This is Breakfast With Dad, a collection of devotions on books of the Bible that I send out to over 150 friends and family members. I hope you will take time to read the most recent blog and maybe one of two from past offerings. If you have an interest in studying the Bible or have been thinking about starting a daily devotion, this would be a good place to begin. I started writing these devotions when my youngest son moved away from home and was having a hard time in his life. I used to fix him a hot breakfast every morning before school, so I decided to send him spiritual food instead to encourage his heart. I hope these "breakfasts" encourage you.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Romans 9:18-26 Loved of God!

Romans 9:18-26  Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.  One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us?  For who is able to resist his will?”  But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God?  “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”  Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?  What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?  What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?  As he says in Hosea  “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” and, “In the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘children of the living, and, “In the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’”

In the above scripture, Paul addresses God’s sovereignty in the creation of the world and of man.  We hear again Paul’s cry for the Children of Israel that we have already read: I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.  For I could wish that I myself were cursed  and cut off from Christ  for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel.  (Romans 9:1-4)  His Jewish people seem like a piece of pottery thrown on the floor, unacceptable to God.  Jesus said at the end of his Sermon on the Mount: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.  (Matthew 5:48 KJV)  The mold of humankind could never be perfect with man’s efforts alone, no matter how many laws or regulations people followed.  After Adam’s fall, the pottery would never be in God’s perfect image unless the mold was perfect, of course that is Jesus Christ.  God knew what the Jewish people would do when the Messiah was revealed in their midst.  They would reject him.  If they would have accepted him completely; their position of being God’s chosen would have been confirmed completely.  And maybe, the plan of redemption of all people in the world would have ended within Israel.  The Roman yoke would have been thrown off by the miraculous works of the Christ, and Israel would have become a power in the world, but what would have happened to the redemption of every person in the world?  How could all people be saved and brought into intimate communication with God if Jesus was in Israel only, implementing his perfect work?  If Jesus had been limited to one group of people, He would have been working merely with the senses of this world, not with spiritual realities in the dominion of heaven and Earth.  The plan for the Jews’ national salvation had to be thrown aside at that time.  God had chosen a better plan, a way for all people to find the God who created them.  To the Jews, a plan to include the Gentile world in God’s perfect will seemed an anathema.  They were the chosen, the blessed, not the “others”.  They were the lump of clay chosen for honor by the Master Potter.  In the Old Testament, God said of the Jews, for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye.  (Zechariah 2:8)  Why now are they seemingly cast aside, unable to grasp the reality of Christ coming to them and to the world in their time.  But in God’s redemption plan, He will do what he wants to do to show his glory, his magnificence.  The Messiah, Jesus Christ, did not come according to the will of the Jewish people, out of their goodness.  No, He came in God’s time, by his plan, his determination.  But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman.  (Galatians 4:4)  When no one expected him, Jesus came born of a lowly virgin to a hostile Jewish leadership who did not receive or accept him.  They became the clay of dishonor.  They did not set Jesus on the throne.  God foreknew all of this: their recalcitrant behavior, their rebellion.  He understood this story even before He sent his Son to them.  He offered Jesus to a people who thought they were the only ones who could ever be acceptable to God, but God had other plans.  By their rejection of his plan, God made Jesus the Savior of whosoever will throughout the world.  All people who would accept Jesus became the chosen: chosen to enter the kingdom of God forever, with an intimate relationship with God.  

Jesus said, I must go away so that you will have the Holy Spirit within you as your guide, comforter, counselor.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth.  (John 14:16)  Jesus did not come to a few, he came to the world because God chose this way, this story.  After Adam’s fall, God’s image in man became distorted.  Man’s self-will replaced God’s will.  The works of man are contrary to the works of God: So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.  They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  (Galatians 5:16-18)   We find that God’s plan of salvation came to free all of us who are trapped in the imprisonment of the fleshly lifestyle.  We are displeasing to the holiness of God, for even our thoughts wander to self-willed desires and motives.  Our fallen nature is part of us.  Paul said there was something inside of him that he could not control.  We all have that something inside of us that is uncontrollable.  That old nature will come to the surface at some of the most inappropriate times.  The inner person will embarrass us or condemn us when we are weak in our resolve.  Otherwise, we are all lumps of dishonor, sometimes greater than other times, good for the garbage bin.  But God’s workmanship of placing us into the mold of Christ is perfect.  All who are IN CHRIST are in his shape: PERFECT, accomplished by the blood of Jesus Christ.  We who are IN CHRIST are no longer mere creatures of the flesh, but we are the redeemed, in the mold of Jesus Christ.  Because of sin, we were unacceptable to God, outside of his favor and grace.  Rather than destroy us as He did in the day of Noah, He allowed us to exist doing our own will.  We were imprisoned in our way of life.  For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience, so he could have mercy on everyone.  (Romans 11:32, NLT)  But in his mercy and grace, God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to set us free to serve God in his household forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.  (John 8:36)    

