Rules

Psalms 119:11
I have hidden your word in my heart 
that I might not sin against you.

There is a motive of love that drives every single action our our God toward us. His decrees are heavy burdens to some, but the wise heart realizes that they are given to bless and not to harm. If God instructs us not to do something or go somewhere, trust Him. He knows the best path for you. Even if the direction He is taking you is directly into the path of adversity, obey because the path around it is apparently much more hazardous to you.

Thoughts on Grace

This is a post from forthechurch.com and is such a wonderful reminder for us.

“The longer I live as a disciple of Jesus, the more I am amazed at the incredible nature of God’s grace toward us.

Here are four thoughts about the grace of God that stand out to me:

 

1. People often misunderstand what is meant by “grace.”

 

If we are late on a payment or have forgotten to return a movie or book to the library, we are often given what is called a “grace period.” This is when the individual loaning something to us is willing to extend a little more time for us to pull together the money or to drop off the library book. They do this because they trust that we will come through with it. “Grace periods” like these apply when we haven’t really done anything horrible, we just had a lapse in memory or made a mistake. But God’s grace isn’t for people who have made mistakes, it’s for people who have deliberately sinned against him! God doesn’t forgive mistakes; he only forgives sins.

 

This means we have to admit to a lot more than simply not deserving to be saved–humans are actually ill-deserving. We deserve the most severe punishment for disregarding the laws of God. Only when this is clearly taught will people understand the measure of God’s grace toward them.

 

2. Grace shatters any sense of pride produced by accomplishing something.

 

Salvation in all other religions is based on human achievement, not divine grace. However, the Bible teaches us that our salvation isn’t something that is earned or merited by anything we do. Some may feel that people need to do something to warrant forgiveness before having it extended to them. But this is not the nature of God’s grace—It is simply by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9). This is so that no one can brag about the status of their relationship with God.

 

Paul wrote in Romans 3:

“What becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”

 

3. People naturally resent the idea of grace.

 

We want to see people who hurt us get punished. It goes against our grain to withhold dispensing justice to those who deserve it. As a matter of fact, most people probably consider it foolish to show grace to someone who has hurt you or wronged you, because it doesn’t mesh with human rationale. But that is the very reason we need it so badly. Turning the other cheek and freely giving grace to those who hurt us becomes much easier when we remember that “God demonstrates his love toward us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).”

 

4. God is by nature very gracious.

 

This is good news for all of us! God shows grace to all of his creatures every day. Matthew 5:45 tells us that “He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” The even better news is that God’s graciousness toward believers extends much farther than just taking care of our earthly needs–he has made us who were formerly his enemies into his friends and removed the penalty of our sins so that we can spend eternity with him in Heaven. As the old hymn by John Newton goes…”Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see!”

Jake Wright

Jake Wright serves as Pastor’s Apprentice at First Baptist Georgetown near Austin, Texas. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Midwestern Seminary and is married to Hannah

All

"I think that when Christ calls us to take up our cross what He means is you must die not only to whatever vices are in your life - which He will eventually kill out. You must also die to whatever virtues are in your life. Your life is not valuable because you're an articulate speaker. Your life is not valuable because you're a generous person. Your life is not valuable because of any of that. That if we empty ourselves of everything and allow God to be present then it's no longer us. It's Him. Then it becomes a spiritual thing. And that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. And that's when I think Christianity really begins to make sense." -- R. Mullins

Jesus wants all of us.

Chains

A thought for two different types of people. First, life apart from God is not like a prison, it is one. Apart from Him, we cannot do anything but choose sin. It has dominion over us. We are in chains. Jesus is the great chain breaker. He unlocks the shackles of slavery. There is freedom in Christ. Now, the second type of person is the one who has had their chains broken. It is for freedom that Christ has set you free. If Christ has broken your chains, drop them.

Stillborn

Matthew 21:7-11
”7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Oh, what a fantastic moment this must have felt like for the disciples who had been anticipating the coming kingdom of God. Their man, Jesus, actually turned out to be who they hoped he was. They left jobs, homes, and dreams aside to follow him. Things were finally coming together. In similar fashion, new expecting parents get all euphoric on that day the baby comes. Sadly, not all of those days end in jubilee. Often times, we are met with crushing disappointment and heartache over the loss of such wonderful promise. Speaking from experience, when a child is miscarried, stillborn, survives only a few hours or lives only a few days, there is nothing more painful.

