12/20/14

The Wonder of the Incarnation

This December, I asked the Lord to revive the wonder of Christmas in my heart. I didn't exactly want to see it like a wide-eyed child, but rather, to understand more about the Incarnation of Christ.

The Lord answered my prayer with a book I purchased on Kindle titled Found in Him: The Joy of the
Incarnation and Our Union with Christ by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick.

"We will never know how found, loved, welcomed and reconciled we are until we see how he (Jesus) has forever taken our nature to himself and has bound us to himself in enduring oneness," Fitzpatrick wrote (pp. 18-19). "God is one with man in Jesus Christ and we are one with him. . . .We are not alone. He is Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23)." 

The first wonder of the Incarnation is God with us. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). 

C.S. Lewis wrote (Miracles, Chapter 14), "The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation . . . He (Jesus) comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity . . . But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him."

God came to dwell among man in Christ, and He still dwells with us through the Holy Spirit. We are never alone. The promise of His constant presence reassures us, encourage us, comforts us and empowers us.

The second wonder of the Incarnation is God in us. Christ came to bring us hope of life and eternal glory.

"And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son . . . In him was life, and the life was the light of men" (1 John 5:11; John 1:4). The mystery of God's grace is "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27).

In Christ, "the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily"(Colossians 2:9). In Christ, we are truly blessed with a new identity, absolute security, and God-given dignity - we have "every spiritual blessing" (Ephesians 1:3-4).

The third wonder of the Incarnation is God for us. God "is not shocked or surprised by your weakness or sin," Fitzpatrick wrote (p. 30). "He saw it all before you were ever born and yet purposed to come to you with his gracenot in judgment, but in lavish grace. . . . Our sin didn't paint him into a corner or leave him scrambling to try to fix the big mess we had made. We were chosen "in him before the foundation of the world" (Ephesians 1:4).

God is for you!

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:31-32).

The fourth wonder of the Incarnation is God through us. The angels told the shepherds, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy . . . there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10-11).

Fitzpatrick wrote, "How long has it been since this story was good news of great joy for you?" 

When we lose the wonder over the Gospel,  
we will likely lose our enthusiasm to share its truth.

God has both commissioned and empowered us to share the "Good News" of why Jesus came (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). The more our wonder over the Incarnation grows, the more likely we will want to share the gospel story with others!

In a great carol of Christmas, "Joy to the World," we are reminded of "the wonders of His love." God so loved the world, he gave His Son to redeem sinful man (John 3:16-17).

The wonder of God's love compels usas Christ's ambassadors and ministers of reconciliationto share the truth about Jesus' incarnation, death and resurrection  (2 Cor. 5:14-15, 18, 20).

In Christ, God is with us, in us, for us and aims to reach the world through us. May we be humble, prepared, eager, wonder-filled servants of the Lord.

Which of these four wonders most speaks to you this Christmas?

11/22/14

Wonder and Our Wealth

Wonder over God will potentially affect every area of lifeeven our wallets!

Finances aren't just a side-issue with God. How we deal with money is one good indicator or the condition of our heart. As evangelist Billy Graham said, "If a person gets his attitude toward money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area in his life."

A person's financial "attitude" begins with some basic understandings of the source of wealth.

Ron Blue and Jeremy L. White expounded on this idea in their book, Faith-Based Family Finances:

"God owns it all; we are managers for a temporary period. ... 
It's all God's because an owner has rights
and I, as a steward, have only responsibilities. ... 
Every spending decision is a spiritual decision." *

Do we truly understand? God owns it all! He's the Creator and sustainer of the earth, the planets, the great systems in the sky. All our amassed wealth is nothing compared to God's ownership of the universe. 

As a child, I got a glimpse of the wonder of God's immense wealth and power when I sang in church, "He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the wealth in every mine."(See Psalm 50:10; Haggai 2:8.)

If we could only grasp the great wealth of GodHis "riches in glory"and remember how He is more than able to care for us (Philippians 4:19), how could we ever be afraid of lack?

