Salvation

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July 6

Monday, July 6th, 2020

My reading from John MacArthur’s book One Perfect Life covered Jesus’ time on the cross (6 hours). Several events stand out to be:

  • His first words were “Father, forgive them…” Not a complaint or a cry of agony or of unfairness. Words of forgiveness.
  • The soldiers unwittingly fulfilled prophecy by gambling for His robe. Check out Psalm 22:18.
  • The chief priests didn’t like what Pilate wrote on the inscription he put on the cross.  He wrote “This is”; they wanted “He said He was.”  Answer: “What I have written I have written.”  Pilate-1/ Priests-0
  • Two robbers were crucified with Jesus. I’ve always wondered about the one.  Did he originally join in the antagonism? Did he see and hear Jesus and come to his senses? Did Jesus talk to him as He hung there? (Remember John 21:25). Did he know at one time and return? Answers I will will never know until I see the thief or Jesus.
  • The utter agony of Jesus the last 3 hours on the cross seen in His words: Forsaken. Thirsty. Finished (task completed). Giving up (committal to His Father).

All for me. Undeserved.  Not asked for. Unmerited. All for me. And you. Sinners. To the core. Unlovely, yet loved.

“Father, how can I say thanks enough? How can I find the words? They fail me. Accept my heartfelt gratitude for your undeserved love and mercy and grace.”

June 26

Friday, June 26th, 2020

Sometimes I will make the statement to someone- “That’s not a hill I want to die on.” It could be about anything really, but it is especially true when speaking of Bible teaching.  I recently was reading a book by Gavin Ortlund called Finding the Right Hill to Die On. Long story short: it divides into 3 tiers the doctrines we find important. #1 is the essential where there can be no compromise. You must believe them. #2 are those which are important but allow for some differences (mode of baptism for example). #3 are those which really are of no consequence to our salvation (like your view of the 2nd Coming).

A #1 tier would be what I read today in John 14. Verse 6 says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life and no man comes to the Father but by me.” This statement cannot be sloughed off as non-incidental.  Non-essential. Look at that verse again. I am THE way; not A way. I am THE truth; not A truth; I am THE life; not A life. There is no mixing those up.

Our culture would have us believe there are many ways to God; there are many truths to believe; and life can be found in temporal things. W.R.O.N.G!!! Jesus is the only way to God because He is the truth of God (Jn.1:14) and the life of God (Jn.1:4). This verse shows the exclusiveness of Jesus. Let me repeat that: this verse shows the exclusiveness of Jesus. He is not one of many; He is the only One. And even though it may sound narrow, get this wrong and you get it wrong. All cults (JW, Mormons, Bethel included) all mess up here. He is fully God and fully man. He was God in the flesh from birth to death. There is no one like Him. No question. No hesitation. No equivocation. No fudging. No part way.

CHOOSE!

“Father, I choose Jesus. I choose to worship Him as the one and only way, truth and life. That is a hill I will die on.”

June 9

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020

Have you ever noticed (I’m sure you have) how we spend a lot of time, effort, and money pursuing what doesn’t last?

  • That new car/truck. Gotta have it. Until it gets a scratch or a year or two old or shock-of-all-shocks we see a shinier, newer model.
  • That job promotion. Climbing the corporate ladder. It doesn’t matter who we step on. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter if we lose our family in the process. Then loneliness and dissatisfaction set in. Time for another rung.  Or go elsewhere.
  • MVP stats. 24/7 dedication. Gain the status of GOAT (Greatest Of All Time).
  • Tour de France winner. 7 times. Gotta get to the top. It doesn’t matter who we destroy along the way. Whose lives, careers, or livelihood we ruin. What compromises we make along the way morally, ethically, or athletically. It all comes crashing down.

Many spend their lives pursuing that which doesn’t last. Never has. Never will. I read an interesting quote which came from an unexpected source:

From the cradle to the grave man’s greatest objective is to obtain peace of mind and spiritual security. This is found only in Jesus Christ.

Who said it? An evangelist? A pastor? A theologian? A writer of religious books? A Bible translator? Nope. Wrong on all counts.  Are you ready for this?  Mark Twain. I don’t know when he said it; what prompted him to say it; or to whom he said it. But it most definitely is true. Search the world over. Pursue one adventure after another.  Investigate all philosophies. And the answer comes down to one: Jesus Christ. The one and only way to the Father, and the one and only way to complete satisfaction.

“Father, may I find my satisfaction in You. May the song be true: ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus/ Look full in His wonderful face/And the things of earth will grow strangely dim/In the light of His glory and grace.’ ”

June 8

Monday, June 8th, 2020

I wrote this for my Communion Thought/Mediation for this past Sunday (yesterday).  As I laid my head on the pillow last night I was thinking ahead to this morning’s Quiet Time.  This came rumbling back into my mind and when I woke up this morning it was still there. I decided I would share it with you today.

Events of the past week/week and a half have probably both sickened us and angered us. The death of someone should sicken and sadden us. The wanton destruction of lives and property is despicable and should anger us.  What I am about to say is not a political statement as you will see at the end:

Black lives matter.

White lives matter.

Chinese lives matter.

Russian lives matter.

American lives matter.

African lives matter.

Homosexual lives matter.

Straight lives matter.

Unborn babies’ lives matter.

Birth defected babies’ lives matter.

Young lives matter.

Old lives matter.

Rich lives matter.

Poor lives matter.

American lives matter.

Muslim lives matter.

The list is endless. Nowhere in the Scripture does it say anyone’s life doesn’t matter. Nor does it say anyone’s life is worth more than another.

How do I know that?  Romans 3:23 tells me “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  We are all infected with the same disease. It is called SIN. 

As a result…WE ALL NEED A SAVIOR.

