Reaching Up, Reaching Out, Reaching Across

Last month, we made spiritual resolutions. We determined in our hearts and minds to make a change in our lives that would bring each of us closer to God. His reward for you is greater peace.

God time. Spending time with Him. That’s reaching up. Ask God how you can grow nearer top him, and what to do to make that happen.

Reaching out. Ask God to show you who you can encourage this year. Challenges in our lives can make us fearful, or faithful.

Galatians 6:9-10 HCSB

So we must not get tired  of doing good,  for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work  for the good  of all, especially for those who belong to the household  of faith.

Reaching across – being accountable. Jesus came so we could be free to choose an abundant life. Satan would have us never grow, or even go backwards.

James 5:16-20 HCSB

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.   Elijah was a man with a nature like ours; yet he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the land.   Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the land produced its fruit. My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth,  and someone turns him back,   let him know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins.

Confess the junk in your life. Let a trusted person in your life help you keep moving forward. This is a person you trust to both encourage and correct you.

Galatians 6:1-2 HCSB

Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle  spirit,  watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted.   Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Satan is the enemy of our souls.

John 10:10 HCSB

A thief comes only to steal  and to kill and to destroy.  I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.

Ten reasons why we don’t like accountability:

1. People hate conflict.
2. We don’t realize that sanctification is a community project.
3. People like their privacy.
4. Christians are not seriously taught about accountability.
5. Christians believe it’s only for behavior change or when things are really bad.
6. Christians are not discipled, when accountability makes most sense.
7. Some Christians have experienced unhelpful accountability.
8. Christians are not disciplined.
9. Christians lack quality friendships.
10. Christians have not tasted gospel-centered accountability in the church.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 HCSB

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.

Hebrews 10:24-25 HCSB

And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other,  and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

What to look for in your accountability partner:

1. Good listener
2. Trustworthy; not a gossip
3.  Encouraging, not judgmental

Grace That Changes People

We need to allow God’s truth to be activated in our lives. Spend time with people because they’re people, not because you’re trying to convert them. When God puts somebody on your heart, you won’t forget them.

Luke 19:1-8, 10-9 MSG

Then Jesus entered and walked through Jericho. There was a man there, his name Zacchaeus, the head tax man and quite rich. He wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd was in his way—he was a short man and couldn’t see over the crowd. So he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when he came by. When Jesus got to the tree, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry down. Today is my day to be a guest in your home.” Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him. Everyone who saw the incident was indignant and grumped, “What business does he have getting cozy with this crook?” Zacchaeus just stood there, a little stunned. He stammered apologetically, “Master, I give away half my income to the poor—and if I’m caught cheating, I pay four times the damages.” Jesus said, “Today is salvation day in this home! Here he is: Zacchaeus, son of Abraham! For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.”

Don’t turn relationships with people into religion. Our faith is evident in how we treat people.

Grace is the empowering presence of God that enables you to become the person he sees when he looks at you. Grace is a way of living and thinking.

Gratitude, Faith, Grace

Satan may tempt you, but you always have a choice. Winners ask for forgiveness; losers look for someone else to blame.

Do we learn from mistakes? Do we repeat them? When you come to Jesus, you begin to be transformed. It happens step by step, day by day.

What are you thankful for? Are you living in the moment, or missing opportunities?

Grace promotes generosity within us. We are quicker to give forgiveness and slower to become angry. A person may not read the Bible, but they will read you like a book.

Psalm 107:1 NIV

Give thanks to the Lord , for he is good; his love endures forever.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV

give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

It’s not happy people who are thankful, but thankful people who are happy. When we are unthankful, there is not much grace. When we’re thankful, grace is plentiful.

James 3:5-11 NIV

Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.   All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.   With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?

The words of our mouths both praise God and complain about others. How can that be? We can’t have both. Ingratitude is a problem in our culture.

