Monday, January 31, 2011

Comforts from the Cross - Day 22

Side note: Yesterday, I had labeled it as Day 20 again instead of Day 21. My mistake. I fixed it. Not even close to perfect, and I think I am ok with that. On with today...

The Hope of Righteousness

Through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. -Galatians 5:5

We all hope in or wait for something. As a little kid, you probably hoped for Christmas, your birthday, or to be a teenager.  As a teenager, we wait for High School and then College. After College, we hope/wait for marriage or the perfect job.  Then we wait for kids, grandkids, and retirement. In Galatians 5:5, Paul was waiting for something greater than what we normally place our hopes in on this earth. I like it that Paul shows that he is like us in that he is waiting for "the hope of righteousness." Before we continue, let's remember an important fact about Galatians, Paul was showing the Galatian church that keeping the law is Not the means for obtaining a right standing with God. "No, hope for true righteousness is 'through the Spirit, by faith.' Paul is reminding us that the only hope of righteousness is through the power of the Spirit, who grants the faith in our hearts."

Why do we need to hope in righteousness? When I survey my life, I often find the idea that I will be righteous quite hard to believe. Sin is prevalent in my life. It is easy to recognize the grief that is caused by my prideful and selfish heart. "It is only as we meditate upon the Gospel's promise that the Spirit creates faith within our hearts." So, we wait, much like a kid on Christmas morning, but with a greater anticipating of what of us to come.  While we are waiting, Elyse encourages with theses words,"we must not give up in despair or seek to anesthetize our conscience with the shallow delights of the world. Even when our hearts wander, the Father's promise of true righteousness and holiness stands."  

Today, I rejoice that God grants the faith to hope for His righteousness.  It makes me ever mindful of my sin here on this earth and makes the Gospel even grander and greater. "What is your hope of righteousness? Only that this righteousness doesn't depend on you at all, but has been granted to you as a gift through the Gospel."

Sneak peek for tomorrow: The Crown of Righteousness. Our hope becomes our reality, our reward. "Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing." 2 Timothy 4:8.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Comforts from the Cross - Day 21

We have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. -1 John 4:14

"We are continually saying good-bye to those we love." Whether we recognize it or not, we leave or lose people, places, and possession all the time. Life is a series of good-byes to different things.  However, the greatest goodbye is death.  "It separates from those we love, and the more we love, the greater our grief. Aside from the mitigating comforts of the Gospel, the level of grief we experience when we're separated from our loved ones is analogous to the level of attachment we have toward them.  In the Bible, we see times when people grieve.  Jesus showed his compassion for those who grieve when He wept over Lazarus.

No earthly grief can be compared to the Heavenly Father sending His Son to earth.  John recognized this in 1 John 4:14.  He was an earthly eyewitness of Jesus on this earth. The Father, Son, and Spirit enjoyed this perfect relationship in Heaven, but because of His great love the Father would send His Son to earth. "We cannot image what our sin cost Him. We cannot imagine the depth of a love that would sacrifice such joy for the good of another." Then come my favorite words in the day's reading, "We should be astounded by the incarnation." Wow. How often do I rejoice in the incarnation? The Son left the glories of Heaven in order to redeem a people who had rejected and sinned against Him. I challenge you to consider and rejoice in the incarnation. This truth blows my mind.

The incarnation was not the greatest point of separation for the Father and Son, but direct your thoughts to the cross.  While suffering death on the cross, Jesus would utter the words, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34) "On the cross, the Father would forsake the Son and pour out all His wrath upon Him.  The Bible tells of the death of Christ in Isaiah 53, that it was "the will of the Lord to crush him." Jesus suffered separation from the Father and the wrath we deserved, all at the will of His Father.

Jesus knows. He has experienced what we have experienced as people here on earth, yet without sin.  "Your Savior wants you to know that He's walked this path ahead of you." The loneliness, separation, and grief that we experience are not unknown to Him.  Today, I rejoice that the Savior knows and understands. I rejoice even more that His redemption offered us hope beyond the good-byes of this world.  In John 17, Jesus prayed that we would be where He is. He promised that He was going to prepare a place and would not leave us as orphans. Because of the work of our Savior on the cross and even now, we can rest in hope of a future with Him. As a believer, the separation and loneliness we may experience is only for a short time. Find comfort in the cross and the truth of the Gospel today!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Comforts from the Cross - Day 20

Abide in the Vine

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. - John 15:9

If you have attended church very long, you probably have heard a sermon on John 15 about "Abiding in the Vine." It is a fantastic passage of Scripture and Jesus lays out a complicated truth through an interesting word picture. Most of the sermons I have heard on this passage can normally be outlined like this:
  • Jesus is the Vine,
  • The Father is the Vinedresser,
  • It is your responsibility to abide, and
  • This is how you abide.
(If I have heard you preach on this message in the past, I apologize for not listening well.)

In the past, I have been quick to run past the Vine and the Vinedresser. "I overlook the truth that it's His power that births and sustains the entire plant. He's supplying all that's necessary for my growth and fruitfulness. It's His life, His purpose, His determination to be in union with me that's the central point of this teaching." When I am abiding in the vine, the Vine is producing fruit in me. It is not me relying on myself, but allowing the Vine to produce fruit in me and through me. God has the ability to transform, while my self-driven efforts will never produce fruit.

Instead of rejoicing in the work of the Vinedresser, I easily become the "comparing Christian" and wonder why God is "pruning him or her" or ask why I am not bearing fruit like that other person? It is also easy to  become a little judgemental and say God should just cut him or her off of the vine, they are not bearing any fruit. It is like I want the role of the Vinedresser and choose who should be connected to the Vine. In the past, I have completely missed the point. God would prune me in order that I may bear more fruit for His glory. Jesus is the Vine to which I am attached and He is my life-sustainer.