When we are poor stewards of our finances, our spiritual health is exposed. "... wise stewardship is an indicator of spiritual health," said Ron Blue. "Your checkbook reveals all that you really believe about stewardship. Your life story could be written from your checkbook." 
We can't fake—or hide—what our checkbooks, credit cards and church tithing records reveal about our hearts.
The Bible has much to say about our use of money. Here are just a few scriptures:

Proverbs 13:11 "Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it."
Ecclesiastes 5:10 — "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income...."
Proverbs 3:9 — "Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the first-fruits of all your produce."
Proverbs 10:4 — "A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich."
Matthew 6:21, 24 "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also ... 'No one can serve two masters ... You cannot serve God and money.'"
1 Timothy 6:10a "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils...."
Hebrews 13:5a "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have...."
 
If our hearts are not right with God, neither will our wallets be right with Him.

To get finances in order, the wise Christian will spend some time alone with the Lord, wondering over His power and ownership of all things.

Do you understand God owns every penny you have and all you have accumulated? How will you use it for His glory?

* Ron Blue with Jeremy L. White, Faith-Based Family Finances 
(Focus on the Family; Tyndale House Publishers, 2008), pp. 4-7.

10/26/14

My Position in my "Wonder-ful" Lord

I am breaking into my "Wonder" series to share my continuing wonder over all I am and have in Christ - my "position" in Him. 
This is the study I made years ago when I still struggled with my identity, security and dignity. As the victim of sexual abuse, I felt I would never "survive" my past. That was the enemy's lie.

The Lord gave me strength and wisdom to trust Him for complete healing. I wrote about this in a True Woman article in 2013. You can read about what God taught me in that process there.

I pray with all my heart you will be encouraged as you embrace these powerful truths.


In Christ, you have a NEW IDENTITY

· You are a new creature, born of God – 2 Corinthians 5:17; I John 4:7
· You are ALIVE! – Ephesians 2:5
· You are washed and sanctified – I Corinthians 6:11
· You are JUSTIFIED and made righteous – Romans 5:1
· You are reconciled to God – Romans 5:10-11; Colossians 1:22
· You are made HOLY through Christ’s sacrifice – Hebrews 10:10, 13-14
· You are redeemed and FORGIVEN – Colossians 1:13-14
· You are ACCEPTED in the Beloved – Ephesians 1:6; Romans 15:7
· You belong to God and have eternal life – I Corinthians 6:19-20; John 5:24
· You are His adopted, CHOSEN child – Ephesians 1:3-8; I John 3:1-2
· You become a member of Christ’s BODY – I Corinthians 12:27
· You are one with Christ (in spirit) – I Corinthians 6:17
· You become a part of God’s FAMILY – John 1:12-13; Ephesians 2:19
· You are COMPLETE in all the fullness of Christ - Colossians 2:9-10
· You are a child of light, not darkness - I Thessalonians 5:4-5
· You have a new way of thinking – I Corinthians 2:16
· You died to the power of sin; crucified with Christ – Romans 6:1-6; Galatians 2:20
· You are Jesus’ FRIEND- John 15:15

In Christ, you have ABSOLUTE SECURITY

· You are indwelt and SEALED for God’s purposes – I Corinthians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22
· You cannot be separated from the love of God – Romans 8:31-39
· You are CONNECTED to the True Vine – John 15:5
· You are SAFE from the Evil One, rescued from Satan’s domain – I John 5:18; Colossians 1:13
· You are free from condemnation and accusation (Jesus paid it all) – Romans 8:1-2; Colossians 1:22
· Your “real you” is hidden from the world, but settled in Him – Colossians 3:1-4
· You do not need to fear, because you’ve been given a spirit of power, love, and sound thinking – 2 Timothy 1:7
· You are ASSURED that God is working on your behalf – Romans 8:29
· You can be confident that GOD WILL FINISH what He’s started - Philippians 1:6

In Christ, you have GOD-GIVEN DIGNITY

· You are a unique workmanship with a special PURPOSE – Ephesians 2:10
· You are a disciple with a mission – Matthew 28:20
· You are a citizen of heaven – Philippians 3:20
· You are an HEIR of God (a joint heir with Christ) – Romans 8:17; Galatians 4:7
· You are “seated in the heavenlies” and have a heavenly calling – Ephesians 2:10; Hebrews 3:1
· You are a child of the King … a ROYAL, set-apart priesthood – I Peter 2:5, 9-10
· You are God’s holy “temple” – I Corinthians 3:16
· You are a “kingdom” and PRIEST to serve the Father – Revelation 1:5-6
· You are a Minister of Reconciliation – 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
· You have spiritual AUTHORITY – Luke 10:19
· You are a minister of a new covenant – 2 Corinthians 3:6
· You are an AMBASSADOR – 2 Corinthians 5:20
· You are empowered to be effective and victorious – Philippians 4:13
· You are APPOINTED to do “the works of Christ” and bear fruit – John 14:12; 15:16
· You are salt and light to reach the world; a light shining in a dark place – Matthew 5:13-14; 2 Peter 1:19
· You are blessed with every spiritual blessing – Ephesians 1:3
· You are a child of PROMISE – Romans 9:8; Galatians 3:14; 2 Peter 1:4
· We will share an inheritance with the other saints in God’s “kingdom of light” – Colossians 1:10-12

My prayer for you:

"Father God, I ask you to encourage the readers of this post, especially those who need healing from the past. I am so thankful that "because of Christ, all of us can come to the Father by the same Spirit ... (and that) Christ now gives us courage and confidence, so that we can come to God by faith" (Eph. 2:18; 3:12 CEV). Lord, I love you. And I'm glad you are redeeming all that the Enemy meant for evil in my life. I'm glad you are making me more like Jesus every day - healing my heart and giving me purpose and a place in Your Kingdom. Thank you for Jesus." Amen!

10/18/14

Wonder and our Words

It is a wonder that God even speaks to us.

We were enemies until He drew us to Himself, showed us the truth about our need of salvation, and offered us grace in the sacrifice of His Son for our sin. What a wonder!

But God does speak to us. The Creator speaks to us in His Word, through His Son, through prayer, through His creation, through the Holy Spirit, through other believers (2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:1-2/John 10:27; Romans 8:26-27—the Holy Spirit's intercession when we don't know what to say; Romans 1:20; John 14:17/1 Corinthians 3:16; and James 3:17 a description of believers' wisdom). Some say God also speaks to us through circumstances, and even through music.

And our speech is important to the Lord! The scriptures are full of positive instruction and serious warnings about the use of our tongue. One verse in particular spells this out simply and clearly:

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Ephesians 4:29, ESV).

Most (if not all) of us struggle with the tongue. In the flesh, we lie, we gossip, we criticize, we slander, we yell in anger, we speak suggestively, we use profanitywe use our mouth for evil.

As God changes our thinking to align with His Word and slowly transforms our speech, we tell the truth, we encourage, we praise and express gratitude, we comfort, we speak in purity, we share the Gospelwe use our mouth for the Lord.

Wonder over God captured my heart during my years with a revival ministry, and bit-by-bit I gave the Lord control of my tongue.
  • What would you have me say, Father?
  • Will you help me communicate Your truth?
  • What can I say to encourage my friend?
  • Will you teach me what to say to my lost neighbor?
  • Oh, Lord, forgive me ... I spoke that in anger.
In other words:
The God-centered, wonder-filled heart should manifest itself in a God-controlled, wise tongue.
Again, God speaks to us about the tongue in His Word, in verses like these:

James 3:10 — "... from the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be."
James 1:19-20 — "... let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak...."
Proverbs 12:18 "There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing."
Proverbs 13:3 — "Whoever guards his mouth preserves life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin." 
Proverbs 31:26 "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue."

When we think about God and how wonderful He is, a prayer should form in our hearts, crying out to God for words that will please and honor Him

As the Psalmist prayed, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer" (Psalm 19:14).

Do you struggle with your tongue? How can a greater understanding of who God is encourage you to yield control of your words and conversations to Him?

Graphic adapted from image at FreeStockPhotos.biz.

