Hero, Stage Right (Galatians 4:4-7)

The climatic highlight of most great stories is the appearance of the hero, along with his exploits that bring a resolution to the tension created by the storyline.

How do heroes make their appearance in most stories? The stereotypical method is seen by warriors like Napolean and Robert E. Lee, or the handsome prince from a far land – who show up on a white horse. Most heroes arrive at their zenith by virtue of political or military position, physical stature, wealthy breeding, or inherited titles of authority.

The manner and timing by which Jesus, The Hero of The Story, is brought into the drama is fascinating in scope, complexity and detail. The Old Testament hints of it as early as Genesis 3:15 … “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

Admittedly, that is pretty subtle! But there is nothing subtle about Isaiah 7:14… “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” … or Micah 5:2… “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

It is not too much to say that the whole story of the Bible is about Jesus Christ and his accomplishments. I am sure many of you have heard the listing of the books of the Bible, wherein each is subtitled by the manner in which Jesus Christ is connected to the theme of that book. Jesus is the certainly the central character and the central unifying theme of the Scriptures and God’s Story. Any timeline of Biblical history invariably begins by drawing a line and putting a cross on the center of it.

If we consider the progressive revelation of God’s story from that timeline – moving forward from creation through Noah, Abraham, Genesis, and the national history of Israel – thousands of years pass, and it would seem that sin, darkness, death and ultimate despair will win in the end. But, as some translations write, Galatians 4:4 says, “In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son.”  The NIV says…

GAL 4:4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

God’s timing is always perfect; and in the case of the coming of Christ is truly amazing.  It was the perfect time, and God orchestrated various world events to stage the work of Jesus Christ and thereby facilitate the worldwide spread of the Gospel. There was the pax Romana – the Roman Peace… meaning that one empire ruled the entire civilized world in relative peace. There was a common trade language – Greek. The Romans had a system of roads and travel that facilitated the easy and rapid spread of the Gospel. The system of Jewish synagogues throughout the empire worked for the good of the dissemination of the message of Jesus’ work.  All of this is what constitutes “the fullness of time.”

Yet in it all, the wonder of the incarnation is especially revealed in the picture we see of the humiliation of Jesus – to give up the glory of heaven, to step into human form, to submit to death, and therefore carry the sins of the world. Amazing! What a hero indeed!

Thank God for His intervention onto the stage of human history, for His supply, for His grace in allowing us to have the privileged position of knowing these things from our place – late on the timeline.

PHP 2:5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.:8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!

The Perils of Mountain Climbing (Philippians 1:21-26)

I love all sorts of sports (even soccer, just a little bit). But, a sport I’ve never felt any measure of calling to get involved in is that of mountain climbing. I really don’t mind heights, but are you kidding me? There is no way that hanging by your fingernails on the side of a mountain makes any sense at all! That truly is treacherous!

However, there are a lot of similarities between the venture of journeying through life and the venture of mountaineering. Look at what this advertisement says, coming from a company marketing mountain climbing equipment…

Mountaineering can be fun, and relatively safe. Much depends on your level of expertise, partner, and choice of route. There are some potential objective hazards over which you have no control, such as weather, falling rock, and unseasonably late snow. What can stack the cards in your favor, however, is arming yourself with the right gear. It’s true, mountain climbing has become easier in the past decade, with sport-specific technology producing lighter, more efficient equipment. Lightweight helmets, mountaineering axes, and harnesses shave pounds off the weight of traditional gear, making it easier to feel like a climber rather than a pack mule.

Let me see if I can rewrite the above advertisement in different words…

“The journey of life can be fun, and relatively safe. Much depends upon your level of experience in walking with your partner – Jesus Christ – and the route you take in terms of the priorities of your life. There are some potential objective hazards over which you have no control, such as diseases, natural disasters, and unexpected events. What can stack the cards in your favor, however, is arming yourself with the Word of God. It is true, the journey of life has become potentially easier given the abundance of resources available in recent years. With lightweight CDs, study Bibles, and audio and video resources that ease the burdens of understanding the weighty truths of Scripture, it is easier for the believer to feel like a real champion in this life instead of a mere survivor.”

