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Alive!

Ephesians 2:1-10

 

After several days of dealing with “technical issues,” let’s try this again! 

Beginning here in chapter two, Paul reminds us of how we have been made alive in Christ. It’s a funny thing, but I nearly added the word “again” to that sentence, but Paul’s point is not that we are now “alive again,”  rather he is making the case that we have never been “alive” before. How could we have been alive when we were merely following the lead of the one who is in opposition to the One who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life”?

All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. (v. 3)

Have you ever watched what dogs do? OK, maybe this isn’t the most tactful comparison, but when we were not following Jesus Christ, we were a bit like a dog, following our noses to whatever feels good and then doing it with no thought of consequences; a dog just doesn’t know any better, but a man does. Ah yes, that’s where the “wrath” comes in!

Notice the contrast in verses 4 ff. In Christ, we have been lifted up from that old life with its ways to the heavenly realms, by grace through faith. Paul makes it very clear in vv. 8-9 that this “lifting up” in life has nothing do with any works on our parts, nor does it have anything to do with our great abilities, so no one can boast of their accomplishment of salvation.  Just as a little aside, it is odd that many of us are tempted to look down our noses at others.

After making these glorious points, Paul throws us a bit of a curve in verse 10: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” You might wonder, as many have before, how “works” found its way back into the picture here…

We cannot work to earn our salvation; it just isn’t possible. Yet now that we have received our salvation by grace through faith, God has work for us to do in His Kingdom, namely sharing its awesome blessings with others, just as Jesus did. I can testify, no doubt along with many of you, that entering relationship with our Lord is a wonderful thing, an experience that is life-changing as a matter of fact, but serving Him in His Kingdom work is even better!

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A Saturday Morning Walk

From East to West and Back Again

This morning dawned bright, clear and beautiful in Rock Island, Illinois.  The air was surprisingly cool and dry with a slight breeze and barely a cloud in the sky.  I thought today would be a great day to walk downtown and take a few pictures of the old Memorial Christian Church building for a blog post I have in mind to write-up and post sometime next week, so off I went on my mission.

The old MCC building is about 2.25 miles from here; my trip down the hill was relaxing and pleasant.  I arrived at the scene and took some shots of the old place and looked up: The foot of the Centennial Bridge…

I couldn’t resist getting a shot or two around there, so off I went.

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They have done their best to decorate certain approaches to the bridge on the Illinois side of the river.

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…And there was a fair amount of auto traffic passing through our gateway to the west this morning; maybe they were heading across to the Davenport Farmer’s Market.

I was tempted to keep going… oh why not, here I go! I found my way to the pedestrian passage and began my walk across.

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Before the bridge comes to the river, you have to cross the highway and the railroad tracks and go past the Modern Woodmen building.

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And as you do this, you confront the reality of the situation; this isn’t just any river, this is the “Father of Waters.” This is a unique stretch of river.  Everybody knows that the Mississippi flows north to south from upper Minnesota all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, but here, it flows west.  The result is that in this unusual place, I am walking north, to go from the east side to the west.

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There is a point where you can see one more little group of trees and looking past them, Iowa doesn’t seem very far, but perspective can be a funny thing.

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After those last trees, the immensity of the Mighty Mississippi is striking.  I’ve walked across the Brooklyn Bridge several times, and that is an experience I highly recommend.  I’ve also walked across the Potomac, in fact I’ve recently posted several pictures from that walk on Photo Vistas, but the Mississippi isn’t like other rivers; it is pure raw power. Even I can see the surprisingly swift current pushing and pushing down river… As I continued, it was hard for me to imagine this immense force of water being frozen over, but I’ve seen it that way many times.  God’s creation never ceases to amaze me.

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Looking back at Rock Island you can see part of the river wall that protects the town from flooding; a feature that the city fathers of Davenport don’t seem to consider very important.  Davenport floods from time to time as a result… If you notice upriver, the main channel of the river curves to the left, while a smaller channel goes to the right.  In between is Arsenal Island, home of the Rock Island Arsenal, which is an installation of the United States Army and major employer in the region.  Back in Civil War days, this island was fortified to protect the northern Mississippi from attack, as well as the site of a POW camp where thousands of Confederate prisoners were held captive.  Today there is a National Military Cemetary on the site. That island was also the place where the first ever railroad bridge crossed the Mississippi making Rock Island one of the most important cities in the United States in the mid-19th century.

