Thinking about the year in retrospect, I thought I might share some selected entries from my gratitude journal. Some of these were addressed specifically to God the Father, some to Jesus, some to the Holy Spirit (all of whom are One, despite their distinct personalities and relationships with us).
I am grateful…
… for Jesus’ faithful heart and sacrifice for me!
… that Jesus it the Truth and the Holy Spirit is sent to guide us into all the truth!
… for rest.
… for a loving wife!
… to be healthy!
… for your Word and the Truth; an anchor against the tempest of deception the enemy is driving into this world as the unwitting give him opportunity.
… for time to dedicate to worship and to become better acquainted with Your Word.
… for those who share lessons they have gleaned from Your Word.
… for encouragement!
… for Your peace!
… that You are merciful!
… that You teach us many things!
… for Your kind intention!
… for the negotiations the President has been engaged in to improve our trade position.
… for the good economy and record-low unemployment!
… for the $10 bill I found in the yard and that the nearest neighbor is a half-mile away.
… for Your guidance!
… that all the promises of God, in You Jesus, are “Yes!” and “Amen!” (2 Corinthians 1:20)
… for the capacity to be grateful, and the benefits of being grateful!
… for forgiveness in Jesus!
… for all the unappreciated ways I have been helped by You!
… for a warm hug from my grand-daughter after traveling to see her recital.
… for the remainder of the year off from work to rest (after 12/21).
… that You have faithfully brought me this far!
… for Your generous heart!
… And, I am grateful the thermometer doesn’t say -22F very often!
14 For as many as
are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
15 For ye have not
received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received
the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
16 The Spirit
itself* beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of
Short side trip: Greek αὐτὸ is the third-person pronoun (he,
she, it) determined by context. I believe the Holy Spirit is a
person, an essential part of the Person of God (Deuteronomy 6:4),
even as our spirit is an essential part of our being. I don’t
presume to fault the KJV translation too much; it is impossible for
the mind of man to contain a full understanding of God any more than
a child knows a parent fully. We may know the Spirit as He
incrementally reveals Himself to us in our spirit when we become
intentionally still enough to hear.
17 And if
children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if
so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified
18 For I reckon that
the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared
with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Me: Good morning
ABBA: Good morning
Me: When I went to
investigate Romans 8:17 further, I began to meditate on all of Romans
8, and I found it to be a cache of endless treasure (and a few hard
ABBA: When you were
raising children, did you find that they were usually able to
comprehend the full depth of things that they asked questions about?
Me: No, they were
able to recognize and ask about many things that were both mysterious
to them and wonderful at the same time. Deeper understanding often
required more intellectual background than they yet possessed.
Really, more than I yet possess.
ABBA: How would you
Me: Some dads would
say, “Ask your mother” but I have always been disposed to try to
give some response. I wish I could say I generally gave a
heart-centered answer, merely acknowledging that it was a complicated
question. At a young age, they were usually trying to decide how to
relate to the thing, not learn how it was designed. I wasn’t
heart-centered enough myself in those days and would ususally give an
answer they were unprepared to make use of. I suppose I am still
prone to do that if anyone asks me something.
ABBA: Yes, most
young children are trying to learn, whereas some adults are trying to
control. I understand you want to be accurate. I made you that way.
Still, you have to consider the questioner and their frame of
reference. I sent My Son, in part, to communicate My love for you
(John 3:16) in a way that was unmistakable.
Me: The heart
message in verse fifteen is one that is at the very center of the
good news of the Gospel – that in Jesus we are adopted into Your
family and no longer under the fearful severity of the law (which we
instinctively understand we have violated). Now, we are brought in by
love (1 John 4:8).
ABBA: You understand that the law is satisfied because Jesus suffered the penalty due to you. Do you also understand that as heir you have all of My resources available to carry out our mission? Do you know, you inherited a part of My mission as well? (Matthew 28:16-20)
Look at Romans 5:5. “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” Do you understand that this promise is that My very nature is being manifest in you?