So much of what we are considering in this devotionals series surrounds the theme of calibrating our expectations for the inevitable sorrows of life. I think a greater number of Christians fail to have an appropriate balance in that regard, versus having the misbalance of viewing life in terms that are too negative. But there is great reason for joy in this world, along with excitement at the prospect of living in this world as a member of the Kingdom.

Again, you have got to love the perspective of the Apostle Paul…

Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.

So what do you do with a person like this? He is happy to live, because that means the joy of a life lived with God. But if the worst thing that could happen, happens – death… that is even better yet!  Because, to die means being with the Lord! That is a great perspective.

And Peter also has the same great idea…“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8,9)  He rightly notes that we are even now, here in this fallen world, beginning to receive the joy of all that comes from the salvation of our souls.

My prayer for you, as you continue on in your epic journey through this Christian life, is that of Paul for the Romans…   May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13).

Professor Twist (Romans 8:18-25)

I really do not like poetry that much, nor did I ever have much educational exposure to this literary form. But for some reason, this poem of Ogden Nash has remained stuck within my mind from some primordial English class – many, many, many years ago… “The Purest” – by Ogden Nash

I give you now Professor Twist,

A conscientious scientist,

Trustees exclaimed, "He never bungles!

"And sent him off to distant jungles.

Camped on a tropic riverside,

One day he missed his loving bride.

She had, the guide informed him later,

Been eaten by an alligator.

Professor Twist could not but smile.

"You mean," he said, "a crocodile."

Can’t you just see a professor of zoology, noting the emphasis upon the difference between a crocodile and an alligator, instead of grieving the loss of his wife, whatever the creature?

Thinking about the epic journey theme of “this Christian life” raises to the surface a number of the large, difficult questions we grapple to understand. Like this one: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” A more theologically accurate way of asking that question might be, “Why do good things happen to bad people?”  We are sinful people in an evil world subject to all that the curse of sin affects. Paul wrote of the condition of man in Romans 3, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.”

As I wrote two days ago, I am often stunned at the expectation of so many Christian people that God owes them a life free of pain and sadness in this world. The fact of the matter is that tragedy is as likely to find its way to our address as it is to that of our unbelieving neighbor. God’s promise is not so much a deliverance from tribulations as it is a perseverance through them, and final ultimate rescue by our eternal translation to a better world. Troubles come to us as the natural result of our continued residency in a cursed world. Look at how Paul wrote about it…

RO 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

 RO 8:22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wat for it patiently.

See what Paul is saying? The creation is subject to decay because of the effects of sin in this world. This accounts for natural tragedies and the like that strike both the righteous and the wicked. There will be a better day for the world… but not just for the creation.  Paul says that we too groan in our sufferings as we await the fulfillment of God’s promise to redeem our bodies in accord with our standing as His adopted family. This is our hope.  It is not our current experience… for if it were, it would not be hope at all.  No, it would be heaven now, and that is not the way the story works!

No, we are in the midst of our journey. By God’s grace, there is much joy and pleasure in this adventure. Yet, sadness and difficulties are part of the deal as well.  But God is good all the time; and all the time, God is good… and that truth is more than enough to carry us through whatever may come our way.

About Marathons and Eating Elephants (Psalm 90:12)

Any of us who have gone on a vacation with our children remember the most famous travel question of them all:  “Are we there yet?”  I about died laughing at the scene in Shrek 2 where Donkey keeps sticking his head forward in the carriage and continues to ask that question, along with some other antics!

Often in years past we drove to Texas quite a few times with a car full of kids. To help them get a sense of how far we had gone and how far we yet had to go, Diana devised a system of beads on a string wrapped around the passenger side visor. There were 15 sets of four alternating colors of beads, with each bead representing 25 miles (the distance from New Jersey to Dallas equaling 1500 miles). The boys could look at the beads being moved from right to left and at a glance get a sense of where we were, and how much remained.

