A Downward Spiral

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As one studies the first eight chapters of Paul’s epistle to the Romans, we discover one of the most precise explanations of the gospel in all of Scripture. It is the basics of the Christian faith and worthy of being explored over-and-over again. All of us need to regularly get back to the basics. Any athlete knows the importance of returning to the basics. This is true of life. So-called advanced techniques are really just basic moves coupled with speed and accuracy. As Christians, we, too, need to regularly get back to the basics and understand the foundational truth of the gospel. Then, we are empowered to grow in the faith and advance it for God’s glory.
In Paul’s introduction, in Romans 1:1-18, he introduces himself as a servant of Christ and one of His apostles. He explains that the substance of the gospel is Jesus Christ, and the scope is everyone (all nations). In speaking of the gospel, Paul explains that the gospel is powerful in that it saves, and reveals the righteousness of God.
Paul then goes on in Romans 1:18-32 to present God as the plaintiff, as in a court case, bringing the charge against humanity of the crime of sin. He explains, in Romans 1:18-19, that God’s wrath is now revealed against sin. God’s wrath or anger is not to be thought of as an uncontrolled tantrum, but the reasonable reaction of a righteous God against unrighteousness.
Paul proceeds to explain in verse 20 that those who claim ignorance of God as an excuse are in error since God has revealed Himself through His creation. All one needs to do is look at nature to see the handiwork of God. The beauty and intricacy of nature do not introduce us to God’s character but does give testimony to His existence. There are two things God wants us to see in nature, His awesome power and His being God. The psalmist writes: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (Psa 19:1-2).
We realize in verses 21-31 that people rejected God as creator and experienced spiritual devaluation; therefore, God consigned them to sin’s power. God expected humanity to respond to His creation by glorifying Him, acknowledging His greatness, and to give thanks, expressing gratitude towards Him. However, humanity responds negatively by their futile thinking allowing the darkening of their foolish hearts. Humanity has ignored God’s power so clearly revealed in creation. They even have resorted to worshiping idols. They reduced God to the form of a corruptible man and also creeping things.
Lastly, Paul, in verse 32, gives us a summary of sin. We read: “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” Sin, downright rebellion, is the charge waged against humanity. In the end, nothing keeps people from entering into a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ more than denying their need for Him or their reluctance to admit it.
What makes all the difference is how we respond to the charges brought against us and the impact of sin on all our lives. We can deny the charge, but it does not mean we are not guilty. We can refuse to come to Christ for salvation, but then, we are left without hope. What makes all the difference is how we respond to the charges brought against us and the impact of sin on all our lives. The good news, as Paul shares later, “since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1). A person who places their faith in Christ, has been justified and declared righteous by God, once and for all. Now, that is good news. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Gospel Power

