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I could feel the tension building.

I had stayed calm when cereal was purposely dumped on the floor. I had smiled and given a gentle reminder when the child leaning back in his chair finally crashed to the ground. I even had even kept my cool when I heard complaints about the special Valentine’s candy I was offering.

I couldn’t do it anymore. These kids were about to bear the brunt of a full mommy blow-up and it was going to be nasty!

That’s when the idea struck me….have a restart. We were going to start this day all over again! So I set a timer for five minutes and we all went to our rooms for a breather. We reset our hearts and our minds and when we reconvened, there was much less danger for a parental explosion.

Friends, that kind of do-over is no less common in our spiritual walk. We live in the already/not yet of redemptive time. Hebrews 2:8 reminds us that Christ has already conquered death and sin, yet at this point we don’t see our world in complete submission to Him. That’s still coming. In the meantime, we will sin. We will experience pain.  We will acutely feel our brokenness. That’s why it’s necessary for us to regularly hit the reset button of the gospel.

When I feel tempted with sin, it’s more than a just good idea to stop and read scriptures like:

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”     I Corinthians 5:21

Or when my heart is overwhelmed with the trials and repetitive tasks of life:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”  Jeremiah 31:3

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A while back, I designed this picture for my laptop screensaver. One day my oldest read it and said, why does it just say morning? His mercies are new in the evening too!

He didn’t realize how many times, I would open my computer at the end of a chaotic and disappointing day only to be reminded of God’s never failing, never ending mercy in the evening too! Because of Christ’s work, His favor always rests on me. Every morning, every evening, and the many hours in between are wrapped in His love and His faithfulness (not mine).

I’m so thankful for the restart button of the gospel. The chance to run back to the finished and perfect work Jesus completed for me. His grace weaves my failures, blow-ups, and do-overs into a beautiful tapestry for His glory.

Run to Him. Ask Him to remind your soul of His steadfast love and new mercies! Accept the renewal He so generously offers!

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations 3:22-24

A Little Leaven {Themes from Galatians 5}

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A Little Leaven (Audio)

 

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

“A little leaven leavens the whole lump”

To some this may be a phrase simply about baking bread and that would definitely apply.

However, in the churches I grew up in, this verse was used quite frequently to remind people of the dangers of even a little bit of sin in a believers life (wrong music, lustful eye, etc…). It is very true that sin is dangerous. We are taught that Satan seeks his prey like a lion who looks for the weak and unexpecting.

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I feel like this interpretation of Galatians 5:9 might fall short of Paul’s main intent. When read in context with the surrounding verses the leaven Paul is referring to is actually the sin of self-sufficiency. This false teachers have convinced them that they need to add the bondage of outward works to their salvation {see last week’s post}. This undermines the sacrifice Christ made on the cross to ultimately and completely earn our freedom! This pull to “go back” to slavery is a daily battle and one for which the gospel is the only answer!

We learn time and time again throughout all of Scripture that we are not sufficient in ourselves. It was for that exact inadequacy that Christ had to live and die perfectly.

Here’s an example…..
Envy is a sin (it even makes Paul’s list later in Chapter 5).
The tiniest bit of envy can snowball into a life characterized by jealousy and resentment toward God and others.
Envy is not the leaven. Self-sufficiency is. 

 

In other words, when the Holy Spirit points to the propensity toward jealousy in my life, it is the sin of pride that thinks I can keep it under control. I’m confident in my own abilities to replace envy with kindness and conquer grudges with gratefulness. It is my self-dependence that leavens the lump of my life.

 

It is only through crucifying my fleshly desires with Christ and boasting only in His accomplishments that I can overcome the constant pull of sin in my life.
By acknowledging my weaknesses, I am inviting the Holy Spirit’s power to conquer the temptations in my path.

 

Praise God for his glorious sufficiency in the most feeble of hearts!

 

 

>>>>>Thank you so much for spending some time in Galatians with me over the last few weeks! If you missed a part, you can catch up by reading OR listening HERE.

