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Archive for the ‘Amazing Grace’ Category

“There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.  For the law of the Spirit of Life has made me free from the law of sin and death.”  Romans 8:1-2

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:38

We who belong to the Lord Jesus, and love Him because He first loved us, choose to be immersed in Scriptures, letting God’s glorious truths continually renew our minds.  And yes, we pray/pray/pray!  We desire a life of GRACE, an abundant life brimming over with His FRUIT!

As California Pastor Phillip De Courcy has titled his amazingly wonderful and practical teaching on the work of the Holy Spirit, YOU HAVE THE ADVANTAGE.

Fruit!  Love, joy, peace, and all the rest in the GRACE package—a gift from God the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Fallen and sinful world notwithstanding, some of us still have an outwardly abundant and peaceful life—for which we are immeasurably grateful!  We experience joy, and one of our greatest delights is to share God’s joy—with family, friends, and even possibly in a public ministry.

Abundant Life!  Yet sometimes we wake up in the morning to find ourselves smack dab in the midst of II Corinthians 4: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed.  We are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” 

So long as we are here in this fallen, sinful world, we are surrounded by the universal human experience, and our physical frames may bear evidence to that experience.  As Christians, we are walking oxymorons.  God’s life, moving around in physical bodies, often imbued with physical signs of the fall.  Oxymorons, often weary, sometimes physically ill or burdened with physical pain, hard pressed and perplexed, yet beaming out God’s life within us—despite circumstances that would threaten to do us in!

Along with evidence of the fall, we Christians have an additional dimension of perplexity.  We are targets and refugees in history’s cosmic war.  We are embattled Pilgrims hounded and tormented by the enemy of all that is Good, Righteous, and Beautiful.

Our enemy’s days are numbered, but until our Lord returns Satan will continue to fling at God’s people everything possible from the arsenal of evil, in order to impede and discourage any and all of us who belong to our Lord Jesus Christ.  But whatever flack he may manage to muster up, our enemy cannot destroy those of us who belong to Jesus!

We may go along quite peacefully—enjoying every moment in touch with our Lord and thanking Him for His GRACE, when suddenly WHAMMO!  We are buffeted and broadsided.  How we need to be ever ready for that “roaring lion seeking whomever he may devour”.  I Peter 5:8

All of Scripture, rightly understood and applied, is God’s remedy against the wiles of the devil.  In Ephesians 6, the Apostle Paul summarizes our weaponry via the metaphor of battle garments we are to wear for our protection in the war.  As we make certain we are wearing the armor by staying in the Word and in prayer, here are just a few observations from decades of surprise “attacks”:

1)  Beware of mountain tops.  Now, some of my family members love to hike the famous Colorado 14-ers, and that is fine so long as their legs and lungs can handle the trip.  Here I am thinking of spiritual mountain tops—those “sheltered” high on life “experiences”, exhilarating and refreshing.  God may occasionally allow these for our encouragement, but mountain tops are not where we are to live 24/7.

God created us to let His light shine with our feet planted on the ground where the nitty gritty of life occurs, and where the lost world needs to hear the Gospel of Jesus’s death for our sins, His burial, and His RESURRECTION to bring us to ETERNAL LIFE.  Being human, we are apt to get lightheaded in the rarefied air on the mountain top—so wound up in “experience” that we forget where God intentionally planted our feet!

2)  Enjoy, and be grateful for, the everyday “simple gifts”:  family, friends, good food, the birds at the feeder, gardens, and other creative pastimes.

3)  Stay rested whenever possible:  not only “resting in the Lord” per Hebrews 4, but physically rested whenever possible.  When we are exhausted, we are especially vulnerable to enemy attacks.  Plus, a chronically worn out and complaining Christian worker is not normally the best witness for our Lord.

4)  Remember, any good that flows from our lives is His good:  His GRACE, His love, His creativity, His everything.  Apart from Him we can do nothing!

5)  Do not entertain self-pity, no matter what.  Our enemy wants us to focus on ourselves, but in God’s strength we will focus on Him.

6)  Do not indulge in unhealthy self-incrimination.  The evil one whispers insidious ideas, such as “Who are you to think you can serve Jesus?  Look what you did!  Remember what you said!  Remember what you once were like!  Shame/shame/shame!”  Satan gloats when we go around bathed in self focus—wallowing in our past guilt, or current lapses (which we are to confess and turn from, while moving on).

