From Thanksgiving to Thanks-Living

Thanksgiving. We all know it’s the holiday we celebrate because of the Pilgrims and the Native Americans and the feast and the cornucopias. Today, it’s a day to remember what we are thankful for, gather with family we hardly see, and eat as much turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie as our bellies can hold. And then the next day (or even Thanksgiving night) the madness of Christmas shopping begins and Thanksgiving is forgotten for another year. Thanksgiving is just one day of the year to think about our blessings but the Word of God tells us all throughout Scripture to be thankful. Thanksgiving is just one day a year but we can be thankful every single day. This is a term I like to call Thanks-Living. It’s living each and every day with thankfulness in our hearts for all that God has done for us and all that He has given us.  Let’s dive deeper into what it means to live out of a heart of Thanks-Living.

Thanks-Living takes us into a deeper relationship with God and the relationships we have on earth. It doesn’t mean that things in life are perfect. It means that when things aren’t perfect, we can still look around us and be thankful to God and praise Him. When our hearts can recognize the goodness of God even when circumstances aren’t good, that’s Thanks-Living. An attitude of Thanks-Living takes the spotlight off of ourselves and puts it on God. It glories and magnifies Him who is worthy of all blessing, and honor, and glory, and power! Let’s take this week to learn about Thanks-Living and let that overflow into our lives each and every day.

Thanks-Living Overcomes Anxiety & Worry

Philippians 4:6-7 AMP – Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].

How do we overcome worry and anxiety? By changing our worry into prayer with thanksgiving. Coming into the Lord’s presence with thanksgiving allows us to see how much we have been given and how much the Lord truly cares for us. When we thank him for all He’s done, God’s transcending peace will come and guard our hearts. Worry melts away when we turn our anxieties into thankful prayers. Thanks-Living overcomes anxiety and worry and leads to a life of peace.

Thanks-Living Overcomes Selfishness

Colossians 3:17 AMP – Whatever you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus [and in dependence on Him], giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Society today tells us that it’s “all about me!” What I want, how I feel, what I need…it’s all about getting our desires fulfilled. God’s Word tell us something different. Everything we do, say, anything should all be done in the name of Jesus which in turn is giving thanks to God for all He’s done for us. A life of thanks does everything in life for Jesus. It’s not about our desires, wants, and needs but about the Father’s Kingdom. It’s about Him, it’s about others. Thanks-Living overcomes selfishness and leads to a life of humility.

Thanks-Living Overcomes Misery

1 Thessalonians 5:18 AMP – In every situation [no matter what the circumstances] be thankful and continually give thanks to God; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

Life comes with circumstances. Joyful circumstances, hard circumstances, fearful circumstances, mundane circumstances. Our lives are a continuation of one circumstance into the other. Whatever we face each day, the Lord says to continually give thanks. What if the circumstances are horrific? Give thanks. What if I can’t bear it? Give thanks. Why does God tell us this? Because it’s His will for us to be conformed in the image of Christ. Jesus gave thanks in all circumstances and God desires for us to follow in Christ’s footsteps. If we allow the circumstances in life to overcome us, misery follows. But if we choose to give thanks in the hardest of circumstances, joy follows. Joy is the assurance that God has everything under control despite the circumstances. Thanks-Living overcomes misery and leads to a life of joy.

Thanks-Living Overcomes an Ungrateful Heart

Colossians 2:6-7 VOICE – Now that you have welcomed the Anointed One, Jesus the Lord, into your lives, continue to journey with Him and allow Him to shape your lives. Let your roots grow down deeply in Him, and let Him build you up on a firm foundation. Be strong in the faith, just as you were taught, and always spill over with thankfulness.

When we accepted Jesus as the Savior of our lives, we were thankful that He paid the penalty for our sins. Just as we were thankful in that moment, we are to continue to be thankful for what He did for us. Why? Because it strengthens our faith, it makes our roots grow deeply in Him, and it builds us up on a firm foundation. Living a life of Thanks-Living helps us to always be grateful that our sins are paid for and that we are free in Jesus. We are no longer slaves to the world, our flesh, and Satan but we are FREE! As Thanks-Living is cultivated in our lives, we become stronger in faith and our lives are built on the solid rock of Jesus Christ. If our hearts are ungrateful, look back to the cross and allow thankfulness to overflow! Thanks-Living overcomes an ungrateful heart and leads to a life of constant gratefulness and thanksgiving.

