Compare and Contrast

by Ricky Smith

How does your life before Christ compare to your life in Christ? Read some thoughts from Ephesians 2:11 “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;”

Did you enjoy compare and contrast exercises in school? Whether in Science or English class, we are familiar with the process. Perhaps the most significant exercise we could undertake was encouraged by Paul to the church in Ephesians 2:11. If you were to compare and contrast your life before Christ with your life in Him, would you notice a measurable difference?

The Ephesians were a Gentile community who were branded with the label of circumcision. For thousands of years, God’s people were marked by a physical alteration that made then clean through the infant surgery of circumcision.

This was nullified by Christ’s death on the cross. When we read in Matthew 27:51, we learn of the immediate physical impact of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. The old covenant was abolished and a new covenant was born. The limitation and restrictions placed on the Gentile community were altered, and they were invited to freely join in communion.

As the Ephesians processed through this change in identity, the new covenant represented much more than a physical change. More importantly, their spiritual position with God changed and their eternal destiny was moved.

The Ephesians were challenged to remember what was, so they could better understand what is. The exercise of remembering is healthy for us as well. Compare your life without Christ, with the peace and purpose you now possess. Contrast the life condemned to eternal separation, with the hope of the eternal presence of God.

Even if you were regenerated as a child and don’t have vivid memories of sin and dramatic change, there is still reason to rest and recall the change of eternity and the peace in your heart. I’d challenge you to take a few minutes in prayer and in writing down what you note when you compare and contrast your life with Christ.  Take it a step further and boldly share some of what you note on your personal social media.

Peace for Anxious Days

By Max Lucado

When my daughters were single-digit ages—two, five, and seven—I wowed them with a miracle. I told them the story of Moses and the manna and invited them to follow me on a wilderness trek through the house.

“Who knows,” I suggested, “manna may fall from the sky again.”

We dressed in sheets and sandals and did our best Bedouin hike through the bedrooms. The girls, on my instruction, complained to me, Moses, of hunger and demanded I take them back to Egypt, or at least to the kitchen. When we entered the den, I urged them to play up their parts: groan, moan, and beg for food.

“Look up,” I urged. “Manna might fall any minute.”

Two-year-old Sara obliged with no questions, but Jenna and Andrea had their doubts. How can manna fall from a ceiling?

Just like the Hebrews. “How can God feed us in the wilderness?”

Just like you? You look at tomorrow’s demands, next week’s bills, next month’s silent calendar. Your future looks as barren as the Sinai Desert. “How can I face my future?” God tells you what I told my daughters: “Look up.”

When my daughters did, manna fell! Well, not manna, but vanilla wafers dropped from the ceiling and landed on the carpet. Sara squealed with delight and started munching. Jenna and Andrea were old enough to request an explanation.

My answer was simple. I knew the itinerary. I knew we would enter this room. Vanilla wafers fit safely on the topside of the ceiling-fan blades. I had placed them there in advance. When they groaned and moaned, I turned on the switch.

God’s answer to the Hebrews was similar. Did he know their itinerary? Did he know they would grow hungry? Yes and yes. And at the right time, he tilted the manna basket toward earth.

And what about you? God knows what you need and where you’ll be. Any chance he has some vanilla wafers on tomorrow’s ceiling fans? Trust him. give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.
(Matthew 6:33-34 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.).

The Sign on Christ’s Cross

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by Max Lucado

John 19:19 says, “Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross: Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews.”

Why is a sign placed over the head of Jesus? Could it be that this piece of wood is a picture of God’s devotion? A symbol of his passion to tell the world about his Son? Pilate intended the sign to threaten and mock the Jews. But God had another purpose. Every passerby could read the sign, for every passerby could read Hebrew, Latin or Greek. In the language of culture, Christ was declared King in them all. There’s no language he will not speak. Which leads us to the delightful question: What language is he speaking to you? I’m referring to the day-to-day drama of your life. God does speak, you know. He speaks in any language that we will understand.

Friday Funnies

A man has to take on up a sport at the advice of his doctor, so he decides to play tennis.

After a couple of weeks his buddy asks him how he’s doing.

“It’s going fine”, the man says, “When I’m on the court and I see the ball speeding towards me my brain immediately says: “To the corner! Back hand! To the net! Smash! Go back!”

“Then my body says: Who? Me? Don’t talk nonsense!”

~ ~ ~

Three little boys were bragging about how tough they were.

“I’m so tough,” said the first boy, “that I can wear out a pair of shoes in a week.”

“Well,” said the second little boy, “I’m so tough, I can wear out a pair of jeans in a day.”

