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Archive for the tag “gift of salvation”

Rock and Truth

A couple of weeks ago, my small group started reading the book Adamant by Lisa Bevere. Since the first chapter, I have had this picture in my head. In the first chapter, Lisa writes about the Rock, the Cornerstone of our faith. Somewhere in the midst of that chapter (which I could not find to reference), there was a word picture of being in the rock – not that we stand on the rock, but we are actually planted in the rock. So the picture I have in my head is my feet firmly within the rock – my feet have become the rock.

Lisa’s point about being part of the rock was that if we stand on a rock, any wave that hits us can knock us off; but if we are firmly within the rock, no wave will overtake us. We are firmly grounded and nothing can move us. The book’s tag line is Finding Truth in a Universe of Opinions. The rock is Jesus, the cornerstone, the unmovable, never-changing Truth. If we are firmly grounded in the Truth, we cannot be moved by the tides of change in our ever-changing culture.

It’s easy to get off track when we listen to others opinions. It’s easy to get into disagreements based on our perceptions. But when we stand on the Truth, nothing can move us because absolute truth never changes. Absolute truth does not shift. Gravity will always be gravity whether we believe in gravity or not. God will always be God whether our culture believes in this God or not. Nothing changes absolute truth. Lisa wrote “for something to be truth, it must be true at all times.” Jesus claimed to be the truth.

Jesus said that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). All of these things are true or they are all lies. If Jesus is the way, then there is only one way to God because Jesus said He is the Way. There are not many roads to heaven – only one and it’s through Jesus Christ. If Jesus said He was the way, then He is also the Truth. Lisa said it a better way. “If Jesus lied and misrepresented who he was and he is but one of many ways to the Father, then he cannot be the truth.” She also stated “if he is not the truth, it is impossible for Jesus to be the life.”

We cannot believe half-truths. Actually that’s what Eve did when she believed Satan’s word instead of God’s. Satan is a distorter of truth. It’s impossible to know truth without being in God’s Word. This is the place to know God, to know Jesus and to know the Truth. Satan will deceive us all day long unless we are imbedded in the Truth. Our feet have to be firmly in the Rock. The word picture comes back into play.

Jesus said it better this way – I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5). We are to be planted firmly in Him. The vine gives life to the branches. If a branch is broken, the life force has been removed. Only if the branch is grafted back in will it live again.

When I was in high school, I took horticulture for a couple of years. In that class, I learned how to graft a branch to a different tree. We used apple trees for the process of learning this procedure. We cut one branch from one tree and tied it securely to a cut branch attached to another tree. Eventually, the branches will be indistinguishable. The two will become one. The graft will be complete when the two are one and the branch begins to bear fruit. This is what Jesus said of us – those who are grafted in will become one and will bear much fruit.

We have much to learn from God’s Word. It has the absolute Truth that we need to live by. It will not be a popular decision to live this way because culture is going further from the truth each and every day. Jesus said there will only be a few who will live this way. The road is narrow and only a few find it (Matthew 7:13-14). It’s not that only a few are allowed to enter. Actually, God’s grace and mercy is for all people, but only a few will follow Jesus and His Way to God the Father. All are invited to follow, but only a few will take up the challenge to do so.

God’s truth does not change. It is an unmovable, invincible, irresistible and unbreakable Rock. It’s time to plant our feet securely in the Rock so that no wave will ever overtake us. Culture will change again. Life as we know it will be different tomorrow. But we can be secure in our knowledge of Truth and in this Rock.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:14, 17

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. John 14:16-17

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31b-32

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The Tree

In my small group time this week, we were challenged to tell our story. First, to write it down. Second to share it with someone. Statistics tell us that the majority of believers in Jesus Christ will not share with non-believers the story that changes everything. They will not share how they came to faith or what a difference Jesus has made in their lives. They will not lead others to the foot of the cross where Jesus died for everyone’s sin. It’s uncomfortable to share something that others might reject us because of it. However, rejection is all a part of the story. It’s all about the tree. The first tree, in the Garden of Eden, is where the story begins.

You might have heard the story of Adam and Eve and bite that changed everything for humankind. Adam and Eve took the forbidden fruit off the tree of good and evil. The bite was not the sin that was introduced to the world; it was taking the word of the serpent over the word of God. The tree of good and evil brought death. It brought spiritual death. Spiritual death was brought on by the broken relationship between God and Adam and Eve. When the “fruit” of sin became part of Adam and Eve, they passed it along through their DNA to each generation. It’s a natural part of us. And in our natural states, we are far from God. We are clothed in nakedness with guilt and shame; with no hope of a relationship with God. The fruit of sin does that to us. It makes us offensive to God.

