30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness Day 9 – Salvation/Forgiveness

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

God stepped into time and flesh and radically demonstrated His love for us all.

Scripture of the Day:

James 1:18

“By his sovereign plan he gave us birth through the message of truth, that we would be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”

1 Peter 1:23

“For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.”

2 Timothy 1:9

“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.”

Acts 4:12

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Created in the image of God, we lost our way and worshiped something less worthy – the creation itself. How it must have hurt the heart of our Creator that we would not see how much He loves us and choose to live as objects of wrath rather than as His children.

But God.

Stepped into time and flesh and radically demonstrated His love again, wooing us back to Himself. I am forever grateful that God would cover our sins with His own blood and restore us into a relationship with the One Who made us.

This lavish love and redemption from God fills us with 

Joy  –  affects our

Eternity    –  Leads to our

Salvation  –   Transforms the sin

Underneath – and makes us

Sons and daughters of the King of kings!

When we consider so great a salvation that He has given to us, we have to proclaim that He is Worthy of worship! My new song, “You are Worthy” depicts our need to worship one Who is greater than ourselves and the peace we find in so doing.

Lord, thank You for forgiving our sin and the guilt of our sin, setting us free to live for You! You are Worthy of worship!

Mundane Monday: Bless You!

god-is-for-us

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

God is for us more than we are.

Scripture of the Day:

Numbers 6:23-27

“Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is the way you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: 24 The LORD bless you and protect you; 25 The LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; 26 The LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.’. 27 So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

Bless you, friend! It’s always good to start Monday off well. Go ahead – bless someone around you. It does not deplete our joy to give joy and blessing to another. In fact, it is an incubator that increases our joy all the more. Let’s start this week with a blessing, what say you?

Ever just feel like you wish someone would encourage you? Critical judgments come easily, but for someone to take the time out to encourage us goes beyond the norm. We, too, can often be so wrapped up in the busyness of life or preoccupied with self that we don’t notice the deep need around us for some en-COURAGE-ment.

A blessing might be the very thing someone needs to give them strength and courage to carry on or to undertake a challenging assignment. Why not give it?

We probably all know what it is like to be on the giving and receiving end of a blessing as well as being one who withholds it. The irony in sticking ourselves out there to try and accomplish a project or work God has placed on our hearts is that we are often misjudged as being prideful for doing so, when we are actually being vulnerable and obedient, motivated by a desire to honor God and giving ourselves over to our calling. Observers watching the progress can misjudge our hearts as promoting self and withdraw their blessing or seek to discourage us from the work we are doing.

Ever felt like that? Reminds me of Nehemiah. Many detractors sought to undo his work. But He pressed on. Not a lot of blessings flowing his direction. But he knew the One Who had called Him and His blessing was all he needed. It is all we need, too, and this same blessing He has given to us so we can freely give to those around us.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have the disciples who were envious of other co-laborers who were baptizing; their methodology wasn’t the same “brand” – must be sinful. Not according to Jesus.

It is easy to encourage someone we admire, but what about someone we don’t? Maybe they just don’t stand out or maybe we envy a person and can’t bring ourselves to praise them. Yuck. Jealousy is insidious and ultimately hatred disguised in a competitive spirit. We all hate being envied, but we can be guilty of it ourselves, if we are not careful.

Ok, back on the encouragement bandwagon. God wants us to bless believers around us – He spoke it as an imperative, not a suggestion. He even spoke the kind of blessing to be given.

Maybe we don’t feel that we deserve God’s blessing or perhaps that an enemy does. Well, none of us do. But isn’t it amazing that the God Who made us, whom we sinned against and violated His Holy covenant would turn around and bless us?

God is for us more than we are.

In that moment of blessing others, Scripture says that we are putting God’s Name on that person. Wow. What a picture of Christ being an atonement cover for us. His Name being placed upon us, blessing us now and for all eternity.

Maybe the hesitation to bless others can be set aside and blessing can become a norm for the body of Christ. As we share God’s kindness and love with all of His children, amazingly we end up just as encouraged – and maybe the blessing we give might impact generations and eternity through the encouragement of one vessel.

Oh God, we are all one body and all need encouragement to run this race. Help us to be on mission to offer Your sincere blessing to those around us.

 

Thoughtful Thursday: Possessive Possessions

LoveSelfishness

Inspirational thought of the day:

All that we think we own we cannot keep and it is not ours, after all.

Scripture:

Job 1:21

He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will return there. The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away. May the name of the LORD be blessed!”

Ah.  The American Dream.  Much that is included in this utopic hope is good.  Freedom.  Peace.  Happiness.  But part of the American Dream is tied up in materialistic goals.

Somehow happiness becomes equated with owning things.  Lots of them. Or they own us.  A home that is much larger than necessary, nice things, a perfect family, involvement in a zillion things.