Father, I thank you for the love that you poured out on the cross for the whole world so that we would have a personal relationship with You! Help us to live lives of Thanks-Living and overcome anxiety, selfishness, misery, and ungratefulness so that our hearts can be filled with peace, humility, joy, and gratefulness. Let us never forget what you’ve done for us and all that you continue to do. Let our hearts grow deeper in love with you so that our faith is strengthened and that we are built upon a solid rock. Thank you Jesus for loving us and for giving us a new heart and new life! Praise Your Name! Amen.

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Grace Nuggets: Romans 7:7-25

Romans 7 is a perfect picture of the life of a believer who is at war between the serving the Spirit and the law. Many Christians (including myself) struggle with this on a daily basis. I grew up believing that I had to make God happy by what I did or did not do and I still struggle with this today! But in Romans 7, Paul tells us that living by the law is bondage and deadly. There is no life in the law. The point of the law was to point us to our Savior, Jesus Christ. Romans 7:6, Paul tells us that in Christ, “we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” Friends, we are no longer bound to the law because we are under the new covenant, the covenant of grace! In verses 7-25, Paul will tell us the purpose of the law and why we are no longer bound to it.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”

  • Simply put, the reason the law was given is because it reveals our sin. We would not know the desires of God’s heart if He did not give us the law. The law shows us what is and is not good in the eyes of the Lord. “The law is like an x-ray machine; it reveals plainly what might have always been there, but was hidden before. You can’t blame an x-ray for what it exposes.” (David Guzik)

But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.

  • The second thing that the law does is it arouses sin in our lives. Paul says that before the law, he did not know about coveting (desiring wrongfully something to have or possess something) and after the law said not to covet, he desired to. Because of our sinful nature, when a boundary is given, we immediately desire to cross that boundary.  “Because of our hearts, the law can actually work like an invitation to sin.” (David Guzik)

10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.

  • Thirdly, the law kills. Instead of the law bringing life to us, it kills us. It gives us opportunity after opportunity to sin and disobey the commandments. There’s something about the law that arouses our rebellion and we follow after it. To be perfect in God’s eyes, we have to follow his holy law perfectly but the law kills us because we follow the sin within us.

12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

  • The law shows the sinfulness of sin. “Why didn’t he say, ‘exceeding black,’ or ‘exceeding horrible,’ or ‘exceedingly deadly’? Why, because there is nothing in the world so bad as sin. When he wanted to use the very worst word he could find: to call sin by, he called it by its own name, and reiterated it: ‘sin,’ ‘exceeding sinful.'” (Spurgeon)

14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

  • The law cannot enable us to do good or to have victory over our flesh. The law is spiritual but it activates the old nature (old man). The law cannot transform the old man but only shows how sinful it is.  “Paul’s problem isn’t desire – he wants to do what is right. His problem isn’t knowledge – he knows what the right thing is. His problem is a lack of power: He lacks power because the law gives no power.” (Guzik) The law gives us the rules, but it doesn’t give us the power to keep them.  “No man knows how bad he is until he has tried to be good.” (C.S. Lewis)

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

  • The law cannot set us free. It only activates our flesh and there is no power in our flesh to serve God. When we try to serve God in our flesh and our own efforts, we will find failure and constant struggle. We will always try to keep God happy in our works and when we fail, we will feel condemned. But when we feel as though we’ve done something good for God, we will boast in our accomplishments. This is not freedom but performance-oriented religion. Victory is found not in ourselves but Jesus Christ alone!

