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Archive for the ‘Work of the Holy Spirit’ Category

I haven’t blogged for one month now. I dislike not putting my thoughts down, but the last month has been an wholly unexpected whirlwind. Added to my absence from the blog was the 3-week loss of my journal. I use composition notebooks of the kind you might use in a science lab. This morning I found it. I decided that as time allows I will read back through it. The second entry was concerning a Bible study I had done about Jesus reading in the synagogue, His inaugural speech as it were. He read Isaiah 61:1-2a:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord…”

Then He stops, mid-thought, mid-sentence, and hands the scroll back to the synagogue official, saying, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21). Jesus was proclaiming the purpose and purview of His ministry. The reason He stopped at this exact place in the passage was “Today”, namely His 1st advent to Earth, it was “fulfilled”. The next parts, “And the day of vengeance of our God, …to comfort all who mourn, …they will rebuild the ancient ruins, …everlasting joy will be theirs,” (Isaiah 61:2b&c, 4a, 7d) refer to His second advent, followed immediately by the Millennium and Eternity Future. 

Now, I know that this points to a certain theological perspective, but I am neither ashamed of it nor have any particular doubts about the general outline of it. In fact, my more than usual intense reading of the minor prophets this summer solidified and deepened my conviction that God still has a plan for physical Israel both to judge the majority and to save the remnant in order to fulfill all of the promises He has made and not yet completed. Many of these prophecies are just too clearly oriented to the blessings of land and nation to be spiritualized away. We who are spiritual Israel, which I believe includes the saved remnant of physical Israel, will participate in those blessings during the Millennium.

I had a small diagram in my journal that shows how prophecy frequently teaches us about future events. It is not at all new to me, but I like to put things down and add detail as I am able.

Prophetic View

No diagram, analogy, type, or metaphor can ever be a complete explanation of  the reality, but they may be accurate to the extent they are intended to explain the reality. The prophet is thought to not be able to see the valleys, because God is just revealing the mountaintops of future events. However, some of the events of the Inter-testamental Period (Silent years) are revealed in Daniel’s vision in chapter 11. Antiochus Epiphanes (though not named) is given as a type of the the Antichrist. So, the Inter-testamental Bad Guy and the “Day of the Lord” Antichrist are featured in the same prophecy.

This is a frequent pattern in prophecies. There is a near or historical (from our perspective) fulfillment and a future and/or spiritual fulfillment. David can truthfully groan, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1), and yet be simultaneously and more completely revealing the crucifixion of Christ a thousand years later. So, the prophet Isaiah proclaims that “The Spirit of God is upon me,” and God is saying that Jesus will say and do these things later over several periods of time.

To place this Isaiah 61 passage on my diagram above, I would understand to to look something like the following:

Prophet          Near Fulfillment        1st advent           2nd advent     Millennium        Eternity

Isaiah 61:1-9      good news to the   “The Spirit…          “day of           “comfort      “everlasting
afflicted              favorable year”      vengeance”      all who mourn…    joy” .          portion in                                                                                                                                                 their land”

If I were to add or change anything in my diagram, it would be to add some labeled glasses on the prophet which read, “Holy Spirit vision”. We all need discernment and discretion and these come solely from God (Proverbs 2:1-12).

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A little confession time meant to show God’s goodness. I could have acquired my Sunday School lesson book in the five days since being home but other things, including a distracted mind, prevented me from making the one hour drive. So I desperately reached out to two of the pastors to tell me what the main passages were for the lesson. Both replied, one with the answer. So, I pray, study, go to bed a bit late. This morning as I am traveling to church, two other applicable Scriptures come to mind but I can’t remember where they are found. I charge into the church, asking the pastor for a concordance, look them up, and rush off to prayer. Even though I don’t advise this type of study and most usually don’t practice it, God was gracious to give me a very productive class in the logic of my presentation for young minds and the attentiveness of my class- they are such a joy.

The lesson was the Ten Commandments. We read Exodus 20:1-21, taking breaks along the way to to explain the commandments and God’s commentary on them. First of all was verse two. God gives the reason why we should heed these commandments: He is God, and He is the one who rescues. In fact, this is the reason for all law. Rule by law is ultimately based on fear (proper reverence) for the Law Giver, and there is only One. The breakdown of law comes when we reject the Law Giver, making all our laws relative, that is, non-absolute.