Not but seven days later, the disciples would witness their promised King being betrayed, arrested, tortured, ridiculed, crucified, and entombed. Hopes were dashed. Their heart’s were aching with the loss. The delivery did not live up to the hype.

Have you ever felt disappointed by God? Have you had the rug pulled out from under your spiritual feet? It can be most difficult to trust God when things so devastating take place in our lives like the loss of a loved one or the death of a dream. Let me assure you that God is very concerned about the things that hurt you and the sorrow you are experiencing. It is a pain that nothing short of a resurrection and restoration of all things can remedy. Come back next Wednesday as we discuss this more.

Right Sacrifices

Psalms 4
1 Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
2 O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah
3 But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.
4 Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
5 Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.
6 There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
7 You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.
8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

The Scripture tells us to be careful of speaking when we are angry. Instead, we should sleep on it and maybe the next day we will speak more righteously. James tells us in James 1:20 that words spoke in anger do not produce the righteousness of God. How many times have you gone to the phone or to social media in haste to post about something that has riled you up? Ever called someone and chewed them out (in a Christlike way of course) only to regret the hurtful tone you used and the unkind words that probably did more harm than good? How about a text message to someone that you truly love but were angry with? How’d that work out? Probably not good.

The thing is, our perspective may be just and our opinion correct but when we let loose in our anger nothing good comes from it. This holds true for words spoken in jest or humor at the expense of others. As Jesus reminded us that a little bit of leaven works its way into the whole lump of bread, our heart motives are the same. Your message may be true, your cause may be just, but when we do not walk first in love our message and cause are tainted and become noxious to the hearer.

Where Do You Run?

Psalm 3
1 O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
2 many are saying of my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in God. Selah
3 But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
4 I cried aloud to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
5 I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.
7 Arise, O Lord!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
8 Salvation belongs to the Lord;
your blessing be on your people! Selah

Who is the lifter of your head? Where do you torn for your pick-me-ups? Where does your strength come from? With those questions in mind, take a moment and return to the Scripture for today and make it a prayer to God. To say to God, You are a shield about me, my glory and the lifter of my head” and actually mean it is an earnest prayer. As you are in prayer, give a listen to this choral production of Thou Oh Lord

Gotta Serve Somebody

Psalm 2
1 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
7 I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.”
10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Cemeteries are full of foolish folk who imagined a future without God. I’ve done my fair share of funerals and while they can sadden me greatly as many of them were friends or family, most of them were also celebrations. They were celebrations because I was able to rejoice along with the family that had eternal hope (sure promise) that their loved one was not gone forever, but moved on to a much brighter world. And one day, we will see them again. Truly, “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”

On the other hand, there are the Sinatras of this world. You know, to the bitter end, they did it their way. We don’t like to think or talk about submission to Christ’s headship. It may make us feel weak or insignificant to call anyone Master. But in the immortal words of Bob Dylan, “It may be the devil or it may be the Lord but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” May as well be the King of Righteousness instead of the ruler of this world.

Growing Where You're Planted

Psalm 1
1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

This Scripture is fairly straightforward in its implication that we are going to be conditioned by our surroundings. From the friends we choose to associate with and spend our time with to the way we spend our free time, all of it has an affect on who we are becoming. As followers of Jesus, we are not supposed to take our cues from folks whose lives are not examples of righteousness. We should not “hang out” with them. This is not to say that we should not associate with the unrighteous. How are we supposed to minister to those outside the faith if we don’t even know who they are.

The difference here is really about who is affecting who. Are you taking your spiritual food from the Word of God and your relationship with Jesus or are you scavenging the carrion of the world? We are not called to be bottom-feeders, but gleaners of truth instead. Gleaning is the hard work of sifting through the fields and picking up the pieces of grain that sustain life. Bottom-feeding requires no sifting and is completely nondiscriminatory about what is consumed.

What we are feeding on spiritually will always be revealed by our fruit in the long run; garbage in > garbage out. If we are being sustained by the wholesome Word of God, then life is what comes out of us. So, make sure you are trying to make Bible study and prayer a part of your daily spiritual diet.

Here is a worshipful song that puts Psalm 1 to music. Perhaps start with this.