God Sent Us a Savior
will save his people from their sins.
An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, telling him to take Mary home as his wife. “She will give birth to a son,” said the angel, “and you are to give him the name Jesus [the Lord saves, or Savior] because he will save his people from their sins.”
If our greatest need were health, God would have sent a physician.
If our greatest need were money, God would have sent a financial advisor.
If our greatest need were education, God would have sent a teacher.
If our greatest need were guidance, God would have sent a mentor.
If our greatest need were advice, God would have sent a counselor.
But since our greatest need is salvation, God sent a Savior.
There are a lot of things you can do without.
Your Savior isn’t one of them.
Living Well (1)
You are living well . . .
- When you let go of the past, enjoy the present, and face the future with faith.
- When you focus on your responsibilities instead of your rights.
- When you map your course thoughtfully, realizing there is a difference between what is achievable and what is worth achieving, and that reputation is more easily retained than recovered.
- When you don’t do it if you feel a need to hide it.
- When you live in awareness that there is no right way to do a wrong thing.
- When you “trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Prv 3:5).
- When you “treat others as you want them to treat you” (Lk 6:31).
God knows your past, sees your present,
and will shepherd your future.
Peace Be with You
You were called to peace. —Colossians 3:15
In Jesus’ last meeting with his disciples before his death, he said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. . . . Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (Jn 14:27).
On the Sunday evening following his crucifixion, Jesus suddenly appeared in the room where those disciples were huddled behind locked doors. “Peace be with you,” he said. (Jn 20:19).
The next Sunday, he showed up there again. “Peace be with you,” he said (Jn 20:26).
Why this repeated promise of peace? Because he knew they were paralyzed with fear and uncertainty. Their deepest need was peace and calm.
If you’re finding peace elusive, raise your hand.
God knows your anxieties. Tune out other voices and listen to him: “Peace be with you.”
Inner peace is not dependent
on outer circumstances.
Three Steps of Discipleship: Step One–Deny Yourself
—Mark 8:34 a
Have you cut back on the Oreos? Trimmed the hours vegetating in front of TV?
Is that what Jesus meant when he said if you would be his disciple you must deny yourself?
No. He meant you must surrender ownership of yourself to him.
That’s hard, for we fiercely defend our rights. Read the signs at protest rallies. The wording varies, but the meaning is clear: “Leave me alone; I have my rights!”
We call him Lord; the one possessed of absolute control; supreme master. If Jesus is Lord of your life, you have given up ownership of self: “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Cor 6:19-20).
Step one: Deny yourself.
That’s the price of discipleship.
Self-denial trumps self-promotion.
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Salt of the Earth . . . Light of the World – Matthew 5:13-16
Jesus did not say become the salt of the earth; he said you are the salt of the earth. He did not say become the light of the world; he said you are the light of the world.
Salt of the Earth
Salt adds flavor; without it food is bland. Our lives—as salt—should present Christianity as delightful, not distasteful; desirable, not disagreeable.
Before refrigeration, salt was used primarily as a preservative—rubbed into meat and fish to prevent decay and rottenness. We—as salt—should be antitoxins in a world gone rotten; having a purifying and curative influence.
Light of the World
Light dispels darkness. John introduced Jesus to the world as “The light [that] shines in the darkness” (Jn 1:5). Jesus commissioned his disciples to reflect his light: to be the light of the world.
Christians not only carry the light, they are the light. It’s sobering to realize that those living in darkness judge Christianity, not by the gospel, but by Christians.
Paul described Christians as those who “shine like stars in the dark world” (Phil 2:15). Bible commentator John Stott wrote, “I sometimes think how splendid it would be if non-Christians, curious to discover the secret and source of our light, were to enquire:
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
The Rest of the Story
Jesus said if salt loses its saltiness it is useless; if light is hidden, it is worthless.
We are the salt of the earth. But whether we give favorable flavor and leave people with a pleasant taste in their mouth about Christianity is a choice we make. Whether we are a preservative to stanch the decay of society is a choice we make.
Salt can lose its saltiness; can become contaminated by mixture with impure ingredients so that it becomes useless. When Christians become tainted by the impurities of the world they lose their saltiness, their influence; when they become indistinguishable from the world, they become useless.
We are the light of the world. But whether we shine the light or hide the light is a choice we make.
“[P]eople don’t hide a light under a bowl,” Jesus said; “They put it on a lampstand so the light shines . . .” (NCV). Light hidden under a bowl (bushel) is worthless. If we hide our light, we simply become part of the darkness.
We would do well to revisit the Bible School days of our youth . . .
This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine . . .
Hide it under a bushel? No!
I’m gonna let it shine.
We are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world. Those are Jesus-stated facts. What we do as salt and light is the rest of the story . . . those are the chapters we’re writing.
What Are You Chasing?
I see the lady several mornings a week, walking her dog; a funny looking greyhound.
There used to be a dog track south of town on I-45. Maybe that’s where she got her greyhound; some of them were put out for adoption when they were too old to race.
I’ve never asked her if her dog used to race. Never had a conversation with the dog about it either.
