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But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. Romans 6:22

Harry was your stereo-typical bachelor. He lived alone in a modest home. His yard was seldom mowed. If Christmas decorations were put up, they were put up on December 24 and taken down sometime in July, if they were taken down at all. Harry wasn’t necessarily a slob. He just had better things to do than clean house. So his house was usually dusty and cluttered. He’d wash dishes when he ran out of them. But Harry was happy with this life, for the most part.

Then, Harry met Sally. (No not the movie by the same name!) The more Harry hung out with Sally the more things began to change. The changes were subtle at first. He would shower and shave every day. The clothes he wore were more in tune with the requirements of the social police. He was even known to dust the house and wash dishes on a more regular basis. Not only was his lawn mowed weekly, he even made a few lame attempts at planting some flowers.

What happened to Harry? Was it because Sally nagged him? Nope. Did Sally come over every day to make sure he was dressed appropriately? Not a chance. Did the neighbors complain about the lawn? Well, actually yes, but that wasn’t what motivated him to clean it up.

What was it then the caused the change? One simple word: LOVE. Yep. That’s it. Love. The closer Harry grew to Sally, the more he saw life in a different perspective. He didn’t change because he had to. He didn’t change because it was the only way Sally would hang out with him. Harry changed because he had a new perspective on life. One other thing happened with the change. Harry felt better about himself. He realized that one reason he stayed away from home is because the place bothered him as much as it did his neighbors. Harry had no desire to let his life get stuck in the same rut as it did before Sally came along.

The story of Harry and Sally is a very simple example of what should happen in the life of a person when they decide to say ‘yes’ to Jesus. The change within comes because we are tired of the way we are living and want to change. The closer we walk to Jesus, the more we see areas in our lives we need to clean up. Oh sure there are days when we regress. There are some areas that we may struggle with for a long time. But we earnestly want to see a difference in our lives.

One of the things I struggle with the most in the area of Grace is how easy it is to take the issue of sin lightly. We don’t even like to talk about sin anymore. It’s too negative. Too harsh. Too unbending.

Fact of the matter is, sin of any sort hinders our relationship with Jesus. Does he hate us? NO! Will we lose our salvation? I don’t believe we will. Will our relationship with God and others suffer? Definitely.

Too often we as Christ-followers take the issue of sin too lightly. Believe me, I’m just as guilty or more so than most on this point. We want to change but it comes hard. We may give up and rationalize. “At least I’m not as bad as (the name of a bigger sinner than you). Or, “Thank Jesus I’m forgiven. I’ll just have to confess when I get home.” Until we fully realize the effects sin has on our relationship with God change will not happen.

Don’t let yourself get tricked by the enemy into taking sin lightly. Let the Spirit of God work in you to show you areas that need change. Trust him to direct you. Don’t beat yourself up for failing. Confess that sin and try again.

PRAYER: Father God. I confess that too often I’d rather compare myself with others worse off than I am than to deal with the issues in my own life. Help me to take sin seriously. Empower me to want to change and protect me from the lies Satan tries to feed me to keep me defeated. In Jesus name, Amen.

 


Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Romans 12:11

The Apostle Paul admonishes us to keep up the energy level in our lives. If you have ever been around a new Christian you have an idea of what he is talking about. Someone who has just accepted Christ into their lives seem to manage to include Him in every conversation. They are excited about the new life they have found and have a peace that nothing can shatter.

Then, gradually, that fervor fades. Sometimes old habits start to show up. Old life style issues raise their ugly heads, and soon it’s hard to tell the difference between them and the rest of the world. Paul tells us to keep that fervor. Keep that excitement. Constantly remind yourself of what Jesus did on the cross for you.

That’s easy to say, but sometimes reality deals us some ugly blows. Perhaps the biggest thing that can be a ‘zeal zapper’ is our own failure to conquer bad habits or addictions in our lives. “Jesus heals. Jesus forgives. So why can’t I stop smoking, swearing, looking at porn, etc. etc.” We keep adding ‘things’ to our list to try to do better but nothing works. With each failure on our part the enemy reminds us that we aren’t worthy. He’ll tell us we aren’t really Christians. He’ll remind us that God is displeased with us. (By the way, that’s a lie. God is never displeased with us. He may be displeased with our actions but NEVER us.)

Another Zeal Zapper is the comparison game. We look at how others in our groups, churches, etc. have ‘mastered the Christian walk.’ Some of them even (not so grace-fully) tell us how we too can be just like them. We fill our lives with all sorts of activities to try to be better and only end up wanting to give up all together or suffering emotional, physical and spiritual fatigue. We lose heart when we realize we simply can not be like them. (Did I mention that God never tells us to be like other people? He tells us to follow Him and He is NOT a cookie-stamper God).