It’s kind of funny, I’ve lived here since December of 2004 and I’ve always intended to walk across the river, but until today I’ve never quite gotten around to it.  Maybe the fact that my time is so short could have something to do with driving me out onto this bridge. I press on…

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The buildings of Davenport, Iowa are getting much larger now. You can see what the locals often call the “bridge to nowhere” in the middle-right of the picture.  It proves that city fathers sometimes do some expensive but funny things with the taxpayers’ money.  There is a pretty good view in there, I must admit. As I continue to stroll and take pictures, a couple of joggers go by, and several bike riders, too.  I’m not sure I’d want to ride a bike on this bridge.  Between the water and the roadway there’s only 3 or 4 feet at most, and where the girders come down to the bridge deck it’s less than that; no margin for error on a bike because the guard rail isn’t very high at all…  It’s awesome for walking, though.

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This picture will give you an idea of how narrow it is as we approach the end.  I was a little surprised at how much the bridge vibrates as the cars fly by on my left.  Funny thing is there is a posted speed limit of 30 MPH.  Hey city officials, here’s a little tip for you!  Since you folks are always crying that you don’t have enough money, and you could never possibly find a penny to cut from your spending, instead of always raising taxes, why don’t you just enforce the speed limit on the bridge?  Of the hundreds of cars that went by me today, I am quite sure that the very slowest one was going over 45, and some (maybe most) had to be going 60 or more!

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At the foot of the bridge on the Iowa side is John O’Donnell Stadium… oh I forgot, they call it  Modern Woodmen Park now.  It is the home of the Quad City Riverbandits of the Midwest League, and I must say it is a wonderful place to take the family to see a baseball game on a warm summer evening…

The Iowa views aren’t quite as photogenic at the foot of the bridge, and I didn’t tarry log before I made my way back across to Illinois.

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If you ever have occasion to visit this area, I would recommend the journey from east to west and back again, particularly if you have a day like today, but then who comes here on purpose?

Well, you can enjoy the walk virtually anyway!

Note: This post originally ran on August 10, 2013.

Something New

I’ve started a new project that I thought I would share with you.  I’ve begun to go back and collect my posts on books of the Bible and copy them into documents on each book. So far, these cover the books of Colossians, 1,2 and 3 John, 1 and 2 Peter, Galatians and Hebrews.

Having these posts in one document is one thing, but having something useful is quite another, so I’ve started adapting them into… what?  You see, my problem is that I’m not sure what they are!  They really aren’t books per se, they’re… something though.  I haven’t figured out what they are yet; a survey maybe.Col Cover

Since Colossians was the first book I blogged all of the way through, I started there.  After adapting the text to a new format, whatever it would be called, I then added some questions for each of the former posts.  These are broad questions that are there to provide topics to reflect upon or discuss with others and I’m calling it “Reflections on Colossians.”

These little “Reflections” can be used for personal devotions or studies.  They could be used for small group studies or devotions, and if you’re experienced, they could be used for Sunday school classes; oh yes, you should get some rip-roaring discussions in a larger class! At any rate, the first one is done in a sort of Beta edition and posted on my website in pdf format for anybody who might want to check it out. Please understand that hey are free of charge, and you are free to use them in any way you like. By all means, should you find it useful, share it.  I don’t really care if you ripped off the content for your own, as long as it isn’t used for commercial purposes.  The whole point here is to build His Kingdom, so let’s get building together!

If you’d care to visit my website, here’s the link: Don Merritt Online

If you want to download the pdf the link is: Reflections on Colossians

Should you choose to download this, can I ask you a favor?  Would you please let me know your thoughts?  Was it helpful, useful or worth the effort to download and read through?  Do you have any suggestions for how I could improve it and make it a better tool for people? Any ideas for what to call them? Did you hate it? Why? Anything along those lines would be very helpful and much appreciated, and my contact info is in the file.

