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Sifting, Sin and Sanctification

30 Sep

Image

Yesterday was a watershed moment for me. You will find below the encouraging thoughts the Lord gave me, compiled from both the Sunday school lesson and sermon yesterday, with some key verses (that are examples of, but by no means exhaustive defenses of the truths illustrated). I am grateful for the faithful and sound teaching of men like Dr. Bruce Ware (for the Sunday school lesson) and Pastor John Kimbell (for the sermon).

The Sunday school lesson was on the positional (already secured) and progressive (not yet attained but in process) aspects of sanctification (meaning becoming like Christ, especially in His sinless perfection) (various New Testament passages, mostly from Paul’s epistles).

The sermon was about Peter’s denial of Jesus (Luke 22:31-34, 54-62), with some parallels drawn with the record of Job’s trials (Job 1, 2:1-10), and then Peter’s restoration (John 21).

  1. Jesus does not over-estimate us. He knows our weaknesses. He is not surprised by how, when or where we fail.
  2. As the redeemed people of God, our failure is mitigated. It is not as profound, complete, absolute or extensive as it could be. Jesus prays for us, just as He prayed for Peter (Romans 8:34).
  3. Our suffering in trials is limited. God sets the boundaries of our “sifting”. Satan asked to sift Peter for the purpose of causing him to fall, much like he asked to test Job. But his boundaries in which to exercise this “sifting” are limited by the divine decree of God (see Job’s story, and Peter’s). Satan desires to do everything he can to ultimately destroy the people of God by causing their faith to fail absolutely and finally. God does not allow this. He is the one who keeps our faith from ultimately failing (Jude 1:24).
  4. Though Satan’s purpose is to destroy us, God uses the trials and sufferings in our lives for the purpose of sanctifying us, through our failures (sin) and suffering. (Hebrews 12:3-12)
  5. In light of this truth then, in Christ, even our sin and failures have a redemptive purpose. They are allowed in order to sanctify us. Peter was self-confident, but when he failed and lost his self-confidence, he was restored and his shattered self-confidence was replace with Christ-confidence. Peter had lost all self-esteem, but he gained Christ-esteem. God allowed him to be “sifted” and to fail, for a time, in order to conform him more to the image of His son — no longer trusting in his own strength, but in the unfailing power of Jesus (James 1:2-4).
  6. The process of becoming more like Christ is sanctification. The purpose of sanctification is to enable us to see Jesus more, until finally we will behold him full-on, in all His unveiled glory. And the more we see Jesus, the more sanctified (like Him) we become. All of Scripture and the work of God in our life point to this one thing: to see Jesus. And when we see Him, and because we see Him, we will be like Him (1 John 3:2).

In summary then, everything, absolutely everything, EVEN our own SIN serves a redemptive purpose in our lives, through Christ, that we may see Him more, and more, and more, until that final day, when we behold His glorious, astounding, creation-remaking beauty, unveiled in our sight.

THIS is simply astonishingthat Christ would turn the very outworking of our wicked hearts and rebellion into that which no longer condemns us but is part of the very process of our final redemption and salvation. In Christ when we repent, our sin no longer damns us before God because our debt has been propitiated (set aside) by the payment He made through His death. Instead, our sin is a useful tool in His hands for our own sanctification. Is there ANYTHING more ASTOUNDING than this? What a glorious Gospel, what a gracious God. Dear believer, never, ever get over the work of Christ on your behalf and in you!

Caution — lest this lead you to think that we can therefore sin unashamedly and in abundance, with no restraint, read Romans 6. We are no longer slaves to sin, now that we are in Christ. Therefore we are to do all we can to exercise ourselves for the cause of righteousness.

Conclusion: Give thanks in trials. Give thanks even when you suffer the effects of your own sinful failures. As difficult as it is to do, give thanks in all things, because Jesus is using them for your greatest and ultimate good.

On Bikinis, Swimwear and the topic of “modest” clothing in general

30 Sep
Young Woman Shopping for Clothes

I quit wearing bikinis shortly after I got married. Marriage opened my eyes to a whole different perspective on things, and I just couldn’t, in good conscience, wear one in public anymore. While I wish I had the time/discipline to get back the “bikini” body I had (prior to the birth of two children, three miscarriages and various health hang-ups), the only time I use the one I still have is as underwear under outdoor clothing for things like rafting or splashing in spray fountains at the park or such. I think the human body is beautiful, in many shapes and sizes. It’s an amazing work of art and a fabulous display of the Creator’s creativity. But in the Fall, sin complicated a lot of things, and mankind lost the right to expose the human body as we think fitting. We neither govern our own bodies properly without sin, nor do those around us govern themselves sinlessly toward it.

Clothing is a good and gracious gift from a God who knows our weaknesses and seeks to help us in the midst of them. There is a wide variance allowable for what is considered “modest”, and this can vary considerably from culture to culture and time period to time period. But I think the best guidelines for what we wear are 1) that we are not self-conscious in our choice of clothing for our various activities, 2) that our clothing works to reveal character rather than skin or “shapeliness” and 3) that areas of our bodies typically deemed “private” and “sexual”, especially within the culture around us, are sufficiently covered so as to not inadvertently be exposed to the eyes of those around us.

