Monday, January 31, 2011

Hebrews 5

For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.
 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. 

Having come of age in the eighties, I saw quite a few things for which I had absolutely no reference point.  I had grown up in a Christian home and was also quite naive...parental influence and a natural tendency to succumb to death-by-embarrassment at any opportunity were major contributors to that quality.  As a result of the way God wired me and the fact that I had a good deal of church in my upbringing...we attended religiously...and quite a bit of Bible exposure, I clearly understood nice versus mean, kind versus unkind. Yet, I had a great deal of trouble recognizing or discerning between good and evil.  So much so, I didn't even know I did not know.  I had the word of righteousness; but I had not been trained in the righteousness.  I could win the Bible drills and Bible trivia games; but as for application, understanding what some of the words meant, how those admonitions applied to me and others, I had a disconnect.  Epic failure to apply content in current context.

So, when I was in college and friends and family began to go and do things which I hadn't not been specifically taught - I missed the sin in the lifestyles.  Some of the problem was I had not been taught how to think with the knowledge I had.  Some of the problem was I didn't understand how to look to God and His Word for His take on my life and the current events...or comprehend that I could and should do that.  The ol' "once saved, always saved, pray the little prayer, be good, be active in church" was the lifestyle I had practiced and almost perfected.  

I know that I, by my silence on certain subjects...therefore, my tacit acceptance...condoned activities of my companions that were sinful.  I wasn't silent because I didn't know what to say, I simply had no clue. NO CLUE.  Somehow, I never made the connection between the Word and the life...I never stopped to think.  It never occurred to me that what they did, liked doing and pursued like crazy was sin.    

That background has made it a bit of a chaotic dance in bringing up children (and I know I am no where near done with that gig); but on one hand, I try to keep them innocent and sheltered as I was.  On the other hand, the world invades and pops the bubbles I try to create for I work to attempt to help them see what God says about the situation.  The predicament is that I may miss a scenario and the world may fill them in.  I cannot catch it all.  So, push to protect then strive to set it to God's Word...and the older they are, the more diverse and perverse are the opportunities that come our way.

Now, I had to tell you that to tell you this.  How the Lord spoke to me (and I am so grateful that He does involve Himself in my life and that I know to listen and look for Him...only His grace) from these two verses of Hebrews is that the need for milk is valid and nurturing.  One cannot grow without it.  But as one grows, the needs begin to change.  Growth is important; but maturity is the point of growth.  No one wants to be a 6 foot tall, bottle-coddling, thumb-sucking, diaper-clad baby.  

My children are growing and maturing.  Spiritually, they are growing as well.  The question is am I going to keep them in diapers by dropping them off at church and giving them praise-music pacifiers; or will I facilitate their maturing by the Word of righteousness so their senses can be trained to discern good from evil?  God must frame and filter our lives, else we are deceived and deceiving. 

The church activities and opportunities are super, supplemental scenarios; but it is my responsibility (by "my", I refer to the marital 2-are-1 "my" and of course, include their fabulous father) to live that omni-directional, pursuit of holiness out before them and to show them how to walk in the way-everlasting that when something wicked their way comes, they discern accurately and promptly. (Please know that that is only by God's grace in a Spirit-led life...not by my power, abilities or gumption and certainly despite my incredible capacity to screw up).  

Thank You Father for taking the pressure off of me to nail everything the world throws at the children.  I praise You for Your wisdom to prepare them for the evils of this world through Your Word of righteousness and by seasoning their senses through study and striving.  Equip me supernaturally to know which matters to address beforehand and which to leave to time. Please help me not limit Your gifts and wisdom to the biologically-related people only.  I adore You for You never gave up on me, either.  What a privilege to have become Your daughter, despite what I brought to the table.  Your are God, I am graced.

(a quick ps story:  We stopped to help a lady who had caused an accident last week.  During our time of assistance and support, she used really bad language (actually it was just one word, ranted REPEATEDLY).  I then dropped my children off for classes.  While they were in class, I wondered if the two who witnessed her vituperation would try out the new word that morning.  I prayed that they would not.  I reasoned the older had probably come across it and would know better; just because he is older, (please, please, dear God).  The younger who loves words almost as much as I do proved to be a much greater topic in my prayers.  "Please shut that young one's mouth, Lord.  Keep him from trying out a new word.  Please hold them still until I can have an audience with them and show them Your perspective on that matter.  God, let them cause no offense.  They don't know.  I never told them.  You know at our house, the s-word is stupid, h-word is hate, d-word is dumb...You know Father, they just don't know anymore.  Holy Spirit, rise up in them and let them keep their mouth quiet if they feel inclined to stretch their vocab skills today."

I was there early for pick-up...can you imagine that?!!  Urgently, we fled the building like we were thieves leaving a bank.  Without any pleasantries, I began, "You know that the young lady was very upset today and she used really bad language I wanted you to know that what she said is unacceptable  for the Lord tells us to not use coarse language but to edify one another and to think on lovely and excellent things...."  

