Adopted into God’s Family

 

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Galatians 4:4-5, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born to a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (ESV) The thought that popped out at me in this passage was the idea of adoption. Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection made the way for us to be adopted into God’s family.

Jesus came as a baby, fully human, to be our Sacrificial Lamb, to redeem us from the penalty of our sins. The verse says “when the fullness of time came…” At the right time, and in the right place, God sent His Son to be born of a virgin. Jesus was fully God and yet He was fully human. Before Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, humankind was under the law. God gave Moses the law so that we would be faced with the fact that we are not perfect, and can not fulfil the law, but God sent Jesus to rescue us from the penalty of not following the law. When we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord, God adopts us into His family. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:12 KJV) Because of that we are no longer under the law, but under grace. We experience God’s grace and mercy because of our acceptance of His Son and His finished work on the cross.

Now, in the Old Testament, those who trusted and obeyed God, the Father, were accepted by God as His people. They were faithful to Him and worshipped Him. But they still had to offer sacrifices for their sins because Jesus had not yet come to take the penalty for their sins. Romans 9:4 says, “…Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.” (NIV)

Once Jesus’ sacrifice was completed, the sacrifice of animals was no longer needed because He was the final sacrifice. When we ask Jesus to come into our hearts and forgive us of our sins, He does just that, and we then become children of God through adoption.

Adoption is such an awesome thing. It takes a child who is without a family and makes them part of a family. By law, that child is a bonafide member of that family, they have the same rights legally as a child born into that family. Because of Jesus and what He did for us, we can be part of God’s family and become a child of God. We can share in the same rights that Jesus has. God doesn’t see our sin, but He sees Jesus’ shed blood covering our sins and we are made perfect because of His blood shed for us. Ephesians 1:5 says, “he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” (NIV)

I have a friend who has adopted several children. Those children are her kids! She sees no difference between her blood birthed children and her adopted ones. She loves them all equally. In God’s family, God sees us as His sons and daughters, there is no difference between Jesus and us…we are His! We have the same rights of sonship as our big brother, Jesus!

I am so grateful to God for adopting me into His family. I can go to my Abba Father anytime and talk to Him about my struggles, my joys, my anxieties, and those things I need His help with. Jesus’ birth and death has helped make all of that possible, and I love Him so much for what He has done for me!

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Our Hope

 

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from I Peter 1:13, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” When I read this from the devotion time the Scripture comes from, I wondered why this verse was used for Christmas…it just didn’t seem to be a Christmas kind of verse. But, as I went through the devotion, I began to see where it can apply to this Season.

The first thing the verse tells us is to gird up our loins. Now, in modern times, this phrase doesn’t mean much to us. I mean…what does it mean to gird up your loins? In Bible times, people wore long robes. If they needed to do something like running a race, take a journey, or do work of any kind, they needed to fasten their robe so that it didn’t get in the way of what they were doing. It denotes getting prepared, becoming ready to accomplish the task you are about to undertake. The commentary I read (John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible) referenced the Israelites as they prepared to leave Egypt. They were to leave at a moment’s notice, so they had to be sure that everything was ready so that they could take off quickly. We are to have our minds prepared for this journey we call the Christian life. We are also to be sober-minded, not allowing anything to distract us from the things God calls us to do, keeping our minds focused on Jesus and the precepts the Bible teaches us to apply to our lives.

Our Scripture also says we are to “hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” In trying to answer a question in the devotion about what it means to hope for grace, I turned to the commentary. The commentary said the Arabic version of the verse interprets it to mean “trusting with confidence.” So, I understand that we are to trust confidently or completely in the grace God gives us through Jesus as He is revealed to us. That hope comes us through trusting in the finished work of the cross of Jesus Christ. He paid the penalty for our sin completely.

The revelation of Jesus as I see it, is the birth of Jesus, coming to earth, as fully God and fully human. That hope we have when we ask Jesus into our hearts and make Him the Lord and Master of our lives, is because of His birth, ministry, death, burial, and resurrection!