Different aspects of the human body trip up different people  in different cultures. It is simply kind and considerate to strive to be as little of a stumbling block as possible to those around us, regardless of our personal preferences or comfort levels in clothing. I understand in some cultures, this can be exceedingly difficult to discern and do (I think particularly of some muslim cultures where the act of discerning between what is conforming to an ungodly culture and what is exercising Christian charity toward the culture in modes of dress can be complex). But, as women, and particularly Christian wives, we are charged in Scripture not to seek to make as much of a statement about ourselves as our bodies and/or clothing allow, but to make a world-changing, life-altering statement about the Gospel through our character and demeanor.

1 Peter 3: 1-6 ~ In the same way, wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, even if some disobey the Christian message, they may be won over without a message by the way their wives live when they observe your pure, reverent lives. Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes. Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes. For in the past, the holy women who put their hope in God also beautified themselves in this way, submitting to their own husbands, just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. You have become her children when you do what is good and are not frightened by anything alarming. (emphasis mine)

(Disclaimer: The photo at the top of this post, as far as I can tell, is free for the posting on a personal blog as long as the photo credit is showing. If I am wrong, please let me know so I can remove it. Thanks.)

OMG, It’s been TOO long!

28 Feb

So… I have LOTS of potential posts waiting for the time… to get to them. I hope this month I will!
Future posts:
– Ideas and pics of ways to celebrate CHRISTmas.
– Valentine’s Day redeemed
– Why I think Black History Month is an insult to all Americans
– Going Green, Animal Rights and the Gospel
– Honoring St. Patrick (the real one, not the commercial one)
– Hezekiah and Eli (Biblical observations)
– Preschool Preparations (crafting opportunities extraordinaire — ohYEAH!)

– OH, and BabyWearing (something I’m doing a lot of lately!) 🙂

Can I get all these posts done in this next month? I don’t know. But I’ll give it my best! I’m so excited to write some of these I can hardly wait until I get my “to do” list or REALLY  important pressing stuff done to make this happen… 🙂

Persevering Prayer

20 Oct

A million thoughts were chasing themselves around my head this evening, but one stuck out in particular and I thought I would record it here. As I was putting laundry away in my husband’s drawers, a card on top of his dresser caught my eye. It was a birthday card from the senior ministry at our church. Just a nice little thoughtful gesture that he was being thought of and prayed for during this month, his birthday month. Something small, something simple. Something so profound.

It reminded me of cards we used to get several times a year on the mission field from a group of ladies who called themselves “The Richard Bartels Roundtable Prayer Group”. This group of ladies was from a church where my parents had worshipped and served prior to being called to the mission field, quite a few years prior actually. But when the call of God sent my parents overseas to Africa and several places beyond, a group of ladies gathered themselves together and covenanted to meet together to pray weekly for my parents and our family. Remarkably, they did this faithfully for the 26+ years my parents served in missions. 26+ years. That’s a lot of weeks. That’s a lot of prayers. I only had the privilege of twice meeting this remarkable group of women, but some of them assured me they had prayed for me long before I was born, and prayed for me daily since. Most of these dear saints are with the Lord now, but the few that remain still pray faithfully for us. You see, it became a habitual joy, one that after 26 years they aren’t willing to give up. You can’t tell me that those faithful prayers didn’t have a huge impact on my parents’ ministry or on my own life over the years, and still do. I wonder how many disasters were averted, how much the path of my life has been covered by peace rather than turmoil because some obscure, unknown lovers of God took it upon themselves to petition the Throne of Grace on my behalf.

Most of these women did not have the call to go serve overseas. Many of them did not have the means. But they had the hearts to serve and they gave of themselves faithfully, in the way they were best able to. Only eternity will reveal what kind of impact their lives had upon the Gospel across the world. I have a feeling, when it comes time to call everyone to account, these simple, faithful ladies will find themselves standing in a place of high honor at the table of the Bridegroom. Well done, good and faithful servants. You were faithful in little, I will put you in charge of great things. Come, share in the joy of Your Lord. May we so love Him, that we will be faithful in the seemingly insignificant things. Who knows what great Gospel work may be accomplished because of the prayers of just a handful of quiet, persevering servants who commit to be faithful for the long-haul. ~ Matthew 25:14-23.

©2011 Reformation Lady and Chandra E. Wellman. All rights reserved

Jonah 07-24-2011

5 Sep

07/24/2011

Today, my Bible reading time was in the book of the prophet Jonah. That doesn’t seem particularly remarkable in and of itself. On my trek of reading the Bible cover to cover, Jonah is the book that necessarily follows after Amos and Obadiah and before Micah and Nahum. These short little books are called the minor prophets, and are a much appreciated relief after weeks and months of slogging through massive tomes like Isaiah and Jeremiah.

Jonah doesn’t at first glance seem to be a particularly remarkable prophet’s story either. He’s the Jonah of famed childhood songs like “Who did, who did, who did, who did, who did swallow Jo-Jo-Jonah?” and kid books with pictures of “Jonah and the Whale” (or more correctly, Big Fish). The familiarity of the story of “Jonah and the Big Fish” makes it almost feel like a cute nursery tale when one reads it outside of its surrounding context of all the other major and minor prophets. And that’s how I’ve usually read it, apart from the occasional enlightening sermon on “Jonah” – pick up the Bible, flip it open and read the story of Jonah.

