Salvation

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October 7

Thursday, October 7th, 2021

One of our culture’s big battles these  days is what is called “Deconstruction.” Perhaps it would be more accurate to say it is one of Christian culture’s big battles since the non-believing world could care less about the reality of God and His existence…except maybe to pooh-pooh it.

What is sad is that in both cases is that the denial of God’s power is at stake. The unbeliever denies His existence or involvement in our daily lives. “God? Who’s God?” The one who is deconstructing is also denying the reality of God and His power in his/her daily life.

I read an interesting story recently. Atheistic communism proclaims there is no God. When Leonid Brezhnev died (the Soviet dictator who embodied Marxist unbelief), VP H.W.Bush was our representative. He reported that just before the casket was closed, his widow reached in and made the sign of the cross on his chest. Evidently, she hoped that what her husband had denied was somehow true. Perhaps before he died, she was privy to something no one else was? Who am I to say?

David said it well: “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.” I believe in God the Father, maker of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ His only Son. I believe in His death and bodily resurrection. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the 3rd Person of the Trinity (who is not a force but a Person, hence “the” Holy Spirit). I believe Jesus will return to take us home.

Do you?

“Father, You are I Am. You are the Creator of the ends of earth and there is no one like You. May you be praised and recognized for Who You are.”

August 20

Friday, August 20th, 2021

The reality of life is sometimes a kick in the pants.

As I wrote yesterday about the death of a friend, the truth is that death has perfect odds- 1 out of 1. No one escapes it. Unless you are Enoch or Elijah, death visits us all.

EXCEPT…

Except if Jesus returns before I die. Honest confession here: I  have never been one to spend time worrying about signs, signs of the times, pouring over Revelation and Daniel and trying to figure things out, nor reading books on the Second Coming (SC)  I have just always accepted it at face value. It was going to happen.

How? No clue. Except there will be a shout, the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God.

Where? I understand Jesus will “set down” at Mt. Moriah, the same place where He left. Sorry Islam. You lose.

Why? Because He seen enough. And it is time.

When? NO CLUE. Call me naive but wouldn’t it be better to just be ready for whenever that day may come (or your death) than to worry about when?

The older I get the closer it gets. Death or the SC. Both sound good to me. No regrets with either. Part of me wants to be alive when Jesus comes. To see it. To marvel. To worship. Then again, if I’m already in heaven, I’ll have a front row seat.

“Even so, come Lord Jesus. Perhaps today!!”

August 19

Thursday, August 19th, 2021

I went to a funeral visitation of a friend last night.

A brief bit of background:

I was the pastor of a church in Terre Haute, IN from 1987-2000. During my time there I performed a lot of weddings and funerals. With that amount of time in one place, one is bound to do weddings and funerals that overlap. Moms, dads, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles. This family was one of them. This was a big family and I was trying to calculate how many. I gave up. I was even asked back once, after moving to Spencer, to perform a funeral for the family.

The lady I honored last night was one of the 4 or 5 sisters. She had been divorced for several years when I first met her and she had met a man who captured her. Their marriage was a dream one for her, when one morning about a year after the wedding she woke up to him making a loud noise in the bathroom. Dropping things and just making all kinds of racket. He had suffered a stroke that totally affected his right side. No more speech. No more use of his right arm.  A metal brace on his right leg, knee to ankle. But she stayed with him. I’d visit and although he could not communicate verbally, he talked with his eyes or shook his head. She loved him well. Sometime after I left she had no choice but to put him in a home. She could no longer take care of him.

She died having dementia. I spoke with her daughter as we stood at the casket. I married she and her husband in 2000, and then as he put it: “You hi-tailed it out of town.” Not really, of course. Like me he is a pastor and loves to joke. That sounds like I was John Dillinger-rob a bank and then get out of Dodge. 🙂   Her then 9-ear old daughter is now 30, married with a child of her own. Sheesh! Am I that old?  Well, yes. I have been gone for 21 years this past June.

Her daughter captured it right: “I am sad for me, but not for mom. She’s having a big reunion, a big party in heaven.” That captures my sentiments. Paul wrote, “O death, where is your sting? O death, where is your victory?” The answer? For the follower of Christ the answer is ZERO.

When it comes to Linda, death you lost. When it came to my mom, you lost. When it comes to me, you will lose again.

“Father, thank you for salvation. Thank you for the promise of heaven and eternal life with you.”

August 4

Wednesday, August 4th, 2021

I love the picture of adoption. The Bible speaks in several places about adoption. (Romans 8: 15,23; Gal.4:5; Eph.1:3)

 I have a brother and sister-in-law who adopted Lia from China in 2003. We have one family in the church who adopted 2 girls from China at different times-one a baby and one who was 9 or 10 years old.  That latter young lady just graduated from high school as did my niece!  (They are getting old but not me!)

