Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Little Lace

Being the girly-girl that I am, I've been trying as many Paint Shop Pro tutorials for drawing lace as I could find. None really satisfied me, and most required plug-in filters that just don't fit our budget right now. So I took ideas from various tutorials, added a few touches of my own, and came up with:

Friday, June 20, 2008

So Much More!




John's been leading our adult Sunday School class through the book of Ephesians this past month, just as my daily Bible reading plan has me going through the same book. As a result of both occurances, the Lord is helping me understand Ephesians as I never have before. Of course, I credit this new perspective partly on my husband's teaching skills (the Holy Spirit has definitely given him the gift of teaching). But also, the Lord is using the discipline of reading Scripture sequentally to teach me to understand its verses in context.

Take Ephesians 1:3 as an example. Doesn't it look pretty on that little picture I put together this morning? In isolation, the promise is pretty vauge, however. I always thought it referred to the mystical experiences that are so prevelant in Charismatic churches. But the verses which follow clarify its not-so-esoteric meaning.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth--in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
~~Ephesians 1:3-14 (NKJV)

Did you catch all the specfic spiritual blessings listed in this passage? Quite frankly, I'm still meditating on it, trying to process all of it! The concept that He chose me from the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him in love is alone totally amazing! If the Apostle Paul had left it at that, I would feel blessed beyond all riches. But he continues by saying that I was predestined to adoption as His daughter by Christ Jesus. And the list of spiritual blessings goes on for several more verses. Each clause could generate its own seperate blog post.

I used to read verse 3 in isolation from the passage as a whole, hoping for "spiritual blessings" like physical healing, emotional satisfaction, succesful ministry and protection from suffering. Obviously, my vision was obscured by my desire for temporal blessings. The Lord, however, has given me so much more than the trivial amusements I wanted!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Truth About New Creations

Every time I read 2 Corinthians 5:7, I think of Joel. It’s both a sad memory, and one that frustrates me. I’m frustrated that he understood the verse in a self-serving manner that caused him to accuse the Lord of treating him poorly, but I’m also frustrated that I didn’t have a good handle on that verse’s meaning until he had been dead for over twelve years.

The verse seems clear enough.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
NKJV

In 1985, Joel and I both attended Living Waters Bible College in North Wales. He served on the music team, and sang a beautiful song based on 2 Corinthians 5:17. By the end of the three-month course, it had become his signature song; even today, I can “hear” his voice singing the first two lines.

In juxtaposition, I remember him less than a year later, after we had returned to California. A couple who had met at Living Waters had asked him to sing his signature song at their wedding, but he bitterly refused to do so. When I asked why, he grumbled, “If Jesus is supposed to be my Husband, He’s a lousy one because He hasn’t made me a new creation!” Soon afterwards, Joel had reentered the gay lifestyle, angry that Jesus had not obliterated his homosexual feelings.

During my Quiet Time yesterday, I read 2 Corinthians 5. In context, verse 17 is interesting.

2 Cor 5:12-21

12 For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to glory on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. 16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
NKJV

Paul’s point in this passage is not so much that we are new creations who are suddenly immune from temptation (as Joel expected to be). Rather, God has made us new creations who can see beyond the demands and limited perspectives of the flesh so that we can live for the Lord. As verse 15 states, Jesus died for us so that, as His new creations, we might live for Him.

People like Joel mistakenly conclude that accepting Christ should result in a life free from struggle and conflict. Jesus, on the other hand, preached a demanding gospel that requires us to deny our very selves.

Mark 8:34-38

34 When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. 36 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? 37 Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."
NKJV

A new creation sees past our selfish “requirements” to ask, “How can I glorify the Lord?” Instead of accusing Him of being “lousy” when He doesn’t alleviate our discomfort, we use our new eyes to see how our response to that discomfort can best glorify Him.

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