Tag: Salvation

Not Fooling Anyone (A Chronicle of Bad Conversations and Storefronts Past)

A few weeks ago, a co-worker popped his head in my office. He said “So, are you ready for next Wednesday?

I sat there going through my mental calendar and couldn’t come up with what the significance Wednesday had. I finally had to ask “What’s Wednesday?”

He then reminded me that Wednesday was the day on the calendar that I age one more year. He asked if I had any words to impart to impart the wisdom I’ve gained in my many years.

Nope.

To be honest, I was just happy that he reminded me what Wednesday was because I needed to renew my license tags.  That summed up the depth of the wisdom that was flowing through my brain. I mumbled that I would write a post about “all the wisdom I’ve gained over all my years”.  He laughed and said sarcastically that he “couldn’t wait” to read it and something about that it should be a short read.

That Saturday, as I sat at the DMV, I was reminded of this conversation I had the previous day. I thought about what wisdom or perspective I could have actually shared.  What gold nuggets of wisdom have I gained? What words can I put in a post?

I had nothing.

But I valiantly tried to post something. I spent the next few days writing a post that I published a week or so ago. I called it “Thinking Back, Looking Forward”  Click here to read

I’ve spent the days since that posting going round and round about this subject.  While I liked the article I posted, something just told me that I needed to share something more. 

What could I write that would show what I truly have learned over the years? What I have learned in these years on this big rock that I can pass on to my kids and grandkids, not to mention, anyone else that might read this? 

Then it hit me… while staring at a picture that sits on my desk.  I had actually wrote about him in my post that is linked above.  My closest childhood friend, Bryan Blakley died the day after my birthday in 2009.  I have written about him a number of times and I have always felt a part of me is missing since his passing.  We lost him all too soon. I could never deny the influence that Bryan had in my life.  I can’t say that all of the “influence” was good either.  I got in trouble with Bryan on many occasions and there are secrets of things that we did that I will take to my grave. 

But the one thing that I could always say about Bryan is that he was true to himself.  He lived what he believed.  Even if he was wrong.  He never tried to hide who he really was.  I always tried to hide and fool people into thinking I was some kind of innocent kid. 

I wasn’t innocent.

Bryan was a person that really did not care what people thought of him.  He was who he was 24 hours a day. The good, the bad and the ugly.

I always looked up to that because he was true to his convictions and to what he believed.  He never tried to fool anyone.  I thought back to the words I spoke at his funeral. A simple sentence that I still believe summed up Bryan’s life and in it a truth that sticks with me to this very day…

You can say what you think but you’ll live what you believe.

That’s it. 

That basically is the foundation of all wisdom.  In other words,  to quote Shakespeare, “To thine own self be true”.  Under all that we think, lives a life that really shows what we truly believe.

I’ve said multiple times that it is really easy to sit behind the keyboard and act like you’ve got the world on a string. For 9 years, I have posted personal thoughts and hopefully, https://itsyet2bt0ld.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/img_3064.pngshared the struggles too. Life has knocked me down a few times. Those events have shown me things about myself I never wanted to see.  I believe that in those events, I caught the glimpse of who I truly was. 

It’s like really seeing yourself in a mirror.  What if we honestly just saw our character instead of our image in a mirror? In reality, that is how God sees us all the time.  Because He sees through the fake image we try to show the world. What God sees in those moments is the character that sums up who we are.  It scares me to consider what God thinks when He sees and hears the lies we tell Him and others.

I have often thought about what a book about my life would look like.  How would it read? How would it be perceived?  I have even gone as far as coming up with the title.

 “Not Fooling Anybody (A Chronicle of Bad Conversations and Storefronts Past)

What I have learned about life is that I haven’t really fooled anybody.  More importantly, I know I haven’t fooled God.  I don’t think many people understand that.  I think there are many people who think they are fooling others, they in turn fool themselves into thhttps://i1.wp.com/notfoolinganybody.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/logo.pnginking that they have fooled God.  It is not possible to fool God.  I have learned the hard way this great truth.

Sometimes, late at night, when I am trying to go to sleep. I am reminded of the conversations that I had with people over the years.  Those conversations when I tried to defend my sin. Those conversations when I tried to fool people that I had my act together and I was living the kind of life that God would be proud of.  Those conversations when I tried to fool myself that I was something that I knew in my heart I wasn’t. I have memory of more of these conversations than I care to remember.

My life has always been either honored or betrayed by the “storefronts” that I have built over the years.  The people who have known me over the years can stroll down the main street of my life and see the evidence of my life that is seen in the storefront windows that line the street.  Like in times of old, before the malls, when people would shop local and go window shopping.  The product that each store sold was placed in that window for all to see.  I have many “storefronts.” Most of them are good.  However, there are a few that I wish I could make go away.  Now before you think I dwell on these “bad storefronts,” I don’t.  I know that God has dealt with me about the content of those storefronts and He has forgiven me and has allowed me to live a great life. But I would be lying if I said that in the quiet times that I am alone, that these storefronts don’t flash in front of my eyes and I am reminded of them. They do.  Some bring me happiness and others embarrassment. 