God allowed the Messiah to come through the Jewish lineage as the blessed vehicle to bring redemption to all people.  Abraham’s faith that God could make something out of nothing and resurrect the dead brought the Jewish people great favor.  God blessed, protected, and taught them, even in their slavery.  They were a lump of clay of great honor.  God chose them above all other people.  He placed the law in their community, giving them regulations to follow for more blessing.  He had them sacrifice animals to cover their sins, keeping them in communion with God and sparing them from God’s wrath upon sin.  They were God’s chosen to salvage a human race in rebellion against its Creator.  Why then are their ears blocked, unable to hear and to accept the good news of Jesus the Messiah?  Paul concludes that God is the potter.  He determines with whom He will work and when He will work.  Jesus came at God’s appointed time when the oppressive Romans were in control of his chosen people, Israel.  This era of subjugation to the Romans was the appropriate time for God to implement his plan of salvation.  Jesus had to die as a lamb outside of the city gates by the hands of this foreign power.  Of course, He died because the Jewish elite wanted him dead; they were envious of Jesus’ power over the people.  Jesus’ popularity and message were causing them to lose their position and authority as religious leaders.  The chosen, those who had been molded by the law and its regulations to be acceptable to God, were now being challenged by a message of faith in Jesus Christ.  For Jesus’ followers believed faith alone IN HIM makes one acceptable to God.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not of works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  (Ephesians 2:8-10)  Jesus makes people holy, in right standing before God.  Of course, faith has always been the acceptable mold, instigated by Abraham, hidden in the DNA of the Jewish people.  The seed of Messiah was theirs.  Not only within their DNA but in the reality of Jesus Christ coming to them, serving them, and ministering to them.  The Messiah came to their society, fulfilling the law and its regulations that they labored under unsuccessfully.  The Jewish people were a lump of clay for special purposes.  They brought the Christ to the land of the living in the flesh.  This was God’s plan from the beginning of time.  The Jewish people, the lump of honor, brought God’s eternal blessing through the Messiah to the lump of dishonor, the Gentiles,   As Paul quotes from Hosea, “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” and, “In the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘children of the living.  Today, may we rejoice that the heavenly Potter has formed us in the image of his Son, that we who were not a people are called the children of God!  

Monday, July 9, 2018

Romans 9:10-17 No One Should Perish!

Romans 9:10-17  Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac.  Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”  Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”  What then shall we say?  Is God unjust?  Not at all!  For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”  It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.  For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”  Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.  

Moses brought a people out of captivity in Egypt whose hearts had been hardened by the culture of the Egyptians.  The Israelites from the seed of Jacob were an ethnic group set apart as God’s chosen people.  Jacob in many ways was a scoundrel, but God planted the promise of Jesus in his loins.  The children of Israel fell into corruption in Egypt, for they served other gods enthusiastically.   Even when they knew their deliverance from slavery was miraculous, performed by the God of Moses, they still brought their Egyptian gods into the wilderness.  They complained often about Moses’ God and about not being in Egypt where they had shelter and a variety of food.  Egypt was in their minds at every problem in the journey.  When Moses went up on Mount Sinai, they formed a golden calf to worship with Aaron’s help.  Although their hearts were often in Egypt, God blessed them even though they did not honor him.  Why did God honor them even in their rebellion?   He remained faithful to his people because they held the Seed of Promise.  Their armament, their society, their culture, with the law of God’s structure and restrictions around their behavior, were to make it possible for the Messiah to come through their linage.  God protected the Jews even though they were often attentive to gods other than the God of heaven.  The promised seed, Jesus Christ, would come through the Israelites, Jacob, not Esau.  God saw this before the twins were even conceived biologically.  The Lord said to her (Rebekah), “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”  (Genesis 25:23)  Before the story of these two lives, Jacob and Esau, would be carried out on Earth, the timeless God already knew this story.  He already knew that Esau would give away the Promised Seed for red stew.  Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”  But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.”  So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.  Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew.  He ate and drank, and then got up and left.  So Esau despised his birthright.  (Genesis 25:32-34)  In essence, Esau despised his right to have The Promise come through his bloodline.  A very serious part of God’s plan from the beginning of time was to bring his only begotten Son as the deliverer of all humanity from the slavery of sin.  For Esau, a hunter of game, to choose a mundane activity of this world and its pursuits over God’s plan to redeem all humanity was a grave mistake.  God knew Esau’s inclinations; he knew what Esau held preeminent in his life.  He knew Esau’s behavior on Earth would reject God’s plan of redemption.  Now, Jacob was no angel.  He was a conniver, a man living to get ahead, but Jacob was a man of the people: Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents.  (Genesis 25:27)  As with Jacob, Jesus was a man of the people.  He went from town to town to save the needy.  Consequently, Jacob carried Jesus’ seed.  God’s plan of redemption went through Jacob and not Esau.  He loved Jacob because He foresaw who he was and would be.

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”  How far does God’s mercy and grace extend?  Is it only for the chosen few?  Is the pain and suffering of the cross only for the elect or the predetermined ones?  This will always be a theological question that mere men will discuss endlessly.  Yet as believers we know many scriptures tell us, The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  (2 Peter 3:9)   Our desire to understand God and his ways is always embedded in the nature of a rebellious people.  However, the deliverance from Egyptian slavery for the Jews demanded obedience, to place the blood of a lamb or goat around the doorframe.  All the Israelites knew what they should do to get away from Pharaoh’s control.  The blood around the doorframe of the entrance to every dwelling was necessary for them to be delivered from the angel of death.  God said, On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every first born both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt.  I am the Lord.  The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you.  No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.  (Exodus 12:12-13)  The angel of death during his passover would be looking for that blood.  Unless they performed this activity just as Moses described, the angel of death would kill the firstborn of that household.  If they failed to follow Moses’ directions, they would face the same consequence that all the Egyptians would face that night: the first born male in the household would die.  This deliverance through the evidence of blood on the doorframe would separate the Jews from the Egyptians.  They alone would receive mercy and compassion that night.  Because of the blood of sacrificed animals, the Israelites would experience the grace of God.  We who are alive IN CHRIST have placed the blood over the doorframe of out lives.  Our journey is now the story of the cross.  The Promise has come, and we who are alive IN CHRIST have the Promise within us.  By placing the blood around their doorframe, the Israelites were living by faith.  By performing this act, they said that there was something bigger in their lives than just the commonness of everyday living.  Faith is believing that God offers us something greater than ordinary existence.  Of course, faith is believing in the reality of God, as Creator and resurrector of life.  The story of life is not our story about our efforts to find God, but God’s story of finding us, delivering us from Egypt.  God’s mercy and grace have come to all who are hidden IN CHRIST.  WE IN HIM AND HE IN US IS THE GREAT MYSTERY OF LIFE. 