When we get to the point of trusting in the work of the Vine and the Vinedresser, we can rest in the promise of verse 9. Jesus is telling us how the Father loves Him and in turn, Jesus loves us the same way. Jesus is calling us to continue in this personal love relationship with Him. "Yes, He is calling us to a life of obedience, but it isn't an obedience that starts with our great efforts.  It is an obedience that He has planted and now lovingly tends as we absorb His soul-nourishing life." Today, I rejoice that He causes my obedience to grow. I challenge myself as I challenge you today - "Rest here. Endure here. Remain here. Tarry here. Abide in the Vine."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Comforts from the Cross - Day 19

The World Overcome

In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.  -John 16:33

Imagine 12 guys following Jesus around for a few years.  They had given up all they had to follow Him. It has been a great week. They marched into Jerusalem to shout of "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." (John 12:13). Surely, this is what they had expected. Finally, the Messiah would receive His coronation.  Imagine their surprise as they sat in a room eating a Passover meal together and Jesus began to speak of leaving them, that someone would deny Him, and they would experience sorrow when He left. Would you be confused? If I had been one of the twelve, I know I would have. They had followed Him and Jesus was saying to them, "Where I am going you cannot follow Me." (John 13:36). How strange for Jesus to speak those words!

"We are so frequently misguided about God's plans. Day by day we measure our progress toward anticipated goals; we judge God's faithful and our performance by the proximity of the desired accomplishment." There are days when we are probably like the twelve disciples, "Um, Jesus, this isn't exactly what I signed up for... I didn't plan on this happening." Unfortunately, this leads us to doubt and a big question I often hear, "Is God really good?" What words did Jesus tell His disciples, "I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have pace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." This is where the confusion comes in, did I really think I would overcome the world? Maybe, I had plans for it.

This is actually where I see the beauty of the Gospel.  "It dispels darkness and confusion.  It tells me about Him, about myself. It tells me that I am in Him, and because that's my identity, I can have peace when peace is beyond comprehension."  My selfish ambition is quickly replaced with His work.   The goal is not for me to overcome, but to see His kingdom advance. The goal is not for me to be gloried, but for Him to glorify Himself.  "His plans confound the wisdom of the wisest man. I deceive myself into believing that I am better than this and deserve better than this. He gently reminds me that I deserve an eternity of excruciating flame eating at my soul and separation from His Son." It reminds me who has overcome, not me, but Jesus. Jesus has overcome the world. Did you get that? Did you believe it?

Unlike the disciples thinking, "Jesus resisted the temptation to prove his rightful place as the Lord of the universe." Instead, He came and fulfilled the Law and prophecies, and willingly laid down His life in our place. He overcame the world by defeating our final enemy, death. "The resurrection speaks powerfully into our lives when it seems as though the light is about to be extinguished." So, what happens when things don't turn out like you planned? Is God really good? Yes, Jesus is far greater than you can imagine and He has overcome the world. Now, He is seated at the right hand of God ruling over all the earth. He is the all-powerful God!

Today, I rejoice that He has overcome the world and brings real peace. You are going to encounter tribulations, but Jesus promises peace! "Peace begins to fill my soul when I remember the truth of the Gospel: I am more sinful and flawed than I ever dared believe, more loved and welcomed than I ever dared hope. I deserve less than nothing, but have been given everything."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Comforts from the Cross - Day 18

A Broken Heart

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. -Psalm 51:12

"There are some days when, by His good grace, God deeply strikes my heart and shows me my sin. When God awakens me to it, it's easy for me to despair, to believe that I'm not changed, that I'll never change, to run."  How often I am reminded of the Lord's love for me, but often my sin is quite ugly.  As I read through Psalm 51 for today's devotional, I was reminded of a time when sin broke my heart and I needed restoration that only God could provide.  Elyse shares parts of her story in today's reading, but I realized that those whose sin has been cleansed, all have one of those times (or maybe many of those times). I'm going to share a little of one of mine. I asked permission of the person I sinned against, my little brother. Still thankful to this day that it it is now a vague memory in his mind.

Little bro was in high school, and I thought I was the smartest college student ever. I was home for the weekend and saw some "behavior" in him that I didn't think was the greatest. Being the fantastic person that I was, I decided that God was going to use me to show him the errors of his way.  (Every read Matthew 7:1-5? I had the plank...) I met him outside of our house as he was coming home from a date with his girlfriend. I think I had stored up all the meanest words I could think of to lash out at him. It was a verbal assault of the worst kind and ended horribly. I went to bed that night with so much anger and disgust at my little brother for not seeing what I thought were some huge problems in his life. The next day, Sunday, God would use part of David's story in 2 Samuel 12:1-15 to show me that it was actually me who had sinned against God and my brother with my actions. God broke my heart that morning and in the middle of Sunday School, I began to seek repentance.

Elyse wrote these words that I so easily relate to, "Yes, God is good, but I knew I hadn't been, and thinking about my sin felt too humbling."  David responded to his sin and guilt in a much better way than I handle mine. If you haven't read Psalm 51 yet, read it now. Stop and dwell on his prayer of repentance. The reading today points out just a few thoughts about David that should be characteristic of our repentance.
  • He recognized the poverty of His soul. (verses 3-5)
  • He pleaded for cleansing and covering. (verses 7-12)
  • Because of what the Lord had done, He desired to worship. (verses 14-17)
There are more truths that I could point out from this passage and from what I read today, but these especially convicted my heart.  Often, I struggle with thinking of how to respond in worship when I recognize that after repentance, my heart should want to praise. It doesn't naturally do that. More often I see this idea, "my zeal in worship is mainly predicated on my approval of myself." What the Lord has had to teach me through some tough times of repentance and restoration is that "He did not want my good record. Instead, he wanted brokenness and humility that would make me love Him more (and in my case, my little brother.) Outward sacrifice is easy; it appeals to my religious pride. God desires a heart that is broken by sin and humbled. O, the mercy of a God who will not scorn the sinner's broken heart."

Earlier today, I heard this song, The Endless Mercy of Our God, by Matt Boswell. Such a simple song, yet so true. As I think about my sin, I rejoice that His mercy is so much greater and that the joy of salvation can be restored through a heart of repentance. 

Verse 1:           
The endless mercy of God will ever     
Be my ground secure
God unchanging will be my rock
Whom eternity assures

The endless mercy of our God, The endless mercy of our God
Forevermore shall endure, the endless mercy of our God

Verse 2:           
The endless mercy of God displayed
Upon the cross so vile
The wrath of God there satisfied
And man be reconciled

Verse 3:
The endless mercy of God
The Holy Spirit hath he sealed
And written there in ink that ne’er  shall
Fade nor be concealed

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Comforts from the Cross - Day 17


For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. -Galatians 5:1

I love the book of Galatians.  I don't have too much to say about today's reading, but I'm going to suggest you watch this on the book of Galatians.  (Josh Moody's accent provides an interesting 12 minutes along with the content.)

Elyse uses the idea of war to show some truths from the book of Galatians. "We not only battle slavery against sin, but also battle against slavery to the law." The Galatian church seemed to have this problem.  Paul takes the "spiritual father" role here and tells them again that works is not necessary for justification.  This is one of those points where I would probably quickly jump to a conclusion and think this is not a problem today. However, the truth is that it is a problem today.  

"Works-righteousness will enslave us, similar to more obvious sins, but it's far more dangerous because it appeals to our religious pride." "Religious pride" is an idea that gets to me. Why? Because I have it in my life. I like to compare my "good works" to those around me and think that I am helping God out by all the good "Christian" things that I do.  Satan is a fan of this religious pride, because ultimately it dishonors Christ and the work of Christ.  The solution for religious pride is found a few verses later in Galatians 5:16, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." So many desires of the flesh, including religious pride, pull us and enslave us. Instead freedom in Christ awaits when I am willing to be Spirit-led, not me-led. "The one possibility that Satan dreads is that we might discover the priceless freedom Christ purchased for us."

Today, I rejoice in the freedom that comes from the work of Christ and am thankful for the work of the Spirit that provides the motive and power to obey. My obedience then comes not from trying to follow after the law, but genuine love for the Savior. His love set me free from the slavery of sin. I cannot help but think of the words of Jesus in John 8:36, "So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." Freedom because of the Son and works-righteousness not required.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Comforts from the Cross - Day 16

See Him!

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. -1 John 3:1

Elyse begins today with Forrest Gump reference.  Forrest is looking at his Jenny and says these words, "I may not be a smart man, Jenny, but I know what love is." Elyse says, " a way, he spoke for all of us. We all possess an innate awareness and understanding of love."  Most people would be able to tell you of moments they experienced and felt loved for the first time.  We know when we have been loved and times when we have felt unloved.  We even know when we have failed to love someone as we should.

"The story of redemption is, in its purest form, a love story, but it's a love story unlike anything you could ever imagine."  God's love is not like a hallmark card or a romantic movie.  It goes deeper.  It is richer. "It is love that is willing to afflict itself and its beloved for a greater good."  From yesterday's story of Lazarus, Elyse describes the love of God as a "fierce love." This fierce love was described by John in these words, "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God;" This is not the "courtesy love" when you get off the phone with someone or the "church love" that you speak to your brother and sister in Christ on the way out the door.  Imagine the Apostle John in a public place (like a mall), you are walking and thinking that "God loves me," and you see him.  John has a huge sign in attempt to get your attention, he is jumping and yelling... "This love is the important thing about you; it changes and will change everything!" Are you happy to continue in your little musing about God's love when you could be experiencing what John so excitedly proclaims?

Fierce love left the splendor of Heaven to take on the form of baby in manger and experience the life of a man here on earth, yet without sin.  Fierce love became a man who "poured out of every drop of an eternal hell's worth of wrath upon the bloodied head of its delight, and cried, 'Father, why have you forsaken me?'" The goal of this love was for you and me to be called Sons and Daughters of God. "All this pain and grief is bent on one primary goal: your adoption and His eternal praise." Because of this love, you can have a Heavenly Father.  

John continues in 1 John 3:2-3, "Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure."  Believers don't just experience this fierce, adopting love, but we have this incredible hope of being changed into something glorious.  John ends verse three by saying "everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure."  "So much of our lives as Christians is spent in futile doubt, weak questionings, and apathetic, self-serving strategies. In part, we fail in our war for purity because we spend too much time meditating on ourselves, our work, and our growth." Our hope is often in ourselves when the verse tells us to hope in Him!

Today, I rejoice that His love bought adoption for me.  I pray I never take that love lightly or get over the fierceness of it! Elyse gives a challenge in the last paragraph, "See Him! See what your adoption cost Him. Steep your soul His desire to have you for His own, and after you have done that, pursue the purity that is a mark of this fierce love."

I will wrap this up with a thought from my childhood, I used to sing a song when I was a kid that started like this, "God loves you, you know that it's true. The story gets better I read it in a letter..."  My challenge for myself today is to read God's Word, His wonderful letter.  It shows how much God loves and how to pursue purity.  As I have grown up, the same story keeps getting better.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Comforts from the Cross - Day 15

From Suffering to Glory

Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God? - John 11:40

Sometimes, I have questions about suffering.  I watched my Mom suffer from cancer for about a year and half. I had questions then and maybe some different ones now. When people suffer the question often asked is, "Why does God allow suffering?" Often, a short answer may be given that God allows suffering because of man's sin, but a closer look at Scripture might give a greater answer.

The passage for today is the story of Lazarus from John 11:1-44. I'm not going to give a paraphrase, because the Scripture does not need my help, but I do want to note a few interesting facts in the story.  First note, Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick and delayed two days where He was.  If He loved His friends, He should have come to their rescue right away, right? Elyse writes this, "It is obvious that Jesus' fierce love for His friends meant something different to Him than it does to us. What made Him wait?" The second thing to note is that after Lazarus had died and Jesus came to Lazarus' sisters, Martha had the answer.  "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." (v. 21).  "When we're facing the prospect of lifelong pain or the possibility of final separation from ones we love, it is easy to think that we know what would best glorify God - immediate deliverance from the problem."  (Side note - verses 25-26 are some of my personal favorites as Jesus gives these precious promises.) Then the other sister, Mary, comes to Jesus and says the same thing as Martha.  I think the story gets really good in verse 40 when Jesus speaks these words, "Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?"  Like those sisters, we often think we have the answer during suffering and instead find out that "Jesus is more interested in our eternal cure than He is in our temporal relief." 

The story of Lazarus is filled with the compassion of Christ and His love for people. He allows suffering, but not because of lack of love or compassion.  Isaiah 53 in a prophetic proclamation presents Jesus as our Suffering Servant.  He understood suffering better than you and I will ever be able to grasp. Those words don't necessarily bring comfort to the suffering that you may be experiencing today. However, this may be your opportunity to see the glory of God. I did not have a clue on that day in July of 2008 that from my Mom's suffering and death, that I would get a small glimpse of the glory of God. Does mean that I embrace and welcome suffering? Of course not, but I believe that as believers we have a unique opportunity to see the glory of God through suffering.  Trust Him today that He is working in your suffering.  He knows what will best glorify Him. "Somehow, in some way hidden to your weak eyes, your suffering is making a way for that to happen. You will see God's glory, you will begin to see Him as He is, and then you will start to understand."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Comforts from the Cross - Day 14

Glory to God Alone 

I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.  -Isaiah 42:8

Do you know the Heavenly Father's purpose for your life? It is actually the purpose for the world - to glorify the Son. Colossians 1:18 says " everything, He might be preeminent." The Father uses those of us on earth to accomplish His purpose. One of the best ways we do this is when "delight in the fact that salvation is completely of the Lord, and not at all of us. Our inability to save ourselves and our utter dependence upon His grace and power exalt Him rather than us."

As I read through this book and think about the truths of God's Word, I am seeing some things that I once believed to be true about me, are not really about me at all. Elyse brings this verse in a different light, "Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." (Luke 15:7). This verse is often used when someone accepts Christ to express the joy that takes place in Heaven. Now, I can imagine that Heaven is a place of rejoicing, I would even venture to say it is continual rejoicing. I am sure Heaven rejoices when sinners repent. That was the verse says.  However, I love the deeper truth that she pointed out, "every time one sinner repents, more praise and glory is brought to the Son. The King is being loved and glorified, and in that they rejoice."

Why have in the past I wanted to make Luke 15:7 be all about me? Whether I want to admit it or not, we are all what Paul Trip often refers to as "glory robbers." "We want a little of Christ's glory for ourselves. Jesus Christ is willing to share His righteousness with you, to impute to your record His perfect obedience. But His glory He will not share with anyone." When I attempt to rob Christ of the glory He and He only deserves, I am devaluing "His perfect work on the cross." 

How do we change our glory robbing hearts into one that worships God and God alone? Humility is the answer. Humility that comes from the Holy Spirit working in our lives. He is the One who humbles our hearts and gives us the desire to worship the Only One who is worthy to be praised. Today would be great day to begin practicing for the worship of Heaven. Revelation 7:12 tells of some of the words that will be said, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!"  It's all His! "His salvation is a great salvation, and He deserves to be greatly worshiped."

Friday, January 21, 2011

Comforts from the Cross - Day 13

The Joy of Obedience

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.  -1 John 5:3

Today, our focus and thoughts are drawn to the command of obedience once again.  Elyse writes this to begin the day, "I'll admit that obedience is not easily adopted. I, too, have thought that a life of loving obedience would be delightful, that is, until I'm confronted with the choice of giving up something that, at that moment I love more."  This verse in 1 John is actually different than how I would respond when facing moments of difficult obedience. When faced with a difficult trial and knowing that I should act in obedience to God's Word, I think the task or trial is quite burdensome. Maybe John had greater faith than I do, or maybe I need to practice joyful obedience and believe the truth of this verse!  There is a beautiful example of joyful obedience in the Old Testament. 

It is actually a really amazing love story between a guy named Jacob and a girl named Rachel.  Jacob agreed to serve Rachel's dad, Laban, for seven years in exchange for Rachel's hand in marriage.  From Jacob, we find out that the work was not an easy task, "by day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes." (Genesis 31:40).  However, the author of Genesis writes this about Jacob's serving, "So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her." (Genesis 29:20).  You may be familiar with the story and that he actually served fourteen years for Leah.  How could those years seem only like a few days? He loved her, and because he loved her the work was not burdensome.

Somewhat like Jacob, but so much greater was the love-driven obedience of our Savior.  This was envisaged in Psalm 40:8; "I delight to do your will, O my God."  "Jesus' work to obtain His bride was actually a delight to Him because of the great love He had for her." He perfectly completed the work of His Father in order to purchase His bride.  "The payment He earned was granted to us, proud self-righteous ones, who disdained Him. But he called it 'joy' because He loved. He gladly laid down His life for His bride."

We see an Old Testament example and our perfect example of Jesus showing us joyful obedience.  I think we should be able to learn from these! My desire for today is that His commandments are not burdensome, but that I can joyfully learn to to obey!  Like the words that were convicting yesterday, I obey because He loves.  I joyfully obey because He loves. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Comforts from the Cross - Day 12

Motivated by Love

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  -John 14:13

Everyone can probably relate to this situation as a child.  A chore or task needed to be done and your mom said something like, "Come on child, don't you love your mother? Please do what I have asked."  What motivated the obedience? Guilt.  So, our thinking goes into something like this, "I don't want my mom to think I don't love her, so I will do this." Elyse writes, "Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving." Was your mom wrong to ask you to obey, definitely not, but obedience should not be motivated by guilt. It should be motivated by love.

"It is true that the object of our love can always be detected in our behavior."  How does this apply to my love for Christ?  "If love for God is not present in our heart, then Godward obedience will be absent in our life."  Elyse wrote a statement that made me laugh, "Your Savior isn't like your mother."  He does not think of motivating you by guilt. This is one of those moments where I am amazed at how God knows us. Because He is not just our Savior, but also our Creator, He knows. "He knows our desires to obey and our shame and sadness because of our failures. But he also knows that as our love for Him grows, our obedience will grow, too." 

The key to obedience is not more self-driven effort, but a focus on Christ.  The Bible says in 1 John 4:19, "We love Him because He first loved us."  How do I cultivate loving Him? "I intently focus on His love for me more than my love for Him, more on His obedience than mine, more on His faithfulness than mine, more on His strength then mine." My mind is unable to grasp the greatness of His love, but as I see glimpses of it, I am motivated to obey.  "God's love changes people. It makes obedience attractive." 

We can talk a lot about God's love, but Satan is still at work and tempts us to doubt God's love.  Our sin at times can skew our view of God's great love for us and our actions produce disobedience. "But our Redeemer doesn't leave us there. He patiently and gently draws us back... His love is fervent, eternal, uncompromising." Today, I challenge you along with myself to rest in His love.  "Confront your own sinfulness, yes, but only after you've remembered His love for you.  Then love Him and obey."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Comforts from the Cross - Day 11

Perfected for All Time

For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. -Hebrews 10:14

"I have to admit that it's pretty difficult for me to read words such as 'perfected for all time' and have the faith to apply them to myself." If I stopped and took a look at my day or even the last hour or so, I could share with you some not-so-perfect moments.

Let's take a short look at the Hebrews, the people who this book was being written to.  They were more than familiar with the Jewish temples system, their customs, and laws.  I am sure they thought of sacrifices often, since it was required that certain sacrifices atone for certain sins.  The Hebrews also knew that sacrifices were just a temporary covering for sin, it did not remove it.  They realized that God's standard was perfection and sacrifice was the only way to atone for their failures.  Can you imagine the early believers reading Hebrews 10:14 and wondering how that would be possible?  The lived and died according to a religious system, and then came these words, "And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ has offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat sat down at the right hand of God... For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." (Hebrews 10:11-12, 14)

For the Hebrews, these verses meant freedom from the rigorous religious laws and infinite acceptance before a Holy God.  Are theses verses as important today as they were then? Yes, but we may have a harder time accepting this truth.  The Old Testament and early New Testament believers seemed to be a little better at recognizing and confessing sin.  They had to offer a sacrifice for the forgiveness of it.  Sacrifices don't really mean much today.  I clump all my sins of today together and don't really think about how I would need to atone for them, or do I?  Maybe, I think that I can do something better tomorrow to make up for my failures of today.

The truth for the early believers is still the same truth today and one that must be said over and over until my faith and life are reflective of it.  "Jesus Christ offered one sacrifice for sin and in doing so He absolutely perfected that who are (still) being changed or sanctified."  I find great comfort in the fact that Jesus knows that I will fail each day, yet, He chose to perfect me for all time.  I like how Elyse ends the day with these words, "When we spend our days in the endless pursuit of self-improvement, we are in essence, devaluing the blood of Jesus Christ, the perfect man who is also God."

My challenge and thought for today is a simple reminder for my own life - stop making excuses for sin and trust in the blood of the Savior that has perfected for all time those being sanctified! I rejoice in that the cross was the greatest price that could have ever been paid and because of the Savior's work, I find value and worth in the cross alone. 

Today, I heard an old hymn... one of the verses has ran over and over in my head...
He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.

His blood availed in that it perfected for all time those being sanctified!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Comforts from the Cross - Day 10

Not Good Enough

I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. -Galatians 2:21

Today begins with a familiar Old Testament scene.  God made a covenant with His chosen people the Israelites, and used His servant Moses to deliver the message. "You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I have bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself.  Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." Exodus 19:4-6.  God declared His intention to the Israelites in these verses and put a simple qualification of obeying His voice and keeping His covenant.  A few verses later, the Israelites responded with the words, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do."  

If you remember the Israelites of the Old Testament, you will recall that they did not do all that the Lord had spoken.  One of their most famous blunders was recorded when Moses was actually on mountain getting the Law from God.  They thought a god was needed to protect them in the wilderness, so they made a golden calf, who would be "a god to go before them." (Exodus 32:1)  They still worshiped the True God, but thought they needed more.  "They wanted Him, but they wanted their idols too." Moses and Aaron, their leaders, even had stories of when they failed to keep the law.  This leads us to an important question, "Is it reasonable to assume that we'll be able to enter into God's covenant blessings by our works?" 

Paul answered this question in his letter to the Galatian church, "yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose." Galatians 2:16, 21  The believers in Galatia had made the same mistake as the Israelites, they thought they maybe adding obedience to the law as if the work of Christ was not enough.  "They too had been deceived into thinking they they needed a bit of faith in themselves too. They didn't think they were deserting the Lord; they were just adding to their faith a touch of law keeping; a little proud self-righteousness." I like Paul's words here, he didn't sugar coat them or tell them how they could do better. He spoke truth that at times doesn't always process with our actions. "By works of the law no one will be justified."

