Marveling at Jesus

Let’s really marvel at Jesus this week.
Let’s marvel at the fact that Jesus changed how the world expresses compassion,
that he shaped education, revolutionized art and changed political theory. In him,
we find hope and the one and only path to God.

For centuries, people lived distinctly
divided lives. Identity remained defined by the group into which each person
was born or married. Then Jesus taught people about God, himself, and the Holy
Spirit that would reside within them after his death, and he gave them a new
way to define themselves. Jesus presented an idea of community that no one had
ever seen. In this community, all manner of people, wealthy or poor, Gentile or
Jew, slave or free, were welcome.
           
Think
of all the dissimilar people that Jesus brought together! People like C.S. Lewis,
Bono, Joel Osteen, Denzel Washington, and Tim Tebow; all of them united
because of one man—Jesus Christ!
           
We
are all one body united in Christ. As sinners and broken people, whether we are
black or white, Asian or German, tall or short, single or married, parents or
children, hip or nerdy, new believers or spiritual authorities, we are one
community. Only one thing matters: Our identity is found in Jesus Christ, and
he lives in all of us. Jesus brought us all together. He gave us hope through
community. Who else could do that?
One of the most predominant principles shared in most westernized
societies is the right of citizens to obtain an education. From about five
years of age until around age eighteen, it is expected that children will
attend school and be taught the knowledge, skills, customs and values necessary
to shape them into productive members of society. This has become such a common
occurrence that it’s pretty much taken for granted. But it wasn’t always so.
           

The life and teachings of Jesus would radically alter the “status quo”
of education being a privilege only for the elite and would shape the
foundation of education. Jesus, the
ultimate Teacher of all time, set the precedence for making no distinction
between fishermen, women, rich, poor, outcasts, young or old. His classroom was
on mountaintops, in boats, synagogues, roadways and private homes. He taught
one-on-one, in small and large groups, both privately and publically. He used
methods that everyone could understand through parables, stories and everyday
life occurrences and examples.

Jesus revealed to us the mysteries of God; of His immeasurable truth,
love, mercy and grace. Through his teachings, Jesus gives us the hope of a
relationship with God and his death on the cross. His burial and resurrection
make that relationship a certainty. 
In Mark 3:17, Jesus taught that we are to
follow the rules laid down by government while still surrendering to God all
that belongs to God…which, of course, is everything else. In his time, Jesus’
statement was an abomination because he pointed out that, while government is
an important element in our lives, there is also another realm, a second and
ultimate authority by which we are governed. The Pharisees realized that, under
this man’s reign, their dominion could be profoundly limited, and they were
having none of it! But even by killing him, they couldn’t change what Jesus had
set into motion.
From that time until now, disciples of Christ have been standing on
these precepts. When it came time for our forefathers to design a governing
document for this new world, they purposefully based it on the teachings of
Jesus Christ: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are
created equal, and have been endowed by their Creator with certain rights…”
           
Jesus was also the architect of our global concepts toward human rights
and dignity. He delivered a fresh perspective, and Galatians 3 reported that,
in Christ Jesus, there is no longer a   
distinction between people, and that we are all one our servanthood to
him. In this election year, it’s important to remember that this powerful
perspective grew sturdy legs throughout political history. Martin Luther King,
in fact, was inspired by scripture at The Mall in Washington, D.C. when he
began to quote the Book of Amos and   
ultimately moved forward to declare to the gathering crowd: “I have a
dream…that one day…”

 
# # #

Sandra D. Bricker is a best-selling and award-winning author of laugh-out-loud romantic comedy for the Christian market. Her most recent book, Always the Baker Finally the Bride is the final novel in the Another Emma Rae Creation series from Abingdon Press Fiction. Check out her website at www.SandraDBricker.com. 

Sandie leads a team of writers in creating the Living It Out daily Bible study for CedarCreek Church.
Today’s devotion is borrowed from the Living It Out study on HOPE. If you enjoyed it, feel free to check
out the daily
studies by e-mail or audio podcast by clicking HERE.

Giving Thanks Keeps Ungodly Attitudes in Check

 “Decide to turn blessings into praise: Every
blessing you pour out, I’ll turn back to praise. Every blessing I don’t turn
back to praise turns into pride.”

 – Craig Groeschel
Ungodly attitudes include envy, pride, entitlement,
covetousness and more. Gratitude keeps these all in check. The situation may
remain the same, but maintaining a grateful outlook will adjust your attitude.
It’s all about perspective.
Author and speaker Craig Groeschel tells a story
about his family’s vacation to a beach resort. It rained the whole week and he
was not happy about it. He grumbled, whined, and made the whole family
miserable as well. On the last day, the sun came out and they raced down to the
beach.
The Groeschels have six kids, so each parent took
three, and off they went. Craig got distracted for a moment and when he looked
around, one of the little ones was missing! They searched all over and in were
serious panic when the little guy came over a sand dune, pulling up his pants.
After they resumed breathing, they laughed themselves silly and finished up the
vacation in great spirits. At first, Craig chose to be miserable because things
didn’t go according to plan, but then he chose to be grateful for his family
and the time they had together.
Consider the story of the Prodigal Son. All the
youngest son wanted to do was get out of his boring life and spend his fortune
having fun. But when he realized that the party was over, all he wanted to do
was get back to the people he loved. He was grateful to go home and be a slave
because he knew his father would treat him fairly. A grateful heart changes our
perspective.
So
what’s next? What do you do now? How about praising God for all of the amazing
gifts He’s given, beginning with His precious Son? Let’s pray together and ask
the Lord to rid us of any ingratitude, envy, pride, or entitlement within our
hearts.
# # #
Sandra D. Bricker
is a best-selling and award-winning author of laugh-out-loud romantic comedy
for the Christian market. Her most popular series (that started with Always
the Baker Never the Bride
) will conclude this spring with Always the
Baker FINALLY the Bride
, which is now available for pre-order at Amazon.

