Trumpet of Joy

And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. —ROMANS 5: 11

The last treasure is a trumpet of joy. The grace experience should cause joy to swell up inside us. That should lead us to joyful worship of God and joyful testimony to man. If as a Christian, we find either worship or testimony more an obligation than a privilege perhaps we need to recheck our grace experience.

It is fitting, then, that the last treasure is a call to worship. What else could it be? I defy you to read Romans 5: 1– 11 slowly, thoughtfully, and prayerfully, as you meditate upon the seven wonders in your own life, without experiencing a renewed urge for worship and praise of Christ. His riches continue to shower upon us year by year, day by day, and moment by moment. I dare you to contemplate the power and love and goodness of the living God, to let His love flow over you today, and not feel a soul-deep joy, an all-encompassing peace, and a rising courage to face the challenges that this week brings to your life. And finally, I urge you to consider deeply whether you can accept this glorious wealth without sharing it with as many other human beings as you possibly can. Jeremiah, David (2006-03-07). Captured by Grace: No One Is Beyond the Reach of a Loving God (p. 97). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Life, even the Christian life, is a challenge. It isn’t a bed of roses, but it is a life of joy even in the midst of hardship. Grace is to great for it not to be.

 

Life Map

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Romans 5:9-10

Sometimes it’s easier for us to grasp that Jesus died to save us than it is to understand that he remains concerned as we try to live out our lives as His disciples. Perhaps this is because the life part is completely personal. Although we say Jesus would  have died for me if I were the only person on earth, we don’t really have to rely on that because we aren’t alone on this planet. He does care what each of us does with the grace He gives us. Part of what we get with grace is a life map.

This is not a map that tells us exactly where we will go; it is a promise that He will be our life and our Lord, that He will accompany us and empower us for every destination and every path. Jeremiah, David (2006-03-07). Captured by Grace: No One Is Beyond the Reach of a Loving God (p. 96). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

I really need a map. Not just to know where I should be going and how to get there, but also just to know where I am. I often get confused as to whether I’m where I should be or if I have drifted from the path. Sometimes I feel I’m right where God would have me; sometimes I feel it’s hard for even God to find me.

We are all destined for heaven, but we have intermediate destinations. How are we doing on that trip? Do we know where we are going? Do we even know where we are?

 

Loving Perfume

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. —ROMANS 5: 5– 8

I had given up watching the news. It was too discouraging. I have gotten drawn back in the last few days. Nothing much has changed. I am reminded of that Dione Warwick song, “What the World Needs Now.” With all the violence, murder, hate on television, it’s clear most of the world has forgotten how to love. They have even forgotten what it is.

Probably saddest of all is that many Christians have forgotten. We have manufactured a loveless gospel. Our testimony seems to be law based. Our message seems to be get right or go to hell. Somehow we are shocked that the world is not listening. We have forgotten that our Lord did not tell us that the world would know us by the uprightness of our walk or the fanaticism of our faith.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35. As the world falls deeper and deeper in a swirl of hate, Christians who display the kind of love that can only have been poured into them by the Holy Spirit, will become a brighter and brighter light to Christ. 

For these people , the love of God has become the supreme fact of life, because nothing can separate them from it. Nothing can take it away. It is greater and more potent than all the problems of the world, and it would wash these problems away like a springtime rain if enough of us were willing to let it happen through us. Jeremiah, David (2006-03-07). Captured by Grace: No One Is Beyond the Reach of a Loving God (p. 94). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Those in Christ should give off a sweet essence that is so unmistakably heavenly that it can’t be missed.

Real Christians have that essence about them. If you can’t smell it on their breath, you can at least hear it in their words, feel it in their attitudes. The love of God seems to permeate their spirit, so that there is always enough love to spare. Jeremiah, David (2006-03-07). Captured by Grace: No One Is Beyond the Reach of a Loving God (p. 94). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Give yourself the sniff test. Do you pass?