Before I could continue, the younger child corrected me, "Mom, she didn't use bad language; she used one bad word, repetitively." 

"Yes, you're right,"  I concurred - breathing now, "but I know we have never discussed that and I thought maybe you had never heard that word.  I want you to be clear that it is 'NO' for us as Christ's siblings."

"I know that.  And, for your information, I have heard it Youth Group."  

I am so breathlessly thankful that God is Sovereign and even though bad stuff and words happen...God is Lord over all. {major disclaimer:  I love our Youth Group and Pastor, I KNOW that bad language is not taught nor promoted there.  But just like in our Ladies Group, sinners come to church and sometimes, sinners speak from a sinful perspective...don't worry, they probably haven't had their "milk", yet.)

Hebrews 4

For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart. 
(I love the Amplified!)

Your's is a throne of grace
where mercy is embraced
and grace received
to meet my need
The Sinless One believed.

My Great High Priest and King~
Let me miss not receiving 
Love's  mercy from
Your strong, right arm, 
Please stay my unbelief.  

On that cursed tree
T'is where You died for me
You knew not sin
Without, within
Let me live in Your liberty. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hebrews 3

    ...but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house - whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.
    Christ was a faithful Steward as a Son over His (Father's) House - and that is whose house we are, if we take possession of our bold assurance and that in which we can glory for our joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation until it is finished, fulfilled or complete in purpose.
    Yet, the former slaves which Moses led from Egypt had seen miracles, signs, wonders, power, protection, provision, life and death from the hand of God and yet they were denied entrance to God's rest.  For forty years, they saw His works and still disobeyed in unbelief.
[Therefore beware] brethren, take care, lest there be in any one of you a wicked, unbelieving heart [which refuses to cleave to, trust in, and rely on Him], leading you to turn away and desert or stand aloof from the living God.... And to whom did He swear that they should not enter His rest, but to those who disobeyed [who had not listened to His word and who refused to be compliant or be persuaded]?   So we see that they were not able to enter [into His rest], because of their unwillingness to adhere to and trust in and rely on God [unbelief had shut them out].

Their unbelief had shut them out of God's rest...His house.  

What do I do when confronted with unbelief?  How truthfully and lovingly do I respond?  How quickly do I pray for that one?  How am I keeping watch and being held accountable against unbelief in my own life?  Do I consider unbelief a valid threat?

Lord, help me speak Your love in truth to those demonstrating unbelief.  Give me discernment in this area that I might be a noble servant and a diligent steward for Your Kingdom's purpose.  Help me to not "unbelieve" anything You say.  Your Word is life.  Your Kingdom is of belief, lead me in Your way, the way everlasting.    

    Hebrews 2

    Verse 1 states we can drift away from the truth we have heard, verse 3 says we can neglect the very great salvation provided for us.

    Drifting away means I am not paying attention to the landmarks on shore - the firm and unchanging truth.

    ~ Perhaps I am too caught up in what is directly around me to keep my sights on the unchanging part - too much fun, work, responsibility, etc.  

    ~Maybe I am caught in an undertow of sin (mine or someone else's) which is slowly, steadily moving me away from the plumb line of God.  

    ~Possibly, I am just resting, relaxing in the goodness of the warm sun (good life and warm relationships), the waves' gentle motions (ebb and flow of life) and beach sounds (general hub-bub in the dailyness of life) and fail to notice my subtle movement away from the point of safety, (I am no longer centered on Christ).

    I suppose the reason for drifting doesn't really matter as the effect is the same; I have slipped away.  My lack of vigilance has ushered me to a place I don't want to be, a place beyond safety, and I may not even notice.

    Neglect defined from Webster's 1828 Dictionary -
          To omit by carelessness or design; to forbear to do, use, employ,
                        promote or attend to
             To omit to receive or embrace; to slight. 
             Negligence; habitual want of regard.
    One interesting entry, for an older usage, means to postpone.

    In the context of an unbeliever, I can follow this warning about neglecting the gift of to receive, postpone it, not respond to it. 

    As a believer in Christ Jesus, I know I am saved by faith...I can do nothing to change that - as I have done nothing to acquire, deserve, earn or make it.    I didn't do it, I can't undo it.

    Yet, I can disregard or not take care of the gift of grace.  I can put it off or not employ it...I can not take care of it, pay it no attention.  

    Or can I?  If I am truly saved, can I really experience that habitual lack of regard for the gift of salvation?  Shouldn't this make me question the veracity of my salvation rather than my passion?

    If we look around, maybe look within, we see that the lack of regard does happens all the time.  So, what does that mean?  

    A most sobering experience is to examine ourselves to make sure we are in the faith.  As we look to see how the "regard-meter" reads for the gift of salvation, do we see a consistent reading of "highly regarded"?  Or is the display set on "passive" or "when convenient"?