Through His Holy Spirit, the Lord will nudge us, and inform us when we wander.  God will even “take us to the woodshed” if we persist in disobedience.  God does not tolerate sin in our lives, and we will experience His discipline, because we are His beloved children.  And we are always His beloved.  He always seeks to reestablish us on His chosen path.  He never says “Shame/shame/shame” as a part of His necessary discipline!  The Lord Jesus says, “Look to me and LIVE!!!  

Buffeted, Broadsided, but always Beloved!  Praise Him!

Margaret L. Been — May 3rd, 2019

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“For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen. being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse . . . .” Romans 1:20

Every year in early March a wonderful transformation occurs in the living area of our home; the sunrise returns after rising to the southeast of our view for six months—around the corner of our building.  We do have winter sunshine in our south view bedroom and den windows, but it is the glorious sunrise that we miss from October to March.

When sunrise and morning light flood our living room, dining area, and kitchen, my heart overflows with praise.  Of course I praise Him year round, whether or not the sun is evident.  My heart affirms “Great is Thy Faithfulness” in that the seasonal changes go on—and on schedule—year after year!

But when sunrise invades our home, I am overwhelmed and I thank God for it constantly.  Please understand, I am not a sun worshipper—much as I love just lying in the sun all spring, summer, and autumn, absorbing as much color and vitamin D as possible.

I worship the Creator of all of nature, manifesting His power and glory in the things He has made—including that symbol of warmth, light, healing, and life:  His physical sun.

As the sunshine streams back into our living area after weeks of darkness, I anticipate over and over the return of His SON, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Margaret L. Been — March 21st, 2019

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Winter Breakup

The tyranny of winter is about to break up, as the above watercolor rendering depicts.  Since my last entry with reference to a merciful winter, we have had a good amount of snow, accompanied by below zero temperature readings plus way below zero wind chills.  Then a sudden and violent thaw along with bone-biting days of sleety rain and icy windshields on cars—and potentially treacherous roads rendered slick with icy rainfall.

But by mid February, a difference—for which we are watching and waiting.  Not a difference in difficult temperatures or driving conditions (which can last into April in Wisconsin) but the radical rebellion of Spring overcoming the darkness of Winter.

The difference is visible in sun faithfully and predictably climbing back into the northern hemisphere.   In just three weeks, that sun will rise through our patio door and flood our living room, kitchen, and dining area—after being out of our living room view since October.  Always I think of a favorite hymn:

“Summer and winter and springtime and harvest, sun moon and stars in their courses above, join with all nature in manifold witness to Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.”  from the hymn GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS by T.O Chisolm and William M. Runyan

Bringing the excitement of watching and waiting right up to the area of contemporary music, that poet of the piano George Winston has an album titled WINTER INTO SPRING.  This music brings the drama of watching and waiting into the marrow of the listener’s soul.  As an impassioned music lover, I hear and sense the reality of Winston’s music in the core of my being.

Great is Thy faithfulness and Winter into Spring!  I’m reminded of a prophecy in Malachi, at the end of the Old Testament:  “But to you who fear My name THE SUN of RIGHTEOUSNESS shall arise with healing in His wings . . . .” Malachi 2:4a

This passage especially impacts me because The Lord Jesus, God’s Son, Who will literally return to reign in Jerusalem as KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS, is pictured as “The SUN”, thereby invoking the physical “sun” as a metaphor for our Lord Jesus Christ.

How beautiful, the poetry woven into the truths of Scripture.  We are watching and waiting for the sun to return to our hemisphere to banish the hardships of Winter.  And we watch and wait for the return of THE SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, to establish a promised government of peace and justice, overcoming the centuries-long “Winter” characterized by the sins of fallen man.

Watching and waiting, for Winter into Spring—-for Death into RESURRECTION.  Indeed, GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS!

Margaret L. Been — February 8, 2019

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Here's what it's all about sans GB

This precious photo takes me back to 1962, when our daughters, Laura and Debbie, plus our son, Eric, reenacted an historical event which needs no explanation—as a part of our Christmas Eve celebration at home.

We had another daughter, Judy, somewhere around—and a real live baby, Karl, who for some reason was not available at the moment, so a doll took the place of Baby Jesus.  Obviously we overlooked the fact that we had no boy doll to fill in the gap. 🙂

I think some of our children understood the Christmas message better than I did in 1962.  Children can be so receptive to the simplicity of it all!

