The Longest Plan of Salvation, Like Ever.

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I’m a details kind of gal. I can’t help it. I blame it on my ADD. Mom used to say that when she would ask me to clean a room, she’d come back 45-minutes later to see the room looking like a disaster. But let me tell you, the window panels were cleaner than the day we got them. I’ve always been like that. I tend to be very focused on the details that make up the big picture.

When I sit down to study scripture, I am the same way. I spent about nine months in the book of Colossians, daily dissecting every single word in the book. I have to remind myself before studying to read the book fully first. I have to see the big picture, so I won’t miss the forest for the trees.

Today I sat down to study Romans. Lord bless it. I was in 1:1-4 for two and a half hours. I love connecting with the Lord that deeply, but I know (time wise) that’s not sustainable for everyday life. I wanted to share some thoughts on how cool these verses are:

1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our lord,

Why are these verses important?

It’s important because it sets up verses 5-6. Well, and all of Romans concerning God’s plan of salvation.

I tried to sum up what these verses were saying. Here’s what I got, “The gospel of God was promised by God through His prophets in the OT. The gospel was always about Jesus-who was a descendant of David in the flesh and the Son of God in power, proven by his resurrection.”

Why are the Prophecies important? 

I thought to myself, “Why is it so crucial that Paul is confirming Christ’s fulfillment of prophecy to the church in Rome?”

One reason, I think, was to reaffirm that YHWH, the Lord our God, is the one true God and is sovereign over all creation. Looking back at the early Roman church, most of the people there were gentiles having come from a long line of polytheism. It’s essential to point out that there is only one God and He has made a way for redemption.

One cool thing is that these verses show is that Jesus Christ dying for the sins of man and conquering death through resurrection was God’s plan of redemption from the beginning of time. It wasn’t a “Whoops! Let’s see how this turns out and if I like this generation I’ll choose to save them, and if not oh well!” kind of thing. This was His plan because of who God is. The Lord’s character is consistent and has been since the beginning of time. His plan attests to that.

From cover to cover, we see that this was God’s plan and He has been faithful to complete it for His glory.We can see in Genesis that it is God’s plan for Jesus to crush the head of the serpent. In Revelation, we see Christ’s second coming and conquering sin, death and Satan for all eternity. It’s the same promises in all of scripture for all time that are all fulfilled by Christ. We know this to be true because of 2 Corinthians 1:20. There is not one promise that He has made that is not fulfilled in Christ.

These verses in Romans help show God’s goodness and His steadfastness to creation for thousands of years. And y’all, something I struggle with and fight to believe in? The fulfillment of His promises (that have already been fulfilled and will be fulfilled in Christ) are in no way dependent on me or my works. His plan for salvation was never “If you’re good enough, I’ll send a savior.” It was His plan to send a savior, and He is accomplishing it for His glory through which we benefit from that grace. It’s not about me. That’s a humbling position to be in.

Where in the OT is Jesus prophesied about?

Firstly, who even claimed (besides Paul) that the prophets were talking about Jesus? Well, in Luke 24, Jesus claims that!

In regards to the prophetic books, I don’t know about you, but I only ever really think about Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Isaiah. I think of all those verses that we look at around Christmas about the birth of Jesus. I looked it up in my ESV Study Bible (Thanks Steph Norris!) and found that there are former prophets, minor prophets and the main four everyone typically thinks of. And you know what’s cool, if you add up all the prophetic books in the OT, there are 22 in the OT. We all know, thanks to the help of the Jesus Storybook Bible, that all the stories in the Bible are about Jesus. It doesn’t matter if they are a “prophetic book” or not. But what is so cool is that the promises of the prophets in the OT are concerning His son, Jesus. That’s really cool! 22/36 books in the OT testify to Christ’s coming. Awesome.

Just to encourage you today that the gospel is God’s plan for salvation from the beginning of time, here’s a few verses I found in the OT that encouraged my heart that this whole Christianity thing isn’t made up. It’s too consistently true over mass amounts of time to be a lie.

Micah 5, Isaiah 53, Isaiah 42:1-9, Daniel 7:13-14 (cf. Mark 14:61-62 and Rev. 19:11-16).

Respond

One thing I think we can do as we reflect on these verses is ask God to make this truth deep to us. Worship Him that it is true and seek to dig deeper into His gospel of Grace, Mercy and Redemption.

He’s so good, y’all.

 

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The God of the Nations

So, count the cost brothers and sisters. This is not an invitation to an easy life. For 2000 years, thousands and thousands of missionaries, the unnamed-no biographies written about them, just unnamed people of whom the world is not worthy, have counted the cost and put their lives at risk and reached the lost with the only message of salvation. -John Piper

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I was talking to a new friend last night about my heart for evangelism, internationals and for missions. She looked at me and said, “You’re heart is there. Go for it.” So simple if I hadn’t just sat through a service that spoke to my heart about letting go of everything and allowing the Lord to lead my life.

You see, I’ve been bouncing around America getting to see some amazing people, but also hoping that the Lord would just open a door to go back on the mission field to the unreached. If that’s in a church in America focusing on women’s discipleship and evangelism, or training students in the UK, or working at a Refugee center, I’m ready. I have been frantically searching online for missions organizations that work with Muslims/Arabs, considered applying for jobs in Seattle and the UK, and I even talked with a Missions team in Popenguine, Senegal. I have been so ready to be doing something for the kingdom that involves internationals. And that’s where the Lord checked my heart.

Mary, surrender it all to me. You can’t manipulate yourself into my will. Trust that I’ll lead you. “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other to keep you from doing the things you want to… the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”

I feel like this has been a sweet reminder that when I’m being anxious, that is a work of the flesh. It opposes peace. Peace comes from having trust in a trustworthy God. Anxiousness comes from trying to find rest in what I can do, what job I can find, who I can network with. He is trustworthy. I can follow Him and know that He will lead me in His calling for my life. I can have joy knowing that He is faithful not only to me, but to the nations that don’t yet know Him. He is working; He doesn’t need us but He sure does delight in using us.

I wrestled with the Lord a little bit last night thinking, “Okay God, is this burden I have for the nations normal? I feel like a freak. Is this me that made this up? Is this idolatry towards global missions in my heart? Is this your vision that you casted for me that I get to be a part of?”

This morning I shared a little bit about what God did in Senegal this past year at a church in Cleveland, Tennessee. [Y’all, bless my heart. Public speaking without having 3 cups of coffee is so not my thing.] I shared two verses that have been giving me hope. Here’s one of those verses from Revelation 21 about the New Heaven and the New Earth.

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.

They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.. meaning Heaven isn’t full of people who look and sound like me. It isn’t going to be full of people who speak English. There will be people there who have never heard of Starbucks. There will be people who have seen and experienced very different things on this Earth than westerners. The nations will be represented in Heaven because God created each and every one of them and loves them. There is hope for the unreached, the lost, the hard hearted, the church goer who has played the good Christian role their whole lives without truly having life-altering faith in Christ. There is hope for each and every one. And all of us will be there because Christ died for our sins. We have faith in Him because someone shared the great news with us. Faith comes through hearing. I want challenge you with this, “The Gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.” -Carl F.H. Henry. Are we praying, supporting or going? Are we a part of this? Is the gospel good news to us? Do we know what the gospel is? Is this just our mindset on global missions or do we even apply it to the lost in our area?

One of the sweet things the Lord has reminded me of this morning was that it doesn’t matter where we are physically. The lost are everywhere. And one of the sweet things He showed me was that I live in a country full of internationals. The two bus boys at a restaurant I ate at were from Tanzania and Nigeria. As I was walking out of the restaurant, I hear in a very distinctly Irish accent, “So, have you ever preached in Northern Ireland?” I whipped my head around so fast that I wasn’t quite sure that my body could catch up and exclaimed, “Whaaaaaaaat!?”