The Bible gives us a very clear sense of how far our journey is… on the average. It says in Psalm 90, “The length of our days is seventy years–or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.” That is pretty clear, isn’t it? Our lives average about 70-80 years, and the older we get, the more troubles and sorrows we encounter… treacherous journey stuff!

Life is strange. On one hand, it is long, and full of adventures both good and bad. And on the other hand, it is brief, especially in comparison to eternity… and the years just seem to fly by.

The old joke asks, “How do you eat an elephant?”… with the answer being, “one bite at a time!”  And that is how we live life… one day at a time, dealing with each moment at hand to do what is right and with a perspective as to what counts for eternity. We can’t imagine how we will accomplish all we need to do, or how we may survive the trials that have come our way. But like eating the elephant, we handle responsibilities and troubles, one by one.

It helps to have a plan… to live life specifically and intentionally. How do you run a marathon? A step at a time! But there is more to it than even that. You can’t just go out and run 26.2 miles. It takes months of planning and training. For a new runner, it is actually a two to three year process.  “Back in the day” I used to love training for participation in a marathon… picking an event and a date months in advance, and then planning a master program of training full of intermediate goals. It required an incredible amount of discipline and commitment. There were good days and bad days. Injuries and physical challenges. Days when the weather was perfect, but mornings at 5:30 a.m. where it was sub-zero. A plan for such contingencies was indispensable.

That is how our lives need to be lived as well… with a plan that considers the big picture of our lives, and the days and years we may have to serve God and be a blessing to those around us. That same Psalm gives an application to the truth observation as to the normal life span, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  The Hebrew word here for “wisdom” denotes the concept of “skill in living.”

Let me ask you this question. Do you have a plan as to where you will be and what you will be doing five years from today? Ten years from today? Do you have personal goals for that time… and/or goals relating to family or others for whom you have responsibility? To have such plans and goals is to live responsibly, especially as one frames those plans with a view toward the place we have within the story God is writing.

Indeed, This Christian Life is exciting, but the journey is surely a treacherous one as well.

Calibrating Life’s Expectations (1 Peter 1:3-7)

When things don’t go well, my first thought is always one of calibrating my expectations.  Just how bad is it? Is it really bad? Or is it a “normal kind of bad” that maybe isn’t so bad after all? Like, when one of the boys would report from college that he got a C- on a test, I always ask, “How did everyone else in the class score?”  If most of the class failed the test, the C- looks a whole lot better!

We need to calibrate life. For some reason, Christians too often seem to think that life should hand them a report card with straight-A grades. After all, they are now related to God, and if God really loves them as much as He claims to, everything should go well all the time, shouldn’t it?

There is really nothing in Scripture to support that viewpoint, yet it is prominent.  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  

I have seen more than a few church people get angry at God and register their complaint with a sort of boycott of God and His people. They sense a grave injustice when some relative dies prematurely, an obviously well-intentioned prayer goes unanswered, or their illness continues unabated.

The fact is that this world is a mess. It is a place full of troubles and trials. The promise of God is not one of deliverance from and freedom from all issues of sadness and suffering. His promise is an ultimate deliverance on the other side, along with perspective and strength on this side – even a joy in the midst of trials.

PS 138:7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me.

PS 91:14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 15He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.

And beyond preserving us and strengthening us in the midst of troubles, the Word actually teaches that there is a positive benefit from these painful times.

1PE 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

JAS 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Our lives are a journey. For most of us, that journey will have more of a sense of being long than being short. There will be joys and sorrows. In fact, it may fairly be said that the journey of our life is a treacherous journey. But to journey with the Lord is the best journey out there – that is for sure. There is nowhere else to turn… certainly nothing that can offer more than the most temporary divergence.

PS 73:25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 26My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Saddle Up for a Great Adventure (Philippians 3:7-14)

I am probably unusual in this regard, but I sometimes find myself going weeks or even months at a time without ever driving out of Washington County. I am plenty busy, doing life with the church and the family, etc. At these times, I often whimsically look at Route 81 south when I get off at exit #1 in Williamsport and just wish I could keep on driving! Just to cross the Potomac would be so cool! Go somewhere. Do something. Begin an adventure! A journey to a wonderful goal, with untold excitements along the way!

