Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Sky's The Limit

It's 3:00 a.m. and I should be asleep, but my brain won't let me. Thoughts of church and Christ and His Church are spinning through my mind. I keep thinking of recent blogs and comments I have been reading. Also, I am still trying to figure out this "blogging" world. It seems to be a multi-purpose means of communication. Sometimes forum, sometimes diary, sometimes soap box. I guess the rules haven't been written up yet in Emily Post's Rules of Etiquette. (And maybe that's a good thing!)

Recent comments by blogging friends have kept me thinking on some things. One thing that William said has stuck with me (commenting on "How Will They Know?).

"In coming out, we have made a good first step, and I think it remains unclear how God will use us now as salt and light. In my case, I think my saltiness can only improve, since being a church Christian was not making me very acceptable, influential or impressive to people around me. I have long understood that about myself, but was powerless to effect change. Perhaps now, God will be free to create in me the image he wanted to begin to create 38 years ago, before I made the mistake of starting to attend church."

I have been struggling with my new "identity" in being an out-of-church Christian, since so much of the understanding of what being a Christian means is tied up in church attendance. In fact, millions of un-believers call themselves Christian simply because they attend a church. So it was interesting that yesterday, after reading this comment, I found myself in conversation with a woman at work.

I don't believe this girl is a believer. She is, however, a faithful, church going Catholic. We talked about plans for the weekend, and I told her I would be attending a conference in Ohio about House Church. That opened up a huge door for a conversation around my faith, church history, what "Church" really is, etc. etc. And we made plans to have lunch today.

In restrospect, I see how very insightful William's response is. For one thing, it ehoes my own frustration of many years in church. I did all the "right" things; I was there, as the saying goes, "whenever the doors were open". I was involved in nearly every "ministry" going. I did countless Bible Studies. I took extra courses. I went to prayer meetings. I read my Bible every day, and suffered appropriate guilt if I didn't (tongue in cheek here). I made every effort to drag people into church for services and special events. I tried numerous strategies to make opportunities to talk about my faith. I posted scriptures up around my desk, and for a time had a "religious" screensaver on my computer at work. I talked about "church" whenever possible, with the hopes that talking about it would lead into talking about God.

I did all of these things in the sincere hope that God would "use" me. And I know that He has, many times, over the years. Yet I have been frustrated. I have felt restrained somehow, as though I had to remain in a certain "role", and couldn't simply be myself. As though I couldn't simply love people without having an agenda attached. As though I had to be so careful in how I responded to them, and must always give the "correct" (Biblically referenced) response to whatever part of their lives, or questions about things important to them, that they shared with me. I'm sure many can relate to this.

(I in no way want to discredit spiritual disciplines as a necessity in the life of a believer. They are the ways and means that God by His Spirit transforms us, teaches us, and empowers us to live a victorious, God glorifying Christian life. They can, however, become such a focus that they obscure the beauty and necessity of a heart to heart, intimate walk with Jesus.)

Lately, however, I am happy to say that it is as though I am climbing out of the cocoon of my wrong understanding of what God wants me to be. I am making the wonderful discovery that He simply wants me to be myself! How incredibly liberating this is! Apparently, He can use me in spite of the fact that I don't have all the answers, and I can't quote scripture at the drop of a hat. In fact, it seems as though just being honest with people, and walking in this incredible new freedom, and the joy that accompanies it, might just make people more comfortable around me. Perhaps now the first thing they think when they see me won't be "Oh oh, better watch my language". Perhaps they might see that I am not all that "religious", but that I know something they don't. Or that I know Someone they don't know. And they might just ask me the reason for the hope that is within me, without my having to sneak it into the conversation.

A dear friend gave me a list yesterday. It was a hand-out she had received from Sunday service at church. I think the title had to do with how to grow close to God, or something along that line. As I glanced over the first few "guidelines" that were listed, I automatically began to score myself as to whether I were doing those things or not. It seemed that I was, just naturally. I turned the page over to read the rest, then suddenly felt a familiar sense of not-quite-condemnation, maybe closer to fear, but most certainly a pressure to perform. As though I were standing in front of the teacher, having just handed in my exam, and not sure if I had passed,was holding my breath, waited for the axe to fall. So I stuffed the list into my Bible. It seemed to pose a threat to me somehow; perhaps as a reminder of how I have lived most of my Christian life (and before that, how I lived my Catholic religious life).

