Law, Love, and Light

stones-1470279-640x480Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

These are some of the most familiar, beloved, and memorized words in all of scripture. Yet, as familiar as these words are, we often don’t know the context in which Jesus uttered them. Jesus spoke these words to the assembled crowd right after he told a group of religious leaders that whoever was without sin should cast the first stone {v. 7}. Do you remember that encounter?

Jesus was at the Temple in Jerusalem early one morning, when a crowd sought him out to hear his teaching. Soon a group of religious leaders came to him, dragging in their wake a woman who had recently been caught adultery. Adultery was considered one of the two most serious sins at the time, and was thereby punishable by death by stoning. These religious leaders thought they could use this woman’s case as the perfect trap for Jesus. If Jesus {who was known to preach love and forgiveness} forgave her then the leaders would be able to show that he did not fully follow the law. If he did follow the letter of the law, allowing the woman to be executed, then the leaders would be able to show Jesus’ followers that he was not really all that loving and forgiving after all. All in all it seemed as if they had laid the perfect trap for Jesus.

Jesus’ response, however, proved to completely turn the world of the leaders on its head. He turned to them and proclaimed “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” {v. 7}, to which the leaders all the leaders turned away, letting the woman go. Jesus managed to show that he was both perfectly loving and perfectly followed the law. This encounter speaks to three major teaching about Jesus.

  1. The law Reveals Our Guilt: The commandments and teachings of the Bible are meant both to give us a road map to life and to shine guilt on our sins. God’s commands are not there to simply point out the flaws of others, but to reveal our own sins. This guilt should lead us to confessing our sins and, like Jesus told the woman that day, to “go, and from now on sin no more” {v.11}.
  2. The Love Reveals God’s Grace: Jesus’ love reveals the grace God has for all of us. This incident shows us that Jesus’ love is so great as to gracefully forgive all of our sins so that we may all avoid the punishment we deserve.
  3. The Light Reveals Our Hope: The summary of this whole story, as laid out so beautifully in verse 12, is that Jesus offers his love and forgiveness to all. Jesus shines a bright light into our world, giving us all the hope of a PERFECT eternity with HIM in Heaven. 

No Regrets

Hebrews 12:2-3New International Version (NIV)

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Every man who reads this devotional today could say, ‘If I could only go back, undo, fix, or make it right’. You you agree? Yet, I have learned in life that regrets are a waste of valuable time and energy. There are no do overs in life. What happened, happened.

What if we were challenged with this thought today. What if I committed my life, my one and only, with the time that remains, no matter how old you are to live life God’s way. It would be a way with no regrets. You have done your best no matter of the outcome, right?

I like this thought by Theodore Roosevelt, “It is not the critic who counts, not the person who points out how the strong person stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the person who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who actually strive to do the deeds; who knows enthusiasm, the great devotions who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, as least fails while daring greatly, so that person’s place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory or defeat.” 

The decisions you make today, men, will determine if you live with great regrets tomorrow, or with satisfaction of today. What if we wrote in our Bibles, “No to self. Yes to Jesus every time.” It would surely be said that you lived a life of no regrets.

Strength and Courage

Michael

 

What Is Your Heart Condition?

Proverbs 4:23New International Version (NIV)

23 Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it.

How is your heart? Is it a hardened heart or a soft heart? The Bible says the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. I believe that it is because we are so easily influenced by the world around us and our hearts need guarding. 

We find in Scripture in the Bible that is teaches us that the real issues of life are spiritual and are really matters of the heart. Maybe this is why we find the word ‘heart’ threaded throughout the Bible so many times.

I find in my own every day life, if I do not guard my heart, it becomes hardened and numb from disappointments in people to the disappointments that come in life.

My thought for us today is how do we keep from having hard hearts? It is through the giving of yourself. It is in giving that we allow our hearts to be vulnerable. A giving heart gives us accountability, and a giving heart means that I am involved in the lives of other people.

The handbook for having a hardened heart or a soft heart is found in the Bible. Reading the Bible keeps the heart softer. How is your heart condition?

Vital Biker Rides – Our two remaining motorcycle rides are couples rides – Yes, bring your wife – July 16-17 and August 5-6 – This is a great opportunity to meet other couples and see God’s creation – Go to vitalministries.org for more details – Let’s Ride!!

