Saturday, January 28, 2017

How Did I Get Lost in the First Place?

Me: "Why do I need salvation?"

God: "Because you are lost."

Me: "How did that happen?"

God: "You were born."

Me: "Why?"

God: "Why were you born?"

Me: "No. Why am I lost just because I was born?"

God: "All people born of Adam are lost. The trespass of one man brought condemnation for all. That was My judgment following his one trespass."

Me: "But, it wasn't my fault. Was it?"

God: "No. Neither Adam's sin nor My judgment are your fault."

Me: "I don't understand. Why condemn me for something I didn't do?"

God: "What My righteousness demands, My justice executes. My righteousness demands perfection. I know what is in man."

Me: "Surely, I am lost for good! What hope do have I of ever obtaining the righteousness You demand?"

God: "My righteousness also demands a perfect sacrifice for sin. My Son, Jesus Christ, has perfectly executed My plan for salvation. My righteousness is yours through Christ just for the asking. My Son has purchased righteousness for you in full, and for anyone who would believe in Him. He is the propitiation, the utter satisfaction of payment, for your sins and for the sins of the whole world. His righteousness is pure, and I will credit His righteousness to your behalf, not even counting your sins against you."

Me: "It's free? I don't have to do the impossible and try to earn it?"

God: " Yes, it's free. No, you don't have to do the miraculous. That's been done for you. For it is by My grace you are saved, not your works. In fact, if you even try to earn your righteous wages, you will nullify My gift that is by grace. It's one or the other. Your choice, believe or resist My terms."

Me: "Who would be crazy enough not to accept such an offer?!"

God: "You'd be surprised how many people reject My Son. The salvation I offer is so complete, so wonderful, and so simple. Yet, many would not dare relinquish trust in themselves to do good. Somehow, they think, 'I must do the things God has commanded so that I may please Him.' Yet, I am most pleased when a humble person allows My Spirit to work in them. They resist the Holy Spirit when they insist on doing things their own way. For this, they will remain condemned. It's their choice. It's their arrogance."

Me: "Now my heart knows why I was lost, and knows why I am found. For how else could You have made an offer based on grace alone? How could I've let myself be saved by You otherwise? See it is a perfect plan, perfectly executed. The righteousness I seek, therefore, is Yours, in Christ, not my own. I believe You, Father. I believe in Christ, Your Son. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

God: "I'm delighted you see now. Indeed, my child, you are saved by My grace because you believed in My Son as your Lord and Savior. Now, may the eyes of your heart be enlightened so you may grow in grace and in knowledge of the truth. Be sanctified in the truth; My word is truth. Come now, and discover the unsearchable riches that are yours in Christ, even the fullness of Him who is the head of the church, which is His body. Amen!"

And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 
(Romans 5:16)

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." 
(Ephesians 2:8-9)

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 
(2 Corinthians 5:18-19)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

This Marvelous Journey into God's Hand and Heart (Letters to My Father - January 21, 2017)

Dear Father (Jan 21, 2017),

Yes! Absolutely I love You. You know I love You. But, what I need to emphasize in my writing is why. I learned to love You by learning the truth from Your word by Your Spirit.

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17 ESV)

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (John 16:13 ESV)

I may have been saved and born again many years ago. But, I didn't understand from Scripture just how thorough and consistent is Your message of Your amazing grace. I didn't fully appreciate just how rock solid is the assurance of my salvation from Your word.

But, now that I do, the blessings of that knowledge are my responsibility. They are also a tremendous privilege. You know I've spent years and hours studying these things and other doctrines. It took a long time to undo the assumptions I previously held tightly.

But, I sought You and You rewarded me. I have been blessed with a wonderful pastor/teacher, used by the Spirit to guide me into all truth, even the deep things of God. Now it's time to share what I've learned. This is the real essence of my blog title, Revelations For Life.

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10b)

[It's as if God is telling me...] Do not be afraid to teach, go deep, and stay off the surface. Seek to exhaust doctrinal topics, such as salvation by grace. Ask the questions I had and answer them directly. Let my yes be yes and my no be no. Illuminate the coherency of God's perspective of humanity's problem and its condition with God's solution, desire, and eternal plan.

