Salvation

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March 31

Thursday, March 31st, 2022

In my March 22nd devotion, I spoke about reading a fiction book, Wisdom Hunter, by Randall Arthur… again. I know I can’t count how many times I have read it. My first read of the book was around 1994. My second in 1995 was a game-changer. At the end of that devotion on the 22nd, I said the next couple of devotions would include thoughts from the book which touched me. I’m now full circle. The past 6 devotions have been just that. I took an idea and ran with it.

Today’s devotion-and several which will follow-will directly quote a sentence or thought from the book and then I’m going to run with it.

#1- Evangelism should have as many different approaches as there are people. (p.249)

One size fits all! NOT. Do you remember the 4 Spiritual  Laws booklet made famous by Campus Crusade for Christ (now called CRU)? While it gave people a way to approach someone about accepting Jesus (and that was a good thing), it also led to the thinking that one-size-fits-all. It goes without saying that not everyone is on the same page or the same station in life.  Not everyone is at that “Do you want to accept Jesus” moment.

This statement from the book implies that we need to reach people where they are. Without sounding heretical (and a bit purpose-driven), it is important to reach people where they are. You don’t “dumb down” the gospel to a scholar and intelligent person, nor do you present the gospel too high falootin’  to a simple farmer. You share the gospel with a rebellious teenager a tad differently than a medical doctor. See what I mean? The message of Jesus never changes, i.e. we are all sinners; we all need a Savior; Jesus died to save us; salvation is the goal and eternal life is the reward.

But the way it is taught is different. People are different. People’s hearts are different. Where they are in life is different. Reach them where they are. Present the message and then let God do His work.

But we gotta at least present the message so they can understand it.

“Father, I’m different. People are different. But we all have in common a sinful heart. Help me to be open to others so I can share Your message.”

 

January 31

Monday, January 31st, 2022

For my communion thought yesterday I shared the following:

Paul David Tripp in his book, New Morning Mercies, wrote this: “Face it, your most brilliant act of righteousness wouldn’t measure up to God’s standards; that’s why you’ve been give the grace of Jesus.” (January 30)

He goes on to write;

The more you understand the magnitude of God’s grace, the more accurate will be your view of the depth of your unrighteousness; and the more you understand the depth of your unrighteousness, the more you will appreciate the magnitude of God’s grace.

To understand God’s grace we need to understand sin. Sin in a condition of the heart which affects us all. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” It might be easy for us to deflect attention from our sin by placing more blame on someone else’s sin, but that doesn’t work with God.

God didn’t leave us in this sorry, helpless, and hopeless state. He sent His Son to do what we could not do. We can stand before a holy God-perfect in every way- broken, imperfect, weak and frail and be unafraid because Jesus stands in our place and says, “He’s mine.” (Or she’s mine). When God looks at us He sees Jesus and sees perfection, Christ’s perfection.  What is really cool is that Romans 6 says, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid.” God’s grace is always greater than my sin. That is not a license to sin, but it does give thought to the greatness of His grace.

Can there be any better news than that?

“Father, thank You for the sacrifice of Jesus. Thank you for His willingness to stand in my place. And than You for the magnitude of Your grace.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

 

January 18

Tuesday, January 18th, 2022

A couple of nights ago Jo was watching TV and as I was walking through I stopped to watch. It was an episode I had seen before on NCIS about the death of a homeless vet. It was at the end of the show when Gibbs was scrolling through his computer looking at vets who died homeless.  Director Vance walked in and said, “There but for the grace of God.”  Gibbs said, “Yep.”

That is a very familiar saying (“There but for the grace of God go I”). It is also a saying which can be said with no religious connotation at all. It is simple an acknowledgment of gratitude and recognition that another person’s fate is not our own.

But for the Christ-follower that phrase takes on a much deeper meaning. Think about it: all we are/ all we are not; all we have/all we have not, comes down to grace. Consider these words: “All of us, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the wrongdoing of us all to fall on Him.” (Is.53:6- NASB2020)) Other translations conclude that verse with “and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity (sin) of us all.”

We were not left alone, lost, or hopeless in despair. Not with Jesus! Isaiah tells us that Jesus chose to identify with us and become our substitute all. because. of. grace.

I would be lost. I would be lonely. I would be hopeless. I would be aimless. “There but for the grace go I.”

“Father, thank You for Your unlimited grace. Thank You for rescuing my sorry and lost soul and raising me to new life.”

December 22

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2021

Christmas around the Grandi household was magical. It had its challenges (traditions and money) but mom and dad made the best of it. We never had an empty tree. I found out later that sacrifices were made for us to enjoy Christmas. Lights went up early in the windows but the tree not until we went to bed Christmas Eve. That was largely due to the fact that we didn’t get the tree until Christmas Eve day because they were so much cheaper to buy. But Christmas morning was magical. We went to bed with nothing and woke up to the whole living room being transformed-tree, lights, trains, gifts. I can still see pictures of me on the steps with my two, then three brothers, as we stared at what was before us.

I wish I could say I didn’t cheat but I can’t. We hunted for the gifts and usually found them but, and this is a big but, I never knew ahead of time what I got. We went against my parent’s wishes by searching out the gifts, but I never opened a gift; never looked at one; never shook one; or never cut the paper only to tape it back together. I think as I look back I would say because I didn’t want to ruin the surprise.

I like surprises. I guess in some way that is why I like to think about grace. I am surprised that God’s love is so evident in His grace. Grace can radically change a life; it is always there. We don’t have to go hunting for it or sneak around looking for it. We don’t have to wait for one special moment and say, “OK God. I open grace.” Grace is always there. God’s grace may be a surprise to us, but not to God. His grace has always been there, always extended, always for the taking. Christmas is about grace. God’s grace. John 3:16 tells us that.

“Father, may grace be my song this Christmas. But not just for Christmas but for every day, all day.”

November 30

Tuesday, November 30th, 2021

Romans 10 has always been one of my favorite chapters to read. It is an informative one, but also a challenging and convicting one.

Paul begins by saying his heart’s desire is for his kindred Jews to know Christ (v.1). In fact, I think you can include chapter 9 with that. In 9:1-5 Paul even says that he would be willing to be accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of his countrymen (v.3).

But while he is willing to sacrifice himself for others, and even though his heart’s desire is for their salvation, he knows they must hear and respond. Each person must hear and respond on their own (10:10,13).

I like how he lays out the progression in verses 14-15:

  • How will they call on Him on whom they have not believed?
  • How can they believe if they have not heard?
  • How can they hear without a preacher?
  • How can they preach unless they are sent?

And then his ending: “Faith come by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” (v.17). Faith/salvation does not happen in a vacuum. That speaks volumes as to why it is so important to get the message to others.

“Father, may I be used to get the message of Jesus to others so they can come to faith in You.”

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.”