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“The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”
This is one of my favorite chapters of the Bible. As I have gotten older, and my relationship with God has also grown in years, find myself more and more frustrated with the sin in my life. I truly cannot understand how I can know so positively what is best for me, and still choose something other than the best when it comes time for action. How can I know with everything in me that starting my day spending time with God is the absolute best way to begin, yet I wake up and sometimes pick up my phone, or get started on my to do list? How can I know that the best way to nurture a relationship is to love sacrificially, yet I choose to carry on with my own agenda and not make time for or share myself with those I want to love better? How can I be so appreciative and enamored by Jesus selfless gift to me, yet look out for myself instead of selflessly loving like He does? I cannot express the comfort of knowing that one of the superheroes of the Bible writes about my exact frustration with not doing what I want to do, and doing what I don’t want to do. I’m not happy that someone else was failing as miserably as I am, it is just comforting to know that the struggle is real no matter what your level of faith is.
I wish I understood the theology behind these verses in Romans. I don’t understand it enough to settle the truth in my own mind let alone articulate that truth here to anyone else, but I am simple enough to look at verse 24 and know that I am the way I am whether I understand myself fully or not. I can also see from verse 25 that God knows how I am and why I am this way. I think part of the explanation may be as simple as the fact that I am human. I was born with a sin nature and as long as I am on this earth I will have that sin nature as part of my makeup. God knows that I am a slave to sin and has provided a way out of my life dominated by death and sin. Jesus buying me back out of my death sentence with His perfect life is the only hope and help I have. I’m with Paul in vs 25…Thank God!!!
I’m thinking back to Holly’s post on Sat morning and the Frances Chan clip she included in her post. Frances illustrated so beautifully what a small portion of our lives are spent here on earth. The frustration with the sin in our lives is short lived compared with the perfection and eternity of heaven. We are limited in our understanding of “life” because we use our experience here on earth as our measure. God’s timeline and experience is so different because He knows so much more than we do. God also speaks through Paul in chapter 8 of Romans to explain more to us about the new mind He gives us after we accept His gift of salvation. He gifts us part of Him, the Holy Spirit, to help us. Rom 8:9 says that, “We are not controlled by our sinful natures. We are controlled by the Spirit.” I have to stay in tight relationship to God to hear and sense the Spirit’s nudges. When I start to think I can manage my own life, I move God from His rightful spot in my heart, and I move the Spirit’s voice far enough away from me that I can’t hear it. I can’t steal any more of Chet’s writing material for tomorrow from Rom 8, but the relationship between the sin nature and the Spirit’s control are covered beautifully in Chapter 8, and I couldn’t end today in the frustration of our sin nature without some help and hope from Chapter 8. I’m sorry Chet!
Romans 3 is a reminder of the amazing gift of life given to us through Christ on the cross. Through our own actions, no matter how hard we try to be “good” and live as Christians, we are reminded that ALL of us are sinners. Without the blood of Christ – the gift given freely for all – heaven and eternal life would be unattainable.
My kids love to point out my flaws. I’ve never been so aware of how many mistakes I make (big, small or otherwise) as I am with four sets of eyeballs on me holding me accountable at all times. The mistakes can range from being incorrect about what time a certain restaurant closes to how closely I follow the speed limit. I realize that I am constantly in the wrong, whether intentional or not, and even over (seemingly) very insignificant things. The good in this though is that I am able to humble myself to my children and, swallowing my pride, admit to them that I am not always right, or that I do not always do the right thing. I am able to set an example for them in admitting fault. I am also then reminded about how many ways there are to fall short. Failing to remember, being wrong, getting angry, breaking the laws of our land (even if only by a few mph). If becoming perfect like God was in our own hands we would all be condemned. Be thankful for God’s willingness to fill the gap with the blood of Christ.
Sometimes I wonder what my life would look like if God gave me everything I asked for. Would I turn out like Bruce Nolan in Bruce Almighty, or maybe like the character of Kevin Lomax in The Devil’s Advocate? I fear that we have all developed our theology from those movies. Today, thankfully, we get to put Hollywood behind us and look to the Bible. Through the life of Paul, we see what real character and integrity look like in the face of adversity.
