Who is Grateful?

Richard is grateful for the Faithful Shepherd who has patiently led him along in a very happy and fulfilling life.  Discovering a relationship with God, he has moved from a life characterized by worried performance to one of grateful resting.

He is a retired physician who has lived in Indiana and Texas, the married father of two adult men and four Montana grandchildren.  Scripture memory and meditation upon it have changed his life, and he wishes to add value to the lives of others through his writing.

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Living in Dependence

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him. . .”    Colossians 2:6  NIV

Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?”         Galatians 3:3

man being carriedIn our quest for forgiveness of sin and a relationship with God, we finally come to an end of ourselves.  In repentance, we acknowledge that we are helpless sinners, unable to fix ourselves.  “While we were powerless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.”  Romans 5:6 NASB  Having finally realized that we are needy and incapable of making the life repairs necessary for reconciliation with God, we place all of our hopes in God to accomplish it.  He does this unilaterally, by executing His own Son in our place.  We give up all aspirations of ever pleasing God in our own efforts and cast all our hopes upon Him.

It is a strange thing that we have so much difficulty continuing in this helpless, dependent posture through life.  After receiving the gift of eternal life, many people then try to muscle their way along in life, relying on their own efforts to develop godly behavior.  There is a sense in which we are called on to make the effort to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”   Philippians 2:12  But we act like we are the Principal in this partnership.  We feel it is our responsibility to accomplish our own visible righteousness by working diligently at it.  Paul tells the Galatians and Colossians that they must live the visible Christian life after we have been justified in the same way that we became justified — by faith.  Trusting God to make of our everyday lives what He wants them to look like, as we rest in Him, depending on Him to produce it in us.  It is like a hand-in-glove experience, as God lives His life through us.  “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”  Galatians 2:20  Our main concern is to stay fastened upon the Hand.

close up of hands

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Gospel Preview in the Old Testament

looking ahead - binocsThe Gospel of Salvation is sewn throughout the Bible, from start to finish, as a “crimson thread” of the Messiah’s saving blood.  Those who lived before Christ could look forward to it.  Those who lived with Jesus could see it being revealed.  We who follow can look back and see more clearly what God has done for us, in His love for us.

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”                    Hebrews 11:13             NASB

Although they did not know clearly the details of how God would save them from the penalty warranted by their sin and their helplessness to do anything about it, they rightly sensed that it would be God Himself who would have to do this for them.  He would have to do what they could not accomplish in their own strength.
courtroom sceneI will bear the indignation of the Lord
Because I have sinned against Him,
Until He pleads my case and executes justice for me.
He will bring me out to the light,
And I will see His righteousness.
”                            Micah 7:9
Micah foresaw the court scene of our Advocate Jesus defending all who would trust in His substitutionary death in their place, insisting, “It’s paid in full!”

justice scalesBut He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
”                                                     Isaiah 53:5-6

Won’t you accept today this gift of undeserved forgiveness and eternal life?  We come with empty hands, having nothing to offer to warrant His favor.  Only with hands empty can we take the Gift He is so eager to give us.

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Does God forget sin?

erase memory forgetDoes God forget our sin?  What does David mean when he says,

I, even I, am he who blots out
    your transgressions, for my own sake,
    and remembers your sins no more.”                Isaiah 43:25  NIV

Or Isaiah:  “Lo, for my own welfare I had great bitterness;
It is You who has kept my soul from the pit of nothingness,
For You have cast all my sins behind Your back.
”                                 Isaiah 38:17  NASB

He will again have compassion on us;
He will tread our iniquities under foot.
Yes, You will cast all their sins
Into the depths of the sea.”                                                                           Micah 7:19    NASB

It is an incomprehensible blessing that we should be forgiven forever, we who deserve full, just punishment for our self-life.  His forgetting our sin is wonderful relief of our anxiety and sense of doom.  But our remembering our sin is also a powerful motivator in us.  The memory that we who are guilty have been released from those charges, our debt paid in full by Jesus, motivates us to godly living out of gratitude for this undeserved grace.

remember string fingerTherefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.”   Hebrews 12:28-29   NASB

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”       Romans 12:1  NIV

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”                   2 Corinthians 5:14-15

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Try me and know my anxious thoughts

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.
”                         Psalm 139:23-24

spilled waterOften, it’s when a glass is bumped that one finds out what is in it.  When life is going well, we may be deaf to the warning sirens within us, blind to the red lights flashing.  This delays our necessary task to learn what faults and weaknesses we have within, which, undetected, could lead to our serious harm.  Finding out the dangers within us allows us to enlist God’s help to correct them.

See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
    I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
”                    Isaiah 48:10

Test me, Lord, and try me;  examine my heart and my mind.”                       Psalm 26:2glass:spill

It’s not that God needs to know what is within us;  He already is well aware.  It was said of Jesus that “He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.”  (John 2:25)  But He wants us to know and acknowledge our sin and helplessness to fix it.  It is urgent that we discover the issues within us that we need Him to fix.  We do not wish to go on hurting ourselves and others, and we do not want to do violence to His kingdom, driving people away from Him by our character and actions.

This is a reason we can “exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope . . .”       Romans 5:3-4

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
”                              Psalm 51:10

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Reflecting God’s Glory

astronomy black and white dark evening

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The moon has fascinated mankind since creation.  Songs have been written to rejoice in its beauty.  Lovers have held hands and enjoyed the atmosphere it creates.  It shows us around, to a degree, at night.  This author has a reputation for going walking in the middle of the night to enjoy its mystery and beauty.

The moon revolves around the earth in a 27-day orbit, circling the earth from west to east.  (It seems to move from east to west because of the rotation of the earth on its axis.)  The moon radiates no light of its own.  It reflects to us the light of a greater body, the sun.

We, too, can reflect to others the light and beauty of Another, if we fix our own souls upon our Creator.  Jesus told the multitude on the mount, “Let your light shine before men is such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Jesus Himself was “the radiance of His glory, the exact representation of His nature,” as He showed us what God looked like in the flesh.  “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

We are made to shine in the darkness around us.  It is the purpose for which we were created.  The secret to shine as we should is to focus the attention of our minds and hearts on Jesus, a habit which seats His Holy Spirit upon the throne of our lives.  Having been given control, He then is given rein to live through us, making us shine like Jesus does.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”       2 Corinthians 3:8

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”      Colossians 3:1-3

Shine through us, Lord Jesus!

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Remembering God’s Goodness

gray stock pile stone near river in gray scale photo

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. . . and Joshua said to them, ‘Cross again to the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel. Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, “What do these stones mean to you? then you shall say to them, “Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.” So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.”                       Joshua 4:5-7

It is a healthy spiritual discipline to record reminders of important events in our lives which cause us to repeatedly ponder God’s long record of recurrent kindnesses.  Such reminders prompt us to appropriately give thanks to God for His stellar record of faithfulness.   What deliverances do you have in your past that you can celebrate?

This little bronzed shoe is to remind us,” we tell our children who ask, “of little Eric, who was run over by a car when he was only two.  Our hearts were broken; we thought life had stopped.  God worked so strongly through our friends and church at that time, to help us through the long healing process.

Do you remember,” we ask our spouse, “the time when we had no income, no job, and no hope?  But how precious it was to see God help us through those circumstances in such surprising ways!”

Every time I hear that song play, I think of our despair over our daughter’s period of wandering away from her faith and from us.  It was a dark time for us.  But that pain made God’s gradual leading her back to strong faith so incredibly sweet!

Much of Jewish life was marked by festivals and feasts to prompt them to remember the long record of God’s goodness and faithfulness.  It repeatedly bolstered their faith, and it offered opportunities for them to teach their children of His trustworthiness.  Each of these reminders make it a little easier to trust God when we are faced with the next fearful thing that comes into our path.

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Stop struggling! Rest in God.

We get so pressured in our preoccupation with managing of the details of our lives.  We are haunted by the illusion that we are in control of the outcomes.  This sense of responsibility drives us and keeps us on edge.  This takes away the joy of the journey and exhausts us.

Yet our loving Father invites us to rest in Him:

“In repentance and rest you will be saved,
In quietness and trust is your strength.”        Isaiah 30:15

child rests on motherO Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever.”           Psalm 131

As much as we like to think that our own efforts are the key that turns the latch, it is God who accomplishes what He wishes through us.  If we rest in Him and allow Him to do His work in us and through us.  A struggling swimmer cannot easily be saved from drowning by his rescuer.  He must “cease striving” and relax limply in the lifeguard’s arms, trusting him to save him from danger.

He does not delight in the strength of the horse;
He does not take pleasure in the legs of a man.
The Lord favors those who fear Him,
Those who wait for His lovingkindness.”           Psalm 147:10-11

O Lord, forgive me for my arrogance, acting as though the outcome of my life depended on my efforts.  Help me to acknowledge my powerlessness, and to rest in Your wisdom and strength.  Let me cooperate actively, but dependently, with You, as you accomplish what You purpose for Your kingdom through my life.

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