Am I Crucified?

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, March 21, 2012. Just had my first sip of coffee. I’m alive and awake!

Today is the next to last weigh in for the “Biggest Loser” challenge. If the pattern holds true between what I weigh at home and what I will weigh on the scale at work, I will have lost 10.989% since this competition began. I will have to wait until Friday to see what the other two in front of me did. I’ve lost six more pounds since last Wednesday, and am over 11% at home since January 15.

I had a great workout last night, and Stephanie had a good session with her trainer, who praised her for her progress. That’s the best thing in the world for her! And we continue to be very proud of Stephanie and what she has accomplished in the last two months.

Father, I pray that you show me something today that will inspire/convict me to live facing Jesus Christ today.

My Utmost For His Highest

I have been crucified with Christ. Galatians 2:20

Paul doesn’t say “I have determined to imitate Jesus Christ,” or “I will endeavor to follow Him.” Paul, in effect, says, “I have been identified with Him in His death.” The great need for us, spiritually, is to “sign the death warrant of the disposition of sin.” I must give up “my claim to my right to myself.” Chambers says that when we come to this decision, what was done by Christ for us on the cross is done in us. However, when we give up that claim to our rights to ourselves, individuality remains (we are not a bunch of Christian robots who all act exactly the same). The “ruling disposition” is radically altered, though.

The result being that “the life I now live in the flesh,” right now, not the life I’m hoping for or praying for, but right now…this life which men can observe, “I live by faith in the Son of God” (Galatians 2:20). I do not live by Paul’s faith in Christ, or anyone else’s. I live by the faith that Jesus Christ has imparted to me. It’s not even really my faith. At this point, however, Chambers’s writing depends on the translation rendered by the KJV, which says, “I live by the faith of the Son of God,” as if to say that the faith that I am depending on is the same faith that Jesus Christ had. This is not born out, however, by other translations, which simply say “I live by faith in the Son of God.” This may or may not be a significant difference. Personally, I think it’s just a case of semantics. I live by faith. I live by faith in the Son of God. (Well…sometimes I do.) This faith is a gift from God, and is not my own. It was never my faith. So in that respect, it could be said that I “live by the faith of the Son of God.”

The main point of today’s reading, however, was not the character or origin of the faith. It is the identification with Christ’s death. Am I looking at Christ as simply an inspiration to follow, or have I identified with his death? Am I crucified with him?

Tabletalk Magazine

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. Matthew 10:29

When we make confessions using written confessions, such as The Apostles’ Creed, we are saying more than the mere words say. For example, when we confess God as our Father, “we are not saying merely that we have been counted as His children, although that is true. We are also saying that the Father loves us far deeper than any earthly father could and longs to bless us with every good gift (Matt. 7:7-11; James 1:16-18).” So when we say that he created heaven and earth, it means more than just saying that he “created everything out of nothing.” It also means that, since he created the universe, said universe depends on God for its very ongoing existence. And, as indicated in question 27 of the Heidelberg Catechism, we also mean that “all creation remains under His control.”

This control reaches farther than we typically think, even into realms that we might think insignificant. Jesus teaches this point in the verse quoted above. The application for us is this: “If God is concerned with even the insignificant sparrow, how much more is He concerned with us, His image-bearers?”

We’ve heard the phrase “God is in the details.” What does this mean? Our Creator “reigns fully over every detail.” The fact is, “nothing ever occurs outside of God’s decree and providential rule.” Now…does this mean that we can just go out and act without any thought? Nay! I believe (along with the writers of Tabletalk) that it means we should take even that much more care about how we act and the things that we do! We need not be “paranoid and legalistic” and attempt to make sure every waking moment is filled with “kingdom work.” But we should be careful that we don’t waste the time that the Lord has granted us.

And here is where this hits home. I’ve been thinking lately about how much time I waste playing silly Facebook games. Now, granted, most of the time when I’m playing them, we are also sitting on the couch, watching TV. But there is still something more useful that I could be doing than mindless farming, castle-building, or even Bejeweled Blitzing. Does this mean I quit these things altogether? I don’t know…and perhaps this is God’s answer to my prayer earlier. Perhaps this is the inspiration/conviction I needed today. How much time am I wasting?

