Glory: Look Up!

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1-2)

Ever have to fill out a job application or hand over a résumé to someone? You work hard to list all of your best accomplishments, your education, your experience. You hope the person sees from a summary of credits that you’ve got what it takes to do that job. Your work and academic history—and your references—speak for you.

glory_350In Psalm 19, David makes the case that God doesn’t need to carry any kind of résumé with him. He should not have to convince anyone that he exists, that he is real, or that he is powerful. He can just say, “Look up.” “The heavens” should be all the PR he needs. The sun and moon and stars shout down to the earth, “Look what God did. Look how powerful he is, how creative, how artistic, how precise.”

What a silly thought that the God who created all that beauty and function and light would have to prove himself to anyone.

Think: If the heavens speak of God day and night, what are some of the things they say about him? What are some concrete things we can know about God from his creation?

Pray: Ask God to help you see his fingerprint in what he has made. Thank him for giving you the ability to notice.

Do: Look up! (Works best if you’re outside.)

Saved How?: Unframed Art

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

My brain hurts a little from this huge idea. Not only can my good works NOT save me – or even help save me a little – I am God’s “good work.” We are his “works of art,” made by his own hands. You can almost picture each of us hung on a gallery wall and signed, “God.” Our existence is evidence of the artist’s greatness.

beach_350But here’s the kick in the pants: God doesn’t hang us on a wall or stick us in a frame. Instead, we are works of art designed to create brand new “good works.” Its like a pyramid of creativity that starts with God and extends out generation after generation after generation. He intentionally left blank spots in human history for each of us to fill in with our good works which he “prepared in advance for us to do.”

What a concept! What a gift to be asked to join the ultimate artist in his this masterwork of goodness he is creating through his adopted sons and daughters moment by moment until the work is completed.

Think: What good works do you think God prepared in advance for you to do? How will you use your God-given creativity to contribute to your little piece of the canvas?

Pray: Thank God for preparing some good work for you to do; ask him to help you discover what that is.

Do: Make a list of some of your favorite works of art – paintings, poems, movies, etc. How does the art reflect the artist? How does your existence reflect your Creator?

Saved how?: Zero Payments Forever

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Too many of us think of God’s free gift of salvation like a store credit offer for an expensive item: Zero down! Zero interest! Zero payments for six months! The problem with those offers is that after six months, the store is going to start calling and asking where my payments are. And I won’t have the money then any more than I have it now. All those zeroes will turn into numbers, and I’ll still have to pay.

beach_350Because God’s gift is so unbelievable, we don’t believe it. We know we couldn’t save ourselves. We know we were dead in our sins. We know he made us alive and gave us a future with him. But then we think we’ve got to start making payments. We think its time to start writing checks back to God with our good works so we can at least contribute to the huge bill of sin that Jesus paid off with his death.

Listen to this verse again very carefully. No payments. Ever. Period. We could not earn our salvation before, and we can’t pay for even a little bit of it after. From the start, every sin is paid off. We’re already seated in heaven with Jesus. It’s a done deal. God does not offer creative financing on eternity. God gives it away to sinners who trust in Jesus.

Think: Why is it so hard for us to believe that we don’t somehow earn even a tiny part of our salvation?

Pray: Thank God again for doing everything to include you in the free gift of salvation forever; ask him to help you to leave behind the idea that you are somehow earning your place with him.

Do: Find a good motivation for doing good that isn’t about guilt (for Jesus’ dying for me) or fear (that I’ll get punished if I do bad). (Hint: Read the next verse.)

Saved How?: No Catch

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:6-7)

When my son was little, he was always saying, “Let me show you something.” He would grab my hand and drag me off to get excited with him about his latest discovery. It’s one of the ways I knew he cared about me and wanted to include me in his life.

beach_350God wants to show us something. We saw yesterday that he has set us spiritually with Jesus in the exact spot we’ve been destined to fill forever. It’s where we are meant to be. Today he tells us why. Finally. Here comes the small print. Here’s the catch to everything he has showered on us:

“He wants to show us in the coming thousands and thousands of years how endless his grace is by treating us kindly in Jesus.”