Three nations represented in little ol’ Cleveland within 3 minutes. Seriously, the Lord confirmed that He does want me to have a heart for the nations. He wants me praying for the Muslims at the Mosques in Senegal. He wants me supporting people going to the hard to reach nations. But He also has me here for a season too. There are so many different nationalities here that I can’t ignore the need here just because I want to go. I am “going” it just looks different than the Irish countryside I’d hoped for. 😉

The Lord was so sweet this morning to remind me that missions here matters. He just happened to use two bus boys and a group of Irish believers to catch my attention.

All the Poor and Powerless

Today was our monthly day with the Lord. Basically we’re given a full-mandatory day with the Lord to seek Him and dig deeper into Him. The girls on our team went into the city to a fancy café/bakery. We walked down about 2 blocks to hail a cab, and took the longest car ride into downtown. Generally speaking, it takes about 10-15 minutes to get downtown. It took over an hour to get to our destination. On our way there we were stopped numerous times on the expressway and beach-strip due to what the Senegalese call “Monday traffic.”

There are some days that I forget I’m in Africa. Today was not one of those days. All alongside the roads to downtown were children begging for money and food, women in wheelchairs begging with their babies in their laps, and people who were sleeping on the streets. I hate that my initial response was to look away. I didn’t want to see their need and their hurt. To be honest, I felt really helpless, like I didn’t have anything to offer them. I didn’t have any money or food on me and there still remains the ever lingering language barrier. What on earth could I offer them? After walking into one of the nicest coffee, sandwich, and pastry shops in Dakar, I instantly realized the poverty gap and which side I was standing on.

As we sat inside to study God’s word, listen to podcasts, and learn more about God, I realized my plan to learn more about God’s grace was going to be righteously usurped by God. He wanted to sweetly remind me that Christ is worth losing everything to gain Him alone. Philipians 3:8-12 were a sweet reminder that righteousness (a right standing before God) does not come from the law and my own efforts. It comes through faith in Christ and is dependent only upon that faith. One of the key phrases that stuck out was, “that I may know Him.” Gosh, what a passion for Christ that I often lack! I want to lose all, count all as rubbish for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my lord!

As I meditated on that scripture, the events and sightings of the day hit me in the face. Christ is worth giving up everything because when we put our faith and trust into what He did for us on the cross, we become righteous before God. I might not have had any money or food on me, but I am able to tell all the poor and powerless that there is a God who loves them so much that He gave His only son to bring us back to Him.

I love that God is constantly making the gospel more and more precious to me. It is for everyone, especially all the poor and powerless.

Col. 1:21-22 When the Gospel Comes Alive

For the past month, God has kept me in Colossians Chapter 1. There are a number of things in this chapter that I believe, but I had a hard time understanding. God’s situated this time for me to specifically dwell on the diety of Christ and what that means in relation to the gospel.

The other night I was doing my devotional study over a segment of Colossians. Here’s what I took away from Colossians 1:12-23 with special emphasis on verses 21 and 22.

Verses 15-20: Paul is explaining the preeminence and diety of Christ. He is:

