This is Your Life

I spent about 30 minutes last night making a spreadsheet of my 11-year-old daughter’s extracurricular activities between now and the end of February to see if we there was any way we could fit one more activity in.  She’d like to try volleyball, I’m just not sure if we can make it all work together.  This seems to happen every year.  We get to December and we’re running everywhere.  So far this week we’ve been to diving practice, Orffcats, gymnastics, a parent volleyball meeting, a band/chorus concert, and a diving meet – the problem is it’s only TUESDAY night.  I’m tired already.

It isn’t inherently wrong that we are involved in a lot of activities.  It provides our kids the opportunity to try new things, allows our family to connect with other people in our community, and gives us a chance to build lasting relationships.  I wonder, however, if too many of them are keeping us from focusing on what is most important.  Will you read and meditate on the words in 2 Peter 3:10-14 with me today?

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. (2 Peter 3:10-14).

The second epistle of Peter was written to believers in Asia Minor to warn them about complacency and heresy.  In our world that is filled with things other than the truth of Jesus Christ competing for our attention, it could have easily been written it to us.  This section of the letter contains a couple fire and brimstone images about the coming destruction of the earth, but focus in on verses 11 and 14.  These verses are about the here and now, how we are living through the ordinary, everyday activities of life.

…what kind of people ought you to be?

living holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God

…make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him

As I reflect on the past few weeks I wonder, am I making every effort to be the person I ought to be, making holy and godly choices?  Am at peace with God?  I wonder if the business of life is keeping me from focusing on living the life to which I’m called – spotless, blameless and at peace with him.

And today is all you’ve got now.
And today is all you’ll ever have.
Don’t close your eyes.

This is your life, are you who you want to be? 

(Switchfoot, 2003).

The Way

Today’s reading:  John 14

Do you have a good sense of direction? Some people have an uncanny way of being able to navigate their way around even when it’s their first visit to a specific location.  I wish this was me, but it is not.  Not knowing where I am or how to get where I’m going, and not having a good sense to figure it out can cause me great stress at times.  (How did I ever survive without GPS?)  This is especially true when the stakes are high.  If I have to be somewhere new first thing in the morning, it isn’t uncommon for me to do a “test run” the night before so I can avoid being late and/or starting off in a high stress mode because I’ve had difficulty finding my way there.

When I read the first six verses of John 14, I sense the disciples were in stress mode because they didn’t know where they were going.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.”  Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:1-6).

This passage is the beginning chapter of Jesus’ Farewell Discourse – his guidance to the eleven disciples (sans Judas) after the last supper, before his crucifixion.  Even though he was preparing to leave them, he was trying to give them confidence that he was going to take care of them. Because the disciples didn’t completely understand his plan, didn’t know exactly where they were going and how to get there, they were anxious.  Think about it.  These eleven men left everything to follow Jesus, and now he was talking about leaving.  They literally had nothing to go back to.  If I had been in their situation, I think describing me as anxious might have been an understatement.

Take a look at Jesus’ response. He didn’t try and get the disciples on board by providing more information on where or how.  Rather, his words of comfort were simply about who.  The disciples didn’t need directions, they need a reminder that trusting Jesus was the way.  He was all they needed.

Regardless of how well we find our way from place to place, we are all lost. So I ask again – how good is your direction sense?  Does it point you to Jesus?  He is still the way.  He is still all we need.

Fun Hater

Today’s reading:  John 2

Do you believe the phrase “opposites attract”? After 24 years of marriage, I do.  My husband is a dreamer.  He is forever coming up with a grand scheme involving a new pet, a really expensive toy (think boats and jet skis) or an exotic vacation.  He sells the idea to my children and they proceed with a full court press to get me on board.  I, on the other hand, consider it my role to be a realist.  We don’t need to spend our energy coming up with plans for pets they’ll never take care of, toys they can’t afford or vacations for which they don’t have the time or money.  It will simply lead to disappointment.  Because of this very practical (and somewhat boring) perspective, my family has given me the nickname Fun Hater.

When you think about God, do you think he is a dreamer or a fun hater? I admit, I find myself thinking of the latter.  I generally look to places other than God for excitement and meaning.  Why do I often cast him as an all-powerful God who exists only to tell me no, rather than focusing on his extravagant creation, the many gifts with which he’s blessed me, and his promise of abundance if I follow his plan for my life?

