Thursday, June 30, 2016

alive together with Christ

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
Ephesians 2:4-5

Oh the mercy of God, found in Christ alone, offered in abundance to all sinners! In that mercy I am saved. It reached out to me and by the pure grace of my Lord Jesus, that mercy upon my sinful soul saved me! God's rich mercy and great grace has saved me and made me alive again.

For I could only be saved by God's action on my behalf, because I was dead. I had no spiritual life. I could not move toward God for I was in a spiritual grave. But Jesus did the work. He came to earth. He lived among mankind. He willingly let Himself be delivered up to to the cross for our transgressions.
He died for dead men.

And in His death sin was atoned. In His resurrection I was guaranteed eternal life. In the faith that I have in Him, I too am made alive with Christ by God's rich mercy and saving grace. This is the core of who I am as a Christian. It is the message of my life. The gospel is deep and transformative.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

I am a steward.

Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.
1 Corinthians 4:2

In this clear, indicative observation is found a vital Christian principle important for living for Jesus: God asks me to be a steward of all that He gives me in this life and I must manage all of it faithfully. I believe that everything that constitutes my life fits this call to stewardship. This includes all my material goods, but even more, all my relationships. It includes my family, my health, my home, and my heart. Nothing in my life escapes the call to wisely steward God's gifts to me.

There is a grace that must attend this awareness. If every event and substance of my life is a gift from God, then I must receive them, recognizing that I am a forgiven sinner graced with all I have. And as an eternally grateful forgiven sinner who is now God's child, I take good care of the precious gifts that God has given me: my health, my struggles and trials, my family, the people around me, my church, my income, my home and possessions, etc, are no longer in any sense "mine"... they are God's gifts entrusted to me for His glory.

Oh may I be found faithful, dear Lord, with all You have given to me!

Monday, June 27, 2016

fighting the fear of man

It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in princes.
Psalm 118:8-9

There are some cleansing tears coming to me as I read this passage today. And this reminder combats the fear of man wherever it may show itself in me. I like to think I am generally NOT a people pleaser, but when the truth is known, having people around me that are happy can often speak louder than trusting in God. It can affect how I work, how I serve in ministry, even how I lead my home.

It is better to trust God rather than man, even when doing so results in hardship. It is worship and obedience to trust that honoring God's truth, even at the cost of relationships on this earth, will be a greater thing. It is the best thing always to obey God, trusting Him rather than men.

It is much better to trust God for the daily bread of my life than to worry about this world's ways of meeting my needs. God will take care of me irregardless of a bad economy, despite the political climate, beyond the ways any employer my treat me, and beyond the actions of any other people with power over my circumstances. I will trust then in the Lord, rather than in the ways of human relationships alone. God, You have my heart and my trust.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Joy For You

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
Psalm 126:2

Bring glory for Your own name
O Lord Almighty, our King
so that the nations know Your fame
as Your praises we will sing

We will laugh in amazement
as Your wonders we proclaim
Joy will overflow from contentment
as we lift high Your name

The Holy God has done great things for us
and laughter rings in the air
we sing His praise in joy-filled chorus
our tongues God's glory now declare

Joy spills out, from the hearts of those He saved
are the worship that saints will bring
and living in the peace Christ gave
will show the world just why we sing

Thursday, June 23, 2016

In Jesus, I get so much more than I give.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Romans 15:13

By faith I trust in Jesus. He lived and taught me how to live. He died and took away death's sting. He rose again to remake my life. He is my Savior. He died for my sins and rose again the third day to live to intercede for me. He understands my weaknesses and loves me intensely anyway. I believe Jesus. I know that God has saved me by Him and I trust in that.

In that belief I find joy and peace. Joy cannot be had any other way. For all the things and activities of this life that are fun or refreshing, none come close to the joy of sins forgiven and eternal life in Jesus. In fact, it is the joy of this eternal truth that give any earthly joys true, lasting meaning.

Believing Jesus brings me peace. I can rest assured my worst sinful failures are covered on the cross by His atonement. I can know peace with God and find that Jesus brings peace to me with His love. This peace helps me seek peace with other people.

And Jesus brings with His joy and peace an assured, confident hope. Hope is not wishful thinking. I KNOW I will be with Jesus forever. I KNOW He will display His glory in my life right now. That is a real and undeniable hope.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

among and not above

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
Romans 12:3

This verse is a bridge. There are 1) the opening verses of Romans 12, with the call to live a life of sacrifice to the Lord so that we are not conformed to the world but transformed in renewed thinking, and then there is 2) the very important discussion on how individual believers are gifted with spiritual gifts in the church that is taught in verses four through eight. The transformed thinking of verse three is a gracious humility. We need it to understand God's design for us. Gracious humility leads us to think rightly about our position among other believers in the church and not above them.

Christians need to be in community with other believers. Christ's church is one body with many working parts, and we need each other. My gifts are no more important than your gifts. In fact, my gifts without other people complimenting them are incomplete and ineffective.

If I glory solely in my gifts rather than participating in my part in the whole of the church, I have just disobeyed this scriptural command to graciously and humbly consider my place in the bigger work of the church... the body of Christ. And that is a very real and often displayed sin in contemporary, consumeristic, evangelical Christianity. Should I really come to church JUST to get what I want or JUST to do what I like? According to this passage of scripture, the answer is "No". We should thank God that He made us to need one another. I am still broken without being in Christ's church. I am whole when I am one part of the bigger work of the Church.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Fighting sin means something good.

I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.
Romans 7:9-10

I deeply appreciate Paul's candid journaling of his struggle with sin in Romans seven. I find hope in knowing even apostles had their wicked, painful fights with powerlessness over sin. Paul's admission that the good law of God only seemed to make more sin rise up in him is sad but true. The same thing can happen, does happen, to me.

Knowledge of God's Word often only produces more awareness of sin in me. It is why I need to trust Jesus. I can't do God's righteous demands. I need grace, mercy, and forgiveness. I need the righteousness of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to transform me. I need what only the gospel can give.

And so wrestling with sin is a good thing. Don't get me wrong... I hate that I have sinful struggles daily. I am not proud that I must be confronted by God's Word and Spirit nearly constantly. But there is also hope for me. I believe my sin fight is a good fight. It means that I am not content to just "give in" to what is evil. It means that I have the Holy Spirit working within, convicting me to move beyond that sin with which I struggle. For that I am tremendously thankful, for if I had no fight on my hands, I probably would already be beaten and enslaved, blinded by and blind to my sin.

Monday, June 20, 2016

a matter of respect

For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.
Psalm 122:9

The theme of Psalm 122 is a call for Israel to pray for the peace and safety of Jerusalem. This theme is explained and rationalized by two bookends in the first and last verses. Jerusalem was vital not just as the seat of Israel's civil government, but much more importantly as the center of worship with the temple of the Lord located there. That is why the pilgrims could be glad to be invited to make the climb up Mt. Zion to the house of the Lord (Psalm 122:1). It was why prayers for the peace and safety of Jersusalem were offered during pilgrimages (Psalm 122:6) and it was the seeking of Jersusalem's prosperity that was encouraged at the end of this psalm (Psalm 122:9). All these actions were important to safeguard corporate worship in the Lord's temple.

My thought as I read all this is to consider ways that I too might respect the worship of the Lord. No building is more sacred than God is, but I do have questions about my attitude. For instance, do I respect the privilege of corporate worship in "God's house" with "God's people"? Do I treat that regular corporate worship time with the joy and honor that GOD deserves? If not, what does that say about my worship? It's a matter of respect.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

unseen but not unknown

Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.
Psalm 115:2-3

The focus of Psalm 115 is the clear superiority of Yahweh over worthless idol worship. The psalm cleverly contrasts the power and might of God with the impotence of idols. God is actively sovereign in the heavens, doing all that He pleases in the universe. We may not see Him physically, but He is clearly evident. Idols, on the other hand, are merely the work of human craftsmanship. Fashioned to look like us, they can't even do meager human things like eat, drink, listen, or speak, let alone rule the universe as God does. In the end, idolatry turns false worshipers into fruitless people. They become like their idols (Psalm 115:8).

God cannot be seen, but His work is clear. So if people scoff with "where is your God?", rest assured He is clearly right over their shoulder actively making Himself known. He cannot be captured in artist paint, in carving, or stonework, but He shows Himself in the sovereign rule of His people and the entire universe. His people satisfy Him by worshiping Him through knowing His position and power and not being merely content to sell trinkets of Him. 

O unseen God of the universe,
I worship You. You are known, not by gilded statue in a temple, but by Your active Word and Spirit residing in my heart. You are shown, not in a glittering spectacle of stone made by people to decay, but in the sum of my days and the echoing thunder of Your Word throughout eternity. And You are powerful and mighty to save.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

out from Egypt

When Israel went out from Egypt,
the house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
Judah became his sanctuary,
Israel his dominion.
Psalm 114:1-2

God took Israel from slavery to mastery. The nation went from being trapped in Egypt with no position to a new place where they reigned over their own dominion in Canaan. All of this was the transforming, redeeming power of God at work. God loved His people. He heard their cries of oppression. He sent Moses to deliver them. He gave them a wonderful new life in the Promised Land.

This story is paralleled in the life of each Christian. God heard the cries of our souls oppressed by sin's slavery. He reached down to rescue us, providing our deliverer, Jesus. He redeemed us from that sinful dominion and now brings us out with Him to a new place where we can live in freedom forever, sharing in the rule of our new King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

And this new life in Christ is our sanctuary. We worship the Lord in it. It is a new kingdom where we sing to, worship, and live out the rule of King Jesus with great delight.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

lifted from the dust

He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes,
with the princes of his people.
Psalm 113:7-8

God is so good! His grace lifts us up. And all Christians live in the reality of what this psalm celebrates. Before we came to Christ we were beyond poor and needy. We were lost and dead in our sin. But faith in Christ's work on the cross for us has lifted us up from the ash heap of life. God has given us new life, and much more than we deserve. Just like the paupers who sit with princes in this song, so now we enjoy life not only by Jesus, but with and for King Jesus!

From ashes to the King's table... that's how far I have come. Grace has made my life all that it is. The grace of God abounds to me, the worst of sinners, so that I may live in the King's palace, now and forever.

I am again in awe of Your saving grace. And I am aware of how much You have done for me and given me and just how undeserving I am of Your riches in Jesus. Thank You, Lord. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

my fear and delight

Praise the Lord!
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
who greatly delights in his commandments!
Psalm 112:1

God, You are strong,
powerful and
it won't be long
until You judge
this world
in righteousness

I will fear You, for You are
great and strong

God, Your Word is true
and it enlightens my way
You show me what to do
and how to live in
this world
in righteousness

I will delight in Your Word, for it is
true and right

Friday, June 3, 2016

redeemed and singing

He sent redemption to his people;
he has commanded his covenant forever.
Holy and awesome is his name!
Psalm 111:9

What was true in Israel's worship songs is even more amazingly relevant today. This verse of song celebrates God "buying back" Israel from slavery in Egypt. Their national history began with a redemption known as the Exodus. And that redemption was instigated with the Passover in which a lamb was killed and blood was spilled marking the doorpost of each home to protect firstborn sons and the nation from death. God then made an eternal covenant with His redeemed people at Sinai.

And these words have an even deeper significance in Christ, our Passover Lamb. Christians believe that Jesus redeemed us from sin's slavery. His blood was shed as the only Son of God to save us all. God made an everlasting new covenant with those who believe and trust in Christ and are now His redeemed people.

Holy and awesome is the name of our Redeemer! Jesus is our Savior and our Covenant King! He has led us from slavery to sonship. He will keep us forever.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

God is motivated by Himself.

But you, O God my Lord,
deal on my behalf for your name's sake;
because your steadfast love is good, deliver me!
Psalm 109:21

God does what He does because He is Who He is. And the best motivator that a holy, perfect God has is His own glory. It would be sin for us to be so self-driven in our motives because we are unholy by nature. But since God is perfect and holy, He is holy when He does what He does for His own name's sake.

King David knew this about God. That is why he so boldly prayed for God to act for him for God's name, not for David's. He knew God was holy and faithful in His love. Hence it is a perfect and holy thing for the God Who loves us to help us so that He might be worshiped as mighty to save.

Yes, Lord, You are perfect, right, and good. Do for me only what will bring You glory. Do to me what magnifies Your holy name and Your faithful love. Make much of Yourself in me as I trust in You, O God, my deliverer.