Before conversion we followed the ways of this world, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature. Even though we were in willful rebellion “because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ – it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4, 5). No other religion has a God like this: A God who loves His fallen creatures so completely that He gave His only Son and anyone who believes in Him shall have eternal life (John 3:16).
The amazement of God is manifest through the birth of a child.
The love of God is understood while holding a grandchild in your arms.
The wonder of God is displayed in the majestic movements of a butterfly.
The creativity of God is revealed by the diversity of His creation.
The splendor of God is visible with the vastness of the universe.
The ingenuity of God is shown in the complexity of the DNA.
The hope of God is offered through a Baby in a manger.
The grace of God is realized through a blood stained cross.
The joy of God is obtained through the new birth.
The peace of God is achieved by trusting in Him.
The awesomeness of God will be displayed at the second coming of Jesus Christ.
The kindness and goodness of God will be lavished throughout eternity on those who know and love Him.
o o o o o o o o
If parents and grandparents have a love for their children and grandchildren that is beyond comprehension or explanation, how much more is the depth of love our Creator has for each of us. No wonder Jesus gave His life to redeem us.
I looked at the sky on a cloudy day – Feeling so lost for I had lost my way. For some reason and I don’t know why, I felt that I was living a lie.
I reflected on my life and where I had been – I thought, could I go back and start over again. I’d make everything right of this mess I was in – All my mistakes and all of my sin.
I felt so empty – way deep to the core – I didn’t think I could take any more. I found myself kneeling, speaking a prayer – Not knowing where from, the words were just there.
They weren’t mechanical, for they came from my heart, Not sure what it was that made me start. I found my head bowed as I started to pray Not really knowing just what to say.
But the words, they were coming as I prayed aloud And looked up as a sunbeam pierced through a dark cloud. This ray of sunshine; this bright beam of light Awakened God’s wonders, displaying His might.
This instant awak’ning filled my whole being – Not just the shaft of light but some Thing unseen. I closed my eyes and prayed harder still, Asking forgiveness, as was His will.
Then I thought about Jesus and the stories I’ve heard; Vowed to read the Bible and bathe in His Word. Two weeks passed; I’d been deep in the Book – Was I unsure of something? I gave a re-look.
My Bible’s now tattered but I’ve been made whole – And I prayed and thanked God and gave Him control. Now I walk with purpose – He’s shown me the way; In all of His righteousness I plan to stay. To this day I’ve found peace that comes from above Bestowed only in grace with His blessings of love.
There was no other way for God to show the depth of His amazing love throughout eternity other than through the cross of Jesus Christ. Sure, He could just tell us how much He loves us or lavish every imaginable blessing on us. But that would not fully display the depth of His love: only His crucifixion ordeal manifests His abundant grace:
All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:15).
Jesus’ suffering and death serves as an everlasting reminder of God’s displeasure and intolerance for sin and rebellion. How can fallen humanity, who brought sin and death into God’s perfect creation, pay the price to satisfy God’s Holiness, Righteousness and Justice? Since “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) we are without hope. Yet, the sinless Son of God shed His precious blood to appease God’s wrath due us and make the way for restored relationship with our Creator. And Jesus’ resurrection provides us confident assurance:
We know that the One who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in His presence (2 Corinthians 4:14).
You can only become a “new creation” through Jesus Christ. How could heaven be heaven, filled with “old creations” in a fallen state polluting heaven with the same sins which polluted earth: gossip, vulgarity, jealousy, envy, revenge, pride, arrogance, lies, thefts, sexual immorality and perversion? Those who refuse to accept God’s great mercy, forfeit all He has prepared for those who love Him! They have no other option but to be where God’s light and loving presence is not.
God’s personal invitation to spend eternity with Him was delivered by His own Son. A familiar, yet profound, Scripture gives us a glimpse of His amazing love for His creation:
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).
Throughout the Old and New Testaments we meet people who offered sacrifices and demonstrated the appearance of spirituality. However, God labels many of them as lukewarm, disobedient, stiff-necked, stubborn, rebellious or apostate. Why? Because God is more concerned with the attitudes of the heart than with outward displays. God desires a people who are obedient and faithful.
King Saul learned the hard way that “to obey is better than sacrifice.” Following Saul’s lame excuse for only partially obeying the Lord’s command, the prophet Samuel rebuked him with the following words:
Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice… (1 Samuel 15:22).
It is very important that we not only talk our Christianity, but that we walk it. Titus 1:16 states:
They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him….