Next I pointed out that the first four laws are focussed toward God, and later that the next six laws are focussed toward your fellow humans. God’s person, name, and worship are to be reverenced. The day He set aside as the remembrance of His creation is to be observed (no excuses- notice the list to prevent loopholes). This passage, as my son points out, is the best one to refute Old-Earth Creationists. There is nothing symbolic or allegorized about the Ten Commandments, the Sabbath, or six literal days in this passage. To say otherwise makes a mockery of all of Scripture.

Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise)” (Ephesians 6:2) It is not simply obeying when young, but esteeming in speech and practice when grown. God blesses this attitude and action with long life.

Murder is not the same as killing since God requires killing when murder has been committed: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.” (Genesis 9:6)

Adultery is acting like married people do with each other. Since that is a protected relationship, God says, “No.”

Stealing, lying, and wanting things that are not yours are wrong.

God said all this with “thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking” (Exodus 20:18) to scare the people into reverencing Him and obeying Him.

(It didn’t work, as the golden calf demonstrated (Genesis 32), and as God knew it would not. Why, because that was not the purpose of the Law as evidenced by what Moses and Joshua said: “The Lord said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers; and this people will arise and play the harlot with the strange gods of the land, into the midst of which they are going, and will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them.” (Deuteronomy 31:16) and “Joshua said to the people, “You will not be able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgression or your sins.” (Joshua 24:19))

The purpose of the Law is stated in Galatians 3:23-26, “But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” So, believers don’t neglect to include the Law in your Gospel presentations. The sinner must know that he has transgressed the Law before he will understand that he needs a Savior. But what a blessed thought, as the hymn says, “Free from the Law, oh, happy condition, Jesus hath bled and there is remission…” The Law no longer condemns me, for I am under the blood of Christ. I am freed from the penalty of sin.

Does that mean that the Ten Commandments no longer apply to me. No, ridiculous! As Jesus says in Matthew 5:17-18, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

But how does He fulfill the Law, enabling us to obey it so that it is accomplished? “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4) Because of the sinfulness of our flesh, we could not keep the Law, meaning the Law was weak to bring about its own accomplishment. But God the Father sent Jesus whose death on the cross and sending of the Spirit enables us to overcome the power of sin. The Law showed us our inability; Christ on the cross provided ability; the Spirit applies the ability.

In  conclusion, John 1:17-18 says, “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” We were given this valuable tutor, the Law, to point us to Christ through whom we may receive grace and truth to know and obey God. If you have come to Christ and are seeking to live by the Spirit, you are fulfilling the Law and it is no longer your tutor. It has accomplished its purpose; God is accomplishing His purpose, praise God!

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The Lie that was promulgated in the garden is persistent and pernicious. The enemy knows it is the most subtle way to destroy us, and it is persistent because it is part of our nature. “You will be like God” (Genesis 3:5) is a Lie with many iterations. It is the basis of all works salvation whether it be the religions of the world, the self-assured atheist, or the nominal, legalist Christian. Such an ominous enemy to our soul must be regularly and rigorously opposed. The remedy for me is focusing on the grace of God brought to us in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

To that end, I asked my pastor recently if he had a book that would refresh my focus on grace. He loaned me the little book, “All of Grace” by C. H. Spurgeon. He leaves no stone unturned in his pursuit of convincing the reader that God “justifieth the ungodly” (Romans 4:5).

The persistence of the Lie most frequently resides here: “We stubbornly believe that there must be something in us in order to win the notice of God” (p.14) But “God, who sees through all deceptions, knows that there is no goodness whatsoever in us.” (p.14) Our pride rises up against this thought, but salvation is for those who realize “He makes those just who are unjust. He forgives those who deserve no favor.” (p.14) Those who are closest by training to what is right and good can sometimes be the fartherest from salvation because they have become self-deceived into thinking that the rightness and goodness resides, even if only partially, in them. On the other hand, some who reject the very existence of God are equally self-deceived about their own goodness. For this reason, what Spurgeon says is profoundly true: “The law is for the self-righteous, to humble their pride. The Gospel is for the lost, to remove their despair.” (p.21) To those already broken by their sin, we preach the good news of God’s grace. To those self-assured of their own goodness, we convey the law so that they will come to a point of despair over their sin and grow in desire for a solution only found in the Gospel. Though the witness is a messenger of these things, the Holy Spirit through the Word of God is the means of this grace. “When He [the Holy Spirit] comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8) and ” the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith” (Galations 3:24).

