Monday, October 27, 2014

Wishing and Hoping

“I just hope I can make it to Heaven.”  Of all the statements that a Christian can make, this one is, to me, the saddest.  I mention it because a friend of mine repeats this phrase, in various forms, almost daily. Maybe I’m missing something, but my hope is based on Jesus’ saving work on the cross. I have no doubts of making it to Heaven.  He, and the apostles,  reiterate, throughout scripture,  the same thing, BELIEVE, and you will be saved.

Sure it seems impossible that anyone could make a claim like that, but Jesus, as God’s son, isn’t just anyone.  If he tells us that He purchased our salvation, I believe it.  How dare we doubt the veracity not only of his word, but of his death and resurrection. Was Jesus a liar?  Did I miss the part where he said we have to do other things to complete his sacrifice?  Can anything I do add to his righteousness?  Of course not!

So, why then do so many so-called believers, not believe.  Sadly, I think that the “church“, over the last 2000+ years, in an attempt to keep people coming, made us put our faith more in doctrine than Christ. Shame, shame!!!  Dangling salvation, like a juicy carrot before us, they kept adding to the list of requirements for admission. Unfortunately, they never say when you have accumulated enough “points”, so the uncertainty continues, and so do the “religious acts”.

The author of Hebrews encourages us with this: Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. Hebrews 7:27.  Did you catch that, Once, and for all.  Then he says,  “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.” And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices. Hebrews 10:17-18.

Please don’t put your faith in anyone, or anything other than the word of God.  I could list verses all day long that prove the promise of Christ, but they don’t mean a thing unless you accept personally Jesus as your savior.  And that’s the only truth to trust.  Today, begin to break free from the shackles of uncertainty.  Get into His word, for yourself….test him if you want, He wants you to truly BELIEVE.

Friday, October 17, 2014

You Can't Phone This In!

One thing I do “religiously” is exercise, daily.  Sometimes I run, and on other days I work out to a video.  Lately, I’ve been doing  Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred.  It is a power-packed, nonstop routine that has you working big and small muscle groups at the same time, with no rest periods.  Yes, it’s tough, and she states that up front, but she also says that it is the best way to “shred” weight and tone muscles.  I’m a believer, after having done it for almost a month.  Even though she can’t see me in her lycra-clad audience,  she makes one thing very clear…don’t stop, do the routine correctly, and give it all that you have.  As she likes to say, “You can’t phone this in.”  I admit, there were days, at the beginning, when I thought I’d rest just a wee bit, but she caught me every time, as I tried to phone it in.  As the old adage goes, anything worth doing, is worth doing well.

It’s true in exercise, and it’s also true in our Christian walk.  When we make the decision to follow Christ, it’s much the same as embarking on a fitness regime. Both require us to study up, and even try them out.  Jesus, like Jillian, never tells us that following him is going to be easy.  Folks who say that being a disciple is all fun and games, are most likely those with spiritual iphones in their hands.  Christ did the hard work for us on the cross, but that doesn’t mean we get to sit around after being saved.  Oh no!  “For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10.

Don‘t be alarmed, you can‘t lose your salvation, and it isn‘t dependent on our works, but it is something, like our physical bodies, that we need to nurture and develop.  Let‘s say I told everyone that I was working out, don‘t you think they‘d be looking for physical changes in me?  As I said the other day, if your faith hasn’t changed you, it hasn’t saved you. Sure it‘s not easy, but with an encouraging instructor, combined with perseverance, the results will astound you, as well as those around you.

The author of Hebrews said this, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. 12 Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble..” Hebrews 12:11-12.  Jesus, quoting the Old Testament said: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and all your strength..' Matthew 22:37.

God’s Holy Spirit is our Jillian Michaels, and he motivates us to do more everyday until it becomes so natural that not “working out” would seem weird. You can’t expect the body to stay healthy and toned by merely watching a video, you must participate. So too, we must keep our spiritual selves in tip top shape. “ Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.” Philippians 2:12.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17.  You can’t phone this in friends, and really why would you want to…spiritual fitness feels amazing, and the long term benefits are out of this world!