Cocoon of Change

And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. —ROMANS 5: 3– 4

After glorying in our righteousness in Christ, our personalized access to God, and our promise of eternity with Him, we get hit with tribulations, and not just tribulations, but glory in tribulations. Has Paul lost his mind? He certainly knew about tribulation, he had much of it.

I speak as a fool— I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11: 23– 28)

So what’s so good about tribulation? David Jeremiah compares it to a cocoon in which the inhabitant is cut off from the world. He appears to be dead, yet marvelous transformation from caterpillar to butterfly is taking place. A week after my pain-free knee replacement I found myself back in the hospital with mysterious symptoms. Just about every known test was run. At one point my blood pressure got so dangerously low, that the doctors wanted to intubate. My knowing wife refused. Gradually I came out of it. The cause was never found.  While others were concerned for my life, I was enjoying time with God. I am told this lasted a week. To me it was just a few hours in which God showed me how close He is to us and how he is involved in the most minute parts of our lives. He stands ready to direct every tiny move. In the months ahead I would need all of what he showed me in that time in a cocoon.

We don’t go looking for trouble, but we certainly do make use of it. Bad times are our fuel for transformation. They make us stronger, nobler, wiser, and more worthy of serving God in ever-increasing capacity. Jeremiah, David (2006-03-07). Captured by Grace: No One Is Beyond the Reach of a Loving God (p. 90). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

The weakest and most fearful of us have really gone through nothing. They have had no experience to strengthen them. They are fearful about what might happen, having no idea that God will get them through it. To have gone through stuff is a blessing. We learn we can make it with God’s help and that God will be there. The “greatest generation” that won World War II grew up in the Great Depression. My generation that gave us drugs, sex and rock and roll, and let government take prayer out of schools and made the womb the most dangerous place in America, grew up in the times of prosperity that followed the war. Tribulation is a treasure.

 

Sounds of Heaven

And rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

—R OMANS 5: 2

We have considered the seven treasures of grace from the first few verses of Chapter 5 of Romans. We have considered the treasures of the declaration of righteousness and the access to God. Grace also blesses us with the promise of Heaven. We get glimpses of what heaven will be like that can sustain us in a world that often reminds us that it is not our home.

It’s like a music box that has the enticing melody of a far country, one that lies ahead. A music box is only a simple piece of machinery; it cannot suggest what the full orchestra can produce. But it is a reminder, and our imagination does the rest. This is a fine treasure indeed— a treasure that offers hope— and the traveler cherishes it. Jeremiah, David (2006-03-07). Captured by Grace: No One Is Beyond the Reach of a Loving God (p. 89). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition

Our frustration with earth increases as the end draws near. On Sunday our senior pastor announced a teaching series for men whom he described as the only hope for our nation. Men surely need to be better. Men who become more like Christ will certainly bless the world around them. As for the big picture, our world will never approach heaven until Christ reigns. It’s not going to get better; it’s just going to get worse. As we become more like Christ, we will serve as starker contrasts to a world that’s fading fast.

I think it’s all part of God’s plan. As we age our bodies deteriorate. We get weaker. Our beauty fades. All of this serves to remind us of what’s important: the spirit and the things of God. Our worsening world serves the same function. As the end draw nears, it reminds us more loudly that this is not our home. The sounds of heaven call us more intensely. The glimpse and the promise are more precious as the end draws near.

Last week while in California, I took a ride along the Pacific Highway. It’s one of those places that God gives us to allow us to glimpse into what heaven will be like. I planned only a short ride but the beauty of scenic vista after vista, kept me driving for far longer than I had planned. I didn’t want to stop looking, all the while thinking if God can do this here on this planet, how glorious indeed must be the place He has been preparing for 2000 years.

Look for the signs, listen for the sounds. For those who have Christ, Heaven is real.

