The Sovereignty of God

Good morning. It is Tuesday (post-Monday), February 17, 2015. Only three more days until pitchers and catchers report! 48 more days until Opening Day! Also, today is what is known as “Fat Tuesday.” Which makes tomorrow “Ash Wednesday.” Easter will be on April 5, this year.

Today’s word of the day is week. I know what you’re thinking. Well, maybe I don’t. But this “week” has nothing to do with seven days. It is defined as, “Representing a short high-pitched sound, esp. as made by a pig. Freq. reduplicated.” If you think about it, it works, doesn’t it? “Week! Week! Week!,” said the pig.

Today is Random Acts of Kindness Day. I think you know what to do.

So what did I do on my day off? I went to have lunch with Christi (and our insurance agent/financial advisor), I bought Kristy Kreme doughnuts on the way home, as well as drinks from Sonic, I practiced the trombone, I played baseball on the Xbox, watched a silly movie, and then cooked dinner. It was a nice day. Christi and I watched the premier of The Slap, last night. I think it came on last Thursday. We won’t be continuing this series. It’s too uncomfortable in several ways. And it looks like it will continue to be more so. After that, we watched The Mentalist. Sadly, there is only one more episode of that show left. Next Wednesday will be the series finale.

Today, it’s back to work, and then I have Huddle tonight. Today is also, as mentioned above, “Fat Tuesday.” The culmination of Mardi Gras. Traditionally, the idea is to indulge in as much sinful activity as possible on this day, because “Ash Wednesday” is tomorrow, which signifies the beginning of Lent, the period of fasting that is to occur before Easter. Mardi Gras (along with Carnival in other countries) has just become the world’s biggest party, and my guess is that a large percentage of the people who participate have no clue what the meaning is. They’re just along for the party. Personally, I believe the whole idea is ludicrous, and shows a deep misunderstanding of what the Gospel is all about. And since I’m not Catholic, I don’t really observe any of it, anyway. I don’t “give up” anything for Lent, either. The whole idea of gorging yourself on Tuesday and then giving something up for the next forty days, well, it kind of baffles me. It’s like pigging out the day before you know you’re going to fast. It defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?


. . . when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.
Psalm 17:15b

(FromSolid Joys)

But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace,
Galatians 1:15

Today’s reading is “The Sweet Designs of God.”

“Ponder the conversion of Paul, the sovereignty of Christ, and what Paul’s sins have to do with your salvation.”

Note that Paul says that God set him apart before he was born (see the verse from Galatians, quoted above). Then, when Saul was on the Damascus road, God called him, “by his grace.” So, between Paul’s birth and his Damascus road experience, he was an “already-chosen but not-yet-called instrument of God.” This also means, and pay attention to this, that “Paul was beating and imprisoning and murdering Christians as a God-chosen, soon-to-be-made-Christian missionary.” We need to think about that for a little bit.

“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?'”
Acts 22:6-7

This was the moment. Paul was chosen before he was born, and now, God was taking him. “The word of Christ was sovereign. There was no negotiating.”

And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’
Acts 22:10

This is important. “Damascus was not Paul’s final, free will yielding to Christ after decades of futile divine effort to save him. God had a time for choosing him (before he was born) and a time for calling him (on the Damascus road). Paul yielded when God called.”

And here is something that is even more astounding. In fact, I know some people who would run away screaming at this point. “Therefore, the sins that God permitted between Paul’s birth and his calling were part of the plan, since God could have done Damascus sooner.” What?? Could sin actually be a part of God’s plan??? God is sovereign. If God is sovereign, there are no accidents.

What do the sins of Paul mean for you and me? Consider them. Paul, as Saul, murdered dozens of Christians. He was on hand, giving his approval when the religious leaders stoned Stephen to death. He persecuted Jesus Christ by killing his followers. These sins “were permitted for you and me — for all who fear that they might have sinned themselves out of grace.” Here is what Paul says about them:

Formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy . . . for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
1 Timothy 1:13, 16

“O how sweet are the designs of God in the sovereign salvation of hardened sinners!”

O, Father, I praise you for your sovereignty! I believe that you also chose me before I was born, and, at the appointed time, you called me. My life is very different from Paul’s, and many sins have threatened my relationship with you since the time you called me. However, since you are sovereign, and no man can snatch me out of the hands of my Savior, here I still am, trying my hardest to love you, follow Christ, and share the kingdom. I am so grateful for your sovereign grace! I thank you that you have placed me where I am, right now, unexpectedly leading an intercessory prayer ministry. I pray for your Spirit to help me understand, to teach me more and more about prayer and what it accomplishes. And I thank you for the example of Paul, not that I can feel better about my sin (I never murdered anyone, you know), but so that I can see the marvelous expanse of your wonderful grace!

