Who Tells You Who You Are?

Good morning. It is Sunday, March 8, 2015. The clock on my computer says it is 9:30. It is really 8:30. But that’s the way it will be for the next eight months.

29 more days until Opening Day!

Four more days until Paluxy River Bed Cabins, in Glen Rose!

Today’s word of the day is Murano. I know that one! It’s a car, built by Nissan! But no, it seems Nissan stole that. What it really means is, “Designating or relating to the glass-making industry of Murano, or the Venetian glass made there.” I don’t think Nissan’s car is made out of Venetian glass.

Today is Women’s Day. This is a day to celebrate the strong and amazing women who have had a tremendous impact on the world. My wife is one of those. I am so thankful that God put her in my life, almost 30 years ago. So to my wife, Christi Bickley, my mother, Bonnie Bickley, and my two daughters, Rachel Nowlin and Stephanie Bickley, I love you very much, and am so thankful for all of you!

We had, in my opinion, a pretty great worship gathering last night. The attendance was down for a variety of reasons. One of those is that Spring Break officially began this weekend, at least for some. I guess it goes on through the next few weeks, depending one where you go to school. It’s rather amusing to me to see Spring Break beginning when it is 20-something degrees outside. Of course, Spring Break means nothing to me, any more.

Anyway, the sermon last night was pretty amazing. What made it even more amazing was the fact that it seemed to go hand in hand with, and totally validate, what I felt God teaching me throughout the past week. I’ll get into that a little later, below the double blue lines.

After church, we stopped by O.C. Burgers for some dinner, and went home to chill in front of the TV for a few hours. It was a nice, relaxing time. It turns out Rachel and Justin won’t be coming over today. Rachel is kind of overwhelmed by some stuff, at the moment, and felt that she needed the time to catch up, so that she can make the most out of her Spring Break, which is this coming week. Of course, we are fine with this. We want her to do whatever is best for her and her future career. There is a chance that she may come out next weekend, while we are in Glen Rose, to help Stephanie “watch” the house. Like it’s going anywhere. Of course, there are various animals to feed and stuff.

So today, I don’t know what will happen. I know we need to make a trip to the pet store for some cat and dog food. That’s two different kinds of food. As far as I know, they don’t make one that is good for both. What a great idea!!! why can’t they do that? Cat/Dog food! Come on, people! It’s 2015, for crying out loud!!

It was on this date in 1978 that the first radio broadcast of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, was transmitted on BBC Radio 4.

Today’s birthdays are Anne Bonny (pirate), Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (composer), Kenneth Grahame (Wind in the Willows), Sam Jaffe (actor), Preston Smith (TX Governor), Alan Hale, Jr (The Skipper), Cyd Charisse (dancer/actress), Jim Bouton (pitcher/author), Lynn Redgrave (actress), Micky Dolenz (The Monkees), Randy Meisner (Eagles), Carole Bayer Sager (songwriter), Michael Allsup (Three Dog Night), Jim Rice (baseball player), Aidan Quinn (actor), and Freddie Prinze, Jr. (actor).

Michael Allsup is the guitar player for Three Dog Night. He was born on this date in 1947, making him 68 years old today. Here is their song, “One Man Band.”

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. O LORD, in your strength the king rejoices, and in your salvation how greatly he exults!
You have given him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah.
For you meet him with rich blessings; you set a crown of fine gold upon his head.
He asked life of you; you gave it to him, length of days forever and ever.
His glory is great through your salvation; splendor and majesty you bestow on him.
For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
For the king trusts in the LORD, and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved.
Your hand will find out all your enemies; your right hand will find out those who hate you.
You will make them as a blazing oven when you appear. The LORD will swallow them up in his wrath, and fire will consume them.
You will destroy their descendants from the earth, and their offspring from among the children of man.
Though they plan evil against you, though they devise mischief, they will not succeed.
For you will put them to flight; you will aim at their faces with your bows.
Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power.

