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Posts Tagged ‘Romans 1’

praise

God has been faithful to teach us many, many things during our ten-year trial (see post).  There are three who share in our family business – Dana, his dad, and his brother, Larry.  It has been an unforeseen blessing that each has a vital Christian walk and each has placed himself under the teaching of God’s Word – when one of the three has been particularly harassed, one of the others seem able to draw from what God is teaching him and to bring a healing balm at the needed time.

Not all of God’s words to us have been soothing and re-assuring; more than our share have brought conviction and sorrowful repentance.  A couple of these verses, given early on in our trial, brought us face-to-face with our independence and a murmuring spirit which we know now to be dishonoring and grievous to our Maker.

One of the passages of which I speak is Deuteronomy 28:47-48 where the nation of Israel is being reprimanded.  Why? “Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you.”  The NIV translates verse 47 “…you did not serve the Lord your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity…”

There’s a scene in the movie The Hiding Place where Corrie ten Boom is being dished up a thin broth in the Nazi concentration camp where she and her sister, Betsie, were imprisoned in the last year of World War II.  The film shows previous scenes, times of prosperity, flash through Corrie’s mind as she recalls the feasts and fellowship which she had known before the war.

A similar thought was mine when I encountered Deuteronomy 28:47.  Scenes of past abundance flitted across my mind, days in which I was not careful to respond to God’s lavish goodness with “joyfulness and gladness of heart.”  I’ve written of this before, probably because it is a recurring theme in Dana’s and my training, but a thankful heart honors the loving care of our sovereign Father.   The ungodly and unrighteous are accused of this very thing in Romans 1:21 “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Because of our continued temptation to despair as we wonder if there will ever be a change to our present circumstances (a.k.a. failure to trust in the goodness of God’s purposes), Dana and I are trying to remind each other to look for every small grace that we encounter. I am praying for Dana that God would be the lifter of his head and he would raise his focus to see the gifts that surround us.

It’s a bit like Brother Lawrence’s book Practicing the Presence of God, though.  I’m convinced it would be life-giving, but in my frailty I seem only to be able to sustain the practice for short periods of time.  I pray that with use and Holy Spirit reminders, I might grow my capacity to see better my Father’s hand in the world around me.

To this end, I was particularly challenged by a prayer shared by Ravi Zacharius recently.  The prayer was written by Michel Quoist, a 20th century French Catholic priest and writer, as part of his book Prayers of Life.  Oh, that I might become by God’s grace an old woman who delights in the evidences of God’s care around me and my default way to walk through this world would be that of thanksgiving and gratitude. I pray that Quoist’s prayer will inspire you this Thanksgiving 2016 to similarly pray throughout your day.

– – – – –

Thank you, Lord, for all the gifts you’ve given to me today.

Thank you for all I have seen, heard, and received.

Thank you for the water that woke me up, the soap that smells so good, the toothpaste that refreshes.

Thank you for the clothes that protect us, for their color and their style.

Thank you for the newspaper so faithfully there, for the comics, for my morning smile.

Thank you for useful meetings, for justice done, and for the big games won.

Thank you for the street cleaning truck and the men who run it, for their morning shouts and all the early morning noises.

Thank you for my work, the tools, and my efforts.

Thank you for the metal in my hands, for the whine of the steel biting into it, and for the satisfied look of the foreman for the load of finished pieces.

Thank you for Jim, my friend, who loaned me his file, for Danny who shared his lunch with me, for Charlie who held the door open for me.

Thank you for the welcoming street that led me here, for the shop windows, the cars, and the passers-by, for all the life that flowed swiftly between the windowed walls of the houses.

Thank you for the food that sustains me, for the glass of water that refreshes me.

Thank you for the car that weekly took me where I wanted to be, for the fuel that made it go, for the wind that caressed my face, for the trees that nodded to me on the way.

Thank you for the boy I watched on the foot-path opposite, thank you for his roller skates, thank you for his comical grin when he fell.