I pray for this day. May our trip to work and home be safe. I pray for Christi’s work day, that it will be productive, and without stress or anxiety. I pray for my work day, that I will not be too far behind after being off yesterday. I pray for Stephanie, that you would show your great love to her, and that you would give her understanding. I pray for you to show her future to her (and to us, as well).

Your grace is amazing, Father!

God is sovereign. His grace is amazing. You cannot sin your way out of God’s grace. If he has chosen you, he will (if he has not already) call you. We may not all be “Paul,” but God has a plan for us, and he will work that plan!

Grace and peace, friends.

He Is God and I Am Not

“Jesus makes no effort to exonerate God from the scandal of suffering, to bail him out, to rationalize or minimize the presence of tragedy in his world. He surrenders without reservation to the infinite wisdom and awesome majesty of God.”~~Brennan Manning

Good morning. It is Thursday, August 21, 2014.

Today is Poet’s Day. There a number of poets in the WordPress blogosphere, so I wish them all happy Poet’s Day! I’m not going to try to tag them all, because I’ll forget someone. But if I make it over to their blogs today, I will make sure and wish them a happy Poet’s Day “in person.”

I worked late again last night, and still had a bit of work left on my cart. Hopefully, we can all pitch in and get it done before the 24 hour window is up, this morning.

Apparently, I have been challenged in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, or whatever it’s called. I’ll have to try and get that done after work today.

I picked up Stephanie’s new laptop at Best Buy on the way home from work yesterday. She really loves it. She may have the best one in the house, now, and it was the cheapest one, too. If you catch them at the right time, some of those “open box” deals at Best Buy are excellent!


Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
Psalm 86:11

(From The Divine Hours)

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Psalm 51:15-17
Hide not your face from your servant; . . . make haste to answer me. Draw near to my soul, redeem me;
Psalm 69:17-18
But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Psalm 88:13
Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Selah.
Our God is a God of salvation, and to GOD, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.

Psalm 68:19-20
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

Psalm 62:5-7

The Gloria
Glory be to God the Father,
God the Son,
and God the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning,
so it is now and so it shall ever be,
world without end.

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.
Romans 2:1
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
James 4:11-12

Today’s Gospel reading

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:1-3

We really begin to get into the meat of the words of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel at this point, so I’m going to go a little slower through this part. Today’s reading begins the well-known section we call “The Beatitudes.” Jesus begins by pointing out that those who know their deep spiritual need already own the Kingdom of Heaven. As any evangelist knows, it is very difficult to get someone to accept the teachings of the Gospel when they have no perception of their spiritual need. Those of us who are aware of our spiritual poverty are more likely to depend on God alone for everything, because we know we have nothing in and of ourselves.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “No Apologies.”

My heart’s desire is to share Jesus’s “intimate experience of God as Father.” One of the meanings of that word “father” in Scripture is “lord and ruler, full control and authority.” We see Jesus acknowledging this aspect of God his Father. He never tries to defend or justify God when it comes to tragedies that occurred. “Jesus makes no effort to exonerate God from the scandal of suffering, to bail him out, to rationalize or minimize the presence of tragedy in his world. He surrenders without reservation to the infinite wisdom and awesome majesty of God.”

This reminds me of a favorite verse in the Psalms. Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. (Psalm 115:3) This is the answer to the cop-out question that so many unbelievers ask. You know the one: “If God is loving and merciful, why is there so much suffering in the world.” We need not try to answer that question with any deep theological meanderings. If Jesus didn’t try to defend his Father in that area, who are we to attempt to rationalize an answer that the Bible doesn’t give? (One of my pet peeves is when pastors and preachers make up answers to difficult questions, instead of admitting that they just don’t know.) From now on, if anyone asks me that question, I will shrug my shoulders and quote Psalm 115:3 to them. God is sovereign. I don’t understand everything that he does or allows. He is God and I’m not.

And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.
And they shall dwell secure,
for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.

Micah 5:4

Father, I pray that we will stop trying make excuses for the things that you do and allow in our world. Yes, there is suffering, but we can’t know why, so we need not make up reasons. You are sovereign, and I accept whatever you allow or do in my world. Yes, there might be times when I do throw my hands up and cry out, “WHY??” to you. But, in truth, I expect no answer, because you most certainly do not owe me an answer to anything! May your Spirit constantly remind me of this, as I walk through my days. May you help us to simply accept these things and, when other people ask us questions that would tempt us to make excuses for your actions, may we just throw back your word to them, telling them that you are in heaven, and you do whatever you please. You are our creator. We all belong to you, whether we acknowledge this or not. You are sovereign.

