Clap and Cheer

It’s Saturday afternoon, and all is well, pretty much. I made it through the colonoscopy yesterday morning, and they said everything looked fine. They removed one very small polyp, and will do a biopsy on it just because it’s procedure. The doctor told Christi that there was zero percent reason to worry about it. The whole experience was much less unpleasant than I was expecting. I don’t really want to run out and do it again tomorrow, though. Right after the procedure, we went home, picked up Stephanie, and went straight to the Bosses Pizza buffet. Heh. I was hungry.
As is our custom, we went to the middle school where The Exchange meets and helped with the set up this morning. After that, we went straight to Kroger for the grocery shopping, grabbed some lunch, and came home. And now I’m sitting down for my Bible reading, which, on Saturday only, is an afternoon devotional.
I cannot adequately express my gratitude for all of your prayers and positive thoughts that were sent forth on my behalf yesterday. “Thank you” just doesn’t seem enough. But it’s all I have, so thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Today’s Bible readings:
Ephesians 2:1-10; Isaiah 66; Proverbs 15:18-25

Let me just say, right off the bat, that I LOVE Ephesians 2. I mean, sure, I love the whole Bible. Okay…I’ll confess…there are some parts in Leviticus that I’m not crazy about, okay? But tell the truth: Aren’t there parts of the Bible that you like better than other parts? No? Liar.
The first words of Ephesians 2 are very important. And you were dead in the trespasses and sins… (v. 1) Did you get that? DEAD! I’ve heard various explanations of salvation that went something like this. You’re drowning out in the water and someone throws you a life-saver. (One of those round, floaty things…not a piece of candy.) That life-saver is JESUS, and all you have to do is GRAB ON TO IT!! I submit to you that that analogy of salvation is “dead” wrong. Read the verse again. You were DEAD! Not drowning. Dead. A dead man can NOT grab on to a life-saver. He must be made alive before he can do anything.
Two of the most beautiful words in the entire Bible are contained in verse 4 of Ephesians 2. BUT GOD! If it were not for “But God,” we would still be dead! Because why? Because look what he did in verse 5! God “made us alive!” Remember that part where we were dead? God MADE US ALIVE!! He made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. And then come two of almost every Christian’s favorite verses. Ephesians 2:8-9. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. There are so many sermons packed into those two verses. You’re lucky I’m not a preacher. But we are saved by GRACE, through FAITH! It is very important to notice the next statement. It is not by our own doing, but by the gift of God. Which? The grace or the faith? YES!! The grace is a gift of God, and the faith to believe in that grace is a gift from God. None of it is of our own doing so that we cannot claim any part in it whatsoever.
So why did God do this? Verse 10 sheds a little light on that. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. One of the reasons is so that we can walk in the good works that have been prepared for us beforehand.
I realize that not everyone believes as I do, about predestination. But I believe that it is clear from Paul’s writings in Ephesians that all of this was planned out before the foundations of the world. I was chosen in Christ to believe in Christ, I was made alive by God, and the “good works” that I am supposed to walk in were planned and prepared long before I was here.

Sola Scriptura
Sola Christus
Sola Gratia
Sola Fide
Soli Deo Gloria

In Isaiah 66, God declares who it is he will favor. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. (v. 2) The final judgment of the Lord is described in verses 15-16. “For behold, the LORD will come in fire, and his chariots like the whirlwind, to render his anger in fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire will the LORD enter into judgment, and by his sword, with all flesh; and those slain by the LORD shall be many. Verse 24 seems to be a symbolic description of the eternal punishment of those who did not believe in Christ.