[Back to addressing my Father...] Let everyone who asks know the reason for the hope that is in me. May I answer with all gentleness and patience, compassion, clarity, enthusiasm, and boldness. If I have gained any insight from Your word of truth, Father, grant me the courage to declare it boldly and make it plain to everyone.

You know I love You, Father. Now I desire to let the world know why. May they also know the abundance of joy and peace that comes from knowing You, not as the world gives, but as You give.

All my love,
(w/ minor edits)

Dear Reader,

I had tons of questions about being Christian both before and after I was saved. The phrase I just uttered, "I was saved," was loaded with questions.

  • Saved? Saved from what?
  • Why do I need to be saved?
  • How can I be saved?
  • What does it mean to be saved?
  • What does it mean to "work out your salvation?"
  • Is salvation the same or different from being born again?
  • Who can be saved?
  • What of my sins before I'm saved?
  • What of my sins after I'm saved?
  • Does salvation have any prerequisites?
  • Was salvation always available?
  • How does salvation differ in the OT versus the NT?
  • Is salvation permanent or temporary?
  • Can my salvation be lost? If so, how? If not, why not?
  • When can I consider it done?
  • How can I be sure I'm saved?
  • What is not salvation?
  • What does 'salvation by grace' mean?
  • Is there anything keeping me, or anyone else for that matter, from being saved?
  • Were only certain people chosen to be saved?
  • What about infants and those with cognitive challenges who can't comprehend the gospel?
  • Who will not be saved? Yikes! Why not?
  • Is there an unpardonable sin? What is it? Have I committed it?

Those questions are just a small sample of the ones I studied in His word. This is only the doctrine of salvation. I tried to address one common assumption in my post, "Can a person's lifestyle condemn them?" But, there are many other doctrines. In all of them I wanted to understand these things from His perspective. I didn't want to grab something just because it sounded good and holy. I was hungry and thirsty for the Bread from Heaven and the Living Water only He could provide, no matter how good the filet mignon and Maine lobster tail sounded on an empty stomach. I had a soul to feed.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. 
(2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 
(2 Timothy 2:15 ESV)

I learned to delight in Him as He provided answers, and that made me want to learn more. Surely, he gave gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers. But, I would still question what others taught to see if it was true. The title alone was not enough.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who [diligently (KJV)] seek him. 
(Hebrews 11:6 ESV)

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 
(Ephesians 4:11-14 ESV)

I frequently checked myself by examining my motives and asking, "Why do I believe what I believe?" Was I simply following what sounded good from someone who seemed like an authority on the matter? After all, they studied it for years, went to seminaries, had Masters and Doctorate degrees. (And yet, there's no shortage of authorities who disagree.) Or maybe they were among the poor and serving the suffering with profound compassion. Maybe they were popular on TV or the Internet and in books and appealed to the masses. Could they all be wrong?

Or did I confirm what was being said by reading and studying the Scriptures myself, and seeing if His Spirit was testifying with my spirit that these things were so? You may be familiar with some of my other posts about "Why Scripture?" and "Scripture Q&A." (If not, please check those out.) Those lessons were a large part of my starting point. Let this moment be another point at which I do my best to teach what I know for anyone who is asking or seeking.

Please! By all means, do not settle for popular opinion or the status quo. Neither is a school of thought correct merely because it is narrow path. Verify everything in God's word.

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so
(Acts 17:11 ESV)

The truth is not popular. You might think it would be. But not God's truth. Not only do people want to inject their own positive human goodness into it, which is not necessarily God's perspective. But, the enemy of God also wants to distort this information and is very good at it. That's partly why we have so many denominations, yet little unity. (See the reference from Ephesians 4 above.)

Tradition also, no matter how solid or how long, is not an indication of truthfulness. It might feel good because it's familiar, or look divine because it's been going on forever. But, God's word breaks through traditions to give a much deeper meaning to being Christian.

Be humble and open to what God has to say in His word, and do not go beyond what is written. Everything He wants us to know has already been written in the Scriptures. There's no need to go outside the Bible for additional information, as if He left out some critical piece or clue to a puzzle. Rather, some outside information may be useful in helping us understand Scriptures, this blog included. But any outside information should be tested by the word of God, including this blog.