But today, I came to Jonah after months and months of reading God’s warnings through His many prophets, generation after generation, of the impending destruction of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) and Judah (the Southern Kingdom) because of their spiritual adultery and persistent, even stubborn, disregard for the laws and character of the Lord God they are called to love and to serve. Jonah is called by the Lord to prophesy, but this time not to Israel or Judah, but to the pagan Assyrian city of Nineveh. At this time, Nineveh is a declining world power, and though the Assyrians are not favorably regarded by Israel, they are not yet in a position to be the “tool of God’s wrath” upon apostate Israel and Judah. But they will once again become a formidable military presence to be reckoned with, not many years after Jonah disappears from the scene.

From the time of Jeroboam II (one of the kings of Israel after the Northern and Southern kingdoms divided, one in a relatively long line of wicked kings who incite Israel to sin against the Lord) to the fall of the Northern Kingdom, God sends a long line of prophets to call Israel (and also Judah) to repentance and to delineate not only the destruction that is about to befall them for their sins, but also God’s willingness to relent from His wrath should they repent. He even gives them time and again the details of their destruction, as well as the details of what He will do to restore them if they repent. But Israel (and Judah) stubbornly refuse to turn from evil and turn back to the worship and love of the only true God, Yahweh. But here, in the book of the prophet Jonah, I find it quite ironic that we have recorded an account where God calls His prophet Jonah to go preach His word not to Israel or Judah, but to a foreign people, the Assyrians of Nineveh. Jonah is not given a great detailed message to preach, much less any promise to give the people that God will relent if they repent. He simply says, “In 40 days Nineveh will be destroyed!” as he spends three days walking through the large city, end to end.

The Assyrians were not “God’s people” in the sense that Israel and Judah understood themselves to be. God hadn’t called them to a covenant relationship in the same way he had the Hebrews, to display His holiness among the nations. They didn’t have the “Law of God” on hand to know what He required. They didn’t have His written revelation of “I am the Lord your God, merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness” (Jonah 4:2 b – here Jonah quotes God’s words to Moses from Exodus 34, when the Lord passes His glory by Moses and declares His Name to him). Yet these pagan Assyrians, hear Jonah’s message of impending doom, and their king puts two and two together that if the Lord has given them a 40 day warning, there is time to repent and perhaps this God will relent. So an entire city of pagan unbelievers hears God’s message through Jonah of impending destruction and repents of their wickedness. One prophet, one message, only implied not explicit hope extended, and those who are not “the people of God” by Israel’s standards REPENT and are spared from destruction, while generation after generation God’s “people” of Israel and Judah ignore prophetic after prophetic warning and spiral down into a catastrophic period of disaster, devastation, and deportation.

True repentance is what matters, ultimately. A sense of comfort and assurance in a “special” status of favor is no assurance at all. Israel and Judah thought because they were God’s “people” in a special covenant sense that they could do jolly well what they pleased and everything would be okay. But God rebuked that “we are at ease in Zion” prideful attitude by demonstrating through the account of Jonah that repentance is what He desires, not dependence on a “special status” or “special system” of rules to be kept, and that a pagan nation who did not know the Lord could be even more spiritually sensitive to truth and righteousness as He desires and have changed hearts, than those who supposedly communed with Him regularly and claimed the name of Jehovah as their Lord God.

“Religious” and “good” people take warning. The unsightly prostitute on the street and dancer in the strip club may have hearts that are closer to repentance as God desires, and true brokenness over sin, than those who sit comfortably week after week in church pews and seats shouting praises to the Lord, and nodding solemnly over clever words from the pulpit. As one pastor once said, it would be a shame to go to hell from the church pew.

©2011 Reformation Lady and Chandra E. Wellman. All rights reserved.

“Girly girl” vs. Femininity

27 Aug

The other day, I was able to attend a conference put on at SBTS by the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood concerning “Gender in the 21st Century”. Unusurprisingly, several of the lectures focused on defining a correct understanding of Biblical femininity, contrasted with what Western (particularly American) culture proclaims is truly “feminine”. The lectures and discussions gave me some food for thought, as I recognized that my view of being “womanly” is not exactly in line with the culture, but thankfully actually falls more in sync with what the Bible teaches — and this has never really been an issue or struggle for me, as it apparently is for many American Christian young women (or so the conference declared — and my personal observations verify).

Why is it that I see “womanhood” so differently than most of my American counterparts, believers and unbelievers alike? I’m not sure there was any radical intentionality on my parents’ part to craft a drastically different view in me of what it meant to be a woman. I think the bottom line is, I grew up around women who lived a much more Biblical picture of real womanhood, and life’s circumstances quite frankly sheltered me from the brainwashing of Western media and society at large for the most part.

The African, Moldovan and missionary women of my childhood were strong, capable, hearty women, who gave a wholesome definition to femininity. They could swing a hoe in the fields, manage a large household for weeks and months on end while their husbands were off in the bush somewhere, school children, muddle through oppressive heat or cold, bring in added income with odd jobs and skilled crafts, and beautify the spaces where they lived and worked with meager resources and lots of love, humor, creativity, and joy. They were women who saw their life’s work to be that of being helpers to their husbands, raising children, and managing their homes well — and they found joy, not oppression, in this, despite all the challenges, hardships, and difficult circumstances they often faced. They embodied Proverbs 31 heart, mind, body and soul.

