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Archive for the ‘Grace’ Category

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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No More

What holds you back?  What weighs you down?  Our past decisions have ways of wrapping their bony fingers around our ankles and dragging us back into a prison of guilt and regret.  Just when we think we are “through” something, here come the thoughts that have a tendency to leave us feeling worthless.

This morning, a couple of verses jumped off the page as I read.  Romans 8:1-2 say:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Paul reminds us that now, today, in this moment there is no condemnation if your trust has been placed in Jesus as the author and perfecter of your faith.  No condemnation!  Let that sink in.  When we surrender ourselves to Jesus, the Spirit breaks the chain of slavery to sin.  He frees us from the guilt of past decisions!

broken-chainsNo more fear!

No more guilt!

No more regret!

NO MORE!

This day, in this moment, remember – – as a child of God you are free.  You are a new creation.  The old has passed and the new has come!

Live into that freedom today!

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Choices

My commute to the office each morning takes me past several churches.  One of the churches along my regular route has a marquis with changeable letters.  Often this church uses this sign to make announcements of upcoming events.  But occasionally it is used for a thought provoking statement.

Yesterday I noticed one of those statements and it has circled back in my mind a couple of times since.  The statement read:

Life is full of choices, eternity only has two.

ChoicesThere is truth in this statement.  We are bombarded with options every day – pulled in multiple directions to make decisions regarding everything from what shoes to wear to what car to drive to what music to enjoy.  The truth is, it would be easy to make thousands of decisions in a day without once considering truly important issues.

Is it possible that the enemy uses all the options freedom affords to distract us from considering the most crucial choice of our lives?  Satan is known for taking what God means for good and distorting it into something completely different.

Life is full of options and choices.  But the most important – literally life and death – decision an individual can make is what to do about eternity.  We only have two options – an eternity with God or an eternity without him.  God gives us that choice – and we must choose.  While it is never too late to make that choice while we still draw breath, by putting off the decision we are making a choice.

The best decision you can ever make is to live this life for Jesus.  Don’t be distracted by all the other decisions you will need to make today.  Truthfully, if you make the ultimate decision first, it will drastically impact the remainder of the decisions you will make.

Choose wisely!

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A little over a week ago, I was blessed to minister to a group of ministers in Juarez, Mexico.  It is an annual event for pastors and their wives in the Juarez area.  We meet at a hotel in Juarez and for three days we get to fellowship and invest in the lives, ministries and marriages of these wonderful servants.

This year we were privileged to have thirty-eight couples attend the retreat (which is paid for completely by donations of individuals, churches and organizations here in the United States).  It is a huge blessing to the couples who attend each year and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve them, as well as for all those who give to make it possible.

This year, one of the most meaningful and moving experiences of the weekend was the closing worship service.  We celebrated communion at that service and it was special for our team to be able to offer the elements of the supper to those who normally serve but rarely get to receive.

My sermon that morning communicated the reminder that God’s grace is sufficient and Jesus’ sacrifice is enough to overcome whatever we face.  As the pastors and their wives made their way past the offering of the bread and the cup, they were also handed a small nail to remind them moving forward that Jesus’ sacrifice truly paid all costs.  In that moment, many were moved to tears with the reality.

My writing today is two-fold:

1) To offer a heartfelt thanks to God for making this event possible (our eleventh year) and for all those God uses each year to support this vital ministry.

2) I also write to remind each of us that regardless of what we are facing today, God’s grace is sufficient.

La gracia de Dios es sufficiente!

Jesus’ sacrifice is enough!

Live into that truth today!

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