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A post from the Blog Everyday Grace

I am going through my news feed on Facebook and ran across this story from the Blog Every Day Grace.  The story was a reminder that we all need to be reminded of.  You can find the blog post here.

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Faith

Our faith is not defined by what we do in church on Sunday, it is defined by what we do Monday through Saturday.  It is easy to focus on our faith in God, when we are amongst like minded people in church on Sunday.  Our faith is strengthened by the fellowship with other believers, and by exercising our ability to express our faith through different types of worship.  Worship is what we do when we express our love for God, whether it be through singing, prayer or listening to someone teach the word of God. 

Once upon a time it was understood that if you build the building (church) and create the programs they (people) will come.  Our culture has radically changed and going to church is not something that a majority of people do any more.  There are too many other distractions that are competing for our attention.  It is almost as if church and religion are no longer relevant, in the 21st century.  Maybe people are tired of religion, and do not believe that going to church makes any difference. Could it be that the church (believers in Christ) have been sending the wrong message for way too long.  

As believers in Christ, we need to exercise our faith in tangible ways, no matter where we are.  I had a youth at church tell me something several years ago, with regards to their activity on Facebook.  They told me that their Facebook page, was who they were away from church.  When they told me that, I questioned whether or not what they were learning at church, was making a real difference in their life.  Who we are IN church should be who we are out in the world.  If we say that Jesus is LORD of our lives, then perhaps we should act like how Jesus would want us to act.  How will the message of Grace get delivered to the folks who are all around us, if we act like the rest of the world?

People need to know and understand that God loves them no matter what they have done, or how bad they think that they are.  People do not need for us to beat them up with the word of God.  People need to know that God is not a spiteful God, that is looking to get them.

Through the ages, God has pursued us in order to have a relationship with us.  God has provided forgiveness of sin through His Grace, and His Son who died on the cross, for our sins. Only Christ can provide for that forgiveness.  Our jobs is to take the good news of the Gospel of Christ to our friends, neighbors and co workers. People need to see the love of God in our lives.  People need to see us living out our faith in tangible ways.  As Charles Swindoll quotes in his book on compassion, people do not care how much we know until they know how much we care.

I want to be a messenger of Grace.  I want people to hear the good news.  What can we do dear reader, to be better messengers of that Grace?

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Ash Wednesday

As I understand it today is Ash Wednesday which signifies the start of the Lent season for some protestant denominations.  This blog post has been inspired partly by another blog post that I follow religiously.  I enjoy reading this person’s blog posts each and every day.  I love how they keep it real and they speak from their heart.  

As I read their blog post this morning they were describing their experiences as a child and being forced to go to a parochial school.  As with any religious institution, no matter what the denomination, there are a lot of rules.  You can not do this and this and this.  If you do these things you will face the wrath of an angry God.  My parents were not religious.  My mother was a non practicing Catholic and I don’t remember a day that my dad went to church.  I do remember my parents being extremely strict on my sister and I.  They were so strict that I rebelled at every turn.  I tried to get away with everything that I could no matter how badly I got punished for it. 

I was so rebellious that one day my mother tried to scare the hell out of me, by sitting me down with the family bible.  This thing was so huge you could sink the Titanic with it.  My mother drew a Y on a piece of paper, and this is how she described the road of life, and what determined where I would spend eternity.  The bottom part of the Y is the road of life.  At some point you come to the Y in the road, which forces you to make a decision on which fork of the Y you would take.  If you make good decisions, and do not do bad things, then you will experience the good things of life, and go to heaven.  If you chose the bad things in life, and make bad decisions, then you will go down the fork in the road that sends you to hell.  The point of the exercise, was that my rebellion was causing me to do bad things, and I was headed to hell. 

Looking back, I realize now that I figured I was already in hell, since I was so miserable, and that I would just continue to do as I pleased.  Luckily for me,God had different plans for my life, and he put some friends into my life who were my age.  These friends were Christians, and they began to tell me about who God really is.  At the age of 17, I accepted the gift of Grace and asked God to enter into my heart and be my Savior.  I will never forget my friends father leading me in the sinners prayer, out in the woods by a chopping block.  I do not know how long it took, but over a period of time, I came to the realization that God does love me, and that his desire was not to send me to hell. 

