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Why every mom should study Revelation

This past summer, I finished up the first half of a study in the book on Exodus, and while I plan to finish the second half eventually, I felt compelled to skip to the last book of the Bible, Revelation. Because so many controversies and questions surround those final chapters of Scripture, I was hesitant to dig in. What if I didn’t understand the apocalyptic language? Would it be a waste of my time? Maybe I should just stick to more approachable books!

I couldn’t shake the fact that it would be a great time to study the coming judgment with Egypt’s plagues fresh in my mind so I began by listening to the audio version on my phone as I cooked and cleaned around house. I found myself stopping in the middle of my chores, captivated by the descriptive picture John paints about the future of our world. I was thrilled to find that my husband owned a copy of Dr. James Hamilton’s commentary on Revelation.  I could use it to clarify some of the verses that still stumped me.

At the time I am writing this, I am a bit more than half way through the book and have been struck over and over again by beautiful gospel themes that have brought a new purpose to my living. I am convinced that every busy mom needs to study Revelation.

Here’s why:

1. Revelation offers a bigger perspective on mundane concerns.

Meal prep, laundry, kindergarten reading homework – a mom’s day-to-day life is full to the brim with the mundane. Repetitive tasks can make the most resilient of mothers want to lose her mind. Worries about money, educational choices, and car repairs run through our distracted minds all day long. Revelation offers a bigger view. It’s impossible to read about trumpets, seven headed dragons, and eternal rejoicing without seeing that God is coordinating something much greater than my little daily problems.

2. Revelation reminds us that the mundane matters.

God is the master story weaver. Nothing escapes His attention or care. This is true even when we label our lives as “boring” or “unimportant.” Think of it this way. Our call as humans is to be image bearers of our God. This has been true ever since the Garden of Eden. While we fail often at reflecting His glory, goodness, and love, the daily responsibilities we accomplish bring organization to an otherwise chaotic world. In that, we are bearing God’s image just as he created order out of nothing in the beginning.

Our mundane duties also have a future purpose. Courtney Reissig explains it this way in her book, Glory in the Ordinary.

“Our work is preparing us to rule and reign with Christ in a new earth, where the curse is gone, and we will work for God’s glory, always.”

I might scrub the dirty skillet little harder or complain a bit less about the smelly trash when I think about the eternal objective of my work. What I practice now will be used forever!
It’s not just our work that matters, however. He is using the interactions, struggles, and joys I experience each day to further the reach of His kingdom. In other words, my story is combined with your story to complete His story.

3. Revelation gives us a renewed sense of Jesus’ glory and power.

A thousand things demand our attention during a twenty-four hour period. It can be hard to know which task or person should receive the focus of our limited time and energy. I reach the end of most days exhausted and uninspired, and I’m sure you can relate. Before long, our obedience is fueled by guilt and duty, and we find ourselves mindlessly plugging away with no passion or excitement. We turn to our phones or computers for comfort and encouragement, but instead find comparison and conflict.

Revelation begins with a description of Jesus in chapter 1. John says He was clothed in a long robe with a golden sash around his chest. He had white hair and eyes like fire. His feet were like “burnished bronze” and his voice roared like many waters. Can you imagine seeing your Savior like this? John immediately fell at Jesus’ feet at the sight of His glory. His power is overwhelming and His love is immeasurable, yet the next words recorded are, “Fear not!”

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross, we do not have to fear the judgment of a holy God. Because Jesus overcame our slavery to sin, we can obey the call to faithful living in these last days. James Hamilton describes this passage,

“The incomparable glory of the risen Christ motivates John’s audience to heed what John has been commissioned to write. The matchless splendor of Heaven’s King attracts the attention and compels the obedience of the churches John addresses. The risen Christ in glory summons forth obedience from his churches.”

The book of Revelation causes us to wake up from the apathy of mindless Christianity. It renews our hope in an ultimate victory against Satan and his followers. It comforts us in the midst of deep suffering, and gives a greater calling to pursue.

We can rejoice and obey on even the most difficult days of motherhood because of the words proclaimed in Revelation 11:15:

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

Amen.

Motherhood is the Reason, Not the Excuse…

I can vividly remember sitting on the floor of the newly decorated nursery surrounded by Pampers and pacifiers. The tears flowed as I asked my husband, “What do we do with him now?” The thought of taking care of this little person, my son, seemed absolutely overwhelming. He didn’t wait long before announcing exactly what I needed to do next and as I changed his diaper, I knew that life would be different – forever.

As a somewhat wiser mom of three now, I can confidently say that caring for children is one of the uniquely hardest jobs a woman will ever have. Kids demand our attention at all hours of the day draining us emotionally and physically. Add to the chaos a job to help the family stay afloat financially and a ministry or two to further the gospel and we find ourselves over committed and drained. We are busy women.

Unfortunately, Satan uses that busyness as a foothold in our lives. When our schedule is packed to capacity something needs to give and the neglected item often becomes Bible study.

We use our motherhood as an excuse to skip our time in God’s Word.

Read more at my friend Whitney’s online home….

What Do You Believe?

It was a proud parent moment.

Our oldest recently competed in a Bible quizzing competition and finished with a perfect score. Some may say that it seems fitting for the pastor’s kid to win, but I saw the time he spent studying and reviewing the references and definitions. His victory had more to do with his hard work than genetics.

The danger of such Bible clubs and competitions is the temptation to memorize Scripture simply for the reward.  The beautifully inspired verses become a string of words learned in a particular order. The child knows the Book but not the Author.

It’s so incredibly important that we as parents and teachers take the extra time to explain the meaning and context behind the passages alongside memorization. Show them Jesus before moving on to the next section to master. We may be surprised at the Spirit’s conviction and encouragement in our own souls as well.

The Christian walk does require discipline, however. Giving our kids the opportunity to hide God’s Word in their sponge-like minds and tender hearts can stock their spiritual arsenal for the battles that are sure to come.

During my teen years, I participated in an intricate system our youth pastor designed for accountability in spiritual disciplines. We would record our points each week for Scripture memorization, devotions, visitation and outreach, and the occasional “bonus” activity in exchange for a variety of rewards. I and my closest friends were top earners each week leading our respective teams to victory. In my mind, reading my Bible or chatting with senior citizens on a Sunday afternoon seemed like a perfect exchange for 500 points and a pizza party the next Wednesday.

Now that I’m twenty years down the road, I have a problem with this system. There are definitely rewards for spiritual habits, but they don’t come in the form of candy bars or amusement parks. Without meaning to my youth pastor was creating a shortsightedness in his teens. The return on my spiritual investment might not come until I am forced to rely on His Word in a deep valley or unexpected storm. And when the prize does come, it will be in the form of more firmly rooted faith, unexplainable joy, or a confirmed identity.

This kind of spiritual exercise is not just for those in Bible club and youth groups though. We live in an increasingly dark culture yet our default is often to blend in by being gray — not quite dark, but not completely light either. We flounder when trials come because we have not invested in our foundation during the calm seasons. We live as pseudo-spiritual people, having the right lingo and right lifestyle, but not truly knowing the God we supposedly serve.

My husband has recently started a new sermon series entitled, “We Believe.” His underlying theme is this – what we believe will always affect our everyday living. Our love for our Savior grows in direct proportion to the time spent getting to know Him through His Word. Our love for others grows in direct proportion to our love for Jesus. It’s a constant cycle of progress and growth until we reach our final home.

Ironically, as I write this morning, I am listening to conversations of those around me at our local coffee shop. Two mommies parent a little toddler girl and another couple is discussing our new President and his controversial decisions. Their views are affecting their living. If I were sitting at the table with them, would I be able to confidently share my beliefs? Would I be able to communicate the pursuing love of of heavenly Father? Would I be able to clearly share the Book that informs my conclusions? Would I be able to support it all with a life that reflects my convictions?

May we know and memorize the Bible, not for ribbons and medals, but for the prize of Jesus himself and may our knowledge translate into lives that proclaim the unfathomable love of our all-powerful God.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it  and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
II Timothy 3:14-15


I often think I’m doing well at living what I believe. This article from a Christian-turned-atheist challenges that conclusion:

Do Christians Actually Believe What They Say They Believe?