Lookin’ Good {themes from Galatians 4-5}

Good news! I know your life is busy so you can read OR listen to today’s post! Just click play and listen to the audio blog {subscribers click READ MORE at the bottom of your email}! Let me know what you think in the comments or email me!

Lookin’ Good (Audio)

 

Read Part 1, Part, 2, Part 3.

Time for some honest reflection.

My best friend and I were addicted to Cover Girl powder and Aquanet hairspray back in high school. We used almost every break between classes to make sure our noses weren’t the least bit shiny and that our giant bangs hadn’t started to wilt.

I realize that the root of that addiction went deeper than covering a teenage complexion. We wanted to look good so we would be accepted. If we could get our outsides perfect, maybe we could fool others to think that we were the same way inside.

 

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As we uncover more highlights from the book of Galatians, we notice that this church seemed to be preoccupied with their appearance as well. In verse 10 of chapter 4, we read that the Galatians felt righteous by celebrating certain days and seasons when in fact, these God-ordained festivals had become empty and weak substitutes for a relationship with Christ.

At the beginning of chapter 5 we learn that the Galatians were also seeing justification in the act of circumcision. At first, this physical sign doesn’t seem to apply to our modern lives, but when we look at it in more general terms as an outward expression to gain acceptance and approval, we realize that we all have the temptation to replace grace with more spiritual hairspray.

 

I absolutely love verse 6:
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.
 The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

 

Is it wrong to be circumcised? No.
Is it wrong to observe certain holidays and festivals? Of course not.
Is it wrong to attend church regularly? I’m a pastor’s wife. I would encourage it!
Is it wrong to strive to read my Bible consistently? Not a problem.

 

The issue isn’t with the actions themselves, but with the motivation behind them.

 

When we do anything simply to look righteous to God or others, it is as empty as another layer of pressed powder on our nose.

 

Our lives as wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters, must be centered-on and fueled by faith in the fact that Christ has abolished the formal rituals of sacrifice and penance.  When I am overcome with the love He gave, I am motivated to outward actions that are infused with that same love.

 

As we are reminded in 2 Corinthians 5:14, it is the love of Christ (not self) that motivates and compels us to live justly. We no longer ask, What do others think of me? Instead we seek to show others more and more of Christ living IN me!


Join me next week for the last post in our Galatians series! Let me know your thoughts in the comments or reply to your subscriber email!

Playing favorites {themes from Galatians 1-2}

Good news! I know your life is busy so you can read OR listen to today’s post! Just click play and listen to the audio blog {subscribers click READ MORE at the bottom of your email}! Let me know what you think in the comments or email me!

Playing Favorites (Audio)

 

Read Part 1

The high school lunch table — This infamous symbol represents much more than mac ‘n cheese and food fights. Somehow a simple table and chairs personifies an ongoing quest for popularity and approval. Have you ever noticed that almost every movie involving school age kids also includes a lunch room scene? (I have no scientific evidence to back up that claim).

The pursuit for approval from our peers is never ending. Look at the mommy wars.  We love to sit at the table with those who agree with us, and fling insults across the lunchroom to the moms who have different opinions. We crave the confirmation that we are in the “right crowd”.

 

As we move on in our study of the themes of Galatians, I find it so interesting that even the apostles weren’t immune to this craving for approval. Throughout the end of chapter 1 and through the beginning of chapter 2, Paul shares his beginnings as a gospel peddler. He was careful to protect the pillars of the good news and did so by having church leaders approve of his message. Their support was vital to his new ministry because they were seeking to preserve the purity of the gospel message.

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A few verses later, though, we see a different side to the approval coin. Paul points out a discrepancy in Peter’s behavior. It seems as if Peter was regularly eating and fellowshipping with the Gentile Christians until James shows up with his Jewish friends. All of a sudden, Peter changes “tables” and sits only with the Jews hypocritically ignoring his new friends. This consequence was much confusion about the new relationship between the Jews and non-Jews.

