Sunday, August 19, 2018

Choosing His Road to Love and Life

There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

Prov. 14: 12



I hate the feeling of anger rising up inside me. Hate it, hate it, don't know what to do with it most of the time. How about you?

Tonight that opportunity presented itself to me, and in my own estimation it seemed "right" to me to be angry with someone who hurt my feelings. In a moment of haste, I put on my tennis shoes and since it was a nice evening, hoped to work off my angry feelings while I took a brisk walk.

Somewhat like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, my blessed Lord somehow spoke to my spirit, reasoning with a poor fool like me as I walked along...

(Come, let us reason together, saith the LORD...) Isaiah 1:18

I really didn't want to feel anger the whole time I walked and so I tried to think of the Lord and His goodness, how He bore my sins on the cross and also the sins of the one who hurt me. Then I realized if I did that I couldn't stay mad at the same time. Still the temptation of retaliate was there and I didn't know quite what to do with it. For a minute or two I actually believed that giving in to the anger would be more satisfying than obeying God.

In my heart I cried, "Lord, You said I was dead to sin, but it sure doesn't feel like it,"  In the smallest way, however, I took a tiny step of faith and believed what God said He'd done to that old person that wanted to retaliate and get even. Some wonderful truths from Romans came to mind.

"What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?" Rom. 6:1-2

From this teaching I remembered that: "There is NO advantage to sin." I can sin but there is no advantage to it. Ever.  Screaming, getting the last word in, "venting": all they really do is lead to carnal death. If I'm a believer, it will only bring a huge harvest of corruption. It will never bring peace or satisfaction.

"We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. " Rom. 6:6

In my flesh, when I've been hurt I want the offending party to know they've hurt  me and not just bear it silently. I think I might explode inside if I don't let them know how they've hurt me.  How "right" that seems! Someone hurts you, you hurt them back. All this talk about being dead to sin seems ridiculous in the heat of the moment...

But then another verse came in,  Romans 8:35, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"  I concluded that God's love for me is greater than all the hurts ever done to me. 

Suddenly, it was OK. God loves me, and will never stop loving me. This might not seem like such a big revelation, but it freed me tonight from sin's tyranny.


Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ... II Cor. 2:14a




Monday, July 23, 2018

Faith Plus or Faith Alone?


For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.  Gal. 5:3-5


Maybe I am opening a can of worms here, so be it. Today someone posted on social media that the gift of salvation was faith plus repentance. And in one of the comments to this post, someone said they felt like a disgrace for still needing nicotine gum. I told that person if they had believed in Christ then they were not a disgrace, whether they needed nicotine gum or not. 

How are we saved? Are we saved by walking an aisle, stop smoking and drinking, pledging to do better, turning over a new leaf? I'm afraid that that is what some are teaching today, and it is so subtle, it sounds so right. It is taught in so many churches. It is called "faith plus."

The Bible tells us to have "faith alone in Christ alone" to receive the free gift of salvation. It is good news, a message of hope.  Jesus knew in eternity past that we could not be good enough, no matter how hard we tried, and so pledged Himself to be the spotless Lamb that would take away the sins of the world. 

 If salvation comes by my faith plus works, then why did Christ die on the cross? In every other religion of the world, man is somehow trying to make himself acceptable before God. Think about making pilgrimages to Mecca or bathing in the Ganges River in the Muslim and Hindu faiths, fasting or even whipping yourself on the back like the monks did in Martin Luther's time. These are all attempts to placate God somehow, as if the cross, and the cross alone, is not enough for our salvation. But even in the Christian camp we hear that subtle message of "faith plus." It is adding something to the work of Christ, and says His work was not enough.

This makes Christianity into a religion and not based on faith. Religion means to bind, in one of the definitions. In making a promise to God, are we not binding ourselves to our own efforts to please Him rather than putting full stock in what He did that day on the cross for us?

The Finished Work of Christ is just that. It is a finished, completed work, done by Another. Nothing can be added to what He did for us in order to receive salvation. Over thirty years ago, thinking I had to add something to complete my salvation nearly drove me to being done with Christianity once and for all, because deep down, I knew I wasn't capable. I was on the edge of a nervous breakdown,  hearing how I must really be sorry, or promising to never sin again.  How sorry is enough?

In that moment of desperation, the word of God's pure grace came to me and I embraced it. Christ did the hard work of paying the sin debt for me and He is then pleased by my faith in what He alone has accomplished. 
But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Romans 3:3
It is so simple we stumble over it. But God gave Abraham, the father of our faith, righteousness at the moment that he believed what God said.

He (God) took him (Abram) outside and said, "Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them." Then He said to him, "Your offspring will be that numerous." 
Abram believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:5-6
Paul repeats this account in Romans in one of my favorite passages in the Bible, in Romans 4. 