But life itself is an adventure, although much of the time it just seems to be the living out of predefined responsibilities. And sometimes, the adventure of life takes some unanticipated twists and turns. There are exhilarating moments of love and romance, but often also the longer-term disappointments of relationships gone awry. There are the wonderful days of new life when children come into the home, but a new level of pain never before experienced when these people we love so much are desperately ill, or become involved in lifestyle choices that crush our hearts.

A favorite actor that I have enjoyed over the years is Billy Crystal (how could I not love a guy who shares my passion for baseball?). And I especially liked the City Slickers films, as they address some of the questions and issues that arrive upon our mindscapes in the middle of life. Crystal (Mitch Robbins) and his friends are dealing with the humdrum rhythms of daily life routines. They decide to go on an adventure vacation they read about in a brochure – a two-week Southwestern cattle drive from New Mexico to Colorado. Upon arriving, the three friends demonstrate their lack of cowboy skills; but they gradually learn to rope and ride as they discuss their childhood hopes and adult disappointments.

When the crusty old veteran cowboy “Curly” and Mitch (Billy Crystal) are riding alone one day to round up some stray cattle, Curly explains that all of the stuff in life “don’t mean nothing” if you know the one thing that is the meaning of life. The Billy Crystal character asks what that one thing is. Curly tells Mitch he has to find that out for himself.

As God’s people we need to see and believe that the “one thing” is a living and dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ… a relationship that begins in this life and carries over into the world to come – with you as a full partner with God, in Christ, of the big story God is writing for all eternity. That has to affect everything about you! Every thought you have! Every plan you make! Every moment of your life! You are on the greatest adventure of all time – THE ADVENTURE. Let that thought change you and challenge you in terms of your every priority. So saddle up your horses, this is THE GREAT ADVENTURE!

PHP 3:7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, 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 and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Understand however that the adventure involves more than just good times. There is pain, loss, deprivation, periods of sadness, monstrous challenges! But you will arrive in the end… just gotta stay in the saddle! But we need to face the reality that the journey is a treacherous one.

The end is worth it all! We are not there yet, and none of us may even know what circuitous and difficult paths we may have to take along the road of “this Christian life.”  But, like Paul who suffered many difficulties in the midst of his joyful service, we must fix our eyes on the prize at the end. He said in Philippians 3:13-14 …

13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Journey on!

An Ambassador of the King of Kings (2 Corinthians 5:16-21)

Every so often at my Rotary club, we have an ambassador from another country come as a guest speaker. There are only a few categories of guest speakers that are afforded a standing applause greeting – ambassadors are one of them. An ambassador is an important person. He stands in representation of the sovereign in his country, and represents all that his kingdom values and promotes.

The Scriptures say that we are ambassadors for the King of Kings. I have always been so impressed with this concept, and honored that God should so regard us in such a light as to give us this incredible title and responsibility.

The Apostle Paul understood that he was an ambassador… and not just when he was preaching in a synagogue or proclaiming Christ in the marketplace. Paul remembered his role even when he was in jail chained to a huge Roman guard. He knew his position of service was a 24/7 kind of thing…

EPH 6:19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Being vitally related to God changes our viewpoint of both ourselves and those around us.  Read what Paul told the Corinthians…

2CO 5:16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Paul is saying that the Christian has a new way of looking at people around him. It is not the same way people of the world look at each other. We see others with Kingdom glasses. We see them either as brothers and sisters in Christ, or we see them as enslaved by an alien kingdom in need of our services as an ambassador of the Kingdom of Light.

So there is no reason for the Christian to be insecure. You are not just an engineer, a nurse, a teacher, a mom or dad… you are an ambassador for the Creator, the One who holds it all together, the great Storyteller. That sure beats anything your unsaved neighbor is able to say he or she has membership within.

Like I said above – An ambassador is an important person. He stands in representation of the sovereign in his country and represents all that his kingdom values and promotes. As an adopted child of God, you have been commissioned as an Ambassador for the Kingdom of God. That makes you an important person with an important mission. You represent the sovereign of the universe and bear the marks of all The Kingdom values and promotes.

