Never Good Enough

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. — Romans 3:21-24 (NIV)

From the time we are little children, we are taught that rewards follow good behavior.  If we eat all of our peas, we will get dessert.  If we bring home good grades on our report card, we will get a dollar for each “A”.  If we clean our room, we can go out and play.  It’s a very effective system.  It doesn’t really change when we grow up, either.  If we get that project done on time, we may get a bonus.  If we drive safely, we get a discount on our auto insurance.  Our good behavior is rewarded.

The reward for Christians is not a result of our own good behavior (righteousness).  We can never be good enough to earn God’s salvation.  The sins we have committed far outweigh our good deeds.  We are not justified by our good deeds.  We are justified freely by God’s grace.  We cannot buy it.  We cannot earn it.  We cannot be good enough for it.  It is all about God’s grace applied to our faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.  The reward of Heaven is not for those who think they’re good enough.  It is for those who know just how bad they are and how good God is.  He sent His only Son to be our righteousness.  He was good enough and if we trust Him and accept His offer of salvation by grace through faith, we will be rewarded.

How will you live in light of God’s free gift of grace?  How can we express our appreciation and gratitude for the reward God has offered?

PRAYER: I know, Heavenly Father, that I can never be good enough to earn the free gift of salvation You have given to me.  I thank You that I don’t have to be good to be loved and forgiven.  Help me to respond to Your gracious gift by loving You and loving others.  I look forward to the reward You have prepared for us.  In Jesus’ name, amen.


Honest To God?

James 5:12 (NIV)
Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.
James was the brother of Jesus and he echoes his brother’s words that He spoke in the Sermon on the Mount:

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King.36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.​ – Matthew 5:33-37 (NIV)​

What is the big deal about swearing oaths?  Is it really a big deal to say, “I swear it’s true!”  Will I be condemned for saying, “I swear on a stack of Bibles ten feet tall!”?  What about marriage vows or swearing an oath in court?  Am I in trouble for promising to God that I will be faithful to my spouse until death do us part?  The answer is no.
In Jesus’ and James’ day, people casually swore many oaths to indicate that they were being honest.  If someone swore an oath in the Lord’s name, it became binding because they were making God a partner in the oath.  Other than that, many oaths were not binding and people would worm their way out of them.  The issue here is honesty.  Rather than swearing up and down that what we’re saying is true, we should live lives marked by honesty.  People should be able to take you at your word.  Are you an honest person?  Or do you make up stories to make yourself look good?  Are you a truthful person?  Or do you have to remember every lie you’ve told to avoid getting caught?  Do you live with good character and integrity?  Or do you try to get away with things when no one is watching?  As followers of Jesus, we need to do better when it comes to honesty and integrity and that’s the truth.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, You are the very definition of Truth.  Help me today to live with honesty and integrity.  I am sorry for the lies I’ve told.  Help me to be truthful and honest.  I need Your forgiveness and ask that You would convict me of the need to be truthful in every circumstance.  Thank You for Your Truth.  In Your name I pray, amen.

What God Hates

In Proverbs 6, we see that there are seven things that God hates and finds detestable:

haughty eyes – this has to do with pride
a lying tongue – God hates lying, hence the command, “Thou shall not bear false witness.”
hands that shed innocent blood – God hates murder, hence the command, “Thou shall not kill.”
a heart that devises wicked schemes – a wicked heart that plots and plans evil
feet that are quick to rush into evil – feet that carry out those wicked plans
a false witness who pours out lies – a second reference to lying (He must really hate lies)
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers – those who cause division among people – side note: the only time in the New Testament that Christians are told to remove someone from their fellowship is when that person causes division in the church and only after warning them twice – Titus 3:10-11, NIV).

I think that it is clear that God hates sin.  Whether it is lies, pride, murder or division, God hates all sin.  He hates it enough that He sent Jesus to be the atoning sacrifice that could bring about our salvation.  What amazing grace and love God must have for us!  God could have left us to die in our sins.  He could have said, “They are too rebellious.  They are too wicked.  They are too evil!”  He could have said, “They can die in their sin.  I will punish them for all eternity.”  What God said was, “I love them too much!  I can’t just let them die in their sin.  I will save them for all eternity.”  That’s what He did.  He hates sin with holy passion, but He loves sinners with amazing compassion.  Know that God hates our sin, but that He loves us even more.
PRAYER: God, I know that You hate sin, but that You love me.  Help me to love You more and to love my neighbor as myself that the sin in me might be done away with.  Thank You for saving me by Your grace through Your Son, Jesus.  In His name I pray, amen.