  • the image of the invisible God
  • the firstborn of all creation
  • the head of the body (church)
  • the beginning
  • the firstborn of the dead
  • preeminent
  • through Him all things were made
  • everything was made for Him
  • All things hold together in Him
  • reconciliation comes through Him
  • peace is made by the blood of the cross AND
  • all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell in Him.
Now that we have that out of the way… Starting in verse 21:
“So you, Mary, you who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds…”
V21 This verse represents my spiritual condition before Christ. I was alienated from God. Hostile in mind which is opposite to the mind of Christ. And I was doing evil deeds. So often my heart can become calloused to the gospel. This verse is so personal and truthful to where I was at. I know all three of these attributes to be true of me.
One cool thing I noticed about this verse was the order of our condition. First, we are alienated/separated from God. That’s our inherant spiritual condition, thank you Adam. Next is that we are hostile in mind. I picture Adam and Eve before the fall being so blissfully, ignorant of the possibility of evil existing because it didn’t in their world. Then I look at CNN today. There’s so much manipulation, abuse, and crime that we are almost absolutely numb to it’s effects. Because we’re sinful and separated from God, we are hostile in our thinking. I know, even now being a daughter of the Most High, I still entertain thoughts that do not honor God. Lastly, evil deeds. Romans talks about surrendering your thoughts so that they aren’t given the opportunity to become your actions. Again, super cool.
Vs. 22 “…He has now reconciled in His body of flesh by His death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him…”
There is so much to say about this verse.
  1. Before–> alienated. Christ reconciles us to Himself through His death on the cross as payment for our sins. After–> restored! My friend and I were talking earlier this week about how God is so merciful to have given us a way to know Him. Oftentimes the argument comes up that there can’t possibly be only one way. My friend, Joel, said something that was so simple yet so profound, “Praise God there is even one way.” The wages of sin is death; we earn death from our sins. But God has reconciled us to Himself through the atonement of Christ’s death on the cross.
  2. The second part of this verse talks about us being presented as holy and blameless and above reproach before Him. So, let’s rewind. Before we were separated from God, hostile in mind, and doing evil deeds. After Christ reconciles us, we are holy, blameless, and above reproach in the eyes of God. Can I just remind myself that God is holy? I mean, shoot, He created holy!  Okay, just making that clear… for myself of course!
I love that these verses don’t deny how broken, sinful, and in need of a savior we were/are. V. 21 starts out with who you once were. These verses aren’t like, “Aw, Mary you’ve just been doing such a great job being good… (rabbit trail, who defines good?).” Paul writes (this is Mary’s interpretation similar to the Message: Remix but on RedBull), “Girl, let me tell you where you were at. Alienated. Sinful. Corrupt.”
Only God could have scripted such a beautiful and perfect redemption story. In spite of our hostile minds and evil deeds, God sent His son to die on the cross so that we could be reconciled to Him, called holy and blameless by the Most Righteous Judge. Is this not good news?
We who were once hostile in mind now are able to have the mind of Christ. We were enslaved to sin and indebted to God because our evil deeds earned us death. We are now blameless before Him. We are above reproach. Is this not amazing grace? We can stand with full confidence before the Holy of holies and be called forgiven, holy, blameless and His beloved all because of Christ’s submission to His father’s will. Praise God there is a way!
I don’t know of any other area of scripture that has more clearly given me an understanding of God’s mercy and grace. This hit me in the face and it is truly amazing.

Chipping Away At The Polished Exterior

One thing I’m learning is how much I fall short. I’m not sure if this lesson is actually coming from ministry work or if it’s just coming as I’m getting a deeper and more full understanding of grace.

This whole week I’ve been putting all of my responsibilities on hold. I really can’t tell you the reasoning behind this. I know I need to continue support raising, finish my Doctrinal studies, and finish 4 books, but there has been a heavy exhaustion over me. I am learning that I ran the race well in some parts, but I’ve not finished well. I got caught up in what I thought I was capable of doing (not relying on God) and what I expected from others. When others weren’t meeting that expectation, I was getting bitter. Tonight there was a sin that God revealed to me, and I’d been fighting it for a few days. Without going into too much detail, it really was a heart issue that stemmed from a lack of trust in God and my own self-seeking pride.

I sat down tonight and picked up my Chris Tiegreen The One Year: At His Feet devotional and got hit in the face with some biblical truth. And as God is sovereign, it applied directly to my heart and my situation. It was over Mark 7:14-23:

Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” 

After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable.  “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them?  For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)

He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them.  For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

“They (Pharisees and religion) all attempt to reform the visible result of sin without treating the internal condition. Jesus is the only remedy that cleans a person from the inside out, if we will let Him.”- Tiegreen

My heart is the issue here. I’m pretty capable of living within the “American-Evangelical Christian boundaries.” The polished exterior isn’t the issue. It’s truly what’s on the inside that counts. I have this circular effect/flow model going on in my mind. What I do, or my will, affects my heart, but my heart determines my will. What I mean by that is if I choose to deliberately go against God’s will or promptings through the Holy Spirit, my heart begins to become calloused, hard, and cold. Before this act of disobedience, my heart was probably not in the right place and it was not aligned with God’s. My heart was more than likely focused on self gratification, praise, and satisfaction and self-worth in other things other than the Lord Himself which resulted in my actions of going against God. Therefore, then, my actions of sin pulls me further away form Jesus which affects my heart which snowballs into a big mess.

