Romans 13:11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
I wonder if the reason so many of us do our Bible study early in the morning is because intuitively we understand daybreak is a perfect object lesson of what God is saying through Romans. It’s surely one day nearer our salvation, by default, if nothing else.
The first thing you do if you’re an early riser is switch on the lights…and maybe grab a cup of coffee to get you going. We depend on the things we know to do in those first hours. Outside that personal space there’s another reality. It’s a shadowy and dark landscape that plays hide and seek with what you can see until the first visible signs of light signal the beginning of the day. That’s a great image to think about in regard to learning to live a life of faith that includes devotional time.
We all begin in that place where our dependence and security are on the things we know to do. Those early hours are the object lesson where we clearly see the difference between artificial light and real daylight. Right there waiting for daybreak with your Bible in your lap [or in my case my iPad version] those words “night is nearly over; the day is almost here” are the “real” firstlight that can become the armor for your new day.
Genesis 19:15With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.” 16When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them.
This brings to mind, “once saved, always saved.” Right now Lot seems like the most stupid of men doesn’t he? What makes him hesitate? Is it the need to act immediately without time to reason and prepare or maybe some kind of disbelief; in the message, in the timing, in God? Any one of those options lead to the same conclusion. He’s not Godless but doesn’t seem all that Godly either! Lot is unsure of who he’s to follow, himself or God.
However God is not unsure about Lot. It’s hard to fathom why, but God has committed himself to Lot and He will not hesitate to act to save him and his family. And therein lie the Seeds of Forever. We think we have chosen God but remember he first loved us. We think we have committed ourselves fully but our choices are limited by “the truth we now have.”
Here’s the good news. God’s heart and your salvation are not limited by “the truth YOU now have.” When your heart spoke those words of commitment, God chose to accept the Christ in you…and your words, without reservation. He’s sure about that. His intention is for your forever even if you hesitate and he has to grasp your hand and lead you to safety.
It was just a few years ago that I first heard of Lectio Divina (Latin for “Divine Reading”). It’s not a theological analysis of biblical passages but choosing to read and ponder your personal relationship with God through his Living Word.
Genesis 2:15 “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
God took a risk when He gave Adam the possibility of choosing not to obey rather than physically preventing him from eating. Think about the trust involved in giving that freedom to Adam…and to us! That’s prime Divine Reading [and pondering].
For God to be willing to risk letting his creation make a wrong choice seems like the ultimate submission on his part. The omnipotent God staking His reputation on “our” choices because “He first loved…” is pretty amazing when you think of it. He did have a plan but sometimes I just wish he’d done it the other way.
Lord, give me this day the courage to make you proud.
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
Monday morning I heard that my favorite knitting, spinning, weaving and gathering spot here in Florida had burned to the ground overnight. Philippians 3 came onto my radar this morning with search for what the Bible has to say about Loss and Everything.
I know it’s just a store. I know it’s not the worst loss but nevertheless it’s a real loss. We gathered there and became friends with shared interests. We learned new skills and shared tips and laughter. In large part that was due to the generosity of the shop owner who managed to create an environment where people wanted to meet together every week. That place is gone but we are still going to meet together today…not in that lost shop…but in one of those friend’s home.
Here’s my connection to Philippians. Paul doesn’t soft peddle loss by any means, it’s big to lose everything. His words force me to consider this loss as a real-life lesson, not just in terms of all that was lost in that fire but from the perspective of what, and who, “everything” really is.
I’ve still turned the Christmas lights on this morning. I’m not quite ready to give them up. There is relief, though, that I can turn down the intensity of wanting to acknowledge each day of Advent with a blog post and return to my “Sunday and Wednesday” plan. It feels like a long exhale after heavy exercise. You do it for all the right reasons but it still feels good to be done. The benefits always come after… So I decided to look at what I’d written last year after Advent had ended.
“I Thessalonians 1:3 We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
There’s something of a letdown now that the intensity of Advent is done. There’s a sense of needing to come off the mountain high of this last month. That’s just what I Thessalonians 1 has offered me. It’s a reminder that my words are “work that comes from faith,” and …effort that comes from love. They brought me to that high point of of my Advent and Christmas celebration in those days and now this realization; there is no mountain high without the “stable” foundation, the…perseverance that comes from hope in our Lord Jesus Christ IN the presence of our God and Father.”
One word appeared in both the paragraph I began with and last year’s writing…intensity. I liked finding I’d felt that intensity again this year. It’s the “Stable” Foundation that’s a benefit from the “exercise.”
2 Peter 1:2-8
2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
One repeated word in the passage caught my attention…Knowledge. I want everything needed for a Godly life. I want to know about God but even more importantly I want to know God.
Definition: knowl·edge, noun 1. facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education
I found this quote by James Ray that made sense to me…”Knowledge comes from acquiring information—Knowing comes from ownership.”
Rereading the passage with particular attention to that one word I noticed that knowledge is not the end product of this passage. It’s just a step in the process of finally getting to the real goal, love. That’s key. It’s not about learning enough facts to be smart about God. That’s knowledge. It’s all about figuring out how those facts get worked into me so I can understand what real love is like. That’s productive and effective knowing. That’s ownership.
That is why I read ‘n ponder.
This morning I realized I’d gotten ahead of myself in yesterday’s post and this is just to good to miss so today I’m backtracking.
9 After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. 10 God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.” So he named him Israel. 11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. 12 The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.” 13 Then God went up from him at the place where he had talked with him. 14 Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. 15 Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel.
10 God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.” So he named him Israel.
That is the very best isn’t it? Have you ever done or said something that makes you want to crawl in hole and pull it in after you? And then replayed it over and over trying to “get it right in your mind” when it’s already done and there’s no going back? Jacob certainly has been there. God steps in with a new identity, a new name free of the negative associations of the old one…a new beginning and a new name. No wonder he felt blessed. He’s not alone either.
We all have those incidents in our life that only the witness protection program or Christ can fix. Lucky for us, Christ is our ever-present blessing. There are so many phrases that apply to how He fixes us; being healed, washed clean, transformed, made new, reborn…cleansed from sin. Remember that moment when you came face to face with God in Christ and were freed from the negative associations of YOUR past? His identity replaced your old one and He even let you borrow His name temporarily – Christ One. That’s fabulous, but wait, there’s more! Revelation 2:17 says if you are in Christ, he’s given you a new name too; yet to be revealed but ready and waiting… That’s the Amazing Grace we sing about. Imagine it!