The weekend reading in “Tabletalk Magazine” is about solitude. Many of us are wondering what that is any more. The author of the article, Donald S. Whitney, writes of a time long gone, in the 1900s, when his grandparents were married. Solitude was pretty much a way of life for them. If they wanted any music, news, or other entertainment, they had to go to town or to church. Fast forward a hundred years. (Well, not quite…) In 2011, it is almost impossible to find solitude. Yet, it is important to us, if for no other reason than to find time to commune with our heavenly Father. “Scriptural solitude is the biblical practice of temporarily withdrawing to privacy for spiritual purposes. Generally is is sought in order to engage in other spiritual disciplines without some of the distractions typically experienced by the presence of people.”
Jesus gave us a good example of the practice of solitude. In Matthew 4: 1-11, we read that he was alone in the wilderness for forty days before what was probably the second most intense period of his life, the temptations. In Matthew 14:23, we read this: And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone… In Mark 1:35, we get this: And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And in Luke 4:42, this: And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. Jesus needed times of solitude to commune with the Father. How much more do we, who are not perfect, need the same? God knows each of us by name and he relates to each one of us one to one.
Do we delight in, or take pleasure in, times alone with God? I can say, with no hesitation, that I do. That’s what these times are for me. However, I sometimes allow myself to be distracted, even in my “solitude.” For, even though there might not be any human beings in the room with me, in case you didn’t notice, I’m typing these words on a computer, into an internet browser. And guess what? Right next to the tab where my “WordPress” is open, there’s a tab open with my email open. Sometimes, there’s another tab with Facebook open. Not today, but sometimes. A few minutes ago, I had a tab open with the Red Sox/Evil Empire game. I closed that one. Talk about distractions!!! They will win or lose without me, and this time “alone” with God is much more important than any Red Sox game.

Yes. I just said that. And I meant it. Folks, I love baseball. And I love the Boston Red Sox. But if my identity is wrapped up in either one of those things more so than in Jesus Christ, I have seriously missed the mark!! I must have my priorities straight. So I have to minimize any distractions, whether human or otherwise, because I do delight in spending time alone with my heavenly Father. What do I do during those times of solitude? I pray; I read Scripture; I meditate on Scripture; I worship. “Withdrawing from the presence of all but God affords an excellent occasion for focused thinking about gospel truths and realities, to freshly apply the gospel to our souls again, and to reflect on the blessings and hopes that are ours through the gospel.”

In today’s reading in Grace For the Moment, Max Lucado says, “Get Over Yourself.” He writes of how a touchdown is a team effort. The person who caught the ball and ran into the end zone did not do it alone. “Get over yourself,” he says. He writes of an elementary school boy who came home excited one day to jubilantly tell his mother that he got a part in the school play. “I’ve been chosen to sit in the audience and clap and cheer.” When we get an opportunity to “clap and cheer,” do we take it? Or are we upset because we didn’t get the lead role? Does our head fit our hat size? At one point in my life, I was a worship leader. I like to think that I still am. However, right now, my role is to “clap and cheer.” And help set up on Saturday mornings. There may come a day when my God chooses to allow me to lead again. But for now, I joyfully accept my role in his service.

Father, I am grateful that I have any role at all in your service. I thank you that I am still able to “clap and cheer.” I praise you that I have been chosen and saved by grace. My God, I cannot say enough words of thanks to tell you how grateful I am that you chose to make me alive when I was dead in trespasses and sins! You made me alive and you saved me by grace. I pray that I will, in turn, be faithful to walk in the good works that you prepared for me beforehand. Not so that I can repay you! Perish the thought! I could NEVER repay you! Just so that I can be faithful to you, and to show the world what you can do in a person’s life.
I pray that, by your Spirit, I can be better at these times of solitude; better at eliminating all distractions, even those wrought by cyber-space. Help me to use the time wisely in reading your words, thinking about what you said, praying over them, and worshiping you. Let me be one that will will look upon, according to Isaiah 66; one who is humble and contrite in spirit and who trembles at your word.

I thank you that everything went smoothly yesterday, Father. I thank you for the many who said prayers for me during yesterday’s procedures. They are very precious to me. I thank you that everything seemed to be normal, and I pray that the biopsy on the polyp will also show that.

I pray for the rest of this day, Father, that we will have an enjoyable and restful evening. And I pray for the worship celebration tomorrow morning at church. Open our ears that we may hear what you have to say to us through our pastor. I pray that you will use him in a mighty way tomorrow morning.