Monday, October 13, 2014

How Saved Are You?

It’s hard not to notice the latest fad to hit FaceBook, quizzes.  I’m sure you’ve seen them, and the results posted by friends who’ve taken them. They can range from finding out your IQ, Hippie Name, what state you should live in, what Movie star you’re most like, and hundreds of other categories.  All right, they may seem like a silly waste of time, but be honest, you’ve taken one or two, haven’t you, I have!  Isn’t it amazing how 5-10 simple questions can so precisely identify who you are?

Today I’d like you to participate in a little quiz that I’ve dubbed  “How Saved Are You?” While not every Christian denomination uses the term “Saved”, I think we can agree to define it as having entered into a personal, life-changing relationship with Jesus. For each of the following select either a) No/Never b) Somewhat c) Yes indeed!  Let’s begin.
1) Do you eagerly look forward to spending time with God?
2) Are you becoming more humble, loving and truthful?
3) Do you daily feel freer from the power and penalty of sin?  
4) Has your faith changed you?
5) Are you 100% confident of where you will spend eternity?  
6) Are you sharing your salvation story with others?

OK, did you have any trouble with any of  these?  Did you have to stop and think about each, or did the answers come easily?  I hope you know that I’ve been messing with you, there are no levels of salvation. You are either saved or you’re not.  It’s kind of like being pregnant. You can’t be a little bit pregnant, or a little bit saved.   While this is not an all inclusive list, a saved person normally exhibits these traits. Why not consider them your personal spiritual inventory.  To continue with the inventory, honestly respond to these .  1) Do you have a secret sin that is increasing in its intensity and control?  2)Do you have a capacity to hold onto an offense? 3) Do you have a reflex reaction to personal sin?  (Sin should really bother you, and make you want to rid yourself of it. You can’t manage it.) 4) Do you find discussions on spiritual intensity disquieting or annoying?  5) Do you battle a critical spirit to people who profess to have a personal relationship with God?

Scripture tells us that, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12.  It is a personal choice, no one can make it for you. It is NOT acquired by unemotionally following a laundry list of church mandated activities. It is NOT dependent on how many good works you have done.  It is NOT the recitation of a particular prayer, saying you believe in Jesus, or even baptism.  None of these activities guarantee that you are saved.

Are you confused?  I hope not. We all have the facts we need to know about Jesus at our disposal. When He asks you, who you say He is, your answer should be based on your careful study of those facts.  Your answer, combined with repentance, and a desire to obey Him, equals  Salvation.  “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:19.  From that point on, you are a new creature in Christ.  You should look, talk, act and live differently that you did before. If your faith hasn’t changed you, it hasn’t saved you. These are perilous times we live in, and it is urgent that you examine yourself for the signs of your own salvation.  Please don’t guess, be certain that you are saved. “ Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him." Psalm 62:1

Friday, October 3, 2014

You Can Run, But You Can't Hide!

While out in the woods the other evening, I shot some selfies for my 65th birthday.  When I pulled them up on the computer, I had to laugh.  It looks like I’m trying to hide, from that huge number, behind the tree.  Would that I could!  Only kidding, but there have certainly been times when I’ve wanted to conceal myself.  Maybe it was an encyclopedia salesman at the door, a obnoxious person in Wal-Mart, or as a child, your parents when you had been disobedient.  Be honest, everyone of you have tried to hide from something or someone.  I think it’s fair to say , we’re in good company.

