cover to cover – week forty-eight

Exclucovertocoverding the Gospels, I have probably heard more sermons based on the Scriptures we read in 2 Corinthians and Romans than any others in the Bible. There are vast treasures of how to walk out this life as Christ’s own in the words of the Epistles this week.  It was within these passages that Martin Luther was given his great revelation  that he could not earn his salvation by works as he  studied Romans. By reading Romans 1:17 (“the just shall live by faith”) Martin Luther saw the Light, and this Scripture changed the world by starting the Reformation. Through his personal freedom found in this understanding, he began to reinterpret Scripture through the lens of this great Truth, and found the truly Good News of God’s love.

2 Corinthians 9:15 “Thanks be to God for His indescribable Gift.”

  In Martin Luther’s preface to the Book of Romans, he states “The terms “just, justice, justify” in this piece are synonymous with the terms “righteous, righteousness, make righteous.” A similar situation exists with the word “faith”; it is synonymous with “belief.” Thus, “We are justified by faith” translates the same original sentence as does “We are made righteous by belief.” The term “justification” can be seen as “just as if you never sinned”. The term “righteousness” can be seen as being “right” with God.” The world’s definition of righteousness and God’s definition have a huge expanse of love that separates a fallen world from God’s plan for us. CS Lewis puts it succinctly: “It still remains true that no justification of virtue will enable a man to be virtuous.” Luther takes it one step further  connecting Paul’s words in Romans with  Hab. 2:4, “the righteous will live by his faith.” In other words, the righteousness of God in the Gospel is not God’s demand but God’s gift, not condemnation but life; and it is ours simply through faith in Christ. God counts us righteous when we believe in Him. Our righteousness is by the blood of Christ that fully cleanses as if we never sinned. The world’s righteousness comes by a mistaken sense of goodness from an endless list of tasks to vainly try to make ourselves presentable to God. Light on His Word to understand authentic righteousness brings salvation to all who believe. We can rest in our salvation because Christ alone has done the work required for personal everlasting peace. He alone is our righteousness. He alone is our salvation. He alone is our Gift by Grace. He loves us so for such an unspeakable gift.

 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8: 38-39

Let these words resonate in your heart. He loves you so.

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cover to cover – week forty-seven

covertocoverEntrusted with the Secret Things of God

After reading the week’s readings in one sitting, I am embarrassed to tell you, I have either an inordinate amount that lingers or one generalized thought. I think I’ll go with the thought and expound. There are many things that rust and moths destroy, but the eternal treasures of Christ are so very rich and personal and ours to claim. According to 1 Cor. 4:1, we have been entrusted with the secret things of God. And those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. We have a responsibility to Him to be faithful with those secret treasures we’ve been given. Just what are the secret things of God? Let’s take a look at what we can know about the secret treasures from our Scripture this week.

  1. The secret things of God are eternal. “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love…love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:8, 13) God is love and love is eternal. Faith, hope and love are treasures that remain after they are offered and interjected into the world. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. (1 Corinthians 8:1)Love lingers long after someone dies. That person’s faith and hope and most of all, love, live on in the lives of those they touched. Their legacy of faith, hope and love continues to bless, to influence, to thrive. The secret things of God remain infused into minds, emblazed into souls, hidden in hearts forever.
  2. The secret things of God involve a responsible freedom. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom!” Since we are entrusted with these secret things, we have a responsibility to prove faithful by our actions toward others. We must not destroy Christ to the unbeliever, or drag his Name through the mud, as I call it. Paul says “Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial. (1 Corinthians 6:12) He then warns us to “be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” It is for freedom that Christ has set us free, and we are no longer slaves to this world, but tethered to Christ in love-the most glorious freedom we can have is to be found in Christ. Yet if we cause a brother to sin, then we are not to exercise that freedom. We must be careful not to tarnish the Name of Christ by our daily living testimonies.
  3. The secret things of God are revealed in increments. Paul tells us in the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, “When I was a child, I talked like a child. I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully even as I am fully known.” And one of my favorite of all Scriptures, 2 Corinthians 3:18 “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” From glory to ever-increasing glory, we are being transformed one step at a time closer to His likeness. And one glorious day, we shall behold Him, face to Face.

The secret things of God are ours as believers to claim, to treasure, to respect, to enjoy as part of our great inheritance through Christ Jesus as sons of God. We can enjoy them today and can expect them to increase in increasingly glorious amounts through His revelation and transformation. He has so much yet to do in me and through me. I so want to be a blessing and not the pain-in-the-neck child to Him. I pray that I don’t squander any more time or opportunities for Him to equip me to serve Him in pleasing ways. Let us treasure the secret things that He has entrusted us with that we may prove faithful in every way.

 What lingers for you this week as we read? I can’t wait to see His mighty workings in each of you. Join Bev and others at Cover to Cover this week as some beautiful hearts for Christ come together. You all bless me so.

cover to cover – week forty-six

covertocoverToday in church, we sang a song called “May the Words of my Mouth” by Shane Barnard. Within the song, there is a line that says, “Lord, I desire to be a blessing to you in your eyes…in your eyes.” Something grabbed at my heart, knowing how I must disappoint Him, not growing in Him as I should. This week’s readings were focused on holy living and living up to our potential in Him. He spells it out so clearly in His Word of how to act, how to think, how to praise, how to not be downcast, but live a simple life, finding contentment in Him. The part of living up to our potential in Him tugs at me. My heart breaks that I haven’t more to offer Him after being a Christian for thirty-something years. My unbelief, my disdain for trials and lack of understanding their value-yes, value in being a catalyst for change. Enduring trials (and allowing them to mold us) is part of the deal.

