Romans 12:2 “Are you a Duck, Frog, Salmon or Transformed Believer?”

butterfly feeding2The duck idiom says “if you look like a duck, swim like a duck, quack like a duck, you must be a duck.” According to abductive reasoning this may or may not be true but it does reflect how we might be seen in the world. We have melded into the fabric of society and no one knows we are not a duck but a believer in Christ.  Therefore, Paul reminded his readers to not be conformed or molded into the world’s system just like the frog scenario. We are put into the pot and the enemy heats up the water but we are unaware that we are being cooked!

Also, just as a salmon swims against the flow of the river to achieve its place to spawn so we must swim against the false current of the world’s philosophy. The salmon faces many trials to arrive so too we will trials and enemies. Therefore we must be saturated with the Word so that we can discern truth from error. [Heb 5:14] We have this promise: He who hath begun a good work in you will complete it at the day of Christ but until then we are moment by moment being filled with the Holy Spirit. It is His work that is being accomplished as we surrender and become a living sacrifice. It is all His power and all because we are a new creation in Christ. He enables us to “behold the glory of the Lord.” (2Cor 3:18] This is how the mind is renewed — by steadfastly gazing at the glories of Christ for what they really are.

How does the world see us; ducks, frogs, salmon or a transformed believer in Christ?

 

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Let Us…Let’s…

man prayer2A neighbor said I don’t need church; I can commune with God in nature. Yes you can and there are times when you need that time alone with God, but Christ died for the church and we are reminded to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. When we meet corporately we gain from others. For example, the ministry I work for meets for corporate prayer each Monday. When we leave we are lifted up and encouraged and ready to do battle with whatever the enemy sends our way. That in essence is why we can be strong and courageous even through challenging times.

The contraction “let’s” is calling us to do this together. And as we pray corporately we are to include words of adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication.  Psalm 95 is reminding us of various ways to pray:  Sing for joy, Shout joyfully, bow down, kneel as you worship! Which of these do you do in your quiet time or corporate worship?

Today and each day as you open your hearts to worship, let the Illuminating Holy Spirit enter and guide you into prayer and worship. When you leave your quiet time or corporate worship go forth and proclaim the majesty of our Lord.

 

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How to Begin Your Day

psalm 94 begin day with God
Grab a cup of java and your Bible. Come join us each day here

It is good to talk in conversation with God and especially so when you know you will encounter those who are the unbelieving. Psalm 94 is what we might call a prayer and conversation as the writer voices his questions and his responses to his own queries. This alone is his answer to the wicked (the unbelieving). “How blessed is the one whom you instruct, O Lord, the one whom you teach from your law,  in order to protect him from times of trouble, until the wicked are destroyed.”

The writer of Hebrews counsels: “And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works… but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near.” This brings us to this profound reason as to why we spend time in God’s Word each day as well as attend our worship services. It is alone with God and corporately with others that we receive instruction and encouragement. The benefit is the blessings we receive from the Lord.

Beloved as you consider your day, begin with worship, go with a merry heart, a teachable spirit, and a countenance that reflects that you have spent time with God. This and this alone will assist you in the spiritual battle that the enemy erects.

 

 

 

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Grieving

Romans 9 griefaI have spent the better part of the morning crying and not just crying but grieving deeply. It matters not for the “what” but it does matter that I grieve with Paul over the loss of loved ones that refuse the gospel message. So here’s my question: What brings grief to your heart? Is it the loss of a loved one to death without hope? How about the loss of a job? How about the loss of a home due to flooding?  How about the loss of a nation or a people group?  Grief is a very real and present emotion. We are even now watching from the sidelines as Syria is a battle zone. But, Paul is speaking in the first century and his heart grieves for the loss of his people as they continue to deny Christ and salvation. “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.” Is this my grief too?

Temporal losses of a job are tough but there is always hope to find another. You can lose a home and its contents but you can build a new one. But you cannot bring back a loved one or restore a nation to wholeness. Grief takes its toll and some never recover. But, the deepest grief is when those you love die and enter a Christless eternity. Paul is grieving and we too should also grieve when this occurs.

It is because of that we must earnestly contend for the faith. We must “go and make disciples.” We must pray for our loved ones who do not know Christ.  Paul was willing, just as Moses, to forgo his eternal salvation so that the lost might be saved.

How deep is our grief for the lost?

 

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The Permanence of the Eternal God

unspashRosesHandss2Life seems so short. This week seeing the children I taught now with their own children growing up so fast was a wake – up call as to the fleeting life I now live in contrast to the permanence of God. I am just like a rose in God’s garden, I need tending but eventually the rose will fade and so will I. That is why I must redeem each day for Him as I was reminded recently when a young family’s life was cut short and all 5 entered eternity from the 2 mos. old infant to the 5 yr old child, the 3 yr old child along with their parents. We never know when God will call us home. Do I want to hear well done thou good and faithful servant? My answer is yes. .

Before God created the world as we know it, God was eternal and He still is so. A 24 hr day to us is like a thousand years in God’s sight. This is the true meaning of God being omniscient, omnipotent.

As God created me he placed eternity in my heart [Eccl 3] that I might know and seek the eternal significance of what I do. And like a beautifully crafted tapestry, each thread I weave creates a picture of my life from birth to death.

And so with these thoughts I turned to Psalm 90 where these thoughts were ever before me: Life is fleeting;  enjoy now but invest wisely in that which will count for eternity. Vs 3 reminds us that God makes mankind return to dust. Only our tombstone will recall the life we have lived. James says we  are frail and  like grass, we grow and we wither with the heat of the sun. The woman who came to King David spoke of life and death in 2Sam 14. She gave King David a visual illustration of life: we shall surely die and be like water spilled out on the ground. But too she saw beyond the grave to see that God does not take away life as our eternal end but rather has made plans so that we may not be cast from Him. It is called salvation and the price has been paid by His Beloved Son so that we might live eternally with Him.

Have you prepared for your eternal destiny?

 

 

 

 

 

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Psalm 119: 1-8 “The Deadly D of Distraction; The Cure: Focus”

psalm 119 blesseda

Dead men do not sin; Living Men Embrace Grace. [Romans 6 and 7]. As parents, we know the joy of our children’s obedience and the sadness when they step across the line into disobedience. It is not just our children but we too struggle. The psalmist reminds us that we are only truly happy when we obey and follow. Perhaps that is why he prayed “if only” I was focused on the eternal perspective. The psalmist said these are the ones who are blameless choosing to die to the Law and be alive “in” Christ.

That choice begins when we hunger and thirst for God and in return God blesses us with his marvelous gift of salvation and justification. And why does God choose to do this? It is so that He may get the glory. It is all about Him and not about us.  The blessed observe His rules, and like a child wanting to mirror their father, step into his footsteps and follow Him. God has one demand: obey and keep my precepts; my mandates ordained in eternity past as my standard that I may bless you.

All of this comes with a price! The price was paid on Calvary while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. But, the psalmist reflected that he faced this dragon called the deadly d of distraction. As he did, so we lament “if I were only focused.” It is a choice to focus on His commands, statutes, precepts so that one day we will hear well done, thou good and faithful servant.

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Romans 4 “Justification for Whom and When?”

stocksnap carl cerstand romans 4

Paul has laid to rest the concept of working for one’s salvation but now another question must be addressed. For whom is this justification and when did it first occur. These are critical questions that must be addressed for the Jew to understand God’s plan.

In chapter 3 Paul essentially said justification is for any who believe. Yet the Jew clings to his circumcision as proof that justification is for he alone. Paul seeks to help them over this impasse and thus refers to Abraham. Yesterday we said that Abraham believed God, not in a God but he believed God and it was counted unto him as righteousness. But, when did it happen; before he was circumcised or after? Circumcision was a physical sign between man and God as a sign of the covenant. Yet, as Paul reminds his Jewish listeners, Abraham believed God in Genesis 12 but it was not until Genesis 17 that God commanded him and his household to be circumcised. Therefore, his circumcision carried no weight regarding his justification. Again as we said yesterday, you cannot take credit for what God has done. Justification is a gift from God alone lest anyone choose to boast. Circumcision is but a wonderful sign but faith alone brings you to God:.

In the same way baptism will not save you, the exchange of rings in a marriage ceremony does not make you married and circumcision does not justify anyone. These are signs, to affirm but are not the gift itself. The blessing is that if we believe like Abraham we too have the promise of justification.

What are you clinging to for your justification?

