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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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Faith Lives in Action

Father, give us faith and sight-by-faith to live this life looking to the reward of heaven, not present sinful pleasures. Let us live lives of self-control and self-sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom and Your Name. Give us faith and strength to keep our eyes and hearts focused on Christ. Amen.

Hebrews 11:23-31
23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

Living a life that is deeply rooted in faith means our eyes are focused on something different, something higher than the low lying fruit of the world. There are plenty of options, plenty of things to distract us from living as God intends and avenues for setting up our life as a shrine and altar to the god of ‘me.’ Our culture promotes it, encourages it and even provides moments of slacktivism where we can feel like we’re a part of something without ever having to lift a finger. We can use a feeling like solidarity to link our emotions to a cause, but never do any real work to see that goal accomplished.

But faith refuses to operate that way, and in reality, it cannot. Faith demands action. Faith demands self-sacrifice & self-control. Faith demands that we live our lives with a real purpose laid out before us, with a goal that is greater than ourselves. And so God grants us a community of faith to walk in the daily rhythms of faith, in steps of mercy, loving-kindness and grace. And it is in this life of selflessness, walked out in rhythms of grace, that we find action happening, real results coming from the desires placed on our hearts by God.

Look at these examples form Hebrews. Moses’ parents exampled to him so that he might one day example to others what it means to resist evil and seek the ways of God. They stood up against harsh, ungodly leadership within their nation by resisting a call to death. They refused to take part in it, and so a life was saved that would bring deliverance to their people. A quiet faithfulness preserved in the way & will of God brought benefit to countless others because they had faith to do what was right and what was hard.

The nation later followed in footsteps of Moses’ faith, even though they struggled deeply with faith themselves. They marched through parted seas & rivers, defeated armies by walking away from them, and cities by walking around them. God fought battles for His faithful people. They learned through action and hardship what it means to follow and go and be faithful because faithfulness has a price. We lose comfort, earthly/temporary comfort, and we lose the ability to live selfishly.

When you and I live this way, living as those blessed by faith so that we might be a blessing to others, we will find sudden value to sacrifice, like Rahab did before Jericho fell. It doesn’t matter whether we have been good at it before, we simply need to repent of our self-centered lives and walk in the faith God provides through Christ. He writes the story, we walk in His plan, trusting in love and the outcome for His glory. This is how the world is changed.

Father, give us faith and sight-by-faith to live this life looking to the reward of heaven, not present sinful pleasures. Let us live lives of self-control and self-sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom and Your Name. Give us faith and strength to keep our eyes and hearts focused on Christ. Amen.

Listening to Faith

Father, You call us each to things that must be done for Your glory, to tasks that are both big and small, the seemingly mundane and the very public. Thank You for making us fit to serve You and bring You glory in a variety of ways every day. Please give us the strength to serve You in strength today and to echo this great crowd of witnesses that have done the same before us. May we sacrifice self and comfort in order to follow Your will. Amen.

Read the words of author of Hebrews, inspired by the Holy Spirit, slowly today.

Look and listen to the examples of faith and what each has given, in its wholeness, and prayerfully consider what God calls you to do for His sake.

Do not quickly dismiss these times of listening, rushing through them, but prayerfully seek His will above your own.We are all part of something more through Christ, our work of love and thanksgiving is brief, but we work for His eternal glory.

Just like these below, we focus on a reality that already is, and that we must also work and wait for in this season.

We are not alone in this walk, in this rhythm of grace.

Hebrews 11:1-22
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. 20 By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. 21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

Father, You call us each to things that must be done for Your glory, to tasks that are both big and small, the seemingly mundane and the very public. Thank You for making us fit to serve You and bring You glory in a variety of ways every day. Please give us the strength to serve You in strength today and to echo this great crowd of witnesses that have done the same before us. May we sacrifice self and comfort in order to follow Your will. Amen.

 

Unfinished Work

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My wife & I went to the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, KY recently, and saw this painting as soon as we entered the first gallery. This is The Expulsion of Hagar by Cristoforo Savolini. 

Or is it?

It’s obviously incomplete. You can see where forms are supposed to go, where Abram’s incomplete leg was supposed to be, but the painting is obviously lacking in a lot of its intended content. Where is the background? What time of day is it? We have no context for this painting. Sure it was painted in 1675, but are they in Canaan, London or Amsterdam? Rome, maybe? Is this set in Abram’s time, in Savolini’s? A lot of the cues that tell us that this is a complete painting are sorely lacking.

