The Infinite Value of #Redemption

Another good one from John MacArthur’s Grace to You site. 

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The Infinite Value of Redemption

1 Peter 1:18 and 19, “Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” Two very wonderful verses; a glorious statement about being redeemed.

Redeemed used to be a very popular word in the evangelical vocabulary; I don’t hear it much anymore. It was a part of many, many hymns and gospel songs. There were even songs, many of them, and hymns with the word “redeemed” in the title. Reference was often made to Christ as the Redeemer. Don’t hear that very much anymore, and I think we may have lost an understanding of this most wonderful reality of what it means to be redeemed, and so we’re going to look at that in a little bit. But I want to give you some context.

As Peter writes, he is writing to some believers who are scattered around the Roman world. He describes them in verse 1 as aliens. They are aliens in the sense that they are part of God’s kingdom and so they are aliens in the world. They’re scattered throughout many of the countries and provinces: Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. But they are God’s chosen. They are those who are being sanctified by the work of the Holy Spirit, those who obey Jesus Christ, those who have been sprinkled with His blood, and Peter is addressing this wonderful letter to them.

The circumstances are dire for them. Obviously, they are a first-generation church. No church existed before the Day of Pentecost. Here are these believers in the Gentile world made up of some Jews and Gentiles. They are definitely alienated from the paganism that literally dominates the world, and life has become very difficult for them. I’ll tell you why specifically.

Read the rest here.

The Power of #Weakness

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The Power of Weakness

By Brian Biggers

And He said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you,
for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
—2 Corinthians 12:9

This is one of the greatest mysteries in the Kingdom; that God will never allow His power to rest on human strength or ability, only on human weakness. It goes completely contrary to rational thinking.

All our lives we’ve been taught ‘do your best and God will do the rest’ or ‘God helps those who help themselves’. The reality of Scripture is that He waits until I’m completely hopeless before He steps in and does for me what I can’t do. When in lifeguard training we were taught that when someone was drowning we were to swim to where they were but not to attempt to help them as long as they were still struggling. If you did they would drown both of you. Wait until they had no more energy and were going under, then you can reach in and save them. I don’t need Him to help “me” do anything, since “apart from ME you can do nothing”. A life that will experience the power and presence of God’s Spirit being in me and through me what I could never be begins not with trying to do His will, but by bending my knee in His presence and humbly confessing my total inability to do anything without Him. This is the place in His Divine mystery that His power will meet me in my weakness and I will find that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.

Sunday #Praise and #Worship: The Lion and the Lamb

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One of my favorite songs right now is “The Lion and the Lamb” by Big Daddy Weave. I can’t tell you how often it runs through my mind, and makes me feel JOYFUL and hopeful at the same time. 

As you listen to this song, reflect on our only Hope of Glory. Read through Revelation 5 (below) and exult in our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ, the Lion and the Lamb:

Revelation 5: The Lamb Takes the Scroll

And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals.

2 Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?”

3 And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it.

4 So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it.

5 But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”

6 And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.

7 Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.

8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

9 And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,

10 And have made us kings and priests to our God;

And we shall reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands,

12 saying with a loud voice:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

14 Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.

 
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If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

#Complacent

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Complacent

By Patricia Knight

Each day I traveled to work, I encountered a stretch of residential build-up on a secondary road where the speed limit was reduced from 55 mph to 35 mph. Familiar with the road land marks, I decreased my vehicular speed in preparation for the new speed zone.

One morning a state police vehicle passed by me from the opposite direction. I perceived I was within the posted speed limit, so I ignored his presence, assuming he had business elsewhere. That is, until he negotiated a screeching U-turn! Suddenly I was engulfed with eye-popping blue lights and ear-piercing sirens. The policeman then had my undivided attention.

When the imposing officer appeared at my car window, he was straightforward. “Do you know you were traveling 52 mph in a 35 mph zone?”  He had the proof; I had no excuse. Still I felt obliged to offer a weak explanation: “I drive this route to work every day and I’m usually more compliant with my speed.”  To my surprise, the state policeman gently responded, “It’s easy to act complacent when repeating the same activity frequently.”  Fortunately the officer dismissed me with a warning. Little did he know the impression he made that day, affecting my driving alertness and compliance, as well as my reaction to life in general.

Complacency denotes self-satisfaction that results in false comfort, diminishing an awareness of danger.

Apathy is closely related, expressive of indifference, a lack of feelings, or inaction. The opposite of complacency is passion; zeal rather than indifference. Jesus taught that love knows no boundaries, tantamount to the greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and love your neighbor as well as you do yourself” (Luke 10:27, The Msg.).

Jesus defined our neighbor with a parable: A man was attacked while traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho through rugged, crime-ridden terrain. He was stripped of his clothing, robbed of his possessions, beaten unmercifully, and left for dead. A Levite, a priest, and a Samaritan eventually passed the victim’s way. The first two ignored the assaulted man and intentionally crossed to the opposite side of the road.

