Tag Archive | reconciled

That’s Not How It Works

grass and sunset“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins… 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… 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.Ephesians 2:1a, 4-5, 8-9

I love the commercial with the older woman who “posts” her events to her wall … not her Facebook wall, but the actual wall in her home. She puts up notes and pictures and has friends over to see them. When her friend calls her out on something, she unfriends her while she’s sitting in her living room.

This same friend is befuddled and tells her very clearly, “That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works.”

While many people do “get” how Facebook works, many people like to make up their own ideas about Jesus.

Here are a few ways people misunderstand how God works:

  1. It doesn’t really matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.

God is the Sovereign Creator, Ruler of all. He either is or He isn’t. He can’t be for some and not others which means what He says goes for all people. Your sincere acknowledgement of Him is key in your relationship with Him.

  1. You can pick and choose what you want to believe from the Bible.

The Bible is God’s inspired word, His testimony about Himself, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. You can’t pick and choose what you want to believe. If you told a story about your own life and someone said part of it wasn’t true, they’d be wrong and be calling you a liar or you would actually be a liar. Is God trustworthy or is He a liar? He can’t be both.

  1. God sends people to hell.

Jesus came for all who need a Savior. God doesn’t send people to hell. We end up there based on our own choices and God actually makes it possible for you to be saved from the consequences of those choices. You have free will to choose not to go to hell. You don’t want to be a robot to God and God is clearly not a vending machine so the only thing left is a relationship which is found through faith in Jesus. We all sin and fall short. The only thing that keeps you from God is believing you don’t need Him.

What misconceptions have you heard from others and you think, “That’s not how it works.” Are you a good enough friend to tell them?

Maybe you’re the one with questions needing a help section on just what faith in Christ is all about. How does it work? Why does it matter?

The good news is that God is not only willing to communicate with you, He is very clear in His answers.

It often appears that we want a God with some wiggle room, but instead we have a God who is merciful in our failings. We want a God who dismisses our sin as simple choices of lifestyle or personalities. After all, He’s the one who created us this way. But instead, we have a God who asks us to participate in the life He’s given us according to His ways. He asks us to sacrifice our own ways for His. He creates us and then asks us to let Him transform us into a new creation through a second birth. We are born into sin. All of us. And every person has a transformation waiting for them if only they would come and let God work in their lives. And this work only comes through the grace offered in faith through Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

This is how it works.

Searching for some answers to your difficult questions regarding the Christian faith? Check out Alpha and find a course near you!

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The God of Second Chances

Cave and sunset in the desert mountains“Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp.” Exodus 33:7

God had made a covenant with Israel and before the last period was put in place, they had broken it. God’s desire was, and still is to dwell among His people, but because of their sin, their breaking of the covenant they had agreed to, they were separated from God.

Exodus 33:7-11 almost seems to imply that only Moses went to the tent of the meeting to inquire of God. The people would watch and worship as the pillar of cloud, God’s presence would stay at the entrance of the tent after Moses entered. But verse 7 says: “Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of the meeting…”

Did anyone else go? Why wouldn’t they? Why wouldn’t they take advantage of the opportunity to meet with God personally?

Moses had repented for Israel and it appears they liked it that way. It kept them at a distance from God, maybe what they saw as a safe distance, but a distance none-the-less.

In order to approach God now, we need to acknowledge our sin and ask for forgiveness personally. We have to face the truth of their own hearts. Was this an option at that time? Was anyone bold enough to ask?

Confessing with a true desire to change is hard enough. This along with asking for forgiveness can be one of the hardest things we do – ever! We have to take an honest look at ourselves, assess the situation and our actions, and admit what we did was wrong with no justification, excusing or blaming.

When we ask someone to forgive us there is always the possibility they won’t. We may want our relationship with them restored, but they may not and that’s a hard truth to accept. So rather than risk it, we keep a distance and our relationships are never quite what they could be.

But what you need to know is God is not like people. When we come to Him admitting our mistakes, weaknesses and outright rebellion, asking Him to have mercy and forgive, He does. When our hearts are right with Him and we are sincere in our desire to have a relationship with Him, He does not withhold His love.

He actually gave it before you even asked.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17

Through the life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus, you have the ability to come to God, fully forgiven, unconditionally loved and free to live His way. You don’t need to go to another person to speak to God on your behalf. You have Jesus: mediator, atoning sacrifice, the Righteous One, God Himself giving you full access to the throne room of God.