So is it a painting?

We can see that an artist was at work, right? We can definitely see that skill was used to complete what has been done so far, so it meets the expectation for quality on that front. We can see hints of what’s intended for the remainder of the human forms through the sketching on the base coat, so the future intent can be interpreted, not to say that our minds don’t go ahead and start filling in the gap a little on their anyway.

So, can implied meaning complete a painting? I can visualize the tent door flung open behind Abram as he’s pressing Hagar and Ishmael out of the home. I can picture a rolled rug or mat tucked in the corner, a basket, maybe a chicken running out of the way, maybe even a palm in the distance behind Ishmael. But even with my imagination employed, is this a painting?

I have to say “Yes, it is.”

Why?

Well, I see lots of things every day that are incomplete, or that are still under repair, or being worked on, but work to be done doesn’t make that thing less of itself. It is what it is, but it is in a state of repair or work. There are two men in my house right now who are removing tile from an old bathroom and who will, by tomorrow, take that little room through varying stages of demolition, construction and completion. But the room is still a bathroom. There is a sink, a shower and a toilet. The purpose of the room isn’t changing, it isn’t being changed into a different type of room. So it was built to be a bathroom, it is being remodeled as a bathroom and it will continue to be a bathroom after they are done. Status in progress doesn’t change intent or purpose.

This is the same for us who are in Christ.

When we come to Christ, from the very first moment of our redemption, we belong to Him. We are being shaped, sanctified, and matured into someone who looks more and more like Jesus every day. We are a Christian when we make the decision to follow Jesus, when we come out the baptistry and when we begin our very first Bible study. In five years, when we are steadily involved in local ministry, serving on a team, reaching out to our neighbors, leading others in prayer and bringing people to Christ just like we were, we are still His, still Christians. We are simply in a different state with Christ than when we began.

So many times I have talked with people who expressed some kind of concern that translates into a feeling that maybe they didn’t really know what they were doing when they came to Jesus, like they were too immature to really grasp what it was they were doing at the time, and so they have discounted their conversion experience. But here’s the deal, starting your very first step in the rhythm of grace and knowing the dance by heart don’t change the fact that you are doing that dance, hand in hand with God. You are taking the steps with Jesus at the lead, you are in progress with Him.

Grace was needed when we came to Jesus, and grace will continue to be needed as we walk with Him and we will continue to rely on grace until the day we meet Him face to face and we finally are complete in Him. Walking in such a way that doubts that grace, its effectiveness or the work of God is an attitude that works against faith. We must accept that God has adopted us, and that while we are a work in progress, an unfinished work in Christ, we will one day find our perfection in Him, even if it is after our life has ended. We are His, we are Christ-followers, a people in transition even while we are a people who are secure. This is grace at work in us, over time, every day.

So, is it okay to look at ourselves as an unfinished work? Sure. Absolutely. But we must also realize that Christ has already done the work to see that effort in us brought to its completion. Abram is a figure on a canvas, it was up to Savolini to see him finished. Human effort will always come up short, we cannot complete ourselves. But Christ’s handiwork will see us brought around to where He desires us to be in His timing. We must simply walk in faith, trusting Him and trusting His process.

We’re a masterpiece in progress.
Enjoy watching the Master at work in you, one brush stroke at a time.

 

The Bible Project // Review

If you teach/disciple others, I hope by now that you’ve heard about The Bible Project. From their site, www.thebibleproject.com, they say:

The Bible Project is a Portland based non-profit that utilizes short-form, fully animated videos to make the biblical story accessible to everyone, everywhere. We create videos, podcasts, and study guides that explore the Bible’s unified story by focusing on its overarching themes and each book’s literary design. We are committed to understanding the Bible in its historical context and communicating its wisdom for the modern world.

This is one of those resources that would have been wonderful to have when I was teaching 7th grade Bible at Christian Academy of Louisville all those years ago, or the 14 years when I was leading youth groups & children’s bible studies. The videos are fun to watch, the artwork is always engaging and the method they use for story telling captures the viewer in this grand, overarching look at the history of the movement of God among human kind.

bible-project-youtube

The Bible Project YouTube page is an easy way to engage someone when you are on the go.

Add to that the visual progression through the story board of the book or subject being covered and you wind up with something that you can quite literally carry with you as they offer printables, downloads & other bonus features that help to put the lesson right in the hand of the learner. I have been teaching the Bible for almost 20 years, and these are the types of resources that I love to use when walking people through the story of God. Using a physical story board (in hand or downloaded on your phone/tablet) you can walk backwards and forwards in big, sweeping motions or maneuver in fine detail with ease.

