His Spoken Word

©Beth Byrnes

©Beth Byrnes

Sunlight rolls into my room; glorious sprays

like ocean waves crashing over rocks, foam white,

wakes me, warms my bones, revives this living clay.

 

Birds seeking seeds, worms, in chorus praise the Light.

They build their nests from twigs, twine and scraps they thieve

All while scooping and diving in graceful flight.

 

Luminescent, filigree webs spiders weave

to lure, catch and store their prey for sustenance;

their patterns human artists seek to achieve.

 

Nature’s scents of pine or cedar, such fragrance

as an ocean breeze, gardenia, rose

appeal to senses; heart, mind and souls enhance.

 

Sweet strawberries, dark chocolate in appose

the taste to tongue cannot compare, it’s premiere

and with romance comes a sigh of sweet repose.

 

Yet are we thankful for these gifts we hold dear?

God’s provision began with His spoken word

available to see, smell, taste, touch and hear.

 

Since then His plan to save has transformed, altered

Our hearts; His love and grace have forever stirred.

 

 

This poem was inspired by the accompanying photo by Beth Byrnes.

Beth Byrnes … everything and nothing

Indicatives & Imperatives 5

Romans, Part I: The Indicatives

Paul was a Roman citizen called by Jesus to introduce the gospel to the Gentiles. He had a large arena to work in, considering Rome’s extensive empire. But the city Paul came from was the mighty capitol of the Empire. The gospel came from Jerusalem, the capitol city in one of the nations Rome conquered. This Jewish tentmaker and former Pharisee wrote to Jewish and Gentile Roman citizens in what is possibly the best theological treatise on the gospel of Jesus Christ ever written. It is the longest letter of Paul’s collection of epistles.

Most scholars agree Paul wrote this letter on his third missionary journey in A.D. 57 in Corinth (Acts 20:2-3).

©NLT Study Bible

©NLT Study Bible

Because this letter is long and rich in the gospel, I chose to cull what I consider to be the most important verses that speak to this subject of indicatives and imperatives. There is much spiritual bread to digest in Romans, and I encourage you to take a few weeks to read it in its entirety in more than one Bible version. Choose one version that is a study Bible with plenty of commentary. I assure you it will be worth it.

“Romans 1:17 is the key verse of the letter. In it Paul announces the theme: ‘the righteousness of God.’ The word righteousness is used in one way or another over sixty times in his letter (righteous, just, and justified). God’s righteousness is revealed in the gospel; for in the death of Christ, God revealed His righteousness by punishing sin; and in the resurrection of Christ, He revealed His righteousness by making salvation available to the believing sinner.Warren W. Wiersbe, Romans, Wiersbe Bible Commentary

Paul lays out the gospel in the first eleven chapters of Romans. He only begins to issue imperatives after he shows us the indicatives of the saving grace of Christ. Christ gave us grace and new life: salvation by taking our sins, justification through our faith in him, reconciliation to God, eternal life through his resurrection, and righteousness through the Holy Spirit.

 The Indicatives

(Notes added) For it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith [God’s faithfulness] for faith [our faith in His faithfulness], as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith. (1:16-17, Habakkuk 2:4)

God’s invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived from the creation of the world in the things that have been made. (1:20)

Everyone has sinned. No one measures up to God’s glory.The free gift of God’s grace makes all of us right with him. Christ Jesus paid the price to set us free.God gave him as a sacrifice to pay for sins. So he forgives the sins of those who have faith in his blood. (3:23-25)

God did all of that to prove that he is fair. Because of his mercy he did not punish people for the sins they had committed before Jesus died for them.God did that to prove in our own time that he is fair. He proved that he is right. He also made right with himself those who believe in Jesus. (3:25-26)

Now to the one who works, his pay is not credited due to grace but due to obligation. But to the one who does not work, but believes in the one who declares the ungodly righteous, his faith is credited as righteousness. So even David himself speaks regarding the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:

Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the one against whom the Lord will never count sin.’ ” (Romans 4:4-8, Psalm 32:1-2)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (5:1-2)

For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (5:6,8)

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life. (6:3-4)

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you were also made to die to the power of the Law through the body of Christ so that you could be may belong to another, to Him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. (7:4)

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. (8:1-3)

In other words, you’ve been saved by God’s compassionate grace. You cannot be “unsaved.” You’ve been forgiven totally, completely and irreversibly. You are a new creation in Christ.