Unlike Paul, we continually misdiagnose our failures and shortcomings. These often result in empty and hollow feelings, despite our best efforts. When they persist, we turn to God. We pray for success. Sometimes, we demand success. We want more money. Better relationships, influence prestige, and power; “God’s blessing.” These, however, are the trappings of worldly success. They are not what God wants for, or from us. I like the way that Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel illustrate this in their book Beloved Dust. They explain that “we want to believe we can fix our own lives and we want to believe that learning the right technique will save us. At the heart of idolatries such as these is the desire to have a different god from the God who has given himself to us in Christ Jesus. It is taking the deep and evil desires of our heart to make ourselves the center of existence, and generating an idea of a god we can serve – a god who will be impressed with us, a god who is on our side, and, maybe most importantly, a god we can control.”
Paul takes the opposite of my position. His is worship. Incredibly, this is Paul’s only response to his circumstances. In fact, he boasts about it. Now, I might boast about my weakness in order to gain sympathy or even help from someone else. Not Paul. He boasts not for any gain of his own, but only so that the name of God can be known to exclaim God’s revelation that “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
It is time for me to get on with the business of worship for all things in my life. This life of worship begins with the understanding that my weaknesses, my failures, my shortcomings, adversities, and brokenness that God is looking for. In fact, all of these have been overcome through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Because of His strength, I can do all things. (Philippians 4:3)
- Families fighting through government red tape to adopt a child.
- Missionaries overseas who lose their funding unexpectedly.
- A new college grad, eager and ready to serve but cannot find a job.
- Parents everywhere who question their decisions and if they’re messing up their children!
Whatever ministry God has called you to, know that you are not alone in doubts, setbacks, feeling crushed from every side. (verse 9). I love the encouragement Don’t Dig Up in Doubt What You Planted in Faith.
The primary reason for a fitness run yesterday morning was more emotional and spiritual than physical. I was seeking peace and calm, and wanted to be away from various distractions in order to focus on writing this post.
During this 45 minute exercise event, the following were observed:
- The remnants of a likely stolen purse dumped in the woods.
- A pile of litter from an apparent party in the woods.
- A motorcyclist speeding (illegal), passing a bus on the right (illegal), in a no passing zone in a heavily populated/tourist area (illegal, selfish, and just plain stupid). The craziest thing is the motorcyclist was angry with the driver of the bus and was sounding his horn shaking his fist at the bus driver!
- A young woman without hair who was likely undergoing treatment for cancer.
While returning from the run with a different mindset, it wasn’t what was expected. Angry over the observed crimes and sorrow over the woman with cancer, the realization was that we live in a world full of sin and brokenness. Sin that harms ourselves and others and separates us from our creator. Brokenness from disease that brings death to the body.
In truth, I was and am no different than the criminals. I am a sinner in need of a savior. There was some hate that came into my heart, and I confess… something inside me was hoping the motorcyclist would crash. Lord, forgive me.
Today’s reading in 1 Corinthians 15 mentions the various forms of “death” (die, death, dead) twenty-four times. Death is imminent and no one can argue this, and that is why we need Jesus. He defeated death and through this we can have life eternal.
One theme that has helped guide my journey is “dying to self”. For me this means making the choice to resist temptation and “die” to the sinful desires that put “me” as priority verses God’s will.
I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! (1 Corinthians 15:31)
Like Jesus died for us, we must die every day to our selfish desires. Such as:
- One more serving of food at the party when I’m already full. Die to self.
- One more drink of alcohol when I’ve already had enough. Die to self.
- Judging others when I too am a sinner. Die to self.
- Wanting something new when what I have seems old. Die to self.
- Trying to hold on to the things of this world while knowing our real treasure is in Heaven. Die to self.
Imperfect but forgiven, grateful today for the many who have pointed me to (and keep pointing me to) Jesus including my mom, dad, my sisters (Katie and Marne), Amy, BJ, Rick, Heather, Mike, Duane, Robbie as well as our entire Bible Journal team, past and present.
Today’s Reading: 1 Corinthians 13
Love is a binding agent – (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
After 22 years of marriage, I had decided to start cooking. It’s not that I was completely incapable before, but I never really wanted to spend my time on meal planning/preparation. It was also common for me to substitute for ingredients that I didn’t have on hand, so very few things I fixed ever tasted like they were supposed to. (And we usually spent our dinnertime trying to figure out what I’d messed up and/or why it didn’t work). Turkey sandwiches, salads and cereal had to be my go-to meals because you can’t really mess those things up!