I pray for this day. I pray that you would grace us with safe travel to and from work. I pray for Christi’s last few days at this job to go well. I also pray that we will be able to get all our work caught up this morning. I pray that Stephanie will have a good day, and that you will draw her closer to your heart and show her your unfailing love.

May your sovereignty reign in my heart today!

May we all remember the words of Psalm 115:3 today.

Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.


Grace and peace, friends.

Keeping My Mind On “Much More”

It’s FRIDAY!!!! Woot! Friday morning, January 27, 2012. 38 degrees out, this morning. High of 69 today. The ten day forecast shows pretty mild weather. February starts next week, and that’s when we usually get our “winter” in the DFW area.

I don’t have much to talk about today…life is pretty “normal” around here (normal, of course, is relative…our normal would likely be insanity for some of you). We’ll be back at 24 Hour Fitness tonight, chugging away on the recumbent bikes and treadmills. All together, we’ve lost a total of 24 pounds in two weeks! How cool is THAT??

Some mornings, I just don’t feel like doing this. But I carry on, anyway. Hopefully, God will show me something really cool today.

My Utmost For His Highest

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” Matthew 6:25

The KJV says, “…take no thought for your life…” in this verse. “Do not be anxious.” Don’t worry about it. “A warning which needs to be reiterated is that the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things entering in, will choke all that God puts in.” This is not something that we “grow out of,” as people say. This is a danger that will pursue us all of our days, for our enemy is relentless. If it’s not clothes and food we worry about, it will be something else…money or the lack thereof; friends or lack of friends; difficult circumstances; unemployment (which kind of relates to the lack of money). There is a veritable plethora of things that threaten to choke out God in our lives.

The Lord would have us be concerned about one thing, and one thing only. That is our relationship with him. Common sense, as we call it, would scream out that absurdity of this notion. Why, we have to consider how we are going to live!! We must worry about what we will eat or drink! Jesus says differently. “Well, Jesus just doesn’t understand my circumstances!” Ah, but he knows them better than we do, “and He says we must not think about these things so as to make them the one concern of our life.” And then this: “Whenever there is competition, be sure that you put your relationship to God first.” “The stuff of earth competes for the allegiance I owe only to the giver of all good things.” (Rich Mullins)

Just like yesterday, Chambers refers to the “much more.” “Keep your mind on the ‘much more’ of your heavenly Father.”

Tabletalk Magazine

Are you not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? … You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong” (Habakkuk 1:12-13)

What Habakkuk was objecting to in his writing was the fact that God was about to use the wicked nation of Babylon to bring judgment upon Israel. “Why would a holy God use wicked men to chastise His people?” God did not attempt to justify himself to Habakkuk, nor did he need to. God owes no one any explanation. Ever. He is God. He does what he pleases. (Psalm 115:3) What God did, however, was remind Habakkuk of this fact: But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him. (Habakkuk 2:20) God’s intent is never the same as the intent of evil men. See Genesis 50:19-20 for proof of that.

We know from Scripture that God is holy and cannot look on sin. We are reminded of this in the passage quoted above. Habakkuk’s statement does not mean that God is blind to sin. Rather it means he cannot tolerate it. We, on the other hand, “are fallen, impure people (Ps. 14:2-3) who are so tolerant of sin that we believe a proclivity to do what is wrong is essential to humanity.” (I had to look up “proclivity.” It means “tendency.” Why not just say “tendency?”) On of our favorite “proverbs” is, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.” This implies that God must forgive all people, whether they repent or not.

“Mercy that is obligated, however, is not mercy at all.” We call God sovereign, which means that he has the right to have mercy “on whom He will have mercy (Rom. 9:15).” “Grace and forgiveness are not dispensed indiscriminately to all men but only to those the Lord has chosen for salvation.” And it is incorrect to state that sin is essential to being human. It does invade every fiber of our being, but this is because of Adam. It was not part of our original creation, in the image of God. Sin is real. Sin is serious. We are finite. That is essential humanity. Jesus was essentially human. In his human form, he was finite. But he was also sinless. In him, our sin is forgiven. It is washed away. And that is why God, who cannot tolerate sin, can look upon us who have sinned.