    This is serious.  Maybe the part in the Word where the believers are called "a remnant" truly means just a portion...not part of the main; but the remaining. Perhaps the remnant is a lot smaller than we want to believe.  And we are too relaxed or have drifted too far to even think such thoughts...that maybe, we are not part of the remnant.

    One question that plagues me, is if all the converts in the first century had been like me, what would the church look like today?

    Thursday, January 27, 2011

    Hebrews 1

    Jesus is God's message, His designated Heir, World-Maker, Glory's Radiance, True to God, Upholder, Power, Sin-Purifier, Finisher of His Work, Excellent Name, God's Son, the Begotten of God, The Firstborn, Worthy of Worship by God's Angels, Enthroned, Eternal in Reign, Righteous Power, Righteousness-Lover,  Lawlessness-Loather, God-Anointed, Gladness-Anointed, Anointed Above All, Present at the beginning,  Terra-Firma-Foundation Layer, Master Designer of Heavens, Perpetual and Enduring, Heavens' Keeper, The Same, Without End, Invited by God relax in regal honor, has enemies, Triumphant, Over enemies.

    This is what God the Father speaks of Jesus. 

    I am so struck by how much God says of Jesus in just this one grouping of words.  He's God, Jesus is God, the Holy Spirit is God.  And God the Father spends this passage on describing His Son.  

    If He, Who is His Equal, says this much, how much more should I be saying and thinking and dreaming?  and after this, I am nearly speechless...

    Praise You Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

    Acts 26

    "And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'  

    How very kind that the King of the Universe spoke in Paul's native language.  He could have chosen any language or method of causing Paul to comprehend; but the Most High Sovereign God spoke the language Paul had heard from birth.  

    Thank You God that You are that detail-oriented with each of Your children.  You don't give a generic call to the masses; rather a specific drawing on the most intimate part of an individual.  Your kindness and creativity are to be praised.  Thank You that each story is different as a result.  You are not boring.

    And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers... 

    How am I standing for the Hope?   Would my faith get me in trouble like Paul or do I look too similar to the world to be of any interest to the enemy?  

    God, please give me a heart to get in trouble like Paul.  Let me be a rogue for You.  Help me to not just seek the open doors; but to know, through divine wisdom, which ones need to come down to the glory and praise of Your Kingship.  I am too often timid; heal me of that deceptive quality.  You and You alone are worthy. 

    While Paul was saying this in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, "Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad."
    But Paul said, "I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I utter words of sober truth...

    Agrippa replied to Paul, "In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian."

    And Paul said, "I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains."  

      Paul's words are still being heard today.  That's a powerful testimony.

    Festus has apparently hardened himself to the grace offered.  Agrippa appears to be somewhat moved by grace.  The sad results are the same - neither chose the gift of grace.  Neither came to receive the hope extended.  A hard heart or an intellectual assent to a persuasive argument are not changed hearts.  Not saved.  

    God, help me to be careful to not smoothly present Your grace so that someone is merely convinced to be saved.  The Gospel act is only received through the work of the Holy Spirit on that one.  Keep me "uttering words of sober truth" for I am convinced that it is only You who draws and saves.  Let this be my aim  "whether in a short or long time...that all who hear me ..., might become such as I (Paul) am, except for these chains."

    What am I saying and does it lead to Christ?  Father make me more concerned about the hearts of others and less about my schedule, my reputation, my "deal".  Help me to remember when I don't speak words of sober truth that I am in effect saying, "I choose to let you go to eternal punishment."  May all that is hindering me diminish in Your glorious and undiminishable Presence that I will steward Your precious gift well and to the expanse of Your Kingdom.

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011

    Acts 25

    "For it seems absurd to me in sending a prisoner, not to indicate also the charges against him." 

    To have a prisoner who has no charges which can be brought against him/her is a very difficult place to find oneself.  How can you keep a person in chains if there is no allegation against that one?

    This comment from Festus made me think about what the enemy, the accuser of our souls does to us.  He charges us with all sorts of sins of activities and non-activities, thoughts and emotions, our past and future performance with the intent to condemn us to death.  The problem is the same as the one Festus faced, as believers we have Christ's righteousness.  Whatever the charges, they are not  valid against us.  Praise God and His amazingly loving plan!

    Despite the freedom provided me, the charges are sometimes accepted by me as prosecutable.  The Just Judge, our Advocate and even the accuser know the charges are not right; but I can find for the plaintiff and bear the indictment.  I can hear the accusation, repeat the accusation and pretty soon, I am imprisoned by the accusation.  I must be careful what I say to myself, what I repeat, what I think on...lest I take on the accusation which has no hold on me.   When I hear that "you don't matter" or "you are invisible" or "you ____"; I must remind myself that he has no permission to speak to me - if I choose to entertain his comments, it is at my own risk that I do so.  My significance, authority and accountability  come from the One who made and saved me.

