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A Little More Bad News

3 Jun

I don’t know if it was in a song or a sermon, but I do remember the repetition of “It’s Friday now, but Sunday’s comin’!”  Let’s take one more look at our sinfulness before we start looking at the riches we’ve been given in Christ.

Please do not let this get you down.  Let it instead fill your heart with love for Christ who sacrificed so much for us when we were in the muck and mire.

We evangelical believers generally abstain from the grosser sins of society; in fact, we tend to sit in judgment of those who practice such things.  But beneath the surface of our own lives we tolerate all kinds of ‘refined’ sins . . . . Beyond that, we seldom think about the words of Jesus that the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” . . . I don’t think any of us can fully plumb the depths of that commandment, but here are some obvious aspects:

  • Your love for God transcends all other desires (Ex. 20:3)
  • Like David, you long to gaze upon His beauty and seek fellowship with Him.  (Psalm 27:4)
  • You rejoice in meditating on His Word, and, like Jesus, you rise early to pray.  (Psalm 119:97, Mark 1:35)
  • You always delight to do His will, regardless of how difficult it may be.  (Psalm 40:8)
  • A regard for His glory governs and motivates everything you do–your eating and drinking, your working and playing, your buying and selling, your reading and speaking–and, dare I mention it, even your driving.  (1 Cor. 10:31)
  • You are never discouraged or frustrated by adverse circumstances because you are confident that God is working all things together for your good. (Romans 8:28)
  • You are content because you know He will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5) ~ Jerry Bridges, The Gospel for Real Life
Ouch!  Once again, this is not a call to beat ourselves up, but a call to realize how much we need Jesus every moment of every day.  It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!

Year End Thoughts

1 Jun

It’s that crazy time of year in a teacher’s life.  Next week is the last week of school.  We’re hectically trying to tie up all the loose ends of this school year:  assessments, report cards, transitions, and saying good-bye to teachers and students who are leaving us.  At the same time, we’ve jumped focus to next year and are planning how we can do a better job.  To do this we need to reflect on what has worked well and what has not worked so well.

In a teacher’s life this is our New Year’s time.  Out with the old and in with the new.  It’s a time for resolutions and reflections.  When you’ve been teaching for a while you don’t think of last year being 2010, you think of it as 2010-2011.  🙂

It is also that time of year when I reflect on my spiritual life.  And I want to try and do it without beating myself up or feeling guilty for my many failures.  I need to keep an equal focus on my sin and God’s grace.  Yes, I avoid overt sins like adultery and murder, but what about those sneaky sins?  What about difficulties in my prayer life?  What about judging others?  We started talking about the gospel on Saturday–how it is a bad news/good news story.

The best preparation for the study of this doctrine [that is, of the truth of the gospel] is–neither great intellectual ability nor much scholastic learning–but a conscience impressed with a sense of our actual condition as sinners in the sight of God. ~ Jerry Bridges The Gospel for Real Life

I’m not suggesting that we go around beating our ownselves up, but we can’t understand the greatness of the gospel and of what Jesus Christ sacrificed for us if we do not have a healthy view of our sinfulness.

Last night, Mike and I had dinner with a friend who met with us to tell us that she’d lied to us.  She kept circling around to the same place in her conversation, “I know what I’ve done was wrong.”  That’s a good place to be.  It is the place where God’s grace gets heaped upon us.

For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God; Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself.] Ephesians 2:8-9 Ampl.

Preach It, Sister!

30 May

I read this morning in Jerry Bridges’ book, The Gospel for Real Life, that “we should preach the gospel to ourselves every day.”

Remember that the gospel is a bad news/good news story.  The bad news is that we are sinful.  The good news is that Jesus paid for our sins and accepts us as we are.  Some of us look at the gospel as a door we have come through and once we are in we don’t need to think about that doorway any more.  But the gospel is so much more than that.  It is by understanding the good news that we are totally forgiven and that God wants to shower us with the riches of His grace:

And He raised us up together with Him and made us sit down together [giving us joint seating with Him] in the heavenly sphere [by virtue of our being] in Christ Jesus (the Messiah, the Anointed One).  He did this that He might clearly demonstrate through the ages to come the immeasurable (limitless, surpassing) riches of His free grace (His unmerited favor) in [His] kindness and goodness of heart toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2: 6,7 Ampl.

This word immeasurable is often translated exceeding and comes from a Greek word, huperballo, that literally means ” to surpass in throwing, to throw over or beyond any thing.”

This kind of reminds me of the President’s Physical Fitness tests that we used to take in elementary school.  One of the events was the softball throw.  Our P.E. teacher would step up to the line and show us how to do it.  We watched in awe as his throw went so high and so far–he made it look easy.  Then, we would line up and throw the softball as far as we could while people ran around in the field marking and measuring how far we could throw.  But Jesus.  Jesus throws far surpassing anyone.

Think of Him winding up and throwing grace that falls on us like confetti. Do we deserve it?  Never.  Does He want us to receive it?  Always!  Preach it to yourself today!

Fearlessly Forgiving 2

26 May

If You, Lord, should keep account of and treat [us according to our] sins, O Lord, who could stand?  But there is forgiveness with You [just what man needs], that You may be reverently feared and worshiped.  Psalm 130:3,4

“There are four different words for forgiveness in the Bible–three Hebrew words and one Greek.  The first Hebrew word means “to cover”–like using a rug to cover the dirt on your floor.  The second word means “to lift and take away”–which happens when you remove a stain from a carpet.  The third word means “to pardon” or “to wipe the record clean.”  The fourth word means “to let go” or “to send away,” as when you release a prisoner from jail.  When you put these words together, you get a graphic picture of forgiveness.  God covers our sins, He removes the inner stain, He wipes our personal record clean, and then He releases us from our guilt so that we are set free.”  –Ray Pritchard in The Healing Power of Forgiveness

We won’t be able to truly forgive others until we see how thoroughly and completely and sacrificially God has forgiven us.  Exult in your cleanness today.  Exult in your perfect record!

Fearlessly Forgiving

24 May

Contemplating the cross, we can find the courage to forgive as we were forgiven.

Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.  -C.S. Lewis

While studying the book of Romans, [Martin Luther] encountered the phrase, “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17 KJV).  Slowly his eyes were opened and he saw clearly that God forgives us not because of anything we do, but solely on the basis of what Jesus did for us when He died on the cross and rose from the dead.  He called that truth “the gate to heaven.”  So it is not surprising that Luther said that the phrase “I believe in the forgiveness of sins” was the most important article in the Apostles’ Creed.  He wrote, “If that is not true, what does it matter wherher God is almighty or Jesus Christ was born and died and rose again?  It is because these things have a  bearing upon my forgiveness that they are important to me.” –Ray Pritchard in The Healing Power of Forgiveness

Stop and think about that today.