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

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.

Look Beyond What You See

“Look beyond what you see” is my favorite line from Lion King 1 1/2.

The point being told to Timon is to not focus on the situation or the problem. If we allow ourselves to step back from what’s going on, we may be able to see the bigger picture; which may even allow a solution or ray of hope to be seen.

The Bible has a great story of this in 1 Kings 17:8-16.

The Lord’s word came to Elijah: Get up and go to Zarephath near Sidon and stay there. I have ordered a widow there to take care of you. Elijah left and went to Zarephath. As he came to the town gate, he saw a widow collecting sticks. He called out to her, “Please get a little water for me in this cup so I can drink.” She went to get some water. He then said to her, “Please get me a piece of bread.” “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any food; only a handful of flour in a jar and a bit of oil in a bottle. Look at me. I’m collecting two sticks so that I can make some food for myself and my son. We’ll eat the last of the food and then die.” Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go and do what you said. Only make a little loaf of bread for me first. Then bring it to me. You can make something for yourself and your son after that. This is what Israel’s God, the Lord, says: The jar of flour won’t decrease and the bottle of oil won’t run out until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.” The widow went and did what Elijah said. So the widow, Elijah, and the widow’s household ate for many days. The jar of flour didn’t decrease nor did the bottle of oil run out, just as the Lord spoke through Elijah.

The widow could not see past the lack of flour. Elijah saw and trusted God for greater possibility than what everyone else saw.

I tend to represent each person at different times of the day; mostly trusting God for the outcome and possibilities.

Who do you see yourself as?
I hope we all can trust that God provides what we need. Have you trusted in God today?

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What I Love & Appreciate About Christianity

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Many people hear countless times how much they have to do in order to win affection from another person. Because this is how we live, it almost seems natural to apply this kind of thinking and “works mentality” to religion especially Christianity.

What I appreciate and love about Christianity is that is breaks all of the “rules” that humans have established. In order for God to love you, you do not need to do anything to earn his love and favor. God’s love was there from the beginning of time and loves you, even likes you, because you are his most valuable creation. This seems kind of strange because of what we have to go through and do just to earn a little respect from people around us.

Three verses in the Bible sum up Christianity for me. There are many but these three stand out: John 3:16 (God loves the world that he sent Jesus Christ), Ephesians 2:8 (we are saved by grace and nothing else), and Romans 8:38-39 (nothing can separate us from the love of God).

After we accept the fact that God loves us and we accept his love and forgiveness, we really experience the presence and life of God within us. We realize it is not us doing the work, but God through us. We have this incredible opportunity to work with the Creator of the universe and spread the message of his infinite love to all people.

This all still seems backwards. Why would a God who created everything want to be part of and involved with people he created? The answer is love. It was out of love that Jesus Christ came down to earth. It was out of love that he lived life, facing the same temptations we do. It was out of love that he died and rose from the dead breaking the curse of sin and death. It is out of love that he wants to be present with us.

We are saved by grace, meaning we did nothing to deserve it; except that God created you and me. We have eternal life with Christ, even though our lives reflect how we disregard and reject Christ. When we accept Christ and the love of God, we will know what it means to live in true freedom.

What I love and appreciate about Christianity is that there are only 2 basic rules: love God and love people. So, it is out of our love for God that we can love people (even the undesirable people because God loves and likes us); and we serve out of love for people so they can experience and learn about the good news of Jesus Christ. It is because God loves us, that we love. It is because we love God that we love and serve people.

Our lives are a constant battlefield for peace, patience, morality, justice, hope, joy, etc. that we need God to fight for us and with us.

What I love about Christianity is that it shows God, coming down to personally be with his creation and walk with each one of us.

Have you accepted the grace, love, forgiveness, hope, peace, joy of God through Jesus Christ? Your life will not be instantaneously better; BUT you will experience joy, peace, hope in the midst of trials and the valleys of life.

There is so much more; but what I love about Christianity is Jesus Christ.

Mission Trip Begins

I have the great opportunity to lead a team of 18 people, most of whom, have not been on an short term mission trip out of the state.

We are not thinking we’re going there to do stuff for the people, we have something different in mind. We desire to learn, love, listen to and show people the light and love of Jesus Christ.

Our goal is to learn about a new culture and experience and witness how other people live when we escape from the suburbs. This will be important to meet people where they are.

We get to love. The work we do with the community will be done out of love so that we can help those who need help. When we go, I pray, others will see the reason we’re there is not to do the work for them; but yo serve and love them so they remember they are not alone.

We never know who we’re going to encounter or what the other person might be going through. I pray we all have listening ears to hear what’s said and respond out of love. This is for when we travel, when we’re there and this “task” maybe within our team itself.

All of the above is great but the most important thing we will do is to show others the light of a Jesus Christ. Our mission is to serve out of love and to speak about Christ. There may be members of this team who do not yet know Christ, but I pray they begin to know Him on this trip so all people can see the joy life can have and the peace He brings.

What a task this next week! With God working through us and in us, it will be incredible what happens.

Days Off

What do you like to do on a day off? My guess is that we are all alike in that we use days off to “catch up” on what we didn’t get done during the week. So, if we were to take a day off would we feel like we have to accomplish something or be able to enjoy time off for true rest and reflection.

Is it easy to take a day off? Not for most of us. A day off means we take time off of work. A Sabbath rest is what we need in order to be more refreshed and rejuvenated when we go back to work.

Having a Sabbath rest means we refrain from “work.” If we only define work as the place we go to make money, then we will do things to keep us busy and not pay attention how constant busyness is not relaxing.

So on a Sabbath day, we should really do things that are not work and honor God. For example, if mowing the lawn is not fun and showing a creative side to care for creation, why do it on a day off? There are several other examples each of us have that we don’t like to do but still do when we are “off.”

The goal for each of us is to day one whole day each week to rest and be refreshed so we can be more productive at work as well as strengthen our ability to handle people with more care and compassion.

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