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Archive for November, 2010

2 Peter 1 5-10

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;  and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;  and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble,  and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We are called to make an effort … to “add to” faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and love.

It seems to me that just as there is a “slippery slope” when we rationalize a “small sin” in our minds, and it quickly roars out of control in our lives – there is also a natural compounding of “good” when we make an effort.

And it all starts with God.

Where does faith come from? From God. It is a gift from Him, and that is first on the list.

“It is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

How do we get the gift?  “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”  (Romans 10:17)

It is my experience that we can simply pray for God to increase our faith. And honestly … what prayer would He more like to answer?  He responds in amazing and surprising ways when we pray for more faith in Him.

All of the rest naturally flow from faith.  I think we do need to be conscious of making the effort though; the more we pray, the more we try, the more we practice, the more we are filled and fed and all good things are poured out.

It all comes back to the nature of free will that He has given us, in my mind … we choose and what we choose and pursue, we are given.

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I’m kind of excited … I took WordPress up on its offer to have more than one blog.

This past year at Christian Messageboard, I’ve been doing a “read the Bible in a year” plan with some other friends. It’s been so wonderful!  But as I’ve gone along, I couldn’t help but wish the plan included Catholic books of the Bible … or the “deuterocanon.”

I love receiving the readings each morning by e-mail; I love clicking a link and having the readings right on my screen, through Bible Gateway.

So I decided to create my own clickable online website so I can read the Catholic Bible in a year.  Here is a link to the site … it is a work in progress and it’s going more quickly than I had anticipated!  Thinking it through took a lot of time; I wanted to make sure people can start it at any time, not just Jan. 1.  I wanted it to be easy to keep track of your place. And I wanted to have a variety of readings each day, though following a book in its order from verse 1 to the end.  So this plan has an OT reading, a NT reading, and a reading from one of the Wisdom books.  That was very helpful for me this year when we got to the middle of some of the areas that get more difficult to focus on … begats & begottens and laws. 

So anyway … I’m looking forward to finishing out this year, and starting again.

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We’ve all had them.  Here is mine …

Mark (from Raleigh): I need my passport overnighted to me.

Me … 20 minutes getting the safe open (I always forget the dang combination), find everyone else’s passport, but not Mark’s.

Mark: Oh, it’s not with the others …

Me … got it.  I need an address to send it to, and  a phone number, and I will send it out as soon as I get to work; you’ll have it tomorrow. (Pat myself on the back for just taking care of business without getting bent out of shape, even though my morning is shot and I’m now running late and haven’t had coffee yet.)

Mark: I want you to take it to the FEDEx office to send it out – I don’t want some other company to mess up the overnight; I HAVE to have it tomorrow. And besides, it would be a pain to try to expense this if we have to reimburse your office.

Me … I’m pretty sure we use FEDEX; even if we don’t, it’s an international company (RE/Max) and overnighting is an important part of business there … I don’t think we need to worry about whether their overnighting is “reliable”

Mark: Take it to FEDEX.  It’s on Lincolnway …

Me … across town …

Mark: Take it to FEDEX. I owe you.

Me … riiiiiight … I’d hate to inconvenience you when you expense this. So I’ll take time off work to run across town to send this out so that YOU aren’t inconvenienced!

grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. To say I’m crabby is an understatement; I’m angry.

And then, dontcha know, the enemy piles upon that … And THEN … I just have to peek at Oswald Chamber’s devotional for the day.

We have a tendency to look for wonder in our experience, and we mistake heroic actions for real heroes. It’s one thing to go through a crisis grandly, yet quite another to go through every day glorifying God when there is no witness, no limelight, and no one paying even the remotest attention to us. If we are not looking for halos, we at least want something that will make people say, “What a wonderful man of prayer he is!” or, “What a great woman of devotion she is!” If you are properly devoted to the Lord Jesus, you have reached the lofty height where no one would ever notice you personally. All that is noticed is the power of God coming through you all the time.