Zeal Zapper number three is disappointment with other people. Sometimes our expectations of others falls short when we put too much faith in them. Sometimes our expectations are shattered beyond recognition by the way we are treated by  Zeal Zapping, Grace killing Christians who feel it is their duty to make sure you follow their ten easy steps to spirituality. There was only one person perfect enough for us to emulate. Stop trying to live up to the standards you place on yourself or others place on you. Allow your relationship with Jesus Christ to form your identity. Then, press on along the journey of life knowing that whether you walk confidently or stumble, Jesus is at your side guiding you all the way.

Zeal Zapper number four is disappointment with God. Your Heavenly Father loves you dearly. Sometimes He doesn’t do things the way we expect or want. Sometimes God’s ways are just plain confusing! But His ways are the best ways. Trust means that we give God permission to place whatever He chooses in our way in order to make us more reliant on Him.

Don’t let the Zeal Zappers take away the joy you have in Christ. Failure will come. Disappointment will happen. But He is always there wanting to encourage and energize you for whatever life places in your way.

PRAYER: Father God. I’m tired. I’m tired of trying to live by other peoples standards. I’m tired of trying to measure up to what I think you want instead of growing in relationship. I’m tired of being judged by others who seem to think they know all the answers to the easy spiritual life. I ask that you would forgive me for trying human things to accomplish divine results. Empower me with Your Spirit to live grace-fully for you. In Jesus name, Amen.


When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:39-40

I have a confession to make. I have a problem with ‘Christians’. I think it’s safe to say that because I’m honored to have been chosen by Christ. I’m so thankful that He willingly and lovingly forgave a weak-willed sinner like me, and continues to do so. So I’m well aware that when I point fingers I have four more pointing back at me and perhaps that’s good since I’m probably more guilty than most.

One of the most frequent accusations I hear about ‘us’ is that we are all just a bunch of hypocrites. When we hear that we’re tempted to use a quick comeback like: “Then join us, you’ll fit right in!”, or “Well, we aren’t perfect, we’re just forgiven”. But the reality is, it stings for any of us when our weaknesses and failures are flaunted to those outside the ‘circle’.

Maybe one of the reasons it’s so hard to hear the accusations is because there are so many times when I’ve seen people who claim to be Christians doing things that Jesus would never do. When I see people verbally (and sometimes physically) assault ‘corrupt and evil sinners’ in the name of Jesus I want to…..slap them! (or worse but then I’d be like them).

Don’t get me wrong. I have several close friends I truly admire for the way they reach out to those in need. There are many openly Christian organizations that do a tremendous work to show Christ’s love in times of disaster, and tragedy. God Bless You if you are in one of those groups!

But there are so many times when I hear people say things about how they’d never go back to church after they were treated badly, or hear horror stories of people in agony who have been stomped on in ‘the name of Jesus.’

It’s relatively easy to be ‘Christ-like’ in a situation where there is tragedy and disaster and it’s noble as well. The question is, how many people are silently struggling around us? How many are enduring the pain of divorce, addictions, abuse, anger and chemical dependency with no comfort from someone who is ‘Jesus in skin’?

We need to recognize that God did not put those who are down and out on earth for me to change, convict or save. He put them here for me to learn from, listen to, to challenge and be challenged by, and to enjoy together and if possible and to comfort along this journey we call life.

Here are some ideas that may help each of us (and I emphasize EACH of us) in making a difference among the silently struggling in our own little corner of the world. Each should be bathed in prayer and practiced until perfection.

First, keep your eyes and ears open to the feelings (not just the words) of those who you come in contact with. Many times people hide their pain in sarcasm, and other ways. The trained ear knows how to look past the shell of protection to see the real need.

Secondly, make time to be available. Look for service projects that need to be done. Volunteer at a school, a shelter, in your church, at a local ministry. Ministry doesn’t come to you. Search for it and you may be surprised that even though things in your life are not going well, being a servant not only elevates those who are suffering, it elevates you as well. Don’t let your own trouble keep you from being someone else’s comfort.

Thirdly, be available inspire of your own busy schedules. Service isn’t always convenient. There were many times in Jesus’ life when he took side trips because of need. Let the grass grow a little longer, the clothes pile up in the laundry and use that time to be a servant to someone in need.

Finally realize that being a servant to someone may require a personal price. You may have to sacrifice your reputation. People may question your motives. You may be taken advantage of. You may be accused wrongfully. That’s all part of being a servant. It happened to Jesus and will happen to you as well.

Big ‘C’ or little ‘c’? Which will it be in your life? Is your Christian faith a religion to practice or a relationship to enjoy and grow in?

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. When I think of your ministry on earth I’m in awe of your patient, giving and loving attitude. While I try to live my life so others will see You in me, I confess that I fall woefully short. Empower me with your Spirit to be a servant to those who may be silently suffering. Help me use my pain to comfort others. In your name I pray, Amen.

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