No Greater Message: God Is For You!

Given the word “God,” without self-editing or over-thinking, what’s the word or phrase that comes immediately to mind? If you’ve been schooled in the false gospel of ceaseless striving, you may come up with words like judgment, severe, or disapproving. After all, it’s clear that we are not equipped to measure up on our own to the demands of a holy God.

However, if you’re tuned in to the truth of Romans 8, you are living a better story for it begins with the soul-liberating truth:

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

In If God Is For Us: The Everlasting Truth of Our Great Salvation, Trillia Newbell employs her gospel shovel to turn over the soil of Romans 8, revealing the fertile riches of major themes:

  • Life in the Spirit
  • Our role as heirs with Christ
  • The promise of future glory
  • Our assurance in the present moment
  • The everlasting love of God that is the foundation of our life with him.

A Favorite Chapter from a Cherished Book

The six-week in-depth study begins with an overview of the book of Romans and a flying trip through the first seven chapters to serve as background for the material in Romans 8. This is a sound practice to establish here and to carry forward into our independent study of Scripture, because context is crucial to a full understanding of what we read. Evangelical tradition often has us jumping right into application of a passage without a full knowledge of the author’s intent.

Insightful questions lead the reader into considering what the passage says AND what it means, urging a full engagement with the text and a deep dive into all that’s unknown before giving in to the temptation to consult with the “experts” through commentaries. Then and only then are we ready for application of the truth to our lives, and Romans 8 delivers in so many ways, for not only does it unpack the heart of the gospel, but it offers assurance to those who are “in Christ Jesus” that we can indeed, through the power of the Spirit, live in fellowship with God on this fallen planet he created and loves.

Free from the law of sin and death,

Many thanks to Moody Publishers for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase If God Is For Us: The Everlasting Truth of Our Great Salvation simply click on the title within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.


Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

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Making a Commitment to Blessing

The ping of a message changed my day: “Let’s take food to a friend who needs encouragement.

“Well, why not?” I asked myself, and began pondering the joyful outcome that always arises from random acts of blessing.

I’ve always wanted to be an extrovert — or at least an optimist.
Failing at both, I’m thankful to be a Christian, for when Scripture presides over any natural tendencies I may have to hunker down and spend my whole life “ordering my private world,” I get to move outside my comfort zone and to make a commitment to be a blessing to others.

Blessed to Be a Blessing

The first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is a challenge I return to again and again with its strings of dependent clauses and its long stretches between end punctuation. I may not have it memorized Navigator-style, but this one thing I know from my stumbling repetitions as I walk these country hills on the business end of a St. Bernard’s leash:  God’s blessing (v. 3) and His choosing (v. 4), His acceptance (v. 6) and His redemption (v. 7) will result in an ultimate gathering (v. 10) of all believers and all things — in Him. 

Believers have been “blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” so that we can be a blessing to others and add to the joy of that future gathering. Having been blessed, I am called to be a blessing.  Given that God, in His providential grace, has already heaped up blessing upon blessing, my church family has designated 2018 as our Year of Blessing. We’ll meet to feast and declare it to one another, we’ll invite others into the blessing, and, most of all, we want to be intentional about it.

Making a Commitment to Blessing

My friend who got the ball rolling with this most recent project is operating out of blessing-based thinking that I want to emulate:

Don’t Wait for a Reason

We’re used to showering people with food when they have a baby or if someone in the family is in the hospital, but what about someone who lives alone on a snowy day in January? If God brings someone to mind, there’s likely a reason for it that only He knows. How wonderful to be on God’s encouragement staff and to receive private memos from Him!

Overcome Obstacles

My Blessing Mentor/Friend offered to be the liason for food delivery. And if our target audience has a freezer that is too small to accommodate the blessing, she has room in her freezer and will take care of the overflow in the meantime.

If the project you have in mind is too big to do alone, ask for help. If you want to help, but don’t know what to do, make a friendly phone call or visit and be a good listener and observer.

Think Outside the Box

Recently, our women’s ministry experienced some setbacks in arranging the details for our Christmas project. Usually we bless a struggling family with children by purchasing gifts, but this year our contacts kept falling through, so we fell back, regrouped, and ended up blessing a recent widow with gifts and a visit for tea. She would never have come to mind if our business-as-usual plan had worked out, and in the process we were able to meet a need that others were not aware of.

Partner with Others in Your Community

There’s really no way we would have known that this is exam week at our local high school, but a para-church ministry in the area knew and invited us to contribute snacks for the teachers during this challenging week.

A couple of courageous women in our fellowship teach a Good News Club at one of the elementary schools in the area, and it’s our privilege to provide snacks for that and to be on call to pray or to help in other practical ways. (This week a call went out for paper towel rolls for a craft project!)

