It’s Personal [Full Stop]

It seems radical to edit Paul, but if I were his editor I might advise him to begin with “The Lord is at hand” and then carry on with his first truth that connects “rejoice in the Lord” to reasonableness.  Then I’d suggest he connect “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone” directly to “by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.” Right there, after “thanksgiving” I’d ask him to place a big “.” [a full stop].  There’s something  holy about connecting rejoicing to our “reasonableness”…reasonableness to our “prayer and supplication with thanksgiving”…and “prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” to our belief. Those are the connections of holy truth that verify we do believe “the Lord IS at hand” in our life for his purpose .

Did you notice how personal everything Paul writes is, even without my editing?  It’s about your rejoicing, your reasonableness, your prayer, your supplication and your thanksgiving.  Today if you dare to believe that, use my full stop and take a moment to rejoice over the Godly reality that sometimes His truth really is about you!  Then read on.  Paul is going to make your rejoicing even more personal with God’s promise to “guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus“.”

That’s very personal for God too! “Again I will say, rejoice!” Take my dare! “Rejoice” over what He is making known to, and about, you.  Rejoicing is reasonable evidence that you’re practicing “what you have learned and received and heard and seen” in your personal relationship with Him“.”  He’ll love it!

The Integrity of Grace

And Old Testament Verses 
— Isaiah 6:9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people:  “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ 10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
— Isaiah 53:1 Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

John repeats some of the most troublesome Words in the Bible.  They are God’s judgement given to Isaiah to let unbelievers know He will use their unbelief for His purpose.  Not all judgment of God is punishment, but it is always reality.  God sets the rules.  He has judged this group of unbelievers will be made deaf, blind and dull of heart.  I see that, but I wish it weren’t so.  

What possible purpose could the Sovereign Lord have in making such a judgment?  Why has He identified these unbelievers in this way?  He’s obviously not punishing them for what He’s done.  I have an idea that this judgment has to do with the reality of grace and glory.

I wonder if what He has seen in this group of people is the nature of man’s heart to listen but not heed His truth and see that truth as a useful tool to manipulate life but not believe it’s His power.  The nature of God’s Sovereignty is driven by grace that must respond to belief.  Could it be that God has judged these unbelievers in order to protect the integrity of His grace for those who DO see with their eyes, and hear with their ears,and understand their transformed heart is for the sake of God’s glory and for His purpose.

“God is sovereign over all belief and unbelief.
He knows exactly how to plan both of them in ways
that exalt his sovereignty and preserve man’s accountability.”
[John Piper]


Today is a word salad of definitions. I sometimes use definitions to help me see the truth of familiar words in a new and meaningful way.  Paul was not patting himself on the back when he said “imitate me.”  In fact his life was filled with circumstances no one would want to imitate.  These are the words that stood out to me that defined what Paul asked as the inspiration of his ministry, not his self-promotion.

Join: connect
Imitating: using someone as an example to follow
Keep: continue in a specified way
Example: characteristic of its kind
Citizenship: legal status and relation with specific rights and duties
Await: to be in the future of someone
Transform: a thorough or dramatic change in character
Subject: cause to undergo a particular experience
Stand: maintain a position
Beloved: cherished

Friends, connect with me to the truth I have shown you. Specifically continue to walk according to the characteristics of Jesus you have in us.  For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our legal status in heaven comes with specific rights and duties that insure our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ is our future. He will, by a thorough and dramatic change in our character, cause our lowly body to be like His glorious one.   He’s the power that enables our heart to undergo the particular experience that draws it to Himself.   Therefore, maintain your position in the Lord, my cherished friends.

One Purpose

There is no more important truth than the one Paul writes here: Jesus came to offer His own perfection, not ours, for one purpose — to make us His own.  It was God’s perfection that redeemed the imperfect faith of clay-footed heroes in the Bible.  It was God’s perfection that urged them to “press on.”  Could I have understood there is transformation and forgiveness for unwilling prophets, errant kings, guilty persecutors, and even for willing followers whose failures break God’s heart as well as their own without their stories?  The answer is so obviously no!  

My story begins way back in Genesis with an evil serpent who’s goal was to teach people how to curse themselves. Throughout both Testaments of the Bible I see how well mankind learned that lesson. Thank God for His never-wavering faithfulness to His one purpose — to make us His own.  Without reading of the redemption of those other clay-footed heroes, would I ever have recognized that “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to the promise of what lies ahead” is what I needed to “press on toward the goal…the upward call of God in Christ Jesus?”  The answer is so obviously no!  That is the prize!

