Blog Archive

Monday, August 31, 2009

Spiritual Gifts


"What you are is God's gift to you.
What you make of yourself is your gift to God."
~ Vern McLellan

Who do you think you are to question God? Does the clay have the right to ask the potter why he shaped it the way he did?
~ Romans 9:20 (CEV)

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant ... There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.
~ 1 Corinthians 12:1,4-6 (NKJV)

Among the gifts (manifestations) of the Holy Spirit mentioned in the Bible are prophecy, service / ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership / administration, mercy, the word of wisdom or knowledge, faith, healings, working of miracles, discerning of spirits, different kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues.

God also gives human skills and attributes to complement spiritual gifts. A recent discussion on What I Learned Today examined which of these we might choose for ourselves, given the opportunity. While we can ask for specific spiritual gifts, attributes, and skills, the Lord is the One to choose what we are given. We choose not what we receive, but how and why we use it.

If motivated by pride, we can waste our gifts by using them to build up ourselves. If motivated by love for Christ and love for others—the more excellent way—we will use what we've been given to glorify God and build up people, especially those within His Body of believers.

That's what Building His Body is about. I pray I am faithful to that calling with all I am and all I've been given.

Father in Heaven, You are generous beyond all reason with us. Your grace lends to our use Your life and strength of Spirit, and these are more than enough. With all else You put in our hands, however fleetingly, we can never repay the debt of love we owe You. We ask for Your empowerment so we can nonetheless try.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Sacrifice of Worship

"Worship changes people;
we become like whatever it is we worship."
~ Wes Harty

For in the time of trouble He shall hide me ...
I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD.
~ Psalms 27:5-6 (NKJV)

Therefore by [Jesus]
let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God,
that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.
~ Hebrews 13:15 (NKJV)

Does Sunday morning ever arrive and find you not ready to worship? Whether busyness, contention with others, or cares of life weigh you down, do you ever feel you have nothing to offer God?

Then come before Him broken, frustrated, weak. If necessary, do all possible to make peace with any other Christian who is not at peace with you (Matthew 5:23-24).

Then offer worship and praise and joy as a true sacrifice. Let your soul say, "My heart hurts, my mind is distracted, my body is weary—yet I choose to worship my God through it all because He is worthy of it. I offer sacrifice of myself."

Such sacrifice is a pleasing aroma to Him (Ephesians 5:2).

And it may be offered any day or time of the week.

Almighty God, You are worthy of our most humble worship and most exuberant praise. Please enable us through Your Spirit to accept Your gifts of faith, hope, love, joy, peace when our hearts and minds and bodies need them most, so that we may bless You with an offering of ourselves.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009


"When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends."
~ Japanese Proverb

1 Corinthians 5:9-11 (GW):
In my letter to you I told you not to associate with people who continue to commit sexual sins. I didn't tell you that you could not have any contact with unbelievers who commit sexual sins, are greedy, are dishonest, or worship false gods. If that were the case, you would have to leave this world. Now, what I meant was that you should not associate with people who call themselves brothers or sisters in the Christian faith but live in sexual sin, are greedy, worship false gods, use abusive language, get drunk, or are dishonest. Don't [have fellowship] with such people.

Perhaps it seems ironic, but Paul instructs that while we may associate with immoral unbelievers, we should not maintain friendships with those who identify themselves as Christians yet behave otherwise.

It's a matter of how much influence they're positioned to have in our lives.

Do not be deceived: "Bad company ruins good morals."
~ 1 Corinthians 15:33 (ESV)

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Friday, August 28, 2009


"Feelings aren’t right or wrong, they’re just feelings."

When I heard these words many years ago they did not ring true. But I had neither the knowledge nor experience to rebut them.

Though their speaker intended to impart truth, he was mistaken. The Bible says we can sin not only in word and action, but in thought and feeling. The first and last of the Ten Commandments address unseen thoughts and feelings:
I AM YHWH your God, you shall have no other gods before Me.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s spouse or possessions.

Jesus often affirmed that we can sin with our feelings. Among other teachings, He said that to lust is to commit adultery in the heart.

Ironically, less visible thoughts and feelings are more difficult to control than evident words and actions. Victory is found not only in pushing aside the wrong thoughts and feelings, but by replacing them with what is right. Doing so not only leaves less room for what is wrong, but what is right is more likely to become truth in repetition, so that feelings may even change.

A classic scenario is a child being instructed to say "I’m sorry" if they don’t feel that way. I insist on it—not because I don’t believe in honesty, but because they honestly need to feel sorry.

And I'll help them feel sorry on some level, whether by their pure or their selfish motives.

If my children have hurt one another, I want them to say "I’m sorry" in love. I hope that seeing someone in pain evokes their compassion, and that expression of compassion and remorse is their natural reaction, even if it takes a little prompting.