Our scripture today in John 2 opens with the account of Jesus’ first miracle. Most of Jesus’ miracles involved a renewal of fallen creation – restoring site, making the lame walk, even raising the dead to life.  But this first miracle was a little different.  Jesus turned water to wine.  Not just a little plain water to average wine, but more than 100 gallons of water sitting in stone jars used for washing into choice wine.  All to help facilitate a marvelous wedding celebration, help the master of the banquet keep his job, and help a the bridegroom avoid embarrassment.  Does this sound like a Fun Hater to you?

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now” (John 2:6-10).

I believe the perfect God we serve is both a dreamer and realist. He doesn’t flip-flop his position depending on the situation, rather he works through a variety of circumstances to accomplish his purpose in each one of us. Sometimes that sounds like dreaming of great things to come, other times it looks like saying no to things that take us away from his plan.  If you take one thing away from this post today, take this – God has our best interest in mind. Will you trust him? He won’t disappoint.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

Cost/Benefit Analysis

Today’s reading:  Luke 14

More than once over the past couple of years I’ve told you I am an accounting dork.  I naturally count and/or reconcile almost everything.  It’s just how my mind works.  I think this is why I like to go to the grocery store and figure out whether two 13 ounce boxes of Life Cereal at a 3/$5 price point is better than one 24.8 ounce box of Life Cereal for $4.29.  In case you were wondering, this is a good value and is why you’ll often find multiple small boxes, instead of a few large boxes, of cereal in my pantry.

It should be no surprise to you that my focus for today is on the last section of our text in Luke 14 – “The Cost of Being a Disciple”.  In verses 25-27, Jesus told the crowd that anyone who wanted to be his disciple had to be willing to hate his father, mother, wife, children, siblings and even hate himself.  This sounds pretty harsh, and seems a little contradictory to be honest.  If God is love, and he commands us to love others, it doesn’t really make sense that we are required to hate our loved ones to be his disciples.

As you know, Jesus wasn’t speaking in literal terms here.  His message was all about priority.  Let’s go back to the Old Testament where we find the same message.  The first commandment God gave to Moses was, “You shall have no other God’s before me” (Exodus 20:3).  God desires our first and our best.  To say it another way, God doesn’t really want our time or our money, he wants us.  That is why he made us in the first place.  God desires for our hearts to be truly devoted to him.  How we spend our time and how we spend our money then, are simply a natural reflection of what is in our hearts/what we value.

Now, will following Jesus cost us?  Yes.  Following Jesus requires us to give up control, it means that we submit to his will over our own.  It may result in loss of social status or wealth.  It may mean separation from family, persecution or even death.  As you know, following Jesus is not the recipe for a trouble-free life.  However, God never asks us to suffer just for the sake of suffering.  He never asks us to give up something good unless he plans to replace it with something even better.  He truly has our best interest in mind.  I assure you, the benefit of an all-powerful God guiding your way, watching over you and offering you a place in eternity with him is definitely worth the cost!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

Blank Space

Today’s reading:  Luke 2

Luke 2 begins with the birth of Jesus, and ends when he was 12 years old.  Luke 3 picks up when Jesus is 30 years old and ready to begin his ministry.  Do you find it interesting that the blank space between the chapters covers 18 years?  Nothing about Jesus’ teenage years and twenties is recorded here.

As I was preparing for this post, I began to reflect on my life between the ages of 12 and 30.  A lot of growing up and maturing happened over the course of those 18 years.  During that time I finished my core education, began a career and married my true love.  Some of my choices were good, some were bad, but almost all of them were learning experiences.  I’m pretty glad a transcript of my teenage and early adult years does not exist.  In fact, I wish I couldn’t remember some those “learning” experiences!

Have you ever wondered why the Bible doesn’t account for what happened during that time in Jesus’ life?  Do you think he was impulsive, emotional and smart-mouthed just like I was at that age?  It’s hard to imagine.  Here’s what I do know for sure – unlike me, Jesus lived through those years without sin.  Not just without getting caught, but entirely without sin!  Even so, I think Jesus, who was fully God and fully man, spent those 18 years learning and maturing just like I did.  Based on the last two verses of Luke 2, here’s what I see in the blank space –

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:51-52).