"You see, He's gotten His chosen race, His royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession" (1 Peter 2:9) by His Son's work."  He has claimed believers as His own, so we do not nullify the grace of God by trying to obey the law.  We simply live and rejoice in grace.  You have received the righteous record of the Son of God.  God does not call us His people just to make us feel better about ourselves, but He has a purpose.  1 Peter 2:9 ends with this strong statement, "...that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." That is why you were justified by grace, to proclaim His excellency. May today you find your joy in the truth that you belong to Him and live to bring glory to Him and Him alone. Christ died for a purpose. It is our privilege and opportunity to proclaim who He is and what He did!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Comforts from the Cross - Day 9

Consider Him

Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. -Hebrews 12:3

"People want to get over it (whatever it is) and they want to get over it right away." This is the nature of our world.  We have a sickness and we want to see the doctor right now, get some medicine, and move on.  Relationships end and we do whatever we can to get over it as quickly as possible.  You can see examples over and over again in your life of this idea, and we usually want to apply it to sin as well.  I hate the continual struggle with sin and have many moments where I desire immediate release from it, but sometimes God allows me to struggle.  Obviously, the writer of Hebrews knew of struggles with sin and the desire to be over it quickly, but His perspective was not like our world's.  He wrote this in Hebrews 12:1-3, "...let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted."

This passage doesn't promise that our struggle with sin will quickly go away. No, it encourages us to endure and look to Jesus as our example of endurance! "In the original language, all three times endurance has the connotation of patience, submiting to trial or waiting underneath something difficult."  We read the admonition, but why is this so difficult to practice? The nature of sin causes our struggle - we love it and we hate it, and it does not surrender without a struggle. "If this battle is so difficult, why don't we just give up? That would seem reasonble if it weren't for the Gospel! The Gospel teaches us that instead of focusing on ourselves and our closely clinging sin, we have got to focus on, to consider, Jesus!" This passage tells us that He is the founder and perfector of our faith, so as believers, we do not struggle alone with our sin.  Jesus began our faith and the Bible says that He will also complete it. We have help and hope as we battle against sin. 

Today, I rejoice in the faithfulness of Christ as He endured sin and shame to redeem sinners. "He endured hostility from the very people He has been sent to redeem so that we would know the joy of sharing His defeat of sin."  I rejoice that my faith is not dependent on me to overcome sin, but that Jesus provides what is needed to have victory over the sin that "clings so closely" each day. Today is Monday and a busy day for most people, stop for a moment and consider Jesus.  Consider the example of endurance He gave us, and strive to focus on Him as you run the race set before you!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Comforts from the Cross - Day 8

Jesus, Remember Me

And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." -Luke 23:42

"Since the beginning of time, there have only been three kinds of people." This thought sounds quite strange to open a chapter with this thought, but we have a unique opportunity to observe these three types of people in one place.  Three crosses on a hill outside the city of Jerusalem over two thousand years ago is the best illustration of these three types of people. A short account of this can be found in Luke 23:32-43.

In the story here, we see three men.  All appear to be criminals, but in actuality only two are guilty of crimes.  They seem utterly helpless, incapable of doing anything to save themselves. There is no time for apologies or a second chance.  They only experience suffering that will eventually lead to death. "This is the exact representation of the spiritual condition of everyone who has ever lived." I am classified as a guilty criminal and so are you. Unfortunately, the bondage of sin has produced suffering that will ultimately lead to death.

The criminals that day each responded differently to Jesus.  One cried out in his anger and unbelief, asking Jesus to just do something, anything to save him.  The other man cried in faith, asking for Jesus to remember him.  He knew he had violated the laws and was dying for it.  His condemnation seemed as if justice were being served.  He was correct, but little did he know that "he was about the receive the due reward for someone else's deed.  He pleads for mercy, 'Jesus, remember me.'"

Jesus is the third man. The One "who captures our attention and His presence transforms everything."  The man who cried for mercy obtained it from Jesus that day.  Jesus represents us too, but in a very unique way, before the Father. He was the only One able to save Himself.  He kept the law perfectly and is able to present those who trust in Him before the Father.  The Bible says that "He was numbered with the transgressors."  It was out of love for you and me, that He became one of us.

Today, I rejoice in the truth that Jesus became one of us, so that He could provide mercy and pardon for sin. On the cross, He did not just remember one criminal, but many.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Comforts from the Cross - Day 7

Random thought before I dive into today's reading. I have been thinking as I read about connections of each day's reading. Lots of thoughts have swirled through my head, but one that keeps coming back.  If I am proclaiming the Gospel to myself each day, what am I learning or what do I see? This is what I see: the Gospel is the answer to "self-esteem" issues.  Maybe there is a better way to say that, but I think our world is all about making me feel better about myself, while the Gospel over and over again shows me that my value and worth is found only in Christ and His work on the cross. The Bible presents me as one that does not do good, with a deceitful and wicked heart.  As a believer, the Gospel is my answer. It is the truth and nothing else is needed. So, if you are looking to become a "better person," I challenge you to look at the work of Christ. It was more than enough and when I put my faith and trust in Him, I find my identity in Him. The title of this book continues to ring true in my life, I receive comfort and hope only from the cross.

Unfazed by Grace?

The servant fell on his knees, imploring him, "Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything." -Matthew 18:26

"A life of Godliness is impossible without an awareness of lavish grace." This thought is further developed with the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-34.  You should read the story, but I am going to summarize it quickly. A servant owed the king/master money, and begged for longer to pay, the king had mercy and forgave the servant all his debts.  Later, the servant who was forgiven ran across a man who owed him a small amount of money.  The second man asked for mercy and received none. The king heard that the forgiven man showed no mercy to the other.  He was outraged and in essence gave the servant what he rightfully deserved - prison, until he could pay off all his debts. (Not the best summary, read the Bible. It is so much better.)

When we read this story, it is easy to jump to conclusions and think that the forgiven man was crazy for not extending to his friend what he had been given - Mercy!  First, we need to look closely at the verse above, he asked for patience from the king until he could pay.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but many Bible study notes show that what he owed was more than anyone could pay back in a lifetime.  "This debtor thought that the way out of punishment was by working hard... In his pride, arrogance, and self-deceit, he thought his situation wasn't all that bad!" Can you imagine his surprise when the king forgave him all of his debt?  Unfortunately the story shows that the man walked away the same, "convinced of his own innate goodness and ability to deliver himself."

Elyse continues these thoughts in a statement that hammered my heart, "He had too high an opinion of himself and too low an opinion of the king.  He was unfazed by grace."  I would want to quickly say that this story is not me, but IT IS!  Each and every part.  How can I be so quick to condemn the servant when his story is mine?  This is why the challenge is "proclaim His death" each day to myself is so important.  The fact that I do not love my neighbor as myself or forgive when I have been wronged is not meant to condemn myself (like was stated yesterday), but to drive me to Jesus.  The Bible says that we fall short.  Just like the servant in the story, I could not pay my debt even with a lifetime of work. My abilities and goodness are not good enough, not even close.

So, what do I do when I am unfazed by grace? "Drench my proud, despairing, demanding soul in these words: 'Jesus died for sinners.'"  Today, I rejoice in the magnitude of what was accomplished on the cross. My debt was completely paid. I live and hope in grace - unmerited, undeserved, beautiful grace. I rejoice that He loves me in my selfishness and continues to remind me that I been forgiven and set free because of His work. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Comforts from the Cross - Day 6

Silencing the Accuser

And I head a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God." -Revelation 12:10

"If you belong to Jesus today, your enemy, Satan has two goals: to remind you of your sin and to accuse you continually before God. Satan takes perverse pleasure in reminding you over and over again of your failures." Day 6 begins with these though provoking words.  Is it wrong to examine our lives for sin or ask God to reveal areas where we need to repent? Definitely not.  Those things are great and should be a part of every believers life, but Satan doesn't care or even want the Holy Spirit working in the life of the believer.  Satan's desire is for our self-condemnation, which is completely different than conviction of sin.  Elyse writes this, "He subtly, yet relentlessly reminds me of my sin, but it's not his work alone. He's working in tandem with my proud heart, a heart that wants to be free of my consciousness of sin and need for a Savior." How often am I guilty of condemning myself, and then trying to fix my sin on my own.

Conviction of sin draws me to repentance, reminds me that I have offended my King, and also grants grace that my sins are once and always forgiven. Paul's words in Romans 8:1 affirms this truth, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Self-condemnation draws me to look at myself and when that happens Jesus is no longer preeminent and the focus is a "shattered image of myself." This is when we remember the truth of Revelation 12:11, "They have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb..." How do we silence the accuser? Not by following the law or attempting to be a good person, but because of the blood of the Lamb that was slain for sin.  This is the truth that we set our heart on and where our hope is found. This is the truth that to live out radical lives devoted only to our Savior!

Today, I rejoice that guilt and shame of sin has been once and for all forgiven because of the Lamb that was slain. Elyse concludes with this exhortation, "Be careful not to get these steps out of order in your walk today: forgiveness and full assurance of your Savior's love and grace come first, then comes the pursuit of Godliness." Are you resting in the forgiveness and assurance that comes from the Savior? He is the One who silences the accuser, and because of His work, we are free to pursue and live a life of Godliness.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Comforts from the Cross - Day 5

Cured---and Clean

His disciples said to Him, "You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, 'Who touched me?'" -Mark 5:31

To have some insight into today's encouragement, you have to start with this incredible story of the woman Jesus healed in Mark 5:25-34. This woman carried the labels of unclean, defiled, and excluded from society. Under the Old Testament laws, her condition even left her isolated from her family. Verse 27 says, "She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment."  She came looking for physical healing that day, but the gift she would receive was much greater than any physical healing. Jesus asked the disciples who touched Him, but I am sure He had known her name since the beginning. The woman knew she had been healed and answered the question of Jesus by coming to Him. She seems to come to Jesus in fear, yet with great faith as she falls before His feet.  Like only our precious Savior can do, He comforts her with these words, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace..." Jesus called her "Daughter" which is a sweet term of endearment and indicates a family relationship. I am sure she would have been happy to be made well physically that day, but Jesus came to do more than just heal.  He came to restore what has been broken since man fell into sin at the beginning.  He invited her into a relationship with Him, and invites us to do the same.  A relationship based on faith in Him - who He is and what He has done to redeem us from the defilement of sin.    

One thought that baffles my mind about this is that the woman was unclean and everyone she touched became unclean until she met Jesus.  Elyse writes, "Because Jesus is completely pure, He isn't concerned about becoming defiled by touching us. Instead He draws us near; He speaks to us in love. He sees our desperation, our bankruptcy, and our uncleanness, and He still desires a relationship." What is amazing about Jesus is that as we draw closer to Him, it is actually His holiness that infects you and me!

As I have pondered these thoughts, a song came to mind by Matthew Smith titled Redeemed, Restored, Forgiven. I can imagine this woman that was healed would have related perfectly to the second verse of this song.  I know its truth is something my thankful heart should sing every day!

Once on a dreary mountain
We wandered far and wide,
Far from the cleansing fountain
Far from the pierced side
But Jesus sought and found us
And washed our guilt away
With cords of love He bound us
To be His own today

Redeemed, restored, forgiven
Through Jesus' precious blood
Heirs of His home in heaven
Oh, praise our pardoning God

Dear Lord receive the glory
Of each recovered soul
Oh who can tell the story
Of love that made us whole?
Not our, not ours, the merit
Be Yours alone the praise
And ours a thankful spirit
To serve You all our days

Now keep us, holy Savior
In Your true love and fear
And grant us by Your favor
The grace to persevere

Till in Your new creation
When Earth meets Heaven's shore
We find our full salvation
And praise You evermore

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Comforts from the Cross - Day 4

Dead to the Law

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to Him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. -Romans 7:4

"Because we are dead, the law no longer has any power over us." Do we really believe this truth? Dead to the law means that you belong to someone else - Jesus Christ, who defeated death and the law for you and me.  However, if I still try to live as though I am under the law, I miss the opportunity to bear fruit for God.  Elyse uses the example of the Pharisees in the New Testament.  These people were great keepers of the law, but what did they produce? Not fruit unto God. Their slavery to the law lead to envy, hatred, evil ambition, and unbelief. "People who are intent on obeying the law as a way to earn favor with God will always end up judging, envying, and hating God and others (Galatians 5:14, 25-26)."

