The key to life: Make this choice

The Bible App on my phone has a “Verse of the Day” feature. And I’m telling you, sometimes I am positive that God rearranges the schedule of verses just for me, because He knows the words I need to hear from Him that day.

After reading all those blistering bulletins of God’s wrath and judgment in Jeremiah’s prophecies and then focusing yesterday on being so, so grateful for God’s grace and Jesus’ rescuing me to live without terror of judgment but as a beloved child of God, I was refreshed yet again when I took a look at yesterday’s Verse of the Day:

No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:39)

Ah, yes! Familiar lines, but so reassuring of our hope.
Instead of hearing this message,
“No power in heaven or earth will keep my punishment from falling on you,”
we now hear,
“Come back to me. My love has cleared the way.
Nothing in heaven or earth can put you outside my love. ”

(Just an addendum to yesterday’s thoughts.)  

 

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 Today, think about the choice before each one of us.

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).

That was the way Moses laid it out for the people of Israel. He reminded them of the covenant the Lord had made with them and everything God had already done for them. This is the key to life, he said. Stick to this covenant God has made with us.

Jeremiah relayed the words of the Lord, who described this choice as standing at a crossroads. “Look around,” He says, “and find the way of this covenant with Me. Travel that path, and you’ll find rest for your souls.” (see Jeremiah 6:16)

The crossroads for us is where we meet Jesus. We don’t have to look too hard for the right way—Jesus stands there and says plainly that HE is the way, HE is life, HE is the bread we eat that sustains a life forever.

A crossroads demands a choice. God made a covenant with us; Jesus sealed it with His blood. It will never be revoked or canceled. Are we going to choose the path of this covenant?

“God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

The key to life for us — right here, right now, and in the forever — is still the same path. Love the Lord, obey Him, and commit firmly to Him.

Because our hope is confident. We are living an eternal life.

 

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Psalm Prayer:

My heart is confident in you, O God.
(Psalm 108:1) 

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More truth to make us confident:

Deuteronomy 30:19-20; Isaiah 51:6; Matthew 25:46; John 3:14-17; John 3:36; John 5:24,26; John 6:35-40; John 6:47-51; John 6:57-58; John 6:68; John 11:25-26; John 17:2-3; John 20:30-31; Romans 5:21; Romans 6:23; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 2 Corinthians 5:1; Galatians 6:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14,17-18; 2 Timothy 1:9-10; Titus 1:1-2; Titus 3:7-8; Hebrews 2:14-15; Hebrews 5:8-9; 1 Peter 1:20; 1 Peter 1:23-25; 1 John 2:17; 1 John 2:24-25; 1 John 5:10-13, 20.

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© Elaine Starner 2015

Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

The free gift

Sometimes I lose sight of what an amazing gift I’ve been given. But let me tell you, if you want a fervent appreciation of God’s grace and His gift of life to all of us, then spend a week reading the Old Testament prophets like Jeremiah.

That’s what I’ve been doing the last few days. In the words of those prophets we hear God’s blistering condemnation of His own chosen people. They had decided they did not need Him, had given their lives to all kinds of other idolatrous pursuits and passions—and God was not happy with the state of things! (This is putting it mildly.)

You’ll read things there that you never thought you’d hear our loving Father say—things like “I’m abandoning you. I’m tired of constantly giving you another chance. You are nothing to me now. Every wonderful thing I had for you, I’m going to tear away from you. I’m going to look the other way while your enemies slaughter you. Yes, I’ve even brought your enemies here to do just that. Your corpses will be picked clean by the wild animals.” Oh, His language is much stronger, terrifying. His judgment is coming, and it’s going to be awful.

As God brings His case against Israel and Judah, I can see myself in some of His words describing the people with whom He’s so angry. I see our country there, too. Many of the words in Jeremiah especially could have been written about the United States today. I cringe as I read …

What’s the point of this ?

It has reminded me again what a great gift I’ve been given—the gift of eternal life and a cleansed, unhindered relationship with our Creator God—even though I am so, so unworthy. I could never be spotless and blameless in His eyes — at least, not on my own. Things would be pretty hopeless without Jesus Christ.

So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:21)

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

Because of [God’s] grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life. (Titus 3:7)

This eternal life is what we were meant to have at the beginning, when He created us in His own image. But the human race lost the life God had planned for them when they decided they wanted to go their own way.

Yet the Creator loves His creation and woos it back. He became one of us, lived a life none of us would ever choose, and died an agonizing death as a human—all so that He could offer us this gift.

The gift is life, the life and the relationship with Him that we once lost.

Without Jesus, I’d be headed for the terrifying disaster that was about to fall on Jeremiah’s people.

Instead, I’m enjoying this free gift.

And what can I say, Father, except thank you?
My confidence is in you, and you alone.
Amen.

 

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Psalm Prayer:

My heart is confident in you, O God.
(Psalm 108:1) 

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© Elaine Starner 2015

Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Confidence of our immortality

It is one thing to read that God promises eternal life and to intellectually assent to believing this. But our capacity to grasp eternal is so limited. What about our times of doubt? What if we aren’t so confident of God’s promise of immortality for His children? What if that truth hasn’t yet sunk into our bones (figuratively speaking) so that we are certain of this hope?

Ah, yet again, our Shepherd God provides what we need!

This letter is from Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have been sent to proclaim faith to [or to strengthen the faith of] those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives.

This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began (Titus 1:1-2).