What can we say that Abraham, our physical ancestor, has found? If Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about---but not before God. For what does the Scripture say?
 Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness.
Now to him who works, pay is not considered as a gift, but as something owed. But to the one who does not work, but believes on Him who declares the ungodly to be righteous, his faith is credited as righteousness.    Romans 4: 1-5
Verse 3 says Abraham believed. In the Greek language, the word believed is in the aorist active 3rd person singular tense, which means that he believed at a point in time, and at that point God declared that he was righteous. After his faith, even though he failed later in life, God saw him only and always as righteous.

And if we are Abraham's children through faith, that is the way God sees us too. He does not see our failures, but He sees us as righteous because of Who has come to live in us, by our simple faith at a point in time. 


     


 

Saturday, June 30, 2018

In Him, No Need

Hebrews 13:5 NKJV 

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."




What a precious promise from the Lord. Imagine if we really believed it, how much happier we would be.

How often lately I have caught myself coveting, wishing I had a little more money, for instance. It makes me sick to even say it. Compared with the rest of the world, I have so much, how could I ever want something someone else has in order to be happy? The fact is that if I got that thing, like a fancier house for instance, I still wouldn't be happy. If that made people happy, then why are the rich and famous committing suicide? The real fact is, this whole business of coveting is a big lie from the enemy, telling us that God is not enough.

Not only coveting material things, I find it easy to covet when I hear about other people's vacationing all over the world, as if seeing the world would take away the dissatisfaction in my soul. I remember hearing once from my old pastor, "Wherever YOU go, you have to take YOU with you." So even if I jet-setted over all the place, I would still have to contend with the person I see in the mirror every morning.

It has taken me a long time to realize this is just plain sin, and to be able to overcome it by realizing how very rich I am to be one of God's children, to be a part of His church and His very own body, even. It is not about what I see all around me, but being part of an invisible Kingdom. And that is enough to cause satisfaction that the world and all its tantalizing temptations cannot ever take away.

The whole world seems to scream at us to get more, want more, promising us happiness but never, ever delivering.  "Grab the gusto," the world hollers. But still we yearn for more.

Maybe that is part of the reason why people are giving up. They realize it is all just a big lie but they don't know what the answer is.

Just one verse from Psalm 23 is enough to quell this anxious stirring to have what others have, to do what others do.
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." Psalm 23:1
The most commonly quoted verse from the Bible tells us the answer if we just took the time in our busy lives to stop and think about it. We could spend the rest of our lives contemplating what that single verse promises to the child of God. We don't have to covet even one thing if we have the Lord. Not wanting means I will always have what I need, not necessarily what I want, but what I need.

 The plain and simple fact is that we live for the promises of the next life, not this life. So we really can agree with Paul when he told Timothy in I Timothy:
Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.          I Tim. 6:6-8

"The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I hope in Him!" Lamentations 3:8



Friday, June 8, 2018

There is an Answer...

Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God, believe also in Me. John 14:1   


And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.  Matt. 28:20





Oh what a time to be alive. I see a headline in the Tribune Review online today. The rate of suicide in Pennsylvania has gone up by 34%.http://triblive.com/state/pennsylvania/13739159-74/suicides-increase-by-more-than-third-over-17-year-period-in-pennsylvania  Also today, I open to another a major news story online, a famous chef has followed a famous fashion designer in ending his life. These two in just the last week. Suicide seemed to be their only answer...but was it really the answer? Where did they go, once their heart beat for that final time? Did they find relief, or just another nightmare, one without an end?

Many people are running out of other options to the hopelessness and despair that they feel. Where is their relief? It is not in a bottle, it is not in a pill, it is not in food, it is not in money, it is not fulfilling the greatest dream of one's life. Those people tried those things, and they did not work. Still, deep down inside the emptiness remained and options ran out.

 Most of my generation would agree that the Beatles Let it Be is a powerful song. Seems perfect for this age we live in, They sang that there would be an answer.  But as much sway as that song held over me when it came on the radio, I found myself changing the words slightly as I sang along. Instead, I sang to myself, "JESUS is the answer..."

Maybe that sounds too simplistic to most who read this? But I would be in the same boat with the fashion designer without my Rock, my Anchor, my answer in a world that is running out of answers, that actually ran out of them ages ago.

Jesus is the answer. Just try Him, really. Take Him at His word. He will not make all of your problems disappear. In fact, He promised our lives would be full of problems on this side of eternity.

"What's the use in trusting Him if I will still have problems?" I can hear someone thinking that even as I write the words. No, the hard things do not stop when we believe in Christ. In many ways, our human life gets harder because Jesus is not welcome on this planet. His enemy has temporary control. Temporary, remember that.