Lastly, as you assimilate the word of God and His thoughts and heart into your own mind and heart, you will be able to discern what is His will, and recognize what is not. This is not to puff us up in anyway. Rather, we should have the same attitude as that of Christ Himself: humility.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 
(Philippians 2:5-8 ESV)

All that being said, I will continue on to my next set of lessons, a series which I will call "Salvation 101." Please join me on this marvelous journey into God's hand and heart.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand
(John 10:27-29 ESV)

In Christ,

PS - I use a Bible program called e-Sword available from from which to read, study, and quote Scripture. While I sometimes need to understand the Greek and Hebrew words of the original texts (dictionaries also available in e-Sword), the English Standard Version (ESV) is one I found to be a decent translation to understand the thought God is expressing. ESV copyright says I can quote from it, just so long as I note its origin when giving the verse. Note also, I may have underlined part of a verse for emphasis, but generally I intend to emphasize the whole passage.

We need to remember it's about understanding God's thoughts on His terms. Is the correct translation in John 14:23, for example, obey or keep? What's the difference? We cannot automatically assume we know. What if the thought, upheld by the definition of the Greek word being translated, means "to guard" or "to protect." The thought is then different than simply doing what you're told to do. We should seek to understand the context, the thought being expressed, and perhaps visit a Greek dictionary to make critical distinctions. Remember, He is trying to tell us something that we have not thought to ask. We are carnal; He is spiritual. It's information we couldn't even imagine.

I also refer to the KJV, NKJV, NIV, and NASB on occasion. I feel the ESV and NIV in comparison, along with some Greek dictionaries, best accomplish this, understanding His thoughts, trying to be as literal as is readable. I tend to avoid translations that have taken the liberty of injecting their own thoughts into the text, such as MSG, NLT, TLB, and CEV. I feel they often dilute or miss the significance of what is being communicated. I am very careful about the dictionaries, concordances, and commentaries I use. Again, the emphasis is on understanding God's thoughts. I do not entertain books celebrated by certain denominations as being equivalent or more important than the Bible, nor do I consider and church denominations to be on equal footing or greater than the authority of God.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Creepy Distractions (Letters to My Father - March 12, 2014)

Dear Father,

Please forgive me for letting distractions creep into our precious quiet time. At the same time, You have blessed me so much with the opportunities to lead a Bible Study at H.L.'s office and witness to others. Thanks be to You!

March 12, 2014

Dear Reader,
(Back to 2014, as I return to sharing letters from past to present.)

Yes, distractions creep and they are creepy; both are true. A creepy distraction to me is one I didn't see coming, such as an unexpected bill, car trouble, or suddenly being extra busy at work.

Sound like life? Yes, exactly. Life is full of creepy distractions. We get used to them being around. We expect them and sometimes even look for them. And before you know it, we're not spending any time on doing the things we'd love to be doing.

Perhaps, it takes a lot of effort, leaving us feel like we have to go out of our way to do them. Perhaps, they're not appreciated as much by someone close to us. Perhaps, we're tired because it takes effort to refocus on those things and life has us feeling drained.

Distractions are able to creep in because it's tough to stay focused when there are fires to put out, real or imagined, and expectations to meet. What we'd love to do whispers in a noisy world. Rather, the screams and cuteness in the world catch our attention. Yet, the clock keeps ticking.

At these times, I try to remember Someone worth listening to is whispering something I'd really love to hear. It's precious. It's the things that are most important but not urgent (in the world's eyes) that matter most.

I need to make them urgent for me. I must remember to give time and attention to those things I love, and to simply let the distractions lose their creepiness, whether adorable or scary.

Take care, listen,

... a voice from the cloud said, 
"This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." 
(Matthew 17:5b)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Stop, Drop, and Pray! (Letters to My Father - January 15, 2017)

(I skipped ahead from my earlier 'Letters to God' in recent posts to one I wrote this morning.)

Dear Father,

I shall set my mind on things above. For I have died to the elemental spirits of the world and my life is now hidden with Christ in You. Therefore, I shall be transformed. I shall test and know Your will. I shall love. I shall be thankful. I shall grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. I shall be filled with the Spirit, and I shall study to show (or present) myself approved (or pleasing) to You rightly discerning (or dividing) the word of truth.

I shall stop, drop, and pray! I shall stop being conformed to the patterns of this world and the desires of my flesh. I shall drop to my knees with all humility, physically. I shall pray to You, my Father, with a sincere and authentic heart that delights in You, in the name of Jesus, and You will gladly give me whatever I ask, as You have promised.