However, God didn’t leave the story of humankind to that one bite or that one tree. He had another tree in mind. God created another tree that would one day become the place of death that would bring spiritual life. At God’s appointed time, and through His way, He brought the answer to our brokenness. Jesus. Jesus became the only way to right the relationship between God and us. Jesus is the bridge of hope for us all. It is by God’s design through Jesus’ death on a tree (also known as a cross). Jesus died so that we could have eternal life. This tree brings life – spiritual life.

I have heard Jesus’ story all my life. I was raised in a Christian home. So I knew about Jesus early. On Easter Sunday, 1973, on the front row of my small Baptist church, I heard a word to “Go” when the invitation was offered. I moved out of that seat to walk the small distance to the preacher who asked me if I wanted Jesus to be my Savior. I said yes. This wasn’t a life altering decision for me. I was almost eleven years old on that fateful day and had no clue that I was naked and covered in shame and guilt because of my sinful ways. I just heard the word go and I did.

I believe on that day, I had the covering of Jesus’ blood. I believe on that day, I became protected and His. My faith journey resembles the faith journey of Jesus’ disciples. They walked three years with Him to get to know Him but it wasn’t until the death and resurrection of Jesus when their eyes were truly opened. My faith walk took more like twenty years. It wasn’t until the death of my friend in 1993 when my eyes were truly opened to Jesus’ death and resurrection and what that meant for me. I recognized my sinful nature as it truly was; a broken relationship with God and no way out of my mess except through Jesus.

It has been a long process to come to the place where I can totally confess with my heart that Jesus is Lord of my life. I had already confessed that He was my Savior; but when He became my Lord, everything changed for me. I liked to think of my faith journey as a fishing analogy. Jesus is the fisherman. He caught me on His line in 73; He gave me a little line to wear me out so that He could finally reel me in. I fought the process for twenty plus years, but eventually He reeled me in. He got me in His boat, cleaned me up, and released me back into the waters. I was released to bring others to Jesus’ line, not to go back and live a life of sin. Like the disciple Philip where he finds Nathanael and tells him about Jesus; we are told that we are to testify about Jesus – to be a witness of Jesus’ work. Philip said to Nathanael “Come and see.” This is the purpose of our stories.

My story isn’t really that exciting. It’s the process of learning about Jesus, knowing Him fully as Savior and Lord, then experiencing His transforming work in me as He leads me each and every day. Two trees changed everything for all of us. The first tree took everything from us; the second tree restored it all through Jesus. It’s with this thought I leave with you – have you been changed by the second tree?

It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!” Romans 9-10 (MSG)

The Helmet

My study group is in the last week of the “Armor of God” study (by Priscilla Shirer). We are studying the helmet of salvation. Paul writes about the Armor of God in his letter to the Ephesians. Paul was very familiar with Roman body armor. He would have had ample time to study each piece while he was sitting in a prison cell being guarded by Roman soldiers. He saw the different pieces and linked certain spiritual weapons with those pieces.

We are to “gird our loins” with the belt of truth; much like a soldier would have used a belt to help secure his weapons around his waist. We have the breastplate of righteousness to guard our hearts just as a breastplate was used to protect the vital organs of the soldier in battle. We are to put on the shoes of peace as a soldier put on specific shoes to help him stand firm while fighting. Then lastly, we have the helmet of salvation to protect our minds like the Roman soldier had for comprehensive coverage to withstand a direct blow to the head. Each piece builds upon the next piece until we are completely covered for battle and able to take a stand against the spiritual forces of evil.

The armor is more than just protection though. We need additional weapons for offense and defense. We are given two important pieces that give us victory against the enemy. We have a shield of faith and the sword of the spirit. Both weapons cause Satan to flee from us because of the power these weapons provide. He cannot stand against God’s word or the faith of the people who live by it. These weapons are then ignited in power by the Holy Spirit through prayer – activating their usefulness in the battle.