We want to be able to say, “Oh, I have had a wonderful call from God!” But to do even the most humbling tasks to the glory of God takes the Almighty God Incarnate working in us. To be utterly unnoticeable requires God’s Spirit in us making us absolutely humanly His. The true test of a saint’s life is not successfulness but faithfulness on the human level of life. We tend to set up success in Christian work as our purpose, but our purpose should be to display the glory of God in human life, to live a life “hidden with Christ in God” in our everyday human conditions (Colossians 3:3). Our human relationships are the very conditions in which the ideal life of God should be exhibited.

sigh. It’s going to be a long day as the LORD humbles me, and then comforts me.  I hope He wins quickly; I hate it when I fight and kick and scream.

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I really liked this passage from today’s readings.  I heard a sermon not long ago that spoke about how “discipline” is not necessarily punishment for wrongdoing.  Rather, “discipline” can be in the sense that an athlete must be very disciplined to perform at her best, or a musician must be disciplined in his art.  I think that is perfect for this passage…

 

Hebrews 12

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

God Disciplines His Children
4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little

while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,”[c] so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

I especially love 12:1: For the joy set before him he endured the cross

We aren’t always “happy” in this life … it isn’t a bowl of cherries just because we are Christ’s. It’s tough, and there is evil and pain and suffering and disaster; being Christian does not shelter you from those things.

But there is a joy, and a promise, and a hope … these are found in Jesus. They ARE Jesus.

I think that’s why I love the story of Maximilian Kolbe who certainly couldn’t have been “happy” as he died of starvation in a Nazi concentration camp … yet the entire camp heard his joy as he sang praises and led others in prayer.

I am getting there … I am learning how Paul could be joyful in affliction and thank God for his trials. I understand it in my head now; that’s a good step.  Through discipline, I will learn it and genuinely become truly joyful in the deepest and most authentic sense of the word.

 

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Today’s Readings
EZEKIEL 14:12-16:41 | HEBREWS 7:18-28 | PSALM 106:1-12 | PROVERBS 27:4-6

The readings today were kind of sad to my heart.  I guess they reminded me how important it is to pray for my children and loved ones, pray for their salvation. There is a reason the LORD has been laying this so heavily on my mind and heart these last years, teaching me and drawing me into a deeper prayer life.

as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, even if Noah, Daniel and Job were in it, they could save neither son nor daughter. They would save only themselves by their righteousness. (Ezekiel 14)

I thought this imagery was very interesting … all go go through purifying fire, but not all exit it in any useful form.

1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, how is the wood of a vine different from that of a branch from any of the trees in the forest? 3 Is wood ever taken from it to make anything useful? Do they make pegs from it to hang things on? 4 And after it is thrown on the fire as fuel and the fire burns both ends and chars the middle, is it then useful for anything? 5 If it was not useful for anything when it was whole, how much less can it be made into something useful when the fire has burned it and it is charred?

6 “Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: As I have given the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest as fuel for the fire, so will I treat the people living in Jerusalem. 7 I will set my face against them. Although they have come out of the fire, the fire will yet consume them. (Ezekiel 15)

This next cried out to me again about the evil of abortion, that it is allowed in our land. Not only allowed, but defended and praised.

My heart grieves for these helpless children, and also for all of the people who have been deceived into believing evil can be called good, that abortion is an answer to their problems. I grieve for the emotional and spiritual wounds they are sure to suffer all of their lives.

20 “‘And you took your sons and daughters whom you bore to me and sacrificed them as food to the idols. Was your prostitution not enough? 21 You slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to the idols. 22 In all your detestable practices and your prostitution you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, kicking about in your blood. (Ezekiel 16)

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Today’s Readings
EZEKIEL 12:1-14:11 | HEBREWS 7:1-17 | PSALM 105:37-45 | PROVERBS 27:3

I don’t know why the LORD brought this to mind, but the following passage in Ezekiel 13 makes me think of the universal salvation teaching.

1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who are now prophesying. Say to those who prophesy out of their own imagination …

10 “‘Because they lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, 11 therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth. 12 When the wall collapses, will people not ask you, “Where is the whitewash you covered it with?”

13 “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: In my wrath I will unleash a violent wind, and in my anger hailstones and torrents of rain will fall with destructive fury. 14 I will tear down the wall you have covered with whitewash and will level it to the ground so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls, you will be destroyed in it; and you will know that I am the LORD. 15 So I will pour out my wrath against the wall and against those who covered it with whitewash. I will say to you, “The wall is gone and so are those who whitewashed it, 16 those prophets of Israel who prophesied to Jerusalem and saw visions of peace for her when there was no peace, declares the Sovereign LORD.”’