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Any athlete knows the importance of returning to the basics. So-called advanced techniques are really just basic moves coupled with speed and accuracy. Golfers will go back to the basics when they’ve lost their swing. This is also true of basketball, baseball, and football players who have lost their game. As believers, it is important to regularly get back to the basics and understand the foundational truth of the gospel. I believe Romans 1-8 offers us an opportunity to do just that.
I really like this quote from Martin Luther about the book of Romans: “This Epistle is really the chief part of the New Testament and the very purest gospel, and is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul. It can never be read or pondered too much, and the more it is dealt with, the more precious it becomes, and the better it tastes.” An exploration of the book of Romans as a whole, but specifically Romans 1-8, which speaks of Christ’s finished work on the cross, allows us to become more acquainted with the gospel’s basics. This allows us to confidently press on victoriously in our journey with the Lord.
Paul introduces us to the power of the gospel in Romans 1:1-17. Paul begins by giving us a two-fold description of himself as well as the substance and scope of the gospel in verses 1-7. Paul is a servant and apostle. Paul is a humble servant of God with a special calling and authority given him by Christ. The substance of the gospel is Jesus Christ, and the scope of the gospel is everyone (all nations).
Then, in verses 8-15, we discover that the faith of the church in Rome is world-renown. Paul also discloses that he is a debtor. Paul can’t wait to go to Rome to minister and be ministered to. When the relationship between believers is as it should be, the blessings run both directions. The indebtedness Paul feels is due to receiving the good news about and salvation through Jesus Christ. He must share the love and message of Christ with others. When people enter into a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ, they are immediately saved and sent.
Paul concludes his introduction to his epistle in verses 16-17 by declaring that the gospel is powerful in that it saves and reveals God’s righteousness. We read: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” (vv. 16-17). Notice Paul does not ask for the gospel to be powerful. The gospel is powerful.
We recognize the gospel’s power in the Son of God becoming incarnate, living a sinless life, suffering, being crucified and buried, rose again, and ascended into heaven. We recognize the gospel’s power in the accomplishment of salvation. Sinful people, far from God, can hear and respond to the good news that Christ died for their sins and was resurrected for their salvation and can repent and believe in Christ and be saved. Those in Christ are called by God, justified by grace, regenerated by the Spirit, united with Christ, adopted into God’s family, and filled with the very Spirit of God. Now that’s power!
The Christian life begins with faith and is maintained through growing faith. As J.B. Lightfoot rightly proclaimed: “Faith is the starting point and the goal.” The gospel is powerful, and God is righteous. Righteousness is a legal term. To be righteous is to be right, just, and good. It can speak of the actions and positive results of a sound relationship, especially within a community or communion. The Christian is granted Christ’s righteousness and seeks to bring about personal and social righteousness in all his/her relationships. God’s righteousness is a key concept in Romans. God is righteous because he always acts in accord with His holy character and promises to His people.
It’s important to understand that the person who waits to be saved based on his/her own righteousness will wait forever. Likewise, if we wait to grow spiritually based on our own prideful efforts, there will be no spiritual growth. The righteousness revealed by God is a God kind righteousness, that man unaided could never have conceived or still less attain. We come to Christ in faith and grow in faith. We trust God for our salvation and walk in step with the Spirit to become like Him. This is remarkable and speaks to the basics of the gospel. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

On Voting

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We are in full election mode. The information dump is happening all around us. It’s difficult to find a space where you can retreat from the inundation of candidate promotion and policy declarations. Don’t get me wrong. I believe we need to be informed, but I am not a big fan of being told the same information over-and-over-and-over again.
As followers of Christ, I believe we need to exercise our right to vote, making Christ’s voice heard. I do not deny that there is a nuance to voting, even among Christians. However, I do believe that some issues are politicized but are actually spiritual at its core.
Now, I would guess that you are ready for me to tell you who to vote for or how to vote. I am going to do neither. What I am going to do is describe how to decide who to vote for and how to vote.
I have always been fond of Psalm 119:105: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psa 119:105). In ancient Israel, the common style of lamp was a small bowl with a pitched lip that was used to support a wick. It could be used to guide one’s next step. It’s used here as a metaphor for God’s guidance through His Word, the Bible. God, through Scripture, guides the believer in making the right step down the right path. Those who study and apply the Word of God are given the guidance necessary to walk rightly. Therefore, not only does the Word of God inform us of His will, but, like light, shows us how to follow the right and avoid the wrong way. What does this have to do with voting? Everything! Stick with me a moment.
I do not know if I can genuinely say that I am a man of one book. Rather, I am a man of the Book, which serves as a filter of every other book, actually everything else in life. Obviously, this also includes voting. When I vote, I take the platform of a party, candidate, a policy, and allow the Word of God to serve as a filter to see if it or they honor the Lord. Some of what is said and written will allow for a variation between how one believer votes and another. But, I believe, much is laid plain when you allow God’s Word to guide you. This process takes us beyond a personality contest or preference issue to the core of who or what glorifies God, will bless us, and allow others to have the opportunity to flourish.
Allowing the Word of God to serve as our guide empowers us to avoid the trap of being swept up in the prevailing current, being washed down the wrong stream. No, we are granted the strength to go against the current and go and lead the right way, God’s way. God, through His Word, does this for us.
I have a challenge for all believers. This election season vote informed. Allow the information you have to pass through the filter of God’s Word. Take the time to study the Bible for yourself and determine what it actually says, rather than merely letting others tell you what it says and means. This does not mean that we don’t allow the church’s historical voice to assist in our study. It does mean that we use proper hermeneutics (methods used to rightly study the Bible) to study and therefore apply Scripture through our lives.
I believe every election is important. Don’t miss out on this one. Decide to vote and decide now to go a little deeper and let the Word of God be a “lamp unto your feet.” This is how to determine who to vote for and how to vote.
Don’t let the election season drive you crazy. Take advantage of your right to vote. Vote in a way that honors God. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Essential

