicator. This machine’s sole purpose for existing was to serve as a weapon against an enemy comprised of other sentient nano-technology Replicators. In the fulfillment of her purpose she would be destroyed.  As they are approaching the time and place where she would deploy a very interesting exchange of dialog occurs.  “Fran” is the name Dr. McKay gave her – Friendly Replicator ANdroid.

(Fran the Replicator is gazing out of the window as hyperspace rushes past. It turns and looks at Rodney as he types on a computer tablet.)
FRAN
: This is quite exciting, isn’t it?
(Rodney looks up at it awkwardly.)
McKAY: It’s a bit nerve-wracking, yeah.
FRAN: I quite look forward to it.
McKAY: You do?
FRAN: One always wishes to fulfill one’s purpose.
(Behind Rodney, Radek is frowning at Fran in surprise.)
McKAY: … Right. And you’re fine with all this?
FRAN: Why would I not be? It’s my reason for being.
McKAY: Well, I know. It’s just that you’re … you’re gonna cease to be.
FRAN: Yes.
McKAY: Well, I just … I just imagined you’d rather keep being than, uh … uh, than not.
FRAN: Certainly you’re not worried for me, are you, Doctor?
McKAY: No, no, that would be silly.
FRAN (smiling at him): Yes, it would.

One always wishes to fulfill one’s purpose… Am I doing that? Or do I complain or try to avoid the things I feel, or even know, that my creator has ordained for me to do? Wouldn’t that be silly?

Who are you, a mere human being, to criticize God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who made it, “Why have you made me like this?” When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? God has every right to exercise his judgment and his power, but he also has the right to be very patient with those who are the objects of his judgment and are fit only for destruction. He also has the right to pour out the riches of his glory upon those he prepared to be the objects of his mercy—even upon us, whom he selected, both from the Jews and from the Gentiles. – Romans 9:20b-24

God has a purpose for each of us. If there is a conviction of sin in you, if you feel the weight of wrong when you do it, that means that God has given you the gift of being able to receive his mercy. Otherwise he would not torment you with guilt that cannot be assuaged. And if you know you are not right with God there is always hope. I know, I’ve read ahead to the next chapter.

For if 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. For 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. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who believes in him will not be disappointed.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They all have the same Lord, who generously gives his riches to all who ask for them. For “Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Romans 10:9-13

The word anyone means just that, anyone. If you believe (not an intellectual exercise, but one of obedience too) then you will be saved.

Father, thank you for making me. May I fulfill my purpose. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I quite look forward to it… Jan

Romans 8

Not an absence of war

I noticed something today while reading in the book of Romans that I’d not seen before.

If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace. – Romans 8:6

The word peace jumped out at me. It is the greek word “Eirene” it means; peace, quietness, rest, and an additional thing, one.

What I was struck by was the difference I’ve seen in people who truly are controled by the Holy Spirit and those who are not. Those who are controled by the Spirit not only have peace, they are peace. They bring it to wherever they go. That peace is tangible, they exude a quietness and gentleness that brings a true oneness to those of like mind – those controled by the Spirit.

Lord, may I exude peace. Please give me the grace to truly allow the Holy Spirit to control my mind. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Be peace, Jan

Romans 7

My Debt

I have a debt I can’t pay. The debt is solely mine. Even if I could borrow and beg from every one of my friends, even dare to steal from those not so friendly, I can’t come up with enough. The bill is gathering interest continually. There is seemingly no way out, and Lex, the collection man is getting closer each day.

Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin?  – Romans 7:24

There is an answer. If I die there is nobody to collect from. Since this debt is mine alone, the only thing that can be done with it is to write it off as uncollectible after my demise.

So this is the point: The law no longer holds you in its power, because you died to its power when you died with Christ on the cross. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, you can produce good fruit, that is, good deeds for God. – Romans 7:4

Yes, I’m refering to my debt of sin. And when I willingly chose to die with Christ Jesus on his cross, accepting his payment, in full, for my sin-debt. It immediately became uncollectible.

Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 7:25a

And now as a result of having the unpayable debt lifted from me, I am free to produce fruit that goes toward Christ and his kingdom, not toward a creditor – the law – that I could never hope to pay off.

Father, thank you for the gift of new life, a fresh start. In Jesus’ wonderfilled name, Amen.

Paid in full. Jan

Romans 6

Live for the Glory

St. Ireneus said that, “The glory of God is a man fully alive”.

In light of that statement I found the following verses of particular interest.

He died once to defeat sin, and now he lives for the glory of God. So you should consider yourselves dead to sin and able to live for the glory of God through Christ Jesus. – Romans 6:10-11

What an unique way of looking at how the glory is revealed. I suppose we are like a seed planted in the ground. The seed, while fascinating, is not something glorious to behold. However, let it germinate and then flower; what glory bursts out! We too, are dark crusty seeds. Only when planted in the death of Christ, can the resurrection of our souls happen. Only then is the husk of our sinful nature shed to fully reveal the glory concealed within, a glory that was placed there at our creation.

You made my whole being; you formed me in my mother’s body. I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way. What you have done is wonderful. I know this very well. You saw my bones being formed as I took shape in my mother’s body. When I was put together there, you saw my body as it was formed. All the days planned for me were written in your book before I was one day old. – Psalm 139:13-17

God made you and me to reveal his workmanship, his glory to the world. He knew exactly what type of unique flower would burst from the dead husk of my sin to grace a dying world with his beauty and fragrance. He made me come alive for his glory.

Father, may I reveal your glory in the way you intended. Please give me deep roots and plenty of nutrients – your word. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Push deep roots into his word and push high toward the son. Jan

Romans 5

Triumph in the Air

Many years ago, when Christian Rock was still somewhat of a novelty, I discovered an artist who had a unique operatic, epic quality to her vocals. Her band members were all accomplished in their own right, and together they made for an amazing presentation. They even had lights, lasers, and smoke generators! For a teenager it was all very exciting.

Now days most people know this person because of her involvement with Women of Faith or possibly with her past involvement with the 700 club on Christian TV.

As I read the following passage I was reminded of her.

The sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over us, but all who receive God’s wonderful, gracious gift of righteousness will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. – Romans 5:17

What specifically brought her to mind were the words “triumph over sin”. One of her songs was entitled “Triumph in the Air”.

Yes, it is Sheila Walsh. And she is still living in the triumph that Jesus provided for her. It is because of another item that stuck out in that same passage of scripture, the word righteousness.

You see, righteousness in the context above, is a gift; it is not something that we work toward, or somehow arrive at. No, God gave us righteousness.

That means that when he looks at you and me he see us as right in his sight.

Yes, Adam’s one sin brought condemnation upon everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness makes all people right in God’s sight and gives them life.  – Romans 5:18

And since we are right in God’s sight – righteous – we have eternal life.

So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful kindness rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 5:21

Because we know that we will have triumph in the air, we can rejoice in all hardships. We can endure all scorn, shame, and deprivation. For we are friends of God.

So 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 5:11

Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus and his reconciling of us to you. Thank you for your kindness, for making this possible. May I never cease to be amazed by this gift. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Triumph indeed. Jan