Regeneration

Here is a word we don’t hear often–“regeneration.”  I was surprised to come across it in my devotions. I saw it in the writings of A. W. Tozer (1897-1963).  The book I’m reading is called My Daily Pursuit.  The forward is by Ravi Zacharias, and he says this about Tozer:

The profound realization that God could be known personally drew me, with sincerity and determination, to plumb the depths of that claim…A few short years later, I encountered, through the writings, the distinctive pastoral voice of A. W. Tozer, who expounded on the grandest of all themes to which the human mind could ascend and the heart could embrace:  the study of God Himself.  Tozer’s voice was unique in his era, and I read and reread many of his books.  Works such as The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy opened up vistas that were life-transforming.  Those truths were timely for me and timeless for anyone hungry to know God.  So, his words still speak with power and tenderness today, leaving me with the twin passions of fulfillment and legitimate hunger…Tozer gives us the right kind of pause to learn the value of deep reflection on noble truths.  –Ravi Zacharias, quoted in A. W. Tozer, My Daily Pursuit, pg. 7-8

So now let’s look at this word “regeneration” that is heard so seldom today.  I think there are great truths to be considered here and this first quote is very touching to consider:

A new father goes to the hospital to see his first baby.  He goes to the window to look at all of the babies, but what he is looking for is one that looks like him.  The babies may be cute, but he has no interest in any of them except his own.  When he sees his own baby, what he is looking for is himself.  The little baby has his ears, his nose, his eyes and so forth.  The thing that drove him to that little baby is his own image in that baby.  The thing to draw God to us is His image in us.  Sin has destroyed it.  Regeneration puts it back in.  Now that man in Christ can have communion and fellowship with the Father of whose image he is.  –A. W. Tozer, My Daily Pursuit, pg. 188

Now, if the word “regeneration” isn’t enough of an unfamiliar word, take a look now at “compatibility,” “communion,” “congruity,” “atonement,” and a word that I think Tozer made up–“feelingly!”  It all makes complete sense when you put them together and understand his point:

One of the great Bible truths we should revel in is that the newest convert born again today, has a degree of moral likeness to God, which gives him a measure of compatibility.  Heaven is a place of complete compatibility.  Sin introduced an incompatibility between God and the sinner.  Sin disrupts the communion between God and man.  Sin introduces that quality which throws men and God out of accord with each other.  As it is, there is no accord, no congruity.  But when that sinner believes in the blood atonement, which is trust in Christ, and is justified in heaven and regenerated on earth, there is complete compatibility and communion…That compatibility allows God to draw feelingly near to the man or women, and it makes communion morally consistent.  –A. W. Tozer, My Daily Pursuit, pg. 186

Abba Father, through regeneration I have come back to the place where Thee can see in me Thy blessed divine image.  How I praise Thee through Jesus Christ my Savior!  Amen.  –A. W. Tozer,  My Daily Pursuit, pg. 188

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700 Years

It’s pretty amazing that the prophet Isaiah wrote this clear explanation of Easter 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ:

It Was Our Pains He Carried

Just watch my servant blossom!

Exalted, tall, head and shoulders above the crowd!

But he didn’t begin that way.

At first everyone was appalled.

He didn’t even look human —

a ruined face, disfigured past recognition.

Nations all over the world will be in awe, taken aback,

kings shocked into silence when they see him.

For what was unheard of they’ll see with their own eyes,

what was unthinkable they’ll have right before them.

Who believes what we’ve heard and seen?

Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?

The servant grew up before God–a scrawny seedling,

a scrubby plant in a patched field.

There was nothing attractive about him,

nothing to cause us to take a second look.

He was looked down on and passed over,

a man who suffered, who knew pain first hand.

One look at him and people turned away.

We looked down on him, thought he was scum.

But the fact is, it was our pains he carried-

our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.

We thought he brought it on himself,

that God was punishing him for his own failures.