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Today we celebrate Labor Day. This federal holiday is more than a Monday off. It honors and recognizes the works and contributions of laborers to the development and achievement of our nation. The work, each of us does, matters.
This year we have been introduced to a term: “essential worker.” An essential worker is somebody who holds a specialized knowledge and whose service is essential for the successful operation of a business enterprise and society as a whole. I am thankful for the countless individuals who worked through the pandemic in service to our nation (i.e., doctors, nurses, first responders, garbage collectors, and grocers). However, I must admit that I believe all workers are essential. The Babylon Bee posted a meme of a man slumped over a table starring into nothingness with these words under the pic: “Man Glad To Know Job That Fed His Family, Paid His Rent Is ‘Non-Essential.'” No job is non-essential. What you do matters. It matters to you, your family, society, and God.
The Bible, God’s Word, has much to say about work. For instance, it speaks to our attitude toward work. We read in Colossians 3:23-25: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” This is the Christian work ethic. We are called to put forth our best efforts to work from our heart and soul at whatever we do. We are accountable to God as we administrate the gifts He has given us. Our work flows from our thankfulness to Him. God provides us with the ability to work, and we do so with gratitude.
Some see work as a dirty word, but it was instituted with creation before the Fall (see: Genesis 2:15). It became difficult after the Fall (See: Genesis 3:17-19). However, work is part of the “excellent” piece of all God created (see: Genesis 1:31). Simply put, work is of God and good. Obviously, this does not mean we ought to allow ourselves to be taken advantage of in our work or work in unhealthy environments, but that work in a healthy environment is good and God’s will for us.
Among the many words regarding work found in Scripture, we discover: “Hard work always pays off; mere talk puts no bread on the table” (Proverbs 14:23). We also read: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). The Bible encourages a strong work ethic. One way God provides for us is through our work.
It is important to note that nowhere in Scripture is workaholism championed. We work to honor God, provide, and use what is supplied to be generous to others. As much as the Bible speaks of work is also numerously addresses rest. God did not just institute work at the beginning of creation. He also established the Sabbath. He did the work of creation for six days, then ceased. God did not need to rest. He is omnipotent, meaning He is all-powerful. God’s ceasing was to set an example for us. We humans need to rest. Working, God’s way is good. So too is rest when we do it God’s way. We are even commanded to practice a Sabbath rest in the Ten Commandments (see: Exodus 20:9-10). When we put our best into our work, we ought to rest and not feel guilty. After all, God commands it. God’s call to rest is a gift to all who choose to receive it.
Followers of Christ are to work hard for the Lord’s glory. We also are to rest well in Him and from our work. I have heard it said: “Work hard, play hard, and rest well.” On this Labor Day, let me thank you for your essential work. I hope you can truly rest from your work and in the Lord. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Growth