Psalm 21

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Colossians 1:21-23

For today’s devotional, I’m using last night’s sermon, from the Colossians passage above. The reason for the Romans verse is, this is what God has been teaching me over the past few days. Romans 8:1 is a very familiar and popular verse. We like to quote that verse. But do we really get it? That is what I have been struggling with over the last week. There is no condemnation. Since Jesus has taken the full punishment for sin, there is nothing that we can do that can bring us under condemnation! So, if my Father in heaven no longer condemns me, why do I bring condemnation upon myself?? This is something that we do, constantly. We sin, this is true. We still sin. But Christ has paid the punishment for all of our sins. We tend to make the practice of repentance more of a beating down of ourselves, in an attempt to pay for our own sins. That is not at all the idea behind repentance. True, we are to be sorrowful over our sin, we are to confess, and we need repentance (which only God can grant to us, but that is a different topic). But we are no longer under condemnation, because we are in Christ Jesus.

On to last night’s sermon. Jacob continues to preach through Colossians, and came to 1:21-23 last night. Beginning in verse 21, we find three characteristics of us, when we were apart from Christ, that is, before we knew him. We were “alienated,: we were “hostile in mind,” and we were “doing evil deeds.” Jacob went backwards with these, beginning with the evil deeds. That’s pretty self explanatory. Before we were in Christ, we were full of evil deeds. But we were also “hostile in mind.” We were thinking ways that were hostile to God. The key to all of this, however, is the fact that we were “alienated” from God. In a sense, when we are apart from Christ, we have lost our way in the universe. We don’t know who we are without God. If we strip God away from everything, we either become animals, enslaved to our appetites, or we try to become gods, ourselves. Without God, we do not know what makes our lives count.

We moved on to verse 22. Note that the ESV says, “he has now reconciled . . .” According to Jacob (and I have no reason to disbelieve him), the Greek text says, “But now . . .” What wonderful words!! I love when the Bible says, “But God . . .” or, “But now . . .,” because this means that something has changed! But now, everything has changed! Before, we were this way, but now, things have changed! Why have things changed? Because Jesus Christ has reconciled us! Not because we have done anything, but because HE has done it! What has this accomplished? First, we have been made “holy and blameless.” Looking back to Old Testament sacrifices, the sacrifice had to be perfect, without blemish, or it was unacceptable. When Christ has reconciled us, he is able to present us, “holy and blameless,” to God. Since we are holy and blameless, we are acceptable. We are accepted by God! Because of the work of Jesus Christ, God will not reject us! Even in the midst of our deepest, darkest moment of sin, God will not reject us! (See Romans 8:1 again.) This also frees us from working to try to be accepted. This goes back to our misconception of repentance. We have made repentance into an effort to try to get God to accept us. We don’t have to do that. God has accepted us, already, eternally.

The other thing that has happened, because of the work of Christ, is that we are “above reproach.” The first thing this means is that we are not guilty! Not only are we not guilty, but we cannot be accused! Sure, Satan (whose name literally means “accuser”) can throw accusations at us, but they just bounce off, with no results, because we have been declared “above reproach.” The other thing this means is that, if we are free from guilt, we are also free from shame! Shame is a demotivational killer to the spiritual life. We sin, then we feel guilty, then we feel ashamed, which completely immobilizes us. We need to remember that God has declared us holy and blameless, and above reproach; free from guilt and free from shame.

At this point, Jacob made an important point. Forgiveness is not something God just does as Father; it is also something that he does as KING. I have rebelled against a King, and the King has pardoned me! I have been presented to God, holy and blameless, above reproach, by Jesus, so that I can find/regain my identity.

As we moved to verse 23, we see that we often forget all of these things (hence the reminders I have been getting from various sources over the past week), and we begin to shift away from the hope of the Gospel. We need to “continue in the faith,” and remind ourselves of this hope. This is why I believe that it is necessary that we preach the Gospel to ourselves on a daily basis. We need to be reminded of these things, lest our faith shift to other things.

My identity is who HE says I am, and HE says I am holy, blameless, above reproach, and accepted!