But it was our sins that did that to him,

that ripped and tore and crushed him–our sins!

He took the punishment, and that made us whole.

Through his bruises we get healed.

We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.

We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.

And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him.

Isaiah 52:13-Isaiah 53:6 (Bible Version — The Message)

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Still Coughing

What does coughing have to do with prayer?  Another special devotion I read in Haiti from A Word for the Day  was regarding the Greek words “proseuchomai adialeiptos,” which means “pray without ceasing” (see 1 Thessalonians 5:17).  The author explained it this way:

This word was used in Roman times for a nagging cough; while the person didn’t cough every moment, he would still cough often, so it could be said of him, “He’s still coughing.”  In other words, prayer is not just those specific times when we pray, but also a constant communion with God, a continuous consciousness of God’s presence in which we view everything in life in relation to Him…every moment is a moment for prayer; like the cough, we’re still praying.  In short, we view everything that comes along from a spiritual perspective.

Well, it just so happened that I read this the morning after I visited the orphanage in Haiti.  One girl really caught my attention because she had a constant cough like this.  I really took it to heart to pray for her and to understand what it means to “pray without ceasing.”  It doesn’t mean to pray 24/7; it means you keep on praying, keep on returning to it.  I would say my life is like that.  I almost always try to see things from God’s perspective.  If I’m not happy with a situation, or if I’m frustrated, I will say (literally) to God, “What’s this about?  What are You doing here?”  — in an effort to get His perspective.  I am continually returning to pray, regarding nearly everything in life.  I never want to try to control Him; I simply want to leave things in His hands.  He knows best.  I pray in order to commune with Him, express my trust and need of Him, and seek to understand.  Like a persistent cough, I will never stop praying.

I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.  Philippians 1:3-4 (HCSB)

For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you.  Colossians 1:9 (HCSB)

Energized by God

I was reading the Bible every day that I was in Haiti, just as I do at home.  I was also reading the devotional A Word for the Day, by J. D. Watson.  I really agreed with what he said about prayer, particularly as seen in the verses below.

The effectual fervent prayer of a rightous man availeth much.  James 5:16 (NIV)

The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.  James 5:16 (NASB)

He pointed out that normally we think this means that righteous people’s prayers are more powerful or effective than unrighteous people.  Or we think that we need to pray long and hard.  This is what the author said:

Many people take this verse to mean, “If I pray fervently and intensely, if I just pray hard enough, long enough, and often enough for a particular thing, it will happen.”  But such an idea flies in the face of the principle that prayer involves conforming our will to God’s will.

The Greek word for “effectual fervent” is the word “energeo,” which means (not surprisingly) “to energize, to be at work, to effect something.”  This word is almost exclusively used in the Bible for the work of divine or demonic powers.  Two scriptures that use this word (in opposite directions) are Ephesians 1:18-19 and Ephesians 2:1-2.

I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength.  Ephesians 1:18-19 (HCSB)

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient.  Ephesians 2:1-2 (HCSB)

The author continues:

…it’s then easy to see exactly what James is saying.  He’s not telling us that we accomplish much by our own energy in prayer, but rather that our prayers are strong, because they are energized by God.  We could translate this verse, “The God-energized prayer of a righteous man is strong.”

Isn’t that great?  It’s never about us; it’s always about Him.

For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose. Philippians 2:13 (HCSB)

For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.  Colossians 1:29 (ESV)

Notice the children praying in the video below — this is what I’m talking about!

