THE SOURCE OF NEW LIFE

I often write about the new life we have as Christians. Today, I’d like to write about the source of this new life. How did this come about?

I was standing in front of The Judge condemned to death. The wages of my sin had put me in this position. I was indeed guilty; I deserved the sentence. As I waited for the pronouncement of the verdict, and I anticipated the sound of the gavel fall sealing my fate, a man in the courtroom stepped forward. He addressed The Judge with these words, “I want to take this man’s place your honor.”

“Why would you do this?” asked The Judge. “You are innocent”.

He simply said, “Because I love him.”

The Judge looked at me and said, “You’re free to go.” He turned to the bailiff and ordered, “Take this man into custody.”

The Man not only volunteered to take my place, he actually did it. It was a horrible death he endured for me, but it was the source of my new life.

Jesus took my place. Jesus is the source of new life. I never want to take for granted what he did for me. My response, with a heart full of gratitude I humbly kneel at his feet, and I speak the same words he spoke to his father that dreadful night, “Not my will, but your will.”

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THE FAITH VIEW

By Faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible (Hebrews 11-3).

When I came to faith and surrendered my life to God, my eyes were opened to a new view of the world. I realized that what we see is the result of his creative ability. He spoke this amazing world into existence so we could know him by what he has created. I often say to my students, as we drive toward the sunset, “Look, God is painting us his evening picture.” Every day I find beauty and wonder around me.

I was recently reflecting on the variety of life that God created. My back yard is alive with his creatures. Squirrels scamper around collecting the various seeds and berries from the trees. They are joined by an assortment of birds. I am particularly delighted by the flock of wrens hopping about enjoying the same food supply. A closer look reveals the snails enjoying the vegetation. And that is just in my back yard.

We find life in every part of this earth he made. There are creatures living in the most extreme environments. For instance, some creatures live at the bottom of the ocean near fissures where lava flows from cracks in the earth’s crust. Now that’s extreme, but it was no problem for God’s creative abilities.

As we see what God has made by his spoken Word out of what was not seen, our faith is increased, and we are drawn closer to him. He’s amazing! And he calls himself our Father. What an awesome father we have.

CONFESSION

“But they who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.”  This familiar verse from Isaiah 40:31 has the word wait in it.  Generally not a favorite word for me, and I’d venture to guess not for you either.  Considering that we live in impatient twenty-first century America, you might even say it’s a hated word.  “I hate waiting!”

From this introduction, you might guess that I’ve been struggling with the process of waiting upon the Lord.  In July of last year, I began the procedure for killing cancer with chemo therapy.  It turned out to not be as much fun as I thought.  I have felt pain beyond my previous experience.  A defunct gall bladder and monthly encounters with gout have topped the pain list.

In the midst of the misery and discomfort, there have been delays.  In September, gull bladder surgery put me off for a month, the holidays messed with the chemo schedule, and now I’m delayed waiting for my blood counts to improve.  One last session of chemo left, and I’m waiting.  (While reading this I hope you can refrain from using the word whiner.  Of course I am whining.)

Well, throughout this lesson of waiting on the Lord, I haven’t been doing very well.  I’m hoping to squeak by with a “C”.  I am learning, but this has been tough.  I’m hoping to not be required to take this class over.  I’m glad God is merciful.

The purpose of sharing this with you is not to gain sympathy, although I am willing to receive a minor amount.  Really, I write this blog to share my struggles and growth as encouragement.  You fine people who read this are my fellow travelers.  We share this in common, “we are sinners in need of a savior.”  Thank you Jesus!

Love and the Ten Commandments

If you truly love someone you will treat them well.  You will honor them, and you will certainly not murder them.  You will not cheat on them, steal from them, lie about them, or covet what they have.  At least, if you love them, you will surely try.

To pull this off you’ll have to be patient, kind, not envious, and not work to look more important than the person you love.  I can’t imagine that you’d be rude to them or easily angered by them.  When they‘ve wronged you, you’d forgive and forget.  You’d protect them, trust them, and hope the best for them.

