Live in Grace, Today is New 

​Today, is a brand new day. 

A new day to do better than yesterday… it is not a day to beat yourself for not doing better yesterday. I feel someone needed to hear that this morning. Whoever you are, this is for you. 

Your past doesn’t dictate your future, today does, live accordingly. 

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on towardthe goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 3:13-14 

Written by: Justin Ludwig 

Conviction is Love

Romans 7:14-20 says
“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does.”

This verse was the very first verse that I felt was speaking directly to me. The way Paul describes the sin issue in his life was exactly how I felt. I simply couldn’t do it, I couldn’t live up to all that God wanted from me.

I felt like such a failure because no matter how hard I tried, I simply couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stop sinning and I felt guilty, like I was spitting in God’s face every time I did. Then I was introduced to the concept of grace. At first I viewed it as a get out of jail free card. I remember thinking, “This is awesome, your telling me no matter what sin I commit, I am still guaranteed to go to heaven!? Sign me up!!!” 

Then as the days rolled by the sense of complete freedom began to dim and was replaced by a nagging sense of guilt, and I just couldn’t understand why. I believed that God had forgiven me for my mistakes, I knew I was off the hook. But no matter how many times I reminded myself of that truth,the guilt and frustration continued to build.

Then one day one of my brothers in Christ sat me down and pulled out his bible. He flipped to Romans 6 and began reading in a tone like he was just talking to me.

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with Him through
baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father,
we too may live a new life.” -Rm 6:1-4

It was like my eyes were opened. I kid you not I’m getting goose bumps as I write this because I remember it so vividly. That was the moment I got it. I don’t feel bad because I am letting God down. I simply don’t have the ability anymore to be Ok with my sin.

Before I knew Christ I was 100 percent in the flesh. I didn’t know any other way than the way of the world. But once I received the Holy Spirit, all of a sudden I’m feeling bad for behaviors and thoughts that never used to phase me.

Since the Spirit revealed that truth to me, when I sin, I don’t feel bad because I failed God again, I thank Him that I am actually able to see what I am doing is not what He wants for me. I rejoice in the fact that He is not mad. That He already knew I was going to do it, and then I thank Him for loving me so much that I have no doubt I am 100 percent forgiven and redemmed.
The conviction is meant to draw us closer to Him by making us hate when we sin. It is not meant to beat us down and make us feel like crap.

We must recognize the purpose of God’s conviction. It is not meant to punish us or make us hurt. He convicts us because He loves us so much He wants to protect us from harm, from sin. And if we are feeling the weight of our mistake pushing us down, pushing us away from God in shame then the devil is twisting God’s purpose for his own agenda; to kill, steal and destroy.

This is the freedom that we are blessed with by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and the amazing love of God, enjoy it and be free.

Written by: Justin Ludwig

Always Respond in Love

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To all of my brothers and sisters in Christ who are offended or bothered by all of the changes in our country. I urge you to pray on this verse,

“Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?” -James 4:11-12

We are called to love and serve, not judge and condemn. 

Unfortunately to the world, Christians are known for being judgemental, condescending and hateful.

You, I, we have a responsibility to stand up and show the world who we truly are, with love.

Written by: Justin Ludwig

Photo from: https://jeremyaffeldt.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/lovelikejesus.jpg

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I had a problem for several months with my bike tires popping on me. It seemed at least once a week my tire would be flat and I was getting really irritated. I just couldn’t figure out why the damn things kept popping, because  I was so careful.  I never even went over a curb because I don’t want to mess up my only means of transportation, which made it even more frustrating.

Then finally, I realized that it was the path that I was taking to work. On this side of the street apparently there is a certain kind of tree that drops little prickly things that are so sharp. Obviously, now that I figured this out I cross the street and taking the opposite sidewalk, problem solved.

The only problem now is on the way home from work sometimes I am not paying attention and I’ll forget to cross the street, and I’ll continue down the wrong sidewalk. I usually realize 15 feet or so after the intersection, and since the prickly things are further up it is easy enough to turn around and avoid them…..

I kid you not people more times than I care to admit, when I realize that I missed the turn, even though I know what very well could happen, I just keep going straight because I want to get home. So I continue going the wrong way, hoping for the best.

The last time this happened as soon as I realized I missed the turn I remember  thinking “Screw it, I’ve already committed to this way, I’m not turning back now.”

I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I find myself beginning to head down the wrong path in my walk with Christ I have the same initial reaction. I know what I should do, but I find myself rationalizing or worse justifying the path that I am on, knowing damn well it’s not heading where I, and more importantly where He wants me to go.

What if after Peter denied Christ he simply continued on the path he was on? Overcome with shame, hurt, fear and who knows how many other emotions. He easily could have let how he felt or what he thought fuel his choice to continue down the path leading to destruction. It seems so clear, so easy of a solution…but it isn’t always.

Speaking for myself, the shift can be so subtle that it isn’t even recognized right away. And once it becomes clear, I feel something pushing me forward, justifying me, telling me I am fine and to just keep going…

We must recognize these thoughts and feelings holding us back and dragging us down as weapon from the enemy and not as truth.

Divide and conquer is his tactic, and it works. We must not continue on….. We must not justify and hope for the best.

Our own head is inexplicably trying to keep us wallowing, keep us down, keep us apart… The reality is that we are in a war, against sin yes, but also against ourselves…. we cannot give up…. we cannot surrender… especially when everything in us justifies the path we somehow ended up on.

I share this with you because with everything going on in my life I had started to veer towards the wrong path and I didn’t even realize it.  The enemy started small, a little corner cut here, a church service skipped there. It appears harmless, at first, but then it snowballs. And just like the frog slowly boiling to death in that pot, we sit, not noticing that we are in serious trouble.