I think that list represented the power that I have given to others in my walk with the Lord. I have let them dictate the standards I should live by. I given them permission to "score" my performance as a Christian (and it has been a performance, in many ways). There have been many people that I have granted this authority too, believing that I should submit to a variety of godly, wise, and mature Christians, living and dead, whose stamp of approval I thought I needed.

Lately, however, I have been enjoying a season of unlimited acceptance. God has said to me "all of Heaven is open to you". Clearly. I heard Him speak it to my heart. There is nothing and no one between He and I. I never want there to be anyone or anything standing in the way again. I have His word, His Spirit, His love and acceptance in Christ. There is no other authority but His in my life. This is a wonderful reality, and I cherish this newly realized freedom most dearly.

So William, thank you for sharing. I look forward to hearing how God works through your life, and brings you into increasing freedom in Christ. I pray that more and more people will come into an understanding of what it means to walk free of religion. One step at a time, by God's grace.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Today's "Grace Gem"

Unfathomable Oceans of Grace

(Robert Murray McCheyne)

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus!" Hebrews 12:2

For every look at self--take ten looks at Christ! Live near to Jesus--and all things will appear little to you in comparison with eternal realities.

How many millions of dazzling pearls and gems are at this moment hidden in the deep recesses of the ocean caves. Likewise, unfathomable oceans of grace are in Christ for you. Dive and dive again--you will never come to the bottom of these depths!

When you gaze upon the sun--it makes everything else dark; when you taste honey--it makes everything else tasteless. Likewise, when your soul feeds on Jesus--it takes away the sweetness of all earthly things; praise, pleasure, fleshly lusts, all lose their sweetness.

Keep a continued gaze! Run, looking unto Jesus. So will the world be crucified to you--and you unto the world!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

One By One

I went to a baby shower today. I really didn't want to go, as I figured I wouldn't know most of the people there, and I was busy and didn't want to lose the time out of the day. But I went anyway, since the girl it was for is very dear to me.

When I got there I saw a woman I hadn't talked to in quite a while. Several years, I think. She is a Christian, and has been raised in and was still attending the Catholic Church. She asked me if I was still going to the same church. When I told her I had stopped attending church, her eyes widened, and she said "I haven't been either!" She has, for a month and a half, been staying home from church. She talked about all the reasons why; she wanted to deepen her relationship with God, she was weary of the church thing that never brought about real change, she believed we should be meeting in much smaller groups, etc. etc. Pretty much all the reasons I left.

We were very engaged in our conversation, and both of us were exited, as we knew that God had brought us together to encourage one another. We are going to meet again soon, and I look forward to that. For me, that will be "church". To meet with another who is, not so much running away from church, as running toward Jesus.

I am blessed to have several friends that I meet with regularly, and their hearts are desirous, as mine is, to be together in Christ, and to celebrate Who He is in our lives. I am so satisfied with Jesus, and with the others that He brings my way. That includes all of my "blogging buddies". I know He is calling His people out, to come aside and deepen that love for Him and for others. I am so encouraged today. I pray you will be too, knowing that He is building His church, and getting His Bride ready for His return.

"I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it" (Matthew 16:18)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

How Will They Know?

Since leaving church, I have realized in an ever increasing way just how much I relied upon a lot of "stuff" that goes along with church attendance and the so-called Christian "lifestyle" to form the major part of my Christian witness in the world. So when I did make the decision to leave, one of the first thoughts I had was "what will people think?" Not what will other Christians think, but what will non-Christians think? Will they assume that I have lost my faith? That I have backslidden?

When I told my family, they were quite taken aback. I tried to explain as best as I could. But it is tricky, as none of them are believers. I for sure didn't want them to think that I no longer wanted to be a Christian. But so much of the reputation and understanding of what a Christian is is wrapped up in oft-church-going. And I was one of the most oft! Usually I went to four services a week. My family, and lots of other people, commented on how strange it was for someone to go to church so often. I used to tell them it wasn't because I had to go, but because I wanted to go. And I did want to. Then.

The popular concept of a "good" Christian would certainly include faithful church attendance. Also being involved in a Bible study. And not smoking, or drinking, or swearing. Or going to racey movies, or going to bars, or bingo, or gambling casinos, and the list could go on and on. But that’s not right, either. There are plenty of people who fit the bill in that regard, and yet aren't followers of Jesus Christ. They do all the right things, and live morally upstanding lives, but they are still outside of Christ.

