Tuesday, November 14, 2017

So WHO really will be saved?

There could not be a more controversial topic, when discussing theology, than the topic of the width and breadth of salvation. I will admit, right here, reader, that I do NOT have than answer, but I do have some thoughts. I will bet that you do, too.

The determiner: GOD. He is, after all, sovereign over creation which includes the events that occur within His domain. It's all His. He can do with it what He desires. That immediately bothers some folks. It used to bother me, a bit, but not anymore.

Because God is in charge, He can play by whatever rules He determines. When we read the Bible, we are faced with the concept of election or predestination. It is there in the Scriptures. God has, it seems, chosen those who will populate His Church, before the beginning of time. He is in possession of the Book of Life, and names will appear there that determine salvation.

Since we are called to go out into a darkened world and seek disciples, it would therefore make sense that those folks we encounter are ones that God has placed before us. He, not we, brings faith and eventual transformation to these people, but He uses you and me to make a connection. We get the ball rolling, as it were. We start the ripple. He then works out salvation through His saving Grace.

Will everyone who calls on the name of the Lord be saved? Not, it seems to me, according to Jesus, Himself. He says that many will say, "Lord, Lord..." There will be many of those who He fails to recognize because He reads their hearts. They, it seems, were not meant to be among those destined to be in God's royal family.

There must be an acceptance on our parts; we must want to be saved, but getting back to God's overarching foreknowledge, He already knew what our response would be. 

Unfair? Only by man's standards. These are God's standards, and He is free to do His will. That child who is still born, that infant who dies before the age of accountability? God has that covered.

IF we have been regenerated, transformed in the heart, made alive in Christ... how wonderful is that? Lucky? No. Fortunate? Yes. Blessed beyond words by a grace that is bigger than any of our sins.

Praise God!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Expect to be heard!

Prayer. It's a very interesting phenomenon. Hopefully you pray often and from the heart.
When one thinks about the very nature of a God who, despite being totally above and different from His creatures, asks that they talk with Him, it boggles the mind a bit.

How can He listen to all those prayers simultaneously? 
How and when will He respond to our prayers?
Do our prayers have an impact on His sovereign plan?
Do prayers have to be spoken?

I could go on, but Spurgeon, in one of his many quotes, suggests an important reality. He basically says that unless we expect God to listen, He will not. According to Spurgeon, God responds to out faith.

I don't know about you, reader, but I struggled for a long time with praying. For the longest time I didn't really feel like there was a Listener. I wasn't really comfortable with what I should pray, what my expectations should be and how I could establish a pattern that would encourage daily communication with our Father. I haven't successfully gotten through all of that, but I no longer have any doubt that my prayers, in whatever form and length, are heard and valued.

So in many ways, we have to depend on the faith that God instills in us to come to a place where, at least in Spurgeon's view, God really does listen. For me, it was a sudden realization that He was there, which, of course, led to more frequent and personal prayers. Like so many things, God provides what we need to accomplish glorifying Him. 

Lately, I have been 'thinking' prayers. I don't even speak them in my head; I just think to Him and know that He can hear those thoughts. For whatever reason, I tend to not get distracted as much a mentally wander off during the prayer.

Okay, enough of me. How about you? Where are you in your prayer life? Trust in the fact that our God seeks your communications. Just talk with Him, you don't even have to be asking for anything. Praise Him and worship Him through your words and thoughts. Just consider how amazing it is that you and He can talk!

Praise our God!!!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

God knows!

The pastor at the Sutherland Springs Church where the worst church massacre in US history took place was asked, "Why?"

His answer, paraphrased: "I do not have the answer. But God does."

That is so very difficult to wrap our brains around when we are mourning the senseless deaths in such a situation, coming so close to the unbelievable mess in Las Vegas. We want to cry out and ask God how such things could possibly happen of He is, indeed, sovereign.

It's a bit like the question, "How can bad things happen to good people?" R C Sproul's classic answer: It only happened once, and He volunteered!

This world is upside down. It is wrong. Stained. Evil. The people in it are all sinners because people have a sin nature from conception. The more people, the more evil. It IS difficult to understand that nothing that happens takes God by surprise. Everything, in ways that we areunequipped to understand, is as it is planned and everything, in one way or another, brings glory to the God of all creation.

