Bother God All You Please

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“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” (Romans 5:10)

Sometimes we feel like we shouldn’t bother God so much, that he expects us to have gotten it by now and be able to handle it ourselves. This lie of course tricks us into doing things in our strength rather than God’s and failing to get the victory over our sin. Paul reminds us, in his letter to the Romans, that Christ laid down his life for us while we were his enemies, weak sinners, ungodly and without hope of doing any good work for ourselves, at least that will endure for all eternity.

Now, Paul reminds us, we have been justified by Christ’s blood and reconciled to His Father by his death. The image of the frustrated, angry, impatient Father is horribly inaccurate. We have been saved from his wrath. He loves  us, has adopted us, and made us his own. Now that we are his, he’ll do even more for us as he finishes the work he has began in us. Call on the name of the Lord. Ask in faith for what you have need. He knows and He will meet it, his time and his way, if we cling to him with open hearts and wait upon him.

Lord, forgive us for the times we’ve rushed ahead of you. We thank you for the work you have began in us and we are believing you will finish it. We open our hearts today, by your grace, may we be willing to change and be reconciled in word and deed to your own. May your life be revealed in us today. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Nail Pierced Hands, Wounded Side: This is Love.

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By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” (1 John 3:16)

What is love? John tells we learn what love is at the cross. Jesus and Paul both tell us that to love god and to love others fulfills all the laws and regulations handed down to us in the scriptures.  We love, John tells us elsewhere, because Christ first loved us. To love is to sacrifice and put others needs (not their wants) before our own. Scripture places the greatest burden here upon the leaders in our communities: fathers, husbands, pastors, employers, office holders on all levels. Those most likely to lord it over us and twist this scripture to demand others sacrifice themselves to meet their demands stand condemned before the cross, where the greatest of all became the servant of all and laid down his life.

We all stand equal before Christ, because all of us are equally compelled to lay down our lives and submit to one another in love. Let us emulate Christ, gentle readers, but also let us  also call those over us to account for their sin when they would wickedly crush under foot and devour the flock in the holy name of Christ, lest his name be blasphemed.

We thank you, Lord, for your salvation, and example, on the cross. We pray as leaders and as otherwise, we would emulate your example. Give us wisdom to choose, in every arena, leaders who love their people as you do. Grant us wisdom on when and how to lovingly hold to account leaders who blaspheme your name by actions that do not align with the law of love. Check us in our own spirits when we are not loving others as you first loved us. In Jesus’ precious name we pray, amen.

Who are we living for?

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“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)

The immediate context is Paul’s statement to the basic effect of, “Guys, if I’m out of my mind, it’s for God. If I’m acting sane, it’s for your sake.” Christ’s love motivates us to live for something greater than ourselves and consider others’ needs, remembering Christ died for them, too. But we live ultimately for Christ. Let’s keep things in eternal perspective today and seek the love of Christ at work in our hearts today.

Lord, forgive us for our attachments to earthly things that the moth eats and rust destroys. Strengthen us to lay up our treasures in Heaven. I pray we would no longer live for ourselves and our own desires, but for you and your kingdom. Show us what course of action will bring you the most glory, and the most benefit to your whole people, the church, today. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Is Your Jesus Sinless?

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“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

We have a tendency to reason about what God would do and how he would act from our fallen sinful nature. We reason, since we love so-and-so, and we accept their behavior and love them just the way we are, since this is what our love does, surely that is what God’s love does, too. Nope. He loves us, but he doesn’t accept our sin–he wants us to surrender it to him, so he can in turn make us righteous like him.

On the other hand, sometimes in scripture, we see Jesus doing or saying things that we’ve been taught are never appropriate behavior. Instead of seeking better context (we might be misunderstanding due to a cultural lens) or reevaluating our doctrine, we keep our filters happy by saying, “well, he’s god.”

Sure he is fully God. But he’s also fully man and the second Adam, the paragon of virtue and completely sinlessness. The Lord Jesus played by the same rules he gave us. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t be the messiah, let alone God. That includes in terms of supernatural stunts, too. Scripture says he laid his own glory aside–the power he used on Earth is the power of the third member of the trinity, the holy spirit, who gifts His body likewise today.

It takes wisdom and the holy spirit to know what tact to take with people.  Don’t act in your own flesh and say, “Well, Jesus called so-an-so a fox.” It likely was not rash or without the leading of the Holy Spirit. He walked close with His Father and stayed in step with God. So we need to stop ourselves before we act rashly and ask: are we walking in the spirit or the flesh?

That goes for reaching out to help someone by offering them our ideas of love and kindness as well as with a smack down.  Only God knows what another person needs to hear at a given moment. So ask Him for the words to say.

Lord, forgive us for our rashness and our presumption. Open our eyes to understand you better today. Strengthen us and remind us gently, Lord, to come and focus upon you and walk humbly beside you. In every encounter we have today,  give us the words to speak so they will be exactly what the other person needs to hear at that moment. Deliver us from fear and sinful desires and a bitter spirit and any other thing that might prevent us from walking in step with you today. In Jesus’ name we pray, Lord, amen.

Buy and Labor For what Satisfies: the Lord

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Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. Isaiah 55:2,3

I think we’ve all found ourselves there, constantly doing, or eating, and never being satisfied, done, or full. We forget what we are really hungry for can’t be found in the rat race, or at the buffet line,  but in a still, quiet prayer closet. Much as us dieters might be tempted to take God literally and say, “Yay, all the chocolate and cheese cake I could want,” the rich food he had in mind is His word and Himself. He is our bread/our tree of life that we need daily to live.

What are we investing in? Let’s take time to re-orientate ourselves to His cross today and remember what we’re hungry for is found in Him. When we pray, let’s not do all the talking. Take time to quietly listen and receive direction from Him. What have we to fear? He’s made an everlasting covenant with us, his love is sure and steadfast. We only need to abide in him and open up our hearts to allow him to transform us into the image he originally made us in.

Lord, forgive us for getting caught up in the cares of the world. Quiet us today and draw us into communion with you. Wash away our fears and any wicked inclination separating us from you today. Open our ears and our hearts to hear and receive from you today. Here we are, Lord. We thank you for your finished work, and we present ourselves to you. Mold us into your likeness, show us more of who you are today. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.