TODAY #15–Are you blessed?

There are blessings inherent with living above the poverty level.  I wake grateful for these.  Physical health, a godly husband, a home, a job…these are blessings.  But I had the distinct impression this morning that God’s greatest blessing have nothing to do with these things. Yes, I am meant to be grateful for all He has given me here and now, but not to assume these blessings are the end in view.


Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.—Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?—For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.

Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:  who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;  rather, He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross!—as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.

Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked…

I have come to judge the world.  I have come to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.

…I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in the heavenly realms
with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…

Mt.5:3ESV; Ja.2:5NASB; II Cor.8:9NASB; Phil.2:5-8NIV; II Cor.6:10NASB; Rev.3:17NASB;  Jn.9:39; Rev 3:18 ESV; Eph.1:3ESV; Rom.8:28-29ESV

The poor in spirit stand to inherit God’s kingdom, not merely this world’s good things.  Physical blessings are meant to turn our hearts in gratitude and humility to God who means to do in us far greater things than we can ever do for ourselves, whether by plenty or by want, by prosperity or persecution.

By His Spirit He opens our eyes to see our deepest needs and to long for His righteousness to displace deep-seated habits of the heart.  When we realize how powerless we are to change our hearts to see the world as Jesus does we are in line for a blessing.  Blessed are the poor in spirit… For this I am grateful!



TODAY #14–Let me be a trusty spigot

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works—The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood—It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.‘ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive—but be filled with the Spirit,  addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart—For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word—Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God—Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

From the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?—Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Jn.14:10ESV; Jn.7:18ESV; Jn. 6:63-64ESV;  Jn. 7:38-39ESV;  Eph 5:18-19ESV; Mt. 12:34 ESV; Eph 5:25-26ESV; Col 3:16ESV; Eph.4:29NASB/ESV; Ja.3:10-11NASB; Ps.19:14ESV

Let me be a trusty spigot.  Jesus modeled a life of dependence on the Father for the very words He spoke.  Consequently His words were life-giving and always just right for the occasion. I’m reminded today that He is the fountain from which my words must come.  It is my desire that  my words will reflect His heart as I yield to His life-giving Spirit within.


TODAY #13–Daffodils, snowstorms, and our sure hope

I saw a daffodil yesterday–a lone harbinger of spring.  Visions of chill-free summer days danced in our heads.  Last week we stored our skis and the snowshoes we never got around to trying out.  And we took our first spin on the tandem down the Legacy Trail, now clear of snow and freshly swept…

But this morning it is snowing, the sky a sheet of white, our mountain view completely obscured by a wall of flakes.  The dependable calendar by the window still proclaims that it is truly spring, but one would never know by glancing out the window!

Isn’t this so much like our sanctification?  We are promised glory, the likeness of Jesus.  But we live in rag-tag bodies bent on sabotaging our pursuit of godliness.  We live in the present continuous tense of waiting.  We— are— waiting.  One day we see a daffodil, the bloom of the Spirit at work in us, evidence of our growth in grace.  The next, a blizzard of doubts, fears and failings obscure our vision.  “How long, Lord?” is our heart’s cry.  How long till these grace-defying natures of ours are consumed in the sunshine of Your face?  How long till our recurring fears and doubts cease to taunt?  How long till obsession with You is the only obsession we know?

Spring has come.  We are made new.  The vestiges of our old nature are shadows that will disappear when we see Christ.  And so we sit out the snow squalls in faith, confident that the seed of an everlasting life is growing in us.  Death cannot hold it down.   Ours is an eternal redemption bought by the One who conquered death once for all.  He will not disappoint.

But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.  But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone—and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?

For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death…so, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation whatsoever to do what your sinful nature urges you to do…what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will give us later… All creation anticipates the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay!…But if we look forward to something we don’t have yet, we must wait patiently and confidently.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus—And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Heb 2:8-9NASB; Jn.11:26NASB; Rom.8:2,12,18,21,25NLT; Phil. 1:6NASB; Gal.2:20ESV


TODAY #12–Jesus, our Hero!

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”—Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out…that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus.

There is salvation in no one else! There is no other name in all of heaven for people to call on to save them.

