Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Year goals

Every year I put a lot of thought into my Bible reading goals. In 2011, most daysI listened to a Psalm, a chapter of Romans, and thru the Bible. I don't think I will quite get thru the whole Bible by the end of December, but I will be close. I spent a lot of time in Romans: reading, listening, listening to sermons, reading commentaries. But I want to memorize the whole thing eventually, and I am not very far in that endeavor.

For 2012 I thought I would study the book of John. I think I will, but also I want to continue in Romans. And I want to read more, as well as continue listening thru the Bible while I drive and clean house (which I need to do a lot more of). So I am in a quandry - so much to study and read, so little time. There is also Greek, and other Biblical topics... Anyway, I have a few more days to think about it.

If you are trying to figure out your Bible reading for 2012, here are some great plans all laid out for you:


If you have not thought about a plan or a goal, I strongly suggest you consider it. Be intentional in your Bible study!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Romans 8:28-30

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified.

Ah, this most famous of verses. It refers back to the previous verses with and. Remember, the Holy Spirit is helping us by interceding for us according to God’s will. Then we get to today’s passage. I like the translations that use the word together. God is working for my good in all things together, if I love God.

1. This applies only if I love God.
2. All things together. Individual occurrences may be painful and heartbreaking and even horrible – but taken as a whole it will be good in the end.
3. For my good. Not just for some greater good somewhere down the road, but truly for my good in some way. That is really hard to see in moments of hardship.

Then we get into some big concepts and big words. First, let’s point out that we are called according to His purpose. I don’t just add God to my live when I am saved, God calls me to His purpose. My purpose must change to His. Yes, in all things God works for my good, but I am not the purpose, I am not the reason. It is God’s purpose and God’s plan. And this is the plan:

1. God foreknew me – He knew me before I was born.
2. God predestined me – He not only knew me, He planned my life, every part of it.
3. God called me – He made Himself known to me so I could be saved.
4. God justified me – At the beginning of my salvation. Christ died to pay for my sin, and He gave me (imputed) His righteousness so I could be holy.
5. God glorified me – This will come at the end of my earthly life, when sin will finally be dead and I will have a new body. Even though it hasn’t happened yet, it is a definite thing.

The only big word left out of this list is sanctification, but the definition is here. It is the process on earth of making me like Christ, conforming me to the image of Christ. Go back to the part right after Paul talks about foreknew, and he gives sanctification as God’s purpose in the whole process, from before time began right up to the end of the earth, when all of creation will be made new. The suffering from several verses back is part of it as well. This is the purpose, the big picture, God’s plan for me: to conform me to the image of Christ, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. Kind of puts the suffering in perspective, doesn’t it!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Romans 8:26-27

In the same way the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

This is cool. The first thing that jumps out is “In the same way” – as what? Maybe as “hope” from the previous section. Hope gives us patience as we wait for our final redemption, the glorification of our bodies, while we go through the suffering here on earth. So the Spirit helps us in the same way, helps us get through the suffering while we wait. And what is our weakness that He helps us with? We do not even know what we need to pray for.

This passage has brought me much comfort over the years. When my emotions have been so stirred up that I could not think clearly enough to think of what to pray, when there was only grief with no words, I would remember that the Spirit Himself is interceding for me. And not just praying for me, but groaning with me. This is the third time we see “groaning”. First creation is frustrated and groans as it awaits liberty. Then Believers groan as we wait for the redemption of our bodies. Now the Spirit groans as He prays for us in our sufferings. The Holy Spirit is right here with us and in us, communing with God the Father on our behalf. And because they are both part of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit knows exactly what I need and what to pray for. Elsewhere in scripture we read that Christ is sitting at the right hand of God and interceding for us as well.

This Christian walk on earth, between justification and glorification, is a time of suffering and groaning. But we have hope to know that glorification is coming, our bodies will be redeemed and all of creation will be set free. All along the way the Holy Spirit is in us, giving us hope and trust and faith, groaning with us in our suffering, talking to God on our behalf, and to us on His behalf. How cool is that?!