She Reads Truth {a review}

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Even though the view was terrifying, the tremors weren’t horrible. They were just enough to jiggle us around and produce uncontrollable laughter between my sister and I.

We were at the Alaska Experience in Anchorage. We had hoped to truly experience the historic earthquake of ’64 but the technology in 1999 only produced a mild back and forth shaking of our stadium seats while we watched the crumbling city on the screen in front of us. It was far from terrifying. It was down right funny.

The farther I’ve walked through life, I’ve learned that our days are filled with tremors and earthquakes too. The difference is that few of them are humorous. Most produce real anxiety, agony, and anger in response. Even if the ground of our life is currently stable, our lives seem to be built along a fault line that can produce upheaval at anytime.

What do we cling to in a world that is shifting and trembling underneath our feet? Is there a safe place when the ground seems to be crumbling?

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Yes, there is safety, peace, and comfort found in the truth of God’s Word, but Raechel Myers & Amanda Bible Williams explain it much more beautifully than I could in their new book, She Reads Truth.

These women founded the online ministry also called She Reads Truth in the hopes of encouraging women to be reading Scripture every day. It has blossomed into community of women from all parts of the globe who dig into the Truth together each day.

While this book definitely touches on that online ministry, it focuses more specifically on the personal stories of Raechel and Amanda and how the Truth of the Bible met them in the most difficult of times.

Early in the book, in a chapter written by Amanda, I was struck by this quote:

“Trusting in God’s Truth does not mean ignoring everything else. We do not have to explain our fears away in order to earnestly believe God’s promises to us. It is not an either/or situation. It is both/and.”

My copy of the book is full of stars and underlines drawn through tears. Even though my personal “earthquakes” are very different from the authors’ life stories, I was reminded over and over of the sufficiency of God’s word in every area of my life.

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I will be returning to this book in the days and years to come. It offers hope and gentle rebuke to those who desire to be “Holding Tight to Permanent in a World that’s Passing Away.”

Disclaimer: I received one copy of She Reads Truth  for free in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts and opinions in this post are my own.

Headache-free Bible Study for Children

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Most Christ-focused families realize that Bible study is an vital step in spiritual growth. After all, how else can our children know and love the God of the Bible if we don’t take time to read His words?

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There are many helpful books and articles on developing a family worship time – a few minutes a day set aside for Bible-reading, prayer, and singing as a family.  I wouldn’t begin to act like our family has arrived in this area. Unfortunately this special time gets lost in the mix of busy weeks, sick kids, and Netflix binges. So, if you need help in this area, you may want to read, Family Worship, by Donald Whitney. His ideas are simple yet effective in setting up a regular time of corporate (or combined) worship time in your home.

Recently, however, our family has had success in individual Bible study times for our boys. As parents, we want them to grow to desire the corporate aspects of church worship and the sweet fellowship of private study equally. Because things have been going so well for the last month or so, I thought I would share our ideas with you!

*Ages 0-3

These are formative years. Don’t discount reading to them before bed from a children’s Bible such as the Jesus Storybook Bible. While the illustrations initially catch our two year old daughter’s attention, she is starting to learn words such as Jesus and sin. This is so important in her understanding of her sin problem and her Rescuer in the next few years.

*Ages 4-7

When our middle son saw that his older brother was spending time studying the Bible each day, he wanted to follow suit. There is only one problem – he can’t quite read.

Enter: The Bible App for Kids

I hope you already have this app on your phone or tablet. We have had it for a few years, but have only used it while waiting in the doctor’s office or similar situations. Using it strategically as a Bible study tool has been a wonderful help for our pre-reader. This app traces Scripture from Genesis to Revelation highlighting some of the most well-known stories along the way. Each is a separate interactive chapter with animated characters and music to keep the child engaged. At the end of each story, are several questions for comprehension. It has been exciting to see our son’s excitement to get to his “Bible time” each morning after breakfast.

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As he gets older and advances in his reading ability, we will incorporate actual Bible reading and he hears Scripture read aloud in family worship times and during homeschool. Until then, I’m so thankful for this technology that helps bridge the reading gap!