24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

  • All in all, the law shows us that we need a Savior! Jesus Christ is the only one that can save us from sin and give us power over sin. He also gives us freedom from the bondage of the law and grace for our Christian walk. (For more about living in freedom and grace, read and study Galatians.)
  • The word “wretched” in the Greek language means “exhausted after battle.” To war back and forth between knowing what’s right and wrong and trying to be good in your own strength is wretched! It’s exhausting! This next quote is so true of my own life and the lives of many Christians in this battle, “Legalism always brings a person face to face with their own wretchedness, and if they continue in legalism, they will react in one of two ways. Either they will deny their wretchedness and become self-righteous Pharisees, or they will despair because of their wretchedness and give up following after God.” (Guzik)
  • Paul desperately says, “who will save me from this body of death?” He is crying out for deliverance. As you can see, Paul is constantly talking about himself through this chapter. He becomes self-obsessed and self-focused and that’s what any of us will do when we live under law. But finally he recognizes that he cannot deliver himself but realizes “Who” can deliver him – Jesus Christ! When we recognize these things in our own lives, let us remember that we cannot save or deliver ourselves from our sin and wretchedness –  only Jesus Christ can!

This last quote sums up this post perfectly and really hits home. I pray that this word has given you freedom and that the pressure of the law has been lifted from your heart. Let your wretched heart be embraced by the complete and wonderful love of God!

  • You thought the problem was that you didn’t know what to do to save yourself – but the law came as a teacher, taught you all what to do and you couldn’t do it. You don’t need a teacher, you need a Savior.
  • You thought the problem was that you weren’t motivated enough, but the law came in like a coach to encourage you on to do what you need to do and you still didn’t do it. You don’t need a coach or a motivational speaker, you need a Savior.
  • You thought the problem was that you didn’t know yourself enough – but the law came in like a doctor and perfectly diagnosed your sin problem – but it couldn’t heal you. You don’t need a doctor, you need a Savior. (Guzik)

We need a Savior! Hallelujah, amen!

A Word on Grace, Salvation, Law & Works

Yesterday’s message at church is still on my heart. It was such a timely message for me and it’s something I desire for all Christians and non-Christians to know and take to heart. The passage was from Galatians 1:6-7a:“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel-not that there is another one.” Paul had to write this letter to the churches of Galatia because after he left them (he preached the good news of grace) some false teachers came in behind him and started twisting the truth. They would tell the Galatians that they were saved by grace but they also had to be circumcised, eat certain foods, or become Jewish before they could accept Christ (read all of Galatians to get the whole picture). This was adding law to the gospel, therefore making their relationship with God into a legalistic religion. 

Paul is astonished that the people were falling back into the law that Christ came to free them from. How true is this in our own lives? Some people will say that after we are saved we have to start reading the Bible, praying, tithing, going to church to be good little Christians to continue to be right with God. These things are so important for our spiritual growth in the Lord but they do nothing to save us or keep us right with God. Salvation and the Christian life beyond are completely maintained by Jesus Christ. If we had anything to do with our salvation, we would boast about it. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “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.” You see, you had nothing to do with your salvation! Because if you had a part in it, you would also have to maintain it. The saving of our souls is a gift of grace alone – and that’s good news! Who wants to be in a relationship with a God who requires all these rules and regulations to keep yourself right with Him? That’s burdensome and God sent His Son to take the burden of the law upon Himself. And in return He gives us grace – undeserved, unmerited favor that gives us power for every day living.

I read a parable this morning that connects to this and illustrates the difference between law/works and grace. 

Luke 18:9-14:

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Pharisee is a perfect example of one who is trying to be right with God by his own works and the law. He trusted in himself and boasted of his righteousness by what he did (fasting and tithing) and by what he didn’t do (commit adultery, lie, cheat, or steal). But the tax collector recognized his sin and humbled himself before God asking for mercy. This man was justified. Why? Because he knew that apart from God’s grace and mercy, he could not save himself. He understood that salvation was from God alone and not by what he did or didn’t do. 

What about you friend? Are you struggling with keeping and maintaining your own salvation? Do you find it burdensome to pray, read your bible, or even go to church because you feel like you have to to make God happy? May you and I come back to the simplicity of God’s grace. It’s something we did not deserve, but God gave it to us freely. We don’t have to work for it or earn it – just simply accept it. It’s given to us at salvation and for every moment of our lives. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says,“‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 

May we rest in the power of God’s grace for salvation and our Christian life and be free from the burdens of the law and our works. And may we be free in our relationship with the Lover of our Souls! Amen.

