Salvation

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January 16

Thursday, January 16th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Forgotten vs Adopted.

I was reading today about adoption. What a beautiful thing! I know of several folks who have adopted-both here and in foreign countries.

  • My brother and his wife who adopted a baby girl from China (Lea) over 16 years ago.
  • A couple from the church who had just adopted a baby from China when I moved here in 2005 (Annalei- whom you may read about someday as an Olympic diver), and another in 2010 (Meilynn was about 7 or 8 and was a phenomenal gymnast now cheerleader with one of the prettiest smiles you will ever see).
  • Another couple adopted Lucy as a baby with severe clef palate damage. She is now in high school.
  • A former blogger, Jason, and his wife adopted a young man from Japan.
  • Zee (a blogger friend from Ukraine) and her husband, Sam, who have adopted Zhora (George) and Zhenya (Jenny), who sure look ornery but also a ton of fun in their picture. They are about 6 & 5.
  • Others who have adopted children in the states and those who want to. (The system is broken).

I cannot even begin to tell you how much I respect those people. Adopting someone not only means that couple taking a step forward, it also means giving a child a new life, a life they would have never known. Bought out of less than desirable circumstances and brought into a situation that says, “Family. You are wanted. You are loved.”

Can there be a much better picture of our welcome into God’s family? Our existence screamed, “Lost! No home! No love!” Ephesians 2 uses two words “But God” to show the line of demarcation from what once was to what it became and is now.  We are saved from and shown to. We are saved from a life of lostness and given a life to meaning, hope and purpose.

Then I read more this morning. It also says we are given a “spirit of adoption.” I was reading in Ezekiel and 36:26-27 says,

And I will give you a new heart, a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Can there be any better description of adoption? A new family. A new heart. A new spirit. All the rights and privileges of a natural member of the family.

“Thank you, Father, for adopting me into Your family. For rescuing me from no life to a life that is far more than I dreamed. Thank you for my new heart and my new life.”

December 23

Monday, December 23rd, 2019

As it gets closer to Christmas my workload also amps due to the church serving breakfast on Christmas morning and also handing out at least 30 bags of groceries which will all be put together today. (There are actually 60 since not all the food will fit into one bag). So I am going to “cheat” again by using my #ChristmasChallenge devotion here.

My title for this devotion is Manger vs Cross.

I read the following quote:

The birth of Christ brought God to us;

The cross of Christ  brings us to God.

Growing up you really only think of Christmas-besides the whole Santa Claus and gift thing-as the occasion to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We like the story of the baby in the manger. It fits our “meek and mild” picture of Jesus. It fits our Away in a Manger and Silent Night theme.

But as C.S.Lewis says in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (which I just finished reading again), “There is deeper magic here.” What is seen on the surface is just that: the surface. There is so much more to see and learn. There is so much more at work than just the birth; there is also the vision of the cross. Without doubt Jesus came with the specter of the cross in His sights. Phil.2 even tells us that. Jesus reminded His disciples over and over that the Son of Man must suffer and die.  The cross of Christ is always there. It is through the cross, and the cross only, that we find our way to God. It is only through the blood of Jesus that salvation is found.

But it is through the birth of Jesus as a baby, as God made flesh, that it all begins.  The quote again:

The birth of Christ brought God to us;

The cross of Christ brings us to God.

“Father, thank you for that truth. May this Christmas season take on extra meaning because it is more than a baby in a manger. It is also that baby on a cross giving Himself up for us.”

November 5

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019

My title for this devotion is What Was vs What Is.

It is inescapable. In reality, it has been since before Halloween. What is that? Christmas is coming. Surely you’ve noticed the displays in the stores. Pretty soon we’ll see Uncle Sam in a sleigh pulled by 8 tiny rabbits. Sort of ridiculous if you ask me. (But no one has). Christmas decorations, trees, etc out before October is even over. It is definitely a reminder of our consumeristic society.

But it should also serve as a reminder of a greater truth: What was and what is.

The Christmas story is a story of what was vs what is. The story doesn’t start in a stable in Bethlehem. It actually starts in the Garden. Having known only the beauty of sweet fellowship with Adam and Eve, God came to the Garden wanting to meet with them as He always did. For the first time, Adam and Eve are hiding. The effects of sin-their sin- has already manifested itself. What was will never be again. What was sweet, pure and lovely will now forever be tainted with ugliness, mistrust, and a penchant for hiding from God. That bond what once was is forever broken. No longer do Adam and Eve long for and look forward to walking with God in the cool of the day. Now they hide. I hide. Sin has done its dirty work and has forever put a gap between me and God.

But that’s also why I celebrate Christmas. God has bridged that gap between us by His Son’s birth, death and resurrection. Praise God what was is not and does not last. Christmas is the celebration of God’s desire to have fellowship with me. With you. A tragedy is turned into a triumph. A forever broken relationship is mended by a Man- God’s Son. Born in a manger.

“Father, what was- perfect peace- will never be again. But what can be is a life with You. Thank you for Jesus- His birth, His death, and His resurrection.”

November 1

Friday, November 1st, 2019

My title is Good News vs Bad News.

Christmas (X from here on out) is a time of celebration. It is a time of revelry and joy. It is not a time when people talk about bad news.

I’m reading Paul David Tripp’s X devotion book Come Let Us Adore Him during my morning Quiet Time. I should say rereading it…for the 5th time. I first read it in October,November & December of 2017. Then I read it in December of 2018. I’m reading it now in preparation for X but also for my sermon preparation for that wonderful season of the year. Today’s devotion-#5-was about the Good news and Bad news of X. This chapter is chock full of stuff but two statements stood out to me.