When we live in preparation for whatever He has for us to accomplish as His followers, stay focused on that task He has given us, and trust completely and confidently in what He has done for us, we not only have hope for today, but we have hope for the future. We, as Believers, look forward to, or HOPE, in the eternal LIFE with Him we receive, and we anxiously await His return to come for those who are still alive at the time of the Rapture of the Church.

Therefore, Christmas is a celebration of that revelation. We rejoice because Jesus has come to do the work that God the Father commissioned Him to do, He accomplished it perfectly, and we are the recipients of that work. His grace, unmerited favor, is poured out on us when we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We receive what we do not deserve (eternal life) and are released from what we do deserve (eternal death.)

I hope that you have accepted Jesus into your heart and are trusting in His finished work on the cross. Rejoice! Our Savior has come! May you and your loved ones have a very Merry and Blessed CHRISTmas!

Jesus, the Lamb of God

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from John 1:29, “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (KJV) At first glance, this seems to be a strange verse to equate with Christmas, but when we really understand why Jesus came, it fits perfectly. Often, we don’t think about Christ’s sacrifice when we think about the Baby in the manger. However, the two are so interconnected that we really cannot separate them.

God had a plan set up to save us from the very foundation of the earth. He needed a way to deal with sin. There had to be a punishment for rebellion against Him, for after all, that is exactly what sin is…rebellion against God. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (KJV) Every single one of us has had rebellion in our hearts toward God. When we decide in our hearts to disobey God, there is a consequence, and with that consequence comes a penalty. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (KJV) Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

We cannot pay the penalty for our sin. We cannot work our way into salvation, we can’t buy our way into salvation, only through Jesus’ sacrifice are we redeemed, are we made pure. God requires a perfect sacrifice, without blemish, without sin, pure, and by the shedding of blood from that sacrifice. There was only one who could fulfil those requirements, and that was Jesus. Jesus, who was born of a virgin, the Holy Son of God, who walked this earth and experienced everything we do, and who knows just what we go through, yet He was perfect. The book of Hebrews says He experienced everything we do “yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 KJV)

The four Gospels look at Jesus from different vantage points. The book of Matthew shows Jesus as our King, the book of Mark views Him as the Servant, the book of Luke shows Him as the “Son of Man”, whereby Jesus shows His compassion toward those who are considered outcasts, and the book of John shows Jesus as the Son of God. All these attributes of Christ are given to us so that we understand more clearly Who He is, What He came to do, and Why He came to do it.

Without the Cross, Jesus’ birth is just another baby that was born. Without Jesus’ birth as the Son of God, His death on the Cross would just be another execution. The two are tied together. Jesus’ story is complete only when we include His miraculous birth and His redeeming death on the Cross.

Then, once we know and understand Jesus’ plan for us, we have a decision to make. What will we do with this information, what will we do with Jesus? We must choose to accept His loving sacrifice. He took the penalty for our sin to save us from having to meet that requirement of death for our sin. What better way to celebrate His birth than to accept Him as our Lord and Savior!

Dear reader, if you have never chosen to accept Jesus as your Savior and Lord, now is the perfect time! Just pray and ask Him to come into your heart, to be the ruler of your life, to forgive you of your sins, to cleanse you from all of your sin, past, present, and future, and then promise to allow Him to be the Master of your life, and to follow Him all the days of your life, serving Him in all that you do. My friend, He will do just that, and as He takes over, you will find peace, joy, and contentment.

God is Able

 

Today we’re looking at II Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need you will abound in every good work.” (NIV) The New American Standard Bible (NASB) says, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” What jumped out at me is, GOD IS ABLE!

That is such an encouragement for me. No matter what I’m going through, God is able! He is able to bless me above anything I can even dream of, He is able to hold me tight when I am going through a trial, He is able to guide me in wisdom, HE IS ABLE!

