Faith Is All It Takes

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Galatians 2:15-18 15 We are born Jews—we’re not Gentile sinners. 16 However, we know that a person isn’t made righteous by the works of the Law but rather through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. We ourselves believed in Christ Jesus so that we could be made righteous by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the Law—because no one will be made righteous by the works of the Law.17 But if it is discovered that we ourselves are sinners while we are trying to be made righteous in Christ, then is Christ a servant of sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild the very things that I tore down, I show that I myself am breaking the Law.

In this passage today, Paul is still confronting Peter in his hypocrisy because Peter stopped eating with Gentile (non-Jewish) people when people from the Apostle James (Jews) came to meet with him.

This is a passage we all should remember. Maybe this could help remind us of the joy that Christ gives. Here is the basic message of the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ: we are saved and made righteous by faith not by our good works. In other words, it is not something we do that makes us earn grace. This is something that God freely gives. The only part of this done by us is believe it. That’s it.

How does this sit with you? How do you like to receive a gift “just because?” This is how God is. We tend to think that we need to prove ourselves and the gifts are the reward. God does not work this way. We need to stop trying to make ourselves look good and realize God is not concerned with what we do, but what is in our hearts (our motivations).

So what is “righteousness?” According to Webster dictionary it is “acting in accord with divine or moral law : free from guilt or sin, morally right or justifiable.” Do you feel this way everyday? I don’t. There are times where I do not feel I deserve to be in God’s presence as well as there are times I do not feel I am good enough to do what I am doing. Both of these are lies that stop people from doing what God calls them to live.

We do not have to have everything perfect, because God has made us righteous because of Jesus Christ. We all, like Paul, have a sullied past; but God sees us like he sees Christ. You and I are made holy and righteous because of Christ.

Now, it is possible to have this knowledge and our lives are not changed. We can tell is we are allowing Christ to work within us to transform our lives when we exhibit more and more the fruits of the Spirit Galatians 5:22-23. Going back to living for ourselves and not allowing Christ to reside in our hearts rebuilding a wall that we need to tear down. This means we lose time for God to make transformations in our hearts.

We do not need to “earn” God’s favor or grace, we simply accept it. Then we should allow this grace to live in us to make us more and more like Jesus Christ.

These are all things I am continually striving for with God’s help.

#LiveFreeInChrist

December 20: Prepare (Advent 2014 Devotional)

Matthew 2:3-6 When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him. He gathered all the chief priests and the legal experts and asked them where the Christ was to be born. They said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet wrote: You, Bethlehem, land of Judah, by no means are you least among the rulers of Judah, because from you will come one who governs, who will shepherd my people Israel.”

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We have come to an interesting point in our journey this advent season. Herod trying to figure out where the “King of the Jews” would be born.

At first glance, these verses may not make sense being part of a devotional series preparing our hearts for Christmas; but if we look closely and listen we can see a couple incredible things.

First, this passage shows that Herod was not paying as close attention to his area as he should have. Have you been busy in the business of the Christmas season, that you may have missed something important? We all get caught up in our lives and become so inwardly focused that we can miss what God is doing all around us, especially if it does not directly pertain to us. I believe part of the reason for the Advent season is to remind us to be patient and expectant. This means we look for Christ is all we see, hear and do. We are patient because we take the focus off of ourselves and onto God. We are expectant because we should love to see that God is doing around and in us.

Second, this passage shows that Herod had learned people around him to continue to teach him. Who do you have around you that you can ask questions to so you don’t come up with your own conclusions; but you can learn from each other? Being in community is another part of the Advent season. God comes down to be with his people (community).

As we’re getting closer and closer to Christmas, let’s all pay close attention to what’s going on around us so we don’t miss God’s work in the world and in our lives. Let’s also continue to keep learning from each other.

Holy God, you do incredible works all around us. Thank you for inviting us to observe, yet be part of your working in this world. Help us open our hearts to see and hear from you as we prepare to celebrate, once again, the birth of Jesus the Christ. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

December 18: Prepare (Advent 2014 Devotional)

Luke 2:17-20 When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child.Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told.

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Yesterday, we talked about how the shepherds went as a group (community) to wear the angels said the baby Jesus would be (God’s calling), and that they moved quickly (our response).

They found the family at the exact place the angels said they would be and saw Jesus. After the shepherds left the manger, they went off telling people about what they had seen. What did they say? They told about how this baby had been born, how they found out and constantly praised God. They kept the message simple and God-focused.

This is how we should tell people about what God has done today: by telling what we heard, what we saw, and then give praise to God. Sometimes people may not understand, nor appreciate, the message at first; but we should still keep the message focused on God. God coming into the world as one of the humans he created. God walking with us. God experiencing life with us.

What a great reason to celebrate and praise God!

I’m sure after the shepherds made their way home, they were different people. How are you different after encountering God?

