Light, Truth and Love

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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:1‭-‬10 ESV

We once walked in sin when we were dead and lost.

We found hope in the offer of grace, a gift freely given to those who believe, to those who are called, chosen, and drawn by the Lord to Himself.

It is by this grace that we are saved, liberated, redeemed, freed.

Now we walk as new creations, with a new purpose of good works for the glory and honor of God.

Now we have a new master. Sin and temptation and wickedness was our old master leading us along as we chased after it for ourselves – but now Christ is our new Lord, a merciful yet loving guide,  who has the best for us.

We have traded the short sighted blindness of worldliness and sin,  for the patient vision of light, truth, and love.

Still the rebellious son, even at 42

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”
Ephesians 6:1‭-‬3 NKJV

I just want to tell my mom and dad how much I love them and am grateful for them.

The other night they came to help me with some urgent items. I was stressed and grumpy because we are down to just the car (with the truck in the shop for some major repairs). We have so much going on with selling our house, getting ready to live in a camper, and getting ready to build a new house –  and I REALLY don’t like having to rely on others for help. (I tell myself that I like “feeling like” I’m being a blessing and not a burden – but honestly, it’s just my pride.)

In my rush trying to get things done, I was disrespectful at one point to my dad who was there to help me. We’re both type A personalities and we clash at times each wanting to do things our own way – because I don’t submit to his authority as my father like I should. I told him as we were finishing up last night that I was sorry, but I don’t know if he realizes that I really am sorry in my heart for letting circumstances take hold, which led to me disrespecting the closest thing I have on this planet as an example of a Good, Good Father.

You see,  my dad chose me, he adopted me, and gave me his name. And he has always been an amazing dad to me. No one would ever think otherwise watching his love towards his “adopted” son. No, in his eyes and in mine,  I’m not adopted. I’m his and he is mine – exactly like it is with my Heavenly Father who chose me and adopted me to be His child.

I’m glad that they both will forgive me for my foolish behavior last night, and I love them both enough to try to learn from it and change. I’m not just remorseful about it, I want to not be that way anymore. It is embarrassing and humbling to see myself still as the rebellious son, even at the age of 42.

I love you, dad.

Friends, tell your dad that you love him today. Even if you “don’t say stuff like that” – ESPECIALLY if that is the case. Call him and ask him for some wise advise over something in your life today and actually listen to what he has to say.

Then, pray to your heavenly Father and tell Him that you love Him – ESPECIALLY if you haven’t done it recently. And open that Bible and listen to His wise advice for your life today.

It’s Monday again.

It’s Monday. And it matters whether I see myself as “putting on my slave clothes” to go out and work for “the man”, or whether I get to go out and be a bearer of Christ’s spirit and nature even in my workplace.

When we slip into an attitude of not being grateful, we can begin to grumble and complain and not bear the light of the Lord in our workplace and in our lives. We can sometimes find ourselves compartmentalizing our joy – bring thankful for one area of our life but dissatisfied with another. This dissatisfaction is a signal that something needs to change.

Many times it is our own attitude that needs to change – not our circumstances or surroundings.

Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.
Colossians 3:22‭-‬25 NKJV

Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he  is a slave or free. And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
Ephesians 6:5‭-‬9 NKJV

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. Yes, and if I am being poured out as  a  drink  offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.
Philippians 2:12‭-‬18 NKJV

Lord, we thank you for the opportunities that we have to provide for our families and help others. We thank you that we can be one who rises early to prepare for the day and who can diligently work for you,  whether it is in the ministry of a cubicled office, a field of crops, building and repairing things for others, or service unto others that is more visibly recognized by others as self sacrifice. Help us to endure the trials,  to stand firm in our service to others – whether it is the business owner and authority, or whether it is the needy and helpless. Help us to serve faithfully and diligently in all circumstances, without grumbling and complaining – but gratefully bringing you honor and glory. Amen.

Arise, Awake, Don’t just dream light, Be light.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:16 NKJV

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.  For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.”
Ephesians 5:8-14 NKJV

Being a follower of Christ is not about just having an enlightened understanding of Christ or of His teachings – yes,  this is how we come to the knowledge of truth – by hearing the  Word of God. But being a follower must be more than just head knowledge – it must be active and alive in our hearts and actions and daily lives.