What concerns weigh on your heart this Christmas? What problems seem too big, too impossible to overcome? What desire do you long to see fulfilled in your lifetime? What guilt or shame to you simply not want to carry anymore?

You are not alone.

God is waiting.

He is available.

He loves you and wants to enter His presence through a relationship with Jesus. Will you take a chance and consider the possibility that not only is God holy, requiring a separation from sin, but that He is loving, faithful and compassionate in His provision of the one and only sacrifice for sin ever needed.

Jesus is the one and only way to God. It is by grace through faith that you can come to God and it’s because of His kindness that you can open your hear, lay your sin at His feet and trust Him to love you fully.

“Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting…”

Will you choose to take a chance and meet with God today, the God of second chances?

Something to Consider…

Has some distance grown between you and God? He is right where He has always been willing and waiting for you to return. What do you need to face, deal with or acknowledge so you can draw close to Him once again?

If you’ve never inquired of God, will you consider the possibility that God really does want to meet with you? He wants you to know the fullness of His love for you and that comes through a relationship with Him. Come to God, asking Him to help you with all of your questions, doubts and uncertainties. He will help you get your heart set right so your relationship with Him can be all it should be.

 

 

The Great Undo – It’s Done!

DSC06777“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.” Romans 3:22 (MSG)

This was my Facebook post the other day:

“I almost had a major freak out. Thankfully, I remembered the “undo” button before said freak out started. All is well in my world again.”

I am a database administrator for my church. One of my responsibilities includes running reports for our kids program. It all starts with one table in an Access database I created over the course of a couple of months. I download data from our main database, throw it in a table in Access and let queries and reports do their thing.

Whenever I run reports, I delete the old information from the table and replace it with the newest version of data. This time, I accidentally deleted the table, not just the data.

For anyone who isn’t a database junkie, you might not have any idea what I’m talking about and if you do, you may have no idea just how significant this was. A slip of the mouse on the wrong “X” and I could’ve been in for some major work.

Then I remembered the “undo” button. Would it work? Sometimes certain functions are not able to be undone. Would I get my entire table back and have my database running smoothly with a simple click of a button?

This time the answer was a major “YES”! Thank you, God that this program was forgiving of my mistake.

There are days when I would like, no LOVE a big undo button for my life:

“Oops, I didn’t mean to say that.”
“I wish I hadn’t done that.”
“Can I write my life in pencil so it’s easier to erase the mistakes?”

But life happens and it’s messy. There are scribbles, doodles, distractions and big time mistakes all over the pages of my life. And while I can’t undo what I’ve said or done, I can recognize the mistakes and apologize. I can choose to learn from it and desire for it to be different, be intentional about it being different next time. And the next time, and the next time, and the next time…

What I’ve learned is that we actually do have an “undo” button, but it’s not one where we simply say, “oops”, click a button and get on with whatever we were doing.

Jesus Christ has provided a way to make things right. On the cross, it was finished; it was done…or undone depending on how you look at it.

We’ve made a mess of our lives, of our relationship with God and each other. But in Jesus, we have a way to make it right again. He is sitting at the crossroads asking, “Do you want it to be made right?” We have a choice, an option to do it different.

That is the question we have to ask ourselves. Do we want our relationship with God and others made right? It is not always an easy answer because even though He makes it possible, it does require us to move forward in this new way. We cannot do what we’ve always done and expect it to be right. We have to be willing to go and do the things He says will make it right.

And while others may not believe or accept our apologies even when we know Jesus, we can be certain that through Jesus our relationship with God is completely restored. We can know that He is the Father, Brother, or Friend who will never leave us and the Authority who will never harm us. He is always available and always willing to comfort. He will always speak truth to our hearts even when it’s hard to hear. He makes everything wrong right again.

“Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them – Jews and Gentiles) 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. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.” Romans 3:23-24 (MSG)

Something to Consider…

Has your heart been hard toward God, toward Jesus? He wants good things for you. He has good things for you. These things require your participation. Ask Him to help you accept and receive the truth of His goodness. He will make things right.

While relationships between people require two hearts to be open to each other in order to be reconciled, what can you do to be open and make things right? Maybe you’ve done everything you can but still no results. Be patient and be ready with an open and willing heart. God’s timing is perfect.

Fight or Flight? (Part 2)

woman in field - yellow dress

This is the second part in a four-part series.

