Saturday, May 17, 2014

New Creations in Christ

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus...  -Romans 8:1 (KJV)

Romans 8:1 makes what I believe is a startling statement; there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.  I wonder if we realize the implications of this.  We were condemned in the sight of God, lost, without hope, and unable to save ourselves.  We were at best wandering away from God.  We were at worst plunging headlong toward our own destruction.  Sounds like many people in the world today; they are hurtling toward their own ruin by their choice of going against Almighty God.   

Yet, because of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross of Calvary and His resurrection, we are no longer condemned.  Blasphemers, liars, thieves, pagans, prostitutes, addicts, and murderers can be washed clean by the shed blood of Jesus Christ – and include me personally as a sinner saved by the grace of God.  “A murderer can be saved?”  You ask.  Paul the Apostle referred to himself as being worse than a murderer.  He told Timothy in I Timothy 1:15, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation; that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”  Some have referred to the scandalous nature of the gospel, meaning that the vilest sinner can be made pure because of Jesus Christ.  
Being made pure is just the beginning.  In Jesus Christ we are given a total makeover.  We become new creations in Jesus, different from the way we used to be.  I am intrigued with what I read about new surgical procedures going on here and around the world.  Those disfigured in their faces because of an accident can receive a face transplant.  I am trying to get my mind around what it would be like to look at yourself in the mirror and you have a different face.  In Jesus Christ we are new creations, the old has passed away, and everything has become new.  We no longer walk in fear, anger, bitterness, and worry.  Instead, we walk forward in the peace Jesus brings.

I pray the Lord richly blesses you today.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

God's Grace and our Unworthiness

When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.  -Luke 5:8 (KJV)

Often when I have my morning prayer time, I feel like Simon Peter who upon meeting Jesus fell at his feet and proclaimed his unworthiness.  "Go away from me Lord, I am a sinful man."  I understand perfectly how Peter felt.  We all struggle with our own faults, failings, and inadequacies.  What a blessing to know the Lord loves us, cares for us, and works with us right where we are.

None of us are worthy of God's grace.  However, the nature of grace is that Jesus loves us anyway and sees us as individuals of great worth and potential.   Do not allow yourself to become mired in the hopelessness of unworthiness.  Should this happen, we become incapacitated in our service to God.  Claim the grace that is ours in Jesus Christ and walk forward in humble faith.

You are a work in progress and God loves you very much.

Have a blessed day.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Great Experiment

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.  –Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)

When you were growing up, were there rules in your house?  I am thinking the answer is probably yes.  How did you feel about those rules?  Were there times when you did not care for your parents’ rules?  Again, I believe most likely the answer is yes.  We might not have always appreciated them, but when we grew up we came to realize the rules were necessary and for our own good.  I know in my parents’ house there were a number of rules I had to follow and these were non-negotiable.  They included, but were not limited to, no smoking, no profanity, no alcohol, no loud rock music, and no dogs or cats allowed in the house. 

Many a teenager has dreamed of living in a home where there were no rules, and wouldn’t that be great?  They might think if their parents let them do anything they wanted, then they would love and adore them.  Hmm, I wonder.  I recall a brother and sister I was acquainted with during my teenage years whose parents practiced what I would describe as a unique form of parenting.  In short, they allowed their teenage children to do pretty much anything they wanted with no rules or restrictions.  These teenagers were allowed to come and go as they pleased, even at all hours of the night, they smoked in the house, openly drank alcohol, even though they were underage, and even used various illegal drugs, all under their parents’ roof.  As hard as this is to believe, I witnessed it with my own eyes.

One might think these young people thought their parents were just wonderful.  I assure you this was far from the case.  I recall the young man, whose name was Mike, speaking of his parents in the most condescending terms.  He clearly despised them, held them in utter contempt, and had no respect for them.  He and his sister had frequent run-ins with the law, were wildly out of control, and were as unhappy as any young people I knew at the time.  I recall that even though I lived an opposite life in a home where standards of conduct were strictly enforced, I did not envy these two at all.  In fact, I soon came to avoid them as going to their home was an unnerving experience.  It wasn’t until I grew up that I realized what the problem was; Mike and his sister lived in a world without boundaries, which left them insecure and bitter.  Their parents’ great experiment in child rearing failed miserably.  I eventually lost touch with them, yet I pray they found peace and the true way in Christ. 