You may have guessed that what I’ve done here is to connect the Ten Commandments and Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians chapter 13.  The Ten Commandments are not just rules to contain us, they are truly about love.  The first four commandments are about loving God.  The other six are about loving each other.  You cannot adhere to the Ten Commandments without love.  As a matter of fact, if you don’t love God or your fellow humans, why would you even try to adhere to the Ten Commandments?

Jesus summed it up this way: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  “This is the first and greatest commandment.”  “And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)  There you have it.  Love is at the root of what God commands.  Love as well as you can, and ask God to increase the love in your heart.

Humbleness, an Attribute of God

One of my favorite scripture passages is Matthew 11:28-30.  In this passage Jesus refers to himself as “gentle and humble in heart”.  Doesn’t gentle and humble sound safe.  I am drawn to him when I think of him being gentle and humble.  Paul supports Jesus’ statement that he is humble with this declaration in Philippians 2:6-8,

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!

Jesus not only declared himself humble, but he unequivocally demonstrates his humble nature on the cross.  When you think of God, do you think of him as humble?  That’s not my first thought when I think of God, but he truly is humble.  So, what is humble? In all the definitions of humble, I find that not putting yourself first seems to clarify its meaning.  Jesus did not put himself first.  He put our needs ahead of his.

Adam and Eve were humble because they were created in the image of God.  They lost this attribute as a result of the fall.  They then became self concerned.  At the start of Philippians chapter 2 Paul is exhorting us to return to being humble.  He tells us, (Philippians 2:3-4) “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  He follows this with the scriptural illustration in Philippians 2:6-8 of Christ’s humility.

In our desire to be more like Jesus, humbleness should be near the top of the list.  As I looked at this attribute of God, I had to ask myself, am I gentle and humble in heart?  Am I safe for others?  These questions will dominate my self reflections for the rest of the week.  How about you?

2019 – A NEW YEAR

Here we are in the year 2019.  2018 is now the past; 2019 is the near future and present time.  As we contemplate our new year, we plan and imagine what it will bring.  For me, the end of chemo therapy has my immediate focus.  February will be my last infusion; and after that, it’s mere speculation.  The prognosis is that I will be cancer free which has produced great hope.

I started this Godsworldandus blog four and a half years ago in the month of August, and it will be my delight to continue.  I am planning to change my posting day to Saturday.  The weeks have been so full I’m finding it hard to always be ready by Friday morning.

I hope this year draws you closer to Jesus, and in that closeness you are more able to live in his peace.

God’s blessings to you and yours,

Al Vredenburg

WHEN THE TIME HAD FULLY COME

I have always been fascinated by the revelation that God has a plan. This quote from Galatians 4:4, “When the time had fully come”, tells us that the timing of Jesus’ birth was planned.  Even today in the midst of our daily life, God’s plan is unfolding. 

I have been reading the Christmas story in the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel.   The story of Elizabeth and Zechariah in chapter 1 has captured my attention.  As you may recall, they were the parents of John the Baptist. The couple is introduced in verses 4-7.  Zechariah is a priest, and he and his wife Elizabeth are upright in the sight of God, yet they have been unable to have children.  They were both well along in years.

This couple apparently spent their time going about the daily processes of life.  In their daily life, they were faithful and trusted in God.  I’m sure they had prayed for a child, but they did not abandon God for his seeming failure to answer their prayers.

One day, “at the appointed time”, when Zechariah was ministering before the altar, an angel of the Lord appeared to him.  The angel said, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John…..”  How many times have you prayed for something and thought that your prayer wasn’t heard?  Maybe, it just wasn’t the right time. 

God has a plan that he is working out through history.  We only have a broad very general insight into his plan.  Each of God’s children has a part in his plan, but we usually aren’t sure how we fit in to his plan.  That is where trust and patience come into play.  Don’t lose heart; stay faithful.  God has a plan, you have a part in his plan, and in faith we know, God will execute the details of his plan when the time has fully come.