I learned that God is real, and that I can have a personal relationship with him.  I learned that true Christianity is a love relationship, and that there is nothing I can do to be perfect enough to earn my place in heaven.  In fact, I am so imperfect and so full of sin that God had to die on the cross to pay the penalty for that sin.  In doing so, God provided us with this thing called Grace.  It is only because of Grace that I am able to be good enough to go to heaven.  Works righteousness is a religious fallacy, that leads people into believing, that if they do enough good works, that they will be good enough to enter into heaven. 

Does that mean that once I repeat the sinners prayer and ask Jesus into my heart, that I can live any ole way I want to?  No, that does not mean that at all.  My relationship with Christ does not give me a license to live in disobedience to Gods word.  Once I become a child of God, I entered into a relationship with God, that means that I should follow him, and learn how to be obedient to his word, and to his purpose for my life.  Being a Christian does not mean that I have to serve a hateful, vengeful God that is looking for an excuse to squash me, because I am not perfect.  Being a Christian means that every day I serve God, because he loves me, and has provided the penalty of sin through Grace.  I want to serve God, because he loves me so much. 

Over the years I have started to slowly uncover the meaning of what it means to let Christ be the Lord of my life.  My relationship with Christ has become more than just a mere fire insurance clause.  It has become more than just a religious membership, that allows me to enter into heaven.  What I have learned, is that Christ was to be the Lord of everything in my life.  Christ wants to be the Lord over my relationships, my finances, my time, my talents and skills and my heart.  Once I learned that I had to let go, and let God take control, my life has been so much better.  I spent years of trying to be my own God, and being in control of my own life.  As you can imagine, that has not worked out well for me.  Slowly but surely, I have learned how to have faith in who God is in my life, and I am learning how to let God change my heart, and have found healing for the things in the past.  Now I walk to the beat of a different drummer.  Now I have new purpose and meaning for my life.  Now I have a true and meaningful hope for heaven and eternity. 

I guess what I am saying, is that the season of Lent should last all year long.  I should always want life to be less about me, and more about who God is in me.  The most important commandment says this.  You shall love the Lord your God with all of your mind, heart and soul and love your neighbor as yourself.  If the practice of observing Lent will help us in doing this then by all means lets observe it.  The important thing is that we are not observing Lent to be religious but rather so that we can grow closer to a God that loves us. 

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Grace is the ultimate Christmas gift

The marketing hype has grown to a feverish pitch as retailers are working over time to separate you and I from our hard earned cash.  We are being brain washed into believing that we must have all of the latest gizmo’s and gadgets to put under the Christmas tree.  If we are not careful we will get caught up in the spirit of greediness and not the spirit of Christmas.

Thanks to the economy and circumstances outside of our control there wont be any Christmas gift lists to fill.  As I have been working through all of the feelings about the Christmas season I realized that Christmas is going to be what I make of it.  Christmas does not have to be about how much cool stuff that I can accumulate and the momentary happiness that I will gain from it.

Please do not get me wrong.  There is nothing wrong with receiving Christmas gifts.  I would be lying if I said that I would not want to get a couple of presents myself.  The important thing for me is to remember what is more important.  Is it more important to receive or to give?  What happens if you do not have enough money to shop for what everyone wants?  If you are low on cash and you do not have credit cards so you can say “charge it” then you have to find other ways to give.

Maybe Christmas and the Christmas spirit is not just about giving or receiving.  Maybe Christmas is about the spirit of hope.  If you think about it life is hard and the thing that helps us to get through some of the rough spots is not stuff but hope.  When times get hard what is it that keeps us motivated to keep living each day?   Christmas is not about how much cool stuff we can accumulate but rather the hope that was born in Bethlehem.  Instead of saying Happy Holidays we should say Merry CHRISTmas.  The Christ child is the reason for this season.

Our Hope should be in what Christ came to this world to do.  Christ came into this world to give us hope and to provide us with a better way of living.  A way of living that is different than the status quo.  No, I am not talking about religion that is man made in which we follow all sorts of rules in order to become people that are more acceptable that God can love.  I am talking about God coming in the form of man through Christ the baby in a manger who shows us how much God really loves us.  Our hope is Christ in us and the gift of grace that has been provided for whomsoever will.

This Christmas receive the gift of grace that God has provided for you and your entire family.  God loves each of us individually and pursues us in a personal way.  All we have to do is to open our eyes and seek after him and receive that gift of grace.  The gift of grace is a gift that we can accept for eternity and one that God gives us freely for the asking.  May the peace of God and the joy of the season permeate our hearts and spirits as we enjoy the many blessings we have all around us.

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