I just invite you to imagine a world where God wasn't sovereign. Can you imagine uncontrolled chaos? Anarchy abounding? No ethical behavior, whatsoever? Man's ability to be cruel and self-centered is written in the very pages of history, and we are adding pages each day.

I believe the Holy Bible is full of predictions that suggest that things will get Very Bad before Jesus Christ returns to judge the entire creation. Depending on one's eschatology, that could look different ways but He will arrive at the perfect, most needed time to shepherd home His church.

In the meantime, we have to place out trust in God. We have to know that He is good, righteous, light, loving. He IS in control, even if there are times when it is hard to accept.

Praise our God. Trust Him completely!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Ten things!

What if someone challenged you to pick the ten things you most wanted to thank God for? (Can't believe I ended that sentence in a preposition!)

It IS an interesting challenge, isn't it. It is especially interesting in light of the fact that a lot of folks thank God for nothing! Yep. They feel entitled and in charge of a life that actually doesn't even belong to them. If you are still reading this, I would wager that you do not fall into that camp.

So where would we begin? I would start with LIFE. Life is totally amazing. Being alive is a true gift that represents the fact that God placed you and me here for a purpose. Life is precious and fleeting. It has happiness and sadness. So easy, isn't it, to just expect to wake up each day, place those feet on the floor and proceed. Yet, not only did God give us life, He sustains every part of it.

I would thank God for Jesus, His son, our Savior. Only through His thirty-three some years of walking this earth at all times toward a death that would break the curse of sin could those who believe have the chance to be eternally in God's family. Oh how can we thank Him enough?

I could go on, but you know what? This is your challenge. What would start and end YOUR list of thankfulness? I'd love to know.

Praise our Loving Magnificent God!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Just as if I- cation

I'm sure you have heard that little play on words before. It really DOES proclaim a wonderful reality, that God, and God only, has reached out to cleanse each of us destined to be a part of His church. (We have been healed, justified, made alive in the life of Christ, righteous blood covers every sin... Lyrics from: 'We Have Been Healed' from Risen by Sovereign Grace Music) At some wonderful moment in time, an instant that remains forever, we suddenly have faith, belief, in the Lord Jesus Christ. Through this faith, God looks upon us as righteous because He sees the righteousness of His Son. We, it turns out, really had no chance to make atonement for the sins that divided us from a God who cannot forgive any sin. None of us, not one, is righteous on our own. We, therefore, cannot earn God's grace; He has to provide it for us. We can only be righteous when God substitutes the righteousness of Christ. (All our Sins, for His grace, What a glorious exchange!) The faith that brings on justification can only be given by God. We are saved, then, because He allows us to believe, and it is on the basis of this belief that we are made clean. At this glorious moment, the process turns to the life-long journey to sanctification, led by the Holy Spirit of God within us. What a wonderful, unearned gift! By faith alone, through grace alone. Did you notice that God did it all because He gave it all. He IS a wonderful, loving awesome God and we are His children Praise our God!!!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

LORD of your life!

It's amazing how many times I hear it said, "Are you ready to make Jesus the Lord of your life? Well, of course, I hope that is the case, but it's a moot point. He IS Lord of your life. The most ardent Muslim jihadist also has Jesus as Lord of his life The Hindu who sees God in everything has one Lord, Jesus Christ. I could go on. You see, the Lord of every person ever created is Jesus Christ for He was given that distinction for the work He did while on this earth with us. Do people realize that He is their Lord. Some do, many don't. Yet, and here it comes... Every knee will bow and every tongue proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord. Count on it. You can take it to the bank. He is God. He created and sustains you. He loves you. He IS LORD OF ALL!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

