Thursday, January 29, 2015

We Are Trophies of God's Grace

The Apostle Paul considered himself to be the chief of all sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) and yet God chose to glorify Himself through Paul.  We are also told in 1 Corinthians 1:27 that, "God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong."  God works through the imperfection of individuals to glorify His holy name and to make His name great amongst the nations.  He is not concerned about our previous status because He dresses every believer in the righteousness of Jesus Christ when they come to Him as Savior (Romans 13:14).  Regardless of our stained, sketchy, and shameful past God wants to shine through us as a testimony of transformation that He brings as it tells of His greatness.  It is best that we always understand that it is God's power that enables us to accomplish things for Him.

The apostle Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 12:9-11, "But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."  There is no need to be ashamed of our past as Christ has given forgiveness!  He loves to heal and bring order to chaos.  He loves to work through our inadequacies! 

There is no doubt about it that we as believers were once children of disobedience, lovers of darkness, dead in our trespasses and sins, and following the prince of the power of the air--Satan!  Our lives were not only messed up, but hopeless without Christ.  I LOVE how Paul states it, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."

God desires to express His grace and kindness through our lives in order that the world may marvel at His goodness!  I marvel at the grace and kindness that He has displayed through me!  May we never get bogged down in our self-worth and fail to understand that God is working His kindness through us that He might be glorified--It happens because of what Christ did for us on Calvary.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

What am I to Pray For?

As a young boy I was taught the importance of praying to God at meal time as well as before I would go to bed.  My prayers were  often quite simple and very selfish.  There is no doubt in my mind that God heard my prayers and I'm thankful that God loves us despite our selfishness and lack of understanding about the best things we could be praying for.

Over the years I have grown to understand that God desires us to come to Him in prayer for many other things as well:
  • To praise His great name
  • To seek forgiveness from Him
  • To seek understanding and direction
  • To petition Him for things that are dear to my heart
  • To express thanks to Him for all of the things He has done for me
  • To express my longing to be filled by Him alone
  • To share my hurt, pain, and confusion
  • To pray for His coming again
The apostle Paul, in Ephesians chapter 1, provides a few more things that we as believers could be praying for which are often forgotten.  Paul surfaces some things that are very near to the heart of God and they are things that God prizes.  Paul, by way of example, prayed for Christians that they would have the following things (Eph. 1:15-23):
  1.  A greater knowledge of Him.  What an amazing thing to pray for!  The more we understand the character of God the more we know how to process life and interact with others.  The more we know about God the better we understand how to pray and trust Him in difficult times.  This knowledge will transform our lives from the inside out!
  2. An understanding of the promises that God has made to us.  God has made many promises to those who believe in Him throughout Scripture.  These promises shape our perspective and give us hope.  They help us to understand what is important to God.  These promises help us to understand what the future brings.
  3. An understanding of God's immeasurable power.  Paul prayed that Christians would understand the character and power of their God.  The same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is available to us today!  The desire is that Christians do not live powerless when God desires to be their strength.
  4. An understanding of Christ's present position.  Christ reigns victoriously in heaven over everything!  He also reigns as head of His church (Maywood)!  The focus now and later is on Jesus Christ, the one we are to glorify.
We have so much we could be praying for and I believe Paul shared some of the greatest things that matter to the heart of God.  I pray that my prayer time would be marked by getting to know God more in order that I live, worship, serve, and pray differently.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Eternally Secure

Many Christians over the years have asked, "what is the one thing that we can do that would cause God to remove His love or rescind His salvation that He has given us?"  God has given us the answer to that question in Scripture, and the answer is that He never removes His love and He never rescinds our salvation.

The apostle Paul certainly cautioned believers not to abuse the grace of God by continuing to live a life of sin (Romans 6:1).  In fact, believers in Christ have nailed their old sinful nature and all of its evil desires to the cross of Christ and it should remain there.  Believers have been freed from sin and can live victoriously because of new life in Christ.  Paul says, "If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin-- because anyone who has died has been freed from sin." (Romans 6:5-7)

Jesus Christ has given believers the Holy Spirit to seal our inheritance (salvation) until the day of full redemption--when Christ returns to rule forever.  Paul says in Ephesians 1:13-14, "And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.  Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,  who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory."  

The point is that God sent His Son Jesus Christ to be our redemption (for the forgiveness of sins) in order to draw believers into a permanent relationship with Him.   This could never be earned and it could never be taken away based on poor performance (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Those who have truly put their faith in Christ alone have been given a secure salvation "In Christ".  This ought to give us great reason to praise Him each and every day!  PLEASE don't buy into the thought that you can do "one more evil thing" that would remove your salvation.  This is not taught in Scripture and it undermines the grace and work of Christ on the cross.

Prayer:  "May I never cease to praise You for your constant love for me, even with all of my weaknesses and sinful thoughts.  Your grace is greater than all of my sin and your mercies are new every day!  May my heart abound with gratitude for your amazing plan of redemption found in Jesus Christ alone."

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Leaving It to Him

David says, “But the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness. The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9:7-10)
God uses His own standards to judge the world and He works within His own time.  He is enthroned and positioned to judge at His perfect will, and righteousness is His standard.  David often prayed imprecatory (God’s judgment) prayers towards his enemies.  He desired God to swiftly bring His righteous hand down upon those who were a burden and obstacle to him.  I’ve always wondered if this was a kind and the right thing to do towards others.  However, the greatest comfort we can take is to place our enemies in the hand of God and rest in God’s ability to bring chastisement and correction if necessary.  God’s judgment will never be wrong and doesn’t need to be second-guessed.  God will never be bumped off of His throne and nobody ever gets away with injustice—what a comfort, but that means it applies to you and I as well.
David assures us that God is our stronghold when we are oppressed, especially during times of trouble.  We may not see or know how deliverance will come.  However, because we know the name and character of our God we are able to place our trust in Him over and over again, knowing that He sits enthroned, and is able to help all those who are unable to help themselves. Can we truly leave it up to Him to settle all scores?  Can we release the hand of the gavel in order to trust God to do what He does so well—judge in righteousness?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

In Christ Alone I Stand

The more I study the Word of God the more God's story line comes together.  God, from eternity past planned a marvelous plan of redemption!  It finds its expression in the person of Jesus Christ who is presently seated at the right hand of God the Father (Mk. 16:19).  The apostle Paul tells us, "Blessed be the God and Father or our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him." (Eph. 1:3-4) 

It is through the person Jesus Christ that we have redemption and it required His precious blood in order for us to experience the forgiveness of sins.  The idea of redemption is that Christ paid a price for us to be released from the slavery and bondage of our sin.  The penalty for our sin was so great that it condemned us to Hell.  The blood of Jesus Christ was the only payment that God would accept.  I love how Paul paints the picture that God "lavished" His grace upon us according to His riches (Eph. 1:7-8)

Through the story line of Scripture, God is making known the mystery of His will which He set forth in Christ (Eph. 1:9).  The fulfillment of God's amazing plan is "to unite all things in him, things in heaven and on earth" (Eph. 1:10).  This happens through Jesus Christ destroying the dividing wall of hostility between God and man as well as between man to man (Phil. 2:14).  Although there has been much uniting through the work of Christ, the process will not be complete until Christ returns to reign as our King.  Everything will be restored as it was intended.  God has always been in control and is at work even today!