Category Archives: Christian Living

More Relationship, Less Religion

Dear Father, all too often my relationship with you reverts to more religion than relationship. Praying, reading Your Word, Bible study, keeping rules, fasting, and quiet time with You are all good things. However, their value in getting closer to You diminishes if I do them as just routine, something more to check off my list of to-do’s.
One lure that draws me toward the religion trap is the foolish idea that I need do all those things so I can earn Your love, favor, attention, and approval. But of course these things (love, etc.) are gifts of Your grace, not things I earn. You already love me to the max. Jesus showed that when He suffered and died so I could be forgiven and reconciled to You. You are my Father, and I am Your child (John 1:12). Your Word overflows with declarations of Your favor for and attention to those who belong to You. Besides these, You’ve given us Your Holy Spirit so we have power and resources to live purposeful lives that please You.
I want to keep doing those good things, but let me do them because I love You and because they draw me closer to You. May I throw out any hint of earning anything. Thank You for reminding me of the wonderful truth that You desire relationship rather than religion. Amen.
My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” (Psalm 27:8 New Living Translation)

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Cleaning My Thought Closet

The other morning as I walked along, one of those old “if-only” thoughts popped into my mind. I used to torment myself with those a lot. I’d whine, “If only I had gone God’s way instead of mine, then I wouldn’t have hurt so many people, and I would be enjoying ‘X’ benefit that I don’t enjoy now.” Possibly true, but I can’t change what I’ve done, and there’s no longer room in my life for “if-only.”

That kind of regret focuses on me, not on Jesus. It brings no honor to God. In fact, it hints that I have hindered His power to forgive and heal. It hisses that God is somehow limited by my failure. How ugly! I’m going to my thought closet right now to yank out every one of those if-only garments that the Holy Spirit will show me. That will make room for more praise and thanksgiving and additional attractive spiritual clothing (like humility and patience).

 

Hebrews 12:2a “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith….”
2 Corinthians 5:15 “And [Jesus] died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for [Him] who died for them and was raised again.”
Ephesians 4:17, 22-24 “…[You] must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. …You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Colossians 3:12 “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
(All Scripture quotes NIV)

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Looking Through the Faith Filter

 

At times I have approached the Word of God—whether reading, hearing, or studying it—feeling fearful. I feared I could never do enough or that maybe I couldn’t please God or that I would find that I was a hopeless failure. That kind of thinking interfered with the benefit or growth I might have had.

But fear lies. The truth is that Jesus took care of my failures at the cross. Another truth: I could never be good enough to earn God’s love, but God loves me anyway. And another: I’ve received God’s gracious gift of salvation and have become His child. Furthermore, God has given me His Holy Spirit. He is a spirit of power, love and a sound mind (1 Tim. 1:7).

Because of these truths, I can look at Scripture in the faith that says God loves me and wants to show me His ways which are life-giving. When I use that filter—the faith filter—in my reading, hearing, and studying of God’s Word, I can learn to really live.

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Take This Robe

I said, Father, I cannot come to You in my nakedness. Yet I have nothing fit to wear to enter Your presence. Any efforts to be good enough to come to You simply fall apart because they are just human.

My Father said, “Here, take the priceless robe that belongs to my Son–His glorious righteousness–and be clothed so you can come and talk with me.

I responded, Thank You! I can’t thank You enough! Thank You for enabling me to come speak with You. Amen.

“But we are all like an unclean thing. And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like, the wind, have taken us away.”
–Isaiah 64:6
“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness….” –Isaiah 61:10
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” –2 Corinthians 5:21

(All Scriptures are New King James Version)

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Securely His

Sometimes I struggle with feelings of insecurity. John 10:22-30 often helps me overcome.

In this passage Jesus is in Solomon’s Temple with people surrounding Him. They say, “If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly.

Jesus replies, “I did tell you, but you don’t believe Me because you aren’t My sheep” (verse 25).

In verse 27 He says, “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.

My thought: I am one of Jesus’ sheep. I listen to His voice. He knows me and I follow Him.

Jesus says in verses 29-30, “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.

So I remind myself: I am securely in the hands of Jesus. God the Father won’t let me go, and Jesus won’t either.

Ephesians 3:6 also encourages me: “And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News…belong to Christ Jesus.“- New Living Translation) [The Good News is that we can have forgiveness of sins and be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ because of what He has done for us.]

I belong to Christ Jesus.

Other verses which help me replace insecurity with truth (Quoted from the Holman Christian Standard Bible):

Psalm 100:3-4 Acknowledge that the Lord is God. He made us, and we are His–His people, the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name.

Isaiah 43:1 Now this is what the Lord says–the One who created you, Jacob, and the One who formed you, Israel–“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.”

Romans 14:8 If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Thank You, Lord, that I am securely Yours.

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Where Is the Meeting?

Don’t you hate it when you’re looking for something on the internet, and you get the screen “Error 404—Page not found”? But there are times in my life when I’m glad for “page not found”—like when I start to dig up those sins which have been confessed, forgiven, and forgotten by God. (See 1 John 1:9, Isaiah 43:25, and Hebrews 10:17)

Psalm 103:12 makes a great promise: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” And Jesus makes it true for all of us who trust in Him (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Thank You, Father, for removing my sins so far from me. I can forget the past except for the lessons I’ve learned. I cannot meet up with those transgressions again. If a person travels east, they can go around the globe 100 times and still be going east. Also, if we travel west, we’ll still be going west no matter how far we go. So east and west have no meeting point, no “page” where my sin could be found.

I can’t thank You enough, O Lord my God.

Reference Scriptures:
1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Isaiah 43:25 “It is I who sweep away your transgressions for My own sake and remember your sins no more.”
Hebrews 10:17 “I will never again remember their sins and their lawless acts.”
2 Corinthians 1:20 “For every one of God’s promises is “Yes” in Him. Therefore the “Amen” is also through Him for God’s glory through us.”

(Scriptures are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.)

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Taste Test

          “Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8 New Living Translation)
I always thought of “tasting” in this verse as “taking a little sample” of God, like tasting the soup to see if it has enough salt. Since the rest of the verse says that the taste reveals God’s goodness, that understanding is probably right.
However, today I thought about “tasting” God like I taste my favorite foods. As I eat them, I savor and enjoy them. They satisfy me and give me energy and nourishment. Today I think I’ll savor and enjoy God. He will nourish and satisfy me. As I wait on Him, He will renew my strength (Isaiah 40:31). I will delight more and more in His goodness.

 

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