And while they enoyed a good hairdo, nice jewelry, pretty clothes, an occasional manicure, nice home decorations and other “girly” things, they weren’t enslaved to those things. As a child, I can’t think of any significant grown woman in my life who was obcessed with outward appearances, always at the hair salon and gym, spending gobs on regular manicures/pedicures, clothes, accessories, makeup, and all the other things. I can’t remember any wives I knew nagging their husbands, or complaining because they “didn’t have” or “wanted to get” such and such. I don’t remember ever hearing a woman say, “I deserve a man who…” or “I ought to be treated like a queen.” No diva-tudes. The ones I knew faithfully “put their hands to the plow” and worked alongside their husbands to help support them in any way they could — in life, at home, in ministry. They battled fear when they had many real causes to be afraid both physically, mentally and spiritually, and strove to trust the sovereignty of God in sometimes terrifying and uncertain circumstances. They consistently modeled the counsel found in 1 Peter 3:3-6, “Do not let your adorning be external–the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear– but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.”

And to their credit, they raised daughters in much the same spirit. I can’t think of a one of my “national” friends or MK sisters who now are “divas” enslaved to outward appearances. They have become women of trustworthy character, who bless their friends, families and acquaintances with their strong and humble femininity. They aren’t afraid to look “cute” as they can afford to, or to get their hands “dirty” with the unpleasantries that come in the course of caring for homes and people. They are able to stand apart from many of the cultural hindrances to godliness and femininity, and offer insightful wisdom, encouragement, and grace to those life brings their way.

So, to all my missionary “aunts” and “mothers”, and MK “sisters” and friends along the way — you are beautiful, and I am grateful for the women you are and the example you set. You shine like stars of true beauty and feminine godliness in an increasingly darkened culture that has lost its way of what it means to be a real woman. It is my prayer that who you are will spark a hunger in every woman you meet and every young girl you befriend to set aside the foolishness of pursuing the “outward beauty” this culture so idolizes and that so quickly fades and to pursue instead the true beauty that cannot fail — that of a gentle and Godward heart.

©2011 Reformation Lady and Chandra E. Wellman. All rights reserved.

Un-favorite Quotes

12 Feb

So, a few months back, I listed a couple favorite quotes on here and said I would add to them from time to time.

Well, I have now discovered an “un-favorite” quote, thanks to my new Chicken Soup for the Soul 2011 calendar. It goes something like this:

“Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” ~ Vaclav Havel.

Thanks to CS, Mr. Havel is memorialized with one of his less than stellar collection of words. A remarkable man in his own right, a statesman, playright, internationally acclaimed diplomat, colorful personality and first president of the Czech republic, I’m sure CS could have chosen something a little more representative of his thought and life than this quote! But perhaps not.

For what it is worth, my opinion is that just because someone well-known and acclaimed says something that SOUNDS profound, doesn’t mean it IS profound, much less that it should be REPEATED.

To the contrary, Mr. Havel’s words are a collection of hog-wash when they stand to define what Hope really is. Hope, REAL hope, IS the conviction that ALL THINGS will turn out RIGHT & WELL, and in the end they will also make sense regardless of how it seems now. The fact that we can find the good in “the right and well” of it gives any adverse circumstance purpose, redeeming it from “senseless” to “sense-full”. Anything else or less is NOT hope, but misguided moralistic human philosophy – which in the end amounts to nonsense.

CS quotes Mr. Havel as saying that hope really has nothing to do with the conviction that something will turn out well, but that it makes sense regardless of how it turns out. If all hope is, is the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out, then I for one don’t want any hope! Let me ask this: What makes sense in the tragic death of a sweet little baby girl, who was long desired, adopted and loved by her family, only to drown in a pool before she was three? It doesn’t seem like an event that turned out well, nor does it seem to make sense (morally that is – we can all see that it makes sense intellectually in equations: life is bound to end in death, not being able to swim + falling in water = can’t breathe, no ability to breathe will inevitably result in physical death if there is no assistance, etc.). It didn’t make sense when it happened, and for all practical reasons from my finite stand point, it doesn’t make sense now (I trust someday, when I step into eternity and into Jaweh’s very presence, it WILL make sense when I can see the grand tapestry of His purpose and work through all of human history).What purpose was there in that? If all you can look at me and say is, “Well, I can’t see that there was any good in that at all, so all you can do is be confident somehow it makes sense,” I’m going to have to ask you to take your “comforting” words somewhere else becaue they are no help at all! What I can find hope in, is that it will result in something good and to keep my eyes, mind and heart open to looking for and seeing the good the I HOPE will come from it: example, a young man became a Christ-follower as a result of this little girl’s death, and became a missionary to people in places in Africa where Westerners can’t readily obtain access, much less be able to witness of Christ’s love for sinners; or, after years of being a respected village chief, an old man abandoned the power, darkness and fear of his tribal animistic worship and embraced freedom, light and salvation in Christ; or, schisms between three groups of people were resolved during the grief they all experienced over this little child’s death, drawing them near to each other enough to see the true heart of the others and find forgiveness and solidarity.

