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How can you be so stupid? Do you think that by yourself you can complete what God’s Spirit started in you? Galatians 3:3 (CEV)

When I was growing up, it was almost considered a swear word to call someone ‘stupid’. Put downs and sarcasm were simply not tolerated. But when Paul is writing to the churches in Galatia, he doesn’t sugar coat what he is trying to get across to these new believers.

Somewhere along their faith walk they had made a decision, most likely sub-consciously, to try to draw closer to God through their own efforts. The Galatians were prodded along by Judaizers who insisted that they follow Jewish customs in order to be ‘good Christians’. Paul was completely dumbfounded by their actions. How could a people who clearly understood the sacrificial death of Christ experience the freedom he has to offer and then put themselves back in bondage?

The answer can be found in the example Peter unwittingly gave us earlier in Paul’s letter. Peter slipped into the same trap, and pulled several others with him. The bait was ‘living for God’. The motivation for stepping into it was fear. Fear that they wouldn’t measure up. Fear that their past was too bad for God to accept them. Fear that he may not approve of them. Fear that they hadn’t done enough to thank him for all Jesus did on the cross. A fear driven belief that grace is too easy, that there must be more than simply believing.

Don’t be too hard on the Galatians though. Don’t we do the same thing? We go to church because that’s what Christians do. We sing certain songs because that’s how we are told we need to worship. We say certain creeds because they draw us closer to God. We go through baptism and confirmation and communion because we have been led to believe that these are all things that HAVE to be done for us to be holy.

Don’t get me wrong. Church attendance, Bible Study, Worship and other activities of the church certainly have their place. However, if those things are done to grant us a closer standing with God they are nothing more than the legalistic trap that got Paul so agitated with the Galatians.

Here’s the thing. God is far more concerned about the condition of your heart than he is your behavior. He’s far more concerned about a love relationship with you than he is watching your attempts to ‘be good.’

Paul’s words should strike deeply into our hearts. They should draw us to scrutinize carefully all that we do to make sure we are doing what we do for the right reasons. Too often we get sucked into thinking that even though salvation is by grace, Christian living in on our own power. Grace covers it all. Grace beings me into relationship with God; Grace empowers me to live daily in his love.

PRAYER: Father God, please guard my heart. Thank you for the free grace given to me by Jesus sacrificial death. Help me to live in the freedom of that grace and protect me from my own desires to earn what you gave me freely. Amen.

He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord. Psalm 40:3 (NLT)

Ever heard a song that spoke to you in such a way that the words stuck in your mind all day long? The type of song that seemed, in some way, at that moment in time to make a statement about who you were or what you were going through? People who are in love will often hear a song that speaks of their relationship and make that ‘their song’. They may have it sung at their wedding ceremony and for the rest of their lives, whenever they hear it; they will be reminded of that day when they officially began their lives together. Some may even be lucky enough to have a song written just for them by the one they love, a testament to undying, eternal love.

So, what’s your song? It’s not important if the tune is best fit for rock ‘n roll, rap, or classical. It doesn’t matter what instruments you play it with. What is your song?

There’s an old chorus, part of which goes something like this: “There’s a new song in my heart since the savior set me free There’s a new song in my heart ’tis a heav’nly harmony all my sins are washed away in the blood of Calvary o what peace and joy nothing can destroy there’s a new song in my heart.”

During some of the darkest times of my life I’ve found it interesting that the songs that come to mind are the songs of my faith. Faith in a God who is so Holy that he can not bear to look on sin and failure. A God that is so powerful the winds and nature obey his voice. A God so loving that he chose to give me grace and mercy at the Cross of my Savior, Jesus Christ.

Songs can give a message of love or hate, of life or death, of hope or hopelessness. My song wasn’t written by me. It was written on my heart by Jesus. My song isn’t dependent on my actions or the actions of others. Its message of hope and love and grace and mercy rings on through the darkest times of our soul, when the wounds seem too much to bear.

He has given me a new song! A song that will never, ever end. A song that will make others take notice and praise God. Not because of me, but because of Jesus.