The Bible Panorama

Luke 1:21–38; Josh. 7–9

After telling us about the pregnancy of Elizabeth with who will be John the Baptist, Luke then describes the angel visitation to Mary, to announce the miraculous conception and birth of Jesus. Luke is very clear that Mary was a virgin, and this is a most important point of the birth of Jesus. After the angel’s description, Mary has a simple question…how is this going to happen? The angel answers in verse 35. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy–the Son of God.” After she is told about her cousin Elizabeth, Mary simply answers, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Now, there is some serious faith!!

In Joshua 7, Israel, high on their miraculous victory over Jericho, turns to the little town of Ai. (For the record, I pronounce this “Ah-ee,” NOT “Ay-eye.” I cringe every time I hear a preacher pronounce it that way.) But Israel is, embarrassingly, routed by this tiny town. When Joshua falls on his face before the Lord, he is told, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned…” It is eventually discovered that Achan, when going through Jericho, had some seen some stuff and said, “Ooh! Shiny!” and kept it for himself. The problem is, all the stuff in Jericho was supposed to have been destroyed. The stuff is gathered from Achan’s tent, and Achan, his family, and everything he owned was taken out and stoned to death and burned. The thing is…this whole embarrassing event could have been avoided if Joshua had bothered to consult with the Lord BEFORE heading down to attack this little town of Ai.

Chapter 8 records the eventual fall of Ai, as Israel does it right this time. In fact, the Lord instructs Joshua in the classic ploy of ambushing the town by dividing the army, attacking, pretending to run away, and then sending the rest of the army in to burn the town. At the end of the chapter, the covenant is renewed as Joshua writes a new copy of the “law of Moses.”

In chapter 9, some local people, seeing all of this conquering that is going on, dress in rags, worn out shoes, and carry crusty old bread, and pretend to be from a far off country. With this deception, they con Joshua and Israel into making a peace pact with them. Once again, the mistake was that they did not consult the Lord before making this agreement. Once made, however, they could not back out of the agreement, so these people were made into slaves for Israel, which, frankly, they didn’t mind. I guess they figured it’s better to be a slave of a conquering nation than to be killed by them.

Father, I pray, this morning, for a spirit of identification, not just imitation. I don’t want to just “be more like Jesus.” I pray that, by your Spirit, I might identify with the death of Christ and consider myself “crucified with Christ.” Give me full understanding of what this means. May I be able to live my life as one crucified in Christ. May I be able to completely and utterly give up my claim to any right to myself. This is difficult for me, Lord, as I would think it would be for anyone. But I believe it is what you want. I will honestly say, at this point, that I don’t know how to fully accomplish this, and I believe it can only be done through the power of your Spirit. I don’t want to be seen as “uber-spiritual.” I don’t want to be one who becomes “so heavenly-minded that he’s no earthly good.” But I desire to be fully yours and none of my own. You must increase and I must decrease. Your desires must be the desires of my heart. I pray for delight. Let me delight in you and only you. And let this be worked out so that I can live my life fully by faith in Jesus Christ.

Convict me further, Lord. Show me where I need to step back from certain time-wasting activities. Show me things that I need to be doing in order to accomplish your will for my life. I pray for your guidance, inspiration, and conviction. I believe that nothing occurs outside of your providence and control. I believe that you fully control the details of this universe, even down to the activities of sparrows. I pray that my spirit will be in agreement with your Spirit in all things.

I continue to pray for our niece, Jennifer. She is having a rough time right now, and I pray for some peace in her life, and that you would provide some means for her to get on with things. I pray that she might be able to finish her schooling and get the job that she is seeking. She has had a difficult time getting her life going, Lord, and I pray for some relief for her. Give her confidence and show her your magnificent, overflowing grace!

I pray fort his day. Christi has a sudden opportunity this afternoon. I pray that things will work out for the best for us through this. Of course, whatever your will is, that is the best for us. I just pray for your will in all of this. Not our will, but yours, be done. I pray that this day at work will be better for me and my company. I lift up the place I work, that you would make our efforts successful today, and that we would be able to accomplish our goals with no issues or problems. Prosper the company I work for, that I might prosper along with it. I also pray for the final week of this weight-loss contest I’m in. I pray that I might win it, not simply for the money involved, but so that my health will be positively affected.

I pray that Stephanie will have a good day with her teacher today, and that she will get more work accomplished. We are praying for her success at graduating this June.

God is in the details. He reigns, he rules, he controls everything. May we live accordingly today!

Grace and peace, friends.

“God Is In Control, So Chill Out!”

