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Archive for the ‘Grace’ Category

We Remember

We remember.

We stand at the foot of the cross, or kneel.

The draw of the exuberance of the empty tomb pulls at us but your words to your disciples to stay – to remain awake – to stay near compel us to pause.

We remember your words, even as the wafer touches our lips – “This is my body, given for you.”

Lord Jesus, we remember.

Cross in Communion Cup

As the cup is raised to our mouths we look to the cross and we remember.  This is your blood that was spilled out for us.

We remember.

Lord Jesus we remember!

We are not worthy of your sacrifice.  We do not deserve the gift of eternal life you made possible on that cross.  But we do remember.

And we say thank you!

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Over the past few weeks I have talked with so many people who are carrying such heavy loads – more than normal.  I have been more sensitive in our weekly worship gathering to see hollow looks and stressed-out faces.

The reality of life is that we all pass through moments or days or even seasons of difficulty as we journey along the Way.  It is a mis-conception to think that by giving our lives to Christ and living for him as best we can, we are no longer going to experience struggles.  In fact, most often, the struggles are amplified in some ways because we live in a world in which those of us who strive to honor Jesus with our lives are looked on with condescension or even condemnation.

But I want to encourage you fellow travelers in two ways this morning.

The first is that you are not alone!  You are part of a huge family made up of all kinds of people from all walks of life and all parts of the world that are on the same journey and are experiencing the same struggles you face.  Sometimes it is helpful to know you are not alone.

But even more important to remember today is that no matter how bleak things may seem today . . . Easter is coming!Easter Poster 2018

Jesus walked this Way 2000 years ago and he was treated with condescension and condemnation.  He was pushed to the outskirts of acceptable culture and when he would not go silently into the obscurity, the leaders of his day killed him.

But that was not the end.  He rose from the dead and when he did, he conquered death and defeated sin to show us once and for all that we are more than conquerors when we live our lives for him.  His triumph gives us hope that he is bigger than any temporary struggle we face.

So today, if you are feeling like there is little in your life that offers hope remember that you are not alone and Easter is coming!

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Unclutter Your Space

Today marks the beginning of Lent.  This is a season on the church calendar but not traditionally a part of the Baptist tradition.  While we are not offering ashes here today, we are placing emphasis on Lent within our church family this year (as we have in previous years).  This past Sunday we began a series on Sunday mornings that will run up to Palm Sunday called Uncluttering Your Space.

We have a tendency to fill space.  If we move from a 2 bedroom home to a 3, the first thing we think we must do is – – fill that space.  We do the same with our schedules.  If we have a day on the calendar that has some extra space, we strive to fill it.  We have bought into the lie that busyness is productivity and that doing things – anything – is better than doing nothing.

The problem is that the things we fill our space with can distract us from what is truly important.  In fact, we have a tendency to grow attached to things – even those things that begin as simple distractions.  As we add more and more to our space, we gain a false sense of worth or importance.  And we begin to grow attached to those things with which we have cluttered our space because of the feelings they often generate.

But with attachment, those things move from being distractions to becoming obstacles.  Even worse, some of the clutter may even take the place of what we truly need – a relationship with the Creator.

Lent is about reflection.  Lent is about having the courage to set things aside that clutter our lives and prevent us from the relationship God wants and we desperately need.

This Lenten season, I challenge you to unclutter your space.  What are those things in your life that you have grown attached to that may prevent you from having space for God?

Unclutter!

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One of my readings this morning was from the book of 1 Peter.  In chapter 1, the author encourages us to remember how important we are to the Father.  In the aftermath of the meaninglessness that happened Sunday – with questions unanswered and unanswerable – many are grasping for anything.  This passage gives us something we can pull up close.

17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

The author reminds us that as believers, we are just passing through this world – this is not our home – we are foreigners here.  But he also reminds us that we are of paramount importance to the Father.  YOU were redeemed from an empty way of life at a most extravagant price.  Your eternal security was purchased not with earthly wealth but with something far more precious.  Your redemption and hope was paid for by the very life of God himself in Jesus’ death on the cross.

Let that truth wash over your heart this morning.  God loves you!  You are a prized child.

There will never be answers this side of eternity to some of the questions we ask regarding what happened in Sutherland Springs on Sunday.  But what we hold on to today is that this is all temporary and there is so much more beyond what we can see.  What is truly important is that we are loved by God and redeemed by his grace.

Walk into that grace today!

 

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Yesterday marked the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses being nailed to the church door in Wittenburg, Germany.  As we have reflected on the changes brought about by that act, we have recognized the debt we owe to those early reformers.  Our focus on grace alone through faith alone comes directly from this movement.Wittenburg door

But I have wrestled with something for the past several weeks leading up to this momentous day.

Are we still in need of reform?

It is said that the generation of leaders after Martin Luther held that every generation is in need of reform.  I believe that is true.  The Gospel message does not change.  The fact that all people are sinners in need of saving does not change.  The truth that salvation comes only by God’s radical free gift of grace does not change.  The reality that this grace must be received by each individual through a heartfelt trust and faith does not change.

But what does change is how we live with these truths and how the church seeks to carry out her calling into God’s mission in light of these truths in an ever-changing culture.  We walk a line between being in the world but set apart from it.

I believe we are guilty of gross negligence if we acknowledge the courage and boldness of Martin Luther and other reformers but do not take a serious look at where we may need reform today.  What are the areas we have conformed more to the world than been transformed to God’s kingdom and rule?  Are there areas of life and ministry where we have lost sight of what matters most?

Holy God, show us your ways!

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God Pursues

As I continue to prepare for the upcoming series on spiritual practices, Practice Makes Perfect, I keep running across instances that remind me of God’s constant provision but my oblivion to that provision because of distraction – and possibly even my own disobedience.

Yesterday, I ran across a passage in Isaiah pointing to how God is always seeking a relationship with us.  Here is what is recorded in Isaiah 65:1-2:

“I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me;
    I was found by those who did not seek me.
To a nation that did not call on my name,
    I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’
All day long I have held out my hands
    to an obstinate people,
who walk in ways not good,
    pursuing their own imaginations—

God's Hands OutstretchedThe reminder I take from this passage is that God pursues us.  He stands “all day long” with hands outstretched waiting for us to notice.  But so often we are lost in our own pursuits.  We are distracted by our own imaginations.  I even fear that humanity has a tendency to take God-given talents and use them to create a false sense of independence.

Today, may we not walk in ways that are not good.  May we not pursue our own imaginations to the dismissal of God’s reach toward us.

Today, may we make time and space in our lives to hear God saying, “Here am I, here am I.”

 

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Creating Space

How are you making space for God today?  It is so easy to fill our days with important things and somehow leave out the most important.  Making sure we make time to spend with God should take the highest priority but unfortunately, the sacred often gets pushed back by the mundane.  It is not so much a lack of priorities but rather a lack of perspective.

We become overwhelmed with the sheer volume of the mundane and step into the circular race that ends where it starts.  We give in to the pressure to perform and we know that God will understand if we wait until later to spend time with him.  So we justify in our minds the idolatry of productivity.  Before we know it, we have gone days or weeks without spending quality time with the creator.

But there is a very interesting truth that we often overlook.  The truth is this – we cannot be the best version of ourselves (that means even in the area of productivity) when our focus is on anything other than the Father.

But this focus takes intentionality on our part.  Focus does not just happen.  We must work at it – – constantly.  We must create space in our schedules and in our lives to allow God to work.  God provides the progression toward being more like Jesus but we must do our part.

I am excited that this Sunday we will begin a new series – Practice Makes Perfect.  If you are in the Corpus Christi area, I encourage you to make this series a part of your August plan.  We will be working through some habits that can make a real difference in your walk.

Create space today!

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