Living For Christ

Photo by Laura Jostes

Photo by Laura Jostes

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good and perfect will.

* * * * *

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:  Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith that God has given you.

* * * * *

Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with God’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.

* * * * *

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Live in harmony with one another.  Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.

* * * * *

Do not repay evil for evil.  Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written:  “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

On the contrary:  “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;  if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Romans 12:1-3, 9-21

Lord God, by your divine grace and mercy we are different.  By faith we are your children and as your children you desire us to live according to your ways–not our’s, not the world’s.  Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the pen of the apostle Paul you have made known the life you would have us to live.  It is the life Christ lived when he was on the earth.  Help us, Lord, to live according to your will and forgive us when we fail.  Thank you for your love and guidance in our lives!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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October 29 On The Basis Of Love

Photo by Laura Jostes

Photo by Laura Jostes


Lamentations 1:1-2:19; Philemon 1:1-25; Psalm 101:1-8; Proverbs 26:20

“I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ…Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold…yet I appeal to you on the basis of love.” Philemon 1:6,9″

Intriguing story.

A slave named Onesimus leaves his master, Philemon, and ends up by the side of a prisoner chained to a Roman guard. And not just any prisoner, but the Apostle Paul, a ‘prisoner of Christ Jesus.’

Did Onesimus overhear what Paul preached–freedom for all people? Did he want to hear more? To be free?

His yearning was strong enough to bolt him from his master’s house and take him to the man in chains.

Rather ironic. But as the chained man spoke of the freedom everyone can have through faith in Jesus, the slave man’s bonds, the chains of sin and guilt and shame, broke. Onesimus, a man on the run, was set free!

Onesimus risked all and received all through faith in Jesus Christ.

And now Paul wants to return an even more useful Onesimus–one whose life is driven by love for the same Savior that Paul and Philemon worship and adore.

Even though Philemon had every right to punish his slave for leaving, Paul’s appeal to love paves the way for an unusual reunion.

We don’t get to hear the end of the story, but as Paul trusted Philemon to do the Christ-like thing, we too trust that Onesimus received a grace-filled welcome and that he was a great help to his masters–his earthly master, Philemon and his Heavenly Master, Christ Jesus for the rest of his days.

Lord God, thank you for this story of Onesimus and Philemon which shows us the power of the Gospel at work in the lives of these believers. Thank you for the faithful preaching of your Word which moved Onesimus’s heart and made him a new man by faith. Thank you for Paul’s appeal “on the basis of love” to his friend, Philemon, who had felt the loss of his ‘property’, his slave, but received an opportunity to take not just ‘property’ back, but a brother in the Lord. Thank you that by faith and through love, relationships can be restored. Above all, thank you for Jesus, who on the basis of love, gave His life for us who were slaves to sin; who set us free from the bonds of sin and death and gave us new life. I pray that our faith can be active in living out this amazing grace and by doing so, give others hope for reconciliation not only with You but with others. Heal and restore broken relationships, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.

July 8 Unlikely

Photo by Sandara Lee

Photo by Sandara Lee

1 Chronicles 5:18-6:81;  Acts 26:1-32;  Psalm 6:1-10;  Proverbs 18:20-21

It’s just like God to pick a man like Paul–a persecutor of Christians–to become His spokesman to the non-Jewish world.

Isn’t God in the habit of choosing the most unlikely people to fulfill His purposes and speak His Word?

In the past He’s used idolators (Abram), adulterers and murderers (King David), liars and connivers (Rebecca and Jacob), foreigners (Ruth),  womanizers (Samson), prostitutes (Rahab) and the like.

Today’s reading includes Jesus’ words to Paul after He knocks him off his feet:

“But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and as a witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from the Gentiles to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”  Acts 26:16-18

Jesus revealed himself to Paul–He extended His grace–He forgave Paul and made him new.  Paul didn’t do a thing to deserve any of it!

God doesn’t wait for the most likely prospect to serve Him; He chooses the unlikely–like you and me and Paul.

Lord God, thank you for choosing to love us and rescue us, for opening our eyes to see your Salvation.  Help us to stand on our feet and take the Good News of Life through your Son, Jesus Christ, to share the story of our conversion through faith–our turning from darkness to Light.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

September 11 Towers

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Isaiah 8:1-9:21;  2 Corinthians 12:1-10;  Psalm 55:1-23;  Proverbs 23:4-5

Twelve years ago today sin reared its ugly head and thrashed its powerful tail.  Thousands died.  A nation grieved.

Other planes and towers have crashed since then. 

Because sin continues to wage war on human souls.  Wars, disasters, infidelities, disease, death–all march on.

The Apostle Paul knew firsthand the power of evil in a man’s heart.  At his word innocent people were killed for faith in Jesus Christ.

Unbelievably, God stopped Paul before more towers fell.  Paul saw Christ face to face. 

He was changed forever.