For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”  Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.  As with Esau and Jacob, God knew the story of Pharaoh before he played out his life in Egypt.  God knew Pharaoh would not use his power well, and his heart would turn to stone.  Pharaoh had absolute power in Egypt.  He could determine life or death for any person living in his land.  Pharaoh’s heart was never soft, but as he experienced the plagues his heart became even harder.  Pharaoh knew he was losing authority to another power.  In losing his pretense of absolute power, he would lose his authority over the Egyptians.  The plagues were affecting his reign of power with the Egyptians, so he did what he was forced to do: he rejected Moses’ request to free the Israelites.  But when the angel of death came, cutting off of his lineage by killing the firstborn son, this meant an end to his family’s reign.  His dynasty would come to the end if all of his sons were killed, so he finally let the Israelites go.  His heart was hardened by power.  God allowed that hardening for his benefit, to show to the Israelites who were still enmeshed in Egypt that a greater power than Pharaoh existed on this earth, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  The Children of Israel were set free by the blood of animals.  They would live for a little longer on Earth, but now they would live in freedom.  We who are IN CHRIST have been set free forever on this earth and for eternity.  The blood of Jesus Christ has spared us from the angel of death.  Every day we celebrate the Passover through our lives as Christians.  Grace and mercy have come to us.  Without knowing what sin is and the hardening of our hearts through the experience of this world, we would not know the magnitude of salvation.  The world is caught in the slavery of violence, heartaches, troubles, pain, eternal death.  But we who have heard the call of God through Jesus Christ the Lord have discovered a new life.  As Paul told the church at Ephesus, But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  (Ephesians 2:13)  We are new creatures who live this new life.  We have been delivered from slavery, for the Promise found in Jacob’s loins has come to us.  As scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”  For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  (Romans 10:11-13)  Thank you, Lord, for bringing us near by the blood of your Son, Jesus.  Thank you for providing a perfect Passover Lamb to bring us from death to life!  

Monday, July 2, 2018

ROMANS 9:6-9 Promise of Faith!

ROMANS 9:6-9  It is not as though God’s word had failed.  For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.  Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children.  On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.  For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.

In the above passage, we see Paul identifying a special group of people from the Jewish heritage that God called to redeem man from his waywardness.  These people are those who have THE PROMISE IN THEIR LOINS.  Of course we know that this line of Abraham’s progeny will carry the seed of promise: Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ would make a way for humanity to be blessed by God.  We see in Genesis that humanity had totally embraced corruption in the Garden of Eden.  After the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden, we see mankind’s self-will contaminate the whole world, moving away from the goodness of God to the evilness of man.  The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.  (Genesis 6:5)  When Noah’s ark landed after the flood, he presented God with sacrifices of birds and animals,  thanking God for his faithfulness to him and his family by sparing them from the destructive flood.  God accepted his sacrifices, probably because they took the place of God’s wrath on Noah and his family.  Sin is to be dealt with by the sentence of death.  These animals and birds died in place of Noah and his family.  However, God knew that the flood and these sacrifices did not rid mankind of his wickedness.  Inside of men abode a rebellious spirit, a spirit that strove to free itself from the constraints of God’s goodness and righteousness.  Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.  The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood.  And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.  (Genesis 8:20-21)  We see God in these words reiterating the hopelessness of the human race.  Mankind would continue to exist, but he would exist in the milieu of sin, under the control of the evil one.  As Paul explained in the New Testament, So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and MAKING ME A PRISONER OF THE LAW OF SIN at work within me.  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  (ROMANS 7:21-24)  Since God cannot tolerate man’s sinful nature, outside of Christ, mankind will always be open to God’s judgement of death.  After the flood, God promised not to destroy mankind by water, but due to sin man’s very existence would be one of trouble, sorrow, and death, never experiencing fully the grace and mercy of God, and for sure, never inheriting eternal life with God.  

