Who Are You Trying to Impress?

Stained glass window of the sacred Heart of Je...
Stained glass window of the sacred Heart of Jesus Christ in the former Mosque (Cathedral) of Cordoba, Spain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hidden Away by Josh Groban

 

Galatians 2:20 MSG

“What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.”

 

How are you living out your Faith?  Do you live by rules and regulations of religious traditions or are you living by the resurrection of living Savior?

I’m afraid to say that I often try to hide behind legalisms, judging others for things that I would not want to be judged by.  Justifying myself to myself.  Backing myself into self-created corner of the world.  Trying to compete in an imaginary pageant of righteousness.

Can I possibly hope to impress God with anything I do?  Who is it that I’m trying to impress with my show?  Others, who aren’t even watching, or myself?  Just how much righteousness can I create for myself anyway?

Living by my faith in Jesus Christ creates a balance and content in me.  Living by my charades of religion leaves me grouchy and needy.  So why do I continue to live in pageant mode rather than by the grace allowed to me through my Savior?  Good question.

 

Heavenly Father, I come to you again asking for holy blinders to keep me focused on the cross and the sacrifice You made to grant us the way to eternal life with You.  Let us not forget the power of Easter and the freedom it brings to us to live in Your grace and mercy.  “Thank you”, is not enough to express the gratitude and humility for this unsurpassed blessing.  Help us to not keep our hearts hidden away.  In Jesus precious name,…~Amen

And Thery’re Off…

Todd Agnew, The Love of God

Hebrews 12:2 MSG

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”

We live in a race.  Some call it a rat race, some call it a maze.  Either way it’s a lot of energy expended on doing things that don’t need to be done.  Don’t sweat the small stuff, right?

I don’t know about you, but I can get so caught up in the small stuff that I lose sight of my destination, my goals.  This happens in my day-to-day activities as well as long-range objectives.  I can get on the computer to send encouragement to a friend and get so caught up in everyone’s Facebook status updates that I completely forget what it was that I started out doing in the first place.  For me cleaning house should be a marathon event.  I spend so much time walking back and forth after the supplies that I thought I already had with me that I’m exhausted before even one room is done.

Getting caught up in day-to-day activities prevents me from keeping my focus on what I’m supposed to be doing for Christ.  I allow the busyness of life to weigh me down and drag me under to the point where I’m completely useless as His ambassador.   We’re talking lead blankets on all my limbs type of weighted down.  Dragging the lead blankets against the current of a mighty river weighted down.

That is not what Jesus wants us to do.  Paul tells us that we are to strip down and start running.  Pretty sure he didn’t mean our clothes here, but rather all of the stuff of living that just doesn’t matter.  I love the Message version of scripture.  No spiritual fat, no parasitic sins.  Your sins have been forgiven, leave them behind you and keep running.  Don’t get so caught up in religion that you lose sight of the Savior.

Read the Gospels and get back to the important tracks of the race.  Embrace Easter and live!

A Little Lamb named Mary

I’ll Fly Away sung by Mary Juengel and Sarah Schieber

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15 NIV

 

I have a friend whose 11-year-old daughter is fighting Leukemia.  She was diagnosed last fall and now this little Lamb is having to go through horrendous chemo.  One week in the hospital and one week at home for eight weeks.  She’s half way there.  All together her treatments will last 2 1/2 years (I think that’s right).  At the end of her hospital weeks Mary gets mouth sores and nausea among other side effects.  So much for child to have to go through.

Mary has one very important thing going for her.  Her love for her Savior, Jesus Christ.  Mary’s trust is a portrait of the faith of a child.  When she’s feeling well she sings praise songs and her momma posts them on Facebook.  When she’s not feeling well she vocalizes her trust for the God that loves her and holds her, and her momma posts them on Facebook.  Mary is a modern-day Billy Graham, just by her faith, love, hope and transparency.

These are the kind of  situations that beg the question, “why?”  Why are the ones who love Jesus getting sick.  There is no answer for us of course, at least not this side of heaven. There is no promise in the Bible that exempts us from the broken-ness of our physical bodies.  Ours is not to know why.  Ours is to be like Mary.  Trust that there is good that is now and will continue be to coming from our faith in the midst of trials.  Hope for a future with another view from the mountain top while we’re still exhausted from trying to climb out of the valley.  Love our Savior unconditionally just as he loves us, knowing that no matter what we’re going through…. he’s been there.

Mary is always prepared to share her faith.  There is nothing at all shy about her love for Jesus Christ, she freely sings it out from her hospital bed, from her home, from her heart.  There is so much to learn from this little Lamb.

Heavenly Father, we try to have the faith of a child but we know that we fall short.  We try to keep our focus on You Lord, but there are so many distractions.  We try to love you unconditionally, but we still get angry when things don’t go our way.  Please forgive us God.  Thank you Lord for the inspirations to greater faith that come to us from the little Lamb named Mary.  Protect her, please heal her, and continue to use this precious child to give us a glimpse of You.  In Jesus name ~Amen.

 

It’s All In The Attitude

Philippians 2:13-17 New International Version (NIV)

13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. 14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[a] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.

I love the book of Philippians. It’s so full of positive attitude. Depending on the version you have the words “joy” and “rejoice” are mentioned about 10 times in Philippians, a book with only 4 short chapters. It is also the home of the “whatever’s”.

Philippians 4:8

8

philippians_banner
Image by bridget_willard via Flickr

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

It is the former verses that hit home today however. “Do everything without grumbling or arguing”. I want to quote this verse to my son, like constantly. I think it would be more productive if I modeled this verse to him instead. Lately I’ve been a grumbler. My energy level is down to zero. I don’t want to do anything. My attitude is….”who will care anyway?”

