Not in Vain

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain…

1 Corinthians 15:10 (NKJV)

The Apostle Paul was addressing the church at Corinth expressing his unworthiness to even be considered an apostle, considering all he had done to the Church of God prior to his salvation. In applying this to my own life, I have long considered myself unworthy to be a servant of Christ. In the words of John the Baptist (an amazing man of faith) I am not even worthy to stoop over and loose the straps of Christ’s sandals (Mark 1:7). The fact is, I’m not worthy, and none of us are. This makes Christ’s sacrifice and God’s grace so much more amazing. There is no one righteous (Romans 3:10, Ecclesiastes 7:20) and God chooses to save us anyway. I say that’s an amazing Savior.

He is a great and awesome God Who saves us and invites us into His work which He has prepared ahead of time for us (Ephesians 2:10). As Paul stated, God’s grace in his life will not be for vain but he will labor all the more, even more than the other apostles. Even though grace is not based on works, it is given so that we may abound in this life and love people more, forgive more quickly, serve more wholeheartedly, and persevere with patient expectations that our God will come through. God has created me and His grace is molding me into the man I am today and will one day be. I don’t want to waste His grace.

Peace in the grace of Christ brothers and sisters.

Hope is a Necessity

World Challenge

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13 (NKJV)

Hope is one of those words that when you say it, it rolls of your tongue and immediately brings a glimmer of light to your heart. Hope is something to cherish and be thankful for. It serves as a platform of strength in those moments that seem perilous or without end. It is something that every single person needs. We can’t do life without it. As the verse above says, hope is accompanied with joy and peace. But only when that hope is in something real and constant.

I’ve heard people say to have hope in hope. To hold on to the “idea” that there is a “possibility” that things can get better. This is mere optimism. I happen to be an optimistic person myself. I like to look on the Brightside and believe that things will be ok. But my optimism is based on Someone, not just an idea or a desire to have good feelings. Hope that is not founded on reality is delusion.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10:23 (NKJV)

The Someone I have hope in is an unwavering and eternally faithful God. In our darkest moments we can rest assured in the hope that is brought to us by Jesus. He has a proven track record. He’s never failed. He’s shown His love and devotion to humanity regardless of the fact that we don’t deserve any of it. I don’t have hope because I believe things will get better in life. I have hope because Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. I have hope because I’m never abandoned by the One who made me. I have hope because He’s been beyond faithful in my life even when I’ve waivered in my faith. My hope is founded on Him, not my circumstances, past, present, or future.

Hope is that light at the end of every tunnel whether we think we see it or not. If you’ve been grasping for just a glimpse of that light, yet feel lost in an endless dark tunnel, look no further than the cross. Look to the Son hanging for our transgressions, touch the scares of His nail-driven hands, and absorb the love that it represents. In times when life is the most difficult, stop and pray. Realize that Christ faced all the hardships that this world can dish out and He has overcome the world. And more importantly, He did it for you. So that you will always have a hope so solid that it can never be broken. Let us not waver but be forever hopeful in the promises God has given us. Let us seek Him out and be renewed in the strength of the Holy Spirit. Let us not give up on Him, for He never gives up on us.

Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the LORD.

Psalm 31:24 (NKJV)

Peace in Christ my brothers and sisters

He is Greater than ALL of our problems

From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Psalm 61:2 (NKJV)

Our heart is the most important part of our bodies. It’s no wonder that God tells us in Proverbs 4:23 to guard our hearts above all else because this is where the enemy takes aim at. That is what falls into despair. Our heart carries the load and gets beat down through all the stresses life throw our way. Fortunately, we do not have to rely on our own strength in any situation, no matter how extreme or minor it may be. We have a Rock and a Refuge higher than ourselves. We have a Savior that is greater than all that may come our way. We have the endless peace and joy that comes from knowing Him. We have Someone who wants to build us up and encourage us always. We have Him who is greater than all our problems to call on no matter where we find ourselves. We have strength that is greater than anything we ourselves can muster. We have the protection, strength, and love of the One who molded and made us in our mother’s wombs. He who is the author of your life wants what is best for you and only He knows what that is. I pray that if you are in need of hope at this moment, you find that in His love. You are not alone. You are not too far gone. Let the One who began your life, sustain your life.

