WHAT CONSTRAINS YOU?

I was reading in the book of Job a couple of days ago when I came upon these words, “The fear of God has kept me from these things – how else could I ever face him?” (Job 31:23 The Message) Job says these words after he describes a long list of sins he did not committed. What constrained Job was his relationship with God.

These words and my thoughts about these words sent me into self-evaluation. I asked myself, “what constrains me.” After much contemplation my final answer to the question of what constrains me is I love God. How could I ever face him if I indulged in things that would displease him? Well, unfortunately, I have indulged in many things that would displease him. I find that I am unable to please God on my own. What a dilemma, I love God and want to please him, but I can’t seem to restrain myself.

The Apostle Paul describes this dilemma and then says, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Christ Jesus our Lord!” I need a savior. I can’t do it on my own. Jesus has not only saved me from sin, but he has sent me a helper, his Holy Spirit. God has done everything to help me in my desire to please him. When I fail; He forgives me. How amazing is that!

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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.

THE SOURCE OF NEW LIFE

I often write about the new life we have as Christians. Today, I’d like to write about the source of this new life. How did this come about?

I was standing in front of The Judge condemned to death. The wages of my sin had put me in this position. I was indeed guilty; I deserved the sentence. As I waited for the pronouncement of the verdict, and I anticipated the sound of the gavel fall sealing my fate, a man in the courtroom stepped forward. He addressed The Judge with these words, “I want to take this man’s place your honor.”

“Why would you do this?” asked The Judge. “You are innocent”.

He simply said, “Because I love him.”

The Judge looked at me and said, “You’re free to go.” He turned to the bailiff and ordered, “Take this man into custody.”

The Man not only volunteered to take my place, he actually did it. It was a horrible death he endured for me, but it was the source of my new life.

Jesus took my place. Jesus is the source of new life. I never want to take for granted what he did for me. My response, with a heart full of gratitude I humbly kneel at his feet, and I speak the same words he spoke to his father that dreadful night, “Not my will, but your will.”

THE FAITH VIEW

By Faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible (Hebrews 11-3).

When I came to faith and surrendered my life to God, my eyes were opened to a new view of the world. I realized that what we see is the result of his creative ability. He spoke this amazing world into existence so we could know him by what he has created. I often say to my students, as we drive toward the sunset, “Look, God is painting us his evening picture.” Every day I find beauty and wonder around me.

I was recently reflecting on the variety of life that God created. My back yard is alive with his creatures. Squirrels scamper around collecting the various seeds and berries from the trees. They are joined by an assortment of birds. I am particularly delighted by the flock of wrens hopping about enjoying the same food supply. A closer look reveals the snails enjoying the vegetation. And that is just in my back yard.

We find life in every part of this earth he made. There are creatures living in the most extreme environments. For instance, some creatures live at the bottom of the ocean near fissures where lava flows from cracks in the earth’s crust. Now that’s extreme, but it was no problem for God’s creative abilities.

As we see what God has made by his spoken Word out of what was not seen, our faith is increased, and we are drawn closer to him. He’s amazing! And he calls himself our Father. What an awesome father we have.

GOD’S LOVE GENERATES OUR LOVE

There are many things taught about Christianity, but I think the most important truth to understand is God’s love for us.  I have only managed a small inkling of knowledge about God’s love for me.  However, I have recently realized that my ability to love others depends on my degree of awareness of God’s love for me. The more I receive of God’s love, the greater the reservoir from which love flows from me to others.

The Apostle Paul gave us a definitive list of what love is in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Love is patient, Love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  He adds in verse 8, Loves never fails.

I believe this passage describes God’s love in action.  All of these aspects of his love stream to us 24/7.  The more we allow his love to permeate our lives.  The more we will be able to love those we encounter.