Or what about the family that is grieving the early death of a beloved grandmother, wife and mother? Having fought cancer bravely for a year, she was declaired in full remission and lived one of the best years of her life, only to end it sadly in an aggressive return of the cancer which quickly wasted her healthy body into frailty and death at a fairly young age. Words of hope that talk about things “making sense” rather than “turning out for the best” are poor comfort. It would be a sorry thing to show up at the graveside and say “Well, I can’t give you any perspective that there is or will be something good out of this. I can only tell you that I am confident it makes complete sense.” WHAT? Where’s the hope in that? It makes sense? To whom, in what way? Unless you can look around and see that this dear woman’s last year was a successful endeavor to mend broken relationships, spurred on by the awakening she experienced during her cancer fight to the frailty of life and the worth of people; or that her final days were a blessing to anyone and everyone who approached her death bed because of the beauty of her spirit, refined through pain and suffering; or that her obstinate, long-time rejection of the Gospel was vanquished in her last months through her suffering only to reveal a most inspiring love for and faith in Christ, whom she found to be the Savior of her soul for eternity just as her earthly life was ebbing away.

I’m sorry, but when put to the test of life’s circumstances, defining hope on merely what makes sense rather than the conviction that good will come of adversity is a joke. It might sound clever, but it just doesn’t work. Period.

It is the beauty, the good, the “turn out well” found in the midst of things that just don’t make sense to us from our limited viewpoint that fills our hearts with hope. Even if it doesn’t make sense, just for it to have been good-bringing, beauty-bearing gives it purpose, redeems it from “senselessness” and strengthens our hearts with hope, that this attrocity, this tragedy, this sorrow has been (and will be?) worth it all in the end. It is precisely because we hold to the conviction that something will turn out well in the long-run that we can then grasp for the certainty that it also makes sense.

Hope is this: “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28.

©2011 Reformation Lady and Chandra E. Wellman. All rights reserved.

Question: Would you rather receive justice or grace from God?

17 Jan

Most common answer: Grace.

My answer: Both. Why? I’ll tell you.

This question was posed recently in our BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) study questions, and it bothered me. First of all, at it’s core, this question is an indication of a fundamental misunderstanding of Divine justice. Secondly to set justice and grace at opposition to each other is to undermine the integrity of God’s character. God’s justice and grace are neither mutually exclusive concepts nor are they polar opposites.

For an expanded study of Divine justice and it’s implications, please read A.W. Pink’s treatise “The Justice of God”, which can be found here: http://www.eternallifeministries.org/awp_justice.htm .

I will simply provide a short overview from what the Lord has been teaching me lately in His Word.

Common myth: Unbelievers get justice, believers get grace. Let me emphasize this is NOT a Biblical concept, despite how prevalent it seems to be!

The opposite of grace is not justice. Unbelievers get justice. Believers get justice. Unbelievers get condemnation. Believers get grace. Romans 8:1-4 says, “Therefore, no condemnation now exists for this in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. What the law could not do since it was limited by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son in flesh like ours under sin’s domain, and as a sin offering, in order that the law’s requirements would be accomplished in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” And John 3:18 says, “Anyone who believes in Him [the Son] is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.”

GOD –>

offended by sin –>

Justice–>              Justice–>

Wrath–>                  Wrath–>

            No mediator (for unrepentant)          Christ (mediator for those who repent)

 ( Unrepentant) Sinner–>                   (Repentant) Sinner–>

                                    Destroyed.                   Saved/Redeemed.

[Demonstration of Condemnation]                 [Demonstration of Grace]

As the diagram above illustrates, both the unbeliever AND the believer receive justice. One one hand, the believer’s justice is mediated by Christ, so that the wrath of God is absorbed by Christ and the believer is saved, which is a demonstration of grace in action. On the other hand the unbeliever’s justice is unmediated, which results in the full cup of God’s wrath descending upon him to his ultimate destruction. If God did not accomplish justice on both accounts of the believer and unbeliever, He would compromise His character of holiness, which demands that justice be done. God would be unjust (not accomplishing justice) as well as injust (devoid of justice). He is neither, but fully just and fully accomplishing justice.

Christ came to accomplish justice: BOTH now as Savior for those who believe in His work on the cross, AND ultimately, as Judge for those who refuse to believe. But here’s another twist to understanding the justice of God in Christ: He (Christ) accomplished justice on the cross for those who believe – both for us who have believed AFTER His historical atonement, and for those who believed BEFORE His historical work. Jesus isn’t only “the Way, the Truth and the Life” for New Testament believers and us, He is that for all those who believed God before He came. Think on that for a while and see if it doesn’t blow your mind, like it does mine!

Romans 3:23-26 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They [those who believe] are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. He presented Him to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus.”

