Living in Transformation

Below are excerpts from Pastor Stuart's daily scripture meditations. Click the title of the excerpt to read the full article. To receive these articles in your email inbox, please click the link at the top of the page to subscribe.

Living From "New" | October 16, 2017
Yesterday at our VLC worship gathering we looked at some of the reasons why we get stuck in the progression of our transformation into the image of Christ. It can be really frustrating for us to want to honor the Lord and to feel that the battle "within" is not winnable. This is a big part of the strategy of our enemy to keep us and ultimately the world from experiencing the abundant life of Christ.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NASB)

Living From Freedom | October 17, 2017
Now that we know the "law" can't get us where we want to go, how do we access freedom? Simply come to Jesus and tell Him where you would like the empowerment to change. Instead of saying, "I am going to do this or that," ask the Lord to empower you by the Holy Spirit to succeed. You are free to pursue your victory.

Christ has freed us so that we may enjoy the benefits of freedom. Therefore, be firm in this freedom, and don’t become slaves again.
Galatians 5:1 (GW)

Transforming By The Holy Spirit | October 18, 2017
We all experience the end of ourselves in our ability to change some area of our lives at some time in our life. Whether it was to grow spiritually, keep a budget, become a more patient person or to lose ten pounds, we realize that the force of our soul will not bring about the change. This is a part of Paul's argument in Romans 7 and 8. Through our own efforts, we often go in reverse.

But if God’s Spirit lives in you, you are under the control of your spiritual nature, not your corrupt nature.
Romans 8:9 (GW)

The Spirituality of Rest

Below are excerpts from Pastor Stuart's daily scripture meditations. Click the title of the excerpt to read the full article. To receive these articles in your email inbox, please click the link at the top of the page to subscribe.

The Rested Heart | October 4, 2017
This weekend we were reminded of the various realms of rest that the Lord desires for us to enter into. Today, I want to highlight the "rested heart." Most of us have some kind of STRESS in our lives. Some are regular life stress and some may be stress brought on by circumstances that are outside of our control. Learning the spiritual discipline of rest in these times is a key to both a healthy emotional life and a growing spiritual life. Let me explain.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep,
For You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.
Psalms 4:8 (NASB)

The Rested Spirit | October 5, 2017
One of the marks of maturity for disciples is a peace that surpasses understanding. While the world is being thrust into further fear, the Christian stands on the rock of Christ and His word and calmly follows through the tumultuous events and seasons of life. We have an opportunity to truly show the terrorized world what the Kingdom is about as we walk in peace in these last days. 

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.
John 14:27 (NASB)

The Spirituality of Preparation

Below are excerpts from Pastor Stuart's daily scripture meditations. Click the title of the excerpt to read the full article. To receive these articles in your email inbox, please click the link at the top of the page to subscribe.

Are You Prepared? | September 27, 2017
We have been discussing some of the very practical aspects of life lately, like our diet, health, and sleep. It was mentioned in our gathering on Sunday, that there are other things in our lives that we should also pay attention to, especially in light of the hurricanes and earthquakes in the news. As I took a straw poll on Sunday, not many are ready for a disaster that would have the power out for a week or more. As with all things, wisdom is not only directed for our own benefit but also that we would be a light to our neighbors if the inevitable occurs. 

A prudent person foresees the danger ahead and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.
Proverbs 27:12 (NLT)

The Other Side Of Preparation | September 28, 2017
Yesterday, we looked at being prepared for the inevitable circumstances that are a part of a life on this earth and looking ahead to ensure that we are able to be a light in the darkness when the darkness falls upon us. Today, I have another encouragement, yet from the other side.

When we "see the people" as Jesus did, the transformed heart is filled with compassion and desires to participate in alleviating the suffering. There are three ways that are always available to us.

Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.
Matthew 9:36 (NASB)

The Spirituality of Health

Below are excerpts from Pastor Stuart's daily scripture meditations. Click the title of the excerpt to read the full article. To receive these articles in your email inbox, please click the link at the top of the page to subscribe.