But if their love falls short, I appeal to their sense of rightness and duty. We know what it is to feel guilty because we’ve done wrong, and while the desire to be righteous is not the highest motive, it is not a bad motive. It may be the most common motive for doing right.

If neither compassion nor conscience will inspire remorse, then I call upon my children’s lowest motive: selfishness. It will be necessary for them to express remorse with at least a veil of sincerity, or they will be punished. If they have wrongly caused harm, they need to have regret.

My job as a parent is to teach that, even if forced to draw upon fear and self-interest.

I have no desire to inflict discipline's discomfort or fear on my precious ones. But much is at stake. I am teaching not only right behavior, but the right feelings which lead to right behavior. Lacking even selfishly motivated right behavior, civilization disintegrates into anarchy.

Our heavenly Father does the same with us. If we will not heed Him, our fear of His righteous discipline is justified. Better yet that we simply do our duty because we wish to do what is right.

But He appeals to us—even commands us—to be moved by love. Righteousness requires little effort when love motivates our feelings. Fear and discipline are unnecessary.

When perfect love drives us, neither punishment nor duty are taken into account by even God.

There is no fear in love.
Indeed, perfect love banishes fear,
because fear is about punishment and agony.
The person in fear does not have complete love.
1 John 4:18 (author)

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Inseparable Love

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
~ Romans 8:38-39 (NKJV)

Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
~ Psalms 73:25-26 (NKJV)

The book of Romans is as rich as it can be. Chapter eight is dense with verses which carry us through our most difficult hours. Here is the climatic end. God gives us, through Paul, the words which assure us of His inseparable love.

We are fragile creatures who need constant reassurance of love. Whether or not we admit it to even ourselves, we fear rejection above all other fears. If we build walls around ourselves against love, it is to prevent rejection. Of all the hurts we can suffer, does any pierce more sharply than when we have loved and had our love scorned?

We need never fear such rejection from God. The only thing which can separate us from His love is the coldness of our own hearts. If we do not know His love it is because in our hurt we have hardened ourselves against Him.

This is likewise the one thing which hurts the Lord—that He would love us with all He is, then be rejected and have His love scorned.

Precious Abba, how often have we hurt You by brushing aside Your expressions of love? How often have we been too distracted to notice them? How often have things of this world been more important to us than You are? Please forgive us for such callous indifference! So move our hearts that there be none upon earth that we desire beside You. Thank You for your unfailing, inseparable love.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Exhibit G: Conquerors

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ... Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
~ Romans 8:35,37 (NKJV)

"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son."
~ John 14:12-13 (NKJV)

Paul now brings forth testimony greater than Christ's—what Christ Himself calls "greater works."

When Jesus Christ walked the earth, He could be but one place at one time. But once He puts His Spirit in us, each CHRIST-ian is a little Christ—speaking His words which testify of the Father, showing His love, even working His miracles.

Meanwhile, back at the throne, Jesus is pulling for us with His Father. He is our Advocate for all we "ask in His name"—all that is consistent with Who He is, which glorifies the Father.

We are now conquerors, who glorify the Father with the victories He gives us. We overcome sin, despair, hatred. We stand down tribulation, distress, persecution. We do not fear famine, nakedness, peril, or sword. We do so in every corner of the globe, all compelling evidence of God—of God with us.

Do we always prevail? No. We are still being perfected, day by day, moment by moment. But we keep on asking for what Jesus wants, grounded in our love for Him. We ask for greater faith, greater hope, greater love. We become increasingly dependent on Him. And in such prayer:

Father in Heaven, we come before Your throne with Your Son's blessing. We do not know what we should pray for as we ought, and rely on Your Spirit to help in our weaknesses, to make intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered, according to Your will—all for Your glory.

"A faithful prayer in the hands of love
is the most powerful force on earth."
~ Doug Spurling

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Exhibit F: Counselor

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
~ Romans 8:14 (NKJV)

"But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
~ John 14:26-27 (NIV)

Paul's next compelling evidence in the case for Christ is His Spirit. The proof of the Holy Spirit's presence is not supernatural manifestation which may be duplicated by the enemy, nor is it easily manufactured emotion.

The presence of the Holy Spirit is manifest by Jesus Christ in human flesh. It first occurred at Bethlehem, heralded by a star and song of angels. It occurs each time divine light shines into the world's darkness through us, when songs of praise pierce through our pain to display peace.

Jesus' words that He leaves His peace with us were spoken in the context of us receiving the Counselor, and thereby receiving His reminder of Christ's words in the needed hour. This is compelling proof of divinity's existence: when we face what the world gives with untroubled hearts and no fear, grounded in the Word of God.

It may be had for the asking, and is ours when we yield to the Spirit's leading.

