Category Archives: The Gospel

The Charge

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I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and because of His appearing and His kingdom; Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not.   2 Timothy 4:1-2 HCSB

Paul was on the home stretch of his life as he wrote these words.  He was imprisoned in Rome and he knew that he was soon going to be executed.  He was writing to Timothy, a follower of Jesus that was at least 25 years younger than Paul.  Paul had discipled him and now he was passing the baton on to Timothy and he wanted to ensure that the Gospel message wouldn’t be lost, watered down, or changed in any way.

Paul was  giving Timothy the charge of maintaining the most important things because he knew he was soon to be executed.   Timothy was to carry on the torch that has been eventually passed on to us, almost 2000 years later.  Why was Timothy to keep the Gospel message going?   Paul gave Timothy three reasons why he should take the baton and run with it, and those reasons apply to us today.

  1. Because of the judgment that awaits all of us.  2 Corinthians 5:10 states, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”  Paul included the judgment in his presentation of the Gospel.  In Acts 24:25 we find that for two years Paul shared with Felix the governor while imprisoned, reasoning about righteousness, self-control and the coming judgment.
  2. Because of Christ’s appearing.  Jesus is coming back, this we know for sure.  In the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25, Jesus told about how five were foolish and five were wise.  The wise ones were ready for the Bridegroom’s returning.  The foolish ones slept and the groom said, “I don’t know you.”    In 2 Timothy 4 Paul talked about receiving the crown of righteousness, not just for him, but “for all those who have loved His appearing.”
  3. Because of Christ’s kingdom.  Most of the parables that Jesus told, especially toward the end of His ministry, were about the kingdom of God.  After Jesus returns and defeats Satan, He will establish an 1000 year actual physical kingdom here on earth.  According to Luke 19 and the parable of the ten minas, what we do during our lives determines our lot in His kingdom.

All three of the things that motivated Paul to proclaim the message of the Gospel must motivate us.  We don’t want to get to the end of our lives and find that we had wasted our words on things that have absolutely no eternal value.  We aren’t all called to be pastors and teachers, but we are all commanded  to proclaim the good news of Jesus in our own way, using the gifts that God has given us–whether convenient or not, in season and out.  


God is looking for you

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When the goodness and kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy.  Titus 3:4-5

 

According to Genesis 3:9, the first thing God asked Adam and Eve after they sinned was, “Where are you?”  Adam and Eve were hiding and had covered themselves with fig leaves.  They were now separated from their walks with God in the cool of the evening and were probably filled with shame.  But God called them out.  He went looking for them.

That’s what God does for all of us.  He’s that kind of God.  In John 1:38-39 Jesus did the same thing.  John the Baptist had just announced to his followers, “Behold the Lamb of God!” Andrew and John were there and it was their first meeting with Jesus.  Jesus asked them, “What are you seeking?”  They asked where He was staying and He said, “Come and you will see.”  Jesus invited them to get to know Him, and  He wanted to get to know them.

I must stay at your house todayYou might think that if it was you standing there, Jesus wouldn’t have invited you over.  Not you.  Check out Luke 19 and the story of Zacchaeus.  He was a tax collector, which was synonymous with crook and outcast.  Jesus was passing through Jericho and everyone wanted to see Him.  There was such a crowd that Zacchaeus had to climb a tree to get a view.  Out of the entire crowd of people, Jesus looked up to Zacchaeus, called him by name, and told Zacchaeus that He wanted to go to his house.  Zacchaeus was looking for Jesus and Jesus was looking for him.

Luke 19:10 sums it all up: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  Our power verse says the same thing.  The goodness and kindness of God appeared in the form of Jesus and He saved us.  He came looking for us.  Do you suppose it was a coincidence in John 4 that Jesus just happened to run into the woman at the well?  I think Jesus went at that time and sent the disciples to town to look for food because He was looking for her.  In 2 Chronicles 16:9 it says that the eyes of the Lord run to and fro, looking to support those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.  I would say to those who are calling out to Him.  When we call out to God in our desperacy and loneliness, contempt and hunger, He finds us.  God sends someone to point you to Him.