What a blessing to know that I don’t walk this walk alone, He is with me! I have Pandora on at the moment, and a little bit ago, it was playing, “Good, Good Father”, and that song just resonated with me. He is able because He loves me, and He is a good Father who desires to give me all that is good for me. When discouragement hits me, He is there to bring encouragement and remind me that I have peace, joy, grace, and salvation through Him and Him alone. When I am burdened, He is there to lighten the load, for He tells me to “take my yoke upon me and learn of me.” (Matthew 11:29 KJV)

As I write this, my heart is heavy. In the middle of working on this post, my sister emailed me to let me know that my nephew is in the hospital after a heroin overdose, and he almost died. How “on time” God is…to remind me that He is able, and then to hear news that could shake my foundation of faith in Him if it weren’t for that reminder that “He is able!” He can take my nephew and turn him 180° in the opposite direction, save his life, physically and spiritually, and set him on a new course. My faith in God is not shaken. I’ve already put my nephew on a couple of prayer boards, and I’ve heard from so many who have said they’ve been there, and sent me encouragement, and are praying for my family. How good God is to surround us with a body of Believers who uphold each other in prayer, give encouragement, and sometimes even wrap their arms around us physically to keep us on our feet.

That is such a great blessing from God! I am so grateful to Him for His care. He knows right where I am. He knows what is heavy on my heart, He knows just what I need, He knows! We do not serve a God who is distant from us, nor unconcerned with our lives and what we experience. He loves us with an everlasting love, He walks with us, His desire is to bless us immeasurably, and He is faithful!

As I just looked at the verse again, I notice it says that He is able to bless us abundantly so that at ALL TIMES we have what we need. Do you need encouragement? He is able. Do you need healing? He is able. Do you need financial freedom? He is able. Do you need peace? He is able. Do you need your marriage restored? He is able. Do you need chains broken? He is able. Whatever your need is…HE IS ABLE!

My friends, even in the depths of despair, GOD IS ABLE! Take courage and gain strength in the knowledge that God is able no matter what your situation. Reach out to Him and give Him whatever it is you need for Him to do for you. Remember, “the God of Angel Armies is always by your side!”

God Supplies

 

Today we are looking at Philippians 4:19, “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory.” This is a verse that is so familiar to Believers, that I think we sometimes just rattle it off without really thinking about what it says. When I first look at this verse, I notice something that I think most people either skip right over or don’t really consider. Notice that the Apostle Paul says that God will supply all our NEEDS, not necessarily our WANTS. I may want a lot of things, but they may not be good for me, so therefore; God will not supply anything that would do me harm.

When I look at my life, I see that God has indeed supplied every need I have. I have food on my table, I have a house to live in, my finances are in good shape, He gave me a husband to share my life with, a family that loves me, and He has directed me to a church family that surrounds me and upholds me in times of distress and in times of victory and joy. All these things are things that I NEED. My wants can get out of hand and will bring joy for only a short time, and then they are quickly forgotten and possibly even discarded.

God supplies Spiritual gifts also. He gives me salvation, peace, joy, strength, courage, and a friendship that goes beyond anything I can experience. As I stated yesterday, the gift of salvation is the greatest blessing we can receive. Because of that blessing we can then walk in victory, joy, peace, and have a relationship with Him that is everlasting.

The second thing I notice in the verse is, He gives according to HIS riches. He has riches far above anything we can even imagine. So, the best thing that we can imagine for ourselves is nothing compared to what He has for us. His ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

We sometimes find ourselves in a period where we are discouraged, nothing seems to be going our way, life is throwing everything, including the kitchen sink, at us, and we come to a point of only looking at our circumstances and not looking at the Savior, who can help us overcome those circumstances. We don’t see the blessings He has already provided, and we become mired down in the pit of discontentment, complaining that nothing is going our way, and throw a 2-year old’s temper tantrum, shaking our fists at God, stomping our feet on the floor saying, “I want it MY way!”

It is then that we need to stop, take account of ourselves, count our blessings, ask for forgiveness, and thank Him for all He has done for us, then lift our voices in praise to God for His unsurpassable riches and blessings!

Being thankful for what we have has added benefits. Our spirits are made lighter, we find joy in everything around us, the sun seems to shine a little brighter, friendships are a little dearer, physically, we seem to enjoy better health, and we find a contentment that settles into peace in our hearts. God has given us more than we can ever desire. Today is a good day to thank Him for all He has done, all He is, and all He has given.

The Cross

 

Today I read a post on social media from a friend of mine. She and her husband, pastor a church in a suburb of a large city. Her post dealt with something God impressed upon her husband to do, carry the cross around the perimeter of the city in which he pastors. As he was walking with the cross upon his back, she was at home enjoying the day in her back yard. As she was sitting in her yard, she began to think about what it was her husband was doing and the reaction that others may have about him walking with a cross out in public. As he would check in with her by text, her thoughts began with wondering if the people of their church really wanted him to do this. What would people say? As she continued pondering this, she began to think of why churches now seem to diminish the meaning and significance of the cross. Then her thoughts turned to why the Cross is so important in the life of a Christian.

As I was reading, I began to think of things my pastor has said regarding certain denominations beginning to lessen the meaning of the cross in their services. Some not wanting to emphasize the blood, others seeing the Cross as a dirty, bloody instrument of torture and death upon which we should not put too much focus. Some have taken hymns about the Cross out of their line up of worship music, some have not spoken about how important the Cross is, from the pulpit.

My mind began to think about how the whole purpose of our faith is buried deep in the significance of the Cross. Yes, it’s a dirty, bloody instrument of death, and yes it was a tortuous way for Jesus to die, but it was so necessary! Without the Cross, our faith is meaningless! As I was thinking about this, God impressed upon me the need to do a Bible Journaling page with a page from a hymn book. As I was trying to choose the right song to use, I had a hard time deciding because there are so many songs that feature the Cross. I finally decided to use the song, “The Old Rugged Cross”, after my husband offered it as a suggestion.

As I was working on the page, I began to think about how in many churches today, the focus seems to be on aesthetics…music, lighting, sound, almost a theatrical appearance. The message from the pulpit is desensitized, if you will, so that no one will be offended by the gruesomeness of the Cross. Our churches have lost the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit today.

A friend of my first husband and mine used to say that where there is no peace, the Holy Spirit can not abide. People are in turmoil today, and pulpits are not giving them the answer to resolve that turmoil, hence, no peace. Churches do not focus on allowing God to work in their services because everything is a performance, not a worship service.

Back when I was a little girl, I remember going to church at my Grandparent’s church in the summer when we visited, and I heard plenty of Hell-fire and brimstone messages from the pulpit. Sin was a topic in almost every sermon. Now, pastors don’t mention sin so much for fear of insulting or offending someone in the congregation.

The Cross is the centerpiece of our faith because without it, we are lost in our sin. God provided a means for us to be forgiven, through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. Christ gave up His life willingly so that we could escape the death penalty for sin. Romans 3:23 says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (NLT) Notice, not one person is without sin. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (NLT) Jesus was the perfect sacrifice because He was God and Man, lived on this earth, was tempted as we are, yet did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15) Therefore, He was the Only One qualified to take the punishment for our sin.

John 3:16 says, “This is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (NLT) Death on the Cross was the most horrendous means to die that was ever conceived. The Cross was not made of smoothed out wood. It was not something beautiful, as some cross jewelry is today. It was rough, and rugged. To add to that pain, nails were pounded into the hands and feet of the person being hung on it. It was the most excruciating, painful means of punishment that was given. As if that was not enough, Jesus was also beaten, almost to the point of death, with leather straps that had bits of bone and glass at the end of each strap, before He was hung on the Cross. The punishment of Jesus was so horrific, that the Bible says He was almost unrecognizable.