Intentional blessing puts the love of God on display in unusual ways. He wants to be known, feared, enjoyed, and praised because He is gracious to all people, and often believers wonder how to accomplish this, how to make Him known. Practical acts of love, homely blessings that communicate caring are a bridge between hearts, and allow us to extend the blessing we have received to others that they, too, may “enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.”

What practical ideas do you have for being a blessing to others in your church and community?
What has worked well for you in the past?
Please share in the comments below!

Image by Unsplash


If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

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An Unexpected Love

Oh, how she had grown to hate him. Ten thousand offenses, both small and large, had accumulated over the years since their arranged marriage.

Practical and traditional, Father had seen a prosperous match:  “Abigail, you will marry a descendant of Caleb,” he had exulted. Abigail had found no delight, no dignity in the homeland of this husband whose given name would be forever lost beneath the wreckage of his character:  Nabal –“The Fool.”   

Playing hostess to his drunken friends and enduring his loutish company, the loneliness was excruciating. Even so, she thanked Yahweh every day that there were, as yet, no children from this unfortunate match. “I am your servant,” she prayed each day at sunrise and found, over time, that the God of Israel had become her comfort in this desert-life.

When hope for love has left a marriage, what remains?

. . . unless the rattling husk becomes a place for something new to grow.   Slowly, Abigail began to notice the workings of Nabal’s household. Her quick mind took in the details of the livestock business, the buying and selling, the shearing and marketing of fine wool. She had long ago stopped hoping for love, but one day, she realized that the respect and confidence of the family servants had become her consolation, a gift from Yahweh. 

The season of shearing was upon them with its steady hum of activity, but Abigail welcomed the challenge and the stimulation, planning meals for the shearers, managing the bountiful output, and arranging for its transport. During a lull in the chaos, she was catching a breeze in the doorway when Othniel, her faithful steward, appeared, wild-eyed, breathing like a frightened creature.

“What is it, Othniel?” she asked.

“You know that David, the chosen of God, and his men have been protecting our flocks and our shepherds for some time.” 

Abigail nodded.  “Go on.”

“They have been like a city wall to us and to our herds, and so David sent his messengers to request protection money and provisions, a part in our feasting . . .  They were taken to the master.”

Abigail dropped her face into her hands and listened, knowing that what followed could only be bad news.

And it was: 

A refusal to provide reasonable compensation for services rendered.

When Othniel’s words confirmed her fears, she asked, “Have they gone?” 

Perhaps it was not too late to undo The Fool’s damage.

“The master has sent them away empty-handed.  They promise revenge, that everyone in the household will feel their anger.  . . I have said nothing to the master.”

“That is well,” she replied, flying into action. “We must move quickly.”

From shearing season’s full larder, Abigail rattled off a hurried and portable menu and directed Othniel to load it onto donkeys and to lead the way to David and his men.

“I will follow close behind,” she assured him.

Hurriedly, she changed out of her work clothes, mounted her own donkey, and followed. But suddenly there they were, rounding a corner with strapped-on swords like a military detachment – headed toward her home.  David was in the lead, but he stopped in his tracks when Abigail dismounted and fell on her face at his feet.

Her words tumbled out:

“Do not listen to my husband, The Fool;
As his name is, so is he;
If your men had only come to me,
they would have found a welcome and feasting.”

Abigail lifted her eyes in time to see surprise register on David’s tanned face.

“Therefore, I have brought the feast to you.”  She gestured toward the loaded caravan.  Was it just her imagination, or did David’s eyes move reluctantly away from hers?

Emboldened by his attention, she continued with words that she scarcely recognized as her own:
“Please do not let your name be associated with revenge and bloodshed, but accept these gifts. Because you have fought Yahweh’s battles, He will wrap up your life with His treasure and will certainly make for you an enduring kingdom. He will cast aside your enemies like a stone hurled from a sling. When Yahweh has brought these words to pass, remember me His servant.

Then, tearing her gaze from his, she turned to leave.

With one hand, David stopped her, for the other hand was raised in blessing – a blessing over Abigail.


She did not recall mounting the donkey.   She did not recall the journey home, for her ears and her heart were full of David’s words:

“Blessed is your advice, your good sense.

Blessed are you for keeping me from murder, for looking out for my reputation.

I hear you.

I respect you.”

Not since coming to the House of Nabal had she heard such words, and they carried her into the house. They sustained her through the night as The Fool slept off his evening’s wine.

At first light, Abigail approached Nabal, eyes on the floor, reporting mechanically:  “You recall that David’s men were sent away from your presence yesterday . . .” 