Peace in Christ my brothers and sisters

Lip Service

A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction. Proverbs 16:23 NKJV

We really have to be wise about what we say. If the words that come from our lips aren’t showing Christ’s love then we shouldn’t be saying it. In everything we do Christ is supposed to be magnified. We all know people who choose to curse, complain, and grumble, but the effects of those things can be tragic for those around us. Ungodly speech can spoil a persons day or completely change their attitude. Harsh and careless words can even ruin a life. But the heart that is constantly in a state of thanksgiving, brings cheer and praise wherever they are and no matter the situation.

Even though it’s no longer thanksgiving it’s important to still ask ourselves what what we are thankful for. No matter what, we can all be thankful for Jesus’ death on the cross, for our military putting their lives on the line to protect ours, for people God has put in our lives, and for the ability to share Gods love with whomever we come in contact with. We can all be thankful for the millions of do-overs God gives us, for the grace shown us by others, the simplicity of basic necessities. We all need to take some time to thank God for every situation we have gone through, good and bad this last year and know that God was with us through them all. Hopefully we can see and learn what he was doing in us, through us, and through those around us.

In 2021 we can be a voice of truth and grace and love. We can speak life into our family and friends. We can use our words to encourage and refresh those in our lives. Let’s leave the complaining behind us and shout a song of praise instead.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters

Conqueror

*Jesus Christ addressing the churches in Revelation (and us). To the one who conquers…

I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. Rev 2:7 (ESV)

…will not be hurt by the second death. Rev 2:11 (ESV)

I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it. Rev 2:17 (ESV)

and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations. Rev 2:26 (ESV)

will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. Rev 3:5 (ESV)

I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. Rev 3:12 (ESV)

I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Rev 3:21 (ESV)

I don’t know about you, but the idea of conquering some evil enemy inspires great emotion. But what exactly are we conquering? This is not a call to be an oppressive subjugator of peoples. No, this is a call to conquer the the things that bring death and destruction to our lives. We are waging war on depression, anxiety, lies, persecution, trials, and sin.

Man, this sounds like a heavy load to bear. But along with that comes an incredible series of promises to all those who give their lives over to Christ and live a life of obedient faith in Him.

Last year was rough for so many people around the globe. For many, we’re still in the same boat entering 2021. But the struggles and hurts never have to be the end of the story. The great news is, we’re not alone in this endeavor. We cannot conquer this world and the battles of life alone. And we don’t have to. As Paul tells us in Romans, our life circumstances cannot separate us from the Love of Christ. When we live for Him, we are His. We can rejoice in that security and the strength that Christ gives us to be conquerors in His name.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:35-37 (ESV)

Wherever you’re at entering the new year, know that you have the love and power of Jesus to overcome. I pray for you to feel His goodness. I pray for you to experience His healing. I pray for you to have the weight of life lifted from your shoulders. From the depth of my heart, I hope your year is full of His peace.

Live like we have life

“And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 1 John‬ ‭5:11-12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The gospel message is pretty clear: Jesus equals life. An eternal life and the life blood of God’s Spirit here and now. But how many of us are actually living like we believe that? How many of us are filled with unmovable hope? Does joy mark our existence or are we weighed down by the worries of this life? More than all of this, what are we doing to get the message out? If we believe Jesus is life, shouldn’t we do everything in our power to let others know that? But many of us keep to our own Christian circles and rarely look for chances to share the gospel with those outside. I guess until we fully realize the magnitude of the offer Jesus has given to us, we can’t fully understand what we are meant to share with the world. Lord please renew in us a full appreciation for your loving grace. Awaken our hearts again to the joy of your salvation.

Pray for me to be bold and I too will pray for you all. Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Where am I looking?

It’s easy to look to the things we see or the people we know to be our source of assurance. People are created to have hope. We cling to whatever we can in desperate moments. We seek all our lives to find the things that bring us comfort and confidence in our present circumstances. Be it a person, a place, a thing, a status, a relationship, or even an accomplishment, everyone hopes in something or someone.

There’s always needs arising for people to find hope. At any given moment in history there have been wars, famines, pandemics, economic turmoil, slavery, and the threat of evil ideologies and the effects they have on human life. They may not always look exactly the same but our world is always in need of hope.