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Every book they cover has a study guide and a downloadable storyboard/poster like this one.

But here’s the bonus-bonus: Every adult that I have shown this to has been engaged by the methods employed by Timothy, Jonathan and their team. This isn’t kid’s stuff, but a tool to be utilized by anyone and everyone who shares the Word of God with someone else. Our world is intensely visual, and the team at The Bible Project has latched on to this in a wonderful way. This method of teaching isn’t just for people under 18 years old. God has wired us with a variety of learning styles. The Bible Project allows for audio, visual & kinesthetic learners as they give you the tools to work in each of these realms of learning. This is a great tool for everyone.

If you know someone who wants to know more, but maybe isn’t a big reader, then why not give them a glimpse into the concepts of key biblical themes like Holiness, Covenants & the Gospel of the Kingdom. These are topics that we might not bring up in casual conversation, but we can definitely shoot someone a link to watch a video so we can talk about it later over coffee (always a good idea!) or a meal. You may not get them to read through Leviticus, but I’ll bet you can get them to watch it in less than 9 minutes.

This is still a work in process, as they are adding in videos & resources every week (as of the time of writing,) but they have done so much so well in such a seemingly short time.
They have done a good job to leave non-essential doctrinal issues out of the mix so that the teacher/disciple-maker can engage those in their own way.

On the other hand, they do not shy away from being bold with core doctrinal issues & topics. They do not try to tame God, limit the Holy Spirit or write off the miracles of Jesus. They are open and honest with the flaws of every person God has used throughout history and that transparency leaves us with an honest retelling of God’s righteous handiwork among sinful men & women.

With high quality visuals, an open heart for the Gospel & an obviously gifted team behind these efforts, The Bible Project is definitely a worthwhile addition to your teaching toolbox. It works great in large settings with discussion groups or a single point person, or one-on-one in a cafe or living room. This versatility & mobile format will give this group serious longevity in a quick-change world. I’m looking forward to what is yet to come from this crew. They also have a blog with details and news where you can keep up with what’s in the works or find a place to dig deeper into difficult subjects. And please remember that great content like this doesn’t happen for free. If you like what you find there, you can sponsor their efforts with a donation.

(There is no sponsorship of my blog or affiliation with TBP implied.)

Have you seen The Bible Project before? What are your thoughts? Any other resources in this category that you like enough to share? Let me know in the comments below.

Join The Bible Project on Facebook & Twitter

The Rhetoric for Life in the Heart of God

Father, today we find set before us life and death. In everything we do, may we choose life. Amen.

“On January 22, 1973, the US Supreme Court decided in Roe v Wade that a mother has the legal right to end her pregnancy up until the point at which the baby can live outside of her womb. We lament the death of each child lost to abortion. We pray for each parent who has chosen to terminate a pregnancy. And we commit to become a people who welcome life in a culture of death.” – Jonathan Hartgrove

“The world is going mad in mutual extermination, and murder, considered as a crime when committed individually, becomes a virtue when it is committed by large numbers. It is the multiplication of the frenzy that assures impunity to the assassins.”
– Cyprian of Carthage

Ephesians 2:1-10
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We can argue points and policy until we are blue in the face. When it comes down to it, as a Christian, we must seek the wisdom and direction of God in all things, in every occasion. For those who walk with Christ, then, it should be no surprise that we will always have a strong rhetoric for life and the preservation of life, because that is what we see at work in the heart of God.

Paul repeats what we have all felt before. We were dead. Dead in our sin. Dead because of our offense against God. We were doomed, damned and determined for hell. As Paul said, “We were, by nature, children of wrath.” Destined to stand before God, facing extermination because of our sin, we had no hope within us, nor strength to change our situation. And while it may have been easier to finish us off, we find a different impulse within the heart of God.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved”

This is the heart of God. For His glory and for the preservation of the life He created, He drew us, who were dead, into life. He redeemed us from the heap, and returned to us the joy that comes with life & salvation. He raised us up from that state of destruction and placed us somewhere we did not deserve, seated in a place of favor in His presence. This gift of God comes because of His grace, and with an intention, that we would do good works, walking the path prepared for us.

