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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Strength in weakness

One of the most common questions of mankind experiencing loss and grief is, “Why is this happening to me?  Why does God allow so much suffering in the world?  This is not the way I would do it, if I were God!”  Life is hard.  We think that suffering is more understandable as the result of human sin.  Jesus’ disciples observed a man born blind.  “And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he should be born blind?’

Jesus answered, It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”                                     John 9:2-3

man in blue and brown plaid dress shirt touching his hair

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When we are at the center of our universe, it is hard to believe there is anything more important than our comfort.  “It’s all about me,” we think, even if we are embarrassed to voice it.  But Jesus was teaching His disciples that something was more important than mere comfort and personal peace:  that we sufferers can be assigned the honor of playing the earthly role of drawing the attention of the world to the power of God.  Paul asked three times to be delivered by God from his chronic ailment, which God refused to do.

And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”                                                               2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.”                      2 Corinthians 4:7

As the frame of a painting draws attention to the skill of the artist, holding it for all to see, so our broken lives can draw the world’s attention to a great God, as they see our contentment in and dependence upon Him.

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Blessed conversations

activity adult barbecue bbq

The Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples,
That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.                                     Isaiah 50:4

A disciple is a learner.  Lord, make me a student of the people with whom I come into contact today.  Let me be fully present in our conversations, attentive to their heart, not on what I should say next.  There are so many battle-weary companion pilgrims who share the road of life with me.  Let me be a rapt listener to their hearts.

Like apples of gold in settings of silver
Is a word spoken in right circumstances.
Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold
Is a wise reprover to a listening ear.                                               Proverbs 15:11-12

Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise,
And apply your mind to my knowledge;
For it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
That they may be ready on your lips.                                         Proverbs 22:17-18

Help me, Lord, to have a word from You to give people, according to their need.  Let it be ready upon my lips.  Is this a good reason for me to memorize Your word?

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.                                                                                                Ephesians 4:29

A very wise checklist:  1) nothing unwholesome, 2) speak what makes the other person better, 3) just right for the occasion, and 4) full of grace, kindness, and reminders of forgiveness.  Lord, I cannot think that fast — to monitor my speech as it is flowing.  Please help me to meditate on these attributes of helpful conversation, so that I will be more likely to produce good lip-fruit when You present the opportunity.

 

 

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Take possession!

Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I am teaching you to perform, so that you may live and go in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you.”                                  Deuteronomy 4:1

moses, promised land

The promised land was an undeserved gift to God’s people, the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham.  It was to be a gift to them, but they needed to take risks and fight bravely to receive it.

This is analogous to God’s gift to us of a fruitful, abundant life and experiential righteousness:  things we cannot achieve on our own, without God’s help. He longs for us to take them from Him.  Although the gift of eternal pardon and status as loved, adopted sons is settled in heaven forever, purchased by Christ’s payment on our behalf, becoming in practice fully what He designed us to be is a joint project with which we are invited to earnestly cooperate.

But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance andgentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”                                                                              1 Timothy 6:11-12

Part of the full, abundant life God has planned for us includes good works that He Himself has prepared.  “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”                  Ephesians 2:10   They are ours for the taking.

Paul pleads with us to pursue and seize this fruitful life that God has waiting for us, which He is eager to have us take.  It is His purpose for creating us.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”                                  Philippians 3:12-14

We pursue and seize and possess what Christ died that we might have.

 

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Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called

There is a kind of eternal life that will determine where we live eternally; there is another kind of eternal life that will determine how we experience it, both then and now.

According to Jesus and John, there is only one factor that determines our forgiveness and eternal relationship with the Father:

“. . . so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”                John 3:15-16

And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”                                      1 John 5:11-13

But Jesus also said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  (John 10:10)  This quality of life seems to be the issue that Paul is urging Timothy to seize with all his energy:

graspBut flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance andgentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”                                                                1 Timothy 6:11-12

Timothy already had believed and was a growing, fruitful Christian leader, his character and leadership skills worthy of Paul’s entrusting to him responsibility for the church in Ephesus.  Although he should have confidence in his everlasting forgiveness and future life with God forever in heaven, Paul was urging him to zealously take hold of something more —  a meaningful, fulfilled life of service in this world that would result in heavenly reward.  This is a goal Paul himself also strived to keep before him at all times.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”                                      Philippians 3:12-14

Lord, thank You for paying the penalty for my sin, a price I could not pay, to assure me forgiveness and eternal life with You.  Now, motivated by gratitude for Your grace, help me to live every moment of my life energized passionately to “walk in a manner worthily of the calling with which I have been called” (Ephesians 4:1), a life that reflects Your eternal values. 

       

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Live for what lasts

Nearly every day I pray God would give me recognition of my own sin, that I might confess it to Him, turn from that destructive way, and find His healthy course for my life.

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

nature red forest leaves

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What is the everlasting way?  David’s prayer is the prayer of a child of God who has a most intimate relationship with Him, one thoroughly convinced that he lives continually in the loving presence of His Creator.  He does not seem to doubt the security of his solid relationship with his Maker, but wishes to honor Him in his living.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”                 John 3:16

John’s eternal life is not dependent on our behavior, but on our understanding and trust in  the necessity of Jesus’ payment of our sin-penalty in our place (the substitutionary atonement).  Paul stresses this three times in one verse:  “. . . a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Christ Jesus . . .”  (Galatians 2:16)!  It seems, however, that there is another category of eternal life referenced in Psalm 139 that is based on our following God’s leading, His enabling, and empowering.

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”             Galatians 6:7-9

This eternal life seems to be the fruit of a life lived in dependence upon the empowerment of God’s Spirit to do through us what we cannot do in our own strength.  It is therefore a life of obedience, motivated by our reverent awe and gratitude to our Maker.   This results in meaningfulness of life that extends in impact beyond our physical death.  It is the fruit of our living choices that remains evident in the world we leave and in people’s lives we’ve influenced.  This results in heavenly reward.  Thoughtless, selfish living results not in loss of our eternal relationship with our Creator, but in loss of intended rewards that might have been ours had we lived dependently and obediently.

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.”                 1 Corinthians 3:12-15

This is similar to Psalm 1:4-5 “The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away.  Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment. . .”      Psalm 1:4-5a

O Lord, let me be about Your kingdom purposes today.  Lead me in Your everlasting way.  Let my life have lasting impact according to Your heavenly economy.

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The Thoroughness of Forgiveness

Although we feel like we struggle with many difficult life circumstances, the biggest problem we face in life is our sin.  Our life-long sin pattern keeps us from the God who loves us.  If this barrier is not dealt with, it results for us in death and judgment.  (Romans 6:23, Hebrews 9:27)

If You, Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
”                 Psalm 130:3

Gospel means “good news.”  It is indeed.  As Paul was being examined by King Agrippa, he related the vision in which God assigned him his mission in life:

. . . to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.”        Acts 26:18

God is very picturesque in the way He describes the thoroughness of the forgiveness He offers:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
”                           Psalm 103:11-12

“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

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

O God, we are so undeserving of Your forgiveness!  You are so generous!  We are awestruck by the depths and heights of your forgiveness.  This undeserved gift is unspeakably motivating!  Help us to live henceforth lives that are deeply marked by our gratitude for your grace!

 

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God’s Public Relations Dept. – Christian Character

A third way God “advertises” Himself to the world is through changed lives of His followers.  Of course, believers who choose to live focused upon themselves and earthly concerns are a deterrent to God’s public relations campaign.  lighthouseBut it must be said that Jesus-followers who allow Him to live through them (Galatians 2:20) are strong lighthouses to direct observers to the safe harbor of life with God.

This is what convinced me that God was real and that the Bible was His love letter to me and the true owners’ manual for my life.  I saw my brother’s changed life as he chose to follow Christ, and this motivated me to give my life to God by putting my trust in what Jesus had done by paying my sin penalty.

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”                            Matthew 5:16

priest valjean 2A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”                                             John 13:34-35

Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”                               1 Peter 2:12

Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.”                                                                  Acts 4:13

O Lord, let me cling to You in such a way that Your life flows through me.  Let people among whom I live see You in me, and desire to know You because of that.  Let me not mar Your image and repulse people from You.

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