You Can Do It

And Old Testament Verses
Leviticus 18:5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.
Deuteronomy 30:12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

I think I learned a simple base-line truth about righteousness when I was highlighting the Romans verses.  Righteousness that is based on the law…does AND righteousness based on faith saysFor with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

In between those …’s is the mysterious truth about righteousness.  There are rules and how you keep them impacts everything about your life.  The Lord says so!  “The design of the law was to lead people to Christ. The moral law was but for the searching of the wound, the ceremonial law for the shadowing forth of the remedy; but Christ is the end of both.”[a]

— My heart heart knows when my mind choses to obey God’s statutes as if they’re a bandaid that can cover the accusation that it’s my behavior that will strengthen my heavenly image here on earth instead of Christ.
— My heart knows when my mind relies on the phony satisfaction of good intentions and moral righteousness as if they’re a good excuse for not opening my mouth to say they were the result of Christ resurrecting my life so I actually had something to rely on.

The simple base-line truth about righteousness
for my life and yours is:

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved…
The word is near you in your mouth and in your heart, so that

[a] Matthew Henry


This is the topic of the day…seeking!  [Use an exclamation mark at the end of a strong command, an interjection, or an emphatic declaration.]  Seeking has come up over and over these last couple of weeks in my own study, in Bible study and in external reading.  When that happens I know this is not coincidence or an accident, it’s the Holy Spirit putting an exclamation point on the word of God so I’ll pay attention. 

Paul hasn’t used that exact word but it’s surely implied in this passage.  Isn’t the usual response to losing something to seek or replace it? He’s had his own exclamation point on the Damascus Road that has changed his focus from what he already knew from the Hebrew code of Jewish law that those who don’t believe in resurrection have no share in the world to come. His spiritual pedigree was beyond question but that has become “rubbish” to him now.   What he had lost has become his personal desire to seek — to “gain Christ and be found in him with “righteousness from God that depends on faith.”  Paul has reminded me seeking is much more than an other worldly goal, it’s “the power of [Christ’s] resurrection” at work in my everyday life, here and now.  [see Galatians 2:20]

How tragic that we in this dark day have had our seeking done for us by our teachers. Everything is made to center upon the initial act of ‘accepting’ Christ . . . and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls. We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him, we need no more seek Him. This is set before us as the last word in orthodoxy, and it is taken for granted that no Bible-taught Christian ever believed otherwise. Thus the whole testimony of the worshiping, seeking, singing church on that subject is crisply set aside. The experiential heart-theology of a grand army of fragrant saints is rejected in favor of a smug interpretation of Scripture… [A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God]

Remember Now!

Cited from the ESV
— Isaiah 49:8 Thus says the Lord: “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages
— Isaiah 55:6 “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;
— Psalm 32:6 Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him.
— Psalm 69:13 But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.  At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.

Look at 2 Corinthians 6:2 and ask these valid questions. When is the “favorable time?”  Is it when God listens…or when you speak to Him?  Are you aware that God is saving you right now?  Can we expand the comfortable little box for that word “salvation” from one and done for eternity to a continuous stream of activity for life?  When we became a follower of Jesus Christ there was a spiritual sigh of relief because God saved us to Himself for all eternity. God has affirmed Himself in these scriptures with words like “I have” and “I will.” They have secured the past and the future but that “a” has become the big idea that God is continuously saving in the “present”  There was “a day of salvation” but that was then.  This is now.

Isn’t the reality of “seek the Lord while he may be found” necessary now?  “Now” is the day we need to be saved from drowning in the unexpected flood of circumstances of daily life.  The Lord reminds us of His past faithfulness in our past encounters with Him. I have listened to your prayers, I have answered, I have helped and saved you — remember how you found me then?  It was a favorable and acceptable time between us.  Don’t miss the reality that those memories of “found” time with me are the time you knew I was near.  Those times are past, the present is now.   Now I will keep you just as I did before — I remember, do you?  Now is the time I set for “everyone who is godly [to] offer prayer. “O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness…Behold, now is the favorable time — behold now is the day of salvation.”

The A), B), C)s of Faith

Here’s an  interesting commentary explanation about Epaphroditus’s illness that is worth sharing: ( Philippians 2:25-30 )

“There is a word in this passage which later had a famous usage. The King James Version speaks of Epaphroditus not regarding his life; the Revised Standard Version uses risking his life; we have translated it hazarding his life. The word is the verb paraboleuesthai ( G3851); it is a gambler’s word and means to stake everything on a turn of the dice. Paul is saying that for the sake of Jesus Christ Epaphroditus gambled his life. In the days of the Early Church there was an association of men and women called the parabolani, the gamblers. It was their aim to visit the prisoners and the sick, especially those who were ill with dangerous and infectious diseases. In A.D. 252 plague broke out in Carthage; the heathen threw out the bodies of their dead and fled in terror. Cyprian, the Christian bishop, gathered his congregation together and set them to burying the dead and nursing the sick in that plague-stricken city; and by so doing they saved the city, at the risk of their lives, from destruction and desolation.” a

That insight into Epaphroditus is an interesting commentary because of the information about his risk, life and faith.  I share it because it’s worth to me is the one Greek verb the Bible mentions associated with gamblers.  Faith is a definite gamble.  There’s a risk involved with believing a) there is a God, b) Jesus as God walked the earth as a man with a specific purpose —  to reveal His truth about dealing with the risks of life and finally c) at the end of His earthly life God/Jesus left an internal helper for those who believe; the Holy Spirit. The main evidence we have to support those risky truths is the Bible, but there is risk there too.  What if some, of many, translators got their words wrong?  You might gamble and be wrong…but are you willing to the risk your life on betting God couldn’t get it right? 