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him—for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith—and because you are sons God has sent the spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” —Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

You stand fast through faith, so do not become proud, but fear—Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jn.1:11,12ESV; Mk.2:17ESV; Acts 4:19,20ESV; Acts 4:12NLT; Rom.10:12ESV; Gal.3:26ESV; Gal.4:6NLT; Rom.10:4NIV; Rom.11:20ESV; Gal.5:14ESV

There’s no way around Him, no way to commend myself to the Father but through Him. No true goodness apart from His. I find I must continually review these truths.  It is said that the ground at the foot of the Cross is level.  There are no distinctions here, no superior Christians, no naturally good people.  All are given new life because of Jesus’ death for their sakes.  He did not come to call the ones who were sure of their good standing with God because of their diligent rule-keeping.  These He rebuked and called to repentance so that they could see their need of a Saviour.  And once we’re ushered into the family of God, there is still no room for boasting.  It is all of God’s mercy that we see the Son and our need of Him.  Even faith is His gift to us.  In it we stand fast, dearly loved siblings of Jesus, our Hero.







TODAY #11–When sin masquerades as goodness…

I’m reading in Galatians today–looking for a better understanding of what it looks like to be walking by the Spirit. Sometimes sin is not obvious. In fact often I am blind to my own sin nature.  It masquerades as a good thing, a conscientious thing, a right thing.  And yet the aftermath is not love, joy or peace.  And I discover that my self is in control rather than being controlled by the Spirit! It’s not just wild parties, sexual immorality, or outbursts of anger that reveal the sin nature at work.  Sin can hide in the heart in the form of ‘selfish ambition’ and ‘the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group’.  

False teachers had come winsomely coaxing the Galatians to turn back to keeping the law so as to be better Christians, to join their elite forces and become circumcised so they could boast of their superior righteousness… 

Into this context Paul speaks God’s words:

If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives—when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

So I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit.  Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves…the exact opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires.  These two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices are never free from this conflict.  But when you are directed by the Holy Spirit, you are no longer subject to the law.

What counts is whether we really have been changed into new and different people—What is important is faith, expressing itself in love—May God’s mercy and peace be upon all those who live by this principle.  They are the new people of God!

Galatians 5:25; 5:22,23; 5:16-18; 5:6; 6:16 (NLT, British text)

Sin is not always blatantly obvious.   It can boast of great self-control while all the while feeding the self’s passion to be in charge, to be ‘productive’ on its own terms and  to be esteemed as ‘conscientious’.

The Pharisees were surely conscientious!  They might not have been caught in wild parties or obvious immorality.  In fact they strolled about looking pious, intimidating the common man with their intense ‘goodness’, all the while being odious to God and incurring the harshest of Jesus’ words.  They turned righteousness into a nit-picking list of do’s and don’ts that served to assure them of their own righteousness while in fact alienating them from God!  It is to them I look when I need a reminder of sin at its most deceptive.

They were not unlike the religious leaders that wheedled their way into the church at Galatia, luring them to become better Christians by getting circumcised and joining their elite band.  Theirs was a righteousness superior to that of the simple Gospel preached by Paul, or so they thought.  This fraudulent version of the ‘good news’ was attractive.  It offered the go-getters something they could do to improve their standing with God and especially with man!  It appealed to the competitive.  They could look better than their lowly neighbor and earn themselves some congratulatory pats on their own backs.  Best of all, they could feel good about themselves!!

The true Gospel isn’t about this.  It paints a grim picture of our self-enthralled natures.  The hope of the Gospel is found in dying to my sinful self in order to gain the life of Christ within.  It means dying to my pursuit of goodness on my own terms.  I am not good enough to commend myself to God and will never be apart from reliance on Jesus’ death and resurrection on my behalf.  Only His goodness has merit.  Only His life in me by His Spirit can cause me to walk in a way that truly pleases God.

I am often not pleased with my productivity on any given day.  I often have unrealistic ideals of my potential.  I get annoyed when my plans are interrupted, my ideas turned down, my ambitions foiled.  Love, joy and peace vanish so readily. And then I have to reconsider whether my plans were in fact God’s plans for me.  Was I following my agenda or His? 

I suspect that  dying to selfish ambition is at the very heart of what it looks like to follow the Spirit.  The natural self and the Spirit are constantly dueling for control. My ‘choices are never free from this conflict’ (Gal.5:17 NLT) and yet I am not at the mercy of the old me.  The Spirit fuels God’s desires in my heart. He leads me in paths of righteousness.  He opens my eyes to wrong motives and selfish ambitions and points me to fresh opportunity to love and serve the ones whose paths I cross.  This is the life I live by faith in the One who loved me enough to die that I might so live!