But the biggest problem of your life will be solved by your believing in Jesus. Now, instead of drifting in a world of uncertainty, you can be assured of an eternal home with the One who created you. You will not face separation from Him at the end of your time here. Your problems can be the very things God uses to bring you closer and closer in trusting Him, in advancing your faith. Give Him a chance, I beg you.

In a devotional I love, None but the Hungry Heart, by Miles Stanford, for the day of June 5, I read these words:

"Not a hair of the child of God can fall without God's permission. Satan is but the unintentional instrument to accomplish God's will; he can do no more than he is allowed to do..."

If this were not true, how could any of us keep on trusting God in the light of everything we see around us? Last night I was lured into feeling sorry for myself for certain hardships I face in my life. Then it hit me, God allowed them. He knew beforehand the tragedies I would face. All I need do is to believe that He really does have this, He will bring good. And all the stirred up anger and frustration just melted away.

I now think of another song. This time, it is a Christian hymn, Only Trust Him by John Stockton. How simple the chorus is. So simple that the proud could pass it right by. But if any child of His will just believe, there is peace. Peace this world cannot ever give.

Only trust Him, only trust Him, only trust Him now. He will save you, He will save you, He will save you now.

I can let my heart be troubled by all I see and hear around me. Or I can trust the One who is unseen, and have peace in the storm. Jesus told us to do it, so we really can choose to not let our hearts be troubled. I give Him my problems, and He gives me peace, what an exchange. You can have it too.

Then Peter began to speak: Now I really understand that God does not show favoritism, but in every nation the person who fears Him and does righteousness (ie, believe in Him, my comment) is acceptable to Him. He sent the message to the Israelites, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ-- He is Lord of all.  Acts 10: 34-37 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Sense in a Senseless World

If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself.

John 7:17








Many years ago, I came across the promise from John 7:17 and it was a balm for my troubled soul. For I wrestled with the fact that God could be loving yet there was so much evil in the world. I thought God was random and arbitrary, but the verse of John 7:17, proved otherwise. We need only be willing and God will get the gospel to us. It is as easy as saying "yes" to God, I do believe that Jesus is exactly who He claimed to be.

I have an old booklet containing the message of salvation in John's gospel, written by a James Ely in 1924. Mr. Ely has a note for John 7:17 which reads: "Since Jesus was what He claimed to be-- God incarnate-- then if you will fulfill the requirements set forth in 7:17, God will absolutely convince
you that the doctrine of Jesus Christ is true and He will do it in His own good time and way."

When I first read the words, "willing to do His will," I wondered what God was really asking. Was he asking something that really was too hard to do, something nebulous and ill defined? But I kept reading in John's gospel and found the answer to that question too in John 6: 28-29.
"Then they said unto Him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent."  John 6:28-29
The answer is simple, believe on Him whom He (God) has sent. Anyone can do that, it is so simple a child can do it.

This is the absolute beauty of our salvation. It is a free gift to us, because Jesus had to do the hard part. He had to take in His body the sins of all the world and provide Himself as the perfect sacrifice for them all.

It has taken me years and years, but I am just starting to realize that if it seems He asks us to do something and it seems hard, like saying no to yourself in order to be His disciple, it really is because He really does know what is best for us.

He doesn't ask us to deny ourselves for the gift of salvation, only that we believe in the name of the Son of God. But if we want to know Him more and more, then we must say no to ourselves. Through hard circumstances, He allows us to try out our own way in contrast to His, realize it is utter vanity, and then trust Him with each day and find out how wonderful He is, how loving, patient and kind He is with His wayward and rebellious children.

Both the beauty of a simple flower or the millions of galaxies attest to the fact that we are not here by some random accident. I heard a famous atheist give the explanation for denying God.His reason for being one  it was based on a total misunderstanding, that because there was evil there could not be a good God. 

We are here by some random chance then? 

But I would say to him, yes there is evil. It is only intensifying more and more with each passing day. But that does not mean that there is not a God who doesn't care. 

All we need do is to gaze on the bloody cross upon which He died to realize that God loves us and wants the best for every one of His creatures.

In a senseless world, the simple truth of the gospel is the only thing that makes sense.




Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Missing Dad

[As for] man, his days [are] like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, And its place remembers it no more.
But the mercy of the LORD [is] from everlasting to everlasting On those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children's children...Ps. 103: 15-17

I am a bit melancholy today. Today would have been my Dad's 86th birthday, but he only made it to 84 1/2. 


I miss talking with Dad. He could talk to you about anything, especially deep things about God. My Dad could do just about anything, but he never bragged about how smart he was.


He was humble about his accomplishments and thought about those around him who didn't have the things he did. He volunteered with the food kitchen in town, served his church and prayed for the lost.


I don't know why I miss him so much today, but I do. Things are not the same since he left us, and sometimes I wonder what he would think of things if he were still here.