We are to walk in the light. We aren’t to fear or hide from the darkness. We aren’t to participate in the darkness,  we are to expose it. Jesus didn’t spend time amongst sinners so that He could sin, but so that He could bring them to God. We should do the same. Jesus didn’t use love and mercy as an excuse to break the law, He demonstrated how God’s instruction is built upon loving God’s ways and character and nature instead of our own carnal desires. He doesn’t call us to add to our subtract from the Word of God to fit our own comfortable lifestyles or opinions,  He calls us to pick up our cross and follow in His footsteps – in His example, in His truth, in His life – even if it leads to a similar end to His with people hating us and persecuting us because they hate Him.

He never instructs folks to “say a sinners prayer and then get in a good church” – He calls us to lay down our old lives and follow Him. He calls us to die to ourselves and to love Him completely. He calls us to walk in light and to be the church, to be the body,  the vessel,  that is willing to carry His truth, His love, His message out to the world – even to those who hate it. He doesn’t call us into a life of guaranteed comfort and prosperity in this world. He doesn’t call us into a life of complacency towards godliness, holiness, righteousness, repentance, and sin.

He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.”

Sincere love

Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.
Ephesians 6:23-24 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/eph.6.23-24.NKJV

Grace for all those who truly love our Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, grace is available to all,  it is a gift extended and avaliable. And grace isn’t just a promise of escape from consequences – it isn’t just an idea of a loving Father and merciful Savior. Grace is being born again, with a new seed of life planted within the tilled up soil of our old lives. Those of us who love Jesus Christ as the Lord of our lives, who seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness – yes, this grace is for us.

And what a simple, but complete requirement to receive the gift of life – sincere love of Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives. Yes, something like this takes faith.

Do you love Him?

That is my question. At its essence, that is the gospel. Because if we believe, then how could we not love Him? He is the light come into the darkness, not to condemn us for our chains of sin, but to deliver us to new life. Are we running from the light to hide, or running to the light in grattitude for His revelation, for His truth, for showing us the way?

Thank you, Lord, for opening our eyes to your love. For revealing your very nature to us. For bearing out your fruit in our lives as evidence of your life breathing within these dead bones. Thank you for welcoming us with open arms as the loving Father, when we were just hoping to come back to your house as a humble servant. Remind us that it isn’t about our works, but about your love, and our love in response. Teach us to love more today, so that others might find us peculiar enough to want a taste of this sweet grace, of this wonderful for of your love that is alive in us. Amen.

Love your wife

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Ephesians 5:25-33 NKJV

I want to be a great husband and father. I want to lead my family by my example of love. I want to be obedient to God. And I’ll be honest with you – most days, my greatest struggles are not with temptations, or my job, or with what I face in the streets/jails/rehab. The greatest challenge daily usually comes from within my own closest circle – either my family or those closest friends in my life.

Many times the greatest struggles are between our closest friends. Besides Jesus, I consider my wife to be my closest friend. But I have to admit that life inside our house is not perfect and without its tension, disagreements, and misunderstandings. When the Lord is calling us out into ever deeper waters, and we are making decisions constantly to swim against the stream of the ways of the world, and we are giving up on the very security and safety that our nature is used to craving – there is going to be tension even if that was just a single person being affected. But when it is a whole family – now you’re facing a challenge.

So how can we best deal with these situations? I like to look at how Christ treated people.

He asked questions and listened intently to see past any emotions, posturing, manipulation, and defensive behavior to hear the heart of their issue – so that He could address the root cause, not just the symptoms.

Christ offered His love and His guidance and was the leading evangelist,  teaching His disciples, His church, how to live a life more like Him. Discussions with Him would inevitably bring up convictions in the lives of those around Him over the things that weren’t yet yielded and that were self serving instead of honoring God and serving others – not because He was preaching AT them, but He was walking it out, and telling them, and showing them a right life.

When someone was willful and prideful, wanting to pull in a different direction that He knew was leading them to destruction, He was firm and bold – even to the point of direct correction – but even His correction had a loving purpose.  When someone was scared and of little faith, not yet trusting in God’s faithfulness to provide getting the need, and walking a doubt filled and powerless life, He was patient, gentle, and encouraging – but He still pointed out their doubt and their need to press in further. He didn’t crush anyone with direct judgement and condemnation, because the truth of His words spoke to them clearly and their own hearts either convicted them into new actions, or testified against their unwillingness to yield to His will.