Because of God’s goodness, kindness and mercy, He keeps calling to us, “Where are you?” when we sin and hide.  We might be hiding in work, in shopping, in partying, or in obscurity.  But God calls us out.  He doesn’t want us to be covered with fig leaves, our own way of taking care of the consequences of our sin.  He wants us to be covered by his provision, the blood of Jesus.  When we think God doesn’t see us, or know our name, or know what we’ve been through, He does.  And He picks us out of the crowd and announces, “I’m coming to your house, so get out of that tree.”

One more Biblical example.  Peter was one of Jesus’ disciples and he blew it when Jesus needed him the most.  Peter denied that he knew Jesus when Jesus was arrested and facing the kangaroo courts.  Peter said, “I don’t know Him.”  Now Jesus has risen and Peter has to face his denial.  Jesus didn’t wait for Peter to come to Him to fess up.  I’m guessing Peter didn’t even know how to fix it and wondered if Jesus could ever use such a coward.

Not so.  In John 21 we find the opposite.  Peter and the guys were out fishing, most likely wondering what their lives were going to look like now.  They see a guy on the shore and He says, “Cast the net on the right side,” and boom!  They catch 153 fish after getting blanked the whole night.  Peter was the first to shout, “It’s Jesus!”  Peter ran through the waist deep water to get to Him.  And there was a breakfast of fish waiting for them, their favorite.

Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him.  He asked three times.  It was through that dialogue that Jesus restored Peter and told him, “Feed my sheep.”  In other words, “I’ve got a plan for you.  I’m not benching you.  I love you.”

It’s the kindness, goodness and mercy of God at work in your life to enable you to call out to Him.  He’s calling out to you. He has saved you, and you can rejoice.  Not only that, but you can tell others. Psalm 40:9-10 reads, I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as You know, O Lord.  I have not hidden Your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not concealed Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness from the great congregation.

 

*Photo from the Brook Network


A New Citizenship

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He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  Colossians 1:13-14

Renunciation is the voluntary act of giving up our citizenship.  Naturalization is voluntarily acquiring a new citizenship.  Jesus has made us a naturalized citizen in a new dominion, or kingdom.  We voluntarily renounce our affiliation with the dominion of darkness, our old citizenship.  We now serve a new king.

The NIV words it that we were ‘rescued’ from the dominion of darkness.  This conjures up an image of Jesus making a daring Tom Cruise-like rescue from some foreign, dark, rat infested prison cell, like in “Locked up Abroad.”  It’s a drama that was played out on that dark Friday 2000 years ago on Mt. Calvary.

In Colossians 2, Paul describes what happened when Jesus died on the cross.  In verses 14-15, we find that Jesus “canceled the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.  This He set aside, nailing it to the cross.  He disarmed the demonic rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them on the cross.”  Jesus won the battle for our citizenship on the cross of Calvary.  He made a public spectacle of Satan’s minions, announcing to the spiritual realm that He won the battle.

In doing so, Jesus took our rap sheet, the record of debt that stood against us because of our sin,  and nailed it to the cross.  We lay claim to this by giving our lives to God.  It begins somehow by admitting that we are sinners that cannot save ourselves, trusting Jesus for what He did on the cross to pay for our sin, and consciously living a different life by the power of the Holy Spirit.  And when we do so, we are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son Jesus.

Philippians 3:19-20 describes the contrast of those whose “destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.  Their mind is on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in Heaven and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The connotation is that our lives are to be dramatically different because of this great rescue and redemption.  Our destiny is not destruction, but Heaven with eternal glory.  Our god is no longer our stomach, with its fleshly desires, but Jesus is now Lord of our passions.  Our glory now lies in making Jesus’ name great, because He is the king of our domain.  Our mind is set on things above, where Christ is seated at the right of God.  We eagerly wait for the return of our King, who has gone on a long journey and will some great day come back for us in the clouds.

I can’t wait.

 

*Photo from angeloakcreative.com

 


Do your prayers sound like this?

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And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to HIm.  Colossians 1:9-10a

Most of the time my prayers do not sound like  Paul’s prayers.  But when I really want to see someone grow in their Christian life, I borrow these words.  They really distill what we need to have to make it spiritually.  And when I’m stuck on how to pray for myself, I do the same.  Let’s take his prayer apart:

Being filled with the knowledge of God’s will.  According to quora.com, the average adult makes around 35,000 choices a day.  Just try to order a sandwich from “Subway” and you’ll notch about 30 choices.  It would be really nice to get a little note from God with our directions for the day.  Instead of getting that, we get the Holy Spirit who is always with us to guide us.  God, direct me today so I know I’m doing what You want me to do.