Paul feared this very thing for the church at Thessalonica. He was afraid they might have fallen away because of his suffering. He said “I told you there was suffering associated with serving Christ. And sure enough, you’ve heard about our suffering. But don’t fall away on account of this. 1 Thessalonians 3:2-5 “to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.”Paul was afraid the church at Thessalonica would not reach their potential in Christ. He’d heard they were doing well but had to send Timothy to check on them. He said encourage each other, and your love will grow. He said we were destined for trials such as he had experienced.

Is our faith about believing we’ll be delivered or about believing we’ll be improved through the loving hand of God in the midst of our trials? We are to be transformed from glory to glory (in ever-increasing amounts) as we come upon that Day. My favorite teacher once said, “We don’t want glory because it’s too hard.” It is my fear I will miss my potential in Christ entirely if I don’t submit and allow Him to mold me through these trials. We all have trials. It’s what we do with them that will make the difference between counting them as failures or seeing them change us to look more like Him. We have a choice. Trials can make us bitter or they can make us better. Are you reaching your potential in Christ? Lord, I want so much to be a blessing to you, in your eyes. Change my heart to cling to you, to embrace trials as opportunities, to bring you an offering of my heart transformed by your powerful and merciful grace.

Hebrews 6:1 “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.”

Please check out what lingers with others at Bev’s Cover to Cover as we journey through His Word in 2008. It has been nothing short of life changing for this prodigal daughter. I count you among my blessings this Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving to each of you.

cover to cover – week forty-five

covertocoverI shouldn’t be posting today as I haven’t made it through the readings yet. We just got back in town from working at the ranch putting a lot of dishes through the dishwasher, unpacking, and washing a lot of sheets and towels. We had fun, but I am fairly certain that I am getting one of those  knock-you-off-your-feet colds this evening. Head and chest are hurting and the urge to sleep is about to win, but I want to just post one major thing that lingers as we concluded the Gospels and were left with the final command of Christ.

Mark 16:15-20 – “He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.”

I just don’t see this kind of power in the Church today and it doesn’t take long to realize why. Christ intended for us to do greater works than He by the Power of His Name.

In Acts, we find the believers as “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

  • Devotion to authentic teaching of the Word
  • Daily Fellowship with believers
  • Breaking bread together
  • Prayer
  • An attitude of awe
  • Unity
  • Generous giving
  • Glad and sincere hearts
  • Praise 
  • Enjoying God’s favor 
  • Many conversions to belief in Christ          

First we are shown the Great Commission in action, then we see the apostles actually doing the thing on a daily basis. I see a very different way of life than how most of us now live. God showed us a way to live in unity of purpose and in harmony with each other, in gratitude and in joy, in generosity and in devotion to Him and to each other. Our nation today looks so very different. If it is not self gratifying, self serving, or focused on what we get out of things, few look further than our own noses. And we are a most miserable generation of people because of it. We need a recommitment to the Way, a revival with a great Outpouring of His Spirit, and let it begin with this heart.

Okay, you probably are ready for me to go to bed and be miserable all by myself now, so I’ll hop down off the soapbox. We’re wrapping up forty-five weeks of Cover to Cover this week. What a blessing this journey has been. . Lord, Thank You, again for Your mercy and grace. I ask you to point us back in the right way with a 2nd Chapter of Acts anointing…Your Will be done. Amen.

cover to cover – week forty-four

covertocoverNovember 3 – 10

Mark 14:37 “Could you not keep watch for one hour?”

The dark night would soon be over. The hour for the Son of Man to be glorified in such a strange way had come, and all would be completed in its appointed time. Waiting and watching at the Place called The Skull, weariness and agony filled the disciples.  Was it all a farce? Was it a bad dream? Every fear converged on them to wonder even which one of them would be next. Listen a moment to imagine their journey of the next few hours (and, truly, of our own journey) as dreams were shattered, as they endured the long night of discouragement in their betrayal of the Savior they had known. . .And then came morning.

 

The Place of Further Still

garden-of-gethsemane

This is the Garden of Gethsemane which my daughter visited two years ago. Tears well in my eyes as I envision Christ kneeling to pray in that very spot for my very soul.

There comes a time in our darkest hour, where our friends’ faith, our friends’ company isn’t enough. Our suffering is too holy, too sacred, too private to share. So Jesus retired “about a stone’s throw away” in the beautiful garden to pray. And to his disciples and each of us, he left  the most intimate, precious words for us to press in and hear. He prayed for us even in his own hour of despair. He prayed to be glorified that his Father would be glorified, letting Perfect Love bridge the gap between sin-filled man and our holy God. Only he alone with his father could complete the details-strengthening His perfect love and peace beyond understanding to carry out his final task as God wrapped in human flesh. He knew for this fateful hour, he had to walk these final steps alone.

John 21:24-25 “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” John still had so much to say, but he closed his Book with these words-no doubt the world is not big enough to contain the beautiful works of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus.

Celebrate His Word with Bev and the rest of us at Cover to Cover this week. You will be amazed by His love and His continuing mercy available to you by acknowledging His Lordship over your life, and His Name as Savior of not only the world, but your very own heart.