In otherwords, in light of God’s forbearance with saints in the Old Testament, Christ MUST come, in order to not only justify those of us who believe with a historical Jesus in mind, but also those who by faith believed the Word of God, as much as it was revealed to them in their day (i.e., Abraham, David, etc. Paul in the next chapter of Romans talks about Abraham being justified by faith), though they could not yet point to a place in time where the Messiah was. God PASSED OVER the sins previously committed, like the sins of Abraham who believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness — not just because Abraham believed God, but because God looked past Abraham’s day to JESUS! What Romans is saying here, is that unless Jesus had come, God would not have been righteous in declaring Abraham’s (and other Old Testament saints) faith justifying! God presented Jesus at a certain time and place in history, so that He could show Himself truly righteous in dealing with sin, and be able to remain righteous in justifying sinners who believe God, put their faith in Christ and repent from their sins. Apart from Christ, God has no grounds to justify any of us – we would have no hope of redemption or salvation, because justice demands the satisfaction of God’s wrath against sin. Allow me to “split” a few theological “hairs” here: Our faith in God does not purchase for us salvation from wrath – Christ’s work purchases that for us. Yes, we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2 says so), but that faith only justifies us not because of it’s merit as faith, but because of the grace that undergirds that faith: essentially, the grace demonstrated through Christ’s atonement. The order of salvation, if you think of it in linear terms, is not “faith” + “grace” = “salvation”. It is “grace” + “salvation” = “faith”. By this I mean, faith in God does not procure for us His grace to give us salvation. He had already purposed to demonstrate His heart of grace by providing a means of salvation, and this provision is what makes faith even possible. Without something in which to place our faith, there would be no such thing as faith. God’s salvation came first, even in the case of Old Testament saints who lived before the time of Christ – in God’s eyes, it was already planned, determined, a done deal. That’s what made it possible for them to have faith. God had a plan to save, and therefore they believed Him for it, as much as He revealed to them, which was a great deal, though certainly not the full picture we have post-cross.

SO. God’s justice is demonstrated to us in Christ – where He not only preserves His integrity and Holiness, but also demonstrates His Grace. As believers, we are to desire God’s justice as well love His grace, because without His justice, His is not only NOT God (He would compromise His character), but we would have no hope of salvation. An unjust and injust God is not a good God, and therefore is not a God who would give us any hope of salvation nor any assurance of the possibility of salvation.

Here are some of my favorite scriptures that show we are to love God’s justice, even as believers, and that help us to see just how tied up with justice His love and salvation are:

Ps. 101:1 – I will sing of faithful love and justice; I will sing praise to You, LORD. –Here the Psalmist shows us that we are to love God’s justice so much, we should sing of it as praise to Him.

Is. 1:27 – Zion will be redeemed by justice, her repentant ones by righteousness. –Zion is used in Isaiah not just as a reference to the idyllic state of the nation of Israel, but to the gathering of true believers from all nations and all ages, the Church Invisible. Justice here is shown to be the means of our redemption.

Is. 51:4-5 – Pay attention to Me, My people, and listen to Me, My nation; for instruction will come from Me, and My justice for a light to the nations. I will bring it about quickly. My righteousness is near, My salvation appears, and My arms will bring justice to the nations. The coastlands will put their hope in Me, and they will look to My strength. — Again, in context, this is a future Messianic prophecy both refering to the work of Christ as well as the culmination of all things at the end of time. Here, justice is the light to the nations, and closely associated with righteousness and salvation. Salvation appearing is linked with God bringing justice to the nations, and they will hope in Him.

Is. 46: 12-13 – Listen to me, you hardhearted, far removed from justice: I am bringing My justice near; it is not far away, and My salvation will not delay. I will put salvation in Zion, My splendor in Israel. — Here again, justice and salvation are closely linked.

Jer. 9:24 – But the one who boasts should boast in this, that he understand and knows Me — that I am the LORD, showing faithful love, justice, and righteousness on the earth, for I delight in these things. This is the LORD’s declaration. — Love, justice and righteousness go hand in hand here. The LORD Himself tells us He delights in these things. If He delights in them, should we as His people not also delight in them? We must LOVE His justice.

Hosea 2:19-20 – I will take you to be My wife forever. I will take you to be My wife in righteousness, justice, love, and compassion. I will take you to be My wife in faithfulness, and you will know the LORD. — Here God declares His sovereign will and purpose to make His people completely His, and in doing so, He declares it will be done in righteousness, justice, love, compassion and faithfulness. Justice is here demonstrated to be essential to this being accomplished.

Micah 7:9 – Because I have sinned against Him, I must endure the LORD’s rage until He argues my case and establishes justice for me. He will bring me into the light; I will see His salvation. — I really love this verse, because it deals with sin, and instead of throwing up the typical concepts of grace and mercy as grounds to hope in God’s salvation, justice is used here. The prophet hopes in God because God will argue his case, establish justice for him, and bring him into the light and he will see His salvation. Justice, light, salvation. This is a beautiful description of exactly what Christ does for us.

