It’s Personal!

What is the difference between a person who is ‘religious’ and one who is ‘born again’?

There are actually many differences.

The person who is ‘born again’ is one who has come to the place where they’ve realized that he or she is a sinner, and as a result, condemned before God…that, except for God’s grace--provided in Jesus the Messiah, he or she would have remained condemned, but now, by that same grace, he/she is saved, forgiven and free!

The ‘religious’ person knows about ‘sin’ also, but it’s more a general sense…not personal. They also may or may not know about Jesus, and why His death mattered–why God accepted His sacrifice in payment for the sins of everyone who calls on Jesus, in faith…but they haven’t made it ‘personal’.

One person takes it and applies it personally…then lives in the light of eternal life(!), while the other is unmoved by it personally, although they may give intellectual assent to it.

Paul wrote that “It is by (God’s) Grace that you have been saved, through faith (in Jesus); it is not of yourselves, it is a gift of God! This is not a result of good works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to go good works.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)

The difference between a ‘religious’ Christian and one who has been born again, and given new life in Jesus is similar to the difference between beach-goer who appreciates the Lifeguard being present and one who was just saved by that Lifeguard.

One is ‘academic’, the other is personal!

The person who is ‘born again’ is one has been given spiritual life by the work of God–the Holy Spirit. One who’s come to understand that, unless God intervenes, I am spiritually dead, and will continue to be so.

Jesus said I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”…“I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.  Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.” (John 3:3-6)

As a result, the person who is ‘born again’ takes their faith very personally. After all, it’s a whole new LIFE! “Therefore if any person is ‘in Christ’, they are a new creation! The old life is gone, new Life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Once a person acknowledges and turns from their own sin and need,  acknowledges God’s provision in Jesus, reaches out and takes hold of Jesus, by faith and submits themselves to Him, they are ‘born again’. Then not only are they ‘forgiven and free’, but they are then brought into the family of God, by faith, with confident hope of eternal life!

The great news is that this doesn’t only apply to eternity!

It applies to life in the ‘here and now’ too!

Jesus said “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that {Believers} might have life, to the full!” (John 10:10)

The personal relationship we can have with God, through Jesus, is life-changing…and it’s open to all!

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood” (Romans 3:23-25)

The GREAT news is that it’s open to you!

“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)

No one can choose for you…it’s personal.

However, make no mistake about it: God loves you and wants You to make that choice!

He wants to give you Eternal Life, through Jesus Christ!

By God’s grace, I have come to understand this and have reached out to Him, in faith. It has completely changed my life, for the better! I look forward to eternity with Him, and I am blessed that He is leading me to experience “Life, to the Full” in the here and now!

It’s personal.

What will You choose?

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Redeeming Your Time

525,600

For some of you, that number is recognizable (and, if so, you’ve probably already got a song going through your head about it.)

For the rest of you, 525,600 is the number of minutes in a year 60x24x365=525,600.

This number was made famous in the musical ‘RENT’, and it’s a great song! (Video below).

I was reminded of this again this week as a friend had to say a final goodbye to her father. It always seems that those times are the moments we stop and think ‘what are we doing with our lives’?

However, it need not only be times of grief that cause us to reflect and consider how we are living our lives.

The Apostle Paul wrote that we should… “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)

One version says ‘Redeeming the time, for the days are evil’

How do we “live as wise”? How do we “redeem the time”?

We “Understand what the Lord’s will is”, rather than living as a “fool”. (In the Scriptures, a ‘fool’ is one who rejects God.)

So, in general, what is ‘The Lord’s will’?

Paul continues:be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.(Ephesians 5:18-20)

The Holy Spirit gives us LIFE through Jesus, and He changes us at our core.

He makes us more like Jesus, so that we can follow His will…successfully!

How does that show up?

We LOVE others…In Jesus’ name.

It’s that we invest ourselves–every minute we have–in things that will outlive us (starting with God, then other relationships, then causes, etc.)!

It’s realizing that none of us…no matter how old or young, how healthy or unhealthy, how God-directed or how self-directed, is guaranteed any tomorrow’s. Only the Lord Himself knows “the number of our days” (Psalm 90:12).

Therefore, we should do everything possible to live it out in the Lord’s name…and we do so by loving others, investing in our relationship with the Lord, and sharing that with others.

QUESTION: What can You do, This Summer, to ‘Redeem the Time’?

What can you do to grow closer to the Lord?

What can you do to show His love to others?

What can you do to point more people to Jesus, and the LIFE–eternal and full–that He offers?

Do it!

 

Overcoming Fear

FEAR: It’s one thing that pretty much every one of us has dealt with in our lives.

For some, it’s fear of scary things, some have fear of snakes, others of things that go ‘bump’ in the night (especially if you’ve watched a scary movie.

Those fears, however, are pretty trivial. They’re not the kind that can ruin your day…or your life.

There are those fears too.

