THE PICTURE OF YOUR LIFE

Have you ever opened a 1000 piece puzzle and dumped the contents out. It’s quite a jumble of pieces and cardboard dust. Now imagine that someone gave you this puzzle in a Ziploc bag without a picture. It would be quite a challenge to put together. Wouldn’t it be nice if somebody came along who knows exactly what the picture looks like? That person could guide you while you worked to put the puzzle together.

Isn’t this what life is like? We don’t know what it will look like. We’re just trying to put the pieces together. And, isn’t Jesus the one who knows the whole picture? When he was on the cross, just before he gave up his spirit, he said, “It is finished.” He had completed the goal of restoring our relationship with God.  Now he’s at work guiding us through life. We should let him. When we pray, we should trust him for the answer. He has the whole picture, and he knows what’s coming.

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LET US CELEBRATE

Romans 3:21-24 (The Message), But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift.

Verse 25, God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear.

We have new life in Christ Jesus. That new life begins the moment we believe, and it last forever. Our sins are forgiven and forgotten. We have entered the Kingdom of God. His will guides us and protects us. He is with us no matter what we encounter in our remaining years here on earth.

When we leave the earth we will live in righteousness. We will be together forever. I’d like to add we’ll all be nice, since the sinful nature will be gone. Jesus did all this for us. So let us celebrate what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. I’m looking forward to that time when we’re all together in Heaven. Imagine the celebration.

OUR PLACE BEFORE GOD

Since the beginning man has been fascinated by the universe. We have studied the stars for patterns and worshipped the sun and moon. Astronomers find that the universe is increasingly more vast than they had imagined. The Bible tells us that God spoke it into existence.

I had this contrasting thought this morning, I thought of the magnificence of God. The one who spoke the universe into existence, and then there’s me. So what is my place when I go before God, mouse before a lion, krill in the mouth of a whale? The humblest place I can find is not adequate. Jesus came to help with this dilemma.

He first referred to God as our Father. Father is a perception we can easily relate to. God, being perfect, would represent the ideal father. One who will love us, protect us, teach us, and provide for us.

Jesus went even further when he addressed his disciples. In John Chapter 14 when Philip asked Jesus to show him the Father he replied, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.

Obviously, Jesus didn’t come as the whole manifest presence of God, but he represented the heart and character of God our Father. Jesus was all that an ideal father would be, and then he humbly gave his life for us.

My conclusion, I am on the receiving end of my relationship with God. My fate is entirely in his hands. I can never repay him for his love, kindness, and mercy. I can never match his humbleness. My place before God is one of gratitude. I will praise him and thank him the best I can for as long as I have breath.

JESUS, THE SOURCE OF LIFE

Our pastor, Eric Nelson, has been speaking on the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman recorded in John chapter 4. During his discourse Pastor Eric pointed out, “We tend to think that Christianity is about not sinning, but Jesus took care of sin. Christianity is about the source from which we draw life.”

What a great way to express this truth. Our walk with the Lord is not about becoming good people. This should not be our focus. We focus on building our relationship with Jesus and following his lead. The by-product of this relationship is we become better people. We also become more useful servants in God’s Kingdom.

Jesus clarified this with his disciples in John chapter 15. He said, “I am the vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

To become a better, more useful person, we must draw the sustenance of life from Jesus. Our efforts apart from him are useless.

RIVER OF LOVE

One of the truths that our Pastor is continuingly emphasizing is that God loves us.   He also says that God’s love is hard for us to comprehend.  I think we all know this.  There’s not an abundance of examples of this kind of love here on earth. 

The other day, I was singing an old song, “I’ve Got a River of Life Flowing Out of Me”, and I thought of this analogy.

God’s love for us is like a river flowing to us.  We throw rocks of sin into this river; they make ripples, but they never stop the flow.  When we choose a life of sin, sometimes, we actually dam up the flow, but the pressure of his love is always there.  One act of repentance permits his love to breach the dam.  And if we allow it, the flow of his love will continue to wash away the dam, and his love will pour into our lives.  Receiving his love makes us a new person.

This river of God’s love doesn’t stop with us; it flows through us and blesses those around us.  When we doubt his love, the waters get murky and hinder the blessings we can bring to others.  Once again, our quest in this life is to learn to trust God.  A big part of this is to trust that he loves us.  The enemy of our souls will shoot fiery darts from the banks of the river to make us doubt God’s love.  The shield of faith will divert them.  

JUDGEMENT IS COMING

You frequently hear people ask how a loving God can allow all the evil in the world.  I would answer; a loving God demonstrates his love through patience.

 

The Apostle Peter tells us:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief.  The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be burned up (2Peter 3:8-10).

 

Just like the ancient Israelites, people think that God is not seeing what they are doing, so anything goes.  Then the day of judgement came for Israel. They were conquered and dispersed.  Therefore, we should not be lulled into complacency by his patience.  God is actively involved in all that transpires here on earth- patiently working through us for the redemption of lost souls.

 

The ultimate display of God’s love is through his son.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son.”  He is allowing time for those who will receive his gift and avoid judgement. However, we should never forget that he has assigned a day of judgement.  God is patient, but the Day of the Lord will come.

BE MERCIFUL

“Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

 Jude 22-23

 

The Church, the Body of Christ, has throughout the ages frequently missed the basic tenet of being merciful.    On the other hand the Church has been an instrument of mercy in society since its beginning.  It’s been a mixed bag.  In Luke 6:35-36 Jesus says,

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

God has shown us mercy, and he desires us to be merciful.  I believe our ability to be merciful depends on our ability to receive mercy.  Humility is the key.

 

To receive mercy, I must first recognize my need for mercy.  When I know that I have sinned against God, there is then the recognition of the debt I owe to God.  Secondly, I need to humble myself and become aware that there is nothing I can do to repay this debt.  God is willing and has made the way to grant me mercy by forgiving my debt.  I don’t have to work for it.  It’s free.  That is hard for me because in my pride I want to do something to earn forgiveness.  However, by holding on to this idea of earning forgiveness, I will never even understand mercy.

 

Now you can see why it’s a mixed bag for the Church.  Our pride often gets in the way.  In Matthew 9:13 Jesus says to the Pharisees, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’”  And again in 12:7, “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”  The Pharisees were caught up in a ritual of sacrifice that fed their pride allowing them to condemn others rather than show them mercy.  They were trying to pay their debt to God on their own merit.  They were blinded by pride and did not understand mercy.   Therefore, they could not extend mercy.

 

Mercy proceeds from a humble, forgiving heart.  This is God’s nature and his heart toward us.  By surrendering my will to God and allowing myself to be forgiven, I take the first step in understanding mercy.  I feel the burden of gilt lifted and the exhilaration of being free.  But, I must remember that I’m free and not fall prey to the lie that I must do something for this freedom.  That lie feeds my pride.  I must remain humble. Then in humble gratitude, I live under God’s mercy.  A life that is continually bathed in mercy emanates mercy.