“That’s nothing,” said the third boy. “When my parents take me to see my grandma and grandpa, I can wear them out in just one hour.”

~ ~ ~

I know a guy with the courage—but not always the skills—to tackle any home-repair project. For example, his garage was littered with the pieces of a lawn mower he once tried to fix.

One day his wife found him in the living room, attacking the vacuum cleaner with a screwdriver. “I can’t get this thing to cooperate!” he exclaimed.

His wife replied, “Why don’t you drag it out to the garage and show it the lawn mower?”

What is Love?

By Alan Smith

I love pizza!

I love my wife!

But if I love pizza like I love my wife, we both have a problem. Instinctively, we know there is a difference in kinds of Love. How are we as followers of Jesus supposed to love? What does it look like?

In Genesis 1, God created man in his image and partnered with man to rule. Man was given dominion over this world and was designed to partner with God. God wanted to rule this world in partnership with his image.

In Genesis 3, we see that man sinned. He disobeyed the command of God, wanting to be a ‘god’ himself. He brought sin into the world and Death came.

Since then, all of humanity has been born into this sin. We are dead in sin and are instinctively hostile toward God.

But God created man to have fellowship with him and to partner with Him to have dominion. Since the fall of man, God has promised he would restore this relationship, and it would cost Him greatly.

What is Love?

How can we understand this love? What does it mean for God to love?

There are a few ways to express the Love of God, but let’s start at the place where God describes His own character. In Exodus 34, God describes himself to Moses as he passed by revealing his back. And he indicated that he is one with “Steadfast Love.”

6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 

Exodus 34:6

God describes his character to Moses and one of His attributes is that he abounds in Steadfast Love! This Hebrew word is a hard one to simply translate because it has such a specific and deep meaning. Many translation have used Mercy, lovingkindness, unfailing love or others to translate this word.

God’s Steadfast Love “assumes a pre-existing relationship, and it refers to actions that demonstrate loyalty to that relationship, to preserve, protect, and make it flourish.” [Bible Project Loyal Love Study Notes]

God’s love is grounded in his covenant relationship and it compels him to act in a way to demonstrate his commitment to the relationship. And this love is not defined by the the action or commitment of the recipient. It is God’s character.

The Loyal Love of God is expressed in actions that demonstrate His commitment to His promises.

How Do We Love?

We are commanded in the Scriptures to demonstrate this same kind of love. Jesus summed up all the law when he said we are to Love God and Love our neighbor.

“For Jesus, love is action. It’s a choice that you make to seek the well-being of people other than yourself.”[Bible Project Loyal Love Study Notes]

Jesus went on to teach that to reflect the Love of God, we must Love our enemies, do good to those who hurt us, lend and expect nothing in return. This is when we are demonstrating the kind of loyal love that the Father has for us.

Love one another!

Wade’s Wednesday

Worry is The Real Enemy

By Steve Goodier

What does it mean to worry? The Latin concept of worry describes a turbulent force within a person. Worry is a heart and mind in turmoil.

The ancient Greeks thought of worry as something that tears a person in two and drags that person in opposite directions. It is like opposing forces in deadly conflict within the very being of the individual.

The word “worry” itself comes from an old Anglo-Saxon term meaning to choke, or strangle, and that is exactly what it does—it chokes the joy of living right out of its victim. And it chokes off the energy to improve one’s condition.

There is a place for healthy concern, but too often our concern turns into fearful worry. And worry, more than the problem, becomes our real enemy.

Some people have worried for so long that they have become good at it. Just as we can become good at any attitude or behavior if we practice it enough, we can also become good at worrying. Worry is habit – a habitual response to life’s problems.

I rather like the attitude of the late United Methodist Bishop Welch. When he reached the age of 101, he was asked if he didn’t think a lot about dying. With a twinkle in his eye, he replied, “Not at all! When was the last time you heard of a Methodist bishop dying at 101?” Maybe one reason for his longevity is that he never developed the debilitating habit of worry.

I wish I could be like a frog, you know, just eat what bugs me. I’m not a frog, but I can still do the next best thing: I can develop a better habit. Instead of reacting to problems with fearful worry, I can practice coming from a place of peace and confidence. In other words, I can develop a habit of practicing calmness in turmoil.

As Harvey Mackey has said, “Good habits are as addictive as bad habits and a lot more rewarding.” And more fun to practice, I might add.

In this case, practice may not make perfect, but I’m sure to be immensely better off.

Tuesday With Karen

Faithful Yesterday

Faithful yesterday, God has always been,
Guiding man away from a heart of sin;
Every promise He makes is safe & secure,
Any Word He speaks forever will endure!