All the treasures of wisdom and understanding are hidden in Christ, as are all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of Your mystery. Therefore, let my heart be encouraged, being knit together in love with Christ and with all the saints who share in His inheritance. 

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24-25)

Much love,
Jan. 15, 2017

Dear Reader,

It is my hope and prayer you would recognize the Scripture references in my letter: Colossians, Ephesians, 2 Timothy, etc. I pray you would seek these things out for yourself, for they are truth given to us by God. 

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Oh, that you would know how deep and how wide is the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, and you would see these gems in His word, and know them for yourself, and hold them close to your heart. 

I am inspired by writing these letters, by studying and focusing on the word of God -usually a term or phrase or verse, sometimes a paragraph- and by having fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ. 

I would love to converse with you. What inspires you? How do you communicate with God? What fills your heart to overflowing? Please leave a comment below if you're so inspired. Or click on my name to get my email address in my blogger profile. Just click on 'Email' to create one. 

Whether you contact me or not, may God bless you richly in Christ.

Much love,

Thursday, January 12, 2017

You Have a Strange Way... (Letters to My Father - December 30, 2013)

Dear Father,

You have a strange way of answering prayer. Thank You!

I love You so much. I really crave our quiet time together. How can I get more of You? How can I give more of myself to You? I pray You and Your Son will make Your home with me, in my heart.

May I labor for the treasure that does not rust or fade. May my labor be fruitful. Use me for Your purposes, Lord. Grant me to be strengthened with power through Your Spirit in my inner being, so Christ may dwell in my heart through faith.

May I always walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which I have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience. Make my joy complete, being of the same mind as Christ, in fellowship with You, Father,

Dec. 30, 2013

Dear Reader,

My memory isn't what it used to be; I don't remember what the prayer was about, answered so strangely. It could've been a number of things. However, the rest of the letter puts my mind at ease. I read it and know how He answered it: with desire for Him.

The answer wasn't strange. He might be mysterious, but not strange. (Even though some might joke that God is spelled big "G" little "od.")

The answer was strange because it just didn't quite seem to match the request. I need money? Send money. I need love? Send love. I need patience? Send patience, now! I'm sure I was thinking of an appropriate answer on my inadequate, short-sighted terms. Yet, He answered in His perfect ways.

That ever happen to you? Like, most of the time? 😏

In Him,

PS - Many Scripture references used in my letter are in my thoughts. Can you find them?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What Am I Doing Here? (Letters to My Father - December 28, 2014)

Dear Father,

What exactly am I doing here? That is, what do You want me to do right now, right here, with what I have? Please do not leave these things up to my imagination alone. Be a lamp unto my feet, a guide for the path You would have me take.

Love, Your Son,
December 28, 2014

Dear Reader,

I had been unemployed for just over 2 months at the time I wrote this letter. Nobody I knew of was hiring around the holidays. At best, I was hoping I would have landed a job before mid-December. Now it was clear 2015 would roll in before hiring activity would pick up again. Financial issues were beginning to pile up.

Still, I wanted to know what God's plan was for me more than anything. More than finding a job at this moment, I wanted to know the good works for which He created me in Christ Jesus.*

The lesson would become clear over time; don't sit around waiting for a special calling before realizing how special is the calling you already received.

Sometimes, it's like walking into thick fog. I want to know what's ahead, but I can only see a few seconds into the future, that is, a mere couple feet into the distance.

Rather, this is the time to make sure my footing is solid. This is the time to focus on the Guide and not worry about the future, for He cares for me.**

In Him,

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 

* For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)

** Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

I Said A Bad Word

Did you catch that bad word I so casually typed in my Letter #7 - Dear Father...?

I know! That was not nice of me, but I had to. Sort of. Well, maybe not that way, but...
  • A distinction was necessary. 
  • A distinction is necessary. 
  • Distinctions are necessary.
I learned the hard way it was absolutely necessary for me to make clear distinctions in order to understand Scripture. Why me? Making sure I understood what I believed was my responsibility. The question I asked myself years ago, and still ask myself to this day, that changed my Christian life and my approach to Scripture, is:

Why do I believe what I believe?