Yet in today’s verses, we see God coming to the rescue of a doomed creation.  Through Isaac God intended to bring Christ, THE PROMISE of eternal life, into existence.  This favored segment of humanity will carry the SEED of the promise in their DNA.  Because Abraham the father of Isaac was a man of faith, believing God created all things and secondly that God could raise people from the dead, He received a promise that God would make him a father of many nations.  Since this promise is fulfilled in Christ Jesus, millions of Christians populate the world.  Abraham’s progeny from Issac forward received this same promise, and the Jewish people would be cherished by God because they carried the promise within their beings.  The promise Abraham received was passed from one generation to the next.  Paul points out that not all of Abraham’s physical descendants were recipients of this promise.  We know Ismael, Abraham’s first child, did not inherit this promise from God, for he was born out of Abraham’s desire to fulfill God’s promise to him.  Ismael was a product of works, not grace—the product of Abraham’s will, not God’s will.  Abraham’s volition, not God’s will, was evident in the birth of Ismael.  The Bible says that God does not share his glory with any man, not even a man of great faith.  I am the Lord; that is my name!  I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols.  (Isaiah 42:8)  God’s actions will be honored, not Abraham’s.  In this excellent example of works and grace, Abraham’s work, his attempt to fulfill a plan, does not satisfy God’s perfect will.  God’s grace that leads up to the THE WORK OF JESUS CHRIST satisfies God’s complete, exact nature.  Consequently, Isaac was conceived, a miracle in itself, a product of God and not of man.  We know that Abraham and Sarah were physically beyond birthing a child; therefore, Isaac is a supernatural work of God.  Likewise, Jesus was a supernatural child, conceived not by the action of an earthly father, so was Isaac supernatural in the sense that two humans beyond the physical ability to produce a child conceived Isaac.  Through Isaac, God begins to fulfill his promise to Abraham.  Isaac personifies God’s will, his  nature of mercy and grace.  At the appointed time I WILL RETURN, and Sarah will have a son.  In recounting this story, Paul disarms the Jewish idea that all Jewish seed will be blessed, for they carry within themselves the human ancestry of the Messiah.  Paul says the Promise comes not just through the physical nature of ethnicity, nor through their religious identity, but through faith.  Abraham was the father of faith.  The ancestry of Faith produced the Messiah, not the physical or religious nature of a specific ethnic group.  The grace and mercy of God produced the Messiah, not the physical, religious, or societal traits of any one people.  THE PROMISED seed was carried through the biological existence of the Jewish people.  This faith was conceived from Abraham’s faith, carried through to the day of Jesus, when Abraham’s faith that God could raise the dead was realized.  Jesus was resurrected and so will we be resurrected to meet our Savior in the air.  

God’s will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.  His will is to bless all people on the Earth through the Messiah, Jesus Christ.   Eternal life is the gift of God that Paul expounds upon in today’s scriptures.  The promise to Abraham was really a promise of eternal life, existence forever, and that eternal life could only come through THE PROMISE, JESUS CHRIST.  He would come through the seed of Abraham, and the passage of that seed would go through the progeny that God selected, not merely a physical action, but a spiritual action.  The Jews carried this promise from one generation to the next, always with a hope that the Messiah would soon come to rescue them from sin and death.  The Messiah did come from their physical identity, conceived by the Holy Spirit, through the virgin Mary.  The Jewish ancestry is not what is important, but the ancestry of faith is the important factor in the realization of the Messiah.  It is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.  We who are alive IN CHRIST because of our faith in his works before God and not in our works shall forever inherit life.  This is our inheritance: But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have be saved.  (Ephesians 2:4-5)  We, from every country, are children of Abrahams’s faith.  We believe as Abraham believed that God created all things and that He raises the dead.  Because of that belief in the works of Jesus Christ, we are new creatures.  Our birthdate begins at the time of our faith in the Messiah’s work.  We are known as born again creatures, inheriting the likeness of God, not man.  We are not of one ethnic group, but we are still family.  We are not familiar with all of our brothers and sisters in the family of God at this time, but one day we will know all of them by name, for we are brothers and sisters in this holy family.  Our names and our nationalities are different, the way we think and act have earthly peculiarities; but we are more like our elder brother, Jesus Christ, that any other characteristic.  Our basic nature is his, so we love beyond human understanding.  We even love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.  Isaac was born to parents too old to have a child: his was a supernatural conception.  We who are alive IN CHRIST were destined for oblivion before we met him.  Who could deliver us, conceived under the auspices of sin, evil in the way we think and act, away from God as all humanity is away from God?  Christ could!  He brought life to all of us who were dressed in soiled rags, destined for destruction.  Praise God, we are clothed in new garments, beautiful in every way, illustrating God’s great love for humanity.  At the appointed time, God comes!  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!  (2 Corinthians 5:17)  Rejoice, dear friends. 

Monday, June 25, 2018

Romans 9:1-5 Messiah Praised Forever!

Romans 9:1-5  I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.  For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel.  Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.  Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised!  Amen.

In today’s verses, Paul turns from describing our great position of security in Christ where nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39) to expressing his deep concern for his own people, the Jews, God’s chosen ones.  The depths of Paul’s love for them seemingly have no limits to the point he says he would see himself accursed for their sake.  He goes on to explain the heritage of the house of Israel, giving a brief history of their relationship with God.  He wants people to realize the Jews have been in the constant line of God’s blessing.  They have received the divine glory.  God made covenants with them and gave them the law.  They are the ones who have gone to the temple to worship God and believed in his promises.  All of the patriarchs of old were blessed by God as well as the prophets who looked for the coming Messiah, who is God over all.  Now Paul’s heart breaks for them, for they, who should be first in the family of believers, are outside of the sheepfold, believing Christ is not their long awaited King.  They have rejected God’s gift and his plan for salvation, just as they failed to enter the Promised Land so long ago through hearts of unbelief.  When the writer of Hebrews discusses the need to fully embrace Christ, he describes the children of Israel and says, So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.  (Hebrews 3:19)  Now, Paul see that this same lack of faith is keeping most of the Jewish people from entering the rest of God sent to them through his Son, Jesus.  He is the One who looked upon his beloved people and said, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  (Matthew 11:28-30)  Such love and compassion poured out to a hurting people, yet they did not turn wholeheartedly to him, did not enter into his rest.