Are you daily conscious of this role? How well do you serve in this assignment? Ask God to make you aware and effective as His chosen representative – it is part of your role in The Story that God is writing and the adventure and journey of walking in relationship with Him.

God Likes ME? And He Wants Me? (1 John 3:1-2)

A great many people, even God’s people, have a difficult time getting their mind around the idea that God actually likes them and is interested in them. I suppose much of this difficulty centers in a sense that many people feel they are so unworthy and so unrighteous – even while professing faith in Christ. Others may have a view of God wherein He is seen as so completely “other” and distant from any measure of practical or daily relationship and communication.

But the facts from Scripture are absolutely clear. He loves you with a love that is immense…

1JN 3:1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

You still not sure?  Let me ask you… have you died for anyone else lately?

Rev. 1:5-6 … To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father–to him be glory and power for ever and ever!

Soren Kierkegaard wrote a wonderful story called “The King and the Maiden”

Suppose there was a king who loved a humble maiden.  This king was like no other king.  Every statesman trembled before his power.  No one dared breathe a word against him, for he had the strength to crush all his opponents.  And yet this mighty king was melted by love for a humble maiden.  How could he declare his love for her?  In an odd sort of way, his kingliness tied his hands.  If he brought her to the palace and crowned her with jewels and clothed her in royal robes, she would surely not resist—no one dared resist him.  But would she love him?

She would say she loved him, of course, but would she truly?  Would she be happy at his side?  How could he know?  If he rode to her forest cottage in his royal carriage, with an armed escort waving bright banners, that too would overwhelm her.  He did not want a cringing subject.  He wanted a lover.

The story goes on to present the king’s solution. He would disguise himself as a beggar, and would win her heart in that manner. And so it is with Christ, who has entered our world as one of us, to win our hearts, and to rescue us from our impoverished condition in sin.

Most great stories have a rescue, and we thrill to that most exciting part of the adventures we enjoy.

Jack will come to rescue Rose.  William Wallace will rise up to rescue Scotland.  Luke Skywalker will rescue the princess and then the free peoples of the universe.  Nemo’s father rescues him.  Nathaniel rescues beautiful Cora – not just once, but twice.  Neo breaks the power of the Matrix and sets a captive world free.  Aslan comes to rescue Narnia… Why does every great story have a rescue?  Because your does.  (John Eldridge, Epic, p. 61)

God loves us so much, He has rescued us from death itself. But this rescue goes far beyond fire insurance. He then desires a relationship with us. He adopts us into His very own family. And beyond that, He positions us to be a major player in what He is doing and will do in His great story. That, in a word, is incredible.

Let us consider some of what you are now in Christ…

  • Peter told his readers that they are a living part of Christ, chosen, precious, and a holy priesthood – meaning able to come individually before God in an acceptable way.

1PE 2:4 As you come to him, the living Stone–rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him– 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. … …   9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received -mercy.

  • The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans of the nature of their relationship to God – speaking eloquently as to how they are adopted in the Family. And this family relationship brings with it great privileges as heirs.

RO 8:12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation–but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

  • We will share in His glory, because of His grace. And not only that, but we will reign with him!!  John, in The Revelation, records the words of the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders, bowed down before the Lamb in the heavenly throne room, singing…

REV 5:9-10   “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.  You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”

Our response to this must of necessity be one of worship and thanks for God’s magnanimous grace. Allow yourself to be shattered by the immensity of God’s love for you… spend some time in prayer flat on your face before God… stand with your eyes heavenward, and your arms open in expression of love for your Savior.

Living Above the Mundane (1 Corinthians 3:1-9)

There is a great scene from the classic Civil War movie “Gettysburg.” It features one of the great Union heroes of the Civil War – a Colonel Chamberlain from Maine. Professor Chamberlain was a scholar and teacher at Bowdoin College. He left that job and his young family behind in order to fight for a cause for which he was willing to give his very life.

