Pastor Scott's Blog

(for more blog entries, go to:  http://jcctracy.blogspot.com )

08/17/18 - Gal 2

Aug 17, 2018

We have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law. Gal 2:16

Good works don't save us... Surrendering to Christ in faith saves us and results in good works.

People tend to view work in one of two ways:
1.       Work is necessary to accomplish our dreams or pay for our desires – so I will do what is required to get what I desire.

2.       Work is my purpose – it is the measure of my success in life – so I will work to prove myself.

God didn’t create work to be our identity, or to be our necessity.  Work was created as a gift to be connected with the Creator, and a tool for worshipping God.  Adam was given the assignment of work to not only provide purpose & pleasure, but to help him know the Father and be a part of His Family.  Work was a blessing – but it wasn’t the purpose – it was a method to support man’s purpose: to Worship God.

In spiritual terms, the word work is also what we call religion.  Works are the actions and behaviors we do to serve God and bring Him worship.  Get This: Works are NOT separate from faith, and they should not be absent from our life.  They are the flip side of the same coin called faith – one side is belief, the other is works.  A person saying they are spiritual but not interested in religionis just deceiving themselves and has neither.

Some people want to see worksdone BEFORE there is acceptance in the Kingdom of God – i.e. Work is necessary for salvation.  (You hear that out of people who want others to change behaviors before being baptized – as if a sick person must be healthy before going to the doctor.)  Works don’t save us, they are a sign of our salvation.

Other people want to throw out works (religion) and dismiss it as manipulative or unnecessary.  However, that goes against everything God said to His people and all that Jesus taught His disciples.  God saved the Israelites, then called them to show their love THROUGH their works.  Jesus taught His followers to show their love BY their obedience.  Works is not manipulation, it is expression.  The best demonstration of our belief is seen in our behavior.

Paul tells the church in Galatia not to put their security in works, because their works always fall short.  Instead, put their hope and security in Jesus, and allow their works to be a growing sign of that faith.  Likewise, we should stop using works as the method of proving salvation, and start showing our works as an offering of love.  The fact is:  the more we choose to show our love to God, the better and more constant our works will be!

You were saved by Grace, so show your love through your works.
08/16/18 - Gal 1

Aug 16, 2018

He gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age. Gal 1:4

We were rescued from this world, so don't go back to participating in its behaviors.

It was the first chance we had to go to the swimming pool that summer.  Our neighbors had invited us along with their kids, and mom allowed us to go with them while she was at work.  We piled in and headed off to the public pool in the next town over, and all of us were so excited.   When we arrived, we checked in and dropped off our stuff by some chairs, and four of us boys headed straight for the diving board!  No shallow end for us, we were going to make a big splash!  Two went off in front of me, and I ran down the board to jump off, only to see my best friend DIRECTLY below me.  I panicked, but somehow by the grace of God missed him, yet the damage was done.  Into the water I sank, sucking in a chunk of the pool with me.  I couldn’t breathe, and found myself disoriented, trying to figure out how to get out of the water.  I thought my life was over, when the strong arms of a lifeguard grabbed me and pulled me up to the edge.  He got me out, and helped me cough out enough water to breathe again.  About 15 minutes later, I was returning to normal, and ready to go back into the pool --- but this time with a bit more care.  Being rescued, I didn’t want to go through that again.

If only being rescued would have the same effect for our lives beyond swimming!

That story is a good metaphor for Christ’s work in us.  He was our lifeguard, jumping in to our pool from heaven, and rescuing us from the sin that had us drowning.  He not only saved us, but gave us a new chance to enjoy life again after being rescued.  Yet instead of using that life for His honor, we often find ourselves jumping right back into the sins that had caused us to drown before.  Somehow – we think being rescued has taught us how to handle sin – when instead the rescue should teach us to avoid sin!

At the next break, the lifeguard came and checked on me, and gave me some safety tips for the next time I would go off the board.  He encouraged me to swim again, just with a bit more attention to safety.  I was glad to comply!

If you follow Jesus, then you have been RESCUED!  Don’t waste it!  Eliminate the behaviors that were drowning your life with God, and pursue a life that obeys your rescuer.  He will let you in the pool again, but this time, swim in obedience to His purposes and ways.  It will be a safer experience and will be a greater joy to your life.
08/15/18 - 2Cor 13

Aug 15, 2018

Jesus is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. 2Cor 13:3

If He has the power to change our circumstances, then He has the right to expect us to change our behaviors.

Ever prayed with a doubt about whether God will do anything?  (Hint: everyone has.)

The interesting thing is not the doubt, but the fact we prayed anyways!  Somehow, built into just about everyone, is the seed of belief that there MIGHT be a God out there, and there MIGHT be a change in our circumstances if we asked Him to help.  (Some might even argue that is a proof that God actually exists.)  The more you believe in a possibility or reality of God, then the more you may pray for a change in your circumstances.