Who will care? God cares. He cares if I give in to the desire to sleep all day long. He cares if I make a promise and then decide that keeping it isn’t important. He cares about all of it because He cares about me. It’s not so much the condition of my floors that concern God as it is the attitude of obedience and gratitude.

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing”. Everything? Yes, everything! But there is so much to do, I don’t know where to start. Where do I start? It doesn’t matter where you start…. Just start. Complete something, gives thanks for the energy that you had to finish it and move to the next thing. Pray for the energy to complete that next thing and when it’s finished give thanks again. Everything we need can be found in Jesus. Jesus can give us the drive to carry on. Do everything without grumbling or arguing…. Even to yourself. Don’t grumble, pray. And then change your “whatever’s” to the “whatever’s” listed in Philippians. It’s a short book, give it a look and start your days with an attitude boost.

Open The Eyes of My Heart sung by 10-year-old Autistic, deaf boy.

What do you do with your old clothes?

Clothing in history
Image via Wikipedia

Galatians 3:25-29 The Message (MSG)

But now you have arrived at your destination: By faith in Christ you are in direct relationship with God. Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe—Christ’s life, the fulfillment of God’s original promise. In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Also, since you are Christ’s family, then you are Abraham‘s famous “descendant,” heirs according to the covenant promises.

Who doesn’t love getting new clothes? I love clothes. I love shopping the outlet pages of my favorite catalogs on line. I love when the new clothes arrive. I love digging them out of the box, taking them out of the plastic bag and trying them on. Sometimes I’m thrilled with the fit and look of the new clothes. Other times I’m not so thrilled. The anticipation of the new garment did not get validated in the way the garment looked on me. This is not the garments fault of course, it’s me. My anticipation of how wonderful the garment would look on me was not realistic. Even if the garment fits perfectly and I enjoy wearing it, the excitement doesn’t last. The garment isn’t new for very long. My closet is a living testimony to my search for something new to wear that will stay new and exciting to wear. How easy it is for me to walk into my closet, look at the clothes and think…. “I’ve got nothing to wear”.

We try to do this with our faith too. We search for the right song, the right verse, the right moment to hang onto , pouring our religion into that song or verse or moment. “This is what it’s all about!” But soon the song becomes boring, the verse becomes mundane and the moments fade. We look around our “closet” and think, “I’ve got nothing to wear”. So we search again. I love this version of the Bible; I love the expressive-ness of it. “Your baptism in Christ was no just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe.” I would venture to guess that the majority of us don’t have a clue to what an adult faith wardrobe is. We won’t find it in any outlet catalog. As much as music is soothing and inspiring, we won’t find this wardrobe on YouTube either. The only place this wardrobe can be found is in the Bible. It’s not just a couple of verses that clothe us in the adult faith wardrobe, it’s the entire Bible. That is where we will find Christ’s life, the fulfillment of God’s promises to us. The next time you feel like you’ve got nothing to wear, open God’s Word instead of the latest catalog. It’s better for the soul and the budget.

Gracious God, thank you for our ability to clothe ourselves in Jesus!  Remind us daily that the only garment that makes a difference is salvation.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

Been Through the Water ~ Kyle Matthews

Jesus Came For The World

Corcovado jesus
Image by @Doug88888 via Flickr

2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (MSG)

16-20Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ‘s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.

21How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.

Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV)

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Jesus Christ is the Savior.  Not just my savior, not just your savior.  He is the world’s Savior!  This song is the most expressive visual of that fact than any I’ve ever heard or seen.  It’s a fairly familiar song, but don’t pass by this version of it.

Not much else to say…..   🙂Revelation Song

Who can take it along?

“[Treasures in Heaven] “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 NIV

Treasures on earth.  Big house(s), big shiny cars, lots of “stuff”.  Earthly comforts that we as members of the “civilized” world feel entitled to.  We strive for it from the day we get our first paycheck.  Television shows about constant remodeling and upgrading certainly don’t help me in this area.

My parents were raised in the depression era.  They are very frugal and as a result are now quite comfortably retired.  Growing up though, I saw this as a major drawback.  Having been told by some girls during my Jr. High years that I could no longer be friends with them because my family didn’t have enough money didn’t help that.  I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to prove them wrong.  Child-ish I know, but it’s still there buried in my accumulated pain.

My husband’s family lived very modestly as well.  They lacked for nothing overall, but he could still feel that tug to have more.  He spent his life being an over-achiever to reach his target of more.

When you combine these two personalities you come up with a “More Mentality” out of control.  We had the big vacation home in AZ, we had two shiny (used) Jaguar cars.  We always planned for bigger and better, regardless of the debt.  Just weeks before Larry was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, we’d been strategizing ways to get “enough” for him to be able to retire early.   We could always justify our extravagance by our giving.  We weren’t stingy with the money God had blessed us with, so surely God must want us to have all of this, right?

That all changed so quickly.  One day life was going on as normal.  The next day our world fell apart.  All of our “more” meant nothing.  There was no way that our vacation home could make the cancer go away.  The cars became nothing more than a way to get to daily radiation treatments.  All of the money quickly flew out the window.  We discovered very quickly that all of these earthly treasures were useless.  The only treasure we had in the end was our relationship with Jesus.  For Larry, this relationship was everything!  For me, it was my sole source of comfort.

People remember Larry for many different things, but they all remember his extraordinary faith.

Where are your treasures?

Lose My Soul ~ Toby Mac