Is Healthy Spiritual? | September 18, 2017
Yesterday, at VLC, I spoke from my heart about God's desire for us to commit to our health as a part of our spiritual life. I am continually concerned that our choices and lifestyle do not allow us the freedom to live the abundant life that the Lord calls us to. While I know that this message is a very challenging one to hear, the sooner we commit to it, the sooner, we will be on our way to healing and honoring the Lord with our body.  

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NASB)

Food For Thought | September 19, 2017
Food... the Bible has a lot to say about it. Food is a key theme in regard to diet, health, family, and community celebration. Like many concepts, the Lord uses the ordinary things of our day to teach us about Himself and His ways. What could be more ordinary than food to instruct us? Here are a few of the many lessons we can learn through food. 

God said, “I have given you every plant with seeds on the face of the earth and every tree that has fruit with seeds. This will be your food.
Genesis 1:29 (GW)

The Purpose Of Exercise | September 20, 2017
We have been looking at physical health this week as a part of our spirituality. From the beginning of the New Testament times, believers have been confused about the physical body and its importance in the spiritual life. Like every aspect of our lives, our bodies require "stewardship" before the Lord. He has given our bodies and health and asks us to care for it.

Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next.”
1 Timothy 4:7, 8 (NLT)

The Gift God Gives Those He Loves | September 22, 2017
In our verse, written thousands of years ago, Solomon shares the vanity of trying to control our lives without proper sleep. We find ourselves rising early and staying up late trying to live the "full" life that cannot be found without God's gift of sleep. This gift is a double miracle, one physical and one spiritual.

In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Psalms 127:2 (NIV)

Letting God Be Our Foundation

Below are excerpts from Pastor Stuart's daily scripture meditations. Click the title of the excerpt to read the full article. To receive these articles in your email inbox, please click the link at the top of the page to subscribe.

Are You Moved With Compassion? | September 11, 2017
Today is Patriot's Day, a day to remember the wounds of 9/11/01. We can all remember where we were on that day and how our hearts went out to those who were trapped or who died rescuing people in the World Trade Center. While this tragedy remains fixed in our minds sixteen years later, we cannot simply look back as a point of remembrance as followers of Jesus. Days like this should move us with renewed compassion for the lost and hurting of our world. 

For he will deliver the needy when he cries for help,
The afflicted also, and him who has no helper.
He will have compassion on the poor and needy,
And the lives of the needy he will save.
Psalms 72:12-13 (NASB)

More Than... | September 12, 2017
During times of natural disasters or the announcement of personal "bad news," we are all tempted to put our eyes on the circumstances rather than the Lord. It is easy to become discouraged, depressed, and disillusioned when we have our eyes on the floods rather than the Lord. In this song, the author reminds us of an amazing truth. 

Your throne is established from of old;
You are from everlasting.
The floods have lifted up, O Lord,
The floods have lifted up their voice,
The floods lift up their pounding waves.
More than the sounds of many waters,
Than the mighty breakers of the sea,
The Lord on high is mighty.
Psalms 93:2-4 (NASB)

Random Song Meditations | September 13, 2017
I often find myself pouring over the great hymnal of the Bible. There is rarely a time when I am not inspired by the powerful words of the songs in the book of Psalms. I can drop in just about anywhere and find instruction and inspiration as I think about how the writers were singing their prayers to Father God. 

It is good to give thanks to the Lord
And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;
To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning
And Your faithfulness by night.
Psalms 92:1-2 (NASB)

September 14, 2017 | Peace Or Anxiety?
I was recently having a conversation with a friend in which we were discussing, stress, anxiety, and fight or flight mechanism that is associated with our parasympathetic nervous system (the automatic part). As we were speaking, it occurred to me that many if not all of us struggle with this emotional, spiritual, and ultimately physical reality of being overwhelmed and over-adrenalized. 