Grace Nuggets: Romans 6:6-10

Romans 6:6-10 – For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 

For this passage of scripture, instead of going into a verse by verse study, I want to show you a physical picture of this passage in the Old Testament. But let’s note a few things before we dive deeper:

  • We were dead in sin but since Christ has died and rose again, we are now dead to sin.
  • We are not only free from the penalty of sin but also the power of sin.
  • Through His death we are justified from our sin. Through His life, we are sanctified unto Him.
  • Our mindset should be this: Grace is not a freedom to sin, it’s freedom from sin.
  • Verse 6 says, For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” The phrase “might be done away with” means “rendered inactive” or “paralyzed.” Sin is not destroyed completely but is inactive and is no longer our authority. The only power it has over us is the power we give to it.

Romans 6 and Judges 4 are uniquely linked. The Old Testament gives us a physical picture of what Romans 6 gives us spiritually. In Judges 4, there is a picture for us of how we can defeat the old man or old nature in our lives. (Note: Read all of Romans 6 and Judges 4 for yourself to see the whole picture.)

Judges 4:1-3 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, now that Ehud was dead. So the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. Sisera, the commander of his army, was based in Harosheth Haggoyim. Because he had nine hundred chariots fitted with iron and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the Lord for help.

  • Jabin represents Satan and Sisera represents the old man (old nature).
  • Just as Jabin keep Israel in bondage through Sisera, Satan will keep us in bondage through the old man.

Judges 4:6b-7 – “Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.” (God speaking through Deborah)

Judges 4:14 – Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?”

  • We see in this passage that God has given the command and also the victory. We also see that God went ahead of them in the battle. Following God into the battle may be tough but He always goes before us and will give us the victory. When the old man comes knocking at the door, God will give us the strength to persevere and overcome. Jesus has already gone before us for he was tempted and tried in every way and did not sin (Heb. 4:15). Trust Him as He leads you to it. Trust that His strength will lead you through it. And trust that He’s already gone ahead of you and has given you the victory.
  • Background to this passage: In Judges 4:4-10, Deborah (the judge of the Israelites) and Barak (leader of 10,000 Israelite troops) were to lead the Israelite army against Sisera. Barak wouldn’t go unless Deborah went with him. The Lord then told him that the honor of the victory would not go to Barak but to a woman. (We will see later that Jael gets the honor of killing Sisera.)

Judges 4:11 – Now Heber the Kenite had left the other Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, Moses’ brother-in-law, and pitched his tent by the great tree in Zaanannim near Kedesh.

  • The Kenites had an alliance with Jabin (Judges 4:17).
  • Heber’s name means “crossed over.”
  • Heber had separated from the Kenites and had “crossed over” to live with the Israelites.
  • Spiritual application: we were once Heber. We had an alliance with Jabin or Satan and was commanded by Sisera or the old man. However, once we came to know Jesus Christ, we crossed over into the new life or new nature. Sisera is no longer our commander and we no longer have an alliance with Jabin.

Judges 4:16-17 – Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim, and all Sisera’s troops fell by the sword; not a man was left. 17 Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite,because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite.

  • Sisera flees the battle site and sees a tent that he had once had peace with. Isn’t that true of the our old nature? It likes to show up on our doorstep, knocking for us to let him in.

Judges 4:18-20 – Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket. 19 “I’m thirsty,” he said. “Please give me some water.” She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up. 20 “Stand in the doorway of the tent,” he told her. “If someone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say ‘No.’”

  • Just as Sisera was ordering Jael around, the old man likes to order us around. Sisera also tells Jael to lie for him if someone comes looking for him. The same is true for the old man. He will always tell you to lie to others that he’s not active in your life.
  • But Jael doesn’t give Sisera water, she gives him milk. In the Bible, the Word of God is described as milk (1 Pet. 2:2). When the old man comes to our doorstep, we are to give him the milk of the Word to overcome.
  • Jael fills up Sisera’s belly with warm milk and covers him with a warm blanket. Sisera will soon become drowsy and fall fast asleep.