A good Tuesday morning to all. A little groggy this morning because of slight allergy problems. It’s that time of year. I will report that Stephanie had one of her best days at school in a while, but the evening at home was a little strange. I think her stomach was a little upset though, either because of the increase in meds or because it’s very close to “that time of month.”

I wanted to give a brief overview of Sunday’s message in yesterday’s blog, but I have to hurry so much on Monday that I didn’t have time, so I’ll do it today. The message was called “We Will Not Forget What Really Matters,” and was the final of the series based off of the 9/11 anniversary. Joel started off with a “top ten” list of the top ten things that most worry Americans. Here they are, as he gave them.
1. Deficit out of control
2. Terrorism
3. Health care system at risk
4. Stubborn unemployment
5. Inflation
6. Rogue nations such as North Korea, Iran, etc.
7. China
8. Crime
9. Housing Market
10. Political uncertainty

That’s probably a pretty accurate list, I would guess. All of this led him to the main thesis of this message. Seeking Christ is what really matters and seeking Christ leads to unshakable security.

The Scripture passage for the message was a very familiar one, but one worth returning to frequently. It was Matthew 6:25-34. The first point was “God is in control, so chill out!” He said that when he started writing that one, he first had it sounding all deeply theological, but finally just simplified it to that. I think that’s a great way to state it. If we could all remember that one thing every day, our lives would be a lot less stressful. We need to remember that our God has established what is called “covenantal” (that word just looks all kinds of wrong…) relationship with us. Joel also reminded us of a truth found in Psalm 109:21. But you, O GOD my Lord, deal on my behalf for your name’s sake; because your steadfast love is good, deliver me! Everything that God does, he does for his own name’s sake. I may have alluded to this idea yesterday. God works for his own glory, not for ours. I know that sounds self-seeking and arrogant to some. But he’s the creator. And the creator has every right to do whatever he wants with his creation. And, ultimately, everything he does, in the “Big Picture,” is good for us. It may not seem like it at the moment (for example, 70 day of 100+ temperatures in north Texas this summer…), but it is. We have to remember that God is in control, so chill out!
Joel also quoted Proverbs 12:25, which says, Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. Then he told us that many Christians live their lives as “practical atheists.” What that means is that we say that we believe that God is sovereign, but then we live a life of worry and anxiety over every little thing. Sad but true.
Point number two was that “Faith in God’s goodness separates us from unbelievers.” There may be a lot of times that our lives may not look much different from the lives of unbelievers, especially when we get caught up in the same pursuits, but there is one thing that, if we are true Christians, will separate us and that is our faith in his goodness. I would like to say that my faith in God’s goodness is unshakable. I would love to say that. But I’m not sure I would be honest. Most days it is. Most days, I will will proclaim to you that God’s goodness is true and firm. But every now and then, I doubt. There have been some times in the midst of Stephanie’s biggest meltdowns that I have come dangerously close to thinking God had abandoned us. But he didn’t! And he never will. I know that in the deepest part of my heart. My head might freak out and disagree sometimes, but, ultimately, my heart will win out. We need to stop doubting God’s ability to handle our lives!
The final point was from the last two verses of the passage, verses that have been quoted and sung for years. I’ve been singing Matthew 6:33 since I was a youth in church. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Of course, when I was a youth, we sang King James Version…it’s pretty much all we had. Yeah, I’m that old. My quotes are always English Standard Version, unless I say otherwise. Then verse 34, Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Those two verses make point three of the message, which was simply, “The secret to success.” Yes. It’s that simple. Or is it? Seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness. Don’t worry about self. Don’t worry about food, drink, clothes, and stuff. Seek God and his righteousness, and you will have all those other things. Ultimately, it’s not what matters, but who matters.

Today’s Bible readings:
Ephesians 4:1-16; 2 Kings 21; 2 Chronicles 33; Proverbs 16:9-17

Paul begins Ephesians 4 with an admonition. I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (vv. 1-3) Again, it’s important to point out that the “walk” he calls for is not to earn that calling. We not told to walk in such a way as to not lose our salvation. We are simply called to walk in a way that shows that we are Christians. And what does that walk look like? Humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love, and eagerness to maintain unity. The next couple of verses have a bunch of “ones,” illustrating this need for unity. And basically, the rest of this passage is about unity, how we are one body and we are to grow together and mature. Let me say, though, that truth is never to be sacrificed for the sake of unity. There are many who would do that. Unity becomes the end, rather than a means to an end.
Verse 11 lists some of the “offices” that have been appointed for the purpose of equipping the saints. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. All for the single purpose of equipping the saints “for the work of ministry.” And what is the purpose of that ministry? … for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (vv. 12b-16) There are multiple points in this. One is that the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are NOT supposed to do all the work! They are to equip the rest of us to do the work. Another is that we are supposed to mature in the faith, building up the body of Christ in love.