I’ll ask the question again. What’s your song? If you have Jesus Christ as your Savior. If you have been forgiven of all those wounds and bad choices of the past. Then your song of hope and praise must be sung. It can not be squelched. So sing! Sing your song in the words you speak, in the actions you take, in the love you show to those who deserve it least.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, Thank you for the song you gave me when you died for my sin. Forgive me for the times I’ve squelched its message. Empower me to sing for you with every thought, word and action. In your name I praise! Amen.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Matthew 28:5-6

I wonder how many times the scene of Jesus’ last breath played itself over and over in the minds of the Mary’s and the other disciples of Jesus that Sabbath day after the crucifixion. What was it like in the synagogue services the next day.

Remember. It was Passover. The city was full of people who had come toJerusalemfor the celebration. Many of them had no doubt heard Jesus speak. They had seen him heal the blind and the lame. They’d seen him cast out demons and raise people from the dead. Some of them may even have been the recipient of Jesus’ touch…and now he was dead.

There must have been a tremendous amount of fear. The Synagogue rulers had always been powerful. They had made rules that were impossible to keep. And now, if the Jews could kill Jesus, what could stop them? Who was next? Would this bring down the Roman guard against others? Even the Roman that watched Jesus die said “Surely, this was the son of God!”

In the homes and gathering places of thousands of Jews there had to have been confusion. So many had thought this was truly the Messiah, and now he was gone. Some may have celebrated. With ever one of these ‘religious zealots’ that came along they carried a threat that the Romans would come in and smash the uprising. Others were no doubt angry. Angry at the Jews for killing a good man. Angry at God for not protecting Jesus. Angry at Jesus for getting their hopes up. Anger doesn’t have to make sense. It only needs an object to attack.

Were the Mary’s at the Synagogue that day? I’ll bet they were. So were many other followers of Jesus. Maybe even a few of the disciples. They came to pray, to worship, to ask ‘why?’ Sabbath was so much more than a ‘Sunday’ in our culture. There was nothing else going on. It was a time of reflection. A time for families. And on this endless Sabbath, a day of remembering.

It’s no wonder then that early the next morning a handful of women made their way through the quiet streets ofJerusalemwith a few vials of oil. They went to remember. They went to worship. They went so that one more time they could say good-bye to their Lord and Savior.

But what joy would await them. Two shining angels. A rolled away stone. An empty tomb. An announcement that would become the battle cry of Christ-followers through the ages.

“We know why you came here this morning. You came looking for Jesus. He’s not here. He’s risen…just like he said he would.

Isn’t that just like Jesus? He did EXACTLY as he said he would. He still does today. Every promise will come true. HE IS RISEN. HE IS RISEN INDEED!

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. Thank you so much for dying for my sins. Thank you for the forgiveness, grace and mercy you make available to me. I give you all the honor, all the praise for you are God! Amen.

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. Luke 24:1

Every year about this time I’m drawn, for obvious reasons, to the end of the Gospels to read the account of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. I never want to miss the emotion of that time in the lives of those who knew Jesus personally.

We as Christ-followers must never lose sight of the emotion of that time in the lives of Jesus close personal friends. As I grow older and hopefully wiser and as more and more of my loved ones have gone on before me I get just a glimpse of the pain, the agony, the sorrow and confusion of the days leading up to ‘Resurrection Day.’

I’ve felt the heartache of losing a brother who died ‘too soon’. I stood by the bedside of my mother as she breathed her last. I’ve held a mother as she sobbed over the body of her little boy. I’ve stood by the gurney of a friend who’d been ushered into glory just hours after I’d talked with him.

Painful as those times were, none of my anguish could compare to those who watched Jesus get beaten, humiliated, stripped naked and hung on a piece of wood for all the world to watch his slow, painful death. As I write this I get goose bumps just thinking of it.

In the midst of all that trauma. In the midst of all that pain. What drove the women to the tomb before sunrise on that Sunday morning? They’d watched him be placed in the tomb. They knew there was a huge stone covering any hope of access to the body. Why didn’t they get some men to go with them? Did they try to solicit help or were the guys too broken up and scared to go out so soon after their master was murdered by a power hungry mob?