Fred Craddock claimed he had. He said the greyhound he talked to told him that he still had some race in him, but he decided to quit. When Fred asked him why, he said he found out that what he’d been chasing wasn’t a real rabbit; it was mechanical. All that running, running, running, and what he was chasing wasn’t even real.
What are you chasing?
Stay in the chase, but be sure what you’re chasing is worth the chase.
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Jesus was moving through the crowd on the heels of a father whose daughter was dying. Suddenly he stopped! “Who touched my clothes?” he asked. A woman whose dozen-year illness had the doctors stumped, had reached out a trembling hand: “If . . .” she thought, “If I can just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”
He turned the distraction into an opportunity to praise her faith, heal her body, and send her on her way in peace. Jesus’ days were often stalled by interruptions . . . when he was traveling, sleeping, teaching, and praying (Mk 10:46-47; Mk 4:38; Jn 8:1-5; Mk 1:35-37).
He always took disruptions as an opportunity to teach, heal, and help. Your schedule may be derailed by an interruption today. Will you see it as an inconvenient intrusion, or as a providential privilege?
An interruption may be God’s way of putting
you in touch with what he most wants you to do.
He Gave First
Here’s a bouquet of verses to remind us of what the Lord gave before we ever put a penny in the plate. To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (Jn 1:12). God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (Jn 3:16).
He . . . did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us (Rom 8:32). [He] gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age (Gal 1:4). The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal 2:20).
We can’t earn it or match it,
but it’s our turn to give back.
You Are Living Well When . . .
. . . You let go of the past, enjoy the present, and face the future with faith.
. . . You focus on your responsibilities instead of your rights.
. . . You map your course thoughtfully, knowing that reputation is easier retained than recovered.
. . . You don’t do it if you feel a need to hide it.
. . . You cultivate conscience, certain that there is no right way to do a wrong thing.
. . . You “trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Prv 3:5).
. . . You remember that nothing big ever results from being little.
. . . You “treat others as you want them to treat you” (Lk 6:31).
. . . You “look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:4).
. . . You nourish your faith, confident that when you feed faith, fear starves.
. . . You avoid procrastination, aware that you never finish what you never start.
. . . You embrace today as a new beginning, mindful that yesterday died last night.
. . . You control your emotions, understanding that your mood is not determined by circumstances, but by how you react to circumstances.
. . . You realize that something needs to be done that won’t be done unless you do it.
. . . You live optimistically, assured that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all [you] ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within [you]” (Eph 3:20).
. . . You affirm that God has made you good at something, and live in confidence “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Phil 1:6).
. . . You comprehend that happiness comes not from the goods you have, but from the good you do.
. . . You know that the greatest is not the one who is served, but the one who serves (Mt 20:26–27).
. . . You cultivate the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23).
. . . You understand that you can’t change everything you face, but that you can’t change anything until you face it.
. . . You jettison pessimism, realizing that negative thoughts never produce positive results.
. . . You don’t let a failure define you, refusing to allow “I failed” (an event) to become “I’m a failure” (an identity).
. . . You reject the impulse to let your attitudes and actions be dictated by the attitudes and actions of others.
. . . You don’t get so wrapped up in what you are against that no one knows what you are for.
. . . You refuse to poison today by worrying about tomorrow.
. . . You “cast all your anxiety on [God] because he cares for you” (1 Pt 5:7).
. . . You learn from the past, but turn thumbs down on letting it define your future.
Live well, my friend.
The Church and Human Beings
There was Peter the rock, Judas the traitor—and ten others named between those two (Mt 10:2–4). Jesus left his church in the hands of these twelve, minus one. We know almost nothing about most of them. The book of Acts tells the story of the first thirty years of the church’s existence. It’s sometimes referred to as Acts of the Apostles; but does it surprise you that eight of those apostles are never mentioned after Acts 1:13, Our Lord started his church with this crew—people pretty much like us—a mixture of courage and cowardice, ardor and apathy, fidelity and fickleness. He made his church out of human beings because human beings were all there was to make it out of. That’s still all there is to make it out of. You and me.
He lifts you up.
Don’t let him down.
Live In Confidence
The author of Hebrews is big on the Christian living confidently . . .He urges us to “hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory” (3:6).
He exhorts us to “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (4:16).
He calls us to “have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus” (10:19).
He counsels us “do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded” (10:35).
And as he approaches the end of his letter, invigorated by God’s promise, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you,” he declares, “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid’” (13:6).
Confidence in God today
will help you sleep well tonight.
Awareness of how merciful God has been to us should compel us to be merciful to others. “The Lord is compassionate and gracious . .he does not treat us as our sins deserve” (Ps 103:8,10).
God doesn’t just forgive us when we fail; he erases any record of the failure. He doesn’t just reduce our sentence; he eliminates it. He delights in showing mercy (Mi 7:18). So should we.
“Judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy” (Jas 2:13 ESV). On the other hand, mercy extended to others assures God’s mercy extended to us: “With the merciful you show yourself merciful” (Ps 18:25 ESV).