Gracious God, you have come to us in the form of a human, Jesus the Christ. Change us and allow the time spent in your presence to make us new creations. It’s because of what you have done for us that we are new people and we should allow you to make us whole. Help us remember to praise and glorify you with all of our heart, soul, mind, body, strength. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

December 13: Prepare (Advent Devotional 2014)

Matthew 1:20-25 As he was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Now all of this took place so that what the Lord had spoken through the prophet would be fulfilled: Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, And they will call him, Emmanuel. (Emmanuel means “God with us.”) When Joseph woke up, he did just as an angel from God commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he didn’t have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to a son. Joseph called him Jesus.

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How do you make decisions? Do you only look at the facts, or so you allow God the opportunity to speak to you? I tend to have quick reactions, but then I try to take time to think about and assess the situation from different angels.

Joseph was about to dismiss Mary from the marriage contract, but I imagine there was still something in his heart that was questioning the decision. This is where God had an opening to prepare Joseph for what was about to happen in the birth of Jesus. After he heard from God, he obeyed and was confident he had an encounter with an angel of God.

I hope we all take time to think and pray about our decisions. God is preparing each one of us for something bigger than ourselves and we should allow him the opportunity to speak, and then obey.

Joseph knew the community would probably not understand his decision or even stand behind him to give him support. But he knew God was there and in that event. May we know, believe and live like this too!

Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

December 12: Prepare (Advent Devotional 2014)

Matthew 1:18-19 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. When Mary his mother was engaged to Joseph, before they were married, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband was a righteous man. Because he didn’t want to humiliate her, he decided to call off their engagement quietly.

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Even though we are still over a week until Christmas and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, we have come to the part in the Christmas story that causes us to think about societal views and how we treat people. We are called to be people who show love to everyone, even when it is difficult.

Joseph had every reason to call off his engagement to Mary since she was pregnant with a child who wasn’t his. He even had every right to have her stoned to death or have her go through life as a disgrace as a symbolic “scarlet letter.” He did none of that. The text says, “Joseph…was a righteous man.”

Would this be the same description of you and I? I do not always do what I know needs to be done; and if you’re honest, neither do you. But we have this example of Joseph. Even though he thought about calling off the marriage quietly, he still saved her life.

How can you show love to those you do not enjoy, or those who have caused you embarrassment? This is where we can continue to prepare and consecrate our hearts for the coming Messiah. God is using you, as he used Joseph, a couple thousand years ago, to be an example to the world of the better path we should take when we interact with people, even those who did us wrong.

God, thank you for the opportunities to practice humility and to show love to those who embarrass us or wrong us. Guide us this day. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Advent Devotional 2014: Prepare (December 10)

Luke 1:57-66 When the time came for Elizabeth to have her child, she gave birth to a boy. Her neighbors and relatives celebrated with her because they had heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy.  On the eighth day, it came time to circumcise the child. They wanted to name him Zechariah because that was his father’s name. But his mother replied, “No, his name will be John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives have that name.” Then they began gesturing to his father to see what he wanted to call him. After asking for a tablet, he surprised everyone by writing, “His name is John.” At that moment, Zechariah was able to speak again, and he began praising God. All their neighbors were filled with awe, and everyone throughout the Judean highlands talked about what had happened. All who heard about this considered it carefully. They said, “What then will this child be?” Indeed, the Lord’s power was with him.

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What stands out to you when you read these verses? If we remember what has happened before this time, Zechariah and Elizabeth have been prepared for this day their son would be born, They were given a glimpse of how the child’s life would be and what he would stand for. They trusted the Lord to provide in their circumstance and that his word would come true. Zechariah and Elizabeth’s heart was prepared and ready for this day.

This is part of the journey we are in this Advent (season of preparation and expectation) as we examine our hearts to see how the story of Jesus’ birth will continue to shape and transform us. Zechariah and Elizabeth were different after the meeting with the angel, and we should be different (being able to stand out from the crowd) after any meeting we have with God.

They were able to confidently tell the people around what their child’s name would be even though it did not make sense to the rest of the crowd. What is God asking you to do that seems other people don’t understand? Will you be bold and confident in your faith and the calling God has placed on your life?

Dear God, You have guided us to this place and this time. Help us in any unbelief we might have so we can celebrate this season of Christmas with boldness and confidence of your presence and your calling in our lives. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

December 9: Prepare (Advent 2014 Devotional)

Luke 1:46-56 Mary said, “With all my heart I glorify the Lord! In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior. He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant. Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored because the mighty one has done great things for me. Holy is his name. He shows mercy to everyone, from one generation to the next, who honors him as God. He has shown strength with his arm. He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations. He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty-handed. He has come to the aid of his servant Israel, remembering his mercy, just as he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.” Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months, and then returned to her home.

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How do you think you would respond if you were in the situation Mary was in? Remember she faced stoning, ridicule, being thrown out of the family, anything like that. But she still found it in her to praise the Lord even in the midst of knowing what could happen to her.

Whatever it is you face today, it may look grim and you don’t know how it will turn out; but God can still be praised! Here’s why:

  • God has never left you.
  • You are held tight in the grip of God.
  • You have the power of the Holy Spirit within you.
  • You have not lost your salvation.

I hope you can remember that this day and give praise and thanks to God in any situation you’re in.

Lord, Thank you for this time. Thank you for your presence. Thank you for giving way more than we deserve or realize we have. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.