Faithful yesterday, God’s love didn’t end,
He still loves mankind, in spite of all his sin;
He formed man in His image on creation day,
It was man’s own choice to go the other way!

Faithful today, God is still to His own,
He never leaves us forsaken or alone;
He knows our frame, guides us by His hand,
Gives us daily grace to live as mortal man!

Faithful today, and will forever be,
The Alpha and Omega for eternity;
He is faithful each day to watch over us,
We’re so blessed by giving Him our trust!

The Secret of Real Living

By Billy Graham

Some Christians have learned little of a daily devotional life. Some time ago a policeman asked me what the secret of victorious living was. I told him that there is no magic formula that can be pronounced. If any word could describe it, I would say surrender.

The second word I would say would be devotion. Nothing can take the place of a daily devotional life with Christ. Your quiet time, your prayer time, the time you spend in the Word, is absolutely essential for a happy Christian life. You cannot possibly be a happy, dynamic, and powerful Christian apart from a daily walk with Christ.

Christ is calling Christians today to cleansing, to dedication, to consecration, and to full surrender. It will make the difference between success and failure in your spiritual life. It will make the difference between being helped and helping others. It will make a difference in your habits, in your prayer life, in your Bible reading, in your giving, in your testimony, and in your church membership. This is the Christian hour of decision!

Prayer for the day: I long for a deeper devotional life, living Lord. May I consecrate myself completely to You

O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee; my soul thirsteth for thee . .—Psalm 63:1

Trail Blazer

Paul’s style of leadership was neither aloof nor secretive. He lived among them. They knew his address. He talked to them. He didn’t preach a sermon and then conveniently slip out the back door during the benediction. He remained approachable, accessible, and real. His life was an open book. Most would agree, that kind of leader is refreshing. They’ve got nothing to prove, no secrets to hide, no pretense or air of self-importance, never feeling compelled to remind you of their qualifications for the job. That was Paul. He was believable. John Stott writes,

Paul’s ministry in Thessalonica had been public. It was exercised in the open before God and human beings for he had nothing whatever to hide. Happy are those Christian leaders today, who hate hypocrisy and love integrity, who have nothing to conceal or be ashamed of, who are well known for who and what they are, and who are able to appeal without fear to God and the public as their witnesses! We need more transparency and openness of this kind today.1

A leader who lives his life in the open has nothing to guard or fear. But if he is always on the move, forever hiding behind locked doors and drawn blinds, the public has reason to suspect he’s not genuine. Be careful about following a leader who is inaccessible and invulnerable.

Please remember, however, his ministry was no bed of roses. He literally limped into Thessalonica, his body bruised and tender from being beaten and imprisoned in Philippi. Thankfully, I’ve never had to endure such brutal persecution. Paul did. But here’s the good news: it didn’t impede his resolve. He writes, “But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.” 1 Thessalonians 2:2

One of the secrets of the man’s success can be stated in three words: he plodded on. He led the same way whether the winds were at his back or blowing hard against him. Opposition and hardship didn’t matter. The only priority that mattered to Paul was that Christ was proclaimed. Every trail he blazed led others to the cross.

How do your personal priorities align with Paul’s?

Let’s proclaim Christ whether the wind is at our backs or blowing hard against us.

— Charles R. Swindoll

We Love, Because He is Love

By Ricky Smith

I love you! Are those words easy for you to say? In my home we used that phrase with sincerity and frequency. Every phone call ended with those words. Every time someone left the house, those were the last words spoken. Needless to say there is no doubt that my family loves one another because we express it words.  Don’t be mistaken, they are not shallow and empty. Even said with frequency, this simple phrase is packed with power and depth.

love blog

For some love is expressed in actions, gifts, time, touch, and words. No matter the preferred language of love, every human desires love and this deep longing is a reminder of our hardwiring.  We are made in the image of God and thus share elements of His nature.

1 John carries a frequent theme of love and chapter four specifically reveals that a Christian will be known by love, because God is love and He lives in us. This does not mean that anyone who loves is a Christian. This does not simply mean that God is loving. God is love! If he creates, he creates in love. If he rules, he rules in love. If he judges, he judges in love. 

We love, because He is love. We show love because of His love in us. He dwells in us and thus we are positioned to demonstrate His love to the world and to our neighbors.  Consider how your actions reveal Christ in you today. Compare that assessment with what we read in James 2:14-17.

God is good. God is great. God is love. And in His love He sent His Son to die for us.  We now have been invited to join in His mission of reconciliation and our actions of love are simple and powerful words to repeat God’s heart to the world as he says, “I love you.”