I came across this little blurb today. I had written it several years ago, just rambling on to get things off my chest.

"Aren’t we supposed to be fools for Christ? What good do we do if we just huddle together like a bunch of sheep, never saying anything, or doing anything that might be different? Everything nowadays in the church is all polished and predictable, so religious a lot of the time. Even the way we talk to one another, and the way we talk to God, when we pray. I keep comparing it to how it must have been in the days of the apostles. What would they think of us today? They might not even recognize us as Christians, we are so worldly, so dispassionate about Christ. We are either on some emotional band-wagon or other, or we sit around discussing doctrine, like it was some kind of scientific theory. We try to keep one foot in the world, and one foot in the Kingdom. But it can’t be done. So then we are miserable. And no wonder. He didn’t save us to become some kind of hybrid born-again religion. He has given us eternal life, yet we live as if this life here is all we have. This life here is nothing! When I was first saved, I looked around, and wondered where all these Christians had been all my life. Surely if they felt as exited as I did, they should have been a lot more evident. But it seemed as thought they only ‘came out of the closet’ on Sundays, and on Wednesday nights. The rest of the time they just went about like regular people. You couldn’t really tell them apart from the rest of the world. But I just knew there must be more to being a Christian than what I was doing. Shouldn’t my life make a difference? I want it to make a difference. Or else what is the point of my living it? Even before I was saved, I had a yearning to make a difference, somehow. And now I have a reason, the best reason in the world, to make a difference. I can make a difference for God’s kingdom, I can make a difference for His Name’s sake. What else are we here for? God is working His purpose in us, so we will work it out for Him. He shows us truth, He changes our heart, He changes us inside, so that we will behave differently outside. Otherwise we are just hiding our light under a bushel. It is not meant to be hidden."

It seems that even back then I was questioning, and frustrated. So tell me, how will they know? How will they know that I love Jesus? How will they see a difference in my life, if I'm no longer talking about church and Bible study? If they run into me in the grocery store on a Sunday morning, will they assume that I'm backslidden, or that because I don't go to church I don't love God any more? I think I know what the answer is. The answer is that the love of Christ will be evident in my life; my love for Him, His for me, and His for them. If I cultivate that relationship, and make seeking Him and knowing Him my highest priority. If I hide His word in my heart, and ask daily and hourly and moment by moment for grace to be faithful to what He has called me to be.

This is an important issue to me. I am more concerned about what non-believers think than what other Christians think of my leaving church. Have you ever wondered about this? What conclusions have you come to?

Friday, September 19, 2008

The View From There

(Article for a local newspaper)

“Who is like the LORD our God, Who is enthroned on high, Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth?” (Psalm 113:5, 6 NASB)

The office where I work is situated so that it affords a good view of the city from its east-facing windows. Often, as I pass by these windows, I pause to gaze out at the horizon, taking in the grandeur of a perfectly clear blue sky; dark thunderclouds threatening in the distance, or watching the rain teem down during a summer storm. Scenes such as these lead me to reflect upon our smallness as a city, and as human beings, in comparison to the great expanse of the horizon, and the power displayed by nature during our different seasons. It’s as though we are ants in an ant hill, busying ourselves as we go about our daily lives, our own personal worlds with their details and distractions taking all of our attention. I imagine how we must appear to God, as He looks down from His heaven, and I marvel at the notion that He is aware of every aspect of our lives; He Who created the heavens and the earth.

“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?” (Psalm 8:3,4)

I think of how God watches over this world, orchestrating events according to His infinite wisdom. I am reminded of His faithfulness, and reflect upon how little I acknowledge His presence and activity in the world around me. Pondering these things always brings a sense of wonder to my soul, and I can’t help but silently praise and thank this awesome and merciful God, Who condescends to reveal Himself to His creatures.

God is watching over us, and has left His mark everywhere we look in creation. The next time you gaze up at fluffy white clouds against a blue sky, or a canopy of stars on a clear night, remember that the One Who painted the sky with those clouds, and hung those stars in the heavens, has His eye upon you.

“For the eyes of the LORD move to and from throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2Chronicles 16:9a NASB)

Has He your heart today?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Body Life

I attended a meeting today at work. It was the first of many that will take place over the coming months as our organization puts together new policies made necessary by our recent restructuring. In the introductory package that we each received was a list of team responsibilities. As I read them, I couldn't help but relate them to much of the material I have been perusing over the last few months about Biblical (sometimes called "House") church. I will list some of them below as they were written and discussed, only I will include in brackets words that would refer to Christians as gathered in a fellowship/worship meeting.

