Happy Father’s Day

FB_IMG_1529268774746

I recently began reading the book “becoming myself” by Stasi Eldredge. In it, she points out that, no matter the bad, most often there was also some good in past relationships, so shift your focus to the good things. And there were moments of good. Far too few, but moments to cling to none the less.

Probably some of my earliest memories of my father, though I don’t remember how old I was, but I know there are multiple memories, were being tucked into bed. I loved “butterfly kisses.” In fact, I always thought it was “our thing” until I heard the song of the same name at a wedding decades later. No one understood why the photographer was standing at the edge of the dance floor crying her eyes out.

When I was about six, Dad borrowed a small sailboat from a friend and brought it to our summer cottage in Michigan. I have flashes of images of being on the lake, sun glistening off the water, a gentle breeze moving us along silently, with the only sound being the light slap, slap, slap of the waves on the boat. When Dad would share his memories of this, his recollection was me, stretching out, kicked back in the boat, arms behind my head, saying, “Man, this is living!”

There were many years, and many experiences, that were not nearly this enjoyable. However, in hind sight, and as I search my memory, there were hints of the good man he had been before alcohol took over. I’ve learned to see his goodness through the darkness in which I grew up. Like the time my car broke down while I was delivering newspapers and he came and picked me up at three o’clock in the morning, in the snow, in pajamas and a parka. We loaded my papers into his car, and he drove me to finish my route. No matter how much bad happened before then, or after, on that particular early morning, he was a good, good father.

Thank you, Daddy. I miss you.

Ephesians 1:1-2

As you can see from my last post, I was jumping in to what I thought was the meat of this epistle, and bypassing the standard, “boring” greeting that Paul and other first century writers put at the beginning of their letters. But then, as I was reading commentaries in order to delve deeper, and to more fully understand Paul’s letter, I came across a series by Pastor Chuck Smith who founded Calvary Chapel in Yuma, Arizona. Though he passed away in 2013, his messages live on, pointing the way to Jesus, and helping people like me (and hopefully you), to see the grace and beauty of God’s Word in a deeper way.

What struck me, in the very first sentence, was Pastor Smith’s thought of us writing this letter. The first part of the first verse, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,” says so much more than just the words. And I never realized that until Pastor Smith suggested substituting your own name. For me, it would read, “Bonnie, a motor vehicle cashier by the will of God.” Wow! We are not all apostles or teachers or Whatever, but we are all called to Something by the WILL OF GOD. And no matter what that something is, we are called by His Will, and we are all ministers in one way or another within that calling. We are in the place God has put us, for a reason. No matter the job, remember what Paul said later in Ephesians, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the LORD, not people.” (Ephesians 6:7 NIV).

In the second half of verse one, Paul states whom he is addressing with this letter. In the ESV version of the Bible,, it says, “To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus.”┬áThe King James Version, however,┬ásays, “to the Saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.” There’s been lots of speculation from experts about this sentence. In some of the old manuscripts the city of Ephesus is there, and in others it’s not. Some experts, such as F. F. Bruce, say that this is what they call a “circular letter,” meaning that it circulated from city to city within Asia Minor, and each city inserted their own name.

When it comes to the difference in those in Ephesus “and faithful in Christ Jesus” (ESV) , or “and TO THE FAITHFUL in Christ Jesus,” (KJV), I know which one I pick to be right. I have no idea if it is or not, but I pick the King James Version. If this is correct, then this letter is actually written to all of us. In Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, Gill says that the Arabic version says, “and to them that believe in Jesus Christ; with all of their hearts, to the saving of their souls; who look unto Him, venture on Him, rely upon Him, and trust in Him for life and salvation, and who shall certainly be saved.” (My emphasis added). So, from this standpoint, this letter is to each and every one of us. It’s not just for those in the churches at ancient Ephesus, or Asia Minor, it is for all who claim Jesus as their personal Savior, then, now, and forevermore.

And then Paul calls for grace and peace. Chuck Smith points out that it’s always grace first, then peace. Everywhere in the New Testament, grace and peace are paired, and grace comes first. He posits that we can not know the peace of God until we fully understand His grace. And that, my friends, is a subject of a different post! Grace and peace, coming soon. Or, perhaps you want to begin exploring that on your own.

Here are some things for you to think about until the next post:

If you were writing this letter, how would the opening greeting read? Are you in “the will of God” in your job? If not, can you get there? Can you bring glory to Jesus in your present position? Do you know the peace of God, or are you still seeking after His grace?