I didn’t realize these weapons were found in the Old Testament book of Isaiah. I thought Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to come up with these spiritual attributes. He was inspired to write; but Paul being the scholar that he was, would have known about Isaiah’s word to his ancestors. Priscilla pointed out these weapons were introduced back in Isaiah 59. Speaking of the future King Jesus, God tells Isaiah to tell the people:

He put on righteousness as his breastplate,
and the helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on the garments of vengeance
and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak. (Is 59:17)

These weapons are the same ones we have for our own battles. We have the same power through the Holy Spirit to wield against the enemy. Isaiah wrote in chapter 54 that no weapon formed against us can prevail. Paul writes in Second Corinthians 10:4-5: The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

The purpose of our helmet of salvation is to protect the mind. Salvation is not just a onetime event. However, Priscilla points out; we have salvation through Jesus, but we also are to live out our salvation daily. We are supposed to die to our self and live through Christ – daily. Paul says in Philippians 2:12-13 (NLT): Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

One of the primary targets for Satan is our minds. Insecurity, fear, depression, confusion, etc can cripple our lives. We give in to stinking thinking and will cause us to shrink back from living the abundant life found in Jesus. We have to be able to think clearly and apply God’s word to our lives in order not to be deceived by the enemy’s schemes. God gives us this armor as part of our inheritance as His children. The trouble is we never unpack the gifts that He gives. We think we have to wait until heaven to experience God’s true salvation. But salvation is lived out here on earth to give God glory. He leaves us here after receiving the gifts so that we can be the light to others and draw them to His glory.

Priscilla summed it up for me in this thought (pg 162): “Your lifestyle should reflect your true inheritance which will enable you to live a spiritual life of lavish abundance and grace.” We have a “lavish inheritance” through Jesus. It’s time we live up to the potential Jesus gives to us through His death and resurrection. Put on the helmet and live abundantly!

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. Romans 5:5-8 (NLT)

Pop-ups

Last Saturday, Priscilla Shirer had her annual simulcast. Her message was on the spiritual armor that we are given as children of the Most High God. One thing that she mentioned was about the distractions or the deceptions that our enemy uses to keep us from accomplishing our God-given goals. She used the analogy of a “whack-a-mole” children’s game. I have never played this game myself, but I have seen others play it. The one with the hammer tries to nail the “mole” on the head when it pops up from a hole in the board. The game has several holes in which the mole can pop up, but the participant never knows when or where the mole will pop up. What the participant doesn’t see is the person behind the game who controls the mole. Priscilla mentioned that our enemy is the one behind the scene who is causing our distractions or is deceiving us with these pop up “moles.” We are told that we are given a shield of faith to protect us in the midst of our battles. The enemy fires blazing javelins or missiles in our direction. The enemy hopes we will turn aside to put out the fires instead of advancing on the battlefield. I have seen this numerous times when I have started out on a certain path knowing that God was calling me to a task. As soon as I said yes, the enemy became engaged in the battle. He put a “mistaken” identity problem that kept me focused for a few months trying to put out the fire. I began to recognize this deception after a couple of times when it occurred every time I took a step in God’s direction. I started to pray for this “mistaken” identity person every time the name appeared before me. Prayer is one of our most powerful weapons in our arsenal for spiritual warfare! The enemy is very cleaver. When we are not looking for the “mole” puppet master, we can be deceived or distracted by our circumstances. We miss the reason these things are happening to us – it’s not about us at all, but the battle that is being waged over us. It’s the spiritual battle that we cannot see that keeps us from being ineffective in advancing the Kingdom forward. We need to be conscious of our real enemy. We have to realize this is major warfare. The enemy knows he’s defeated, and his time is running out. He only has little time left to make his claim on unsuspecting people. It’s one move against the other; we just happen to be the pawns that the enemy uses to try to hurt God’s agenda. The enemy believes he has a move left that can counteract what God put in place – salvation for the world by Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. Each pop-up tries to circumvent God’s agenda that is at work in us and through us. But we are given impenetrable armor that will thwart the enemy’s attempt for our destruction. I must admit; I fail to recognize the enemy. I see the things going on around me and think it’s the people causing the problems when in reality it’s not them, but the enemy using them for his purpose. The people are not the problem. It’s the enemy popping up behind the scenes causing the chaos. Our world feels like it’s falling apart. Our troubles are growing out of control. Reality though, is that the enemy senses the time is growing closer, and he is out for blood – our blood. We are given powerful equipment and powerful weapons to use daily in the battle. No weapon that is formed against us can harm us if we are properly dressed in our battle gear. Watch that mole continue to pop up, but don’t let the puppet master fool you. The One who is in you is greater than the enemy in the world. Stay focused on the truth; live in righteousness and keep the mind protected from the enemy’s schemes. We fight from victory – not for victory! The battle is already won! Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:10-12

In Those Days

These are the opening words to Luke 2 – the Christmas story. In those days, there was political unrest. God’s people were under oppression and felt hopelessness. They had been praying for a new king. There had been prophecies about a king from the line of David who would one day come again. For centuries, the people of God had been under the oppression of other governments, other kings. They were looking for the promised one. In the middle of one of the most powerful kingdoms ever established on the face of the earth, a little baby was born. In the silence of that night, a baby’s life would change everything. A star was born that would guide travelers to the place where they could worship the newborn King. There had been silence for the last four hundred years. God had not spoken. God seemed to be absence from the scene, yet God was working in the powerful kingdom to build roads, to build the infrastructure that would support the message traveling beyond the borders of Israel.

Most of God’s people were looking in the wrong place for salvation. Most of God’s people didn’t have a real clue about God’s plan of redemption. Oh sure, they had prophecies; they had the holy word of the God from their Holy Scripture. But most didn’t understand it. I dare say that the high priest didn’t have a clue much less the average person on the dusty streets of Jerusalem. God had a plan. And they failed to see what God was doing in their midst. We, on the other side of the story, can only shake our heads and wonder why didn’t they understand? Yet, the generations that will come after our generation may actually say the same thing of us. Why didn’t we interpret the signs of God that He is obviously demonstrating to us? He is at work but do we actually see?

The next thing in God’s redemption plan is for Jesus to return. I don’t know God’s timetable – His ways and time is not our own. God has been doing some amazing work to set the stage for the next act. The major thing that has really occurred in the last two thousand years (in my opinion) was the translation of the Bible into a common language. It seems since the day of the translation, men and women have understood and acted upon the Word in greater ways than in the previous thousand or so years since the church was established. Many died for the translation to occur. The religious rulers didn’t want the common man to understand it. They were afraid that their power would diminish and give the power to those who would be faithful with it.

When the Bible was translated, everything changed. People finally read the Word for themselves and were changed by it. They had a new heart and a new spirit. Innovations have further moved the Gospel to mankind. The stage is being set in our own time. Are we paying attention to all that is occurring? We turn a blind eye to the injustices. If you are reading this blog posting then you probably have more than one Bible in your house. We read it but do we take it to heart? Does it change us? The Day of Jesus will come sooner than we think. The Bible teaches that we are supposed to pay attention to the signs and wonders that are occurring. God’s Plan is going to be fulfilled. In these days, we have a responsibility to tell the story of the Glory that came to earth in the form of a baby to redeem those who are far from God. It’s the part we are to play in the Plan. How will they hear if we don’t tell them? How will lives change and hope restored if they don’t know there is One who came to heal them? We have a great treasure in the Word. It’s our responsibility to know what is in it and share what we know. It is also our privilege and joy.

I hope in the future when we look back “in those days” we will see such an overwhelming response to the Gospel it can only be explained because the Glory was revealed in those days!

God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord. Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name. Romans 1:2-5 (NLT)

Identity

I had a phone call from a collection agency – again. No, I don’t have any debt that needs to be collected. But it gets my heart to thumping nevertheless. A few years ago, someone had stolen my identity. This person used my medical insurance number to obtain medical services. It snowballed from there. It took a few months to get it all squared away once I learned of the theft. But I still have to resolve issues every now and then. This call reminded me I needed to check my credit report just to make sure nothing else was going on. It was all good – whew. Every call I receive of this nature reminds me how much I have to be thankful for. God has blessed me even though I deserve none of it. These calls also remind me of where my true identity lies.

Christ gave me a new identity on the day I received the gift of salvation. It was a long time ago. I didn’t deserve it, but He invited me to join Him on mission. Well, that’s not what I thought when I went up front in my home church on that day. But the Holy Spirit told me to go so I did. A few years after that, God called me to sanctification – big word. I didn’t know what that meant either at the time. God was calling me to be set apart for His purpose. There was a lot that needed to be cleaned up. He set about cleaning up my mind and my heart. One step at a time, slowly my mindset began to change and my heart began to line up with His. It’s an ongoing process of transformation, and I have yet to arrive at the destination. God is more concerned with my progress than my destination though. The destination is already set upon the Rock. The journey there is the challenging part.

My spiritual identity can never be stolen like my identity on this earth. What I have physically can be stolen, but that is not where my treasure lies. These things are nothing compared to what I will have in the future. God has blessed me abundantly – more than I could ever ask for. A few years ago I went to Australia, and I thought that was the best trip ever. But what I am realizing now, the best is yet to come. Yes, I will go on mission with Him. Jesus is my friend, and I want to go with Him on the biggest adventure I will ever have! Praise God for making all things new!

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10

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