Me: I am trying to
understand. I hope that is what this series is accomplishing for me
and for any who read it with a spirit of contemplation. I know these
things intellectually. I can read them in the scriptures. It is the
heart that is stubborn. Usually, I don’t even realize that it is
being so obstinate or that I have some negative self-talk running in
the background. I do know that I need to repent of those internal
messages that run contrary to the promises You have made to us.
ABBA: Keep listening
for My Spirit to guide you into all the Truth. Keep delving into the
scripture while looking to Me for Guidance. Commit My promises to
memory and the Spirit will bring them to remembrance when you need
Now, what do you
consider a hard concept?
Me: As I read on in
Romans 8, I got to wondering about the “predestination” concepts
in verses 29-30 (and many other places). I decided to read a bunch
of other’s take on those verses. I was surprised by what I found.
ABBA: How so?
Me: I found a lot of
people identifying as “Calvinists”, making all kinds of
assertions about You and what this passage means. Some were mostly
taking aim at “Armenians” whom they said were wrong to not put
enough emphasis on it. Some seemed to be emphasizing Your loving
nature, but perhaps only to some particular insiders of Your
choosing. Others took what I would say are extreme views, claiming
any foresight You have is equivalent to a final determination and
that man has no free will and therefore no responsibility. Some
claimed they were saved and others were irrevocably out because You
had not chosen them. I found that the banner of Calvinist
flies over all kinds of doctrinal positions. So much so, that I would
say it is meaningless in a practical sense. I am sure I have not
scratched the surface, nor that I want to.
Why do people feel
the need to put You in some kind of box that they can circumnavigate?
Don’t they even have a sense of Your limitless nature? Don’t
they ever go outside at night and look up at some of what You have
done? And how do some so handily ignore the Great Commission, or the
fact expounded in Scripture that You are not willing that any should
perish, while recognizing that some choose to reject. And that is
another thing, some of these particular Calvinists used the fact that
some reject You as “proof” that You did not choose them. If I
know You at all, I know that is not true.
I believe you led me
to these related scriptures:
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men
count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that
any should perish, but that all should come to repentance
Romans 3 – Speaks
of the inclusive will of God.
Ephesians 4: Grieve
not the Holy Spirit. (Why give this instruction if, as I understand
the extreme position of some, that the will of God is irresistible?)
Proverbs 14:12 –
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof
are the ways of death. (This explains well enough to me why it is
hard to get a persons to change their mind. Their way seems right
to them. Convinced of it they are, yes. They don’t see the end
because it is, well, at the end.)
John 1:12-13 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: Which were born, not of
blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of
ABBA: Of course I
led you to these scriptures and you know your identity as My child.
The philosophies of men do not and can not describe Me. I have
repeatedly shown you that a few of those who emphasize My sovereignty
do so in order to be dogmatic about something they think they know
about Me – that they really have no choice. At least they
recognize the universe is not all about them. But they miss this
fact; the only one who can restrict Me is Me. You are made in My
image in this regard. You can control what you do, too. To belabor
the point, I can of My own will, let you act according to your own
will. It should not be lost on you that true love between us is not
possible under other circumstances.
Me: Thank you
Father! I love you!
ABBA: You are
welcome! I love you!
I live and work in a community where perhaps the majority of the population attends churches where the members would identify as Calvinists. Many have been schooled at Calvin College, or one of the many similar institutions. Please understand that I know something of the hearts of these people and I am in no wise intending to paint my friends and acquaintances with a broad brush because of the extreme views of the few internet denizens that I mentioned above. I know from conversations with friends that these local churches have active missionary programs. Why would they do that, if salvation was an irrevocably-settled issue through “predestination”? It was through one of these churches that I initially learned that I could have a direct and intimate conversation with God and expect to hear from Him in my spirit through His Spirit.
