For Him, Through Him, To Him

glory-of-god-cloudsRomans 11:36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

Regardless of what position you take in regards to the Jewish people in the present age, Paul makes one thing clear at the end of this debated chapter – Jesus Christ is preeminent. All things, worlds, people, and things are of Him, through Him, and to Him. And the same should be true of our lives. Might we live our lives of Him, through Him, and to Him. He deserves it, and to Him belongs all the honor and glory forever – Amen!

The Image of His Son

imagesRomans 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Before creation, God knew who would accept His Son. I’m not saying this takes away from our free will. But God knew. And for those of us who would accept Christ, there was one thing that we were predestined to do through our lives: be conformed to the image of His Son. This is our highest call! It’s simple. But not easy. There are some simple truths from this chapter that can help us to do this:

  1. We need to be led by His Spirit – Paul says that the Spirit bears witness with our spirit (vs 16). He says that children of God are to be led by the Spirit (vs 15). This is the model Christ left us. He was led by the Holy Spirit. Are we led by His Spirit today? Do we quench or grieve the Spirit? Are we sensitive to His still small voice? Let’s develop and cultivate a sensitivity and following of the Holy Spirit.
  2. We need to mortify the deeds of the body (vs 13) – The natural deeds of my body are bad! Dad preached a sermon once entitled “kill it”. When an inordinate affection arises, kill it! When temptation arises, kill it! Let’s kill, or mortify, the deeds of the body. This, too, is the example of Christ.
  3. We must place our hope in him (18-25) – One day, this flesh will be put off. This battle is not forever. We see in this chapter that we are more than conquerors through Christ. Further, one day we will receive the redemption of our bodies, and be given glorified bodies. He also says that all things work together for good – we can hope in this. We know that “hope maketh not ashamed”. Let’s put our hope in Christ, looking for the “joy that is set before us”, as Christ did.
  4. Let’s evaluate ourselves, and see if we are becoming of His image – Do we love as He loved? Are we holy as He’s holy? Do we sacrifice as He sacrificed? Does an honest evaluation of our lives show a portrait that’s becoming of Christ?
  5. We must seek His help! – I can’t do it on my own. But praise the Lord He is on the right hand of God making intercession for us (vs 34). Therefore, we can come boldly to the throne of grace, and ask Him to help us fulfill His purpose for our lives – to be conformed to the image of His Son.

Today, let’s seek to be conformed to the image of His Son!

No Time to Play

little-boy-wanting-to-play-football-13989878My monthly poem reminder! I’m glad when this reminder pops up, and with a clear conscience and no regrets, I send it to pop up again the next month. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. For those of us with young children – we know they’re growing up fast, and time isn’t waiting for us. My dad used to say, “Son, there’s ALWAYS more work to do. Sometimes it must wait.” After all, my family is my first ministry (1 Tim 3:5).

No Time to Play

My precious boy with the golden hair
Came up one day beside my chair
And fell upon his bended knee
And said, “Oh, Mommy, please play with me!”

I said, “Not now, go on and play;
I’ve got so much to do today.”
He smiled through tears in eyes so blue
When I said, “We’ll play when I get through.”

But the chores lasted all through the day
And I never did find time to play.
When supper was over and dishes done,
I was much too tired for my little son.

I tucked him in and kissed his cheek
And watched my angel fall asleep.
As I tossed and turned upon my bed,
Those words kept ringing in my head,

“Not now, son, go on and play,
I’ve got so much to do today.”
I fell asleep and in a minute’s span,
My little boy is a full-grown man.

No toys are there to clutter the floor;
No dirty fingerprints on the door;
No snacks to fix; no tears to dry;
The rooms just echo my lonely sigh.

And now I’ve got the time to play;
But my precious boy is gone away.
I awoke myself with a pitiful scream
And realized it was just a dream

For across the room in his little bed,
Lay my curly-haired boy, the sleepy-head.
My work will wait ‘til another day
For now I must find some time to play.

