Salvation

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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.

March 4

Thursday, March 4th, 2021

Several years ago-around 2006/2007-I read a book which changed my perspective on people. More specifically, on how I saw people and reached out to them.

In retrospect, I have always “prided” myself in accepting people as they were. You know, like the old song says, “Just as I am without one plea…” My thinking was if God could accept me as I am/was then surely I could do the same. And I thought I did. But I was stopped in my tracks and forced to reevaluate my ways and actions.

The book was NO Perfect People Allowed by John Burke, a pastor of a church in Austin, TX. And while I now realize some of it was the attractional church message, some of it was on the money. People can’t be expected to change before accepting the Gospel message.

Jesus never did that. He didn’t tell the woman at the well to get her act together, leave her current live in, before He would talk with her and give her hope. He didn’t tell the woman caught in adultery to “Repent sinner!” before He came to her defense and then sent her away a free and forgiven woman. He went to Zacchaeus’ house to eat without demanding a life change. That came after his encounter with Jesus. The same goes for all He came in contact with (except maybe the arrogant, self-righteous Pharisees).

No, when Jesus exhibited “Come as you are” it was genuine and sincere. Can I do any less? Do I expect people to change first or do I accept and let God change them? The latter is preferable.

“Father, You accepted me as I was and am. Can I do any less? Please teach me and help me to do as You have done for me and countless others.”

March 3

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021

I never tire of hearing stories of how people were saved. I love sitting and listening or reading as someone tells their salvation story.

I was reminded of that today as I read Acts 8 & 9. I was also reminded how different each person’s story is. Oh sure, you will hear those whose testimony isn’t much different from countless others. “I was raised in a Christian home and accepted Jesus as my Savior at a fairly young age.” Now the story may vary somewhat from there but there is a commonality in them.

Nor is it unusual to hear the “prodigal son” story come out of someone’s mouth. Or the druggie/junkie/addict story. The stories are endless but I, for one, never tire of hearing them and rejoicing in the goodness and grace of God.

Case in point: Acts 8 & 9. Philip heads to Samaria and the power of the Gospel was so strong people came to Jesus, even Simon the Sorcerer (or so we are led to believe early on). But Peter seems to expose Simon’s real motives. Then Philip is whisked away to meet with the Ethiopian eunuch, who has his own conversion story. Then Saul/Paul in Acts 9. Talk about marvelous and powerful and (admittedly) somewhat surprising given the task Saul was performing.

But here is my point: each story is different. The one who comes to Christ at a young age and follows Him has just as valid a testimony as the eunuch or Saul/Paul. No testimony of God’s work and saving power is invalid or any less important. What IS important is the salvation which occurs and the testimony which follows.

Got something to say about God’s goodness? About His salvation? Say it!

“Father, all salvation experiences are important to you. None more than any other.  May Your saving grace ring out from all lips and testify of your grace and salvation!”

March 2

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021

When I was just starting out in my faith journey, I was pretty impressionable and was often told I needed to tell someone else about Jesus. You know…the whole share-your-faith thing. I understood that. Someone cared enough about me to tell me about Jesus, I ought to care enough about someone to tell them about Jesus.  But I got to feeling like I was head-hunting at times. You know, get as many as you can as quickly as you can.

But I soon realized that I was devaluing people. I kept getting this ugly feeling that something wasn’t right. Then someone finally put it into words. I’m not sure if I heard or read it: “People don’t want to feel like notches on a belt.” My words: People don’t want to feel like scalps hung on a line. “Yep, another one. And another. And…”

People don’t want to feel like scalps or notches on a belt; they want to feel important. Like they matter. To approach someone for the sole purpose of getting the gospel to them doesn’t take into count that they are humans with feelings.

It goes back to motives. Take a look at Jesus. When He healed someone or fed someone, that’s what He was doing-healing and feeding.  He wasn’t conniving. He wasn’t saying, “If I do this or that they will do this.”  He knew they needed Him but He met their need. He loved them with no strings attached.

Long story short: Let’s love people for who they are. Let’s not see them as notches or scalps or ever as projects to be reclaimed, lives to be flipped. Let’s share Jesus with people simply for the sake of loving people and introducing them to our best Friend.

“Father, when I meet people today, when I see them and strike up a conversation with them, help me to see them as Jesus did.”

February 12

Friday, February 12th, 2021

It’s never too early. They say that, for example, when teaching a child. In fact, the experts tell mom to sing to their baby in the womb. Like I said, it’s never too early. It’s never too early to potty train!! 🙂 What parent, tired of changing wet or smelly, poopy diapers hasn’t wished their child was already potty-trained?  Can you say 6 months?  I joke, of course, but you get the point.

It’s never too early to talk about the cross. I’ve been reading a book called Journey to the Cross by Paul David Tripp. It is designed as a 40-day Lenten devotional.  I know. I know. Lent doesn’t actually start until February 17th but I started reading early to help me in my preparation for a 4 week sermon series on the cross and resurrection. I’m going to include-in its entirety-a paragraph from the book. It is THAT good!

“The cross is a powerful interruption to our ‘easy way out’ thinking. It catches us up short. It confronts our vain wishes. The horrible suffering and death of the perfect Messiah, Jesus, on a criminal’s cross, outside the city on a hill of death, tells us in no uncertain terms that when it comes to humanity’s deepest and inescapable problem, there is no easy way out. None. The cross calls us to quit hoping in , to stop searching for, and to give up on our belief in our ability to manufacture or stumble upon a cure. Sin brought death into the world. Sin separated us from our Creator. Sin turned us all into rebels and fools. Sin’s pathway is destruction, and its endpoint is death. There are no escape routes. We can’t buy our way out. We can’t earn a better destiny. There is nothing we can do. We are being propelled blindly down a roadway of death. We may smile and celebrate and accumulate, but left to ourselves we have no hope. Apart from some miraculous intervention, we are doomed. There is and never has been any easy way out of this terminal disease, the one that infects us all: sin. The cross screams to us, ‘Stop looking elsewhere. This is the only way!’ ” (Journey to the Cross-Day 10-p.62)

It’s never too early to be reminded of the power of the cross over our utter inability to save ourselves. Agree? Allow these words by Tripp to soak in.

“Father, thank You for the power of the cross over my lost state and my inability to solve that sin problem.”