God’s people are supposed to be known for finding their hope in one source alone-God. The Bible is full of stories where that did not happen. Look at any believers life and you will see moments when that did not happen. None of us are immune from the plagues of self-reliance and materialism. In my reading this morning I came across one such story. It’s in the book of Ezekiel where the prophet is rebuking the nation for trusting in Egypt rather than God for their security. In chapter 29, God promises to bring down Israel’s neighboring powerhouse so that they will no longer have them as a weak crutch to lean on.

“Egypt will no longer be a source of confidence for the people of Israel but will be a reminder of their sin in turning to her for help. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign Lord.’ ”” Ezekiel‬ ‭29:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

God takes seriously His people’s tendency to misplace their trust and hope. Jesus rebuked those who trusted in anything other than God…like those who trust in money (Matthew 6:19-21), in religious heritage (Matthew 3:9), or in their religious ‘goodness’ (Mark 13:1-2). Confidence in anyone or anything other than God’s goodness and faithfulness is an issue of misplaced loyalties. Like the Israelites of old, we have to safeguard our hearts from wandering the path of false security.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalms‬ ‭46:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters

Eyes on the Prize

1459717102577

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!

Rejoice in the Everlasting

ZJxosK5

There is no question that life comes with many challenges. As we get older, the challenges generally increase. Some, however, face even the most difficult challenges from birth. Regardless of when the difficulties arise, they will in fact arise. Some people seem to die far too soon, while others live long lives. Some live in poverty while others flourish in wealth. The world is full of imbalance. Discrimination, hatred, pride, selfishness, and greed all dominate no matter the society you look at. Painful relationships, sickness, and loss are things we all come face-to-face with at one time or another. We have all been disappointed by others and we have all been the ones to disappoint others. No one needs to look too far to see the effects of sin and brokenness in this world.   But in the face of this bleak and often heart-wrenching life, we can know that one constant exists that can bring us hope. His name is Jesus.

Rejoice, believer, in Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever. Jesus always was. The Babe born in Bethlehem was united to the Word, which was in the beginning, by whom all things were made…If he were not God from everlasting, we could not so devoutly love him; we could not feel that he had any share in the eternal love which is the fountain of all covenant blessings…When only your last battle remains to be fought, you shall find that the hand of your conquering Captain has not grown feeble—the living Saviour shall cheer the dying saint. When you enter heaven you shall find Him there bearing the dew of his youth, and through eternity the Lord Jesus shall still remain the perennial spring of joy, and life, and glory to his people. Living waters may you draw from this sacred well! Jesus always was, he always is, he always shall be. He is eternal in all His attributes, in all his offices, in all his might, and willingness to bless, comfort, guard, and crown his chosen people.  -Charles Spurgeon

Dear loved ones, for all of you walking through a painful and uncertain season of your life, hold fast to the anchor in every storm…the eternal Savior. He is with you in your pain and suffering. He weeps for our sorrow. No matter the challenges we may face, we will always have Him, and that is a cause for rejoicing!

“Thou art from everlasting.”    -Psalm 93:2 KJV

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters

Take it in

Life is good until it isn’t. A change that comes in a moment.

Hearts once leaping in exaltation now sunken in deep despair.

A smile now a lifeless expression.

Time unshaped by gratitude is lost for no one’s gain.

Unaware of how good it was, walking aimlessly.

What matters most is directly ahead, often missed for what lies beyond.

From now on it’ll be different.

The meaning of life comes more into view.

Prayers become more earnest as helplessness takes control.

A peace floods the soul like a warm embrace on a cold dark night.

How is there strength when the world is undone?

A Savior’s love overwhelms despair. Piercing the darkness, that glimmer of light.

Hope grows with each new day. I will make it after all.

From now on it’ll be different.

Time can slow to soak in each moment before they pass into memory.

Petty differences shall pass into oblivion.

Eyes look more longingly now upon those we love.

*This poem is dedicated to those who have experienced the earth-shattering moments. The sudden loss of a loved one. The diagnosis. Pain that turned everything upside down. I hope you too have experienced that amazing peace that our loving God provides, especially in the hardest moments. If not, that is my prayer for you. You are loved more than you know. This is a celebration of that love that has rescued so many from the depths. Peace in Christ loved ones.