Since this is the case, there should always be a strong rhetoric for life at work in the hearts of those who follow Christ. There should always be a drive to protect and preserve life, whether in the womb or stretched out somewhere along the years that follow. Every life matters, every person is deeply loved and cared for. And despite living in a culture that worships and celebrates death, we stand for life. We are -for- life in every way imaginable, with all of the implications that come with that stance. We agree and say ‘Yes & Amen!’

Because of what God did for us, because of the drive for life that He has shown to us, because of the lengths that He went to to preserve our own lives, we can never look at another human being, inside or outside the womb, and agree to their destruction. God saw us, lost, broken and deserving death and He provided a way for life instead…and so we are a people of life, echoing the heart of our Savior.

This isn’t a political issue. This is a sin issue. We ourselves have been defended, we ourselves must stand to defend. We ourselves have been loved beyond measure. We ourselves must stand for love, life and equality of value for every human being on this planet. It doesn’t matter how loud the voice of death becomes, we find life granted to us, and so we strive and fight to see it maintained. This is love. This is what God would have us echo to everyone, everywhere. There is a rhetoric for life & love, intimately folded within the fabric and patterns of the rhythms of grace.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved”

Father, today we find set before us life and death. In everything we do, may we choose life. Amen.

Romans 2:17-24 // Why Consistency Matters

“17 Now if you call yourself a Jew, and rest in the law, boast in God, 18 know His will, and approve the things that are superior, being instructed from the law, 19 and if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light to those in darkness, 20 an instructor of the ignorant, a teacher of the immature, having the full expression of knowledge and truth in the law — 21 you then, who teach another, don’t you teach yourself? You who preach, ‘You must not steal’ — do you steal? 22 You who say, ‘You must not commit adultery’ — do you commit adultery? You who detest idols, do you rob their temples? 23 You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 For, as it is written: ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.'”

Romans 2:17-24

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We can get so hung up on how well we ‘do’ our walk with God. It can so easily become about keeping this rule or that rule, going to this event, participating in this ministry. And as long as we are doing what seems to be the right thing out in public, we cease to keep a tight rein on our minds & heart and lose ourselves to inconsistency, damaging our witness. If the change the Gospel calls for isn’t taking place in our hearts, if we cannot get past what -we- do in order to live as Christ intends from the inside out, then we need to be woken up, get a fresh look at ourselves and ask God to help us see where our inconsistency begins and ends. 

Self evaluation is rarely fun. A deep probing of our heart and life usually leaves us feeling rather inadequate, and it remains simpler to just look at our schedule rather than what our life is teaching. Think about it this way, if someone had to learn about Jesus, not from the Bible, but from your life, what would they conclude? What would they say Jesus is all about? What were His main priorities? His focus for ministry? Where does Jesus spend His time? How does He use His resources?  Who does He value most? How does He conduct Himself? How does Jesus live? 

And there are so many more questions to ask. But what would they conclude? Could they get an accurate picture of Him by looking at you? Could they see Jesus clearly by how you live your life? Would He look consistent or wishy-washy? Would He stand for anything, if so are they the ‘right things’ or the truth? 

Now, the good thing is that we who follow Christ operate under grace. We know that He knows that we are prone to stumble along the way, and that His grace is sufficient to cover our shortcomings. But as we walk with Him, focused on Him, those shortcomings should progressivly lessen. They won’t disappear until we are with Him in glory, but there should be a change. Our life should stand as an accurate testimony of who He is, how He moves. And so daily, we are sent to prayer, asking for strength for the day, mercy for our failings and accuracy in our actions as we serve the world as His ambassadors. If we are disciples of Christ, truly following Him, then we know it’s not about a show. We know its more than some step-by-step process to look like good, obedient children. It is a meeting of hearts, ours & His. It is a changing over of a life, from death to a new creation. It is a walking in peace, not in worry. It is a faith for provision, not a scramble to accumulate. It is a lifting up of others, not of self. It means looking more and more like Jesus, and less like who we used to be. We’re going to mess up along the way, but we don’t resign ourselves to sin. We are going to do things wrong from time to time, but we don’t let that stand as an excuse for inconsistency. 

As we GoLove others in His Name, we should revere Him enough to be an accurate depiction of Him to those we encounter as we walk in the daily rhythms of grace. Our lives are meant to be songs of praise, everything an act of worship, meant to glorify Him and draw the eyes of those around us toward His glorious face. Let our witness today stand as a confirmation of the solid change He creates in us, the authority He has over us and His grace at work both in and through us. 

