Shoutout to Luther: Law and Gospel (Devo, January 30)

“Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
-Romans 5:20-21

The Law was given so that we might know our sin. It makes sense, when you think about it. How does a child know that what they are doing is wrong unless a parent says so? Otherwise, they will continue acting in what they perceive to be a normal fashion. We, too, needed to be told that what we were doing wasn’t right-because the pattern of sin that has invaded earth is normal to our flesh. It is normal to us. So the Law was given-the perfect, unbending, unchanging law of God that governs everything from outward actions to inward thoughts. It is in this perfection that the Law came “to increase the trespass”. People got used to the idea that the Law just had to do with what we should and shouldn’t do. When Jesus came, however, He showed them that really it extends down to thoughts, control of emotions, etc…it ran deeper than anyone knew. We had been sinning way more than we cared to acknowledge, and still care to today. There is no one that can fully keep the Law in deed and thought and spirit. It’s impossible, and therefore no one is exempt from the condemnation that it brings. We are all guilty under the Law of God.

Praise be to God, though, that there was One who COULD perfectly keep the Law-and that He did. Because even though our sins increased through the Law, grace increased infinitely more as Jesus came to fulfill that same Law. He said that He did not come to abolish it, but to fulfill it, down to the smallest detail. The only man who ever lived a completely perfect life was the one who could perfectly accept the punishment that was meant for us. The transgression of the Law, even one small part, requires payment; it requires death. Jesus paid that debt; He gave up His own life so that we wouldn’t have to. He did what we could not so that we could have life, and life to the fullest!  Praise be to God that we have a God that loves us so much that He gives us a way out. The war has already been won! Victory has already been claimed over the Law and sin and death through Jesus Christ!

And all it requires of us is just surrender everything.

We don’t have to strive to keep every ounce of the Law; we do not need to work to get to God, for one cannot possibly  do such a thing. We just need to surrender to the work that God has been doing in us, and allow this grace to abound all the more than the sin and brokenness in our life. Let Him transform you into the son or daughter of the Most High that He desires you to be. The Law will always condemn us. But Jesus is greater than that condemnation.

Will you let Him work in your life today, transforming you from a condemned sinner into a member of the body of Christ? Will you let Him continue to show you areas of your life that are abundant in sin, and let Him wash them clean with the overabundance of grace He offers? Will you let Him do what He came to do?


The Balancing Act (Devo, January 28)

“For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
-Romans 8:6-8

The outcome here seems pretty plain. Focus on the world? Death. Focus on God? Life.

Then why do so many Christians try to do both? I myself am not exempt from this. There are definitely times where I try to be as cool a guy as possible in the world while still praying and going to church on Sundays. But to be blunt, it doesn’t work like that. Think about who we are as humanity, as a whole. The human condition strives to free itself of God. Maybe not of all religions, but surely of THIS one. You don’t hear protests worldwide against Buddha. You don’t hear people trying to get Zeus or Ganesh removed from the Pledge or from schools. There was a movement to build a mosque a few blocks from the 9/11 site in New York years ago. But as soon as the name of Jesus is mentioned, there is an immediate response. Why?

Because clearly, there is something different about our God.  There is something that demands a response from the deepest parts of us, something that demands a decision. And we all know this. Because of Adam and Eve, we are all naturally disposed to sin. Our nature hates God from the get-go. Nobody chooses to be at war with God initially. We all are. It’s how life is.

But our God is a God of pursuit, who never stops chasing us and who let His only son die so that the payment for our sins could be made. Because He hates the thought of being away from us. His love is so much greater than His wrath that we deserve. He gives us opportunities and people and even nature itself speaks to who He is and His glory.

Why, then, would we want to try to walk as a part of both kingdoms?
For one, it will surely  tear us apart inside. It’s a war we can’t win on our own, and it will leave us more unsatisfied than fulfilled.
Secondly, what’s the point? The world is like…it’s like the sirens from greek mythology. They were beautiful, beautiful maidens with a lovely melodic voice that would lure men into their death among the rocks of the shore. This world is the same. It is tempting, alluring, and seems like it will fulfill you but it leads to your death. Sometimes physically, or emotionally, or mentally…but always spiritually. It will leave you unsatisfied and longing for more. Whereas God promises to give us exactly what we need, more than we want, and all that we desire. His knowledge of what we require is beyond us because He created us. And since He is the sustainer of all things, He can fill all the places that are empty within us.

When we find ourselves in Christ, we find ourselves with more peace and more joy and more life and more….everything. Life itself may not be easier, but the way we respond to it will surely change. The way we live life changes, because God first changed us.

So stop being so double minded and trying to decide what’s best for yourself. Stop trying to have everything you want, stop trying to have “the best of both worlds”. Because at the end of the day, it won’t work like that. God demands a response-and if you allow yourself to choose, you will reject Him. But if you let God work in you and reveal the true nature of either side of the fence, you will be drawn to Him.

Will you keep walking a tightrope in your life? Or will you surrender to the love and grace and mercy of Christ?