    Glorious One, Lover of my Soul, please let me live and revel in the liberty You have provided.  Let me receive and believe only what You say to me - give me that keen insight to immediately distinguish Your voice from any other and to live with all I have based on Your words.  I praise you that I, too, am one who has charges that cannot result in death... allegations which have previously been accounted for.  I praise You for Your utter "previousness" in dealing with me.  What incomprehensible grace that You would take Your enemy and make her a daughter.  Help me to always maintain the conduct becoming Your child - in all the roles You have created me for, to the praise of Your very great and just Name.

    Monday, January 24, 2011

    Acts 24

    In view of the hope Paul had in God and the resurrection, he did his "best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men."  

    I also have that hope.  What challenged me is sometimes, I have a hard time maintaining the blameless conscience before both God and people.  I know when I operate in the Spirit I am okay with having a blameless conscience.  But sometimes, when I am suddenly in a situation where I don't know just what to say or do,  I am afraid my conscience is "blamefull" before one or both.  

    An example comes to mind:  A friend began a theological conversation with me the other day.  After quite a long conversation, I began to share the Gospel with him, the law in particular.  The trouble arose when I wasn't sure where to go with it based on his response to a couple of questions.  I understand God is sovereign...I am so grateful for that...but I wonder how I was supposed to proceed.  My heart was very full to make sure that his hope was valid and not misplaced; but I got stuck.  

    You see, another mutual friend had struck up a theological conversation with me some years ago.  That conversation was quite pleasant and at one point, we actually followed the script of a well-known evangelism program (I was a student of that program, at the time).  It was a very natural conversation and in the end, she declined the offer to receive God's gift of salvation.  I thanked her for her honesty and said if she wanted to talk about that again, I would be happy to do so with her.  We ended up spending more time discussing a variety of topics.  When we parted, it seemed quite normal and cordial.   However, I didn't talk to her for about a year after that...given the circumstances and our proximity, I believe it was avoidance and not schedules that kept her from further conversation.  God is sovereign and all-powerful, He allowed some circumstances to bring us together and we've been speaking ever since...just that one year gap.

    Okay, so fast forward to present day and where I am stuck.  In regard to these and probably every other Gospel interaction, I struggle with desiring to share unto salvation or at least plant/water someone else's planting and not wanting to go too far so they uproot any seed that may have been deposited.  I want to have a  blameless conscience before God and people in having shared the Gospel; but I don't want to  roto-till a potential harvest. 

    I am reminded that God does work all things for good to those who love Him and are called by Him.  But I have a responsibility in this, too.  I want my life to demonstrate holy intentions and truth spoken carefully wrapped in His perfect love so that I might be blameless in thought and deed before God and man.  God is the Knower and Discerner of thoughts and motives; He knows.  Man may or not figure it out; but man will live in response to me.  I am not sure I can maintain a blameless conscience before  him/her if I fail to adequately impart the grace of the Gospel.  

    God, I don't even know if this makes sense to anyone but me; but I want that blamelessness of conscience.  Help me to rely increasingly on You and Your leading, be bold in the opportunity You present, and to share how and what You have given me to share.  I understand that this does not mean I will get along with all people and that I will never be voted most popular; but I do crave the peace that accompanies the blameless conscience.  Thank You for making this possible and for teaching me Your ways.  ♥

    Sunday, January 23, 2011

    Acts 23

    Instantly Ananias the high priest commanded those close to Paul to slap him on the mouth.  But Paul said to him, “God will slap you, you corrupt hypocrite! What kind of judge are you to break the law yourself by ordering me struck like that?”... As the conflict grew more violent, the commander was afraid they would tear Paul apart. So he ordered his soldiers to go and rescue him by force and take him back to the fortress.

    I wonder if Paul went to bed that night with the thought "that really went well...NOT!"  Circumstantially, things really seemed to be going from bad to worse for Paul.  God, graciously reassured Paul that he would preach again in Rome...just as he had in Jerusalem.  Paul would live another day; but I wonder what Paul thought about the truth spoken to him that he would witness of God just as he had done in Jerusalem.  

    I wonder if he thought, "Gee, this hasn't been such a successful witness...They want to kill me - really rip-me-apart kind of kill me.  What a pitiful show I am making of the Gospel...I am not demonstrating grace at all.  Oh, and that retort to the high priest...the stinkin' high priest of all people.  How did I miss that!?!?!  I sure did leave them wanting more...but it was more of my pain not God.  How on earth could this be useful to the Kingdom?  And now, to get to go to Rome and do it all over again, in Latin (just a joke there).  I don't see how this will go any better there.  In fact, I bet my enemies will beat me there and really set the stage to mess up my testimony.  Return now, precious Lord.

    I don't think he thought that, either.  But I probably would think that or worse.  But as God spoke to Paul, it seems that all was as it should have been.   Whoa.  Just as you've done here, so you shall you do next time.  And this was chaos and crazy...catastrophic, maybe.  But God was still moving this thing forward.  God was and is still sovereign.