One of the things I’ve learned on my cooking journey is the need for a binding agent. Have you ever forgotten the eggs in a batch of cookies? They turn into a runny mess. You must have something to hold all the ingredients together. While you can’t really taste the binder, the recipe simply doesn’t work without it.
Take a look at the first three verses of 1 Corinthians 13, do you notice that before he “defines” love Paul describes it as a binding agent? Spiritual gifts and good works are useless without love. It holds everything together, nothing works without it.
Love is selfless – (1 Corinthians 13:4-6)
True love is completely selfless. It is directed at others, not ourselves, all the time. This is hard to wrap our brains around because true love is so rare in our society. Because of sin, humans are inherently selfish beings. In fact, it is impossible for us to be completely selfless and truly love others without God’s help to put others ahead of ourselves.
Love is 100% effective – (1 Corinthians 13:7-8)
In my job, I regularly provide my staff feedback on their written and verbal communication because effective communications are most often how we gain buy-in from our leaders and business partners. What we say has to be said/written in a way our audience can easily understand and it has to be completely accurate. One of my guiding principles is to avoid using the words ever, never, any and always. Why? Because very few things in business are 100%, there is almost always an exception to the rule. (Do you remember I’ve spent a lot of my professional career in Audit?).
Do you notice how Paul describes love in verses 7 and 8? The New International Version translates it as always, always, always, always and never. When it comes to genuine love, my guiding principle isn’t correct. One-hundred percent of the time, true love protects, trust, hopes and perseveres. It never fails.
Love is the greatest of all human qualities – (1 Corinthians 13:13)
In verse 13, Paul says three things will endure – faith, hope, and love. He then says love is the greatest of the three. Why? Back to the concept of a binding agent, without love nothing else holds together. My Life Application Study Bible describes it this way – Faith is the foundation and content of God’s message; hope is the attitude and focus; love is the action.
Think about this – you can know everything there is to know about what it takes to run a marathon. You can have all the right equipment, have followed a training plan perfectly, and have perfect conditions (which look like a completely flat course, cool temperatures and no wind in my mind). BUT, if you don’t take action and actually show up and run the race, it is all for nothing. The same is true with love. We can know everything there is to know about God’s word and have perfect conditions to follow it, but until we put it into action and start loving others, it is all for nothing.
Love is a game changer. 1 John tells us God is love. Not God has love or God loves, but God IS love. It is his very nature. People should be able to tell we are Christfollowers because they see us genuinely loving others.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love… Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us (1 John 4:7, 11-12).
What if the first text you receive today says:
“Jesus will return today at 8:43pm”.
What would your next step be? Would you still get up and get ready for the day? Would you go to work? Throw that load of laundry in? Take the kids to swim lessons? Watch the news? Who would you call? Are you panicked or relieved? Would you drop everything and stare at the sky waiting? Is Jesus a friend you can’t wait to see or is there fear at his coming?
Or worse yet, what if the text read:
“Jesus came back yesterday. Why are you still here?”
In 2 Thessalonians 2 the people were confused about the second coming of Jesus. Some thought that due to the harsh persecution of Christ followers, Jesus second coming was imminent. Others thought the second coming had already occurred. They were fearful. Paul needed to clarify the things that would happen prior to Jesus return to get the people back on track. He encouraged them not to be fooled by what others were saying but to remember what he had told them. He was honest and reminded them that there will be great evil in the world but God would prevail. God’s plan is not to strike fear in His people about His return but to bring hope.
This brings a little perspective into my daily living. Suddenly the things that vie for my attention are no longer that important in light of Christs return. Do I really believe that Jesus is coming back? How does my life reflect that I believe this? Currently my life is busy with work, kids, baseball, basketball, laundry, and lots of time in the car. My prayers are typically requests to help me get through a busy day, energy for the evening after a day at work, or just a good night sleep. Not much “eternal perspective”. I think a great evil in my world is busyness to the degree that I don’t consider my eternity or Jesus return very often. This chapter has been a good reminder that this is worthy of my time and thought. Especially to share with my kids. God has given me these moments with kids, baseball, basketball, and laundry to find the eternal. In each of these “things” there is heart and a moment – a divine appointment by God.
