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Archive for the tag “Jesus is the Way”

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

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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

Ho Ho Home for Christmas

No matter what stage of life I’m in, I always want to be home for Christmas. I love being there with my family gathered together. This year is extra special since my nephew and his family is back from the far country where they have been for the last few years. I am grateful that God has brought them home again safe and sound. But I am also grateful for the time they have had serving the Lord in what He has called them to do. As we all gather, my nephews and families, my sisters and husbands, my Dad and his wife – it will be as it should be – together again.

Home has changed throughout the years. When my parents and I moved when I was twelve, home moved with us. However, the dynamics changed because my sisters didn’t move with us. Christmas became a moving event. We either went to my sisters or my sisters came to us. Sometimes it was just for a day, sometimes it was for two or three days; every year was a bit different. But when my parents settled back in my hometown after their retirement, it once again felt like it should be. It was home in every sense of the word.

When my Mom died, it felt like everything got off kilter and we lost our center – our anchor. The first year was a tough year. But we managed through it. As the years have passed, I have come to realize Mom wasn’t the center of our family. Mom was a representation – a physical presence – but what lives on is love. Love is the core of who we are as a family. It wraps us up in a warm embrace. It feels like home.

This morning, I read about Jacob’s dream (found in Genesis 28:10-17) about seeing God and the angels that went to and fro from the place where he rested. God gave Jacob a promise that night. God said that Jacob’s descendants would possess the land where he rested. That land was going to be home to millions. But at that time, Jacob had no one. He was alone and running from his brother. God promised Jacob “Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 28:14). That’s a big promise.

Eventually, Jacob did make it back to that place and settled in that land. Eventually, there would be millions who would come from his family line. God fulfilled His promise to Jacob. But the bigger promise of everyone being blessed because of Jacob’s family was much more defined by a person than the family itself. The blessing came centuries after the promise through Jesus Christ. A baby would be born in Bethlehem to a virgin; an announcement from the angel under a starlit sky to shepherds watching over those sacrificial lambs; God had done this thing He promised to do. The blessing was born – the promised fulfilled.

The author who wrote the devotional this morning (Tim Gustafson, Our Daily Bread, December 21, 2017) had this take away from the Jacob’s dream scripture: “Home is not so much a place on a map, as it is a place to belong. God gives us that place.” Jesus is our home. He is the love that surrounds us and gives us that belonging. He is the center of our family and He is the one who draws us close.

Sometimes we can run away from home, but love will always bring us back. If we are truly Jesus’ followers, no matter how far away we run, He will always search for us and receive us back. He wants us to be home with Him forever. He went to great lengths to assure us of His promise that we will always have a place with Him. “Home is where the heart is” but it’s Jesus at the center of that heart that makes it true in every sense.

Jesus gave us another big promise at the end of His life. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3) Just as the promise for Jacob was fulfilled through Jesus, we can trust that what Jesus promised will also be fulfilled by His word. We have a home being prepared for that day and it’s going to be glorious.

During this Christmas season as my family gathers, I recognize that this is just a small representation of what heaven will be like one day. The larger family will gather in a glorious place filled with love. There will be a feast beyond imagination and a celebration of Jesus that we cannot fathom at this time. This is the idea that helps me celebrate with more enthusiasm every year that passes. One day, I will be home for Christmas and the best gift of all will be the eternal blessing with Jesus.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4 (ESV)

Crossing Bridges

A few weeks ago, I realized that my season of preparation was coming to an end. At least, that’s the name I call this time I’ve had off from the “working” world – that daily grind. I have had over six years of preparation for something that has yet to be revealed; well, that’s what I am anticipating. Although, I have taken another part-time job in something that really isn’t my passion or my real desire to work in this field; I know I have to do it to bridge the gap between where I am now and where I am going in the future.

God chooses the fields where we work. We may feel that we have gotten where we are based on our experience or our schooling; however, it’s God who opens the doors to the opportunities we eventually get. There is a reason we all land in a particular place – whether it’s a job or a neighborhood or a city. God has a purpose in it. I have seen this play out much of my working life. I have moved from one job to another, from one city to another, and it has all been by the hand of God. There was always a growing opportunity in that place. This time, I would think no differently. There is a reason I landed in the position I now hold.

Although this part-time job is probably just a bridge to get me from the season of preparation to the expected opportunity on the other side, there’s still a purpose to fulfill where God places me. He knows the fields where He needs workers. This is our training ground for the next field and then for the ultimate field – the promised field of heaven.

When I think of fields, I always come back to the field of Boaz in the Book of Ruth. Ruth started out that day from Bethlehem searching for a field in which to glean so that she and Naomi could eat. She might have just “picked” the field of her husband’s family farm, but God’s hand was at work in it. Maybe it was the first field she came to or maybe she saw something different about the field and stopped. Who knows how she chose it, but read how it all turned out. Ruth gleaned, Boaz saw her; they became engaged and married; they had a son, Obed, who had a son, Jesse, who had a son, David who would become a great King of the nation of Israel. Coincidence? I think not.

There was a purpose and a plan that God had in place from the beginning of time. Why would He work differently in our lives? I don’t think He does. We may not always have such a great story of meeting a guy and falling in love and then producing a King, but there is something significant in our stories that we just don’t realize here on earth. I think we’ll see it on the other side of this earthly experience.

This earthly experience is our preparation for something greater. And there is a bridge that God has placed for us to cross to the other side – it gets us from this earthly experience to our heavenly home and His name is Jesus. Jesus is our bridge of hope, of redemption, of reconciliation between us and God. He takes us from this earthly life to a spiritual life when we believe He did the work on the cross – taking on our sins and giving us His righteousness. We cannot cross over by ourselves. We don’t have what it takes, but Jesus does.

God saw the problem of sin from the very beginning of time and knew when Jesus needed to come on the scene. God saw it all from the beginning. He knew exactly when to place each of us here in our earthly experience. There is a reason and a purpose for us – God saw the need from the beginning, and the person to fulfill that need. It’s you. It’s me. We may not see it right now, but it’s how God works.

The Bible is proof beyond doubt. We might think of the ones mentioned in the Bible as “greater” people, but they were not. They were just average people living average lives until God intervened. Then greater things happened because of their willingness to step into their purpose. They could have all said no – Moses tried to, Gideon didn’t want to, Mary accepted it without doubt. They each said yes. No matter where we are, God can use us in His plans if we would just say yes to the opportunities when God places them in front of us.

The key is to know when the opportunity is from God; but even if it’s not, God can still use the opportunity and create some good out of it. God promised us that it would be so – read Romans 8:28. There’s still a plan even in this current madness. God is still looking for people to say yes and step into the greater life. The season of preparation is equipping us for what’s to come. Are you ready to say yes when the opportunity comes? Cross the bridge. What waits on the other side is worth it. Jesus did it for us. He thought we were worth it too. Stay focused on Jesus and let Him guide you every step of the way. Just say yes and watch what He can do through you!

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)

Finding My MoJo

Time seems to have sped up. Do you feel it? Things are just moving at breakneck speed. I just had another birthday this past weekend, and it’s made me realize how fast time really is fleeing. We all have this great commodity called time. We get to choose how we spend it. We all have the same amount in a day. We just don’t know how many days we have. As a general rule, I don’t like to waste my time. But I do feel like I waste it at times when I just don’t feel productive. The enemy wants to steal our time. He distracts us from being productive.

One of my favorite things to do is play golf. Some would say that is just a waste of time with nothing gained by it. But I do believe it’s a great way to please God through the relationships that we foster as we play. Through the years, my Dad has been my playing partner. We used to play quite often. It was a great way to bond with my Dad. Nowadays, it’s only three or four times a year. Dad quit playing about three or four years ago; it just got to be too hard on him (he is turning 90 this year!). It makes me a little sad that I can no longer play with my Dad. We can’t go back to the way things were; we have to accept the way things are now and enjoy the time we have together.

Relationships bond over great difficulties, and on a golf course there are many. Most players dread the “water holes” where we all have to make it across a water obstacle. Usually, I have no trouble getting over water. I pick a club that will get me to the other side. This past Saturday, I lost a ball to the dreaded water hazard. I had been playing with that ball for a couple of rounds so I was a little sad that I lost it (and it cost me a penalty stroke, which is not good!). The brand stamped on it was MoJo (by Nike). It’s a fun name, isn’t it? My thought when the ball hit the water was “I want my MoJo back!” A funny thing happened on the next hole; I found another ball with MoJo stamped on it. I did get my MoJo back!

Golf may seem to be a waste of time to some, but to me this is how I enjoy my life. God gave me golfing skills and an enjoyment for the game. I believe He’s enjoying me as I play. I think it pleases Him when we use what He’s given us. Just like my Dad who watched me play over the years and bragged to his friends about my abilities (he taught me how to play), I think God gets a kick out of us doing the things we enjoy. And I get a kick out of seeing miracles on the golf course! God does stay right alongside us!

I had a hole in one a few years back. That day was a beautiful with a slight breeze behind my back. When I hit that ball, I knew it was something special. It felt different from all the other times. That was a miracle that can only be attributed to God. The week before I had done something that God had asked of me, and I believe God blessed me with this special moment because of my obedience. God impressed upon me to go visit a friend who was on her death-bed. I didn’t know why I needed to go, but I did what I believed God wanted me to do. It was scary because I had never done anything like that before. How do you say goodbye to a friend like that? See you soon?

About a year later, I had another occasion to say goodbye to someone else. This time it was my Mom. This time, it was much more difficult. It has taken me years to get to a better place. Celebrating my birthday without my Mom still hurts a little. Since my Mom’s death, my life hasn’t been the same. I lost something with her death. I think I lost my MoJo. MoJo is described as a magic charm. I think of it as our vital force, something within us that motivates us to do better things. We all have to find a new normal after someone’s death. Time moves on and so do we.

Our passed loved ones would not want us living in the past with the way things were. They would want us to have a wonderful life doing the things we love and enjoying every minute we are given. Time is precious and we should be using it wisely. We will never know when God will call us home. This is our time to get ready, to be fruitful and enjoy what God has given us to enjoy. It’s time to find our MoJo and do better things. This is better than finding a golf ball. This is finding our stride on God’s path. He has promised to give us an abundant life. It’s time we all find our MoJo and live life to the full!

A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. John 10:10 (MSG)

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