    When my life's circumstances spin wildly out of control, how do I demonstrate my complete trust in God?  When I feel I have messed up beyond belief, how can I inwardly and outwardly wait on the Lord in quiet submission, confident of His purpose and plan?

    It takes so much less than venomous threats to convince me that I have broken the unbreakable, unshakable, immutable plan of God.  A little insecurity goes a long, long way.  But I can quite deftly unwind some serious Savior study with too much thought on my importance in the universe.  Since God is sovereign, I cannot foil His plans.  I can choose to completely cooperate to the glory of His Name and the spread of His fame and my peace.  Or I can wig out.  My choice.  

    Lord, let my choice be for You, always.  Let my trust in You, my God-confidence be a hallmark of my life here.  I need to stay so in tune with You that my fearful flesh is never strong enough nor loud enough to adversely impact my response to You and the divine circumstances You have for me.  Help my heart be strong.  Thank You Jesus.


    Acts 22

    Paul replied, “I am a Jew and a citizen of Tarsus in Cilicia, which is an important city... Then Paul said, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, and I was brought up and educated here in Jerusalem under Gamaliel. As his student, I was carefully trained in our Jewish laws and customs. I became very zealous to honor God in everything I did, just like all of you today. (Acts 21:39, 22:3)

    God has each of us born into the families He desires, the place, the economic situation, the education, the nationality, etc.; none of it is by accident.  We may not ever see the reason for our particular circumstances; but He has us in place and in people on purpose...His purpose.  

    We can see how all of these things came together for Paul...His great loyalty to his people, the protection of being a citizen of another country, the elite training of Gamaliel, his propensity to fervency...All of these situations and qualities made him Paul and they prepared him for the call of Christ.

    Help me, God, to better appreciate who and how You have made me and where You have placed me.  I trust Your plans despite my feelings.  Please let me fulfill all that You have prepared for me.

    But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. (Acts 20:24)

    What blesses and challenges me is that all of the blessings and prestige that Paul had was nothing when Christ called to him on that Damascus road.  Paul repeatedly says that it is all about Jesus and none about him.  When the torture kicks in, he says it much more vehemently.  

    May I be as passionate and prioritized as Paul for the things of Christ.  

    Saturday, January 22, 2011

    Acts 21

    Then all the city was provoked, and the people rushed together, and taking hold of Paul they dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. 

    Murderous thoughts were reigning in the minds of those who grabbed Paul and drug him out from the temple.  As he was taken, the temple doors were shut - by the religious folk.  Paul desperately needed help and the "church" allowed him to be taken and then made sure he was not able to return.  He was out and that was fine with them.  

    Why didn't the representatives of God try to help?  Offer asylum?  Protection?  Mediation?  The church saves no one...Only God saves.  

    Where am I trusting in mankind's answers and facilities to save me?  Where am I thinking I am trusting God when I am really relying on a tangible savior?  Am I misleading anyone into thinking that the church will save them rather than leading that someone to Jesus?

    Father, help me to point true to You and Your precious Son.  Holy Spirit, I need You to show me where I deviate from Glorious God. Make my path true and straight that when I have the opportunity to assist another, I will be able to properly respond to the glory and praise of Your very great Name.

    Friday, January 21, 2011

    Romans 16

    These are the names of those to whom Paul sent greetings.  I wondered what they meant, as he seemed to be speaking a particular meaning or blessing to many of them in his correspondence.  After looking at the meanings, I realized that they were no longer just Radiant or Praiseworthy or Their Rebellion...they were believers in the Lord Jesus such, they were now Radiant in the Lord Jesus Christ, Praiseworthy in the Name of God, Their Rebellion for the Holy (and no longer the unholy).  They were who they were; but they were in Jesus.

    Some of them had most unfortunate names; but they were new in the horrible naming was no longer their legacy.  They were in Christ Jesus.  So, Stupidity was now Fool for Christ.  I love the transformation Christ brings us with salvation.

    How extraordinary that the first Asian-Christian ever is noted.  Epaenetus.  I know God is no respecter of persons; but being 2000 years on the other side of this, I am greatly encouraged that God would make mention of the very first Asian believer...especially given what hardship they face, what persecution they endure, what threats they know...and what utter darkness they have experienced for so long.  But there was one, there was a beginning to the faith-response in Asia and it was taken down for us.  Always in the details is where I find my God's handiwork.

    Finally, Paul recognizes the saints.  The Saints.  The believers in Christ Jesus.  Not some elite group of super holy, super sacrificing, super super workers in the Kingdom - but the rest of the followers of Christ.  The Saints...folks like you and me.  Just folks.  But the word Paul uses refers to the most holy thing....believers who have the Holy Spirit...the most holy...the holy of holies.  That's our description...the ones who give home to the most holy...and we are made holy.  Interestingly enough, the word is derived from the most awful thing.  And that to me is what the message of this text is.  Jesus came and took the most awful things and made them we are now _________ of the Lord Jesus, _________ to God, etc.  We have been redefined by God for He redesigned us in Him.