It amazes me that the Bible has addressed this for thousands of years, yet we still find ourselves overrun with a lack of peace. Here's what I mean.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.
1 Peter 5:7-9 (NIV)

Learning to Forgive

The Freedom Of Forgiveness | September 6, 2017
This past Sunday, we had time to meditate and discuss the freedom of forgiveness in our lives. The very act of recognizing our short comings before Father God sets us free from our past, our shame, our guilt, and the anxiety that comes from the bondage of sin. 

"And forgive us our debts, ..."
Matthew 6:12 (NASB)

The Benefits Of Forgiving | September 7, 2017
As I was studying forgiveness for last week's message, I realized that there is a powerful connection with ourselves in this point of prayer. As we are forgiven and forgive and are forgiven, our lives and our world return to a place of homeostasis. When our relationship is out of whack with the Lord or others, there is no peace in the heavens or earth. Forgiveness restores that order. 

"And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."
Matthew 6:12 (NASB)

When You "Can't" Forgive | September 8, 2017
There are times in our lives when a biblical truth just doesn't seem to line up with our soul. We know the Lord "commands" it, but we are caught in the conundrum of trying to honor the Lord and emotionally unsure how to do it given the circumstances we are facing. Often, an issue of forgiveness will cause us to be caught like this, somewhere in the middle.

"And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."
Matthew 6:12 (NASB)

A Brief History Of Prayer

Overcoming Evil | August 28, 2017
The last verse of Romans 12 puts the whole chapter together for us with one simple phrase. Within this phrase is the outworking of the whole chapter from a very practical mission. There is a battle raging that wants us to lose our advancement and victory in the gospel. It seeks to overcome us when we are designed to overcome it. 

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:21 (NASB)

A Brief History Of Prayer In The Bible | August 29, 2017
As we have been focusing on the topic of prayer in our Sunday worship gatherings over these past few months, I have had many thoughts that I would love to offer without the time constraints of Sunday morning. Therefore, I am going to share some things I have been learning about prayer in an attempt to bring clarity and motivation to those of you who would like to change your life and the world through your partnership and conversation with Father God. 

The earliest conversation (prayer) we see in the Bible is between Adam and Father God. Though we have earlier one-way commands being given, this is the first two-way conversation that is recorded. Without tying in all the background of this conversation, how it comes about is a telling display of the Father's invitation to converse with Him.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
Genesis 3:8-10 (NIV)

A Brief History Of Prayer Part 2 | August 30, 2017
The second conversation (Prayer) we see in the Bible has to do with how to appropriately honor the Lord. When we disregard His Majesty, we deny His Lordship in our lives. Many people seem confused about what was going on in this episode. This is a picture of the first act of worship recorded in the Bible. Cain brought an offering and Abel brought an offering. However, there was a difference. 

In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it. ”
Genesis 4:3-7 (NIV)

A Brief History Of Prayer Part 3 | August 31, 2017
We don't hear of any worship or prayer meetings for quite some time after the account with Cain. In fact, it looks like a generation or more passed before we see this phrase, "Then men began to call upon the name of the LORD." This is an interesting "coincidence" that has some theological underpinnings that would take too long to explain today but suffice it to say that Adam and Eve spent some time discipling their son to disciple the next generation. 

Adam had relations with his wife again; and she gave birth to a son, and named him Seth, for, she said, “God has appointed me another offspring in place of Abel, for Cain killed him.” To Seth, to him also a son was born; and he called his name Enosh. Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord.
Genesis 4:25-26 (NASB)

A Brief History Of Prayer Part 4 | September 1, 2017
This verse is one of the most inspirational verses in the Bible. It is packed with so many implications. Walking with God is the most basic concept in the Bible. Enoch learned its simplicity. So many make the spiritual life complicated or profound when the simplicity of all good news is found in the words, "...walked with God."

Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.
Genesis 5:24 (NIV)

The Return To Devotion

Living In Peace | August 21, 2017
This single command would heal our relationships and our land. "Never pay back evil for evil to anyone." Somebody has to atone for the sins of others. Jesus took our sin upon Himself. As God, He could have retaliated, but instead, He "bore" our sins. Likewise, as Christians (little Christs), we are called to take the sins of others upon ourselves. 

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.
Romans 12:17a (NASB)

The Reputation Of Nobility | August 22, 2017
Paul reminds us in today's verse that others are watching our actions, therefore, we must think through the things we do before we do them. Self-awareness, especially as it relates to others is an important part of our discipleship. Those that serve Christ are constantly checking their actions to determine if we are bringing the Kingdom forward or setting it back. 

Focus your thoughts on those things that are considered noble.
Romans 12:17b (GW)

Can We Live At Peace With Everyone? | August 23, 2017
The path to peace with everyone is not something we accomplish on the outside. It is something we cultivate on the inside. When we interact negatively with others, it is up to us to invite the peace of Christ into that spot. No one can make us angry. We either make ourselves angry or peaceful based upon the grace we choose to walk in.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Romans 12:18 (NIV)

The Wisdom Of Godly Revenge | August 24, 2017
We are not designed to seek personal judgement on others. All judgement between us and others is to be left in the hands of God. In fact, not only is our "getting our due" rendered neutral, we are in essence called upon to reverse our vengeance and seek to bless others with our actions. Of course to our "natural selves" this seems foolish, but to the spiritual person, this is very wise. Let me show you.

Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Romans 12:19-20 (NASB)

Learning Empathy with Jesus

Pursuing Invisible People | June 12, 2017
Today's verse is a charge to open our eyes to the people around us. We all pass hundreds of people each day on our journeys about town. While it would be impossible to engage each one, followers of Jesus cultivate an awareness of the needs of those around them and then act as Jesus to them.

Share what you have with God’s people who are in need. Be hospitable.
Romans 12:13 (GW)

How Pushback Develops Spiritual Life | June 13, 2017
Today's verse may take a lifetime to master. While most of us will rarely if ever experience true persecution, we all experience times of interactions with challenging people, disagreements, and pushback on our ideas and desires. This verse teaches us how to deal with these issues and grow in our spiritual life.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Romans 12:14 (NIV)

How To Build Empathic Intimacy | June 14, 2017
Today's verse may be one of the most powerful keys to building any relationship. It is sandwiched between "bless and do not curse" and "do not repay evil for evil." I believe there is a connection. 

When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow.
Romans 12:15 (TLB)

The Problem With Having The Advantage | June 16, 2017
We are a blessed people. A people who have been given the advantage of living in a developed country. A people who have been given a wonderful education. A people who have unimaginable resources compared to the other 90% of people living on this planet today. However, all of the advantages we have can also work against us in our spiritual lives. 

Live together in peace with each other. Do not be proud, but make friends with those who seem unimportant. Do not think how smart you are.
Romans 12:16 (ICB)

Letting Jesus Show Us How to Love One Another

Why We Hold Back | June 5, 2017
I believe the reason we hold back is that we do not have a sense of ownership, mission, or internal passion for these "at the moment." When we see someone struggling with something physically, we may be inclined to not "want to get involved." "They probably have it." However, most of the time, people are carrying heavier burdens than we can see.

If it is encouraging others, devote yourself to giving encouragement. If it is sharing, be generous. If it is leadership, lead enthusiastically. If it is helping people in need, help them cheerfully.
Romans 12:8 (GW)

Do We Pretend To Love? | June 6, 2017
The opening statement, "Don't pretend to love others. Really love them," caught my attention in this verse. Paul seems to think it is possible to act like you are loving when you are really not. As I started to meditate upon this, I began to wonder, when do I pretend to love others?

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.
Romans 12:9 (NLT)

Two Keys For Strong Relationships | June 7, 2017
There are two "one-anthers" in today's verses. Whenever we see one of the over 60 "one-anothers," they are indications of keys to building strong relationships the way God designed them. Whenever I see a one-another, I imagine this is the way Jesus is treating me. Since He relates to me this way, I can do so with others. 

