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“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” Romans 8:1-2

prison cellCan you imagine for a moment what it’s like to be on death row? Even worse, to know your day of execution is coming up? You’ve been found guilty of a crime and are about to pay the consequences through execution or physical death. You have no hope; no more appeals. You’ve most likely been forgotten by society. You are hopelessly alone.

I’m reminded of Barabbas, the prisoner that was set free instead of Jesus. What must it have been like for him to hear the crowd screaming ‘CRUCIFY HIM’! What must he have thought as he heard footsteps coming down the hall towards his cell after seeing the cross on the hillside from his window?

I can’t imagine the agony; the fear; the anger; the hopelessness! Every appeal had been used and failed. Every attempt at escape had been thwarted. Death literally was staring him in the face. He may have blinked back tears of anger and remorse just before he heard the guard say, “Ok. Get up. You’re out of here. You’re free. Never let us see your ugly face in Jerusalem again or next time you won’t be so lucky.”

All of life can really be summed up in two laws, the law of morality and the law of mortality. While science has made great strides in medicine, the death rate among humans is still 100%. So no matter what we accomplish in life, nothing will be good enough to keep us from death.

Morality suffers a similar fate. ‘Nobody is perfect’ is more than a cliché. It’s a fact of life. In an effort to ease the futility of trying to be perfect, some have tried to change God’s standards. Others have tried to ignore God’s rules or rationalize their behavior. But the Bible is clear that the wages of our sin is death — eternal separation from God.

King Solomon states in Ecclesiastes that he had everything he could possibly want by earthly standards yet found it was all meaningless until you turn to God.

A personal relationship with Jesus frees us from the law of death because we know that this body will someday fail, but our souls will go to be with him for eternity.

A personal relationship with Jesus frees us from the penalty of the law of sin, so we can know we are forgiven. Because of that, even though our physical bodies die, we are assured of life with him for eternity.

Live free today because of Jesus. Thank him for the freedom only he can give. Because of your relationship with him you are forever free from condemnation!

PRAYER: Lord Jesus. It’s often so easy to forget what a huge debt you paid for me on the cross. Thank you that I am no longer condemned. I lift up those around me who still suffer under the bondage of condemnation. I pray they too may find freedom in you. Amen.

Each of you has been blessed with one of God’s many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well. 1 Peter 4:10 (CEV)

Suppose you had a very important job to do and money was no object. Would you settle for some inexpensive tool to complete the job or would you search for the very best tool available to complete the task?

No doubt the answer to this question would be something like, “The best tool available of course! I’d want to do the very best job and I’d spare nothing to get the best tool for it.”

Your Heavenly Father feels the same way. He has a job to do. His job is to tell the world all about his great love for others. He wants to let people of all ages, races and ethnic groups to know that he longs to spend eternity with them. He sees people struggling with addictions, relational difficulties, financial ruin and abuse that he is the great healer and wants to touch them with his hand of love. He wants people struggling with the effects of illness and natural disasters that he has everything under control.

So, what tool does the Almighty, creator-God of the universe have at his disposal to get the word out about his great love, mercy and forgiveness? You. Yep. You read that right. You are the best tool God has to accomplish this great work.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, “He could never use me. I’m not very talented; or have too many mistakes in my past; or have too many other things going on in my life right now to be used by God.”

All that is simply untrue by the way. God’s great plan for all mankind, no matter where they are in life, is to show them his great love and forgiveness. His best tool for that is people. Peter tells us that every one of us has gifts to be used for his glory. No gift is more important than any other.

You may be blessed by being the leader of a huge ministry that reaches thousands of people for Christ. You may have a day-care in your home. You may be flipping burgers at a local fast food joint or cleaning restrooms at a shopping mall. Where ever you are in life, God has given you gifts to be used for his glory.

Don’t let your past keep you from helping others with their future. Don’t let society lead you to believe what you do isn’t important. You are your Father’s best hope for telling others of your love. The things you do today may very well change someone’s life for eternity.

PRAYER: Father God. I’m so unworthy of your great love. There are so many times I feel weak, inadequate for the task ahead of me or simply unimportant. So many times I get too busy to think of others and how I can make a difference. Thank you for gifting me with things I can do to help others. Empower me with your Spirit to proudly use the gifts you’ve given me for your glory. In Jesus name, Amen.

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. Psalm 107:8-9

It isn’t during the good times, but the times we wander in the wilderness that we should focus our praise towards God.

That may seem like a strange statement. For it is during our wilderness wanderings that we want to focus more on our pain. It is during those times of loneliness in the desert places that we want to cry out for justice. It is during those times of failure that we tend to allow the feelings of despair to overshadow the fact that we are indeed children of the King. It is during those times when we are treated unfairly that our demands for justice scream loudly.

One of the reasons we tend to turn inward when times are tough is because the enemy wants us to believe that we are in control of our own destiny and that we know what is best for ourselves, our loved ones and our enemies. But the reality is we can only really look back and learn from our mistakes. Looking forward does us no good because at our best we can’t even see one second ahead!

