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For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:3

Adam tried it, so did Eve. They borrowed a couple fig leaves from a neighboring tree. But God came looking for them in the cool of the evening, right about the time they took their normal walk.

Moses tried it too. He ran off into the wilderness and just about the time he thought he’s succeeded, God ignited a bush with an eternal flame.

Elijah used an obscure cave for his game of deified hide-and-seek. But God sought him out with a fire and windstorm before he quietly whispered his name.

Jonah used extra-ordinary measures as well, using the sea as his method of escape, but God intervened and used a fish to bring Jonah to his senses.

Before you are too hard on these men of God, think of how you try to hide from God. It’s easy to try to hide from God through religious activities, work, and family duties. Usually we hide from God because we are afraid of what he will think of us. We may think that unless we do certain things he won’t approve of us or consider us ‘holy’. After all, doesn’t the Bible tell us to be ‘holy’? Aren’t we instructed to obey him?

When I was young and I’d misbehave I’d run to the closet to hide from my parents. My young mind had me convinced that I could hide from my parents long enough for them to forget my wrong or miss me so much they’d overlook my faults. Maybe you did that too. That tactic never worked for me. (Maybe I should have tried a different closet occasionally!) That tactic won’t work with God either. Some pretty important people have tried it.

So when you have failed for the 100th time; when you are ready to cash in all this religion stuff because you can’t make it work; when you find yourself not only doubting your own ability to succeed but doubting God as well, remember Colossians 3:3.

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:3

That verse reminds us that when God sees you it’s like he’s looking through a lens named Jesus. He doesn’t see your sin, he sees Jesus’ sacrifice. He doesn’t see your failings, He see’s Jesus’ perfection. He doesn’t see your rebellion, he sees Jesus’ humility. When God looks at you, he smiles because you are hidden in Jesus. That’s grace!

PRAYER: Lord, I seem to try to fill my days with all sorts of good things to make you love me. I’d never admit that, of course, but in reality, it’s the truth. Forgive me for trying to earn your favor. Empower me to live in the favor I already have because of Jesus. Amen.

“For he who finds me finds life, And obtains favor from the LORD.” Proverbs 8:35 (NASB)

How does one find favor with God?

To the Atheist or Agnostic the answer is simple. We are on our own. By sheer human effort we will make the world a better place because there is nothing other than what we see here. Mankind’s determination, education and provision (of money) will eventually see the eradication of violence, illness and death. Not a very promising future. Over the centuries we can see that man’s efforts to make life better have been fruitless, and, frankly, if this life is all we have to look forward to we are hopeless indeed. I love life. I love the beauty of this world, but my passion is for a better place.

Religion tells you that your best bet is to live morally. Morality, of course, is what you make it at the time. “I can live with my boyfriend/girlfriend as long as I’m faithful. God will understand. My parents went through divorce and I don’t want that to happen to me so I won’t marry.”

Statistics show, however, that rationalization like this about relationships doesn’t work. And morality that is dependent on our own standards leads to anarchy. Mankind has proven that he can not govern himself without standards that are ‘divinely ordained’.

Religion of another flavor will tell you that you have to jump through certain hoops to gain God’s favor and eternal life. Things like baptism or church attendance or community action or a whole list of other things are laid out for you. Follow the guidelines and you’ll have a chance. No thank you. I can play the lottery and have a chance at winning millions too. I’ll waste an occasional dollar on a lottery, but my eternal life is a little too important to play Russian roulette with, thank you.

Even ‘christianity’ (small c intentional) will tell you that accepting Jesus isn’t enough. To be a good Christian you need to follow a particular dogma, worship in a certain tradition, sing approved songs, read a certain version of the Bible… (The list is endless).

Bottom line is this. Man’s wisdom will lead you to frustration, confusion and anger. God’s wisdom leads to favor with God. So what’s the secret to finding favor with God? Jesus Christ. That’s it. Nothing more.

Let that sink in a moment. Having the Creator God look upon you with favor? Can there be anything more amazing than that? All your struggling, all your striving, all your activity to try to make you better, the world better or your neighbor better won’t bring you any closer to finding God’s favor. It’s not about activity, it’s about grace. Godly wisdom teaches us that relationship trumps activity every time. Don’t sell out to those who say you have to do something in addition to Jesus. He’s all you need.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I get so tired of trying to please others, please myself and please you. Help me to live with the wisdom that teaches me that all I need for your favor is Jesus. Thank you for that awesome truth. Amen.

But if you don’t want to serve the Lord, you must choose for yourselves today whom you will serve. You may serve the gods that your ancestors worshiped when they lived on the other side of the Euphrates River, or you may serve the gods of the Amorites who lived in this land. As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15
“I can’t wait until I’m old enough to do what I want!” I love hearing kids say this. On occasion (and depending on who says this) I’ll respond by saying something like, “Me neither! I’m xx years old and still can’t do what I want!

Reality is, we rarely get to make choices about things we feel important. For example we were born to parents not of our choosing, into a family that wasn’t our choice. Our hair color, DNA, eye color and country of origin are beyond our control! We didn’t choose our date of birth nor do we choose our date of death. Fact of the matter is, very few of life’s most important decisions are within the real of our control.

There is, however, one choice we can make that is of eternal consequence. We can choose to believe in the God of Genesis or not. Joshua states it very plainly as he gives final instructions to the Israelites. ‘You must choose for yourselves today whom you will serve’. Notice there is no choice as to whether we will serve someone. The question isn’t IF we will serve a god, the question is which god we will serve.