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Romans 12:10 (NIV)

No Signs Of Slowing Down | June 8, 2017
Paul gives us three encouragements in this verse today. He is like a coach, urging his players forward with three word pictures. He still calls out by the Spirit to us among the great cloud of witnesses. Here they are:

  1. Keep your pace
  2. Don't lose your fire
  3. Remember your love
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
Romans 12:11 (NIV)

How We Keep Our Confidence | June 9, 2017
Today, we have another triplet of exhortations that focuses on the three keys to keeping our confidence in times of challenge. We need to be reminded of these anytime we are in a season of trial.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Romans 12:12 (NIV)

Serving with Grace

Speaking From Grace | May 30, 2017
I want to speak and be known as a person with "words of grace." The people around you need to hear it. The world needs to hear it. It is a powerful way to emulate Christ today. 

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.
Romans 12:3 (NASB)

Uniquely Yours | May 31, 2017
Until we begin living fully in the understanding of our "oneness" in Christ, we will never know Christ fully. So here is the bottom line. You be you and I'll be me and we all are in this together. This is our destiny in Christ. Let's allow it to be our reality. 

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
Romans 12:4-5 (NIV)

Using What You Have | June 1, 2017
Today's verse is a simple statement with many ramifications. Click here to read a few of my reflections for you.

Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;
Romans 12:6 (NASB)

Do I Need The Gift Of Service To Serve? | June 2, 2017
Today's verse sounds dumb when you read it in most English translations. When you think about it, you just say, "Of course, that makes sense." However, the way Paul constructs these statements, he is not just wanting the readers to agree, but he is emphasizing a point. Look at it this way. Have you been endowed as a servant? Serve! Have you been graced to be able to teach? Teach!

If a man's gift is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach.
Romans 12:7 (NIV)

Learning, Doing, and Becoming with Jesus

Trying To Figure Out The Lord | May 15, 2017
The ways of the Lord are counter-intuitive. Through every century and age, men and women have been trying to figure out His ways. In this chapter, Paul tries to explain the unbelievable grace that has been shown to those who were not of Jewish ancestry.

God’s riches, wisdom, and knowledge are so deep
that it is impossible to explain his decisions
or to understand his ways.
“Who knows how the Lord thinks?
Who can become his adviser?”
Who gave the Lord something
which the Lord must pay back?
Everything is from him and by him and for him.
Glory belongs to him forever! Amen!
Romans 11:33-36, GW

Responding To The Lord | May 16, 2017
This verse, like many others, can become meaningless over time if we do not meditate upon it. Like John 3:16, these "memorized" verses can lose their power to transform if we just rush on by without taking into view the power of the truth. 

Brothers and sisters, in view of all we have just shared about God’s compassion, I encourage you to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, dedicated to God and pleasing to him. This kind of worship is appropriate for you.
Romans 12:1, GW

Your Unique Calling | May 18, 2017
As I was reading Romans 12 on Monday, I realized that I wanted to take a slow stroll down through the chapter with you. With so much treasure to be mined, it would be a shame to rush along. So we come to the second encouragement today. The first is to respond with your life. The second is to be reminded that God has uniquely designed you as you transform as a spiritual son or daughter. 

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2, NIV

Overcoming Through Faith in Jesus

Do Saints Struggle With Sin? | May 9, 2017
As we come to today's chapter, we see the classic struggle of the desire over action. This struggle is one that we all face, even as children of God who are set apart with Him. Yet, while the struggle is real, the victory is sure. 

For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
Romans 7:19-20 (NASB)

Power Over Sin | May 10, 2017
As we come to today's chapter, we continue our discussion regarding our struggle with sin and how to be set free. Yesterday we saw that there are at least three elements that work against us. The power of the law, the power of the self, and the power of sin.