This is the opening of a letter the apostle Paul wrote to a pastoral leader of a young church, and before he closes his letter, he repeats this assurance one more time: God, in His grace, will give us what we need to build our confidence in our immortality. I’m sure that back then, just as today, there were questions and doubts. We are so limited in our sight!

But God bolsters our confidence by His truth, found in the Word and in Jesus Christ, and made plain to us by the Holy Spirit.

* God’s Word teaches us how to live in His paths—in His eternity, if you will—even while we are living within our earthly dimensions.

* Jesus says that all of God’s truth resides in Him. Knowing Jesus, coming to Jesus, learning from Him, trusting Him with our lives and ourselves, putting ourselves in His hands and in His service—this puts us smack dab where we need to be to have our understanding illuminated by God’s truth.

* And then there’s that amazing promise—God puts His Spirit within each of His children, a connection that tunes us into God’s thinking, even, Paul says, to the “secrets” of God! (1 Cor. 2:10-12)

God doesn’t leave us floundering around, trying on our own effort to believe huge promises we can barely grasp. He knows we have trouble seeing beyond this earthly world. He remembers, as the psalmist said, that we are dust. And so He has given us these things to help us be sure of our hope.

The more we get to know Jesus,
and the more we seek His truth,
the more His Spirit will work
to give us the sight to see eternal things …
and grow our confidence in our life in the eternal realm.

 

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Psalm Prayer:

My heart is confident in you, O God.
(Psalm 108:1) 

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© Elaine Starner 2015

Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Breaking the slavery to fear

The shadow of death hangs over every one of us. Every day takes each of us closer to the moment our earthly life will end. We can try to ignore it, but it cannot be avoided. Our bodies, in their flesh-and-blood existence, grow old and die. We fear what lies ahead for ourselves and we fear the loss of others dear to us.

We’ve all felt the clutches of this fear. Death sends great tremors through our thoughts and hearts.

But we do not need to be afraid of dying.

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying (Hebrews 2:14-15). 

Christ lived on earth under the same cloud; He was flesh and blood, and He would die. There was no avoiding it.

And when we read of His agony in Gethsemane, we know that facing death and accepting that this was the Father’s will was no easy thing for Jesus. He was the Son of God, who would soon be given supreme power over everything on earth and in heaven—yet that night, He suffered as any human who is facing death.

This makes His resurrection an even greater triumph. When Christ—in His body—came out of the grave and again walked among His friends on earth, God was announcing to the world that He was taking another step in His plan to make all things new. A flesh-and-blood human being had died, but God’s power had beaten death!

Who of us can say we have a plan or the power to beat death? Every child of God!

The death that rules in this world has no power over those who belong to the Resurrected One. They belong to Him; they’ll share in the same resurrection.

And so, this also is a new thing in our new lives: Christ breaks the slavery of the fear of dying.

I examine my own life. In what ways does the fear of dying still control me? Christ went through suffering and death to set me free from that fear. How can shedding this fear change my life? What freedom will that bring?

Hope knows that this short and troubled life is not “all there is.” Death is not the end of us. God invaded death’s territory and beat it. And He has planned an even greater future for those He has invited to become His children.

Lord Jesus, help us live free of this fear!

 

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Psalm Prayer:

My heart is confident in you, O God.
(Psalm 108:1) 

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© Elaine Starner 2015

Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

New Life Expectancy: Doing away with time

It’s a pretty amazing story. King Hezekiah was gravely ill. He was going to die. He knew it, and all those around him knew it. God even sent a prophet to make certain the king put his affairs in order…because, yes, Hezekiah was going to die.

But the king pleaded with God, and the prophet had not even left the palace grounds before God told him to turn around and deliver a new message to Hezekiah: “OK, I’ll give you fifteen more years.”

“I need a sign, so I can be sure God will do this,” said Hezekiah.

So in answer to the king’s request, God made the sundial go crazy—the shadow marking the passing of time moved backwards. Today, we’d look at our clocks and see them going from two o’clock to one o’clock to noon. God turned back time! I thought that was a cool touch by God.

In three days, King Hezekiah had recovered, and he lived… fifteen more years.

When I first read this story, I wondered what it would be like to have absolute assurance from God Himself that He was going to give me exactly fifteen more years to live.

I mean, think about it — God tells you exactly when you’re going to depart this earth. And then, just to be certain that you believe Him, He makes the sun move backwards  that day … from west to east! Would you have doubted His message? I think I would have marked that Day of Departure on my calendar in ink!

Hezekiah’s story sounds incredible. But let me tell you — I, too, have received a message from God that He will extend my life.

So have you.

This message is not concerning our limited time here on earth. Jesus brought a new message for everyone: Those who belong to Him will live on forever.

“I tell you the truth,” [Jesus said] “those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life…The Father has life in himself, and he has granted that same life-giving power to his Son” (John 5:24, 26). NLT

The Son of God makes it very clear: “Listen to my message and believe. Then you will never be condemned for your sins and you have eternal life.” Jesus Christ holds the key. He holds life.

This is hope: The God who does not lie has made a firm promise to give His children a life that goes beyond these bodies, beyond years, beyond numbers, and beyond time. And we are already living that life.

If we listen to Jesus’ message and believe Him, it changes how we view every moment of this life on earth.

When it comes to giving life to His children, God doesn’t just scramble time—He does away with it. As it turns out, our story and promise is even more fantastic than Hezekiah’s.

 

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Psalm Prayer:

My heart is confident in you, O God.
(Psalm 108:1) 

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© Elaine Starner 2015

Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)