The Bible Panorama

Matthew 18:1-20; Exodus 16-18

Jesus begins chapter 18 with an illustration, saying that anyone who wishes to follow him must “Come” to him as a little child (1-5). He then speaks of the “Condemnation” (6-9) that will fall on anyone who causes such a child to sin. Jesus teaches strict self-control in this passage. He stresses the Father’s “Caring” over all of his “little ones,” (10-14) even to the point that the one lost one is more important, for a time, than the 99 who are safe. In the context of sin and temptation, he speaks of “Confrontation” (15-20) that should occur if a brother sins against us. There is a process outlined. We should follow this process, and if our brother is not reconciled, he is to be “as a Gentile and a tax collector.” The popular verse 20, For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them, is often taken out of context. The passage is about discipline.

Exodus 16 sees the Israelites “Moaning” (1-3) against Moses because they’re hungry, and they liked the food they had in Egypt. God hears them and provides them with “Miraculous” food (4-5), bread from heaven. They are given instructions to gather daily and twice as much on the day preceding the Sabbath. They are not to try to store any, except for the Sabbath. This bread from heaven provides them with “Meals” (6-18).” However, some disobey and try to gather more than they need, attempting to store it up. This results in “Maggots” (19-20), as the food spoils. It is also stated that the sun would get hot, “Melting” the bread (21). The “Memorial” of the Sabbath is kept, as they gathered double on the sixth day (22-30). The bread was called “Manna” (31-36) which meant “what is it?” A jar of manna was to be kept as a memorial to God’s faithfulness. I wonder whatever happened to that jar?

In chapter 17, we see “Insubordination” (1-3) as the people begin, once again, to grumble. This time, it is because there is no water. The Lord gives Moses “Instruction” to strike a rock, causing water to flow from it (4-7). As Amalek comes out to fight against Israel, we see “Intercession” (8-15) as Moses holds out his arms before the Lord during the fighting. When his arms were held up, they were winning. When he got tired and they drooped, they were losing. So Aaron and Hur stood on either side of him and held his arms up. This strongly emphasizes the need for us to engage in prayer for our leaders, holding them up before the Lord. Moses builds an altar, calling it “The Lord Is My Banner” (YHWH Nissi).

Chapter 18 begins with “Dealings” between Moses and Jethro, his father-in-law (1-8). Moses is hospitable, welcoming Jethro and his family. Moses’s wife and sons are also with him. Moses takes the time to tell Jethro everything God has done for them. Jethro shows great “Delight” in what Moses tells him (9-12). He thanks God and brings sacrifices to the Lord. In modern terms, we might say he was “converted.” Moses deals with “Disputes” among the Israelites, acting as judge (13-16). He is busy from morning until evening. Jethro observes this and suggests “Delegation,” (17-26) saying that Moses should select reliable men from among the Israelites to help him. Moses humbly accepts this idea. Afterward, we see “Departure” (27), as Jethro leaves. “He has come to know God and has contributed towards the fashioning of a legal system, which remains in principle throughout the world today.”

Father, I thank you for the rich blessings you have given me and my family. I pray that the Holy Spirit will fill me, helping me keep you and my relationship with you at the top of my priorities. Let me keep you above the “stuff of earth” that competes for my allegiance. Let the things of this world not choke out what you have given me. Let my joy remain full in you. Let my relationship to you be first.

I pray that you would help me recognize the seriousness of sin. It’s strangely wonderful to me that this reading came on the heels of a discussion at our lifehouse last night. We discussed at length the fact that the modern Church does not seem to take sin seriously. We seem to have the same attitude that is mentioned in the Tabletalk reading, that sin is just something we do, and that’s okay. But, Lord, it is most definitely NOT okay! We must take it seriously, because you have told us that you take it seriously. You cannot tolerate sin, or look upon it. It is only because of the blood of Christ that you can look at us at all! Otherwise, we would be covered with sin! I praise you that Christ has washed away all my sin, past present and future. But this is not an excuse for me to sin more! I pray for a mind and spirit that recognizes the seriousness of sin and that I will be faithful to confess my sin to you and my sinfulness to my brothers and sisters.

Let us all be more like children in our relationship to you, Lord. May we look to you as our Father on a daily basis. And I pray that I would never be one that would cause another to stumble.

Forgive me when I grumble in dissatisfaction, Lord. May I always be satisfied with the provision that you give me.

I pray for this day. May Christi and I both have a good workday on this Friday. Keep us faithful to exercise our bodies this weekend, and continue to grant us success in our efforts to lose weight. we want to glorify you with our bodies, Lord.

I pray for my friend, Andy, in California. He may be getting a job playing piano at a church. I pray that this comes through for him and will be the kind of boost that he needs to change his circumstances for the better. Show your grace mightily in his life, Lord.

Your grace is sufficient.