*Older Child (8-12)

Our oldest can read fluently and is starting to grasp more and more theological concepts, and we knew we wanted him to have a strategic plan for Bible study. My husband created a little reading plan for him based on the book of John.

Each morning, armed with his Bible, a notebook, and a pen, he reads the assigned passage (some are meant to be read 2x). Then writes down the meaning of the verses as he understands them and one take-away thought to remember. Because he is still young, however, he needs some guidance in his study. So each evening after his siblings are in bed, he discusses what he studied with either my husband or me. This gives us the chance to check his comprehension and discuss any important theological themes in the reading.

It has been so precious to see him grow in his desire to know God through his Word and his assigned passages are often challenging or convicting to me as we work through them together.

***

All of these Bible study methods are free and simple, and none of them are particularly time-consuming which is important in this season. I have honestly been shocked to see how quickly these ideas have become a habitual part of our morning routine.

What about you? Do you have ideas for Bible-study for young children? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. We’re always game to try something new!

 

No Time for Quiet Time

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Shortly after the birth of one of my children, I was commiserating with a few friends at small group. Two of them had newborns and one had three small foster children. We discussed the difficulty that we seem to face as mothers when it comes to our time with God.

When moms are sleep deprived and off-schedule, it can be extremely difficult to find a steady quiet time with God. The cycle continues when we go several days (or even weeks) without that communion causing us to feel even more discouraged and malnourished spiritually.

I’ve noticed that this same thing can happen even without newborns in the house. A bad night’s sleep, a busy week, or poor time-management can throw us off schedule more often than we’d like.

No time for quiet time
So! What’s a mommy to do? Here’s a few ideas that may help:

1. As soon as possible, create a daily schedule. 
During the first few weeks after a sweet baby arrives, it’s virtually impossible to plan out a day. An exploding diaper or colicky little one can wreak havoc on a schedule.
After a couple months, though, it becomes a little easier to get into a routine. I’ve found that it helps me to write out a daily schedule and post it on the fridge until it becomes a habit. (Yes, my dear husband makes fun of me for this OCD move).
Start by scheduling a 15-20 minute time exclusively for your time with God. Hopefully, this time can grow later on, but at least you have it carved out of your day.
Stick to your schedule as closely as possible remembering that flexibility is necessary on certain days. What seems a little forced at first, soon becomes a regular, special part of your day.

2. Spend time with God wherever and whenever possible. 

Unfortunately, I find that my quiet prayer time can get interrupted quickly so I have some backup quiet spots: the shower (not foolproof) and the kitchen sink.
In the 10 minutes or so I spend in each respective location God and I can catch up a little bit.
I’ve been surprised at the things He’s spoken to my heart during these short conversations.

3. Use technology.

I love technology. I use my laptop, iPad, and phone regularly to strengthen my faith. I have used several Bible reading plans on the YouVersion app. If I get behind, I can easily adjust my reading to catch up.
I also listen to sermons and podcasts on my phone or iPad while I do other housekeeping duties. It’s a great way to preach grace to myself while also checking things off my to-do list. Find some of my favorite podcasts on the Resources page.

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Whatever you find works for you in the craziness of motherhood, remember this:

Our God isn’t limited to a living room recliner and a 1 hour minimum to speak to our hearts. You may be surprised at what He uses to comfort, encourage, and challenge you.
Please don’t feel guilty for not reaching certain standards in your devotion time with Him.

Christ completed a perfect relationship with His Father for us so we can enjoy the freedom to approach God even in imperfect circumstances.

Reset button

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I could feel the tension building.

I had stayed calm when cereal was purposely dumped on the floor. I had smiled and given a gentle reminder when the child leaning back in his chair finally crashed to the ground. I even had even kept my cool when I heard complaints about the special Valentine’s candy I was offering.

I couldn’t do it anymore. These kids were about to bear the brunt of a full mommy blow-up and it was going to be nasty!

That’s when the idea struck me….have a restart. We were going to start this day all over again! So I set a timer for five minutes and we all went to our rooms for a breather. We reset our hearts and our minds and when we reconvened, there was much less danger for a parental explosion.