So why must I, who have long been in the grace of God, refocus on that grace? As I have already said, the Lie is persistent and pernicious. My old nature would have me believe that afterall there is some measure of works I must provide to be satisfactory to God. No, I must continue in “simple reliance upon Jesus” (p.89), cling to Him, turn constantly for a view of His goodness, love, and power, all given to me by His grace. Herein is joy and peace; hence is purpose and hope. The quicker and more deeply I can become totally convinced of the grace of God, the more readily I can love others and point them to that all sufficient grace.

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Pastor preached on Proverbs 27:17 this morning: “Iron sharpens iron,
so one man sharpens another.” He spoke about the need, purpose, and process of believers helping each other grow spiritually. I enjoy extending metaphors, which requires care not to come up with analogies not there or elsewhere delineated in Scripture or life. The usefulness of such an enterprise may be to help those who hear to further understand the importance of the concept portrayed by the metaphor.

Why does the Scripture say iron sharpens iron? That has long bothered me, because anyone who has sharpened a knife or tool knows that you use a whetstone, grinding stone, or ceramic sharpening tool which are harder than the tool.  And such tools existed. I Samuel 13:20 records the desperation for Israel when “all Israel went down to the Philistines, each to sharpen his plowshare, his mattock, his axe, and his hoe.” These events were more than 300 years before Solomon wrote the proverb. For that matter, why shouldn’t I use modern technology, the diamond sharpening stone?

The proverb is a metaphor for fellowship and discipleship within the congregation of believers. God doesn’t give us any other choice. We must sharpen each other. And we are not back at the castle. We are in the battle, so the grinding wheel is not an option. We go to our brother, cross swords in a mutually beneficial way and come away sharpened for more battle. Fellowship is the non-optional, God-ordained means for being honed to battle readiness.

Those who want to exclude themselves because of “hypocrites in the church” or “I can worship in nature” just fine or “all I need is Jesus” are dull or more likely twisted and unbalanced weapons. The problem is everybody wants to be sharp but nobody wants to be sharpened. When you are sharpening a blade, one swipe of the finger near the edge will reveal why so few want to be sharpened. Your finger will come up with a dark gray dust from the sharpening process. Sharpening removes material. Bad material and excess material must be removed from your life. It can be painful and humbling.

For some it’s rust from lack of use or exposure to corroding influences that needs to be removed and is hindering the cutting edge. For others, it is good material, all be it not according to faith or God’s direction, that needs to be removed to reduce the fat edge of dullness.

When two materials of equal hardness are used to do the sharpening, material is removed from both edges. Discipling and being discipled means involvement in another person’s life with all of the mutual messiness and need for honing away spiritual dullness.

And some of us are more of a mess than others. I own a double bladed axe. The way that I came into ownership of this axe goes back to the beginning of my wood heating days. I borrowed this axe (first mistake) to split some of the first wood I cut. While attempting to split some very twisted forks, I got several wedges stuck in a piece. I used the axe to attempt to get the wedges out (second mistake). I bought the axe, that is, I replaced the friend’s axe and kept the broken one. The strike took out a half-moon divot in the blade about the size of your thumbnail. In years since I have used the good blade to split and the broken blade when risking to remove wedges or cut roots near metal or concrete. No other sizable divots have been removed but the the edge has been bludgeoned a few times. I have tried for years to sharpen that divot out of the blade. For the longest time my efforts were to no avail, but now, years later, that blade is reasonably sharp while still having somewhat of a dent in the edge. It took years and that blade is possibly an inch shorter than the other one. That blade is me. The difference is that I have multiple divots. God has had to work for years to grind away the dullness of my spirit due to sinful habits and difficulties of life. I still show the scars and I’m not the sharpest tool in the box, but neither am I who I was. And much of that has been because God has used brothers and sisters in my life to remove rust here and dullness there. I doubt seriously that I will be admired as a shining blade of perfection, but I do pursue a cutting edge pursuit of God in the battle of life. And for that I give Him all of the praise.