That’s the power of forgiveness–the power of God to transform lives.

As believers we are not exempt from the effects of sin, the world or Satan.   We all have towers that have fallen, loved ones who died, careers that failed, relationships that fell apart, illness that devastated.  We know our weaknesses.  We know our God.  To us He says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made known in weakness.” 

When difficult times come we can draw comfort from God’s promise,

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;  when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, and the flames shall not consume you.  For I am the Lord your God, the Holy one of Israel, your Savior.”  Isaiah 43:2-3.

Lord God, today we remember the Towers, the planes and all who suffered and died.  Be with those who lost loved ones.  Give them comfort and hope.  May we also look to You, O Lord, to be our peace, to still the war of sin in our hearts through your forgiveness.  May we always remember that we are weak and you are strong.  We lean on You, our strong Tower that will never fail.  In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you;  he will never let the righteous fall.”  Psalm 55:22

September 10 Bucket List

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Photo by Dan Weiss

Isaiah 6:1-7:25;  2 Corinthians 11:16-33;  Psalm 54:1-7;  Proverbs 23:1-2

What’s on your bucket list?

My list includes horseback riding under the big sky in Montana, touring Salzburg-Mozart’s stomping grounds, and having a book of photography published.

Our bucket lists are of our own choosing.  A bit different from the one the Apostle Paul enumerates.  When Paul said “yes” to Christ’s call to preach the Gospel, he acquired a bucket list.  He tells us about it–

“I also dare to boast about…I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely and been exposed to death again and again.  Five times I received from the Jews the 40 lashes minus 1.  3 times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, 3 times I was shipwrecked…I have been constantly on the move, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles;  in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea, and in danger from false brothers…I have been cold and naked.  Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”  2 Corinthians 11:20, 23-28

Lots of pain and suffering in that bucket list, but the Apostle Paul gladly bore it because Jesus had called him out of darkness and gave him new life. 

And Paul wanted everyone to have what he had–forgiveness of sins and eternal life through Jesus Christ his Lord.

…also on my bucket list–to serve the Lord wherever He leads and to be found faithful at the end of my days.

Lord God, grant that I may serve you with all my heart, soul, strength and mind and to be found faithful in Your sight. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

“I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you;  I will praise your name, O Lord, for it is good.

For he has delivered me from all my troubles, and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes.”  Psalm 54:6-7

August 28 Heaven Scent

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Job 28:1-30:31;  2 Corinthians 2:12-17;  Psalm 42:1-11;  Proverbs 22:7

“But, thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.  For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”  2 Corinthians 2:14-16

What smell do you identify as being delightful–even heavenly?

Chanel No. 5?  A freshly mown hayfield?  A loaf of bread still warm from the oven?  A newborn’s fuzzy head?  Saddle leather and horse hide?

 My favorite is the latter.  The smell of horses evokes strong memories of many pleasurable hours of riding in the Texas and Kansas countrysides.

The Apostle Paul reminds the Corinthians that as believers we all cast a fragrance lovely to God.  As we live out our Christian faith day by day we spread the fragrance of hope, love and redemption through Christ our Lord.  His sacrifice of his body and blood on the Cross was the sweet smelling sacrifice that appeased our Holy God.

Jesus was Heaven’s Scent.

Lord God Heavenly Father, thank you for sending the perfect, once- for- all sacrifice, your dear Son, whose death broke open the bottle of the best perfume ever–Salvation No. 1.  May we never take His sacrifice for granted–a sacrifice that covered the stench of all our sins and now perfumes us with His righteousness.  Grant that we always be ready to give account for Heaven’s scent–the Gospel of our Lord and Savior.  In His name we pray, Amen.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1

July 8 Making Me Dizzy

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1 Chronicles 5:18-6:81;  Acts 26:1-32;  Psalm 6:1-10;  Proverbs 18:2-21

Sometimes life feels like a game of  “Pin The Tail On The Donkey”–we’re blindfolded, spun around losing all sense of direction and then expected to reach the goal.  We grope around in the dark, trusting only what we can feel and making a wild “stab” at the truth.

The ‘world’ shouts out to us “Over here–this is the way–this is the real deal” “No, over here–this is the truth–just a little bit more in this direction.”  The voices never stop and you never stop spinning.

Like the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus–the spinning finally stops when the light of Christ shines on us.  His illuminating truth stills our dizzying efforts.  He says to us, “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

The light of Christ’s message “opens our eyes so that we may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that we may receive the forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in him.” ( paraphrase of Acts 26:18)

In light of His Light, the donkey gets his tail and we get the Truth!

Lord God, thank you for stopping the endless spinning in our lives by sending your Son, Jesus who never lost his way, but went straight to the goal–the Cross–for us.  When our lives spin out of control-when we take our eyes off of you- please forgive us and restore us to a balanced walk with you.  We give you our thanks and praise!  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Turn O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love.”

Psalm 6:4