    Name             Meaning                    Paul's nomenclature
    Phoebe        radiant                     servant and helper of many
    Aquilla         eagle                        fellow worker, life-risker, host
    Priska           ancient                    fellow worker, life-risker, host
    Epaenetus    praiseworthy           my beloved, first Asian-Christian
    Mary             their rebellion         hard worker
    Andronicus   man of victory         kinsman, fellow prisoner, outstanding apostle
    Junias           youthful                  Kinsman, fellow prisoner, outstanding apostle    
    Ampliatus     large                        my beloved
    Urbanus        of the city, polite   fellow worker
    Stachys         head of grain           my beloved, (1 of the 70 disciples)
    Apelles         called                       approved
    Aristobulus   best councilor
    Herodion      heroic                      my kinsman
    Narcissus      stupidity, 
                         or flower
    Tryphaena    luxurious                 worker in the Lord
    Tryphos        luxuriating               worker in the Lord
    Persis           Persian woman         beloved, hard-worker in the Lord
    Rufus            red                           choice man in the Lord
    Asyncritus    incomparable          
    Phlegon        burning
    Hermes        herald of the gods
    Patrobas      paternal
    Hermas        Mercury (tradition says he was one of the seventy)
    brethren     brother whether by parents, nation, belief, affection                      
    Philologos   lover of the Word
    Julia            soft-haired, also name of many royal figures in first century
    Nereus         Old Gentleman of the sea because he is trustworthy, and gentle,
                        and never forgetful of what is right, but the thoughts of his mind 
                        are mild and righteous (from Hesiod, Theogony 233; Wikipedia)
    Olympas       heavenly
    saints (hagios)     most holy thing...from the word hagos-an awful thing

    Wednesday, January 19, 2011

    Romans 15

    My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else.  I have been following the plan spoken of in the Scriptures, where it says,
       “Those who have never been told about him will see,
          and those who have never heard of him will understand.”
    In fact, my visit to you has been delayed so long because I have been preaching in these places.

    Paul's mission and work was to preach the Gospel in places that had never been exposed to it before.  He purposely sought out areas where no church was established.  Places where the locals may ask, "Jesus Who?"

    Do I ever consider where His Name has not been made known as the best place to begin?  How can I impact places and people where He is not known from my current season and station?  I choose today (while it is still called today =+} ) to make that characteristic a part of my decision-making process...In the dailyness of my life, I will look for opportunities to make known an unknown name to the people who have never heard.

    Jesus, please give those that have not heard of Your Very Great Name ears to hear and a heart to understand Your Gospel of grace.  I confess that I have never planned my day with respect to who may have never heard of You; but I have labored in vain to faithfully put Your Name before folks who openly scorn it.  I want to reach the elect; help me to be diligent in sharing Your Good News with those who haven't yet heard it.  To the praise of Your Name.

    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    Romans 14, worship and serve in harmony, build each other up, love well and considerately...abide in righteousness, peace and joy...walk in faith...

    We are really supposed to get along with others believers; to edify them and conduct ourselves in such a way that others do not stumble in their walks in faith. 

    This is easy for those that I like...those like me ...but what about the others?  Would the Lord Jesus Christ say I am living for Him and not acting contemptuously towards another?  Do I restrain myself from those things which I know cause confusion or someone to get stuck?  What about the shows I watch?  The places I eat?  The jokes I laugh at?  The way I drive?  The patience I display or deny?  The clothes I wear and how I wear them?  Am I secure enough in Christ that I can do or not do all things for Him and not myself or for mere show?  How will I work to grow in Christ this week?

    Precious Master, I thank You for keeping our relationship in place.  I struggle to not be stuck, sometimes...I pray that You help me to not contribute to others becoming stuck and being mired in the muck of my judgment on these issues.  let my life be one of that invites rather than condemns...which causes others to marvel at Your great love and the liberty You provide. 

    Monday, January 17, 2011

    Romans 13

    We are directed to give respect and honor, in addition to the taxes, revenue and obedience, where they are due to our governing authorities, love our neighbors as the fulfillment of the law, to behave put on the Lord Jesus Christ and to not consider how to satisfy our fleshly desires.  Bottom line was to love our neighbors as we love ourselves and to continue loving be vigilant with  love as love is a perpetual mortgage we must keep current.  The love is to be as the love Christ Jesus demonstrated and our participation is to  clothe ourselves with His qualities and to direct those towards our neighbors.

    Do I consider that each person I encounter is one with whom I need to keep a current love account?  Do I behave in love and grace and truth with those I see each day?  Even the rude cashier at the local mega-mart?  What about the neighbors that I don't am I loving those far away?

    God keeps His love account paid-in-full with me without fail, everyday.  Do I intend to do  follow His example and His command?

    What plans do I make to keep paying on my debt?  How am I replenishing my supply of love...where am I spending my account?

