Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday: Jesus' sacrifice

"No one takes my life away from me.  I give it up of my own free will."  (John 10:18)

"For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many."  (Matthew 20:28)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

God redeems the "messy" life

Last weekend I got to thinking about the Parable of the Prodigal Son (found in Luke 15:11-32).  I don't know about you, but I guess I've always thought the moral to the story was: Don't walk away from God—but if you do, and then you make the decision to come back to Him, He will welcome you with open arms and rejoicing.

But there's more to the story than the brother who walked away.  There's also the brother who didn't walk away—the brother who stayed with his father and "did the right thing."  He did do the right thing, didn't he? 

As you look at the story more closely, you see that the "other" brother was bitter... resentful that he had chosen to "do the right thing" and yet his father was celebrating the return of his irresponsible brother (from his perspective).  Hmm.  Is that really, um, right? 

It would appear that perhaps God is more pleased with one who walks away but then makes the right choice to come back to Him, than the one who never strays outwardly but is resentful and judgmental on the inside!

So that brings me to thinking about parenting.  Is it my primary goal to keep my child from being the prodigal?  Certainly, no one wants their child to walk away from the Lord.  (And I don't want to downplay the dangers there.)  But am I more concerned about the stigma of a prodigal child—because you know some people will wonder what you did wrong in your parenting journey—than I am about having a judgmental, prideful child whose confidence is in his "right" behavior?

Like, there might be a trap there of worrying about the stigma of having a prodigal (a child walk away from the Lord)—and just wanting a child who does the right things and looks good outwardly, reflecting my excellent parenting skills?  It can be a fear of man thing driving our parenting goals.  And that fear can lead to anger, despair, and other emotions that influence how we respond to our children...  Though, I think it can be intermingled with a legitimate concern and desire for our children to love the Lord more than anything else in the world and to live for Him!  (It's complicated!)

It's just interesting to think about.  God is *so* about redemption!  It's all about what JESUS DID, not the "good deeds" I do—because I can't earn right-standing with Him!   Yes, I still strive to be perfect (it's the curse of many first-borns)—but consider that perhaps it's the "messy" life God redeems that is more precious and beautiful to Him!  That means there's hope for imperfect people like me. :)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

"Right" with Him because of what HE did

I've been exchanging comments on someone else's blog, and it's got me thinking more deeply about my "performance" as a Christ-follower and God's grace.  One blogger wrote:

>> Legalism robs us of joy, but it does give us a sense of security; it is scary when that security is pulled out from under us…but it forces us out of our comfort zone and to find that security in Christ alone.<<

So I started thinking... Legalism does give a sort of warped sense of security—we think if we just follow this list of rules, we're good to go!  But once we start trying to follow a list of "rules" we realize it's unachievable (that's what happened to me)—which robs your joy—and is not God's plan!

Perhaps that's why things go the way they do in life... why X plus Y often doesn't equal Z.  Because God wants us to rely on HIM in everything, not a [predictable?] list of rules.  I think God is happier when we rely on Him—for direction AND for His grace to cover our messes!—than when we strive to do everything "perfectly" or "the right way" (whatever we perceive that to be!).

That's where the freedom is: knowing we are SECURE IN CHRIST right in the midst of our messes—because He chose to lay down His life to pay the penalty for our sins—not secure with Him because of our "good deeds."

That's my big thing right now: trying to grasp that my "rightness" with God is because of what HE did, not because of anything I have done!  (The moment I start thinking I'm a "good Christian" I am already counting on my good deeds!)

I'm so thankful for God's patience and His grace!!!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Engage the world!

"The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies—not with the bad people but the devout people.  O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ!  If Christ had done what you're doing, who would ever have been spared?"
~Martin Luther (1483-1546)

If you've read the Bible, you know that this is what Jesus preached—and it's what He lived out.  We must stop judging others!  And stop hiding from those who are unbelievers!  Jesus calls us to imitate Him—and He lived with love and patience amongst "notorious sinners."  (And aren't we all?!)

Love triumphs.  Love brings about change.  Hate and anger and violence will never bring about change-for-the-better.

"But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."  ~Jesus (Matthew 5:44)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Comfort... my arch nemesis...

Comfort.  I value comfort more than I often realize.  (I'll bet most of us do.)  Do I value living for Jesus more than comfort?  Am I willing to make sacrifices of my precious time, my money, my preferences, or even my rights... for His glory?  Am I willing to step out where He's leading?  Would I be to set aside the things I love which bring me comfort (think: coffee, computer time, or whatever) for His greater purposes??  Not saying those things are bad... just interesting to examine whether I'd even be willing to set them aside if He asked me to.

Here's a little snippit from the  Focus on the Family broadcast on 4/3/14.

Jim Daly: People tend to, in my observation, we lean toward comfort. That's the human nature. Even in a Christian context. We want life to be comfortable. We pray for life to be comfortable!  Is that right or wrong?

Dr. Arnie Cole:  I'm not saying whether it's right or wrong, I'm saying yes, you're reading a trend very clearly. To me, as a Christ follower, I look for people who want to "win the day" spiritually, if you will. ...  A lot of people define comfort as winning the day spiritually. But I'm looking at what makes a difference in your spiritual life. And oftentimes comfort is problematic for people.

Something to think about!!

The pressure's off: Jesus paid it all!

From our weekly e-Green church newsletter...

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Simply Flourish
Pastor Spencer Bernard


It's easy to over-complicate the Christian life. There are endless debates and words written over the nuances of our faith. Sometimes it's helpful to simplify and remind ourselves of some of the basics. The Apostle Paul helps us out:

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT

Ok, based on this verses here are some essentials to our faith..

You are a receiver, not an earner. As the hymn says, Jesus paid it all. Understanding and believing this chips away many negative things in us. For example, there's pride. How can we be prideful when we haven't earned what we have in Jesus? Or anxiousness. Why be anxious when Christ's work on the cross is perfect and complete? It also plants in us positive things such as thankfulness, humility and a foundation of joy. Breathe in and out deeply a few times and remind yourself. The pressure's off, Jesus paid it all. The Christian life begins at the finish line, not the starting line. You already have victory, now run the race!

You are dearly loved and valued. Imagine Van Gogh or Picasso looking at one of their paintings and thinking "Ah, yes..this is absolutely perfect." Imagine Bach or Beethoven hearing one of their compositions and knowing not a single note needs to be changed, or even could be changed without ruining the composition. That's how God sees you, because of Christ.

Yes, you!

Remind yourself. Say a couple times out loud  "because of Christ, I am God's masterpiece." Does it make you feel uncomfortable to call yourself a masterpiece? Than keep saying it. It's the truth!

Your purpose is good deeds. More than just your purpose, your abilities, desires and opportunities are not random. God planned these for you long ago. Stop and reflect on that for a moment.

God planned specific things for you to do!

It's by doing good deeds that we reflect God's glory back to him. It's also how we reflect his glory to others. Wondering what to do? Ask The Lord "Father, how can I serve you today?" I think he'll answer you if you really ask. But wait..

It gets even better..

Jesus once said we find true life by giving our lives away. In Proverbs it says those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed. In other words, the way way we enjoy a rich a satisfying life is to contribute to others. God designed us for this, so we flourish when we do it.

So go flourish!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

He *wants* to help us!

"I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart; I have overcome the world."

~Jesus (quoted in John 16:33)

He loves us!  He wants to help us!  He's trying to tell us things... so we need to read His Word (the Bible)!