Lord Jesus, You know well the tribulation the world gives. You know well the darkness and pain of this world. You know well the joy and love of the Father's presence for which we long. Please draw our hearts to yield to Your Spirit, minute by minute, that we might know Your peace as well as You know us.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Exhibit E: Christ Crucified

Our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with ... There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
~ Romans 6:6; 8:1 (NKJV)

But we preach Christ crucified.
~ 1 Corinthians 1:23 (NKJV)

If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin... If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen ...
~ John 15:22-24 (NKJV)

If I could choose only one chapter from the New Testament from which I could share, it would be Romans 8, arguably the most powerful passage of the entire Bible.

Having set the scene in his case for Christ, Paul now pulls out all the stops with three more exhibits. The greatest one is Christ Himself and His crucifixion.

Christ attested to Himself with His words and works. He spoke wisdom (and wit) greater than any man. He performed miracles utterly impossible for anyone else. His greatest work was accomplished in being crucified, and thereby overcoming the sin responsible for all injustice, all human suffering, all affliction and disease.

Once a person feels the weight of condemnation for sin, it is a burden too heavy to bear. Christ shouldered that crushing load at the last supper, evidenced its horror at Gethsemane, and did away with it at Calvary. The "body of sin" is an encumbrance we are no longer meant to know.

When we go to the cross with Jesus Christ, allow ourselves to be covered with His blood, and become identified as His, God stamps us "NO CONDEMNATION." We may not fully achieve God's perspective of such a thing in this life. We may continue to lay claim to sin which is no longer ours. We may cower under the oppression of knowing the harm our sin has wrought. Nonetheless:

If this is not a case for Christ, what is?

Father God, we are frail children of dust. We hear the words which say we are not condemned, we perhaps believe them with our minds, but we cannot fathom how to make them real in our hearts. Please enable us to see ourselves as You see us—no better, no worse. Thank You for Your Son—Your beloved Lamb—and for His precious blood.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

I Love You

"The LORD is my portion," says my soul,
"Therefore I hope in Him!"
The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.
~ Lamentations 3:24-25 (NKJV)

Blessed be the God ... of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble ... For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.
~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NKJV)

Just twice in my life do I remember the Lord speaking to me in advance of something He was about to do—both times before incidents of unspeakable stress.

Some months ago He spoke of doing a work of healing for which I'd long asked. I rejoiced in the message. I rejoiced when I thought I saw signs of healing. Then the Lord got down to the real healing business, reopening old wounds to clean them out. The raw pain has left me reeling, even as the start of healing becomes evident.

The Lord knows well that healing may involve pain. I receive the gift from His scarred hand. As sufferings abound, consolation in Christ abounds more. In the pain I feel Him say, "I love you."

His immense grace compels me to praise Him, both in tribulation and sufferings, in His consolation and comfort.

"Naked I came from my mother's womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the LORD." (Job 1:21)

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Saturday, August 22, 2009


"Seat belts are not as confining as wheelchairs." ~ Bernard Wortreich

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
~ Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)

Many Christians assert that since we have been set free from the law and its requirements—since we are covered by grace, we are covered by the blood—we need no longer be "confined" by the commandments' restrictions.

God's Word says He set up the commandment as a protection, not a penalty.

We are fools if we believe a peaceful life has fewer restrictions if lived as we wish rather than if lived in harmony with God's ways.

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Friday, August 21, 2009


Monday I visited adolescence for a day with three teens at an amusement park, in celebration of my daughter's 16th birthday. Cedar Point (Sandusky, Ohio) boasts the world's largest collection of roller coasters, including the grandaddy—Top Thrill Dragster.

An early ride on the Millennium Force coaster was very scary. Its leisurely draw-out-the-anticipation ascent tops a 320 foot high track and then hurtles riders into an 80 degree straight fall which reaches 93 mph. The sudden and intense fall instinctively induces consummate fright.

But the Dragster permits anticipation only before it commences. Racing lights flash a split second before passengers are launched by a 10,000 hp thrust from 0 to 120 mph in 3.8 seconds, ascend a 90 degree vertical track with a quarter twist to a dizzying height of 420 feet, then plunge 400 feet directly toward the ground and again reach 120 mph through a three quarter twist. The 2800 foot long ride is over in 17 seconds, averaging 112 mph.

The initial burst of speed inflicted on me by a purported 5 G's of raw force obliterated thought and all other sensation. There was no awareness of acceleration, just the immediate and unyielding impact of speed. By the time I could actually feel the speed, acceleration had passed and my only awareness was of flying—smoothly flying across, up, down. There was never a jolting sensation of falling, only flying. Dragster surprised me with its complete lack of scare and absolute exhilaration.

Unlike the consummate fright of Millenium's sudden fall, Dragster thrilled with a flight that never lost its momentum.

And let us not grow weary while doing good ...
as we have opportunity, let us do good to all ...
Galatians 6:9-10 (NKJV)

The Christian life's defining moment comes when control is given over to the Lord by faith. Whatever belief and profession preceded it, the life-altering testimony that "Jesus is Lord" thrusts one into a whole new life.

