Just One

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For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:19

What a powerful verse. Through Adam’s (and Eve’s) disobedience we were all made sinners, but it was through just one man (Jesus) we were made righteous once again. To consider the magnitude of this overwhelms me. One man created by God began the sin and one man, the Son of God, covered all our sin. This makes me sit in awe of our Lord and Savior once again. The reminder of how with just a breath or just one man our Creator can shape the Heavens and the Earth.

Now in this hope we were saved, yet hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience. Romans 8:24-25

We may not see Him, but we do see what He has done and continues to do for each of us when we seek Him.  Consider the scripture above, although we don’t see God with our eyes, we can have faith in knowing our salvation is secure because of this one man (Jesus). Understanding this provides more hope than anything else available to us.

On the contrary, what does it say? The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. This is the message of faith that we proclaim: If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:8-9

Jesus, this one man, is the key to it all. Our salvation and eternal life are wrapped up in the faith and hope we have in Him. God created Adam from dust by speaking him into existence. Adam in turn acted with disobedience that made all mankind sinners, but in His love and grace God send one man to die so our hope could hold in Him. Just one! Just one man, just one word, just one action, just one thought . . . can lead to destruction or to creation. It leads me to consider what words, actions and thoughts I will choose this week?

The 3rd Heaven

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Boasting is necessary. It is not profitable, but I will move on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who was caught up into the third heaven 14 years ago. Whether he was in the body or out of the body, I don’t know, God knows. I know that this man—whether in the body or out of the body I don’t know, God knows— was caught up into paradise. He heard inexpressible words, which a man is not allowed to speak. 2 Corinthians 12:1-4

What? The third heaven? Right here in the middle of Paul’s commentary on boasting he throws in something unusual I had never noticed. The third heaven? I knew this needed more researching. Eager to understand, I whispered in the middle of our home school classes to a close friend and asked, “What’s the deal with this third heaven?” (Sometimes you just can’t wait). She didn’t have the answer, but we had a quiet discussion about it and I researched it later (as did she). This is another beautiful thing about the word of God. It sparks conversation, wonder and discussions with others that can bring us closer to Christ.

I discovered that the Jews call the sky “first Heaven”, space and the stars are the second Heaven and everything beyond that is the third Heaven. Essentially, Third Heaven is what most of us consider “Heaven” and where our Creator and his angels reside.

I had never considered this aspect of Jewish culture. If I’ve learned nothing else this year, I’ve discovered that one or two small words can bring great understanding if we pause, reflect and dig deeper into their meaning.

It’s quit an example really, here Paul is telling the crowds about a man who was caught up in Heaven. He isn’t sure if he actually went physically or if it was just a vision, but he is positive he saw paradise and returned to tell about it. Was it what we call a near death experience? Was he just a privileged prophet who was allowed a vision of Heaven? It isn’t clear, but I’m thankful those two little words (third heaven) stopped me in my tracks as I read 2 Corinthians and spurred me on to greater knowledge of the Jewish people and the word of God. To me, this is why the Bible is truly a living book, every single time I pick it up there is something new to discover or something I’ve overlooked in the past. I wonder what else God has in store for us this week in our study of His word?

Suffering Well

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As I look back and reflect on my early thirties it’s quite a blur of deep emotion. In the course of a year, I had a friend who died from cancer, my Dad went through prostate cancer, my daughter had a scary medical ordeal and one of her friends (at the age of 4) was diagnosed with a terminal tumor in her brain stem. It was a heavy and difficult time. They say God counts each tear that falls. He was really busy with me during that time. My friends and I would sit, pray and chat about all we were enduring and wonder what in the world God was doing. He never left our sides and gave me strength and courage in situations I would have never imagined overcoming.

He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so through Christ our comfort also overflows. 2 Corinthians 1:4-5

However, as it’s expressed in Philippians 1:12, “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has actually resulted in the advance of the gospel.” really sums it up. Paul was beaten by the crowds, but able to share his testimony with them (Acts 21-26). He was moved from noble leaders to kings and then from prison to dangerous sea transfers while all along having the opportunity to bend the ear of many audiences including: King Agrippa, Festus, Caesar, Ananias, Felix and even jailors, prison mates and sailors. Paul saw his trials as a blessing and took advantage of these audiences to share his great testimony and advance the gospel.

Fast forward over 10 years and I can see that the affliction my friends and I endured offered God the opportunity to provide comfort, strength and courage for us all in miraculous ways.  In my ministry and life, I can understand and sympathize with others in ways I would have never been able to without enduring my own trials. The comfort I received from Christ I can now offer to others as it overflowed from Heaven onto me, I can pour it onto those who cross my path and need compassion and comfort.

We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

A lot was lost during that year and much gained. I was pressed in on every side and clung to God for preservation. I felt slapped to the ground time after time with devastating news and just when I began to regain my strength was knocked down again, but God never forgot me. With His strength and courage I will never let the suffering I endured or the sadness that can still overcome me go to waste. I will use it for His glory and for those He places in my path that need comfort, support and courage. We all still suffer in this world, but surely Paul sets a great example for us all because he never faltered in his desire to share the good news and love of Christ in the midst of all he endured.

Manager of Mysteries

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Recently a friend of mine shared about a conversation he had with another friend concerning the unhappiness he felt in his life. My friend told him, “The problem is that you have put God in a box. You have decided who God is without considering who the Bible says He is. You are so busy telling God what you want that you aren’t trusting God and allowing Him to work.” As I continued my adventures through Acts, Thessalonians and Corinthians I discovered several wonderful reminders of the remarkable God we serve and couldn’t help but take some time to highlight them and expand on just a few that stood out to me.

The people here were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, since they welcomed the message with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Consequently, many of them believed, including a number of the prominent Greek women as well as men. Acts 17:11-12

Our Father knew we would struggle with faith and trust in His ways and wonders. He knew, and Jesus experienced, the temptation of sin we would face while we walk in this flesh. So, He made sure we had the most effective, loving and complete story of His ways, love and laws. A “life’s little instruction” book to refer to and live by. The trick is that we must open this book. The Bible. We must open it with “eagerness and examine the scriptures” as the early believers did. After all, it tells us many things about our spectacular God! Our God who made the world and everything in it—He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. Acts 17:24

For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but the one now restraining will do so until he is out of the way, and then the lawless one will be revealed. The Lord Jesus will destroy him with the breath of His mouth and will bring him to nothing with the brightness of His coming. 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8

Not only did our amazing and loving Creator leave us with an instruction manual and history of our faith, He left us with a book that describes the strength, character and power our Father has. One day, the creator and giver of life will destroy the lawless one (Satan) with only the breath of His mouth. He created life with His breath and He will end the roaming of Satan the same way. We serve a God who doesn’t even have to lift a finger to defeat our enemies. I’m proud to call my Savior the God of angel armies.

What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? They are servants through whom you believed, and each has the role the Lord has given. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 1 Corinthians 3:5-6

We server a God who doesn’t require everything of us. Who loves us because we believe in His Son Jesus Christ and His sacrifice. Nothing we can do will make Him love us more because He already adores us more than we can fathom. We each have a role to play in His kingdom, gifts He has given us and people He places in our lives so we can share Christ, but He gives the growth. He gives the gifts. He gives the opportunities. He is sovereign and is the ultimate cure giver. If we will just allow Him to work within us, He will make a way and provide the opportunities to share His message and manage His mysteries. He will give the growth.

A person should consider us in this way: as servants of Christ and managers of God’s mysteries. 1 Corinthians 4:1