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 (NASB)

God's Stumbling Block | May 11, 2017
The next portion of this letter addresses the question of "What happens to the Jews?" Since Christianity grew from Judaism, how is it that most followers of Judaism don't also follow Christ? In this chapter, Paul tells us that everyone who truly comes to the Father comes through one singular way... by faith.

What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written,
     “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense,
      And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
Romans 9:30-33 (NASB)

Never Disappointed | May 12, 2017
We come to the end of the week with a repeated statement from Paul in this next chapter. "Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed." This is a cornerstone promise to all who trust in Jesus. 

For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Romans 10:11-13 (NASB)

Walking Faithfully with Jesus

When There Is Nothing Left To Hope For | May 2, 2017
This set of verses has brought me more courage during times of challenge than any other. Abraham, looking beyond any resource he could call upon naturally, kept believing God for more. I love the way the God's Word Translation puts it, "When there was nothing left to hope for..."

In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “SO shall your descendants be.” Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness.
Romans 4:18-22 (NASB)

The Doors Faith Open | May 3, 2017
Faith in Jesus is the key to opening many spiritual doors that we are often unaware of. Once we put our trust in Jesus, this key is turned and all the treasures of heaven are opened up to us. In this chapter, Paul begins by telling us that as we have put our trust in Christ, four profound things happen. 

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.
Romans 5:1-2 (NASB)

Are You Really A Sinner Still? | May 5, 2017
I hear it all the time. "I'm just a sinner." Sometimes but rarely, the person may say, "But I'm saved by grace." This has bothered me for a couple of decades, because God calls those who have trusted Christ and have come into a relationship with Him, "saints," not sinners. We are holy ones, not "sinners." 

For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Romans 6:10-11 (NASB)

Trusting Jesus In All Things

Imparting The Spiritual Gift Of Encouragement | April 25, 2017
Coming out of the Easter season, I wanted to read and reflect on the letter to the Romans, the comprehensive theological treatise of Christ and His work. Paul is writing from the perspective of a father who wants His children to know how the spiritual life works.

In this first chapter, Paul introduces himself to us and shares his longing for the readers to know who he is and what his passion is for them. In these two choice verses, he tells us he wants to share a gift with us.

For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.
Romans 1:11-12, NASB

Passing Judgement On Yourself | April 26, 2017
There is an old saying that when you point out someone's fault, there are "three fingers pointing back at you." How true it is when we point out the sin of others and do the same thing. Each day we "pass judgement on ourselves" when we focus on the faults of others. 

So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
Romans 2:3-4, NIV

How Do I Stay Righteous? | April 27, 2017
In this chapter, Paul addresses the Jew or in our more modern terms, the "religious" person. While reading the first two chapters, it is easy to say to ourselves, "Wow, I am glad I am a good person. At least I follow the moral laws those flunkies have blown through." This self-righteous justification is the downfall of many people. When we believe our righteousness in following whatever morality we hold is enough to meet God's holiness, we are sunk. 

Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
Romans 3:27-28, NASB

Jesus, Our Example for Right Living

That's Not What I Meant To Say | April 11, 2017
When Jesus tells us we must "deny ourselves," what we deny is the way we try to control our lives, our spiritual life, and growth. We are always wanting to be the master of our transformation and spirituality. When I deny myself, I put Christ as the leader of my life. 

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
Mark 8:34 (NASB)

Trapping Jesus | April 12, 2017
We have all tried to use Jesus at one time or another to get what we wanted. We have all leaned into His grace to try to ensure ourselves a more comfortable life. We all know what it is like to try to "trap Jesus" and use Him to our personal advantage.

Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said. And they *sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any.
Matthew 22:15-16 (NASB)

Burning Bridges | April 13, 2017
Jesus was in rare form in his last week before His passion. If He would have simply played the politician, He would have skated happily by into the following year, enjoying the festivities at the Passover feast. 