Yes, He used discernment to see what was happening on the inside,  the underlying issue, and then He determined what fuel needed to be added to the fire. If someone was full of the darkness of bitterness, He would flame the fire of forgiveness, saying,  “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” If someone was full of the darkness of self interest and concern for their own plans,  He would flame the fire of sacrifice and service unto others. If someone was full of the darkness of worry and anxiety,  He would flame the fire of faith through offering either they lay down their heavy burdens at His feet or expect promised trials and testing that they cannot bear on their own. Yes, all of this to humble us, to remodel us, into a new creation that more and more resembles Christ.

And I’m supposed to show this kind of love towards my wife. And I’m supposed to lead my family in this same manner, making disciples of my children so that they can go out and bear their crosses and face opposition from the world. If we didn’t believe, we would laugh in the face of such nonsense and maybe settle for a Sunday morning religious practice to keep Good off of our backs so that we can spend our lives with the idol that we really love most, ourself.

But if we believe, there is work to be done daily. There is examination and guidance, and correction,  and firm leadership of the family that is expected from our fathers. There are difficult discussions and decisions that have to be has and made for the sake of our families – even in times where there is not yet agreement and unity, we must stand up and lead in love.

And we must learn to care enough about our families not to drag them along kicking and screaming, but to identify what they need and determine how we can best fill that need. To realize that what we think that we want is not always the same as what we need and what is best for us. We as fathers must strive to determine the true needs, and to provide for their needs, to make sure that an outpouring of His nourishing fruit is being fed to our families daily.

Love is not all puppies and balloons and cakes and ice cream. It takes work and sacrifice – and sometimes the very people you love and are trying to help would be happy with nothing less than hammering the nails into you themselves to watch you “die on the cross of your self righteousness” – but as long as it isn’t self righteousness and your only righteousness comes from Crust who lives in you, Jesus tells us –

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.
John 15:13 NKJV

Lord, help us to feed our families with the fruit that they truly need from an eternal perspective, with a discerning eye, and with a loving heart. Amen.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
I Timothy 5:8 NKJV

Little Children

Do you ever ponder over the things of God? Do you wonder about His ways? What about the little children? What is their fate? What is ours?

children-are-innocent-childrens-world-16382924-670-405

INNOCENCE

See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes. – Ecclesiastes 7:29 ESV

But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 19:14 ESV

And said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 18:3 ESV

But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David understood that the child was dead. And David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” They said, “He is dead.” Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate. Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” – 2 Samuel 12:23 ESV

Autosomal-recessive-inheritance

INHERITANCE

The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. – Ezekiel 18:20 ESV

For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. – 1 Corinthians 7:14 ESV

And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it. – Deuteronomy 1:39 ESV

Knowledge

KNOWLEDGE

For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. – Isaiah 7:16 ESV

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. – James 4:17 ESV

Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright. – Proverbs 20:11 ESV

The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies. – Psalm 58:3 ESV

I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. – Romans 7:9-11 ESV

Everyone who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the Lord’s offering. – Exodus 30:14 ESV

The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. – Psalm 14:2-3 ESV

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. – John 3:6 ESV

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. – Romans 7:14 ESV

quote-David-Herbert-Lawrence-this-is-the-very-worst-wickedness-that-90120

SIN

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. – Genesis 6:5 ESV

Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. – Ephesians 2:12 ESV

salvation

SALVATION

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV

What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, – Romans 4:1-25 ESV

And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. – Genesis 8:21 ESV

Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. – 1 Peter 1:18-19 ESV

Zech4_6

POWER

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. – 2 Timothy 1:7 ESV

That according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being – Ephesians 3:16 ESV

For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. – 1 Corinthians 4:20 ESV

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, – Colossians 1:11 ESV

That your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 2:5 ESV

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:29-31 ESV

repentance

REPENTANCE / RIGHTEOUS JUDGEMENT

Ezekiel 18:1-32
The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As I live, declares the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die.

“If a man is righteous and does what is just and right— if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman in her time of menstrual impurity, does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, does not lend at interest or take any profit, withholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man, walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully—he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord God.