1 Corinthians 10:10 NIV

And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

Complainers were destroyed by the destroyer. Will you let the destroyer destroy your peace with complaining and ingratitude? Never count the might-have-beens. Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus instead.

Ephesians 5:20-21 NIV

always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.   Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Jonah 2:9-10 NIV

But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord .’ ”   And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

What dark whale are you in the middle of right now? Give thanks to God. No matter what. God restored Jonah’s faith and have him his life back.

Psalm 100:1-5 NIV

Shout for joy to the Lord , all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his ; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

On Grace and Suffering

“God’s grace may be free, but it is not cheap. Neither purchasing our salvation nor letting us know of the gift was inexpensive. Beginning with Abel, many of the witnesses to divine grace sealed their words with their blood… The only way we can understand the graveyard at Miango [missionary graveyard in Nigeria] is to remember that God also buried His Son on the mission field.” – Charles Edward White

Life is in the Blood

Revelation 1:4-6 NLT

This letter is from John to the seven churches in the province of Asia. Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come; from the sevenfold Spirit before his throne; and from Jesus Christ. He is the faithful witness to these things, the first to rise from the dead, and the ruler of all the kings of the world. All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us. He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.

Sin cannot stop grace from coming. Grace is greater than sin. Grace and truth comes through Jesus.

Ephesians 6:12 NLT

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

When a Jewish family acquired their sacrificial lamb, they had it for a few days. When you get to know your sacrifice, making the sacrifice costs you something.

When the Jewish people were to apply the lamb’s blood to their doorposts to be saved when the angel of death passed over, all they had to do was be obedient to do what God said – apply the blood. Nothing else was required for them to be saved.

John 1:29 NLT

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Moses and Israel won, not by force, but by sacrifice.

In the blood of Christ, there is healing, redemption, life, power.

Hebrews 10:3-4, 8-10 NLT

But instead, those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). Then he said, “Look, I have come to do your will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.

Hebrews 8:12 NLT

And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”

The church has a saying, “plead the blood of Christ,” but nowhere in scripture does it say we have to beg for the blood of Jesus. Begging is for false gods, as we can see in 1 Kings 18.

1 Kings 18:28 NLT

So they shouted louder, and following their normal custom, they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out.

Only one Person’s blood is required, and that is Jesus’! He provides protection from death, a witness to God’s glory and reality, freedom from spiritual bondage and burden.

“Receiving Favor” by Allowing Jesus to Love You

When I think of favor, I remember as a child my Dad would ask me if I would do a favor for Him. I was always glad to do a favor for my Dad. Why? Because if he asked me to do something for him, it meant he trusted me. It means he felt whatever the task was he wanted me to do, I would be able to do it because he must believe in me. He must feel that I am ready. I was honored to be asked.

As I grew older I felt what he would ask me to do a favor for him, I was beginning to think he is asking is something he could do himself. But actually, I believe God was teaching me all about favor: God-centered favor, or worldly favor, and obedience. As I got older, I got more defiant and would tell my dad, “Why don’t you do it yourself?” but then I would always do what he asked me. I would do it because I also feared my dad. Not so sure about the love.

My wife had a beautiful revelation this past week. When she was praying, God told her she does not have to call him God, but she can call him Dad. To those who do not know Him, He is called God — but to her he is Dad or Father. Lines right up with the prayer Jesus taught His disciples, “Our Father…who is in Heaven…Holy is your name.

God tells us over and over to fear not for He is with us. For the believer, the fear of the Lord is to “worship the Lord with all your hear,t soul and strength.”

God loves us, and the favor He has for us is so different from the world’s idea of favor. The world’s way of favor always has strings attached: “You owe me.”

The word “grace” is not a verb but a noun, and this noun is a person, Jesus. Jesus is grace, and grace means God’s favor for the believer. Undeserved favor. The difference between our father on earth and our heavenly father is when God asks us to do something, he will also provide everything you need to accomplish the mission. Favor from God is through Jesus. God’s favor is grace and He gives us an undeserved supply. We deserve death, but Jesus took that punishment for us.

