We Wear Out And Die (Isaiah 51:6, DARBY) by Carley Evans


Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall grow old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner; but my salvation shall be forever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished. (Isaiah 51:6, DARBY)

The message here isn’t — of course — that the created dies but that the Creator lives forever and that His purposes never fail. The heavens above us — the sky, the other planets, the stars, the galaxies — will vanish one day like a puff of smoke. And the earth will just wear out. So will we. We will grow old and die. Some translations go so far as to say we will die like gnats or like flies — like insignificant insects.

But God — who is not insignificant — will never die. And His holiness and His method of salvation will last forever.

 

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Who Can Be Against Us? (Romans 8:29-32, NIV) by Carley Evans


“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. 

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

God exists outside the limits of time and space (except for a brief stint here on earth as an infant, child, young man). Since God is not limited in His point of view (since He is omniscient, that is) He is able to know ahead (and outside) of time who is “to be conformed to the image of His Son”. That’s easy. Once something is known (ahead of time) and is not then changed by the all-powerful God, then that thing known ahead of time becomes what we refer to as “predestined”. So much for free will. That’s easy, too.

So, God knew us before time, predestined us before time, called us before and inside time, justified us inside time, and glorifies us inside and beyond time. Time, in other words, does not and can not limit God.

Because of His unlimited power and knowledge about our fate, God “is for us”; and because He is for us, nothing can be against us. Nothing. Why? Because God did not spare His own Son. He gave Him up to Death for us. Therefore, He will keep us  (those whose names are written in the Book of Life) — forever.

You Do Not Ask God (James 4:2, NIV) by Carley Evans


You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.”

James probably does not mean to set aside poor motivations for what we desire, what we see our neighbor owning that we want to own as well when he says, “You do not have because you do not ask God.” Most readers would agree since James just mentions killing, quarreling and fighting over things.

So what do we need from God? James begins his letter by reminding us to ask God for wisdom rather than for things. Seems many have forgotten this truth, asking and expecting personal wealth, so much wealth that it’s hard to understand the subsequent lack of generosity.

The so-called prosperity gospel promises that as long as we are generous to God, He will be generous to us. We give the whole tithe to the storehouse — supposedly the physical church we attend — and He will give us so much we will not know what to do with it all. Even if this is true, why then do we find so little giving to those outside the church, to the poor? Why is keeping up with the Joneses so prevalent in the wealthy megachurch?

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38, NIV)

The final portion of Jesus’ comment about generosity seems downplayed by the very rich megachurch. Jesus says that the measure we use is what is measured to us. His comment seems a warning to me, not a promise. Jesus is calling us to unmeasured generosity rather than giving as a calculated risk. Hence His use of the words, “pressed down, shaken together and running over”. He asks us to give so much that we are spent from that very giving. God calls us to give the “good measure.”

And James tells us to ask God for the wisdom to do what is right at all times. No one fights over wisdom.

Animus, Curses, Mistreatment? Love is the Answer (Luke 6:26-28, NIV) by Carley Evans


27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Jesus tells His listeners — those who attend to His Words — to love their enemies, to do good to those who hate them, and to pray for those who mistreat them. He does not tell His listeners — those who follow after Him — to hate, curse, or mistreat their foes.

The love Jesus calls us to is not lip-service. Love is not saying, “Oh you didn’t hurt me with your cruel words” or “you didn’t damage my life with your unfair actions against me”. Rather love recognizes the harm done and calls on us to turn the other cheek. Love demands we go out of our way to do good in response to evil.

Love does not hide. God tells us that perfect loves literally drives out fear. And, perfect love keeps no record of wrongs, reminds Paul. Love never fails, never angers, never gives up.

We are to persevere in the face of mistreatment. We are never to return an insult with an insult of our own. We are never to be bitter when evil appears to succeed. Rather we are to pray — and we are not to pray for our enemy’s demise, but we are to pray for our enemy’s benefit.

Love desires what is best for the other — always.

 

Save Some of Them (1 Corinthians 9:19-23, NIV) by Carley Evans


19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

Paul had a fine example of how to become all things to all people so that by all possible means he might save some. Of course his example is our example — the person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ first transformation was in becoming an infant and growing up into a full-fledged human male, becoming like us, in other words. A slightly later transformation was in becoming a well-educated religious scholar ready to debate and educate His elders in the temple. Yes, Jesus became a Bible Scholar! A later transformation was in becoming like a sinner by joining in the revelry of sinners inside the home of a tax collector — no, He did not sin, but He was not afraid or leery of being seen with sinners. Yes, Jesus became a partygoer!

Paul took Jesus’ example to heart. Paul deliberately did not disassociate himself from others. He did not shun people because they were not Christian, or because they did not fully understand their freedom under Christ, or that they were Jews in lock step with the law, or that they persecuted him for being different from them. Rather he associated himself with all types of people and made himself similar to them in order to gain their respect, their trust, perhaps even their friendship and so save some of them.

We ought to do the same.

Sons & Heirs (Galatians 4:1-7, NIV) by Carley Evans


“4 What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”

Odd that Paul starts this portion of his letter with the aside, “What I am saying” as if he is fully aware that he has not yet convinced his readers in the church of Galatia of the extraordinary truths that they are no longer slaves but fully adopted sons of God and therefore are no longer under the law.

The law, reminds Paul, was only a guardian — a kind of trustee of a future inheritance –right up until Jesus died on the Cross and was subsequently resurrected and ascended to glory. At that moment, born-again believers were transformed. They were adopted as sons and therefore heirs of God’s promise to remove the yoke of the law by fulfilling every jot and stroke of that law through Christ’s sacrifice.

Once freed from the law, Paul exhorts his readers not to try to put themselves back under the yoke and burden of the law which will only drive them deeply into guilt and shame.

Instead, Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, NIV).

Called to Perfection (Romans 12:2, NIV) by Carley Evans


Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2, NIV

What does Paul mean when he tells us not to conform to the pattern of the world? What is this pattern? How do we go about this renewal of our minds he mentions in his letter to the church at Rome?

The most obvious pattern of the world is selfishness. Many would use the word, evil. But I would also say that mediocrity is a pattern of our world, an acceptance of a life that is not excellent, but ordinary.

God calls us to transformation. We are to be changed (instantly at salvation and gradually over time through sanctification) by renewing our minds. We are called to be smarter.

How do we get smarter? I would say through the daily and thoughtful consumption of the Word of God. Through the Word, we learn the will of God which is perfection.

Yes, we are called to be perfect.

Paul himself struggled with this call to be perfect. He wanted to be perfect but found this calling impossible.

“For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:18-25, NIV)

And Paul provides the answer. The answer is a person. The answer is Jesus Christ. Jesus provides deliverance — deliverance from the pattern of the world, from evil, from mediocrity, from the ordinary. He renews our minds through His Word and through His Holy Spirit and transforms us by His Power.