Complacency reeks of self-importance and indifference. What could possibly have been so pressing in the lives of the Levite and the priest that neither could conjure up the minimal time and compassion to cover the naked, bleeding man with a garment? It is obvious that neither religious leader cared about his fellow man. The suffering victim’s pitiful condition didn’t tug on their heart-strings. For them it was easier  to turn away and ignore their neighbor with an indifferent attitude, though they would likely claim personal righteousness. Complacency is the greatest hypocrisy.

Historically, Samaritans and Jews exhibited open hostility toward one another. But, it was a Samaritan who ran to the aid of the beaten, robbed man lying beside the road. He bandaged his wounds, and lifted him onto his own donkey for transportation to a local inn. There the Samaritan cared for the assaulted man. The following day, the Samaritan gave sufficient funds to the inn keeper to provide for the man’s future care, assuring the inn keeper he would reimburse any extra expenses incurred when he returned (Luke 10:27-28).

The man who posed the question to Jesus, “ ‘Who is my neighbor’” (Luke 10:29), learned explicitly from Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus’ story highlights a neighbor as one we help when a need is displayed, to whom we may give of our time and treasure, and for whom we are willing to be inconvenienced.

One great danger of complacency is that it gradually overtakes the heart space reserved for kindness and decency. Apathy is so deviously replaced with nonchalance and mediocre responses that it is easy to ignore danger along life’s journey. Complacency bows to subtle changes. The process is so insidious that before we are aware of the changes, we’ve been converted to a curmudgeon who increasingly replaces a once tender, passionate heart with reluctance. What happened to fierce, dynamic faith? It cooled to tepid.

Jesus didn’t call us to follow Him when it is convenient. Our time on earth is brief; we are here on assignment. There is kingdom work to be done, people to help, and the gospel to proclaim. He wants 100% of each of us, with the adoration of our hearts, the zeal of our souls, and the days of our lives. Because Jesus died for us, no sacrifice can be too great for us to make for Him.

What is your response to Jesus when you recognize a paramount need in another person’s life? Do you avoid prayer, assuming Jesus is incapable of surpassing human limitations? “Jesus replied, ‘What is impossible with men is possible with God’” (Luke 18:27). Continual prayer is our most powerful deterrent to apathy, preventing us from slipping into smug self-dependence and self-satisfaction. Acknowledging that God is supreme and capable of the miraculous, dispels indifference. Apathy requires low energy output and provides no positive returns.

There are blue lights of warning surrounding many of our personal scenarios, reminding us to slow down to discern and evaluate. It is never too late to comply to the greatest commandment in which there is no provision for self-serving motives. Complacency and apathy provide only convenient excuses.

Jesus desires to fill our hearts with a deluge of joy. In addition, He clothes us with joy.

You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy
that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O Lord, my God, I will give you thanks forever” (Psalm 30:11-12).

From the riches of heaven’s own wardrobe room, swishing robes of rejoicing define us externally, as Jesus, the source of our praise, engulfs our hearts. Joy is to be the constant dimension of a life of faith, a sovereign characteristic that flows freely from dwelling in God’s presence, a gift that interlocks with God’s everlasting nature. Following His example, let us love our neighbor, reaching out with enthusiasm and joy.

Thankfully, neither complacency nor apathy are permanent states, easily remedied with commitment to spiritual renewal as we discover anew the exhilaration of displaying our Lord’s characteristics. We are transformed by Christ; a holy reconstruction project uniting us with Him that motivates us to ask,

“What can I do to help my neighbor?” 

#Majesty and #Mercy

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  In this manner, therefore, pray:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

—Matthew 6:9-13

Sunday #Praise and #Worship: #REJOICE in His #Salvation

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If you’ve been around my blog for very long, you know that I live every single day with several chronic pain illnesses. For the last month or so, I have been REJOICING with the Lord that my doctors have found a medication that has completely blocked my daily migraines. Yes, you read that right. After too many years of daily debilitating migraines, I am now migraine-free!

I have been repeatedly praising the Lord for this miracle in my life. But I have also been thanking Him for what He has taught me through my migraine saga.

I would never have become as close to Him as I am now if I had not had to cling so tightly to Him and His promises for me.

As a very close friend of mine says, God wastes nothing!

My Savior and Lord Jesus Christ taught me how to be JOYFUL within my circumstances. How is this possible? Because my JOY of the Lord pours out of a thankful heart for the salvation He has granted me through His suffering and death on my behalf. That means I will be praising and glorifying Him forever in heaven!

Ever since I have been migraine-free, I’ve somehow forgotten at times that I am still living with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and I’ve overdone my activities every so often. That means there is payback, so I still have to be very careful about my energy levels. But this doesn’t dampen my JOY at all, and I love sharing my JOYFUL news with you! 

