He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Psalm 40:3a

Monday, June 27, 2016

Saved By Grace - Not Works

I was astounded in a Bible Study class one evening, when a prominent person in the church and group, expressed the opinion that their good works would get them into heaven.  This person had been raised in the church, taught Vacation Bible School to hundreds of children and adult classes, yet missed this part of God’s grace and His salvation.
Talking with a young man recently about our faith and working out our salvation, I was reminded of the time Jesus responded to questions about entering heaven.  Jesus told his listeners “the road was broad but the gate narrow.”  Jesus explained even some who said they prophesied in His name, drove out demons and performed many miracles in His name, would not enter the gate. He told them he would say, “Depart from me.  I never knew you!”  (Matthew 7)
            Their outward actions were on target, but they had “heart problems.”  They were going through the motions, but all their work would be counted as nothing and told to depart, because even though they knew in their mind who Jesus was, they didn’t believe it with their whole heart.
We are told in God’s word, even the demons know who Jesus is.  Lucifer knew Jesus, but he still fell and his eternal resting place will be in Hell.  So it’s not about knowing who God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit is.  It’s about a heart change.  And when there is a heart change, then our lives will reflect that.
I read a news article recently that says Donald Trump just accepted Christ as Savior.  I hope that’s true.  But until his life reflects such a change how will we know?  We are all identified by the “fruit” we bear.  And sometimes, even when our “fruit” looks good to others, there is “rottenness” on the inside. 
We are a culture who wants to fit in, but if there is “work” involved, very often we take the easiest road to follow.  Commitment and change come hard.  We love the things of this world.  But this world is ruled by evil princes and principalities.  God is still Sovereign, but as humans, our hearts are turning away from God.  As a people, we are becoming more and more like those who lived in the days of Noah.  We have allowed Satan to thrive!
How often do we, like my friend, go to church every Sunday and any other meeting time, participate in all church functions, know The Word, and miss important information?  How often do we read God’s word and not hear what it is saying?  It’s all about repenting of our sins with a sincere and contrite heart, accepting Christ as Savior for our salvation through His grace, and then living a life that honors God with a true heart. 
It’s through the act of asking Jesus to live in our lives and hearts every single day, every single moment by faith, that we receive his grace.  Nothing more.  Following this with an honest effort to always please him through our works is a result and demonstration of this faith.

So I challenge you to search your heart.  Does your acceptance of Him come with an honest commitment to pick up your cross and follow Him in obedience, no matter what the world says?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Immortality On Earth?

        This week we received a magazine in the mail that described several “futurist” groups/cults that have sprung up in America.  One group believes their diet (nearly starving themselves) will bring them immortality; another group believes you can “believe yourself” into immortality by changing your genes through a mind set; and if all else fails you can freeze yourself until such time that science has determined the secret to immortality!
            These ideas, of course, are on a collision course with Christianity.  By being immortal on Earth, who would need Jesus as their Savior, with heaven as their reward?
            What’s interesting is back in the 1950’s and 1960’s based on scientific discoveries, which led to the development of computers and other technological devices, and significant medical advances, there was a similar mindset.  People were sure they were on top of the “answer machine” for everything, including the potential for immortality on Earth!
People have always desired ways to stop the aging process.  Implants and surgeries of all kinds have been performed on those who have the means, to reverse what time ultimately does to everyone!  Sometimes these surgeries make it appear time has stood still, other times, the surgeries are a disaster!
Of course, we have the technology factor.  Computers are amazing!  We have the capabilities of instant communication with people across the world, even groups having conversation on different continents---with visuals!  Who would have thought?  Surely because we can bring people together on such a level, there is no stopping our world! 
We’ve put man on the moon, had extensive solar discoveries with talk of living on another planet!  There has been discussion of creating a huge “city” on a ship where people can live and have families, much like being on an island!  Our world offers an endless amount of possibilities!  Where does it end?   Some believe it won’t.
            I’m of the conviction “if Jesus said it, then it’s so and that’s the end of it”!  Jesus promises his return.  He promises heaven, a place of perfect-ness for those who follow him.  Earth holds no allure next to that option.  Earth is a place where evil runs rampant and sickness and disease are everyday occurrences.
            I choose to be like Paul.  I’ll press on in this earthly life, toward my heavenly goal.  A much greater reward awaits me there, than any thing Earth has to offer, even with all the amazing progress that has been made over the decades.
            Progress is good, but we are human and human nature breeds evil.  In this world where darkness is growing on so many different levels, staying in God’s Word to know what He says about all this, is where we should be in order to have our mind set on what comes after!  This world is temporary and when we die, nothing we have collected in any material form, will go with us. 
            Our eternal resting place is completely contingent on what we chose to do with our souls while on this Earth.  We have the ability to choose and there are only two options!  We will reside eternally in heaven, or in terrible torment, for all enduring time in hell.  For me there is only one option.  I choose God.