Father, how can I even begin to praise you for these truths? There are no words that I can say that are adequate. Yet I will try. I do praise you for the truth that you have pardoned me completely. I praise you for the work of Christ in reconciling us to you, presenting us, holy and blameless, above reproach to you, even when we were sinners, alienated from you, with our hostile minds and evil deeds. I thank you that there is, now, no condemnation for us who are in Christ Jesus! I thank you for reminding me of these truths over this past week. I pray that you will help me to not forget, so that my faith does not shift to other things. Help me to remember that I do not have to try to be accepted by you, because I already am accepted by you! I pray for your Church, everywhere, that we would all grasp this, and that we would be free to live this life in the way that you want us to, without having to constantly resort to human efforts to be forgiven. Give us understanding, Father, that we would know this, beyond the shadow of a doubt.

I pray for this day. Father, I pray for Christi right now, because she is feeling ill. Her stomach is not well, and it looks like she might have come down with the virus that is going around. I pray that this is not so, and that she will be well this evening. I pray also for protection for the rest of us, that we not get sick, too. Give us rest during this day, preparing for the work week ahead. I pray for our extended weekend, later this week, as we travel to Glen Rose to celebrate my birthday. May it be a peaceful, restful time for us.

There are others in our fellowship who have also come down with the virus. I pray for healing and restoration for all of them, Lord.

Your grace is sufficient. May your kingdom come and your will be done, on earth as in heaven.

Who tells you who you are? Who do you listen to? If you are in Christ, God tells you that you are holy, blameless, above reproach, and accepted!

romans_8.1

Grace and peace, friends.

Repentance Begins With Words

Today is Friday, March 8, 2013. I wish you a blessed day today.

Today is International Women’s Day. This was begun in 1911, and is sponsored by the United Nations. The focus is on working women and advancing women’s rights in the workforce, politics, and society at large. I’m all for that. Have been for as long as I can remember. In fact, I once took a quiz that told me at the end that I was, in fact, a feminist. 😀


Yesterday was a good day. After struggling with allergies all day on Wednesday, I felt pretty good all day yesterday. The work day went smoothly, and I got pretty much everything accomplished that I needed. And I felt really good, both physically, and emotionally. I can’t really explain this, but I was joking with Stephanie all the way to the gym last night, and had a really good workout on the elliptical, compared with Wednesday night’s workout, where I could barely pedal the thing. Is that what you do with an elliptical? Pedal? I don’t know…it’s not exactly running, but it sort of is, because you’re standing up, but there are these large “pedal” like things…oh, well…doesn’t really matter, does it? Anyway, it was a good day. Christi and I started watching the Tuesday night episode of American Idol, but didn’t get it finished. So, at this point, we still don’t know who the top 10 are. We will find out who America voted through either tonight or tomorrow.

Weight wise, I am .2 pound away from my lightest weight in over three years (which I hit in late September of last year, before I slacked off and gained about 20 pounds back through the holidays). Unfortunately, I have a weekend coming up. Then I have my birthday coming up next week, with a loooooong weekend (three days of vacation). This is going to take some extra discipline, along with the determination to enjoy myself as well. I’m not sure how that’s going to work out, but, as they say, “It is what it is.” 😀


(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)
On this date in 1265, Simon de Montfort “gathered together in Westminster Hall some peers of the land, a sprinkling of bishops, two knights from each shire and two to four ‘good and loyal men’ from each city and borough.” For the first time ever, ordinary citizens met together to “discuss the government and to give opinions regarding the laws they were to live under.” (This all happened after Montfort led a rebellion against Henry III.) This event is considered by historians to be the first parliament, and the beginning of what is, today, the House of Commons.


Today’s birthday is…I can’t pick just one today, sorry. The reason being, we have Mickey Dolenz in 1945, Randy Meisner in 1946, and Michael Allsup in 1947. Plus there is Alan Hale, Jr. back in 1921. Dolenz, for you youngsters out there, was one of The Monkees…the drummer. With the hair. Here’s a clip of him getting all emotional at Davy Jones’s memorial (I confess…I got a little emotional, too).