 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. (8:11)

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. (8:14-17)

 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. (8:26-27)

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? (8:31-32)

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (8:35)

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (8:38-39)

Whether you know it or not, whether you acknowledge it or not, He lives in you. The more you surrender to Him, the more He will reveal Himself to you. You will feel His love and love Him back. You do not need laws to understand God’s heart; in the stillness, you will become aware of it beating, know His will. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.” (8:28)

God says, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (9:15-16)

Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (10:4)

So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise, grace would no longer be grace. (11:5-6)

The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (11:29)

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (11:33)

The one who makes the jar can make anything he wants. He uses the same clay to make different things. He might make one thing for special purposes and another for daily use. It is the same way with what God has done. He wanted to show his anger and to let people see his power. But he patiently endured those he was angry with—people who were ready to be destroyed. He waited with patience so that he could make known the riches of his glory to the people he has chosen to receive his mercy. God has already prepared them to share his glory. (9:21-23)

Paul makes the case for faith vs. the law, faith vs. works, and God’s redemptive grace through Jesus Christ as the gospel. He also explains in great detail we are not to think we are better than others, expecting we are entitled to salvation. It is only God’s mercy and compassion that gives us the assurance of hope, His promise of redemption and eternal life as His adopted children.

Next Week: The Imperatives

©2007, Warren W. Wiersbe, Romans, p. 412 Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT David C. Cook, Colorado Springs, CO
©1996, Roman Empire and Spread of Christianity Map, NLT Study Bible, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Carol Stream, Ill

Endless Grace

seedlings

As churches preach of sin and wrong

In droves God’s people leave; they long

For Jesus and a welcome space.

Come, know our Father’s endless grace.

 

When Jesus lived he spoke of things

Like love, forgiveness, God as King.

It’s time to shout of God’s embrace!

Come, know our Father’s endless grace.

 

He offers mercy, forgets sins

With open arms invites us in.

Our Father’s love is sweet to taste.

Come, know our Father’s endless grace.

 

New seedlings Christ did make of us.

Through him God’s redemption promise

Filled; love and mercy, freedom’s place.

Come, know our Father’s endless grace.

 

In you through Spirit He abides,

His sons and daughters are His pride

And joy, yet this is just a trace;

Come, know our Father’s endless grace.

 

To God our Father you belong,

Loved, known and cherished – His heart’s song

Until we see Him face to face

Come, know our Father’s endless grace.

 

My apologies for the absence. Illness, depression, hiding out. Back now, breathing in His fragrance.

Being Still

Ripples

A lazy Sunday afternoon we sit

In side by side a hushed companionship

As leaves spiral to autumn’s bluesy beat

In this restful place on love’s wine we sip

You freely to me did your life commit

And knowing this I am in grace’s grip

We speak of things that no one else can hear

You hold me, touch my heart and wipe my tears

 

This time with you is treasured, honored, prized

We each attend the other, first and first

No veil between us, just the space comprised

Of love, compassion, hope and trust immersed

In faithfulness and joy, so undisguised

So filled with you I think my heart would burst

These precious moments cannot be replaced

Until forever, they must be embraced

 

As life does pull me toward things I must tend

I’m saddened and dismayed, I must confide

I know our time together now must end

Yet knowing, I perceive you still abide

As life surrounds, on you I will depend

Your love is vastly high and deep and wide

Love’s grace and mercy present each new day

Be still, so I can give it all away

Indicatives & Imperatives 4

2 Corinthians

Second Corinthians is the fourth letter Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, around 56A.D. Much of it is in defense of his apostleship; the remaining chapters repeat the themes of Spirit living and repentance he wrote in his first letter.