My Mom did not seem to remember that today was his birthday and I did not remind her, it just would have made her cry. He was her life and she flounders without him.


I know that I will see Dad again, and I can still hear his voice in my mind. I miss him so much with all of his thoughtful care for his girls, but I know he wouldn't want to be back here if offered the chance.


Before Dad died, others I knew passed away and I was saddened to see them leave us, but with Dad gone I have a heartfelt wish to be reunited with him one day, hopefully soon.


Dad had a windmill on his property that said "Praise Jesus." I am sure he agrees that was the perfect message to put on it.  One day soon I will be joining Dad in bowing before Christ's throne doing exactly that.


Happy birthday to my dear father in heaven. Can't wait to see you again, Dad.



==================================================

On this the day of my Dad's birth, I know nothing would make him happier if anyone who happens to read this without knowing Christ would put their simple faith in Him to save them from their sins. Our God is so gracious, all He asks is that we believe in Him, that He took the punishment we deserve when He died for us on the cross. You can have brand new life and look forward to heaven, just as I do today.


"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. John 5: 24

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Useful to Him


"For there is hope for a tree, If it is cut down, that it will sprout again, And that its tender shoots will not cease.

Though its root may grow old in the earth, And its stump may die in the ground,

Yet at the scent of water it will bud And bring forth branches like a plant.               Job 14: 7-9



I took this picture last year, around this same time, when I was staying with my mother. I was fascinated to see the pussy willow trees bearing glorious golden buds, right on cue for the spring season, though it was still cold. Yet these little friends did not live to see spring. As we prepared to get the house ready to sell, a month or two later the lovely weeping willow trees were cut down, much to my chagrin, in order to give a better view of the fields below and the rolling hills behind them.

I sometimes think about things that more logical minds might think are silly. Like those beautiful buds, even though they soon were cut down, were a wondrous creation by God that gave beauty and glorified Him. God knew the exact moment they would be cut down, and yet He let them bud. He wanted me to see them, and to praise Him for His glory displayed in His creation. It was almost as if I were a little child, beholding them for the first time that day. I never saw up close how pretty the buds were until I was a 55 year old woman. How many more wonders will await us in the New Jerusalem?

Now Mom is in an assisted living facility, and despite our efforts to encourage her, she finds her life is short on joy and long on despair most days.  My Dad has been gone about 1 1/2 years now, and she misses him so much. It is hard for her to find a reason to still be on this earth, even though we try to remind her that God's time for Him to take her home is perfect, and we just have to trust Him in spite of what we feel. I want her to believe that God has a use for her if only she will trust Him.

I 've been reading the book: Amma: The Life and Words of Amy Carmichael by Elizabeth Skoglund. I wrote about Amy and her mission in Dohnavur, India in my own book, Sure Mercies: Hope for the Suffering. What a beautiful testimony of faith she bore.

 Amy rescued hundreds of orphans from the temples in India, but in her old age, she had a severe back injury which left her an invalid for the last twenty years of her life. In much pain, Amy used this time to write many books and lovely poems. She did not give in to despair.

 In this book I found a quote about old age and how we can still flourish in it. Most beautifully, Amy wrote:

Dear Companions in the Patience, do some of you find it hard to be contented to grow old?... Perhaps your thoughts have said, O to feel well for just five minutes! Listen, and perhaps you will hear something like this: My child, you will feel well for all Eternity. Your thoughts have said, Nothing else would matter if only I could be of use to someone. Listen and you may hear the gentle rebuke, My child, look out of the window. I find a use for the smallest leaf and bud on the tree, even the smallest drop of dew on the grass; can I not find a use for even you*?..."
 Amma: The Life and Words of Amy Carmichael by Elizabeth R. Skoglund, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1994, page 46. Quoted from Carmichael's book, Though the Mountains Shake.
emphasis mine

With the knowledge that every bud, every drop of rain is useful, so I want to make my life useful to Him. I fail constantly, but it is my prayer each day to present myself to Him a living sacrifice (Romans 12:2).

In this season of Easter, I think of how He was a dying sacrifice for the whole world. For any and all who will believe in Him He offers a purpose for each moment, even though at times it seems the sun hides its face and the gloom is palpable.

All the promises of His first advent came true, so we can trust that His promises to us about His return will prove true as well. One day soon, there will be the sound of a trumpet, and all those who have died in Christ will rise...

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed--in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory."
         "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is                 your victory?"
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
                    I Corinthians 15: 51-57

So hang on, dear friends. In the midst of the swirl of confusion, plant your hope in the One who cannot lie. Like the beautiful buds on the trees and flowers, we can have the wonderful privilege of revealing a tiny bit of His glory. One day soon, we will hear the trumpet sound.