Such is life.

At the end of the day, I hope that whenever my number is called, those that knew me personally or from afar will all be able to say the same thing. I hope they will say that I said what I thought and it matched the way that I lived and what I believed.  I know that this was not true in my younger years.  I have had to be shaped, molded, poked and prodded by God to fix many areas of my life. 

Even at 55, I am a work in progress. 

We all are.

I hope, before I die,  I can point others to Jesus Christ and the salvation that is found in Him.

I hope that I can encourage others to create a life that feels good on the inside and not just one that looks good on the outside.

I hope you’ll see that I didn’t just speak highly of my wife, I honestly treasure and honor her above all others.

I hope you’ll see that I love my kids. Even if I disagree with some of the choices they have made. I made it my goal to treasure each moment and never leave a doubt in their mind as to how I felt about them.

I hope you’ll see that I didn’t throw around the word “friend” like it’s something you accept on a social media site. I believed that relationships are important and that people – no matter who they are – matter.

I hope you’ll see that I didn’t just talk about faith to be high and mighty. I live a life filled with questions, doubts, struggles, fears and wrestled through the journey to be not high and mighty, but second and humble.

I hope that you see that I didn’t intend fool anybody.  I was what I claimed to be… a sinner, saved by grace.

That sums up the wisdom in this small brain of mine. 

Maybe this was too long to convey a simple point of wisdom but that’s the best I’ve got.

The calendar turned on another year older.

It’s another chance to say what I think and more importantly….

Live what I believe.

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The Evidence

There is nothing like ripe, fresh fruit.

To be able to pick a piece of fruit from the tree and eat it is one of the great experiences of life.  

I remember, years ago, when I lived in Oak Harbor, Ohio and experiencing the thrill of picking cherries from our trees in our back yard.  I still remember climbing those trees and sitting high up on one of the branches and picking and eating fresh cherries by the hand full.  I still reflect in amazement that was part of my childhood.  I surely did not appreciate the experience at the time.

I am not sure that I can ever remember eating cherries in my adult life that were as fresh and sweet as those I picked back in those days.

Fresh fruit is the ultimate sign of life from a fruit tree. It tells you, without any doubt, this tree is alive!  And because of that life we enjoy the fruit.

There is one more thing I think about when my thoughts wander to this topic of fruit-  fresh fruit has a sweetness to it.  It’s as if one of the great evidences of fresh fruit is a sweet subtle taste that makes you want more.

So what is the evidence of life for the Christian?

What tells the world, as they walk by, that you are alive in Christ?

It’s the fruit!

Here’s how Paul describes the fruit that comes from us when we are alive in Christ,

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

The thing about this kind of fruit is that others should be drawn to it, there’s a https://syntheticgospel.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/good-tree.jpgsweetness about our lives that should make them want to be around us.  The fruit of the Spirit coming out of our lives should draw others to us and ultimately to Christ.

It’s the same thing that happened when Jesus was here… people loved being with Him.

The fruit of his life was sweet and refreshing.

So this is what I am pondering today. In clear self-evaluation, I am wondering if the fruit that I produce is pointing others to see Christ in me?  I want to be recognized by the fruit of the Spirit.  However, I am reminded of the times that no one could see Christ in me because I was too full of myself. 

There was no room for fruit to grow.

Too often, I was caught up in the throes of the dogma of religion and not in living in the freedom that being alive in Christ brings. 

As I reflect, my challenge to you, is for you to evaluate what is the evidence of the life of Christ in you?

Does the fruit of your life have the sweet taste of God’s presence or the bitter taste of self and religion?

Is there evidence that you are alive in Christ?  How does it taste to those around you?

Being Real: Confessions of a Recovering Legalist

I have been attending church pretty much every Sunday since I was nine years old. 

I am not uniqBeing Realue in that… I am sure many of you who are reading this can say the same thing. 

My church did indeed preach the Gospel. 

Salvation was offered to those that trusted in Jesus Christ and believed that He was born of a virgin, lived a perfect, sinless life and was crucified on the cross to pay for the debt of sin that mankind had committed.  He rose from the grave three days later and now sits at the right Hand of God.  All an individual had to do was ask the Lord for forgiveness and accept Him into their life. 

This is still what I believe.

However, growing up in a church that tied the reality of your relationship with Jesus Christ based more upon the length of your hair and your basic overall appearance is not what everyone else experienced. 

The church during that period of time was caught up in what was commonly called “legalism”.  The word “legalism” does not occur in the Bible.  It is a term used to describe a belief that emphasizes a system of rules and regulations for achieving spiritual growth and evidence of salvation.

The truth is, however, even true believers can be legalistic.  As a believer who has endured the worst that can come from the judgment from other believer’s, I can speak with authority on this subject because I am a recovering legalist.

