The act of writing, of sharing the circumstances, the gifts and the graces planned and carried out by my Savior and God brings joy, peace, and contentment to know that He has my life in His hands. My prayer for those who read, who share in what I continue to learn each day, many times through my weakness, is that you will be encouraged to look for God's presence and grace in your life also.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Trials...God's perfect plan...

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”  ~ C. S. Lewis (Novelist, Lay Theologian and Christian Apologist)

During this past year, we have been reminded over and over that we do live in a broken world.  We have been reminded in big ways that bad things do happen to good people.  We have also seen with out own eyes or experienced  ourselves the goodness of other people who reach out in huge ways at those times.

We have cried watching the news, reading the newspaper, talking to friends.  And yet we still don't see even a small part of the hard things others are going through.  If we did, we would really be on overload, because a lot of us just want to fix the bad things for others. We ask God for the means to help others... to help others out of bad situations. We also ask for time and wisdom to know how to help....and then we go and listen and do what we can with what God blesses us with.

There are those who say that God doesn't exist because if there was an all-powerful God, then he would be powerful enough to keep bad things from happening. They assume that A good God wouldn't want us to struggle, to hurt, to even die; after all, we certainly don't want to struggle, hurt or die but more than that we don't want to watch others struggle, hurt or die.  

But we need to get a grasp on the truth we learn in the Bible. You see, part of God's plan for us is that we do hurt, we do struggle and we will die... we also get to watch others hurt, struggle and die.

In his Word, he tells us over and over that we will go through bad times especially as we read the stories in Scripture.   We see how he actually takes his people through some really bad times so they learn things, mainly they learn to trust him, to depend on him, to ask him for help, for strength, for endurance.

I always think of Joseph.  In all fairness, Joseph had it really rough.  First he is thrown in a pit by his brothers who want their father's favorite son dead.  Then one brother says they can't do that so they decide they will just sell him into slavery and tell their father that he was killed by a wild animal. Later, working as a servant, he is falsely accused of molestation and then thrown into prison, with little hope of ever getting out.  Through each trial, Joseph shows that he trusts God.  I'm sure there were a few "Are you sure this is the plan, Father?" and even a few "why's."  But in the end when Joseph could have had a pay back to those onnery brothers, he instead chooses forgiveness and reconciliation.  When his brothers told him they were sorry, his basic response was, "Forget it because it wasn't your fault.  God planned the whole thing so I could in a position to not only save Egypt but save our family, God's family.  It is okay."

Every time I think about his response, I think about responses I've had at times, not good.  Those responses come when I'm feeling sorry for myself.  When I am looking at the "negative" things in my life and all I have to do for Larry, all that I have missed out on. And then I wonder if this is a mistake. And that is not fun....actually it is pretty horrible as I sink lower and lower in my self absorption.  And the world would tell me it is okay to feel like that. The world would actually tell me that a good God would never have allowed the trials of our life.

But God has shown me that a good God actually plans the "hard" times, the "rough" times, the "impossible" trials so that I can grow in Him as I trust Him.  I can actually sleep well and not get hateful because the truth is "My God knew exactly what He was doing and He brought the accident into our lives because He knew what we needed to learn and how we would learn it.  He knew exactly what He wanted to teach us and others as they watched.

When we go through the hard things, it is encouraging when we find out later...sometimes much later, how our story, the trials God has taken us through have helped someone else.  

Several years ago I met a young woman while I was at my sisters. I had prayed for this woman for several years because of all the trials they had had in their life.  But on this day she came to Roxana's to bring some food because my sister had horribly smashed a finger in a car door and was having surgery on it.  I knew this was the gal Roxana had told me about and we talked for a little while and then she turned to leave.  Just as she got to the bottom of the stairs she turned and said, "I know you!  You were in a car accident years ago and your husband was mentally disabled from the accident.  You had two toddlers then and you were pregnant with your third child!"  

I must have looked confused and then said, "How do you know all of this?"

She continued, "When I was in high school, I sometimes sang at Christians Women's Clubs.  You spoke at one here in Colorado Springs and I sang that day at the meeting.  I have thought about your story every day of my life."

I said, "You haven't had a very easy life either.  Roxana has asked me to pray often for you and your husband."

Crying, she said, "My thought every day was, if that woman could take care of her children and her husband, I can do whatever God asks me do." 

What an encouragement that was to know that God used what he was doing in my life to help a young wife and mother deal with the problems in hers. One of the reasons God orchestrates the trials in our lives is so we can encourage others with the hope we have been given. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

God with us... a real thing

Another Christmas...
another Christmas to try to understand just what God coming down to us in flesh means in reality.  Trying to just grasp that God, creator, magnificent, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God came down to earth for me, for you.  And what does it mean that he did that?  What does it look like?

This morning, just this morning at 8 o'clock, I think I saw God....here...touching earth...
Problem is I don't look often enough for Him, because if I did, if we did, we would see Him EVERYWHERE.

A woman that I do not know except that she takes the same nutrition we do and cares about people, got me on the phone with a farmer's wife and mother of 6, ages 1-15. That conversation brought back lots of memories that I don't think about... much...a time when my kids were younger, a lot younger.  A time when Larry was in a coma. A time when I hurt a lot and saw God everywhere.

 I could hear the fear, the exhaustion, the dogged endurance this young wife and mother is going through.  Her husband is in a coma, six months in a coma, hurt from a farm accident.  He's home, but he doesn't speak, he just watches and and she thinks he listens.

 She waits and that is hard, but she prays...
      She longs for him to speak one word, and she prays...
           She tries to help the children understand, but they don't..
What she didn't say is:
      She wants his arms around her, but she feels God's arms around her...
             She who once depended on him, her earthly man, now depends on HIM, her heavenly Father....for everything.
And she waits....and waits....and waits as she prays and prays and prays.

And I saw God here, on earth, in her....because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that without HIM,
    she couldn't do what she has been doing for months,
       she wouldn't have hope that this will all be okay.
And she could not have said, "I know this is God's plan. He has a plan and this is okay."

Lee Ann, thank you for letting me see how that baby in the manger affects our everyday lives.

Because He came down as flesh and dwells in us, we are enabled to live lives that bring honor and glory to Him because of what He does in us..

Because LOVE came down, we can know that there is more....a lot more after our time here is done.
And His peace has come to us.