1. You are an important member of the team (Body of Christ).
  • As a member of the team (body), you will participate in dialogue, group work (prayer, teaching, singing) and decision making. Being a participant means "one who shares, or takes part in," not one who observes.
  • Plan to attend each meeting....Communicate planned abscenses to your team lead (brothers and sisters)...Your attendance and commitment to the (body) is very important.

2. Your contributions to the team (body) are valuable.

  • Recognize that you come to the team (body) with your own wealth of knowledge and experience (spiritual gifts). You also come to the team (body) representing the wealth of knowledge and experience of your peers (ones that have discipled you).
  • Be aware that the sharing of information (instruction) from yourself as the embodiment of your peers (ones that have discipled you) will be recognized and valued.

3. Demonstrate respect for each member of your team (body).

  • Organizational (Biblical) values will be demonstrated among all members of your team (body) and in your team work (body life).
  • When contributing to the group dialogue and decision making, each team (body) members' thoughts will be listened to and not ignored or dismissed.
  • Remember that listening is also a part of participating.

4. Practice objectivity. Trust and support will provide the conditions essential where information (edification) can be shared openly and mutual and consensual understanding (encouragement) will be achieved.

  • Assist our team (brothers and sisters) in creating a sense of safety, openness and trust to help your team members (brothers and sisters) feel secure to contribute to the functions (use of spiritual gifts) of the team (body).
  • Be aware that it is okay to experience risk.
  • Remember, there is no hierarchy amongst the team (body) membership. Each member will have an equal voice.

5. Acknowledge that conflict and the resolution of conflict between members of your team (brothers and sisters) are integral to the collaborative process (healthy growth and functioning of the Body of Christ).

  • Demonstrate responsibility when contributing to the resolution of any conflicts that may arise.
  • Maintain respect (show love to) for all team (body) members involved regardless of the outcome.

As I read and re-read these items, I could not help but see a sad irony in them. They clearly mirror some basic principles as outlined in scripture regarding how we are to function as members of Christ's body, especially when gathered to worship and fellowship together.

I mused over these things for several minutes during that meeting today. How tragic that a secular workplace should promote, and attempt to adhere to, a set of instructions like these. It is tragic, because even though we as Christians have clear guidelines laid out for us in scripture, we seem to ignore them completely when it comes to our gathering together to worship God and fellowship with one another. And this committe, apart from any acknowledgement of God or His ways, may more closely resemble the Biblical model of "church", at least in terms of form and function, than the majority of Christian gatherings today. Sad indeed.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Since leaving church, I have done a lot of reading about Institutional Church vs. House Church. I am amazed at the plethora of information that is available, and at the numbers of other Christians who have taken the same step that I have in stopping attendance at Church buildings/meetings.

Like so many issues regarding Christian life and practice, there are various opinions around this subject. On the side that would align itself to a move back to a house setting for Christian fellowship and worship I have found several sources that would appear to be sound and solid. I have also come across some ideas and "teachings" that I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. There are arguments, both for and against, that appear to have merit.

A tendency I have had, since becoming a Christian, is to want to grab onto some person or doctrine or teaching and make them/it my source of confidence and assurance as I live out my faith each day. Unfailingly, any of these that I latch onto will eventually prove to be fallible, and I realize, once again, that I have created an idol out of them that I have put between myself and God. I know that many can relate to this.

In this day and age of highly visible Preachers and authors, and with so much information readily available in the form of books, blogs, tapes, online articles etc. etc., it is hard to avoid. Yet at the same time, it should only reinforce to us that no one person or denomination has perfect truth. There are arguments that have been going on for centuries around issues of faith and practice, and they will contine until Jesus comes back. The house church issue is just one of many, although a very important one.

I often think back to the time of the early church. When all the believers had was the Holy Spirit, each other, and portions of scripture. I imagine that they had a much easier time of hearing Jesus' voice. They had disagreements, to be sure. But there was nothing to compare to the different camps that we have today in Christendom.

So what to do? How do you know you are on the right track? Do you go with the majority? With the teachers that you respect most? In delving into these things, I know I could dive so deep into the original meaning of Greek words that I might never come up for air as I wrestle with verb tenses and cultural context. I could listen to a hundred messages, and read a dozen books, and still be torn between two sides. I could remain in a state of confused second guessing, immobilized by the reality that by myself I will never know the right steps to take. On my own, with only my own understanding and ingrained presuppositions, I will only ever move in the path of least resistance.