The nation of Israel was not looking for a Savior who would provide peace and rest.  The discussion in Hebrews of the Jews’ failure to enter the Promised Land goes on to tell the people not to harden their hearts but to listen to God’s voice: Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.  (Hebrews 4:7)  With the coming of Christ, the same thing was happening.  People were not receiving what God had provided.  They wanted a king who would deliver them from bondage to the Romans.  They desired a strong leader who would take control of their lives and improve their situation.  When Jesus performed the miracle of feeding the people, they went looking for him on the other side of the lake.  He told them, Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.  Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.  (John 6:26-27)  He goes on to tell then that God wants them to believe in him, but Jesus knew they were not willing to take up the cross and follow him.  They were looking for earthly satisfaction—to have their fleshly needs met.  They did not recognize the Messiah because He did not fulfill their preconceived ideas.  He was not the warrior deliverer they expected.  He was the Son of God who opened the scroll in the temple and read, He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.  (Luke 4:18-19)  Jesus was always about doing the Father’s business.  He said, Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.  (John 14:9)  He came in the name of the Father to do the Father’s will, but the people did not understand or accept him.  Only those who called upon his name and received him found the freedom that He offered.  He did not come to war against the Romans, but He came to defeat sin and death.  After Christ’s resurrection from the grave, every believer can declare, Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?  (1 Corinthians 15:55)  This is where Christ fought his battle; this is where He won the victory over our enemies.  Jesus paid no heed to Rome except to say, pay Caesar his due at tax time.  He told the people, Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  (Matthew 10:28)  Jesus died to save souls from hell, to rescue the perishing.  This is our message, our anthem, our praise forever.

Paul was able to preface his declaration of love for his people with this phrase: I speak the truth in Christ.  He probably felt compelled to profess the honesty of his thoughts because his profession of love for his brethren was so strong.  How many of us could say that we willingly would be cursed and cut off from the family of God so that someone else could be saved?  This might be easier said than done: an eternity in hell to save another?  Yet Paul says, I am not lying.  Set aside giving your life for another, and just think about loving others for a moment.  What is it to really love one another?  Last week we used the scripture where Jesus said that people would know we are his disciples by our love for each other.  Is our love so obvious, so apparent, that people recognize us as Christians?  John wrote, We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other.  Then he goes on to say, This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.  (1 John 3:14 & 16)  John is speaking of a total commitment, a total giving of ourselves to the wellbeing of others.  Is this a thought that is constantly before us or a desire we ask God to place in our hearts?  When we were raising our five children, we told them that the guideline for our family was to treat each other as we wanted to be treated.  This was a statement that we could have prefaced with Paul’s statement.  We could have said: I speak the truth in Christ that I want to treat my brother or sister as I want to be treated.  This statement covered just about everything that came up in our family.  God worked on our hearts as we considered each other’s needs.  We desired to treat our children as we wanted to be treated.  We tried to do to them what we hoped they would do to us and to others.  We might say, “I am sorry you felt so angry, but is that how you want to be treated?  How could you have done that differently?  Why don’t you think about what happened and pray about it.  The Lord will help you do better next time.”  Of course there was more than that involved.  Grace centered parenting takes time and effort.  But Jesus is the center and his Word is our guide.  We have seen a harvest of the fruit of the Spirit in our children’s lives and now in our grandchildren.  Jesus is our peace, and entering into his rest provides what we need in every situation.  When we come to him by faith, He is our Promised Land, our resting place, all we will ever need.  We leave you with these powerful words: There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.  Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.  (Hebrews 4:9-11)  As the Jews had a great inheritance and history before Christ, so do all who claim Jesus as Savior and Lord.  We trace our lineage from him when He gave his life for us at the cross.  He made us part of his family.  May we all enter in today.  

Monday, June 18, 2018

Romans 8:31-39 We Are More Than Conquerors!

Romans 8:31-39  What, then, shall we say in response to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?  It is God who justifies.  Who then is the one who condemns?  No one.  Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long, we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  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. 

Where and how does the love of God come to us?  In and through Christ Jesus remains the answer.  God approaches us through the merciful hands of the resurrected Jesus who reaches out to us.  A sinless, perfect God is approachable through Jesus Christ his Son.  We know no sinful man can look upon God, for He is too terrifyingly holy, perfect, exact, without sin or shadow of imperfection.  He is God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.  (1 Timothy 6:15-16)  We who are alive IN JESUS CHRIST have a nearness to God because of Jesus’ work at the cross.  Jesus the  precious, perfect lamb of God died on the cross for a destined place in the heart of God.  The perfect lamb without blemish was set upon the altar to be slaughtered in our place.  We who are imperfect, blemished forever by sin, were spared death by the sacrifice of the Perfect One.  The disciples gave their lives because of this reality of life in the spirit: the gift of God IS ETERNAL LIFE.  They knew the Lamb’s perfectness was forever their perfection, and that for eternity, they would hold a royal place in God’s intimate family.  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?   Because of Jesus we become co-heirs with him in the family of God.  We are hidden in his sacrifice, in his goodness.  We take on the characteristics of the Perfect One.  We have been predestined to be like the Lord.  No human being, even though made in God’s image, can enter into the presence of God without holiness.  Eternity will not tolerate sin that leads to disorder, chaos, and death.  God is none of those conditions, for He is organized, exact, and pure.  All of eternity falls under his will of perfection.  Humans are wobblers: good and bad, right and wrong; every inconsistency exists in us.  Because of our need and his great love for us, God gave us his Son who is perfect, righteous, and abides forever.  In Malachi, the people questioned whether God loved them.  This doubt did not please God.  I have loved you,” says the Lord.  (Malachi 1:2)  Then He goes on to remind them of his love.  This message of love is exactly what John 3:16 says: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  God made us in his image, loves us with an eternal love, and allows nothing to separate us from this love.  Even our sins cannot separate us from the enduring love God has for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Of course, no one can separate us from God’s magnificent, eternal affection towards his creation.  Christians sometimes too easily say, I love the sinner, but not his sin.  We must be careful with that saying, for it can be very judgmental.  We might be saying, when he or she comes around to our idea of how to live an upright life, then I will unreservedly love him or her.  This limits God’s love.  He loved his creation so much that He gave his Son while we were all outside of his perfection, still in sin.  His love is unconditional.  Are we unconditional in our love?  A question we need to answer; for if not, we might have the wrong appraisal of ourselves.  We might not comprehend how we actually look through God’s lens of holiness.  Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  (1 Peter 4:8)  

