Grace

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

The simple gospel. You don’t have to worry about being good enough, doing enough, or measuring up, you only have to receive the gift of God’s grace. It cost you nothing. It cost Him everything.

Grace–God’s gift to humanity. We can be saved from hell and saved for God. You can’t earn it by going to church, taking communion, keeping the Ten Commandments, getting baptized, getting confirmed, giving to charity, living by the “golden rule,” or any thing else other than receiving God’s free gift of grace. All these things are a not the means by which we are saved but they are gifts we get to enjoy and practice.

The beauty of God’s grace is that if we can’t earn our way into Heaven, then we can’t earn our way out of it. If our salvation did not come from us, then we can’t lose it! This is why we can rest in His grace. This is why we can trust in His grace. This is why we can live in His grace!

But God’s gift of grace is not meant to be hoarded, it’s meant to be given away. Are you showing grace to those around you? What about the person who doesn’t like you? What about the person who frustrates you? What about the person who is different than you? What about people who believe differently than you?

Remember, His grace is that He saves us despite our sin. His grace is that He loved us “while we were still sinners” so we can love others despite their sin even if they are still sinning.

Spend some time giving thanks to the Lord for His grace for your life despite your sin. Ask Him to reveal to you people in your life you are not showing grace to because of their sin. Confess your sin of not showing grace to others. Begin offering grace to everyone around you even if they don’t like you, frustrate you, are different than you, or even believe differently than you. Pray for their salvation that they will receive God’s free gift of grace.

I’ll end with one of my favorite old hymns…

"Grace, grace, God's grace.
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within.
Grace, grace, God's grace.
Grace that is greater than all our sin."

Seated

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:6-7

We have inherited a wealth beyond comprehension–Jesus Christ and his death, resurrection, and ascension. His death, which took the wrath of God, meant for us, upon Him sucessfully taking, once and for all, the penalty, guilt and shame of our sin. His resurrection whereby He conquered death and given us the ability to resurrect from our spiritually dead lives. His ascension where Christ is seated at the right hand of God with all authority which He has given to us and securing for us a place in Heaven with Him.

Let that sink in for a moment. Spend a moment thanking him for immeasurable riches of God’s grace that we have in Christ Jesus.

Jesus finished the work He set out to do, and now He is seate, resting from His completed work. In the temple, there were no chairs for the priests to sit, because the priests’ work was never completely done (Hebrews 10:11). But now Christ has finished the work for us, and here’s the crazy thing… we can now be seated with Christ. Not because of work we have done but because of His completed work. We are saved by the redemptive work of Christ and not by our works; therefore, we can take our seat and rest in the redemptive work of Christ!

How are you holding up in this crisis? Do you long more for this pandemic to be over or for Heaven?

If I’m honest my answers to those questions are, “I’m holding up just ok,” and “I just want all this mess to be over, so things can return to normal.”

For those of us who have repented of our old life of sin and trusted in Christ, our citizenship is in Heaven! There really is no need to fret about the crises and inconveniences here on Earth, “you are no longer foreigners or aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household. We need to “take our seat” in the redemptive work of Christ!

Spend some time asking the Lord to reveal to you the things you are still holding onto for life here on earth. Confess these things to Him. Repent (turn away) from your sin and take your seat!

Alive

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4-5

God could have left us in our sin, but He didn’t.

God could have left us in bondage to our sin, but He didn’t.

God could’ve chosen to ignore us as we were dull and apathetic towards Him, but He didn’t.

We were spiritually dead, stuck in our own muck and mire that we made. God could have chosen to leave us in that, and be justified in doing so, but He didn’t.

We were covered in the stench of our rebellion against Him, but He embraced us.

If I were God, and my people continued to rebel against me and never really gave me the time of day, and even hurled insults against me, disrespected me, and said with their mouth they would follow me yet turned right around and did the opposite, I would’ve wiped them all out. But thanks be to God that I am not God.

“Our God is immense in mercy and with an incredible love” (vs 4 MSG) “with unfathomable richness of His love and mercy focused on us” (vs 4 Voice) “that even though we were dead because of sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead.” (vs 5 NLT)

Do you feel like you have blown it so much that God has abandoned you. Do you feel like your life is so riddled with continual sin that God doesn’t love you anymore?

Rest easy, Friend, God saved you not because of your sin, but inspite of your sin and rebellion.

Spend some time confessing your sin and rebellion toward Him. Ask Him to forgive you. Receive His incredible love and mercy for you! Now go show that love and mercy to others.

but God

“It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us.” Ephesians 2:1-3 MSG

This was our reality. We all sinned and turned from God which left us separated from Him. 

Then there is the great phrase in the Bible, “…but God”. We were dead in our sins, but God…  We were slave to sin, but God…  We rebelled against Him, but God… We could have been left in our sin, but God saved us through the death of Jesus Christ. 

The sad thing is, many of us still live as if we are slaves to sin. Are you letting the world tell you how to live? 