Plead my cause, O Lord, with those who strive with me;
Fight against those who fight against me.
Take hold of shield and buckler,
And stand up for my help.
Also draw out the spear,
And stop those who pursue me.
Say to my soul,
“I am your salvation.”

Let those be put to shame and brought to dishonor
Who seek after my life;
Let those be turned back and brought to confusion
Who plot my hurt.
Let them be like chaff before the wind,
And let the angel of the Lord chase them.
Let their way be dark and slippery,
And let the angel of the Lord pursue them.
For without cause they have hidden their net for me in a pit,
Which they have dug without cause for my life.
Let destruction come upon him unexpectedly,
And let his net that he has hidden catch himself;
Into that very destruction let him fall.

And my soul shall be JOYFUL in the Lord;
It shall REJOICE in His salvation.

—Psalm 35:1-9

The Two Witnesses of #Revelation

Another great Bible study from GraceThruFaith.

The Two Witnesses of Revelation

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

And I will give power to my two witnesses and they will prophesy for 1260 days clothed in sack cloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lamp stands that stand before the Lord of the earth. If anyone tries to harm them fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying and they have the power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want. (Rev 11:3-6).

The Lord has always used the testimony of two witnesses to establish a fact. In the Mosaic law the testimony of two witnesses was required to obtain a conviction (Deut 19:15). Jesus used this law to validate His claim to be the Light of the World (John 8:17). In Revelation 11 the two witnesses validate the Lord’s claim that He (not Satan) is Lord of the Earth. So the principle of two witnesses is firmly established and almost universally accepted among Bible students. Therefore any discussion of the two witnesses of Revelation will sooner or later center on their identity.

What Was Your Name Again?

Several Old and New Testament figures have been suggested as the identities of these two, including Moses, Elijah, Enoch, John and Nathaniel. But if the two witnesses are Biblical figures from the past, the most logical candidates are Moses and Elijah, and here’s why. The supernatural signs used to authenticate the ministry of the two witnesses are the same ones that Moses (plagues, and water into blood) and Elijah (drought and fire) used to authenticate theirs and are decidedly Old Testament in their nature. Moses is known in Judaism as the giver of the Law, while Elijah is considered the greatest of Israel’s Prophets. In fact the Old Testament is often called “the Law and the Prophets”, hinting at the contributions of these two great leaders from Israel’s history. Who better to represent God on Earth during the time when He brings events foretold in “the Law and the Prophets” to their ultimate climax?

Read the rest here.

Marriage: So much more than a partnership

This great article about marriage is reblogged from a wonderful site, Oceans Never Fill.

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MARRIAGE: SO MUCH MORE THAN A PARTNERSHIP

My husband recently matched into a residency program on the other side of the country, far from the area I have considered home the entirety of my short life. The Pacific Northwest, with its mountains kissing ocean, its gloomy rain and gloomier culture, has shaped my childhood and most of my adulthood. The enormity of this move isn’t something we took lightly when my husband applied for residency programs, but when you look at the whole of life: our purpose and what’s truly important, suddenly the comfort of home, familiarity, and even preference, fade in light of the hope of following  God wherever he leads. It’s a bit terrifying as we gaze at this great chasm of eternity that opens up with limitless, unknown possibilities for our future; but simultaneously peaceful as we rest in the knowledge that our eternal future is already secured, and all these moments in between are held in the hand of a good God.

Through the process of applying to residencies I had countless people ask me how I felt about the move; if I wanted to go wherever it was my husband’s career took him; or if I was okay with his specialty choice. It was a weird line of questioning to me. Of course I want to go wherever my husband’s career takes him.

Read the rest here.

Sunday #Praise and #Worship: How Great is Our God

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Today we are worshiping and praising God for His greatness. The song “How Great is Our God” sung by Chris Tomlin is a JOYFUL way for us to thank and praise God for his awesome majesty and power.

1 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised
In the city of our God, in His holy mountain.

2 Beautiful in elevation, the JOY of the whole earth,
Is Mount Zion on the sides of the north,
The city of the great King.

3 God is in her palaces; He is known as her refuge.

4 For behold, the kings assembled,
They passed by together.

5 They saw it, and so they marveled;
They were troubled, they hastened away.

6 Fear took hold of them there,
And pain, as of a woman in birth pangs,

7 As when You break the ships of Tarshish with an east wind.

8 As we have heard, so we have seen
In the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God:
God will establish it forever. Selah

9 We have thought, O God, on Your lovingkindness,
In the midst of Your temple.

10 According to Your name, O God,
So is Your praise to the ends of the earth;
Your right hand is full of righteousness.

11 Let Mount Zion REJOICE,
Let the daughters of Judah be GLAD,
Because of Your judgments.

12 Walk about Zion, and go all around her.
Count her towers;

13 Mark well her bulwarks; consider her palaces;
That you may tell it to the generation following.

14 For this is God,
Our God forever and ever;
He will be our guide
Even to death.

—Psalm 48—

 Please excuse any ads that may appear before the video begins
If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Lamplighters

 Photo credit: The Victorianist

Photo credit: The Victorianist

Lamplighters

By Patricia Knight

Before the innovation of electricity, the local lamplighter was a familiar figure at dusk and dawn. It was his responsibility to illumine and extinguish city lights. Initially, oil or candles were used, eventually progressing to gas lights. Whatever the type of lamp, the citizens gained a modicum of security at night from the predictable illumination of their walkways.