And again, how do I know that? Because John 3:16 hasn’t changed. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (ESV)  There is a saying which says, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.”  It does not matter who we are. It does not matter what color, race, nationality, status in life we are. We all have to come to the cross on the same level-sinners in need of a Savior.  No one group of people is singled out as being more important or more deserving of God’s love than any other.  (End of devotion)

We all must recognize our sad, sorry state of the inability to meet God’s standards and realize we are all the same. No life matters more than any other. 

June 4

Thursday, June 4th, 2020

My apologies for not entering a devotion yesterday. We were in Ohio and conditions were not very conducive to meditation, journaling and then typing. For some of the thoughts I had yesterday, check out my post on my other blog here.  Now…for today:

There has always been one parable of Jesus that stuck out to me.  Maybe it was due to the fact that I didn’t understand it very well until someone took the time to explain and illustrate it. Now I relish it. Backstory first.

I grew up in a Christian home. My mother’s desire was to follow Jesus. She married a man who did not have that same desire for the long haul, but she tried to make it happen. My dad went to church but his passion was not hers. But I can remember that from an early age my heart sought God. As I got older, I learned there were those who didn’t think as I did. (Imagine that). But when you are young you just don’t think of eternity. As a pastor I saw people at different stages of their faith journey. And I saw those who rejected it. I used to reject death bed confessions as being legitimate because of my “baptism obsession.” But then I led someone to the Lord who (quite literally) was on his deathbed. He died within hours of his confession.

Enter the parable in Matthew 20:1-16 of the laborers who receive equal wages. One group had worked all day; another part of the day; another part of the day; and another like maybe the last hour or so. When it came time to pay them, they were all paid the same. Of course, those who had worked all day saw a major payday when those who worked only an hour or so were paid what they had agreed to. They were upset that those who worked a small portion of the day received the same as them. It was explained that they had agreed to a certain pay.

When it comes to eternity, whether someone is a “lifer” like me; or a young adult conversion; or a 40 something conversion; or a deathbed confession (like Dan), the reward of eternity in heaven is the same for all. I’m glad God makes no distinction of when. He only says, “Come.”

“Thank you, Father, for ‘equal opportunity.’ Thank you that no matter when a person comes he or she comes knowing you will accept him/her and give eternal life as a gift.”

May 13

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

For the past few weeks I’ve been doing what I call “Drive-bys.” In an effort to be a pastor to the people God has entrusted to my care, and since I can’t go directly to them, nor see them on Sunday morning, I initiated this plan. I drive into a person’s driveway, pray for them,  then text them that they have been the victim of a drive-by. Sometimes they come outside to say hi and sometimes not. If they aren’t home I leave a card. Monday, May 11, I did a drive-by of some of our newer people. The oldest daughter, who just celebrated her 14th birthday on the 3rd, has had Lyme’s for 10 years and so they needed to be extra careful because her body fighting off two wretched diseases was asking too much. Anyway, they all came out to the porch and I sat and visited (appropriately distanced of course). The mom asked me 3 questions while I was there:

  1. “I’ve never heard you speak about eschatology. What is your view?” A: I’m pan-millenial…it’ll all pan out in the end, i.e. I don’t spend a lot of time on it. When Jesus comes; how He comes; no matter the timeline-you better be ready.
  2. “Do you believe in eternal security? It appears you do.” A: Yes. Conversation ensued.
  3. “What is the unpardonable sin?” (Mt.12:31)

Good question. What precluded that was a word or two about suicide, divorce, unfaithfulness, turning one’s back on Jesus, and several other issues prompted by Question #2.

My answer: Rejection of Christ. Judgmental people want to condemn all kinds of people to hell because they do this or do that. But there really is only one sin that is unforgivable. Rejection of Christ. Deny Him here and there is no second chance. Destination sealed. In my Quiet Time this morning I ran across this verse: “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am He you will die in your sins.” (John 8: 2 4). Bingo!  There it is in black and white (or red if you have that). Straight from Jesus’ mouth.

“Father, thank you for showing this truth this morning. I’m not concerned about my salvation, but I am aware others have or continue to reject you. May their hearts be softened to accept You.”

February 28/Weekend

Friday, February 28th, 2020

After finishing the OT I decided some extended time in the NT was needed, specifically in the Gospels.  Late last year I read them leading up to Christmas, but other than sermon prep my NT reading was miniscule.  So I began to scour my library and ran across a book I had received several years ago but never used: One Perfect Life by Pastor John MacArthur.  He takes the story of Jesus and puts it in order while including other Scriptures to help set the context.

Reading #2 takes me back to the Fall of the human race into sin. Genesis 3:1-12 and others.  As I read his compilation of verses and some of his notes, three idea became evident.  (He also put them in bold type in the footnotes).

  • Satan’s lie was “you shall not die.”
  • Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened. That’s not saying they were blind. They suddenly became aware of their sin, guilt, and shame.
  • Shame manifested itself big time in hiding from God. His question “Where are you?” is painful to read.

Take note that sin entered the world, not sins.  So, adultery or murder or cheating or greed didn’t come in with Adam’s sin.  What came in was the spirit of rebellion against God. Mez McConnell-“The Creaking on the Stairs”-p.63

What a great thought!  The sin that came, that revealed itself was rebellion against God.  All else comes from that. And what the Scripture teaches us is that didn’t first sin at the age of 3 or 6 or 10 or whenever.  No.  It reaches us we have that sin nature in us at birth.  Wait, make that in your mother’s womb. (Ps.51:5; 58:3).  Sin is a deadly poison and the only cure is the blood of Jesus.  That is the antidote.

“Father, thank you for the antidote to sin.  I am a rebel against you.  Thank you for your forgiveness of my sin.”

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.”