Monday Motivation: Grace

“God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

(Ephesians 2:4-10)

God is rich in love and mercy.  So rich that he sent his only Son to be a sacrifice for us, making us alive for all of eternity.  That grace, that gift is far beyond what our feeble minds can imagine or dream of, and it’s that grace that should cause us to act.  God not only created us, he not only saved us, he has prepared for us good works that we should do in order to glorify him and his goodness.

What are doing today and the rest of this week to show gratitude to God for all that he’s done for you?

-Joe

It’s the Simple Things That Change the World

I love it when I’m able to brighten someone’s day.

A casual “good morning” to a stranger.

A favor granted for a friend in need.

A loving gesture for my wife that says, “I love you.”

All of these things and more bring me great joy when I’m able to lift the spirits of another, even if it’s only in some small way.

I’m not as good at it as I could be though.  There are many days when I count up missed opportunities, moments when I noticed someone down, someone in need, but I failed to act because I was focused too much on my own momentary agenda.  Sometimes I question or bemoan the state of society until I realize that I could be a small solution to that problem.  Christians, people like me, fret over how we can affect the world for Christ and the truth is, the solution is right in front of us every single day.  It’s not always a powerful sermon or an insightful commentary of God’s word that produces change in the world.  It’s also the simple things, the little acts of kindness and consideration and love that show the world what Christ is all about.

In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus gets right to the point of this matter when he says that we should care for the simple needs of those around us if we are to call ourselves Christians.  This is feeding someone when they are hungry.  It’s visiting those who need encouragement.  It’s actually noticing the other souls around us who we share this earth with and acknowledging them and treating them the way we would want to be treated.  Jesus is even serious enough to say that our reward in heaven depends on our service to others.  Refuse to love when there are obvious needs around you, and you are basically turning your back on God as well.

And in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, we see that we can do amazing acts of righteousness like having tremendous faith or powerful spiritual gifts, and if we don’t show love, we are nothing.  All of our works are in vain if we fail to show love while doing them.

Do you want to change the world?  Do you want to live your life with purpose, to have an impact on those around you so that they can’t help but question who God is because of your love?  Well, it’s the simple things that change the world.  The opportunity to be an inspiration may literally be waiting right around the corner.  Take it and you’ll be changed as well.

-Joe

 

Monday Motivation: Dressed Like Christ

Have you seen Jesus?  That was kind of a trick question because if you are reading this then you’ve never seen Jesus in the flesh.  Even though we’ve never physically seen him, we still have an opportunity to show Jesus to the world around us.  The Bible teaches that Jesus had an unassuming appearance, nothing that would draw our attention to him (Isaiah 53:2).  And yet, he was able to draw multitudes!  How?

I’m sure the miracles had something to do with it, but I think it was more than that.  I think it was what he wore.  Before you think I’m going to discuss the merits of appropriate clothing, it’s actually not Jesus’ choice of attire that I’m speaking about.  I’m talking about what Jesus wore on the inside and how we clothe our hearts and attitudes today.  In Colossians 3:12-15 it says,

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”

I believe people were drawn to Jesus for the same reasons they should be drawn to us today.  If we are clothed with Christ, with his demeanor and attitude, others can’t help but notice the difference between us and the world.  Being clothed with Christ means we show…

  • compassion
  • kindness
  • humility
  • meekness
  • patience
  • forgiveness
  • love
  • peace
  • gratitude

Let’s not be the person who may dress in expensive clothing but is only judgmental and downright selfish.  Let’s be the person who has a Christian heart.  If we do, the world will get to see the reflection of Christ which is the way it’s supposed to be.

-Joe

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

What would it be like to be friends with someone really famous?  What would it be like to be friends with the president of the United States?  Better yet, what would it be like to be friends with every president of every influential country around the world?  Imagine the sway you could hold over some of the most important decision makers of our time.  Think of what it must be like to be in the know in regards to all of the policy decisions made each and every day, not to mention the popularity such friendships would bring.

You might expect that to be friends with that many world leaders would require some background in politics or at least some ability in public relations.  But what if it were just you or me, just an average, everyday person with a family, a normal job, and a normal life who was friends with the most important people in the world?  Or even better, what if you were friends with someone even more important…say the Creator of the entire universe?

It is not heresy to say that we can call ourselves friends of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  It’s God himself who says we have this friendship and it is the most intimate and impactful thing we have as Christians.  No other religion in the world claims to have a god so interested in the well-being of its followers.  But as Christians, as dearly beloved children of the one true God, we can know that our Creator wants that kind of relationship with us.  Jesus seeks us and waits for us to invite him in as our friend (Revelation 3:20).  And he doesn’t just pick you if your life is perfect either.  He communes with even the worst of society (Matthew 11:19).

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”

(John 15:12-17)

Jesus does offer this friendship freely and of his own accord, but like any friendship, it’s not simply one sided.  Jesus will always love you even if you deny him, but he wishes that you would reciprocate that love.  He asks that we…

  • love one another (vs. 12)
  • obey his commands (vs. 14)
  • bear fruit in our lives (vs. 16)

His love and friendship should cause us to show that love to others.  We have been given much so that we can give to others.  Also, true friendship with Jesus means we accept him as our Lord and we obey him as a result.  We don’t take advantage of his generosity and use it to do what we want.  Finally, a friendship with Jesus will manifest fruit in our lives.  You can’t spend time with the vine and not bear the fruits of love, mercy, and peace (John 15:1-10).