“The incarnation of Jesus Christ pointedly preaches our inescapable need for radical, personal, and moral rescue and forgiveness.” (p.30)

“The reason the birth of Jesus is such gloriously wonderful news is that in His birth God offers you and me the solution to the fundamental brokenness of sin that is the core tragedy of every one of our lives. So confessing our brokenness is the only way we will ever fully understand and celebrate the birth of the Messiah.” (p.31)

Bad news= sin, brokenness, messed up, hopeless, need for rescue.

Good news= Jesus humbled Himself to get rid of the bad news which made up our lives so it could be replaced with good news.

“Father, not much more needs to be said at this point except thank you. Thank you for the Good News!”

September 25

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Running From vs Running To.

Sometime in the early ’90s we got a dog.  Samson, as I named him, was a drop off. A friend of a friend showed him to the friend who then showed him to my girls and that was all she wrote. But it was soon apparent Samson was my dog. He was part Malamute/part Shepherd and he was squirmy.  He was too big for Janna; Tami dropped him on his head when he squirmed out of her arms; and Jo couldn’t control him. I could. I walked him. Fed him. Played with him.  He knew my car sound as I turned the corner into our cul-de-sac.

We had a side yard with a fence. Only once did Samson get out. We were shingling the roof when someone left the gate open. I saw him take off and foolishly got off the roof to chase after him. Instead of running to me, he ran away. He was only a couple of months old and I was fearful for him. But I should have let him come back to me. My frustration level got greater the longer I went after him. I finally turned around and went back home.  He soon returned.

How much like Samson the human race is. We have safety, security, and all we need at home. But something bites us and we want to check out “the other side.” So we get out of our safety net and roam. Pursue. Chase a rabbit trail of unfulfillment.  God pursues us bidding us to come to Him. To come home. Ultimately, the decision is ours as to whether to continue pursuing the empty life or run to the One who gives life.

Samson came home eventually. I gave him a few swats across the flank then hugged him. He never ran again. We can run from God to a life filled with danger and missteps or run to Him where He may discipline us but then hugs us with arms of love. Run from Him to a life filled with hurt or run to Him and a life filled with love. Which will it be?

“Father, Peter once said, ‘Where else can we go? You have the words of eternal life.’ Help me to always remember that. Help me not to pursue the empty life but to pursue your life.”

July 29

Monday, July 29th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Do vs Done.

One of the hardest things-I think-for many to grasp is the relative “ease” to obtain salvation. There is in many of us this feeling like salvation can’t be that easy; there has to be something I must do. So we get into this whole works and earning my way into salvation. We find ourselves in a game we play of “If I do this, this and this then I will be more acceptable to God.”

But that kind of striving takes away the sheer joy of unearned salvation. It’s like at Christmas time. Let’s suppose you as a parent or grandparent give your child/grandchild a present but say, “Now, you can have this for the price of $20 or (name your price) or even $1! No matter how you look at it, that is not a gift. A gift is not something that has to be paid for-no matter how much or how little.

I’ve heard it put this way:

Salvation is not a matter of what you do; it is a matter of what has been done.

Our salvation is not dependent on what we have or can do.  Our salvation is dependent on what Christ has done. The Bible is clear: “By grace you have been saved through faith. It is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone can boast.” [Eph.2:8-9] I like that last phrase. Actually, the whole thing but that last phrase tells me two things: 1) I have no reason to boast about my goodness; and 2) neither does anyone else. My good works; their good works; will not endear me or them to God. I have nothing to brag about.

“Father, thank you for changing the word from ‘do’ to ‘don’t.’ Thank you that my salvation, or anyone’s for that matter, does not rely on how good I am. I have no reason to boast. I’m a sinner saved by your amazing grace.”

April 18

Thursday, April 18th, 2019

My title is God’s Sovereign Plan vs Coincidence.

It’s not unusual to hear someone says, “I was lucky” or “Just happened to.” I cringe when I hear those words because I don’t believe in either one of those. There might be games of chance that’s true, but not in life. I don’t believe things which happen are “luck” or “chance” or “coincidence.”

Case in point: My Scripture reading the last two days. The book of Ruth. What a fascinating story! I’d encourage you to sit down and read it today. Slowly. Glean (pun intended) the truths from it. It can be read in one sitting; I chose to do it in two. It is full of love, commitment, jockeying, and deep spiritual truth. The way Boaz treated Ruth. The way he didn’t back down from being her kinsmen-redeemer. His “jockeying” and negotiation for her. His care for Ruth and Naomi. But here’s the coup de grat: “They named him Obed.  He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.” (4:17)

A son born to Boaz and Ruth (the Moabitess)! Check out Matthew 1-the lineage of Jesus. I love seeing a plan like this. It was not luck that brought them together; it was God’s sovereign plan. An interesting commentary follows verse 17. “Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron…Salmon fathered Boaz…(and you know the rest).” Even the illicit conception of Perez (Judah and Tamar, his daughter-in-law) was not a “chance” encounter. No. God’s sovereign plan was at work. I’m not smart enough to understand all of the theology surrounding God’s sovereign plan, but I am “smart” enough to know God is in control and I must trust that that truth. Ruth is a rich book. I love the whole story, especially the kinsmen-Redeemer one.

“Father, it’s not luck. It’s not chance. It’s not coincidence. It’s your plan. Thank you for this story of Ruth and Boaz in all its angles. Thank you for the beautiful story of redemption contained here. What a beautiful picture of God’s perfect plan of redemption through Jesus. Stepping in and saying, ‘I’m buying Him (me). He’s mine. The price is my life.’  How can I call that anything but love? Anything but ultimate sacrifice? Anything but the ultimate price? This Easter season I pray for that truth to deeply impact me.”