    Lord, help me to keep good and faithful accounts with love.  Help me to be diligent with spending myself on others and not on my comfort, satisfaction and desires. You have paid much for loving me, how can I not expend myself on You?  Let me see the neighbors as You do, let me love them rightly and graciously as You do, let me bring You glory as You deserve.

    Sunday, January 16, 2011

    Romans 12

    Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

    All of the instructions and exhortations from this chapter can be summed up or "bumper-stickered" with this one verse...don't be conquered by evil but let the good you do defeat evil.

    I can be conquered by evil...reminds me I am in a battle...and can be defeated...
    I can conquer doing good...which brings triumph...

    I can overcome or I can be overcome...I can prevail or be prevailed victorious or be enslaved...I can overpower or be overpowered.

    I want victory; prevailing, overpowering, overcoming VICTORY.

    Father, help me conquer evil by the doing of good.  You have given me eyes to see evil in disguise, strength to fight and tenacity to persevere to Your victory, please help me to rely on Your gifts and empowerment.

    1 John 5:4 -5 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world -our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God ?

                                   FAITH IS THE VICTORY.

    Saturday, January 15, 2011

    Romans 11

    ...if the root is holy, the branches are too.  But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. 

    When a branch is grafted from one tree to another, the branch still delivers the fruit from its original tree.  That is how we get our citrus, grafting a branch from a key lime tree onto a rootstock citrus.  Somehow, the branch retains what it was made to do and still grows to produce its "designed" fruit...the changes are from where the branch gets its nutrition and where it is planted, (so the "orientation" would change as well).  

    The Word says if the root is holy so then is the branch...and the fruit by extension.  And the root is what supports the branch.  I am spiritually stimulated to consider that picture.  I wish I could draw the visual I have in my head.  Christ is the Holy Root, the body of believers form the branches of His tree, and I am a little branch grafted somewhere in the midst of the glorious fullness of the Tree.  I used to be part of a wild (disobedient and unholy) tree; but I was chosen to be cut off from that tree.  I was grafted (cutting the trunk of the tree - which is a whole 'nother line to follow) into the One of the Holy Root.  I now am part of that tree.  My sustenance comes from the root and sap, my uniqueness continues to be unique but I blend in with the whole tree.  My fruit will still be what I was created for; only now it comes from holiness.  The growth I experience is from holiness, the strength I display is from holiness.  I am still me; but holy.  I could not make myself holy as I am not the root nor did I have access to the root apart from the loving Gardener.  I am now joined with the tree of life.  The nature of my being and subsequently of my fruit has been changed to that of holiness as a result of the grafting.

    Even if I had grown in the shade of the Holy Tree, I would not have been holy.  Proximity is not the same as abiding.  The only way to abide is to first be grafted.

    God, please help me to abide in Your live and grow and blossom in Your provision.  Let me not complain about my position on the Tree nor that I am not facing the direction I prefer.  You have designed me to bear fruit...let me bear the best and most delicious fruit possible for me.  Thank You Holy Gardener for Your tender and very personal attention to my branch-self.  Help me submit gratefully to Your pruning and tying, as I will be more hearty and secure while growing more abundantly when You direct my growth and remove the diseased parts.  And when You loose me, I am stronger and healthier than before.   Please keep me from trying to take root all by myself.  I know that I belong to You.  All of this is to the praise of Your very great Name and the spread of Your Tree.

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    Romans 10


    In other translations, the word  "disappointed" is written as "disgraced" or "put to shame".   The word  is used elsewhere in Matthew to describe what Peter began to do just before the cock crowed, (...Then he began to curse and swear, "I do not know the man !" And immediately a rooster crowed.)  

    The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon elaborates on the meaning in the following way:
      • to dishonor, disgrace
      • to put to shame, make ashamed
      • to be ashamed, blush with shame
      • one is said to be put to shame who suffers a repulse, or whom some hope has deceived
    The last portion, "whom some hope has deceived", strikes me with the thought that whoever puts their trust in Christ will not be shamed by the deception of  that same hope, ever.   Matthew's reference uses it as a cursing.  So, I, for example, will not be cursed by putting my trust or hope in Christ for that belief will not yield revilement, reproach, or rejection by proving deceptive in the end.  The hope is true.  Trust in that is valid...the expectation will be delivered.

    Rather than experiencing the epic fail, I gain the epic acceptance in Christ.

    Somehow, I times...I behave as if this is not true...I don't always react in obvious belief of the promise to not be shamed, rejected or embarrassed.  Sometimes, I don't know how to respond...especially in familial situations where what I know about the folks does cause a governing on my mouth.  But I do, why the disconnect?

    Sovereign Lord, I know that I will be received by You for the One in Whom I put my trust is Faithful and True.  I don't want to not include anyone in this promise...especially not those that I do love and share relationship with.  Please help me to be forthright with the very Good News.  Please give me discernment with regard to whom I should speak and what I should say.  I know that not everyone will be saved; but I do know that You want none to be lost.  Let me err on the side of everyone saved rather than some lost.  Only You know the elect.  Keep me from concern about what others think of in what You have said and me to make the most of every opportunity You allow me to the praise of Your very great Name.