Trust Update

My Word of the Year for 2011 is “Trust,” and I’ve continued to write down uses of this word in my notebook.  Here are some of the latest entries:

In that day people will proclaim, “This is our God!  We trusted in him, and he saved us!  This is the LORD, whom we trusted.  Let us rejoice in the salvation he brings!”  Isaiah 25:9 (NIV)

Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.  Proverbs 16:20 (NIV)

Trust in love where you can, and where you cannot trust, risk.  There is something that has seen you thus far, and its goodness is worth risking.  In risking, trust grows.  In trusting, faith is given.  In faith, all things are possible — more than we could ever hope or imagine.  — Michelle Tolentino (formerly sponsored Compassion child), Facebook status

Don’t let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God, and trust also in me.  — John 14:1 (NIV)

[We] can experience the sweetness of God for all eternity by trusting in Christ.  — Voices of the Faithful, 5/29

Salvation is not a matter of emotions; it is whole-heartedly putting our trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  — One Year Book of Christian History, 5/26

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.  — Psalm 143:8 (NIV)

Those who make them [idols] have become just like them, have become just like the gods they trust…You who fear GOD, trust in GOD!  — trust your Helper!  — trust your Ruler!  — Psalm 115:8, 11 (MSG)

One Thing Never Wavers

I haven’t been able to write in my blog much lately, unfortunately. But one thing never wavers in my life, whether I’m busy, traveling or sick. I never miss daily devotions.  I don’t do this because I think I should; I do it because I love this time.  When I wake up in the morning, I can hardly wait to read my Bible and see what the Lord says to me each day.  I don’t even have to set an alarm to get up early; I just wake up, move to my chair and get a quilt for my lap.  I’m always reading several books at once, in addition to my Bible.  Here are some of the latest quotes I’ve written down in my notebook:

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”  — John 13:7 (NIV)

Just fall flat on God’s very great and precious promises…  — L. B. Cowman, Streams in the Desert, 2/25

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.  — Psalm 37:7 (NIV)

Moving the hands of a clock to suit you does not change the time.  — L. B. Cowman, Streams in the Desert, 3/30

No man can say as God does here, “I AM because I AM;” all men must say, “I am because another begot me.”  Jehovah is the One whose existence and being are dependent on no other than His own Being.”  — The Journals of Jim Elliot, pg. 27

In the beginning of the contest with Britain when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for the Divine protection.  Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered…And have we now forgotten this powerful Friend?  Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance?  I have lived for a long time (81 years), and the longer I live the more convincing proof I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men.  And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it possible that an empire can rise without his aid?  We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.”  I firmly believe this, and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall proceed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel. — Benjamin Franklin [quoted in Beth Moore’s Stepping Up bible study, pg. 85]

Great Quotes — Two

When we were encouraged by Chris at Compassion to seek for a word to represent the whole year, I felt God led me to the word “Hold,” which seems rather strange.  But let me tell you, it’s meant so much to me already, and I’m amazed at the ways God has brought it to me.  If you don’t have a word for the year, it’s never too late.  What is God speaking to you about lately?  Does there seem to be a theme?  

This has been a good way for me to really focus in and listen during my daily devotions.  Here are some of the quotes related to this word for me already this year:

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  –Colossians 1:17 (NIV)

Only hold fast what you have until I come.  –Revelation 2:25 (ESV)

If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.  –Psalms 37:23-24 (NIV)

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  –Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)

A stronghold is anything that has a strong hold on your life.  We hide behind shelters that become strongholds…We hold the key to the prison we’re in.  Our prison doors are locked from the inside.  –Beth Moore (paraphrase), from the “Breaking Free” Bible Study

What do you hold in your pocket?  I’m holding a key…We hold the key to all that we need — and it’s Jesus.  –Sharon, a friend that was leading worship in our church this weekend

Place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free.  –Words to the hymn, “Open My Eyes That I May See,” by Clara H. Scott

Reverently respect GOD, your God, serve him, hold tight  to him, back up your promises with the authority of his name.  –Deut. 10:20 (MSG)

Children are the hands by which we take hold of heaven.  –Henry Ward Beecher, quoted on the Compassion website

As you can see, God was really speaking to me this week (and this was only the tip of the iceberg)!  He has spoken through many sources, but with the same, assuring message.  I’m very excited to see where else this takes me in my walk with Him!