People try of course. We choose careers. We choose relationships. We choose religion. Some even choose non-religion to fill the void in their lives. Non-religion, of course, is a religion in and of itself. I may ruffle a few feathers here on both sides of the fence but I personally don’t believe there are any atheists or agnostics. Those people who call themselves Atheists or agnostics are in reality people who have been disappointed or abused by so-called christians or empty religions.

Who will you follow? The God of Genesis leaves the choice entirely up to you. You can choose Him by accepting the forgiveness of sins offered through the death and resurrection of Christ or you can choose some other god that will never satisfy the longing in your soul. The choice is yours simply because the God of Genesis loves you so much he won’t force anything on you, even if it is for your good!

PRAYER: God, I have to admit I’ve been pretty disappointed with religion and people who call themselves Christians. I’ve been verbally, physically and emotionally abused by their attacks on me. I’m empty. I’m frustrated. I’m scared. If you are real, please help me believe in you. I ask you to forgive me for my doubt. I hereby confess that you are my God. I will, with your help, follow you as the true God. In Jesus name, Amen.

Many of those whose bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting disgrace. Daniel 12:2 (NLT)

On a lonely hill just outside of town stand three crosses. As the sky grew dark a crowd gathered. Some gathered in disgust. The Roman form of execution was too painful, too degrading, to harsh.

Others gathered in mockery. They threw profanity at the trio. It was about time they got what they deserved. The world would be a better place if more criminals were treated this way. Great deterrent, that death penalty.

Some gathered in curiosity-A sort of Bible time gawkers. They had no opinion either way on crucifixion or the trio hanging naked as the darkness descended.

A few gathered in somber silence. Right or wrong, good or bad, these were their friends, their siblings, their children. The crowd gathered at the middle cross seemed somewhat larger, more emotional. In fact, it seems the form hanging in the middle was drawing most of the attention that day. Rumor has it that he was completely innocent of the trumped up charges the Jews leveled against him.

One of the trio began to mock this counterpart in the middle. Even in his dying moments he remained arrogant, loud and angry. Ignoring his own guilt he yelled obscenities at this stranger in the middle.

The other person hung silent for a moment. Watching. Listening. Replaying the episodes of his life that brought him to this point. Finally, he spoke. “Jesus, have mercy on me.” The figure in the middle raised his head and looked with compassion at him. Painstakingly he spoke, “Today you will be with me…” and grace was born.

How could a God of love allow Jesus, the man in the middle to die such a horrific death for crimes he didn’t commit? Rewind the story a few thousand years. A man and woman listen to the deceptive words of Satan. Their decision to disobey God destroyed the balance of divine nature as well as a relationship with the Creator God.

Hell was never created for men and women. Hell was never created for innocent children of abuse, catastrophe or illness. Hell was created as the home for Satan and all his demonic followers. But the sin of Adam and Eve made it impossible for mankind to enter heaven. A sacrifice had to be made and that sacrifice was made complete when Jesus died and rose again.

Our Heavenly Father has no choice when it comes to dealing with sin. He can’t, by his own nature overlook anything that isn’t perfect. God is fair and just. Grace is neither.

What can be fair about a prisoner going to heaven because his last words were begging forgiveness? What can be fair about someone struggling with addictions and constantly receiving forgiveness for the same sin, over and over again? Nothing. It’s not fair. But it wasn’t fair that Jesus died for me either. There was nothing I could do to deserve forgiveness, yet he forgave me anyway. That’s grace.

God would give everything he has to keep you from living eternity in the shame and disgrace of hell. In fact, he already did that day on the cross.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father I thank and praise you for the reminder that I am completely and freely forgiven of my sin because of Jesus. I deserve nothing that you’ve given me and yet you did it all so lovingly. Empower me to live for you and to show others the way to life in eternity with you. In Jesus name, Amen.

He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. 1 Corinthians 1:8 (New Living Translation)

I’m not an artist at all. Not an artistic bone in my body. I’m not even good at doing paint by number projects! But, in spite of my inadequacy in the performance aspect of art, I’m an admirer of the talents other people have.

Those who do chalk art, or pencil art particularly amaze me. They start with a piece of paper (or canvas) and begin making a few strokes here and a few strokes there. Nothing seems to be coming together. I can’t make out a shape or any semblance of order to their work. Then, almost like magic a few more strokes and you see the scene develop. Simply amazing.

I have no idea what the ‘trick’ is to making drawings like that. My stick figures are even pretty indistinguishable to be honest. But I have learned one thing about watching such demonstrations. While standing off to the side and watching it’s important to wait until the picture is done before judging the quality of the work.

The same is true in our lives here on earth. We are the drawing pad for the master creator. His goal is to make a masterpiece and we are the subject. Could he, in all his power and wisdom, snap his fingers and make us a complete work of art? Perhaps. But he doesn’t choose to do it that way. Jesus prefers to take his time in making us the perfect masterpiece he’s envisioned.

The downside to this is that from the day of our birth until the day of our death we are a work in progress. That’s where we run into trouble. We expect perfection in our first steps and if we don’t expect perfection there will certainly be others around us expecting us to be perfect. We struggle to get things right. We get discouraged when things go wrong. We let the opinions of others dictate who we are.

Take another look at today’s verse. Whose strength do we rely on? Religion? Physical stamina? Financial resources? Nope. Jesus. It’s all about him. Now take another look. When will perfection come? To be blunt, when we’re dead. Does that mean I don’t even try to be perfect? Of course not. What it does mean is that if I decide to rely on me I’ll only run into frustration. Relying on Jesus is the only sure way to success.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. I’ve been struggling under this load of frustration and guilt and sin long enough. No more trying in my own power. From this day forward I’m asking you to empower me with your Spirit so that I can allow you to keep me pure until the day you come for me. In your name, Amen.

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