I find it so interesting that it was James himself who takes an entire section of his epistle to address the sin of partiality. Treating others differently based on their outward appearance or family origin shows a misunderstanding of the gospel message itself.
James says, “Listen my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?”
Paul simply had to call out the duplicity in his fellow brother in Christ when he saw that his conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel. (Again we see that he doesn’t find his authority in his own opinions, but in the reconciliation Christ accomplished for believers).

 

Peter was acting differently with the hopes of gaining approval from James and his crew.

If I’m honest, I use the same tactic as Peter in my interactions with others. I use exterior characteristics to judge some and attempt to gain approval from others. The gospel frees us from this game of hypocrisy. As we read in Galatians 2:20, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…”

 

My embarrassing sins and constant shortcomings have been placed under the death and resurrection of Christ on my behalf. When God looks at me, he sees a righteous woman in perfect standing with Him. Because Christ lives in me, I can bestow that same gift of impartiality to others. I can live in light of God’s approval by not living for man’s.

 

In other words, the lunch table I sit at doesn’t really matter. I don’t have to be or do something to find value in someone else’s eyes. My worthiness was established by Christ’s obedience on the cross. Someday, those of us who rest in Jesus’ work for us will experience the ultimate approval when we sit down at supper with the Lamb for all eternity.



Join me next week for Part 3 of our study in Galatians. Catch up on Part 1.
I’d love to hear what you’re learning as you read this truth packed book. Share in the comments or reply to your subscription email.

 

Who do you think you are? {themes from Galatians 1}

Exciting news! I know your life is busy so you can read OR listen to today’s post! Just click play and listen to the audio blog {subscribers click READ MORE at the bottom of your email}! Let me know what you think in the comments or email me!

Who Do You Think You Are? Audio

 

She crossed her chubby arms and tapped her tiny foot impatiently.

“Who do you think you are?”
She pointed to the handmade sign. “Can’t you see it says ‘No boys allowed’? Only girls can come into this clubhouse! Now, go away!”
It doesn’t take long for us as humans to start questioning and challenging our identity and authority as it relates to others. Some abuse that authority and others feel like they can never gain any. We all struggle to find our true identity.
As we begin looking at some of the major themes in the book of Galatians, these two root issues are so important. Let’s take a look at them separately.

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AUTHORITY IN CHRIST (Galatians 1:4)

Paul is writing the book of Galatians to a church who has lost its direction and focus as believers in Christ. He sees an urgent and dangerous problem that needs to be addressed immediately. Before he explains the issue and suggests solutions he establishes his authority not in himself, but in Jesus Christ. We find references to Christ’s resurrection even in the first verse of this book. In fact, throughout this letter, Paul rarely strays far from the anchor of the gospel. His advice and input carries weight to the hearers not because of Paul’s greatness, but  because of Christ’s.

 

There are times when we are also called to share truth with others. As moms, one of our primary responsibilities is to impart wisdom and instruction to the little ones in our home. It’s so easy to revert to the “Because I said so” mentality when in fact our authority really rests in the “Because He says so” of Scripture.
When we have an intimidating conversation with a coworker or friend, it brings much relief to realize that our words don’t hold weight because of our eloquence, but because of the power of God’s words and working in their life.
We share gospel truths not because we are qualified, but because He is!

IDENTITY IN CHRIST {Galatians 1:6-10}
So what exactly is the main issue with this body of believers? We soon learn that the Galatian church had forgotten their new identity in Christ and were actively turning to things other than Him for their security and rescue. They were attempting to fill a gospel-shaped hole in their spirits with things other than the work of Jesus.
This wasn’t a new idea to Paul. Later on in this first chapter he reminds them that he was growing steadily in his popularity among the Jews. His persecution of Christians and advancement of Judaism was applauded. When he was literally stopped in his tracks on the road to Damascus, he was given not only a new name, but a new identity and mission. He bluntly tells his readers that if he was seeking validation from his peers he wouldn’t be preaching Christ (v.10).