Thank you for the morning greetings I received and all the smiles.

Thank you for my mother who welcomes me at home and for her tactful affection, for her silent presence.

Thank you for the roof that shelters me, for the lamps that light me, for the radio that plays, for the news, for music, and for singing.

Thank you for the bunch of flowers so pretty on my table.

Thank you for the tranquil night.

Thank you for the stars, Lord, and thank you, too, for silence.

Thank you for the time you’ve given me, Lord, for life, for grace, and for just being there.

Thank you, now, for listening to me, and taking me seriously, for gathering my gifts in your hands to offer them to your Father.

Thank you, Lord, thank you.

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Because of parent conferences, I missed the Billy Graham broadcast My Hope America which was aired on his 95th birthday (11-07-18).  I was glad to find the video, though, which not only features Dr. Graham, but Lecrae Moore and Lacey Sturm.

I grew up watching the Billy Graham crusades.  Whenever they were aired, my dad would call us from various parts of the house and  strongly suggest we watch with it only takes a little bit of your time or it won’t hurt you to watch, etc.  I never told my parents that I actually responded to a crusade call during my elementary years and wrote to Billy Graham, Minneapolis, MN (that’s all the address you needed) to get follow up material.  I include that incident in my testimony, believing that even at that age, God was making himself known to me.  Fast forward several years to June 1987 when Dana and I had the privilege of being counselors at a Billy Graham crusade; driving 70 miles south each of three days to where Billy Graham preached and Cliff Barrows led the choir (and Johnny and June Cash brought special music one of the days).

I no longer hold to popular decision theology.  I have come to see that regeneration precedes and produces faith; not the other way around.  God is not the responder, waiting and hoping for people to respond in faith to his Son.  Unless the Holy Spirit shines the light of truth into my darkened understanding, I am dead in my trespasses and unable to respond in faith to the cross of Christ.

We are indeed “saved through faith” and “faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.”  “This [faith] is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (see Ephesians 2:8-9 and Romans 10:17).  Just as the world needed the Word of God to speak it into being, so too, we who are dead in our trespasses, need the same Word of God to quicken our hearts before we can be made new and respond to him (see John 1:1-4 and Ephesians 2:5).

For me, God began to turn his light of truth on in my heart over several years, but for many, like those at a Billy Graham, Louis Palau, or Greg Laurie crusade, it may feel like one puts their faith in Christ and is then made a new creature.  We are unaware in that moment of the Holy Spirit’s work in helping us to “put the pieces together” and in the necessity of his call which prompts us to repentance and faith.  Almost everyone at the time of conversion feels as if they “chose” Christ, especially, I’m sure, those who pray a repentant “sinner’s prayer” as Billy Graham invites.  Only after, are many made aware through Scripture, that it was always Christ’s first move in their hearts that brought them to the realization of his saving work on the cross.  It’s been likened to light that comes on immediately when a switch is flipped.  Only with further study, we note there was a necessary outside source acting upon the switch, to close the circuit, and to bring about light.  Our faith and regeneration often seem to come simultaneously, but it was God first regenerating our wills and our minds to bring us to the point of faith.  “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Charles Spurgeon put it this way:

“…When the gospel comes to some, they fight against it, and will not have it, but where men receive it, welcoming it, this is a sure indication that there is a secret work going on in the soul, and that God has chosen them unto eternal life. Are you willing, dear reader, to receive Christ? Then there is no difficulty in the way; Christ will be your guest; His own power is working with you, making you willing.”

The cross has always been an offense to many.  It is not given to us to know who will receive or reject it.  It is ours to hold out the Word of God and to unashamedly profess the gospel “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).  Likewise, in hearing the Word of Christ and desiring to receive him, one need not wonder if the gospel is meant for them or not.  The font of such a desire is the “secret work going on in the soul” as Spurgeon put it and Christ assures us, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).

 

[There is an answer to the title conundrum too–what came first the chicken or the egg?  Genesis 1:24-25]

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