The idea of hiding got me thinking about all the people, throughout the scriptures, who have tried the same thing.  At the very get-go, Adam and Eve, after the forbidden fruit episode, gave it a shot.  “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” Genesis 3:8.  He found them. How about Moses? He ran off into the desert, to avoid the job God had for him. God let him sit out there quite a while, but he found him.   One of my favorite hiders was Saul, the one who was to become the King of Israel.  If you recall God knew they didn‘t need a King, but he gave them one anyway.  “So they asked the LORD, ‘Where is he?’ And the LORD replied, ‘He is hiding among the baggage.’ 1 Samuel 10:22.  He didn’t seem like the strongest candidate, and he wasn’t even good at hiding!  How about King David?  He tried to hide his sin from God, and we all know how that played out.

 There were others, of course, but these major hiders are ones we can all relate to.  All of them had either been disobedient, or unwilling to comply with God’s directives.  How foolish, and what a waste of time and energy.  God had this to say about hiding. "Can a man hide himself in hiding places So I do not see him?" declares the LORD "Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?" declares the LORD. Jeremiah 23:24.

Are you trying to hide from God?  Forget about it!  Just like old age finds all of us, so will He.  All of these people serve as examples to us, but are we listening? Hiding is a gut-reaction to fear. Don’t be afraid.  Sure, what God asks of you may seem scary, impossible even dangerous, but he has the master plan, not us….Trust Him!  After King David was “found” he never hid from God again, even if he may have felt like it.  In fact, read Psalm 139 whenever you feel the need to duck behind some suitcases, or a tree.  Here is a portion for you to mull over.  Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,  even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:7-10.  Remember, you can run, but you can’t hide!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Some Place Else

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll wind up some place else.”  Yogi Berra.

Yogisms, you gotta love them.  In their own quirky way, they make sense.  When my husband and I go out on a road trip, we don’t usually have a plan in mind.  We let the road take us where it will.  Sometimes that works fine, and other times, well let’s just say we’ve ended up some place else, like Yogi says.  Often we wound up in dangerous sections of town, on washed out roads, and once, hopelessly lost in France.  Do you know where you are going, spiritually speaking?  Are you certain that you are on the right highway?  What’s the exit number? Do you have the map and directions handy?

Jesus always knew where he was going.  Whatever the length of the journey, He always had his destination before him.  There were those along the way, who wanted to divert him from that ordained path, Satan,  super-religious folks, even friends and family, but it wasn’t going to happen.  He had an ETA and nothing was going to throw him off course.  The good news is, no matter how far off track you are today, He wants to show you the way.

 Long before the incarnate Christ appeared, King David knew that, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11. So did the prophet Isaiah, “A highway will be there, a roadway, And it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, But it will be for him who walks that way, And fools will not wander on it.” Isaiah 35:8.

 The Cross was the final earthly destination for Christ, and we can all be thankful that he didn’t wind up someplace else!  He has made it clear to us, for over 2000 years how we can reach Him, our final destination.  Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6.  He has put the road map before you, it is your choice whether to read, and follow it, or find yourself some place else.  

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Blessing in the Thorn

If you’ve ever pruned bushes, it’s likely that a thorn has made its way into your finger. Why is it that the smallest  injury seems to be the most irritating?  Paper cuts and thorns, ugh. While a paper cut stings like crazy, it usually heals quickly. A thorn, on the other hand, may not show itself right away, and when it does, redness, swelling and festering accompany it. As tiny as it may be, the whole body goes on high alert.

The Apostle Paul talks about his own “thorn in the flesh”, but never says exactly what it is. Many have tried to guess, but I think God intentionally had him keep it hidden so we could all relate. What is your thorn? It certainly can be a physical condition, and usually it’s something we didn’t choose. Paul asked God three times to remove his, but he didn’t. Paul, in his typical style, chose to be humbly content with it, not happy, but he endured and went on.

There is a song I love called, The Blessing in the Thorn. It sounds strange, but knowing that God has a purpose, and plan for our irritations, makes them more bearable. “ order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2Corinthians 12:8-10.  Forget the tweezers, just call on God to deal effectively with your “thorn“.