“If he fathers a son who is violent, a shedder of blood, who does any of these things (though he himself did none of these things), who even eats upon the mountains, defiles his neighbor’s wife, oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore the pledge, lifts up his eyes to the idols, commits abomination, lends at interest, and takes profit; shall he then live? He shall not live. He has done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon himself.

“Now suppose this man fathers a son who sees all the sins that his father has done; he sees, and does not do likewise: he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife, does not oppress anyone, exacts no pledge, commits no robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, withholds his hand from iniquity, takes no interest or profit, obeys my rules, and walks in my statutes; he shall not die for his father’s iniquity; he shall surely live. As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother, and did what is not good among his people, behold, he shall die for his iniquity.

“Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

“But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? But when a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice and does the same abominations that the wicked person does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds that he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, for them he shall die.

“Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die. Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life. Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?

“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”

Created for Good Works

And you He  made  alive,  who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For 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. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:1-10 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/eph.2.1-10.NKJV

It is not our good works that earn our salvation, but through good works are a blessing and an opportunity to participate in His Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Yes, we are familiar with the wages of sin. We have walked that path before and we have experienced the consequences of that life. But God has offered us a new, abundant life in Christ – one of forgiveness, fellowship and relationship as we learn and grow in a new life,  following His example.

Lord, do not let us forget our past, otherwise we might become proud thinking that we have accomplished something on our own. Do not let us be paralyzed by guilt and shame of our past disobedient ways,  otherwise we might miss out on the glorious opportunity to serve you now. Let us remember the redeeming powerofthe Blood of the Lamb, and the strength and power of your Holy Spirit. Help us to realize the value of this amazing gift of grace and to walk in grattitude today, Lord. We love you. Amen.

Obscene, foolish, coarse – or thankful?

Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God.
Ephesians 5:4 NLT
http://bible.com/116/eph.5.4.NLT

I have had a rebellious nature that ruled my life and controlled me and led me into all kinds of bad decisions and unwanted consequences in my life. If someone told me, “You can’t do that” – an urging deep inside would tempt me to want to do it. It would tell me,  “There’s nothing really wrong with X, it isn’t hurting anyone,  there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to do it. It isn’t going to hurt you.”

Yes, for many,  this is  a familiar voice. A voice that starts out saying, “It’s okay to do X as long X as it is in moderation – as long as it doesn’t control you” and then continues on with “just one more time” or “just a little more” once it has a foothold in our lives.

And if our prose and direction is all based on ourselves and what might be good or bad for me,  it is easy for us to listen to this voice. It is easy for us to fall into the dangerous trap of moral relativism where our minds can justify all kinds of things based on the situation, because there is no firm foundation in what is true – no firm foundation for what is right and wrong regardless of situation and circumstance. When we make ourselves the center and the focal point of our decisions,  we will be pushed this way and that way by the winds of spiritual influences (both bad and good) as they fight for control, and we will be battered like a small boat among crashing waves of the storms of our circumstances.

But when we decide that we love God, and that we are thankful for His offer of grace – thankful for grace made known to us through His coming in the flesh as Jesus Christ, His death upon the cross, and His resurrection to Heaven – thankful for His blood sacrifice that washes us clean from our sin, and clothes us in His righteousness – this changes or perspective.

It changes or perspective from:

What can I do?

To

What can I do?

And you’ll say, “But there is no difference in the two. They are the same words.” Yes,  they are the same words, but the two sentences couldn’t be any further from each other in their meaning and their message and their intent.

When I say “What can I do?” And I’m focused on myself – when I only see the world as my playground – the question becomes about what I’m allowed to do versus what I’m restricted from doing. The law becomes a curse that is keeping me from the things that I want to do because my life is only about my own desires and the fulfillment of my own life through the pleasures that I can grasp hold off during this short life.

But when my focus is on thankfulness towards God, then the question “What can I do” becomes about loving and serving God and loving and serving others. It starts a journey of discovering the certainty and narrow direction of God’s divine instruction that we would not choose if we were only concerned about ourselves.  It reveals the stumbling block of “freedom in Christ” that reveals the true desires of our hearts. Because if we want to use the promise of grace to cover our sins and continue in them (so that we will not be punished) then we are foolish, and in error,  and we do not really know God or love Him – we are just filling ourselves about who is the Lord of our lives and who it is that we truly serve.

You see, how can we hate the divine instruction of the Word of God,  but say that we love the Word of God that came in the flesh to walk among us as Jesus Christ? How can we decide that it is okay to twist and pervert,  to add and subtract from the Word of God,  so that it fits our own opinions and purposes and selfish desires and tell ourselves that we are walking in light and not stumbling blind in the darkness? Only a liar, only a deceitful heart, only those slippery words sliding off the tongue of a prideful enemy of God – only someone deceived could take that position as they try to lay waste to the firm foundation of the Word of God. Only someone not interested in serving God and seeing God’s Kingdom Come,  His Will being done in their lives – but instead seeking their own way,  their own will.

Haven’t we all fallen guilty of this at times? Isn’t the enemy tricky? Doesn’t He try to twist the Weird of God and use it against us so that we justify our own will and desires over what is right in the eyes of the Lord?

And don’t get me wrong, you cannot earn your way into heaven by trying to earn God’s favor because of your “good works” – because He tells us there is only one that is good, and that is God. But you can say,  “God, come live in my life, lead me along your narrow path, guide me in your ways,  use me for your work. Send me out and go with me. I am grateful for your grace and I want to learn to love you and serve you more each day. Thank you,  Lord. My life is yours.”

And this is a different perspective. This is a perspective of loving and serving others. This is the perspective that comes from belief – not belief in our head about an idea or concept of God or Jesus Christ,  but belief in Jesus Christ,  in the Word of God, in a relationship with a living Christ who commune with us and teaches us and guides us through this gift of the Holy Spirit.

So when it comes to coarse jokes, or cursing, or gossip, or lying, or anything else that we know is not glorifying to God – don’t we want to avoid them and instead demonstrate our thankfulness to God?

But you say, “That will just make others uncomfortable around me if I’m acting self righteous and won’t participate in things like that.” There is a difference between being righteous and being self righteous. Being righteous means that we have put on His righteousness,  undeserved and unmerited,  and that we are thankful and that we walk in a spirit of grattitude for what Christ has done and is doing in our lives. This perspective, one of humility,  does not offend others – in fact, many will recognize their own struggles in your wanting, and striving, and trying to live a better andnote faithful life while not judging others for their own imperfections.

Self righteous look much different than the humble,  gentle,  kind servant that Jesus Christ presented as our example. Self righteous looks like a pointed finger, condemnation,  accusation,  pride – someone feeling comfortable trying to sit in the judgement seat themselves over others. Self righteous pride is what got Satan cast down from heaven with a third of the angels – and he goes about roaring like a lion looking for someone to devour. So we don’t have to bite and tear like wolves or roar and devour like a lion, we are meant to leave the judgement to Him.

So you don’t hear me using the word obedience that much by itself,  because to the lost it is a word that reminds them off the curse of the law because they don’t yet understand the beauty of it. They, areonly thinking oftheir attempts at outward compliance to thelaw that hasalways failed them and been a curse and a burden because of their fallen nature. Instead, I speak of thankfulness and grattitude, because these will overcome the darkness,  they will overcome the hatred of the letter of the law which leads to death – and replace it with a love for the Word of God, a love for God,  a love for the Spirit of the Law. And once we decide to walk in that Spirit, the law is fulfilled by the fruit that it now bears.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.
Galatians 5:22-26 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.5.22-26.NLT

Showered, washed, covered, anointed

He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.
Ephesians 1:7-8 NLT
http://bible.com/116/eph.1.7-8.NLT

Truth
We are all vile,  sinful people. Every last one of us falls short of perfection. Even if you believe that you are a “good” person, when we examine ourselves beside the example of Jesus Christ,  when we measure ourselves by the law,  and when we investigate the details of our heart’s desires we will see that we are vain,  selfish,  prideful creatures.

A friend of mine,  Rhonda Hand writes:
If you read the word of God or someone speaks it and you feel small, low, belittled. GOOD! That’s what it is suppose to do. We are shown by the gospel we are nothing but filthy dirty sinners before a Holy, Just God. And that’s why we need Jesus. That’s why he had to die! We are nothing and he is EVERYTHING! There is NO ONE good! Our hearts are wicked and deceitful. When he shows you what you really are before him then you will have no problem with the true undefiled truth of the Lord! Repentance is key! We all have to do this! The Lord calls for repentance!