©susanirenefox

©susanirenefox

This is perhaps the most personal of Paul’s letters. In it, one can see his humanity. Because he is being accused of being a false apostle, he pleads his own case. But his writing is deeply personal. He shares with them about a time of deep depression, of fear. He lets them hear his anger and sarcasm. He opens his heart and shows his vulnerability and love.

Yet through it all, he retains humility. When he boasts, he boasts in the Lord. He continues to lay out a convincing case for the new covenant (Chapter 3), but his main subjects are his apostolic authority and the authority of Christ in a believer’s life.

As he uses the word “we,” for himself, I believe you and I are to understand he also refers to us, for these are overarching themes in all of his letters.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. (2:14-16)

The Imperatives (The Commands)

  • Rely not on ourselves, but on God, who raises the dead. (1:9)
  • We behave in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom. (1:12)
  • Turn to forgive and comfort anyone who has caused to pain; reaffirm your love for him so we would not be outwitted by Satan nor ignorant of his designs. (2:5-8,11)

And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (3:3)

  •  For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. (3:9-10)
  • We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word. What we proclaim is not ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord (4:1-2,5)
  • So we are always of good courage. We walk by faith, not by sight. We make it our aim to please Him. (5:6-7,9)
  • We appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. (6:1)
  • Excel in the grace of generosity. Each one give from his heart, not reluctantly or from compulsion. (8:7, 9:7)
  • Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. (13:5)
  • Rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. (13:11)

Even though Paul defends himself in this letter, one of the first things he insists upon is forgiveness and restoration of the church member who has caused the trouble. He sees it as not so much causing him personal pain, but creating the church pain, and he wants the gaping wound to be healed (2:5-11)

Because he has been through many trials, he is able to encourage and comfort because God first comforted him. He now encourages them to pay it forward.

As we examine our lives in Christ, we will be reminded of the grace we have been freely given, the difference between the old and new covenants, and our call to love others as God loves us.

The Indicatives (Truths in Christ)

  • God delivered us from peril once; we rely on Him to deliver us again. (1:10)
  • We behave righteously by the grace of God. (1:12)
  • God has put His seal on you and given us His Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (1:21-22)
  • Our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (3:5-6)
  • Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image, from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (3:17-18)
  • But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (4:7)

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. (4:16-18 NRSV)

  • He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. (5:5)
  • If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. All this from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.(5:17-19)
  • He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way. (9:10-11)
  • My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (12:9)
  • Jesus Christ is in you. (13:5)

If Paul is correct, that our ministry is to reconcile the world to God, how to we do that without love? Without compassion? Without relationship?

As some claim the right to admonish as Paul did, or overturn tables as Jesus did, we must remember we are neither apostles nor the Christ. We are disciples; as such our calling has been made biblically clear. We can possess gifts, prestige, knowledge and money. But I refer back to 1 Corinthians, because Paul said it best:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

Peace

Dedicated to D.J. Heath

©susanirenefox

©susanirenefox

To those whose grief does overtake

And faith does drift as you redound

When your heart bursts with mourning’s ache

His love extends a peace profound

 

As clarity becomes opaque

And you can’t hear His voice’s sound

Oh, trust that He does not forsake

His love extends a peace profound

 

Let His sweet fragrance you awake

As tender mercies do abound

His lilting song greets each daybreak

His love extends a peace profound

 

This task He wills to undertake

Allow His love to heal, surround

It’s your heart for a balm He makes

His love extends a peace profound

 

He offers freedom’s food – partake

His grace, His peace is not earthbound

His water your parched thirst will slake

His love extends a peace profound.

 

Indicatives & Imperatives 3

1 Corinthians

The Three

The letter we know as 1 Corinthians is actually the second of four letters Paul wrote to this church. It was likely written in 55 A.D. near the end of his three-year ministry in Ephesus. Although there are several sub-themes addressed, Paul’s primary theme is for the church to work together and put Christ first for the advancement of the gospel.