May we all be successful in combating the “stuff of earth” today.

Grace and peace, friends.


It’s Wednesday morning, January 18, 2012. It’s brrrrrr 28 degrees out right now, but should make it to around 56 this afternoon. Looks like I’ll be wearing “The Coat” today.

Let me update on yesterday’s prayer request. The young lady’s husband died in his sleep Sunday night. She woke up and he didn’t. This is a tragic situation, and she and her family could use a lot of prayer right now. The family, as a whole, are strong Christians, so that helps, but it’s still a dark, sad, time for them.

Stephanie had a good meeting with her teacher yesterday, and has another scheduled for today. The teacher will be out of town for the rest of the week, so they will resume next week.

We went to 24-hr Fitness again last night, making it three days in a row. We’ll be back tonight, and Stephanie will meet her trainer. We bought her three personal training sessions, just to help get her some good direction.

My Utmost For His Highest

Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” John 20:28

It’s almost like today’s reading is split into two topics. First, Chambers makes a good point that, too often, we are intent on having Jesus satisfy our thirst (which is not, in and of itself, a bad thing) instead of us satisfying him. And it’s true, sometimes. I’ve run into a lot of people who are more concerned with what they can get out of Jesus than what they can give him. Being a witness for Christ means “a life of unsullied, uncompromising and unbridled devotion to the Lord Jesus, a satisfaction to Him wherever He places us.”

Suddenly, Chambers turns a corner. “Beware of anything that competes with loyalty to Jesus Christ.” I love this quote. “Beware of anything that competes with loyalty to Jesus Christ.” What, do you think, might be the greatest competitor? Many would say money, pride, sex, drugs, television, materialism, etc. Nay, says Chambers. “The greatest competitor of devotion to Jesus is service for Him.” WHAT??? Yes, and I love this thought, because I have also seen this to be true. I have been part of churches that worried more about “doing” than they did worshiping. “We have to be BUSY!! We have to be DOING SOMETHING!!” But the doing is the joy that we fulfill because of our devotion to Christ! “The one aim of the call of God is the satisfaction of God, not a call to do something for Him.” And how is God satisfied? John Piper, I believe, said it best in Desiring God. “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” I know…the quote says “glorified” not “satisfied.” But I believe that God is “satisfied” to be “glorified.”

I suddenly remember an old hymn that we sang when I was a child. (Some of you youngsters may not remember “hymns.” They came in a “book.” Remember “books?”) It’s called “Satisfied With Jesus,” and was written by B.B. McKinney, copyright 1926. It was number 436 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal. Yes. I still have a copy of that hymnal. Anyway…the first verse goes:
I am satisfied with Jesus,
He has done so much for me:
He has suffered to redeem me,
He has died to set me free.

But then there is a twist in the “refrain:”
I am satisfied, I am satisfied,
I am satisfied with Jesus,
But the question comes to me,
As I think of Calvary,
Is my Master satisfied with me?

A question we would all do well to ponder.

Tabletalk Magazine

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. John 3:5

“Understanding the depth of our sin and misery is the first step to understanding the sovereignty of God in salvation. If the intentions of our hearts are wicked from our youth (Gen. 8:21), if we possess corrupt natures from the moment we come into existence in our mothers’ wombs (Ps. 51:5), and if we enter the world dead in our ‘trespasses and sins’ (Eph. 1:1-3), then we need the Lord to act upon us and in us if we are to escape this condition. Being wholly disinclined to obey our Creator, there is no reason why we would submit to His way of salvation in Christ Jesus.” Friends, this last quote is why I’m a Calvinist. It’s why I believe in the “Doctrines of Grace.” If I am to be saved, if I am to be a participant in the new birth, God must take the initiative. In fact, I’m really not much of a participant at all.
We know that believing in Jesus is a good thing, but I can do no good thing until my “God-hating” nature is removed. And no one can remove that but God. In need a new disposition before I can love the Lord. I need regeneration, “and regeneration must precede faith if we are to have faith at all.” This is important. I’m quoting more than usual because I can’t say it better. “We are not given new hearts after we believe; rather, we believe because the Spirit takes the first step and gives us new hearts.”
This concept of being “born again by the Spirit of God” is in the Scripture passage above, and is echoed in Q&A 8 of the Heidelberg Catechism. The question is “Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness?” The answer is “Indeed we are; except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.” The Spirit must do the “sovereign, regenerating work” of opening our blind eyes and then give us the willingness to turn from our sin and follow Christ. “Regeneration precedes faith, and to say otherwise is to rob God of His sovereign glory in salvation.”