I confess, I bought it, too.  Still do.  But God continues to lovingly pry my fingers open to release it all to Him.

There is a comfort in owning things and having things settled, without fear of losing them.  Yet the human condition is that there is nothing certain in this life.  How does one function in an insecure world void of anything lasting?  Our future hope.

As devastating as it is when we lose something we cherished, or worse yet, a loved one passes away who is irreplaceable, there is an inner joy kindling with the inexpressible joy that we will have in Heaven when we no longer long for anything or anyone and have no fear that we will ever lose what God gives us.

Eternity is in the hearts of all men.  A desperate want for something more than what surrounds us.  We pacify this want with what we own or our earned place in this world, but that is only temporary.  Why would God create such a condition for man to live in?

Because we were not made just for this world.  We were made for eternity with Him.  We are passing through down here and it is so very hard for us to remember when things are given and stripped away that we have something far greater, beyond comprehension that Christ has already given to us.

What we are given is not for us, after all, but for His glory.

We are in the waiting room right now, waiting for our complete blessing in Him in Heaven.  While we wait, we temporary hold onto what God has placed in our lives with open hands, palm up – worshiping Him when He gives and when He takes, for He allows it all for our good and His glory.

Lord, help us to be filled with gratitude for everything You allow into our lives, even when things don’t make sense.  Give us Your eternal perspective and help us to glorify You in it all.

Twelve Days of Christmas Day 7: Wisdom

Cardboard box with red bow

Cardboard box with red bow

James 1:17

“All generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or the slightest hint of change.”

Proverbs 2:6

“For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding.”

Psalms 25:14

“The LORD’s loyal followers receive his guidance, and he reveals his covenantal demands to them.”

One gift I have wanted my kids to ask for from the LORD is wisdom.  To be able to discern and understand is one of the greatest gifts of all, for ignorance leads a people astray and lack of understanding is often at the root of the wreckage of many lives.

To be able to know God’s heart on matters we face is a privilege; He reveals insight when we are lost and opens our eyes to see sin that easily entangles us as well as our need of Him.

Without this wisdom, we are easily led astray and waste our lives on things that don’t matter.  With wisdom we live in a way that honors God and has lasting eternal value.

Although we are finite and only know in part, God is willing to give wisdom to those who ask, yet many times we don’t.  Imagine seeing a beautifully wrapped gift underneath the tree, left unopened.  Or maybe an envelope with information inside that you have been waiting for – news from a job or a physician – but we choose not to seek the answer.

This gift of wisdom is precious, indeed.  God help us to see its value and to seek Him and His wisdom in this life we live.

Lord, thank You for revealing Yourself and Your will to us.  Help us to ask You for wisdom and to never grow weary of seeking to know You more.

 

 

Twelve Days of Christmas Day two: Salvation

 

gift of salvation

Ephesians 2:8

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

Hebrews 7:25

“Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”

Acts 4:12

“Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

John 10:10

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.”

As we look forward to Christmas (11 more days!!!) this blog will contemplate twelve of the greatest gifts that God has bestowed on us. Here we are on day two of twelve . . . have you opened this gift yet?

On the second day of Christmas, He gave us salvation.  This precious gift of life was meant to be lived in relationship with God, but our sins blinded us of our need and took away the purpose of this life: knowing God.

From the moment we first understood our surroundings, our proclivity was to follow the flesh.  The pull of sin tempted us to crave our own way, yet God had compassion on us.

We tried to fill that void with a solution of our own design; running to any mechanism that could help us cope with the mess our sins made, but only One could solve our problem of sin: Jesus.

Others tried to fix our problem, too, but it only left us empty, bankrupt, separated from God; and ultimately were only a temporary solution.  Until Love opened our eyes to see our need and His provision.

The counterfeit suddenly was seen for what it was and our eyes saw and understood this great salvation.  A salvation that is eternal, no longer leaving us unfulfilled.  What a great Savior, One Who is able to save completely all who call on His Name.

Lord, thank You for saving us and not leaving us in our sin.  Thank You for opening our eyes and drawing us near to You and saving us once for always.

Thoughtful Thursday: Borrowed Possessions

Quotation-Ian-Mcewan-possessions

Job 42:10-11

10 “So the LORD restored what Job had lost after he prayed for his friends, and the LORD doubled all that had belonged to Job.  11 So they came to him, all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they dined with him in his house. They comforted him and consoled him for all the trouble the LORD had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.” 

1 Timothy 6:7

“For we have brought nothing into this world and so we cannot take a single thing out either.”

Matthew 6:19-20

“Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.”

Any parent knows two of the first words a young child will utter when something they own is taken from them – “It’s mine”! This emotion is not just for children.  Whether it is anger over a blessing being removed or a feeling of being violated when someone steals from us, we cherish what we own and do not want to lose it.

We come into this world with nothing but the precious life God gave to us, and then in time are bestowed with many gifts and belongings.  But what we own is really not ours.  If our security is bound to what we own, that is a shaky foundation.

It might seem cruel to give and then ultimately take away because our life becomes defined by what we own.  But if our life is hidden in Christ, then we become temporary stewards of His riches.  Every child given is His.  Every material item is His. Our very life is His.  How am I spending or taking care of His possessions?

It is a humbling thing to not own really anything.  This world ascribes worth and value to people based on their position and what they own, but God places worth on the soul that is not entranced by anything this world offers.

Even though we seek to live our lives in Christ free from concern about possessions, loss can be devastating and tragic.  I know what it is like to lose a home and family.   I also know what it is to lean hard on God in those times and be restored.   We will hurt when loved ones are removed from our lives, but in Christ that loss is temporary.  Just as Jesus wept when Lazarus died, so God knows our hurt and longs to comfort us.  He also will use each loss as a blessing to us ultimately.

Our belongings are not merely material.  If our identity is bound to the status we think we own, we become disillusioned and bitter when our life as we knew it is altered severely due to loss.  Walking in the freedom of being a steward does not mean we do not care for what God has given.  It means those things do not own us.  It means letting go of thinking I deserve or have a right to anything.  We do not have to be a pack rat holding onto everything around us for security – our eternity in Christ is already secure.

Lord, thank You for giving us Yourself – the greatest gift.  Thank You for what You allow us to steward, even if it is only for a short time.  Help us to cherish You above all else and trust You in this uncertain world.

The Beautiful Bride of Christ

Isaiah 54:5

For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.

Ephesians 5:27

So that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Romans 16:17-20

Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who create dissensions and obstacles contrary to the teaching that you learned. Avoid them! 18 For these are the kind who do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By their smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of the naive. 19 Your obedience is known to all and thus I rejoice over you. But I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil. 20 The God of peace will quickly crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Matthew 12:34-37

Offspring of vipers! How are you able to say anything good, since you are evil? For the mouth speaks from what fills the heart. 35 The good person brings good things out of his good treasury, and the evil person brings evil things out of his evil treasury. 36 I tell you that on the day of judgment, people will give an account for every worthless word they speak. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Church.  Referred to as a place of worship, it is much more than a building.  The church is the body of Christ – made up of precious brothers and sisters, all who choose to accept the free gift of salvation that Jesus offers.  All sinful, condemned to die, all redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.  All considered precious and beloved by our great and awesome, Holy God.

Also called the bride, the church is one day going to be without spot or blemish.  What a vision that is!  But all too often, we forget what we were saved from.  We bask in the forgiveness but can forget that our works in Christ will still be judged.  We easily can become distracted with petty disputes and forget that people are dying all around us.  While we fret over matters and seek to serve ourselves or elevate our position or status in church, people are desperately wanting to see us live out our faith.  God help us.

I have seen more hurt in the body of Christ over things that truly do not matter in the scope of all eternity, and it grieves God’s heart.  Tearing one another down with our words, judging one another and scrambling for position all resemble the world, not what we are now.

By God’s grace, we can still seek to be the beautiful bride of Christ.  We can put aside offenses, truly consider others more important than ourselves, humble ourselves and speak well of one another.  We can send the enemy flying out our doors by not listening to the flesh and being careful to utter out of our mouths only words that build up and encourage those around us.  Yes, it is a death when we do let go of our envy and bitterness, but it is a sweet death of evil, and makes us alive to glorify God!

When we look into the mirror of the Word of God, positionally we see Who we are in Christ, and it is astonishingly beautiful. May we seek to live out the grace that has been so abundantly given to us and not take for granted His mercy.  May we lavishly give the love and forgiveness that God gives to us and rise above the fleshly responses which should be foreign to new creations in Christ.  Most of all, may God be glorified by our acts of service, which are done for His pleasure and not our own.

Lord, You are so beautiful.  Help us to radiate Your beauty to the world around us and glorify you in our gatherings.

What Are You Afraid Of?

Lost and Confused Signpost

A ship lost out at sea, an intruder in your home, a scorpion in your bed, a bully threatening you, a terrorist attack or world war III . . . all legitimate fears, I think.  But what scares me the most is apathy concerning my faith in God.

It is easy to focus on the here and now – that is all that is in front of us.  But to maintain a zeal for the unseen, which lasts forever is not easy to achieve.  I can become easily distracted and thrown off of a consistent devotion time, or allow that time to become stale.

So many have walked before us living to please their flesh, but I cherish watching the faithful who never cease to seek God and know Him more.  That is how I want to be, all my days.  I want to leave a legacy of faith for my children, where they can say I walked with God and was not merely religious.

Life is a mere whisper in the voice of all of creation and time . . . I pray that I can remember that truth and make my life count for Jesus and His glory.

keeping faith