Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring Quiet

Gone were but the Winter,
Come were but the Spring,
I would go to a covert
Where the birds sing.

Where in the whitethom
Singeth a thrush,
And a robin sings
In the holly-bush.

Full of fresh scents
Are the budding boughs
Arching high over
A cool green house:

Full of sweet scents,
And whispering air
Which sayeth softly:
“We spread no snare;

“Here dwell in safety,
Here dwell alone,
With a clear stream
And a mossy stone.

“Here the sun shineth
Most shadily;
Here is heard an echo
Of the far sea,
Though far off it be.”

By Christina Rossetti (1847)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I'm Forgiven

Well the past is playing with my head
And failure knocks me down again
I’m reminded of the wrong
That I have said and done
And that devil just wont let me forget

In this life
I know what I’ve been
But here in your arms
I know what I am

I’m forgiven
I’m forgiven
And I don’t have to carry
The weight of who I’ve been
Cause I’m forgiven

My mistakes are running through my mind
And I’ll relive my days, in the middle of the night
When I struggle with my pain, wrestle with my pride
Sometimes I feel alone, and I cry

In this life
I know what I’ve been
But here in your arms
I know what I am

[back to chorus]

When I don't fit in and I don’t feel like I belong anywhere
When I don’t measure up to much in this life
Oh, I’m a treasure in the arms of Christ ‘cause

[back to chorus]

by Sanctus Real

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Blueberry-Almond Creme Muffins

This evening I tried making a new recipe passed onto me by my friend Deb. It's actually a creation of Cynthia Bowser of Jonesborough, TN, one of the 100 finalists of this year's Pillsbury Bake-Off, and I must say it's excellent. The prep time before baking is a little messy and time-consuming but well worth the effort. Thanks, Deb!

4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 c sugar
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c blanched slivered almonds
1-16.3 oz can Pillsbury Grands! Flaky Layers refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
3 tbsp butter, melted
1/4 c blueberry preserves

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Generously spray 8 regular-size muffin cups with no-stick cooking spray. In medium bowl, stir cream cheese, 1/4 c sugar, and almond and vanilla extracts until smooth and creamy; set aside. In medium shallow bowl, mix almonds and remaining 1/4 c sugar. Separate dough into 8 biscuits and each biscuit into 3 layers. Brush 1 layer of each biscuit with melted butter. Firmly press layer, butter side down, into almond mixture, coating evenly. Place almond side down in bottom and up side of muffin cup. Fill with 1 tbsp cream cheese mixture; spread evenly. Top with second layer; press edges of layers together. Spoon 1/2 tbsp of the preserves onto middle of each second layer. Brush each third biscuit layer with melted butter; firmly press, butter side down, into almond mixture and place almond side up on second layer. Press edge of third layer into edge of second layer. Sprinkle any remaining almond mixture onto tops of biscuits. Bake 17-27 minutes (I baked mine 22 minutes) or until golden brown. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Serves 8.

Monday, March 8, 2010

In Christ Alone

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
‘Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
‘til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

by Phillips, Craig and Dean

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Complete in Him

Does God ever refuse to listen to us as believers today? When we sin, does God turn His face away from us until we repent? Many places in the OT as well as a few in the NT (like Jn 9:31, which is referring back to before Christ's sacrifice on our behalf) state that because of sin, He did turn His back on the unrighteous. But, does God turn away from believers today if they sin?

I have come to the conclusion that He does not. Not because of anything we've done or haven't done, but because, and only because, of Christ's finished work on the cross.

At the moment of our conversion, we were eternally cleansed and made complete in Him. Now we can rest in the fact that Jesus died for our past, present and future sins once and for all, and that when God looks at us, He see Christ's righteousness, not our failings. There is nothing left for us to improve on, or any way for us to get additional forgiveness or righteousness. It's finished, it's done.