In all spiritual wisdom and understanding.   Just this last week I encountered a situation with a difficult parent where I needed God’s wisdom regarding how to respond to her bullying and berating.  I asked God for understanding what she really is angry at and how to stop butting heads with her.  God is not like a magic eight ball that gives immediate answers, but I trust that He will speak ideas into my heart and mind as I proceed.  Take your most difficult situation that is facing you and ask God for His wisdom and understanding.  

So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.  In the movie “Saving Private Ryan,” the character played by Tom Hanks, Captain Miller,  dies in his mission to save Private Ryan, the only son left in his family.  James Ryan went back to Normandy to Captain Miller’s grave.  Ryan stood by his grave and said, My family is with me today. They wanted to come with me. To be honest with you, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel coming back here. Every day, I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge. I’ve tried to live my life the best I could. I hope it was enough. I hope that at least in your eyes I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.” (From http://www.thesource4ym.com/movieclipdiscussions)

We don’t have to earn anything related to what Jesus has done for us.  That’s what grace is all about.  Private Ryan  felt a strong gratitude and had a  sense of purpose in life because of the sacrifice made for him.   We need to live our lives with a different purpose and sense of value because we know that Jesus  gave up His life for us.

Fully pleasing to Him.  If we do something that God instructs us to do, then we’ll be pleasing to Him.  That’s what obedience is.  If we don’t do something that we know God has commanded us not to do, the same is true.  If you want to please God, obey Him.  That’s what Samuel told King Saul in 1 Samuel 15:22, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold to obey is better than sacrifice.”

May you be filled with the knowledge of God’s will today,  along with gaining wisdom and understanding from His Holy Spirit who is at work in you.  May God direct your steps and give you ideas, creativity and skill that comes from Him.  May you walk differently because you belong to Jesus, being filled with gratitude because of His sacrifice for you.  And may you please God by being obedient to Him.   May you turn from sinful ways and delight in doing things God’s way.  


Jesus Came Forward

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So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees went there with weapons and torches.  Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to Him, came forward, and said to them, “what do you seek?”  John 18:3-4

In reading Greg Morse’s blog on April 12, 2017 from “Desiring God,” I was struck with these thoughts:

Jesus had just finished His final words with the disciples in the Upper Room and the Garden of Gethsemane, as well as His big prayer with the Father.  “He knew His hour had come,” as John 13:1 states.  For most of the last three years Jesus had been saying, “My hour has not come,” like in John 2:4 and John 7:6, 8.  Judas brought the band of soldiers to arrest Him.  Jesus knew the Old Testament, so He knew what was going to happen.  Isaiah 53 could have been playing in the background.

Jesus was fully human (a mystery) and knowing what was ahead, He still came forward.  In the Garden He had prayed, “Father if You are willing, remove this cup from Me.  Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done,” from Luke 22:42.  In verse 44 we find that “He prayed so earnestly that His sweat became like great drops of blood falling on the ground.”  Jesus knew that He was going to be the Passover lamb and that,  in taking on the sin of the world, He would be separated from the Father.

Yet He came forward.  I would want to either hide or to fight.  Not Jesus.

  • He came forward with boldness. “‘Whom do you seek?’  They answered Him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am He.’”  John 18:4-5
  • He came forward willingly: “No one takes My life from Me, but I lay it down on My own accord.”  John 10:18
  • He came forward doggedly: “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God.”  Hebrews 12:2
  • He came forward at the right time: “For while we were weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”  Romans 5:6
  • He came forward for us: “Since therefore we have been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.”  Romans 5:9-10
  • He came forward in love: “In this is love, not that we have loved God, but He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”  1 John 4:10

In light of this, it is our time to come forward:

  • To no longer live for ourselves: “Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others…for the love of Christ controls us because we have concluded this: that One has died for all…that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised…therefore we are ambassadors for Christ.”  2 Corinthians 5:11-20
  • To deny ourselves and to be bold for Jesus: “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny Himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.  For whoever would save His life would lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in glory.   Luke 9:23-26
  • To proclaim His excellencies: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

*Photo from lds.org


Do Nothing and Do Everything

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Philippians 2:3-4 

Do everything without grumbling or questioning.  Philippians 2:14

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Paul gives us two contrasting commands in Philippians 2.  They are linked with what it looks like to live a life worthy of the gospel, from Philippians 1:27.

