Sunday, October 18, 2009

GOD'S GRACE

"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no
longer I who live, but Christ lives in me;
and the life which I now live in the flesh I
live by faith in the Son of God, who loved
me and gave Himself for me. I do not set
aside the grace of God; for if righteousness
comes through the law, then Christ died
in vain." - (Galatians 2:20-21)

We have been studying the book of Galatians in church, and this morning our pastor preached an awesome, thought provoking sermon on the grace of God. Grace that includes anyone and everyone. God's love is all encompassing. He loves the poor, the sick, the sinful, the outcasts. He does not have cliques. He does not play favorites. No one gets picked last for His team.

It was easy for me to let my mind drift back to painful childhood memories of being the last one to be picked for a team, and then forward to more recent memories of feeling excluded by cliques in a church I attended several years ago. What was not so easy, was to acknowledge the times I turned my back on someone for fear of what others would think, the times I was judgmental and showed no grace at all, the times I've thought I was better than someone else.

It cut like a knife to hear pastor say that when we think we are better than someone else, we start acting like them and even worse. For many years, even as a Christian, I was very legalistic. I never quite grasped that being a Christian means living out God's grace to the people He puts in our path.

The purpose of the law was to show us our sinfulness and how impossible it is for any one of us to keep it in it's entirety. The law cannot love you or do anything for you. Only Jesus can do that. We all need Jesus, and when we put our trust in Him, that relationship with the law is broken. Righteousness can not be gained by following a set of rules. If it could, Jesus would have died in vain. But His death was not in vain. It had meaning and purpose, and brought me life. Because of His death, I have been set free, and you can be set free too.

If you are reading this and think it is too late for you, that is a lie from the pit of hell. No sin is too bad to be forgiven. If you were the only person on the face of this earth, Jesus would still have come and died for you. All you have to do is reach out and accept His gift of salvation.

There are no Baptists, or Methodists, or Catholics in Heaven. Only people who have put their trust in Christ!

"...by grace you have been saved through faith,
and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
not of works, lest anyone should boast"
(Ephesians 2:8)

AN APPROACHABLE GOD

"For we do not have a High Priest who cannot
sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in
all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of
grace, that we may obtain mercy and find
grace to help in time of need."
(Hebrews 4:15-16)

A couple of days ago I was having lunch with some friends and though they all wanted a word of prayer before the meal, nobody wanted to be the one to do it. I didn't want to be the one either, but ended up saying grace when it became evident that no one else was going to step out of their comfort zone.

Why do so many of us feel uncomfortable when we're asked to publicly pray? I have been thinking about that since the lunch incident. Why do I cringe and hold my breath while avoiding the eyes of the person requesting a volunteer to say the blessing over a meal, or to open or close out a group in prayer, in hopes that someone else will be called upon?

Could it be because I grew up in an environment where one did not speak about God in public? Or could it be because I so often have trouble knowing what to say, and then in hindsight can think of a bunch of things I should have uttered. And yet God is a personal God. He loved us so much He sent Jesus to die for our sins so we could be reconciled to Him and able to freely enter into His presence. Once we accept the gift of salvation, we are adopted into His family and He becomes our father.

Praying is talking to our Heavenly Father. We don't have to use fancy words. He knows our heart. So why the fear of what others may think?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

OLD SUPERSTITIONS DIE HARD

"The blessing of the Lord makes one rich,
And He adds no sorrow with it.
"
(Proverbs 10:22)

This post is a continuation of a post entitled FEAR that I published on my other blog yesterday.

To recap, I had recently celebrated a milestone birthday, and after a stretch of blessings and answers to prayer, the Lord chose that special day to gift me with an awesome surprise. At first my joy was supreme, but soon it became tainted by feelings of foreboding. Each time I shared what the Lord had done, it was followed by a pang of fear that something really bad was about to happen. Does anyone relate to that?

I think it is a common superstition in many cultures, and I remember my mother knocking on wood to keep bad luck away, and my mother-in-law spitting three times to ward off punishment for bragging, whenever we spoke about our good luck. So steeped was I in this mindset, it eventually became a self-fulfilling prophecy, and each time I felt extraordinarily happy about something, I would immediately become fearful of the bad news to follow, and I was never disappointed. Most times it would happen the very next day.

Old superstitions do die hard, because after all these years of studying the Word of God, I still slip back into old ways of thinking. And that is exactly the way Satan would like it to be. He is always looking for our weak points, the buttons he can push, in order to gain a foothold in our lives (John 10:10). That is why we are exhorted to renew our minds with the truth of the Word, and to bring every thought into captivity to it (Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

Satan is the father of all lies (John 8:44), and we are warned about how he prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8-9). He may be a roaring lion, but he is also a toothless defeated one, as a result of the blood Jesus shed for us on the cross.

Despite how things may look to our natural eyes, the battlefield is in our minds. That's why we need to stand strong in the Lord and put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-13,16). The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). The only way we can be defeated is if we allow Satan to deceive us.

Anyway, all this to say, bad things do happen, but they happen because we live in a fallen world. It's not the sharing of our blessings that causes them to happen. One thing has nothing to do with the other, although Satan would like us to think it does so he can steal some of our joy.

Dear God, let me never fail to share the things you have done in my life for fear of some evil to follow. You are totally awesome, and worthy of my praise!