Archives for category: Grace

5The Wise men knew something was different about the star that shone in the night.  They had done their homework, per se, and they intellectually knew all the right things and had knowledge of the writings of the Israelites.  They knew these writings pointed to a king. These scholars wanted to dig deeper and it cost them their time, talents, and treasures.

You see one part that is overlooked often times about the Magi is that they had to leave everything they knew behind.  They left their homes, family, friends, and worldly comforts.  Now granted, they had a caravan but if any of you have done any traveling, you know that there is nothing quite like your own bed and having your own daily lifestyle and routine.  All of that had to be left behind to find the King.  Not many have been asked to leave it all, but I know many a called Pastor and family that have been asked to do so for the sake of God’s calling.  So what did the Wise men find at the end of their journey?

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ” ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’” Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. Matthew 2:1-12 NIV

They didn’t find a triumphant kingdom with a strong, mighty man sitting on a throne.  They did stop and talk to Herod but what they found there, though they didn’t know it at first, was a man who’s heart was dark with hatred and contempt for anything or anyone that would get in the way of his power and control.  Herod would stop and nothing to make sure this King of the Jews wouldn’t take His rightful place.  Herod, the one who should have been in the seeking the Lord mode, was as far from it as possible.  The Wise men went to the place that should have known where to find the King but found an empty heart and throne.  A kingdom that had no desire to know their real King.

Things weren’t going as planned for the Magi but what they did we can learn from.  They didn’t let the detours and destruction ruin their quest.  They continued to pursue the Star of Bethlehem to find the answer to the question of “who is this King?”  Once the Wise men found the child at the house with His mother and earthly father, they had to be faced with the fact that the King of the World was a tiny infant.  One with no worldly power, no worldly persuasion, just a humble little family in a lowly habitat.  Nothing fancy, nothing grandiose about it.  See, that is how God most often reveals Himself.  In the simple, in the lowly, in the common, in the still small voice.  What the Magi did was recognize that God was present in the Shack moments of their current lives and they worshiped the Lord in the midst of the unexpected.  They saw God in the humble even though He wasn’t what the worldly paradigms  and their own makings had caused them to seek.

The next huge step the Seekers did is astounding.  They gave the King what He deserved.  They gave Him honor, respect, faithfulness, and honest worship with their gifts.  They didn’t withhold the gift just because the one receiving didn’t meet up with some glorious human view, they opened their hearts and worshiped anyways.  God promises that if someone seeks Him, they will find Him.  That is exactly what the Wise men received.  They might have went looking for a worldly ruler but they were given the gift of seeing the Creator of the Universe, in human, frail flesh, accepting the praise and honor and gifts they presented.  In their giving, they received the best gift in return, the Grace of God.

The Magi, in giving their gifts, were given the Mercy and Grace and Love of God the Father.  They were given the opportunity to be presented with the soul saving Son, Jesus Christ.  When one is in the presence of the King of Eternity, and allowed into His presence, there is no greater gift because no human is worthy on their own merit.  God showed the Wise men that Jesus came even for them!  It wasn’t just for the Jews but it was for the Gentiles.  It was for all of mankind.

The Magi’s thoughts and plans took them on a journey that they weren’t fully prepared for.  What they expected and what they found were far from the normal world view.  They were met with twists, turns, evil intentions, and the likes but it didn’t stop God from being God and it didn’t stop them from pursuing who the King was and still is today and for all eternity.

How are you when your plans, hopes, dreams, and expectations get a sudden, swift change? Do you continue to pursue the King and sift through the rubble of your kingdom and proceed to the Shack of the Savior?  Do you allow life’s collision course to careen you off course or do you set your compass and sights on the Bible and staying true?  God has never failed a promise and He won’t start now.  Cling, like Job, to the Creator and never stop seeking and praising the King of all Kings.  Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised (Job 1:21 NIV).

 

brokenhearted-4If you have ever been a parent, I know you have heard your child or children say “that’s not fair!”  Yourself, as a child, undoubtedly said the phrase more than once.  In looking at things in your adult life, I know you have expressed these sentiments.  You might have not used the exact words, or maybe you have, but when you suffer injustice or it is done to a loved one, you have expressed the concept.

When that job is offered to someone else, when the raise doesn’t come, when the spouse goes looking and grazing in “greener grass”, when your children have walked off into a lifestyle so different from how they were raised, when you get that diagnosis…it often times sends people off into the land of “It’s not fair!”  Let’s face it, what happened on September 11, 2001 was definitely not fair!