It’s easy to shake our heads at the Galatians and wonder how they could so easily turn to replacements for the good news they already received through Christ. Honestly examining our own hearts reveals that we have some identity issues too.
Here are a few of my identities:

–Good wife: This identity includes consistent dishwashing, crisp ironing, and squeaky clean floors. It requires immediate submission to all decisions and calm responses to heated discussions. If perfection is not attained in all aspects, this identity is deemed a failure.

–Wonderful mom: This identity includes gourmet PB&J making skills, organization of all superhero costumes, and creative bedtime storytelling. Negotiation is a requirement for this position. If perfection is not attained in all aspects, this identity is deemed a failure. 

–Church leader: This identity includes a cheerful disposition at all times, memory of church members names and current spiritual/physical needs, and an ability to explain any passage of Scripture a moment’s notice. If perfection is not attained in all aspects, this identity is deemed a failure. 

Obviously these identities are completely unattainable, but they bring pride and despair on a regular basis depending on my current level of success in each area. Can you relate?

Maybe you find your identity in your number of friends, advice giving opportunities, or creative ability. The possibilities are endless.
That’s why we can’t skim over the first part of Galatians. Our identity IS important and if we are in Christ our identity has been perfectly sealed. We are His!

Practically, this means that I can crash and burn in any area of my existence, but my validation doesn’t come from those faulty identities.

This makes the question of our authority and identity a simple one to answer. Both are found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Straying from this answer leads us down a dangerous path and resting in it brings us confidence and peace in the face of the world’s many “gospels”.

As you head into the chaos that is life, ask yourself not “Who am I?” but “Whose am I?”. Those two letters make all the difference.

Join me next week for Part 2 of our study in Galatians. I’d love to hear what you’re learning as you read this truth packed book. Share in the comments or reply to your subscription email.

Fresh Start – hope for the new year….

I’m so excited to share some hope with you today from one of my favorite authors, Jessica Thompson. She has been so kind to share some gospel encouragement with us as we head into the new year! Enjoy! 

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Fresh Start

 

Often when my boys are playing video games I hear them yell out in agony and the very next thing I hear is the game starting over again. The failure of a poorly thrown virtual pass is erased and the score is once again 0-0. We all love a restart. I think this is why we love January 1st so much. The old is gone. The new is here. The score is 0-0. I don’t have to be reminded of the failures of 2015 because now 2016 has come. Time to begin again.

Here’s the thing though, our hope is not in a fresh start with better results. Our hope is not in our ability to get it right this time because honestly, we will continue to fail over and over again. What can we hope in? The prophet Jeremiah asks this same question in Lamentations 3:17-18 “my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, ‘My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.’” But then the Holy Spirit reminds him of where to look and then he pens, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope, The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”(22-23) In the Christian life, every morning is like January 1st, it is a new start. The failures of yesteryear, yesterday, yestermoment were gone before they were even committed, erased by the blood of the Lamb. His faithfulness brings us hope.

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My default is that my faithfulness brings me hope. When I can look at my success and say, “See I did it before I can do it again!” I am trusting in myself. I am living as though my will power is my hope. The truth of the matter is that my will power is so broken that Christ’s body had to be broken in order for me to find forgiveness and acceptance. As long as I am trusting in myself I will either be proud (Yep, nailed it again) or depressed (I will never get it right). But when I forsake my self-trust and learn to trust in His faithfulness alone I will have a new hope every morning. New mercies. Same love. Forever faithfulness. That is what our God has promised us.

So when you fail today, tomorrow, in the next five minutes stop and pray that the Holy Spirit grounds your heart right here, “there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.(Message paraphrase)
Our hope for 2016 is always Him. A God who never changes, never gives up on us, and promises to always forgive. That hope pushes me towards him every single time. It pushes me toward loving God and loving others. Our eternal hope is Christ himself.

publicityjess

Jessica is an author of several books and a frequent conference speaker. Her heart is to see women, families, and children freed from the bondage of moralism and to live in the truth that in the gospel there is joyful freedom awaiting them. Jess has a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology and with her mother, Elyse Fitzpatrick, she co-authored the books Give Them Grace and Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions. She has also written Exploring Grace Together and Everyday Grace: Infusing All Your Relationships With the Love of Jesus. Jess believes the truth that salvation is “naked confidence in the mercy of God.” She has been married to her high school sweetheart since 1995. Together they have three teenage children.
Connect with her at www.givethemgrace.com or on Twitter at @thejesslou

First Breath…

As a part of our Christmas celebrations, we sat down this past weekend to watch the Nativity Story as a family.The kids were really intrigued by the movie. They were so excited for the part where baby Jesus would be born.
While we were watching, we were discussing the fact that babies don’t breathe air until they come out of their mommy’s tummy. Then they usually start crying.
Finally, Mary and Joseph arrived at the cave where she would deliver Jesus. My little guy watched in anticipation until the baby was born.
With a sense of amazement and excitement, he blurted, “Jesus just took his first breath!”
He didn’t realize it, but his comment was super profound!
The same mighty One who created the Earth and filled Adam’s lungs with breath was now willingly inhaling his first breath as a tiny baby.

The sovereign King of the universe laid aside His glory and put on our broken flesh to complete for us what we could never accomplish ourselves.
That, my friends, is a beautifully deep concept that I hope to continue meditating on throughout this Season.
Praise God, for the manger, because without it, we would never have the triumph of the cross!

 

*This is a repost from my old blog, A Steady Rain! I needed this reminder for myself during this busy season! I hope it encourages you!

Can Santa point us to Jesus?

Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas! It’s that time of year where we’re surrounded by reindeer, magic snowmen, and elves! As families who want to emphasize the beauty of the advent, it can be hard to wade through the surface traditions that Christmastime brings.

Instead of fighting against the mentions of Santa and his midnight delivery of toys to children around the globe, it might be helpful to find references to the gospel even in the familiar traditions of this season. It’s possible that even St. Nick can help us point our kids (and ourselves) to Christ!

Can Santa point us to Jesus-

 

You better watch out! You better think twice! He’s gonna find out who’s naughty and nice……

The truth is that we are ALL naughty! The fall in the Garden of Eden long ago sealed our fate as depraved, “bad” human beings and our position on the naughty list. Giving money to the Salvation Army bell ringers or showing up for a Christmas Eve service does nothing to move our names to the preferred nice list. In fact, even the most consistently “good” person can never measure up to God’s holy standard. (Romans 3:10). We don’t have to be left on that cursed naughty list though. Jesus Christ covered up his divine nature with our sinful flesh and lived perfectly for us. His record is now ours when we accept His work on our behalf meaning that when the Father sees us, we are no longer “naughty” but perfectly “nice”.

Oh, we are Santa’s elves. We work hard all day….

In order to make enough toys for every boy and girl in the world, those elves have a ton of work to do! I’m sure magic helps a bit, but a lot of effort goes into the process! Jesus completed a task far greater than any Christmas toy as He hung on the cross for us. John 19:30 tells us that he breathed, “It is finished” as he bore the wrath of a holy God in His body. He would be separated from His Father because of our sin, not His. Any work we do would never come close to the effectiveness of His work on our behalf and is only done out of our gratefulness to Him. The work is done!

5 golden rings, 4 calling birds, 3 french hens, 2 turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree……

Except for the rings, those gift ideas probably don’t appear on too many Christmas wish lists these days, but the desire for more “stuff” hasn’t disappeared. We spend hour shopping for the perfect present for each person in our family and look forward to early Christmas morning when we enjoy the surprised look on their faces! Unfortunately, even the most expensive of gifts won’t last forever. Toys will break (even as early as Christmas afternoon), cars will be dented, and jewelry will be misplaced. All is not lost, however! The gift of grace earned through Christ will never end. Through it, we receive abundant life which begins when receive it and comes to completeness in eternity! The gift of salvation will last forever!