Jesus grew in wisdom – until he was 30, Jesus lived an ordinary life in the ordinary town of Nazareth.  As a carpenter’s son, he learned a lot about earning a living and dealing with people.  Have you ever noticed that after Luke 2, the Bible says nothing else about Jesus’ father Joseph?  More than likely, Joseph died during the eighteen year gap between Luke 2 and 3.  Jesus and his brothers would have taken on the responsibility to provide for their family.  Going to school, running errands, doing the laundry and cleaning house are likely some of the routine responsibilities Jesus and his brothers would have taken on in their father’s absence.  As God’s son, Jesus’ already had all the knowledge he needed. What he gained during this time was experience and connection.  By living through the cadence of ordinary life, he learned to how to connect with people through their triumphs and temptations.  Jesus’ growth and maturity during this time was purposeful, effectively preparing him for his ministry.

Obedience put Jesus in favor with God and man – verse 51 tells us Jesus returned to Nazareth and was obedient to his parents.  The story of Jesus in the temple at the end of this chapter was the first glimpse of Jesus acknowledging his identity with God.

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house” (Luke 2:49)?

Jesus knew his earthly ministry was not to begin until he was age 30, but he submitted to his earthly parents for another eighteen years while he prepared for it.  It is hard to believe God’s plan for the King of kings and Lord of lords was to come to earth to save his people, but live in obscurity for the first 30 years. That seems like such a long time!  Can you imagine Jesus, who truly was smarter than his parents, choosing to be obedient when he probably knew a better way most of the time?  Jesus wasn’t just obedient to God’s plan, he was also obedient to God’s timing.

Growing in wisdom and being obedient to God’s plan molds as shapes who we are far beyond our teenage and young adult years.  Today, I challenge you to embrace God’s plan for your life.  Invite him to work through your faithfulness, and learn to be patient with his timing.  He knows what’s best for us!

What do YOU believe about God?

Today’s reading:  Mark 6

Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith (Mark 6:1-6).

Jesus lived among the people of Nazareth for 30 years. He grew up with them, he was their neighbor and their friend.  They knew him better than anyone else.  Their familiarity with Jesus and their preconceived notions about him, however, kept them from accepting his message and putting their faith in him.  Ultimately their unwillingness to believe Jesus was the Messiah God promised in the Old Testament, separated them from God.

In his 1961 book, The Knowledge of the Holy, AW Tozer wrote – “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us”.  Do you believe this?  Think about it – if eternal life is only possible because God sent Jesus to die on the cross and pay the price for our sins, knowing what someone believes in his or her heart about God tells us where they will spend eternity.  You might even go as far as to say – if we get it wrong about God, it really doesn’t matter what else we get right.  Outside of spending eternity with God, all other roads lead to death.

According to a recent study by the Pew Research center, 80% of Americans claim to believe in God. This study found how people see God, and how they believe God interacts with them, varies greatly by religious affiliation, gender and political party.  In fact, only about 56% of Americans affirm belief in God as he is described in the Bible (When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean, 2017).

So I ask, what do YOU believe about God?  This is the most important question you will ever answer.

And this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent (John 17:3).

Could You Say No?

Today’s reading:  Matthew 22

In May, my 11 year old got braces. This was not unexpected, as she sucked her thumb for the first 4 ½ years of her life.  (I knew letting her suck her thumb was going to cost me a pile of money at some point.  But, she was so cute and so happy I decided I was willing to pay for braces if it meant more sleep for me in those early months!)  Her teeth were pretty crowded and she was anxious to get them corrected.  The treatment plan started with a jaw expander, braces on her upper teeth, then braces for her lower teeth.  Ugh.  It was pretty painful the first couple of days, but she eventually got used to the mouth full of hardware she will have for the next 24 months.

Three months later I was back at the orthodontist with my son. He was a little different story.  His teeth were fairly straight, so he wasn’t sure he really wanted braces.  Turns out, his bite was pretty messed up.  What I thought was going to be a pretty quick, easy and cheaper treatment plan, turned out to be just as significant as my daughters’.  Even with a sibling discount and insurance, it was still going to cost me a ton.

It was at this point, Freddy and I had a heart to heart.  My advice to him was to get his teeth fixed while someone else (his parents) was willing to foot the bill.  Before I shelled out the cash, however, I wanted to make sure he was committed to the plan.  I wanted affirmation that he was going to follow the strict instructions of the orthodontist – brushing and flossing every day, using fluoride mouthwash, and avoiding certain foods.  I was not interested in wasting my money on braces that were not going to work because he wasn’t willing to do his part.

