There is nothing-no circumstance, no trouble, no-testing that can ever touch me until, first of all it has gone past God and past Christ right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a GREAT PURPOSE, which I may not understand at the moment. As I refuse to become panicky, as I lift my eyes up to Him and accept it as coming from the throne of God for some great purpose of blessing to my own heart, no sorrow will ever disturb me, no trial will ever disarm me, no circumstance will ever cause me to fret-for I shall rest in the joy of what my Lord is- that is the rest of VICTORY!!!!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Religion or Relationship.....

I have to admit my attention has been captured a time or two lately over the show "Extreme Couponing." Scott likes to make fun of how I say the word coupon but either way it still equals lots of savings. I have never been a big couponer, it just always seems like so much time and effort to save a little. If you watch the show though these people have amazing strategies and get hundreds if not thousands of dollars in groceries for very little if anything at all. I saw one episode this past weekend where a ladies total was $1300.00 before coupons and after it was all said and done the store owed her money back! It may seem very appealing from afar but in order for the huge payoff these women have to spend hours and hours planning ahead for their shopping trips. They collect stacks of flyers from friends, family and recycling branches. Most of them have to order large quantities of items ahead of time and have maps of the stores layout they will be using. One lady claimed she took 6 hours to plan one shopping trip, to me that just seems crazy!!! I'm not very patient when it comes to coupons but I do like getting deals or things for free. One of my favorite things are Kohls cash. I know all you women know what Kohls Cash is. Maybe I shouldnt let our secret out to the men but Kohls Cash is basically $10 in free money that you can spend it on anything in the store without having to purchase anything with it. This always feels exciting because when you use them you can walk in the store and grab something for your value amount and slide through the register without having to pay a dime so you feel like you just got a huge deal. The tricky part though is that in order to get Kohls Cash you still had to spend money so it wasnt exactly all that easy. Or at other stores they have little punch coupons where everytime you spend so much you get a hole punched on your card and if you get the required amount you get something free. It feels awesome when you finally fill up all those hole but what did it take to get there?

As followers of Jesus I think we try and live on a points system sometimes. We think the more we do the more we will get. We try and constantly occupy our lives with works to gain the love of Jesus when we forget it comes freely. "Man's way to reach God is religion; God's way to reach man is Jesus." We so often get the concept of "religion" confused with a "relationship." Religions are man made, and are based on trying to get to God through rules and regulations and works. Man made religions all are based on people's efforts at reaching God and being made right with Him through their own efforts. God's plan for man's salvation and for being right with Him is told throughout the Bible, in the Old Testament and the New Testament. God's plan is not based on people's efforts and good works, but is based on His amazing Love and amazing Grace for us.

God doesnt hold us on a point system, He doesnt sit there watching our every move thinking "ok now Amber helped out with an event at church this week so thats one point for her and so and so didnt do anything this week so I better take away a point on hers." Thats crazy sounding I'm sure but many people struggle with this very concept. Ephesians 2:8-9 "For it is by free grace (God's unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ's salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God; Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law's demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself.]

We can do "works" for Christ all day but if our hearts are not genuine and we are not in love with Jesus on a personal level then its all for nothing. Its very pleasing to the Lord when we put forth our heart and serve Him but what He wants even more than that is our hearts. In order to be the hands and feet of Jesus and serve others we must be so empty of all that we are and filled with the Holy Spirit that it seeps from every ounce of our being and thats what others see in us and are attracted to. I have talked about the story of Mary and Martha before but its such a huge reprsentation of how we should live our lives not being so focused on our works that we loose sight of just merely sitting at the feet of Jesus and worshiping Him. We live in a world where its all about you get what you give but Jesus tells us that what He wants is not from our actions but our hearts. I pray as you go throughout this next week that you will keep your focus on Christ and truely embracing His love that He gives us so freely. Allow your works to come freely because you are filled with the Spirit not merely because its just another task in your list, another hole on your punch card for Jesus. God extends His blessings and grace for us us, we don't have to purchase or do anything to earn it we just have to accept it.

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