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Growth is essential for a Christian to thrive. Peter challenges us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Peter is calling believers to cultivate stability, so to speak, through Christian growth. This growth is spiritual growth, growing in faith.
When we enter into a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we are born again spiritually into God’s family. This new birth, similar to that of a newborn baby, requires nourishing milk for growth and proper development. A new or baby Christian needs spiritual food for growth. Peter writes: “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2-3). Christians are to be like infants in their longing for pure spiritual milk. Milk is used in the New Testament as a symbol of what is basic to the Christian life, God’s Word.
Just as healthy babies move beyond milk to solid food, so do believers (see: Hebrews 5:12-14). Paul saw a problem with the Corinthian believers in that they had not grown in their faith, and he could only give them “milk” because they were not ready for solid food (see: 1 Corinthians 3:1-3). Christians are expected to grow. We need to learn and grow and become confident in handling the Bible, discerning God’s will, and sharing it with others. A baby needs to be fed, but a growing believer learns to feed themselves, eventually helping others grow.
A Christian will only grow as much as he or she purposefully reads and obeys and applies the Scriptures. Growing is up to each individual believer. Growth is not measured in years, but commitment. Some believers have been saved many years, but spiritually are still babies. Others have been Christians for a relatively short time, but have grown in leaps and bounds due to their devotion to God and His Word. It is important to note that it’s the doing of the Word, not merely hearing it that makes it a reality in one’s life. Genuine Christian growth comes when one puts what they know of God’s Word to practice in their life. This allows the Scriptures to take root in them.
A Christian’s diet ought to consist of the Word of God. The truths taught in the Bible are rich food for the believer. Peter writes, in 2 Peter 1:3, that God has given us everything we need for life through our (growing) knowledge of Him. As we continue down through verse 11, we discover a list of character qualities that need to be added to our beginning point of faith for maturity to take place, allowing us to thrive in Christ. There are many things that can help us grow.
Crosswinds have developed a discipleship strategy that assists believers in developing a daily time alone with God as well as meeting with fellow Christians through one-on-one discipleship groups and small groups. Meeting with other believers allows us to ask questions, share what we are learning with one another, and be encouraged as we continue to grow in knowing God and making Him known. We offer ministry teams where you can serve with other believers putting into action your growing faith. However, ministry does not only happen in ministry teams. As Crosswinds, we encourage one another to be used by God in extraordinary ways as missionaries in the ordinary places we find ourselves each and every day. Our large weekend worship gatherings are where we put God’s glory on display, sharing the workings of God in our lives and together are sent out on mission throughout our region. We also offer support options for those wrestling with specific issues like depression or situations like divorce as well as those desiring freedom from the hurts, habits, and hang-ups of life. The believer is called to take personal responsibility for their growth but is not meant to grow alone. God has provided His Spirit and the community of other believers to help us grow.
The foundation of Christianity – the milk – is something wonderful and not something we should forget. But, we are meant to grow beyond milk and become self-feeders of the solid food of God’s Word, able to help others grow. We are meant to be doers of the Word as we allow the Spirit of God to use what we know of the Scriptures to transform us more and more into the image of Christ. This is what it means to grow as a believer and thrive in Christ. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Trust

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Trust is a powerful word. According to Merriam-Webster: “Trust is reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.” Trusting God is essential for a believer to thrive. Now, you don’t need to spend much time around Christians to hear the expression, “trust in Jesus.” This statement is layered with meaning. We trust in Jesus by believing in Him for our salvation (John 3:16). We believe who He is and put our faith in Him as our Lord and Savior. We believe He died for our sins and was resurrected for our salvation (Romans 4:15). Not one of us can save ourselves, so we trust Jesus to save us (Romans 3:10-20 & John 11:25).
Once one finds salvation by trusting in Jesus for his or her salvation, “trusting Jesus” means committing or dedication one’s self entirely to Him. Followers of Christ trust Jesus by putting complete confidence in Him and His Word. We discover in John: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). To abide in Jesus’ word means to continue believing what Jesus has said and walking in obedience to Him. Continuing to trust Jesus and obey Him is one test of who is truly His disciple. Jesus is speaking of one way to know the truth, and that is by continuing to believe and obey His word. Such trust in Christ brings freedom from guilt and the enslaving power of sinful patterns of conduct. Simply put, the more we know and abide in the words of Jesus, the more we will obey Him, and the more we grow to trust Him and experience freedom in Christ, we thrive.
One verse that I have expressed more in prayer than I personally like to admit is Mark 9:24: “I believe; help my unbelief!” In context, this verse is found amidst an account where a father is seeking the Lord’s miraculous power to heal his son. Jesus calls this man to trust in Him. The father’s confession is raw. He confesses he has some faith but also acknowledges his spiritual weakness and appeals to Jesus to create in him a heart that believes more firmly in Him.
It is easy to become discouraged when our trust waivers, but Jesus understands our weakness and knows we will struggle to trust Him. Paul encourages us: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). When we take our uneasy hearts to the Lord in prayer, He offers us peace. His very presence is peace. Notice that the promise is not to give whatever we’re are asking for, but the promise is peace to guard our hearts and minds.
Trusting Jesus means to come to Him and believe He is good and is trustworthy. His plan for our lives is to thrive. We can be confident in this because of who He is and who we are in Him. We are as John 1:12 proclaims: “To all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” When we trust in Christ for our salvation, God’s supernatural work makes us His children. When we trust in Jesus and who we are in Him, He pours out His peace into us, empowering us to thrive.
Our trusting in Jesus grows as we continue to walk with Him. It grows through experience (see: 2 Corinthians 1:10). As we experience God’s faithfulness through the good, the bad, and the ugly of life, our faith, our trust in Him grows. In this sense, the Christian life becomes a testing and training ground of trust (see: James 1:2-4).
To trust the Lord, we need to know who God is and who we are in Him. Jesus is teaching us to trust Him in all things at all times with all our heart. As we learn to trust Jesus more and more, He empowers us to thrive. Soli Deo Gloria (God Alone be the Glory)!

Humility & Confidence

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Interestingly, we descend into greatness, as one author has put it. In other words, humility is an essential character trait of the believer becoming more like Christ. After all, Christ is the great example of humility (see: Philippians 2). Biblical humility is grounded in the nature of God. In James 4:6, we read: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” That’s pretty straight forward. God’s grace is extended to the humble, but He resists those who are proud.
An excellent summary verse of humility is Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” To be humble, we must trust God and believe that He will lead us down the right path. We are to place our faith in God prayerfully leaning on His understanding, not our own. In fact, our prayer ought to be to make His way our way as we are transformed into Christ’s image (Romans 9:29). It is humility that opens our hearts to God and allows us to withdraw from the arrogance of our ego.
Some people choose humility as a survival method, at least the appearance of humility. However, it is true humility interrelated with confidence in a believer’s life that is essential to thriving in Christ. Some view humility and confidence as opposing realities. The Scriptures view them as crucial aspects of a believer’s life.
It takes humility to have Christian confidence. Confidence is having trust in someone or something. We trust those in whom we have confidence. The world teaches us to have confidence in ourselves. We are told to trust that we have the ability to accomplish anything we desire. We are to have confidence in our wealth, in our power, in our position. The sources of Christian confidence is not ourselves but in God Himself.
We find in Jeremiah 9:23-24: “Thus says the Lord: Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth; but let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord.” A truly wise man and woman find confidence in the Lord. They learn what God teaches. Knowing God means knowing His profound love, justice, and righteousness. Paul wrote it this way, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31 & 2 Corinthians 10:17).
God desires for the believer to thrive, not merely survive. Therefore, the Christian life goal is not selfish ambition, but to glorify God by knowing Him and making Him known. We are not to trust in ourselves or our own wisdom but trust in God (see: Proverbs 3:5-6). God is our confidence, our rock our refuge (see: Psalm 18:2).
The believer is to have confidence in the risen Christ. It takes genuine humility to admit our need for Christ for salvation and everything else in our lives. He is our everything. As we grow in the Lord, such humility is paired with a confidence rooted in Him that empowers us to partner with Him as we walk in faith. Such a walk is not void of self-confidence or self-respect. The issue is the source of our confidence. We are to be confident in Christ and our identity in Him.
The interrelation between humility and confidence in a believer’s life is remarkable and essential if one is to thrive in Christ. Jesus is the perfect example of humility and confidence. I pray that each of us will become more and more humble and confident as we become more and more like Him. The world does not need another survivor but desperately needs to see those who are thriving in the Lord. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Service