    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    Romans 9

    27And Isaiah calls out (solemnly cries aloud) over Israel: Though the number of the sons of Israel be like the sand of the sea, only the remnant (a small part of them) will be saved [from perdition, condemnation, judgment]!...Whereas Israel, though ever in pursuit of a law [for the securing] of righteousness (right standing with God), actually did not succeed in fulfilling the Law.  For what reason? Because [they pursued it] not through faith, relying [instead] on the merit of their works [they did not depend on faith but on what they could do]. They have stumbled over the Stumbling Stone.

    What a shame that many Jewish people feel they are safe from eternal damnation due to their heritage alone.  Even though their numbers are great, only that small portion will be saved.  The non-Jewish folk are not much different, counting on the many paths to God or that they are good persons or that a truly good God would not do such a thing.  Problem with all of that is it diametrically opposed to what God's Word says.  (God is good; but He is a great deal more than just good...and that fact complicates the playing out of His goodness)

    Additionally, Israel was "ever in pursuit of a law to secure righteousness" was disqualified for the benefits of said law because they depended on their performance and standing; not faith, which was the requirement.  Thus they tripped themselves up on the Stumbling Stone.

    I see that I am like Israel (or "Is really" because often the description of her is really like me).  I am saved from hell because of God's grace extended to me...but am I taking the trouble of making my countrymen/women know aware of the "Grace-Factor" rather than let them just assume their "good" selves right on to hell?  How effectively and regularly do I communicate God's multi-faceted majesty to my neighbors?

    The second portion of scripture describes so much:  ever in pursuit of...  That exhausts me just thinking about it.  The works angle does require that "ever in pursuit of" lifestyle.  But, apart from God, everything demands the "ever in pursuit of" manner of living.  Nothing satisfies, nothing fulfills, nothing scratches the itch custom designed by God for Him to reach.  Relentless striving, daily subjugation, personal denial, constant consuming, more and more or less and less...Doesn't matter because God is the One and Only Answer...we know, as He designed the need.

    The Stumbling Stone is part of the design.  Jesus is supposed to be a point of knocking people off-balance or to topple them.  When one topples, one falls...let me fall on Jesus.  Let me live transparently enough to demonstrate that sweet act of grace extended to me.

    God is challenging me with the lack of my evangelical efforts in my life...102 people die each minute.  How many have died in the time it has taken me to type this? How many have perished without hope?  In deception as to their destination...or who have never even considered life beyond this...

    Help me Father to share the knowledge and experience of Your saving grace in my life with others.  Help me, too, to not encourage the "in pursuit of" life apart from the "in pursuit of You".  You are enough, You are my Shield and my Song, You are my Very Great Reward, You are my Rock and my Salvation.  Let others see me fall headlong onto and into You...daily.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    Romans 8

    Law of Sin and Death                              Law of Spirit and Life

                                                              No condemnation
      Sinful                                                Free from law of sin and death
      Condemned                                       Ransomed
      Minds on flesh                                   Minds on Spirit
      Death                                                Life and peace
      Hostile to God                                    Belongs to God
      Unable to obey                                   God dwells within
      Not pleasing to God                             (implied that we can please God)
      Body dead due to sin                           Spirit alive due to righteousness
      (receive death)                                   Will receive life through the Spirit
      Must die                                             Will live
      (led by flesh and sin)                           Led by God, Children of God
      Spirit of slavery and fear                      Spirit of adoption with a Daddy
                                                               Spirit confirming adoption
                                                                   as children...which is
                                                                   being an heir of God                                                                  (new meaning to being in 
                                                                                           God's will)
                                                                   which is being a joint-heir
                                                                          with God's Son - Jesus
                                                               Suffering now/Incomparable glory
                                                                           to come
                                                                 Foreknew, predestined, called,
                                                                            justified, glorified
                                                                God is for us
                                                                Christ intercedes for us                                                             Inseparable from Christ's love
                                                                Overwhelming conquerors

    I don't know about anyone else; but I vote the Law of the Spirit and Life.  Only God could and would think like that!

    The benefits are so huge; but after what He has done for us, why would He skimp on the rest?  In light of what He has done for me, why would I skimp on my devotion to Him?

    God-Daddy, I thank You that I am not in trouble with You anymore and that You have freed me from the slave-shackles of sin and death.  I praise You for I am in Your exclusive jurisdiction where You have already paid for all of the cost of my criminal acts.  Just saying this reiterates that there is nothing I could have done to make this happen...only by Your power and wisdom.  Thank You so much.  Help me live in response to this Cinderella story where I went from being a sin-choked slave on death-row to being a princess of the King of the Universe.  You are so generous and gentle.  Help me to never behave like I am in trouble with me to live that way and to share my status with others...just as You have told me to do.  Help me to live the inseparable, incomparable life You have provided.