All through the Scriptures we meet those who were tempted, tested, and confronted by obstacles. Some disobeyed, rebelled, and turned from the Lord. Others remained faithful – no matter the cost. Those who disobeyed suffered the consequences; immediately or in the not-so-distant future. Those who obeyed received God’s blessing and ultimate victory.
On Talking Back
When I was in gymnastics and my instructor would say, “Billy, climb the rope to the gym’s ceiling. Do a round off and several backhand springs in a row on the mat. Get on the trampoline and do a double back flip.” I did not say, “I don’t feel like doing that today.” I did it!
When going out for football and the coach would say, “Hit the sled and keep hitting it until I tell you to stop. Run the ropes. Take five laps.” I did not say, “Well coach, I am not in the mood to do that today.” I did it!
When, in karate, my instructor said, “Do knuckle pushups.” I did knuckle pushups. When he said, “You, Rudge! Come here. I want to use you for an uke and beat on you for awhile.” I did not say, “Not today, Sensei. Maybe next time.” No, I stepped forward and let him demonstrate strikes and kicks on me. When I was told, “Lay down and put this potato on your chest so I can slice it in half with this sword.” I did not say, “That’s a bad idea.” I obeyed. When he said spar and fight, I sparred and fought!
Should I obey any less the King of kings and Lord of lords, the God who created me, the God who came and died for me, who bodily rose from the dead, and who is coming again to rule and reign for all eternity?
When His Word and Spirit tell me to do something, how much more should I obey without talking back or whining or complaining or making excuses? I do not say, “Well, if I feel like it, Lord,” or “Maybe I will think about it,” or “I don’t know if I want to do that.” I obey! That is what it means to be submitted to Christ’s Lordship.
But is this biblical? In Luke 6:46 Jesus asks:
Why do you call Me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say?
In John 14:15, 24 Jesus said:
If you love Me, you will obey what I command. He who does not love Me will not obey My teaching.
In Matthew 7:21 Jesus states:
Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.
1 John 2:3, 6 says:
We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.
And the manner in which Jesus walked was in humility and obedience (Philippians 2:8).
Excerpted from Reaching Your Maximum Potential in Christ which is being expanded for its third edition.
This has been a very sad and difficult week for the community that I live in. This past Sunday (February 10th), four high school students from our school district were in a severe accident. The accident led to the tragic death of two of the students. As I write this blog, the other two students are in the hospital dealing with a range of injuries. This tragic event has impacted me personally as my family knew these girls and, being the high school girls’ soccer coach, I use to coach one of the girls who died. In simplistic terms, this has been an emotionally difficult situation to deal with as it has brought me face to face with the reality that no one is immune from the tragedies of life. But despite this reality, it is in these moments where we learn the most valuable life lessons. For instance, I was reminded of the importance of community. As I spent time at the school on Monday talking with faculty and students, I was encouraged and comforted to see everyone come together as one. Despite our differences, there was singularity in purpose. A powerful reminder that not only do we need the support and love of others, but we also need to return that same love and support. We need to bear each other’s burdens. I hope and pray that you have others in your life that are helping you bear your burdens, and in return you are coming alongside them to bear theirs.
Along with the idea of community, this situation has reminded me of the importance of being intentional with my loved ones: to never walk away angry, or let the sun go down without letting them know how much I love them. I need to live each moment with appreciation for the time that I have with my family and friends. Life can truly change in a moment, so we all need to let others know, through both our words and actions, how much they mean to us.
A final impression that I have gained from this tragedy is how important it is to live our lives with purpose. As I stood watching the students flow into the room that was set up at the school for them to come and grieve, I was overwhelmed to hear their stories about how their lives were enriched by knowing the girls who had died. One particular staff member told me that when they first moved here, her daughters had a hard time adjusting to their new surroundings, but that the transition was made easier because one of the girls who had died introduced herself to her daughters and made them feel valued and accepted. This is a great reminder how just a simple word and action can make the difference in the lives of others. While our school has lost two remarkable young ladies, their memories will live on through those they impacted. Their lives were taken from us way too early but they leave a legacy that will continue for years to come.
In the uncertainty of this tragedy, I do see God actively involved. From the love and support of surrounding communities to the unity displayed by our faculty and students, I see God working in and through each one of us. As in any tragedy, the WHY will continue to knock us off our feet, but it is the WHO that will enable us to stand back up. Though our faith in Jesus Christ is shaken, it will not be destroyed. His loving arms are embracing our community and bringing comfort and hope in our time of pain and sorrow.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).