Hope
Jesus Christ is our only Hope for salvation. The promise of grace is extended by and through Jesus Christ and He alone has the power to save us. Our participation in this Hope, in this acceptance of this free gift of grace, in this picking up and unwrapping of this salvation found at the foot of the cross is simply turning our eyes and our attitude and our perspective towards Christ.

It is not a prayer alone, because prayers said with physical eyes closed do not necessarily insure that spiritual eyes are turned to Christ. It is not a baptism in water alone, because a physical cleansing in water is only an outward demonstration of what being born again spiritually entails. It is not even emotional response alone, which can be evidence of remorse even when there is not yet repentance. So if our confidence is based on these things,  we should examine ourselves to make sure that we are not deceiving ourselves.

Christ alone is the source of our hope. And our knowing Him,  not just knowing about Him, is the foundation of Hope upon which we can firmly build our lives.

Faith
Faith is that process of growing closer to the one that we love and serve. For the Child of God, it is that process of being drawn ever closer in fellowship to the Lord – surrendering our ways and our will for His,  serving Him faithfully by following His commandments,  learning about Him by reading and studying the Word of God,  talking with Him and building a personal relationship through heartfelt and humble prayer.

Faith is about maintaining and strengthening the bond that tires us to God.  Faith is about believing,  it is about “now”, it isn’t about resting upon a once upon a time religious or spiritual experience, and it isn’t about a “some day” in the future kind of unveiling of God to us. Faith is about sharing our lives with God now, today, in this moment, in this decision, in this action,  in these words. And when we are faithful in the individual moments,  when we participate with God in our lives intimately,  when we walk in the Spirit of, Christ who lives in us and through us – our lives are quite different than when they are simply lived out in the flesh – our lives begin to produce something in this world that is wonderful and beautiful.

Love
Love is the result of Christ alive and moving and active in our lives – not religious judgement that condemns and beats down others with righteous indignation – not puffed up spiritual pride that has knowledge of the theology but no wisdom or understanding of the power that could make them holy.

You see His Holiness,  His righteousness exceeds even the perfect fulfillment of a list of legal requirements. This is why Christ raised the bar from a list of laws – instead pointing to the underlying issues of the state of a man’s heart and the reasons unseen behind his why, behind his desires,  behind the very motivation that guides choices.

So those who stop at outward obedience, or religious practice, or good works, or anything short of love are nothing and have nothing – because they haven’t grasped hold of grace, they have settled for a way that seems right to man but leads to destruction.

Love is the good fruit that is nourishing and healing and that is produced from good trees. Love can be recognized as joy,  peace,  patience,  kindness, goodness,  faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Love is the very act of taking His righteousness upon ourselves and wearing it as our own. And it is poured out on both the ones who we might think deserve it and the ones who we might think do not. Love is the light of this world that cuts through the darkness and that fulfills the law, because it overcomes sin,  it gives us the power to live with a right attitude, perspective, and actions towards God and towards others – because it keeps us humble, serving at the feet of those that He loves and that we are learning to love.

And it is only this work that is done in love that will stand the purifying fires of the trials and tribulations and sufferings of our temporary time in these bodies of flesh that are dig and returning to the grave. Nothing that is built upon a different foundation, or built using different materials will last – no matter how religious or right in the eyes of men. Because we are not to be judged by men, nor are our actions alone what is weighed,  but our heart.

Pray
So let’s pray today that we will know Truth, Hope, Faith, and, Love in our lives Now and Forevermore – and in doing so,  that we will see His Kingdom Come,  His Will being done in our lives on earth as it is in Heaven,  confident that He will give us today’s nourishment and fill our every need,  and that He will not lead us into temptation,  but He will deliver us from evil, because He is the one that is in authority and power,  and His glory and His honor, are forever and ever in eternity. Amen.

Application
Walk with Him now. It’s that simple. Baby steps are the way to walk the narrow path – like a little child,  holding onto is Father’s hand for guidance and assistance. Don’t think that you are wise and mature,  just cling to His hand. Don’t decide that you know what is right and strike out on your own,  just cling to His hand. Because, you see – getting to some eventual destination isn’t meant to be your only goal – He isn’t far away to one day be experienced at the end of your journey – He is right here with you,  hoping you will enjoy the, walk with Him,  holding onto His hand,  spending time with Him,  now.