 

God’s Standard Not Mine

IMG_20160616_214040

Before accepting Jesus Christ as Lord of my life, I had a great many areas in my life that weren’t Christ like.  I certainly didn’t give thought to how Jesus would have me think or behave in any given situation.  So, why am I so often surprised and appalled when a non-believer thinks and behaves like a non-believer?  It’s a fair question.  I imagine a good many of you do the same.  

Galatians 2:14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?

When a non-believer doesn’t act as a christian should, what right have I to be upset?  What right have I to turn my back, shun and exclude them?  God doesn’t.  I know this, because He didn’t turn His back on me.  Instead, He exercised patience, showered me with love, kindness and compassion, not contempt.  He placed others in my path that could reflect the values He wanted to see in me.  He persisted until He got through.  

As representatives of the transforming power of Jesus Christ, isn’t that an obligation we have to honor?  I’m not saying turn a blind eye, condone or participate.  I’m not saying remain silent.  I’m saying reserve judgement for the One whom it belongs.  I’m saying don’t you dare turn your back, because “I just can’t associate with that ‘type’ of person”.  How can we hold other’s to a standard that, though we strive for, we ourselves will not attain?  What if everyone who aided in bringing us to the saving grace of Jesus Christ, had instead stood in judgement, condemnation, saying we just don’t measure up?  

Be reflective of Jesus.  Give those who have not seen the truth reason to pursue it.  Be a light in the darkness for those trapped in the bondage you were once captive yourself.  You can share what it right and good when you see something wrong, but remembering that you didn’t know, until you knew.  God bless you and have a joyous weekend!

James 4:17 Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.  

In full pursuit of the greatest Trophy,

Scott Pace 

 

Seeking

 

What are you pursuing?  What are most people seeking in this life?  When you look at the lives of those around you, why do most people do what they do?  In America, you may hear the phrase ‘keeping up with the Jonses’ as a term to illustrate the constant pursuit of getting the next new thing that makes you appear just as good as your neighbor.  Whether it is posting your latest conquest on Facebook, keeping your yard looking perfect, kids with the best report card, having a new vehicle in the driveway, or any number of other achievements for which you can compare yourself to others.  Behind this, the motive may be to make as much money as possible to promote this lifestyle.  Looking at what we see in commercials and the media would seem to support this.  Is this what we were made for?  Just to appear better than most of our neighbors by our things and accomplishments? 

I heard a quote by Ravi Zacharias some time ago which summarized the end pursuit of three different empires.  He said the end goal of the Hebrews was light, the pursuit of the Greeks was knowledge, and for the Romans it was glory.  Throughout scripture, especially the Old Testament, there is often a contrast between darkness and light.  The Greeks thought amassing knowledge of the natural world would give them the answers they sought.  The Romans fought to be strong and powerful to bring glory to themselves and the city that was not built in a day.  While these may be strong motivators, what is the end goal of each…to appease our own selfish desires, or for a better purpose?  Where does God fit into this picture? 

 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.  2 Corinthians 4:6

The apostle Paul summarizes these pursuits in this one verse and connects them all in Christ.  He is the light of the world.  Of all of us, he is the one deserving any glory.  The knowledge of the savior of the world brings a greater transformation than any other truth we may find.  In fact, all pursuit of truth should lead us to Him.  In a world full of lies and half-truths, it is refreshing to be grounded in the truth, which Christ reveals in all we do. 

 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.  Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”  John 18:37

Who’s glory am I seeking, my own or God’s?  What knowledge is most beneficial to me and others?  Does my life reflect more of the light from God or the darkness found deep within my selfish heart?  While many of these pursuits can have the appearance of being good intentioned to those around us, even we may not always even know why we are chasing after some of these things.  Often, only God knows the true nature of our hearts and can reveal that to us and others.  In scripture, Jesus often makes statements that get to the heart of why those around him are doing what they do.  If you struggle with this, simply ask him to reveal your true motives.  The truth found in Christ does this time and again when we encounter him.  May our true motives be made known to us and may we seek to honor God in all we do.  It is not always easy, but it definitely produces joy that last longer than any other accomplishment or prize that we may attain in this life.

Strength and Courage in Christ,
Clark

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