Representing Christ

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:17‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

IMG_1537When we become a Christian, we become “New in Christ”. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean we always ‘act’ like a new creation. As we grow in our walk, our character should begin to change and become more Christ like.

Colossians 3 is broken into 3 sections:
(1) Shedding the carnality of the old man.
(2) Adapting the character of the new man.
(3) Instruction for the Christian home.

I encourage you to read this chapter today.

Verse 17 is found in section 2 and tells us to do everything (in word or deed) in the name of the Lord. We are His ambassadors, His representatives. Everything we do and say should reflect Him. This goes beyond our interaction with believers. Our relationship with Christ should impact every area of our life … personal, professional and spiritual.

Even after being a Christian for many years, I often fail to reflect Christ. It’s easy to allow my emotions to override or rule over my spirit. It can be very discouraging, and yet it is also a constant reminder that my strength is found in Him, not in my abilities. Thankfully Jesus is always willing to forgive me when I fail.

However, I still need to have the humility to go back to those I act inappropriately around and ask their forgiveness as well. Sometimes it makes all the difference in the world about how that person views Christianity. I Corinthians 8:9 admonishes us not to be a stumbling block to those who are weak (in faith).

PRAYER:
Lord, thank You for Your Word and the wisdom You give me through the Word. Help me to remember that everything I say and do should reflect you. Help me to crucify the old me and adopt the character of Christ. Forgive me when I fall short and give me the courage and humility to acknowledge my sin before those I may have caused to stumble because of my words or actions. AMEN

Justice or Mercy? The Choice is Yours

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭6:23‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

IMG_1513I have earned a death penalty for my sins. People often ask why a loving God would send anyone to Hell. I confess, I have struggled with this question. But the truth is, He has given us a choice … justice (getting what we deserve) or mercy (having our wages paid in full by Jesus.) The choice is ours.

The problem is we do not see our sins as worthy of death. We make ourselves judges over God when we try to justify what level of sin actually deserves eternal death (separation from God). 

We cannot understand God’s repulsion of sin because we have lived in a fallen world all our lives. I imagine if we had one glimpse of Heaven and the purity of God’s presence we would fall to our knees and join the angels in their chorus of, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.” God hates sin so much He had to turn His back on Jesus as He who knew no sin became sin for us. (See: Matthew 27:46 and II Corinthians 5:21)

As a society we SCREAM for justice; unless that justice impacts us, or someone we love, in a negative way. We rave defiantly against a God who would send someone to Hell, yet are infuriated when someone who commits a crime we deem worthy of death is given mercy by the court. What a double standard.

The “good news” is He offers us mercy IF we will accept His gift … the sacrificial payment of our debt, by Christ. Any good parent would gladly lay down their life for their child, and that is exactly what God did! But, you cannot benefit from a gift unless you receive it. 

“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19  (NKJV)

PRAYER:
Father, thank You for Your mercy and the gift of eternal life. Because of Your love I do not have to face the judgement I deserve for the wages of my sin. Jesus, thank You for being willing to take MY place on the cross.

I pray today for those who do not know Your love, for those who have not experienced Your mercy. Lord, help them to see that You are a God of love, but also a God of justice. You have provided a path of redemption but we must accept it to receive it.

Help us to see sin as You see it. Remove the blinders from our eyes and show us truth. In the mighty name of Jesus I pray. Amen

Perfect Man … Perfect Lamb

“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 NKJV 

IMG_1496As we approach Easter I am reminded that the cross wasn’t pretty! Jesus was beaten, bruised, ridiculed, pierced and crucified for MY sin, and yours. He took OUR place. The perfect man of God became the perfect lamb of God.

Every time I watch the movie, “The Passion” I have to force myself not to turn away as they portray the suffering Christ endured for us.

As amazing as His amazing grace is, He purchased more than our salvation that fateful day. He bought our salvation, our forgiveness, our peace, our healing and our adoption. He bought US. We are now slaves of God rather than slaves of sin.

God did for me what I could not do for myself. I believe He looked to the future and saw each and every soul He would redeem. Somehow, in spite our our unworthiness, He still willingly gave up His life so we could live. We cost Him EVERYTHING!

Salvation is a two-fold process of belief and repentance. You cannot have one without the other. While salvation is free, it will cost US everything as well. God doesn’t want part of us, He wants all of US. Everything we do should be motivated by a desire to please Him. Salvation isn’t an excuse to live in sin; it is the power to overcome it. That doesn’t mean we will live perfect lives, but we now have peace knowing we have a loving Father who is willing to forgive and restore us when we sin. 

PRAYER:
Lord, thank You for paying a debt I could not pay. Thank You for continuing to intercede for me even now! Your grace truly is AMAZING!

I surrender my life to You. I know that I cannot make it without You, but I can do “all things” through You.

Walk with me Lord. Teach me, guide me, correct me, forgive me. I am Yours. My life is not my own. I have been bought with a price, Your precious, perfect, sinless blood.

Help me to never forget what it cost You. Help me to never lose sight of Your suffering. You demonstrated the purest love imaginable. I am eternally in awe of You.

Amen

Just Love

I had the wonderful privilege this weekend of joining my friend Eva in jail ministry. She preached a message called, “The sheep, the coin and the Son.” In her message, she explained to the inmates how each of these parables demonstrates God’s heart to seek and save that which is lost. Eva and I have been serving in jail ministry together for a couple of years, but this message moved their hearts in a way I’ve not seen before. Why? Because it is the ‘goodness‘ of God leads men to repent. (Romans 2:4) They were overwhelmed by the love of God. Who wouldn’t want to serve a God who loved them enough to die for them?

IMG_1489People often view God as an angry, vengeful being who creates havoc in the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible tells us, “God IS love”. (1 John 4:8) The havoc we see everyday is the consequence of mankind’s disobedience to God’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)

You don’t have to look far to see the result of that disobedience in our world. A life of selfishness and greed does not lead to happiness. It leads to misery.

What would it look like if mankind took God at His word and just loved? Medical advances in resuscitation have given many a glimpse into what lies ahead in the moments following death. A reoccurring theme emerges from those who’ve had near death experiences … LOVE. They are sent back with a message that loving God and loving others is what matters in this life. Isn’t this simply a confirmation of what Jesus taught?

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” – Matthew 22:36-40 King James Version (KJV)

IMG_1490Love is the message of the gospel and the central theme of a purposeful life. When we walk in love for God and others, sin loses it’s power over us. Without love, we are just making noise. (1 Corinthians 13:1)

Yes, I believe in hell. It breaks my heart to think of anyone spending eternity separated from God, especially knowing the price Jesus paid to redeem us. That being said, in all my years as a Christian I have never won one person to Christ by spewing judgement and condemnation at them. In fact, the rebellious nature of mankind causes those who are presented the gospel in this way to rear up in pride and reject God’s grace and mercy. A fear based message should be a last resort in winning the lost, not a first. There is a place for it, but only when the love of God has been rejected, and only out of true concern (love) for the soul of the individual.

Pray: Father, thank You for Your love and mercy. Help me to live a life of love toward You and others. When I see the pain and injustice in the world, caused by the rebellion of mankind remind me to, ‘just love’. Help all of humanity to grasp the simplistic truth that love is the solution to the turmoil we face. Love does not kill, steal or destroy. It heals. It restores. It overcomes.

The Secret To Contentment

I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13 NKJV)
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I take comfort in knowing I can do anything the Lord empowers me to do. I believe in miracles. I believe in the power of prayer and of faith. 

Philippians 4:13 popped up as the ‘Verse of the Day’ recently on YouVersion. Because I am an advocate on reading scripture in context I have started reading the chapters as well as the verses. As I read Philippians 4 it occured to me, Paul wrote this verse in the context of contentment. He wasn’t quoting a formula for victory, he was declaring that he was able to endure both hardship and victory because he knew the secret to contentment was knowing God would sustain him in every circumstance.

I must admit, there are times I question God when I see things that don’t make sense. Certain things rob my contentment, if I allow them to. When I see children suffer or people die prematurely; when prayers don’t get answered the way I would like, it’s hard to be content.

And yet, I know that God is good! I may not understand the why, but I believe God’s promise that, “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NKJV) Ultimately it comes down to this, do I trust Him? 

The secret to contentment is knowing that God will sustain you through the trials and the triumphs of life. It is knowing he will give you the strength you need, when you need it. He will not leave us to face our battles alone. He is always with us.  Contentment is birthed in trust. It is resting in the knowledge that God is for you, not against you. 

PRAY: Lord, help me to follow Paul’s example in learning to be content in spite of my circumstances. Forgive me for the times I have complained and allowed circumstances to rob my faith allowing doubts of Your goodness to prevail. Help me Lord to be content in all things, knowing you will sustain me and give me strength. 

Something New

God’s creative genius didn’t end with creation.

IMG_1472What do you want God to birth in your life this year? Whatever it may be, He is up for the challenge.

Need mercy? His mercies are “new every morning”. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Are you broken, or bitter? God promises to replace your stony heart with a heart of flesh. To give you a new heart and a new spirit. (Ezekiel 36:26) It’s easy for life’s challenges to harden our hearts, if we allow them to. Sometimes being healed is as simple as letting go. Trust that God has something better for you.

Need a fresh start? Just as God’s mercy is new every morning, each day brings the chance for a new beginning. When you surrender your life to the Lord, you become “a new creature,” old things pass away, all things become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17) That doesn’t mean you are never going to blow it. But when you do, God’s not waiting to punish you. His desire is to restore you. Run to the Father, confess your sin and allow Him to cleanse and make you whole.

I could go on and on but the point is this: whatever your “something new” is … He is able. God is a good father.  (Luke 11:9-13)

Each year, many churches participate in a 21 day fast. I challenge you to begin now to search your heart and define what “new thing” you want to see God do in your life this year. Don’t just wait and see what happens. Pursue it! As I was just writing this paragraph the Lord gave me a visual of someone waist deep in swamp water, pushing their way through reeds and weeds that were blocking their path. He calls you today, as He did in Matthew 7:7 … 

ASK, and it shall be given you; SEEK and ye shall find; KNOCK and it shall be opened unto you:

Once you have defined your new ask God what He would have you fast for 21 days as you ASK, SEEK and KNOCK your way through 2018.

Join me January 11th. ~ 31st. in prayer and fasting for God to move in our lives and in our nation this new year! 

PRAY: Father, thank You that each day brings a new beginning. As I begin this New Year help me to refine my focus and visualize what I need birthed in my life. Give me a clear cut path to pursue You and Your will for my life in 2018. 

 

 

 

Attractive Conversation

IMG_1465Have you ever walked past someone having a toxic conversation and immediately felt a change in your own attitude? Words have a powerful impact on our spirit, even when they aren’t directed at us.

As followers of Christ we need to recognize the impact we have on others with our words as well as our actions. The power of life and death are in the tongue. ( Proverbs 18:21)

Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Colossians 4:6 NKJV)

The Bible talks extensively about speech. What an amazing communication tool God has given us. And yet, James chapter 3 talks about the difficulty of “taming the tongue.” How often do we use our words to bless God while cursing those He created? Cursing in this sense isn’t about profanity. It’s about using words that damage someone’s heart or break their spirit.

I encourage you today to make a conscious effort to “guard” your tongue. Use your words to speak life over people, rather than death. Pay attention to your conversations. Are they toxic or are they gracious and attractive? Even words of correction can be gracious.

Three important points on correction:

  1. Admonish in private. Never embarrass someone by confronting them in public. If you have tried to work something out (with another Christian) in private to no avail the Bible gives a plan of action to move forward in Matthew 18:15-17. 
  2. Differentiate between behaviors and character. Don’t attack the person. Address the behavior. Avoid demeaning statements like: “You always …” or “You are …”
  3. Last but not least, sandwich correction between positive affirmations. Start and end on a positive note. I’m not referring to vain flattery here. What positive attributes can you genuinely acknowledge regarding this individual?

Pay attention to your everyday conversations. If you constantly catch yourself being negative or complaining get alone with God and begin to ask Him to reveal your heart. What are you feeding your spirit? How much time are you spending in front of the television and what kind of shows are you watching? What kind of music are you listening to? What type of people are you hanging out with? Transformation happens from the inside out, but our spiritual health is impacted by what we “feed” our spirit just as our physical health is often determined by what we feed our body.

PRAY: Lord, thank You for the gift of speech. Help me to guard my tongue and use it to praise You and to bless others. Forgive me for the times I have allowed my words to be used for evil. Help me to focus on the blessings in my life instead of complaining. Help me to lift others up instead of tearing them down. Change my perspective by giving me the mind of Christ. AMEN.