Sandie leads a team of writers in creating the Living It Out daily Bible study for CedarCreek Church. Today’s devotion is based on the Living
It Out study on the importance of gratitude. If you enjoyed it, feel free to
check out the daily studies by e-mail or audio podcast by clicking HERE.

Now is the time for AGAPE

“The
best use of life is love.
The
best expression of love is time.
The
best time to love is now.”
― Rick Warren
The Greek word Agape is often translated to Love in the New Testament, and the essence
of agape love is self-sacrifice. Unlike our English word Love, Agape
is not used in the Bible to refer to romantic or sexual love, nor does it refer
to close friendship or brotherly love. Agape love is unique and distinguished
by its nature and character. Agape love is the love of God, whose very nature
is love. God does not merely love;
He is love.
Everything God does flows from
His pure and loving heart. His affection for us comes for no other reason
except that it is His nature and the expression of His being. We are the
undeserving recipients upon whom He lavishes His affection. In that same way,
we are called to love others sacrificially.
Loving others takes time and sacrifice.
Jesus gave the parable of the
Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) as an example of sacrifice for the sake of
others, even for those who may care nothing at all for us, or even hate us, as
the Jews did the Samaritans.
Sacrificial love is not based on
a feeling, but a determined act of the will, a joyful resolve to put the welfare
of others above our own. But this type of love does not come naturally to
humans. Because of our fallen nature, we are incapable of producing such a
love. If we are to follow the example of agape, it can only come from its true
source:
Only God can generate within us
the kind of self-sacrificing love which is the proof that we are His children.
And because of God’s agape love toward us, we are now able to love one another.
Ask yourself today whether you’ve
been a free and willing vessel of God’s agape love, and whether you’ve allowed
it to flow out to others. What was the last sacrificial expression you’ve
extended to someone else?
Remember the wave of people who
initiated and encouraged others to follow suit in a trend toward
Random Acts of Kindness? Step
out today and revive that trend. Give yourself the permission to perform five acts
of random and selfless kindness this week. Make it your mission to take the
time and make the sacrifice. As Rick Warren wrote, “The time to love is NOW.”
John 15:10-12 (New Living Translation)
10 “When you obey
my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you
will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is
my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.”

# # #

Sandra D. Bricker is a best-selling and
award-winning author of laugh-out-loud romantic comedy for the Christian
market. Her most popular series (that started with Always the Baker Never
the Bride
) will conclude this spring with Always the Baker FINALLY the
Bride
, which is now available for pre-order at Amazon.

Sandie leads a team of writers in creating the Living It Out daily Bible study for CedarCreek Church. Today’s
devotion is based on the Living It Out study on the importance of loving others.
If you enjoyed it, feel free to check out the daily studies by e-mail or audio
podcast by clicking HERE

What’s in YOUR Heart?

  In her
blog, A Holy Experience, author Ann Voskamp cites the importance of
keeping a gratitude list of the endless gifts God has given to each of us. Read
and consider what the research confirms you’ll receive in return:

  • A
    relative absence of stress and depression. 
  • Progress
    towards important personal goals. 
  • Higher
    levels of determination and energy. 
  • Closer
    relationships and desire to build stronger relationships. 
  • Increased
    happiness by 25%.

Can that
be right? We are to live with gratitude so that we can rejoice in Him and increase
our own happiness by 25%?
 
Is it any surprise that the Bible, the living Word of
God, gives us instructions on how to live, and that research demonstrates these
directions actually benefit us?
Here’s a thought: In this
upcoming year, let’s make it a point to live with thankfulness. What do you think?
There are
myriad ways to do that, but daily time in God’s Word is the ideal place to
start. If you don’t have a study or devotional chosen yet, consider the Living
It Out Bible Study
(click HERE to sign up for a daily email). Scripture reading
is a great discipline to have in place in order to spend daily time with God
and learn about His blessings.
Another
suggestion in living out your thankfulness to God: Be faithful in attending
services every week so that you can be encouraged in your Christian journey.

“It’s habits that can imprison you
and it’s habits that can free you. But when thanks to God becomes a habit – so joy in God becomes your life.”
  -Ann Voskamp, www.aholyexperience.com
 

READ and THINK… What does the Bible tell us about
the confidence we can have in following the steps toward a grateful heart?

  • Ephesians
    5:20 (New Living Translation):
      And give thanks for everything to God the Father in
    the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • 1
    Chronicles 16:34 (New Living Translation):
    Give thanks to the LORD, for he
    is good! His faithful love endures forever.

  • Hebrews
    10:25 (New Living Translation): 
    And let us not neglect our
    meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now
    that the day of his return is drawing near.

  # # #
  

Sandra D. Bricker is a best-selling and
award-winning author of laugh-out-loud romantic comedy for the Christian
market. Her most popular series (that started with Always the Baker Never
the Bride
) will conclude this spring with Always the Baker FINALLY the
Bride
, which is now available for pre-order at Amazon.

Sandie leads a team of writers in creating the Living It Out daily Bible study for CedarCreek Church. Today’s
devotion is based on the Living It Out study on the importance of gratitude.
If you enjoyed it, feel free to check out the daily studies by e-mail or audio
podcast by clicking HERE.