Demo of Julie's Bible Reference Library

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Big Picture

Treasured friend,

In the abject dailiness of our lives--whether in caregiving, in work, in illness, in the drudgery of the mundane--the reality of who we are, what we have, and how much God loves us can seem a foggy prospect, indeed. Because I've been overly enmeshed in the mundane, and I'm downright sick of it ... I've begun meditating on the openings of several of Paul's letters this week. In them, I see the exuberance of the Apostle--reminding us of the amazing gifts God has already given to believers in Christ. As I've read and reread chapter 1 of Ephesians and chapter 1 of Colossians, especially, I've found myself bolstered in my resolve to keep moving forward with Him even in the worst of the daily days.

My hope is in sharing a couple of the phrases I've been meditating on, you'll find a similar boost to your heart and soul. So, this week we'll look at the big picture from Ephesians 1--a picture of the reality we seldom even glimpse from our exhausted and overworked perspective.

Read the passage that follows. Savor it. Ask God's Holy Spirit to make you aware of His breath of life in it; ask Him to reveal something fresh of Himself to you through these amazing words. Don't read my comments on it until after you've heard God's own voice speaking to you through this inspired portion of His Holy Word:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:3-14 (ESV)
Here's what I've noticed especially about this big picture--the greater reality. The phrases I highlighted jumped out especially to me this week--and so I dug deeper into them to discover more about the way they would have been understood by Paul's original readers. I think as you read what I learned in my study, you'll see new riches in these amazing words.

"In Him we have redemption"
In the original Greek that means something like, through Christ we hold in our hands the absolute freedom purchased by His blood. That's what we have, what we hold in our hands--the promise guaranteed by the Holy Spirit--that's the greatest of the spiritual blessings we have in Christ. At greatest cost, He purchased our slave contract from the sin that bound us up with the express purpose of setting us utterly and completely free. That's the way the word redemption would have appeared to the original readers of Ephesians 1. Yes, it's something that will be made clear to us in abundance one day, but it is also something we already have, by God's amazing grace.

"the mystery of His will"
According to my AMG Complete Word Study Dictionaries, the word mystery in the Greek had the connotation of our being let in on the secret of the inner circle--as if we've been initiated into the special group and are now privy to its most guarded secrets. We now know His will, His mysterious choices--He lets us in on what moves His heart. We get to know the very Person of God. And, here again, it's something we already have in part and will one day receive in full clarity.

"every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places"
The blessings we have aren't just physical, limited to this temporary existence. According to Vine's Expository Dictionary the word Paul used here for spiritual only appears after Pentecost, after the promise of the Holy Spirit's descending on Christ's followers was fulfilled. So the blessings here, specifically, are all about the indwelling of the Comforter, the Spirit of God sent to live in us. That's the blessing that transcends time and earthly life--He will stay with us for now and through eternity. What greater blessing would our hearts ever require than the very Spirit of God alive and working in each of us who believe in Christ?

"to the praise of His glory"
This is the obvious outcome of knowing what Paul has shown us about God's gifts and blessings to us. We see how awesome and exalted and unspeakable He is, and our response is to lift Him up, to lift our hearts and voices in awe and gratitude. The phrase appears several times in the passage--perhaps because we are so quick to complain and so slow to worship or praise. Okay, I won't speak for you--but I'll say this: I'm so quick to complain and so slow to worship.

I want to heed that reminder, and I intend to respond today by reminding myself early and often to express my worship to the God who lavished these unmerited blessings on me. I pray that as you lift your eyes from your current circumstances and onto the amazing gift of God's Spirit to you, your heart, too, will sing out in worship and praise to His resplendent glory.

Blessings and prayers,

Julie

If you'd like to dig deeper into other Bible passages, like I've done here, you might enjoy my study of John 17 in my book Praying Like Jesus, available in print, audio book, and ebook editions at http://joymediaservices.com


© 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Caregiving, Your Calling for This Season

Treasured friend,

I'm so sorry it's been so long since I've written. I've been praying for you in these weeks, but I've also been rather down. It's easy, you know, to succumb to discouragement when you've been exhausted to the bone and something small like a common little sinus bug swoops in to hold you down for the count for two weeks. You've certainly noticed--in yourself and in your caregiving charges--that so often illness and discouragement are unwilling life partners.

In that mode and mindset, still fatigued and sniffling, I opened my email today to find a newsletter to which I subscribe and an article that grabbed my attention and wouldn't let go. It was written by John Ortberg, who used to be at the Willow Creek Church in the Chicagoland area, and under whose ministry I've sat in many midweek and weekend worship services over the years. And it was absolutely relevant to us as caregivers. The title is

Guard Your Calling, Frodo

Every worthy task can wear you down.
Of course, you'll recognize the takeoff on Lord of the Rings. But the relevance isn't merely cultural. Although the article is written for leaders (it was in Leadership Journal), it is just as significant for caregivers.

In this season of our lives, we often are called to sacrifice much for the sake of the calling God has placed on us to guard and care for our elder loved ones. And absolutely, the task is worthy. So, like Ortberg points out, we can expect this task to wear us down. If you doubt this (like you haven't seen it in your own life), my last two weeks bear it out in Technacolor.

I think of the words of the apostle Paul:
Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of the Messiah’s gift. Ephesians 4:1-7 (HCSB)
Walk worthy of the calling, my friend, the caregiving calling. For you have received the charge from Christ Himself. And you already have (not will have at some future date) not only the calling, but the equipping for the task. He has placed at your disposal and mine, all the humility, gentleness, patience, love, diligence, unity of purpose, and peace we need to accomplish our task--and of course He gives us His Holy Spirit Who holds these for us in overflowing supply. Our hope in fulfilling this calling is that our Lord who overcame the world is beside us cheering us on and propelling us forward. This is the gift of our Messiah, our Redeemer, to all of us who believe.

So, take a moment or two to follow the link above to read Ortberg's short article--as a challenge and a reminder to continue guarding the call God has placed on your life in this moment. And better yet, take many moments to meditate on and pray through the Ephesians 4 passage to begin to appropriate those amazing resources God places at your disposal. I know I'm going to camp out there for the next few days--to drink it all in, so I can pour it all out.


Many blessings to you, my friend,

Julie

© 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

(In case you can't click on the link above, here it is again: http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/currenttrendscolumns/leadershipweekly/guardcallingfrodo.html)