How much smaller and less devastating would it be for us (preaching to myself) for us to catch the snowball before it starts taking off of the top of the hill? Humbling myself before God in repentance and asking Him to not only forgive me but to continue to change me to be more like Christ is the answer.

“The problem many of us have faced (or continue to face) is that we can restrain our outward behavior while retaining all of the evil thoughts within us. What we’ve changed is our appearance, not our hearts… (The solution is) the habitation of Christ Himself in our hearts by faith, and our constant, conscious reliance on Him (and cooperation with Him) to change us from within.”- Tiegreen

I can’t imagine what we would all look like if we didn’t restrain what we were entertaining in our minds and hearts. I can’t even begin to tell you what a mess I’d be, let alone how many times I’d be married. (You girls know what I’m talking about!) If God looks at our hearts, what does it say about my heart that I am entertaining these resentful attitudes towards fellow believers and not repenting of it? How can I just not “act out” my attitude and claim to be well? I am still struggling with the flesh, therefore, I am not well and am in a constant state of needing God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness (Luke 5:31).

I’m learning more and more that when I see something critical/harsh come out of my mouth it is an overflow of what’s going on in my heart (Luke 6:45). That is a sign that I need to check my heart and see what’s going on in there. Also realizing that my desires are to reflect God and honor Him and if they aren’t, again, heart issue.

So, I’ll leave you readers with this song. It’s super sweet because it was the first worship song I ever learned, and it carries so many precious memories alongside of it. And here’s the last bit from Tiegreen. Sorry this is so long and messy. Again, I am human and in need of grace just as much as the next guy. I appreciate the grace you’re giving as you read this. Please be praying for my heart and my attitude.

“If this is your struggle-and you are not alone- resist the way of the flesh. Do not be content with covering the outward manifestation of an unclean heart. Invite Jesus to do an inward work, conforming your heart into His pure image-not just once, but constantly. Believe that He will, and see what happens.”- Tiegreen

Satisfied

Tonight’s post is going to be short, hopefully! Aimee (my bunk bed mate) is trying to go to sleep, so I don’t want my typing to annoy her! 🙂

Today while I was on campus a student came up to me and said, “Hey, I don’t know if you remember this or not but do you remember when we talked about shrooms?” I remember, before I knew Jesus, talking to some guys outside of my dorm about drugs (this was when I still did them). I can’t remember specifically what type of drugs or what else the conversation was about. And I don’t remember who those guys were, but apparently this guy was one of them! Anyways, I answered him with a, “No?” And then he asked, “Well, do you know where I could get some?” And I responded with a quick and firm, “No.” And then he walked off.

At first I thought this encounter was slightly humorous. It’s me. I live such a different life than the old Mary that it felt like he mistook me for someone else. Once I started to think about it, my heart began to hurt for him. This guy who was looking for satisfaction, fulfillment, purpose, and joy three years ago is STILL searching. Stop and really think about that. A guy came up to me and asked me for a way to get drugs and all I could do was stare at him. I didn’t say, “Let me give you something better than drugs: Jesus.” Or, “Satisfaction can only come by having a relationship with God through His son, Jesus Christ.” I just stared at him.

I texted my roommates and let them know what happened. Maury prayed that the Lord would allow me to share the gospel with this student at some point in time. I really hope that the Lord gives me that opportunity.

Anyways, that was a really weird encounter that made me think about how unaware I am of other’s spiritual conditions. I see this person who is looking for drugs rather than a person who is lost and separated from God. I’m thankful for this experience, but I am praying this is not the end. I want to see this guy on campus again and share Christ with him. I want to see him come to know Jesus and have Jesus radically change his life. I want him to find satisfaction in the satisfy-er. I want to see him drink water and NEVER be thirsty again.

This is a great photo!
John 4:13-14 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

I need to go to bed now! It’s late and Aimee’s probably getting frustrated 🙂 Please be praying for this young man!

Thanks so much!

Mary