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Archive for the ‘Salvation by Grace alone’ Category

“But God commended His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

I am many decades years old, and yet I have never suffered.  There were times in my self-focused, fallen personhood that I thought I was suffering—from experiencing physical pain and illness, heartache over a loved one’s predicament, or the betrayal of a friend.  These things have happened to me because I am alive; I have experienced LIFE!  But in the entire scope of humanity, I have never suffered.

At an early age, I was made aware of the fact of true suffering.  When I was five years old, my mother (the wisest woman I have ever known) told me about the Christian martyrs in the Roman arena, and that they sang hymns of praise to God as they were being carted off by the lions.  I have often pondered that early exposure to the concept of martyrdom, and I believe my exposure was an act of deliberate training and tremendously astute mothering.

My mother was a quiet person.  She never “chattered”, or spoke carelessly.  She sometimes went for hours without even speaking, and I don’t recall any careless or thoughtless words coming out of her mouth!  Mother had an innate understanding of people—including the realization of what they were like, and what they needed most beyond the obvious.

With her reserve and never-flagging self control, my Mother was a deeply compassionate and intuitive God-fearing woman.  Telling a five year old kid about Christians and lions did not just fly out of her mouth.  Rather, she saw in her child a self-centeredness coupled with a flare for drama.  The lions were certainly dramatic.  Mother also knew that her daughter had a passion for animals—fueled by the faithful family dog and a preoccupation with stories about animals, plus a few stuffed critter toys who were loved to tatters.

The Roman arena sharing was well thought out.  Had I been told about beatings, starvation, or any other form of horrible abuse and suffering, I wouldn’t have identified and may well have soon forgotten.  But LIONS—huge, beautiful, hungry cats!  The mental picture of people in lions’ jaws terrified me, and will stay with me forever.  But over the decades, that visual imagery has morphed from focus on the beasts to an appreciation for the singing of hymns—as well as for the reason thereof.  At the age of five, without beginning to fathom what was happening, I was learning about actual suffering and the sufficiency of God.

It would be another thirty-two years before I was catapulted into God’s Kingdom, finally knowing that I was a hopeless sinner who could not save myself.  Understanding at age thirty-seven, that the Lord Jesus Christ—God in human flesh—died the cruelest of tortuous deaths even for me.  And that He rose, triumphant over sin and death, even for me!

I cannot begin to comprehend the weight, that ultimate weight, of all the sin—past, present, and future—of sinful mankind.  And I can only begin to understand the ultimate love that motivated our Lord’s carrying our sin to His Cross!  

The saddest words from the Cross are, “My God, my God why hast Thou forsaken me?”  In order to be a perfect sin offering—to completely take, for once and for all, the punishment we deserve—Jesus had to suffer the uttermost penalty for sin:  estrangement from God the Father.  Thus, we are saved!  Thus we can focus on Christ’s glorious Resurrection!

“For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Romans 5:10 

I cannot share the account of my personal salvation, without adding something that happened only a week after God drew me to Himself.  A Christian friend invited me to her home for morning coffee.  Along with the steaming cup which was placed before me, was my friend’s Bible—opened and highlighted to Revelation 19:11-16.  My friend actually commanded me to read the passage—a moment as real as if it happened yesterday rather than back in 1971!

Thus I read that powerful description of the God-Man, Who died for our sin and rose to give us His LIFE, returning to earth as “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

Because, in His ultimate love, The Lord Jesus suffered the ultimate weight of the Cross, He has given to whomever will believe in Him, the ultimate freedom:  that of His eternal and abundant Resurrection LIFE!

Margaret L. Been — April 8th, 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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winter spinning wheel yes

In the midst of an inspiring and motivating series of exegetical teaching and preaching through the book of Revelation, our pastor has given us a fourteen day challenge to read and meditate on Revelation 21:1-8 and Romans 8:18-25.

This assignment resonates with me, especially for two reasons:  1) Meditating has been a huge part of my life ever since I can recall.  As a kid, I sought out places where I could be alone so that I could daydream, sulk, or process the people and events in my life—whether on the back staircase of our rambling Victorian home or in the branches of an aged chestnut tree where I thought no one could see me; and 2) ever since The Lord Jesus Christ catapulted me into His Kingdom nearly fifty years ago, I have sought to process events and circumstances through the truths of Scripture.  Whenever I have failed to keep a Scriptural focus, God has either gently or firmly riveted my mind back where it belongs:  on Him!*

God has programmed my DNA, genes, or whatever, to absolutely need periods of solitude—thinking time in which to meditate, process, and grow;  it boggles my mind that anyone, particularly a Christian, would not want to implement periods of meditative solitude into his or her life.

Many women of my generation (Great Depression and World War II kids) have been free to center on that precious vocation which Titus 2:5 refers to as “keepers at home”.   Long before I became a Christian, I knew that being at home was the most wonderful privilege imaginable, and I was thankful.

While raising six children, I was free to manage and appropriate time for reading, thinking, and growing.  Our first five were born in a span of eight years, and they understood that I had a “quiet time” most every day, normally at my typewriter where I solidified my meditations into poems and essays on paper.

Throughout the years I have found home keeping, with its myriad of hands-on chores, to be a perfect environment for meditating.  There is something valuable in doing the routine household tasks:  ironing, scrubbing a floor, dusting furniture, polishing the silver, or sparkling up the glassware and china.  The rewards therein are obvious:  satisfaction from a job well done and the visual pleasure of seeing the results, along with the profitable thinking time involved.

Adding to necessary chores, I have enjoyed other hands-on tasks such as making music on my piano (such as it is), soap making, gardening, canning, spinning fleece into yarn, for many years weaving the yarn into cloth, weaving baskets, kneading bread (something I no longer do in light of limited food requirements at this stage of life), painting with a plethora of media, nurturing houseplants, and my ubiquitous knitting.

The above activities provide a perfect atmosphere for meditation.  I believe it is tragic that so many younger women today are no longer based at home where they are free to work with their hands, and process their lives through times of quiet meditation.

Also sad, is the fact that some Christians have a skewed idea of the word “meditation”.  Too often they consider only the “New Age** implications, such as yoga and the emptying of the mind.  I cannot comprehend “meditating” without something of significance on which to focus.  Even when sleeping, our minds are doing something—at least I hope so.

And for the Christian, quietness and the implications of meditation are Scripturally mandated—as seen in the following examples:

“. . . meditate within your heart upon your bed, and be still . . . .”  Psalm 4:4 NKJV

“Be still and know that I am God . . . .”   Psalm 46:10 NKJV

“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands.”  Psalm 143;5 NKJV

(Regarding the study of doctrine and obedient living) “Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.”  I Timothy 4:15 NKJV

Thus in upcoming entries, I hope to share some of the insights and areas of application which the Holy Spirit has placed upon my heart and mind through the fourteen day challenge of meditating on the above assigned Scripture passages.  Please pray that I will be diligent!

Margaret L Been — December 10th, 2018

*Ever since my salvation, although certainly not always obedient, I have never doubted God’s sovereignty in my life.  He has not allowed me to doubt Him.  Clearly, He has known me and my every thought and deed from Eternity Past to Infinity and He has constantly made this evident in my life.

I could bring nothing to the table of salvation: the Lord did all of that.  It was GRACE plus nothing.  He holds me, ever dealing with my wayward whims, disobedient actions, and unloving mental attitudes.  Indeed, God’s GRACE is irresistible and ever present!

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV

**New Age” ideas and practices are really “Old Age”, derived from ancient and current Eastern mystical religions and teachings.

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