Thursday, April 23, 2015

Three Stages of Deliverance

But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us... II Corinthians 1:9-10

Have you faced your sentence of death yet? I mean it not in a bad way, but a good way. When I realize that I don't have to listen to my "old man"with his incessant demands, I am liberated. Christ has already taken care of that for me, I only need believe it.

I was struck the other day as I read in II Corinthians 1, there were 3 stages of deliverance for the believer in Christ. He delivered us (past tense) and does deliver (present tense) and will yet deliver us (future tense). That leaves me with nothing but to believe it, I do not have to deliver myself!

That is some of the best news I can think of, for it means that Jesus did it all when He died upon the cross for me. And all believers were also with Him as He died for us. For Paul tells us clearly:

"Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?" Romans 6:3 (emphasis mine)

Not only were we baptized into His death, we also were buried with Him when He was buried.

Colossians 2:12 "...buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead."

And not only buried with Him, but also raised to a new life, a brand new way of walking, through His gracious plan for us.

John 11:25 "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.' "

Romans 6:5-6 "For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." (emphasis mine)

Not only are these facts true, but He lives daily to deliver us in all our afflictions. Sometimes, it may not mean that He takes the afflictions away, but He gives us what we need to get through them, even so that we can comfort others through the very comfort we ourselves have received.

II Corinthians 1: 1-6
3 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. 6 Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation." (emphasis mine)

We also are encouraged to know that we are not alone in our sufferings, but to realize that our brothers and sisters around the world are going through these very same trials.

I Peter 4: 12-14a
12 "Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you..."

So even if we are going through a long-standing trial, we may be assured that God has a purpose in it, even if it is so that one day we may be able to comfort or encourage someone else who is going through a similar testing. And when we hear our old self crying out for attention, we can reckon on the fact that he in fact is dead, no matter how loudly he demands our attention.

These are just a few things I have been thinking about lately. I pray that God will encourage your heart today, as He has mine, by my starting (in the smallest way) to learn these truths.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Satisfying our soul's hunger...

Ecclesiastes 6:7 "All the labor of man is for his mouth, And yet the soul is not satisfied."

The pace of life seems way too fast for me. I can't keep up with technology, and it seems my attention is scattered so easily. Every day, I get book deal emails for bargain books to read on my Kindle, and no sooner do I get started with one book when I get distracted with another. The same goes for surfing the internet, I can never seem to get my fill of everything on there that I want to absorb. Then there are movies, most of which I don't see, but if I decided to become a movie buff, I am sure I could devote the rest of my life to it.

Then I think about my interests. I love writing and need to devote time to that. Then I also love quilting and sewing, so much so that the hobby has overtaken my dining room. In fact, my whole house is filled with projects that drew my attention: whether it was a book to be read, or little collections, or even stuff for recipes I was going to make but did not get to yet.

When I homeschooled my kids years ago, I never felt like I could keep up with all I wanted to teach them, and all the new products for homeschoolers coming out on the market. I always felt as if I was a "day late and a dollar short." Yet the verse from Ecclesiastes speaks to the vanity of it all. All the work we do to keep up in the pace of our busy lives and yet our souls are still left hungry.

The longer I live, the shorter the amount of days are left to me. Yet what will I fill them with? If I try to keep up with the pace of technology and the latest and greatest inventions of man, I will only fall further and further behind. But yet, there is something far greater that calls my name, something I can only accomplish in this life, and not in eternity. That is, time to learn about my God and take in as much of His Word as I can.

That is not something that most people are seeking after. How easy even for believers to be distracted from keeping the main thing of our lives to stay the main thing of our lives. The Apostle Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14:

"Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

That is the main point. That is what matters. Everything else pales in light of that one thing. The enemy of our souls doesn't want us to realize that. He uses his many distractions so that we will not pursue that one thing that matters.

Martha wanted to serve the Lord. She was so busy preparing dinner for Him. It seemed to her that He did not care that Mary her sister wasn't helping her. She finally asked Him why Mary could not help her, but Jesus saw that Mary had the one thing that she really needed, and did not rebuke her for sitting at His feet and learning from Him. In the end, Martha was the one who was rebuked.

38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” 41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

The only time I have to grow in my relationship with Christ is reserved for me in this life. Everything has been decided by the time I reach eternity. How I need to be reminded to number my days, that the Lord would give me a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

By knowing this, it helps me to be able to say "no" to some good things, in order to gain the best thing: growing in the grace and knowledge of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (II Peter 3:18) I just read this morning in Matthew 7 that the way is narrow that leads to life. Pastor James Leake once told my husband (who was newly saved) that "the good can be the enemy of the best." In choosing my relationship with God over earthly things, it may seem to be a "narrow" and difficult road to follow. But in giving up my own wants for my life, I find soul rest, the thing that my soul is really craving for. The Psalmist implores us:
"Taste and see that the LORD is good! How blessed is the one who takes shelter in him!" (Psalm 34:8 NET) He alone will satisfy our soul's hunger.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry." (Matt. 11:28-30 NET version)

Help me Lord, to choose the "one needful thing" in this life, satisfying my soul hunger and so that I might grow in my capacity for enjoying the next life. Amen.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

From Bleak Death into Eternal Hope

I Corinthians 15:12-17 "Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable."

Seeing the little purple crocus push through the sodden ground meant so much to me this spring. It seemed that it would never come, that perhaps the bitter cold killed my crocuses for good, but the purple crocus showed it's face on this earth ever so briefly. It reminds me that in Christ, there is always hope.

I love the song by Bill Gaither, "Because He Lives." The first two lines of the chorus say: "Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone." Let me say the opposite alternative is terrifying: If Christ did not rise from the dead, there would be no hope in this world. If He did not live in resurrection life, fear would be constant companion until the day I die.

But we know for a fact that He did rise from the grave, and His life and death marked a dividing line in human history. According to one Bible source, the Bible has 2,500 prophecies in it and 2,000 of them have already been fulfilled.

For example, in Psalm 22, David prophesied in verses 7 and 8:

"All those who see Me ridicule Me;
They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,

“He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him;
Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”

Note how this prophesy was fulfilled in Matthew 27:

38 Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and another on the left.
39 And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”
41 Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, 42 “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. 43 He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ”
44 Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.

Or how about this Scripture about Christ's bones not being broken:

Psalm 34:20 He guards all his bones; Not one of them is broken.

This was fulfilled in John 19:

31 "Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs."

His bones were not broken because they represented us, His Church:

Eph. 5:30: "For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones."

If these prophecies were fulfilled, we can have hope that even though the world has gone mad, God will remain true to His promises.

Think of both the simplicity and the profundity of Jesus's words to us, especially relevant in this day when all the foundations around us are being shaken:

John 14: 1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.” (emphasis mine)

That is the hope we can have during this Easter season, and every day for that matter. I cannot hope in myself, or in my plans to get better in my own strength, but I receive courage to keep going by this very fact:

Colossians 1: 27

"To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. "
(emphasis mine)