knowing God

We are challenged to learn about, know and enjoy our God. Yet scriptures abound with the feeling that this is an impossible task. He is Holy, Holy, Holy, spirit, totally unlike us, despite the fact that we are 'made in His image.' We are told that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. He is eternal, pre-existent, all knowing, totally righteous and above all things. So how then are we to know Him? His creation certainly is a starting point. When we open our eyes and take in the beauty of a world that is damaged and unlike the one He created, we are struck by the absolute wonder of what we see. All creation shouts His existence and Glory. We have His word and His Word broke into our time-space in the form of a baby to succeed where we could not in forgiving sin and defeating the forces of darkness that broke our relationship with God and ruined this world. He walked this world as the perfect reflection of the Father, like Him in every God-like way. The Bible, through prophets and writers, brings us a picture of God's words and His ways. It is a living book designed for us to read and be read by. It is God speaking to us through the story of His son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you want to find a beginning point for really understanding in your heart who God is and what He is like? The Gospel. The wonderful undeserved gift offered up to humanity because of His love for us. He gave His beloved Son as payment for the sins we have all committed. That, is God. If you know Him in your heart, if you trust and love Him for what He has done, you DO know God. You CAN enjoy Him, always and forever. The veil has been removed. All you have to do is say, Yes, God! Praise Him!!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Not of this world....

But placed in this world!                                                                                                                       They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. John 17

I sometimes get a bit irritated at Christians who point out that they are not of this world. They see themselves, and rightly so, as aliens just passing through. One problem with that exclusivity is Christians who are absolutely no different from any other person living in this broken world. That makes the claims of Jesus lose some of their power and clarity.

Christ was praying to His Father for protection for His disciples, understanding that they would be without Him physically and spiritually until the arrival of the Holy Spirit. He understood the dangers from both people and the devil, having lived through those dangers in His short time on this earth.

One thing that seems to be missing in the declaration is the fact that Christians are placed in this world, not arbitrarily, by God for a purpose. To focus in just being vacationers here for a brief time before really arriving at our destination brings the danger of isolation and complete abandonment of the great commission, sharing the Truth of Jesus to others who may still be lost.

Obviously, to just associate with those who have already accepted the Lord into their lives as the primary focus, eliminates the opportunities, yes, provided by God, to plant the seed of the Gospel in those who are outside of its wondrous message and potential transformation. Time spent outside of the comforts of those just like us, is eternally valuable and a real possible result of God's purpose for our lives.

This broken creation, that still reflects and glorifies God, is absolutely beautiful and filled with those created in God's own image, humans. Each human being is loved by God and given purpose in God. Their value comes from He who placed the breath of life into them. While He knows who those are who are written in the Book of Life, we do not. This means that every single person we encounter is potentially a brother or sister in Christ, a child of God, adopted into His family for eternity.

Yes, we are not of this world, but we are here to purpose God's will in and through us. We need to focus on what we can do to glorify Him while we are here. 

Praise our Holy God!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Consuming our Lord

John 6:54
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life...

Well this was certainly a controversial statement when Jesus uttered it and remains so even now. The reaction initially thinned out His following significantly because many just could not fathom such a statement. The early church suffered persecution for many reasons, including these words. Jesus was not suggesting a theology of cannibalism; He was making a statement, that for me, begins to emphasize our need to injest Christ into the depths of our being.

We are told that we need to abide in Him, we are told that He is in us, if we believe in Him, and we in Him. He has sent the Spirit of God to instruct and begin the process of sanctification. Yet, it is this Christ who is supremely capable, due to His incarnation, to understand the lives we lead and heal our brokenness and sin. To learn about Christ and develop solely an external understanding of who He is, without a relationship of the heart, leaves us wanting and incomplete. We have no chance at the real joy He has promised to us.

This brings me to communion. Now I wouldn't want to wax on the debate of transubstantiation or con-transubstantiation, but I do believe that the process of taking the bread and the juice, in whatever way and at whatever interval, is more than just a chance to remember and recognize the Lord, more than just a few moments of communication with Him on a Sunday. I have come to look at it as an injestion of Christ into my depths, into the parts of me that are broken and sinful. I find that I have come to believe that it represents the true relationship with Him, a genuine abiding into the heart.

Now I have work to do during those moments of receiving Him. Sometimes, I am guilty of taking communion without focusing. It is more, I think, than an opportunity to say thank you, it is a chance to welcome Him, to provide total access to Him, to celebrate His presence where once there was just an empty space. Awaking each day with the clear understanding that He has tabernacled within our hearts brings a very different set of goals and desires. We are being changed into those like Christ. We need never do that without His presence in us. He abides when He is welcomed.

It is where He belongs! We are His!