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Last Sunday my pastor preached from Proverbs 6:16-19. He began by assuring us that the purpose of the passage, as well as his sermon, was not to condemn but to help. God points out our sin for the purpose of warning us so that we might come to Him for help. His second point was how far short we fall, yet how gracious God is. My heart was stirred by the sermon and I reflected on it later in the week, I put many of the pastor’s thoughts into the following poem. I hope that you find it admonishing, instructive, and encouraging.

His grace is spread abroad in us
By manifold and diverse ways

That cleanses us from deadly sins
To live for Him all of our days

To end six sins which God so hates
His character pure they offend
Even seven sins He abhors
By fierce judgment He shall attend

No more haughty eyes glaring pride
Now like the humble Savior be
Eyes that show compassion and love
That all might His grace and truth see

Enough of tongues that concoct lies
Denying and obscuring truth
God’s truth will set you free, He said
Renewing your years as in youth

Hands that shed innocent blood, stop
The Savior’s blood was shed for you
Now like the Master’s healing hands
Helping the poor and infirm, too

Hearts devise wicked plans to scheme
Transgress the righteousness of God
A heart of compassion put on
Equity more than just a nod

Feet run rapidly to evil
While rebellion rules in the heart
Submit to the Savior and live
In healing conflict do your part

False witnesses uttering lies
Gossip and slander destroy lives
Put away filthy, silly talk
Be instead one who for truth strives

One spreading strife among brothers
Strikes a note of profound discord
Seek unity with the brethren
Dwelling in peace with one accord

By God’s help we pursue these things
Bringing all glory to our Lord
Blessings come to ourselves and kin
Others encouragement afford

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Resolutions are like water off a ducks back. They bead up on the oily resistance of our habits and roll off of the feather weight of our existence. We really don’t have the ability to make change that counts for eternity. We may do that which is good, by common grace, for our neighbor or environment, but still wrongly intentioned.

So why even talk about resolutions or trying at all? The reason is The Enabler, the Holy Spirit, Who lives inside of those who have and habitually submit to Him.

Is this enabling just for the perfect and privileged? No, it is for all who feel a deep desire, ultimately given by the same Enabler, to make change.

And how is this enabling obtained and practiced? It starts with submission to the Son in salvation of the soul and continues in a renewing of that submission as life goes along. Jesus came to save sinners from rebellions and omissions past, present, and future, but He also came in order for those sinners to do what is right in God’s sight. As is says in Romans 8:3-4: For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

My resolve then for this coming year is not by my own puny strength which will fade or become puffed up with some level of success, but “divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (2 Corinthians 10:4; check out verses 3-6).

How do I access that kind of power? Yesterday morning in church after hearing a sermon on how Christ is better than all other ways to God and enables us to live victoriously, I wanted to conclude the service with the following hymn by James Fillmore:

  1. I am resolved no longer to linger,
    Charmed by the world’s delight,
    Things that are higher, things that are nobler,
    These have allured my sight.

    • Refrain:
      I will hasten to Him,
      Hasten so glad and free;
      Jesus, greatest, highest,
      I will come to Thee.
  2. I am resolved to go to the Savior,
    Leaving my sin and strife;
    He is the true One, He is the just One,
    He hath the words of life.
  3. I am resolved to follow the Savior,
    Faithful and true each day;
    Heed what He sayeth, do what He willeth,
    He is the living Way.
  4. I am resolved to enter the kingdom,
    Leaving the paths of sin;
    Friends may oppose me, foes may beset me,
    Still will I enter in.
  5. I am resolved, and who will go with me?
    Come, friends, without delay;
    Taught by the Bible, led by the Spirit,
    We’ll walk the heav’nly way.

I settled for singing one verse and refrain with two sisters from the choir. I hope it will set a tone for my life and theirs and yours in the coming year, that God’s power might wet our most stubborn, bad habits until they are washed away and fire our weak resolve into weighty ballast of the soul for God and His kingdom.

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My son and his wife hosted a Reformation 500th Anniversary Conference back in April. The website for the conference has history of the various states in Europe that were effected by the Reformation. They wrote and edited summaries of these histories. The website also has links to all of the conference speakers’ talks. Soon the site will have legible pictures of the 40 story boards (trifold boards) he and his wife made for the conference. All of these resources may be accessed at www.reformation500pa.com

Happy 500th and happy researching!