We can wait because of the Christ child.
    We can wait because we trust Him.
        We can love because He first loved us and gave Himself for us.

 He didn't take the easy route, He didn't stay in heaven where life was easy and He had it made.  No, He came as a crying infant who was needy, who was humbled because of that neediness. He came in spite of how much being here would hurt.  He came because He loved you, He loved me.

And so we praise and thank You, Lord.  We thank You for Your work in us...whether we are "strong" or "weak," whether we are on top of the circumstances or on the bottom, whether we are "good" or "bad." Because it is always and forever Your at work in us.  It doesn't matter what we do or don't do, You still love us....You are still working out Your perfect plan to bring glory to your Name.

And so God, I thank you for Your work in LeeAnn.  I thank you for how you are using her.  I ask that she and her six children will learn to depend on you more and more and each day passes,,,me too. Amen

Monday, November 19, 2012

Learning to say "Thank You" for the hard things

Thirty-four years ago life was difficult.  Not quite two years after the accident, I was in effect a single mom caring for a baby just 18 months old plus a kindergartner and first grader..., and Larry wasn't making much progress. There was little sleep, a lot of work, and streams of tears running down my cheeks soaking my pillow most nights. [our story in brief is here.]

But a couple days before Thanksgiving, the Spirit began reminding me that we are to be "thankful in all circumstances, for this is the will of God for you," until I finally sat down at my typewriter and began typing some words of thanks, and once they started coming, I began realizing a little of what God was doing for me.

Reading it now, after all these years, I can read the pain between the lines....pain that left me breathless at times but there is also hope....."and hope never fails."

But in order to get to the point of being thankful for hard things, I had to reach the end of me and my pride, my independence, my abilities, my dreams. I had to understand that my life really was about God and His glory, His honor, His praise.  

And isn't it good that He is always the one teaching us to be thankful even when we don't want to be.

So because of His grace, His steadfast love and faithfulness, I could say and can say....

Thank you Lord for teaching me to say "Thank you,"
Thank you for being patient with me while I learned.
Thank you for the friends that were there
    and they weren't just a few,
Who stood by me and loved and cared while I yearned
    for the things I thought I had lost.
Thank you Lord for teaching me that I had not lost
    but had gained so many things that only you can give.
Thank you for peace.....
The amazing peace in my heart when my world has gone mad.
It comes from knowing you care and that this journey will end
   in the glory of your love and light.
Thank you for letting me meet others who have greatly suffered too.
They have taught me much about becoming more like you.
Thank you for trials, both big and small
And the knowledge that in my life patience they are "working."
Thank you for your love;
A love that has held me close when no one could fill that loneliness so deep.
Thank you for loving me when I doubted your very existence—
Your never ending presence that You would always keep.
Thank you for opening my eyes to the wideness of your mercy
   when it all seemed so very unfair.
Thank you Lord for the songs you have written through those
   who have suffered so deeply in years gone by.
Thank you Lord for teaching me to listen to the words
   and not to question why.
Thank you for the truths in your precious word
Those that help me see more clearly
That this life I have dear Lord
    is yours and yours alone
To do with as you will
    and all I have to do is yield myself completely
And my needs you will fulfill.
Thank you Lord for teaching me to say "Thank you."

Happy Thanksgiving.....and my prayer for myself and you is that in the coming year each and every day will be filled as we offer our praise and thanksgiving to our God for all He is doing around us, for all he blesses us with, and yes, even for the hard, hard things that He uses in our lives to grow us and make us more like His Son, Jesus Christ.

[please note the dead flower in the picture above.  We tend not to notice because of the beautiful flower just above it, but we need to know that every picture isn't perfect or pretty, but the reality is there are hard things, dreams that die, but there are always new ones to come, new life that happens and because of the hard times, we get stronger and more thankful because we know fruit is being produced. There are a lot of life realities that this picture shows.  I would love to hear what some of you might see in this picture.]

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Anticipation of Iris once again in the Spring

With the warm weather hanging on this fall, I have been working out in my yard most every day for a few hours. Cleaning off the dead, dividing some crowded plants, enjoying the birds at the feeders, soaking in the warmth--actually trying to hoard warmth for the colder days coming.

In digging up several overgrown crowded Iris clumps and splitting them, I have been able to plant several dozen Iris in different places, even some new colors given to me.

I love Iris.
 They grow in almost any kind of soil.
   They like it dry.
        They require very little work--a little food, a little water....
             They bloom in the spring when beauty and color are much appreciated.
                  And they bloom big!! Really BIG.
 Which means they make for great pictures.

But a couple days ago when I was outside digging and watering and planting, I got to thinking about these little Iris tubers, about dead, that will bring so much joy, Lord willing, in about five or six months.  Some will be absolutely jaw-dropping and send me to my knees in praise and wonder at what God has done.

But aren't His surprises, His blessings, His graces that are lavishly bestowed on His children more than we could ever imagine.  And they come at the most unexpected times in our lives.

Times when there has been loss,
   Times when we have been hurt,
       Times when we are without answers.
   Times when He wants us to know that we are loved.
       Times when He wants us to know that He knows all about what is going on,
            Times when we are fearful of the unknown.
   He never changes.
        He is always here with us.
              He will always provide for us---more than we ever thought.

A friend just shared a story with me about an answer to prayer...she had been feeling especially frustrated over some health issues that have gone on and on with no resolution.  She had just told the Lord she really needed some encouragement, some affirmation that He knew what was going on.  The phone rang, but she almost didn't answer...all those calls before the election and taught her not to answer. But she felt she should and on the phone was another recorded message but from Charles Stanley.  She said usually his calls ask for  donations but this was different. He said something like, "You need to know that God wants to encourage you today.  He knows what is going on and He wants you to be thankful in it because we are to give thanks in all circumstances...."  She was amazed since she had never had such a direct answer to prayer so quickly.

Isn't God good....

So once again as winter approaches, I know that when I look out on my frozen garden,
 covered in snow and ice,
     colored brown and grey with no hint of color,
          with no sun to warm the earth....
I will know that underneath that cold surface there lies the makings of a beautiful explosion of color and surprise come May and June.  Of color that responds to spring warmth because of winter's fearful cold holding them in bondage for a short time. Why?? So their inner beings could be renewed, so their time clocks could be set, so the bugs would die, so they could regain their strength as they lay quietly waiting for His signal to come forth.