Jesus came — grace, love, favor — not for you to be afraid of Him, but to come to Him, to allow Him to love you so that you might love Him.

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord… (2 Peter 1:2)

Listen to this verse in the amplified:

May Grace (God’s favor) and peace (which is perfect well-being, all necessary good, all spiritual prosperity, and freedom from fears and agitating passions and moral conflicts) be multiplied to you in ( the full, personal, precise, and correct) knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

The more you know and see and hear Jesus, unmerited favor of God will flow out of every area of your life. Right believing will produce right living. His favor will become evident in your marriage, work, finances, etc.

God’s unmerited favor is the Gospel of Grace: Jesus. Grace or favor is not a doctrine or belief or verb. Grace is a noun, and His name is JESUS!!!

Favor makes us like Jesus. Favor is a revelation with joy… Favor is life… Favor means God is with you…  Grace means undeserved Favor from God… Grace means favor to the unworthy.

The law is right doing. Grace is right believing.  If you live under law you are demanding. If you live under grace you see God supply your needs. Under grace, God will never ask something of you without supplying you with what you need.  Jesus told His disciples this before he returned to Heaven:

And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; 5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4-6)

Acts 1:8 tells us…

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

By being baptized in the Holy Spirit one receives power to overcome the world with power. God’s favor, God’s grace, comes with power. It all comes from Him!

We all want to have God’s favor, His Grace. Who doesn’t want to receive God’s best? We receive His grace and favor the moment we begin to follow and believe in Christ.

We need to expect and enjoy God’s unmerited favor. The man, Jesus – 100 percent man, 100 percent God – became sin on the cross that we might receive His righteousness. Christ gives us right standing with God. Undeserved favor. You do not work for righteousness. You do not earn righteousness. You don’t earn grace.

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Eph 2:7-9)

We all receive the same amount of righteousness.

21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor 5:21-6:1)

Righteousness is not a list of things you have to do. If that were true, we would feel like failures all the time. If your thinking is like that, you will often feel unrighteous. Look at this scripture one more time:

 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor 5:21-6:1)

It does not say we become righteous because we do right. No — it says we become righteous because of what Jesus did for us at the cross. Therefore, righteousness is not based on our right doing, but on the right doing of Jesus.

We seem to think that if we feed the poor, help the widow, do good for the broken, we become more righteous. That sounds great! But God never justified your righteousness by your deeds. God loves you, yes, but you are justified (made righteous) by the tremendous sacrifice His only Son made on the cross for us. Only Jesus makes your righteousness possible.

Listen to this wonderful scripture. Paul writes:

21 I am not one of those who treats Christ’s death as meaningless. For if we could be saved by keeping Jewish laws, then there was no need for Christ to die. (Gal 2:21)

Here is what Paul is saying: If you are counting on your good works to become righteous, then Jesus died for nothing.

I watched the Passion of the Christ. And it’s more than a movie, all the suffering Jesus did for us on the cross. Hit, slapped, spit on, cursed, whipped raw, flesh exposed, bones exposed, beard torn out, crown of thorns pressed into his head, carrying a raw cut cross to a hill, nailed in the hands and feet and raised onto this cross to suffocate and die. We never killed Jesus – He laid his life down for us so that we could receive His righteousness.

Jesus paid for your righteousness only with His Blood.

Jesus became sin. He Who did not know sin, He Who had never sinned, took our sins – for the past, for the present, for the future. He took your sins and my sins, and in place of your sins, He gave you and me righteousness…undeserved favor…grace!

6 And if by grace, (unmerited favor) then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace (unmerited favor) is no longer grace (unmerited favor). But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work. (Rom 11:6)

You are either dependent on Jesus of you are dependent on yourself.

His incredible grace will come through for you even at times when you never deserve it. Even when you blow it or fail in your walk. You never deserved it in the first place. It’s a gift. His grace is always sufficient for me. He forgives me my sins.

