BLOG
Check here weekly for new blogs, and peruse our archives for dozens of great resources.

Be Joyful

flag of U.S.A.
 
1Thes. 5:16-18  Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will in Christ Jesus

Perhaps these verses of the Bible are as good as any to follow Independence Day weekend.  These have been strange and trying times for our nation.  Those who watch the news regularly are treated to bad circumstance after bad circumstance.  And I suppose a natural reaction to all that has been going on, and all that we’re told about it, is to conclude that we have much to be sad about when it comes to the United States.  If that is our reaction, 1 Thessalonians 5 might be a good place to look.

     “Be joyful always.”  No, this nation is not perfect.  There are many things about it that are far from perfect.  Yet, may we be joyful?  One of the great things about this country is that we can be joyful in public, praising God for all the blessings He has given us.  This will probably look odd to the onlooker.  In the midst of tensions, disease, division, we remain joyful because we know that there is so much more to this country than that.  And most of all, because we have a God who continually, richly blesses us.

     “Pray continually.”  This goes without saying.  Maybe in recent times more than most, you and I have been in prayer for this country and our leaders and our circumstances.  It is what God would have us do.  And the fact that we are guided by God’s Word and His will for right and wrong makes our prayers especially accurate and important.  Through the good and bad of this country, Christians like us will keep praying.

     “Give thanks in all circumstances.”  While we are treated daily to all that’s wrong, you and I know how much there is for which to be thankful regarding the United States.  Start naming those things.  A short devotion like this wouldn’t even begin to touch the surface of all with which God has blessed us.  And while others choose to wring their hands and declare the baseness of this nation, you and I know that while there is so much work to do to make it better, we are thankful.  God shed His grace on America, and He continues to do so. 

     So let others determine how they view our nation these days.  You and I will approach God with joy, in prayer, and full of thanksgiving.

Prayer: O Lord God, with joy, we thank you for this nation.  And we continually pray that you may be recognized more and more in it.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Read more...

True Peace with Others

Peace neon signage

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

“Peace for our time” became one of the most ironic quotes in history following Hitler’s invasion of Poland and continued aggression less than a year after these words were spoken by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. While Chamberlain, and so many others in Europe, hoped and even prayed for peace, they severely underestimated their enemy.

Now, over eighty years later, peace seems no more possible for our time than it did when Hitler invaded Poland. In short order, most of us could list off more than a handful of potential places where armed conflict could breakout at any moment. Now consider also the last several weeks in our own country. Recent events around the globe and close to home remind us how fallen our world is. You can’t help but wonder if it will get worse before it gets better.

But peace is not just an international or even domestic concern. This lack of peace often becomes very personal in our lives as we experience confrontations with others at work, school, or even in our homes. Look around at your life. Where do you see tension or even hostility? Are all of your relationships “peaceful”?

As people approach the end of life, one of their great desires is to “make peace” with everyone. This is especially true of family members. No one wants to leave behind hard feelings and regrets. This is especially true for Children of God. Because of our peace with God, our hearts have been changed and we now seek peace with others, especially within God’s family.

So why wait until the end of life? Consider again Paul’s encouragement to us today, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

Make today the day that you live out this encouraging word by God’s grace. Pray that He would lay on your heart those who you need to reconcile with and begin rebuilding a relationship. While no one of us may be able to change the world, by God’s grace, we can begin to bring to the immediate world around us.

Holy Spirit, work in me to be an agent of peace. Whether it is a member of my family, my school or workplace, or within my community, may I be the first to work for peace and in so doing show Your love and grace to others. It’s in Jesus name I pray, amen.


Read more...

Struggle with Sin

person sitting holding book
 
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”  Romans 8:1-2

In Romans 7, Paul details the Christian’s constant struggle with sin.  And we all sigh in agreement, realizing our experience matches his.

But then these words from Chapter 8:  “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”   The sigh turns into a smile, which turns into joy, which turns into peace.  My sins haven’t derailed my relationship with God!  Because I’m in Christ Jesus (baptized into Him, His Spirit dwelling inside of me), there is no condemnation for my sins!  He took the condemnation for me; He became the curse instead of me; He absorbed the wrath in my place.