So many others could tell stories of adoption. Despite what some evil proponents will say, they were not “colonizing” anyone. They wanted the opportunity to either fill their empty arms or to give a chance to someone who would not have had one. Is it colonization when someone born with a severe cleft palate deformity is adopted and given a chance? A new hope? I think not.

The picture of adoption finds its real beauty in the story of God adopting us, taking us from a life of hopelessness and lostness (I know that is not a word), and being made part of a family. A forever family. All the rights and privileges of being a member of a family are ours. Just as the adopted child is given a new home and new last name, so are we in God’s adoption.

While I was not adopted physically, nor did Jo and I adopt a child physically, I appreciate God’s adoption of me. All rights and privileges, inheritance and blessings are mine. I’m glad God loved me and adopted me and made me His child by welcoming into His family.

“Father, thank you seems such an inadequate way to express how I feel. But I want to say ‘Thank You’ for adopting me into Your forever family.”

August 2

Monday, August 2nd, 2021

For the longest time I felt I “just had to read my Bible.” For several years I used a guide that took me though the whole Bible in a year. Three  years in a row. I can’t say it was that exciting or revolutionary.  I mean, I was reading the Bible but at what cost? It is hard for it to be exciting when “obligation” sets in.

That’s why I like the approach I use now. I’ll not belabor the details (unless you ask), but this past week and even now, I’ve been in I John. I’m taking my time.

Early on while reading I John, some Scripture “spoke” to me but I put it aside. Until this morning. I John 1:9 is a verse I hang my hat on. A LOT. But it is 2:1-2 that stuck with me and drew me back.  Here are three thoughts I’d like to highlight:

  • “If anyone sins”– we will. Trust me. Perhaps it is wiser to say it like this: “If anyone sins (and we will).” For further proof we will, look no further than I John 1: 8-10.
  • “Advocate”– Jesus is our Attorney.  He is the One who stands in our place, our defense. He is our Intercessor.
  • “Propitiation”– Jesus is our means of reconciliation. He is our sin-offering. Without Jesus we have nothing. No solution for sin.

It all comes down to Jesus. That’s Who we remember. That’s Who we worship.

“Father, may the memory of what Jesus has done for me make a difference in my life. Thank you for forgiving my sin, being my Attorney, and being willing to give Yourself for me.”

July 30

Friday, July 30th, 2021

I have a friend who always closed his correspondence with “Eyes to the Sky.” I was reminded of that this morning as I read about eternity.

We are all temporary. I know there have been those who said they were going to live a long, long time.  Years ago, when I was reading a very popular, monthly “wellness” magazine/booklet, the founder said he was going to live past 100, maybe forever. He died shortly thereafter. Only superheroes can get away with saying, “I am invincible.” But then again, they are comic book characters-the figment of someone’s imagination- and yes, they can do just about anything! One of those is defy death.

Humans-real life people-not so much. Our end will come. Eternity awaits. I realize the fervor of billboards, commercials, and road signs, but I question the value of them. Our society is cynical with many dead to the claims of Jesus. I saw one the other day: heavenorhell.com. Seriously? Unless I miss it, a “none” or purveyor of another religion will cynically NOT tune in, unless it is to laugh, criticize, or counteract the claim. A local church owns some prime real estate on the road coming into town and road signs have appeared (I think about 10 of them) which say about one or two words. The subject? Eternity.

Like I said, I’m not knocking the fervor or intent. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.”  (NASB2020)  That whole chapter of 2 Peter is about the Lord’s delay and return. He has placed eternity in our hearts.

I long for Jesus to return or to call me home. I’m fine with either. I know where I’m going to spend eternity. Eternity will come for all of us-even the “fitness nut”-who thinks he or she will cheat death or go on forever or live a very long and prosperous life. No one knows. And then, we will face eternity. Where-heaven or hell- will be determined by whether you know Jesus as your Savior.  I’m hoping you do.

“Father, help me to live with my eyes to the sky and beyond. When I go is in Your hands. So is where, but I took care of that many years ago.”

June 23

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2021

Just a few short words this morning that are on my heart. One of the weapons of attack the enemy (Satan) uses against us is our words. More specifically, what we tell ourselves. The battle is tough enough and explosive enough without all the things we tell ourselves. A list but certainly not all of it:

  • “You’re a failure.”
  • “You will never amount to anything.”
  • “Who would want you if they really knew?”
  • “You are a fake, a liar and a hack.”
  • “You are a hypocrite.”

On and on it goes…where it stops nobody knows. The enemy gets inside our head with those ugly words. Worse. He gets in our heart. We start to believe his lies. It is one thing to endure failure, but the worst part of failure is usually the story we tell ourselves.