The Bible Panorama

Matthew 12:22-50; Genesis 43-45

As we continue in Matthew 12, we see a miracle of Jesus being attributed to “Satan” (22-32). Jesus identifies their accusation as blasphemy, an unforgivable sin. AS he continues speaking about the Pharisees, he talks about “Speech” (33-37) and states that we will be held accountable for every word we say. That’s rather frightening, isn’t it? The words of our mouth indicate the true nature of our heart. That is also frightening. The Pharisees then dig their hole a little deeper by asking for “Signs” (38-42). They reject Jesus, who manifests God in the flesh, but ask for signs. Jesus tells them that the only sign they are getting is the sign of Jonah, who spent three days and nights in the belly of a large fish, which was a foreshadowing, which Jesus now points out, of his time in the grave. Jesus then speaks about “Spirits” (43-45) indicating that, without the operation of God’s grace, things will only get worse. Finally, people are “Surprised” (46-50) when Jesus declares that people who do the will of His Father are more “family” than his blood brothers and mother.

Genesis 43–The saga of Joseph and his brothers continues. But first, there is “Delay” (1-5), as Jacob and family have run out of food again. The brothers refuse to go back to Egypt without Benjamin. There is a great “Debate” (6-10) between them and Jacob. Finally, Jacob makes a difficult “Decision” (11-14) and reluctantly agrees to send Benjamin. They take double the money with them and some gifts from their land. When the return, there are “Doubts” (15-23) concerning the money that was returned on the first trip. These are put to rest by Joseph’s steward. Then there is “Drama” (24-34) as Joseph prepares for them a huge feast. He seats them in birth order and gives Benjamin five times as much food as the others. When they first meet him, and he sees Benjamin, he cannot restrain himself. He has to leave the room to weep.

Genesis 44–Joseph continues his charade, however, with “Joseph’s Plan” (1-15). He loads them up with food, puts their money back in their sacks again, but this time, puts his personal silver cup in Benjamin’s sack. He then sends the steward to overtake them and accuse them of stealing. When the cup is found in Benjamin’s bag, the other brothers tore their clothes in dismay. They are returned to the city, where “Judah’s Panic” (16-17) ensues. Joseph demands that only the one who was found with the cup stay as his servant. This leads to “Judah’s Plea” (18-34) Judah begs and pleads, coming full circle from his involvement in the conspiracy against Joseph in the first place. Judah explains that, if they return without Benjamin, Jacob will die from grief.

Genesis 45–This chapter begins with “Loud Weeping” (1-2). It is, in fact, so loud that Pharaoh’s house even heard it. Joseph sends everyone but his brothers from the room as he makes himself known to them. I love verse 3. But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. I actually giggled out loud when I read that verse. But Joseph is giving them a “Loving Welcome” (3-15). He feels no animosity toward them at all. How could he? Look at the life he’s had! But he points out God’s sovereignty in the whole thing. He promises them great prosperity if they will all come to Egypt to live there with him. “Loaded Wagons” (16-28) are sent back to Canaan, to retrieve Jacob and all of their goods. Jacob is overwhelmed at the news that, after all these years, Joseph is still alive, and he will be able to travel to meet him before he dies. This brought tears to my eyes.

Father, I praise you for your sovereignty in our lives! I know that, if not for your great hand in my life, I never would have followed Christ. I know that my faith is a gift from you, and that without that gift, I would not have believed, for you must act before I could ever do anything of any value. I pray that you will be satisfied with my life, Lord. It is my desire to glorify you in all that I do. I know that I fail in this endeavor; I fail frequently. But I always get up and continue walking, drawing ever closer to you. May my life be pleasing to you, and may I continue to seek to satisfy you. I pray that I will also be satisfied in you. Let nothing compete with my loyalty to you, and may any service that I do be out of joy for my relationship with you. I pray that the service will never become the end in itself. The end is you. The end is to satisfy you. The end is to glorify you. The service is but an expression of my joy.

Stories such as the one about Joseph give me great confidence in your sovereignty. To see how your plan was worked from the beginning, gives me comfort when trials come in our life. We know that you are working all things out for our good, because we know we love you, and we know that we are called according to your purpose! I pray for the eventual end to these trials, when we will see you face to face and know that everything that happened to us on this earth had a divine purpose. I pray that I will be faithful to that purpose.

I pray for this day, Lord. I pray that Christi’s day will be smooth and stress-free. I pray that I will have a good day, also. I pray for Stephanie’s meeting with her teacher today.

I continue to pray for Lauren, her family, and her husband’s family in the aftermath of this tragedy. It is difficult to find you, sometimes, especially in times like this. But I pray that their faith will hold fast, and that they will find your face in this, and that they will find comfort in you.