            I challenge you to consider where you have chosen to spend eternity.  Will your soul be in “a happy place” when you leave this life, or tormented forever?    

Monday, June 13, 2016

Functionality to Art

       Some years ago I visited an antique store that seemed more like a museum in design.  The store was set up into “rooms” of a house and decorated with what might have filled the room in a specific time era.  It was wonderful viewing these variety of objects.  I recognized some of the items I used as a child or remember my grandparents using!  Many others were from long before I was born!
         During pioneer times, people crafted items required, due to necessity.  They needed cooking utensils, containers for cooking, baskets for carrying items and storage, quilts for warmth, furniture like tables, chairs, beds, cabinets and more.  These very functional items over the years have been transformed into pieces of art.  They represent our heritage and even our ancestors who used them.

         As these item’s functionality have been changed over the years, so have our lives, our perspectives, values and traditions.  People have a different idea of what is important now, compared to our ancestors, generations ago.  We seem go to great lengths to attain as many material elements as we can.  Being successful means being wealthy and being at the top of the corporate ladder.  It’s about how many new cars we own, how large and luxurious our house is, how many servants are hired and how many trips have been made to exotic countries in any given year.

         In our busy world, we’ve lost the need, and often the desire, to hold on to what Christ taught and the disciples shared, after the Resurrection.  The disciples were passionate about their Lord and Savior, the Messiah, Jesus.  While antiques have become more valuable over the years and are treasured pieces of art, Christ’s teachings have often been watered down, manipulated, twisted and contorted to teach only what is desired.  Many have lost the desire or energy for even teaching our young ones what is important.  Instead, we seem content to let the world overwhelm them with greed and the “me” attitude.

         It’s time we take hold of what God has given us in His Word.  We need to recognize what He has entrusted to our care.  He has given gifts of “talents” for each of us, for which we need to be thankful and faithful.  We need to be ready, so when He returns, He will be able to say, “Welcome home, good and faithful servant!” 

         Happiness will come when we realize our lives are to be governed by something other than this world.  We need to base our decisions and respond to challenges through the knowledge of Christ.  All the beautiful art in the world can never compare to the peace, joy and love found in the Savior. 

         So I challenge you to look at all that is around you.  Your world may be filled with beautiful new, modern material goods or wonderful, exquisite antiques.  While these may offer much pleasure, the greatest pleasure of all is to know and have a personal relationship with God.

Monday, June 6, 2016

To Know God

          I watched in horror as my friend’s house burnt to the ground.  She and her family lost everything except the clothes they were wearing, as they scrambled out of bed late in the night.  Thankfully, social media made it fairly easy to create a place for fund raising.  While money did come in, the greater need seemed to be emotional. 
            “I don’t know what to say to her,” said one mutual friend. 
            “You don’t have to say anything,” I countered.  “Just offer to help.  Take her clothes for the kids, food to eat, and be a shoulder to cry on.”
            Another friend, lost a child before birth.  Because people are so unsure how to respond, and are so uncertain of words, avoidance is often the painful answer.   Losing an unborn baby is no different than losing a child after birth.  That little one meant something, maybe everything, to the mother and daddy. They need love, understanding and comfort from all those who call them “friend.”
“I can count my real friends on one hand,” said another, who made bad choices which caused scandal and pain. “I never meant to hurt anyone, but I sure did!” she added.   “I feel so awful!” Obviously, this friend is making the observation of “true” friends; those she’s learned who know her well, who are non-judgmental and can count on, even during her darkest days.
            Yet if she were to look closely at this handful of “true friends,” and were to ask herself: “How well do I know them, really?” in most cases she’d be surprised to be only able to name superficial reasons why they’re friends.  Most people reveal only their best “selves” to those they know.  Even married couples often don’t know “all” about their spouses.  Sometimes we don’t even know ourselves.
            It must’ve been mind boggling to the disciples to consider Jesus’ statement that they really knew God.  (John 14:7) How complex a situation!  Jesus is God, yet God is his Father.  And then to compound it further, with the promise of the Holy Spirit once he (Jesus) is gone from earth.
            In today’s world, we have God’s written word to glean infinite wisdom if we but read it.  The disciples had Jesus, the living body with whom to learn.  He taught them for three years, everything they would need to know to continue the ministry once he returned to the Father.  Even with all this teaching, after the crucifixion they were left confused and heartbroken.  Their “Master” was no longer with them. 
            It wasn’t until after the Resurrection they connected the dots!  They got it!  We do not have Jesus physically walking among us, but we do have the Bible, the Living Word and the Holy Spirit within us.  From these we can know, rely, and understand God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit.  But it takes effort.  It requires we search the scriptures, be in prayer and listen for His voice, so He can teach us.  It takes patience, and faith in what we cannot see.

            To know God is all in the heart.  When our heart can identify the “Master,” our minds and souls rejoice!  We still will have much to learn.  It is a never ending process, and will continue until He takes us home or returns.  In the meantime, we can “know” God!