In our scripture reading for this week, Paul is writing to the young preacher, Timothy.  Timothy is facing some major things in life that are just “not fair”.  He is being looked down upon, discriminated against, because he is too young.  30 is just too young in human eyes of the day.  He was dealing with false teachings by false teachers inside the church.  He was dealing with disruptions and disorder in worship.  To top it all off, he was dealing with a lack of true leaders to step up and help him carry Christ’s full message.  So what does Paul do?  He takes the time to stop, encourage, and give a personal testimony and witness to Timothy.  Let’s take a look at 1 Timothy 1:12-17:

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Paul takes time out of his very busy ministry life to lift up Timothy and is explaining to him that God is the one who qualifies someone.  Sometimes the best way to lift up someone, who is being beaten down by the injustice of this life, is to remind people who you were before Jesus Christ knocked you off your horse and started you down a new road.  It’s good to take the blinders off and be honest with yourself and with others that you, on your own are a sin-filled, opponent of Jesus Christ. That you before Christ saved you, you lived a life that was far from being holy, set apart, for the Lord.

You might be thinking, “but I was raised in the church and I have never been against God.”  In all honesty, yes you have.  We all have been an enemy of Christ.  Scripture tells us for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23, ESV) and but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, ESV).  We like Paul, are the worst of sinners before Christ.  We deserve all of God’s wrath, justice, and punishment. That is what is fair!

The best part, the part that Satan doesn’t want you to understand and latch onto is that because Christ came into the word to save us, because Christ died for our sins, because Christ is the Perfect Lamb Sacrifice, because of Christ’s love; we get grace, forgiveness, new life, peace, and the Holy Spirit to live out bold lives for His service.  God calls us to live each day for Him.  When we look at who we were, and sometimes who we are in our actions, we can do nothing more than fall down and worship and praise God for His abundant grace that is greater than all our sins.

We are called to live out new lives.  Lives changed and set apart for the work of the Lord.  Don’t hold your testimony to yourself. Share it with people and tell them that in this world much injustice is done but thanks be to God, we also get to say “because of what Jesus has done for me, “it isn’t fair” I get the rewards of what Jesus has done and I am His willing servant!”

Gods_Heart_92120306_stdUnselfish is an interesting word and concept in our world today.  It goes against the grain of society, self, and what Satan would have us believe.

Selfishness, being concerned primarily, almost exclusively, with one’s own desires, wants, profits, and pleasures, is all the rage and comes sinfully natural.  We see, read, and hear about selfishness all the time.  TV, radio, and most forms of media report and/or advertise to the sin of self greed and egotism.  We hear about the senseless murder of lives, relationships, families, careers, and reputations at an alarming rate, all because someone’s selfish desires come before the thought of others.  We can easily believe that our world is more selfish now than ever.  However, when we take a stroll through history, we are reminded that since Adam and Eve, selfishness has been ingrained in us.

Jesus, hits self centeredness head on and addresses it and the many ways selfishness is disguised.  As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:57-62

When we look at the Unselfish Love Christ had and has for His Father’s plan of Salvation, how He lived His earthly life, and these verses, we see the concept of Unselfish Love.  We see the need for daily sacrifice of self and the alluring, worldly trappings of this life.  It doesn’t take a PH D in Biblical Studies to see that Christ is calling us to a life that is led, lived, and loved with God as the Leader.  Christ set His heart, hands, humility, and life on the Father’s plan to buy back His children from their sins.  Nothing could or would stop Him – not even death.  Christ challenged these three men and their reasons/excuses for why they couldn’t put God first.

As Christ Followers, we are challenged and charged with the same confrontation as these three men.  We are called to sacrifice our own agendas- selfishness- and put on God’s agenda of Unselfish Love to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and then to our fellow man.  So when you find yourselves challenged to put you first, your career first, your emotions first, your desires first, remember;  God promises us that this world passes away and only salvation in Jesus Christ is forever.  That those who seek First His Kingdom and His Righteousness will have all things added unto them and the First will be Last.    Let’s start living UNSELFISHLY!

Forgiveness is a topic we always want to hear about when it comes to us being forgiven, but we squirm when it comes to forgiving others.  Why does our desire for our forgiveness come so much easier than our willingness to drop our Pharisee mindset of not wanting or not willingly extending forgiveness?