Praise God! 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Ludicrous 14:2

Now I hope you didn't grab your Bible and look for a book which doesn't exist there, but I am having some fun with the following non-scriptural statement that many folks erroneously make:

"God will never place you in a situation that you cannot handle!"

Well, it is true that God loves you, that He is involved every second in the lives of each of His created and that He is completely sovereign and familiar with our lives. However, when one looks at the above statement, it clearly does not express the reality of our relationship with Him.

He is in control. He is the one driving your life through pages He created long before you became a person. He is aware of the many difficult realities that face each of us in this lifetime; yet, our purpose is to enjoy, learn about and be blessed into an actual relationship with the very God who created the universe. We were created to glorify Him, to be in obedience to Him, and here is the catch, to depend upon Him.

Does He allow for situations to occur which we are incapable of handling? Why of course He does! Were we able to use our own strength to plow through problems, to pull up our bootstraps and fix ourselves, to just put God aside and say, I've got this one, Lord, we would not need Him. Eventually in life, that time or times will occur when we realize that we are too weak to stand up, too helpless to proceed and too fragile to be on our own.

God, as you can see, wants us to be dependent upon Him for this is the only way to truth, real peace and forgiveness. We are naturally cursed by our sin and He has graciously sent His son to pay for that roadblock. Now we just need to realize that in Him lies our ability to cope with life as aliens on this planet.

Seeking to go it alone is... Ludicrous!

Praise our God!!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

I am the way, the truth and the life...No one....

John 14: 6.

This is a truly troubling scripture for many people and a very comforting one to others. The key, here, is the determiner: THE. Jesus is closing the options for finding God and communing with Him to one. He isn't saying that He is a way, a truth or a life... 

I will confess that many years ago I was totally turned off by what I saw as the exclusivity of the Christian faith. That, coupled with the teaching of predestination, were road-blocks that I set up to even listen to the gospel message and spend time in the word. When someone posts on Facebook or other social media the question:"Can non Christians get to Heaven?" the focus turns back to the very words of Jesus.

At this moment in time, I find myself convinced that Jesus' death on the cross accomplished, among other things, payment for the sins of mankind against God. He provided propitiation, He balance the books, He broke down the barrier created by the original turning away from the God of creation.

In that sense, acceptance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ became open to all people. It was, and is sufficient for all, effective for some. He calls upon all mankind to come to Him and be His children. So, while Christ has limited the pathway to heaven, He has not limited the number of those who can walk it.

The true limitation rests with us. We have the freedom to choose, both a blessing and a curse. Our sinful natures make it most natural for us to hide from God, run from God, ignore God and feel that we do not need Him. Nothing could be more harmful, dangerous of eternally damaging.

Therein lies the importance of sharing the Good News. God has sent God to save us from God. God loved us to the extent that He was willing to offer forgiveness without it being earned to His created who were still in sin. Now He patiently waits for His Church to become complete, for those who would choose Christ to do so. 

We do not know when the trumpet will sound. We do not know when all who hear it will find their knees and declare Jesus Christ to be King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is THE way, THE truth and THE life. His arms are open and is heart if immense.

Please do not walk away from His love! Ask Him to be the Lord of your Life, today.

Praise our God!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Sometimes in life God will allow you...

... to experience a bigger than life Goliath so that you get to experience a bigger than Goliath God. Tony Evans

I love  quotes! They are short but can say very much in a small space. Tony Evans is great but one of many folks who just have the ability to capture something important in a brief statement.

We all want God to be too small. We want to have Him over there on the shelf so that we can grab Him if we need Him. Some even refuse to acknowledge that there is a creator God. They are so self-deluded that they have placed themselves in the position of sovereignty over their own lives.

When life's problems and suffering finally comes into our lives, we either try our best to tough it out or just fold up in a fetal position and try to wait.  Some folks deal with much more than others and that's really hard to understand.

First and foremost it is important to remember that God is in control. He is also Holy and therefore really doesn't need to explain things to us, His created. He doesn't need to justify anything, and this is tough to understand. 

What God has done is to provide one way to deal with life, its ups and downs and its need for purpose. He has sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ to experience all that we experience, to give up His own life out of love for us, to rise again and become a very real part of the lives of those who choose to accept Him.