9/19/14

Wonder and Our Work



Our wonder over God is intimately tied to our work for Him.

As a young believer, I mistakenly believed the only work that glorified God was “ministry”—meaning, the Christian service (missions, evangelism, witnessing for Christ, the pastorate, working in a church, etc.). I didn’t understand how all our work, from washing dishes to writing corporate reports, is to be done to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17).

I remember the day another truth broke through. I was reading in Ephesians 2, and verse 10 says, "...we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." 

Before the foundation of the world, the Lord chose work and acts of service that would be my responsibility. 


Jesus told His disciples the Father was working, and that He, Jesus, also came to work (John 5:17).

He said, “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son and shows Hi all things that He Himself does” (John 5:19). So, our Savior watched what His Father was doing, and then—as an act of obedience and desiring to please Him—Jesus simply joined in. 

And Jesus is a model for us. 

We are to seek God, try to understand what He is doing in the world and in our lives – and get with the program!

Where does the wonder come in? Wonder opens us to new possibilities. We begin to see God more fully, and out of gratitude, we'll want to serve Him.

As we get to know the heart of God in greater intimacy, we will be more attuned to His will, and we will sense when He has a task for us to do.

As we walk with Him—listening for direction, sensitive to how He is moving—the Lord will begin to open up to us His purposes for each circumstance. He is at work in each one, and it is our privilege to join with Him in accomplishing those purposes and plans.

But we don’t get God's will by osmosis. We discover God’s purposes in His Word, and through prayer. And sometimes, as we rub shoulders with godly Christian brothers and sisters.

John D. Beckett wrote about discovering and learning to love our work in his book, Loving Monday. After Beckett’s conversion, he discovered the Christian worldview and how it differed from much of the secular things he’d been brought up to believe. This greatly affected the businessman’s view of work.

“In stark contrast to my prior thinking,” he wrote, “the Bible enabled me to view my work as having great worth to God, provided I would bring it into harmony with Him in every way possible. As a believer and a business person, I was no longer a second-class citizen. Nor did I need to leave my Christian convictions and biblical values outside the office entrance when I headed into work on Monday mornings.”*

An understanding of God’s purposes, as expressed in the scriptures
 gives value to every calling, from the pastorate to motherhood. 

It's not just business or career choices that are valuable in God's program. 

For example, in a culture that devalues the work of women in the home, especially motherhood, Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Jill Savage discussed motherhood as a high calling and blessed work. **

Jill said, "... moms begin to lose vision for what they do because it is so mundane at times. ... so much of what we do isn't missed until we don't do it. But it is so very valuable. ... We need to have a sense of why we're doing what we're doing."

Nancy said, "... in this area (as in every other area of life) it is so important that we go back to the Scripture to find our instructions, our goals, our purpose in life, our missions statement."

Exactly. 

The world may not give value to our work, but the Word of God does. And that is where we need to go to find our marching orders, no matter our calling or tasks.

Someday, when Christians stand before the Bema (Judgment) Seat of Christ, we will give an account of all the work we did for God and His Kingdom (2 Corinthians 5:10). We won’t be judged on the quantity of our works, but the quality will be tested. God will judge our motives and the source of our power in working for Him (1 Corinthians 3:13-15); it will be clear on that Day—some work just won’t stand the test.

The more I cultivate true wonder over God and remember that Jesus is going to return with His “reward” (or "recompense," Revelation 22:12), the purer my works become. And that’s as it should be: "... everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure" (1 John 3:3).

God has ordained work for us; it’s a wonder-filled, life-time adventure in following and serving Him!

Think about your life a moment. How can cultivating greater wonder give you greater understanding of God’s purposes and motivate your work for Him?
- Dawn
Check out all the "Wonder" articles under the sidebar label WONDER. 


* John D. Beckett, Loving Monday: Succeeding in Business without Selling Your Soul, (IVP Books, 2006), p. 74
** "Professionalizing Motherhood: The Value of Motherhood" - Revive Our Hearts broadcast and transcript, 10-15-02
Graphic adapted: Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net