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Following after Jesus has its many rewards and challenges. The challenges all originate from our sin nature, and “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence,” (2 Peter 1:3) we really have no excuse. This enabling power given to us through the agency of the Holy Spirit helps us to “enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

God is at work in us for our sanctification, but He also commands us to be diligently about increasing our sanctification: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13) Because of the lie of Satan that induced the original sin of Adam, “you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5), we now have a sin nature. As a result “death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam” (Romans 5:14), and there is still “nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” (Romans 7:18-19) To put it plainly, the lie of Satan was that you can do it on your own, that is, be good enough, be like God. Every religion is a way to work your way to heaven or attempt to please God. True Christianity is not this way, that is, works oriented, but grace oriented, because God has and is accomplishing all that is needed to please Him and secure for us a place in heaven. But we sinners by nature and by practice are hooked on the Lie and must throughout this lifetime be diligent to believe what God has said and done in and for us.

I love analogies and metaphors and thought of this situation today as I was describing a friend’s need to find a church where grace is preached. We should seek a church where truth is preached, the Gospel is preached, and the whole counsel of God is preached, right? Most definitely we should, but we are like an old pick-up truck that has a badly mis-aligned front end that constantly wants to steer us into the left ditch which we must persistently fight by holding the steering wheel to the right so that we may track straight. The mis-alignment is our works oriented sin nature; steering to the right is a constant placing of God’s grace before our eyes and in our thinking; the straight track is the narrow way that God is guiding us along toward Himself.

Or we are setting a course of the narrow way by turning the tiller of grace that has us tacking into the wind of the world, the flesh, and the devil. We are always empowered by God, but He frequently accomplishes that through the effort of faith we put forth. This “steering” or “tack” is not a new level of works, but a clinging to God, the only source of life and godliness, joy and heaven.

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He said, “Do your best and let God take care of the rest.” I had heard this and similar phrases many times, but I went off on a mental tangent of evaluating it in the light of Scripture. I think that I understand the intent of the saying, namely that we have an active part to play in growing righteousness in our life and God completes what is lacking in us. Thus far I have no problem, but I think we may do better in our understanding and representation of the interplay of our effort and God’s empowerment. Toward a theology of effort and empowerment consider the following diagrams with their perspectives on the topic:

effort-empowerment-arrows

The arrows are somewhat self-explanatory, but I want to clarify them for my own benefit and yours. Though, as I said, the #1 was stated with right intentions, I believe that at face value it is really saying that I exert effort to the extent of my ability and then God kicks in for the rest. But the Scripture says,“for in Him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28), and “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) We cannot even breathe apart from the grace He provides, but the “nothing” here seems to me to be ‘nothing of eternal significance’. As Paul teaches in I Corinthians 3:11-15, For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” 

I think that #2 is closer to the right perspective. God wants us to be involved and tells us through Paul to work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12b-13) Our part is working with God by faith that He provides all we need to obey Him. He is actually the one willing and working and He receives all the glory as only He should. We receive no glory for effort, seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” (II Peter 1:3-4) The “magnificent promises” and “divine nature” afforded believers far exceed our efforts. For this reason I have the ‘me’ arrow inside the ‘God’ arrow. God is in, through, and around all that we do and amplifies it to a magnificent and divine level, “abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20).The result is that “Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11) and “to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:21)

#3 is not only lazy but detracts from the glory of God by not proving His purpose and plan as revealed in such passages as Ephesians 2:10: For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” We are not to be idle. Our flesh will consume us the moment we stop clinging to God and moving forward in the strength He provides, for “the heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Conversely, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

#4 may seem like a statement of working with God, but I have seen consistently that the people who use this phrase are just trying to be good in their own right and have little concern for godliness or God’s glory. He intends and expects of those whom He is saving and the whole world as well that they acknowledge Him in all things: ““Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.” (Revelation 14:7) 

Our hearts tend to be lazy when it comes to spiritual disciplines, but I believe that God has ordained that His will is frequently accomplished and His kingdom built by enabling the efforts He orchestrates within us (#5), as we said above from Philippians 2:12-13. So we work hard and bring God glory as you see Paul and the Thessalonians did: For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” (I Thessalonians 2:9-12) It is right and proper that we should work hard at spiritual progress in the strength God provides in order that others might be drawn to God and God be glorified.

