Neither Ignorant nor Fearful

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I have noticed two very contrasting views of the current pandemic. Some speak out in an apathetic tone almost in a way to scoff at the coronavirus. I’ve heard claims from people about COVID19 not being a big deal or that its a media-driven hysteria that’s not really worth worrying about. These are those who refuse to take precautions and who may even make fun of or ridicule those who do. On the other end, there are those who are in a sheer panic. They’ve stocked up and barricaded themselves. They are the ones emptying the shelves of the grocery stores and feeding the worldwide anxiety. Both extremes shield themselves from reality. and for followers of Jesus, we shouldn’t find ourselves in either one of these camps.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  James 3:17 NIV

Ignorance is never a beneficial approach to…well…anything. People who downplay the significance of this pandemic are simply promoting a lack of respect and compassion for those whose lives have been shattered and the wreckage it has left behind in their families. More than likely, their own convenience is driving much of their attitude. No doubt, many have been forced to make huge sacrifices. This is difficult on so many levels. For Christians, our hearts should be turned towards prayer for the hurting and action to do what we can to help those in need. The last thing Christians should ever be doing is complaining and downplaying while so many have been devastated. The coronavirus IS a BIG deal. Let’s promote mercy and be considerate of others. That’s wisdom from above.

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.  2 Timothy 1:7 ESV

Fear cripples people. It’s so hard to watch somewhat riddled with worry. It consumes their thoughts. They believe that the worst is not only probable but imperative. For a Christian to be paralyzed by fear is contrary to the very Spirit within us. Whether it’s through heavenly wisdom or heavenly power, the believer is driven by compassion and love and the pursuit of peace. Fear prevents people from those things. And so does ignorance. In this time of hardship that’s ravishing the world, let’s not be part of the problem by being ignorant of fearful. Let’s be lovers of peace and truth. Let’s hold fast to the anchor of our faith…Jesus…and share Him with the world. In the darkest of times, the light of Jesus’ followers should shine brightest.

Peace in Christ loved ones

The salvation equation

 

Have you ever tried to “add” to our salvation? What I mean by that is you think you need to accomplish something in order to seal your salvation. There’s a stark contrast between adding to our faith and adding to our salvation. Passages like 2 Peter chapter one and James chapter two can make people think that somehow there’s an equation associated with salvation. Something like Jesus plus…(you fill in the blank) equals me being saved.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

For me, I struggle with a perfectionist mentality. I can’t stand doing something less than extremely well. When I don’t, which is often, I feel a sense of failure. When it comes to my relationship with Jesus, I’ve based my sense of well-being on how well I’m doing as a follower. Some of the factors that affect my perception are things like how often I’m serving those in need, how much prayer time I’m devoting, if I’m keeping up on my Bible plans, if I’ve devoted a lot of time to worship or not, and how well I’ve treated others. No one would argue that those aren’t all great things, right? But nowhere in the Bible does it say that my salvation is based on my relationship with Jesus PLUS how many times I pray or sing worship songs or serve the homeless.

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Acts 4:12 NIV

All of us have been guilty of pursuing holiness as a means of being in the presence of Jesus. All that amounts to is self-righteousness which is no righteousness at all. The only true righteousness is that which is imparted by faith in Christ. Everything else is but filthy rags according to scripture. It’s being touched by God that makes us holy and it’s because we’ve been made holy that we start acting accordingly. Isaiah, a devout man of God, (probably far more than any of us here tonight) knew that nothing he had done could possibly warrant Him being in the presence of God’s holiness in the temple. That privilege had to be granted by God alone. The same goes for Moses before the burning bush as he stood on holy ground.

“Holiness is not the way to Christ, Christ is the way to holiness.”

Charles Spurgeon

We need a humble heart that knows our need, not a puffed-up spirit built on the backs of all we’ve accomplished. We have to stop thinking that we add to or earn our salvation in any way. And we also can’t be people who seek to push a similar agenda on innocent believers and non-believers alike. The Apostle Paul was appalled by such people. There were those in the first century, and every century since, who were pushing a message of “now that you have Jesus you still need all of these other things in order to be saved.” Paul rebuked these people. Just check out Colossians 2, Galatians 1, and 2 Corinthians 11 if you want to see exactly what I’m referring to.

Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

John 14:6 NASB

It all boils down to this: if we say, in any way, that Jesus plus ___ equals salvation, we are devaluing Jesus. His sacrifice is all-sufficient. His blood cleanses us from sin. His life gives us life. He makes us children, and heirs. It was Him who ransomed you and me from the grave and In the end, it will be Jesus who ransoms this world. That is the message we carry and we need to share with the world, and with ourselves.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB

Jesus plus NOTHING equals salvation. Walk in that freedom brothers and sisters.

Crutch or Cure


I know many people, and I myself have been included in this list, who have viewed their relationship with Christ as a crutch; the idea of grace as merely a “go-to” when they’ve messed up. The Christian life, in the eyes of these misled men and women, is powerless and not that different to the life they had before Christ. Sure, there is thankfulness for the gift of a savior who they can fall back on or “lean on” when their life isn’t going too well or they’re caught up in some bad decisions. However, Jesus is placed in a box, their Christian walk also in a box only to come out in certain settings or around certain people, and there are areas of their lives labeled “off-limits.” These people are surprised when they can’t seem to get out of the addictions that have plagued them or continue to make the same bad decisions day after day or month after month. These people are stuck.