I may never know the answer. It may not even be important. In reality I have an idea what one of the reasons was for their early morning mission. It was love.

The ‘Mary’s’, and perhaps a few others, couldn’t let Jesus body be cast aside without the proper spices. They couldn’t bear to let the one who never neglected their needs be neglected at his time of biggest need. Dangerous? Perhaps. Futile? Maybe. But this was Jesus. It had to be done.

Then I ask myself this question. Where would I have been that morning? Would I have held the lantern to light the path? Would I be ready to lift the stone or fight off some Roman Guard? Or would I cower on my mat and be afraid at every noise in the night.

I hope I’d do the former. I pray that I’d be leading the way, because like the adulteress I’m not condemned. Like the blind man, I’ve received sight. My hunger is filled, my thirst is quenched. A risky walk in the dawn mist is the least I can do for my Jesus.

PRAYER: Jesus at this season of the year I’m in awe of your love and compassion for me. I’m reminded of how much you’ve given and how little I deserve. I worship you for all you have done for me. I praise you for your grace, your mercy and your forgiveness. Help me to be like the women who set aside everything else to tend to you. In your wonderful, marvelous and most holy name, Amen.

“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. John 5:28-29

Have you ever been in a large room with a large group of people? There are conversations going on all around you. Some are a little louder than others. Some are laughing, some engaged in serious conversation.

Suddenly, in the midst of all the noise you hear the voice of your loved one. Not calling you necessarily. Their voice doesn’t even have to be louder than the others. You hear it because it’s a voice of distinction. It’s a voice you know because you love that person. You’ve talked with that person during intimate times and while discussing the mundane things of life. You respond because you have a love relationship with the owner of that voice.

Someday, and perhaps soon, Jesus will return to earth. He’ll come to gather up those who recognize his voice. He’ll call them from the grave that has held them. With one word they will come forth because they will recognize the voice of the one whom they love.

These are the ones who have walked with Jesus during the tough times of life. They’ve followed his ways when the world screamed at them to follow them. They have struggled. Some have fallen, often. But every time they failed they would return to him for forgiveness and then try again to change their ways. Some were victorious in areas of their lives. Some struggled from the day of their birth to the time their earthly bodies could no longer hold them. Regardless of the struggles, they respond because they know his voice as the one they love. This was the voice of one in whom they built a relationship.

Sadly, there will be others who will come forth. These are the ones who heard the voice once or twice but never responded. They chose the way of the world rather than the way of God. They worked hard to make sure that they enjoyed all the ‘good things of life’. They may have followed religion. They may have been spiritual. But they never responded to the call of Jesus to come to him for forgiveness.

They will respond to his voice now. They won’t respond because they recognize him. They will respond because Jesus is Lord of all. He is Lord over those who have responded to him in life. He is Lord over those who have rejected him in life but will come forth in death.

Those who have built a relationship with Jesus in life will be called forth to join him for eternity. Those who have not built a relationship with him in life will be sent into eternity without him,

Today, Jesus is calling you. He’s calling you to enter into a relationship with him. He’s calling you to receive the forgiveness and mercy and grace that comes freely because of his death and resurrection. He’s asking you to let him enter into your life. Someday, and someday soon He’ll call you again. This time, He won’t call you and ask to invite him into your life, He’ll call you to enter into his home. A home that will last for eternity. A home that is free of sin and sorrow and sickness and death.

Will you answer his voice today? Will you accept his invitation now to join in relationship with him based on forgiveness and mercy and grace? Let him live with you now so you can live with him in eternity.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. I’ve heard your voice on occasion. I’ve heard about you. I’ve even attended places that teach about you and I’ve sung your songs. But I’ve never asked you to forgive me of my sin. I’ve never chosen to follow you in obedience built on relationship and love. I’m asking you now. Forgive me of my sin. Enter into my life now so I can spend eternity with you. In your name I pray. Amen.

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August 2022
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