Once we take that leap of faith, we are to abide in Jesus—remain, stay, walk with Him without lagging back, looking back, back-sliding. The trip thorough life we take with Him isn't supposed to be filled with jarring starts and stops, but one which keeps its momentum.

When we lose step with Him, or are distracted from listening to Him, or become weary of His way and drag our feet, the Lord has a way of bringing us back to where we need to be—often through circumstances which come as a anxiety-filled shock.

But when we abide in Him, and a new twist comes—even a sharp and steep one—the jolt will not be as pronounced if we are already moving smoothly at the Lord's side.

It is even possible to experience incredible challenges, and feel that we are flying through them.

A Footnote: If you like the Flying theme, be sure and stop by Spurling Silver by Doug Spurling, and catch "Fly Like an Eagle."

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Exhibit D: Commandment

Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.
~ Romans 7:12 (NKJV)

You are near, O LORD,
And all Your commandments are truth.
~ Psalms 119:151 (NKJV)

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy... For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it."
~ Exodus 20:8-11 (NKJV)

Paul continues to build his case for Christ in Romans 7, and brings forth God's commandment as "holy and just and good." C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity also argued that logically, humans could not inherently know good from evil unless a Creator had so defined them first.

Across all cultures, things such as murder, theft, adultery, and lying have long been understood as wrong. In this era of relativism, however, truth is no longer seen as absolute. So permit me to use the commandment as proof of God on something yet considered absolute: numbers.

Solar and lunar cycles define years and months. But how did the day become established on two twelve-hour cycles (as in the Bible)? Why is counting ordered on the number ten (as in the Bible)? I suppose an argument might be made that those numbers easily suited themselves to mathematical equations—but then why aren't both systems the same?

And if mankind evolved, how did cultures which span language and distance and religion all come up with a week measured with the oddball number seven—apart from God and His commandment?

Reason demands that these things could only be defined by God. It also says that if numbers are still rational and real and absolute, so is the immorality of murder, theft, adultery, and lying.

Almighty God, Creator and Redeemer, Your commandment is indeed holy and just and good. It reveals Your Person. It reveals Your promises. It reveals Your plan for our lives if we will but heed You. Please break our resolve wherever we wander from the commandment with which You bless us.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sin is Death

"Sin would have fewer takers if its consequences were immediate."
~ Unknown

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
~ Romans 6:23 (NKJV)

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh [human nature] will of the flesh reap corruption [destruction, death], but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.
~ Galatians 6:7-8 (NKJV)

"I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life."
~ Deuteronomy 30:19 (NKJV)

Certain principles are as valid as the law of gravity. The wages of sin is death. If a person sows seeds of sin, one reaps death, whether in only this temporal life or for eternity.

Turning from sin to Jesus in faith gives the gift of eternal life. But to receive greater fullness of eternal life during this temporal life, one must continue to turn away from sin. Each decision to do what pleases Self is a choice to reap death. To reap life, one must choose what pleases the Holy Spirit.

Every time. Each small decision for sin is a decision for death—an opening the door to the Grim Reaper.

Each yielding to the Holy Spirit is a decision for life—an opening the door to Jesus, Who stands knocking, bringing light.

Lord Jesus, You said that You came so we might have life, and have it in abundance. We desperately need Your Spirit's strength to consistently make decisions for life. Please open our eyes to see all we are choosing at every point of sin. Please lead us in paths of life and peace.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Intense is the only way to describe the last four days. Intense talk, work, writing, worship(!), time crunch, travel headaches, funfunfun, and driving time.

Friday's post will be titled "Fun" and will share much more. But it's just after 3 am right now and I think I'll wait til tomorrow for the post in my mind at the moment.

Until then, can you share with me something fresh from the Lord? Whether from Bible time, prayer / chat-with-the-Lord moments, or overheard from a fellow believer? I'd for sure enjoy hearing from you this time.

Love in Christ,

Monday, August 17, 2009

Super Grace

... death reigned from Adam until Moses ... Law entered alongside so that the offense should abound, but where sin abounded, grace super-abounded ...
~ Romans 5:14,20 (ALT)

Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
~ Galatians 3:24 (NKJV)

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life... For he who has died has been freed from sin.
~ Romans 6:4,7 (NKJV)

We often think of grace as a New Testament principle which began with Jesus. Paul says death reigned from Adam to Moses. Through Moses the law is given, and grace came with it. With law comes revelation of Jesus Christ, for the law is a tutor to bring us to Christ and His grace.

Throughout the Old Covenant law is death of sacrificial animals for sin, so that grace might result. The cost must have seemed high to those who offered them. The cost of the New Covenant blood is likewise high. It not only cost Jesus His life, it is to cost us our lives—the right to live for ourselves. In return, we receive the abundant life of Jesus Christ.

Do you have sin which abounded? Is it buried with Christ? Guess how Paul describes the result? Here's the literal translation: "grace super-abounded." In Greek that's huperperisseuo. Huper means super, superior, over, exceeding. Perisseuo means superabound, be in excess, superfluous, to have more than enough.

