The New Is Here

2 Corinthians 5:17-18
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old is gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

Over time it is easy to become stagnant in our choice to be a part of His plan to make all things new.

The reconciliation is a one and done deal on His end, but the transformation process is a lifetime experience on ours. His gift to us keeps on giving. Our culture tends to blind our judgment, so we put that gift on a shelf and get lazy in allowing the inward transformation to continue to result in outward changes.

Heart check moment: do you still crave and love the things of the Spirit? Are you still operating from a place of humility and gratitude, offering compassion to the people that don’t know Jesus, and desiring to love and serve Him through loving and serving others?

We will fail and fall, but the result of that failure is different because He covers all sin for all time. In Him, we learn to love Him more than we love anything sin has to offer. The question is, do we really want to change? Are we ready to experience the inward transformation that happens up close and over time?

It can be uncomfortable; He will take us places that we could never expect. Sometimes we think to receive His forgiveness we have to achieve some level of worthiness. In our limited understanding, we miss the point of the gift.

We cannot renew or be made new on our own power, merit, or works. If you’re waiting to “get it together” before you unwrap the gift He is, there’s no better time than today.

Jesus is the maker of all things new. We cannot earn it. We can receive it and learn to give that gift away to others. He promises to create a new heaven and earth and we, as new creations in Him, are part of that plan.

ChristMESS-12-14Prayer: Father God, thank You that You want to be in relationship with us and make that possible through Jesus. Help us today to receive that gift with humility and excitement. Help us to take the gift of Your forgiveness and reconciliation off the shelf and be reminded of how You want us to actively share Your good news with others through love and service to You, Your family, and the people in our lives and community that don’t know You yet. In Jesus’ name, amen.

No More Condemnation

Romans 8:1
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus

This is one of the most important statements in all of the Bible. It’s the Gospel summed up in one short phrase. This particular verse comes on the heels of seven significant chapters where the Apostle Paul describes in great legal detail the overwhelming magnitude of our sin in stark contrast to a Holy God and continues to share how God made a way of salvation for us in and through the person of Jesus Christ.

Let’s break up today’s passage and take it piece by piece:

  1. “Therefore”
    This word points us back to the first seven chapters, which tells us how God has worked all things together for our good.
  2. “No condemnation”
    Through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, we are given the opportunity to receive full pardon (as if we had never sinned).
  3. “For those who are in Christ Jesus”
    Salvation comes through faith in Jesus alone. Without this perfect work of God, we would still be under judgment. God does not force himself on mankind. We must still choose to submit. Paul says that we are “justified by faith” (Romans 5:1). We cannot do it on our own; we must lean on Jesus.

This is great news! It is the most amazing truth. We are forgiven and free in Jesus.

So, why do we still feel like we’re not good enough? If that’s you, you’re not alone. Even Paul mentions his continued sin and related guilt. In Romans 7:19 he says, “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

Can you hear the frustration in his tone? What was Paul’s response to his feelings of unworthiness?

Look back at today’s passage…

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”

ChristMESS-12-13Thought of the day: If you are a follower of Jesus, it’s important that you remember today’s verse when you sin and feel guilty. As believers we should make every effort to follow Jesus and do what He says but making a mistake does not change our salvation. All of our sins have been forgiven, but we still mess up from time to time. When we fail, we must remind ourselves of this truth: “there… is no more condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” Then we pick ourselves up, aim our eyes at our savior, and renew our trust again in him.

Prayer: Jesus, thank You that, in You, we are forgiven. Give us eyes to see this truth and to live it out. We want to trust You with our whole being. Help us to receive Your forgiveness and please make us more like You every day. Give us Your goodness as we rest in you. Amen!

We All Fall Short

Romans 3:23
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

There is something about the word “sin” that can make us uncomfortable, but what does it really mean? Does it mean “mistake” or “accident”? The original Greek word is “hamartia” and it means to “miss the mark.”

Imagine you are standing on one side of a very long room. At the other end is a dartboard and you have a basket full of darts. Your task is to throw a dart and hit the bullseye. Not just once, but every time. Oh, and there are windows on both sides of this long room and they are open and there is a strong wind blowing through the room. Your basket never seems to run out of darts. What do you believe your (or my) chances would be to hit that bullseye every time? We might randomly hit it by complete accident, but our chances of hitting it over and over again are far less than winning the lottery.

My example may seem silly, but it does illustrate the reality of what our verse today means. “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” It doesn’t say “some” or “not a lot,” it says ALL have failed to meet God’s standard to get into His Kingdom. But, there is good news. God has made a way for us to meet His standard.

Later in the book of Romans Paul wrote in chapter 6, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.” Jesus met God’s standard for living a sinless life. He hit that dartboard every time. Then Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Jesus took the penalty for our sin and paid our debt so that we can receive salvation. When we could not work our way to God, God, in love and mercy worked his way to us in the person of Jesus Christ.

ChristMESS-12-12Thought of the day: All of us have sinned, but what do we do about it? 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Do you need to ask the Father for forgiveness today?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I want this salvation. I know I have sinned and that You sent Jesus to pay my debt. I ask You to forgive me of my sins and I want to live for You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Winning the Prize

Philippians 3:13-14
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

What is your greatest treasure?

Paul, the author of Philippians, had set his eyes on a prize that was beyond anything this world has to offer. His treasure was being with Jesus. Although he could experience Jesus in this life, his greatest treasure was the day that he would be free of sin and evil to spend eternity unencumbered with Jesus. But Paul had a past. A past that included the persecution and execution of Jesus followers. In order for Paul to pursue this treasure, he had to let go of his heavy past.

