Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Inclusive Christians Offer Grace to All

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. (James 2:1)

 Have you ever noticed that some people are easier targets for grace than others? We don’t like to admit this, but we would rather show grace to certain people; and we would rather not show grace to other people. Whether it’s because of who they are, what they’ve done, where they’re from or what they smell like; I know I often find myself tempted to not extend the same grace to one person as I would to another.
Read and Contemplate James 2:1-13.
We are commanded to not show partiality.
We cannot be obedient to Scripture and treat some more graciously than others. We need to look at people through our “Jesus Goggles”.
We need to see people the way Jesus sees them, not the way they look to us. Jesus didn’t care if people were rich or poor, ugly or beautiful, fun or boring, loud or quiet, outgoing or withdrawn, etc. (you get the point!). Jesus saw everyone around him as someone who needed grace.
When you view people with Jesus Goggles, you will see them differently:
  • You’ll no longer see people who have offended you; you’ll see people who need to be offered grace.
  • You’ll no longer see people who are irritating; you’ll see people who need to be shown grace.
  • You’ll no longer see people who drain your energy and resources; you’ll see people who are desperate for grace.

Today: Every time you interact with someone, ask yourself how Jesus would see this person. Then deal with them accordingly!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

When was the last time someone did something really nice for you? How did you respond?

Often when someone does something good for us, our day improves immediately. We feel happier, we act kinder, and everything seems to be better.

Unfortunately, the reverse is also. When we are wronged, our day often takes a severe downturn.

Read and contemplate Matthew 18:21–35.

Can you imagine being so indebted that you couldn’t pay it off, even if you contributed your entire salary for 20 years? The debt owed in this story was equivalent to over 1,000 years worth of the average person’s salary. How could anyone ever pay this off?

Grace is the best word to describe the action of the king in this story. Out of the kindness of his heart, he gave the debtor something impossible to earn, and something he could never deserve.

The scope of the king’s gracious act makes the servant’s following action even more frustrating. Though he had been forgiven a massive debt, he immediately harrassed another man who owed him less than 1/100th of the debt forgiven by the king.

I am easily angred by this unforgiving servant who was shown so much grace, and refused to show far less grace to another. However, the huge debt he was forgiven is immensely smaller than the sin-debt I was forgiven by God.

How many times in one day do we forget the debt we were forgiven and then demonstrate a lack of grace toward others. The grace of God which was shown to us should drive us to be overly-gracious to our fellow brothers and sisters.

Today: Think of someone who does not deserve your grace. Then find a way to demonstrate grace to them, not because you want to, but because of the grace you’ve been shown!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Inclusive Christians Give Grace Because They Have Received Grace

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

Why do you need grace?

If you are married, you likely need grace from your spouse at least once a day. If you are a parent, you likely need grace from your children once a day. If you are an employee, you probably need grace from your boss on a regular basis.
We all have times in our lives when we our errors or mistakes leave us in need of grace from someone.

Why do you need grace from God?

Read and Contemplate Ephesians 2:1-10.

What do you think it means to be “dead in sins?”

The first three verses of this passage describe us as being formerly (before Christ) disobedient, full of wrath and immature. Our lifelessness in the past simply means we were completely unable to make ourselves right with God (spiritual life).

“But God, being rich in grace you have been saved.”

Despite the sad state we were in, God extended his gift of grace to change our lives forever. He did not have to offer His son for our sins. He did not have to give us eternal life. He did not have to provide a means for us to be reconciled to Him. He chose to do all this, because He is a gracious God and Father.
Verse 10 suggests the result of God's grace in our life is a new-found ability to accomplish good things. He has shown us grace so we can show grace to others.

God’s grace changes our life.

Consider how you have been made alive by God’s grace in your life. Consider how God has shown you grace even when you didn’t deserve it. What can you do to pass that gift along?

Today: Take five minutes and give thanks to God for His grace in your life. Consider how you can pass that grace along to others.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Source of Life (It's Not the Stork)

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Where do you go?

Where do you go for a good meal? Burger King? The Station? Olive Garden? The Asian Buffet?

Where do you go for medical information? Your doctor? A friend? Web MD?

Where do you go for entertainment? The TV? A book? The theatre? A sports event?

Where do you go for advice? A friend? Dear Abby? Facebook? A mentor? Dr. Phil?

Where do you go for the Words of Life?

Read and contemplate John 6:66–68.

There is only one place we can go to receive Words that lead to everlasting life. Jesus. Being Christ-Centered means Jesus is our source for life.

The restaurant you choose will determine what kind of food you eat. Your source for medical insight determines whether you get good information or bad. Some entertainment choices are better than others.

The source from which you draw your life will change your life one way or another. Many people draw life from their jobs, or families, or their goals, or passions. These life-sources become the primary factors in decision making, money spending, time usage, and beyond. But all these life-sources will eventually run dry.