During the most intense struggles in life I have been most aware of God’s presence. Though there was great turmoil within and without, I had a sure knowledge and trust and hope that God was right there with me. That can only be because the Holy Spirit groaned with me and gave me that hope for the future.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Romans 8:22-25

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth, right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

So, this answers the question of “creation”. All of creation groans, and we as believers groan. All are waiting for redemption, physical redemption, an end to this cursed and corrupted body and world. Glorification, the final part of our salvation, is the hope of our salvation – that is what we look forward to. Not hope as in wish, but hope as in know. This hope is not possibility, but surety. That is how I can wait patiently, I know it is coming. This fits with God’s constant question to me, “Becky, do you trust Me?” Not do I hope/wish that God is right, but do I know it. Because if I know, I can trust, and I can know the future hope, and I have hope to go on no matter what happens in the mean time.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Romans 8:18-21

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

This starts a new section in my Bible, but wrongly I think. The previous section ended with if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory. This section continues that thought. Our present sufferings are nothing compared to our future glory! Not only that, but all of creation will share in our glory! Creation was cursed along with Adam and Eve in the garden. It was frustrated, unable to achieve its purpose, which was to glorify God, among other things. But at the end of time, when the children of God are liberated from our sin nature and our dying bodies, creation will also be liberated from its death.

Nature always points to God, the amazing power and creativity of God. Paul talked about this early in the book of Romans. If now, in its decay, nature points to God, just imagine what it will be like when it is liberated from that death!

It occurs to me that maybe this refers to us too, to our created bodies.

I am “creation” – creation is cursed by God
I become a Believer – a child of God
But I am still in bondage to decay
At the end I will be resurrected
Brought into glorious freedom
Freedom from sin and death and decay
That is when the outward manifestation of salvation will be revealed -
Right now, on earth, I suffer, I am in bondage, I decay
Then will be glorious freedom

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Season?

It is the Christmas season, the time of good cheer, the time when most people are nicer to each other. Yesterday I was reminded that most is by no means all.

I was eating breakfast with my husband and a friend at a restaurant. I glanced at the table next to us and realized that I slightly knew the woman sitting there and was about to speak to her when her waiter walked up and she tore into him. She was very upset because he had mistakenly told her that they were ready to serve the lunch menu, when in fact the roast beef was not ready yet. I have never seen somebody so upset about roast beef. She demanded to see a manager. She proceeded to tear into him. The waiter and the manager were very polite, apologized over and over, tried to make it right, but there was nothing they could do about serving her roast beef at 10:30 in the morning when it just wasn’t done yet, and that was the only thing that would make her happy. I wanted to pull the waiter aside and tip him, he did not deserve the tongue lashing she gave him. I certainly no longer wanted to renew my acquaintance with that woman.

Later yesterday afternoon I got my share of such treatment from a customer at work. He had sent an e-mail Monday that we never got, so we had not done the work he needed done. I looked everywhere for it but it just wasn’t there. I suggested he resend it and I would rush it out as quickly as I could. As I looked at the application I had some questions so I called him back. He was furious because he might lose that tenant and it wasn’t fair. The more I apologized the nastier he became. I tried to ask questions to clarify things and he got angrier. “Your company just isn’t working out for us,” he spat out over the phone. Fortunately God controlled my own tongue, so that instead of the profanity in my mind what came out was another apology and the promise to get his work done ASAP, and that my boss would call him about everything else. God blessed me and that job was done in absolutely record time. But I was left angry and upset. It was not my fault, it was not anybody’s fault. Technology does not always work like it is supposed to. This man could have accepted my apology and I would have still gotten that job done quickly, and in the future I would have done every job for him with a good attitude in response to his good attitude. Now every time I see his name on something I am going to remember being yelled at, and trust me, that file will go to the bottom of my stack.