On the other hand, if any finds him or herself subscribing to the notion that we don’t really have a choice, please keep seeking. Consider this: Why would the scripture spend so much time telling us how to live in alignment with God’s plan, if we could not fail to do so?
I am grateful for
the astounding warm-up today; 22F below earlier in the week, 52F now.
And when I came to
you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of
wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined
to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 I
was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my
message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but
in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith
would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
6 Yet we do speak
wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age
nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 7 but we speak
God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined
before the ages to our glory; 8 the wisdom which none of the rulers
of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would
not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9 but just as it is written,
“Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”
[ This quote is from Isaiah; For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, Nor has the eye seen a God besides You, Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him. – Isaiah 64:4]
10 For to us God
revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things,
even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a
man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the
thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have
received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from
God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, 13
which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but
in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with
14 But a natural man
does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are
foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are
spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all
things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. 16 For who has known
the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind
of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 2
Me: Good evening
Holy Spirit: Good
Me: This passage is
chock full of wisdom and the promise of still more wisdom borne (and
born) by You! Thank You!
Holy Spirit: You are
Me: I am mystified
by Paul’s comment, which I know he got from You, that the rulers
would not have crucified Christ had they understood all. Had they
not, where would we be?
Holy Spirit: You
have often observed that Jesus did not pull any punches in speaking
with the rulers. He consistently told the truth in a way that would
inflame their indignation and instinct to protect the sin they
imagined was righteousness because it was, well, theirs. They were
simply respecters of themselves. Not a humble bone in their bodies.
Paul is just observing, matter of fact, that they did not get it.
Even when bluntly told the truth.
When Paul uses the
words “predestined before the ages” in verse seven, he is
pointing out that God knew fully from before He created that man was
going to need to be rescued from the power of sin. He knew before
there was time. He knew before there was any man. He had always
known. Yet, He chose. He chose to create. He chose to create man. He
chose to create you. He chose that in the Son, He would bear your
sin, that in Me, He, who is holy, would be able then to communicate
with you who is only made righteous by faith in the Son. Were it not
so, communication would be futile. (2 Corinthians 4:4, John 12:40, 2
Chronicles 7:14, Matthew 13, Isaiah 6:9) You observe this in your
day; those who see not and hear not because the truth is foreign to
Me: Yes, Holy
Spirit! If it were not for You, none of us would ever overcome our
Thank You for
speaking with me about these things! I love You!
Holy Spirit: You are welcome! I love you! I love the ones that still persist in their not seeing and in their not hearing, but I Am unwilling to override their choice.
I am grateful to have the Word of God
to hear and the Spirit of God to guide. I can scarcely imagine the
universe that some believe exists by some innumerable set of random
variations. (That started from what, exactly?)
“In everything, therefore, treat
people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law
and the Prophets. Jesus, Matthew 7:12
Me: Good afternoon Jesus!
Jesus: Good afternoon Jon!
Me: I didn’t mean for it to be afternoon before speaking with You in this journal entry. I went out to plow the snow drifts that accumulated last night, and it was a much bigger job than I expected. Beautiful, though. Thanks for the trio of young deer that ran by, heading North. They were lovely as well. Your creation is full of Your magnificence! Everywhere I look, there is reason for awe and amazement!
Jesus: You are welcome.
Me: Lately my company has been making a distinction in their statement of the “Golden Rule”, that we should treat others the way that they want to be treated. They made that assertion without any further explanation, as though it was self-evident. That has kind of bothered me, because it seemed a modification of my understanding of what the scripture says. I am grateful to You for showing me that I was wrong about that and that my perspective was actually a self-centered one.
Jesus: Yes, I thought it was high time that you had that sorted out. The difference is, of course, seeing it from the perspective of the person you are treating however you are treating them. You are the one who knows how you want to be treated and if you assume that the way that you want to be treated is the way that they want to be treated then you have not afforded them the same freedom as you have exercised over your own desires.