Jesus shed His blood on the Cross for us, so that we might be made free. He took our punishment upon Himself. Why? Because He loves us so much! II Peter 3:9 says that God “was not willing that any should perish”! (KJV) His love for us is so strong, that He had a plan set up from the very beginning of creation to save us from sin.

What is sin, you ask? Sin is anything that goes against God’s standard. A look at the Ten Commandments gives us a look at what God’s standard is. So, since no one is perfect, and all have sinned, no one has ever kept the Commandments perfectly. Jesus’ death on the Cross pays for our sins.

How? God made the process so simple even a small child can do it. We must surrender our hearts and our lives to Him. By admitting we are sinners, accepting His death on the cross as the punishment for our sin, promising to live in total obedience to Him and His will, and asking for His forgiveness, we can experience eternal life. We must make Him the Lord and Master of our lives. When we do that, we begin a relationship with Him that transcends any human bond we can experience.

My hope and prayer is that you, dear reader, come to know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, that you will accept His free gift of salvation, and that the Cross becomes the standard which you can cling to and be released from the punishment of sin. Then you can say with the old hymn, “So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross.”

Remember God

 

So many times, I think, we tend to forget that what we have achieved, be it wealth, position, material goods, whatever it is, is only because God has given us the power to accomplish these things. Deuteronomy 8:18 says, “But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”

I’m sure we all know people who are so focused on obtaining the things of this world, and they work hard to get them, but they fail to realize that without God, none of it would have been possible. They think that the reason they are where they are, is because they did it all. They worked hard, they gained the knowledge to get where they are, they did this or that. The glory goes to them. They never once consider that without God allowing them to be successful, they wouldn’t be where they are at this time.

God is reminding the children of Israel that what they have is not because they did it on their own, but that God gave them the power to accomplish their goal. It is He who gives health to be able to work, it is He who gives the knowledge to learn skills, it is He who gives opportunities to develop their skills, God is the one to receive the glory for it all.

I had an uncle who did very well for himself. He was able to do so many things that my family were not able to do. However, what he failed to realize was that no matter what it was, he was not the reason he had acquired all he had, it was God’s goodness and graciousness that allowed him to have the wealth that he had. My uncle had the mindset that if he could buy his way into Heaven, he would be ok. I don’t know if he ever came to the point of turning his life over to Christ, only God knows that. But my heart is sad, because he never really understood that God was the reason he was so successful, and that he needed to change his focus from getting all he could get, to surrendering everything to Jesus. I loved my uncle very much, and I am glad he could enjoy things that I have never been able to, but I look at my uncle’s life, and what I see was a man, who deep down inside, was always searching, never fully happy or fulfilled, and was empty inside because He didn’t focus on God. He didn’t remember that God gave him the power to do what he was able to do. God was not part of the equation in his life.

As Believers, we also must remember that God is to be given the glory for all we have and are able to do. He gives us power, through the Holy Spirit, to witness, to live our lives as an acceptable offering to Him and be able to acquire wealth. He alone is to be given the glory for it all. He gives us the skills, the giftings, the talent, the knowledge, and the opportunities to be successful. Sometimes I think we get a little too full of ourselves and tend to forget that without Him, we can do nothing! (John 15:5)

We are blessed beyond measure, and God also gives us the hope we need to accomplish the dreams He has placed in us. Those dreams may include our part in spreading the Gospel to those who need to know who Jesus is, and to lead them into a relationship with Him. God gives us the avenues, be it speaking one on one with someone, broadcasting over radio and television, writing books, magazine articles, or blogs, or developing a website that draws people to further investigate God’s love and mercy to us, or through music, artwork, or dance. There are numerous ways to reach people with the love of Jesus, and He gives us the power and the wherewithal to accomplish those things.

So today, let us remind ourselves that what we are able to do, what we are able to gain, is only because God gives us the power! His Holy Spirit resides in us, helps us, guides and counsels us. Remember God.