Friends, that kind of do-over is no less common in our spiritual walk. We live in the already/not yet of redemptive time. Hebrews 2:8 reminds us that Christ has already conquered death and sin, yet at this point we don’t see our world in complete submission to Him. That’s still coming. In the meantime, we will sin. We will experience pain.  We will acutely feel our brokenness. That’s why it’s necessary for us to regularly hit the reset button of the gospel.

When I feel tempted with sin, it’s more than a just good idea to stop and read scriptures like:

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”     I Corinthians 5:21

Or when my heart is overwhelmed with the trials and repetitive tasks of life:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”  Jeremiah 31:3

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A while back, I designed this picture for my laptop screensaver. One day my oldest read it and said, why does it just say morning? His mercies are new in the evening too!

He didn’t realize how many times, I would open my computer at the end of a chaotic and disappointing day only to be reminded of God’s never failing, never ending mercy in the evening too! Because of Christ’s work, His favor always rests on me. Every morning, every evening, and the many hours in between are wrapped in His love and His faithfulness (not mine).

I’m so thankful for the restart button of the gospel. The chance to run back to the finished and perfect work Jesus completed for me. His grace weaves my failures, blow-ups, and do-overs into a beautiful tapestry for His glory.

Run to Him. Ask Him to remind your soul of His steadfast love and new mercies! Accept the renewal He so generously offers!

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations 3:22-24

A Little Leaven {Themes from Galatians 5}

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A Little Leaven (Audio)

 

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

“A little leaven leavens the whole lump”

To some this may be a phrase simply about baking bread and that would definitely apply.

However, in the churches I grew up in, this verse was used quite frequently to remind people of the dangers of even a little bit of sin in a believers life (wrong music, lustful eye, etc…). It is very true that sin is dangerous. We are taught that Satan seeks his prey like a lion who looks for the weak and unexpecting.

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I feel like this interpretation of Galatians 5:9 might fall short of Paul’s main intent. When read in context with the surrounding verses the leaven Paul is referring to is actually the sin of self-sufficiency. This false teachers have convinced them that they need to add the bondage of outward works to their salvation {see last week’s post}. This undermines the sacrifice Christ made on the cross to ultimately and completely earn our freedom! This pull to “go back” to slavery is a daily battle and one for which the gospel is the only answer!

We learn time and time again throughout all of Scripture that we are not sufficient in ourselves. It was for that exact inadequacy that Christ had to live and die perfectly.

Here’s an example…..
Envy is a sin (it even makes Paul’s list later in Chapter 5).
The tiniest bit of envy can snowball into a life characterized by jealousy and resentment toward God and others.
Envy is not the leaven. Self-sufficiency is. 

 

In other words, when the Holy Spirit points to the propensity toward jealousy in my life, it is the sin of pride that thinks I can keep it under control. I’m confident in my own abilities to replace envy with kindness and conquer grudges with gratefulness. It is my self-dependence that leavens the lump of my life.

 

It is only through crucifying my fleshly desires with Christ and boasting only in His accomplishments that I can overcome the constant pull of sin in my life.
By acknowledging my weaknesses, I am inviting the Holy Spirit’s power to conquer the temptations in my path.

 

Praise God for his glorious sufficiency in the most feeble of hearts!

 

 

>>>>>Thank you so much for spending some time in Galatians with me over the last few weeks! If you missed a part, you can catch up by reading OR listening HERE.

Lookin’ Good {themes from Galatians 4-5}

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Lookin’ Good (Audio)

 

Read Part 1, Part, 2, Part 3.

Time for some honest reflection.

My best friend and I were addicted to Cover Girl powder and Aquanet hairspray back in high school. We used almost every break between classes to make sure our noses weren’t the least bit shiny and that our giant bangs hadn’t started to wilt.

I realize that the root of that addiction went deeper than covering a teenage complexion. We wanted to look good so we would be accepted. If we could get our outsides perfect, maybe we could fool others to think that we were the same way inside.