And once again I will get out my camera and my Bible.  My footsteps will be quiet as I walk through the garden enjoying and marveling over the wonder of what God does each and every year.  And I will remember, always remember that hope comes out of pain, life comes out of death, warmth comes out of cold and hope springs forth from fear.

Thank you God, for your wonderful works to us in giving us the renewed sense of God's plan for the ages...to bring glory to Himself and to Himself only and not to man.
Thank You, for the hope of the coming spring,
                        for the encouragement that in your plan for us,
                               for the flowers that will bloom again by your plan and purpose,
                                     each year, each spring, by your grace, in your time. AMEN

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."
 II Corinthians 4:16-18

Romans 8:24-25 "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer."

The following poem describes the Iris and its beauty.

Iris, Most Beautiful Flower

Iris, most beautiful flower,
Symbol of life, love, and light;
Found by the brook, and the meadow,
Or lofty, on arable height.
You come in such glorious colors,
In hues the rainbow surpass;
The chart of color portrays you,
In petal, or veins, of your class,
You bloom with the first winter,
With the last, in the Fall, you still show;
You steal the full beauty of Springtime,
With your fragrance and sharp color glow.
Your form and beauty of flower,
An artist's desire of full worth;
So Iris, we love and crown you,
 by Edith Buckner Edwards

Friday, November 2, 2012

Walking by the Spirit, not by the flesh...

[this is a lecture I shared 11/01/2012 for Women's Bible Study on Galatians 5:13-26]

So we have just spent seven weeks learning and reviewing that our salvation is by faith alone, by Christ Alone by grace alone. Do we believe it? Of course we believe it because it is true. 

Now the next question is what does living in freedom from slavery to sin, slavery to the Law look like? 
     How do we not keep thinking we need to please God? 
            How do we keep our motives right seeking to be obedient in all we do so God gets the glory and honor and praise but not doing it so we look good?

Paul really begins to answer this delimna here in Chapter 5. The help he gives us here is practical truth that we can hang on to.

In review (we can never hear this enough) what Paul has been telling the Galatians is that their salvation is by faith alone...by Christ alone and by grace alone. By faith you have been "saved through grace and not by works." Again, none of our works can earn favor with God. For those who have been justified by God, for those whose faith is through Jesus alone by grace alone there is nothing we can or can't do that will endear us more to God, our Father--our Abba Father. He sees each of his sons and daughters through the lens of Jesus' righteousness.

Paul has used various arguments here in Galatians to convince them that if they had to add to the Gospel in order to pacify God, if Jesus sacrificial death was not enough to make us right with God then...
  1. Christ didn't need to leave his throne and come to earth and then die, [but he did come down and he did die]
  2. The Galatians would have to not just keep one part of the law that they added on but every single bit of it [and they couldn't and we can't]
  3. This would leave us slaves to sin forever because they can't keep the law...no one can

Now that Paul has made his undenible arguments and condemnations against the Judaizers, against those teaching this false doctrine of needing to do something more (circumcision) in order to be saved, what does Paul do in his letter? He begins presenting the case for their being free and what that looks like. That is an important truth for us to understand.

We do have Freedom in Christ

In verses 13-15, Paul says, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another”

Paul earlier in 5:1 talked about freedom when he told us why he died for us, why he paid the penalty for our sin.... “For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

--This is an important truth. When Paul says “stand firm” that is exactly what he means. To not stand firm for freedom from slavery to sin, would once again put us back under slavery to sin. Once we buy into the idea of pleasing God, we are stuck because we can never please God through what we do or don't do.

But there are three things we need to understand about freedom.

         1. Freedom from slavery can be misused in two ways...It is kind of like driving on a road. I grew up here in Colorado on a dairy farm, two miles north of Elizabeth. The two miles were on a gravel road, sometimes referred to as “roller coaster road.” There were some hills that could really be great fun if the road was dry but very frightening if the road was slick. The ditches on both side sof the road seemed deep and something to be avoided. However, over correcting the car on either loose dry gravel, or over correcting when the road was sticky, slimmy goo resulted in ending up in one ditch or the other and getting out of the ditch was seldom an easy task. It usually meant walking home to get Dad and the tractor.  If the car was damaged we were in big trouble.

And so it is with freedom from slavery to the law, there is a road of liberty that we are on but there are two ditches...two ditches that Paul tells us to stay out of.

In verse Paul warns the Galatians not to go back to the yoke of slavery, to all the rules and expectations. But some are afraid that freedom will be too easy for “weaker” Christians. I mean if there are no “rules” to keep, no checklists to keep people controlled, some might go crazy with sinning. And so the law loving, checklist loving people decide to come up with some “rules” some expectations to keep themselves and especially others from sinning too much....but as these rules grow and grow they end up on a slippery slide that pulls everyone deeper into the ditch of legalism, a "yoke of slavery.".

The other side of the ditch is the licence to sin Paul addresses in verse 13 “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh...” We must not use our freedom as a launching pad to indulge our flesh. These are the people those in the legalism ditch are concerned about. These people  really do believe that anything goes because we are under grace. They know we  have been totally forgiven so nothing can be held against us. That gravel road is dry in this case, but because of the speed and danger involved in the “fast” life, they end up in the ditch of license. They are totally involved in self and what they want to do and having their selfish desires fulfilled. The problem is they feel no need to serve those around them, to lift their brothers and sisters up, to be encouragers.  They are very me oriented.
  1. One Scripture passage that explains the delema well is from I Cor chapter 20
    23 m“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 nLet no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. ...
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or uwhatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 vGive no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to wthe church of God, 33 just as xI try to please everyone in everything I do, ynot seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.”

Which leads us to the proper use of our freedom in Christ and that is to “serve one another in love.” Jesus told us in John 15 “This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” John Stott said that “Christian liberty is service not selfishness.” and I would add it is also not control of others under the pretense of keeping them from sin. We need to stay out of the ditch on both sides of the road of "liberty" as we serve one another through love.