The plea here is not to be obedient because of the law or to earn the favor and love of God. The Father already loves us! He proved that by sending Jesus. The desire should be to bear fruit so that others are irresistibly drawn to Christ. So today, we remember and rejoice that we no longer belong to the law, but to Another! Because Jesus perfected you in eternity and His saving grace has been extended even now, our desire should be to follow after the command of Jesus in Matthew 5:16, "...let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Bearing fruit for God, to give glory to our Father in Heaven because of His great love.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Comforts from the Cross - Day 3

Presented in Splendor

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. -Ephesians 5:25-27

The focus of today is not on the fact that husbands should love their wives as is often taught in theses verses (I have no authority to speak on that), but the emphasis is on what Christ did for the church in order for us to be presented in splendor, without spot or wrinkle, holy and blameless.  These words gripped my heart, "He fell as a sinner (though he was innocent) into the hands of the living God. Consider the power of the love that motivated Him to intentionally plunge Himself into a fiery furnace that burned with relentless wrath, bearing in a few short hours an infinity of hellish misery."  He was faithful to accomplish this terrible, unimaginable wrath to redeem us to be His bride.  Not only did He accomplish the work the Father set out for Him, but also took the responsibility to clothe His redeemed. Isaiah 61:10 shares this truth, "He has clothed me with the garments of salvation; He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,..." He presented us, His imperfect bride, with the most perfect wedding garment, a robe of righteousness!

Instead of recognizing the words as truth and rejoicing in this work of Christ, it is still easy to compare ourselves to others.  I see the ugliness of pride and selfishness in my life and can only imagine that God is disappointed in me and my sin. Then, I compare myself to others and hope that I am not as defiled as they are.  Yes, we should feel shame and repent over our sin, but after repentance our thoughts should be replaced.  "Christ gave Himself up for our disgrace. His blood has washed away all our impurity. He has presented you to Himself 'in splendor'"  As a little girl, I loved to played dress up with my friends. It was always fun to visit my friends, because they had the better dress up stuff. When we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ, we are not playing dress up with a borrowed wardrobe - It is yours! "He has made you holy - spirit, soul, and body in order to present you in splendor." The garments of righteousness have already been placed on you and today we can rejoice and celebrate that this is who we are in Christ. Not because of anything that I have done, but because Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her!   

Monday, January 10, 2011

Comforts from the Cross - Day 2

No More Wrath

For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. Romans 4:15

Questions for thought: "Do you think God gets mad at you? Can you picture him saying, 'You're really in trouble now!'? Do you think He's a demanding, impatient, angry Father just waiting for an opportunity to punish you?"
Maybe there were moments in your past where a parent would be angry with you because you violated their rules. With violation of the rules, comes guilt, shame, and fear of punishment. (Trust me, I was the kid who violated many rules.)  This is not the case for those who have trusted in Christ.  Elyse writes this, "because Jesus Christ perfectly obeyed every facet of the law in your place and then died bearing all the guilt and wrath that was rightfully yours, you are no longer obligated to obey the law as a way to avoid His wrath." Jesus took our wrath and abolished the law by His death on the cross!! No more wrath for those who have trusted in Christ.  This is where my favorite part comes in, Elyse calls it "gospelized obedience."  We obey in response to God's love and grace being poured out in our lives. "All other obedience degenerates into penance or trying to avoid punishment... It seems upside down to say that God motivates our obedience by freeing us from law and declaring that He has no wrath left for us, but it's true, and true faith embraces it." I am once again amazed by the work of Christ that He took the wrath and motivates my obedience - His plan and His work.

Today, I rejoice in the words of Romans 5:1, "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." The Gospel is true, the righteousness of Christ is mine, and our God is that good. No more wrath.  Peace with God because of Jesus.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Comforts from the Cross - Day 1

I bought a new book called Comforts from the Cross by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick. The book's subtitle is Celebrating the Gospel One Day at a Time.  I wasn't exactly sure what I was getting into when I started reading, but decided maybe to blog through the book.  It is a really a 30 devo-type book. I haven't used something like this in a long time, but I like what I am reading so wanted to share.

Day 1 - Celebrate Jesus
As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes. 1 Corinthians 11:26

She talks about celebrating communion in the church to remember Jesus. I agree wholeheartedly that I am grateful my church celebrates communion to help me remember as I often forget.  So for day 1, the admonition is to celebrate Jesus! How easy it is to speak about Jesus in random moments in everyday life, but to celebrate Jesus rarely happens in my life.  Elyse asks this question, "Does it seem as though the story of Christ's life, death, and resurrection are cherished truths yet disconnected from daily life?" It is so much easier to focus on my own issues and things in my world and completely forget who Jesus is and what He has done for my life. 

It is actually easier to focus on my Christianity than to think of Jesus. I was convicted by these words... "Today isn't about me at all. It's about Him: His sinless life, death, resurrection, ascension, and reign and the sure promise of His return. It's the gravity of His life that should attract my thought toward Him." Elyse's admonition for my self-centered Christianity would be to preach the Gospel to myself today and every day! I need to celebrate the Gospel! We need to celebrate the Gospel! "He died for your sin, He is ruling sovereignly over every facet of your life, and soon He will return to right every wrong and relieve you of your trouble."

For the next 30 days and beyond, my prayer is that I will learn to celebrate Jesus and the Gospel in my life. He who gave me His righteousness is most worthy to be celebrated!