I know it would seem great to be friends with all the important leaders from around our world.  It seems as if they hold the kind of clout we would love to be a part of.  But there’s nothing like having a friendship with Jesus, the one friend who will always love us even more than we could love ourselves.

-Joe

 

Monday Motivation: Are You Ready to Trust God?

“Avoiding sin isn’t about us not getting in trouble; it’s about us trusting that the Creator knows his creation best and has designed the world to work in a certain way.  Everything outside of his creative order is a distortion, and when we follow that fractured path, we are implying we are our own gods and know better  than he does.  This isn’t primarily homosexuality, idolatry, drunkenness, greed, or right or wrong.  The issue is, are we going to trust that God knows best or that our thoughts, wills, and emotions are best?

(Jefferson Bethke- “Jesus>Religion”)

My Monday Motivation posts are all about providing positive motivation for the week ahead.  What’s your motivation for having a relationship with God?  Were you taught at a young age and just continue to do the church thing because it’s what you’ve always done?  Is there comfort and familiarity in being religious or attending church services on a weekly basis?  Do you try really hard to be a good person and follow the Bible and hope that your life is pleasing to God?

These are great questions to ask because our motivation behind why we follow God really matters.  He doesn’t want people who proclaim to love him on Sundays and then live life for themselves during the rest of the week.  He’s saddened when we talk about love and mercy in our Bible classes but go out in the world and only love those who love us first or love only ourselves.  God has created everything, even the commands he hands down to us, for our good.  Everything (outside of sin) about this world we live in is put in place to work a certain way.  When we live as if we know better than God, we are basically saying, “I don’t trust you.”

Are you ready to trust God?  Do you believe that he loves you and has your best interest at heart?  Do you know that your rebellion and sin deeply sadden him and that he just wants an intimate relationship with you, to know that he has given everything to call you his child?  For the rest of this week, really think about your motivation for calling yourself a Christian.  It’s not just a name.  It’s a life completely dedicated and surrendered to a loving and gracious God.

-Joe

I Wanna Know What Love Is

red-love-heart-valentinesIf you’re a child of the 80’s like I am, then the title of today’s post should sound awfully familiar.  The band Foreigner released that song in 1984 and in no time, it was the number 1 song in both the U.K. and the U.S.  My wife and I have had the opportunity to see Foreigner in concert on several occasions, and this song is one of the highlights of their show.

The song asks a very poignant question, one that’s on the minds of many today as we celebrate Valentine’s Day.  For those of us who are in committed, rewarding relationships, it may seem like an easy answer.  For those struggling through their love life, it’s probably a very appropriate question to ask on a day like today.  I believe I have the answer to the question posed by this hit song, and I’ll let the quotes that follow speak for themselves.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

 

”  If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-8)

 

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

 

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8)

 

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 37-39)

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end.” (Lamentations 3:22)

-Joe

 

Come and be Filled

waterWhat are you missing?

Have you taken stock recently of what you believe is missing from your life?  I ask, because whether we realize it or not, we all seem to criticize what we don’t have or what we feel we need to find real happiness.  It’s as if there’s some emptiness inside of us all, waiting to be filled.  We can fill it with good things like the love of family, acts of philanthropy, and contentment.  Or, we can fill that void with the sinful things of this world such as materialism, drug and alcohol abuse, or an unhealthy pride in our own achievements.

Feeling empty is actually a great place to be though.  When we’re empty, God can fill us with the good things he has in store for us.  His word, the Bible, is full of his promises of grace, hope, patience, love, joy, and peace that are all offered to fill the emptiness we experience in this life at times.  It is God that desires to fill us, to complete us with himself.  A great analogy of this is found in 2 Kings chapter 4.

Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.” And Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?” And she said, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” Then he said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few. Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.” So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her. When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another.” Then the oil stopped flowing. She came and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest.”

(2 Kings 4:1-7)

The story of the widow’s oil is a great example of the provision that God provides for us when we’re running on empty.  Like the widow, we have nowhere to turn except to God when we’re out of options.  We also see this play out with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:1-26.  In that story, the woman has attempted to fill her emptiness with many illicit marriages and relationships.  And yet, when Jesus offers her the truth of who he is, she is filled with a new hope and love that she’s never experienced before.  She came to the well looking to fill jars with water and instead was filled with the knowledge of the Son of God.

The disappointing thing is, we sometimes believe we’re already filled.  We’ve convinced ourselves, through the accumulation of stuff and achievements, that we have all we’ll ever need.  There’s no room for God.  This is exactly what happened to the rich young ruler in Matthew 19: 16-24.  He couldn’t follow Jesus because he had so filled his life with money that there was no room left for God.

The next time you have the opportunity, empty yourself of the things of this world and make room for God.  Pray for him to show you the wonderful things he has in store for those who give their lives to him.

Come and be filled.

-Joe