Drawing your life from Christ means you look to His words when you make decisions, when you spend your money, when you allocate your time, and in every other “thing” you do. While this lifesource may not be initially as attractive or convenient, it is the well that never runs dry.

Peter’s life was never the same once he realized that to live his life right, he could turn no where else but to Christ.

Today: When faced with a difficult or important decision ask yourself, “What words of life would Jesus speak into this situation?” Then obey.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Focusing on Jesus Means Inviting Him Into Your Stress

I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.

Have you ever had one of those days when your mind just raced from one thing to another, and you slowly drowned in the different (and likely difficult) issues consuming your life? Maybe you’ve experienced sleeplessness when your mind becomes full of the day's cares.

What do you think Jesus would say to you if you told him about your stress and your anxiety? What would he tell you to do?

Living a life centered on Jesus means I choose to invite Him into my stress.

Especially on the days I’m overwhelmed, I must find the time and make the effort to shift my focus from my own issues and toward His agenda for my life.

Whichever “important” things have grabbed my attention, they pale in comparison to what Jesus says is important. If I can share his focus, I’ll find my life far less stressful and far more purposeful.

Read and Contemplate 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.

Paul was addressing a church full of people who had their own agendas and were unable to get along. His solution for their dysfunction was to focus on Christ.

There are days when my life resembles that church. I am pulled in so many different directions by that I feel I can’t even get along with myself. I'm dysfunctional. I need to focus on Christ.

When I live by my own agenda, I reveal that I find my own wisdom sufficient to get through the day. Paul said, true faith is resting in the power of God rather than the wisdom of men.

It is scary to center your life around Jesus’ agenda. It feels like the really important things might not get done. But if I pursue Christ’s agenda and rest in

God’s power, I can be certain that whatever does not get done, was not really important.

Today: Before you get too busy, ask yourself what Jesus would want you to do with your day. Center yourself on that goal, and let God take care of the rest.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Christian Persecution and the Christ-Centered Life

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

Should you suffer for being a Christian? We know throughout history many in the church have been through great persecution. Every day our TVs and computers broadcast jarring images of Christians in the Middle East being slaughtered for their faith.

One early Christian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Seemingly, whenever the church has suffered, growth has been the result.

Does that mean that we should seek to suffer? Does the Bible teach that we should pursue persecution, and chase after abuse? If persecution has identified the true church throughout history, and has almost always resulted in great growth, why would we not desire to suffer?

Right now, most of us in the West don't worry about the kind of persecution our brothers and sisters must suffer. We must pray for them, and when possible seek ways to support them.

But how do we approach persecution in our world?

Perhaps a different approach to this question would be helpful. Perhaps the appropriate question to ask is this: “If I live my life centered on Christ, will that lead to suffering?” I think the answer to this question is more often than not, “yes.”

Read and Contemplate Hebrews 12:1-4.

As we run the race of life, we are to focus our eyes on Jesus, thereby enabling us to run the race just as He did. When we fix our eyes on Him, we see one who endured hostility, shame, and the cross.

Perhaps it is fair to conclude that suffering is an expected aspect of life in Christ. Therefore, if I’m making decisions so I can avoid suffering, am I really living my life centered in Christ? As Hebrews says, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

Because Jesus willingly suffered for us, being Christ-centered must include a willingness to suffer for the sake of His name.

Today: Beware of any opportunities you have to avoid suffering by compromising your faith. (remember, it’s better to suffer the awkwardness which follows than to deny what you know to be right!)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Without the Vine, A Branch is Just a Board

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

Often, in our conversations about salvation, we use the image of being “in Chrit” to describe the way God views us in our new justified state. Because He sees us through the “filter” of Christ’s blood, He does not see our sinful lives, but rather the righteous life of His Son (the theological term for this concept is “imputation”).

How would your life change if you chose to see the world through that same filter? What if you chose to view everything in life through the eyes of Jesus? What if you chose to make all your decisions through the mind of Jesus? This is the premise of being centered in Christ.

Placing Christ at the center of my life is important, submitting to His lordship is critical. However, sometimes we have a tendency to live as though Christ’s presence at the center of our lives doesn’t necessarily mean that He touches every aspect of our life.

Read and contemplate John 15:1–11.

As you think about this passage, consider specifically what it means that we are branches on the vine of Jesus. What happens to a branch that is disconnected from the vine?

A branch without the vine is a board, not a branch. Apart from the life-giving power of the vine, it ceases to be what it once was.

We must discover what it means to draw our life from Jesus. As long as we are depending on our own efforts to get through life, we haven’t yet realized what it means to be centered in Christ. Just as the branch cannot survive without the vine, we cannot survive without the life-sustaining support of Jesus.

Today: Whatever you are doing, wherever you are, keep this thought at the very front of your mind: “I cannot do this apart from Christ.”