The knowledge of God’s great love for us should change our lives.  If God is for us, who can be against us?  Nothing should interfere with our Christian lives because we know that God is with us in power and authority.  Our testimony should be bold, without retraction, without fear.  As Paul understood through his life of difficulty that God’s love for him was so secure that he could face anything.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long, we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  He lived knowing that he was more than a conqueror through the God who loved him.  Do we live the same life of fearless dedication to God, or are we more likely to hide our testimony when we feel insecure in who we are IN CHRIST, or who we are IN GOD’S LOVE?  Paul was confronted by Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus.  At that time, Paul had been given the authority and commission to track down Christians in foreign cities such as Damascus.  He took these Christians as prisoners back to Jerusalem to be imprisoned, tortured, and even killed unless they cursed Jesus.  Paul’s commission to attack the church was changed by a bright light.  There on the road, he met Jesus.  In his testimony before King Agrippa he said, I obeyed that vision from heaven.  I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do.  (Acts 26:19-20, NLT)  His calling changed in a moment of time from tracking down Christians to do them harm to preaching the Good News: all must repent of their sins and turn to God and do good.  How do we turn to God?  By accepting his Son’s sacrifice for our lives.  We accept his life by surrendering ours!  But notice that in his testimony, Paul also talks about what our lives should be like if we really turn to God.  He says that we should be doing good.  Doing good proves that we have been changed, that we have been made new creatures.  So let’s not get tired of doing what is good.  At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.  Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.  (Galatians 6:9-10, NLT)  Our lives should reflect Jesus’ life.  He was baptized in water and in the Holy Spirit.  After his baptism in the Spirit, He went around doing good, delivering people from the oppression of sin.  We who know the love of God, who bask in this love, should be fearless in doing God’s will.  Our testimony should be one of praying for people and of helping people through the struggles of life.  God has given us his enduring love.  We should give this same love to others.  We are to love our neighbors, our enemies, and sinners as ourselves.  If nothing can separate us from God’s love, then nothing in this world should separate us from loving others with God’s love. 

We have been given great presents from God to give to others.  These wonderful gifts are not from our storehouse of grace and mercy, but from the eternal storehouse of God’s heart.  The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.  (Galatians 5:22-23)  When we turn to Jesus, when we discover the grace and mercy of God through the sacrifice of his Son on the cross, we discover the love of God in reality.  The Holy Spirit produces his gift of life in our hearts.  His gifts, the elements of the fruit of the Spirit that God harvests from our lives, are presents that we can unwrap and give to the world.  Paul says that we should prove ourselves as Christians by giving the above fruit to the world.  Every day, we should strive to reveal this fruit.  If we display the opposite of these characteristics to the world, we are dishonoring the work on the cross.  We are giving defiled gifts to the world, not the holiness that God wants the world to know.  We are his ambassadors.  We are to express his likeness, not the world’s likeness.  We are to give mercy and grace when people do not deserve such actions.  Jesus said, By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.  (John 13:35)  Paul obeyed the vision of Christ on the road to Damascus and became God’s instrument of love.  Notice in his account, that Jesus came to him at noontime when the sun was the brightest, but Paul and the others saw a light brighter than the brightness of the sun.  This brightness that Paul saw should be in us, a supernatural brightness.  Jesus talks about this brightness in his sermon on the mountain.  If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.  (Matthew 5: 41)   When Jesus asked the Jews to go an extra mile with a Roman soldier who demands them to carry his pack, the brightness of God was being revealed.  When Jesus asks us to love our enemies, the brightness of God is being revealed.  When God asks you to display the attributes of the Holy Spirit, the brightness of God is being revealed in your life.  Yes, God loves us with an eternal love.  Nothing can separate us from that implacable love, but God asks us to love others in the same way as He loves us.  That kind of love can come only from a new creature, a new creation, made by God through the work of his Son on the cross.  We encourage you to remember what Paul wrote so eloquently in today’s scripture reading,  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. 

Monday, June 4, 2018

Romans 8:22-26 A God of Hope!

Romans 8:22-26  We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved.  But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.  In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 