It’s been a while since we visited 2 Kings. In chapter 21, Manasseh, son of Hezekiah has become king in Judah. Hezekiah was a good king. Manasseh was an evil king. He pretty much undid everything that Hezekiah accomplished during his reign. In fact, it says that Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the LORD destroyed before the people of Israel. (v. 9) This made God very angry. Angry enough to say this: Behold, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such disaster that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria, and the plumb line of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. (vv. 12-13) When Manasseh died, his son Amon picked up where he left off. His servants conspired and assassinated him, but the people of the land put the servants to death. Josiah, Amon’s son became king at the ripe old age of eight!
The interesting thing is that 2 Chronicles includes some information about Manasseh that the writer of 2 Kings chose to leave out. After the Lord made the prophecies and Manasseh didn’t listen, God sent Assyria, which captured him and carried him to Babylon. And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God. (vv. 12-13) The cynical side of me wants to say, “Sure, who wouldn’t??” But we have to note that God was “moved by his entreaty.” You see, God knows the heart, so God knows that Manasseh was not just “repenting” to get out of trouble, like we do most of the time. And the “proof in that pudding” (I still don’t really understand what that phrase means…I’ve never proven anything with pudding) was the actions of Manasseh when he returned. He took down all of the false altars that he had built. He restored the offerings to the Lord that he had previously forsaken. So even the most evil kings can repent and serve the Lord.

Proverbs 16:9 fits right in with the message from Sunday. The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. God is in control, so chill out!

In Grace For the Moment, Max Lucado gives two readings for the day. Morning and evening. I always read both readings in the morning, mainly because I kept forgetting to read the “evening” reading. Both of today’s are worthy of sharing, I think. The morning reading is called “God Knows What He’s Doing.” Seems to be a theme this week, huh? Max begins by stating that it’s easy to be thankful when God does what we want. “But God doesn’t always do what we want. Ask Job.” Job is probably the oldest book in the Bible. Many people feel that the story of Job even predates Abraham. I’m not smart enough to know about that. But what I know is that God allowed Satan to pretty much destroy Job’s life. Job went to God to plead his case. God answered. “Not with answers, but with questions. An ocean of questions…” Finally, Job responded with this: Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. (Job 42:3) He got the point. “God owes no one anything. No reasons. No explanations. Nothing. God is God. He knows what he is doing.” God is in control, so chill out!
The evening reading is called “God Goes With Us.” I don’t think I have ever seen a morning and evening reading go hand in hand so well together. In Genesis 28:15, God says, Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go… Max says, “When God calls us into the deep valley of death, he will be with us.” God said to Moses, in Exodus 33:14, My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. God said to Jacob in Genesis 28:15, Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go… God said to Joshua in Joshua 1:5, Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. God says all of these things to us. He knows what he is doing, and no matter where he leads us, he will be there with us.

Those are words to get you through the day!

Father, I praise you that you know what you are doing! Because I’m not sure what I’m doing, and a lot of times, I don’t know what you’re doing, either. But I have faith in your goodness; I have faith that you know what you are doing. I believe that you will never leave or forsake me, just like you promised your Old Testament people. You have made that promise even more sure by giving us Jesus and then providing our Helper in life, the Holy Spirit. I thank you for your constant presence in my life, Father! Help me to be more aware of it each day, each hour, each minute.
I need help to not worry. I know that the things our pastor said Sunday are true! My heart knows them. Most of the time my head knows them. But sometimes my head goes walkabout. It takes off on its own and forgets what the heart knows. So I need help to always know and believe that you are in control of all things and that there is absolutely no reason to worry or be anxious for anything! I’m working on that this week. You seem to be giving me some good lessons, too.

I pray for this day, Father. Stephanie is feeling a little “under the weather.” I think it’s mostly allergy-related. But she’s going to school today, and I pray she can make it through the day. I pray for Christi’s day today. And I pray for mine, as well. Let us have good work days today.

God is in control, so chill out!

Grace and peace, friends.