"Where sin abounded, grace super-abounded." Remember it!

Lord Jesus, how can we begin to comprehend this super grace? Please show us each day how to live less of the life of Self, live more of the life of Jesus, and lay hold of the life of super grace.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

True Worshipers

"But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him."
~ John 4:23 (NKJV)

We worship God through his Spirit, and our pride is in Christ Jesus. We do not put trust in ourselves or anything we can do.
~ Philippians 3:3 (NCV)

My church has a skilled orchestra and outstanding choir, and they are directed by a gifted music pastor. Yet it's not "anything we can do" ourselves that makes our worship inviting to the Lord. Jesus said the Father is seeking true worshipers who worship in spirit and truth—which involves not outward performance, but the heart.

"Spirit and truth" can be applied a number of ways. Related to worship, I think of "spirit" as being led by the Holy Spirit to worship in a manner which exalts the Lord before pleasing ourselves; I think of "truth" as knowing God well enough (through Scripture) to worship a true picture of Who He is, and not an image we've ourselves created.

Today I rejoice to be a part of worship ministries which strive for excellence because our God deserves our best. I rejoice more that our leaders are devoted to God and direct worship with spirit and truth.

I rejoice most of all because I am privileged to know the Almighty, and take pride in Christ Jesus—by Whose blood I have access to the Father that I may worship Him.

Our Father in Heaven, thank You for Your great love, which reveals Yourself to us. Thank You for the ability to worship You in song and voice, in life and testimony. Thank You for being worthy of all we are, all we have, and all we do being laid at Your feet.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009


"Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad." ~ Brian O'Driscoll

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
~ Proverbs 9:10 (NKJV)

Promotion of the Bible as revelation of God is my favorite cause for enthusiasm. But if I fail to convey that purpose—revelation of God—I've failed.

It is not knowledge of the Scriptures which makes one rich. It is knowing God—and therefore receiving understanding of the Scriptures and how to actually apply them—which makes one rich.

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Friday, August 14, 2009


Author and friend Billy Coffey posed a What If? question two weekends ago that knocked the wind out of me:

"You are given a chance to return to any previous point in your life and change a decision you made, but you will lose everything that has happened to you since then. Is there a time you would return to?"

His post garnered 30 responses. Not counting one tongue-in-cheek comment (from Katdish—of course), only four people said conclusively that they'd go back and change a decision.

I couldn't decide. My response?

"There are points in life I've always wished I could go back and change, each one a point of sin... Even if it cost me everything I have now, I'd still do them over to take back the pain I've caused others...

"But ... God works all things for good ... in the lives of both me and others. Do I allow His sovereignty to prevail, over even sin? Or do I believe that if He can work sin for good, how much more so might He have worked not-sinning for good?

"Then there's this. Does the pain of those consequences make me more dependent on God, draw me closer to Him? ... Do I love Him more because of the pain?"

A later comment from Angela well captured the idea that we comprehend grace through sin's forgiveness: "My failures and mistakes ... have helped me see how much I need a Savior and how precious God's grace truly is."

Jesus affirmed that love blossoms from the comprehension of forgiveness for sin.

"I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven,
and thus she shows such great love.
But the one who has been forgiven little
loves little." (Luke 7:47, author)

If we compare ourselves to one another, we might weigh our sins as "little." But the standard is Jesus Christ. I assert that we've all sinned much.

Even since I surrendered my life to the Lord Jesus—and despite good intentions—in ignorance, I've sinned much. I've hurt others by seeing myself qualified me to judge them though I'm not. I've believed being right is more important than being compassionate. I've chosen to do as I wished contrary to God's will because I didn't bother to seek His will.

The Lord keeps forgiving my great sin. He keeps loving me. He keeps drawing me closer to Himself. Such grace and love compels my own love of Him with a consuming depth of passion I have for nothing else.

I've often defined that passion gives itself to its object so completely that it does not draw back, not even at the point of pain. My aversion is to causing pain, not to experiencing it for love's sake. Though not yet perfected, this is my passion for God.

Back to the original question. What if going back in time to a point of regret and sin would reduce the pain I've caused myself, others and God—and therefore reduce my comprehension of grace and resulting love and passion for God?

I cannot willingly choose sin, not even at the cost of love and passion's flame.

Praise the Lord, He does not allow retroactive decisions. I've no choice but to burn for Him.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Count the Blessings

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!
~ 1 John 3:1 (NIV)

As I read Romans 5 on Wednesday, I never made it past the first several verses of Paul's list. As I began to count the blessings we have through faith in Jesus Christ, I was reduced to tears and could go no farther.

So I here reverse my usual order. This reflection is first, then the Scripture with which I started. As I read this passage yet once more (I've been over it again and again in the last day), I'm enumerating the gifts of God by putting a separate item on each line.