I was reminded of this last evening, at our church’s annual special Christmas worship:  Scripture readings from the Genesis 3:15 first mention of our Messiah, prophecies concerning the Lord Jesus from Micah and Isaiah, the beautiful account of Jesus’s birth in the Gospel of Luke, and the joyous climax in the book of Revelation when God’s glorified people will be worshipping the Lamb Who was slain—KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.  All of the readings were interspersed with the singing of beloved Christmas Carols.  As a finale, we lit our individual candles and sang “Silent Night”.

It brought tears to my eyes, to think that people all over the world would be replicating this service of worship and adoration:  people of countless denominations, in many languages and in every possible setting—be it a cathedral, church, public venue, or at home either in safety and comfort or at risk of arrest, incarceration, and/or torture and possibly death.  Scriptures, carols, and candlelight.

When singing the carols, I thought of all of you who may be reading this blog—brothers and sisters in Christ in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, UK, Ireland, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Portugal. Australia, New Zealand, India, Myanmar, Hong Kong, Nigeria, Gabon, South Africa, Afghanistan, and other places around the world.  All lighting candles and singing praises to the Lord Jesus Who is the Light of the World!

Today we are united in love, through His Holy Spirit.  Someday we will be united in person, praising our LORD OF LORDS, KING OF KINGS—thanks to His message of Salvation, Redemption, and Eternal Life:  a message so beautifully simple that even a receptive child can understand and believe it.

To all of you readers, wherever you are, I pray you will have a blessed Christmas!

Margaret L. Been — December 22, 2018  

Note:  I am adding Ghana, Russia, Turkey, and Switzerland to the above international list.  Welcome friends!!! 

 

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“Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your heart on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, Who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”  Colossians 3:1-4  NIV

Even as we deliberately choose to set our minds on things above—and perhaps because we have chosen a Christ focused mindset—-we are apt to be needled and poked by petty annoyances in our circumstances:  not only the big dilemmas, but those rinky-dinky irritations too silly to mention.  These are the fiery darts of our enemy, and I am wondering if any Christian is immune to experiencing them!  Dear reader, if you have never been needled and poked, please share. 

This morning, some silly technical frustration “stuck in my craw”, and rather than ignoring, or at least responding with serenity and grace, I reacted in anger.  This after a wonderful start to the day, with prayer and communion with our Lord.

In the midst of my reaction, I said, “Oh, Lord, I am so sorry!”  Immediately, the Holy Spirit brought to my mind my very favorite Psalm and the particular passage I especially love:  Psalm 139:9-10–-“If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.”  NKJV

Being reminded of this passage in the circumstance of my reaction and remorse was an epiphany for me.  For decades I have claimed the promise of Psalms 139:9-10 for two occasions:  1) flights (as in planes); and surgeries requiring general anesthetic—perhaps because in both of those scenarios I have no control whatsoever.  I simply have to trust God to work through the humans involved in flying the plane or “fixing” my body.  (As if I really ever DO “have control”. )

Obviously, I know that God is with us and active in all of our issues, great and small—a fact He has revealed to me again and again over the years.  But today God showed me in a more visceral way that He is ever present, to nudge me out of temptations and sinful reactions—by applying a beloved Scripture, to the “uttermost parts of the sea” implied in my anger.  Even there God’s hands are holding me and leading me out of the morass of fallen self, back into His light. 

I cannot trust myself to respond correctly, even in the rinky-dinky issues of life.  I can only trust the Lord Jesus Christ, Who not only will someday make all things new, but at this very moment is lifting me to Himself in praise and gratitude.  The Lord Jesus is all sufficient and all powerful for today—for the huge calamities we may encounter, and also for those silly needling and poking scenarios.  He is Lord over all the fiery darts. 

Meanwhile, we are in the midst of beautiful family and friend celebrations of our Lord’s first appearance on earth—to show us how to live and then to die for our sins, and rise to give Eternal Life to all who believe in Him.  Our Lord’s first coming anticipates the wonder and joy of His second coming.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them.  They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’  He Who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’  Then He said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ ”  Revelation 21:3-5  NKJV

Come, Lord Jesus!