Many of us also live defeated when we have been set free and given new life. Don’t forget the grace by which God saved you. 

Do you live as if you are a slave to sin? Spend some time asking the Lord to reveal to you any sin in your life. You may need to write them down. Confess your sin to him and set it in your heart not to repeat those same mistakes.

Do you live as if you have been set free? Ask the Lord to show you where you are being held back. Spend some time giving those things over to Him.

Peace to You

Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful…, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you. Then he showed them his hands and side. The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.” John 20:19-21

Around 2000 years ago, Jesus had just died on the cross, and the disciples had locked themselves in quarantine not knowing their future. They were confused, fearful, and probably felt a little hopeless.

But then Jesus showed up! The first word out of His mouth, after rising from the dead, was, “peace.” Not “peace?” Not even “peace!” But a very calm, full of hope and confident, “peace.”

Today, we are quarantined, much like the disciples were, not knowing our future and some of us fearful and confused.

Friends, I have great news! Jesus has showed up! And the first word out of his mouth is “peace.” Not “peace?” Not even “peace!” But a very calm, full of hope and confident, “peace.”

Receive His peace today. Place whatever you are struggling with on His cross, let His blood that was shed, wash over you and be raised to new life in Him!

It seems that Jesus words did not sink in to the disciples the first time so He repeated Himself, “peace.”

Let his peace fall over you again.

And then Jesus said, “Just as the Father sent me, I send you.” Go, be resurrected from your old self into new life with Christ and be the peace of Christ to a world that desperately needs it.

The American Dream

“…If you want to follow Me, you must deny yourself the things you think you want. You must pick up your cross and follow Me. If you try to avoid danger and risk, then you’ll lose everything. If you let go of your life and risk all for My sake, then your life will be rescued, healed, made whole and full. Look, does it make sense to truly become successful, but then to hand over your very soul? What is your soul really worth?” –Jesus (Matthew 16:24;26 Luke 9:24) VOICE

As we are in Easter weekend, we remember Jesus dying on the cross; taking our sin on His shoulders and removing the guilt and shame of all our sins. Amazing!

At the time Jesus said this, he had obviously not yet died on the cross but this was a common form of punishment used by the Romans at the time. But Jesus wasn’t using it as a punishment. He was teaching them the way to real life.

To follow Christ means to follow His way instead of your own. To do this, you must kill your wants and desires and trust in the Lord’s desire for you. I know this sounds harsh but unless you do this, you’re selfish wants and desires will block you from receiving true healing from the Lord and being made whole.

Many people in America, and many desiring to move here, are fighting to obtain the “American Dream.” Unlimited possibilities and freedom to go after whatever you want. You can have anything you want if you put your heart into it. You can achieve success and prosperity if you work hard enough. I believe Jesus words speak directly to this when He says, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”

Hollywood is filled with people who seem to “have it all” and yet there is still left wanting. I love this quote from Jim Carrey, ““I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” “If you aren’t in the moment, you are either looking forward to uncertainty, or back to pain and regret.”

Jesus isn’t offering us the “American Dream.” His offer to us is real life that doesn’t leave you wanting. That’s what we signed up for when we gave our lives to Him, right? So why don’t we have it? I’m afraid we are spending too much of our efforts chasing something akin to the “American Dream” that we are missing it. Most of us are simply too caught up on being popular or having a nice car or a nice house or a good retirement plan that all we want from God is the means to aquire those things.

Are you willing to trust God enough to satisfy all your desires and wants? Are you making too much of a life for yourself here, which is here today and gone tomorrow, or are you finding your fulfillment in Heaven? Are you willing to give up everything to follow him? Really?

Spend some time in prayer asking the Lord where your desires and wants are getting in the way. Give Him time to reveal to you things you are still holding on to for life here. Confess to Him and repent of those things.

Now in light of Easter, let us take up our crosses, dying to self, and enter in to the life He has for us.

One

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began! –Jesus
(John 17:20-24)

Did you catch that?! “Not only for these disciples (the twelve)” but for us who believe! This prayer is for us. Incredible!

So what is His prayer for us? That we, the Church, will be one as They are one. Sadly, we are not even close. We spend so much time huddling up in our “holy circles” that we begin to believe we know the truth better than other Christians who have varying beliefs. And so we divide the Church. It was as if Jesus’ prayer missed us. We have even resorted to name-calling and have even come up with categories to better help put people in their place. Cessationists, Contiuationists, Charasmatics, Arminians, Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, PCA, PCUSA, and on the list goes. Everyone thinks they are right, so we divide. Why do we need to do that?

Jesus is calling us to be one as He and the Father are one. Is that what the Church is showing?

We have been given glory. Did you miss that? We have been given the glory Jesus was given. I don’t even know what that fully means, but I’ll take it! One thing I do know for sure is that glory wasn’t meant to be hoarded or to divide us. It was meant to unite us not untie us.