I spent a good portion of my life judging other people in their walk with Jesus Christ.   For many years, I sat back and did my spiritual evaluation of other believer’s, all the while my own spiritual flaws were masked and hidden by my own self-righteousness.  It is one of the greatest shames I carry in my life. 

I have always said that my greatest failure in life was not the fact that my first marriage ended in divorce.  My greatest failure is that I was part of something that judged and hurt those that struggled in this life.

I am a recovering authority on the subject of legalism.  However, it is not the intent of this post to cover all the issues that come with this subject but I do want to discuss a few of them.

I have always referred to the principles of legalism as “the list”.

dont_listIt was the first thing we gave to new converts. The list was made up of all the things that you were supposed to do and not supposed to do if you wanted to keep God happy and remain spiritual.

Most of the things on the list were good things—some of them even came right out of the Bible.

But some of them didn’t.

They were passed along to me from several sources, some from the traditions of my church, some from my training and education but mostly they were instilled in me by my Pastor. I was “taught” that if I did the things on the list that my life would be good. It was like a bill of goods…if you invested yourself into keeping the list you could reap the benefits of God’s blessings and find true happiness in this life. I bought it… hook line and sinker.

The “list” really came down to one question: “Real Christians don’t ______?'”(You fill in the blank).

Jesus died and rose again, martyrs were split in two, and the Church has prevailed for almost two thousand years against the gates of hell so that Christians today can live out this ever important testimony to a waiting, watching world to tell themselves that… Real Christians don’t ____?

Well, I believe it’s time to get a few things straight. The world isn’t waiting for Christians; the world doesn’t care.

In fact, by a large margin it is only other Christians that care about what other Christians do or don’t do.

Why have Christians made such an important issue out of keeping to this list? I believe it’s because we want something clearly identifiable that will distinguish us from the world. We want to be different. We want being “born again” to evidence itself in some clear, tangible way in our world.

That much is good, but Godly men and women have historically distinguished themselves in much more important ways than keeping a list of do’s and don’ts. 

Christianity gravitated to this list of do’s and don’ts because it spells out the distinctiveness so clearly. However, the problem and the danger at hand is that being born again can become a simple matter of following a prescribed formula as opposed to living a vibrant joyful walk with Jesus Christ.

Not that there aren’t any do’s and don’ts in the Christian faith.

Can you SpotThe New Testament is full of directives for Godly behavior. But the Biblical guidelines are much different from the ones found in popular Christianity, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the difference.

The rules for behavior in the Bible deal with less noticeable things and it involves commands which are harder to fulfill than the non-issues that we have created for our own Christian identity.  So we need to ask ourselves a few questions…

  • Which is easier to follow: Real Christians don’t envy or Real Christians don’t dance?
  • Which one gets noticed first: Real Christians don’t lust or Real Christians don’t smoke?
  • Which is harder to comply with: Real Christians love their enemies or Real Christians go to church on Sundays?

To tell a believer that they cannot dance, smoke and that they should go to church each and every Sunday is easy to define and expect from a believer.   Obviously aspects of behavior such as envy, lust and loving our enemies are so much harder to define and to follow.

I can maintain the “list” and still fail in the envy, lust and loving my enemy’s part and many other tenets of God’s desire for my life. 

Truth is…I believe maintaining a list of do’s and don’ts is a dangerous way to assume Holiness and approval from God.

But that is not how the legalist sees it. The legalist creates their own manageable system of weighing and measuring people.  They become like the Pharisees, who regulated righteousness into a long, involved list of steps and procedures, cumbersome indeed, but fulfillable.

So, in many of our churches, I’m afraid it comes down to maintaining this list of:  Real Christians don’t ______ for many believer’s.  They never have to grow past the need for the list and never really have the need to learn or experience what grace truly is. There isn’t any need for them to do so.

Don’t you think Jesus Christ died for something more?

That being said… many of the principles on the list were good ways to live your life and I am sure good ways to keep you on the right path. But surely they were not absolutes as they were presented.

More importantly none of them had virtually nothing to do with my salvation. Without sounding like an immature Christian, the length of my hair, the music I listened to or the fact that I went to the “movies” should not have defined my Salvation. What it actually did was reduce my spiritual walk to a list of bare-minimums-I-have-to-do-to-be-a-Christian.

I struggled with keeping up to the tenets of the list.  My spiritual life was at best “yo-yoSurvey questionnaire” Christianity. Keep the tenets and all was good… fail at one and you were failing and falling fast away from God.   

My walk with the Lord was filled with up’s and downs. Mostly downs because I couldn’t keep up to the standard of the list.  It did not keep me from trying…I was taught the list was the key to my successful walk with Christ.

The problem was what the list did to my Christianity. It became way too much about performance, and not enough about the reality of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  “Spirituality” became more of an issue of conformity and obedience rather than living out the fruits of the Spirit as God intended.