Prayers For Everything

…pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. — Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)

Oh, how we neglect prayer!  E. M. Bounds said,

“No learning can make up for the failure to pray.  No earnestness, no diligence, no study, no gifts will supply its lack.”
God cannot answer prayers if they are not prayed.  If we do not spend time in prayer, how can God honor the desires of our hearts?  This is not to say that the answer will always be “YES!” just because we prayed.  The answers to our prayers depends on God’s will.  But if we do not pray, we will never know His will.  If we do not pray, God will not answer.  We will not see demonstrations of His power and His love if we neglect prayer.  How can we be awed by God if we do not take opportunities to life up prayers to Him?  He delights in giving gifts to His children!  If we do not ask, He will not answer.
When I give a gift to my son that He has not asked for, he is not as thankful as when I have given him something that he truly desires.  We must pray on all occasions.  We must lift up prayers (utterances of worship) and requests to God at every opportunity.  We must “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, NIV).  Let prayer be our habit and our lifestyle, not an afterthought.
When was the last time you prayed?  Take a few moments to lift up praises and requests to God where you are.  Pray for one other person specifically today.
PRAYER: Help me to live a life of prayer, O God.  I want prayer to be my lifestyle, not an afterthought.  I praise You and thank You that You not only hear my prayers, but that You answer them according to Your perfect will.  May all glory be Yours forever and ever, amen.


The latest message from Griffith First Christian Church in Griffith, Indiana.


How To Suffer Well

James 5:11-12 (NIV)
Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
We do not know how to suffer well.  We’re so used to our creature comforts and immediate gratification of our every want and desire that we have no patience.  We have no tolerance for suffering.  We expect our lives to be free from trouble, free from want and free from suffering.  When troubles come along, we don’t know how to persevere.  We expect someone to come in and save the day for us.  
Sometimes we have to suffer, so we’d better learn to do it well.  Life has its ups and downs and we will find ourselves having to persevere through times of trouble and difficulty.  Instead of throwing in the towel, we need to learn to press on, persevere and keep going with the compassion and mercy that the Lord provides for us.  In His great compassion and mercy, God gives us strength to persevere.  James says to consider Job’s story.  He persevered through great trials and tribulations and never gave up nor did he question God’s purpose and plan.  He suffered through extreme difficulty and God blessed him for it.  
So when you come up against trials, tests and tribulations today, don’t throw your hands up and give up.  Don’t throw in the towel and quit.  Don’t whine and complain and say, “Why me?!?”  Ask the Lord for His compassion and mercy.  Ask the Lord to give you strength to overcome and to press on, even in the midst of suffering.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I admit that I do not like to suffer.  I know that You can provide strength and courage to press on and persevere in the midst of suffering.  So if I must suffer in this life, I pray that You would indeed grant me the strength I need to keep the faith and to press on through the trials and tribulations.  Help me to keep my eyes on Jesus, who even endured the cross for my sake.  In His name I pray, amen.

The Cure Is The Cross

My heart is broken today.  Yesterday, 10 people died and 7 others were wounded when a gunman opened fire at a small college in Oregon.  17 people were killed or injured in another senseless act of violence.  According to the New York Post the shooter asked people what their religion was.  If they responded that they were a Christian, he shot them in the head.  So many have weighed in on the shooting, including the President.  Facebook is filled with posts about the need for legislation to cure us of the violence.  We who live close to Chicago are inundated with news reports every night about multiple shootings and murders in the city.  The problem is that many want to treat the symptoms instead of treating the disease.
The symptoms of this disease are murder, assault, rage and violence.  These are horrible crimes that are committed everyday and in every corner of the world.  The disease is like a plague that runs rampant and infects the entire world.  We have no idea what we are capable of when it comes to this disease.  The disease is in our hearts.
We all have a heart disease called “sin.”  Romans 7 talks about the sinful nature of humanity.  Paul said that he knew the good he was supposed to do, but could not do it.  We live in this same, terrible contradiction.  I know what I should do, yet I am incapable of carrying it out on a regular basis.  There are moments when the disease does not flare up, but more often than not, the disease wreaks havoc on me and my loved ones.  My sin does not only affect me and my relationship with God.  My sin hurts others and left untreated, it leaves behind a swath of pain and hurt like the damage of a tornado.
We can try to legislate the disease out of existence, but what good are the laws we’ve passed?  I’ve heard it reported that the school in Oregon was a “gun-free” zone.  The disease of sin doesn’t care about laws.  Criminals don’t care about laws.  We’ve got laws against murder and assault, yet they still take place.  We can’t even obey a law as simple as a speed limit on the highway.  It doesn’t mean that we throw up our hands and say, “Oh well” and get rid of those laws.  Criminals must be punished for their crimes.
There is only one cure for this disease and it is the cross.  It is up to every sold-out, devoted follower of Jesus to hold up the cross and shine the light of Jesus into this dark world.  He is the answer!  He is the cure!  He is the only one who can cure us of our sin disease.  He alone can replace a heart of stone with a heart of flesh.  He alone can wash us clean from our sins.  He alone can change us and remake us.  Without Him, we are capable of so much evil.  With Him, we are capable of so much good.  We cannot sit idly by and watch the world burn.  We must take the Gospel to the world and show them Jesus’ love.  For without His love, the disease will continue to spread and senseless tragedies will be repeated time and time again.
We have a job to do.  May God have mercy on us all.


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