Every night at dusk the lamplighter walked or rode between individual lamp posts spaced throughout city streets. Some lamplighters carried a ladder, while others gained the appropriate height to reach tall lamp posts from the back of a horse. Still others carried long poles with a source of combustion at the tip, providing the length necessary to reach the lamp post. A sole lamplighter extended his staff to ignite each secluded, dark lamp stem with a small flame. Light flooded the space behind the lamplighter as he continued forward to punctuate darkness along his route.

The original source of light penetrating darkness occurred at the creation of the world when God commanded, “ ‘And, let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness he called ‘night.’ And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day” (Genesis 1:3-5).

Exclusively by His power, God led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt. He promised His children He would guide them on their journey to the Promised Land. “You {God} go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night” (Numbers 14:14). Just as God’s pillars of cloud and fire consistently led the Israelites long ago, Jesus provides His guiding light in our world today. As Jesus reflects His light to us, we absorb it and disseminate love to others. Jesus said, “ ‘You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven’” (Matthew 5:14a,16). Jesus fulfilled His mission as the Light of the World when He walked this earth. Now that He has returned to heaven, Jesus commands His followers to continue His light-bearing work.

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We are admonished to “Shine like stars in the universe” (Philippians 2:15b).When we gaze at millions of stars piercing the night sky with dazzling points of light, we are reminded that God views Christians as His own beacons of light piercing a dark world. It is our purpose to bring glory to God by expanding His outreach of light to others.

In the summertime, twittering fireflies shower the night sky with thousands of sparkling lights. In a similar way, Christians radiate Christ’s light in a dark world. If each of us were to introduce one flicker of sovereign light, soon individual flashes would be so numerous, they would coalesce to form a massive glow of love. Kind words, intercessory prayers, or warm smiles convey encouragement, distributing the light of Jesus into all areas.

In the Old Testament, light was symbolic of life and blessing; darkness represented evil and death.  Darkness is projected in the expression of a grumpy, foreboding person, whereas light shines through those who are positive and encouraging.

By New Testament times there was no further need of a symbolic representation of God’s presence like the pillars of cloud or fire. Centuries later, God’s Son, the Light of the World, came to earth to shine His love, power, and grace on His followers. By sacrificially offering His unblemished life to redeem us from sin, Jesus transferred His light to those who believe in Him.

As Jesus’ disciples in current times, God’s glory shines His infinite light through our lives. Like a magnet attracts metal, we are drawn to heavenly light. Those who trust in Jesus depend upon Him to illuminate lives and to light walkways. “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105), without which we would only grope in darkness.

The old lamp lighter left a linear trail of visible light in his path, but we have the ability to perpetuate light in all directions from our hearts. We reflect love and grace from Jesus to those whose vision needs the supplemental light of guidance and mercy. Immersed in Jesus’ light, we are then prepared to minister Christlikeness to others.

Just as the sun supplies the physical light of our world, Jesus embodies spiritual light. “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:5b, 7). The moon has no illumination of its own, reflecting light from the sun.  So too, Christians have no inherent light source. Jesus’ light is reflected in His followers. We are feckless without a personal infusion from the Light of the World, enabling us access to His profuse energy, irrepressible light, and dynamic power.

Light symbolizes the glory and radiance, beauty and love, splendor and majesty of God the Father and God the Son. Light represents the absolute purity and holiness of God, who moves without casting a shadow. His characteristic is light; His light and glory are harmonious. Christ is the lamplighter of our souls. Once His light lavishes our hearts, we are filled to capacity with the inherited qualities of Jesus, spreading the goodness of spiritual light wherever we go. As we identify with Jesus, we appropriate His attributes of love, kindness, and humility.

“It started when God said, ’Light up the darkness!’ and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful” (2 Corinthians 4:6, The Msg). Through the love and enthusiasm we share, people we meet breathe in the exquisite fragrance of the Savior. Like a perfect flower blossom in form and fragrance, our spiritual transparency allows the Light of the World to shine through, illuminating the darkness of this world one small light beam at a time. Let us make heavenly light distribution our high priority.

“In Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, He brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on their way to salvation—an aroma redolent with life” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15a, The Msg.).