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20

As I mentioned in Part 1, in those areas of my life in which I felt I had authority, I would suffer uncontrollable rage when there was a problem.

At the time, my only real area of authority was in the lives of my children. Unfortunately, they bore the brunt of my anger, specifically my oldest daughter. I expected my home to be the one place I was in control. What I said is what everyone did…except they didn’t.

Each task someone added to my already overloaded schedule, every poor decision that needed to result in a fix or consequence, and every request that came with an expectation that I would, of course, meet it was suffocating.

I also assumed a role of authority in my marriage even though it wasn’t mine to have. When we were in a public arena, I would unleash on my husband in a very controlled, but demeaning tone. My statements were short and accusatory.

Each time I felt I was losing control, my anger put me back in control. I knew this was wrong. I didn’t like how it felt during or after the confrontation. I would sometimes apologize later, but the words I spoke and my attitude had already left its mark.

“It (love) does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” 1 Corinthians 13:5

My anger looked after my own comfort and convenience, it built on each mistake others made and it sought to prove that the issues were their fault, not mine.

But God in His mercy showed me how my anger would not bring about His righteousness in the situation or my heart.

While the truth is the actions and decisions of others are not my fault and not in my control, how I respond to them through my actions is my responsibility. I was not to exhibit control, but self-control. There is a difference. Control focuses on the actions of others while self-control focuses on my own actions in response to God’s love and righteousness.

God began to show me that using self-control was more about my response to love others in the midst of the problem than solving the problem itself.

As I slowed down and let myself listen to not only my daughter, but to God, I was able to see the work He wanted to do and was already doing in her life. As God took my eyes off myself and put them back on Himself, He was able to shift my perspective and understanding of who was really in control.

Ultimately, I was fighting God. I was fighting His truth that I was not in control and that I did not need to prove myself, my value, or my worth to anyone. I did not need to display my authority through anger, but I could serve others, myself, and God better with a spirit of love and self-control.

Something to Consider…

Do you think if others could just get it right, your life would be easier? Does your anger win out when you feel like you don’t have control or need to prove something? In what specific situations and with which specific people does this happen?

God is ultimately in control of everything. Jesus who has absolute authority and power did not strike back in anger, but let His love lead His way. He knows you make mistakes and loves you anyway. God’s righteous anger acknowledges that what is going on is not right and Jesus is the solution that makes things right. Through Jesus Christ, God has made a way for the problem of sin to be removed from our lives so we can be made right with Him. Every relationship problem has a solution when we have the desire and make the decision to love first.

How can a perspective shift change how you relate to and love others? How might self-control help you slow down and listen and in turn lead to a life of love?

Tell Him About It

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (NIV)

One of the hardest things to do is admit I was wrong. There are times I didn’t see it as wrong and there are others when I knew my action or reaction was hurtful, disrespectful or simply not the best thing to do. I replied out of anger or self-righteousness when I really had no compassion or understanding. I put my wants and desires first, even before God.

God’s Word says we all sin, we’ve all fallen short of God’s glory. When we act like we don’t sin or think what we do doesn’t really matter, we deceive ourselves. Not only that, but by believing we don’t do anything wrong, we call God a liar.

You may think, “I’ve never called God a liar.”

Everything we say falls into three categories: it’s true, it’s a lie and we know it, or it’s a lie and we don’t know it. If we don’t believe God is telling the truth, then we call Him a liar.

1 John 1:10 says if we really think God is lying; no part of His Word has any place in our lives. We can’t pick and choose what we want to believe and dismiss the rest. God’s Word says we’ve ALL sinned, that includes you and me. God’s Word is either true or not and we shouldn’t live by a lie.

My daughters often ask questions about the Bible. They don’t understand what certain Scripture means in general or what it means for them. For a very long time, I felt the same way and still do on occasion. What I tell them is that I believe it’s all true and I ask God to show me how it’s true. I pray for His wisdom and understanding because in my own mind, I don’t and can’t really understand. Sometimes, I simply don’t want to understand because the truth can be really difficult to accept.

It’s hard to admit our sin, our shortcomings, our flat-out disobedience and selfish behavior. What if when we acknowledge what we’ve done, our family and friends get angry and leave us? It is possible. But hopefully, our family and friends love us for who we are and not what we do. Hopefully, they will forgive and love us all the more for being a person of honesty and integrity, wanting to make things right.