Frankly, I have no idea how a person who does not know Jesus can cope with the brokenness of this world and this life.  What this Jesus does is enter our broken existence and heal us into those who would take that live and share it outward to others in small but truly significant ways. We become through Jesus, images of Christ wishing to share the love that has been graciously given to us.

We are, therefore, truly worthwhile. Truly loved. Truly in the open hands of the One who has written our names there on His palms. Bigger than out problems. Bigger than death, itself. Bigger than, yes, any Goliath.

He is waiting. He is loving. He is capable of completely caring for every life that He has created.

Praise our God!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Sin: the ultimate curse word!

Many do not recognize the word, sin. Many ignore it and feel it is over-emphasized. The problem is that we, with the exception of one born of woman, have a sin nature. It's with us at conception, handed down over the entire world genealogy right to us. It is the curse of all curses because it ultimately leads to an end that wasn't supposed to happen: death.

Why is death so terrible, so frightening, so swept under the rug for most of our lives? Because it is un-natural. We weren't created to die. Yet, and this makes my English teacher sensibility cringe: the wages of sin is death. The outcome of having, through Adam and Eve, disobeyed a God who cannot accept any sin, is that we physically must die. We can ignore it, take crazy measures to avoid it but, nevertheless it will be an end to the physical existence of all of us.

A lot of folks just cannot understand why someone else down the street who REALLY does bad things is in trouble while we, for the most part good people, can't just be good enough on a sliding scale to have God excuse us into heaven. Yet, we are all cursed and that curse cannot be overcome by ourselves. We are trapped by the very sin nature that condemned us in the first place.

Well, God knew about all of this. He knew that His created, having sinned and thus been placed away from His presence, would have to have an intervention for things to get fixed. You know what happened, though it is almost too amazing to understand. God sent God into this broken world to fix things, permanently. It was no easy fix! It involved giving the Son of God up to those He came to save to be put to death. Things looked hopeless. Even those who had followed Him were convinced that the end had come to their dream. But He, through the power of the Holy Spirit, was resurrected into life eternal, having broken the curse of sin, death and Satan forever.

Now God is in the process of trying to save us from ourselves. In the end, we have the ultimate choice to make. We can accept the gift of salvation, have our heinous sins forgiven for all time, be adopted into God's family and presence, or.... we can refuse. Refuse. May God forbid!

He saved us from His wrath. In a real sense, He is trying to save us from ourselves. 
Think it through. Do not wait. We do not know what tomorrow may bring. It is an eternal decision.

Praise our loving God!!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Hello, King Harod...

I have been reading a wonderful book by Timothy Keller called, Hidden Christmas. I would highly recommend your enjoying it! One of the ideas that most caught my attention was the suggestion that each and every one of us has a bit of King Herod within him. You will remember that Harod was essentially a powerless Roman 'plant' whose major job was to keep peace among those within 'his territory.' Apparently, he took his position to the extreme by putting many to death, even members of his own family.  

When confronted with travelers seeking the King of the Jews, he became very unsettled and sought to find the location of the birth of Jesus. When his plan was thwarted by an Angelic visit, he had all male children two years and under massacred. 

Now Keller is not suggesting that you, dear reader, would do such an abominable thing; he is, however, talking about that part within us that really has no desire to give up our control of our own lives. Many of us, Christians included, are quite willing to place Jesus and God on the 'stand-by' mode just in case we run into difficulties that we cannot 'solve' for ourselves. We really do not want to surrender our rule to anyone, even the God who created both the universe and us. 

What happens when people, with out sinful natures, try to fix things and work things out? Well one need only take a good look at our own lives to see that we can, as Alistair Begg is want to say, make a royal hash of things. When it comes to being qualified to drive our own lives to peace and real happiness, we don't pass the drivers' test. Some of us are sort-of Christians, almost Christians, Christ-less Christians who continue to look one way on Sunday and quite another at other times.

There is only one capable of leading us through the maze that is this life; that would be He who voluntarily came down into this world and lived a fully human life so that He might understand and be aware of what we experience, He who welcomes us to come to Him because His yoke is light, He who was there before time began involved in our creation, He who knows us like no other, even ourselves.

It isn't easy. You will need help from scripture, prayer, others and, of course, the Holy Spirit of God who awaits your open heart. You're not Harod so give up the need to be King. We have an ever-capable King who loves us completely.

Praise our God!