I don’t know how many times I have to beat that demon who says, “If they really knew Bill about the ‘secret sin’ or ‘secret thought,’ they wouldn’t listen to you. They wouldn’t give you time of day.”

Shame becomes a real problem. This coming Sunday I’m preaching on John 8 and the woman caught in adultery.  A life of shame, now made public with humiliation by some arrogant, self-righteous Pharisees. That shame did not matter to Jesus. That shame was never an issue. It was never seen. The forgiveness Jesus gave her never mentioned her shame. He never said, “Shame on you!”

All He did say to her was, “Where are your accusers? Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

How much more clear can we get? He was telling her that her sin, her shame, her failure did not define her. His grace was bigger than her sin.

Now that! I can live by!!!

“Father, thank you for not seeing my shame and letting me wallow in it. Thank you for Your grace.”

June 2

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2021

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to get resentful? It doesn’t start out that way.

You have a friend/neighbor/acquaintance who has something good happen.

You are happy for them. But then as you maybe see more good stuff happening, you being to sense some resentment.

Why him? Why her? Why not me?

It’s easy to have that happen. It gets particularly bad when that other person is not a Christ-follower. Take a look around. You see a Marxist-someone who is supposedly opposed to capitalism-getting rich off people and spending gobs of money on houses, land, possessions, etc. All while decrying the rich.

Then there is the atheist- vitriolic toward God and His people- being honored for their godlessness and all the while drawing others into their godlessness.

Psalm 53 speaks to that attitude.

First, he says that only a fool says, “There is no God.”

Second, he says they are “corrupt, and their actions are evil.”

Third, they will find out soon enough that all is not right in their world. Verse 5 is rather explicit: “Terror will grip them, terror like they have never known before. God will scatter the bones of your enemies. You will put them to shame, for God has rejected them.” (NLT)

Here on earth. Stand in judgment before God. Either way they lose. My thought is this is “prophetic” speaking of their end. They may seem to have it all here, but in the end, it is worthless chaff. And they will find out that the God they denied existed…does.

Ooooops. Or is that uh-oh?

“Father, help me not to get resentful or jealous of what others have. Ultimately, it is nothing But let me rejoice in You.”

April 5

Monday, April 5th, 2021

Let’s play a game. Let’s call it Speculation.  And since it is the day after Resurrection Sunday, let’s speculate about one of the characters of the “cross story.”

Barabbas.

Funny how no one names their child by that name. “Here is my new son. His name is Barabbas.” That is about infamous as Judas. What happened to Barabbas (B) is pure speculation.

B was the insurrectionist who was about to be executed. He was there for his evil deeds. Could it have been the third cross was actually for him? You know, the one Jesus was crucified on. Could it be he was soon to be brought out of his cell and find himself with the other two (who perhaps were cohorts)? Suddenly he hears his name called but instead of being put to death as a criminal, he is set free.

More speculation: did B follow the crowd through the streets and to the hill? Did he stay and hear the words, “Father, forgive them”? Did he hear his partner in crime ask to be forgiven and remembered and given a place in Paradise? And was he so overwhelmed that he also gave himself to the One who took his place? I don’t know. Pure speculation allows for scenarios we won’t know the answer to until another day.

What is not speculation is that Jesus went to the cross for B; for the network of evil which brought about the whole scenario; the criminals on the crosses; the people at the foot of the cross; the people clamoring for His death; for His mother, Mary; for Peter, James and John; and for me.

No speculation, just facts.

“Father, thank you for the cross. Thank you for the fact that Jesus died. It is not speculation. And it was for me.”

March 17

Wednesday, March 17th, 2021

Focusing on the cross as I have over the past month or so has put me on “high alert.” Then after preaching this past week on the shadow of the cross, I sense a hyper-vigilance. Case in point: today’s Scripture reading from Romans 3.

The Familiar. “No one is righteous, not even one.” (3:10). “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (v.23)

The Refresher. “Yet, God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty of sin. For God presented Christ as the sacrifice for sin.” (24-25a)

The AHA moment. “This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate His righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declared sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.” (25b-26)

It is always good to read the familiar. The go-to verses. It is equally good to read refresher verses- those verses that shore up what you heard or taught but felt good to be reminded of. But those AHA moments! Those are what you live and read and study for. AND LOOK FOR. God took care of the past, the present and the future. He offered His righteousness BECAUSE HE IS FAIR AND JUST, to all who believe. Oh yeah!

Have you had any AHA moments lately? Care to share? How about the one I shared today?

“Father, I thank You that Your Word does not grow old. Your mercies are new every morning. I thank you for the familiar, the refresher and the AHA moment  this morning.”

All Scripture is from the New Living Translation.