The Struggle is Real

6357716826666276272079297734_power_struggle Romans 7:14-19 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

I love the honesty in Scripture. I’m glad the Bible doesn’t just portray “picture perfect” Christians with no flaws, blemishes, or struggles. In my opinion, the apostle Paul was one of the greatest Christians in the New Testament. But if I read this chapter correctly, Paul is using most of it to give the inner struggle – almost turmoil – between his desire to do right after the spirit, and his war against sin after the flesh. I can know this: if Paul had this kind of struggle, I will (do) too. Here are some thoughts we observe from this chapter:

  1. Everyone in this flesh will struggle with sin (vs 19). Even the great apostle Paul struggled with the sinful nature of his flesh. We will never come to a point on this side of eternity where the struggle won’t be real. Might we remain sober and vigilant against sin. Let us not think that we’ve arrived. No one is above stumbling or falling (1 Cor 9:27, 1 Cor 10:12).
  2. Even in the midst of doing good, sin can be present with us (vs 21). Even in the midst of serving, ministering, and sacrificing, sin and temptation may be present. I had a conversation with someone recently who said “even on the mission field, sacrificing and serving, there’s temptation”.
  3. Delighting in God’s law will help us in this struggle (vs22, ps 119:9). The fact that the struggle was real didn’t stop Paul from delighting in God’s law.
  4. Be willing to fight/struggle (vs 23) – I’ve often times heard young men say in my office “I’m just struggling with this”. I’ve said before and wanted to say at other times – no you’re not. A struggle involves two sides. You’re surrendering. Paul was willing to fight. And a fight/struggle it will be. Let’s be willing to “fight the good fight”.
  5. Realize my wretchedness (vs 18, 24) – Paul realized that in his flesh there was “no good thing”. Jeremiah realized the same when he said his heart was desperately wicked. If I realize my wretched leanings being in this flesh, I will be more vigilant.
  6. Seek deliverance from Christ (vs 25, Heb 4:15-16) – Paul understood that his victory over the flesh and sin would be in and through Jesus Christ. He is the One that gives us the grace and strength to defeat the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Romans 7:24-25 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

I Reckon

thinking_man_PNG11610Romans 6:11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

I am human. But I have a sin nature. Sometimes, I miss the mark. This entire chapter in Romans is devoted to helping Christians who were once was dead in sin, not to live to sin. Paul makes the argument that we have been crucified with Him. We have been buried with Him in baptism. We have been raised in His likeness to walk in newness of life. But Paul still realized that we have an “infirmity of our flesh” – a fleshly nature that is prone to sin (vs 19). Understanding this, Paul gives us practical tips to help us to walk in that newness of life.

One suggestion Paul gives us is found in verse 11. He tells us to “reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin”. The word reckon (λογίζομα) means “to take an inventory, to estimate (literally or figuratively):—to conclude, to count, impute, lay, number, reason, suppose, think (on), despise, esteem.” How can I apply this practically? Before I am tempted to sin, and even inside of temptation, I’d do best to reckon, or meditate (take inventory, conclude, count, think on, suppose) on the fact that I am dead to sin with Christ.

I know this – when temptations come my way, and I choose to meditate on Scripture, and envision myself on the cross with Christ, reckoning myself dead on that cross, and being raised up with Him in newness of life, it’s a turn off to temptation. When we are tempted to sin (which will happen – probably today!), let us meditate on Romans 6. Let’s reckon ourselves dead to sin (vs 11), that we might not serve it (14-17), but righteousness (18) for our good and God’s glory.

Stewardship – Pennies

Good thought stewardship I came across this morning:

penniesWhen it comes to buying, I continue to be challenged by an elderly widow on Social Security who sent a dollar a month to this ministry. One day she wrote: “I am sure it costs you more to acknowledge my gift than the gift I am sending; I wish I could give more, so I won’t trouble you with any further gifts.” I wrote back and explained that her monthly dollar was actually producing tens of thousands of dollars, because each time I was able to save even five dollars on a purchase I would think, “That is five months of giving from that Godly widow.” Wise stewardship is not just a way of thinking, but a way of life.