I discovered pastors, reverends, Bible teachers, etc., anyone who expounded upon doctrine, especially those whose job it was to elucidate the thoughts, ways, and mystery of God, are to be tested, not simply trusted.

I find many believers are familiar with the story of the Berean's nobility in Acts 17:11. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

Upon hearing the teaching of the Apostle Paul, those folks didn't just take Paul at his word and walk away praising God. No. They tested what Paul was saying by searching the Scriptures themselves to see if what he was claiming was actually so. Then, they believed.

But, what if what is being preached is not in accord with the Scriptures?

That was one of the questions I had asked for which people didn't seem to have an answer, or even want to try to answer. I was starting to see a pattern here, and it worried me.

When I was a new believer, I didn't know better. I thought religious leaders of well-known denominations knew more than I could ever hope for. They studied so hard. They read so many textbooks, study guides, and commentaries. They were like spiritual brainiacs.

I'm sure they listened to hundreds if not thousands of sermons. They had read countless books, articles, and essays from famous theologians, usually within their own denomination. They had degrees in divinity and theology from popular seminaries. Ordinations and certificates became commonplace expectations.

Who was I to question what they preached? I was just a layman, after all. Me? Cause division in a church because I used Scripture in an attempt to correct what was said in the sermon? How dare I! How arrogant! I was once told by a pastor, who led the same church for over 25 years, and was on track to earn his doctorate degree, that Titus 3:10-11 applied to me.

As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. Titus 3:10-11

Yikes! I was speechless. He was mad. But, I knew in an instant I could either take my place in the pew and do and believe as I'm told, or I could upset the apple cart and ask questions. I also realized there was only one way to really seek and know the truth.

So, I left that pew and started asking more questions, to others and myself. Especially about things that really mattered to God and was relevant to my Christian journey.

  • How is one saved and how can you be absolutely certain?
  • Can one lose their salvation? 
  • If not, what about verses that say if you do certain sins you will not inherit the kingdom of God?
  • If His righteousness is apart from works and comes through believing in Christ, what is the purpose of works? 
  • What are the works we should be doing and why?
  • Where is truth found? 
  • What is revealed to us and what is kept hidden?
  • What is the baptism of the Spirit and how does it happen?
  • What does it mean to be under grace and not under the law?

I had many. many more questions as well. I found another teacher who had asked many more questions of God than I did and who sought His answers in the Scriptures. Finally, someone who could guide me on my spiritual journey. Someone who teaches me how to find the answers myself.

Ultimately, no man was my teacher, interpreting Scriptures for me, and telling me what traditions to follow. Rather, I came to know the Holy Spirit as my true guide, who would guide me into all truth, but that He can work through people who are humble. I needed to be humble, too. Otherwise, I'd grieve the Spirit and He wouldn't be able to do His job.

What was the bad word I used? Legalistic.

"Ouch!" is right. I can't believe I said that. But why did I say it? Because I did not settle for human reason in reaching this conclusion: if we are in Christ, we are not under the law, but under grace.

Getting saved is simple; change your mind about what is required for salvation and believe in the One whom God sent, Jesus Christ. It depends on Him, not you. Next comes the work of sanctification; searching the Scriptures to see and apply what is clearly and directly taught, and then moving on to the deeper things of God.

Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." (John 6:28-29)

"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12-15)

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3)

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17)

Saturday, January 7, 2017

More Than Life Itself (Letters to My Father - December 11, 2016)

Dear Father,

Do I love You more than life itself? Enoch walked with You and You took him; he was no more.* Why? Why did You take him at that time? How did he please You except by faith?

Do You love me, Father? Will You take me? When is my appointed time? What is the work I must finish here on Earth?

[The "work I must finish" is not to be saved. For salvation is a gift from God, not of works.** Instead, this work is the joy for which I am created and have my being.***]

Paul was called to be an Apostle and preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.+ Peter to the Jews.++

I am not as clear about my calling except to abide in Christ+++ as Your adopted son, and that I love writing. Is it my calling to be an author for Christ, to a wide and diverse audience? Whether I know them or not? I love them.

Or is it to be a light, kind and gentle, to the select few You have brought into my life, whether they share my love for You or not? I love them, too.