We do not have to fear the second coming of Jesus when we have accepted Him as our Lord and Savior. We look forward to it with great anticipation. Especially when we practice having an eternal perspective. And we have the Bible – the written Word of God to redirect us when we get confused and start listening to the world.
Romans 10:9-10 “For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the scripture tells us, “Anyone who believes in him will not be disappointed”.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever. So comfort and encourage each other with these words. ”
This could happen tomorrow or it could be in 1000 years. Matthew 24:36 says, “However, no one knows the day or the hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the father knows.”
May you have an eternal perspective today and share it with someone else. Jesus is coming back!!
Today’s Readings: 1 Thessalonians 3 and 4
Its difficult to think about death and when our end is to come. I would honestly say, I take my life for granite most days. Selfishly, I have three children under the age of eight and would love to see them grow up to be both wonderful men and women of God. I just celebrated our 10 year anniversary and would love to have at least 50 more. But, I realize that I’m not the one who will decide that. God will! I recently attended a funeral for my late Uncle Rob Voltz, which was a reminder of the brevity of our lives. I haven’t attended very many funerals, they are hard to attend. Since putting my faith in God, I tend to reflect and wonder about any opportunities I could of had to share how much I cared for them and the promises God had made for those who believe. I remind myself of Psalm 90:12 which says Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Even now as the rest of my family is in bed, I think about the lost opportunities today to share Christ in actions, words, and love.
Uncle Robs card showed him hitting a golf ball into a beautiful sunset. It said,
“Lord, when my last putt has dropped into the cup and the light of my last day has faded, may I be able to turn in to You, a scorecard to show I did my Best.
This quote reminds me of one of my favorite verses written by Paul in 2 Timothy 7 where he knew his life was coming to an end as he sat in prison. He said, ” I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”
How will you finish the race? How will you turn in the scorecard showing your best?
1 Thessalonians 3 and 4 share wisdom from Paul earlier in his ministry that tells the Thessalonians and us as believers how we should prepare for His coming. And, even though we don’t know the precise moment when Jesus will return we know that our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. Romans 13:11.
A few reminders from Paul in preparation for this day are;
- Keep the faith – that we will face trials in this life still our endurance comes from our hope in the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 1:3 That we pray for any area that is lacking faith. verse 3:10 Read more in 1 Peter 4:12-19
- Live in order to please God – God’s will sanctified – verse 4:1-3.
- Live in a way that controls your own body and is Holy and Honorable. verse 4:4-7. Read more in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20.
- Lead a quiet life – not stirring up conflict, living peacefully in the midst of trials.
- Be sanctified by God. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 Let the Holy Spirit lead your life. Allow him to change you from the inside out.
Dear Awesome Father, We love you. May our lives reflect the truth even in the face of difficulties. That in our day to day interactions with our family, friends, and strangers we model a fearless faith-filled attitude that pours out love to theirs. That in our moments where we are lacking in faith you lift us up. Lord, as we wait and prepare for your coming gives us courage to share with others your promises and how you have changed our lives; and as you call us one by one God, we can be sanctified awaiting to be in your presence. Amen
Today’s Reading Acts 17
The Book of Acts is the periodical record of the apostles that chronicles the various journeys and adventures that they encountered. In this particular adventure Paul and Silas were traveling through several cities and territories that in are someway common and foreign to the travelers. The principle cities were Thessalonica and Athens. These two cities were very different from each other. We are familiar with both either from biblical or historical significance.
We are familiar with Thessalonica from the books of the bible. This is the city that Paul has written to on two separate accounts to the Church established there. The purpose of the letters were to assure and clarify for the early Christians that the second coming of the Messiah will happen, but there is not a particular set time and they must continue their faith journey in the midst of persecution and unrest in the city. In Chapter 17, the expectation of the travelers was that the people of Thessalonica would be open and receptive to the news of the gospel from their strong Jewish heritage and open and eager to advance their knowledge of Scripture and the fulfillment of the Scriptures. This however was the complete contrast at what happened. The Jewish people and the city officials began to persecute the travelers. They not only forced them from their city, but when they became aware of the continued travels of Paul and Silas they continued to pursue the group. The theme of similar people persecuting each other is continued even after Christ has come into the world.
The second place that is mention is Chapter 17 is Athens. This is one of the epicenters of higher and intellectual thoughts in the ancient world. Many of the known philosophers and thinkers that created logical understandings are found here: Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle’s. This is the capital of Ancient Greece. This city is founded on the belief that the goddess Athena created the city. This is a city that has several gods and goddesses that rule them and they worship. Even in the chapter Paul refers to one of these
Acts 17:22-25 “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,[c] 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.
To this city and people, Paul was hesitant and somewhat cautious to this unknown. This is a city whose existence is based on strong theology and dogma. This is an area that would create some anxiety to the unprepared, but Paul was prepared and courageous in his pursuit of proclaiming the gospel in the face of complete persecution, until death. In this city Paul not only create a new church, but was pursed to continue to give more information about the risen Christ.
It is interesting that the known is sometimes the place we would receive so much opposition, and the unknown is the place that God allows us to grow and flourish in proclaiming his goodness and grace.
Thank you for allowing us to be bold and courageous in all that we do in your name. Thank you for the protection in the places that are unknown and known. Allow us to listen to the Holy Spirit for guidance in the midst of friend and foe. And thank you for the guidance to stand firm in our beliefs no matter the circumstances: for sometimes were blessed by foes and cursed by friends. Thank you for your provision and protection. Amen
Let me be the first to admit that when I have a cold or any annoying ailment, I am not so fun to be around. I get caught up in the sickness and it becomes my focus. And that is just with the common virus that we all fight throughout the year. Now, step it up a notch and give me a sickness that requires me to see a Doctor and I get all wrapped up in myself! This is a battle that I have always fought. A small illness afflicted me just this week and I was amazed when I began reading this chapter and heard about a man name Ephaphroditus and how he served the Lord with joy even through his sickness. My daughter can attest, I was not serving the Lord with joy when I was feeling ill.
Today we are reading Philippians chapter 2. The main theme of this chapter is finding joy in serving Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to express his gratitude and affection for the Philippian church, his strongest supporters in his ministry. Paul drafted this letter during his two years of house arrest in Rome.
Paul had established the church in Philippi approximately 10 years prior, during his second missionary journey recorded in Acts 16. His tender love for the believers in Philippi is apparent in this writing.
Today, as we focus on Chapter 2, I want to look at a man named Epaphroditus. He is only mentioned 2x in the Bible, first in chapter 2 verse 25 and then again in chapter 4 verse 18. The church at Philippi had sent gifts to Paul while he was in chains. These gifts were faithfully delivered by Epaphroditus. He was a leader in the Philippian church who ended up assisting Paul with his ministry in Rome. At some point while serving with Paul, he became dangerously sick and nearly died. After his recovery, Paul sent Epaphroditus back to Philippi carrying with him his letter he wrote to the Philippian church.
This is part of what Paul wrote:
“Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need. I am sending him because he has been longing to see you, and he was very distressed that you heard he was ill. And he certainly was ill; in fact, he almost died. But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have one sorrow after another. So I am all the more anxious to send him back to you, for I know you will be glad to see him, and then I will not be so worried about you. Welcome him in the Lord’s love and with great joy, and give him the honor that people like him deserve. For he risked his life for the work of Christ, and he was at the point of death while doing for me what you couldn’t do from far away.” (Philippians 2:25–30 NLT).
To the Philippians, Epaphroditus was a messenger who delivered a package. To Paul, however, he was so much more.
He was a “brother” belonging to the same family.
He was a “co-worker” laboring toward the same goal.
He was a “fellow soldier” sharing the same trials.
Epaphroditus was a man of obvious devotion, faithfulness, and self-sacrifice. He put the interest of others before himself and in doing this he modeled the mind of Christ.
“Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” (2:4-5)
Epaphroditus took no thought of himself. Rather, he was distressed because his church had heard of his illness, and he did not want them to worry.
There is such a lesson for me in the life of Epaphroditus. We all will face sickness, some of us to varying degrees. But the demonstration that he showed even when experiencing such a severe illness is a model for us all. He gave himself for the sake of God’s kingdom and many people benefited. Even when we are facing hardship with our health (to any degree) we need to keep our focus on serving the Lord with joy and remeber this man as our example.