Your grace is sufficient.

Are you satisfied with Jesus? Is he satisfied with you?

Grace and peace, friends.

I’m making an addition to my blog today. I forgot to request prayer…the grandson of one the guys that drives for us is having surgery this morning. Please pray for it to go well.

“Behold, I am the Servant of the Lord…”

Good morning. I think it’s…yes…it’s Wednesday, December 21, 2011. It’s 32 degrees outside this morning. But it’s clear. Could be some showers tonight, but warmer in the morning, as we welcome in Winter. Tomorrow, the first day of Winter, it will be 62 degrees. Heh. I just looked at the five-day forecast. There is actually a possibility of some rain/snow showers on Christmas Eve. But Christmas Day is supposed to be around 55 for a high, and only 32 that morning.

Not much else to report around here, so I’ll go ahead and just straight into my devotion for the day. I just updated Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit, should you be inclined to check it out…

Today’s Bible readings:
Revelation 12; Esther 7-10; Luke 1:26-38

Revelation 12 is somewhat perplexing, I’ll admit. There is a “woman,” giving birth to a male child, and being chased by a “dragon.” No one knows for sure who the woman represents. It’s doubtful that it she is a single person, such as Mary, the mother of Jesus. But she could represent Israel, out of whom came salvation for all of us, or she could represent the Church, or some kind of conglomeration of all of those. The dragon is said to be Satan. There is war depicted in heaven, as Michael and the angels battle against Satan and his angels. Satan is defeated and thrown out of heaven, down to the earth, where, in his frustration, knowing that he has a short time left, he wages war against “the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” (v. 17)

The conclusion of the story of Esther is a classic case of “what goes around comes around.” At the beginning of chapter 7, Esther calls out Haman for his plan to destroy her people. I can almost envision Haman’s face as she points him out, right in front of the king! The king storms out in anger, only to return to find Haman groveling all over Esther and her couch. And the king said, “Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?” As the word left the mouth of the king, they covered Haman’s face. (7:8 ) Haman was hanged on the very gallows he had built for Mordecai. Mordecai was eventually brought before the king, and made virtually second in command to the king, himself. The Jews were saved and had vengeance on those who sought to do them harm.

The book of Esther is a magnificent display of the sovereign hand of God. Even though never specifically mentioned in the book, it is clear that God’s hand was at work in the events described.

The Luke passage for today is the appearance of the angel to Mary.
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
Luk 1:31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “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. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

This is one of my favorite passages regarding the birth of Jesus. Even more, I think, than the magnificent appearance of the angel choir in the night sky over the shepherds. Mary’s response is truly amazing. If only we could all have such innocent faith.

Father, as I ponder the angel’s message to Mary and her response, I am shamed by my own skepticism. It’s not skepticism in that I don’t believe you. But yet, my faith is weak. I’ve always said that I have no problem believing what you can do. My problem is whether I believe you will do it. Nevertheless, you have brought me far this year. I believe that I trust you more now than I did at the beginning of 2011. It has been a year fraught with struggle and pain. But we have prevailed. And we could not have prevailed without you as our fortress. I praise you, Father, for your hand has brought us through. I praise you, because you are our fortress and our stronghold. And, as I look forward to 2012, I believe that I am closer to saying the words of Mary as she said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

I pray for this day, Lord. Let it be another good day for Christi and for me. I pray for Stephanie’s day at home, that she may find some way to be productively occupied.

I pray that my friend Andy was able to find shelter last night.

I pray for Melinda as she is entering the last weeks of pregnancy. I pray that the remaining time will be good and that they will welcome this new baby girl, with everyone being healthy. Thank you, Father, for this miracle.

Let this coming weekend be full of peace and joy for everyone, Lord.

Let us be as Mary. May we surrender completely to the Lord’s will for our lives.

Grace and peace, friends.

Deep and Wide

It’s Monday morning, and it sure seems like it’s been a long time since I’ve been to work. But this is a new week, and I guess I’m ready to tackle it. Stephanie goes back to school this morning, too, so we will be praying for a successful school week. The weekend went pretty well, so we are hoping for some good days.