The progression of the list leads to what I call “the line”

The line is when you consistently keep the tenets of the list.  When a person kept enough of the list to be what they felt was “spiritual” they could draw a line of distinction between themselves and from those who did not.   If a person could make it to the line, he could feel good about Measure Uphimself and his personal relationship with God.

By measuring up to the line, a person could feel like he was good with God. And he could also feel like he was better than others. I cannot help but think of it as spiritual arrogance.

But sadly “the line” leads to “the look”.

Appearances became the most important part of life. And what was seen on the outside was prioritized over what was happening on the inside.

It’s not that some good things weren’t happening on the inside in my life—they were. But things like peace, love and joy weren’t as important as the Bible says they should have been. And no one was judging my spirituality by that. They were judging me based upon the tenets of the “list” and how close I was to their “line”. 

Both of these things made the “look” all the more important in my spiritual walk.

list2When you are a legalist, you spend a lot of time evaluating others, making sure they measure up. What does their “list” look like?  Does their list include all the important things that are on my list? And where is their “line”? Is it up there where it should be?  Or could I consider myself more spiritual since my line is higher? And do they “look” like they should? Or could I look down on them for looking weaker than me?

This evaluation was often called by some pastor friends as “fruit inspection,” which obviously refers to the verse in Matt. 7:20 where it states, “Therefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

All masked in the name of spirituality, when in actuality it was judgmentalism.

Many Christians wait and watch to be entertained by the latest episode of spicy details in the rise and fall of another believer. What we have here is not just another failure of a believer but clearly an in-house problem among our body of believers as a whole.  notgossip_lg

From my personal experience, sometimes the greatest gossip opportunities are the very “prayer meetings” we have in some of our churches. Prayer requests masked in the intent to “share” a little of what we heard or know about the failure of another believer.

Nothing but plain gossip if you ask me… but that is another discussion for a different time and place.

One of the most troubling things about legalism is that it keeps us from growing to be totally dependent on God.  Jesus saw legalism in the Pharisees. The Pharisees were known for their rules, but never for their discernment. Here’s the thing: When we depend on a checklist of rules to determine our decision-making process, there is no room for discernment. The Pharisees’ mindset would be “Give me the law. I want the rules so that I don’t step out-of-bounds.”

Following a checklist rules reveals something else: it reveals a lack of faith in God’s leading in the lives of others.  It says, “My confidence is in man’s teachings” rather than in Christ alone.  But God has a much better way. His way requires a daily surrendering of our will to His.  His way bears fruit.  It’s not burdensome and it’s not bound by legalism.

Ironically, I’ve been wrestling lately with the flip side of being a recovering legalist.  I struggle with judging and we_all_sinbeing critical of those who are caught up in throes of legalism. I find myself making fun of them.  I find myself even thinking that I am somehow superior to them because I see the error of their way and I found the right path.

This type of judgement is just as bad.  It shows my attitude and posture towards other Christians in whom I perceive the tendencies of legalism. Christ has been so patient with me, yet I’ve not always been as patient with them.

Instead, I’ve become so preoccupied with what I perceive to be their tendencies toward an imbalanced judgement of others and a separatist denominational spirit that I’ve sometimes lost sight of God’s grace in their hearts and ministries. This too is a legalistic tendency and needs to be erased from my life.

I also see that attitude among other believer’s that have come out from that background.  The very same haughtiness and judgment that I have witnessed in those that held to legalistic rules and regulations I see in those who are critical of  legalism.  They have no idea that they are just as guilty.

Thank God for Grace… after all, it’s His work, His power, and His presence in our everyday lives that becomes our true source of confidence and strength as we follow Him together.

I am still in recovery and I have a way to go. But now instead of keeping my eyes on the deeds and actions of others, I will fix my eyes on cross of Calvary.  I am starting to see forgiveness much differently than I have in the past. In the past I would simply ask God to forgive my unforgiveness of others… the older I get I see that God wants me to ask forgiveness of those that I have something against. Like Jesus Christ who forgave those that betrayed Him, I need to forgive those that have done me wrong.

So if you can relate to this story, please let me know… there is strength in numbers.  I need to continue my path to recovery and your invited to come along for the journey.  Maybe we can all find forgiveness along the way.

 

Life Is A One Time Offer, Use It Well

Depression took another life yesterday.  Robin Williams is no longer with us.

Who can pretend to understand the brilliance like  Robin Williams had?  Meteoric, volcanic, fast, furious and funny.

Perhaps there is a price for such brilliance.

As I read about his life today, it is apparent that Robin Williams had lived for a long time with a darkness at the periphery of his vision.

I could not help but reflect on the fact that life is sshort-life-quotes-1hort.  

The Bible says repeatedly that it’s like a vapor, a mist that is quickly gone.  We are here for just a few years and then…..we are gone. 

Doesn’t seem fair but that is the way it has been since the beginning of time.