Do I Scatter or Surrender? (Devo, January 27)

” For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
-John 3:20-21

     We have always used the light to expose. Whether it’s looking for a lost ring under the couch, or flipping one on to reveal a raccoon in the garage, or to see what’s wrong with a car engine, we always use light to reveal the hidden things in our lives. You never heard of scaring an intruder away by turning off the lights.
It’s the same way with God-but in this case, all of us would much rather that He keep the lights off. We are like cockroaches, that scatter as soon as the light is shone on us and our dark deeds. And nobody is exempt from this. It’s a part of the human condition, part of the sin nature that we carry with us.

But when we allow the Light of the world to shine into our lives, we are allowing for a complete transformation of who we are from a child of darkness to a child of light. We were made to shine; to be a beacon to all the world that reflects the light and love of Jesus Christ. So let Him shine that light! It may be a bit painful. It may be uncomfortable. But when we allow ourselves to be disciplined and molded by our Creator, we are slowly arriving at a place where we long for the light to shine on us, because our lives are becoming a clearer reflector for Him and His glory.

     So what will you do when the light shines? Will you give in and scatter? Or will you allow your soul to surrender?

Hand in Hand (Devo, January 26)

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”
-James 1:5-6

     I’m back in college now for my spring semester, and this verse especially speaks to me. I really do need wisdom this year, to know how to approach a lot of situations that are coming up in my life. There are so many times that we wish we had a bit more wisdom, a bit more insight, into what life will bring. Wouldn’t it be nice to know just what to do with your finances? If you knew the best way to fix your strained marriage? If you could sit down and figure out your best college option, or job option, or career path?

We all want wisdom. But what I think a lot of people don’t understand is that wisdom doesn’t really have anything to do with us. When we ask God for the wisdom to see what’s right to do, we think it will be like flipping on a light switch. But there’s another component: faith. If we ask God for wisdom and don’t really believe that He will come through, then why would He give it to us? It’s like a child asking a parent for something without really believing they will get it. It’s worthless.

     When we come to God asking for ANYTHING, really, we need to come in faith-in the assured knowledge that He is, in fact, God, and that He will deliver what He promised. God is willing to give to all who ask Him! If you want more wisdom, discernment, strength, discipline, He will help you and give you what you desire. It might not look like what you think it should-but it will definitely become a part of your life. But you must come in faith, lest you be tossed about by life. If you had wisdom but no faith, it might even drive you away from God. If you had discipline, but no faith, then your life becomes based on works. If you ask for discernment but have no faith, then you may question whether your intuitions are from God at all.

     Faith is so integral to our relationship with God. We need to be less like the kid who asks without being sure, and more like the little kid who just raises his hands, knowing Daddy will pick him up. There is no doubt in that baby’s mind. We need to be the same way. We need to believe and be confident in the fact that He will do all the things He promised. When we have that confidence that God will come through, then it is God who really can begin the work in us. It has nothing to do with our own power or intellect increasing; rather, it has to do with the infiltration of the Holy Spirit into our hearts to transform us to be more like Christ.

So go ahead. Ask for wisdom! Ask for the things you need. But ask in faith, and believe on God to be faithful. And He will. God bless!

I Gotta Be Nice to WHO? (Devo, January 20)

 “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
-Luke 6:35-36

  Oh no……It’s the in laws.
Specifically, MOTHER.
And you have tried. You have tried and tried and tried but it seems like no matter what, there is always something wrong. ALWAYS. And you know what Jesus says about loving your enemies, but it just seems impossible with this woman! Isn’t there another way to do things? Shes’ easy to not like. It’s easier that way. I still can be civil to her. But LOVE her?

Love your enemies.  It is one of those things you can say, and it sounds good. In reality, however, it is one of the hardest to put into practice. Mercy. We are called to love our enemies, to give even when those receiving don’t appreciate, to forgive and show grace. And it’s hard! Because some people are messed up. Lots of us are. But how do you tell yourself to love your parents who never showed any kindness or care towards you? How do you tell a girl to love her rapist? How do you tell a kid to give something to the bully that took everything from him anyways? In real life, loving our enemies is much harder than it seems.

     But let’s put it in perspective.

     There came a man who preached peace, and repentance, and a new way of living that was so different from everything else that everyone else was trying. He talked about reconciliation, and redemption, a man trying to reunite His family back together.  He presented a new kind of relationship, that didn’t require our work but merely answering His call. And what happened?
His children didn’t hear Him, or want to hear Him. They shouted Him down, they tried to kill Him multiple times, drove Him out of towns and villages. His own people in the town He grew up rejected Him. Those closest to Him fled from Him. He was tried in court and, when they couldn’t really find anything wrong, sentenced Him to death. He was beaten beyond recognition, torn up and bloodied, and nailed alive to a cross to bleed and die. He was abandoned by His own Father, and for moments this man was completely alone in the world.