As you’d expect, he agreed to the plan, and I am thousands of dollars poorer today than I was in May.  But I am a mother, and I am willing to make sacrifices for the good of my children.  As I reflected on our scripture for today in Matthew 22, it became painfully obvious the things I do for my kids really aren’t that much of a sacrifice.  In fact, they pale in comparison to the sacrifice God made for us by sending Jesus.  Let’s look a little closer at the parable of the wedding feast.

The king prepared a wedding feast for his son.  When it was time for the guests to come, they all had excuses for not showing up.  So, the king sent out servants to find others.  They too didn’t come and even went so far as to mistreat the servants.  Eventually, the king sent the servants out with an invitation for all – the good, the bad and the ugly – to join in the wedding celebration.  They came and filled up his tables.  Okay, this made sense.  God invites us all – the good, the bad, and the ugly to his table; even though we often turn away, he keeps giving us more chances to be part of his plan.  Then I got to verses 11-13…

But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Matthew 22:11-13).

If the King sent his servants to find people who weren’t originally invited (nor necessarily fit) to come to the wedding feast – the poor, homeless people on the street – why then did he attack one of them for not wearing the right clothes?  It didn’t make any sense to me until I understood a little more about the customs of the day.

In Jesus’ time, it was customary for the host to provide wedding guests appropriate clothes to wear to the feast.  (How great would that be?  Never having to figure out what to wear to the event would make things so much easier!)  Without the right clothes, guests couldn’t be part of the celebration.  Guests didn’t want to insult the host, nor did they want to signal that they weren’t interested in participating, so they never refused to wear the wedding clothes given to them.

Is this starting to make sense?  This story isn’t just about God’s invitation for us to be his people.  It is also a picture of his amazing grace.  See, God cannot live with sin because it goes against his perfect nature.  We have to somehow get rid of our sin in order to spend eternity with him.  Because we can’t do this for ourselves, God chose to make a way for us.  His solution was to send Jesus, his only son, to pay the price for our sin.  By taking our sin upon himself, then giving his life as a sacrifice, Jesus became our “wedding clothes”.  Accepting him as Savior and Lord is how we become acceptable to God, “clothed in righteousness”.  Not everyone, unfortunately, will make this choice.  Like the wedding guest who wouldn’t accept the clothes, those who deny Jesus will eventually be cast out to spend eternity apart from God.

How humbling. I love Freddy with all my heart, but I was unwilling to spend $4,000 unless he affirmed he would follow the orthodontist’s treatment plan.  God, on the other hand, was willing to give his son’s life as a sacrifice for all even though he knew many would reject him.

Given what you know about Jesus today, how could you say no to him?

Thorns on his head. Spear in his side. Yet it was a heartache that made him cry. He gave his life so you would understand. Is there any way you could say no to this man? – Mickey Cates (1981)

A Decision

Today’s reading:  Matthew 10

Matthew 10 is the account of Jesus preparing to send his twelve disciples out for ministry. He started with basic instructions for them in verses 5-15.

  • Who – Take the good news to the nation of Israel, the Jews, God’s chosen people (verse 6).
  • What – Announce that the kingdom of God is near (verse 7).  Heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out demons (verse 8).
  • How – Don’t take anything with you, rather search for a person to let you stay at their house until you leave (verses 9-11).  Bless those that welcome you in, move on by those who do not (verse 13-14).

Jesus then spent the next 26 verses preparing the disciples for the persecution they were going to face. He told them to expect to be beaten, arrested and put on trial. He went on and encouraged them not to fear, as their enemies were only able to kill their bodies, not their souls. This was a harsh dose of reality, but not different than what you’d expect Jesus to say to his disciples…until you get to verse 34.

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household (Matthew 10:34).

Wait a minute. Is this the Jesus I know?

When Jesus was born, didn’t the angels say, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14)?

Isn’t the fifth commandment to honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you (Exodus 20:12)?

Doesn’t Jesus call us, his followers, to be peacemakers? In the Sermon on the Mount he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).

Later on in the New Testament, James the brother of Jesus, described those with faith in Jesus as “peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:18).

Isn’t peace also one of the fruits that should be produced by a life that is truly devoted to following Jesus?  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).

Do you see my struggle here?