A key to our living in freedom is “one another”....we must live in community with our brother's and sisters in Christ and serve each other. But that won't happen if we are stuck with the law, with rules about how we need to live and act. John Hanneman said “God wants us to grow so that we love out of freedom and not serve out of duty. The law will not help us accomplish this ultimate goal. Our efforts to do so may look good, but they will not spring from a love that is based on freedom. Legalism inhibits love. When we are controlled by law, by performance, and by our preoccupation with seeking approval, we will not be free to love. We will through duty love so that we might receive love and approval in return. But no amount of law keeping will transform a selfish heart to a loving heart or a bound-up spirit to a free spirit. Freedom is possible only in Christ, through his Spirit. And this is why God has set us free—that in community and in relationships we might express and experience a love that is free from all taint of legalism.”

What Paul is saying here is really important....We are to use our freedom from the law to serve others through love. Jesus told his disciples in John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” We are to love our neighbor as ourself and when Jesus was asked who our neighbor is he told the story of the Good Samaritan where the Priest and the Levite who should have been willing to love the wounded man but didn't --probably because of fear for their life. Instead the Good Samaritan loved his enemy even though doing so went against every single cultural distinction and could have cost him his own life.

Henry Nouwen describes God's love in us like this. “The leap of faith always means loving without expecting to be loved in return, giving without wanting to receive, inviting without hoping to be invited, holding without asking to be held. And every time I make a little leap, I catch a glimpse of the One who runs out to me and invites me into his joy, the joy in which I can find not only myself, but also my brothers and sisters.”

Living under law does not free us to love and serve others unconditionally. When we live under the Law we are trying to please God, to live up to what we think He expects of us, to show others what a great Christian we are. When we understand that we are free of all that, we are free to listen to the Spirit, to follow the Spirits leading, to love our enemy, to go into places that could cost us our security, our reputation, our life because all of those things are in God's control.

Then we see Paul's warning in verse 15.
“But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”

These are strong words that speak of the community of believer's possible self-destruction. Even though he uses the words “one another" we have a negative connotation. Here those not serving each other in love, who are not loving their neighbor as themselves, are literally acting in cannibalistic ways to devour each other

Hanneman said, “If we do not give ourselves to love, things can go in the opposite direction. Efforts to control sin can have more devastating effects than the sin itself. Rather than building itself up in love, the community feeds on one another. People become critical, judgmental, selfish and complaining, pointing out each other's faults, consuming one another.”

As we have talked about before. Serving others through love and not falling back into trying to please God by following the rules is impossible in the flesh. Let's face it we are by nature selfish. We are born with a sin nature that does not automatically put others first. 

I remember when my oldest was about 15 months old and we visit other mother's with kids.  I would be shocked when older children would take away toys Greg was playing with.  I would think to myself, "Greg will never do that!"  But guess what in a few weeks he was taking things away from others also. 
 Oh yes, we can train our children to be more giving, but it is not a natural thing to do.

Everything in us says, “me first.” The last few years there has been this fad in America to wear “me first” buttons. Or things that idicate to others that it really is all about me. Would you believe that there are botiques and clothing stores named “It is all about me!” There are posters for your walls, pillows for your bed, sweatshirts and tiarras that actually announce to the world “it is all about me.” to help you remember that everyday.
But putting yourself first isn't a God-centered belief. It is from Satan who takes the commandment to love others and twists it by saying, “if you don't love yourself first, you can't love others.”

The truth is I don't have to be taught to love me, I do that automatically.   The problem for us comes when others don't love us like we think we should be loved. Then we don't feel  as "loved" as we think we deserve to be loved. 

That can cause a real problem if we don't get our focus, our purpose for living in the right place. If our focus is not to serve others through love, then our self-serving desire to be loved by others becomes the paramount goal of our lives. We are hurt easily because no one on earth can love us as we need to be loved which actually leads to a lot of hurt. The answer is as God says “through love serve one another.” “Consider the interests of others more important than your own interests.” 

You see, we do need to be loved.  It is the biggest need we have, but when we look to people here on earth to love us, we will be disappointed.  There is not a husband, a boyfriend, a father, a brother,  a friend, a mother, a grandma, anyone on earth who can love us perfectly.  They don't know what we need or how we need it.  But God does.  God created you, He formed you in your Mother's womb, he knit you together just like he wanted you to be.  And He loves you with perfect love...he laid down the life of His only Son because he loves you. 
And because He love you, God says to love others as He loved us.... In I John 3:1 it says “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God;...”

Jesus in the sermon on the mount talks about what loving your neighbor really means...and it is NOT something that the world asks us to do. Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?...”

But then Paul in verses 16-26 tells us of how that kind of love is accomplished...how the desires of the flesh can be subdued...how we can actually begin doing the things we really want to do.

We must walk by the Spirit.

In verse 16 he says we are to “walk by the spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Remember back in chapter 4:6 Paul says, “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of this Son into our hearts, crying 'Abba! Father!' So you are no longer a slave but a son and if a son then an heir through God.” When we became sons, when we were adopted into the family of God, became members of the covenant of believers, we were given the Holy Spirit. He dwells in you and in me.

There are 3 verbs used to describe the Spirit in the life of the believer.
First in 16 we are to “walk by the Spirit.” That is imperative...something we are to do. It indicates forward movement, an acknowledgement that he is right here beside me, we are in-step marching together. And we both have the same purpose to subdue to put down to squelch the desires of the flesh because the Spirit and the flesh are opposed to each other.

Then in verse 18 Paul says, “If you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law.” That is a rhetorical question if you have been justified by Christ. Each one of us who have been called by faith, are being led by the Spirit and we are not under the law. That is an imperative statement. It is factual. The action here is happening on the part of the Spirit. He is leading us....he is directing our way...he does show us the way to do what we really want to do and that is be like our Father in heaven.
And then in the last verse Paul makes a statement that should be a huge encouragement and a warning also. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

Again the “if” is really an acknowledgement that everyone who is justified lives by the Spirit because the Spirit indeed is in them leading them Our part?? We must keep in step with the Spirit. Don't lag behind, realize that you are not alone living this Christian life. The Spirit in us gives us victories. The Spirit constantly is reminding us of what Christ taught. “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” And so that list of the works of the flesh, the sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like that, have no control over us. They have been crucified with Christ Jesus.

And once again, because we live in the Spirit, we are led by the Spirit and we walk by the Spirit there is the Fruit of the Spirit...not fruit of Darnly or Mary or Sue. Not fruit of Pastor Bates, Billy Graham or even the church as a whole. Fruit of the Spirit. And just like fruit from an apple tree--an apple grows not because of anything the apple tree tries to do...anything the apple tree has learned to do...anything the apple tree works to do....I mean really have you ever seen an apple tree working???