 

Key of Divine Access

 

Through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand. —ROMANS 5: 2

The second great treasure of grace is access to God. David Jeremiah refers to access to His grace, but goes on to say:  “The word access is only used three times in the New Testament, and it always refers to the believer’s access to God through Jesus Christ.” Jeremiah, David (2006-03-07). Captured by Grace: No One Is Beyond the Reach of a Loving God (p. 86). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

This treasure is so glorious is that it is revealed to us in stages. We can only take it a bit at a time. It is the basis for our sanctification. It’s more personal that a long distance access to a God in heaven. It’s access to a God who lives in us and us in Him. It’s a presence that assures that we never need to be alone, afraid or powerless. Being in the glorious presence of God changes us. His presence, through the indwelling Holy Spirit is constant. Our awareness of it is shifting. He defers to our free will and allows us to shut out even his mighty presence. By why would we? To be with Him, to relate to Him is the very reason we were created.

As I lay in my bed in the hours before dawn, thinking how I could relate this treasure to you,  the sense of His presence overwhelmed me. I could feel Him touch my shoulder. He wants us to know He is present and to respond to Him. His desire for us is powerful and beyond our understanding. Why would the God of the universe seek and want relationship with us and suffer and die for the  privilege? It is the recognition of so powerful a love that changes us and charges us up to do all that we can for him, fully aware that our actions will never justify or repay what He has done for us.

Block out, if just for a moment, the distraction that is our earthly existence and bask in His life-changing presence.

Parchment of Innocence

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

—R OMANS 5: 1

There is a common misunderstanding about our legal system. It can not declare an accused to be innocent. He can be found to be “not guilty.” The charges against him can be determined to be substantiated or unsubstantiated. The accuser can even dismiss or withdraw the charges. The accused is still not determined to be innocent. I know personally how frustrating this is. A charge, once made, however unfounded and untrue, still hangs like a cloud.

Amazingly, the grace awarded to the person who is in Christ through faith is a treasure. Grace is as David Jeremiah says a seven fold treasure. The first and most precious treasure is a parchment on which the innocence of the accused is confirmed. This innocence exists even if the accused was guilty of the sin, which, in fact, we all were, and some still are.  Whatever existed before, now there is just innocence.

It’s a declaration not only of innocence but of righteousness written in the blood of Jesus. “Justification means that the war is over. Before the cross and before the love of Christ, we were the prisoners of our own self-destructive nature. There was nothing we could do to lift the charges of guilt that lay upon our heads.”Jeremiah, David (2006-03-07). Captured by Grace: No One Is Beyond the Reach of a Loving God (p. 85). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Through grace comes a peace that is never possible through the earthly system. An accusation, even when untrue, is forever. With Christ, even the once guilty can have the peace that comes with righteousness and justification. We are reconciled to our God. Earthly enemies stay and battles continue, but the war is won when we are right with God.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4: 6– 7).

That’s just the first treasure that comes with grace, a parchment declaring our innocence. It’s the treasure that makes all the other treasures possible. Tomorrow, a treasured key.

 

Unexpected Beauty

I lived in California for several years while I was in the military. Most of it was in northern California, which I love. I have never been a fan of southern California. Yesterday after a surprising early arrival at LAX, I got my rental car and on a whim drove up the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu. I had forgotten that Pepperdine University is in Malibu. I got my undergraduate degree from there but never set foot on the campus. I took all my classes at a military base near San Francisco.

The drive was breathtaking. In that area mountains  run into the ocean creating dramatic drop offs and one beautiful scene after another. The picture above is of Pepperdine. I wish had had attended classes there. I stopped to eat at a beach cafe. It was expensive but fun. I was reminded how a very few of us look good in swim wear; most of us, not so much. I had the good taste not to remind any of the diners of that and was grateful I was fully clothed.

For supper I ate at a small Mexican place. It was obviously family run and the customers, except for me, were all regulars and locals. It was beautiful to see the friendliness and love shared by all. Everyone was very nice to me, I think, since I couldn’t understand a word said. I ordered by pointing. My meal was $11 with drink.  There was just as much beauty in this run down neighborhood restaurant as there was at the expensive beach cafe.

My lesson for the day is that there is an awful lot of beauty in this world and I think most of us miss most of it. We miss it because of our preconceived ideas of beauty and where is can be located. Today I learned it exists in So Cal in the wonders of God’s creation and in the simple lives of some of his creatures.

Be blessed.