 

1 Timothy 1:1- 11 Part 3

The last section of this passage speaks of the law. It tells for whom the law is established. 

“Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for this who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslaved, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted,” (1 Timothy 1:8- 11).

I work at a job where contact with the public is continuous. Many are in violation of the law when they come to my place of employment. Many are contrite, apologetic, and requesting mercy and grace. I’m not law enforcement, so there’s no problem with me.  We get their business done, and they move on. But the next year they are back, contrite again, apologetic again, asking for mercy again. And so the next year and the year after that and the year after that….

Some really don’t seem to even notice that they have been in violation of the law and just move on with their lives in the oblivion they’ve created for themselves. And then, there are those who flaunt their defiance of the law. They seem almost proud that they have gone for lengths of time without being caught. Some who have been caught are outraged that they are being punished. 

These are the groups for which the law is established. For those who feel bad for what they’ve done, yet never change, for those who are so focused on themselves that they pay no attention to anything or anyone, and those who flaunt their lawlessness, brazenly defying anyone who tells them they are wrong. 

Some may think there is a difference in the scale or measure of wrongness between these groups.  They think that those who are oblivious or ignorant of their wrongness are less seriously wrong than those who are openly defiant, and those who recognize their wrongness, admit it, and apologize, paying the penalty willingly,  even less so. But Jesus says that it doesn’t matter, wrong is wrong, whether done knowingly or unknowingly, admitted or not. And wrong deserves punishment. All sin is sin.

In Psalm 14, David says,  “There is none who does good, not even one,” (Psalm 14:3b). In the first verse of this Psalm he talks about the flaunter when he says, “The fool in his heart says “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.” (Emphasis added) We are all in the same boat. We all fall into one of these groups, probably even all of them at one time or another. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23).

The 1 Timothy passage we are looking at has quite a list of wrong doings, from what we would consider little things to great big, honkin’ huge sins, from “simple” disobedience to homosexuality, immorality, murder, and “WHATEVER else is contrary to sound doctrine,” (Emphasis added). All that and more is sin. And any and all sin disqualifies us to be in the presence of God. Yes, the law of God is that harsh. And that’s what a lot of non- believers react to when they say that God is an angry God or a mean or cruel God.

But those who believe that God is mean, angry, or cruel, missed the last part of the sentence, verse 11, “in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.” The gospel, the good news, that God, though He will punish by eternal separation from Himself, with NO chance of reprieve after out physical body dies, (a fate worse than physical death), anyone who does not accept His free gift, will grant forgiveness, grace, and mercy to anyone and EVERYONE who does accept the free gift. 

That’s a really long sentence. There’s a lot going on in it. And it’s really hard to believe. REALLY? No matter what I’ve done, all I have to do is accept the gift and God forgives me? I didn’t believe it for decades, preferring instead to try to devise my own way to get to God. I believed there was a God, but I didn’t believe that the only way to God was through Jesus. I believed that as long as I was mostly a good person and tried not to hurt others, I could still get to Heaven. OH, how wrong I was. 

The funny thing is, what I believed, (and probably nearly all non- believers think as well), that what is perceived as the hard way, saying yes to Jesus, is SO MUCH easier than trying  (and failing) to do it on your own. The perceived difficulty is deception from the devil. He doesn’t want people to know the truth. His mission is to kill, steal, and destroy, and he stops at nothing to do that. 

So, if you want grace, mercy, and forgiveness, all you have to say is, “YES.” Tell Jesus that you believe in Him, that you’re tired of trying to do it all on your own, and you want Him to come into your life and be your LORD and Savior. It’s NOT giving up control, as many believe, but finally taking control and moving in the right direction. Repenting of sin is simply turning around and moving in the opposite direction from where you’ve been going.

If you take advantage of this incredible free gift, PLEASE contact me and I’ll help you with your next steps. The reward is worth the journey.

This week’s Scripture memory verse is the most famous, John 3:16 and the less famous verse that follows it.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:16- 17

READING PLAN

Day 22  Gen 39- 40  Psalm 20 Matt 25

Day 23  Gen 41 Psalm 21  Matt 26

Day 24 Gen 42- 43 Psalm 22:1- 18 Matt 27

Day 25 Gen 44- 45 Psalm 22:19- 31 Matt 28- Mark 1

Day 26 Gen 46- 47 Psalm 23 Mark 2

Day 27 Gen 48- 49 Psalm 24 Mark 3

Day 28 Gen 50- Exodus 1 Psalm 25 Mark 4