1.  Do Nothing.  In verses 3-4 Paul tells us what a lifestyle of humility looks like, doing nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but counting others more significant than ourselves.  That means we shouldn’t think that we could do things so much better than someone else, or that we know so much more.  That would give us a mindset of conceit or arrogance.  Nor should we  do things out of competition with someone else, trying to make us look better than others.  Have you ever just showed off because you could?

News flash:  We don’t have to be the center of attention.  We can let others talk way more than what we do.  We can give up our agenda for someone else’s.  We can let others get the credit for things.  We don’t have to be first or to have the best seat.

Later on in chapter 2, Paul said he was hoping to send Timothy to them to see how they were doing.  In verses 20-21 Paul said, “I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.  For they all seek their interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”  That’s who we should be like–Timothy.  We should be genuinely concerned for the welfare of others, leaving margin in our lives so we have time and energy to actually do something.  We should be seeking the interests of Jesus Christ ahead of our own agendas and interests.

2. Do everything.  In Phil. 2:14 Paul instructs us to do everything without grumbling or questioning, or as the NIV puts it–without complaining.    It would be interesting to count how many times we complain in a day.  And when we don’t complain or grumble, then people will sit up and notice that we are different because Jesus lives in us.  You could add criticizing to the list.  Isn’t criticizing saying “I could do it so much better.”?

As you read past verse 14, you’ll find that Paul notes that when we live like that, we are shining as lights in a dark world, actually a crooked and twisted generation.  It may not be easy in ourselves to not grumble, question, complain or criticize, but the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-24 lists joy, goodness, and self control.  That means that as the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives, He keeps those negative tendencies in check.  God gives us a thankful heart that looks for the good in others.

Now that is radical!


Living a Life Worthy of the Gospel

live worthyOnly let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.  Philippians 1:27

What does living a life worthy of the gospel look like?  In 2 Corinthians 4:4 Paul writes that Satan has blinded the minds of unbelievers, “to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”  The glory of Jesus is our gospel, for in Him we find the good news that God sent Jesus to come to die for our sins.  In coming to Him, we find forgiveness, purpose and eternal life.

As recipients of this marvelous grace, our lives must look different.  Paul tells us to live a life worthy of the gospel, one that puts the spotlight on the glory of Jesus, not our own glory or agenda.  There are at least three ways to do this contained in Philippians 1:27-28:

  1. Standing firm in one spirit.  In Ephesians 6:10-18 we saw that  to stand firm and not be dashed about by the troubles of this life, we must be dressed in the armor of God.  But here Paul adds, “in one spirit.”  That means that we stand with others who are fellow believers, finding common ground in Jesus, and battling alongside of them during the tough times.  And rejoicing with them in the good times.
  2. Striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.  Our standing together isn’t just to cheer each other on during the tough times, it is to spread the gospel.  It is so easy to be self absorbed and preoccupied with the things of this world, rather than to be about our Father’s business.  We are to be kingdom minded, understanding that we are in service of the King.  We must not be so busy sitting in bleachers at kid’s games or vacationing, or just working to pay the bills that we miss the grander purpose that God has for our lives.  And if you’re not in church, you won’t be able to do this!
  3. Not frightened in anything by your opponents.  Jesus said it over and over that because the world hates Him, they will hate us.  He warned  of persecution for His name’s sake and of how things will get worse and worse (check out 2 Timothy 3:1-5).  In the middle of this opposition, His word is “do not fear.”  Don’t let the haters wear you down.  It is tempting to want to become a “bubble boy” and withdraw because of the threats to our well being.   But the call here is to not retreat, but to advance the gospel.