New parents often feel the challenge of trying to visualize the first baby that will be born into their family.  The prospective mother feels the life within her, but she cannot know much about the baby other than feeling it move and knowing it has a heartbeat.  She is a carrier of life, but her imagination has not fully comprehended this new person.  The mother holds life in her womb but lacks complete understanding of what that new life will be like or how the birth will change her world.  Likewise, we who are alive IN CHRIST do not fully fathom what the life that is developing within us will be like when manifested before all creation.  As the woman experiences pain during the birthing of a child, so does creation experience pain under the curse God has placed upon it.  As God said after the fall, I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children.  (Genesis 3:16)  We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Because of the curse, we too are experiencing the pain and suffering that has been placed upon all creation.  Violence, chaos, and all manner of troubles characterize the womb.  Paul tells us that not only is  the womb itself suffering, but we too, hidden deeply in the womb, surrounded by the protective amniotic fluid of the Holy Spirit, experience some of the hardships of this world.  However, no matter what the shocks and bumps we feel from the outside world, the power of the Holy Spirit maintains the life within the new creature inside of this creation.  We who are alive IN CHRIST have the protection of God surrounding our lives.  When Paul met Christ on the road to Damascus, the light that confronted him surrounded him, and he went forth a changed person.  We too who are IN CHRIST have that light surrounding us: front and back, side to side.  We are securely covered by the blood of Christ.  As Paul will write a little later in this chapter, 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)  Despite this powerful security, we remain in this finite, comfortless world, a lethal environment for the new creation if not for the protection of the Holy Spirit.  Without the Holy Spirit, we would die in this contaminating habitation.  We groan to be delivered from this temporary existence, for we know this present world is not our final home, a place of peace and harmony.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.  We wait with great hope, great anticipation of the day when we will fully be manifested as God’s sons and daughters, when the angels will rejoice at the beauty of the newly created.  We who have been developed in the glory of God will shine as stars.  As John said, Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  (1 John 3:2) 

All of our hope in Christ is garnered by faith.  We have a hope that will not fade away.  This expectation has not been realized at this time.  If so, it would not be hope.   But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who believes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.  In this world of suffering, we are aliens, just passing through.  We have a belief in a Promised Land.  God gave us this hope when we turned to him in faith.  Our faith resides in our breast.  We pray, read the Bible, and fellowship with each other to keep this hope alive.  As part of the body of Christ we pray for each other and build one another up in the faith, just as we pray for you today as Paul prayed for the Romans.  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  (Romans 15:13)  Nonetheless, sometimes we falter because of the trials and temptations of this wilderness.  We get discouraged—we wonder why we have to endure so much.  But through all the issues of life, the Spirit of God IS with his new creations.  He alone truly knows our situation; he knows how we were made; he knows our genetics; he knows how we were raised.  He guides us through this wilderness of life; strengthening us with food and water, often giving us a place to rest, an oasis from the winds of the desert.  We are never alone, abandoned.  We might not hear his voice because the cacophony of life fills our ears with useless noise, but He is always with us, and He is speaking words of peace and love.  He is our light during the night, our cloud during the day.  He is our hope of making it through the wilderness as we rest in his power and authority in our lives.  As today’s verses tell us, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  We pray thoughts that we cannot even utter, for we do not know the direction through this life, He expresses the truth for us in wordless groans.  He knows our travails, our pains, our depression, our despair.  He knows when we are about to give it all up, saying it is too hard to hang on by faith.  He, who never abandons us, will beseech the Father Of All Things on our behalf with divine insight and wisdom.  As Moses interceded for the wayward Israelites in their rebellion, the Spirit of God always intercedes for us, no matter where we are in life or how difficult the journey.  He is also there with us in times of great victory and rejoicing to help us express our joy.  Peter describes the Spirit’s joy when he writes: Though you have not seen him you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of you faith, the salvation of your souls.  (1 Peter 1:8-9)  What an awesome thought to be so caught up in the joy of the Lord that we cannot express our emotions in words!  

Despite those glorious times of inexpressible and glorious joy, we all experience times when we feel everything in our lives is blowing up at once and obedience to God suddenly becomes difficult.  Under those circumstances, we might feel that we are alone in this desert of wind and heat, shriveling up under the adverse conditions.  How can this be God’s perfect plan for us?  How can what we are experiencing be God’s best for us?  Paul sermonizes often about obedience to God’s nature and his ways.  He instructs us to rejoice even in the most dire of circumstances.  How difficult that is, but we have the hope of a future much greater than what we are experiencing in this land of hopelessness.  Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:4-7)  The Lord is always near to us.  The Holy Spirit’s voice within us is a reality.  The Spirit of God’s direction in us is so important in living a victorious life; his avenue of life is where we should abide.  This avenue has many names: Servanthood, Dedication, Obedience, Commitment, Righteousness.  Along this avenue of life are addresses: temperance, moderation, kindness, gentleness, patience, long suffering, love, joy, peace, forbearance, goodness, faithfulness, self-control.  All of these addresses are written in blood, for Christ won the victory at the cross for their existence.  They are places where we stop as we journey down this avenue as the Holy Spirit leads us.  They are places of restoration, revival, healing; we pause a while for rejuvenation, restoration, instruction in how to act, think, spread the gospel.  Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.  (Philippians 4:8-9)  As of now, we have not escaped the womb.  We still groan every day to be delivered.  We still wonder about the wilderness and how much of it we are yet to traverse.  Sometimes, we grow weary, but God says, “keep moving.”  Dear friends in your daily walk, listen to the Spirit of God within you.  You will have wonderful days of oasis habitations and you will have days when the sun beats heavily upon you.  But either way, you look toward your heavenly home.  You are like Abraham.  By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.  (Hebrews 11:9-10 KJV).  As we all await that wonderful day when we enter the City of God, may we place all our hope in our precious Lord!  

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Romans 8:17-21 Co-heirs with Christ!

Romans 8:17-21  Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.  I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 

If you are the child of a king, you are heir of all he possesses.  We as Christians are known as children of God.  We are not the only begotten Son who has been with the Father forever, we are children born out of season.  As God’s children, we are heirs of his glory.  We belong in an intimate relationship with our Father God.  As Jesus is in right relationship with God, likewise so are we.  The bloodline within us is holy, for Christ who bought us with his own blood has given us his holy likeness, his perfection.  Our spiritual genetics no longer match the nature of the finite Adam but line up with the nature of the eternal God.  By faith in Christ, we are no longer limited to our transitory existence in our fleshly bodies, for we have a celestial hope in our beings, an understanding that we are predestined to be with God forever.  Our biological shells will be shed someday at our demise, but our spiritual lives will be enclosed within God’s eternal being.  We will be heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, like the Father and the Son in their glory.  For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  And having chosen them, he called them to come to him.  And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself.  And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.  (Romans 8:29-30)  However, this inheritance of his glory comes only to those who endure to the end in the wilderness of life.  We are new creatures for sure, but we are in a land of sufferings.  We will not escape the hot sun or the parched land of the living within a cursed creation.  When disobedience was manifested in the Garden of Eden, the results of this waywardness fell upon all of God’s creation.  Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse.  (Romans 8:20, NLT)  As children of faith, we still live in this world: we have not received our new-creation bodies.  Gravity holds us down; food, water, and lodging are important to us.  We meet all the vicissitudes of life that everyone else meets.  The concerns of the fleshly existence will always be with us.  Sickness and aging will be a part of our everyday experience.  No one will escape these physical and biological demands.  The most spiritual of us, even men or women of great faith, will not be able to avoid the realities of the flesh as they grow old.  Their skin will sag, their hair will turn white or fall out, their bodies will groan as their joints stiffen.  Christ lived in the flesh.  He knew what it was to grow weary, to be hungry, to lack sleep.  He knew the journey in the wilderness is not always kind to the flesh.  But rather than faint because life can be hard, He followed his Father’s will to the end, even to the cross.  We who are alive IN CHRIST must also persevere to the end.  We will suffer hardships, either through the natural consequences of living or the trials because of our testimony for the living God.  Either way, life is not easy.  As Paul told Timothy, Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  (2 Timothy 2:3)  The journey must be traversed with adamant faith in the living God.  Faith is believing God resurrects the dead, and He has created all things for his purposes.  By faith our lives are hidden in his will and not ours.  

A good analogy of our lives of faith can be found in Caleb’s life depicted in the Old Testament.  When the Children of Israel reached the Promised Land, their faith in God and his power wavered.  Moses sent twelve men into the Promised Land for forty days to spy out the land.  When they returned to the camp of the Israelites, ten of them said the land could not be taken by them.  The cities in Canaan were too fortified, and the men were like giants compared to them.  They were unwilling to proclaim by faith that God would take care of the Israelites by giving them the land of the Canaanites.  Two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, presented an opposite view, a report of faith.  Joshua is a type of Christ, and the Lord dealt directly with him because of his faith and vision.  But Caleb was just an ordinary man of faith, believing and trusting God in everything he did.  In the face of opposition, Caleb said, Let’s go at once to take the land.  We can certainly conquer it!  (Numbers 13:30)  However, he did not escape the suffering the Israelites were going to experience in the next forty years of life along with the rejection from others who resented his faith.  He along with all the other Israelites were turned back to the wilderness by God.  There they would all die except Joshua and Caleb.  Because your men explored the land for forty days, you must wander in the wilderness for forty years—a year for each day, suffering the consequences of your sins.  Then you will discover what it is like to have me for an enemy.  I, the Lord, have spoken!  I will certainly do these things to every member of the community who has conspired against me.  They will be destroyed here in this wilderness, and here they will die!  (Numbers 14:34-35, NLT)  Caleb experienced the arid land and the sterile desert existence the same as everyone else.  He was a man of great faith, but he had to live in the land of barrenness for forty years, eating the same meal every day, experiencing the searing heat of the sun, living without the amenities of life.  We also are like Caleb, even though we possess faith, believing in God’s work through us and in us, we are still in the harsh land of sickness, sinfulness and rebellion.  We experience the curse God put on all creation.  In America, we go to work at six in the morning and come home at six at night, eking out a living, with little time to ponder the reason for living.  Our thoughts are focused on the needs and desires of the flesh, not on our eternal welfare.  Diverse pains attack our bodies, not only the pain of childbirth, but attacks of hunger, deprivation, poor choices, a toxic environment, and the like.  We who are IN CHRIST are part of all the pressures of our biological existence.  There is no escape from the consequences of living in the desert.  

Breakfast companions, heirs of the glory of God, endure to the end.  Paul told the church at Colossia that as each person grew in the knowledge of the Lord, God was giving each one strength with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.  (Colossians 1:11-12)  Fear not for God is with you!  Caleb received a promise from the Lord for his faith that is eternal.  My servant Caleb has a different attitude than the others have.  He has remained loyal to me, so I will bring him into the land he explored.  His descendants will possess their full share of that land.  (Numbers 14:24, NLT)  Caleb wandered with the Israelites for forty years, but finally the promise God made to him was realized when the second generation of the Israelites moved into the land of Promise.  He suffered for those forty years, but finally he settled where God wanted him to be all along.  We who trust in Christ regardless of the circumstances also have a promise.  We have a land to inhabit.  All creation will know someday that we are people of faith, trusting in the holiness of God to walk us through this wilderness in the clothing of the perfect one, Jesus Christ.  All of us will cross Jordan someday to enter into our home.  In that place of glory, we will be recognized for who we really are.  We are part of the bride of Christ.  We are members of the household of God, partakers of the glory of God.   Paul says, I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  How true that is dear readers.  We are more than what we think we are.  We sometimes seem like little ants, walking around on the earth’s surface without much notoriety or impression on others.  But in actuality, in God’s glory, we are gigantic galaxies, whirling and spinning, on fire with God’s holy energy, to be seen by all creation forever. Amen!  LET IT BE SO, dear Lord!