And with all of this effort, remember that God needs nothing from us and can accomplish His will without us whenever and however He pleases (#6). “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:27) But He has made us involved in so much of what He is doing, “for this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:14-19) For  “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

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All the political hubbub with no real solutions. All the anxiety ridden news reports without real hope. All the suggested intrusions on freedom with no real security. We are not going to make progress and are going to regress rapidly without turning to the one and only solution. 

This poem actually began as two conflicting thoughts and considering the circumstances under which they came about. It seems to me now the first verse does not even go with the rest of the poem so I will separate it with extra space. See what you think:

I write poetry to keep from being bored
Focus mind when feet are nailed to a floorboard
Teasing out thoughts that are both far flung and near
Sorting through the hurtful and that which is dear

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When I think of all the wrong that’s in the world
Murders and abuse and war banners unfurled
My mind grabs for solutions to bring to bear
All beyond reach in a world cruel and unfair

There’s the pain to loved ones from me and others
Scarred relationships start with father, mothers
Friends and neighbors had words and are offended
Words out, actions done, cannot be rescinded

Is there no hope for mankind, is it all gloom?
Tearing down self and others, is this our doom?
No, there is hope, but it’s not in self-help plans
Nor is it in the police state or gun bans

Our hope is in God’s Son through His sacrifice
His death on the cross for sin paid the full price
By trusting in His work we have peace with God
Relationship growing in place of the rod

Repentance and forgiveness we have in Him
We may pass to others as a precious gem
When seeking to forgive and be forgiven
We have with sin and disharmony striven

This makes possible reconciliation
Moving past hurt beginning restoration
Extending peace to strangers and enemies
Doing right by neighbors knowing that God sees

Hope for the future and for the present too
Pointing people to purpose both real and true
Spending time and resources to relieve pain
Pointing to the Savior in Whom is real gain

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In danger of living as mere men
Calling survival a win
We were meant for more than bear and grin
In our fight with self and sin

But the mundane creeps in day by day
And we lose sight of the way
To walk in the Spirit and to stay
In His Word and ceaselessly pray

To be bold in witness to the lost
Kind, no relational frost
Not by every wind of doctrine tossed
In holy living count the cost

Recall we’re not the vine but the limb
More than conquerors through Him
Each dead work from the vine He must trim
The source of all life is the stem

Walk by the Spirit, quit the flesh race
All of life is lived by grace
At God’s behest and at His own pace
With His help we finish the race

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Humility should always be donned by a Christian. We were sinners; we are sinners saved by grace; we will one day not be sinners by the grace of God. Oh, that I could communicate by words and deeds a life of repentance and trust, repentance and trust.
Ups and downs and all arounds
The days go rolling by
No matter all the times we fail
We must again retry

Thank your God or take the rod
A smile or else a cry
Repent, forgiveness will prevail
Joy replaces a sigh

Trust Him now and so learn how
To overcome the lie
That Spirit's power has no avail
To cause the flesh to die

When upside down makes you frown
Recall God is on high
No matter what may you assail
He is all your supply

Jesus died to sin applied
Believe, do not deny
His power over death and hell
One day to heaven fly

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A pastor friend of mine put this quote on Facebook that he had read from Tim Keller: “For most of us, God hasn’t become our happiness. We, therefore, pray to procure things for our happiness, and not to know him better.” Sometimes quotes are black and white, absolute, and I want to say, no, only sometimes and partially. So I started to respond to this entry but as I tried to think how to respond the depth of my own culpability increased in my eyes. Things procured may not always be material objects, and most frequently are not things I most desire or pursue. They may be accomplishments, comforts, accolades, encouragements, skills, health, entertainments, work, love, a sense of purpose, and so on. They are not knowledge of God. Neither are the bad in themselves, used as tools for knowing Him and making Him known, but I don’t frequently acquire them for that reason. So I retreated from responding to the entry, but the impact of the statement would not fade. I have resolved by the Spirit to confront such idols in the past.

As these thoughts mulled over in my mind I was reminded of the verse in the hymn that goes, “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I’m come, and I hope, by Thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.” The Ebenezer comes from a text in I Samuel 7:8-13: “Then the sons of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry to the Lord our God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it for a whole burnt offering to the Lord; and Samuel cried to the Lord for Israel and the Lord answered him. Now Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, and the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel. But the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day against the Philistines and confused them, so that they were routed before Israel. The men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and struck them down as far as below Beth-car. Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” So the Philistines were subdued and they did not come anymore within the border of Israel.”  The translation of Ebenezer is a “stone of help”. It is a monument raised by someone to remind them of help that God has given them. It is very easy to emphasize the act of raising the stone or the resolve that went into the help afforded but that is a totally man-centered dead end. God thundered and confused the enemy and routed and weakened to be struck down. Israel was active: pursuing, striking; Samuel set up the stone, but God did all of the heavy lifting and enabled all of the victory. So too in our victories over the temptation “we are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” (II Corinthians 10:5) by the enabling power of the Spirit.