Me: Treating them how they want to be treated instead of how I want to be treated requires me to find out how they want to be treated.
Me: That is not always easy.
Jesus: It requires building a relationship and being sensitive to their reactions to you.
Me: That seems pretty hard. It certainly is not possible if my focus is on myself.
Jesus: The Spirit is given to guide you into all the truth.
Me: You are saying that truly understanding others is the work of God, aren’t You?
Jesus: Yes. The work of God in you. … and I saw every work of God, I concluded that man cannot discover the work which has been done under the sun. Even though man should seek laboriously, he will not discover; and though the wise man should say, “I know,” he cannot discover. – Ecclesiastes 8:17
Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?”Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” John 6:28-29
Me: Thank You Jesus! I am grateful to You for the things you tell me. I love You!
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. James 1:2-3
Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.”’” 2 Samuel 7:16 (Samuel speaking to David; Jesus is the fulfillment.)
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. John 14:6
Me:Good morning Father!
ABBA:Good morning Jon!
Me: Thank You for the promises You have fulfilled in Jesus!
ABBA: There is an aspect of Jesus being the way that I want you to consider more deeply. Obviously, Jesus’ death in your place paid the legal debt you owed because of sin. (Death because of sin announced in the garden – Genesis 2:17; explicitly countered in Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ) He is the way to escape the deadly consequence of what you have done because He already endured your just deserts.
Besides that, I want you to think of “way” in the sense that Robert Frost used it in his verse about his travels. I want you to think in terms of the process of life, one thing leading to another; one day’s choices building on the decisions laid down the day before to stand as the foundation supporting today. When Jesus said, “I Am the way”, he also meant that His life is our highest example. He marks the way in the manner that a path guides our footsteps to the destination that He intends. A path does not guide one who does not walk on it. Remember Frost’s line, “ And looked down one as far as I could; To where it bent in the undergrowth;”. Reaching the destination requires continuing to put one foot in front of the other until the end of the journey is attained. In just that way, every step in your life is under your control. You can follow Jesus in the way, or you can turn aside and trudge into the woods. It is really always up to you, step by step, choice by choice.
The truth (I Am the truth) is clarifying. As the refiner’s fire causes the dross to rise to the top so it can be removed, walking with Jesus in the way does that sort of purification. When the scripture says “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2, it is speaking of choices you make about that to do with your mind. Here is a signpost along that path: Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. – Philippians 4:8; with the transformation noted in Romans 2:12 as a result and abundant life as the destination of this way (I Am the life).
I am grateful that
You laid aside Your glory and majesty to graciously serve us in our
helpless dilemma, becoming helpless yourself that You might rescue
While they were
there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave
birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid
Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. –
Me: Good morning Jesus!
Jesus: Good morning Jon!
Me: I am prone to think that I need some kind of position of authority to make a difference, that I would have to be in charge of something. What authority does an infant in a feed trough have? Yet that is the way You came and You have made all the difference. I love You!
Jesus: I love you! And that is why I came in the way that I came. I want you to make a difference and know that it is not your power or authority or circumstance that makes it possible to achieve the goal set before you.
I am grateful for the cooler morning and shower to settle the dust.
The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple. – Psalm 119:130
Good morning Father!
Good morning Jon!
Psalm 119:130 has an intriguing message. Unfolding intimates a process, revealing in stages that which was hidden inside before. I think of a folded map. The outside might only have a title and other identifying markings, the useful details folded inside. I have to unfold the map, one crease at a time, to learn where I should go.
So it is not just the word which must be unfolded, but realization ripens under the message’s radiance – recognized from rudiments and repeated refinements – a rhythm of revelation and recognition resulting in refreshing and regeneration and renewal, and rejoicing.
If you look closely, you will find also, that some of the fun of the choice of words is lost in translation from the pictographs that underlay the Hebrew alphabet to the words of English: