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Archive for December, 2010

All Things New

Today for a certain reason I was feeling low because faces were coming to mind of those who could rightly point a finger of accusation toward me. I desire so much to love people well, but of course I’m human so I often fail. I don’t even live up to my own standards of loving others well. The worst is to imagine them forming a jury around me to pronounce me guilty… Do you have a jury around you? Are even you a member?

Take heart, because then I was reminded that Jesus covered me and took all the blame upon Himself. And all those pointed fingers grabbed hammers to nail Him and my sin to the cross. And now the voices of accusation are silenced by His blood. Because of Him, the pointing fingers will be raised to heaven in praise and the condemning voices will be lifted as worship in the name of Jesus. Just as He ascended from death to life, so even from accusation does acclamation rise. Whoever could hold a case against us must now turn it to praise for God in light of the cross and resurrection.

“These shall war against the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them, for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings; and they also shall overcome that are with him, called and chosen and faithful.” (Rev. 17:14)

What is more, if God’s grace is even enough to restore what Satan has ruined, then surely He can redeem all I have wrecked. I don’t have to live with the pain of the past knowing God works all things together for good (Rom. 8:28) and will put all things right again, at last!

And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new!” (Rev. 21:5)

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I love how in 1 John 2:12-14 John proclaims truth over the church people. How often do I do that? It’s so powerful to have someone claim the Scripture over your life and strengthen your spirit with God’s promises.

It reminds me of a book I read by Larry Crabb called “Connecting” where he talks about calling upon the power of the Holy Spirit within your brothers and sisters to strengthen them. Every day our spirits need to rise up in Christ and put the flesh to death to live in freedom. We as Christians have Christ in us to encourage our brothers and sisters to fight the good fight with perseverance and endurance, to remind them that our victory is sure.

John simply reminds the Church, “You have been forgiven! You know Him who is from the beginning. The Word of God lives in you and you have overcome the evil one in Christ!” Every now and then we just need to hear someone proclaim those truths over our weary souls.

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Advocate and Atonement

1 John 2:1-2 is the gospel and so simple and beautiful, “…if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

When we sin, Jesus Christ is our advocate who speaks in our favor before the Father. He supports us through the argument of His blood shed for us. His blood speaks a better word for us than any works we’ve done or excuses we have. “You have come to God, the Judge of all… to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Heb. 12:23-24). We need not defend ourselves, because Jesus does. He pleads our cause in the heavenly court. He petitions the Father in our behalf as our intercessor. He always clears our guilt and covers us with His righteousness.

He is our atoning sacrifice. He makes amends between us and the Father and repairs our broken relationship because He was once broken and forsaken in our place. He makes up for our failings and our deficiencies so we become reconciled to God and are restored to peace. Jesus Christ is our harmony with God. His sacrifice is not only enough for all of our sins – past, present, and future – but for the sins of the whole world! Let’s first preach the gospel to our own souls, and then to our whole world!

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Spiritual Fellowship

Though Christians exist in the community of the church, they may feel alone while surrounded. Not physically alone, but spiritually alone. Lacking spiritual friends. By that I mean having too few actively spirit-filled people to love them, speak truth to them, and strengthen their hand in God like Jonathan did to David. We all need people, and to be people, who genuinely confess Jesus and encourage active connection with Him.

The first chapter of 1 John is a testimony to who Jesus is. The verse that made a strong impression on me was vs. 3, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us…” So proclaiming Jesus, speaking biblical truth to people, is the way to have fellowship. “…And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” We know that as the church we are a spiritual family, but to have fellowship is to be proclaiming Jesus as He is revealed to ours hearts by the Spirit and through the Word.

But the passage goes on to say that mere proclamations of the Truth are not enough for fellowship, but our actions must be as loud as our words. “God is light… If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth” (vs. 5-6). We must walk in the light, yet we cannot do so alone. The Spirit is our help and strength. When we walk in the Spirit we walk in the light, because He is light and has come to shine inside of us. To walk in the Spirit is to daily “keep in step” with Him (Gal. 5:25) and to abide in Him (John 15), lest we fall into pleasing the flesh and become disconnected from spiritual fellowship with God and Christians.

Here’s a paradox… If we walk in the darkness we do not live out the truth, yet, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (vs. 8). Yet the passage goes on the say that when we admit our sins God will forgive and purify us from all of our sins. So it is His doing and not ours. So I think the key to all this is to be daily confessing our sins and connecting to the Spirit. The first keeps us humble and honest, and the second keeps us hopeful and holy. So if you are feeling deeply disconnected from Christians, that, according to 1 John 1, is the way to the spiritual fellowship we all need.

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Every Thought Captive

If there was such a thing as a demon on one shoulder and an angel on the other, many might agree that the demon shouts louder – at least, he is heard better – much of the time. Thoughts of regret, fear, disappointment… in ourselves and in others, even in God when we misunderstand Him.

In a word, discouragement.

The worst thing to do in a down time like this is to agree with the discouraging thought before considering the source. Let’s begin to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).

Submit the bothersome thought to Him, and see if He approves. See if He who endured the cross for your sake would have you entertain the thought. Would He speak it to you if He were sitting with you? Would He bear discouragement in you along with the love, joy, and peace that His presence brings?

When you are aware of His presence, isn’t your hope always renewed? So when you cannot feel the warmth of His face shining down on you, don’t forget in darkness what you learned in the light. He is for you, not against you (Rom. 8:31) and you are never left to face this life alone. Even in your weakness His strength is made known (2 Cor. 12:10). “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deut. 31:8).

Even if you have a thousand things to be sorry for, take heart, for He has been anointed to bring you good news of His gospel of grace, to release you from the power of oppressing thoughts, and to strengthen you with His forgiveness (Luke 4:18).

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Good Intentions

“And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” (Matt. 11:6)

What is dark to us is light to him. He does all things with goodness and glory on his mind. He is the conquerer of all things and everything is under his feet, subject to him. He is high above all.

If Jesus could trust the Father even while being given over to death, we can trust him with our lives. And we will be blessed for it. Whatever he says, he will do.

We can bring no legitimate accusation against he who has denied himself for our sake to the greatest degree. He would do anything, and has done everything, for us. So let us have a stubborn trust in his love for us. Let us be his most loyal and faithful defenders because we have known and seen that he is good through and through. He is innocent to the depths of his heart. There is no reason in all of creation to doubt his good intentions for us.

“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin…” (Exodus 34:6-7) “All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.” (Psalm 25:10)

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In Good Hands

I hope that you are enjoying wonderful time spent with family and friends! I am especially excited that my sister Amy, brother-in-law Rob, and their two little boys (Zachary, 2, and Jonathan, 1) are spending Christmas with us this year. Whenever I spend time with my nephews I just can’t stop thinking… If God feels for me as I feel for them, I’m in good hands.

I love asking Zachary questions just to hear his soft-spoken, “Yeah.” I will make a fool out of myself if that’s what it takes to make him laugh. I cherish sleeping (enough to call it one of my favorite activities!), but I’d rather stay up into the night to comfort him after a nightmare. In fact, I cherish the time with him all the more. And to see Jonathan smile is honestly so heart-warming. I call him “smiley-pie” because he has the sweetest little smiling face. He has the cutest “food face” when he tastes something new and his eyes get so big. The time he had a fever and cried all day was so sad. I wish I could have been sick in his place.

Consider those you enjoy the most in this world. Think of the special someone you’d most dearly miss if you had to live without them. Is it your spouse, your parent, your child, your mentor, your friend? What if you could never make them laugh again? Or look into their eyes? Or hold them in your arms? What would you give not to lose them? I cry just considering never seeing my nephews again..

“So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your (perfect) heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him?” (Matt. 7:11). Do you think that Jesus considered, even as he spoke those words, the greatest gift the Father would ever give us? It was the gift of his own life. The greatest gift had already been given to the world at his coming, to be broken on the cross. He gave everything to wipe away our tears and hear us laugh again. He became ill to the point of death with the poison of our sin in order to cure us. He was separated from the greatest “special someone” anyone could ever have – his own heavenly Father – to reconcile us to him.

Have you known separation from a dearly loved one? Or have you suffered from their neglected affection? May you come to Christ and find comfort in his gift of life. The Son of God exchanged his one and only beloved position for our God-forsaken condition. Pleasing his Father was more important to him than his own life, yet he became abhorred on our cross so you and I could be treasured. He chose to be abandoned by the Father who meant everything to him so we could be adopted into his place of favor, known just as deeply and loved equally. If you have a relationship with God, it was the bond attained by Christ, and then exchanged for our separation as he hung forsaken on the cross. What a great curiosity… why would he make this great exchange? “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us…” (1 John 3:16). In the greatest demonstration of love he was crushed by the mighty arms that now embrace us.

Jesus’ heart stopped beating, yet he was not defeated. For he said of his life, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again…” (John 10:18). When we put our faith in the resurrected Christ, his Spirit unites with ours and revives our spiritual life for eternity. He reconciles us to the Father and actively cries out to him from within our heart, “Abba, Father” (Gal. 4:6). So when we pray, the Father hears the sweet voice of his beloved child. Truly, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)

As a child of God, you are his treasured possession (Ex. 19:5). He will never stop doing good to you and desires to  establish you with all of his heart and soul (Jer. 32:40-41). He is full of tender compassion for you (Lam. 3:22). He wants to show you great and marvelous things (Jer. 33:3) and is able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine (Eph. 3:20). He is for you, not against you (Rom. 8:31) and his hopes for you are higher than your own. He is your provider and will meet every need (Matt. 6:31-33). When you are broken, he will be near to you (Ps. 34:18). He will not leave you comfortless; he will come to you (John 14:18). He delights in you and rejoices over you with singing! (Zeph. 3:17)

Suppose we ask God the same questions we have asked ourselves, “Who are they that you most enjoy in this world? And what would you give not to lose them?” His answer? His children! And he has given everything to save us.

So the next time you smile over a child, delight in a loved one, dote on a good friend, or desire to know someone better. Or if you just can’t wait to give her that gift, or confess your love to him. Consider that you have been made in the image of God and remember… you are forever so dear to him, and infinitely more loved.

If you feel for them as God feels for you, then you are in good hands.

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