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“Believe in “a” God or Believe God?”

work harder2

In chapter 3 Paul reminded the Jew that no one is saved apart from the grace and mercy of God. Yet they and the world would have it otherwise and heap rewards and boastings upon those who seek to earn God’s favor through works. The prophet Isaiah said our works are as filthy rags; later Paul would say they are dung. Their foundation lies in the life of Abraham and therefore they conclude as his children they are justified by works. Paul, as a righteous Jew, sought to put this argument to rest.

Workers of the Law can boast having done not only what was expected but what is required. But if you don’t work the works of the Law but believe in what merely God says you receive grace and eternal life. You cannot take credit for a gift that is of God alone. That is what salvation is all about; a free gift undeserved. The key is this: Abraham did not believe “IN” God but he believed God. The world says I believe in a God, but Paul says you must not just believe “IN” but believe God.

So now the world asks, what about the works as James says. Both Paul and James affirm that works reveal the grace that we have received. They demonstrate our gratitude for the gift of God’s blessed forgiveness of our lawless deeds.

Are you depending upon your works heritage to get into heaven? If so, turn around and go the other way for you are on the wrong path.

Photo: Unsplash/Jordan Whitefield

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Judging—yes or no?

romans 2 mercy of god2 How often have we heard this phrase: you are judging. Yet, if truth be known we all judge. We judge which foods we want to eat based on likes and dislikes. We judge ideas by choosing truth from error. But, to judge another’s heart is for God alone for He is impartial. God knows which of the two kinds of people will stand before him one day: self-righteous sinner or repentant saved (saint) and he doesn’t really care if they are Jew or Gentile!

God sees the self-righteous  person whose attitude is reflected in their judging of others while ignoring self-judgment first. The  saved  has  a  righteous  attitude  that  recognizes  one  thing:  it  was  God’s  kindness  that  led  him/her  to  repentance and therefore he has no need to judge for that is God’s prerogative .  The  sinner  has  failed  to  realize  that  he/she  is  without  excuse   when  they  judge  someone  else.  For  on  whatever  grounds  they  judge  another,  they  condemn  themselves,  because  they  who  judge  practice  the  same  things.  [Rom 2:2 paraphrase].    Paul in  writing  to  the  Romans  reminds  them  of  this  when  he  writes about their attitude:  “you  have  contempt  for  the  wealth  of  [God’s]  kindness,  forbearance,  and  patience,”

Jesus’ parable of the  Pharisee  and  a  publican reveals  this  mindset. One day two men went up to the temple to pray. A confident Pharisee stood praying, thanking God  for his  accumulation  of good works all the while judging others. In  sharp  contrast,  the  publican  would  not  even  look  up  to  heaven  and  sought  the  mercy  of  God.  Only  one  went  home  justified  and  it  was  NOT  the  Pharisee.  He who has ears to hear learn this:  “everyone  who  exalts  himself  will  be  humbled,  but  he  who  humbles  himself  will  be  exalted.” [Luke 18]

Like the publican we should be entreating God’s mercy so we can sing “thank you Lord for saving my soul, thank you Lord for making me whole
” for salvation is His work alone.

 

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Romans 1 happy birthday2Birthdays are special. Our families love to celebrate with us and we enjoy the attention. One of the downsides is that technology seems to have taken the place of snail mail cards and Facebook releases our information whether we want it or not and so we get lots of FB Happy Birthday’s sent our way. That is why the standard birthday cake with family takes a special spot in our hearts. It is put in our memory book.  Think of the book of Romans is like God’s birthday card sent right to our “inbox” sharing his message of love through the words of the gospel.

If we have accepted Christ as our Savior we celebrate a second birthday called our “spiritual birthday.” This is the day the angels sang and our name was etched on the palms of God’s hands. All of heaven celebrated and will be each year from then until we take our last breath and we enter heaven’s gate. The day we accepted the God’s gospel message and took our first breath of the Holy Spirit we exclaimed God’s power for salvation. We were birthed and transformed with a renewed mind. We stepped out of darkness into light, put on the garment of salvation and became willing slaves of Christ Jesus; called and set apart for service. We explain it by using the term born again just as Jesus did with Nicodemus. The scales fell off our eyes and our ears were opened to hear the truth of the gospel message. It was the appointed time God decided to show favor upon us and respond to our cry for healing. [Is 49]

What a wonder the gospel message; God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes. Barclay summed it up this way “The Law lays down what a man must do, the gospel lays down what God has done.”

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