Judges 4:21-22 – But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died. 22 Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple—dead.

  • The tent peg represents the nails that Jesus took and His work on the Cross. The hammer represents the Word of God. Just as Jael used the tent peg and the hammer to kill Sisera, we can take the nail of the Cross and the hammer of the Word and pound it into the temple of the old man and have victory! Sisera no longer has authority in our lives for we have the new nature of Jesus Christ.

Judges 4:22-23 – On that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan before the Israelites.24 And the hand of the Israelites pressed harder and harder against Jabin king of Canaan until they destroyed him. 

  • Romans 16:20 – The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
  • Revelation 20:7-10 – When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves.But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
  • Even though Satan has not been destroyed yet, he will be. And what a glorious day that will be when the tempter, accuser, liar, deceiver, and murderer will be destroyed forever and we will live in complete peace with God!

In our new nature, may we always remember that when the old nature comes knocking on our doors that we have the Cross of Christ and the Word of God to overcome.  We are no longer dead in sin but we are dead to sin and alive to Christ! Hallelujah, amen!

 

 

 

His Name Shall Be…

“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”‭‭ – Isaiah‬ ‭9:6‬ ‭

I’ve been reflecting on this verse this Christmas season. It’s a very popular verse because it talks about the promised child – the long-awaited Messiah. But why is this verse so important, not just at Christmas but for everyday? Let’s dig a little deeper. 

  • “A Child is born” – this speaks of Jesus’ humanity. He became a human being wrapped in flesh. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” -‭‭John‬ ‭1:14‬
  • “A Son is given” – this speaks of Jesus’ deity. He is both God and man. “For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.” – Colossians‬ ‭2:9‬ 

The next list of names are not necessarily names of God but names that describe His character. 

  • “Wonderful” – God’s character is full of wonder. We should never look at Jesus and be bored but be filled with wonder and amazement for all that He’s done and will do! “He has made His wonderful works to be remembered; the Lord is gracious, merciful, and full of loving compassion.” – Psalm 114:4
  • “Counselor” – When we are confused and don’t know what to do, we have a God who will counsel us in our time of need. He uses the Holy Spirit, the Word, and fellow Christians to help counsel us when we are going through problems. “But the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor–Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will help you remember everything that I have told you.” – John 14:26 AMP
  • “Mighty God” – When you think of the word mighty, you think of power and strength. And that’s who our God is – our strong God (Psalm 46:1), powerful God (Psalm 21:13), and mighty God (Psalm 24:8)! He leads us into battle and fights for us. He does not leave us to take on the world on our own but He is right beside us. When we are weak, He is strong and mighty! “Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” – 2 Cor. 12:9
  • “Everlasting Father” – Isaiah is not confusing the roles of the Trinity. Sam Storms explains further that the language behind Everlasting Father is “a descriptive analogy pointing to Christ’s character . . . he is fatherly, father-like, in his treatment of us.” Charles Spurgeon goes on to say, “There is no unfathering Christ, and there is no unchilding us. He is everlastingly a father to those who trust in him.” Truly, Jesus is the One who reveals God’s fatherly character to us (see John 10:30,38, 14:9-10). And since He reveals the Father to us, He shows us how a perfect father should be – one who leads, affirms, and stays close. Praise God that nothing can separate us from His eternal, fatherly love!
  • “Prince of Peace” – This world is full of fear, anxiety, worry, chaos, sin and brokenness. Jesus came to bring us eternal peace with the Father but He also brings us peace in the midst of the storm. When we are uneasy, we can rest in the peace that Christ gives to us. “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]” – John 16:33 AMP 

The names of His character are a great thing to think and meditate upon not just during the Christmas season but throughout your lifetime.  

  • Are you still in wonder at the beauty and amazement of Christ? Let the Messiah be your Wonderful. 
  • Do you need counsel and guidance on a situation or circumstance? Let Christ be your Counselor.  
  • Are you weak and need the strength and power of the Almighty? Let the Anointed One be your Mighty God. 
  • Do you need to be love, affirmation and guidance? Let Immanuel be your Everlasting Father. 
  • Do you seek peace in the midst of a broken and hurting circumstance? Let Jesus be your Prince of Peace.