The prophets around Ezekiel were speaking from “their own imagination;” they promised peace and no harm to anyone; and the “whitewash” … oh my.  That just spoke very much to me of universal salvation. I know from my discussions at tentmaker that many (not all) are quite immature in their faith; they cling tightly to what they want to believe even to the point of outright saying that if US is not true, they can’t love & worship God.

That grieves my heart deeply for them. I’m not even saying US is or isn’t true – but they are placing their own thoughts and hopes above all else, even God.

In a very real way, they create their own god, after their own image.

They are not alone;  it was a wakeup call to me several years ago when someone wrote, “If my children aren’t saved, I don’t want to be either” and someone shared a John Piper passage that asked if God alone isn’t enough? If He isn’t … we have many idols in our lives that we love more than God.

I’ve PONdered that a lot.  And it’s caused me to pray that the LORD help me love Him more than anyone or anything else in this world.  It doesn’t take away my love for others, and in a very real way it increases it, and makes me more compassionate. But love of God must come first and foremost.  I get that now … the LORD answered my prayer and helped me release to Him the things He showed me I held over Him.  I think it’s a lifelong thing; I pray He doesn’t let me become too comfortable or forget to examine myself.

Search me oh, LORD … search my heart and mind and show me; protect me; guide me; lead me. Help me to follow and to love you above all else.

For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. 13 He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. 15 And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, 16 one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is declared:

“You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek.”(Heb 7)

I found that interesting – we often ask “what changed” from the Old Testament to the New. I’ll be PONdering this passage today.  🙂

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Today’s Readings
EZEKIEL 3:16-6:14 | HEBREWS 4:1-16 | PSALM 104:24-35 | PROVERBS 26:27

16 At the end of seven days the word of the LORD came to me: 17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 18 When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for[a] their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 19 But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself.

20 “Again, when a righteous person turns from their righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before them, they will die. Since you did not warn them, they will die for their sin. The righteous things that person did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 21 But if you do warn the righteous person not to sin and they do not sin, they will surely live because they took warning, and you will have saved yourself.”

This passage was very interesting to me.  First, I think it speaks to the doctrine of “once saved, always saved.” I had never heard OSAS before coming to the internet messageboards. It is not something the Catholic church teaches, and I honestly go back & forth on it a bit.

The Catholic church teaches that salvation is an ongoing lifelong process, not a one-time proclamation and I very much agree with that. I don’t think we are “saved” until we stand in judgment before God and either enter into His presence forevermore, or are utterly destroyed.   I do think we can have an assurance of salvation in this life … we can know we are His. But I also believe we can at any point by our own choices and free will turn away from God, turn to evil, and will not be saved.  This passage in Ezekiel does not support OSAS; a righteous man who turns to evil will die.

The second thing about this passage is the question of our responsibility to our brothers and sisters.

I despise it when Christians use their Bibles as a weapon to attack and to condemn others. I never think that is productive and only feeds their own pridefulness, while at the same time hardening the hearts of those being condemned, pushing them even further away from God.

At the same time, when we see a brother or sister sinning, what responsibility do we have to them?

I love this saying from Saint Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times — If necessary, use words.”  I firmly believe that treating all with love and respect is the most powerful witness we can offer to others.

It goes hand-in-hand with this passage from 1 Peter 3. I think verses 15 and 16 especially speak to this, but the entire passage is utterly beautiful:

8 Finally, all of you, be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble.
9 Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing.
10 For: “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep the tongue from evil and the lips from speaking deceit,
11 must turn from evil and do good, seek peace and follow after it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears turned to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against evildoers.”
13 Now who is going to harm you if you are enthusiastic for what is good?
14 But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them,
15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope,
16 but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.

In the end, to me, we are watchmen for our brothers and sisters but we must first examine ourselves. If I am going to approach someone else, it must be out of genuine concern and love for their well-being and not to beat them down, or to accuse them. And when someone asks my opinion, I need to be ready to answer honestly but again gently, lovingly … and then be prepared to leave it with the Holy Spirit.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

That is profound and very beautiful.

 

 

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