Mind you, this is just nine verses of the Bible. Were we to count the blessings in all of Scripture on separate lines, could we carry the voluminous tome?

Therefore, having been justified by faith,
we have peace with God
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom also we have access by faith
into this grace
in which we stand,
and rejoice
in hope of
the glory of God. And not only that, but
we also glory in tribulations,
knowing that
tribulation produces perseverance;
and perseverance, character;
and character, hope. Now hope
does not disappoint, because
the love of God has been poured out in our hearts
by the Holy Spirit who was given to us...
But God demonstrates
His own love toward us [2nd mention of love], in that
while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood,
we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
~ Romans 5:1-9 (NKJV)

Father in heaven, surely the greatest gift awaiting us in heaven is full comprehension of Your glory, love and grace as we enter Your presence. Thank You for the glimpse You give us here on earth. Thank You for the great love You lavish upon us. Thank You that we are counted Your children.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

According to Grace, Not Works

For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." ... Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace ...
~ Romans 4:2-3,16 (NKJV)

"I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain."
~ Galatians 2:21 (NKJV)

Many creative depictions have attempted to define what it means to receive eternal life in heaven according to grace, not works. With thanks to my friend Amy Deardon, who hosted this on her blog earlier this week, I offer this video.

(Apologies to my dial-up friends. The clip is 3 minutes if you can wait for it to load.)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What Advantage?

What advantage then has the Jew ...? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles [logion] of God. For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar.
~ Romans 3:1-4 (NKJV)

In the beginning was the Word [logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
~ John 1:1,14 (NKJV)

When Paul poses a rhetorical question to ask what advantage there was to being Jewish, he did not first mention things such as covenants, or the Promised Land, or the lineage of David related to the monarchy of God's earthly kingdom. Paul speaks foremost of God's Word.

God's Word was entrusted to the Jews both in the Old Testament Scriptures, and in the person of Jesus Christ—the Word (Greek logos) Who is both God and God become Man. The Word of God is revelation of the plan, promises, and most importantly, the Person of God.

This is also the advantage of the Christian who believes the Bible is not merely a historical or philosophical book of some importance. It is not simply the "Owner's Manual for Life." It is not given to elevate man by the knowledge it imparts. The Bible is God's very Word—His logos—intelligent and eloquent revelation and reasoning from God Himself. It is certainly much more, but if it is anything less, then our religion of forgiveness and charity and selflessness is rightfully seen as on par with other religions.

What advantage then has the Christian? Much in every way! What sets Christianity apart is that to us is entrusted the Word of God in the Old and New Testament Scriptures—and in the relationship with Jesus Christ available to all who confess Him Lord by their testimony, and who believe in their hearts (and not with only head knowledge) that He is raised from the dead, a living God (Romans 10:9).

Living Word, You woo our hearts with your eloquence and beauty. You are all that is good and perfect and wise. You pull back heaven's curtain and reveal to mankind the Person of God, and we'd be blessed to know Him alone if nothing else. Thank You for all else You are to us. Thank You for being the Author and Finisher of our Faith, Who endured the cross on our behalf.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Exhibit C: Circumcision

What is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way!
~ Romans 3:1-2 (NKJV)

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared ... "Behold, My covenant is with you ... I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants ... and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you... And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant."
~ Genesis 17:1,4,6-7,11,14 (NKJV)

In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ ...
~ Colossians 2:11 (NKJV)

In establishing his case for Christ, Paul next puts forth the covenant of circumcision.

The act testifies to the existence of God because it is too unreasonable for men to come up with on their own. Whatever other manner a man might mark himself as set apart to God, taking a knife to his most vital piece of anatomy could only be done if he believed in Someone much bigger than himself.

Before Abraham put his son Isaac on the altar to demonstrate faith, he'd first shown his faith in God's covenant by accepting circumcision. God had promised a son, and Abraham did have a son of flesh, before circumcision, by Hagar. God is in part saying strip off the flesh where you reproduce, and watch how fruitful I will make you. In your faith you will reproduce not what is of the flesh, but a miracle which can only be of Me.

And so, the Christian must also be circumcised. Not by cutting the body with a knife, but by doing what can only be done by faith in Someone much bigger than ourselves, and act too unreasonable to come up with on our own. We mark ourselves set apart to God by cutting off the will of our own flesh, and accepting in its place His will. The one who believes in Christ no longer puts faith in being fulfilled and fruitful in the strength of human flesh, but will now fulfill desire and be fruitful in the strength of God's Spirit.

Love is number one on the list which describes the fruit of the Spirit.

How important is it to reproduce God's fruit by His Spirit? It is what marks us as His! Jesus said in Luke 6:43-45 that we prove ourselves believers by our spiritual fruit. And in John 13:35 Jesus says that we'd be known as His disciples by our love for one another.

Whatever brief pain may be involved to cut off our flesh in that which seems most vital to us, we receive far more from the Lord in return.