Many years ago, a wealthy businessman told our staff that he and his wife took walkie-talkies to two different supermarkets and compared the prices of food. If the price was 10 cents per can in one store and 8 cents per can in the other, they would buy the 8-cent can. Our staff roared with laughter. After we finished, he said with convicting seriousness, “Your laugh tells me why I am a millionaire and you are not!” Wealthy people do not think in terms of dollars and cents, but rather in percents. A 2-cent savings on a 10-cent purchase is a 20% discount. Think of the savings if you were able to obtain a 20% reduction on a lifetime of spending! Let’s have a millionaire mind-set the next time we make a purchase!

We Glory in Tribulations

delayedgratificationRomans 5:3-5 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

When we were young, my dad taught us an important principle called “delayed gratification”. He also taught us that we could “Pay now, and play later, or play now, pay later.” And whether it was on practicing for basketball, preparing a sermon, or building our bus route, my dad kept that principle before us. Over the years, I’ve seen that to be true in many areas of life.

Paul preached this principle time and again in his epistles and writings. We was willing to be buffeted, to suffer loss, to go through tribulation, to suffer bodily harm, and much more, because of the promised reward on the other side. Here, he exhorts us to go through tough times with patience. Paul teaches us that patience brings invaluable experience in our lives that make our hope in Christ real. We can come out on the other side different, having experienced His grace, and having sought sought His face – for our own good, for the sake of others, and for the glory of God.

Whether in child rearing, my personal walk, a financial situation, or when the tough times come, which they will, let us walk through them by God’s grace, with patience – which brings invaluable experience, and a more lively hope.

The Judgment Seat of Christ

635942733559215051202612250_Corrupt-Judges.jpgMy dad used to say “my job as a pastor is to help my people to have a better judgment seat.” Studying for a message, and came across the words below. Somber reminder that one day I will stand before the Judge of all the earth. But a heavier weight is the realization that how I order and lead my family will affect their judgment seat too.

Even now, I am working to make sure that my family is set up for the future. When most people make that statement, they are talking about financial security for their last few years on earth. When I say it, I’m referring to the millions of years that come after that. People accuse me of going overboard in preparing for my first ten million years in eternity. In my opinion, people go overboard in worrying about their last ten years on earth.

 I have imagined what it will be like when (my wife) comes face to face with God. The Bible guarantees this will actually happen. One day, my wife will stand before the Creator and Judge of all things. What a staggering moment that will be! I can’t imagine any of us being ready for the shock of that day, yet Scripture begs us to spend our lives preparing for it.

He Staggered Not

walking-sunset-shoes-900Romans 4:19-24 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;

Reading through Hebrews and Romans, we see one common teaching point, which must be the foundation of our Christianity – faith. There may not be a greater example of faith in Scriptures that that of Abraham. He was called by God to leave His home and homeland. He was given an amazing promise. He followed, not even knowing where he was going. And yet the passage above says that in all of it, He believed God. He didn’t stagger (To hesitate; to begin to doubt and waver in purpose; to become less confident or determined). Without a GPS or destination in sight, he walked strong. With no child, but the promise of a great nation to his name, he stayed steady. When it was long, and trials came, he was fully persuaded that what He had promised, He would perform.

Abraham’s example of faith is a tremendous model for us today. Peter tells us that we, too, have been given exceeding great and precious promises. With these, let us walk in faith, not staggering, and with nothing waivering. When He calls us to step out or leap out in faith, let us follow in faith. When it seems long, we must walk on. When it doesn’t make sense – and many times it won’t – we must walk on. When it hurts, we must walk strong. Might we not be “roller coaster Christians”, who sway and ride the ride of emotions. Let us be fully persuaded that he that hath begun a good work in us will perform it. He will do and fulfill what He said He would. Let us be “faithful to the end”, with full assurance in faith and God, because He can be trusted. Might I be faithful to the end, starting today.