Margaret L. Been — December 19th, 2018 

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“My soul melts from heaviness. Strengthen me according to Your word.” Psalm 119:28 NKJV                                                                                                                                              

Characteristically, my blog essays deal with victory over trials—the victory of the indwelling Jesus Christ via His Holy Spirit.  At all times God’s spiritual attributes reside in my soul, as well in the souls of all who belong to Him.  When and if we focus on the Lord through His Word, His love, peace, and joy will flow from us.

Yet, in my zeal to reflect and express the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, it has occurred to me that I sometimes overlook or downplay the blatant fact of our universally shared humanity.

Yes, we have victory.  Yes, God is all powerful, and He provides all we need for wherever He has placed us to serve and honor Him.  But also, “yes” we are human—broken vessels, vulnerable to pain and sorrow, prone to seasons of weeping.

We are not unfeeling robots, mechanically spewing out truths through a plastic, pasted-on smile.  We are people.  Sometimes we CRY!  If we never cried, we would never be qualified to come alongside another grieving individual who needs a quiet, understanding friend.

Jesus wept for His beloved friend, Lazarus.  Jeremiah wept for his sinful, fallen nation.  And numerous Psalmists wept over their own pain and sorrow.  Sometimes WE weep, yes even for OURSELVES.

Recently I had a lapse of weeping for myself.  Right in the midst of a series of victory laps where God’s palpable presence and joy had prevailed, I succumbed to tears for my self—as currently I literally have only one leg to stand on.  As if my mini-infirmity matters at all in the vast scheme of things.

As I wept tears of frustration, knowing all the time that God is in control and He will never leave me comfortless, it dawned on me that I was weeping not just for my invalid self but also for the lost, pain ridden world.  In this sudden flood of tears, God reinforced the fact that I am not a robot, nor am I beyond or above the pathos of the human race!

Yes, we have victory in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Yes, He will never forsake us.  And yes, we are humans saved by Grace.  As sinners saved by Grace we are never to lose our capacity to love and come alongside the shared sorrow of humanity.  When we are broken, when our strength is revealed as utter and absolute weakness, God shines through in all His glory.

“For it is God Who commanded light to shine out of darkness, Who has shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of God and not of ourselves.  We are hard pressed on either side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our body.  2 Corinthians 4:6-10 NKJV

Margaret L. Been —  December 2nd, 2018

(First published on November 19th in my blog:  GOD’S WORD IS TRUE)

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“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ . . . . I Peter 1:6-7

 

California is being literally tested to the max—by fire.  I cannot begin to fathom such terror, not primarily due to loss of possessions but because of the very real threat of tortuous death.  Yet around the world, there are trials far more severe and devastating.  At the present time, Planet Earth can be a very treacherous piece of real estate!

Realizing all of that, and given the words of the Apostle Peter, my little inconvenience of recovering from surgery and being physically unable to control the mounting chaos and confusion that once was our well-ordered home—these “trials” are not really trials at all.  Here I am, well fed and clothed, clean, loved, warm and dry.  The physical pain is being managed, and I am surrounded by people who care.  No, in view of California, I am not experiencing a trial.

Yet there is frustration, and sometimes the enemy of our soul tempts me to grouse about the mess at hand.  Then I metaphorically hurl myself on God’s Grace, feeling ashamed of having lapsed into moments of consternation!

Two words in the above passage of Scripture stand out to provide tremendous comfort and consolation:  “various” and “grieved”.  Peter’s exhortation spans the centuries—popping right off the pages of my Thompson Chain Reference NKJV, right into my head and heart.

There are VARIOUS TRIALS, no matter where and when one is on this earth.  Some issues are catastrophic, like the California fires or, much worse, the “fires” of tyranny and injustice around the world.  Other trials, like my physical limits, are lightweight to the point of being almost silly.

And Peter wrote to individuals who GRIEVED.  Like you and I, believers in the Apostle Peter’s day were real.  Vulnerable to temptation—yes, even to grouse.  Challenged by their emotions.

God’s Word never leaves us helpless or hopeless.  We are not victims of our trials, nor do we need to be dominated by our emotions—as valid and understandable as they may be. 

We are deliberately being tested, so that the genuineness of our faith may rise above the circumstances of the moment—to the eternal praise and honor of our Lord Jesus Christ who has allowed the trials—to conform us to His image that we may glorify Him.

Yes, knowing “WHY” makes all the difference!

Margaret L. Been — November 14th, 2018

 

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