Lord YHWH, it seems unreasonable to exist as a living sacrifice. Too often we make it look painful. Please enable us to cut off the unnecessary flesh in our lives—and to recognize what You give in return—so that the fruit of love, joy, peace, and all else Your Spirit reproduces, will shine forth in testimony to You.

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Blessed be the Name of the Lord

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord ...
Blessed be Your glorious name!
You give and take away ...
My heart will choose to say
Lord blessed be Your name. *

Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head;
and he fell to the ground and worshiped.
And he said:
"Naked I came from my mother's womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the LORD."
~ Job 1:20-21 (NKJV)

The power of praise might feel strongest on Sunday morning when it is expressed in the exuberance of skilled musicians and volume of congregation which uplift the glorious name of our God.

Praise approaches its zenith of power when we look beyond blessing to bless the Blessor—and when darkness closes in yet we choose to exalt the Light. Greatest opportunity to praise God comes when it will cost us most.

We magnify God by proving that both the blessing and affliction which might otherwise justify distraction cannot wipe from our lips the words, "Blessed be the name of the Lord."

Beloved Lord, You lead faithfully both through the land that is plentiful and on the road marked with suffering. If your maidservant has found favor in Your sight, please permit me the privilege of spending the last breath You lend to bless Your glorious name.

Feedback appreciated! Post to "Comments" or e-mail to Copyright 2009, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved. * Lyrics of "Blessed be Your Name" by Matt Redman, Beth Redman, ©2002 Thank You Music (PRS)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Most Powerful Force

"A faithful prayer in the hands of love
is the most powerful force on earth."
~ Doug Spurling

"Nearly all men can stand adversity,
but if you want to test a man's character give him power."
~ Abraham Lincoln

So if the most powerful force on earth were entrusted to you, what would your character prove in your use of it?

If you are Christ's, you indeed hold that power.

Father, fill us with love and faith, then bow us low.

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday Freelance: FAVORITES

I was recently asked if I'd do a post about my prayer closet. I'll lead in by sharing two other favorite places in my home.

Our front porch is about as humble as it can be and still qualify as a front porch. It's just big enough for the swing from which to sit and watch the world—whether rambunctious children, our resident robin feeding her babies, or a thunderstorm of lightning and torrential rain. It is a quiet sitting place to not even think, but to simply be still in summer months.

The cozy family room is a favorite place year round, but even more so in cold months when the wood stove makes Michigan tolerable. The wood floors provide a place to dance in this room reserved for people and music, books and writing. Music is more often from violin and piano than CD player, and neither T.V. nor internet exist here. Books are plentiful in either this room's four bookcases or the other nine sets of shelves in the house. My work space is nestled in one corner, flanked all around by yet more books, and situated below the names of Jesus on one side and a picture of the Old Testament tabernacle on the other.

This is a peaceful room for me, whether I'm settled at the computer set apart for writing and ministry, mesmerized by a fire, or waiting for the sun to rise above woods and field which lie outside the eastern window.

Dawn is the best and purest time of day. Though I'm usually awake then, I see few sunrises. In that hour I'm usually found in my first favorite place, on the west side of our home, adjacent that porch.

"But when you are praying, enter into your private closet,
and having shut your door, pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father, the One seeing in secret,
will give to you openly." ~ Matthew 6:6 (Author)

We live in a rural area, where only city folk who don't know better come to our front door. Since the 4' x 4' entry area is otherwise not utilized, it is closed off with a tapestry curtain as a private place for me to spend early morning hours with the Lord before my house awakens.

My goal is to "tithe" the first ten percent (2.4 hours) of the day to God. I'm no legalist though, and can easily get lost here for much longer—on the days I don't get sidetracked and then spend little or no time here at all.

This is the place to commune with the Lord's Word and Spirit. It's also the only place I seem to exhibit ADD, with or without the front door open to a view of the front porch. Whether provoked by my enemy or my own disquiet, stepping into this particular place of peace seems to release a torrent of concerns and distractions which can as easily become errant rabbit trails as paths for prayer.

Morning glories and roses prompt worship of the Creator. The corner of a police car which noses out beyond them reminds me of my husband's harsh task "to serve and to protect" in the violent world beyond our quiet front porch, and of his need to be upheld in prayer. Baby robins noisily pushing their mama with demands evoke thoughts of my own brood and the pushing between us.

My prayer journal calls to mind the multitude of ministries and people for whom I pray. Each person is special and each one is opportunity to see a miracle—and each one can become a story to mull over. Blank journal pages are readily filled with new insights and ideas for prose and prayer—or with the to-do tasks I jot down in an effort to push them aside.

The Bible covered with scribbled notations and crammed with notes is one I can no longer safely carry around, but it's perfect for remembering where I've been and discovering new places my life needs to go. Concordance and Hebrew / Greek dictionaries help me lose myself in God's Word—and thereby avoid the one thing I most look forward to and most dread in this little place.