Robin Williams obviously was dealing with more than I can understand but what I do know is that all of the success and fame did not bring him the happiness and contentment he was looking for.  He was searching for something more than what he accomplished.

What do you think he was looking for?

I have lived long enough and have experienced enough loss that I am keenly aware that this life is a one time offer, use it well.  I am also at the point in my life that I am looking towards the next phase in my life and I realize that many of the options I had in life I once considered possible are not.

So… life is short…  what do you want?  What do you want to do?  What do you want to be remembered for?  What do you want to accomplish?  

I think, if we were honest, most of us would reply, “I DON’T KNOW!”

Our simple answers of wanting happiness, success, significance and other words freely spoken in our culture just don’t get to the real heart of the question.  Many philosophers have asked this and tried to answer it from their perspective.  It begins with “Why am I here?”, “What’s my purpose?” and ends with ultimate destiny, but let’s not goFigure-Out-What-You-Want-to-Do-With-Your-Life-in-8-Easy-Steps there today.  I would rather get to the heart of the question.

These are questions I’m pondering as I enter this next phase of my life.   What do I want?

It’s a hard question!  I could easily respond, I want to be happy.  I want to be remembered.  I want to do something significant with my life, but honestly…maybe too honestly…none of those are in my control.  

They are the things I hope will happen, but I can’t pursue them.  It just doesn’t work that way.

How about you ? What do you want?  

At the core of who we are comes down to the fact that we all want meaning. We all want to know our lives are not a waste. We want to matter.

Built into us as humans is a desire for something more than food and comfort.  We want to matter!  That’s not an animal instinct.  That comes from our Creator.  He made us to ask this question. God made us with a desire for more and it’s not success, a title, a name that’s remembered, a lot of money, a nice house or car.

It’s none of these things.

I personally believe that true contentment in this life can only be found in having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  

As we ponder the death of a celebrity that was as gifted as Robin Williams,  we have to accept the fact that all of his success was still not enough for him to feel content in this life.  I have my personal opinions on where he will spend eternity, but I am not going to judge Robin Williams… like all of us, he will have to give an account of his own life when he stands before his Creator.  For all of his talent and for all of his success he will still need the very same grace that we all need to be reconciled back to God.

My prayer is that for anyone reading this will accept the gift of salvation that is found in Jesus Christ.  Find your contentment in this short life through that relationship with Him. 

Because this life is a one time offer, use it well. 

God’s Grace Declares Us Not Guilty

It’s the day after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. 

empty-crossThe cross is empty, He no longer hangs there suspended between heaven and hell. The tomb is still holding the body of Jesus Christ.

Many people were celebrating His death, they were happy that this man who had claimed He was God’s Son was gone.   However, there were a few people who were not so happy that Jesus Christ was gone.  They had witnessed the miracles and they sat under His teachings and now they were confused as to what was going to happen next.

I try to imagine what it was like for those who were so close to Him after they  witnessed such an atrocity.  Imagine the isolation and hopelessness that all those close to Jesus felt on that day so many years ago. I am sure seeds of doubt were sprouting in their minds and hearts.

The shock of how quickly it happened, they just had dinner with Him a few days ago and now He is gone.  I imagine their fear.  With every unknown  noise they would hear where they were hiding would be the sounds of them coming to get them and they too would be next to experience crucifixion. 

Everything they had hoped for was gone. They were now in hiding. They were scattered and their plans were shattered. They had given up everything for a man that was now gone.

What now? Where do we turn? How do we begin to rebuild? All they had left was their thoughts and their fears.  They spent this day all those years ago in reflection.  Remembering the words of Christ and wondering what was going to happen next.

I don’t know about you but I’ve had days similar to this as well.  My hopes came crashing down.  How I thought things  would be turned out to be nothing but isolation. In this life, there will be days like that. There will be moments when nothing seems to be as it should and I wonder what is going to happen next.

What those that were in hiding the day after the crucifixion forgot was that the death of Jesus Christ had paid the debt of sin for all of mankind.  No other sacrifice was needed. God was in control. He had a plan and Jesus Christ was the ultimate sacrifice and we were given a way to have our sins forgiven and be reconciled back to God. Welcome to the day of Grace. We received a gift we didn’t deserve. We were given the opportunity to find grace.  All you have to do is accept it. Grace declares us not guilty for our sins.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  – Ephesians 2: 8-9

To find this grace all you need to do is acknowledge that you are a sinner. You need to believe that Jesus Christ was your substitute when He died on that cross.  You have to believe that thgracee blood that was shed, his death, burial and resurrection were for just for you.  Confess with your mouth that you believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and you need forgiveness of your sins.  Ask to receive Him into your life as your Savior.  That is how you find salvation in Jesus Christ.  It is what He did on the cross that provides this grace and salvation.  All of your good works mean nothing.  We cannot work our way to heaven.  Again.. Grace declares us not guilty for our sins.  This opportunity to receive this salvation is because of the grace that was given at the foot of the cross. 

