Women Embracing Faith

Thinking Through the Bible

What Easter and Passover Are All About March 29, 2010

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Paul explains the meaning of the Bible in Romans.  For instance,

“It (righteousness) will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:24-25).

Some of the Bible passages he is explaining:

“…on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments:  I am the LORD.  The blood shall be a sign for you,…” (Exodus 12: 12-13).

“Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.  As many were astonished at you--his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind–so shall he startle many nations, kings shall shut their mouths because of him, for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand” (Isaiah 52:11-15 ).

“But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–everyone–to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5-6).

“He is not here, for he has risen, as he said….And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:6:18).

Then Paul sums it all up as follows:

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1)

To be justified means to be declared righteous –perfect, without sin, able to enter God’s presence and “walk” with Him like Adam and Eve did in the garden.  Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes that nothing else matters.  Knowing God is what life is all about.  Solomon found everything else to be empty in comparison.

Paul’s summation of the Bible then is that “The righteous shall live by faith” in Christ Jesus.  He is not ashamed to tell anyone. (Romans 1:16-17)

Have you seen your need to be declared righteous because what you thought was your righteousness isn’t good enough ?  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be “passed over” in the Day of Judgment; declared righteous and be found knowing God.

Here is something else to add to your knowledge about God so you can “rejoice in the Lord”(Philippians 3:1).  What a wonderful thing God has done for us.

 

Reading Philippians:3:1 March 24, 2010

Filed under: Philippians — womenembracingfaith @ 10:15 am
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“Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord” (Philippians 3:1).

How do we do that?  We know it is not the same as always focusing on the positive side of things.  Anyone can attempt that, no matter their religious views.  Neither is it  just an attempt to be happy in spite of life’s turns and twists, its ups and downs.  A support group can help with that.

Roger Ellsworth in Opening Up Philippians (Day One, 2004) reminds us that this letter from Paul to Greek Christians is not a manual on how to be joyful.  It is an exhortation to work together to spread the gospel.  Paul’s own joy in doing that, in spite of hardship and opposition, bubbles up frequently.  If he is not thinking positively, where does this joy come from?   No matter how much they “put on a happy face,” it will not earn them points with God. That’s what “justification by faith” means; Jesus’ perfect life is enough for us to be declared righteous.

Then how do we rejoice in the Lord?  It is letting your feelings be driven by how you are thinking about God.  We start with the mind;  remember the Bible’s teaching about God.   One way of doing this is to read the Psalms.  Look for Christ Jesus in them.  Take Psalm 22, for example. Or Psalm 90, written by Moses. “By your wrath we are dismayed.”  The Psalms are helpful because they bring forth truths about God and then show us an emotional response. Moses says, “Return, O Lord!…Have pity on your servants!”

Another way to rejoice in the Lord is to read a solid Confession of Faith with its biblical passages.  The Westminster Confession or the Baptist Confession of 1689 are my two favorites.  They devote whole sections to God and Christ Jesus.  They attempt to summarize the Bible’s teachings about God, then give you the biblical passages that teach about His sovereignty, trinity, love, justice etc.  The point is that as you are thinking about these characteristics of God, your heart will be moved and before you know it, you are rejoicing.

As you remember these basics, don’t forget to sing in your heart (even if you don’t feel like it).  Start with some songs you just like, then look up some of the old hymns about God.  “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” comes to mind.  “Jesus Loves Me,” and “Up From the Grave He Arose.”  Keep a favorite hymnbook handy just for this purpose:  to rejoice in the Lord.

And, of course, don’t forget the great value of talking about this with someone.  Cultivate friendships with those who will speak of God’s faithfulness, His love, His answering of their prayers.  Just hearing these things can help us to rejoice in the Lord over and over again.

See how these put how you are thinking about God first?  Then, your joy in knowing who God is and experiencing His love wells up within.  “And, again I say rejoice!”

 

Reading Philippians 2:12-3:1 March 12, 2010

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“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).

Following Jesus’ example of putting others before ourselves is really hard.  He was always able to do it; He never sinned once.  He was even able to die for people who didn’t deserve it: us.  “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). Now that is unselfish.

Because Christian love and humility is so difficult, Paul reminds us to CAREFULLY think about how we love and act toward others; especially since we are to shine like lights amid the ignorance of God all around us.  It is with awe we remember that God works in our lives as He wishes. Our salvation proves that!  And this awe, translated into “fear and trembling,”  is over God’s ability to do as He wishes, to even work within us mysteriously.  Paul’s command, then, so we can together be those lights, is to

“Do all things without grumbling or questioning…” (2:14).

Ah, that is the rub, isn’t it?  Working together to show and tell others about the good news of salvation; striving side by side for the faith of the gospel; without being afraid of opposition.  No grumbling or complaining about the way life or the struggle for the gospel goes. Instead, we are to rejoice in who God is–loving, in control, full of grace and truth (Philippians 3:1).