With all this talk of God’s justice demonstrated in Christ, let me dispell a possible problem that may arise in the minds of some. Was God unjust, or did He demonstrate injustice, in laying all of the wrath and punishment for our sins upon Christ? You hear a lot of talk in the evangelical world of the perfection of Jesus, the innocence of Christ, the flawlessness of the Lamb of God. Would it not then seem unjust to punish someone who didn’t sin for the sins of those who committed them? Isn’t that like sending Mother Teresa to death row for the attrocities committed by Adolf Hitler before and during WWII? Wouldn’t that have been unjust? Well, yes. IF. IF, IF, if… If it had been involuntary. If Jesus had been strong-armed into dying on the cross, or if he had just been unwittingly thrown upon it by the Father’s decision, then YES. Absolutely, unquestionable UNJUST! But. Jesus died WILLINGLY on our behalf. That’s the difference. If your child breaks a jar at the grocery store, and you pay for it, justice has been served, just as much as if your child had to pay for it himself somehow (now if you or your child didn’t pay for it, then the company or other consumers absorb the cost and this penalizes the unwitting or unwilling innocent). Your child didn’t pay for his transgression. You did. But you did it (hopefully) willingly. On his behalf, you absorbed the cost. JUSTICE at work. Jesus said of Himself, in John 10:15 and 17-18, “I lay down My life for the sheep…This is why the Father loves Me, because I am laying down My life so I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from My Father.” There is no injustice in Christ WILLINGLY absorbing God’s wrath for our sins – rather, justice is fully served, so righteous grace can be fully demonstrated.

Beautiful. God’s justice is beautiful.

©2011 Reformation Lady and Chandra E. Wellman. All rights reserved.

An email about being born in 1925-1975, God, the Pledge of Allegiance and Jay Leno: My response.

10 Jan

No matter what our kids and the new generation think about usWE ARE AWESOME !!

OUR Lives are LIVING PROOF !!! 

 To Those of  Us  Born1925 – 1975

At the end of this email is a quote of the month by Jay Leno. If you don’t read anything else, pleaseRead what he said. Very well stated, Mr. Leno. 

TO ALL THE KIDS WHO SURVIVED THE 1930s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s!!

First, we survived being born to mothers who may have smoked and/or drankWhile they were pregnant!They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn’t get tested for diabetes. 

Then, after that trauma, we were

 Put to sleep on our tummies

 In baby cribs covered

With bright colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets,

And, when we rode our bikes,

We had baseball caps,

Not helmets, on our heads.

 As infants and children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, no booster seats, no seat belts, no air bags, bald tires and sometimes no brakes.

Riding in the back of a pick- up truck on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle, and no one actually died from this. 

We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter, and bacon. We drank Kool-Aid made with real white sugar. And we weren’t overweight.

WHY?

Because we were always outside playing…that’s why!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day.

–And, we were OKAY.

We would spend hours building

Our go-carts out of scraps

And then ride them down the hill,

Only to find out we forgot the brakes.. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Play Stations, Nintendo’s and X-boxes. There were

No video games, no 150 channels on cable,

No video movies or DVDs,

No surround-sound or CDs,
No cell phones,

No personal computers,

No Internet and no chat rooms.

WE HAD FRIENDS

And we went outside and found  them!

We fell out of trees, got cut,

Broke bones and teeth,

And there were no lawsuitsWe would get spankings with wooden spoons, switches, ping-pong paddles, or just a bare hand, and no one would call child services to report abuse.We ate worms, and mud pies

Made from dirt, and

The worms did not live in us forever.

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls, and -although we were told it would happen- we did not put out very many eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them. 

Little League had tryouts

And not everyone made the team.

Those who didn’t had to learn

To deal with disappointment.

 Imagine that!!

 The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

These generations have produced some of the best

Problem solvers, and inventors ever.

 The past 50 to 85 years have seen an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

 We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.If YOU are one of those bornBetween 1925-1970, CONGRATULATIONS!

You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids before the lawyers and the government regulated so much of our lives  for our own good.

 While you are at it, forward it to your kids, so they will know how brave and lucky their parents were.

Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn’t it ?

The quote of the month By Jay Leno: With hurricanes, tornados, fires out of control, mud slides, flooding, severe thunderstorms tearing up the country from one end to another, and with the threat of bird flu and terrorist attacks, are we sure this is a good time to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance?

 MY RESPONSE

This is a clever and inspiring email being passed around to remember that things haven’t always been as they are now. I think we tend to lose sight of perspective when we forget what life was like for the preceeding generations, and that in the midst of hardships or circumstances much different than ours, God was still faithful to bring them through. I have the utmost regard for my parents’ and grandparents’ generations, who weathered through incredibly challenging days with a great deal of good-heartedness and tough-minded persistence.

That said, I do find this email somewhat misleading. It seems to look back on preceeding generations and paint their times (albeit, with a great deal of tongue-and-cheek humor) in rose-colored hues (I admit to being guilty of doing this often myself). We forget that each generation has its ups and downs, pros and cons, benefits and shortcomings. As the writer of Ecclesiasties said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Each generation of people in history has produced some real good and effected some great evils. Generally speaking, no matter how bad things may look to us now, it’s not as bad as it could be, nor necessarily as bad as it has been (it doesn’t get much worse than a worldwide flood that catastrophically drowns all of humanity and wipes out nature, except 8 people and an oceanliner full of critters. Think Tsunami times a billion! This is NOT a cute little story to use to decorate children’s nurseries. It was a mind-blowing, heartwrending destructive judgment from an Almighty God against His precious, hand-shaped creation that persisted in evil and refused to repent of it).