“What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Mi 6:8).
We deserve justice, but have received mercy.
Grateful People Are Happy People
and overflowing with thankfulness.
My physician says the “Greatest Generation” had almost no feeling of entitlement, but a huge sense of responsibility; and that today’s generation has a huge sense of entitlement, but almost no feeling of responsibility.
“My children,” said Clyde, “seem to feel the world owes them an easy life; that they are here to receive, not give.” Clyde loves his kids and happily does a lot for them. He says he wants just one thing from them: “I just want them to show gratitude. That’s all.”
Dennis Prager, syndicated radio host and author, says that “all happy people are grateful, and all ungrateful people are unhappy. We think that being unhappy causes people to be ungrateful,” he says, “but it’s more accurate to say that being ungrateful causes people to be unhappy.”
You can’t be ungrateful and happy at the same time.
God’s Way Is the Best Way
We know how the situation should be handled, so we set out to handle it.
When it becomes obvious that we can’t handle it, we put in a call to God and tell him how to handle it. Don’t get bent out of shape if he has other plans . . .
My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways . . . As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9).
Talk to him. Plead with him. Even argue with him.
But above all trust him. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths” (Prov. 3:5-6).
When things seem to be falling apart, they may just be falling into place.
Footprints Left Behind
Their father was dead.
Of the left-behind sons, Bunyan’s Great heart said, “If they see any place where the old pilgrim hath lain, or any print of his foot, it ministereth joy to their hearts, and they covet to lie or tread in the same.”Perpetuating the principles of the “old pilgrim” is a tribute of gratitude for the values he held and the standards he instilled. We come behind a generation that was committed heart and soul to the Lord and the church. They paid a price. We owe a debt.
Let us not, by indifference or lethargy, snuff the fire that was kindled by those who went before us. Rather, let us gratefully plant our feet in the prints they left behind, and take up the work where they left off.
Those who fail to honor the past
reveal disrespect for what got them where they are.
Find Your Kingdom Gift
In Romans 12 Paul said, “we have different gifts,” and in 1 Corinthians 12 he teaches that each of us has our designated niche in the church. Your gift is matched to the work God prepared in advance for you to do (Eph. 2:10). He envisioned your work before time; then at a specific time brought you into the world to do it. Your reserved seat in the kingdom is not a popularly-elected position, but a God-appointed one. At the time of Paul’s conversion he was informed that his assignments were things “that God has determined for you to do” (Acts 22:10 TEV). Be content with your gifts and your niche, not ranking your assignments as either less important or more important than the work of others. But essential.
Everyone has a kingdom gift.
Discovering and using it is the trick
Before long all our earthly resources will be left behind: every nickel and every knack. The fruit of our words, works, and wealth will also be left behind. We’re bunking here in a depleting allotment of time. The Bible describes earthly life as a mist that appears briefly and then vanishes, a fleeting shadow, a passing breeze, grass that withers and flowers that fall.
Until you go or until he comes, keep your eye on the goal and your shoulder to the wheel, devoting who you are and what you have for the benefit of those who need you and for the glory of your God.
The culprit is not lack of time, but lack of focus.
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A Text with Our Names on It
“When we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly . . . While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6, 8). This text has our names scribbled in the margin. Maybe we could make sense of it if Jesus had died for his mother . . . or his friends.
But for the venom-spitting thief on the cross beside him? For Barabbas, the notorious criminal who should have been on the center cross instead of Jesus? We were not his friends, but his enemies (Rom. 5:10). Not godly, but ungodly. Not saints, but sinners. But as much as he dreaded dying, when he ran his finger down the list he paused at our names and said, “I’ll die for him . . . for her.” And he did.
He stood up for us even when we let him down.
Fear vs. Faith
Thumb over to 1 Samuel 17 and check out David’s view of the giant Goliath, contrasted with King Saul’s soldiers’ perception of the beast.
David’s view was driven by fearless faith. He badgered the Israelite brass: “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God.” Trotting out to face off with Goliath he goaded: “I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty . . . the battle is the Lord’s.” David was totally God-focused.
Saul’s soldiers, on the other hand, were totally Goliath-focused. They eyeballed his size, his armor, his weapons—and shook in their sandals.
Which camp are you in? Do your fears overpower your faith or does your faith overcome fear.
Fear imprisons. Faith liberates.
You Were Born for This
Scottish runner Eric Liddell withdrew from his favored-to-win 100 meter race in the 1924 Paris Olympics because it was scheduled for Sunday; his religious convictions prohibited him from running on Sunday. He switched to the Friday 400 meter competition, broke the existing world record, and won the gold.
“I believe,” he said, “that God made me for a purpose. But he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel his pleasure.” After the Olympics Eric went to China as a missionary, where he served until his death in 1945.
God chose you before the creation of the world (Eph. 1:4), and put you here at this specific time and place for a specific purpose (Eph. 2:10).
Find your purpose, echoing Jesus’ words, “For this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world.”
Your talents are God-given.
The use you make of them is up to you.