Paul tells us that all of his righteous deeds under the law are nothing but filthy rags next to the righteousness of Christ.

8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have put aside all else, counting it worth less than nothing, in order that I can have Christ, 9 and become one with him, no longer counting on being saved by being good enough or by obeying God’s laws, but by trusting Christ to save me; for God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith-counting on Christ alone. (Phil 3:7-10)

It is only because of the righteousness of Christ that we are entitled to His unmerited favor. God loves you!

God Grants Repentance

God has given us emotions and senses for good reasons. But those emotions are not your master — Jesus is your Master.

Faith goes up the stairs that love has built and looks out the windows which hope has opened.
– Charles Spurgeon

Jesus is the only One Who gives relationship with the one true God. He came to us as God’s Word in the flesh. As you read God’s Word, there is something supernatural inside it. God wants to reveal deeper truths to you. Ask God to reveal to you deeper spiritual truths, so that you can have a greater realization of Who Jesus is.

Repentance… it is not something you can make or conjure up. It really isn’t just “feeling bad.” Judas felt really terrible about betraying Jesus. He went back to the priests and threw the money they paid him at their feet. They said it didn’t matter to them. No one condemned Judas but himself. He felt so bad about what he had done that he killed himself.

Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was full of remorse and returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders. “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood,” he said.

“What’s that to us?” they said. “See to it yourself!

So he threw the silver into the sanctuary and departed. Then he went and hanged himself. (Matthew 27)

Judas hated himself — he felt as bad as a person can for doing something they regret. But feeling bad is not repentance. Punishing yourself is actually self-righteousness, an attempt to atone for your own wrongdoing. But when you truly believe Jesus, you understand that HE paid that price for you.

In Acts 10, we have the account of God preparing Peter to meet Cornelius, who was a Roman soldier. At that time, Jews and Gentiles (non-Jewish people) did not associate with each other. God prepared Peter to visit Cornelius by showing him a vision to illustrate that God is not looking on the outside, but on the heart. It is not for us to call someone unworthy because of how we judge them from the outside.

Cornelius had gathered his family and friends to hear what Peter would say. They wanted more of God, and He answered their request. John the Baptist called people to repentance, to change their ways. But now, after the resurrection of Jesus, here is what Peter preaches to them:

“Now I really understand that God doesn’t show favoritism, 35 but in every nation the person who fears Him and does righteousness is acceptable to Him. 36 He sent the message to the Israelites, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all. 37 You know the events that took place throughout Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John preached: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the Devil, because God was with Him. 39 We ourselves are witnesses of everything He did in both the Judean country and in Jerusalem, yet they killed Him by hanging Him on a tree. 40 God raised up this man on the third day and permitted Him to be seen, 41 not by all the people, but by us, witnesses appointed beforehand by God, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to solemnly testify that He is the One appointed by God to be the Judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about Him that through His name everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 10)

All Peter did was teach them about Jesus. Their belief in Jesus — not anything they did themselves — brought about their repentance and forgiveness. And because of this:

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they heard them speaking in other languages and declaring the greatness of God. Then Peter responded, 47 “Can anyone withhold water and prevent these people from being baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay for a few days.

Now, Acts 11: The Jewish believers heard what had happened and were upset that Peter had visited Gentiles. After Peter explains why, they became silent. And then:

…they glorified God, saying, “So God has granted repentance resulting in life even to the Gentiles!”

In 2 Timothy 2:

24 The Lord’s slave must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, 25 instructing his opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading them to the knowledge of the truth. 26 Then they may come to their senses and escape the Devil’s trap, having been captured by him to do his will.

We need to remember where repentance comes from — it comes from God, not from us. You cannot make someone or yourself repentant — only God can do this. He provided redemption in Jesus, who calls us to tell others about Him, just as Peter did, but He is the one who does the cleaning and the changing.