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?
Matthew 23:29-33 (NASB)

Religious Violence | April 14, 2017
One of the most common malfunctions of any religious system is when it uses the cover of protecting truth and avenging God as a precursor for violence. When religious people feel the need to hurt others to ensure that morality and truth are kept intact, they have started to head down the slippery slope of hell. 

Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, and said, “Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?”
Matthew 26:67-68 (NASB)

Leaning on Jesus for Wisdom

Pivotal Decisions | April 3, 2017
Paul's decision to appeal to Caesar altered the course of his life forever. The simple statement, "I appeal to Caesar," begins the wrap-up of the book of Acts. Every time I read this chapter, I wonder what would have happened if he simply waited a few days to make his appeal. He might have been released. After waiting two years was he in such a hurry to resolve this that he missed God in his decision or was this part of the Lord's plan for him?

Then when Festus had conferred with his council, he answered, “You have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you shall go.”
Acts 25:12 (NASB)
And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
Acts 26:32 (NASB)

The Good News In A Minute | April 5, 2017
If you had only a few minutes to explain the reason for your faith in Jesus, what would you say? This was Paul's dilemma in this chapter. He is now standing before King Agrippa, the most powerful person in the land. Paul, speaking with simplicity and boldness, shares the good news with him.

" open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me."
Acts 26:18 (NASB)

Knowledge or Wisdom? | April 6, 2017
Today's chapter is exciting. It is full of boyhood type adventure and with a little imagination is quite dramatic. One of the things I love about this is its first-hand account. Luke is writing from the first person. I am sure it is where the passion of the chapter comes from.

When considerable time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous, since even the fast was already over, Paul began to admonish them, and said to them, “Men, I perceive that the voyage will certainly be with damage and great loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” But the centurion was more persuaded by the pilot and the captain of the ship than by what was being said by Paul.
Acts 27:9-11 (NASB)

How Well Do You Jump To Conclusions | April 7, 2017
This is a classic story in the life of Paul. It shows us how quickly human opinion can change concerning a person's reputation. It also illustrates how people are subject to conclude that bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people.

But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they began saying to one another, “Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.” However he shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. But they were expecting that he was about to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god.
Acts 28:3-6 (NASB)

Trusting Jesus with Your Life

Going For It All | March 27, 2017
Today's chapter is one of the most tender in the New Testament. Paul is saying goodbye to his friends of many years and telling them that this would be the last time they would see him. It reminds me of the wonderful relationships that are built around the gospel. The closest friendships of my life are those forged in the fires of ministry.

But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.
Acts 20:24, NASB

Putting Our Lives In God's Hands | March 28, 2017
There are times in our lives when we may have insight or experience that we could use to try to guide or even control the lives of others. Even though we may be certain of the outcome, we may not be able to persuade them. This is common with parents of older children and friendships. When all is said and done, we must simply commit them to the Lord.

Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And since he would not be persuaded, we fell silent, remarking, “The will of the Lord be done!”
Acts 21:13-14, NASB

Telling Your Story | March 29, 2017
The good news of Jesus is personal. I don't mean it is personal in a manner that one should keep it to themselves, but rather that He meets each one of us in a different way. It is this personal encounter, dramatic for some and simple for others that presents us with our Christian story.

And he said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’
Acts 22:14-16, NASB

Our Unfulfilling Vows | March 30, 2017
Today's exciting chapter in Acts has a interesting wrinkle in it. While Paul is awaiting trial on charges of bringing an unbeliever into the temple, a group of people decide to band together to kill him on the way to that trial. When I read about the oath I had to laugh a bit because these guys were going to die hungry and thirsty.

When it was day, the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul.
Acts 23:12, NASB

What To Do In The Longer Seasons Of Life | March 31, 2017
This verse is very easy to read for us, but for Paul it represents 730 days of being isolated and without a resolution in a chapter of life. As I read this, instead of rushing, I decided I would refocus on the lessons of waiting through long seasons.

But after two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, and wishing to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul imprisoned.
Acts 24:27, NASB