My Life Application Study Bible (Tyndale House) had good perspective on this verse.  Jesus wasn’t encouraging family conflict in Matthew 10:34, rather he was acknowledging that his presence demanded a decision.  The same is true today.  Either you’re with him or you’re not.  Either you have confessed Jesus as Savior and Lord of your life, or you have not.  There is no in between.  This dichotomy naturally causes conflict between those who follow Jesus and those who do not.  The result is persecution.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him (James 1:12).

What is Love

Today’s reading:  1 John 4:7-21

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:7-11).

When I was in junior high, I had Steve Camp’s Fire and Ice cassette tape. I bet I listened to that thing a hundred times.  The five songs on the front side of the tape that is.  I never turned the tape over because the songs on the back weren’t nearly as good (I’m laughing as I write this.  Do you remember waiting forever for a tape to rewind?  What about fastforwarding and trying to guess how long was long enough to get past the song you didn’t like?  Oh how thing have changed.)  As I read today’s scripture, it took me back to Steve Camp’s 1984 duet with Michelle Pillar – Love’s Not a Feeling (the 3rd song on side 1).  The chorus went like this:

Love’s not a feeling, oh, we’ve got to learn
To get past our emotions to the meaning of the Word
Love’s not a feeling we can lose or throw away
Lord, give us the courage to live it every day, oh…

If love isn’t a feeling, what is it? What is the meaning of the word?  What does it mean to “live it every day”?  1 Corinthians chapter 13, often referred to as the love chapter of the Bible, describes love as a choice.  As you read this passage, notice love involves taking an action or abstaining from a self-centered action every time.  It is definitely not passive.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Our scripture in 1 John identifies actions God takes to demonstrate his love.

  • God creates – because he loves, God creates people in his image to love others. (Genesis 1:26-27)
  • God cares – because he loves, God sent his son to pay the price for our sins; the sins we’ve committed in the past, those we commit today, and those we will commit in the future. (1 John 4:9)
  • God offers himself – because he loves, God makes a way for us to spend eternity in his presence. (Romans 10:9)

Notice these actions aren’t a once and done kind of thing. They are written in present tense, as God is living and active in our lives today. Now the call to action – because God loves, we ought to love one another. What are ways you can be patient with others, kind to others, rejoice in truth, bear others burdens, believe in others, hope with others and endure with others today? This is love.

What Really Matters

Today’s reading:  Colossians 2:16-23

I’ve been on vacation with my family this week in the north woods of Minnesota, a place we’ve gone to my entire life. As you would expect, being there together conjures up many memories of years past.  I’m sure for my parents, these memories bring a mix of emotions.  Some good and some bad.  For my sister and me however, the memories primarily bring laughter.  Either because enough years have passed that we don’t remember the heartaches, more likely because my parents successfully shielded us from a lot of the drama that came with church leadership.

My Dad was the senior pastor of our church since I was 3 years old. Things were a lot different back in the 1970s and 1980s.  For example, Mom’s rule about what we could wear to church – we had to wear skirts or dresses to church every Sunday morning.  The only exception was IF the temperature was below zero.  Then, and only then, were we allowed to wear slacks.  My Mom didn’t really believe that God cared about what we were wearing, but she thought the rule helped teach us to bring our best to God.  Throughout my childhood, I can only remember one such occasion.  The weather was brutal.  Funny thing is – I don’t remember lobbying my Mom to stay home out of the frigid central Illinois wind, or being grateful slacks would keep me warm on my way to worship Jesus, rather I simply relished the opportunity to show off my stylish green plaid slacks!  While her rule was rooted in good intention, it didn’t really bring us closer to Jesus.

Other than the fun I’ve had reflecting on old times, why do I tell you this story? There are several of similarities to our text today in Colossians 2.  Paul instructed the Colossian Christians not to let anyone judge them by what they ate or drank because Christ had set them free.  While Old Testament law, religious festivals and ceremonies may have brought them closer to Christ, they were simply a means to an end.  In verse 17 Paul called them a shadow of what was to come.  After Jesus came and gave his life to atone for sin, faith in him became the only thing that really mattered.

Today, nothing has changed. Faith in Jesus Christ is still the only thing that matters.  The Bible talks about a variety of activities and practices that are aimed at assisting us in our walk with Jesus.  Please do not mistake them as a substitute for a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Attending Church, praying and serving others, for example, are all good practices that can help bring us closer to Jesus and other Christfollowers.  In the end, they are meaningless if Jesus is not in our heart.

Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness (Matthew 7:22-23).