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I should have been born in Missouri, the Show Me state. Most of my life consists of hoping for things I can comprehend and control. According to Romans 5, this way of living is backwards.

“Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

This is another one of the scriptures that we like to take out of context and miss the real point. Romans is about the power of God and living by faith rather than living by the do’s and dont’s of the law of Moses.

The word “Therefore” at the beginning of Romans 5 implies that the meaning after “therefore” has to do with the words that come before “therefore.” We see in Romans 1 through 4 that the hope of Romans 5 is built on the foundation of being justified through faith.

Justified, made right.
Faith, our response to what God reveals.

Hope, according to Merriam-Webster, is desire with anticipation. Not just a vague belief or wishing that something might happen. But a hunger for what we expect in the future.

In Romans 1:18ff, we see the result of living by what man envisions according to his own abilities versus what God reveals and provides through his divine assistance. Where is the hope in living for the pleasure that last only in the moment?

God offers hope that delivers a reality that will last forever. All the unknowns in life – suffering, sadness, sickness – are made perfect through hope.

Made perfect – given meaning and purpose.

To get to that kind of hope we must persevere through the unknowns. When we don’t persevere we give in to the pleasure of the moment.

We have a tendency to mix up the words hope and faith. Faith is always initiated by God. Faith is when God reveals and we respond to what he has revealed. Faith is not just believing or hoping something is true. It’s not a wish or even trusting in the character of God. It is seeing what God is doing now and acting on what God has shown us.

Hope is not always initiated by God. Hope is the desire for something to become reality. Desire can be good or bad. To experience hope that does not disappoint, we must experience dependency on God – the one who is the standard for measuring good. Dependency means acting on what God is revealing even when we can’t comprehend the outcome.

It is in suffering – whether it is horrific or simple questioning of the unknown – that we are forced to either to give in to our own desires or persevere until we find God’s desires. Without perseverance, our character is weak and inconsistent. Through perseverance, we experience the love of God and find our true character – who we are meant to be in God’s story.

I want to live with hope that makes suffering tolerable. Don’t you? Let’s not give in or give up. I’m convinced that through persevering we discover that kind of hope.

Are you making a difference in the world?

We wonder why people are starving or why a loving God would allow suffering. The truth is, God has enabled us to relieve much of the suffering of the world.

World Vision is one of several organization that restores hope in individuals by transforming communities. Watch this video and please consider sponsoring a child through my World Vision sponsorship page. If you are not able to sponsor a child or already sponsor a child through World Vision or another organization, please share this blog post to encourage others to make a difference in this world. It changes not only the receiver but also the giver because we are designed by the Creator to contribute to life for more than our own personal comfort.

Every child deserves clean water. However, more than 1,600 children under age 5 die every day from diarrhea caused by unsafe water — that’s more than AIDS and malaria combined. Clean water, basic sanitation, and hygiene education are some of the most effective ways to prevent child disease and death.

World Vision is one of the largest providers of clean water in the developing world, reaching a new person with clean water every 30 seconds. Water continues to flow after we leave because communities have ownership of the water points and can maintain and repair them. www.worldvision.org

We are all designed to contribute to this amazing world God created. We do not exist simply to survive until we die. Will you make a difference?

World Vision Sponsorship

I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
Philippians 3:12

Perseverance is not about me. That’s my new discovery this morning as I think about the perseverance of Jesus Christ especially on the day of his brutal death.

I watched a little bit of The Passion of the Christ last night and woke this morning thinking of the pain Jesus endured and the emotions that he most likely experienced. We talk so much about how Jesus died for “me.” As I pondered his death this morning, I realized how self-centered even that thought is. Yes, his death benefited all mankind but he could not, and would not have persevered out of love for mankind without having an even greater passion for the purposes of God and the plan of life.

Jesus is fully God AND he is fully human. There was a humanness to Jesus that endured the pain. And it is the Spirit of God in him that strengthened his human flesh with the will to persevere. It is that same Spirit that strengthens me to persevere but I can’t want it for me. That purpose is not great enough. I must want it out of a love for God.

Like Paul, “I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of [that which Christ Jesus took hold of me].” But I want to want (yes, that wording is intended) to strain toward what is ahead. I’m recognizing more than ever that I don’t have it in my humanness to persevere for God’s plan. The humanness in me desires comfort far more than recognition for achievement. And I believe even if I were one who desired recognition, the perseverance for the sake of recognition would not be enough to satisfy. That kind of recognition seems to leave people still wanting something more.

Without love, all the good we do is meaningless (1 Corinthians 13). As wonderful as it feels to love other people, even that love can be rejected and limits our perseverance. Our love must first be for God. Our passion must first be for his plans regardless of how his plans impact my present personal comfort. Do I love God that much? Do you?

Take time today to think about the humanness of Jesus and his passion for God’s plan. His death allowed us to receive the Spirit of God by canceling out all mankind’s self-centered desire to achieve our own goals. We cannot live by God’s plan and our plan at the same time. We cannot live for God’s plan out of our own strength. It takes perseverance that is beyond our humanness.

As I said, I have not yet achieved this consistent reliance on the Holy Spirit but this one thing I try to do daily: forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead to win the prize for which God has created me. He has created me to love him above my own comfort and recognition. He has called me to receive the power that empowered Jesus Christ to endure unthinkable suffering. That same power is the power of God’s Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead and will also raise us from the dead to a life that is greater than we can imagine. It is worth the perseverance. Jesus showed us that in everything he did.

Read Isaiah 53 and Philippians 3 over this Easter weekend. Look at Jesus in pain. Try to feel the pain. It wasn’t first for you. It was first for God and the plan of life for all creation. Try to grasp the love of God’s plan that motivated the man Jesus to persevere.

 

Below are more sessions from what I am currently calling the Getting Familiar With The Bible series. It’s a very casual study/discussion for anyone who wants to get more familiar with the Bible. Sessions 4 and 5 do not have notes.

  • Session 4 Human Beings in God’s Plan: Adam & Eve “The Two Trees” Gen 3; Cain & Able “Am I My Brother’s Keeper?” Gen 4; and Noah and The Flood “God Starts Over” Gen 6-9.
  • Session 6 Peter and the Pearly Gates – Why do people say Peter is standing at the gates of heaven? Found this blog post to explain Peter and the Pearly Gates. We discussed Revelation 21: We don’t go to heaven. Heaven is coming to us.

 

Click Here for links to the Intro and Sessions 1-3

Below are links to the intro and first three discussion guides I’m writing to help a friend who simply wanted to learn about the Bible because of so many references that are made to scripture in other literature and everyday conversation.

This material, I hope, will also be helpful for Christ followers who want to get reacquainted with the Bible, learn how to study it and how to share the Bible and your personal faith with others.

These are just discussion guides and I haven’t spent a lot of time developing them. If they help you, great! Feel free to use them.

Intro Session Why Read The Bible

Session 1 God the Creator

Session 2 Jesus the Image

Session 3 The Holy Spirit

To interpret scripture properly, we need to do as much as possible to understand the context of what we are reading. A lot of context can be understood simply by reading the text around the verses being studied – just like any other book. A couple of my favorite quick and simple references are:

How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee
How to Read the Bible Book by Book by Gordon D. Fee

May the Lord add the blessing of understanding to the reading of His Word.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. 1,500 sounds like a lot of readers to me. THANK YOU for reading this blog. It is my desire to encourage you and myself to keep GROWing in truth together so that we may SOW His love around us. May you sense the overwhelming depth and greatness of God’s love more and more in 2014.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,500 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 25 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Thanksgiving Prayer

David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,

Praise be to you, Lord,
the God of our father Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.

Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.

Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.

Wealth and honor come from you;
you are the ruler of all things.

In your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.

Now, our God, we give you thanks,
and praise your glorious name.

1 Chronicles 29:10-13

These words were written in response to all that was given – gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, precious stones – for the future building of the temple. It was a huge collection. Even more amazing is that everyone gave willingly and with integrity. A few verses after this we read:

O Lord our God, as for all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name, it comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you…. O Lord, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you. 1 Chronicles 29:16,18

After the life, death and resurrection of Jesus we find similar words by Paul.

Oh, the depth of the riches of wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Romans 11:33-36

Here, Paul suggests something other than gold, silver and precious stones. In the next verse we read:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is true worship. Romans 12:1

Not only do possessions come from God, our existence is a gift from God.

For many, existence does not seem like a very nice gift. But if we get a glimpse of the existence God has planned, we will see with great joy the gift that our existence is. And there is more than existence even now. There is life.

In the first passage above, the presence of God was limited. Only designated people could be in God’s presence. Even after the elaborate temple was built, people had to GO to God and no one other than the priests could go into the holy of holies where the presence of God was so great that they tied a rope around their waist so they could be pulled out if they were struck dead in God’s presence.

In Christ Jesus, God has COME to man. His Spirit – His Life – has been given to us. It was poured out at Pentecost (Acts 2).  This Life includes His power and love. This allows our existence to be more than eating and breathing; more than just surviving until we die. His Spirit in us gives us true life that will last forever and ever. At some point there will no longer be evil and sadness. There will only be true life. And that is the gift God has given and why Paul urges us to offer not only our possessions but also our bodies – everything we are – back to God. This is true worship with willingness and integrity.

This Thanksgiving, will you choose to genuinely thank the giver of life? Regardless of your circumstances. Regardless of the strained relationships. Regardless of how great or how little possessions you have been given. Will you give your existence back to God and receive eternal true life? Let Him show you real Life. Life that was banned in the Garden of Eden. Life that has come in Christ. Life that will one day be without a curse of any kind.

I suggest you read 1 Chronicles 29:10-13 or Romans 11:33-36 as your prayer before your Thanksgiving meal. A brief silence after you read will allow you to sense God’s response to your praise.

**************

If you are giving your existence to God, find a spirit-filled, Bible-teaching church this weekend. Can’t do Sunday morning? Many churches gather on Saturday night and are casual dress. The Life God has given is meant to be experienced in community with others who have exchanged their existence for true Life. Otherwise, like a stick pulled from a fire, life will lose it’s glow.

Life: Genesis 3:22-24; John 14:6; Revelation 22:1-3
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