Thank you all for being so awesome and reading all the way through this!

 

Don

 

On a Personal Note…

Today I’m heading out on a road trip… well more like a train trip.  We’re off to see a new grandson in southern Illinois, and I’ll be doing a conference and a leadership class there as well.  So, I’ll be away from my computer for several days. I’ll try to check in periodically, but if past experience is any indication, I don’t usually do very well logging in on mobile devices; everything is way too small.

Naturally, we picked a departure date that included the biggest winter storm in years in these parts, but they say the trains are still running, even though the planes aren’t flying.  How we’ll actually get to Union Station remains a mystery, but where there’s a will, there’s a way, right? I’ve always wanted to take a train trip!

I’ve scheduled a post for tomorrow on 3 John, and then the blog will be “dark” until I return, but while I’m gone I’ll be thinking and praying for all of you as you minister to each other in love on your blogs.  Hopefully when I return, I’ll have some new blogging ideas myself…

May God bless all of you!

Don

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Whoops! I messed up!

I realized earlier to day that my contact email account for Life Reference had a number of messages that went to spam in error.  I’ve been trying to respond to them today, quite late in some cases, and I just wanted to say “sorry” to anyone who has emailed LR and not received a reply from me.  I have turned off the spam filter until I can figure out why that happened, so feel free to email at lifereference@gmail.com with any thoughts or remarks you may have.  Again, I am real sorry about that mix up!

A Big Thank You!

I would like to thank Kate Bortell whose blog is called Serious Thoughts Taken not so Seriously for nominating me for the Versatile  Blogger Award.  Kate, I appreciate the thought very much and offer my thanks. I really enjoy Kate’s blog because it is well written, covers a variety of topics, but most of all because it is simply a pleasure to read, and I would encourage everybody to check it.  versatile-blogger-award

Now about that award…

I must decline the honor, not because I am unappreciative, far from it.  It’s just that I’ve already received it.

I think it was last August that I took the awards off of my blog.  I wanted to change the look, make it more fresh and really make a commitment to having a better blog… so I did some “housecleaning” you might say.  But now, I’m thinking that maybe i made a mistake, since this has happened twice now.  I’m really sorry for the confusion! Maybe I should find one of the “award free” images.  Well, I’ll need to figure it out one of these days.

Anyway, Kate I want to thank you and give you a little recognition for an excellent blog!

There are so many blogs that I enjoy, and it seems like I come across more and more all of the time.  I have numerous links listed of the blogs I follow to the right, but sadly the widget allows only 50 to show.  I would encourage you to check these out some time… and I need to add a bunch more, so you might all want to check back every now and again to see the new ones I add along the way. All the best to Kate and everyone else who stops in here at LR.  Your support means a great deal: Thanks!

Don

Today’s Picture Trip

This morning as I was finishing up my last post  (New Way of Thinking) I noticed that it was bright and sunny outside, so I decided to go into town and get some pictures for my 2 blogs.  I had a few things to get done before i left and then I was on my way.  As I was walking the half mile or so to the Metro station I noticed something interesting happening.LayPark 102213 001

The sun went away.

By the time I arrived at the station, what had been bright and sunny was now dark and ominous..  I switched trains at King St. and continued into the city, and when I came up the escalator at Farragut West station, not only was it dark and ominous, but there seemed to be moisture in the air.I proceeded down Connecticut Avenue to Decatur Street and entered Lafayette Park as it grew steadily darker and wetter, but I started shooting pictures, not sure if anything would turn out.  Well, let’s be honest, I’m never sure if anything is going to turn out, so maybe the biggest difference today was that I was trying not to get drops of water on the lens.LayPark 102213 009

I took 49 pictures in Lafayette Park and in front of the White House and decided to head for home. If you guessed that while I was walking back from the Metro, that the sun came back out, you’d be right of course.  Isn’t that how these things always go!

I grabbed a quick sandwich for lunch and downloaded the pictures, and I think that I actually got some good ones, there are a few samples here now, and I hope to be posting more in the days ahead here and on Photo Vistas. For now, happy blogging and have a blessed day!

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What?  Oh, no these aren’t the good ones…