Describing David’s promise of revenge and her own actions, Abigail was startled to hear choking sounds from Nabal’s throat, but she continued with her report until a thud and sounds of alarm from the servants caused her to her lift her eyes. 

There lay The Fool, on the floor.


The ten days between his fall and his death passed quietly, and Abigail wondered how the demise of her own husband could affect her so slightly.  She had been aware of the shriveled condition of her heart, but marveled at the cool poise with which she had wrapped up the end of shearing season and notified Nabal’s near kinsmen.  They would be arriving soon to take over his property.

And what was to become of his widow?  The memory of David’s blessing fanned a small hope that perhaps one day she would find a place of love and respect, but she did not know how that could be.  She only knew that she must flee before The Fool’s family arrived and engulfed her as if she, too, were a possession.  Gathering a small packet of provisions, she made ready to depart. 

Hearing footsteps, she whirled, ready to bolt from the room, but instead she froze. 

Othniel stood in the doorway, announcing the servants of David:

“David has sent us to you – to ask you to become his wife.”

Rising, Abigail bowed, and her words to David’s men were also a prayer to Yahweh:

“I am your servant.”


And such is the glory of unexpected love. 

Each of us in our turn has been married, in some way, to foolishness —
but then redeemed by an unexpected love so strong and so wild
that all we must do is rise and follow,
placing our hand in His
and trusting for a better future.

“Behold, what manner of love the Father has given unto us . . .” (I John 3:1)


Be sure to check out the context for this Old Testament love story!

Photo credit:  Tiago Muraro

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The Great Work: Encouragement

“Don’t corral others to meet your needs.”

“Choose to be a servant.”

“Give yourself away.”

If you’re interviewing a guy who wears the title “Chief Encouragement Officer” like a banner, you can expect to hear lots of sentences like these.  Here’s another one:  “The goal is to get small and, in humility, to build others up.”

And any of these could be the mission statement for David “JB” Miller or for the Life Letter Cafe, the on-line ministry he has founded based on the truth that God chooses to invest deeply into the lives of those who pour themselves into others.

With  200+ bloggers sharing their work at The Cafe, it has become a well-spring of encouragement for readers, and, as one of the bloggers,  I can say with certainty that Life Letter Cafe also encourages the writers who share their words in that friendly space.

When I asked David about a favorite Scripture, he immediately shared Proverbs 11:25b:

“Those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.”

This is a principle that reverberates throughout the Bible.  In fact, I checked out Biblical usage of the word “refreshed” using Blue Letter Bible and found it has been used seven times, and it carries the positive sense of being comforted, strengthened, or established.  According to the Old Testament, refreshment can come in various ways:

  • Genesis and the Song of Solomon both speak of food that provides refreshment.
  • In Psalm 68:9, rain refreshes a weary land.
  • Proverbs 3:22 and 25:13 declare that wisdom, discretion, and a trustworthy messenger refresh like snow in the summer or like jewels on a necklace.
  • Then, in the New Testament, Peter the faithful messenger and carrier of wisdom to the recipients of his second letter reminds his readers that he is trying to refresh their memory and to stimulate wholesome thinking.

Food for the soul, wisdom for living, a faithful message, and living water for those who thirst are key to the refreshment provided at Life Letter Cafe, and the ministry is expanding.  In our era of virtual gatherings, naturally there is no brick and mortar involved, and, frankly, I am the last person who should be explaining this expansion because I only just barely understand the back side of my own blog, but here’s the goal:
1.  Rebuild the Life Letter Cafe with the capacity for 500 guest contributors;
2.  Build participation from the current 50 thousand monthly readers to 100 thousand;
3.  Offer several new services and leverage increased influence for the purpose of contributing financially to the rescue of the unborn.

David and his team are still in the early stages of planning and praying their way through this process.  You can read more detail about the project here or explore the SmashFund crowd funding tool that is just now getting underway.



And while you’re busy pondering all this goodness, how is your soul being refreshed these days?

Have you passed the refreshment along to another?


If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.


A Study in Perseverance

Determination perseveres in spite of the word “no.”

When Rosalie Ranquist realized that she was called to be a missionary, her rough background and lack of education led church leaders to discourage her from pursuing her goal.  Even so, in 1967 she left for Papua New Guinea and her career was remarkable in every way — particularly in light of her seemingly inadequate preparation.  Although she is, technically, “retired” now, she continues her involvement as an international literacy consultant on a limited basis, and she still shares her favorite Scripture verse with others:

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord,”

I Corinthians 15:58

Knowing that Rosalie is facing some health challenges, she and her verse have been on my mind lately, and since I’ve been reading in I Corinthians 15 for the past three weeks, this was the perfect time for me to visit for resources that deepen my insight into Rosalie’s verse.