I mean, let’s face it, when we are honest, we all have broken one commandment or another!  We have all failed to extend the love of forgiveness at one time or another.  Each one of us can’t be ruled by the law because we break all the commandments that God laid down and Jesus made harder by summing them up in two categories – God First, Neighbor Second, and that puts Me Last.  If we seriously take to heart  Romans 2:12,For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.  We find out that we are just like the woman that washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, anointed his feet with ointment, and dried them with her hair.

She intentionally sought her Savior knowing full well that the Pharisees gathered at the house for dinner would not welcome her because she  had “sinned much.”  She passionately gave everything she had in reckless submission and abandonment to worship and serve her Lord and she heard the blessed words that we so want to hear “Your sins are forgiven.” Her gifts were out of her love and gratitude for who and what Jesus is:  Savior of the World.

This forgiveness that Christ offers wasn’t an easy miracle for Him.  Actually, it was the hardest miracle because it meant leaving the glories of Heaven, to come the World He created, and be hated, ridiculed, and put to death by the very ones He made in His image.  All of this to be submissive and obedient to the Father’s plan to fulfill the requirements of the Law of blood sacrifice for sin.  All sins for all times and for all of us.

Let us not be like Simon the Pharisee and elevate ourselves above Jesus’ sacrifice, death, and resurrection by thinking we don’t need forgiveness because are “good enough.”  We can never replace Jesus with our works because we cannot keep the full law.  Salvation isn’t based on how “good” the world thinks we are or how “bad” the world thinks we are.  Salvation isn’t found in how many “good” things we do or especially, on how “good” we think we are.

Salvation is only found in the Faith of Jesus Christ, that the Holy Spirit brings to us.  So let us be like the “woman” and rejoice over being forgiven much and out of response to the gift of Forgiveness start the hard work of forgiving others as we have been forgiven.

One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”  Luke 7:36-50 ESV

 

Satisfaction is now guaranteed. In fact, the Scriptures assure us that we have a triple guarantee of satisfaction.

First, God the Father is satisfied with the sacrifice Jesus offered for our sin. The resurrection of our Lord on this the first Easter guarantees the Father’s satisfaction.

Second, Jesus Christ himself is satisfied with his own work. On Easter morning, he reaped the reward of his suffering. His resurrection is the Father’s declaration that his Son succeeded and that his Son should be well satisfied.

Third, all of us here today have great reason to be satisfied. We are satisfied because we are justified. Christ has earned for us forgiveness, righteousness, and victory. He has restored us to the good graces of our heavenly Father.

Easter Sunday guarantees that the Father is now satisfied. Without the work of Jesus, God the Father would never have been satisfied with us. God’s demands on us would have remained unmet. The primary condition for a relationship with God would never have been fulfilled.

That means that we also are satisfied. We derive our satisfaction as Christians from the events of this day.

What does Easter mean to you personally? Read the rest of this entry »

We all like the words of Paul to the Ephesians: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast (Eph 2:8-9 NIV). But then comes that pesky next verse: For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10 NIV). Uh-oh, God, are you telling me you expect certain things from me as a response to what you have done for me?

In Old Testament times, God was upset with his people. He sent prophets to tell the people how upset he was and to tell them how to get back on track. The people didn’t listen. So, God sent more prophets. And the people didn’t listen. God sent wave after wave of prophets – some were ignored, some were abused, some were murdered.

So what does God do with these stubborn, abusive, murderous people of his? Does he turn them to toast like he should? No. Instead of destroying the people, God sends his own Son as the ultimate prophet. God sends Jesus to tell his people to repent. God knows what the people will do and he sends Jesus anyway. My friends, that is the Gospel. Read the rest of this entry »

Often times people ask, “Why me? Why does God allow me to get sick and suffer? What have I done to deserve this?” The Bible says that the reason there is sickness and suffering in the world is because of sin.

Adam and Eve disobeyed God, and because of their sin, sickness, pain, and death entered the world. The first mention of pain in the Bible is in the curse of painful childbirth for Eve after the fall into sin: To the woman [God] said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children” (Gen 3:16a NIV).

Some people assume that sickness and pain mean that God is punishing you for something you’ve done. Listen to Jesus’ disciples make this mistake: As [Jesus] went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (Jn 9:1-2 NIV). In the story of Job, Job’s friends asked him what he had done that was so awful that God would punish him so terribly.

But God’s Word doesn’t say that. The Bible says we suffer because we are sinful, frail human beings, who live in a fallen world. The question “Why do bad things happen to good people?” is a mistaken concept. There are no good people in this world. Paul writes: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23 NIV). Read the rest of this entry »