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When we speak of thriving in Christ, much attention is given to a proper understanding of God’s work in us, and rightfully so. However, our thriving is also affected by our actions. Specifically, I want to look at how serving God and others empowers a believer to thrive.
First, let me clearly state that our service to God is not necessary because God lacks the ability to accomplish something. Our service to Him is not a reflection of His neediness, but ours. Each and every one of us has been created with a need to serve. In fact, we have been created and gifted to partner with the Lord in fulfilling His purposes.
Peter addresses the importance and purpose of serving God in 1 Peter 4:10-11: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” All believers have received at least one spiritual gift from God, and we are not to hoard these gifts but use them to bring Him glory. No matter what our gift(s) we are not to depend on our own strength but draw our power from God, so that God alone “may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” We receive our gifts from God to serve Him and others. In doing so, we bring Him praise. In our service, the Lord is glorified, we are blessed, and others benefit.
God receives glory when we serve because it is His transforming power that is on display in our lives as we exchange selfishness for selflessness. This is why Peter declares that we ought to recognize that all we do, whether speaking or serving, is to be done on behalf of God to others. He gives us the ability and strength to partner with Him and gives us purpose in our service. It is with this awareness that we direct all credit toward Him instead of ourselves. This causes the believer to standout and leads others to take notice of the life-change that occurs in a believer’s life. This not only validates our faith to others but also draws others to Him.
When we work, and yes serve, on our own behalf, and for our own purpose, it is for survival. When we work and serve on God’s behalf, and for His purpose, we are empowered to thrive. Surviving speaks of barely having enough. Thriving is having more than enough. When we serve by God’s power and leading, we give out of the overflow, serving and thriving in His name.
This is at the heart of what Paul writes to us in Romans 12: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2). “Therefore” points back to the saving work of God Paul has written of in the previous eleven chapters. We, Christians, are to give ourselves entirely to God because of His saving grace. The believer is to give their whole being to God as a living sacrifice. We are to use our new life in Christ for His glory.
This present age still threatens everyone, even those who belong to Christ. Believers are called to resist its pressure. Through the transforming power of God, our lives are changed, and our minds are made new, making us able to “discern” God’s will.
Paul points out that those who have been saved by the finished work of Christ, who died for our sins and resurrected for our salvation, it only makes sense to honor Him.  Our giving of ourselves is our spiritual act of worship. It is the reasonable response. We serve the God who has provided the greatest service of all. We have been given salvation from sin and self and have received eternal life with Him. God has taken us out of the realm of mere existence and surviving into one with divine purpose and thriving.
Life is filled with its own difficulties. It is tempting to fall into survival mode and make sure we have what we need. God has a better plan. He calls and empowers us to serve Him and others as we thrive in Him. We can either choose to run on the hamster wheel of survival or empowered by the Spirit of God thrive as we journey down His path. I hope each of us chooses to thrive. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Repentance & Restoration

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Many people settle for merely surviving when God offers to empower them to thrive. One of the steps God calls us to take on the journey to thriving in Him is repentance that leads to restoration. This is a remarkable and rewarding journey offering salvation and freedom in Christ.
I acknowledge that this is a difficult topic for many people. Shame has kept far too many from approaching the Lord in repentance to find restoration. To overcome shame, it is essential to realize that when we come to God with a proper attitude of reverence toward Him, He lovingly receives us. We mustn’t let shame keep us from receiving God’s blessing for us.  Repentance and restoration are used by God to help us thrive.
David’s 51st Psalm teaches us much about repentance and restoration. David shares how he repented after being confronted by the prophet Nathan (2 Sam 12) for his adultery with Bathsheba and her husband’s murder. The psalm is powerful because of David’s honesty by revealing the depth of his anguish and repentance before God.
David reveals in Psalm 51 that at its root, all sin is a disregard for the holiness of God (v. 4). Ultimately, all sin is against Him. He also reveals that we are not sinners because we sin, but sin because we were born into sin (v. 5). Since we are born into sin, we have a sinful nature, no kind of inner resolve or self-help plan can deliver us. Restoration is found in God alone. Only God can cleanse us, making us white as snow (v. 7). Only God can create in us a clean heart (v.10). Only God can draw us into His presence and empower us with the Holy Spirit (v. 11).
The simple truth is that repentance and restoration are only possible by God’s grace. God makes it possible for us to respond to Him. However, we must take steps to come before Him to confess our sins and repent, allowing God to restore us (vv. 12-16). David responded through an act of repentance, and God restored Him. Our Lord will do the same for you and me.
We must repent of our sins in order for the Lord to make us new and restore us. One of the first verses I memorized was 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We confess our sins, initially to receive salvation and then to maintain a healthy fellowship with God and with one another. Unrepented sin is not the mark of a Christ follower. Those who genuinely know God come to him and find mercy and grace in our time of need (see: Heb 4:16).
Repent and receive God’s forgiveness. Allow Him to cleanse you. We need to come to God with humility. Pride is a root sin that, among other things, keeps us from God’s forgiveness and cleansing. We need to seek His face and receive grace. To seek God does not mean to look hard. It means to place nothing before Him and His will for you.
God invites us and makes it possible to repent and ask for forgiveness. Because Jesus died for our sins and was resurrected for our salvation, we can be restored in Him. Repentance and restoration are used by God to help us thrive.
I pray that each of us will shed our shame. I ask God to help us remove our pride and, in humility, come to Him, repent, and be restored. God uses such obedience to empower us to thrive. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone).