Today’s Bible readings:
Ephesians 3; Nahum 3; Proverbs 16:1-8

In Ephesians 3, Paul begins by stating that he has been appointed to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, and that the Gentiles are “fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (v. 6) He also encourages them not to lose heart over his current situation, which is that he is in prison for preaching that very gospel.
His prayer for the Christians in Ephesus pack some power. First, in verse 16, he asks that they be strengthened with power through his Spirit in their inner being. In verse 17, he prays that Christ would dwell in their hearts, and that they would be rooted and grounded in love, so that, in verses 18-19, they may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. So Paul has just prayed that the readers of his letter will know something that “surpasses knowledge!” What Paul is trying to point out here is how much we are loved by God through Christ. He prays that we would know the breadth, length, depth, and height of his love! When I was a child, growing up in church, we had this little song we would sing:
Deep and wide,
deep and wide,
There’s a fountain flowing deep and wide…

We would would do these hand movements along with the words. Back a few years ago, someone kind of updated the song.

You see, his love is deeper, higher, wider, and longer than we could ever imagine. Think of the deepest place you can imagine. The Mariana Trench. God’s love is deeper than that. I’m not going to try to find an example for each adjective (although it’s convenient that Mt. Everest is also in the picture of the Mariana Trench…). You should get the point.
Now Paul gives his “benediction” to this prayer in chapter 3. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (vv. 20-21) He goes back to our imagination here…God is able to do “far more abundantly” than anything we could even imagine! If you think of the biggest thing you would like God to do for you, he can do more. But the key is that, in verse 21, it is for his glory. Everything God does is for his own glory.

There are several Proverbs that caught my attention this morning. Verse 2: All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit. Most of us have honorable intentions when we do things. But God looks down into the deepest part of our being to weight the spirit.
Verse 3: Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established. If we make sure that whatever we do, we are doing for his glory, God will honor our work. But see verse 2. There may be times when we think we are doing something for God’s glory, but deep in our hearts, we are still only trying to advance our own name.
Verse 4: The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble. This one’s pretty heavy. It speaks volumes about the sovereignty of God. Remember what Jesus said about Judas; “It would be better for this man if he had never been born.” He was made for his purpose.
Verse 7: When a man’s ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. This also speaks volumes. If our ways are pleasing to God, even those who might be considered our enemies will be at peace with us. Have you ever known someone who could get along with almost anybody? And it wasn’t just because they compromised their values to try to make everyone happy. Their convictions were strong and firm. But it seems the almost everyone had respect for them.
The book, Discovering the Bible, makes a point about verse 3. Just saying a quick prayer of “Lord, bless our plans” is not what this verse is talking about. And I have to say, I’ve been part of churches where that is exactly what happened. The leaders would try to come up with some kind of clever “marketing scheme” to get people in the doors of the church, and then pray for God to bless their plans. Instead, they should have prayed diligently to see what God was already doing in their midst and made their plans line up with that. God doesn’t need our marketing ideas. This is a pet peeve of mine. There is absolutely nothing that human beings can do to make God more attractive! He is infinitely beautiful! So anything that that we try to do to “market” him will not succeed. Oh, it may have appearances of being successful, and you may get hundreds or even thousands of people in your “church.” But I promise you, that is not the measure of success.

In today’s reading in Grace For the Moment, Max Lucado brings a perspective to the part of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 that I have never considered. He observes a kind of progression in the message. “Observe the sequence. First, we recognize we are in need (we’re poor in spirit). Next, we repent of our self-sufficiency (we mourn). We quit calling the shots and surrender control to God (we’re meek). So grateful are we for his presence that we yearn for more of him (we hunger and thirst). As we grow closer to him, we become more like him. We forgive others (we’re merciful). We change our outlook (we’re pure in heart). We love others (we’re peace-makers). We endure injustice (we’re persecuted).” Even though I think this is a tad on the simplistic side, it offers a view of the Sermon that I had never considered before. I’ll have to ponder this a bit.

Father, I pray, along with Paul, that we would be able to know how deep, high, long, and wide your love is! I pray that we would be able to know that which is, for all practical purposes, unknowable. Let us be constantly aware of how much you love us, and the fact that you can do more for us than we could imagine; beyond our wildest dreams!
I pray that I would commit my plans to you every day. Let me be more attuned to what you are doing in and around my life. Let me be more knowledgeable of what really matters in this life, Lord. I pray that I would be able to live out the truth of Matthew 6:33, which says, But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Let my ways be pleasing to you, Lord, that all would be at peace with me.
I pray that the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount would be real in my life. Let your words live in my spirit and become alive in my life.

I pray for this day, Lord. I pray diligently that Stephanie would have a good day at school today. I pray that her anxiety level would be minimal. I also pray that Christi would have a good day and a good week this week. Let my day at work go well, also.

I pray for my Aunt Peace, whom I have heard is not in good health. Let your hand be on her this morning.

The love of God…we cannot begin to imagine the scope of it. But still, we must embrace it.

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.