I once heard it said that the Enemy divides, but the Lord unites. Well, it seems that the enemy, at some point, crept into the Church and divided it. It’s time to push back the enemy and unite the Church! Is there a better time than now for the Church to love each other so much that the world sees Jesus? The world needs the Church to be whole. What if we got rid of all the name-calling and just went back to one Church? What if we held to Jesus’ prayer and began to love each other despite our differences? What if we didn’t judge people for their beliefs, but we encouraged each other toward the love of Christ?

We’ve used our beliefs as a weapon, not against the enemy, but against ourselves–the Church.

Spend some time in prayer with the One who is one. Ask Him to reveal where you might be dividing the Church. Ask Him how you can be a part in uniting the Church.

What an unprecedented time that we can’t meet together in our individual churches for Easter Sunday. I wonder if the Lord is calling us to finally come together as one Church.

May the Church unite and show Christ for who He really is. Amen.

A Simple Prayer

"O LORD, come back to us! 
How long will you delay...
Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love,
so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.
Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery!
Replace the evil years with good.
Let us, your servants, see you work again;
Let our children see your glory." Psalms 90:13-16 NLT

What an amazing prayer! I’m not sure I can say much more than Moses already said here.

Spend some time praying this prayer.

Are you struggling to “sing for joy” during these times? Let His love that never fails wash over you again and again until you are satisfied. Open yourself up to His truth for you and receive the Father’s love. He loves you with an everlasting love that never changes even when you think you have blown it.

Are you happy with the Lord or do you dwell on all the things that have gone wrong?

He is a good God who wants to give you good things. Receive His goodness.

Are you having trouble seeing God during this time? Open your eyes to see where God is working. Talk with your friends. Ask them what God is doing in their lives.

Pray for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done, as Jesus asked us to, in our lives and in the lives around us and in our world.

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Rest in the Shadow

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

This I declare about the LORD:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”
Psalms 91:1-4

Have you ever rested in the shadow of the Almighty? Do you trust Him enough to rest? Is He your refuge? Is He your place of safety?

You may tell your friends that you are a Christian. You may tell yourself that you’re a Christian because you go to Church every Sunday and you go to Bible study and you own a Bible. But when times get tough and your faith is tested, do you still hold that same belief?

I confess that my faith has waivered at times during this crisis. But, for the most part, I have found sweet peace and rest in God alone. He has been my refuge.

I do not think you place your trust in the Lord and that’s it–you’re set for life. My experience has been a daily, and sometimes hourly, placing my trust in Him again and again. I can say that over 30 years of doing this, it does get easier just to rest in the Lord. I’ve learned to trust Him more readily even when times get tough.

For the Lord to be your refuge and your rest, you have to trust Him enough to let go of whatever fear or anxiety you are holding onto. It took me some time to realize that fear and anxiety and even anger and sadness can become your refuge in times of trouble–like a long time friend you are so familiar with that it feels comfortable. But if we want true rest, we have to part ways with those “old friends” and set our affections on the One who holds the world together.

Spend some time asking the Lord to expose in you where you are not trusting Him. Make sure you give Him time to answer. See where He takes you in your mind.

Now spend some time confessing where you have trusted in other things besides the Lord. Maybe you have never really found rest in the Lord. Ask Him to show you how to rest in the shadow of His wings. Try reading the rest of Psalm 91 on your own.

Eternal Life

“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, who you sent.” –Jesus (John 17:3)

Wait a minute! I thought eternal life was forever in heaven. It is, just not like you might’ve thought.

I spent a good little chunk of my Christian life thinking that heaven was akin to an “eternal church service in the sky”. I have to admit, the thought of that didn’t have me pining for heaven.

As I grew in my faith, I began to realize there was more to the Christian faith than I was led to believe. I began to discover how to “dwell in the house of the Lord;” to “sit” in His presence and be filled. It was then that I truly learned the “peace that surpasses all understanding”. As my eyes and heart were open to all of this, I started to realize that eternal life wasn’t about singing songs or even walking on streets of gold, but it was about being in the presence of a God himself.

How could I have missed this?! Somehow in the religion of going to church every Sunday, going to bible study, and a having “quiet time;” I lost my way. It wasn’t that those things were bad; on the contrary, I believe they were vital, but it was the fact that, to me, that was all there was. I found myself consistently discouraged and struggled mightily with doubt. I thought to myself, “Is this all there is?”

But thanks be to God that he answered the prayers of a young man singing with all his heart the old 90s worship song, “Open the Eyes of My Heart”. He opened my eyes so I could see Him “high and lifted up”. I began to fall in love with the Lord, and I realized for the first time that eternal life starts now! I don’t have to wait! The veil has been torn! I can enter the presence of God!

Now I know what many of you are saying, and you are right, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears… Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” Yes, we are only seeing in part but, Friends, I implore you, don’t miss the part!

Spend some time in prayer. Pray this simple plea…

"Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. 
Open the eyes of my heart. 
I want to see you. 
I want to see you. 
To see you high and lifted up, 
shining in the light of your glory..."