Apples come because that is what the apple tree was created to produce, was given the power to do through it's inherit make up. The seed was even planted by someone else. Again in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said “So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”

The fruit that shows up “on” us, that others see comes from the inner man.....from the inside of us...from the Spirit within. And isn't it interesting as you studied this weeks lesson that all of these fruits have to do with loving others, there purpose is to feed others. I think it is interesting that apple trees don't eat their own apples. And just as they don't produce fruit for their own benefit. The Fruit of the Spirit is not to bless us, to feed us but to bless others, to nurture others, to feed them, to serve others in love. If we aren't walking by the spirit we will be incapable of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness , gentleness, self-control, all of which is of huge benefit to those around us. But also, if you notice, these fruits of the Spirit are all modeled by God to us as He shows his love to us.  He personifies each of these qualities which in turn the Spirit produces in us so we can bless others as He blesses us.

The last thing I want to do is talk a little about the Spirit that is within us. You can look at the handout that has some things we learn about the Spirit in the Bible. We need to understand just how essential the Spirit is to our Christian walk, just what he was sent to do and even how we can see his work in our lives..

I hope each of you will use this sheet to refer back to to remind yourselves of what you have in the Spirit. Who He is, Why He is, What He does for you always.

I also pray that God in his power will made each of us more aware of the Spirit's leading, of his Living in us to help us serve one another in love. I pray that each of us will ask God to help us see the work of God, of Christ, of the Spirit in our daily lives. But we must watch for him, look for him, give thanks for the Spirit's work that does enable us to love, to really love as God loves us.

When we see the works God has prepared for us to do, works that there is no way we could do in our own power, when we see the Spirit enabling us to reach out to those who perhaps hate us, to those who don't understand us, to those who would rather see us gone from their lives....when we can reach out to them in love rather than condemnation or disdain, wanting good not evil for them, we will know that the Spirit is indeed living in us, leading us, and enabling us to walk in step with him.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Weather storms/non-weather storms

Death and taxes---said to be two things we can count on.

I would add one more...storms of various types and sizes.

There are those we pray for...we need the moisture,
    we /want a snow vacation from school or work...

     Memories from childhood are made of those "snow" days, cooped up in the small house, wood stove blazing, and eight kids running wild because of the barametric lows.  My mother always said she knew when one of the "big" storms was coming because of all the craziness.

    Then there are the storms we pray will miss us...like "Sandy."  Huge, menacing, and certain as we prepare and wait for the dreaded arrival or as we run to higher, calmer places. Even as we pray for a lessening of the storm's strength, we get ready to face the worst...blankets, water, flashlights, battery operated radios, canned food to eat cold, games and our Bibles.

    My years in South Dakota included weather storms....rain...12-15 inches at one time....but worse...snow and wind together that made time stand still. Nothing but white out all the windows.  Nothing but white in front of doors.  Sometimes lasting for several days.  But I learned to be ready...food in the pantry...water in the bathtub to flush toilets a couple times a day...water in gallon jugs to drink....flashlights, oil lamps, blankets to cover doors and windows in one room to keep all the heat in, books to read in the daylight, down coats with warm, warm mittens and hats and boots and of course shovels, shovels for every single person in the family. Ahhhhh......the pleasure of the day after and having survived. I remember a T-shirt..."Survived the Winter of '98."

    There are other storms....the kind that the weatherman does not warn us of, the kind that we tend not to prepare for because we like to think, "That will never happen to me.".

    But life storms come... so how do we prepare for those storms...ones that take our breath away, ones that  lead us to say, "Will this never end?" or as we look up, "Enough, all ready..."

   Storms that "I" can't prepare for...but God can.  He is always ready for what He knows is coming and he gets us ready....one step at a time because He knows we are frail, we are weak and He knows exactly His purpose and plan for each one of us and for His people--to bring glory and honor and praise to His name.

There is no supplying of huge pieces of plywood to put over the windows....to block my view, instead God enlarges my view.....of HIM. He cleans the windows; He even pulls back the curtains and raises the shades. He wants us to understand, to see and learn that I can trust Him.  His Spirit within me, given to me at my rebirth, reminds me of what Jesus said, of what Jesus taught. He enables me to see more and more of God in my life--through creation, through provision of needs, through people in my life that He put there and through the "storms" big and little, He brings the good.

There are no trips to the grocery store for water and bread; instead, he leads me to the living water, to the living bread that will never run out. But not only does he become my water and bread but He gives me a thirst, a hunger for both....for Him.  Eating that bread and drinking of His water enables me to know and taste Truth, His Truth.

And so thanking God for his blessings in my life today that prepared me for the storms that have come and will come, I thank HIM for:

*the Gospel"
*faith to believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ
*The Spirit that dwells within me 24-7, even when I forget
*the "storms," little ones that teach me about God's Steadfast Love and Faithfulness
*the trust that He built within me as I saw Him answer prayer, give blessings and graces through the loving husband he brought me and the three babies he gave us
*the desire He put within me to know Him, to grow in Him, to love others
*the Bible verses that He led me to memorize as a child and as a young adult that would become the foundation for my trust when the doubts came
*the people and circumstances He planned and carried out as part of the plan to bring glory to Himself
*His presence that has always been there, enabling me to trust when the "perfect storms" came...His perfect storm in His perfect time and His perfect plan

And so as God helps me, gives me the desire to, and does His work in me for His glory,
By His grace He will lead me to...
WALK in the Spirit
   Be LED by the Spirit
       LIVE by the Spirit.

Psalm  57:1 "Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by."

You might also enjoy "When it rains, it pours", an earlier post.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Change...a hard word

Ephesians 2:4-7
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-- by grace you have been saved-- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."

Change...  A word with only six letters but a word with dozens of meanings and implications.
     Change is constant, inevitable, illusive, desired or dreaded.
           Change can grow us, stretch us, disturb us, threaten us,
                 while at the same time bringing us happiness and peace..

But one thing for sure, change will never leave us the same as we were before.

Someone pointed out that if there was never change there would be no butterflies, a sad world indeed.

You see God planned every change that has come into our lives...every single one of them and he has a purpose for them.
       The changes we liked, prayed for, enjoyed
               AND the ones we didn't want,
                    Even the ones we thought were of no purpose or good.

The summer of 2012 can be described by the word change.

The fire changed many of our worlds for several weeks, for some, life will never be the same.

The fire and the shootings in Aurora brought a knowledge once again that life could change in a moment...we are much less in control than we had thought before...in a sense innocence was lost for many as they faced evil head on.

Many of us had changes in our families...according to Facebook,
  some moved to new locations,
    some have new jobs or even no job,
      babies were born,
        five-year-olds began kindergarden,
          high school graduates left the security of home,
                 some of us had sons/daughters get married,
                           others are facing difficult health issues that will definitely    
                              change life patterns.
   Indeed, life brings change.

Through the years, some have said:
"I just never thought this would happen to me..."
    "I didn't think God would do this to me..."
         "My dreams have disappeared..."
                 "Why did this have to happen now?"
                         "This certainly wasn't something I planned on happening."

So why does God, in his wisdom bring change into our lives?
    Why does he mix things up?
          Why does he take us out of our comfort zone?
                 Why does he send circumstances that bring tears?
                       Why does he lead us to the point we want to give up?

Truth is, these questions are not always answered.
Someone once said that instead of asking "Why?", we need to ask "WHO?"  The who in the equation of change is God,
 --the God who causes all things to work together for the good.
 --the God who made a promise to Abram centuries ago that ALL the nations of the earth would be blessed.
--the God who fulfilled that promise by sending his Son to die for our sins, our failure to keep that covenant.
 --the God who sent the Helper, the Holy Spirit to dwell in us teaching us, praying to the Father for us, crying to our "Abba, Father" for us when we are in fear or in pain--our comforter.

--the God who gives us hope-- is preparing a place for us in heaven where we will spend all of eternity with him. Eternity....forever....no tears....no pain....no fear...no sin....no evil....no loss....no death.

Thank you, God, for your reminders of your presence and work in our lives through your Word and through the graces you abundantly shower on us.

Psalm 145:13-14 "Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made.  The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down."


Isaiah 51:6 "Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail".

Romans 12:12 "Rejoice and exult in hope; be steadfast and patient in suffering and tribulation; be constant in prayer."

John 16:33 (AMPLIFIED version) "I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]"

Psalm 62:5-6 "Find rest. O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken."

Hebrews 13:8 "NKJV "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever."

2 Corinthians 6:4 NKJV "In all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God . . . as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things."

Romans 5:3-5 "We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. "

God bless you as you trust Him in the changes of your life, knowing that He brought those changes for good, for the building up of His people in truth.

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.
It dos not fear when the heat comes; its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."
Jeremiah 17:7-8

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Through Christ alone...

[The following article is the lecture I gave at our Women's Bible Study on 10/11/12 at V7 Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs.  Several asked to have a copy to read so I am putting it here.  Preparing this lecture on the Abrahamic Covenant once again led me to understand a little more about just what God did for us because He knew our inability to ever keep our part of the covenant he made with Abraham and his descendants. My prayer is that you also will be able to grasp in some small way what God has done.  It is amazing and astounding when we think about it.I am also going to add some pictures (not all taken by me), simply because that not only breaks up the text but helps us see all our Father gives us to enjoy and praise and thank Him for.]

Lecture 10/11/12
Galatians 3:15-4:11
Darnly Motter

I have an idea when you were reading this passage, you were wondering what exactly Paul was trying to say. And then after you studied the lesson, answered the questions and have now gone through your small group you understand to at least some extent that Paul was once again is trying to undisputably help these Galatians understand that the gospel he had preached to them, the gospel they had believed by faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. But now he comes at it from yet another angle using the covenant, the promise God made to Abraham long before the law was given to show them that their faith in Christ, their belief in God and what he had done for them could be trusted without question.

And also you might have asked yourself, “what does this have to do with me? How can what Paul is talking about today have application in my life?”

Those are questions I asked and hopefully I have found some truths here that can help us in our daily walk with Christ.

  1. Covenant. First let's begin with the Abrahamic covenant made back in Genesis 15 and see just what God said and what he did that make it so remarkable.
    Both last week and this week we looked at several passages in Genesis that talked about the Abrahamic covenant and what God had promised Abraham.
    --We learned that he promised him land (he would make him a great nation), an offspring or son from his own body, and that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through Abraham.
    --We also learned that Abraham believed God and that belief was counted as righteousness.

*I do find it interesting that Paul is using this explanation to these Gentile Christians who undoubtedly don't know the whole story of Abraham and how this covenant transpired back in Genesis. The Gentiles had probably heard about Abraham, after all he was held up as the Father of the Jewish nation and was referred back to often--”Father Abraham.” I'm sure the false teachers had told the Galatians (Gentiles) about Abraham and how God had instructed him to circumcise all the men and boys in his household. But we also have to know that there were some Jews in this congregation also who really did know about the covenant and all it meant. They knew what had happened back there and this must have been very convicting to them while helping  the Gentile Christians understand this remarkable promise/contract God had entered into with Abram and his descendants, God's people made up his chosen people from ALL nations.

It is important that we see what Paul is trying to help these confused Gentile Christians understand by using this example. He wants them to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that:
  1. Their faith comes through Christ and Christ alone.
  2. Christ is the fullfillment of the promise God made 430 years BEFORE the Law was given.
  3. The promise given to Abraham could not be broken because it was a covenant given and executed by God Himself.

To understand that, I think we need to look at Genesis 15 again and some verses we haven't covered in our lessons. I will tell you that every time I have heard or read about God's covenenant and how He sealed it with Abram, I am filled with thanksgiving and praise for my God.

[Read Genesis 15:1-19]
--Now let's talk about this.

A. First of all we will look at Abram in this passage. We think the Galatians were confused, so was Abram. When God first spoke to Abram back in 12:1, He had told him to leave his country, his family and his father's house and go to a land God would show him. God said, “Get out of here and don't look back!” Why? Because God would make him a great nation, make his name great so that he would be a blessing. God said then, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse, and by you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” And Abram did exactly what God told him to do. He left.

Time has passed, years have passed since then and now in chapter 15, we see that Abram has some questions, things he doesn't understand. He has no offspring, just Eliezar, his servant but no son to inherit what he has. He asks “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus? Behold you have given me no heir...”

And so God takes him outside and tells him to look at toward heaven and number the stars, if he can. And then he says, “So shall your offspring be.” and Abram believed and God counted that belief as righteousness.

Isn't that amazing?? All Abram did was believe and God gave him that ability to believe and God counted it as righteousness for Abram. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” Thank you, Jesus.

But once again Abram has a question when God says, “I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.”

Abram's question? “O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” [isn't that just like us?? We want writing on the wall. We want a picture, something we can hang our hat on.]

You see Abram had faith, but his faith just like ours is imperfect. Remember the man who came to Jesus and wanted him to heal his son, but he said to Jesus, “If you can heal him?” and Jesus said "Do you believe I can do this?"  And the man said, “I do believe but help me in my unbelief.” 

We also believe, but... and that is where God comes in. His Spirit within helps our unbelief. One man said that when we are going through circumstances that we don't understand, instead of asking “why?” we need to say, “WHO?” We must rest on WHO he is, Who it is that has promised his steadfast love and faithfulness to us no matter what, no matter where, no matter how much we doubt. The God who gave us his Spirit to help us believe.

And now God gives Abram a real picture, a picture that takes us down the road hundreds of years to Christ's death on the cross. God did a lot of that in the OT. He teaches his people over and over about sacrifices, about sacrifices for sin, imperfect sacrifices that don't pay the ultimate price for sin but pictures of what will happen through the final sacrifice of his own Son.

In one online resource [click on this to see the full article] I looked at, an article written by Pastor Charles A Biggs on the Abrahamic covenant in Genesis 15, he said this,

Abram knew that if any of God's promises were to come to pass, it would not be based upon his own wisdom and efforts, but it must be dependent on the LORD who had revealed himself to Abram and will continue to be faithful to him. God has sovereignly and graciously revealed himself to Abram by promising him a great reward and inheritance, and all Abram had to do was believe. This can be quite amazing when you think about it. The LORD, the Sovereign Creator of heaven and earth appeared to a simple and sinful Chaldean man to bring him knowledge of himself and to even reward him with a great inheritance- -all because of faith!

It is just because that faith is extraspective in character. That is, it looks away from oneself to the only LORD and God that can truly provide; the only God who man can truly believe. This great and sovereign God revealed himself to Abram in a vision, just so he could bless he and his descendents. What grace the LORD shows to his people. Sure Abram had concerns about how this was all going to "pan out"- - he is human. He doesn't know how this will all come about, but because God has graciously revealed himself to Abram, he knows the LORD is able to keep his promises. In fact, the LORD not only accommodated and stooped to reveal himself to sinful Abram, but was about confirm his promise in an even more astounding manner. What was about to happen, Abram could have never imagined.

God tells Abraham to participate with him in a covenant ceremony. Biggs said, “The LORD was not only gracious enough to promise Abram a great inheritance, he was willing visually to show Abram just how great his grace and promises are to him. The LORD God of heaven and earth is about to not only reveal himself but to “cut” a covenant with him as well to assure and confirm that all of his promises to him are “yes” and “amen”.”

So what exactly is a covenant? There are dozens and dozens of definitions out there but the one Biggs gave is easily understood.
In the Old Testament, one of the principal ways of describing God's dealing with his people is that of covenant. A covenant is simply the formal expression or establishment of a relationship ... In the Old Testament, almost all references to covenant are to God's formal relationship to his people. The covenantal form in the Old Testament is patterned after other ancient Near Eastern covenants, so that Abraham, and later Moses and the rest of God's people could grasp what God was doing. It was unbelievable."

God tells Abram to bring him a 3-year-old heifer, a 3-year-old female goat, a 3-year old ram, a turtledove and a young pigeon. So Abram did exactly that and then he split the heifer, goat and ram in two and laid them open with a little room down the middle that would have had blood from the animals covering the path.

Covenants at this time in history, typically had 4 parts:
  1. An historical reference that showed the relationship of those involved (I am the God who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldees).
  2. A statement about the nature of the relationship (to give you this land).
  3. Stipulations about what the parties in the covenant were to do (Abram's part was faith or belief, and of course we understand even the faith was given by God).
  4. The sanctions, blessings and curses that would happen upon the fulfillment or violation of the covenant.
    --note that covenants were usually sealed by an oath-taking ceremony which represented the curses that could happen if the covenant wasn't kept.  
Once again remember that this ceremony followed “Abram believed the Lord and he credited that belief to him as righteousness.” So Abram divided the animals and then God sent a deep sleep on Abram, but in his sleep he hears God repeat all the promises God had given him plus even more specific future events that would happen. But NOTE that Abram was in a deep sleep, he wasn't moving. But God was, “behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.”

What God did here was “cut” the covenant himself, without Abram's taking part.

You see at this point in history, when a king went into a covenant with his people, he was promising them something if they would do their part. After the king gave his “promise”, the people would have to walk through the blood between two portions of an animal. What the people were saying was that if they failed to keep their promises to the king, they would be cut in half---killed for disobedience and failure to keep their oath.
Abram would have been familiar with what his part should be in this covenant...he would have understand that be would be the one to walk between the cut animals.

But what happens here with Abram is unbelievable. Biggs says, “The Sovereign LORD of heaven and earth has not only revealed himself by his grace to sinful man in spite of what they deserve; he has not only promised, literally the world to Abram and his seed; he has not only reckoned Abram righteous because of his faith and belief in God's promises; but God covenants with Abram that if the promises are not kept, God himself would be cut in half, God would have to die!

The symbolism of the smoking fire and flaming torch, or the cloud and the fire that God reveals himself through later, is none other than an appearance of God Almighty as he passes through the pieces. This is not just amazing grace, but astounding grace! This is incomprehensible grace, but then that is the YHWH who Abram believed by faith!

Even more amazing is that the covenant promise was fulfilled in Christ. God cut the covenant while Abram slept, and then when God came to earth in the flesh through his only Son, he would take upon himself the covenant curses that we owed because of our sin, our failure to keep the covenant,  in order to keep his promises to his people. What a God we have!!

  1. The Law leads us to faith.
    --What we need to understand is that the false teachers were trying to tell the Galatians was that the Law was an addition to the promise given to Abraham. That it wasn't by faith alone but by faith in Christ plus the law. They were trying to convince these Galatians that the Law had made the promise better, more effective, complete.
    --and of course Paul has told them over and over in this letter that there is absolutely no need to add to the promise. He says the addition of something to the promise God gave actually nullifies it.  So now he talks about the law and why it was given. He does not say the law was bad, he says it was necessary, it was actually good, but it could never replace the promise of God, the covenant cut by God because the Law only reveals sin and because of sin we are in desperate need of God's grace--we can never ever do enough to save ourselves. The law was necessary to hold us captive, the law was our guardian. I love how Paul sums it up in verses 24-29.
      (24) So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. (25) But now that faith has come we are no longer under a guardian, (26) for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. (27) For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (29) And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.
So in contrast to the law what does faith do? What does having faith, given us by God through Jesus Christ mean in our lives?
Paul goes into a lot of detail about faith and what it means for the Galatians, the Jews and us here in chapters 3 and 4. So let's review what he says.

1. 3:2 “Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?”
    -You see if it weren't by faith, faith from God, we would not have the Spirit.
    We have to know that having the Spirit means the very life of the Christian. It is the Spirit at work in us that bears witness with our spirit that we are indeed sons of God.
    --He also talks about this in verse 3:14 “so than in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” The blessing of Abraham comes when we receive the Spirit, his indwelling presence.
    Some other verses that help us understand a little of what we have because of the Spirit being given to us through faith include:
  1. John 14:15-17 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”
    John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
    Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;
          We need to understand that the fruit of the Spirit is not things/skills/deeds we make ourself do, or improve ourself to the point of having these things.  The fruit of the Spirit is just that....attributes that the Spirit brings to us, enables us to have, works in us. Believe me the Spirit is building the fruit of patience in you whether you pray for it or not.
    Eph 4:20 It is through the Spirit that we are“....sealed for the day of redemption”.
  2. 3:7-9 Here we see that all the nations are blessed because God in fulfilling his promise to Abraham God justifies his people through faith. Paul pointedly says in very 9 “So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” Faith brings us blessings, or holiness.

  3. 3:11 “the righteous shall live by faith.” there is no better picture of living by faith than in Hebrews 11  Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation.  By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible."

  4. 3:22 “...so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” The promise, the covenant made, kept and fulfilled by God through God in the flesh paying our penalty for sin is given to us by faith in Jesus Christ.

    In verses 23-25 we see that we are freed us from the law, our prison keeper and guardian through faith.
  5. 3:23 “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed” 
  6. 3:24-25 “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.”

    And then we come to verse 26 which gives us some of the greatest practical pictures of what we have because of faith.
  7. 3:26 “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
 “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the Law (but the only one who could keep the Law perfectly), to redeem all of us who were also under the Law and couldn't keep it. Why?? So we might receive adoption as sons. SONS Of GOD.
Sons and daughters of the perfect Father, a Father works out everything for the good in the circumstances of our lives. Who has plans for good, not evil, a Father who loves us with a divine love. We are Sons/Daughters of the King of Kings. 

And not only are we Daughters of the sovereign creator and sustainer of this world and everything in it, but he helps us live as sons and daughters because, “He also sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts crying, “Abba! Father!”

Let's talk about the term here “crying.” It is a strong word, expressing deep emotion. According to Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, the verb crying originally represents the sound of a croak or harsh scream, generally an inarticulate cry; and exclamation of fear of pain. The cry of an animal. Here the Spirit is represented as uttering the cry, because the Spirit gives the inspiration of which the believer is the organ. Please understand that the believer only cries out under the power of the Spirit. If it weren't for the Spirit in us, we would not, nor could not cry out to God.

And the words the Spirit is crying out is, “ABBA! Father!”
As most of you know, the name Abba is an endearing term used in many cases by children when they call out to their fathers. It is like “Daddy.” We love knowing that we can call out to the God of creation, the sovereign God of the Universe as our “Daddy.”
But the word “Abba” was also used during this time by adults to show deep respect for their fathers. It is a difficult thing to keep those two ideas in balance. 

--We need to realize that when it is the Spirit crying out “Abba! Father!” through us, it is used correctly, in perfect balance. The respect and adoration due our Heavenly Father is there along with the intimacy afforded us with our Abba, our Daddy.

One more phrase I want to talk about is the last one in 3:26 “But as many of you who were baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.”
Vincent says that baptism here does not mean in relation to Christ, but rather into spiritual union and communion with him. He says this baptism is not a mere symbolical transaction, but as an act in which believers are put into mystical union with the crucified and risen Lord.”

Paul follows with the phrase “have put on Christ.” Here we have a picture that we should cement in our minds. After giving all kinds of examples of the use of this phrase Vincent concludes by saying that “To put on Christ implies making his character, feelings and works our own.” In many of Paul's letters he talks about “Christ in you.” Ephesians uses this phrase over and over.

So we not only put on Christ but he is in us.

Kendra talked about that last week, when she talked about how for years she knew she had the Christ's robe of righteousness over her but she was always afraid that her sin, which she thought was still underneath or in her, would stain the robe, would ruin things. Then she realized that she was clean, her sins her been forgiven all the way to her inner self. She not only had Christ's righteousness covering her but she had Christ in her. She was clean from the inside out. She could never do anything or not do anything that would stain Christ's robe of righteousness put on her.  What a glorious truth that we need to firmly hold on to.  It will change how we live.  Instead of doing things to be sure we don't ruin what Christ did for us, we can rest in what he did. Instead of working so hard to "look" like a Christian we can live as a daughter of our heavenly Father thanking him, loving Him and sharing what he did for us with others by loving them as he loved us.

And so when we put on Christ we are like him, we are brothers and sisters of Christ and brothers and sisters of all God's sons and daughters. Which is why he goes on to say there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female. It is interesting that Paul uses the male and female distinction because that can't be changed. We are one with Christ. All the differences disappear as that unity brings us together through our adoption as sons.

And because of that we can live in close intimacy with our Father knowing His love, His power, His grace, His mercy, His provision, His faithfulness no matter what.

And so once again we are left amazed at what God has done for us, in us, and what he continues to do everyday through the Spirit of Christ who teaches us, who helps us remember what we know to be true, who produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;.in our lives. I do not, I cannot produce those things by my effort, I cannot do anything to be better, to earn one single brownie point in God's eyes...
BUT HE CAN and HE DOES and HE WILL continue to work in me by his Spirit until the day I stand before my God and He sees Jesus in me. Praise God!!!

Through Christ alone
Through Faith alone
Through Grace alone.