I call it wrestling with the Lord for His blessing—giving myself fully to His grasp and letting Him have His way as I grapple with Him.

He never forces me to submit to His gentle yet insistent hold. Once I allow Him to catch me, my will seems no longer my own as He takes the lead in a tussling dance of souls, hearts, minds, and bowed physiques. Whether or not I emerge limping, I'll surely be wiping away tears when I walk
away from the encounter with more of Him and a better me.

Nothing else better qualifies as agony and ecstasy than wrestling with the Lord. No favorite place but a prayer closet can offer such rich blessing and such piercing pain.

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Exhibit B: Conscience

Exhibit B: Conscience

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these ... show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them ...
~ Romans 2:14-15 (NKJV)

When I kept silent, my bones grew old
Through my groaning all the day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.
~ Psalms 32:3-4 (NKJV)

"And when He [the Holy Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me ..."
~ John 16:8-9 (NKJV)

Paul lays out in the book of Romans a methodical case for Christianity. In chapter one, he establishes the existence of the Creator, and the Creator's denial of true atheism (see Without Excuse, Tuesday's post).

In chapter two of Romans, Paul establishes the existence of moral law, and therefore a Lawgiver. In a preemptive strike, he declares "inexcusable" any attempt for one person to use the law for condemnation of another (Grace, yesterday's post).

At the same time, Paul uses the existence of law to condemn us all in the sight of God. The proof of moral law's existence lies in conscience. Even a child understands the suffering of a soul which has chosen to do what it knows to be wrong. The psalmist's lament to God, "Your hand was heavy upon me" testifies to the voice of conscience, which some call the voice of God in the soul. One can indeed argue that the voice of conscience is the voice of the Holy Spirit, speaking conviction for sin. To blaspheme the Holy Spirit's testimony is to commit the unpardonable sin.

There are numerous and far more educated scholars who have elaborated upon this point at great length, C.S. Lewis foremost among them. Here I simply present to you Paul's exhibit B in His case for Christianity, an item familiar to us all. He names it conscience.

Our Father God and Creator, You are our Lawgiver. You show us clearly, "This is the way—walk in it." Please make our hearts tender to hear You, and our souls strong to heed You. Please lead us to repent quickly when we've been wrong.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009


"A pharisee is hard on others and easy on himself,
but a spiritual man is easy on others and hard on himself."
~ A.W. Tozer

Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things... You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For "the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you," as it is written.
~ Romans 2:1,23-24 (NKJV)

"The scribes and the Pharisees ... bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers."
~ Matthew 23:2,4 (NKJV)

Is it more important to be proven right (and/or righteous), or to make truth (and therefore grace) manifest?

"Amazing grace" is this: to realize how utterly undeserving of God's love and mercy and favor one is, and to therefore see anyone who is without these as being in need of compassion, not condemnation.

Grace sees the sin others carry, and rather than make sure they're aware of it, is more inclined to weep with empathy for their burden because one has not forgotten what the burden felt like.

Grace is less concerned with making a determination of whether or not a person might be marked as "saved" than to make a determination from God's Holy Spirit of how He'd direct His love to be shared with that person.

Grace is less inclined to judge whether or not a person's theology matches that of oneself than to be sensitive to how the person might be drawn ever nearer to God.

Grace recognizes that God manifested truth to us not so that we would display it with pride, but so that we would have it to share with others.

Grace has nothing to boast in, save the God Who gives grace.

Dear God, the weight of sin is too great to walk in freedom from its burden and not still feel the bruises left behind by carrying the load. Thank You for sending Your precious Son to shed His blood that we might be free. Please let us never see someone struggling anywhere we are free and not say, "There—but for the grace of God—go I."

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Without Excuse

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
~ Romans 1:18-21 (NKJV)

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
~ Psalms 95:6 (NKJV)

God doesn't believe in atheists.

He says that they are among those who knew Him, but suppressed the truth, became futile in thought, and their foolish hearts became dark. They may deny His existence, but God's Word says they in fact know otherwise.

Whatever argument a person may use to dispute that a Creator owns the world and has a right to judge it as He wishes, God Himself says men are without excuse for whatever point they have turned away from their Creator.

Countering the assertion that a loving God wouldn't send anyone to hell is the logic that a loving God does not allow sin into heaven and make it the same hell that earth has become; a loving God does not ignore justice for those who have been wronged; a loving God does not allow men to slip into hell in ignorance, but exhibits Himself in creation so that He may be known before He is rejected.

It is far less amazing that a loving God would allow men who have chosen hell to go into hell than it is that a righteous God would allow an innocent Man to die so that unrighteous men might avoid condemnation.

Oh Lord, our Creator, You have manifested Yourself in the stars, the mighty mountains, and the universe contained in the DNA of a single cell. We ourselves are fearfully and wonderfully made. You own all creation and You own us. Please give us hearts to yield to Your continuing work of creation in making us new.

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