Maybe it's to reach out to those who, like me, have been hurt by legalistic folks around them and/or betrayed by religious leaders posing as authorities in Christ, but really pushing their own agenda. I love these so. My heart aches for them, longs for them to know Your love that surpasses knowledge.*+*+

I recall having discussed these matters with my dear friend and brother in Christ, my Christian life coach, who helps me to get clear and stay focused. I should check my notes of our discussions for a reminder of a pleasant and profound surprise, my delight, that which is already in my heart, the love of Christ in me.

December 11, 2016
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. (Genesis 5:24)  By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. (Hebrews 11:5)

** For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

*** For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

+ To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3:8-10)

++ On the contrary, when they saw that I [Paul] had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised [Gentiles], just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised [Jews].(for he [Christ] who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), (Galatians 2:7-8)

+++ Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. (John 15:4) As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. (John 15:9)

*+*+ For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith--that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)
~ ~ ~

No, I didn't skip Letter #6. It's in the post titled, Major Milestones Reporting for Duty, Sir!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Major Milestones Reporting for Duty, Sir! (Letters to My Father - January 1, 2017)

"So, this is your first blog post of 2017? It also happens to be your hundredth post? Plus, you are revitalizing your newsletter? Congratulations, Major Milestones, what a way to bring in the New Year! Well done. At ease, Major."

Joking aside, I did some reflecting and pondering yesterday; reflecting on lessons I learned in 2016, and pondering what may lie ahead in 2017. Both were enjoyable exercises. I asked myself:

  • What were the top five or ten things I learned in the past year? 
  • What are the top five or ten things I want to accomplish in the year ahead? 

Then I focused on one each, the most important lesson and goal:

  • What was the single most significant lesson for me in 2016? 
  • What will be my primary focus going forward in 2017?

Well, typical for me in my morning quiet time, I wrote a letter to my Father. It went something like this...

Dear Father, January 1, 2017

What better way to start the New Year than to spend time with You, reflecting on where we've been and pondering what lies ahead. I ask myself, "What are the top ten things I learned in 2016?" No doubt, most -if not all- of them regard spiritual matters. To me, those are the lessons that matter most. They are my Revelations For Life itself.

Probably, the most significant thing I learned in 2016 was to purify my motives when interacting with others about spiritual matters as a Christian. Specifically, I was attending a local church for the wrong reasons. I was trying to please others, not You, Father, while at the same time I disagreed with the doctrines of that church.

I see now my attitude was hypocritical. There is no room for compromise if I want to walk in the Spirit (and I do). I must work out my own salvation, not someone else's. Nor do I want to be arrogantly engaged in discussions of right and wrong biblical interpretations and human traditions that tear down. Who am I to cast judgement on another's personal spiritual journey?

Rather, may I always be ready to give a reasonable answer, with all gentleness, seasoned with salt, to anyone who asks about the hope that is in me, that is Christ. And if they don't ask, I won't shove it down their throats. If they stop listening, I'll stop talking. You respected my journey at every stage, Father, even before I knew You, or wanted to know You. Why shouldn't I do likewise?

Furthermore, I am sure You reward those who diligently seek You. In that regard, let me be an instrument in Your Hands, Father, to communicate Your abounding love, Your boundless mercy, Your amazing grace, the depth of Your riches in Christ, etc. Not for my own glory, but for Yours.

Looking forward to 2017, my heart desires so much to reach those who long for Your wisdom, but struggle to find direction and truth in this world. I was hurt and betrayed by those who called themselves Christian religious leaders and were instead wolves in sheep's clothing. There are so many of them! How do I know who to follow?  How do I know who is speaking the truth? What is truth? Where is truth?

I also want to fellowship with those who love You and are called according to Your purpose. There are always more insights into Your manifold wisdom to be discovered. May I apply myself to build up my brothers and sisters in Christ, and to be built up by them. Help me to be kind to others, tenderhearted, forgiving others as You forgave me in Christ. Let my words give grace to those who hear.

For these reasons, looking forward to 2017, I plan to write in my blog consistently with purpose, communicating boldly the love You've shown me. I hope readers will stay with me throughout the year as I open my heart to the lessons You have taught me and continue to teach me. I pray our hearts will be enlightened by the power of Your Spirit working in us.

Perhaps the spiritual journeys of mine and some of the readers of my blog will come to a crossroad of mutual benefit, where we find ourselves eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, walking in manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.