Since there are thirteen Study Bibles to choose from, I was able to review the verse’s historical context, and also found this insight from John MacArthur:

“The hope of resurrection makes all the efforts and sacrifices in the Lord’s work worth it.  No work done in His name is wasted in light of eternal glory and reward.”

Steadfast, immovable, and abounding are not words that most of us use in everyday speaking, so I was surprised to note how many of the newer translations have stuck with them.  You can check for yourself by clicking on the  I Corinthians 15:58 in all English translations link below the verse.

The NRSV and Amplified Bibles used the word excelling, and the New Living chose outstanding to speak of “abounding in the work of the Lord.”

The Good News Translation used firm and steady for steadfast and immovable, while the International Children’s Bible spoke of being steady and strong.

The Living Bible put some meat on the bones of Paul’s opening “therefore”:

“So, my dear brothers, since future victory is sure, be strong and steady, always abounding in the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever wasted as it would be if there were no resurrection.”

This rendering of the verse anchors it deeply in the big picture of the chapter’s theme:  Resurrection.  A click on the four brown parallel lines beside the reference allowed me to view the entire chapter as needed, for I Corinthians 15 provides the most thorough teaching of any chapter in the Bible on resurrection and the Christian life.

Paul is not offering an empty or theoretical hope.  His admonition toward a steadfast and immovable perseverance on the narrow path —  even when it feels as if the narrow path may be squeezing the life out of you —  is not just a happy thought to keep us company as we endure.  It is a promise of future life that has been verified by the resurrection of God the Son.  Jesus was the “first fruits” of that promise, and based on that, we know that God can deliver the goods.

Resurrection is the bass note that thrums underneath every word that Paul has written in this long and theologically rich chapter, for the truth of resurrection is the basis of a living, breathing, get-up-in-the-morning-and-obey-God-all-day kind of faith.   It is only because God keeps showing up with power that I can war against sin — every day.  He offers freedom from slavery to other people’s approval and from my stubborn need to be “right.”  He brings life to this new creation so that I can find grace to hate the selfishness and small-living that would keep me at the center of my own universe.

Rosalie Ranquist and the truth of her favorite verse serve as a continual reminder to me that nothing is wasted in God’s economy:  our suffering and our service are all infused with meaning because we live in a hope that is based on Truth.


Check out the resources at by using it to enhance your understanding of a passage that you are studying today!



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Come Together for the Better

Weekly we gather — seldom daily as they did in New Testament times, the era of ravenous lions and Nero’s flaming, pitch-dipped Christians, human torches to light his gardens.  Lugging our three pound Bibles and a week’s worth of accumulated angst, we gather, having in common our hearts of flesh and likely the scar tissue where hearts of stone rubbed us raw in time past.

“Coming together” Paul calls it at least four times in his Corinthian communiqué, and he chides that congregation for coming together “for the worse.”  By contrast, he launches into what amounts to a reenactment of Jesus’ last Passover celebration in the Upper Room with words that have worn grooves in the church’s collective memory.  “This do in remembrance of Me.”

According to John MacArthur, Paul’s account of Jesus’ last Passover celebration in the Upper Room pre-dates the Gospels, making it the first written record of the event from which we pattern our modern day communion service.  Paul received the story that the eye-witnesses would write about later.  Let that sink in for a moment:  post-crucifixion, post-resurrection, post-ascension, Paul was given the privilege of writing about an event he would never have been invited to at the time.

The bread and the cup had once been the centerpiece of the early church’s coming together.  However, in keeping with human nature, it had become a hollow shell.  Indifferent, ritualistic, unrepentant, and greedy, the Corinthians gobbled bread and slurped wine without a thought for Christ’s sacrifice.  It was Paul’s intent to fill that tradition with meaning once again.

Can we say that what happens when we “come together” each week is “for the better” — for the enhancement, the building up of the Body?  Oh, we will not do it perfectly.  Not now.  Not on this planet.  But do we listen more than we speak?  Do we ask questions like a bridge from heart to heart —  and then really pay attention to the answers that travel back to us on that bridge?  Can we bear in mind that the point of our gathering has very little to do with order of service or music style or whose turn it is to serve in the nursery?

Whatever our tradition — bread cubes and grape juice, matzo and wine, daily, weekly, or monthly — when we gather “for the better,” we receive the story anew.  We lift up the Gospel of Truth and put the wonder of incarnation on display, demonstrating that we are committed to a Kingdom that is both already and not-yet.

Here in New England, church attendance is no longer a cultural norm.  Unbelievers (and even some Christians) have accounted for the church in the column labeled “irrelevant,” but — whether by curiosity or by compulsion — if an unbeliever enters our fellowship, what would be his impression of our “coming together?”  It’s no surprise that Paul had thoughts on this.  His goal was that an “outsider” be convicted, called to account, and overcome by the reality of God’s presence.

If awe is a contagious condition, is anyone who wanders into my fellowship at risk?

Are the bread and the cup, the ministry of the Word, the lifting of voices, and the offering of gifts an empty tradition, a hollow shell —  or does grace flow like wine?

Are hearts nourished with the Living Bread until the truth overflows and splashes, soaking believers and unbelievers alike with the glorious outcome of having come together “for the better.”


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I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Veering into the Serene Providence

Knocking twenty-two years’ worth of dust off a resume stretches the definition of “creative writing” to its limit. After giving my time away for two decades, can I convince even myself that my skills are marketable? Am I still capable of holding my own in the workforce? The questions hang in the air like a challenge.

This job search is not happening at all the way I had planned it. Certainly, I have always expected to return to work someday, but only after the graduation party for boy number four, the culmination of my career as a homeschooling mum.  Naturally, I would observe a few weeks’ intermission — to beautify my future Pinterest-perfect home. Then and only then would I break out the resume and step magically into the job of my dreams  – or else . . .  just crank out a run-away best-seller, the smoke rolling off my keyboard from the intensity of its truth-telling.

However, with reality comes the quaint truth that “making ends meet” may simply mean bringing them into the same zip code. With my teacher-husband home for the summer, why not let him manage the family mowing business – and the family? Why not see if I can land a summer job?

Why not?

Whenever the unexpected happens, I’m thrown against the framework of my theology. Will it hold? Does what I believe about the sovereignty of God accommodate a veering turn that was not anywhere on my road map? In the past, I have found that the disruption of my plans has been a salutary thing – not a sign from heaven that I have disobeyed or ignored God’s direction, but, rather, an assurance that there is a serene Providence* at work behind the scenes, that God has said words of promise over me:  “I have other plans for you, plans which will open a way for you to learn to know Me – which is far better than what you had planned.”

Naomi would agree, I think. Senior heroine from the book of Ruth, she encountered the unexpected when Bethlehem, “The House of Bread” was stripped by famine and left without a crumb. The journey to Moab with Elimelech and their two young sons would have been a desperate act, and it was followed by a decade of every imaginable kind of loss as, one by one, her men — her protectors — died.

Even the comforting presence of devoted daughter-in-law Ruth could not dilute life’s acrid brew that transformed Naomi the Pleasant into Mara the Bitter, (Ruth 1:20, 21). Naomi’s jarring change of direction leaves me breathless. How does a woman ever absorb the loss of a husband and two sons? One thing she discovered (and that I am learning) is that God is the only One who is equipped to recognize a detour while it is happening. It is only from the vantage point of the rear view mirror that we mortals are able to verify the truth that, all along, God had in mind our best interest and the furthering of His Kingdom.

With the sadness of mourning still roaring in her ears, Naomi could never have imagined that her slow trek back to Bethlehem would be a journey toward life and joy – and grandchildren! She could not have discerned that her time in Moab – temporary after all – would reap a bearer of strong genes for the making of the Messianic Line:  King David’s great-grandmother, Ruth, the gleaner of barley who gathered grace as well.

In the interim, therefore, we wait; and we pray for grace to trust God’s motives.  Today, I am feeling the murkiness of the fog of unknowing. This waiting is something I’ve never been good at, and yet I can attest to the deep groove that is formed in the soul by waiting – and praying. Paul Miller in The Praying Life advises:

“Instead of trying to suppress anxiety – to manage it or smother it with pleasure – we can turn our anxiety toward God. When we do that, we find that we have slipped into continuous praying.”

How delightful to think that if I can adjust the angle of all my concerns at this turn in the road (Can I still be the present kind of mum I long to be? Who will direct the church’s VBS?  Will my blog disappear from the planet?), if I can move the trajectory away from worry and toward petition, I will “slip into” prayer.

What a mercy.

“Expect delays,” say all the road signs, and while my detour is only the palest adumbration of Naomi’s jarring ride, I am blessed by her words to Ruth:

“Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out.”

And, Note to Soul:

While you’re waiting, let the memory of past deliverances teach you to hope against all hope in today’s uncertainty, knowing that with every unexpected bend in the road you are veering into the loving and wise sovereignty of God.


*The phrase “serene Providence” is borrowed from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s oration on the death of Lincoln.

Photo credit


Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.