Jesus is not our crutch, He is our cure! A cure is defined as a means of healing or restoring to health and/or a remedy. Accepting Jesus into our hearts is not like buying insurance, it’s like open-heart surgery (Ezekiel 36:26). Grace is not merely a means of being forgiven by God, but a powerful force of change in our lives (Titus 2:11-14). The Christian life is not about covering up the old self but nailing it to the cross (Galatians 2:20). The call by Jesus is not, “I’m here whenever you need me,” it’s more like, “die to your old self and come after me and you’ll experience a life you’ve never imagined possible!” (John 10:10) Jesus came to make us new, to cure us of the old sinful desires, to help us overcome, to give us the power to be more than conquerors! We don’t have to sin, or be passive, or follow after the lusts of this world because Christ set us free from all of that!

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

2 Corinthians 5:17

Eyes on the Prize

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What matters most in life? Is it our health and wellbeing?  How about our legacy? Maybe it’s the good things we do for others or the longevity of our time here on earth. All of us answer the question solely based on our worldview. Our worldview informs our place in this world and the purpose of our existence. It’ll determine the things we pursue and how we measure success. It’ll either help us through hard times or leave us blowing in the wind. In the challenging times that we live, we need to be able to answer this question.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  Colossians 3:1-2 ESV

For believers in Jesus, our view of the world and our place in it should never change. Viruses, wars, famines, human trafficking, and all other hardships and evils don’t have to alter our perspectives. When God created mankind, he gave them a place in all of creation. That place is to rule alongside Him. Humanity is ingrained with the calling of bringing God’s kingdom to His creation. The above passage in Colossians reminds us to stay focused on that calling…to keep our eyes heavenward. As people all around the world are suffering, the opportunities for the Kingdom of Heaven to be extended on earth are even greater.  As emotions are reeling and anxieties are rampant, Christians need to be that steady voice of hope and victory.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Romans 8:5 ESV

Our command to love has not changed. If anything, people are more desperate than ever for sincere love and generosity. As I see people rush to the stores to hoard supplies out of pure self-preservation, the need for selfless love has rarely been more obvious. People are buying things they don’t need and putting at risk those who actually do need them. In tough times our truest character is revealed. The time is now for Christians to rise up and be a beacon of hope and light during these dark days. As people gather all they can, we need to be giving all we can. As people fear uncertainty, we need to proclaim the certainty of God’s love for them. As the pain of loss ravages families all over the world, we need to be sharing the peace that comes through the power of the Holy Spirit. In the face of economic trials, we need to be reminding the world of how God provides for His children.

If it wasn’t before, it should be obvious by now that our lives are in the hands of another. And that’s actually a good thing. We don’t need vaccines nearly as much as we need repentance. Government bailouts are great but what we really need is more humility before our maker.  God redeems lives. God sustains life. And we need to spend our days participating in His mission of love to a hurting world. Let’s do our part to shine for God’s glory because that is what matters most in life.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.    Matthew 5:14-16 ESV

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters!

Fascination

Teach us to marvel again, to be fascinated with the Good News of Jesus Christ, that God became a human.

Francis Chan

I am as guilty as anyone when it comes to routine readings of the Bible. When I heard Francis Chan say these words I realized how much of an injustice it was to passively read the words of Jesus and not marvel. How dare we treat them as just letters on page. God’s word contains life and power and the gospel is anything but ordinary. Lord please forgive our moments of indifference. May your abundant mercies cover our times of apathy. Restore in us an awestruck wander every time we read your words. Help us to feel the full weight of the gospel’s beauty and magnificence.

Jesus and the Unknown

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I don’t think that Jesus meant for life as His disciples to be safe. His invitations included picking up our cross and following Him, going to the ends of the earth, reaching out to the outcasts of society, loving our enemies, hating sin, crucifying our selfish desires, leaving what we know, and waging a spiritual war that sees people freed from bondage. None of that is safe.

Every single day we are met with choices that either lead us into His presence or distract us from it. Just like Peter, a disciple of Jesus had the choice to walk out on the water to meet Jesus or let security keep him in the confines of the wooden vessel. We either step out of the boat and walk on the water with Jesus or we stay in the boat and ignore His call. We can’t do both. But to step out of the boat enters us into the unknown. Will we sink? Even worse, will we drown? Or will He give us the ability to walk on the waters?

The boat is safe. The known is safe. But the call of Jesus brings us to the precipice where we can leap and allow Him to give us wings or turn and walk the safe and spiritually dull life. Our faith is not meant to be kept to ourselves. His love is not something to be selfish with. That faith and love should move us into action. We should be speaking up, standing up, rising up for truth and love. Forget political correctness. The world needs spiritual correctness. The world needs to see people brought to life by the power His love. The world needs us to get out of the boat. The world needs us to forsake our comfort and reach out.

We can walk the day to day grind with our blinders on. Or we can choose to keep our gaze out for others in need, for opportunities to disrupt our routines, and moments to sacrifice on behalf of others.  Perhaps the reason so many of us get weighed down with boredom or worldly concerns is that we’ve lost sight of our Lord’s call…to love Him and to make His love known.

You keep him in perfect peace
    whose mind is stayed on you,
    because he trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
    for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.

Isaiah 26:3-4 ESV

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters!