buildingbodies4christ

building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Archive for the tag “Jesus is the Way”

Urgent News

Have you ever had a time when everything you hear has a theme? Me too. My discipleship group is in the Book of Revelation; my Sunday School Class is reading in the Book of Daniel and even my Pastor is teaching about the Kingdom from Luke’s Gospel. It doesn’t help to see the things we’re seeing in the world today driving home an urgency to get the Good News out. We need to be active in spreading the Good News.

The urgency that I am feeling isn’t about the virus or about the economic downturn. Revelation teaches us that one day this world that we know will come to an end. Jesus spoke often about His Kingdom coming – but it wasn’t what the Jews had in mind. They thought He was coming to bring an end to the occupation of the Roman government. But the first coming of Jesus wasn’t about ending occupation, but bringing salvation to those who were lost.

Last year, I sat in a training session to teach us how to share the Gospel message – the Good News of Jesus. I have heard of many ways to share what I know about Jesus – about His life, His death and then His resurrection – the Good News. But this time it was about the three circles. Let me give you a snippet of what I learned, just in case you haven’t heard.

The first circle represents God. In the beginning, God made the heavens and the earth.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. Genesis 1:31

God made everything perfectly. But then sin was introduced into His perfect world. “Lostness” is brokenness brought on by our sinful conditional. We are all broken with this sin problem. The problem isn’t really our brokenness in itself, but it has broken the relationship God wants to have with us. God cannot look upon sin. He is holy. When men have gotten a glimpse into heaven, they fall on their faces before Him – terrified because they know they are unworthy to be in God’s presence.

When Jesus was with Peter at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He performed a miracle in front of Peter by filling his nets with so many fish, the net began to break. Peter recognized he was in the presence of Someone amazing. Luke 5 gives the reaction of Peter:  When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” This should be our reaction in front of our Holy God. This is our lostness, our brokenness. This is the second circle.

Romans 3:23 tells us for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. No one is exempt from sin. If anyone has told a lie, it’s a sin. Any wrong doing in the eyes of God is sin. But brokenness, how is that defined? I read in a devotional this definition: “a growing awareness that no matter how hard we try, our ability to make life work gets worse instead of better. It’s a recognition of our need for God and His intervention in our lives.”

Everything we do to get our lives “right” or to fill that void or hole we are experiencing will just fall flat. There are many ways to fill up the hole: alcohol to numb the emptiness, a life of “sex, drugs and rock n roll” or just buying stuff to make oneself feel better. Nothing will satisfy that brokenness, unless we bring it to Jesus.

Finally, the last circle, as you can guess is Jesus. He is the Good News. We don’t have to live in that state of brokenness. God sent His Son to us. But that’s not the Good News… the Good News is that He came not to live but to die.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). But not only to die, but to be raised to life. In the Gospel of Luke (9:22), we are told this: And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

This is Good News. Death was defeated because of Jesus. Yes, we still die a physical death. But with Jesus we are given a new life – a spiritual birth by believing Jesus is who He says He is – God’s Son; we believe He did what He said He would do – die for our sins; and believe He was raised to life giving us a new life through Him.

With this recognition of Jesus’ Good News, we also, have to repent of our sins, which means we turn away from those things that lead to our brokenness. We agree with God that our brokenness keeps us from a relationship with Him and turn to Him for forgiveness. If we do this simple act of believing and repenting, we are given a new life in Him and we recover our relationship with God through Jesus.

I heard this analogy of what Jesus did for us in His death and resurrection: Jesus took off His clean, brilliantly white coat and put on our filthy, dirty rags and we put on His righteousness (brilliant, white coat) in exchange for our sins (rags). That’s a very uneven exchange, but He gladly did it for everyone ever born and would be born no matter what.

When I was reading through Revelation and the foreshadow that we witness in this season we’re in, I feel the urgency to point people to Jesus. The times will probably not get better. The labor pains have started to grow stronger. This is getting really real. I never believed I would see the things I am seeing today.

Revelation seemed like it was far into the future. I don’t think that anymore. Too much has happened on a global stage and the Pandora box has been opened to never close again. This is not a dooms day message, but a message of hope. God made a way for all people to have a relationship with Him. He sent His Son to earth to bring the Kingdom to us. One day Jesus will return and His followers will be with Him for eternity. Are you counted in that number? Do you know people who will not be with you in heaven? The urgency is real. Let’s enlarge heaven with everyone we know.

Christmas Message

This Christmas season is going to be different. Things change. I told one of my co-workers this week, I hate to have to grow up. But I have to accept things when they change and act like a grown-up about it. She too was facing a different Christmas and she agreed we all have to grow up and act like adults even if we don’t want to. With that conversation on my mind as I woke up this morning, several thoughts came to my mind about Christmas.

Some thoughts were coming from the Spirit leading me to write. Other thoughts were probably from the enemy who doesn’t like me following through. So hopefully (prayerfully), I will get the message across that the Spirit was inspiring this morning.

This is the Christmas message on my mind was we can’t look at the birth of Jesus without thinking about His death at the same time. The whole reason Jesus was born was so that He would die for us – for our sins. He came to us as a baby, born without sin to live a life without sin so that we could have eternal life through Him – He was the sacrificial Lamb of God foretold in Exodus concerning the last plague in Egypt before the exodus: God’s people had to kill a spotless lamb and cover the door posts with the blood to be saved from death.

It’s interesting we know about the birth of Jesus, which was also foretold in the Old Testament Scripture; we know about one time when Jesus was twelve in the temple, but Scripture is silent about His years between tw.elve and thirty.

However, we know a little of Jewish tradition for boys. It has been said by the age of three, boys have learned the Psalms by their father’s singing psalms to them. By the age of five, they would have learned Leviticus. By thirteen – their age of accountability – they would have known the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament). By eighteen, they are learning the trade handed down by their father.

We know Jesus was at the temple at the age of twelve and He surprised the teachers with His knowledge (Luke 2:47).  Jesus was on the Jewish track of learning so we assume all these things have taken place as was the custom. Jesus then shows up as a thirty (ish) young man at a wedding with His relatives. Mary, the mother of Jesus, turned to Him to report the wine had run out. I imagine the scene…

Mary told Jesus about the wine situation knowing this could be shameful for the host family. Jesus told His mother saying “My hour has not yet come.” {Footnote: young men going into ministry would not have started it until the age of thirty, this was a “respectable” age for ministry. He might have been saying I am not yet thirty, it’s not time.} Now Mary hearing Jesus’ words would have given Him “the look” – you know “the look” only Moms can give with the raised eyebrow – the look that says do the right thing. Mary turns to the servants and says “Do whatever he tells you.” She leaves it at that, knowing Jesus will do the right thing to take away the shame of this family.

From that point on, Jesus is on His mission as stated in Luke 4:18-19:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
 
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

He announced His intention in the synagogue in Nazareth, His hometown. But they rejected the message because they knew Him as a child and couldn’t believe God sent Him to be the Messiah. It took His disciples who lived with Him for three years to realized finally who Jesus was (is) – God’s Son who came to save the lost and give eternal life through His death and resurrection.

We might not understand we are the “lost” He came to save; however, we are sinners from birth. We aren’t taught to do what’s wrong; it comes natural to us. We have to be taught to do what’s right. But by God’s mercy, He sent Jesus to save every one of us.

I was reminded this morning as I read in 1 John 5:11-12: And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

We are given eternal life only through God’s Son, Jesus. There are not many ways to heaven as stated by the world. If there were many ways, then Jesus didn’t have to leave His glory in heaven and come in such a lowly state to save us from our sins. If we could be “good enough” then that should have been enough for us to enter heaven. Instead, as stated in John 3:16:  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

This was the only way. Jesus laid down His righteousness and picked up our filthy, sin-filled lives and died our death so we wouldn’t have to. Those who have received this testimony in faith have received the Big Gift of eternal life – no earning it with our efforts, but Jesus alone. From the cross, Jesus proclaimed “It is finished” (paid in full). He paid dearly so that all would have this free gift – believe and receive. This is the reason for the season. Remember and be grateful for the manager and the cross.

Merry Christmas!

God is Still in Control

So much is going through my head and heart right now. You might have wondered where I’ve been since it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything. I just can’t seem to focus on anything of value to bring to you.

There are things I want to say, but maybe a little afraid to say them. Or things I shouldn’t say and afraid I’ll say them.

But this thing I know and you might need to hear, God is still in control. No matter how crazy things seem right now, God still is in control. No matter if this virus running through our streets looks like it’s going to shut everything down again, God is still in control. Nation against nation; neighbor against neighbor; right against left – God is still in control.

When I moved to my hometown a little over nine months ago, I moved because I didn’t know what the future was going to hold. I wanted to be close to family. Maybe I was a bit afraid that something would happen and I couldn’t get home. Maybe I forgot God is bigger than all this and knows what I need when I need it.

However, God has been in this move with me. I found a job after only two weeks time and it’s a job where I needed to be. I didn’t know it at the time, but God prepared a place for me at just the right time. I found a place to lease quickly right after selling my house. It was just the right place I needed for this season. My church home has already been established long ago and I have felt at home here from day one; already in the right place, for this season. Studying the Word with a discipleship group who keep me focused on the things that matter. God knew what I needed when I would need it. God is in control.

At this time we are studying the book of Romans. I am reminded the depth of God’s Word and how much I never really understood all Paul wrote in his letter to the Roman Christians. I normally just read through a passage and really don’t comprehend what God is speaking through it. But through this study time now, we are challenged to write down what is popping out in that chapter. One thing continues to pop out to me, God did it all. God made a way even though we didn’t deserve His love, His grace or His mercy. Thankfully, He did it anyway. God started this plan and He will finish it completely.

From beginning to end, it’s about faith. He made a way for us when we were His enemy. At just the right time, Jesus died for the ungodly – for me, for you and for all who came before us and for all who will come after us. Jesus brings us righteousness and life – two things we cannot have apart from Him. We didn’t pursue righteousness, but obtained it through faith in Jesus.

Faith is at the heart of the believer, but love is the motivation to be like Jesus, to act like Jesus. Jesus loved people well. So should we. However, I am not very good at it like I want to be. Without the love of Jesus we cannot affect others with the Good News. If we don’t love first, then whatever we do or say will be fruitless.

Physically I may be in a good place, but spiritually and emotionally speaking I’m still not where I should be. But I believe God has me where I can learn a lesson or two, so bear with me while I work out what’s going on in this place. No matter what, God is still in control and I can trust Him to move and to make me more like Jesus – you can trust Him too. Until next time, continue to keep the faith!

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

The Underlying Issue

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about some of the deception that has crept into the church body. It generated a few comments on my Facebook page. I don’t claim to know all the answers to the questions that have been raised concerning church issues. It’s an imperfect world that is ruled by our sin nature.

We don’t like to talk much about our sin nature or our sins in general. I have things I deal with on a daily basis that I don’t really like talking (or write) about. It’s only by God’s grace that I survived my past and live to confess I am saved by the grace of God, not by my works or by my “good” nature. Nothing in me is worth saving, but Jesus sought me and caught me and transformed my thinking.

I couldn’t change my nature on my own. It goes against who I am as a human being. I have proclivities that are natural to me and my nature doesn’t want to change. Yet, I changed. Not because of who I am, but because of whose I am. Jesus bought me at a huge price. It was a very slow process to change the way I think and the way I act. It’s because of Jesus that I live differently today. I’m not perfect. I still fail to live as I should as His follower. When I wake up in the morning, I am given a new day. The old has passed away and a new day has dawned. I can start over with a clean slate. That’s God’s mercy at work.

We have a big problem in this world today. We are all sinful people. The things that hinder my relationship with Jesus are probably different from the ones that hinder you. But we all suffer from our sin nature. In God’s mercy, He sent Jesus – not to condemn the world, but to save us (John 3:16-17).

God could not and will not look upon sin. Sin was introduced to the perfect world and the world has been forever changed. We are condemned to live a life less than what God intended. Sin does that. God cannot overlook our sins. Our sin nature condemns us to live without a relationship with God. Today, the world is going further away from God. It’s like a vortex pulling us down into the abyss. But we don’t have to go as the world goes. Jesus breaks the pull of the abyss and sets us free. Jesus loved us enough to pull us out by His death and resurrection – death was defeated by the blood of Jesus!

If you remember from my previous post, my friend thought God changed with the times. I countered with I didn’t believe God changes with culture. First God is love. True – He is but He also does not love sin. He never has and He never will. Second, sin has always been sin. Sin never changes. Culture just changes what we call sin; it deceives us into thinking we are right when God says it’s wrong.

Jesus loved everyone He met. But He did not tolerate their sin. He told the adulteress woman, to go and sin no more. He told the rich young man to sell all his possessions and come follow me. After spending the day with Jesus, the tax collector recognized his sins and changed the way he conducted business. Jesus told the Pharisees to repent. He cried over Jerusalem because of their unbelief. Jesus grieved over those who were hard-hearted and would not repent.

Some of the folks listened to His teaching and chose to walk with Him; but many turned away because His teaching was hard to live out. His teaching goes against our nature. Jesus’ teaching still tells us to live differently. He calls us to repentance – to turn away from the life of sin and to walk with Him. When we walk with Him, we change. It’s a transforming life, a process to become more like Him.

God does not change and His love endures forever. That knowledge is the foundation of my hope. If He changed, how firm would be my foundation? He doesn’t change like shifting sand. We are told to build our lives upon a rock – one that is unmovable – a sure foundation.

Culture is constantly changing. What’s good today will be old and outdated tomorrow. I can’t live that way. I need something more secure. I have found the answer in Jesus. For this I am truly grateful. My sins of the past have been removed and I have been redeemed for the new life in Jesus. Everyone has the opportunity to follow Him, but not everyone will. My prayer is that you are walking with Him today. If not, then I hope you will be one of the few who find Him today and let Him transform you too.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. John 3:18-21

Hard Truth

All day, I have been avoiding this post. When I woke up this morning, a conversation I had yesterday was on my mind. When I had my quiet time, the conversation was still there – even more so after praying about it. After my quiet time, I went to the gym. I came home for lunch; it was still there. After lunch, I worked out in the yard. The longer I put it off the more it burned in my heart. So I guess I need to convey what was said and what’s troubling me about it.

For the last few weeks (months?), I have been praying for opportunities to talk with a friend about her beliefs. I have had a couple of occasions where I got bits and pieces and the picture is getting a bit clearer. It is as I suspected which makes me pray even more so. However, what I didn’t really pray about was another friend’s beliefs. I thought I knew what she believed and was not as concerned about her.

A couple of weeks ago, the latter friend and I started a conversation about the decision handed down from the governing board of the United Methodist Church. She’s a member of the UMC. I thought I knew her position and didn’t want to debate her about the decision. The decision the board revealed at that time was the decision to stay with the traditional views of the church doctrine. She was upset with their decision. The conversation was interrupted and we never got back to it until yesterday.

She received an email from her local church concerning this traditional plan and their denouncement of the board’s decision. She wanted me to read the email, which I did. Then she wanted my opinion. I told her I disagreed with the principles they were laying out for their church to follow. She was floored by my views, but I knew she would not understand. She started questioning me about what I believed about the Bible. She said she believed that it was not to be taken literally. But the kicker for me was that she said that God had to change with culture. I was floored. Why would God change on the fickleness of human thinking? It made no sense to me.

I don’t know everything about the Bible; there is still room to grow in my knowledge. However, I feel confident that what I know to be true is true – God does not change. The Bible is God’s Word and I believe every word of it. I didn’t know how to respond any further to her. If we can’t agree on the foundation of the Bible, there wasn’t anything more I could say that would change her mind. The conversation has left me with feeling a bit perplexed.

Many years ago, my viewpoint was totally different. I was very liberal, just like my friend. But I was living a lifestyle that was against God’s teaching. I wanted my beliefs to line up with my thinking. I was discounting the verses that didn’t line up with my thinking. The Bible cannot be bent to please my ears. After I left that lifestyle and started listening to sound teaching and reading the Bible daily, I began to see how deceived I had been in those early years.

What I find so disconcerting right now is the spiritual battle being waged in the church body today. I think some of the funk that I have been in for the last few months is the darkness that is being revealed in the church body. I feel the oppression like a weight bearing down on my soul. I don’t know everything about spiritual battles, but I know enough to see how the war is being fought hard for the church to survive in America today.

The Scripture tells us Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). Jesus said that the Way to heaven is narrow and few will find it (Matthew 7:13-14). One other Scripture comes to mind, Jesus said that the one who stands firm to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:13). In the verse before this, He said sin will be rampant everywhere. How true it is today – even in the church. But to the ones who stand firm on His teachings will be saved – it’s His promise. The others? The future isn’t that promising.

I turn to Revelation and see the last church mentioned before the end of the church age – the church in Laodicea. The church is lukewarm – neither hot nor cold. The church thought they were rich; but by Jesus’ standards, they were wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked (Revelation 3:18). Jesus said to be earnest and repent. He stands at the door knocking, waiting on us to open the door and let Him in. In the church. In our hearts. When we give Him access, we change, He doesn’t.

The one who is victorious will have the right to sit with Jesus on His throne. Stand firm on God’s Word. Don’t let culture deceive you into thinking that God’s word is outdated. God’s Word stands forever. God does not change and He will not be mocked. I truly believe this. Do you?

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Galatians 6:7-8

“The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8

New Year, Old Message

Since the New Year began ten days ago, I have been listening to many speakers talk about the future. Most spoke about how to stay focused on the goals and plans to have a better year. A few have talked about the prophetic times we are in right now. They are not foretelling when Jesus will return, but they are saying He is coming soon. The term “soon” is a relative term. It could mean today. It could mean ten years from now or one hundred.

For the last two thousand years, Jesus’ people have been waiting on His return for the church – His bride. But the signs of the times are showing His return is very soon. Yes, we have always had certain signs – turmoil in the world. Wars and rumors of wars. Earthquakes in various places. Famines and pestilence. The signs have always been there.

However, this time is different. The intensity is greater on the various attributes of the “labor pains” we are experiencing today. We see more damaging hurricanes than ever before. Earthquakes are in the 7.0 range more frequently than ever before. But the telling sign is Israel. The fig tree – Israel – is blooming. They are prospering in their land. They are relatively peaceful and safe in their land. Yes, they have enemies trying to destroy them. But most citizens of that country live in peace.

The Bible speaks of a time when Jerusalem will be a sore subject to most countries. In Zechariah 12:3, God said He will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all nations. Don’t we see that today? Has there been a time when more strife over Jerusalem than now when nations are moving their embassies to Israel’s capital? I think not. Israel has never had the prosperity as they do today. They have found natural gas and oil in their land in the last ten years. They are leaders in innovation. There has never been a time when other nations want what they have. And nations are foaming at the mouth to get Israel’s resources.

God said He would put a hook in the jaw to bring those northern nations to Israel’s door. Never has there been a time when Russia, Iran and Turkey have been in agreement as they are today. And they are poised on Israel’s northern border. They are just waiting for the time to invade. Russia needs the resources Israel has – gas and oil. Turkey wants the territory for their caliphate. Iran just wants Israel gone. Period. The Palestinians are just a thorn in Israel’s flesh – a distraction from Iran.

God is setting the stage. And there are a few players out-of-place. The US in the Middle East? Maybe we need to be out of the area in order for the play to begin. There might be more things to set in motion in the Middle East before Jesus’ return, but we are closer today than ever before. Everything is coming together just as the prophets from the Old Testament said it would.

Another sign of the times is the church today. False teachers are more common today. The church seeker movement has taken a step away from sound doctrine. Feel good messages are a sign of the times. Itching ears want to hear the good and not the wrath of God. The culture has moved into the church.

“Selfies” are still another example of the times we live in. Delusion is running rampant. Choosing a baby’s gender instead of biology dictating gender? Crazy. Gender is fluid? What? I am sure it has been like this at other points in history. Sodom and Gomorrah come to mind. The time before the flood has been mentioned in the Bible as well. “As it was in the days of Noah so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:37 and Luke 17:26). The door closed on all those outside – only eight were saved.

2019 could be the year when we see Jesus’ return. But I’m not writing about that. This is a time when we should be filled with urgency. If 2019 is the time – and I’m not saying it is – then we should be preaching the Gospel message to all who need to hear. John the Baptist was the voice in the desert to clear the way for the Lord. His message was “repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near.” The religious folks in his day missed the signs of the times. I don’t know what type of signs was for the first coming of Jesus; but whatever they did have, they missed it.

One sign given was the star over Bethlehem. The wise men came from afar to worship the newborn king, but they didn’t know which direction to turn. They went to the leader of the area, Herod, to inquire about the location of the birth. The priests were summoned to give the answer. The wise men took off for Bethlehem without a single priest following them. The religious elite missed the sign. Shepherds heard the angels proclaiming the news and they went to see. But the religious ones were not present.

For followers of Jesus, we need to keep watch and be ready. The priests had thirty years to get ready for Jesus’ ministry and they didn’t. I don’t know how much longer we have, but the bridegroom is on His way – do we have enough “oil” in our lamps? The foolish ones didn’t have enough oil and were left outside the party (parable found in Matthew 25).

The message of John the Baptist needs to be preached again. The way needs to be made clear for the Kingdom of God is near. It begins with me repenting of my sins and being made clean. You too. Now is the time to get ready. Those who have ears let them hear.

“It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” Luke 12:38-40

The Big Picture

When I worked in the corporate world, one of the things that always came up on my review was the fact I couldn’t always see the big picture. I would get bogged down in details. I am a details kind of person so I couldn’t ever make headway on this weakness. However, I am a great helper. If someone else has the big picture, I am great to help meet those big picture goals. As long as someone else can see, I will be the one to go to in order to get it done. That’s the corporate world, however. In the spiritual world, I can see clearly. Well, most of the time.

One of the things I keep asking God is for more wisdom. These days, it’s hard to know who’s telling the truth. You can’t just go to the internet or the local news channel or read the newspaper unless you know the ones who are behind the scenes writing the information. Everybody has a perspective that may not be coming from the True Source. We all need more discernment in this day and age. I am sorry to say it’s not going to get much better. I hope it will – by God’s grace maybe He will allow another graceful period. I pray for it; however, so far I don’t see it coming. God’s hands may have been taken off of us for good and given over to the “depraved” mind foretold in Scripture.

So what’s the big picture here? One of the most important things I see is the attack made on the family in these last few years. Family is important to me. I love my family as you could probably guess from previous postings. Family is also important to God. God instigated the family concept from the very beginning. The concept of family portrays His family. God created a nation out of one man Abraham; He set forth this concept of His family blessing the earth through Abraham’s ultimate offspring, Jesus. Through Jesus we are adopted into His family when we believe Jesus is God’s Son.

The other day, I heard it said this way by Rice Broocks: “Jesus became a man to live the life we should have lived; who died the death we should have died; three days later He rose from the dead proving He is God’s Son.” If we believe this and have turned back to God (repented) and trust Him daily, we are part of His family. Robert Morris said recently “sinners don’t go to hell. Unbelievers go to hell.” We all sin and fall short of God’s standards. It’s the belief in Jesus that allows us into heaven.

Hell was not made for man; it was made for God’s enemy Satan and his demons. However, Satan has been active in making sure he doesn’t go alone. He distorts the truth and makes us doubt God. He turns our attention to the wrong things and makes us desire the wrong way and lies about the consequences. And we believe him instead of the truth found through Jesus – His way is the best way to an abundant life – everything else leads to death.

Most think it’s an exclusive club – however, God made it inclusive – whosoever will believe – anyone can believe. There is no condemnation for our sins – Jesus came to forgive our sins – Satan condemns us. If we will turn away from our sinful life, through Jesus we can live a life devoted to Him. But Satan makes everything else seem better. Why? Satan’s goal is to become like God; he wants to be worshipped and have his own throne. And right now, he is having a field day. One of Satan’s goals is to go after the heart of the family. If the family falls, everything else is easy pickings.

I watched an interview with Pastor Tony Evans’ children – Priscilla Shirer led the interview with her siblings. It was an interesting conversation. They had their issues with sin, but today they are stronger together because of the battles they faced. My own family had our issues too. And today, we are stronger too. Our family unit is solid because of our deep bound with each other and also of the belief we have in Jesus. He is our rock and our fortress. He holds us together.

When families don’t have this anchor, it’s no wonder they are tossed about like a ship on the wildest ocean. They believe Satan’s lies and families are destroyed because of it. Whatever the person is considering today, if it is not found in Jesus; it’s a lie that will have consequences. Killing the family, having an affair; molesting a child; whatever that lie spoken in the dark will have devastating consequences.

Only Jesus will bring forth life – abundant life. He promised it through His death and resurrection. He paid for sin in full by His blood – His sacrifice so that we could live differently. This is the Good News we need today – as Rice Broocks recently said – it’s Good News because it’s True News. We’re getting so used to fake news when we need to be reminded there really is True News we can count on. Jesus is the Big Picture we need today to bring hope to this worn out and weary world. Know your source of Truth.

Those who are motivated by the flesh only pursue what benefits themselves. But those who live by the impulses of the Holy Spirit are motivated to pursue spiritual realities. For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set controlled by the Spirit finds life and peace. Romans 8:5-6 (TPT)

For when you live controlled by the flesh, you are about to die. But if the life of the Spirit puts to death the corrupt ways of the flesh, we then taste his abundant life. Romans 8:13 (TPT)

What is Today?

Have you ever lost track of what day it is? I work three days a week. If the boss calls off one of those days, it gets me off track. When I wake up, my first thought is “am I supposed to get ready for work today?” I have had one of those weeks. I didn’t work on Monday so Wednesday felt like Monday. Then Friday didn’t feel like Friday. This is Saturday, right? If you are retired, you may not be able to answer that question either.

I get a little overwhelmed with all the chaos in the world today. I am weary with all the fighting and hatred that seems to flow through every channel – whether it’s political or not. I get discouraged to think we could never pull through this strife. Maybe we will, but sometimes I don’t ever think we’ll get back on track. I think “Pandora ’s Box” has been opened and it can never be shut again. But then I remember what day it is. Scripture told us this would happen. We are close to the end if not at the very end of the times as we know them. These are the last days and it would be well to remember it.

This week’s reading was the book 1984 by George Orwell. It is a very negative book of a world gone off kilter. I don’t think I have ever read it before. There was a quote read recently which made me pick up the book at the library. It was an interesting vision of the future. Written in the 1940’s during the German campaign to rule the world, the time was dark anyway and the author projected that darkness into word. What’s worse is some of the concepts in his book may be seen in this world we live in today. Sometimes, I would forget this was just pure fiction in 1940’s Europe.

The famous line in the book is “Big Brother is watching you.” Big Brother was the governmental entity of his fictional country Oceania. In his fictional account, there were only three countries – established by the major superpowers – US, Russia and China. All the other countries had been conquered or surrendered to these three powers. And these three were always at war with one another. There was no peace. I am glad it was fiction – but it was a little too real for me and left me feeling this great divide of where we are and where we should be with no hope of crossing the gap.

I know this post seems to be a little down. However, when I picked up my Bible this morning I read a passage which reminded me this is not all there is. Yes, the world has gone crazy. I believe demons have been released for a frontal assault. But this is not the last word, God has it. Things may seem crazy, but God is just putting things into place.

I see this by the way of Israel. Israel is our time clock. All eyes should be on Israel. And God protects His people. He always has and He always will. Look to Israel. They still exist today because of God’s grace and mercy. However, the enemy never gives up either.

Russia, Iran and Turkey are aligning against Israel, just as the Prophets foretold it. The world hates Israel. Why? It’s a tiny country. What have they done to deserve this hatred? They exist. That’s the only reason. Satan has been trying to destroy Israel since God promised Abraham that his nation would bless all others by the way of Jesus.

Jesus was hated by the world system. The world system has continued to hate Israel. This will never change. Jesus said because He was hated, His people would be hated as well. We have seen this in the past, but today it is so more pronounced. Hatred seems to be flowing more freely than ever before. Or maybe we have greater access through many channels.

In George Orwell’s account, they had two minutes of hate speech every week broadcasted throughout the land by the telescreens located everywhere. Two minutes – wouldn’t that be a great relief than the 24 hours we get every day. I know – it’s not that bad – yet. One day, it’s all going to come to a moment of decision which will change the world for good. I don’t know who’s going to make the critical decision, but all I know it’s within God’s timetable and His plans.

Before that point in time, we have an opportunity to remind those around us, “God loves you.” At no other time in history is that message more needed. Today is the first day of the rest of our lives. Let us make the most of this day and be the light in this dark world. Someone needs us today.

Dear Lord, help us to make the most of this time before it’s too late. Give us the blessings of grace and mercy to love those around us for the sake of the Kingdom. Let us be the people who You have chosen for this hour. Grant us the wisdom to discern the time and the opportunities that are before us. Help us to choose to live for You and die to ourselves today. In the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

Lord, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”

But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.

Psalm 3:1-3

Stand Firm

This morning’s Bible passage was from Daniel 3 concerning the three men and their fiery trial. The King had set up a golden image for everyone to worship, but the three Jewish men refused to do so. They knew that worshipping an idol was forbidden by God.

In Deuteronomy, Moses referred to God as a jealous God. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land.

So when the men were given the opportunity to worship the idol, they still refused even though it meant they would be thrown into a blazing furnace. They were convinced that God would rescue them, but even if God didn’t they would still stand firm in their conviction. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Conviction. Do you have that type of conviction? Even if? If everything you know to be true, do you still stand firm? Many people throughout the world have that type of conviction. They stand firm even if their lives are threatened. We are at a big disadvantage in this western world. Hard to believe, right? However, we have many things that distract us from worshiping God. Our conviction may not stand up if we are threatened.

This week, I read the book Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. He was an investigative reporter who decided to investigate the evidence for Jesus. He was an atheist whose wife became a Christian. He wanted to disprove this Christian cult (as he considered Christianity). So for two years or so, he followed the evidence. In the end, the evidence led him to the truth. The evidence was overwhelming that this Jesus did live; He did die; and He did rise again. The evidence was enough to convince Lee that it took “more faith to maintain atheism than to trust in Jesus of Nazareth.”

Many lives have been changed throughout the centuries through this Gospel message. As an investigative journalist, Lee knew how to trace the evidence – he had seen too many trials with evidence stacked up against the defendant that conviction was just a matter of when not if. Evidence can change the whole trial. Testimony too is an important key to conviction. But evidence in the case seals the deal.

After reading Lee’s book, it just gave me a deeper feeling of gratitude for what Jesus had done for me. Jesus did suffer and die for me – and you. It was a gruesome death. It was all the wickedness poured out on Him by every lash He received – tearing skin and muscle and every fiber from his head to his knees. He took that pain and suffering on for every human heart that beats even if those hearts don’t beat for Him. His pain and suffering was enough to cover every sin committed – past, present and future. His sacrifice was enough to cleanse every heart and make every heart whole.

There was a period in my life where I doubted this Christianity thing. I saw the hypocrites in church and wondered how this Christianity was supposed to be true. A man once said to me that he didn’t want to go to heaven if the “Christians” were going to be there. I understood what he said because I had thought those same thoughts somewhere down the line of my faith journey. However, we don’t follow Christians, we follow Jesus. Christians are just a work in progress.

My faith journey didn’t stop with the doubts; it just made me want to know more. My parents and my grandparents were convinced that Jesus was who He said He was. But I couldn’t rely on their faith to help me when times got rough. I had to have my own conviction that this Jesus was the real deal.

We can’t stop at the questions and doubts. God doesn’t want us to quit searching and seeking. Actually, we are told when we search and seek, we will find when we search with our whole heart. God is after our whole heart because He is a jealous God who doesn’t want to share our hearts with any competition. Does that seem too harsh? God so loved us that He sent His Son to die for us. He earned every heart by the strips on His back. It was a pretty harsh way to die. But He did it for our sakes because there is no other way to God but by the blood of Jesus.

Are you convinced about this Jesus? Do you still have doubts? Seek out the evidence. It’s never too late to find Him. And you’re never too broken to be fixed. Jesus is the real deal. I am convinced of it. I hope you are too. When the fiery trials come, let us stand firm on the foundation of Jesus.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud
and mire;
he set my feet
on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song
in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the
Lord
and put their trust
in him. Psalm 40:1-3

The Simple Message

After nine days of traveling about, Billy Graham was finally laid to rest yesterday. From his mountain home to Charlotte to Washington, DC and back, Billy was planted in the ground in Charlotte, NC. Like a seed planted in the ground, my prayer is that the message that was heard yesterday will reap lots of fruit. It was a simple message that was spoken by his son Franklin, which I hope and pray was clearly heard around the world.

You see, there is only one problem in this world today. It’s called sin. Everything wrong in our world today comes from this sin problem. We don’t talk much about sin anymore. But Billy’s message throughout his ministry pointed to the need in this world – a way out of our sin problem. Billy told young pastors and evangelists to keep the message simple – just preach Jesus. There is no other name that came move the masses to recognize their need of a Savior. It’s Jesus and Jesus only.

The trouble today is that we don’t recognize the problem. We see ourselves as “good enough.” We are better than the neighbor across the street – we don’t do “x” so we must be good enough to get to heaven. Our standards are wrong. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans that all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Our standard is God Himself. And it’s impossible for us to meet this standard. There is no “good enough” scale to match Him. There is a huge gap between us and Him.

We have an upside down view running rampant in this world. We have elevated ourselves and lowered God to our level. I was reminded this week through Pastor James MacDonald that God is holy. Not just holy, but holy, holy, holy. His majesty is so great no one who looks upon Him can live. When earth is replaced at the end of time, there will be no sun – God will be our light. We don’t fear Him like the ancients did in their time. They saw the great works and were terrified to be in His presence.

If we look at the passage in Isaiah 6, Isaiah’s response was “woe to me!” He saw God high and lifted up. He recognized his sinful condition and knew he couldn’t see what he saw and live. Peter had a similar reaction when Jesus talked Peter into fishing at the wrong time of the day. This was in the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. No one had caught on to who Jesus was at that point. He seemed to be a brilliant teacher. But on that particular day, everything changed. There was such a large catch that Peter knew Jesus was different. This miracle changed Peter’s perception of Jesus. The response from Peter was found in Luke 5:8 – “Go away from me, Lord: I am a sinful man!”

John had an experience that rivals Isaiah’s. John was on the island of Patmos in exile for preaching about this Jesus. When John heard a voice like a trumpet, he turned to find someone “like a son of man” who was described as one brilliantly glorified. John fell at his feet (Revelation 1:10-17).

We have lost sight of this “other world” quality of our Lord Jesus and God the Father. This holiness that cannot be explained in English but in Hebrew it was emphasized by the triple word. It was that significant. Isaiah and John heard the angels singing about this holiness. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”

Once we change our perception of the holiness of God, we will recognize our own condition; we are all sinners. No one is righteous. The gap widens even further. We are born into this sinful condition. We all have to be taught what’s right from wrong, because our natural tendency is to do wrong. It’s not what feels right to us. That’s the wrong message because we all have different standards. We have to look beyond ourselves, beyond this world to find the truest measure of what’s right. God’s standard is the key to unlock this whole mystery.

We can’t get there from here, so the key to righteousness isn’t found in ourselves but through the testimony of Jesus. God sent Jesus so that we could have this righteousness through Him. Jesus bridged the gap through His death and resurrection. He exchanged our sinful condition and gave us His righteousness when He died in our place. Sins payment is death. We were told in the very beginning when sin entered the world through a bite of the forbidden fruit that death will be the consequence of sin (Genesis 2:17).

We are told by Jesus Himself that He didn’t come to condemn the world (John 3:17) – it was already condemned by sin. He came to save the world. There is no one else; there is no other way (John 14:6). It’s narrow-minded for sure. But the way is for ANYONE to believe and repent of their sin and be saved for eternal life.

It’s just a very simple message. Billy Graham preached it for sixty years. The simple message can still be preached today, but we will have to get a better view of ourselves than the one we carry now. We are sinners. Own it. Repent from it. And be saved by believing in this Jesus who died for you and for me.

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:21-24

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