This wasn't the case under the old covenant. No one was ever cleansed just once because the animal sacrifices were not sufficient to take away the sins of the people. They could never rest because they had to keep doing something to be forgiven. In fact, the sacrifices were just a regular reminder of sin, of the fact that the debt of punishment still needed to be paid.

And the blood of the bulls and goats only covered sins, which is called "atonement." But Jesus Christ didn't come to atone for sins, He came to take them away once and for all. Unfortunately, we've dragged the word atonement into the NT, even though it can't be found there. One commentary explains that "Through continued theological usage the word 'atonement' has become an acceptable translation." It's pretty sad when only continual theological usage becomes the standard for biblical interpretation. The reason the original Greek doesn't say atonement is because Jesus didn't come to atone for sin, He came to take them away forever, never to be seen again (Heb 10:5-10). In Christ Jesus we have been made complete, and what can be added to or taken away from God's completeness?

We're constantly told, however, that when we sin we have to repent to get back into fellowship with Him or He will turn His face away and not listen to us. But Heb 10:14 says, "For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified." And Rom 8:1 says, "Therefore there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." Also, Col 2:10a says, "and in Him you have been made complete..." "Well sure," we're told, "that's after we've confessed our sins and been forgiven........again, and again, and again." Sounds like we've gone right back under the old covenant, doesn't it? I don't see anything in those passages that even hint at our needing to get back into fellowship with Him, only that we already are, no matter what we do. When we sin, we are, for all practical purposes, turning away from God; however, from His perspective the line of communication between us remains open because we're complete in Christ and righteous in His eyes. Therefore, we may turn away from Him, but He never turns away from us (2 Tim 2:13).

Why is it so often assumed that forgiveness of sins is doled out to us on an "as needed" basis? Of course 1 Jn 1:9 is quoted and then something like this is said: "See, this is what we're supposed to be doing." But how can we say on the one hand that we are forgiven past, present and future, and then turn around and say we need to confess our sins to receive forgiveness? It seems that we've taken one verse and built a whole doctrine around it. (See 1 John 1:9 post here.)

Sometimes I think we're afraid to believe we're eternally forgiven because we think it will give us license to sin and then we're sure to run amok. But most people I know, me included, certainly don't need a license to sin. I sin quite well without a license. We all do. And frankly, the idea that believing we have been totally forgiven leads to a sinful lifestyle is an insult to the indwelling Holy Spirit. Why would keeping "short accounts with God" — asking Him to forgive us every time we sin — keep us from sinning anyway? It seems to me that only encourages sin because we become sin-focused instead of walking by faith. Besides, you could also reason it this way: If all it costs me is a confession and everything's okay again, couldn't that equally be said to lead to license? If, on the other hand, we rest in the fact that we are forgiven, then the only thing we can do is enter into His presence, talk to Him, thank and praise Him for what He's done on our behalf, and then get right back out there and walk by faith in the Spirit (Gal 5:16).

I appreciate what Charles H Spurgeon said in his book Faith's Checkbook concerning Christ's sacrifice on the cross:

According to this gracious covenant, the Lord treats His people as if they had never sinned. Practically, He forgets all their trespasses. Sins of all kinds He treats as if they had never been; as if they were quite erased from His memory. O miracle of grace! God here does that which in certain aspects is impossible to Him. His mercy works miracles which far transcends all other miracles. Our God ignores our sin now that the sacrifice of Jesus has ratified the covenant. We may rejoice in Him without fear that He will be provoked to anger against us because of our iniquities. See! He puts us among the children; He accepts us as righteous; He takes delight in us as if we were perfectly holy. He even puts us in places of trust; makes us guardians of His honor, trustees of the crown jewels, stewards of the gospel. He counts us worthy, and gives us a ministry; this is the highest and most special proof that He does not remember our sins. Even when we forgive an enemy, we are very slow to trust him; we judge it to be imprudent to do so. But the Lord forgets our sins, and treats us as if we had never erred. O my soul, what a promise is this! Believe it and be happy.

I agree — believe it and be happy!