Romans 2:12-16 // Law & Judgment

“12 All those who sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all those who sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For the hearers of the law are not righteous before God, but the doers of the law will be declared righteous. 14 So, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, instinctively do what the law demands, they are a law to themselves even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts. Their consciences confirm this. Their competing thoughts will either accuse or excuse them 16 on the day when God judges what people have kept secret, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus.”

Romans 2:12-16
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So, who is it then that does the Law that will then be declared righteous? It is good for us to desire to obey God. It is good for us to act in that obedience, walking according to His statutes. But in reality, none of us are capable of keeping the Law. We will break it, struggling against our own sin, even as we try our best to walk according to the will of God. 

Does that mean that we are without hope? No! Because of the grace of God given to us in Christ Jesus, He who does not allow for sin has made a way to continue to lift us up even when we do stumble. Through Jesus, He has made a way for us to be made holy even when we have been soiled with sin. Now, does that mean we kee on sinning, knowing that God will forgive us? As Paul will later say, “By no means!” we cannot continue in our sin, intentionally living in rebellion. We must make the consious effort to walk according to the will of God, choosing His ways over our own. The desire to do this comes from the movement of His Spirit within us, not from some sense of weighted obligation. It is based in love & thanksgiving, coming from that change of heart that He works in us through His grace. 

Being a doer of the Law is evidence of this, not what draws the Spirit to us. That would put the power in our hands, as if we had some authority over God. No, we work and move according to His will, under His authority & because of His grace. Every marker, every bit of evidence points toward Him, bringing Him glory & honor. It isn’t about us. It isn’t about putting ourselves up on a pedestal. It’s about humbly submitting to Him, letting His light shine. In showing that the Law of God is written on our hearts, we show that He has worked a miracle in us, changing our sinful inclinations into righteousness. It is by His power that we live & move. It should then be for His honor that we do whatever it is we set our minds to, whatever tasks are produced by our lives of faithfulness. 

God’s desire for man is plain. Even without the Law, people still know that murder, theft, lying & other such activities are wrong. There is no mystery to this. God has set a compass in the hearts of mankind that point us toward a sense of right & wrong, a desire to see justice done. So, as Paul says, the Spirit speaking through him, we are all without excuse. People will ask about the groups that never hear the Gospel, the people who were never taught the Law. Well, God’s answer to that series of questions is found here, too. Those who hear it are judged by it. Those who do not are judged differently, but they are still judged. God is fair & He is just. We must trust Him to do what is right & to weigh the hearts & lives of men. He will not act contrary to His own nature or statutes. He is unchanging. 

As we GoLove others, we must tell them about the expectations that God holds for us, every single one of us. We who know are responsible. We who have the truth are the ones who have been commissioned to share it with the world. We do not bear the weight of judging the souls of men, but we will be held accountable for bearing the message to them. We do this, partly, by walkingin the rhythms of His grace every day, walking according to His will. 

Acts 23:11-22 // Have Courage!

“11 The following night, the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Have courage! For as you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.’ 

12 When it was day, the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves under a curse: neither to eat nor to drink until they had killed Paul. 13 There were more than 40 who had formed this plot. 14 These men went to the chief priests and elders and said, ‘We have bound ourselves under a solemn curse that we wont eat anything until we have killed Paul. 15 So now you, along with the Sanhedrin, make a request to the commander that he bring him down to you as if you were going to investigate his case more thoroughly. However, before he gets near, we are ready to kill him.’

16 But the son of Paul’s sister, hearing about their ambush, came and entered the barracks and reported it to Paul. 17 Then Paul called one of the centurions and said, ‘Take this young man to the commander, because he has something to report to him.’

18 So he took him, brought him to the commander, and said, ‘The prisoner Paul called me and asked me to bring this young man to you, because he has something to tell you.’

19 Then the commander took him by the hand, led him aside, and inquired privately, ‘What is it you have to report to me?’

20 ‘The Jews,’ he said, ‘have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the Sanhedrin tomorrow, as though they are going to hold a somewhat more careful inquiry about him. 21 Don’t let them persuade you, because there are more than 40 of them arranging to ambush him, men who have bound themselves under a curse not to eat or drink until they kill him. Now they are ready, waiting for a commitment from you.’

22 So the commander dismissed the young man and instructed him, ‘Don’t tell anyone that you have informed me about this.'”