I also realized I had something the two teenagers in question lacked.  I respected my parents.  I didn’t always like their rules, but I came to respect them for their integrity.  Let us pray that young parents of today will learn the value of Proverbs 22:6 and will strive to train their children to know the Lord.  If you were raised in a loving and God fearing home, stop right now and thank the Lord for it.

God bless you today.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Stepping out of the Boat

26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. 27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. 28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. 29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. 31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?  -Matthew 14:26-31 (KJV)

In June of 1859, a man known as “The Great Blondin” strung a tightrope across Niagara Falls and performed a series of death defying stunts in which he walked, ran, walked on stilts, and even carried his manager on his shoulders across the falls.  It is said that Blondin pushed a wheelbarrow across the falls, much to the roaring applause of the crowd.  Blondin then called to the crowd, “Who believes I can put a man in the wheelbarrow and safely push him across the falls?’  The crowd responded with cheers of approval.  “Very well,’ replied Blondin, “Who will get in the wheel barrow?”  The crowd responded with silence.  No one dared to try.

When it comes to matters of faith, we are often ready to say God is able to do something great in our lives.  Yet, when the Lord invites us to trust Him completely and step out on faith, we are hesitant.  Many Christians talk a great game of faith, but when God calls us to actually step up to the plate, we back away.  Stepping out on faith is never easy.  If it was, all believers would do it.  Simon Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, had the opportunity to step out on faith, and to his credit he did.  However, he allowed himself to be distracted by the storm raging around him and so took his eyes off the Lord.  He began sinking immediately.  Had Jesus not pulled him out, Peter would have drowned. 

I would love to have the kind of bold faith Peter had that empowered him to step out of the boat and walk on water.  Too often I have remained within the safe confines of the boat.  What a powerful faith lesson Peter must have learned from his experience.  We can remain safely in the boat, or we can trust Christ with everything and step out on faith.  Moreover, having made the faith step, we are called to keep our eyes fixed upon Jesus, lest we be distracted from the call to courageous and dynamic faith.  Great works of God, which the Lord desires to do in our lives, happen when we go beyond what is comfortable, convenient, and easy.  Powerful works of Christ occur when we see beyond what we can do to what the Lord can do through us.

Stop talking about what is impossible for us, and begin testifying to what God can do in us and through us.  Step out of the boat, get in the wheelbarrow, walk boldly in faith, and keep our eyes on Jesus.  Spiritual power and victory will follow.

God bless you today.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Speaking Words of Faith and Praise

We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;  -II Corinthians 4:13 (KJV)

My grandfather had a saying; “Do not bother complaining; your friends cannot help you and you will make your enemies glad.”  There is great truth to the statement.  You have probably had the misfortune of spending time with someone who complained about nearly everything.  How did this make you feel?  Did you come away feeling uplifted or drained?  I believe you know the answer.  Being around people who complain incessantly has a way of quickly bringing us down from a good mood.  Personally, I dislike myself the most when I realize I am complaining.  Doing so brings me down and I know it does nothing for others.

On the other hand, when we speak words of encouragement, those around us are uplifted, strengthened, and bolstered in their faith.  Hopefully, they come away from their time with us glad rather than discouraged.  A verse the Lord has given me to help me speak good words of faith and encouragement is found in II Corinthians 4:13, “I have believed, therefore have I spoken.”  When I feel myself worrying and becoming discouraged, I seek to utter words of faith and praise to God.  The results are remarkable.  I begin to feel better about whatever problems I am facing and my faith grows in the process. 

I often minister to people who are so overcome with their problems that they rarely, if ever, speak any positive words.  My heart goes out to such persons, for I know how easy it is to be consumed with self-pity and sorrow.  Christ calls us, He compels us, to rise up out of sorrow and gloom and begin walking forward in victorious faith.

Think today about the words you speak.  Are you often complaining, negative, critical, or cynical?  If so, resolve with God’s help to speak words of faith and praise to God.  Others will see the change and will be encouraged to do the same, for they will see the light of Christ shining through. 

God bless you today.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Beware of Self Sufficiency

13 Yet the Lord testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets.
14 Notwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe in the Lord their God.  -II Kings 17:13, 14 (KJV)

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Problem of Judging Others

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.  -Matthew 7:3-5 (KJV)