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Letting grace move us

Father God, Lord of life, You provide us in every way & for every need. You keep us running, direct our hearts & sustain our souls, body & mind. You bring us life & a hope we can call on every single day. We come seeking You out in all these ways & more every day, because outside of You, we have nothing. On our own we have no hope, no strength, no provision, only empty promises we make to ourselves, but have no power to see through to the end. Forgive us our failings & pride, guiding us to completion in Jesus Christ instead. Empower us through Your Holy Spirit to walk with You today. We need to desperately & deeply. You are our rock & refuge. Restore us & bring glory to Yourself. We bless Your holy Name. Amen.

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Do you feel called by God? Can you sense His will at work in your life? Have you ever felt sent by Him to do a particular work? Do you know what that connection feels like & what it is He compels you to accomplish?

Here’s what we find to help us answer those questions. Paul begins by acknowledging these callings in his own life. God has made them abundantly clear. He says that he is called to do these things & that the church in Corinth is called to be a gathering of saints that call upon the Name of Jesus Christ. He acknowledges the call of an individual & the call of the gathering of believers collectively. There are things that we must do on our own & there are activities that we participate in together. That’s not revolutionary or difficult to comprehend, but there are temptations to neglect one of them or both, from time to time.

We often make excuses & tell ourselves it’s okay that we aren’t doing something that God has called us to as an individual, or that it’s not a big deal that we aren’t serving corporately with the rest of the body. But when we look at the second part of the passage today, we find out just what we are missing when we stand apart from this work of God in us.

Paul begins talking about grace & peace that comes to us through Christ. He acknowledges that this same grace is a gift from Christ and how He enriches us in every way through that grace. He blesses our strength. He blesses our knowledge. He blesses our speech & fills us so we do not lack in any gift. This all comes from walking in His will & in being obedient to the call of grace on our lives.

Grace doesn’t call us to simply rest in Him, which it does provide. Grace doesn’t call us to simply know about itself, which is part of how peace works its way in us. Grace calls us to an active participation in the Gospel work in us, it leads us into a new way of living, a movement in the rhythms it provides us, and in those rhythms, we find a new cadence for our lives that brings fulfillment, hope, peace & joy that we can in turn share with others. None of this is passive. None of this is meant to belong only to us. We live this & share in this together. This is what grace does. We are called, provided for & encouraged by grace into a deeper love, a full life & a living hope.

Because of this grace, we can also stand guiltless before God, and that is the greatest gift of all. This is what Jesus has provided for us through His life, death, burial & resurrection. Grace makes the calling & the life of dedicated obedience possible & it brings us to God’s unending well of joy, peace & fulfillment. It’s a wonderful place to be & a deep joy to walk out day by day. Christ is revealed in us through it all. Let Him reveal Himself in your life today. Seek His leading. Walk in His rhythms.

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Romans 1:1-7 // The Focus of a Disciple’s Heart

“1 Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and singled out for God’s good news — 2 which He promised long ago through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures — 3 concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who was a descendant of David according to the flesh 4 and who has been declared to be the powerful Son of God by the resurrection from the dead according to the Spirit of holiness. 5 We have received grace and apostleship through Him to bring about the obedience of faith among all the nations, on behalf of His name, 6 including yourselves who also belong to Jesus Christ by calling:

7 To all who are in Rome, loved by God, called as saints.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Romans 1:1-7

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Paul’s primer on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ begins with a greeting that does everything he can to point the focus at Jesus Christ rather than at the reader. All in all, in just this way of saying ‘Hello, it’s me Paul,’ contains close to 20 references to God and only 6 to the reader. There is no doubt, from the first moment, that this letter has an agenda. That agenda is to direct believers, new and old, toward the undeniable truth that God is the center, Christ is the focus and the Spirit is the One who draws us there. 

There is such a relief, such a freedom, that comes from having the focus shifted off of us and onto Jesus Christ. The first steps of discipleship then echo that call to come and die to self, and to then, inturn, live to Christ. Even in saying hello, it is apparent that this new endeavor of the soul is going to create a rhythm that is based in Him, on Him and for Him. This life of being a disciple isn’t anything that might look like our old life, that might resemble whoever it was that we used to be. Instead, we begin in that first step to do what we will be doing in eternity, namely kneeling and confessing His Lordship over all. We begin by confessing Whose we are, as Paul does in the inaugural 6 words, “Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ.” and in being owned by Jesus, again, we find such freedom. The weight and responsibility of ownership shifts off of our insufficient shoulders and rests firmly on the shoulders of the One who carried the weight of humanity’s sins on His own shoulders. So, in our kneeling, He makes us able to stand. In confessing His Name, He gives us a new identity. In submitting to His Lordship, He makes us Hiis grace-covered ambassadors to the nations. 

All of this confirmed in a simple greeting by a man the readers haven’t even met yet. 

As we greet each new day, week, month, moment, opportunity or year, as Christians, we a compelled to remember our discipleship and where the focus of our life really rests. Each day is meant to be a practice of His presence and a rememberance of His grace-filled love. As disciples, we cannot look to self, but to our Master. This new life is a complete retooling of the entirety of our being. We are being reset, recast, into His image, His likeness. All of life then, has its lens adjusted, focused and dialed in to the heart of God by the blood of Christ and the direction of His Holy Spirit. We gain a new direction and in turn find contenment in Him. We give over the controls for the lens of our heart to Him, knowing that He knows better than we ever could what will bring richness, joy and purpose into our lives. 

Paul’s introduction echoes these senitments, and so much more. This is about Him, not about us. The rhythm of grace that compells us to GoLove others in His Name finds it foundation in the beating of His heart, not in the compulsions of our flesh. The struggle that ensues, between flesh and Spirit, will wind up being a major topic of conversation as this amazing letter progresses. But as for us, let us greet this day with the rememberance of Whose we are, and use these moments we have to draw the hearts of others around us to see what we have found when we come and die, finding life abundant in Jesus Christ. 

Thankful for His faithful ones // 2 Thessalonians 1

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.”
2 Thessalonians‬ ‭1‬:‭2-4‬ ESV

For so many people it seems that church is a competition. We ask ourselves how we can draw more people than that other church down the street or how we can keep people from going to that big church across town. Pastors get together and talk numbers and averages and people judge the fruitfulness of a congregation by the size of its budget.

But read through all of Paul’s greetings to churches and you see what he is concerned about and congratulates them on: love, faithfulness and steadfastness in hard times. He doesn’t reference an attendance report or a volunteer list for the nursery. He simply speaks of their heart and faithfulness. Why?

Because when a church concentrates on being faithful, on adhering to the Word of truth and the Good News of the Gospel, then growth and volunteerism and good ministry and sound teaching will all come as a part of that faithfulness. By encouraging the basic parts of the faith, Paul points out what is important. Yes, the other churches have heard about what you are doing, and about your faithfulness and love, and they aren’t threatened by it. Instead, they are spurred on to greater love than they had shown before.

The faithful churches of Christ are co-laborers, not competitors. There shouldn’t be a hint of jealousy or enmity between churches. What kind of a message does that give to unbelievers when they see infighting, bickering and bad talking about each other? It is one thing if a church has bad doctrine, but it is an entirely different issue if they are just being successful in ministry.

So, all of the bride of Christ, the Church universal, is one. She labors as one. She rejoices and weeps as one. There will not be divisions in heaven based on church building size, pastor salary or number of programs. There will not be a section for each denomination or even each cultural group. There will simply be the bride celebrating the Bridegroom. The Church will worship and serve her Savior. They will be together in glory.

So, where is our perspective today? We work and serve and strive to see souls brought to Christ. We celebrate faithfulness, love and steadfastness. We stand together, we strive for truth and authenticity to the Gospel message. We only keep tabs insomuch as it spurs us on to better things as we celebrate the work being done by our sister churches who stand faithful to our Master, Jesus.

If we are to GoLove, our concern must be for faithfulness first. If we serve and share and witness and someone winds up going to a different church building than the one we go to, we still celebrate as long as faithfulness is what follows. Adherence to the truth, love and authority of Christ…that’s what matters.

Living love furthers faith // 1 Thessalonians 1

“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.”
1 Thessalonians‬ ‭1‬:‭6-8‬ ESV

Sometimes there is an impression on Christians that we must say so much or do so much in order for our faith to be validated, which is partially true (James 2:14-26), but we tend to rely on our own strength or the power of our personality to see it done. Living faith means living love, not just living loudly. Love isn’t noisy by nature, is rarely pushy and usually doesn’t come off with an ultimatum before being shared. Love isn’t forced, or it comes across as phony, and if it doesn’t follow up, it appears insincere.

Rather, love lived in faith, and faith lived in love, will result in a noteworthy life that bears its own witness without being forced, pushed or weakly shared. Faith that is lived out in the Lord’s strength,and according to His Word is a faith that makes its own impression, leaves its own mark and draws hearts because of its sincerity. Love lived well is a love noticed and appreciated. Love lived well creates its own impression in a very positive manner. Love lived well tells a story of how the love is shared and where it originally comes from. Love lived well is a love story gladly shared, openly told and widely distributed.

Just like a newly engaged woman shouts her joy to the world and shows that ring off as a symbol of the love promised her, the Christian who loves well shows how well they have been loved. They share it without being prompted and they GoLove out of the joy that has been poured out into their heart by God. If a Christian doesn’t love well, it creates a false impression that God doesn’t love well, rather than communicating the truth, which is that their heart is distracted and their love is then conflicted.

If we are to GoLove in a way that shares Christ positively, we must give Him, and only Him, our hearts. A love divided is a love weakly lived, shared and returned. A love that is wholehearted is a love that leaves an eternal impression and that inspires others to tell about it as well.

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