In thinking on these things, I thought of dogs, and how they hear frequencies far beyond what humans are capable of. I found this on the Internet:

(Wegler, Monika. Dogs: How to Take Care of Them and Understand Them. New York: Barrons Educational Series, 1996):

"Dogs hear high tones in particular much better than humans do. Humans can pick up an average of 20,000 acoustic vibrations per second (kHz), whereas a dog is able to perceive between 40,000 and 100,000 vibrations."

I could let myself be in a state of spiritual confusion if I tried to figure it all out on my own. But the glad truth is that, at the end of the day, I hear His voice. I know I am hearing the voice of Jesus. Not in specific words, heard with my ears, or even in my head. It is more as though I am being drawn by a magnet. I stand before a sea of opposing opinion and thought, and He parts it for me, letting me walk across on the solid ground of this knowledge that He is leading me. Like a dog hears frequencies unheard by humans, as with a dog whistle, I hear His voice beckoning me to follow Him. And every time I come to this place in my thinking, remembering it is Him, after all, that I seek, I find peace once more. I will follow Him, and trust Him for all the answers.

He leads each of us, calls each of us that are His. That is our rest, trusting Him alone, seeking Him alone, following Him alone.

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;" (John 10:27)

Monday, September 8, 2008

On Leaving

A couple from my church announced yesterday to the congregation that they were leaving. I know that all were shocked, and many were hurt. I re-live, in a way, my own leaving. The second guessing - should I have done it another way? Was I wrong, in that many were hurt? Should I have stayed for their sakes? To save them confusion, shock, hurt?

But once more now, as then, the conclusion I must come to is that what is at stake is greater than their feelings, or mine. It goes beyond trying to preserve the "fellowship" we had. It becomes not a question of how they are affected, or even what I see as right. It is about the life of the Lord Jesus being lived, being released, being visible the world.

In these last days, when "Church" has evolved to be a thing so far removed from that first expression of Him, it is about a restoration, a resurrection of that Life in our midst. Apart from custom, ritual, and tradition that have long been heaped and layered upon it, smothering it, hiding it under a bushel.

Let our light shine! Let the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, shine through your people, oh LORD!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Today's "Grace Gem"

I subscribe to a daily devotional called "Grace Gems". They are snippets of Puritan sermons and essays. I found today's particularly encouraging.

I know it is easy to get "down" on ourselves. We can be too introspective, and dwell on our sins and failings to the point that even our dwelling can be sin. There is a quote by Robert Murray McCheyne that helps to put these things in perspective. It goes something like this:

"For every look you take at yourself (your sin), take ten thousand looks at Jesus."

Today's "Grace Quote" complements that advice, in reassuring us of Christ's love for us, that depends not on our goodness, but on His grace. Here it is:

When He discovers repulsive things in us
(J. R. Miller, "The Every Day of Life" 1892)

"Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end!" John 13:1

Jesus takes us as we are, and does not get weary of us--whatever faults and sins He discovers in us. There is infinite comfort in this for us. We are conscious of our faults, blemishes and infirmities; and the unworthiness and the unloveliness which is in our souls.

Many of us have pages in our biography, which we would not dare to spread out before the eyes of anyone!There are in our inner heart--feelings, desires, longings, cravings, jealousies, motives--which we would not feel secure in laying bare to our dearest, truest, and most patient and gentle friend. Yet Christ knows them all.

Nothing is hidden from His eyes. To Him there is perfect revealing of the innermost springs of our being. Yet we need not be afraid that His friendship for us will change, or grow less, or withdraw itself--when He discovers repulsive things in us. Yet He loves us--loves unto the uttermost! Christ loves us not according to our worthiness--but according to the richness of His own gracious heart!

"May you have the power to understand, as all God's people should--how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it!" Ephesians 3:18-19

Saturday, September 6, 2008


"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." Pilippians 2:5-8

I have a granddaughter who is two and a half years old. It is an age when children can go from being incredibly sweet and endearing to impossibly defiant in an instant. They observe and mimic everyone and everything around them, and I find it fascinating to watch little Margaret process her observations, and see the obvious conclusions she has come to played out in her behaviour.

Nothing is held back at two. She has come to the widely held conclusion that we need to be first at everything. Tasks or requests that she previously would challenge with a defiant “No!” are suddenly of tremendous importance and very desirable if my daughter interjects an “OK, never mind, Mommy will go first.” Margaret will instantly reverse her previous decision, exclaiming “No, me first!” as she hurries off to obey the directive of the moment, be it hand washing or potty-using, or any other of the many daily requests my daughter might make of her.

It is something to see how this is an instinct that we all have. Coming first is so vital to us in many areas of life. We want to be the best, the first, the foremost. Winning is everything, and fame and fortune are things to be sought after whole heartedly. We are all alike; no matter how modest and humble we may appear on the outside, human nature is such that pride is often the motive for “doing our best”, and we all secretly, at one time or another, desire to be at the top of the heap, and grab some glory for ourselves.

In the Bible, there are many examples of this propensity toward outshining all the rest. Even two of Jesus’ disciples, James and John, sought after the most desirable position in heaven, to be seated next to Him. Like siblings fighting over the front seat in the family car, they demanded to be considered for this honour (Mark 10:37).

How unlike us Jesus was in this regard. He, though being God as well as human, spent His earthly life in ignominy, never demanding to be first, or expecting that people would treat Him with any deference at all. He had nothing to prove, being so secure in His Father’s love and will, that He laid aside His heavenly glory to live as we do. He knew His place, and said that His work was “to do His Father’s will,” even to die a shameful death on the cross.

I find I am learning many lessons in life in unexpected ways. Watching my grand daughter I see some of what drives me from time to time. Being a Christian means a continual evolving toward being like Jesus. I long to more and more rest in my heavenly Father’s love and keeping, instead of striving for things that He has not ordained to be part of my experience here.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." 1Peter 1:3-5

It is said that in interpreting scripture, the three most important rules are "context, context, context", but at times I am compelled to lift certain verses from the page, to ponder them on their own, away from the verses before and after. I want to set them apart, like when I find some exceptionally lovely beads when I want to make some jewellry. They stand out from the others in the display, and I hold them up, examining and admiring them for their unique qualities. In that way, many verses are "stand alone" in their beauty and richness of truth.

Sometimes when we read scripture, verses that we have seen time and again can stop us in our tracks and let us go no further. In reading the above passage this morning, I was amazed, perhaps for the first time, by the list of incredible, encouraging truths it contains:

  • We are to bless God. He is blessed already, in that He is Who He is. Yet we are to bless Him for that, praising and thanking Him for what He has done for us.

  • He is merciful. Because of His mercy, His great mercy, He has acted on our behalf to make possible the following:

  • We are born again. I don't think we see this term used many times in scripture. I can think of one other time, in the Gospel of John (3:5), when Jesus said we must be born again to see or enter the kingdom of God. The gist of it is, that we were once spiritually dead, but God in mercy brought us to life. In the spiritual sense, we are born dead. And it is a state that we cannot bring ourselves out of, any more than a cadaver can raise itself to life. Dead means dead, with no life or power existing to change that status. God brought us to life spiritually.

  • We have a living hope. When we were still spiritually dead, we may have put our hope in various things for ultimate contentment and safety in this life, and the hereafter. Those hopes were dead; pointless and founded on lies, since they did not include hope in Jesus Christ as our Savior. But since we are now included in Christ, and are joint heirs with Him, we can be confident that our hope is secured by His perfect life, death, and resurrection. He is our hope, and He is a risen, living Saviour.

  • We have an inheritance waiting for us in heaven. It is perfect, secure, for sure, and forever. It will not diminish, fade, or disappear. That inheritance is our completed salvation, glorification and sanctification. It is reserved for us, and will be revealed in the last time, or the end of time as we know it.

  • We are protected or kept by God! He didn't just save us, then leave us to carry on in our own strength. Grace is not just for our initial salvation; it is something that is poured out into our lives every moment that we live and breathe. God is able to keep us from falling, and to present us, blameless before Himself (Jude v 24).

God's word is so rich. These verses are not truly stand alone, in that they describe truths that are reinforced and reiterated throughout scripture. But as I consider all that is said in this one sentence, I am struck anew by God's mercy and provision for lost sinners. He gives us new birth, brings us into His family with Christ as our Brother, provides grace to keep us till the end, then welcomes us into eternity where we will enjoy sinless, blessed communion with Him forever.

If you are in Christ today, I hope these verses speak peace and joy to your soul as they do to mine.