I accepted this grace on November 7, 1970.

Make today the day of salvation in your life.  A new start… a new day of hope… a new way to live your life.  All given because of God’s Grace.

I have taken a journey through some deep personal thoughts this week.  As I sat in church last Sunday I felt like it was what I needed to do.  Grace was needed for my salvation but that did not make me perfect.  I still sin.  I still have struggles. I needed to spend this week reflecting on grace that was poured out not only to me but to all mankind.  I needed to reflect on how I walk as a follower of Jesus.  And as reflected on the years of my life, I found that I’m not as good a follower of Christ as I need to be.  When it comes to me giving grace to those who I need forgive, I am not amazing.  But as I begin to feel the weight of my failure and sin,  I remember that I have accepted His grace and I hear…

God’s Grace Declares Us Not Guilty.

The reality is that I have a pile of failures in character.  I have a pile a mile high of my failures in extending love.  Words can’t describe my pile of sin.  It’s not pretty.  Not pretty at all.   When I reflect on the story of my life,  I feel the weight of it all.   It’s then that I remember that I have accepted His grace and I hear…

God’s Grace Declares Us Not Guilty.

When I look in the mirror, I don’t like what I see.   I’m not talking about appearance, that ship sailed long ago.   I’m talking about the mirror of my heart.  I’m talking about my mind and what it thinks.  I’m talking about my eyes and what they see.   I’m talking about my ears and what they hear.   I see the heart and what it should beat for and what it rarely does.  When I look in the mirror, I feel the weight of it all.   It’s then that I remember that I have accepted His grace and I hear…

God’s Grace Declares Us Not Guilty.

Today is a day of reflection. If you’re like me, I reflect on all that I’ve listed above. That list was nailed to a cross that wasn’t his.  If you’re reading this, it wasn’t just mine, it was yours too. Because of that sacrifice, each of us  that have accepted His grace and salvation can stand in the court of God and hear…

God’s Grace Declares Us Not Guilty.

We still need to ask God to forgive us for our sins… because God’s grace declares us not guilty for the penalty of our sins, we still need to make sure our relationship is where it needs to be with him.  We have to continue to work on being the believer He wants us to be.  We will never be perfect and we will always have something to work on in the quest to be a servant that God is please in.

On Sunday morning, we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We will celebrate His victory over death.  For those that have accepted Jesus Christ into their life will know that hope and eternal life is captured by this resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

But today is the memorial and the reflection.  Take the time to consider what your relationship with Jesus Christ is. Today can be the day of salvation for you.  If you know Him than prepare for the remembrance of His victory over death. 

Hold on friends.   Tomorrow is the celebration.

Sunday is a stone’s roll away. 

Because of our Savior’s death on the cross…

God’s Grace Declares Us Not Guilty.

And that truly is Amazing Grace.

Finding Grace at the Foot of The Cross

Let me start off tonight’s posting on grace with a couple of thoughts.

First of all, I admit that I have issues with forgiveness which I’ll explain in a minute.

Second, I have issues with feet. I am not a fan of bare feet. I don’t like touching feet or feet touching me.  I can’t explain it, it’s just one of those things.

Forgiveness and feet are just two of the MANY things I have issues with.

I’m just being honest here. I know we’re supposed to forgive and I really do wrestle with situations where I should.  I’m working on it and God’s not done with me yet. 

Now what do these two issues have to do with grace?

In John 13:1-17 we see Jesus do the unthinkable.

He is just days away from dying on a cross for the sins of the entire world.  He’s with his closest frithe-last-supperends eating dinner. He knows them… He know what is going to happen.  He is with the very men that will soon scatter.  They won’t have His back.  One will betray Him outright.  Another will deny he even knew Him.

If these people were in my life and I knew that they were going to walk away, betray me and deny they even knew me, do you think I would want to share a meal with them? Would you?

As if the meal wasn’t enough, He goes far beyond the call of duty.  He takes the role of a servant and washes their feet.

He washed the feet of friends that would bail on him.  He washed the feet of the man that would betray Him.  He washed the feet of the man that would completely deny knowing Him.  He knew exactly how it would all happen.

These men didn’t deserve the forgiveness of the Savior.  They didn’t deserve the act of humility given to them by having their feet washed by God’s Son.  No…  they did not deserve these things but that is what Jesus Christ gave them.

That is Grace.

When I thinkfeet-wash3 about this act of grace and the one which would soon follow, I am ashamed of my inability to forgive.  I am saddened by my lack of grace in situations.  Should I wash the feet of those I may have issues with?  Could I even do it?  Could I wash the feet of those I need to forgive? Is an email saying “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you” a modern-day version of that?  Could a phone call be like filling that basin and kneeling before those I need to forgive?  I think so but I am not sure. 