Meisner is a bass player and was a founding member of Poco and Eagles. (It is not “The” Eagles…never has been. It is simply “Eagles.”) Here is a clip of him singing “Take It To the Limit.

Finally, Michael Allsup is a guitarist and best known for his work with Three Dog Night. As far as I know, he is still touring with two of the three “dogs.” Here is a live clip of “Easy To Be Hard,” from 1969. The video, of course, focuses on Chuck (who was both Christi’s and my favorite), but Michael is over there playing the guitar.

And Alan Hale, Jr., of course, was the “Skipper” on Gilligan’s Island. He passed away back in 1990.


Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. Psalm 98:1
Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight. Psalm 119:76-77
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Psalm 108:3-4

I will sing to you, this day, my Father, and let my mouth declare a new song to you. You have, indeed, done marvelous things, and I will praise you with all of my being. By your mercy and grace, show me your face today, that I may live. I will take delight in whatever you will teach me today.


Today’s reading from In Touch magazine (Hah! You thought I was going to say A Year With God, didn’t you?) focuses on Matthew 7:9-11, which says, Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! The point is, God is worthy of our trust. He loves us unconditionally, because his very nature is love. In fact, it could be said (and is said) that he IS love. “God knows everything about you, including the unseemly details, and loves you just the same. That alone is good reason to feel perfectly safe with Him.”


Today, I’m reading Isaiah 30:27-28.

27 Behold, the name of the LORD comes from afar, burning with his anger, and in thick rising smoke; his lips are full of fury, and his tongue is like a devouring fire;
28 his breath is like an overflowing stream that reaches up to the neck; to sift the nations with the sieve of destruction, and to place on the jaws of the peoples a bridle that leads astray.

It is believed that this passage is describing the anger of the Lord as he comes against the Assyrian army.


Today’s reading from A Year With God is called “Sincere Repentance.” The scripture reading is Hosea 14:1-2.

1 Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.
2 Take with you words and return to the LORD; say to him, “Take away all iniquity; accept what is good, and we will pay with bulls the vows of our lips.

(The phrase, “pay with bulls the vows of our lips” may also be translated, “offer the fruit of our lips.”)

Repentance is, of course, an action, it is doing something. However, it often begins with words. Yet, it seems that sometimes that for which we need repentance sometimes keeps us from finding the right words. Notice that, in this passage, the command to bring words is immediately followed by the provision of those words. “The divine grace that responds to our confession of sin is already at work in eliciting it.” These words, the “fruit of our lips,” are all that we need to confess and receive our forgiveness. We have nothing more to offer than our repentance; animal sacrifice is no longer required. And God’s grace provides us with the words that we need. “Take time today to respond to God’s grace with a sincere confession of your heart.”


Father, I praise you that you provide words for confession and repentance when our hearts cannot find them. Sometimes the sin that so easily besets us is also that which prevents us from coming up with the right words to begin the process of confession and repentance. Your grace, by the power of the Holy Spirit, helps us along in that. Where would I be today, were it not for this grace? I would still be lost and entrenched in my sin. I would be alone, so very alone. But, thanks be to God, I am not alone! And I am growing in you, on a daily basis, thanks to your grace and mercy! I love the way you gently bring me along, a little bit further each day, sometimes showing me the most marvelous things, and other times gently reminding me of things that you have already taught me. I keep praying back to you the verse that you brought to my heart so many years ago, Teach me your ways, that I may walk in your truth. Unite my heart to fear your name. And you are honoring that prayer! Show me, each day, where I sin and fall short of your glory, that I may confess and exercise true repentance. Even that repentance is granted me by you!

I lift up this Friday, this last work day of this week. May it be a pleasant day today, full of you. I pray for Christi, that she might keep feeling better each day, and that her work day would be stress-free today. Grant that she would find favor among those who have authority over her. I pray for my work day, and hope for good news today. I lift up Stephanie to you, asking that you would draw her closer to you during this day. Give us a pleasant, restful weekend, and prepare our hearts to serve you this Sunday morning.


True repentance begins with words of confession. We can trust God to give us those words.

Grace and peace, friends.