It was brought to my attention by a mighty woman of God who listened to the Spirit’s prompting and was brave enough to act on it. And in doing so God was able to smack me upside my head to show me the truth of my situation.

Without even realizing, I gave the enemy a foothold in the midst of my pain.  I have begun to isolate, then as time went on my old self destruction has started whispering in my ear.

So low key, I didn’t even recognize….

Now I, just like you have a choice. Do I justify and carry on, or do I allow my eyes to be opened to the truth and turn around?

It’s never too late to turn back…. it’s never too much that we should give up…. and we are never strong enough to do it on our own. We need Him, and we need each other.

1 Peter 5:8
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Ecclesiastes 4:12
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Heb 10:23-25
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Philippians 4:8

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”

Justin Ludwig

Photo from: http://www.examiner.com/article/the-christian-path

 

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God is right here, in the middle of our hurt and our pain shouting that He loves us.

 It was so hard to watch the cancer eat away at my dad. It seemed to be happening so slow, yet so fast at the same time. The range of emotions I experienced I won’t even begin to list. But with everything going on, time and time again, seeing God reaching out to my father was such a faith strengthening and amazing experience.

I found the entire ordeal with my father to be something of a bittersweet experience. Watching him wither away right before my eyes, his body not working, his mind fading fast, and a fear in his eyes that a child never wants to see on their dad’s face… it was just heartbreaking. But in the midst of this sadness, watching God work, by softening my dad’s heart, so I could finally have a relationship with him before the end. My mom drawing close to God because of the pain, and guys, the seemingly random and amazing ways both my wife and I have seen God reaching out to dad, offering His love and salvation… it is just mind blowing. These are just a few of the blessings that have come about because my dad got sick.

This is what we need to recognize and focus on in the midst of the chaos and pain in our lives. If we focus on the pain instead of God, the burden becomes too great. When our focus is on God, the pain is still there, but we are now able to see how God is using the situation for His purpose. And watching Him comfort, love and bless those affected by their trails takes the chaos out of the pain, and that gives us hope.

He is good everyone, always. My prayer for all of us is that we will hold onto that truth and never forget.

Justin Ludwig

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”-Is 41:10

“Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you”.-1Peter 5:7

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jer 29:11-13

Justin Ludwig

Photo from: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/263460646924388572/

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Without faith how can we ever hope to be blessed to the extent that God desires for us?  Take David for example; God let David know what amazing plans that He had for his life. Then all of a sudden, his life is turned upside down. His path took a drastic turn, much different from what was promised to him. Instead of glory and kingship, he was living in caves and running for his life from the very people he was supposed to rule. How easy it would have been for David to turn his back on God….

What if he had done what so many Christians do now a days and lose hope in the character of God because things are playing out differently than they had envisioned?

As the story plays out we see that all of the chaos, all of the pain and drama was imperative to build David’s character, to prepare him to lead God’s people, God’s way. Simply put, if David had not gone through all of that insanity, he would not have been capable of handling what God wanted to give him. His blessing could have turned on him and become a curse, because he was not ready.

He is working on You, right now…. Right now in your pain, in your boredom, your frustrations and fears, He is working on fulfilling His promises. Don’t lose hope my brothers and sisters, I have seen it and experienced it first hand. He will come through for you. My prayer is that every one of us will never waiver from this truth, and then, and only then can we truly be the followers that He desires instead of just another fan.

“May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” =2 Thess 3:5

Justin Ludwig

 

Photo from: http://www.parkerfordchurch.com/blog/2012/05/02/has-god-been-at-work/

 

 

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I was reflecting and praying on what the Holy Spirit was revealing and confirming in my life, and in my heart. I began talking with my wife and just letting out exactly how I was feeling. Why I am afraid and why I feel I am having such a hard time, and then in mid sentence I hear a whisper in my heart, “Remember”.

It was such a distinct voice inside of me that it stopped me in mid sentence. But I continued on with my feelings of being overwhelmed, and I kid you not I heard it again, “Justin, focus, remember”.

This time I stopped and my thoughts began to drift back. They drifted back to a time where the pain, the trials and the loss was all I knew. As I am thinking about this I began to remember how hopeless and fearful I was. I was convinced that there was no happy ending for me. I remembered exactly how it felt back then. I always felt like I was in a tunnel, so dark, so cold with no way out. I was bound and gagged in the darkness, with nothing but the promise of death to comfort me. I had given up on trying to find my way out of that tunnel years before…. I had written myself off as irretrievable.

Little did I know at the time but every single painful experience, every heart broken, and every loved one lost was exactly what I needed to get me where I am today… and all of a sudden I heard it again, “Now don’t forget”.

Then it all clicked, and the Holy Spirit tied everything together…. how I have been feeling, why I am truly afraid…. Suddenly everything just fit into place and I was able to see….. this is my role with God!

I must remember… I must remember that place in my life…. I must remember how all I saw was the hurt and pain, with no way out. Completely unaware that God had already set into motion years before a chain of events that would change everything. That I had to feel the pain of losing my children to be changed into the father that my kids needed and deserved. That I had to experience the hurt, pain, and sorrow of a broken marriage….of a broken life, in order to become the husband and man that I so desperately wished I was but had lost hope I could ever become.

This is realization I have had many times before but this time it slammed into me like I was recognizing this for the first time, and the Spirit washes over me as I remember…… He came through in a way that I never saw coming…..and He will again.

 

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago.” -Psalms 77:11

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” -Prov 3:5-6

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”-Deut 31:6

Justin Ludwig

Photo from: http://godrulzdownloads.blogspot.com/2009/05/crucified.html