Joy is the emotion which comes from this certainty of what God is like and how He acts toward us. Rejoicing in the truth about God is what it means to strengthen yourself in God. (David did that when things went badly for him.)  It is to remember and be happy about God’s sovereignty in life events and in our salvation–and the way things may go as we work together to spread the gospel.

You know, this is not positive thinking.  That is mentally to set up how you want things to be or to look for the best in the hand you’ve been dealt.  Instead, this is being careful how you think about God. As Paul put it, “holding fast to the word of life..”  especially about what the Bible says about God, so that when Jesus our Lord and Savior comes again we, and our pastors and teachers, won’t be embarrassed at how we have been behaving.

 

Solomon’s Gift March 9, 2010

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Divide this story up into parts, depending on the age of the child.  Don’t forget to be direct about how it applies to their little heart, especially how they are thinking about God.

“Every perfect gift is from above…”

Once there was an old man named Solomon.  His name meant “beloved by God.”  He had not always been old.  Once he little, just like you.  His name reminded him that God loved him.  He was dear to God– like you are dear to me.  Do you think God loves you like that?

Solomon’s father was a King.  King David, the one who made Jerusalem a city of God. It was a neighborhood of peace, and where worshiping God was what people were expected to do.  His father was very rich and his mother must have been very beautiful.  Both of them really loved Solomon a lot–like I love you. There was a lot of singing and music in Solomon’s young life.  His father wrote songs all the time. Remember this one, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters.  Even though I walk in the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me;…” (Psalm 23).

King David wanted Solomon to be very wise. His mother taught him too.  They must have had a lot of fun talking about things—just like we do.  When Solomon grew up and became the King, God gave him a special gift: the ability to study and write.  He collected wise sayings on the best way to life and wrote them all down.  They were put into a book called Proverbs. That is one of the books in our Bible.  You will soon be able to read them for yourself!  One says: “A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother” (Proverbs 10:1).

Solomon was king of Israel for forty years. Everyone knew what a great and wise king he was.  People came from far away just to see the beautiful cities he built and to learn from him.  Ships brought him treasures from all over the world–even apes from Africa!  No one in Israel had ever seen an ape.  What fun they must have had thinking about how God made everything.  We love doing that, don’t we?  Remember the wolves we saw at the zoo? And the girafes? Solomon wanted everyone to remember that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

When Solomon was old, he became a great preacher.  He was a collector of God’s truths and wanted to tell others about them. So he wrote another book about the meaning of  life: what life is all about.  Proverbs tells us how to live.  Ecclesiastes says that life is all about knowing God.  Nothing else is as important as that.

Solomon had learned this lesson the hard way. He needed a Savior just like we do. He got so busy with being king, he stopped thinking about God as the most important person in his life. He started going along with all those around him who didn’t think about needing a Savior.  He had to tell God how sorry he was and go back to loving God and doing what He commands.

But this story is about a little rich boy who had a special gift from God. He used his special gift of  observing and collecting God’s truth to help other people.  He wanted them to love God.  He knew that knowing God was the most important thing in life. He knew he

What do you want to be when you grow up?  A fireman?  A solder? A mother? a father?  Be on the lookout for the special gift God might give you to help others. I wonder what it will be?

 

Reading Philippians: Chapters 1-2

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Paul’s desire is to courageously stand up for the gospel.  “It is my eager expectation …that I will not be at all ashamed…”(1:20). He urges these Greek believers to do the same–to engage themselves in the conflict, to stand side by side, united in their intent to spread the gospel—–unafraid and unashamed.

Now to do this, we must remember the basic Christian principle of  love and humility:

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (2:3-4).

Jesus is to be our example.  He gave His life as an atonement for our sin; He suffered so that we might not die (2:5-11).  He was unselfish.

Matthew Henry (England, 1662-1704) said that loving others more than ourselves is the first lesson in Christ’s school.  It is not an easy lesson!  Especially when you disagree over the best way to spread the gospel. Just get a great idea, form a committee, and watch the sparks fly.

Keep an eye on yourself.  That idea you had becomes your own “interest” (2:4), and, suddenly, instead of serving others, you are ramming something down their throats. On the other hand, we don’t have to cave in to every opposition either.  Rather, Paul reminds everyone that opposition to the gospel is to be expected and resisted.  After all, Satan is like a roaring lion looking around for whom he can eat up.

It is a lot easier to just not be engaged in this conflict.  When your children resist your Bible stories, just read Disney instead.  When ladies get catty at Bible studies, just stay home.  When others don’t get excited about your evangelistic idea, drop it.

Instead of caving in, we would be wise to think about the sovereignty of God and whether our attitudes and actions are pleasing Him (2:12-13).