Then, when the results of our prayers surprise us, or are so miraculous and perfectly timed that it had to be from God, we are energized to pray more for our circumstances.  We start to believe that prayer is about changing our circumstances, and our prayers turn into spiritual shopping lists for God to fill.

But here’s the other side of the equation.  If we believe that God can change our circumstances, then it is also right to expect God wants our behaviors to change.  If He has the power to change our surroundings, He has the authority to rule our lives.  So in addition to asking God to change our situation, we should also be asking God to direct our obedience.

Before Jesus taught the disciples to pray “give us today our daily bread”, He taught them to pray “thy will be done”.  Before pursuing change in circumstances, ask God to change our behaviors.  Seek help to be obedient, and it will ALREADY change your circumstances.  In fact, often the fix to our problems COMES THROUGH a change in obedience. 

Paul tells the Corinthians that Jesus is POWERFUL amoung you.  He is powerful enough to change your circumstances, but He is also powerful enough to change your LIFE!  In fact, the GREATEST POWER OF ALL IS A CHANGED LIFE!  When Jesus changes a person’s life, it shakes the world and defeats the devil’s efforts. 

Pray for Jesus to change your circumstances, but pray EVEN MORE for Jesus to change your life.  He is VERY POWERFUL among you.
08/14/18 - 2Cor 12

Aug 14, 2018

Jesus said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2Cor 12:9

The greatest form of power comes from desiring more grace and connection with Jesus.

The secret to power is not in the size of our strength, but in the size of our grace.   Consider the person who has great physical strength but no character.  That person would often leverage his power for selfish interests, making them a bully or worse.  Then consider the one who has the strength, like a martial arts expert, but restrains it and chooses to suffer as if weak.  That person’s restraint would be a greater power than their physical skills. 

The power of God comes through grace instead of strength.  He works through meekness and humility over arrogance and pride.  Jesus delivers the greatest power through His saving grace.  When we tap into grace, we will find the most powerful force on earth. 

The power of grace shows up everywhere.  It is in the forgiveness that helps a marriage stay together after pain or failure.  It’s the power that helps children continue to obey their parents even after being ridiculed or mistreated.  It’s the strength that empowers people to sacrifice themselves for their neighbor.  It’s in the voice of the Spirit that encourages believers to follow a prompting.   

Jesus changed the life of a legalistic non-believer named Saul through the power of grace.   Instead of punishing Saul or ending his life, Jesus spoke to Saul, called him to believe, repaired his eyesight, and sent him forward with a powerful mission.  It wasn’t rule or punishment that changed Saul into Paul, it was grace.

If you’re a parent, it won’t be your threats or conditions that mold your kids properly, it will be the grace you gave.

If you’re a business leader, your effectiveness won’t be through harder work or high demands, but through the grace you give your staff.

If you’re a skeptic of Jesus, you won’t come to know Him personally by following rules, but by embracing His love.  The commands and rules will be your way of giving grace back ONCE YOU HAVE a relationship.

Grace is the power of life, so make an effort to tap into His grace more & more.  Hunger for more connection to Jesus.  Look for the gift of grace Jesus offers you every day.  Then be a giver of grace to others, so that His power can be made perfect in you!
08/13/18 - 2Cor 11

Aug 13, 2018

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 2Cor 11:30

Brag about what God is doing instead of what we’re doing.

It’s amazing what one person can accomplish in life!  Consider the accomplishments of this person:

-          Graduated college, starring in football, swimming, journalism & class president

-          Worked as a radio broadcaster, covering athletic competitions & play-by-play

-          Hired & worked as an actor / movie star in 52 films

-          Served in the Army and Army Reserve, defending our country in World War II

-          Elected as a Governor for the State of California for two terms

-          Elected President of the United States for two terms

You, of course, realize that we are talking about Ronald Reagan.  His list of accomplishments are far greater than that, and show what a life well lived can look like.  Before bragging about our list, we might want to compare it to Ronald Reagan’s (or a number of other amazing people)!

But no matter how long the list is, it doesn’t compare to the list God is credited with: Creation of the Universe, creation and design of everything, created men & women and gave them free will, manages the world and watches over every living being, protects & disciplines, then birthed his Son through a virgin, and used Him to replace humanity’s sin on the cross so that He could save the world.  The list is infinitely long.

Even if we put ALL of our lists of successes together, it would never come close to matching God’s list.  In fact, our list IS A SUBSET OF GOD’S LIST ANYWAYS!  He gets credit for all of our list too, since He created us.

So before we start bragging about our list of successes, we may want to compare them to the list God has.  Before we tell others about the good things we have done, we might want to rethink what God has done.  Compared to Him, our list is quite weak!

Here’s what Paul discovered:  when Paul started bragging about God’s strengths and successes, it made his list look like weaknesses.  Paul found God at work in his list, and that dependence on God became a source of STRENGTH!  It’s when we see God’s Strength at work in our lives that we find more confidence and security to live the life He gave us. 

So forget your list, and boast about God’s List --- your list is His list anyways. J