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Grace Nuggets: Simple reminders of God’s great love for you.

If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. 1 John 3:14

the power of loveThere’s a bunch of dead people around. Zombies are fictional characters that are ‘dead’ people walking around as though alive. If a Zombie touches you, you may become one yourself. The real danger with Zombies though is that they look human until it’s too late.

Although Zombies themselves are fictional, they often show up at church. Christian Zombies so to speak. These are people who, by all outward appearances have Christ in their lives. They do all the ‘right’ things Christians do. They go to church. They may teach Sunday School or hold a home Bible Study. They may even be pastors of thriving organizations…er…uh…ministries. The problem is, Christian Zombies have no real life.

They have no blood flowing through their veins. Their eyes stare straight ahead and fail to focus on what’s around them. As a result they are unwilling or unable to see the needs of those around them. They spend so much time worrying about this rule or that rule they miss the story of grace. They spend so much time seeing what’s wrong in the world they fail to see what’s right. They label people according to their faults and sins and miss the fact that for all their bruises, everyone is created in God’s image.

These Zombies have the appearances of life but lack the life-giving flow of blood, the blood of Jesus. The Spirit of God has never been allowed to flow freely through their veins. Unfortunately, like the fictional Zombies, they can infect those around them with the same poison.

The best defense against becoming a Christian Zombie, and the best way to defeat a Christian Zombie, is with the magical power of love. Love destroys every evil part of the Zombie’s life. Love can never be defeated. Love never sees a person’s faults but always sees their potential. Don’t be overtaken by Christian Zombies. Rely on the love of Jesus to defeat any opposition that comes your way.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you for your love that conquers anything that may try to attack me. Empower me with the life giving ‘blood of the Spirit’ to love and to overcome anything and anyone that tries to get in my way. Amen.

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.

But we wanted you to have the true message. That’s why we didn’t give in to them, not even for a second. Galatians 2:5 (CEV)

In his book “Wild at Heart”, author John Eldredge states that within the heart of every man there is the desire to be a warrior, to be a hero, to have a maiden to rescue. Likewise, within the heart of every woman is the desire to be a princess, to have someone who sees enough value in them to fight for and rescue them.

While I wholeheartedly agree with his assessment, I take it one step further. There is within the heart of each of us, man or woman, the need to feel we are worth fighting for. Each of us needs to have a champion who will stand by our sides in the best of times, cheering our successes, and in the worst of times, bandaging our wounds.

Paul had Barnabas, Naomi had Ruth, David had Jonathan, Peter had Jesus and the list goes on and on of people who can point to one person who lifted them up, and stood with them in the darkest of times.

For the Galatian churches, and a young man named Titus, that person was the Apostle Paul. The early churches that Paul had planted as sort of an itinerant preacher were under attack. The worst part is, these attacks came from people who claimed to be in agreement with them. The attacks that do the most damage are those that come from those closest to us.

Titus was one of Paul’s close associates. He was a Greek who found Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. He grew under the teaching of Paul. He grew close to Jesus an enjoyed the freedom one can only find through Jesus. That’s where the trouble occurred. A group of people, the Bible calls them Judaizers, insisted that Titus be circumcised if he were a true believer in Jesus.

There are still Judaizers in the church today. These are the people who are quick to tell you how you should act, what you should eat, which version of the Bible to read, which music you should listen to and which people and activities to avoid in order to show you are a ‘good Christian.’

Then, along comes Paul. I see him riding in on a white horse, sword (well, maybe scroll) drawn, and ready for battle. In his letter to his Galatian churches, he tells them “We wouldn’t give in to their legalism for one second. Not ONE!”

Paul stood up for them and for us as well. There will always be those who claim to have superior knowledge on how to live the Christian. They will have all sorts of hoops to jump through, and good advice for us. When that happens measure all of that with the freedom we have in Jesus through Grace. YOU are worth fighting for.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I ask that you would protect me from the Judaizers in my life. Keep me from being discouraged by their attacks or sucked into their legalism. Through the leading of your Holy Spirit, may I enjoy the freedom Grace offers me. Amen.

“For he who finds me finds life, And obtains favor from the LORD.” Proverbs 8:35 (NASB)

How does one find favor with God?

To the Atheist or Agnostic the answer is simple. We are on our own. By sheer human effort we will make the world a better place because there is nothing other than what we see here. Mankind’s determination, education and provision (of money) will eventually see the eradication of violence, illness and death. Not a very promising future. Over the centuries we can see that man’s efforts to make life better have been fruitless, and, frankly, if this life is all we have to look forward to we are hopeless indeed. I love life. I love the beauty of this world, but my passion is for a better place.

Religion tells you that your best bet is to live morally. Morality, of course, is what you make it at the time. “I can live with my boyfriend/girlfriend as long as I’m faithful. God will understand. My parents went through divorce and I don’t want that to happen to me so I won’t marry.”

Statistics show, however, that rationalization like this about relationships doesn’t work. And morality that is dependent on our own standards leads to anarchy. Mankind has proven that he can not govern himself without standards that are ‘divinely ordained’.

Religion of another flavor will tell you that you have to jump through certain hoops to gain God’s favor and eternal life. Things like baptism or church attendance or community action or a whole list of other things are laid out for you. Follow the guidelines and you’ll have a chance. No thank you. I can play the lottery and have a chance at winning millions too. I’ll waste an occasional dollar on a lottery, but my eternal life is a little too important to play Russian roulette with, thank you.

Even ‘christianity’ (small c intentional) will tell you that accepting Jesus isn’t enough. To be a good Christian you need to follow a particular dogma, worship in a certain tradition, sing approved songs, read a certain version of the Bible… (The list is endless).

Bottom line is this. Man’s wisdom will lead you to frustration, confusion and anger. God’s wisdom leads to favor with God. So what’s the secret to finding favor with God? Jesus Christ. That’s it. Nothing more.

Let that sink in a moment. Having the Creator God look upon you with favor? Can there be anything more amazing than that? All your struggling, all your striving, all your activity to try to make you better, the world better or your neighbor better won’t bring you any closer to finding God’s favor. It’s not about activity, it’s about grace. Godly wisdom teaches us that relationship trumps activity every time. Don’t sell out to those who say you have to do something in addition to Jesus. He’s all you need.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I get so tired of trying to please others, please myself and please you. Help me to live with the wisdom that teaches me that all I need for your favor is Jesus. Thank you for that awesome truth. Amen.

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March 2023
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