At my age and stage of life I have set up more than a few Ebenezers in field of battle. “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1 I know His help, and I know how to call on Him, but in many smaller skirmishes and encampment quarrels and disease I am in great need of revisiting an Ebenezer set up where God enabled victory over evil thoughts, or the other one where victory was won over sluggish spiritual discipline, or yet another one where pride of accomplishment and tendency to show off was overcome. And on it goes. I need to take every thought captive by the power He provides, set up monuments to remind me of His victory and what was won, know Him more, and revisit those “stones of help” before or during great or prolonged battles.

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It was what church should be: lively discussion about the truths of God’s Word, challenging preaching that conveys God’s truth, hugs and handshakes, words of encouragement, a little extra effort to reach out to the hurting among us, words to get one thinking and rethinking, offers and procedure for help, appointments to get together later in the week to further the effect. God used my brothers and sisters to bless my wife and me both in terms of ministry offered to us and ministry offered for us to do. Was it perfect? Certainly not. Was it Spirit-led? More than I’ve seen in quite a while. Was it encouraging? Very. Was it an indication of things to come? Hopefully and in the longer term, absolutely. Was it a fluke? Not if we continue praying as I know for a fact was happening this past week. It reminds me of a quote we heard in VBS this past week: “Our good is for God’s glory; God’s glory is for our good.” I give Him the glory for all that He is doing at His church in this locale and know that it will in turn be for our best. May it draw others in to hear and taste the Gospel.

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Partakers of grace by God’s decree
Participators in grace freely
Profoundly touched by His sovereign grace
Provides, motivates to run the race
 
Manifold grace for every challenge
Manifest grace on Spirit’s works hinge
Modeling character of God’s grace
Molded by His image we embrace
 
God’s grace worked out through His providence
Good gifts and guidance in evidence
Gone is condemnation and sin’s rule
Goal Christ’s likeness as with flesh we duel
 
On God’ grace through each day we will rest
Onslaught in the battle of each test
Ongoing refinement of this jewel
One day glory when Christ comes to rule
 
Philippians 1:3-14 seems to me to be saying that partakers of grace are participators in grace.
The God who decrees and predestines us to receive grace also enables and guides us in the living out of grace.
 

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By clicking on Trinity Day 2 Answers you can see the answers I promised to the Bible Study on manifestation of God’s character in His trinity in God ordained social institutions. We could avoid much of the heart-ache and problems we sustain if we would follow God’s plan for how the social interactions are supposed to work. Government, for instance, is involved far beyond its God ordain sphere of influence so that it mettles in the church and family spheres. Avenging evil and defense of the citizenry is all it is supposed to do. As a result of the many other things it forces on us, we lose freedom by each one.

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Having reviewed the biblical doctrine of the Trinity I now turn to its application by God to all God-ordained social institutions. Because we have refused to understand how God’s character is expressed in what He has created and ordained we try to re-invent social institutions apart from God, effectively destroying them.  I will allow several days for study before I fill in the blanks. (Lest I be called for plagiarism, I must acknowledge the ideas of Del Tackett in “The Truth Project”. I have digested and added my own study and organization to his framework.)  Click on Outworking of the Trinity to start the study.

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In the Summer 2013 Gospel Project, Lesson 12, the following quote by Robertson McQuilkin appears:

“The more I know [Christ], the more I love Him. The more I love Him, the more I obey Him. The more I obey Him, the more I become like Him. The more I become like Him, the better I know Him. The better I know Him, I love Him the more. And the more I love Him, I reach a new level of likeness to Him.”

I think better in diagrams and so remember concepts better. Additionally, I need to know what it looks like when it is happening including what part I have in the process and what part is applied to me. I hope the following helps you as well. The row of “looks like” bubbles are only a few examples that need expanded. You can click on the diagram to enlarge it.

Becoming Like Christ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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