So, what is the moral of these two little stories?
How do you want to be remembered by the people who serve you?
Do you want them to serve you out of kindness and love, or in anger or fear?
Something to think about.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Romans 8:12-17

Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation – but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. Fir if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.

Previously in Romans 8 Paul compared our sin natures to the Spirit, listing the benefits and consequences of each. His conclusion is that we have an obligation to the Spirit, not the sin nature. We must choose between the two. A live sin nature will lead to death. A dying sin nature will lead to life. The only way to kill the sin nature is by the Spirit. If I choose that, I show who my Father is.

This next sentence is interesting. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. The implication is that life apart from God, life controlled by the sin nature, is a fearful life. Instead of that, we receive a life of sonship. God is now our Father rather than our Judge. God as Judge is a fearful thing, but we call Him Daddy, not Judge.

The Spirit in me, the Spirit that puts to death my sin nature and gives me life and peace, is my own proof that I am God’s child. Do I see evidence of the Spirit putting to death my sin nature and controlling me? If so, I can know that I am God’s child and heir with Christ, and I will share in His glory. But that also means I will suffer with Him. In fact, this last verse makes sharing the suffering a condition of sharing the glory. This verse alone refutes the prosperity gospel so prevalent today. The next section will deal with that more in depth.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Romans 8:9-11

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who lives in you.


Spirit of God lives in me
I am controlled by the Spirit
I have the Spirit of Christ
I belong to Christ
Christ is in me
My spirit is alive
I have righteousness
sin is in me too
my body is dead
Spirit of God
Raised Jesus from the dead
Spirit of God in me
Life will be in my mortal body

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Last Week

I intended to publish this a couple of weeks ago. I wrote it years ago as I prepared for my Shodan test, and I pulled it out a few weeks ago as I prepared for Sandan testing, which was last Friday, BTW, and I passed. :)

Well, here it is, the last week before testing. Five days to sleep and think, to run it over in my brain. Four training days left. My thoughts run the gamut from the profound to the absurd. My emotions range from near panic and insecurity, to an amazing calm and confidence. I have felt my mind’s focus narrowing as the weeks go by. I have kept it at bay so as to continue being wife, mother, teacher and friend, but as the last week unfolds, I am less and less of everything else and more and more just the karate-ka. I wonder how the samurai prepared for battle – I feel the need to do that now. To deliberately put away the outside world and prepare my body, my armor, my weapons, my mind, and my spirit to meet the challenge that awaits me. Death is what most often awaited the samurai. What awaits me?

This test – it is called Shodan – the first level – the beginner who has the basics down and is ready to begin serious training. I will most certainly pass. Sensei would not have me test otherwise. He has said I have nothing left to prove to him. The others know this as well. The testing panel has watched me and trained with me for two years now. Doshu has complimented me publicly. Sensei has called me 1 in a 1000 – he says I have “bushido”. It is not so much about passing or failing, as it is a right of passage. Personally it is a challenge to prove something to myself. To prove that I am worthy of wearing a black belt, of being called sensei. I do not feel worthy. But as I look at my life, I see that I do feel called to martial arts. I do feel a passion for it. I feel alive when I train. Martial arts is a gift that God has given me, and I feel called to share it and teach it. I have put all of myself into preparing for this, and it is enough. Perhaps that is what makes me worthy of the test, the belt, and the title.

So, whatever happens on the test, when I mess up and when I do really well, I intend to carry myself as a shodan should. I intend to learn from the mistakes and let them go. I intend to carry myself with dignity and grace and confidence. I intend to be aggressive and to be humble. I intend to look my sparring partner in the eye, kick butt, and then congratulate and hug them when it is over. I intend to get hit and hurt and continue on. (I also intend to take ibuprofen before and after the test. )

My advice to myself for the test: Breath and relax. Let time slow down. Don’t rush anything. Focus on the technique right now. Let it unfold. Be aggressive. Trust Sensei. Trust God and His sovereignty. And that is what it really comes down to; God’s plan will happen, and I will be a part of it. Enjoy it.

© Rebecca A Givens 11/27/05