Oh. No catch. In fact, you could define grace as “a gift with no catch.” Apparently, it’s not just that God loves us and has mercy to spare. God also likes us. Wants to be with us. Wants us to enjoy being with him forever.

Oh.

Think: Why do you think we’re always looking for a catch? Why do we want so badly to think we can earn some part of God’s gifts to us?

Pray: Take some time today to think about it and tell God exactly why you’re so grateful for all he has done for you.

Do: Pay attention to how people treat each other today. Why do people do good things for each other? See any examples of “no catch” giving?

Saved How?: Assigned Seating

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:6)

The Father who loves us – who is loaded with mercy – didn’t just bring us to spiritual life at the moment of our salvation and send us on our way. He had a plan for our new lives. He had a spot picked out for us in heaven right next to Jesus. It’s the place we were destined to sit. It’s the life we were built for.

beach_350The trippy part is that it’s where we live right now, spiritually speaking. In Colossians 3, Paul wrote that our lives today are “hidden” in heaven with Jesus. We don’t always feel like it, but there’s no doubt in God’s mind that those of us who have trusted in Jesus as our only hope belong in heaven forever. What we feel – deep down in our core – is a groaning, an achy longing that we’ll never drown out. Paul said in Romans that it won’t go away until our “adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

On the ugly days – when bad things happen or when we do bad things – we need to remember we don’t really live here. We don’t belong here. It’s a temporary address. Soon our hidden lives will be revealed, and every whiff of death will disappear.

Think: What does it mean to you to put your hope in heaven? Are you confident that’s where you’ll send forever?

Pray: If you’ve trusted in Jesus for your eternal salvation, thank God for making you spiritually alive and making a place for you in heaven with Jesus.

Do: If you haven’t, yet, read Colossians 3:1-4 and Romans 8:18-25.

Saved How?: Don’t Jump!

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)

So we were dead. All the way dead in our sins. Couldn’t help ourselves any more than a dead guy can answer the phone. Worse: We were “objects of wrath” doomed for hell apart from God because of our sin. Hopeless and doomed.

beach_350Then these two verses called out to us like a would-be rescuer trying to talk a jumper off of a ledge – like that voice stopping Abraham from dropping the knife into Isaac’s chest. God would not leave us dead and doomed. He loved us too deeply. He’s got mercy in banks all over the universe. He would not let us slide off into the eternity we have earned.

He did what we could not: He “made us alive with Christ.” At the last minute, he provided another way. A ram caught in the bush. A sinless Jesus strapped into our seat on execution day. In response only to our faith in Jesus, he made us like Jesus on Easter morning – living and breathing even though we’d been spiritually dead dead dead.

Think: What would be a reasonable response to a gift like this one? Why do most of us NOT respond that way most of the time?

Pray: Thank God for making you spiritually alive when you could not even breathe toward him on your own.

Do: Look up the definition of grace in two or three online dictionaries. Write one down on a sticky note or something and put it somewhere you’ll have to see it all day long.

Saved How?: Objects of Wrath

“All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” (Ephesians 2:3)

Did you read yesterday’s devo? Summary: We were all spiritually dead. And dead guys don’t do anything. They don’t do self-improvement projects. They don’t get better. They don’t clean themselves up spiritually so they can get closer to God. They just sit there and stink.

beach_350More specifically, Paul wrote, we all just sat there and sinned, stinking up our lives (and everyone else’s) by doing what came naturally to us – sinning whenever it felt good. We didn’t really have any other spiritual options, because we couldn’t do anything spiritually “alive” if we wanted to. And we didn’t want to.

The result? We were all born under God’s perfect anger, headed for an eternity of perfect death apart from our perfect God. And we deserved it because of all our sinful choices. And that’s where the story would have ended for us if God had not stepped in.

Think: Do you think its fair that we’re all born “objects of wrath”?

Pray: Thank God for not letting the story end with verse 3.

Do: In a private place, write down a short list of the some of the sinful choices you might have made that were evidence of your sinful nature.