Members had been promoting themselves and their spiritual gifts, creating an internal hierarchy which divided the church. Men and women were disruptive and argumentative during worship, arriving early to indulge in the bread and meat and get drunk on the wine. Those advanced in biblical knowledge, rather than uplifting newer believers, often used that knowledge to act as a stumbling block to those seeking Christ. And many had not transformed their own cultural worldviews of sexual and ethical immorality. Paul writes this letter to call them to task because they had not responded with repentance to his first letter (5:9).

The Imperatives (The Commands)

  • I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. (1:10)
  • Let each one take care how he builds upon the foundation of Jesus Christ laid by me, by Apollos, and by other servants of the Lord. (3:10)
  • Do not worship or boast in men, whether Paul, or Apollos or Peter. We are all Christ’s, as Christ is God’s. Regard us as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. (3:22-23; 4:1)
  • Do not favor one leader over another; do not puff yourself up if you are a leader over another who leads. Do not add to Scripture; it is sufficient on its own. (4:6)

(emphasis added) I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brothers or sisters if they are immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? God judges those outside. (5:9-13)

  • Let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. (7:17,20,35)
  • Take care that your “rights” do not become a stumbling block to others. Do I not have the right to eat and drink? Yet, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make him stumble. (8:9,13; 9:4)
  • Do not worship idols; do not indulge in sexual immorality; to not test Christ; do not grumble; do not think you are beyond sin, less your pride causes you to fall. (10:6-12)
  • All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. (10:23-24)
  • So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (10:31)
  • Pursue love (14:1)
  • Strive to excel in building up the church (14:12)
  • Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like adults, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. (16:13)

Paul was exhorting members of this church to always put Christ first and others next. It frankly didn’t matter to Paul what their rights were. He admonished them to be selfless, to not demand their rights, particularly if their rights might have even a small chance of being a stumbling block to anyone receiving Christ.

He also made it clear we in the church were to monitor ourselves, not those outside the church. If only we would engage in cleaning out our own houses first, we might set the example Paul seeks us to set when he reminds us that things may be lawful, but they may not be helpful or they may not build others up.

As we seek to do everything for the glory of God, we automatically pursue love.

The Indicatives (Truths in Christ)

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind—just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you—so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1:4-7 NRSV)

  • Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the World? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1:20-21, 25)
  • Because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1:30-31; Jeremiah 9:23-24)
  • As it is written, “What no eyes has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him,” these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. (2:9-10; Isaiah 64:4)
  • Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (3:16)
  • If anyone loves God, he is known by God. (8:3)
  • No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (10:13)
  • It is the same God who empowers all the gifts in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (12:6-7)
  • All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit who apportions to each one individually as He wills. (12:11)
  • For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, thought many, are one body, so it is with Christ…that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. (12:12,25)
  • God is not a God of confusion but of peace (14:33)
  • For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (15:22)

In a large nutshell, Paul tells us we have no right to be spiritual elitists since God most often chooses those who the world considers foolish, weak or shameful to receive wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. These are the people who carry His true message. We must continually work to cleanse ourselves of sexual and ethical immorality because we have no authority with those outside the church. The more we focus on this, the less we’ll be called hypocrites by the world.

Sexual immorality includes things we’d prefer to ignore within the church, like domestic abuse, child abuse and incest. Ethical immorality includes those mentioned by Paul and those things we sweep under the rug; greed and coveting; those who mock God and use His name in vain; alcoholism and drug addiction; deception (which Paul combines with coveting). How many families and business people do you know in your own church who are guilty of these offenses and need firm, loving, guiding hands to come alongside them?

We all must allow Christ to keep us alive in His love through abiding in the Spirit. We are people who, if not lived in sin, lapsed temporarily into sin, and we were washed, sanctified, and justified. And it is possible, with God’s grace, for them to be saved as we were saved.

And, as Paul so eloquently and memorably said, “So now faith, hope and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” (13:13)