Ephesians 2:4-5 “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
I grew up in the shadow of a military training base. My Boy Scout leader was a drill instructor. Many of the adults in the periphery of my life were in the military. My father was in the Naval Reserve and wore his Senior Chief uniform proudly. He tried to keep my brothers and sister shipshape. Everything had its place, and everything should be in that place. To his dismay, it was seldom as he would expect. I grew up with absolute expectations of proper behavior and most often came up short of my father’s spit and polish.
I have spent years living and breathing in the world of expectations of other people. I lived in constant threat of disappointment to the socially acceptable norm. My ingrained nature is one of trying to live up to someone else’s imposed expectation. I failed a lot. Trying as I might, I could not be what the world expected because their expectations never included mercy.
I have found a new life. Now I live in mercy. I have experienced it. I have cultivated it. I have a great need for it. I cannot exist without it. And when it becomes a part of me, my life finds truth, purity, holiness, peace, wisdom, completeness, delight, joy, and victory. My years of living in this great mercy cause me to show mercy.
Lord, remind me again and again that in your mercy I need to show mercy.
Colossians 2:13-14 “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.”
The worst thing Imperial Rome could do to punish anyone was to nail him to a wooden cross. Hour after hour of extreme pain would be the far beyond the limit of cruel and inhuman punishment. So why, in the grand plan of God did Jesus have to endure it? It is an ugly picture of man’s worst. Jesus on the cross, why? Why did God’s perfect plan include a crown of thorns? Why would a blameless and perfectly loving person have to die?
That body slain for things He had not done was for a reason. It was for me! It was so I can have my own personal shortcomings and willful disobediences separated from me. All that would weigh me down and slow me are rolled away. It is only at the cross that I can see the light of forgiveness and assurance.
Lord, I am no longer living in my willful disobedience because I am living in you. I thank you and release my past for the best future.
Titus 3:4-7 “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”
I know well that time drips by at a singular and regular pace. Yet my perception of time changes from moment to moment. April has been a month of seemingly long duration punctuated with bursts of insane headlong manic. All the while, I have steadied myself with a revelation of the importance of assurance in my life. How anyone can survive the ebbs and flows of life without assurance in something more baffles me. For me, I must be well-grounded in the Word of God, accept God’s promises, and walk in the light as He is in the light. Not because of anything I have done or even deserve. I live in the assurance of God loving me. God dwelling within me, His very presence, and the absolute knowledge of whom I belong, are what sustain me. Together are two hopes, salvation and the assurance with comes with it.
Lord, please remind me again in my hectic sameness to focus on you. Only You can keep me moment by moment.
Isaiah 55:6-7 Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
Discovering and doing the will of God is the “only” way to have a consistent experience of His abundant life. I have but one simple decision every morning as I shake the sleep from my eyes. That decision is how I shall live my life today. Either I will let the world affect me or I will affect the world for God. There are thousands of alternative paths to follow if the world is my choice. But to choose Jesus there is only one. Today I will seek. Today I will find. Today I will call upon Him. Today God will have mercy. Today God will be God in my life. Today God will freely pardon. Today I will choose to glorify Him. Today I will be the person God has intended me to be. I will seek Him while He may be found. I will call upon Him while I still have breath. It may sound trite, but I say it again: today is the first day of the rest of my life.
John 20:30-31 “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
I am amazed at the wonder of possibilities. As I read of the miracles of Jesus, each were dutifully written down and stored for all eternity, they exceeded all the miracles of Elijah and Elisha in the Old Covenant. Time after time Jesus revealed himself to the world as a miracle worker. He was a man that cared, cried, healed, created, guided, taught, revealed, prayed, loved, challenged, sent, moved, witnessed, and comforted in the Gospels. Yet there were thousands of other miracles, acts of mercy, not included in the accounts. John did not include them, but they happened. They were daily occurrences that became the norm.