Have you ever felt trapped by your past?

There is a long list of things that can make us feel stuck in our pursuit of Jesus. Bad decisions, missed opportunities, and shame are just a few of those things. But what would it look like to forget what is behind you and to strain toward what is ahead?

You can’t relive the past, but you can redeem the future with the help of Jesus. Starting right now with the present.

ChristMESS-12-11Prayer: Jesus, help me to see the things that are slowing me down in my relationship with You. Thank You for forgiving those things. Help me to see what next step I should take to strive for the prize of knowing You more. Amen.

His Steadfast Love for You

Psalm 103:10-11
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.

I remember being so concerned with fairness when I was young. Growing up with two siblings, I made it my mission to make sure justice was served in all privileges or penalties. If little brother got two cookies, then I better have gotten two cookies too. If big brother was breaking the rules, you better believe I was running to find an adult to report his infractions.

Now as an adult, I still crave the order that comes from getting only and exactly what I earn or deserve. The biggest exception comes when I consider my relationship with the Lord.

The more I learn about Him, the less I desire fair treatment. God’s word says the wages of sin is death, so fair treatment would be death. God’s word says we have all fallen short of His glory, so fair treatment would be separation from him.

Instead of giving us what we deserve, God gives us grace and mercy. He doesn’t just barely pardon us either. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, He removes our sin from us as high as the heavens are above the earth; as far as the east is from the west.

ChristMESS-12-10Thought of the day: As we come to understand how far we’ve missed the mark, we gain a fuller understanding of how great God’s love and mercy truly are. Are there areas of your life where you need God to reveal his steadfast love for you?

Prayer: God, You are so good to me. Thank You for the way You love me more than I deserve. Help me to gain a fuller understanding of how great Your grace and mercy are for me. Amen.

Practicing Love this Season

1 Corinthians 13:4-6
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

Love is more “in the air” at Christmas.

With love, we:

  • Create magical memories for children to take with them for a lifetime.
  • Plan, prepare, and budget the perfect Christmas everything.
  • Schedule time with friends.
  • Taxi kids to special performances and events.
  • Gather with family to practice traditions and catch up with relatives.

This time of year can also bring high expectations which tends to challenge our love. If there is a disruption in the calendar, a lost parking spot at the mall, a family member who rejects your invitation, or a kid who refuses to be grateful, it’s easy to lose perspective.

At Christmas, and every other day, we, as Christians, practice love. Love is like a musical instrument; you may know love, but you still have to practice it.

In this familiar passage about love, we get a list of do’s and don’ts.

Love do’s:

  • Be patient
  • Be kind
  • Rejoice with the truth

Love don’ts:

  • Envy
  • Boast
  • Be prideful
  • Dishonor others
  • Be self-seeking
  • Be easily angered
  • Keep records of wrongs
  • Delight in evil

Isn’t it interesting that there are twice as many don’ts as there are do’s? What if we just practiced the three things on the “love do list” for this Christmas? What if we practiced love by being patient, kind, and joyful in the truth? How would that change Christmas?


Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that today You will help us remember to practice our love as if it was a musical instrument by focusing on these three techniques: patience, kindness, and joy. Thank You that You came to earth as a baby, lived as a man, and died on the cross to save us. Help us to become rock stars at love this Christmas and every other day. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Forgive and Comfort

2 Corinthians 2:5-8
If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.

Actions that are hurtful don’t always only inflict pain on the one person. Sin tends to have a ripple effect. The inability or decision to NOT forgive can also have a similar result. When resentment, bitterness, and anger are held onto in place of forgiveness, restoration, and reaffirming love for the person who failed, it tends to impact more people than we realize.

Complete forgiveness is marked by comfort, mercy, love, and a restoration plan.

When Paul wrote these scriptures in Corinth, there had been a big ugly sin committed and it affected the church. When the person who had harmed the church family repented, the church decided not to accept and love him, and took a legalistic approach. They said they forgave, but really just were paying lip service because their actions said otherwise.

Think about your relationships. Have you or are you taking a legalistic approach to restoration and forgiveness?

We keep score. We hold people at arm’s length and say we have forgiven when we really haven’t. Someone who already feels sorrowful and remorseful about something needs the constant reminder about how they have failed, right?

Reaffirming that person who is taking steps to recover, redeem, and heal from their hurtful behavior and actions is also part of forgiveness.

Jesus doesn’t forgive us and then hold our failures over our head. He lavishes us with His love and affirmation that we could never really do anything to separate us from Him. We are not defined by our performance or behavior or the ability to get it right.

Today, as we approach the Christmas season full of joy and the reaffirming love that Jesus came down in the middle of our mess, let’s ask ourselves if we need to complete the forgiveness process by choosing to forget the sins of the past. Are we adding insult to injury or are we loving like Jesus does to the best of our ability?

ChristMESS-12-6Thought of the day: Is there anyone in your life that you are allowing to feel continued sorrow and regret because you aren’t able to affirm and love them as a child of God? Are you celebrating their repentance and short, but forward-moving, steps to restoration?

Prayer: Father, thank You that You celebrate each and every time we turn away from sin and back to You. Help us to see if our unfinished business and forgiveness is causing a ripple effect or crippling our relationships with You and others. In Jesus’ name, amen.