Acts 23:11-22

==

I have been in situations before where I was the only Christian in a workplace, and all some of my co-workers wanted was to see me fall apart, to drop my guard and to do something that they wanted to do. Whether it was through a confrontation or temptation to stray from the path, they simply wanted to see me fail. And the reasons behind this varied. Some of them were people that fell away from the faith and thought  they ‘knew better’ now and they were trying to do me a service by pulling me away from Christ. Others never had anything to do with God or His church and simply wanted my behavior to match theirs. I was pressed on my beliefs, I was mocked, I was run through an inquisition over the course of many shifts. I was offered drugs, alcohol & the promise of sexual encounters with loose women if I would just go along with them, be like them, and do what they did for ‘fun.’

But I was always able to stand firm in my beliefs because I knew that Christ was there with me in those moments. God gave me the strength to stand my ground, to say ‘no’ and to still maintain my integrity. Was there temptation to fold, to cave in and just run with what seemed easy? Honestly, many of the things people offered were so vulgar and against my character that it wasn’t difficult to refuse them. (This is the credit of the Holy Spirit working in me.) But other times, it would seem easier to just run with the attitudes of the world and to act like they were acting, to maybe joke like they were joking, to be a part of their conversation to ‘fit in.’ And we’ve all encountered these situations, arguments and debates in the workplace, school and out in the world if we’ve been living our faith in Christ. 

Because a life lived publicly for Christ is going to draw attention. It’s going to make some people angry, some people uncomfortable and we must be prepared to stand firm no matter what that may bring. Paul was certain he was doing what was right, there was no question. But it would have been easier to just be quiet about Jesus once he had arrived in Jerusalem. There may not have been temptation to live like a Roman, but there may have been temptation to look like Saul the Pharisee again. There may have been temptation to live that old life, or to at least compromise a little, in order to get people to like him, trust him or even just leave him alone. But Paul knew that a life lived for Christ, a life where you GoLove others rather than just seek to protect yourself, was going to be a life that required sacrifice. And in this sacrifice, he would find resistance from others who were still living for self or in a way that acquiesced to public opinion. 

In all these instances, Christ promised to strengthen us, to give us courage and even that the Holy Spirit would give us the proper words to say as we stand before those who would accuse us of wrong doing  or wrong thinking. For those who ridicule us because we are ‘narrow’ or ‘closed’ minded, we can stand against their arguments & ridicule. For those who are morally loose, we can resist the temptation to live like them. For those who encounter us with anger in their hearts, we can still respond with love because of what Jesus Christ is doing in us as we are being daily sanctified for God’s glory. Our witness matters, the courage we have in Christ speaks directly to His goodness, His mercy, His grace and His Lordship over us. If our life just looks like the life around us in the world, then what good does Christ do? If we choose to live like everyone else, why on earth would there be anything compelling about a Christian walk? We haven’t been called to cave, but to conquer sin through the power of God’s Holy Spirit at work in us! The old life in us is dead and gone, and in Christ we stand victorious! There is something more, something better, something of eternal significance when we will leave behind that old dead life and be renewed in our heart and mind, as Paul was, and pursue the life that God offers to us in Christ Jesus.

“When we walk with the Lord/ in the light of His Word/ what a glory He sheds on our way./ While we do His good will/ He abides with us still./ Never fear, only trust and obey./ Trust and obey/ for there is no better way/ to be happy in Jesus/ but to trust and obey.”

Psalm 119:57-64 // ח Khet // Considering God’s ways over our own

“57 The Lord is my portion;

I have promised to keep Your words.

58 I have sought Your favor with all my heart;

be gracious to me according to Your promise.

59 I thought about my ways

and turned my steps back to Your decrees.

60 I hurried, not hesitating

to keep Your commands.

61 Though the ropes of the wicked

were wrapped around me,

I did not forget Your instruction.

62 I rise at midnight to thank You

for Your righteous judgments.

63 I am a friend to all who fear You,

to those who keep Your precepts.

64 Lord, the earth is filled with Your faithful love;

teach me Your statutes.”

Psalm 119:57-64

— 

Take stock in what you do. What are your priorities? How do they list out? Who or what is on top?

If we’re being honest with ourselves, we know that it is supposed to be God, but often we find ourselves struggling with that top position belonging to…ourselves. We seek a false “comfort” and “control” over submitting to God, because listening to Him means we’d have to change. Instead, we need to be willing to be used by Him to do what He desires as He grows and changes us into whomever it is He desires us to be.

Read through David’s words again, and ask God to hear what is coming from your own heart.

Read it more slowly, a third time, piece by piece, and ask God to work a change in your heart, to work willingness into your spirit. 

Read it a fourth and final time, making this desire your real prayer today. 

  

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