Let us remember Jesus’ humanity for He is able to empathize with our human weaknesses (Heb. 4:15). Let us realize His divinity for He is able to save us from our sins and dwell within us. And let us rejoice because Jesus is truly our Immanuel – God with us (Is. 7:14).

John Calvin’s commentary on this passage concludes this study perfectly:

“Whenever, in short, it appears to us that everything is in a ruinous condition, let us recall to our remembrance that Christ is called Wonderful, because he has inconceivable methods of assisting us, and because his power is far beyond what we are able to conceive. When we need counsel, let us remember that he is the Counselor. When we need strength, let us remember that he is Mighty and Strong. When new terrors spring up suddenly every instant, and when many deaths threaten us from various quarters, let us rely on that eternity of which he is with good reason called the Father, and by the same comfort let us learn to soothe all temporal distresses. When we are inwardly tossed by various tempests, and when Satan attempts to disturb our consciences, let us remember that Christ is The Prince of Peace, and that it is easy for him quickly to allay all our uneasy feelings. This will these titles confirm us more and more in the faith of Christ, and fortify us against Satan and against hell itself.”

 Matt Redman – His Name Shall Be https://youtu.be/kQmi_FSfJKc

Look to Jesus

I just had some thoughts I wanted to share from Hebrews 12:1-2. My husband and I have been talking lately about some old sins that tend to creep back up in our lives and how to deal with them. Our question to each other was, “how do we conquer them?” This Hebrews passage came to my mind and we read it together. The answer was right there in front of us and I want to share it with you.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” – Hebrews 12:1 NLT

The writer is telling the Hebrew believers (and all believers) to strip off every weight and sin that slows us down and trips us up. That means anything that is a hindrance to us in our Christian walk. There are things in our lives that are actually good that can hinder us from a closer walk with Christ. In a sermon on this verse, John Angell James gives us a word of warning and exhortation toward our “besetting” or entangling sins:

Besetting sins are powerful hindrances to Christian progress. In the case of most people, there is some one sin to which, either from their situation, taste, constitution, or other circumstances—they are more powerfully tempted than to others.

Satan knows very well what in every case this is, and skillfully adapts his temptations to it. He is an expert angler, and never chooses his bait, or throws his line, at random! Independently, however, of him, the very tendency of the heart is in that direction.

That one sin, whatever it is, while indulged, will hold you back! You cannot make progress in holiness, until it is mortified. Even its partial indulgence, though it may be considerably weakened, will hinder you!

Study then your situation, circumstances, and constitution. You cannot be ignorant which temptation and sin, you are most liable to succumb to. You must know in what way you have most frequently wounded your conscience, and occasioned to yourself shame and sorrow.

Is it an unsanctified temper?

Is it an impure imagination?

Is it a proud heart?

Is it a vain mind?

Is it a taste for worldly company?

Is it a proneness to envy and jealousy?

Is it a love of money?

Is it a tendency to exaggeration in speech?

Is it a fondness for pleasure?

Is it a disposition to censoriousness and backbiting?

Study yourselves! Examine your own heart! You must find out this matter, and it requires no great pains in order to know it. It floats upon the surface of the heart, and does not lie hidden in its depths. There, there, is your danger! As long as that one sin, be it what it may, is indulged, you cannot advance in the Christian life! Other sins are like unnecessary clothing to the racer. Besetting sins are like a ball and chain around his ankle!

Direct your attention more fixedly, and your aim more constantly, to the destruction of besetting sins. You know what they are, whether … lusts of the flesh, or lusts of the mind, or bad tempers toward man, or sinful dispositions toward God, or violations of piety.

Let us be distinguished by a great mortification of besetting sins, which, more than anything else … distress us, disgrace us, and hindered us in our progress heavenward.

No sins require … such severe mortification, such incessant labor, such earnest prayer, such strong faith for their destruction as besetting sins. But all this is necessary, for if they are not destroyed, they will probably destroy us.

So how do we get rid of the weights and sins that entangle us? Verse 2 gives us the answer.