Enjoy this holiday season! Sing silly carols and make gingerbread houses with your family! Have fun choosing gifts for one another and finding the best place for mistletoe. But, let the joy of the holidays be fueled by the Prince of Peace whose coming provided eternal riches for your soul! Even the Grinch can’t take that away!


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How to teach your kids to be good Christians….

I recently studied and taught a lesson about the Passover in Exodus 12. I tend to have a love/hate relationship with this story. I absolutely hate the thought of thousands of baby boys being slaughtered in their sleep and my mommy heart breaks for the parents who found their tiny son unresponsive in the darkness of that Egypt night. On the other hand, I love the foreshadowing of a better and perfect lamb who would become our Savior.

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What did the families with spared sons do differently that night? They followed the instructions to paint the blood of a spotless lamb on their doorposts and depended on Yahweh that He would fulfill His promise of protection. Their safety wasn’t based on their behavior earlier that day or week or month. Their family heritage had no bearing on whether their child would live or die. They couldn’t hold up the attendance sheet from the synagogue to prove their worthiness for being passed over (not to mention the Israelites didn’t even have a tabernacle at that point!). It wasn’t the greatness of their faith that rescued them, but the object of their faith – the almighty, faithful God.

The simple fact is that none of us are “good” Christians. When the world looks at us, they may not be able to tell much about our family history, church attendance, or past sins. What they should be able to see is a broken, sinful people who have placed our dependence on the One who was perfectly good!

Therefore in order to be a consistently good Christian (and to teach our children to follow that example), we must consistently preach the gospel to ourselves. “I was a rebel – an enemy – against God. In His abounding mercy and love He sent His own Son who faced the wrath of God in my place so that I may now be called His friend.”

I become a -better Christian- not by doing more and more on my own, but by becoming more and more dependent on Christ.

In other words, I become a “better Christian” not by doing more and more on my own, but by becoming more and more dependent on Christ. I pray that I remember this truth when my boys are arguing about their toys for the umteenth time or when a disrespectful attitude rears its ugly head once again. There is nothing in me. There is nothing in you. There is nothing in your children that deserves to be passed over. May we rest in the might and faithfulness of the God who promises to rescue us!

Rule follower…

What do you think of when you hear the word law?

Maybe it’s a stone tablet with unattainable rules engraved on its face. Maybe it’s the speed limit sign that always seems too slow. Maybe it’s a judge deciding a criminal’s jail sentence for breaking society’s rules of order.

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We often see the law as a negative thing. Even when we study the Old Testament we see a list of harsh rules with immediate consequences when broken. The strange thing is that Scripture actually points to the fact that the law is something we should delight in and cherish (James 1:25).

Listen to David’s words in Psalm 119:

“Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.”

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”

“Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.”

Wondrous? Delight? These are never words that I would associate with the rules and standards of the law.

We may find little insight in Psalm 19:7…

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;”

It seems that the principles and commands found it God’s law were intended to bring liberty and an abundant life. Why then do we tend to think of the law in a negative way?

Rule Follower

The bad news isn’t the law but the fact that our depraved hearts simply can’t and won’t keep it perfectly.  It points to our need of a Savior to perfectly delight in God’s law on our behalf.

“….and by Him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.”

Through Christ, we can enjoy the peace and joy that comes from perfectly following God’s law. Because he faithfully followed the letter of the law, we can say with Paul, “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being…” (Rom. 7:22).

If you have placed your trust in the finished work of Christ for you, then when God looks at you He sees a joyful (perfect) rule-follower! That, my friends, is a wondrous thought!

>>>As always I love to hear your thoughts! Share in the comments section or hit “reply” to your subscriber email!

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