Category Archives: grace

The Good of the Church

For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.
Psalm 122:9

David sought the good of Jerusalem because within it was the tabernacle, the place which the presence of God Himself inhabited.

We should seek the good of the Church because God Himself inhabits her. We should seek the good of our communities because the Church – God’s people and the very vessel of His presence – resides in them.

God cares about peace and unity within His church and within our cities. He expects from His children reverence for the Church because it is the body and bride of Christ. It is the instrument of His redemption and authority in the world.

The Church should be a source of gladness for us because it is the gathering of His people for His glory.

For the sake of God, we must seek the peace, unity, prosperity of the Church. For the sake of the church, we should seek the peace and prosperity of our community and the world.

Sometimes, we struggle to respect and love the Church. We forget, because of her many shortcomings – and because of our many shortcomings – that she is the instrument of God’s work, power, glory, authority, and redemption in this world. She is the vessel in which His presence resides.

She belongs to Christ and should be loved and respected as His body and bride.

We resent the church when we are hurt by her. We lose hope for her when she or a part of her (especially her human leadership) fails. We separate her completely from the world, though she exists in it for its good.
I should remember, too, that as a member and leader in the Church, I have a need for all her members to seek the peace, unity, and prosperity of the Church.

Let’s pray this way:

God renew my love for the universal Church and for my church, because Your presence resides in her. Give me a love for my community because Your church resides in her. Give me a love for the world because You love the world and placed Your Church in it for its good.

Imagine if there were no resentment, anger, hatred toward the Church in your heart or mine ever again. Because she is the body of Christ, we’d work tirelessly for her good and the good of the communities and the world in which our churches reside.

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The Light of the Word

Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
Psalm 119:105

The word of God provides guidance and wisdom in a dark, fallen world.

God’s word is righteous – it teaches righteousness. His word promises revival, renewal when we suffer, and He is faithful to keep that promise. He will teach His law, His word, to those who genuinely seek its wisdom. His word is a source of joy, and it has the power to shape who we are.

The psalmist has committed himself forever to God’s word. He sees it as his heritage, his inheritance, the source of his identity. It is a source of joy for him. He clings to it even when his life is in danger, even when he suffers.

I love God’s word, but I’m not sure that my love for it has such depth. If it did, I’d be more obedient. My heart would be more inclined to the things of God. I would be more like Christ and less like the broken sinner I was without Him.

Perhaps you could say the same.

Cling to God’s word as the psalmist does. Let it – let God – define our identity, shape us. Find our joy in it. Cling to it even in suffering and trial.

We too often trust in our own wisdom. When times are difficult, we don’t even look to God’s word. We look to our own wisdom or we give in to fear. We have no direction morally or spiritually. But the truth is that we need God’s guidance because the world is dark and evil. We need His word to show us where the path of righteousness is. We can’t see it on our own.

We need to rely on God’s word, to cling to it in good times and trials, to find our joy and our identity in it. Teach it to our children. Commit ourselves to obey it. Praise Him, seek Him, and wait for Him to teach us His ways.

If we love God’s word as deeply as the psalmist, we will be more obedient. Our hearts will be more inclined to the things of God. We will be more like Christ and less like the broken sinners we were without Him.

By His grace, all of this is possible.

We Need God’s Discipline

I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous, And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.
Psalm 119:75

I know, God, that if you cause me suffering, it is because you judge righteously, it is because You are faithful.

God created us. We know He is just, righteous, and faithful. We know He is merciful. We know He is kind to us because He loves us. We know He is compassionate. We know His word is worth delighting in and meditating on. We know He takes away our shame. Understanding of His word comes from Him. We know He comforts us in our suffering. When our suffering is the result of discipline, do we turn to Him or away?

We need to remember what we already know.

You and I, we are His to do with as He pleases because He created us. But He is faithful. Therefore I don’t need to be afraid unless I stray from His word.

Remember what you already know. Even if you suffer because God is disciplining you, He still loves, comforts, shows mercy and compassion, removes shame, and provides community and acceptance among His people when we return to obedience to His word.

When He disciplines us, do we turn back or do we blame Him for our suffering as though He doesn’t have the right? That’s just further rebellion against Him.

Don’t resent God’s discipline. Somehow, we have to get past anger against Him for our suffering and learn to accept it joyfully.

The book of Hebrews tells us “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:11 NASB)

Whether the suffering is because of His discipline or because we are His followers in a fallen world, He will use it to make us more like Christ.

We need to delight in, meditate on, be obedient to His word. We need His mercy, love, and compassion, as well as the community and acceptance of His church.

Obedience, understanding, and faith are the direct results of His grace. Discipline is also a result of His grace. Anything that God uses to transform me into the image of Christ is a direct result of the grace of Christ.

We need God’s discipline.

What Makes Prayer Powerful

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.
James 5:17

We must pray because the prayers of righteous people, by the grace of God, have power to accomplish things. Elijah is our example: he was a man like us, and when he prayed that it would not rain, it didn’t rain for 3 and a half years! Then he prayed again, and it rained.

