Are we living the promise?

How are Christians meant to live? No, I don’t mean the outward expression of a believer’s life. I am talking about the source of life…the inward life…the how to sort of living. I’ve been contemplating a series of verses lately, and really trying to pray through them because I really want to understand them. Here they are:

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

1 John 4:9 NIV

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20 NIV

When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:4 ESV

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

John 1:4 ESV

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:10 ESV

At first, my reaction is that these are speaking of eternal life. The reward or grace bestowed on all who cling to Christ and His perfection. I believe that this is very much the purpose behind each of these verses, and the central message of the Gospel. However, on a deeper look, there appears to be much more. You see, the life that comes from Jesus, is not simply a futuristic life of unimaginable joy, but a life in the here and now. I don’t know about you, but my life, at times, feels a long shot from eternal glory. But isn’t the life Jesus promised meant to be experienced here and now?

Paul said, in Galatians, that Christ is alive in him and his life has ceased as he knew it before his encounter with Him. There was a real change in him that altered how he lived life. Later in Colossians, Paul referred to Jesus as “our life”. Wait a minute. Is that how my life looks? Is my life defined by who Jesus is. Is His identity my identity? I can say that, but does my life show that. While Paul was flawed and broken, I truly believe that people could see Jesus in him. Can I say the same? Can you?

Jesus himself said that the life found in him was abundant. In my honestly, my life does not feel abundant at times. But that is certainly my own fault. I am out of focus if my life experience isn’t one of abundance. And I don’t think Jesus was in any way saying that our lives would be full of wealth and health and safety. His life wasn’t full of any of that. At nearly 40, I have already outlived the life of Jesus here on Earth. But how do they compare? Isn’t that the point? Live a life like Jesus? How much of my life has been wasted? How much am I wasting now with worldly concerns and seeking comfort? Am I alive in Jesus…here…now?

John said that Jesus came so we could live through Him. But what does that look like? To live through Jesus. It’s one thing to accept His atonement. To receive His forgiveness. To rejoice in mercy and grace. To look forward to eternity. But it’s more than all of those things. It’s everything we say and do. It’s our minds being radically transformed. Its our eyes viewing everything differently. It’s letting Jesus take control of everything. Not because we’ve become automatons, but because it is the only way we can truly live. It is the only way others will see Jesus alive in us. My job is not my life. My hobbies are not my life. My goals are not my life. My successes and failures are not my life. My family is not even my life. Jesus is my life. And therefore all that I am and all that I do is meant to for Him, to be done through Him, and to be experienced because of Him.

I can tell you, meditating on this has made me feel a whirlwind of emotions. I can both see how I fall so miserably short, and how so grateful I am that He is who He is and my life is ever changing because of Him. All I know is that I want more. I want His life to be my life. I want to be able to repeat the words of John and Paul, not because I am simply memorizing Bible verses, but because it defines who I am. Don’t you want that? Do you have that? Pray for me dear reader. And my prayers go out for all of you, that you too will experience that full, glory-revealing, joy-unshakable, transforming, amazing life through Jesus.

Peace and life in Christ brothers and sisters!

Do and say everything on purpose

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:15-16‬ ‭ESV

One of my kids favorite responses to the question of why they did or said something is, “I don’t know.” Sometimes I think they may just not want to tell the reason, but most of the time I really don’t think they know. Unfortunately I think that same problem plagues people well into adulthood. And that, in itself, is the source of so many of our conflicts.

We have to live on purpose. As believers in Jesus, we are beckoned to the commission of living life intentionally. We are supposed to let our actions be a light before all those looking on so they will glorify God (Matthew 5). We are expected to only say things that build others up and benefit them (Ephesians 4). The goal of our lives is to be blameless and not complain (Philippians 2). The great commission calls us to tell the world about Jesus (Matthew 28). All of the commandments of God are wrapped up in loving Him and loving others (Mark 12).

If these aren’t the reasons we do and say things, then what are as doing? Those careless words and those pointless actions just lead to strife and wasted days. Life is to short and to precious to not live intentionally. Lets allow our words and actions to be filled with Christ. Then when we are asked to reason behind our words and deeds, we can point to Jesus.

Wasting Gifts

God is good. His goodness can be seen everywhere we look. And he’s given so much to everyone of us. What’s your response to those good gifts?

Let’s start with time as our first gift. How do we use our time? Sure, we’re all guilty of wasting some of it. Vegging out on movies or tv shows here and there. Watching sports, scrolling on the phone, etc…But is the majority of it used for good and productive means? What does that even look like? It should reflect service in some way. Do things to help and benefit others. Giving back to society, providing for a family, spending quality time with those we love, and helping those in need. Most of all, we should have quality time worked in everyday where we are in prayer, devotions, study, and worship. Yes, those can and should be intertwined into all our daily activities, but there’s something to say for getting away to a quiet place with the Lord regularly. Time is precious, and we have no way of knowing how much of it we have. So we need to treat it like the treasure it is.

Now let’s look at another huge gift: salvation. Maybe I should phrase this as access to salvation, because some reading this may not have tasted the goodness of God’s salvation in Christ’s atoning work. Some are still carrying the burdens of sin, worry, depression, anger, and addiction, among other things. The salvation that Christ made available is alive and powerful. It’s freedom, in this life and the next. It’s a new life. A new way of doing life. A new outlook. A restoration back to our original purpose. If God didn’t give us a single good grace in life, He still would have given us more than we deserve in the salvation of the Son. But so many have spoken the words, called on the name of Jesus, and are still not walking in that freedom and newness. We waste our salvation by not walking in that salvation. We waste it by not sharing it, both by telling others and by proclaiming it through our actions. Salvation is something that is meant to be shared, not kept to ourselves. We are, after all, the lights of the world when we choose Him.

A third gift is placement. You’ve been given people, family, friends, teachers, students, community members, neighbors, and even strangers. You’ve been placed where you are and when you are for a reason. The people in our lives aren’t always easy but that in itself can be a gift. We are all molded by the people around us and it’s up to us whether that molding is making us more or less like Jesus. Sometimes it’s the hardest people and the hardest situations that can make us the most like Him. We also have the opportunity to pour into those people (yes even the difficult ones). Jesus said to love those who hate us and bless those who persecute us. We waste our placement in this world by allowing others to sour us or harden us and by refusing to lay down our lives for others or by seeking ways to be served by others. We can’t take those in our lives for granted.

A forth gift is the world itself. There is so much beauty all around us. In the mountains and plains, deserts and lush forests, there’s so much for us to enjoy. Do you slow down enough to take it in? We waste the gift of nature when we neglect opportunities to take care of it. We waste it when we don’t slow down and just let it pass us by. We waste it when we don’t praise God for all the ways nature provides for us. For the rain, the snow, the breeze, the sunshine. It’s all part of God’s common graces.

Lastly, let’s get more personal. We all have gifts, as in things we are predisposed to and passionate about. For me, it’s writing, drawing, teaching, and certain outdoor activities. How about you dear reader? You are gifted. You have passion. You are creative. So create. Follow your passions. Develop your talents. And do so in a way to point others to the one who gave you that talent. Talent is wasted when it has the aim of self promotion. It’s best spent when it is spent in His honor. Spend your gifts bettering society, bringing beauty, sharing truth, and revealing God’s glory.

When we stop and think about it, we really have been given so much. And these things only scratch the surface of God’s gifts. How dare any of us live as ungrateful. We all probably need to be much more intentional about not wasting these amazing gifts. I know I do. Pray for me and I’ll pray for you.

As always, peace in Christ’s brothers and sisters.

What do you cherish most?

I heard a great message a while back by Max Lucado about what we cherish in this lifetime. The message posed some pretty challenging questions like “What are you the most grateful for?” or “what do you thank God for the most?” and “what do you invest most of your time in?” These are all excellent questions and immediately got me thinking. Then an illustration was given to really bring the message home. Max said, “Take a sticky note and put it on all the things that you value, but only put them on the things that will be burned up in the end. What remains should be the answers to the questions asked at the beginning.”

So then I thought, what in my life can really be impacted by eternity? Eternity does not consist of my job, my car, or my house (and everything in it); eternity consists of the hearts of my family members, the heart of my wife, the hearts of my kids, the hearts of my friends, the hearts of strangers, and of course, my own heart. These are what I should cherish, praise God for, keep watch over, be the most grateful for, and invest the far majority of my time with.

Job put it very well when he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart” (Job 1:21).

Money Can Buy
A bed but not sleep
Books but not knowledge
Food but not appetite
Finery but not beauty
A house but not a home
Medicine but not health
Luxuries but not comfort
Pleasures but not happiness
Religion but not salvation.
-unknown

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)

Peace in Christ my brothers and sisters!

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.

Jesus said GO, not stay

whoWillGo

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

Mark 16:15 NIV

So many of us are spending our lives staying put, waiting on something or someone, working away through the drudgery of life. When we live that way, we are ignoring the life mission that our Savior has given us. Our life mission is to be on mission, wherever we are, and whenever there is an opportunity. Jesus tells His followers to go, not to stay. That warrants the question: what does it mean to ‘go’? Well, I would say that depends on several things. What are your passions? Are you using them to make Jesus known? Where do you work? Is the gospel proclaimed there? Who is in your sphere of influence? Do they know Jesus? What’s your financial situation? How can your possessions and/or money be put to use to further the mission of Christ? Where are the hurting and needy in your community? How can you come to their aid?

Going means knowing the needs of those around us and doing what we can to fill those needs. The world needs Jesus. The world needs genuine love. The world needs a truth that is unwavering and doesn’t bend to cultural pressures. The world needs to value life and human dignity. We can, and should be bringing those things to our home, our work, our schools, our community, and beyond our shores. Whatever we do, we cannot waste this life we’ve been given by staying where we are, emotionally, physically, or spiritually. Stagnation always leads to regression. The call to “go” beckons us to move forward…to progress. Jesus didn’t say, “wait until I call you.” We’ve already been called. Let’s make Him and His love known. The world awaits us.

…but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.

Acts 1:8 NASB