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” – Hebrews 12:2 NLT

The answer to stripping off everything that keeps us from Jesus is by keeping our eyes on Jesus! In the Greek, this means looking away from everything else and looking at nothing else except our Lord and Savior. The NASB version says we “fix our eyes” on Jesus meaning we fasten our eyes, attention, and mind unswervingly upon Him. Our lives are to be so focused on Jesus that we are not distracted by sins and hindrances in this life.

What does keeping our eyes on Jesus look like? It means to trust Him and have an attitude of faith. To trust in Jesus is to sacrifice your pride, worry, fear, and control to Him. He modeled this for us when he took the shame of the cross for us. He looked past His pain and torment because He knew what was beyond it – the joy of making a way for mankind to be one with God. Can we lay down the things that trip us up and look beyond our suffering right now knowing that there will be joy ahead? Can we deny the flesh and sacrifice the things that hinder us right now so that we can live the abundant life that God has called us to live? “So, if our hearts be occupied with the sacrificial love of Christ for us, we shall be ‘constrained’ thereby to drop all that which displeases Him; and the more we dwell upon the joy set before us, the more strength shall we have to run “with patience the race that is set before us.” AW Pink

  • Are you suffering? Look to Jesus for strength.
  • Are you worried? Look to Jesus for peace.
  • Are you tired? Look to Jesus for rest.
  • Are you struggling? Look to Jesus for freedom.
  • Are you apathetic? Look to Jesus for a fresh spirit.
  • Are you hurting? Look to Jesus for healing.
  • Are you lost? Look to Jesus to be found.
  • Are you confused? Look to Jesus for clarity.

In all things, look to Jesus the author, perfecter and finisher of our faith. Amen.

Grace Nuggets: Romans 5:12-21

We’ve been going through the of Romans seeking out God’s grace in each chapter. This part of Romans 5 shows so us so much grace, we cannot comprehend it. As you read it, focus on God’s love for the world. Adam’s one act of sin brought the world into sin and death. But because of God’s great love for the world, He sent His Son to be the sacrifice for our sins and completely redeem and transform Adam’s failure. Read the passage below and take in the bold parts as Paul contrasts Adam & Christ and their one decision each that changed humanity.

“When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. 13 Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. 14 Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. 15 But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. 16 And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. 17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

18 Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 19 Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.

20 God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. 21 So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

That’s a lot of bold parts! Adam’s one act of disobedience brought sin, death, and condemnation into the world. Christ’s one act of obedience brought grace, righteousness, triumph over sin, new life and eternal life! As you can see, Jesus came into the world and “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death– even death on a cross!”(Phil. 2:8). His one act overthrew sin, death and condemnation forever! We can now enjoy God’s wonderful gift of grace. Even when God gave the law to show man’s sin which increased sin, His grace abounded all the more! Spurgeon explains well why the law was given:

“It was the practical result of the giving of the law that men became greater sinners than they were before, and it was the design of the law that they should see themselves to be greater sinners than before. The law is the looking-glass in which we see our spots, but it is not the basin in which we wash them away. The law has a provoking power, for such is-the perversity of our nature that, no sooner do we hear the command, “You shall not do so-and-so,” than at once we want to do it. Our nature is very much like quicklime. Throw cold water upon it, and straightway it generateth heat; acting, as it were, against the nature of that which is cast upon it. So, the more God says to a man, “Thou shalt,” the more the man says, “I will not;” and the more God says to him, “Thou shalt not,” the more doth the man resolve that he will. “The law entered, that the offence might abound.” It reveals the depravity and disobedience of human nature, and lays us low before God as convicted criminals.”

And he continues about God’s abounding grace:

“Blessed be God for that! Sin may be a river, but grace is an ocean. Sin may be a mountain, but grace is like Noah’s flood, which prevailed over the tops of the mountains fifteen cubits upward.”

We are sinners because of Adam. Our sin was revealed to us by the law. But because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we can step into His grace that He lovingly extends to us every moment. Yes, we were dead in our sins but Christ has given us a new life!

Ephesians 2:1-10 – “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time,gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”