This I do know… I am starting to see forgiveness much differently than I have in the past. In the past I would simply ask God to forgive my unforgiveness of others… the older I get I see that God wants me to ask forgiveness of those that I have something against. Like Jesus Christ who forgave those that betrayed Him, I need to forgive those that have done me wrong.  That needs to begin this week.

Jesus was placed on the Cross for our sin. This is a critical point that cannot be missed – Have you accepted His grace?  Have you accepted Him as your Savior? Maybe today is that day. Maybe this week is a week to finally accept the grace that is found at the foot of the Cross.

“…And we will never be able to wash the feet of those who have hurt us until we allow Jesus, the one we have hurt, to wash ours.” – Max Lucado

That is Grace.

“Not Guilty”

I stand accused.   There is no place to hide. The truth is soon to be revealed for all to see because this is the day I am to give account for my life.  The list of all my sins and everything I’ve done wrong is a mile long. 

I am so ashamed.  I cannot hide behind my words any longer.  My fate is now in the hands of One who judges…

I wait for Him to render His verdict and I hang my head in shame…

But then He turns to me and says, “I know you… I love you… I gave my life to save you.  Love paid the price for Mercy… my verdict…”

“Not guilty.”

How can that be?  I cannot begin to comprehend the kind of Grace that would take the place for all of my sins.

“Not guilty.”

After years of scrutiny and judgment and public ridicule.

“Not guilty.”

Suddenly I see the Cross and the tears well up in my eyes because it should have been me to pay for my own sins.

“Not guilty.”

My fate was in the nail scarred hands.  The debt of my sin was paid when He was nailed there and He said,  “I know you… I love you… I gave my life to save you.  Love paid the price for Mercy… my verdict…”

“Not guilty.”

The song “Not Guilty”  has played in my head and in my heart all this week.  Written by Mandisa and Matthew West, the song has been challenging me to scrutinize my own life and my own indiscretions. How would I measure up with the knowledge that all my sins would be laid before me at seat of God’s judgment?  Would I still have a future and a hope?  I cling to the belief that I have an Intercessor who knows me , loves me and gave His life for me.  Paid the debt of sin for me and provided a way to heaven.

What kind of Grace says “Not Guilty” ?  Only God’s.

Do you know Him today?  Are your sins covered by His grace?  Jesus Christ came to seek and to save those that were lost… all you have to do is accept His gift of forgiveness.  If you would like more information on how you can know Christ as your Savior, please send a note to thelegacybuilder@aol.com and I will get back to you.  May God’s love find you today.

Thank you, Lord.

God Questions: Exploring Life’s Toughest Questions

My church, Grace Community of Fremont, Ohio is starting a new series called, “God Questions”.  The purpose of the series is to address the questions that a person may have about God.

GodQuestionsThis week I struck up a conversation with a fellow believer about the upcoming series.  He has been involved in church his whole life.

The conversation spun off with the initial question: Where did evil come from?

Which is… if God was the creator of all things…did He create evil?  Did it start with Adam and Eve? Did it come into being when Lucifer fell?

These are all good questions and  it’s a bit irrelevant, whatever the answer is, because it doesn’t change Who God is, or who we are, or what we’re called to do. 

After some in-depth discussion with him about some of these difficult questions in life, I am amazed about the average church-goer’s lack of understanding of basic doctrinal truths. 

Such as…

1.  Hell is real, and people apart from Christ are condemned to it.
2.  God in His infinite justice punishes sin.   God in His infinite love provided salvation from that punishment through Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection.
3.  God hates sin.   Read any books start to finish from the Old Testament and read where God tells His people and prophets to completely wipe out whole people groups. I mean, have we forgotten the story of Noah? He just started all over. Sodom and Gomorrah? Need I go on?
4.  Anyone who does not know Christ is dead in their sin and deserves hell.  It’s a tough one, but if the consequences for sin are not that dire, then why did Christ have to die?

As believers, we need to know what the Bible says about Who God is, what He does, and who we are in light of that. 

My concern is that I believe we have life-long church-goers that can’t say with confidence that they are certain about these things based on revelation from Scripture.

It is a scary time in our churches today…

Thoughts?

Lost and Found

Along with our kids, my wife and I worked for a company that held motivational and instructional conferences for small business owners.  We used to travel one weekend each month to Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.   While my wife was organizing and coordinating the event from the front office, I was responsible for what we called the “Tool Room”, which was basically the book store where we sold books, tapes, CD’s and other material to help the small business owner build their businesses.  Our kids worked the cash registers and computers as they filled out orders for the more than 10, 000 people who would attend these conferences.  It was a great time in our lives and we all have good memories of the time we worked and traveled together on these trips.

The only aspect that I really hated about the whole experience is that I had to drive the truck to each of these events. While my wife and kids were enjoying each trip in the cRyder Truckomfort of our family van, I was driving a rental truck from Ryder.  If you have never crossed the border in a rental truck after 9-11 then you have never really experienced anything in your life.  Entering into Canada was not the problem.  Getting back into the United States was the issue.  The paperwork was endless and difficult to get it just the way you needed it to cross the border.  About the time you had it down the rules would change.  More than once I did not know about these changes until I got to the gate.  Then the experience would get real… real fast.  