Regardless of what the people in our lives do, when we confess our sins to God, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins. He doesn’t leave us; He loves us. He doesn’t relive what we’ve done, holding it over our heads; He takes it away. He sent His Son, Jesus, to do just this. Through our faith in Him, our sins no longer exists. God sees us new.

Something to Consider…

God is for you, loves you, and is waiting for you to be honest with Him regarding every part of your life.

Is there is a situation, behavior or attitude that keeps you at a distance from God or others? Choose to tell Him about it. The truth is He already knows but by talking to Him about it, you choose to be open to what He has to say about it.

Confess it to God. Ask Him to help you understand how to handle the situation or change the behavior or attitude. He will forgive you and help you live out His right ways.

Life in Christ

“Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Romans 6:1-2 (NIV)

Life in Christ begins the moment we put our trust in Him. As we acknowledge our sin, those things we haven’t done that we should and those things we have done that we shouldn’t, we ask Him to help us change our ways and we choose to follow Him.

We have died to sin through His death and we live in Him through His Spirit. To live means to be alive; to dwell or abide in; and to fully experience life. While we are alive in this world, Christ lives in us and we are to abide in Christ. We remain with Him and Him with us. He will give us a new life as we continue to seek Him and His ways, keeping in step with the Holy Spirit. He will never lead us back to our old ways and our life of sin. He will only lead us in His good and right ways that lead to life.

Some would say that it doesn’t really matter what we do as long as no one gets hurt. “God will forgive us anyway so what does it really matter? And besides, if God forgives me for all the things I continue to do, won’t that really demonstrate God’s grace all the more?”

Jesus, himself tells us to repent. To repent is to feel regret for our conduct and choose to change our ways. Our lives in Christ do not stop at the idea that God offers grace and forgiveness. We are to be living examples of how God’s grace and forgiveness work in our lives. Our desire is not just to live with Him in heaven when we die but to live in and experience His life while we are here in this world. We cannot knowingly live in sin and expect to experience the fullness of life in Christ.

As human beings who cannot completely understand God’s will or ways because they are so far beyond our ability to comprehend, we will do things we shouldn’t or not do things we should simply because we really don’t get it. But, when we do get it, do understand what is outside of His will for us and go there anyway, we willingly choose to remove ourselves from Him. We are choosing to not abide in Him and we miss out on the fullness of His love, joy and peace now. These come when we live in Him, not our sin.

Something to Consider…

God desires to be reconciled with you. He offers His grace and forgiveness through the death and life of His Son, Jesus. What is God calling you to turn from so that you can experience the fullness of life in Christ?

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

God does not just remove something from our lives; He replaces it with something better.

The Gift of Salvation

“Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Romans 5:9-11 (NIV)

Hallelujah! We’ve been found! In the Old Testament, God was preparing His people for the coming Messiah. The day has finally come! Jesus the Christ is here!

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:11

How do we truly begin to understand the depth of God’s love for us? That is what this is all about; God’s great love for us. That is after all why He created us. To know, love and live with Him forever. Imagine that! The Creator of the universe – all that was, is and ever will be, wants us to know Him. He wants to have a relationship with us!

He has never hidden himself from us; we have tried to hide ourselves from Him. We continue to look away from Him and when we chose to go our own way, because of His great love for us, He made a way for us to be right with Him again.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

As we celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus, the beginning of God’s plan, we celebrate the entire gift of Jesus – a reconciled relationship with the one who created us!

We celebrate new life through the gift of His birth. God is doing a new thing. He is making a way for us to be right with Him, not by our own works so that we can boast about ourselves but through Jesus so that we would boast in God.

We celebrate the example Jesus gave us during His lifetime. He taught us how to love unconditionally, serve with humility, and persevere while suffering. He had peace and joy because He loved, trusted and obeyed His Father. His life did not end in death but in life and victory over the grave. And because we have faith and believe in Him, we can have that same peace, joy and victory.

We celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus explains that the Counselor, the Holy Spirit will teach us and remind us of everything Jesus has said. He will guide us in all truth and will bring glory to Jesus by revealing the truth to us.  Through faith in Jesus, we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and guaranteed of our salvation.

We don’t have to wonder if or how this baby will save us, we know with certainty! Our redemption, our reconciliation with God, has been guaranteed through our faith in Jesus.

Something to Consider…

The gift of Jesus was meant for all people. It was not meant for us to keep to ourselves.

How can you be intentional about sharing the gift of Jesus and His salvation with others, not just at Christmas, but all year through?

From our family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas!