I am edit

I AM – The light of the world

John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

All throughout God’s Word, there are contrasts between light and darkness. Again and again the metaphor of light is used to speak about God, especially when it comes to Jesus Christ. In the Gospels we learn that He is “the light of men,(John 1:4)” the “true light, (John 1:9)” and that “darkness has not overcome” (John 1:5) this light.

The thing that should be noted is that Jesus is not A light, He’s THE light. He’s not just light, He’s the light that overcomes the darkness. The darkness stands no chance.

Any earthly analogy actually fails to fully represent Jesus, so you can just imagine that light isn’t even a good enough description to help us understand Him. Something far greater than what we know light to be is really what He is, but we can’t comprehend that.

Take note, Jesus said that whoever follows Him will have the light of life. He didn’t say we’d experience it or that we’d see it, but that we’d have it as our own. If you’re His, He’s yours and there’s no separating you from the light. The darkness can’t prevail. Victory has already been won. The light wins.

I am edit

I AM – The bread of life

John 6:34-35 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

We’re all born with an inner longing to know God. Though we may not know what it is we’re seeking, we inherently know that there is someone greater than us. We have a spiritual longing. No matter who you are, this is true.

Throughout human history, people have attempted all sorts of ways to satisfy this spiritual longing, from creating religions to looking to the stars for answers. There’s something out there beyond us and we want to know what it is. The problem is that everything on earth fails to fulfill the need we all have. There’s nothing that gives us the answers or plugs the hole that needs to be filled. Nothing, but Jesus.

The Son of God revealed himself to be the bread of life, the fulfillment of all spiritual longing. The One who can answer the questions we don’t even know we have. He’s what we’re looking for. He’s who we’re looking for. He himself placed within us that desire to know Him and then He revealed himself. He wants to be known.

If you’re looking, that’s natural. If you sense that there’s something more, that’s because you’re meant to search. But if you keep looking after you’ve been given the answer, you’ll just stay hungry. Look no further than Jesus Christ. He’s the One you seek.

shadow

Falling from grace

Galatians 5:1-6 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

What does it mean to “fall from grace”?  We have this impression in our minds that when someone commits a serious sin or gets found out for some secret sin, that all of a sudden grace is gone and the person is left to the wolves, unable to be saved.  But when that person is already saved, when that person has already been forgiven for every sin they’ll ever commit…how can they “fall from grace?”  This is contradictory to the gospel.

I was reading a book earlier today called Jesus + Nothing = Everything (I highly recommend reading it), and one part in particular struck me.  It struck me because I had never thought of things in the terms of the author, but they were no less true.  He pointed out the passage I’ve quoted up above and caused the reader to look at the part where Paul tells the Galatians that some have fallen from grace.  Notice he doesn’t say that they fell from grace because of some heinous sin.  He says they fell from grace because they accepted legalism as a way to salvation.  Legalism is the enemy of grace.  It is literally the WORST enemy of grace.

For those of us who have been redeemed by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, those of us who have saved by grace through faith, we have been set free.  That freedom means we’re not under legalism anymore.  We’re not under the yolk of slavery that legalism brings.  We’re free to obey the law, not oppressed by it.  So when we fail and miss a step, either intentionally or unintentionally, it doesn’t mean that Jesus’ grace doesn’t still cover us.  His grace is sufficient for all our sins, for all time.  No sin can separate us from Him once we’ve already been justified and found not guilty.  He already paid the price for our sin, so we can’t just fall away from His grace because we did something wrong.  No, we can only fall from grace in one way.  If we don’t trust in Him alone for that justification.

When we begin to think that it’s Jesus plus some other act or ritual that gets us to God, we’re not accepting grace, we’re trying to win God’s favor through our actions.  That’s just not the way things work.  He forgives us in one way and it’s through Jesus.  When Christ died, the holy, sinless Son of God took on the sin of the whole world and bore the punishment for us all.  In exchange, when we believe in Him for our salvation, we gain His righteousness, the perfect standing before God that only someone who has lived a perfect life can every receive.  Because He already won the victory, we don’t have to worry about losing His grace.