Now I understand that the Border Patrol and Homeland Security Department have a job to do.  I am thankful for the hard work and dedication it takes keeping the United States safe from those who would do us harm.  But as a rule of thumb, if you crossed back into the US, the inquiry and subsequent search made you a tad bit defensive.  You were always assumed guilty and you would have to prove your innocence.  It always seemed to me to be like the old Seinfeld episode of the “Soup Nazi”.  Stand here and don’t speak until spoken to, don’t smile and don’t lean on the counter.  


At any rate, this week I was thinking about the trips we took to Canada and the fun times I had working not only with my family but of working with the friends I made from Canada.  Even though I am friends with some of them on Facebook, I still miss them.  The  memories we made will always be favorites of mine.  I could tell story after story of all the crazy fun stuff we did all those years ago.  They were great times indeed.

I remember specifically one incident that I have carried with me all these years.

After being delayed at the border for a few hours, I was really late getting to Hamilton for our set up for the conference the next morning.  I finally get to Copps Coliseum and all the doors were locked at the loading docks where we would unload our “stuff”.

I finally found an unlocked door and made my way into the empty arena.  I knew where the Security Office was and I made my way down the hall to that office.  I pushed the buzzer on the outside of the office door and the Security Guard sees me and waves for me to open the door.  He tells me that before he can let me in the hall where we needed to set up for the conference, he had to finish doing the inventory of the “Lost and Found” that was delivered to them after the hockey game that was at the arena earlier that evening.

I walked with hilostm into the Lost and Found storage room and watched him as he took inventory off the cart full of items brought in that night.  The Lost and Found Storage Room  was huge.  There was no furniture, but there were rows and rows of shelving units.  There was barely a place to stand as I navigated my way through the  maze of shelves and carts full of coats , hats and gloves.   In hindsight, I guess I expected a walk-in closet. But the room was triple the size of what I’d have guessed it to be. And in it, from wall to wall and floor to ceiling were racks and racks filled with bags of all shapes and sizes.  I was shocked at what I saw.  Besides the standard coats, hats and gloves that you would expect to find, there were cameras, laptops, cell phones, suitcases, briefcases and bags and bags of what looked like clothes.  Just about anything you can imagine I saw in that room.  

 “Whoa!  What a mountain of stuff!”, I said.

 “You’re telling me!”, he chuckled.

“All this stuff is missing?”

 “Not missing…  They’re just waiting for their owners to pick them up.”

“How in the world do people just forget to get their stuff? Don’t they realize they don’t have their camera or laptop?”, I ask.

“That’s thL&Fe least of it! You’d be amazed to know what’s just sitting here, waiting to be claimed.”

I now think back to what I’d seen that night.  Mounds of forgotten, lost and abandoned things, sitting in a holding room, waiting for the right someone to show up and take them home.  How could people be so careless or so reckless?  Didn’t these people know that they “lost” something valuable?  Did they not care that their personal belongings were just waiting there for them to claim?

And in the last few days since I remembered this story,  the words of that Security Guard have lingered in my head and my heart.

“You’d be amazed to know what’s just sitting here, waiting to be claimed.”

I’ve caught myself wondering if that could be said of me. What else is lying up on a shelf, forgotten, lost or abandoned and waiting for me to claim it?

The more I live, the more I’m convinced that fulfilling our purpose in life isn’t automatic.  I sure wish I could believe we don’t miss anything important in this life, but I can’t honestly make that case. We don’t accomplish everything we’re meant to do just by being, or obtain everything meant to benefit us and others simply because we’re moving and breathing.  We have to want it.  We have to want to get what was meant for us.

 Our life is ours to claim. But far too many of us don’t reach for more because we find it hard to believe there could be more for us than what we see.

Jesus Christ has prepared a way of  forgiveness of our sin and a way to eternal Salvation.  It is ours to have.  It is just sitting there waiting for us to “claim” it from a loving God, who provided this by offering up His only Son to die on the Cross for our sins.

Besides the Salvation and Forgiveness that is found in Jesus Christ, there are many other blessings that come from God that are there for us to claim. This week, I’ve spent some time imagining a room filled from floor to ceiling with all the good things meant for us.  Things meant for us to be.  Things meant for us to have. Things for us to do and to give in this life. 

Have you considered and wondered if  there’s more waiting for you?

  • Maybe a deeper love for your family and friends?
  • A greater purpose and fulfillment in your work?
  • Blessings beyond your hopes and needs?
  • More for you to contribute to the world around you?
  • Maybe a legacy that would shape generations to come?
  • What if your life was meant for more than you’ve ever hoped or imagined?

 With open hands and an open heart… ask for it.

 You’d be amazed to know what’s just sitting here, waiting to be claimed.