I pray that Stephanie will have a successful day at school Monday, and a successful week.

Whatever the Lord has given you to do, do it with all your might.

Grace and peace, friends.


Sheep Or Goats?

And suddenly, it’s Thursday! I like these weeks with only four work days! Sure, the work on those four days is sometimes more intense, but it’s Thursday!! That means tomorrow is Friday! I like that.
I was all “orange” when I left work yesterday. I don’t like that. I think I let my frustration get the better of me. I won’t go into what happened, that’s not really relevant. It’s just another one of those times when I need to let grace win the day, and I failed to do that. So I have work to do.

Matthew 25:31-46 contains the famous “sheep and goats” parable. This is a very intense depiction of the final judgment. There is really no doubt that that is the scenario.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
For anyone who believe that Christians will not go through the “final judgment,” I believe that we have proof here that we will. We will all have to give an account for our lives at this time. “The regenerate, who as servants of Christ have learned to love righteousness and desire the glory of heaven, will be acknowledged, and on the basis of Christ’s merit on their behalf they will be awarded the righteousness they seek.” (Reformation Study Bible) For us, who currently live on the earth, there is a great test of our status here. If we claim to believe in Jesus, do we line up with his teaching here? For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. (vv. 35-36) In other words, do we show compassion and mercy in our lives?
It is easy to come out of this parable with a “works” theology. We must be careful that we don’t do that. Nevertheless, the truth is given at the end of this passage. There is an eternal punishment. It does exist. No matter how much we might want to spirit it away, it does exist. And, as Matthew 24-25 have shown us, we need to be ready, because we don’t know when all of this is going to occur.

Isaiah 45 is a great example of God’s sovereignty and purpose. In this chapter, he speaks to Cyrus, who was used by God, even though he did not “know” God.
4 For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me.
5 I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me,
6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other.

Note the purpose of God, “that people may know…that there is none besides me.”
We would do well not to resist the Lord’s work, or to strive against him, for he is our creator, and his plan will be fulfilled.
9 “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?
10 Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’ or to a woman, ‘With what are you in labor?'”

At the end of the chapter, he says something similar to Paul’s hymn from Philippians 2.
22 “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.
23 By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’
24 “Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed all who were incensed against him.
25 In the LORD all the offspring of Israel shall be justified and shall glory.”

As it has been said in a popular television show, “Resistance is futile.” Every knee will bow, at some point, whether voluntarily or not. How sweet it will be for those of us who have served him in this life. How horrible it will be for those who did not.

Proverbs 11:17-21 contrasts goodness, kindness, and righteousness, with cruelty, wickedness, and evil. The good, kind, or righteous person benefits himself, gets a sure reward, receives life, is the Lord’s delight, and will be delivered. The cruel, wicked, or evil person hurts himself, earns deceptive wages, receives death, is an abomination to the Lord, and will not go unpunished. There are some practical benefits to righteousness.

Father, I thank you that you have chosen me to be one of yours. I pray that my life will exemplify the qualities listed above; goodness, kindness, and righteousness. I pray that I would show the compassion, mercy, and grace called for in the parable of the sheep and the goats. In other words, I pray that my life would display characteristics that show that I am one of your children.
I acknowledge your sovereignty in this world, Lord. You have the ability to use those who do not know you for your purposes. Let us not strive against you when you have a purpose for us. I pray that I will always be open to following your plan, not resisting it.

I pray for this day, Father, that it would be a good day for all of us. I pray for a good day at school for Stephanie.

I also pray for relief from the areas in Texas that are being ravaged by fire. The worst ones appear to be down by Austin. Lord, please send rain to assist the firefighters. I remember a few years ago when you send snow on California. Your power is unlimited, Father. We pray desperately for these situations. Please bring relief.

i believe our friend Kathy has her rescheduled follow up for her mammogram today. I pray that they find nothing wrong. I also pray that Amy will hear something back from her job interview she had yesterday. Something good, that is…

Sheep and goats. Where do we fit? What do our actions display?

Grace and peace, friends.