 

Fear of the Future.

Fear of Failure.

Fear of Embarrassment.

Fear of letting others down.

Fear of rejection.

Fear of being left alone.

Fear of ‘what might happen’.

 

For many of us, these fears can be serious. They can steal our joy, they can make us ‘cranky’, they can cause us to disengage from others…or from ‘living’.

In some cases, our fears can paralyze us, causing us to be so overwhelmed with ‘what ifs’ or ‘what might happen’ that we can’t make a decision, we lose sleep, we get increasingly anxious.

 

If you are one who is struggling with this–either as an ongoing issue, or in a specific circumstance right now–you’re probably feeling a bit anxious about reading this already.

The big question, of course, is this: Is there a remedy? Is there anything you and I can do about these fears?

The answer is a hopeful one: YES!

So, what is the antidote to fear?

Faith!

Not simply ‘faith’ that things will all work out, and certainly not ‘faith’ in ‘fate’.

I’m talking about faith in God…the Creator, who made you, loves you, and has you in His hands.

I’m talking about trust in Jesus, as your Savior, Deliverer, and Friend.

Active, trusting FAITH…in the God who loves you…and in His ability, willingness and desire to give you the best life possible, using all of the circumstances in your life for His purposes, and for your eternal good…that kind of faith chases away fear.

…and He does it all while helping you to grow into His image and likeness, becoming increasingly like Him.

 

This kind of faith doesn’t pretend that trials aren’t real. It doesn’t ‘put on a happy face’ while secretly drowning in fear.

Instead, this kind of faith continually takes those circumstances, those ‘what if’s’, and those fears…and gives them to Him, trusting in his loving, wise, powerful will–that He will work for our eternal good.

This kind of faith then leaves it all in His hands, and focuses on the things that we know of Him: He’s worked in the past, He’s holy, He’s powerful, He’s good, etc.

As Paul wrote in Philippians 4: 6-8:

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

It is because of our trust in His character–that He is “true, honorable, right, pure…” and because of our commitment to “Think about” (or “set our minds on”) these things, that we have peace.

Peace that passes understanding.

Peace…that comes from trusting in our loving Heavenly Father.

 

I heard a great song this morning.

I’ve heard it many times before, and we’ve sung it in church, but today…for a few reasons…the words hit me and made me take notice.

“I’m no longer a slave to fear…I am a child of God”…

Take a listen…and, IF you are a believer in Jesus, by the Grace of God, empowered by the Spirit, then trust Him to  walk with you through whatever circumstances you’re facing right now.

Let go of fear. Replace it with faith.

God has you in His hands. Rest there!

 

The Best Use of Our Freedom

Freedom. Liberty. Independence.

These are some of the values that this country was founded on. They were some of the dreams that our Founders had back in 1776 when they signed the Declaration of Independence.

Yet, it wasn’t simply ‘freedom to do whatever I want’.

That kind of freedom, if followed to it’s end, would lead to mob rule, and eventually, anarchy.

No, this ‘freedom’ that they were investing “our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honor” for was a freedom with a purpose. These freedoms were founded on a core belief in a Creator–as THE Source of Freedom.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are live, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.

Our rights…our freedom…our liberty comes, ultimately, from God.

…and the difference that point makes becomes clear when we ‘throw off’ God’s influence and try to use our freedoms as we see fit.

John Adams wrote that “Our Constitution (and the rights detailed in it) is sufficient only for a moral or religious people; it is wholly inadequate for the government of any other“.

The Scriptures say “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD”. (Psalm 33:12)

True, that Scripture was addressed to Israel, however our Founders wanted it to be true of the United States of America also…they sought to welcome God’s presence and influence.

Now, we have become a people who have rejected God, for the most part…and our government shows the effects!

Political parties have now become about ‘getting our way’, and about ‘defeating the other side’ more than about the good of the country. We have now become a mud-slinging people, and our goal seems to be to have the best ‘tweet’ or the best ‘comeback’ to any of our opponents’ points…rather than government for the good of the people.

This did NOT start with our current President! Granted, it may be more extreme now, but this has been getting worse for some time…because (in my opinion) we have rejected the Lord for some time!

“When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild.
    But whoever obeys the law is joyful.” (Proverbs 29:18)

Where will this journey end, if continued on like this?

Increasing hostility. Decreasing civility. Disaster.

What is the solution?

To humble ourselves again before the Lord, to seek His will, and to submit to His leadership.

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up in honor.” (James 4:10)

Will everyone follow suit? Of course not!

Will those who worship Jesus? I hope so! They should!

Really, that is our only hope for our nation–if the Church actually focuses again on ‘being’ The Church. Then, as God multiplies our influence, it may be that our nation can be saved from our headlong pursuit of self-destruction.

It is not about political party. It is certainly not about any specific politician!

It is about you, and I–individual Americans–following God.

That is the best use of our freedom!