 

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As we uncover more highlights from the book of Galatians, we notice that this church seemed to be preoccupied with their appearance as well. In verse 10 of chapter 4, we read that the Galatians felt righteous by celebrating certain days and seasons when in fact, these God-ordained festivals had become empty and weak substitutes for a relationship with Christ.

At the beginning of chapter 5 we learn that the Galatians were also seeing justification in the act of circumcision. At first, this physical sign doesn’t seem to apply to our modern lives, but when we look at it in more general terms as an outward expression to gain acceptance and approval, we realize that we all have the temptation to replace grace with more spiritual hairspray.

 

I absolutely love verse 6:
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.
 The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

 

Is it wrong to be circumcised? No.
Is it wrong to observe certain holidays and festivals? Of course not.
Is it wrong to attend church regularly? I’m a pastor’s wife. I would encourage it!
Is it wrong to strive to read my Bible consistently? Not a problem.

 

The issue isn’t with the actions themselves, but with the motivation behind them.

 

When we do anything simply to look righteous to God or others, it is as empty as another layer of pressed powder on our nose.

 

Our lives as wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters, must be centered-on and fueled by faith in the fact that Christ has abolished the formal rituals of sacrifice and penance.  When I am overcome with the love He gave, I am motivated to outward actions that are infused with that same love.

 

As we are reminded in 2 Corinthians 5:14, it is the love of Christ (not self) that motivates and compels us to live justly. We no longer ask, What do others think of me? Instead we seek to show others more and more of Christ living IN me!


Join me next week for the last post in our Galatians series! Let me know your thoughts in the comments or reply to your subscriber email!

Geometry Proof {themes from Galatians 3}

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Read Part 1 and Part 2
I remember my first high school geometry class vividly.
I sat in the front row and eagerly listened to the teacher’s opening lesson. “See this basketball? It takes up space!”
Got it!

“Now when I take the ball away, the volume of the space it was occupying is still there even though the basketball isn’t!”
What?
I was lost already and thus began a difficult year of math. My mind struggled to comprehend the abstract concepts needed to process geometric proofs and solutions.

Imagine my surprise, when I began studying Galatians 3 and found a treatise from Paul that reminded me of one of those geometry calculations.

Feel free to stop and read Galatians 3:15-29 here, but here is Paul’s basic argument:

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*In the Old Testament, God made a promise, a covenant with Abraham in which he promises an inheritance to both Abraham and his offspring.
*Christ is the complete and perfect Offspring.
*430 years later, the Law was given to Moses and the people of Israel, but it did not nullify the previous promise to Abraham.  Paul notes that the inheritance was still to come through a Promise and the law was to “save a seat” for the fulfillment of the promise.
*We were born under the law but through faith have put on Christ’s righteousness. Therefore, we are “in Christ”.
*If we are in Christ, then we are also sons of Abraham and heirs to that promise from long ago!

 

Wow! We who were once enemies of God and slaves to sins are now recipients of the promise given to Abraham thousands of years ago.

 

Heirs. Sons. Daughters.

 

How often throughout the chaos and calamities of life, do we forget our eternal position? We live as though we are still in bondage to the despair and destruction of sin. We try to wear the rags of iniquity when Christ has purchased robes of righteousness for us.
Because of the riches we have in Jesus already contrasted with the sinful, broken world and bodies we still live in everyday, we may feel some conflict with our title as “heir”.
We are forgetful people. That’s why the Holy Spirit was given the job of testifying with our hearts each day reminding us of our place as God’s children. (Romans 8:16)

 

In some ways, I’m left with the same feeling as when the bell rang at the end of that first geometry class. I don’t get it. My mind simply can’t comprehend it.

The author of Ephesians sums up this enigma,

“This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

 

It’s a beautiful mystery and it’s perplexity brings a reverence for the mind and heart of my God. One day the fog will be lifted and we will see the fullness of His promise.
Until then, I’m want to know my co-heir more each day. As Charles Spurgeon once preached,

 

This joint heirship binds us faster to Jesus, since we are nothing and have nothing apart from him.”

 

Join me next week for Part 4 of Galatians: No Other Gospel. As always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments or reply to your subscription email.