But to know that we are not condemned is different than living like we’re not condemned.  Too often we dwell on our sins of the past; or the past sins of others.  Too often we allow our old mistakes to affect and infect our Today.  We aren’t condemned, yet we live as if we’re wearing an orange jumpsuit locked behind bars.  Cut it out!  When we dwell in our sins of the past, it’s a form of pride, because we’re torturing ourselves for not being perfect.  Let it go.  And remember that you are not condemned.  Repent, yes, but live joyfully in the full forgiveness that is yours.  You are not condemned!

Father, sometimes it seems too good to be true that we are not condemned for our sins.  Jesus paid for them, so by Your Spirit keep us from dwelling on them.  Help us to live lives of joyful freedom, knowing that we are not condemned.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.  


Read more...

Being at Peace With Myself

woman holding Holy Bible

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27

Imagine if we lived in a world where peace abounds. Perhaps that is unimaginable today, but just imagine. In this peaceful eutopia, would the peace of the world naturally give me peace with myself? Not necessarily. Even though life around us may be rather peaceful, we may have serious internal conflicts that leave us very unsettled. Have you ever had that feeling? Do you have it now? Is the trouble in the world causing internal grief and pain for you?

Stop. Step back for a moment and consider the many gifts that God gives to us every day. Now be specific, with a grateful heart, reflect on the blessings that He has poured out on you. Everything you have and need is His gift of love to you.

Among the many gifts that God gives to you, did you consider the gift of peace? In this case consider the peace in your soul, the peace that only He can give and that is beyond our understanding. This is a peace, as Jesus tells us, which is far different from what the world offers. Any peace in this world can be superficial, but God’s peace is true and enduring. Because of His peace, we have no need to fear, no need to be troubled by whatever is happening around us. The world (and the nightly news) should not set the agenda for our hearts and minds.

You might be thinking now that this is easier said than done. There is so much trouble all around us, how can we have peace in our souls. Like so much in life, we need to look not within ourselves for the answer, but instead look to cross. On the cross Jesus did everything necessary to reconcile us with the Father so that we might have true peace, peace with God, peace with others, and peace with ourselves.

Today, may “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

Precious Jesus, I am in awe of Your love and mercy today. You give me all that I need in this life and for the life to come. Thank You especially for the gift of peace. When my heart is troubled by the events of this world, grant me the peace that comes only from You. In Your name I pray, amen.


Read more...

No Substitutes

brown cookies on black metal grill
 
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” Galatians 1:3-7

Accept no substitutes.  While generic drugs and no-name breakfast cereals have their place, there’s also a time to say, “Accept no substitutes.”  For example, your mother’s chocolate chip cookies have never been beaten. The green ceramic pot your third grade daughter made for Mother’s Day is the most beautiful piece of sculpture ever. 

Paul has a similar view to the familiar gospel that he has shared with the Galatians. The Gospel is absolutely unique and no other “gospel” can compete.  Like most original products, the Gospel of Jesus begins with an amazing, new idea:  God becomes man.  Galatians 4:4 says, “In the fullness of time, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman…”  Only the true Gospel has this idea and direction—God comes to us to be fully man.  But original ideas and products are expensive.  Yes, and the Gospel is costly, but God bears all the cost himself.  Galatians 4:4 continues, “God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law.”  The impossible price changes when God pays the price by his own Son’s death.

Still, good ideas, whatever their cost, have to work.  The ultimate proof of this Gospel is in the resurrection.  Only in the true Gospel do we have the news that Jesus shows himself to be Son of God in power through the resurrection of the dead, Romans 1:4.  Here is an idea that has no substitute, no comparison.  God takes on our flesh, pays our price and rises from the dead. Accept no substitutes.
 
Heavenly Father, help us to know and hold onto the true Gospel.  We’re often tempted to get by with the substitute of our own promises.  Remind us that there’s only one Gospel, the truth that Jesus has taken on our flesh, died beneath the cross to make the payment, and risen from the dead to show the truth of his message.  Help us to accept no substitutes. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Read more...