God is the power behind our prayers. Therefore, rightness with Him is a requirement. He wants us to pray. (It is commanded, expected here.) He wants to do things for us – to grant our requests, to heal us, to forgive us, to restore us – in the context of a right relationship with Him.

If we truly seek to follow Christ, our prayers will have power. Righteousness – rightness with God – ensures that when we pray, we are asking for what God wills. Elijah asked for something outrageous and got it because his will – his request – was aligned with God’s will. This is what makes prayer powerful.

God will answer the prayers of those who are right with Him. He will answer prayers in dramatic ways when those prayers – when those praying – are aligned with His will.

He heals. He forgives. He restores.

Have you lacked faith in God’s answering of prayers? Maybe you haven’t always asked in line with His will. Maybe you have not been righteous. Maybe you have not prayed faithfully as we are commanded and expected by God to do.

He does not answer prayers that are prayed from a place of unrighteousness – when we are not right with Him, when our prayers are not aligned with His will.

We need to pray faithfully and expectantly from a place of rightness with Him.

Ask God to make you righteous, to make you one whose prayers hold power like Elijah’s.

It’s by His grace that He answers prayer at all, for none of us is righteous on his or her own, but only by His grace. Therefore, the power of a righteous man’s prayer ultimately comes from God by His grace.

To be a righteous man, to be a man whose prayers hold power, I need Christ’s grace.

The Least of These

“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:40‬ ‭NASB
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When we believers care for the poor, the sick, the hungry, the thirsty, the prisoner – all those in need – it is as though we are doing these things for Jesus. We show that we are believers, that our faith is real. Those who live this way are true Christ followers. Those who don’t are not.He cares for the needy. He cares about our physical needs. He cares for the physical needs of His creatures because He loves them. He expects us to reflect His character by loving and caring for the physical needs of others as well. These are the works of true faith.

Do you reflect God’s love like this? Do you have time for the needy? Do you want to?

When we serve others, sacrifice for others, love others, we serve and sacrifice for and love Jesus.

We become comfortable and content with our self-centeredness. We so often live lives of isolation that are focused entirely on “me and mine,” but our lives should not be this way. We desperately need to care for the material and physical needs of others as outward evidence of a real faith.

Pray something like this:

God, I know that I need to change. I know that I need to release this self-centeredness and live outside myself. I have told You honestly that I want to be more like Christ. But in this way, honestly, I don’t, and I don’t know how to be different. God, I need You just to give me the desire to care for the needy, for anyone outside my immediate, close circle.

 

Without His grace, this cannot happen in us, but He wants to transform us.

Christ’s True Greatness

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Matthew 20:25-28

If we seek greatness in the body of Christ, we must be servants just as He was. Though He was and is the Lord of all and could rightfully expect to be served, He came into this world instead to serve His Father and humanity by giving His life to redeem us. Greatness in God’s kingdom is the exact opposite of greatness in this world. He proves His own greatness by making the ultimate sacrifice for our deepest need.

Jesus is humble. He loves us, which He showed by putting our greatest need before His own comfort, before even His own rights. He expects the same, love, humility, service from His children.

Like the sons of Zebedee (v. 20-23), our natural inclination is to put self first. I may not seek a position of power or authority quite like they did, but I still put myself first in many other ways. My mindset must be changed to that of Christ: my purpose – the purpose of all followers of Christ – is to serve, to submit, to love God and others.

We are called to follow the ultimate example: Christ Himself. He committed the ultimate act of service on the cross, thus proving His greatness.

He commands us to serve just as He did, and we to often don’t, putting ourselves first.

When we forget what true greatness is – the greatness Jesus showed us – the result is pride, self-centeredness, clinging to our “rights.”

But we needed to be saved, and Christ committed the ultimate act of service for us to save us. We need to follow His example. We need to count Him and others as more important than ourselves. We need to serve, to submit to, to love God and our brothers and sisters.

Join me in praying that God will take away our pride, that He give us His humility, a heart to serve others and not just please ourselves.

We’re not capable of being completely selfless, of always submitting, of always serving and loving others – or even God Himself. Our nature must be changed. We must be transformed into the image of Christ, and only He can do this in us.

Your life and mine would then be lives of greatness as God defines it, not as man does.

Really Christ’s

For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother. – Matthew 12:50

Whoever is a true follower of Christ, whoever is obedient to the will of God, that person is closer to Jesus than biological or earthly family.

Relationship with Christ is defined by obedience to the will of God the Father, and obedience is the result of heart condition. Obedience is more important to God than heritage. God desires our obedience.

Closeness to Christ requires obedience. Without obedience, we will not be claimed as His. True relationship with Christ, true salvation, is evidenced by obedience to the will of God the Father. If we aren’t obedient to the will of the Father, we’re not really Christ’s.

God wants closeness with us. He wants our obedience, and our obedience is the result of His saving work, of His changing our hearts to want to obey, to want intimacy with Him.

We are not saved by works, but works are evidence of our salvation. When we forget this truth, we treat Jesus like fire insurance. We forget that what He really desires is all of us. If we have given all of ourselves to Him, then we will obey Him.