God’s grace is powerful.  It’s so powerful that once we’ve received it, we’re set free in a way that nothing else could achieve.  His grace is enough.  We don’t have to add to it.  We’re not only saved by His grace, He continually works on us through His grace (sanctification) and ultimately brings us to Himself through grace.  We can depend on that, we don’t need to depend on ourselves to earn standing with God.

INGMRF-00012187-001

A labor of love

1 Thessalonians 1:3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

As believers and followers of Jesus Christ, we’re all called to serve.  We serve God by doing the things He’s planned for us, and we serve others as well. If we strive to keep the two greatest commands (Matthew 22:37-40), we’ll be doing a lot of serving.

To an outsider, it may seem like all Christians do is work their tails off. If we follow the Bible’s guidance to put others before ourselves (Philippians 2:3), do all of the “unto one another” things listed, and work “as though working for God and not for man” (Colossians 3:23), it could sure seem that way. The thing is, though, when you’re working for the Lord, it doesn’t feel like work at all.

The Apostle Paul knew this better than anyone. He poured out his life as an offering (2 Timothy 4:6) without complaint because he knew every sacrifice he could make for the Lord was worth it. It wasn’t just him either. Paul acknowledged the hard work and service of the people in the churches to whom he wrote. He reminded them that they were working out their faith and that they labored in love, as well as that they were showing their hope in Jesus Christ by doing what they did.

You’ll never know who’s being blessed by your service for the Lord. Your labor of love could be what brings someone to know Him. Keep up the hard work!

shadow

Our refuge

Psalm 18:2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Where do you turn when things get tough? Your answer to that question reveals a lot about your faith. Do you put your trust in things that can’t deliver? Do you find comfort from that which cannot guarantee it? There’s only one safe place to turn. God is our refuge.

The very same God who spared Noah’s family from the flood, delivered His people into the promised land, defeated an army using only 300 men, and sent a Savior to earth will be there in your struggles. He’s there fore you in your loss, in your surprising diagnosis, your layoff, or your broken relationship. You can turn to Him when you’re hurt, afraid, worried, depressed, confused, or unsure. He’s been there. He understands your needs, frustrations, and heart-felt desires.

Your heavenly Father can deliver on anything because He owns it all. Most of all, He can provide comfort. That other stuff – money, therapy, alcohol – none of them make a good refuges in which to take shelter. Only in the arms of your loving Father can you truly be safe and secure. He loves you, He cares for you, and He’s available anytime you need Him.

IS4086RF-00011047-001

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

Luke 21:29-33   And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Signs.  We’re all looking for signs.  The same was true in Jesus’ day.  The Pharisees, the Saducees, the disciples, the crowds, all looking for signs and wonders.  They wanted signs that Jesus was really the Messiah, we want signs that He’s really there.  They wanted to see miracles, we pray for riches and fortunes.

But Jesus was hesitant to gives signs to the people, even His own disciples.  Even the famed “wars and rumors of wars” warning wasn’t so much of a sign as it was Jesus making a point that they weren’t signs of the end.  This, He said, was only the beginning. He was telling them that they should always be ready for His return, at all times.

Mark 13: 7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet.8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

There are some actual signs that Jesus tells of (Mark 13:24-27 for example), but He encourages His followers to learn a lesson from the fig tree.  “As soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near”(Mark 13:28).  He tells them, and us, to interpret the signs appropriately.  Do not look at the fact that this world is passing away and despair over it.  It’s a sign that the Son is returning.  Don’t lose hope because these things are happening, because they need to happen.  It’s all the more reason TO have hope!

hearts 3

He heals the brokenhearted

Psalm 147:3-5 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably gone through some things that made you doubt that even God could bring you up from the mess you were in. Some pain is so bad it seems like there’s no way out, some problems are so heavy they feel like they’ll never end. But God is good, all the time.

There’s no problem too big for Him to deal with on your behalf, but you’ve heard that before. Let’s not focus on that part. It’s a truth that we can know in our heads and ignore in our hearts when we’re in the midst of dark times. Let’s not focus on how He’s able. Let’s focus on how He’s willing. He cares. The Creator of all things WANTS to heal your broken heart. He WANTS to rescue you out of the abyss. It’s not just that He can, but that He will.

Do you believe that? It’s not that comforting to just have a head knowledge that God is powerful. It’s tremendously comforting, though, to remember that He’s caring and that He loves you. Though He knows every star and gives them each their own unique name, He is willing and able to take care of you, no matter how big or small the problem. No corner is too dark for Him to come into. No cavern is too deep. He’s here, He’s with you, and He’ll never leave you.

lightstock_152996_medium_user_3963721

Stick with what God says is good

1 Timothy 4:1-5 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

A brief survey of American Christianity can easily lead one to get pretty confused. If someone had never heard of Christianity before and then took a look at our churches, I’m not sure what they’d conclude about us. What do we believe? What is good to do and what isn’t?

It’s amazing how varied local churches and denominations can be when there’s but one Bible from which to get guidance. There’s one Spirit to lead us and it’s in fact one God in whom we all claim to believe and follow.

But some don’t even listen to God. They don’t consider the Bible a guide at all, let alone an authoritative one. Some will follow teachers who sound good and say things that people want to hear. Some will come up with silly practices and even require believers to abstain from things that God has said are good. They’ll make up rules that God never laid out and claim they’re from Him. They’ll cause confusion and even make up doctrine that goes in direct opposition to what God has taught through His Word. But people will follow.

We’re in confusing times. There is an abundance of religion and it all gets mixed up at times. That’s why God gave us His Word, to keep us grounded. He knew that people would go astray and that the only way to preserve what’s right is to put it in writing. Every single church or denomination that strays from God begins by lowering their view of His book. It’s true for individuals as well. Show me someone who used to be a strong believer that has gone away, and I’ll show you someone who began to view the Bible as less than God’s inerrant Word.

If you want to remain strong in your faith, it’s best to remain close to God by staying in communication with Him. Speak to Him in prayer at all times, and listen to Him in His Word. Stick to what He says is right.

IS4086RF-00002807-001

Your times are in His hands

Psalm 31:14-15 But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!

Do you ever feel like the world is caving in on you? Like there’s no hope in sight? It’s really not hard to find yourself in such a situation. No matter how bad you’ve got it, though, you’ve probably never seen anything like what King David faced.

The Psalms are a great place to look when you need the Lord’s comfort. David wrote many of these works while he was being chased by his enemies (who had been friends), while he was in times of depression, and even when he was torn apart over his own sin. Though he was going through tougher circumstances than you and I will ever have, he looked to the Lord at all times.

If David could say, “I trust in you” while he was running for his life, you and I can trust in Him when we’re having marriage troubles, financial difficulties, or medical issues. If he could look at the problems in front of him and confront them by putting them in God’s hands, saying, “You are my God,” then so can we. We can trust in God at all times to take care of us.

No matter what’s going on in your life, there is hope. There is a Rescuer. The same God who bankrupted heaven to give His only Son as a payment for our redemption is trustworthy and faithful to bring us through our current darkness.  Let’s all together say, “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand.” He will hear and He will rescue.

IS4086RF-00010537-001

Worthy to be praised

Psalm 145:3  Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.

Nobody’s perfect, right?  Nobody is truly worthy of being praised.  Well, not exactly.  There is only one who is worthy of all honor we could possibly ever give Him and then infinitely more.  The God of the universe, our Father, is worthy to be praised.

It’s not all about what He does for us – for that we give Him thanks.  No, what we praise Him for is simply who He is.  Just His character alone makes Him worthy of worship.  So who is He?

He’s the beginning of all things, the eternal Creator, the sovereign and omniscient Lord who calls, commissions, protects, and provides.  He’s omnipotent and omnipresent, the first among equals in the Trinity, knowable and yet unknowable, a place to find refuge and comfort.

He’s our portion, our treasure, our Father who adopts us into His family, so good and great and just that He disciplines us for our own sake.  He makes no mistakes, shapes all things and brings all things to completion.  He’s a holy judge who is patient and rules out of love.  He is awesome.  And He is worthy of all praise and honor and glory – forever and ever.

Equipping believers to follow Christ and make Him known