Lordship of Christ

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Unfortunately, many people settle for merely surviving when God offers to empower them to thrive. One essential step in the divine pathway leading to thriving is responding appropriately to the lordship of Christ. The 17th Century leader, theologian, and academic John Owen wrote, “We have no power from God unless we live in the persuasion that we have none of our own.” In other words, surrender to God with all one’s mind, body, and soul is a prerequisite to receiving spiritual power. In a very real sense, we are speaking of God as Lord. The Lordship of Christ in our lives is used by God to help us thrive.
Throughout the Bible, there are various Hebrew, and Greek words rendered lord. However, two words rise above the rest as the most abundantly used. In Hebrew, the word is Yahweh. This is the name God revealed Himself by to the ancient Hebrews. It refers to “the self-existent, eternal God.” This title for God was held so sacred by the Jews that is was never pronounced except by the high priest on the great Day of Atonement, when he entered into the most holy place.
In Greek, the word is Kyrios. Kyrios is used throughout the Greek translation of the Old Testament in place of Yahweh. It is also found throughout the Greek New Testament. After Easter, one of the most important Old Testament texts to be applied to the Risen One Jesus Christ was Psalm 110:1: “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’” Here the word “Lord” is used both for God and for the messianic king (Acts 2:34). The application of this text to Jesus meant that the title, ‘my Lord,’ addressed to Him during His earthly life in recognition of his unusual authority, was upgraded as a messianic address. In other words, Jesus is indeed Lord God.
Lordship, when speaking of God, is more than a title. It is expressed by Christ’s followers in their posture. Let me illustrate it this way. When I was growing up, my Dad taught me that when I shook someone’s hand, I needed to look them in the eye. It was a sign of respect and confidence. However, this is not the way we are to show “respect” to God. Lordship posture is lying prostrate before God showing complete trust and the honor due Him. It is our acknowledgment that Jesus is Lord that serves as the foundation of a life that thrives.
In Jeremiah 23:1-6, we read about the coming king. This king is no other than Jesus Christ. In verse 1-2, false shepherds are shown to contrast with this coming king, Jesus, who is the true shepherd. Verse 3-4 speaks of the people of God being restored. The believer discovers this blessing when those once far from God enter into His salvation and rest through Christ. Then we read in Jeremiah 23:6: “this is the name by which he will be called: ‘the Lord is our righteousness.’” We discover that the King to come is the “Lord” who is “our righteousness.”
Jesus is the king who has come. In Him, we have been offered His righteousness. Imputed is a form of the word imputation that means to designate, and action as reckoned or given to a person. In other words, the righteousness of Jesus is given to us when we believe to make us right with God. The work of Jesus in His people is not only to clean the stain of sin. The perfect obedience and righteousness of Jesus are ours in Him. Think of it this way. Jesus as our righteousness does not merely mean that He reflects the righteousness of God but that He will impart His people His righteousness, making it their very own. The Apostle Paul had this in mind when he spoke of “Jesus Christ” “our righteousness” in the New Testament (see: 1 Cor 1:30 & 2 Cor 5:21).
The power we have to thrive is not something we have within ourselves. Such power only comes from God and is received only when we acknowledge Jesus as Lord. The Lordship of Christ in our lives is used by God to help us thrive.
So, I ask you, “What is your posture in approaching Christ?” Do you try to avoid Him? Do you show respect, but keep an eye on Him like a good handshake? Or, are you all in, laying prostrate demonstrating trust and acceptance as Him as your righteousness? Will you allow Jesus our righteousness to make you thrive? If you say yes, be prepared to not merely survive, but thrive. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!