To live a life worthy of the gospel we are to stand together, strive together, and to sing songs of faith and courage to one another.  When we sing hymns and worship songs, we aren’t just singing to God, but we are affirming what we believe and will die for to each other.  We are singing to our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ, the church words like “I’ll never, no never, no never forsake” from the hymn “How Firm a Foundation.”

So stand, strive and sing to live a life worthy of the gospel.

 


Only what’s done for Christ will last

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For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.  2 Corinthians 5:10

When Paul was kept in custody in Acts 24:24-25, we find that he spoke to Felix the governor about “righteousness, self-control and the coming judgment.”  That makes me stop and think about whether those three topics would be the ones I would pick to present and to debate like Paul did.   His emphasis on the coming judgment is a part of our forward thinking, living our lives with eternity in mind, not just with the “live for today” attitude that is all around us.

One of the final scenes of “Schindler’s List” sticks with me.   It is where Oskar Schindler stood  and addressed the Jewish factory workers and the Nazi guards.  He had spent his own money to save Jews by hiring them to work  in his factory to keep them from being gassed.  He looked down at the gold buttons on his jacket and began pulling them off, realizing that he could have used the gold to purchase more Jews.  He says “I could have saved more, I could have saved more,” as he dropped to his knees realizing his selfishness in having gold buttons.  He had already saved over 800 souls.  One day we will all stand before Jesus to give an account of what we have done.  I don’t want to then realize, “I could have done more, I could have done more.”

Paul was careful to include the judgment in his presentation of the Gospel.  He told the people in Athens about it in Acts 17:31, “God has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed (Jesus).”  We do what we do for God out of obedience, but also with an eye to what it will be like when our lives are over.  Hebrews 9:27 reads, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”

1 Corinthians 3:13-15 talks about this as well.  “Each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.  If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.  If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

One disclaimer: What Jesus did was enough for us.  We don’t have to earn a spot in Heaven by doing more.  What we do is in response to God’s grace, not to earn it.  But what we do matters.  Pray and ask God to show you that balance in your life.

Here’s a quote from C.T. Studd that I learned as a kid and has rung in my heart every since then: “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past.  Only what’s done for Christ will last.”  When our lives are done, it’s too late to start obeying God and spending time on eternal things.  It’s kind of like saving for retirement a month before you retire.  You won’t have much to live on.  I want to look back and see the lives that I have saved for eternity because I told them about Jesus.  I will give an account for what I’ve done with I’ve been given, and so will you.  Spend your time investing in eternal things, not wasting them on things that don’t matter.  You will want to hear the words from Jesus, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”

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An Inspirational Clay Pot: Gladys Aylward

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But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  2 Corinthians 4:7

Gladys Aylward was a missionary to China beginning around 1940.  If she listened to the people around her telling her what she couldn’t do, she never would have gotten there.  She had to drop out of school at 14 to work full time to help support her family.  Some time in her 20’s, God pulled at her heart to go to China as a missionary.  She took classes at the China Missionary Fellowship, but didn’t pass the exams.  They told her she wasn’t smart enough, wouldn’t be able to learn Chinese, was too old and wouldn’t be able to stand the rigors.

 

Undeterred, she took on two more jobs and saved money to pay for her own passage to China.  She had seen an ad at her church from a missionary widow in China asking others to join her to help with the work, so Gladys was determined to go and help.  This is what God put on her heart.  She finally had enough money and bought a train ticket on the Trans-Siberian Railroad and took it by herself across Germany, Poland, Russia and Siberia until it finally headed into China.  The journey was harrowing, filled with several danger points where God clearly protected Gladys to get her to China safely.

Gladys found the widow Jeannie Lawson and took to learning Chinese, helping Jeannie at her mule outpost station.  Jeannie had gotten dementia and died within the first year of Gladys’ arrival.  The Chinese called her a foreign devil.  But she served God and the Chinese, working her way into their hearts.  She served the travelers meals, took care of their mules and told the men Bible stories at night.  The Chinese government made her a foot inspector, sending her to guarantee that girls’ feet would no longer be bound.  As she did, she told them about Jesus.