Everything about mitigating that risk depends on learning the truth about a) accepting, b) believing and c) confirming truth for yourself.  It’s a calculated risk.  No one else’s investigating really matters.  It really is all about you!  God/Jesus/Holy Spirit does not demand — He reveals Himself to those willing to risk investigating.  When that revelation happens you begin to understand the risk/benefits of personal faith.  Read on!  If you read/hear something from your investigation once, it’s information.  If you read/hear the echo of that truth again, it’s confirmation and finally if you read/hear it a third time, it’s affirmation that you’ve just experienced the Holy Spirit, personally!  God really is teaching you!  May it be so!

a William Barclay


In “This” Day

— Amos 9:11-12 “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old, that they may possess the remnant of Edom (Mount Esau) and all the nations who are called by my name,” declares the Lord who does this.
— Jeremiah 12:15 And after I have plucked them up, I will again have compassion on them, and I will bring them again each to his heritage and each to his land.
— Isaiah 43:7…everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.
— Jeremiah 14:9 Why should you be like a man confused, like a mighty warrior who cannot save? Yet you, O Lord, are in the midst of us, and we are called by your name; do not leave us.”
— Daniel 9:19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name..

Rebuild and restore are common themes in the New Testament.  Throughout the Bible that is a common theme.  For a couple of days this week I’m at the ocean with my daughter and son-in-law and as God so often does He’s made a connection I can see with my own eyes to these passages.  Two hurricanes battered this area last fall and as a result of that, the work of rebuilding and restoring what was lost is obvious.  The rebuilding is the cosmetic fix but the restoration of what was lost is the ultimate goal.  

Acts quotes Amos saying the Lord has said the “remnant of mankind” will include Gentiles He’s called by His name.  What is “after this”?  Why does Amos refer to “a remnant of Edom?  Why do they want that remnant back?   What does that word “back” really mean? Why is Acts referencing Amos to explain Gentiles who are called by the Lord’s name?  Now Lord read me your truth from the Old Testament written to confirm it’s connection to the New Testament.  

I learned two “new” ancient Greek words studying for today. “Ethne” was a name used to refer to Gentiles or nations and “Laos” referred to the “people of God” the name the Jews called themselves.  Amos has chosen to use Laos to refer to Gentiles including them as “people of God.”  Gentiles who hadn’t become Jews but had remained Gentiles and been called by God’s name way back then in the Old Testament.√  After this?  After the “remnant of mankind,” Jews and Gentiles alike have been shaken and sifted to removed their sin, then “I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it.  Then they will seek the Lord.√   Edom [Mount Esau]  a kingdom thought to be founded by the angry, wronged brother of Jacob.  Esau will be restored to complete the restoration of the Kingdon of God.√   And now we come to that word “back.”  The word that says it all. God had never had any other plan but for His Kingdom to a) be rebuilt and b) be restored to the perfection He’d created in those first days of Genesis.   And finally we have our name the Lord Himself has given us, Christians, followers of Jesus Christ and Daniels plea to make our own — “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name” — who makes these things known from of old” in “this” day.

Working Out


Salvation is a reality that “God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” so you will become a “blameless and innocent” child “holding fast to the Word of life.”  It’s not always convenient and sometimes it’s downright uncomfortable to learn  something of value.  OK I’m calling this experience an inconvenient confession.  I think you’ll recognize my discomfort at hearing myself say — “I spent four hours looking up the eight cross references from a single passage and then the many cross references of each of those cross references some of which had cross references of their own and then I threw it all away because it didn’t seem to be about the lesson at all any more and I’d wasted my time” — out loud, in a Bible study!  I am not a newbie at this and to be honest I felt guilty and frustrated before going in to this study because in those 240 minutes I hadn’t had some moment of revelation.  I learned from this experience the something of value it takes to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” is the uncomfortable confessing of an inconvenient truth.  

Note to self: working out my salvation is NOT like going to the gym where I exert myself with the expectation of achieving some desired goal.  Yet when those words came out of my mouth I realized that’s exactly how I’d reacted.  I’d said exactly what I “didn’t” want to say — out loud!   There I was among a group of women I trust and admire, who all want to effectively learn how to be better image bearers of Christ and I spoke the ugly reality of just what I hadn’t learned. 

Confession often seems to include fear and trembling because it’s the hidden truth of the places we hide.  I think God was probably rejoicing at my confession.  I just wanted to take every word back and protect my seasoned citizen image so I’d look better than I am.  The reality of what it means to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” is not about performance or goals or study or guilt or frustration. “It is God who works in [me], both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” “Holding fast to the word of life” IS my salvation.