Monthly Archives: March 2023

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