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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Winter cabin (photo by Greg Schneider)
Our friend Greg Schneider shared this photo of a wintry mountain cabin. I suppose I wouldn't mind spending several days there sitting in front of a crackling wood fire!  We really aren't complaining but we sure haven't had much winter where we live this season, so far anyway. Today it's already warming up and may reach 60 degrees.

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"Grace Alone"

"For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14). "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do" (Romans 7:15).
"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect" (1 Corinthians 15:10).

Today's devotional perspective is written using a golf analogy. Two fellow native Missourians make these observations about golf: Mark Twain called golf a "good walk spoiled", which we appreciate as walkers!  My Uncle Gentry, a very colorful, folksy farmer in southwest Missouri, called golf "cow pasture pool".

GolfIn my early adult years when I lived in upstate Pennsylvania I tried to get into golf. Many of my peers really enjoyed it and for awhile I played regularly with a pastor friend. But I was simply terrible at it. I could never get the hang of hitting that little white ball with the long stick (club). I would either drive the club into the ground or scalp the ball with a mighty whack and it would only dribble a few feet.

Then if I would hit it half way decently I'd slice it and the ball would go off to the side, at one point hitting a car along a road parallel to the fairway on the first hole of the course we played in Saint Marys, PA. However every now and then I would really connect well and then understand why people actually enjoy this sport!

Typically when I played I'd try to concentrate and follow good technique. "This time I'm going to do it right", I'd tell myself.  I mustered all my concentration.  Bend slightly, keep a firm grip, head down, eye on the ball, remember to follow through.  I'd bite my lip.  This is it.  I'd back swing and … alas another bad golf stroke. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

Life is kind of like that isn't it?

Paul's candor in Romans 6 & 7 is astounding. These chapters are among the most difficult portions in the entire Bible to interpret. Devout expositors have grappled for centuries with just what Paul was seeking to communicate.

I believe Paul is indeed writing from the perspective of his current relationship with Christ since in 7:22 he writes, "For in my inner being I delight in God's law."  (Another interpretation views Paul writing Romans 7 from the perspective of his unregenerate state before he was converted.)

He writes, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do."  Can you identify with Paul?  I sure can.

What are the issues you battle as you seek to conquer sin's strongholds and the cravings of the flesh in your life?  I can think of several in my life. These are the obstacles that I believe are referred to in Hebrews 12:1 as "everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles" that we are to throw off. 

We don't know the personal issues that Paul was dealing with and any conjecture as to what they were would most likely be based upon the interpreter's own experiences.  But he bluntly confesses his inward frustration, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24). 

So who will rescue us?  The great apostle tells us in the very next verse, "Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!"  (Romans 7:25).   In 1 Corinthians 15:10 Paul writes, "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect."

Grace, grace, God's grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God's grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin." 

Romans 8 goes on to speak of the power of the Spirit that enables us to live a victorious, overcoming life.  Now that is encouraging!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, the words of a song come to mind; "I'm not what I wanna be, I'm not what I'm gonna be, but thank God I'm not what I was." There is a major difference in my actions and attitudes since I made You the Lord of my life. If I trace back to the beginning of my relationship with You I see more clearly the major changes You made in my heart.  But since my life is a living sacrifice there are always new challenges to tackle, temptations to resist, and trials to endure as a believer. It is not in my own physical strength or power that I am equipped to conquer the enemy, but it through Your Holy Spirit that I come against the giants of doubt, fear, bitterness, greed, lust, discontent and all the other negative foes Satan throws in my path. Though I'm far from perfect and always will be on this side, help me to endure to the end when that which is imperfect will be gone. Sin will no longer have a grip and finally I will be completely whole. All because of Your amazing grace as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ in whose name we pray.  Amen.

Lancaster County fasnachts with coffee 2/21/12
A local tradition:
We've appreciated living in different regions of the country. We were both born and raised in the Midwest but practically our entire adult married life has been here in the northeast USA in three different regions; the mountains in northern PA, New England near Boston and yesterday we marked our 11th year in Lancaster County (Pennsylvania Dutch). Here in Lancaster County yesterday was Fasnacht Day, something we never heard of prior to living in this area. Tradition says it's good luck to eat a fasnacht on Shrove Tuesday, as written in our local paper yesterday.

The idea comes from a time when Christians fasted during Lent and cleared the lard, butter and fat out of their pantries and celebrated with a big Fat Tuesday, as they call it in other parts of the country. The Lenten season began the next day. Fasnachts came to Lancaster County with German immigrants.

The fachnachts pictured above were delicious.  They have a different sort of taste for a sweet pastry - kind of like potato bread vs. white bread. The German version is made from a yeast dough, deep fried, and coated or dusted in sugar or cinnamon sugar. Pennsylvania Dutch fasnachts are also sometimes called potato doughnuts. More info.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Grace Alone"  Video  Maranatha Singers  A powerful song with lyrics

"God Of Grace"  Video  Lou Fellingham

"Grace Greater Than All Our Sin"  Video  Prestonwood Baptist Choir & Orchestra

"I'm Not Who I Was"  Video  Brandon Heath with testimony and interesting graphics.

"He's Still Working On Me"  Video  Southern Gospel kids  Real cute!!!

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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The German version is made from a yeast dough, deep fried, and coated or dusted in sugar or cinnamon sugar; they may be plain or filled with fruit jam. Pennsylvania Dutch fasnachts can often b