That man was Jesus. He took on the sins of the entire world so that we might be able to be with Him someday-because He loves us that much. And when we do become followers of Christ, we need to extend that same mercy and love towards all that we meet. Now, I’m not saying that sometimes you can’t stand up for yourself. Even Jesus threw people out of the temple when they were doing wrong. But we all are sinners. We all fall short of God’s glory. He died for us all. And to extend the grace that He extends to you, to another person…that kind of love has a powerful, life changing effect. People don’t understand just how somebody can be so gracious and merciful in a situation that clearly would be reasonable to be upset and bitter and unforgiving in. And that is where the Gospel is presented. Because just like that person may seem undeserving of forgiveness…so are we. But God did it anyway.

So yea. Put up with that annoying coworker. Be loving to that person nobody seems to care about. Try to extend yourself to that stuck-up “popular” kid. Try to forgive the driver who killed your child, try to forgive that family member, that mother, that father, that neighbor, that spouse. It’s not an easy task, and it takes time and prayer and discipline. But the effort is so worth it. Because if the love that Christ loves us with is allowed to go forth, this world will be a much, much better place.

Will you begin to try to really show God’s mercy today?

More than A Facebook Post (Walking the Walk) (Devo, January 19)

 “But whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
1 John 2:5-6

     Everybody can talk big. Everybody can claim they can do something amazing, or that they are such a changed person, or that they are never going back to that thing/person/addiction. We all know how to talk big. We all have done it. It takes a person of high integrity, however, to live out that kind of lifestyle.

      We see this very much in Christianity today. A lot of people claim they are Christian, that they believe in God and Jesus and that they follow Him. They post about how good He is every so often and you see them at church, usually. ]But is the evidence there? The Bible again and again uses the illustration of vines, or trees, to say that you know they are good because of the fruit they produce. This isn’t to say that it is the works that we do that make us good; rather, it is because we are in Christ that we do good works. But if I claim that I am a Christian and yet I go out and party every weekend and swear all the time and are judgemental and mean, then what good do my words mean?

     If we truly are Christians-if we really have let Christ be the Lord and Savior of our entire lives-then it should show in the way we are. If we love Jesus, it should reflect in our attitudes and in our actions. It should be shown in the way we show mercy, just as He shows mercy. It should be shown in the way we hold to the truth no matter what, and in the way that we love one another. We should literally be a reflection of Christ-that when people look at us they see Him. Our  Christianity needs to be more than an weekly church visit or updated Facebook post.

So  Let’s examine ourselves. Are we really living out this life for Christ? Or are we just acknowledging Him with our lips? Let’s make it more than words this week. Let’s carry our crosses for real; let’s make sure they know the One we serve.

Mirror, Mirror Part Two: Dirty Images (Devo, January 17)

“And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother”
-1 John 4:21

This is one of my biggest issues with some of Christianity today.

We love God. We go to church every Sunday, we go to youth group, we sing the songs, we are good Christians. And then we turn around with such angry negativity towards others. It upsets me so much when I see the Westboros of the world on the news. When I go on a Facebook post and see all of the hateful, spiteful comments from people who claim to be standing on the Word of God. When I look up a YouTube video and see arguments back and forth that devolve into name calling and hate speech.

What have we come to as Christians?
Why do we feel like we are called to such hate?

I am so disappointed. I can understand why there are people that really are upset with Christianity. There is so much hypocrisy, so much backlash and anger. It’s frustrating to watch! It gives people a bad taste, a bad image of what this Christian life is all about. It’s a distorted image, a dirty mirror, an unclean reflection of our God.

We are called to act in love. We are called to show the love of Christ to the world, to be able to be His love and mercy and grace to this world. What this does NOT mean, however, is that we have to back down from the truth. There are still things that we need to stand on. The Word of God is the Word of God, and the decrees are infallible, the judgements are true. I do and will always stand for pro-life. I am against gay marriage, I am against legalizing drugs, I am against macro-evolution and I stand on the biblical side of many such issues. And I will tell you so. But I am not defined by the things I stand against. I want to be known by what I stand for-truth, love, honesty, grace, and forgiveness. We can have our stances on issues as Christians. But there is a way to act in love and in truth that will reflect the One we serve.

We don’t have to be mean, or hateful, or spiteful, or arrogant, or rude. That’s not our God. And we cannot possibly claim to really love God if we walk around with such feelings towards others in our hearts. We need to step back. We need to be able to have dialogue with those who believe things we do not. We need to have conversations. We don’t need to tolerate it all, to accept all ways of thought. There are hard truths that need to be told! It’s going to cause division in itself, because this road is a narrow one we walk. As the Word says:

14 In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing, 15 so that no one can speak a word of blame against you. You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people. Let your lives shine brightly before them. ”  (Phil. 2:14-15)

and again:

“6 Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; 7in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, [with] purity in doctrine, dignified, sound [in] speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.” (Titus 2:6-8)

Let us be a people of integrity, who love our brothers and sisters as we go out and share the Good News of the Gospel. Will you live a life full of love and truth?