A holy partnership

dadHelpsSon

Each year at this time, we put up home made Christmas tree ornaments that I made with my boys when they were little.  Like a little  balsa wood loaf of bread, symbolizing Jesus calling Himself The Bread of Life.  A small lighthouse, commemorating His teaching, I am the Light of the world.  And others, now precious to my memory.

As I now look at them, I am reminded of the unequal partnership with which they were made.  My sons worked hard, according to their ability, appropriate for their age, and I completed the job, fixing some unintentional mistakes and adding to the beauty of the finished product.
God does this to our well-intended but immature efforts to obey Him, to become holy, as He is holy.  (1 Peter 1:15-16)  As He commands us to be holy, He asks us to cleanse ourselves for His holy purposes:
 
If anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.  Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.    2 Timothy 2:21-22
But this is a task that I perform ineptly.  I need His strong, skilled hands to make my efforts successful.  As the bride of Christ, perhaps this is how we work with Him toward the goals He has for us.
Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.   It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.     Revelation 19:8
 
Although she dresses for her marriage to the Lamb in clothes composed of the righteous acts she has lived out in her life, these clothes were given to her by Another.
I realize I can never please God in my own strength, never correct my own faults by self-improvement.  So I rest in Him, and He works His will through me.  He does perfectly what I have never been able to successfully do all my life.  He empowers me for holy living, but it is still I who have to execute it, as I rest in Him.
 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who livebut Christ lives in me;  and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.   Galatians 2:20
Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?   Galatians 3:3
O God, I want to be all that You have intended me to be.  Take my feeble efforts, perfect them,  and make them acceptable in Your sight.
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Reciprocal Giving

giftAt this gift-giving time of the year, I think about the real Gift that was given, the Gift about which the whole Christmas holiday revolves.  As I read Isaiah 53, I am reminded of the magnitude of God’s gift to us and how excruciatingly painful that gift was for Jesus to give.  It is overwhelming to me that He would knowingly offer Himself to His lowly, rebellious creatures (whom He lovingly made) to be tortured to death in their place.

The happy result of this Gift was our justification.  “. . being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”  Romans 3:24

This new, unexpected, unearned rightness before God that we receive is a staggering benefit.  It is hard to get our minds around how much this means to us.  To be given something freely that, all our lives, we’ve been unable to obtain, despite our many earnest efforts!  The epiphany of this realization is that it is more appropriate this season that we should give to God the most precious gift we can muster, in humble gratitude for what He has done for us.  To quote Gustav Holst in his last verse of In the Bleak Midwinter,

What can I give Him, poor as I am?                                                                                                 If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;                                                                                   If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;                                                                                  Yet what I can I give Him?    Give Him my heart.

I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.            Romans 12:1

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What do you cling to?

Do I cling to a life preserver or to the broken pieces of my sinking boat?

lifesaverJonah, speaking from experience prayed, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”     Jonah 2:8  NIV   He prayed this from the belly of the great fish God sent to discipline and deliver him.

Standing in contrast with the flimsy, unreliable things of this world, God the Father is a Rock we can confidently cling to in the storms of life.

When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches,
For You have been my help,
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me.                                  Psalm 63:6-8      NASB

This desperate attitude of dependence and trust is likely what Jesus had in mind when He said,

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.   John 15:4-5

You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.         Deuteronomy 13:4       NASB

Thou dost keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusts in Thee.       Isaiah 26:3   RSV

Lord, help me to let go of the toys that I vainly trust in, turn to You, and cling desperately to You through the storms of life.  You are the Sun of my solar system, around which the concerns of my life fall into their intended order.

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My husband is everything to me!

Esther before king  Psalm 45 was taken by the Jewish understanding to be praise to the coming Messiah (as confirmed by Hebrews 1:8).  I like to apply vv. 11-12 to myself, therefore, as a believer,  Listen, O daughter, give attention and incline your ear;  forget your people and your father’s house;  then the King will desire your beauty;  because He is your Lord, bow down to Him.

O, Lord, wean me of any adulation of worldly attractions;  cure me of my pitiful longing for the approval and respect of mere men;  remind me that I can never assure my security by my own efforts.  I can never succeed in establishing my own little kingdom, where I am my own sovereign.  Help me, Lord, to give up these misdirected insecurities and turn to and cling to You only, my Sovereign King.  As You wed me to Yourself,  I renounce all affections for my worldly, defiled past.

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Useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.     Eph. 2:10

Ian Packer makes a good point in the classic Knowing God that the purpose for God’s saving grace is not only for our justification and reconciliation to Him, but to equip us for living the kind of life that God intended us to live, full of good works, useful to Him.  It is our gratitude that motivates us to live like this.

. . . our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.        Titus 2:14

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

Therefore, if a man’s cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.     2 Timothy 2:21

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What I learn about trust from my dog.

Basil

As Basil rests against me while I scratch him, I think of Psalm 131.

“O 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 131:1-3

This is a memorable word picture of a very suitable posture for usLord, help me to rest in you, to hope in You, as a child leans against his mother, trusting in her fully.  Let me confidently leave to You the ordering of this world.  Let me be content to simply do Your bidding obediently and without hesitation, leaving the results to You.

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Unexpected justice

justice scales   We are all for justice in our world order.  But most people are more interested in justice being rendered to those who offend them, not to themselves.  Are you ready for the justice you deserve?

All we, like sheep, have gone astray.  We have turned, every one, to his own way.   Isaiah 53:6      Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.    Romans 3:23

For the wages of sin is death . . .      Romans 6:23            And just as it is appointed for all men to die, and after that comes judgment.         Hebrews 9:27

Apart from some miracle, death and judgment await us rebels, we who shake our fists in the face of the God who created us.  The unexpected good news of the gospel is that the Judge’s Son is our attorney, our Wonderful Counselor, pleading our case, and that our Judge is therefore willing to execute justice upon Him, rather than upon us, setting us free!

. . . and He has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.            Isaiah 53:6

I 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

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.            1 John 2:1-2

God gave Jesus Messiah what we deserve, so that He could give us what we don’t deserve, forgiveness of sins and intimate relationship with Him forever in heaven.  O, thank You great God for Your grace!

How shall we excape if we neglect so great a salvation?         Hebrews 2:3

 

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