We seem to classify any happenstance that is out of the ordinary as miraculous and amazing. Yet, where Jesus is concerned, they are expected and normal. Today I will look for miracles in the normal. I will look for the simple kindnesses shown when they were not expected. I will look for a smile in the pain. I will look for a sense of purpose in turmoil. I will look for joy when things get rough. I will look for steadfastness in a world out of control. Small miracles will be the new norm.
Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.
This prayer of Paul reminds me of the feeding of the 5,000 by Jesus. The people had listened intently to Jesus’ teaching. But the mind can comprehend only as long as the body can endure. The dinner stomach rumble had begun. The faithful leadership wanted to send them away. However, Jesus had something else in mind and He did it with only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. Many times, we look around at our meager resources and wonder how we are going to make it. Yet our Lord will meet every one of our needs according to His miraculous abilities even using our puny provisions. Look into your cupboards they are full. Full of miracles waiting to happen.
2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
No more shortcuts to the decisions of my life. I will do my best to understand the weighty matters of my world. It is my job to understand. I must make well-thought-out and knowledgeable assessments of what is before me every day. My daily life starts with coffee and writing. Sometimes, this combination results in deep and provocative ideas. At other times it is just stating the obvious.
Most of my epistles are from my daily research of God’s Word and come with the satisfaction of personal understanding. The Bible has been studied, dissected, clarified, commented on, taught, defended, and remarked upon by smarter Saints than I. With the availability of so much information, it is easier to accept someone else’s opinion or conclusion than to make my own. The desperate need today is not for more intelligence or more of the gifted. I do not need those who would speak and write with great eloquence to make my case for me. I need to write what is revealed to me. I will not be satisfied by the status quo or take anything at face value. I dig deep that I am not ashamed. I dig deep so that I may handle God’s revelation might be imprinted upon my heart. Please don’t take my word for it, don’t let others tell you the code of scripture, dig for yourself.
I John 2:17 “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”
We live in a world of distractions. Thousands of voices call us to change our focus from what really matters. These voices use our feelings of inadequacy to charm, seduce and dominate our lives. We have an idea that our lives must be lived to the fullest. That every moment must be crammed full. Our attention span shrinks in the onslaught of these distractions. All these things that would grab us and enthrall our minds are just fleeting. Whatever achievement, thrill, or body enhancement we accept into our sphere of life will mean little 50 years from now. Our infatuation with the now is simply tragic. Look to the unseen, the invisible realities of hope and faith in Christ for true fulfillment. Do so and live not in the moment but forever
Ezekiel 36:26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” ——————————————
It is recorded that as Sir Walter Raleigh placed his neck on the chopping block of his execution, the executioner asked, “Does your head lie easy, Sir Walter?” Answering the man holding the double-edged ax, “It matters not, my friend, how my head lies, provided my heart is right.”
The state of my heart is my decision. My soul can be a stone with an associated hardness and lifelessness, or it can be a thing of hope, caring, forgiveness, and love. I cannot allow ideology to supplant God’s will. I cannot let my wants, needs, desires, and my own personal demand for control, take the place of God’s will. My alliance with God’s perfect will, my decision, makes me who I am. It is an act of God’s renewal of me.
Hillside Thoughts for Sunday – Day 275 of the year 2022 – October 2
Matthew 5:29-30 “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”
Most of the time a simple understanding is best. Yet here it sounds like crazy talk. Plucking my eye out, or cutting off a hand is ridiculous. Losing an eye over saying “wow” after seeing a beautiful person is bizarre. Jesus that would not help much, I still would have my other eye. If I steal from someone with my right hand are you saying that in guilt, I should run it through my table saw is pretty radical, nevertheless, I can learn to steal with my left. So, Jesus what are you getting at?
The most important idea here as spoke to the Hillside Sitters was the Kingdom. The Kingdom is more important than my body. What the Rabbi was simply saying was that my greatest desire should be my place along His side. My greatest goal, my greatest desire, should be my place in the Kingdom. And this Kingdom, because of this scale of greatness in my life, may well require great sacrifices.