One day a village official came to her requesting that she go to the local prison where there was a fierce riot that they could not stop.  Gladys was 4′ 10″ tall, a tiny woman.  She replied “I can’t go in there–they’ll kill me.”  The official countered, “But you said the Spirit of the living God is inside you.  They can’t kill you.”  She went, quoting to herself her guiding verse “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

A crazed man came after her with a hatchet, swinging it as he ran straight toward her.  She stood her ground, looked him in the eye and demanded firmly, “Give me that axe.”  He froze and handed her the axe.  She then told all of the men to line up, and amazingly so, they all listened.  Then she listened to them tell her of the things that needed changing.  Gladys was able to negotiate with the officials that they clean up the filthy prison and give them more food.  Through her direction, prison reform came and many placed their trust in Jesus.

Gladys’ story encourages me so.  The Spirit of the living God is inside of me, as He is inside of all believers.  No man is coming at me with a hatchet, but I sure need courage to stand strong in Jesus and to be used by Him in my world.  I need to believe in what God can do through me and not in all of the things people have told me all through life that I can’t do.

Mercy Me has a song out, “In the Blink of an Eye.”  Some of its lyrics are “How can I further Your kingdom when I’m so wrapped up in mine?”  And, “Though I’m living the good life, can my life be something great?”  Usually being about God’s kingdom and not my own involves sacrifice and risk, even courage.  I took a risk this week when I called up a work associate whose husband is in hospice, awaiting death from cancer.  I knew I needed to pray with her and speak spiritual truths to them, not just well wishes in a difficult time.   I asked her if I could pray for her on the phone and she said, “Oh yes, please.”  It was on my heart to give another co-worker a devotional book to begin to open the door to talk about Jesus.  I gave a recently widowed young mother and her three boys a gift card to a waterpark and hotel resort, telling them that God had put it on my heart to do so.

I’m realizing that being a servant, a vocal witness, and an uncompromising Jesus follower rests in the same promise that Gladys stood on “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” because an alive and powerful Holy Spirit is at work in my life.  According to Ephesians 1, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work for me to see God do things in and through me.

*Photo from MyLordKatie-WordPress.com


The Gospel Shaped Life

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.  But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways.  We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.  2 Corinthians 4:1-2

We have been saved by the mercy of God and are called to follow Him.  We don’t give up when things get tough.  But we do renounce our old ways of getting things done one way or another.  We will not deceive, mislead, or manipulate.  That in itself is big.  But the biggest commitment that Paul makes here is to not tamper with God’s word to make it easier to take or to suit our own purposes.  Some people talk away the Bible by saying that it has mistakes, or that it was just written by people.

That’s not for us!  We believe that God’s word is our authority for life, that it does not contain errors or contradictions and that what it says, we will do.  We will not water it down to justify our sins, or the sins of others.  As we stand on the Word, we speak to people’s consciences, because our core problem is sin.  And our consciences are where we make the choices between right and wrong.  We do all of this in the sight of God, who sees all that we do and will one day judge each one of us for what we have done.

Tim Keller, a pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, preached a message called “The Gospel Shaped Life.”  In this sermon he talks about how the Gospel, the good news of Jesus coming to save us from our sins and to set us apart for Him, shapes our life so that it is entirely different from someone who does not follow Jesus, or who does not allow his or her life to shaped by Him.  He talked of three main things about this Gospel shaped life, though there are many implications beyond that for all of us.

First, the grace of God appears to us and He teaches us to say ’no’ to ungodliness.  That’s what Titus 2:11-12 tells us: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions and to life self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.”  So we don’t do the ungodly things anymore, not because they will make us look bad, or for fear of being caught or any other selfish motive.  I say ‘no’ because God’s grace is in my life and it has changed my cravings and it has made me loathe ungodliness and selfishness.

Second, the Gospel sets us free from a variety of things.  Those are things like our childhood, anger at being abused or shorted, addictions, obsessions, guilt, shame, anxiety, etc.  As Acts 13:38-39 proclaims, through Jesus we are set from the things we couldn’t get free from before.  As we move away from the things that shackle us, we are free to do all kinds of things we had no energy or ability to do before.

Finally, the Gospel makes us think of ourselves less.  This is in contrast to thinking too much of yourself, or thinking you are ‘less than’ everyone else.  We just think of ourselves less and of Jesus and others more.   

Have you been shaped by the Gospel?  

(Photo from Gracecityphilly.com)

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