A group of disgruntled Maine veterans, having not received the pay they had been promised and having served their agreed-upon time, were refusing to continue to fight. Additionally they were being held as prisoners and deserters by the Federal Army. With a major battle confrontation pending, the entire group was delivered under guard to Colonel Chamberlain and his Maine regiment to be dealt with however the officer decided. On a hillside, Chamberlain gathers them together and speaks to them in such a way as to re-position in their thinking what was the nature of the cause for which they were at war.  Here is what he said to them…

We’re moving out in a few minutes and we’ll be moving all day… I want to take you men with me.  I’ve been told if you don’t come, I can shoot you.  Well, you know I’m not going to do that – maybe somebody else will, but I won’t … so that’s that.

Here’s the situation.  The whole Reb army is up that road waiting for us … so this is no time for an argument like this – I can tell you that!

We’re now well below half strength.  Whether you fight or not, that’s up to you.  Whether you come along or not… well… you’re coming. 

You know who we are and what we’re doing here.  But if you fight with us, there are a few things you should know.

This regiment was formed last summer in Maine.  There were a thousand of us then; there are less than 300 of us now.  All of us volunteered to fight for the Union, just as you did.  Some came mainly because we were bored at home and thought this would be fun.  Some came because we were ashamed not to.  Many of us came because it was the right thing to do.

All of us have seen men die.  This is a different kind of army.  If you look back through history you will see men fighting for pay, loot, women, land, power … cause a king leads them, or just because they like killing.

But we are here for something new.  This has not happened much in the history of the world.  We are an army out to set other men free!  America should be free ground – all of it – not divided by a line between slave states and free … all the way from here to the Pacific Ocean.  No man has to bow to any man born to royalty.  Here we judge you by what you do, not who your father was.  Here you can be something.  Here is the place to build a home.  It’s not land – there’s always more land – it’s the idea that we all have value – you and me.  What we’re fighting for, in the end … we’re fighting for each other.

Now that is a great speech! Chamberlain raised to a higher level of understanding the reason for which they fought. The purpose was a grand purpose… not just to win and get more gain… it was to set men free!

Why do we live? What is life about? It is so much more than merely existing, just living and dying. It is more than family and job and success. It could be said that it is about setting other men free – free of the bondage of sin. But even beyond that, it is all about knowing our creator God and being His partner in the grand story of the ages that He is writing.

When we grasp this concept, we have a renewed view of time and priorities. We look more at what around us is eternal. And what is that? God’s Word, and souls of men are all that is eternal… everything else burns in the end. And God’s story is about the fulfillment of His Word and will, and His plan to see the lost souls of millions redeemed out of slavery to sin and back to Himself. Don’t YOU feel a compulsion to be a part of that plan?

2COR 5:14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

1COR 3:1 Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly–mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?  What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe–as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Don’t have a small mindset about life. Think big. Live above the mundane.

Embracing the Great Adventure of This Christian Life

This devotional series called “This Christian Life” is a general collection of writings bridging a gap between specific preaching series. The next week-to-week topic will be on the life of the Apostle Paul and will begin on June 11th.  Until that time, our Sundays will involve individual topics that stand alone each week.

So this written assemblage of daily thoughts will be 24 writings that I (Randy) am reworking from a Christian life series a few years ago before we regularly offered online devotionals (which we have been doing since early 2013).

After these first five weeks I am going to post two additional weeks of devotionals I wrote about 30 years ago for a monthly newsletter at my previous church in New Jersey. This was called “Life with My Three Sons” and included some hilarious stories about my oldest three boys … when they were little boys. I recently came across these writings and think they teach good truths, and those of you who know these guys now as adults may find them particularly humorous. With eight children now (and two more on the way) between Nathan, Benjamin and Aaron, they are getting to live some of the same craziness I endured from them three decades ago. Think of it as a sort of biblical karma!

The title “This Christian Life” is a take-off on the popular public broadcasting series called “This American Life” which is aired on more than 500 stations to about 2.2 million listeners. This is also one of the most popular podcasts available. So … that’s our future with the devotionals blog!  It all fits!

Seriously, the Christian life can be complicated at times and fraught with many twists and turns and hazards. The best way to engage it is to embrace it as a great adventure. So, let’s do it!