As for the Jay Leno quote, while I do appreciate that he is able to look around at the circumstances of our times and recognize that we need something or Someone bigger than ourselves to carry us through, keeping God in the Pledge of Allegiance is not a saving grace for America, nor is it necessarily even a virtue. The problem with keeping God in the Pledge of Allegiance is that we have to mean it. There is no virtue in saying some oft-repeated words with our mouths no matter how traditional and patriotic, especially if they are directed at the Divine Creator, unless our hearts are behind it. To pronounce “one nation, under God” is a great, and holy thing, if we really are acknowledging that we are under the supreme guidance, care and authority of the Sovereign God. But it is nothing short of hypocrisy to pronounce those words and go on doing (as a nation and as individuals) what we jolly well please with little to no regard for His laws, His authority, His commanding presence in our lives. That is no virtue at all, it is a bold-faced lie and it is something God does not regard lightly in the lives of nations or individuals. The Bible (His recorded Word and Will) is chock-full of just what He thinks about words, and motions and practices of people that merely keep the outward show of religions acknowledgement but lack the true heart of faith and repentance to motivate them. Those who practiced such things and did not repent of their failure to acknowledge Him truthfully were eventually judged dramatically and drastically. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God, who is perfectly just and righteous (Jonathan Edwards – Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God). The only escape we have from the wrath of a God we have dismissed so lightly is Jesus Christ, who being God Himself absorbed the wrath and punishment of sin for those who will repent. A righteous, holy God cannot overlook any wrong either in heart or action toward neighbor or nature, because ultimately it is treason against Him as Creator to whom belong the very atoms of neighbor and nature. Just punishment will either be eventually unleashed on the perpetrator, or it is absorbed by Christ Himself for those who repent and acknowledge God in all of life. He can overlook no wrong and must give full due punishment or cease to be God. Here are a few of the better known examples of what He thinks of those who masquerade allegiance but dismiss Him easily:

Psalm 50:11-21

11 I know every bird of the mountains, and the creatures of the field are Mine. 12 If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and everything in it is Mine. 13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? 14 Sacrifice a thank offering to God, and pay your vows to the Most High. 15 Call on Me in a day of trouble; I will rescue you, and you will honor Me.” 16 But God says to the wicked: “What right do you have to recite My statutes and to take My covenant on your lips? 17 You hate instruction and turn your back on My words. 18 When you see a thief, you make friends with him, and you associate with adulterers. 19 You unleash your mouth for evil and harness your tongue for deceit. 20 You sit, maligning your brother, slandering your mother’s son. 21 You have done these things, and I kept silent; you thought I was just like you. But I will rebuke you and lay out the case before you.

Mark 7:6 He (Jesus) answered them, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written: These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.

Isaiah 29:13-16

13 The Lord said: Because these people approach Me with their mouths to honor Me with lip-service- yet their hearts are far from Me, and their worship [consists of] man-made rules learned [by rote]- 14 therefore I will again confound these people with wonder after wonder. The wisdom of their wise men will vanish, and the understanding of the perceptive will be hidden. 15 Woe to those who go to great lengths to hide their plans from the Lord. [They do] their works in darkness, and say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?” 16 You have turned things around, as if the potter were the same as the clay. How can what is made say about its maker, “He didn’t make me”? How can what is formed say about the one who formed it, “He doesn’t understand [what he’s doing]”?

Micah 6:6-8

6 What should I bring before the Lord when I come to bow before God on high? Should I come before Him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? 7 Would the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousand streams of oil? Should I give my firstborn for my transgression, the child of my body for my own sin? 8 He has told you men what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: Only to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Revelation 3:15-17

15 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy, and need nothing,’ and you don’t know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.

It is very easy to use traditions and patriotism and religious feelings to produce a veneer of pious acknowledgment of God to hide the fact that our hearts and minds are turned toward anything but Him. Let us not be guilty of this charlatanry, either as individuals or as a nation. If we truly do recognize that we are “under God”, then by all means, let us say it heartily and often. But if we simply pronounce rote words, without an inkling to even glance heavenward, let us at least be honest that we are anything but “a nation” or a person “under God” but more like “one nation, under _______”, fill in the blank (self, money, materialism, consumerism, government, the will of the majority, free market, capitalism, you name it).

I for one would be sorely grieved to have God removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. But this is not because I would feel that a great national motto had been tampered with, but rather that the travesty of our hearts as a people against the Almighty would be so widespread that the boldness of it found expression even to this point.

Peace to you! And may you truly know what it means to believe and live “under God” when you have opportunity to say it, in any time or place or circumstance.

©2011 Reformation Lady and Chandra E. Wellman. All rights reserved.

Rainy Day Reflections

20 Sep

My son loves to play in the rain. His daddy taught him the thrill of puddle-splashing just after his first birthday. Since then, we have enjoyed some sopping-wet fun and what I call “Rainy Day Reflections” (pun definitely intended!).

In Matthew chapter 5, verses 43-45, Jesus tells his disciples, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (ESV)

As we dance in the puddles and James cries out, “Wet, wet!” with obvious delight, I tell him the rain reminds us that because God is good to us, we are to reflect His character by doing good to others regardless of whether they treat us kindly or not. After a few minutes, we go inside and dry off. James is too little to have enemies yet. But I hope that as we play, he learns to soak in God’s love like the rain splashing down on him, and that he will pour that kind of love out to people around him so they can know just how good God is.

©2010 Reformation Lady and Chandra E. Wellman. All rights reserved.