White as Snow

There is something magical about the first snow of the winter. It is a moment that I patiently wait for, as the cold days go by and the amount of daylight become less and less. At one moment, the ground is barren, cold, muddy, wet, and really just a mess. The next moment, snowflakes float down from the clouds, and the ground is immediately transformed with a smooth, bright, clean, white blanket of snow.

This morning, I was reminded of this imagery as I was reading the prophet of Isaiah.

“though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;”

(Isaiah 1:18 ESV)

Although our sins have stained us each in various ways, we have the promise of a new holy nature that is naturally clean and pure.

“if you are willing and obedient,”

(Isaiah 1:19 ESV)

Yet the fruit of this promise requires willful obedience to the Word of God. Our response to the commands of God does matter. When Jesus began His ministry, he proclaimed, “repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14b). In order to follow Jesus, we must turn from our old ways.

“So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.”

(Galatians 3:24 ESV)

Our response and obedience to God is only made possibly by Him, through the work of the Holy Spirit. We could not accomplish this solely by our obedience to the commands of God.

“They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

(Revelation 7:14 ESV)

Our deeds could never be good enough. It is on the grounds of Christ’s sufficient and atoning sacrifice that we are able to stand before the throne of God. This is the only way that we can be made pure, as white as snow. And it is a sure promise from God for all that believe!

 

 

 

 

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The Greatest Gift

Today is a day of good news of great joy. This Christmas day we are celebrating something so infinitely important.

This is something that is more valuable than every single gift given on this day. And is something more precious and beautiful than all of the gold and silver sold. These are all wonderful ways to show our affection for each other, but there is something so much better. An eternal gift that will never perish or fade away.

God has revealed Himself to us through His holy and perfect word. God has displayed Himself through all of creation. And God has come to us through the birth of Jesus Christ. He isn’t a God that is distant and unreachable. Instead, He is a God that is approachable, abounding in love and mercy, and He has come to us.

He came to us in the most humble form, as a infant. In the most humble of places, a manger. In the most unexpected way, through a virgin. All of this was planned from before creation, and was accomplished so that we may know Him and have eternal life with Him. This is a gift that is worth proclaiming and sharing!

It is my prayer that on this Christmas day, that you will be filled with all joy and all peace in believing in Jesus.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11)

A Mess Used For Good

Today I took a step further in my walk with Jesus. And it all began with a flooded basement.

Last night I came home from spending time with some friends. I got home late, and headed to the basement to play with my dog before going to bed. And then I felt it. My first step to the carpet resulted in a splash.

I’ve been having issues with my sump pump, and once in a while it would fail, leaving me with very wet carpet. It was too late to go and get any equipment to clean up the mess, so I decided to just go to bed, and take care of it in the morning.

So this morning I headed to a local hardware store to rent a carpet cleaner. I walked in and was greeted by a younger man. He had a short beard and a camo jacket on. That was my entry point to conversation. As I was filling out paperwork, and paying the deposit for the rental, I asked him if he was a hunter. Bingo! So we chatted for a while about hunting, what seasons we do, and if we got anything this year. I found out that he also was just moving into a new apartment, so he was possibly new to the area.

Anyways, I headed out the door with the carpet cleaner, and began the task of getting all of that water up from the ground. As I was cleaning the thought came to me: I should buy this guy something. I knew he was a hunter, so a gift card to a local outdoors shop would be perfect. And then I had the thought to do something else that I have not yet done before.

This is where the step forward happened.

After two years of knowing Jesus, I have not yet intentionally invited someone to church. In my mind I knew that was insane. Here I was, completely transformed by Christ, cherishing the gift He has given me, yet I had not reached out to anyone with a simple invite. I decided that I should do this with him. I would hand him the gift card and then proceed to invite him to the 5pm Christmas Eve service. Completely out of my comfort zone, so I knew that this had to be the work of the Holy Spirit in me.

I finished up cleaning the carpet, carried the cleaning machine up to my car, and headed out for this task. My stomach was already turning a bit, but there was no turning back. My mind was set, the plan was in action. And I knew the Holy Spirit would give me the strength and words to speak.

Well a long story short, I did just what I set out to do. I handed over the gift card which he was surprised to receive. Then I proceeded to tell him about the Christmas Eve service, and to my surprise he asked where the church was located. I’m praying that was a sign of interest, that God put this in my mind because he was looking for somewhere to go. Or was considering who God is. I’m praying that I see him there.

So as I sit here, I am filled with so much joy. Today was a new step in obedience to His word. And guess what? I survived! God gave me just what I needed.

The unexpected mess I came home to last night resulted in giving God glory. And is a wonderful reminder that He is able to use all things for good.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

A Change of Direction

Each morning during the week, I follow a pretty standard routine. After I let the dog out, shower, get dressed, brew some coffee, prepare lunch, and gather all of the items needed for work, I will sit down for some quiet time reading the bible. This is typically enough time for me to wake up so that my mind is ready and able to think. Although after waking up in the middle of the night, I suppose that I did not get the amount of rest my body truly needs, as I went off on a little of a diversion.

I headed to my study room to read the devotional for the day. I grabbed the devotional book to see what scripture was mentioned. After glancing at the verse numbers, I flipped my bible open to what I thought was the scripture. After I read the verses, I realized that I had flipped to a different Gospel. Instead of reading John 3:10-21, I read Luke 3:10-21.

At this point, I had two options. I could either go to the next gospel and read the verses in John. Or continue with what I just read. For the sake of time, I decided I should just run with it. A nice impromptu devotional! I felt that the Holy Spirit might have led me to this place for a reason.

In this passage from Luke, the first verse that I came across was the following:

And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” (Luke 3:10)

Well, that instantly made me curious about what was mentioned beforehand. What would prompt the crowds to ask “what shall we do”? Knowing that I’ve seen a similar and extremely important question in Acts 16:30 (What must I do to be saved?), I knew that something important must have been said to them to cause this reaction. So going back a few verses before brought me to John the Baptist addressing the crowds:

[7] He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? [8] Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. [9] Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Luke 3:7-9)

The crowds were told to “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.” (Luke 3:8).  This is a simple and straight forward statement. If you are repentant, you will bear fruit. If you are unrepentant, you will not bear fruit. And the consequences of being unrepentant are severe and eternal.

John the Baptist is telling them to repent of their ways. Repentance is a change of direction, and a change of mind. And real repentance will show itself to be true by what it produces in your life. He followed up with examples of the fruit of repentance to each one who asked.

[11] And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” [12] Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” [13] And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” [14] Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” (Luke 3:11-14)

In verse 11, we see a fruit of repentance is generosity. In verse 13, we see a fruit of repentance is no longer stealing. And in verse 14, we see the fruit of repentance is honesty.

A repentant life is a changed life.

I find it interesting that the change of direction in this morning devotional brought me to scripture about repentance, a change of direction in our lives. This illuminated the implication and question about what fruit is apparent in my life? And what is still lingering around?

We must realize that every morning is a day to follow a direction. Am I going to follow my own sinful ways? Or am I going to pick up my cross, deny myself, turn from my sinful ways, and follow Christ?

Repentance isn’t just a one time thing. It’s continual. Every day is a fight against what our sinful nature wants to do. We are not perfected yet. And we cannot do this alone.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)

The good news is that God has given us an incredible gift, the Holy Spirit, to be our guide. Follow Him and see the beautiful fruit that He will produce!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)