When we are in the wilderness, W When we are alone, beaten up and nursing wounds of our own failures or the attacks of others, or when those we love are being treated unfairly, the only thing that can help is to look to the one constant in life: God. Times change. Circumstances change. Health changes. Relationships change. He is the same today as he was yesterday and He’ll be the same tomorrow.

Not only does our God never change. His love for us never changes either. You may be going through something right now that makes you confused, angry or frustrated. You may doubt God’s ability to work, or your ability to cope. Those are the times He says come to me. Those are the times when He asks us to rest in His love and feel his healing and soothing touch on our lives.

You may be in a wilderness now. You may be too angry, hurt or frustrated to see the wisdom of God’s plan. You may be questioning your ability to go on. That’s okay. He’ll wait for you. Just remember that He is standing nearby waiting for your call.

PRAYER: What an awesome God you are! During this time of hopelessness and wandering I continue to be amazed that you would be so patient with me to love me, comfort me and patiently wait for me to come to you. Forgive me for thinking my way is best and doubting you. Help me to see how you have worked in the past in my life to bring me to you. Empower me with your Holy Spirit to trust you with my today, tomorrow and beyond. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. 2 Corinthians 2:14

 The Fall season is by far my favorite time of year. While I love the beauty of the colorful leaves, the best part is the smells of the fall season. The musty-ness of the leaves, the crispness of the air around me and the aroma of a distant campfire. Nothing is better!

There are several places in the Bible where we, as Christ-followers, are referred to as a fragrant aroma to our Heavenly Father. I think of that often as I sit by a campfire and smell the sweet aroma of burning wood, or when I smell the air after a spring rain. Fresh. Alive. Soothing. And to think that God feels that way about me!

Because of Jesus, God looks upon us a trophy. Like a victorious warrior He holds us high as a prized possession. We are His and victory smells sweet! Ever notice how the aroma flowers permeates the whole house? The Apostle Paul alludes to that idea in 2 Corinthians 2:14. The aroma of our lives spreads out to those around us.

Don’t allow the things you are going through keep you from remembering how God sees you. He looks at you and smiles. He takes a deep breath and savors the aroma of your life. He watches you with admiration. He longs to draw you closer to Him. The closer we walk with God the stronger we will become and the more others will see the love of Jesus in us. We not only become a fragrant aroma to God, we become a fragrant aroma to those around us as well.

PRAYER: Father God. I’m in awe as I think that I am a fragrant aroma to you. I thank you for the victory I can have through Jesus. Help me to see myself as you see me. Empower me to turn over the areas of my life that keep me from being a fragrant aroma to those around me. May the aroma of Jesus’ love permeate me and spread out to those around me. Amen.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Bad habits. It only takes a few days to learn them and sometimes a lifetime to break them. They hound us day and night. They lurk in the shadows waiting for a moment of weakness on our part so they can pounce on us and cause us to fall…once again.

Sometimes the habits are relatively harmless, like chewing your fingernails or leaving the toilet seat up! Sometimes those habits are life crippling addictions that destroy our reputation, steal our character or obliterate our relationships with people we love dearly.

In order to learn to cope with bad habits we label them and categorize them according to our opinion of their severity. Pornography, anger and drug addiction are bad habits. They hurt people, even kill people. Gossip? Worry? Sarcastic, hurtful comments? Now those aren’t so bad. In fact those can even be funny (we think). In reality, in God’s eyes, they are all the same. They are all sin.

The Apostle Paul was struggling with something. We don’t know what it was. Some think it was a physical ailment, an eye problem left over from the Damascus road perhaps. Others think it could have been something else, a spiritual issue. The Bible doesn’t tell us what it was for good reason.

The problem in Paul’s life wasn’t the issue. The issue was how he handled it. God doesn’t want us to know what Paul’s struggle was. He wants us to realize that all of us struggle. Not only do we all struggle, but the struggle we have isn’t as important as what we do with it!

Every day we need to remind ourselves that failure is inevitable in the human life. God knew that when He first created us. That’s what Grace is all about. Grace reminds us that even though we are weak, in God’s eyes we can be strong. Through Grace God can use our weaknesses for His Glory. Every day He uses ordinary, sinful people for great and mighty things.

You may be ready to give up. You may be tired of falling, getting back up and falling again. You may be thinking “I’ll never be able to conquer this”. That’s good! Once we realize we can’t fight the battle on our own God has us right where He wants us. When we feel our weakest He is ready to jump in and use that weakness as strength.

Once we accept the fact that we are weak the power of Jesus Christ will be able to work through us to tackle life’s struggles and to show others the way to Jesus. Let God’s grace turn your weaknesses into powerful weapons for good!

PRAYER; Heavenly Father, I confess to you that I’m often discouraged by my inability to live the way I want to. Like the Apostle Paul I find myself doing the things I don’t want to do and not doing the things I want to do! I hereby confess my weaknesses to you and ask that You use those weaknesses for Your glory. Work through me to rely on you daily. Amen.

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January 2023
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