Category Archives: salvation

All I Need

We have moved into our new, temporary abode, but I don’t have my computer set up. My wife does, but she’s more important than me – she does taxes. 
So, the following is either being written or texted by voice on my iPhone, therefore please forgive me if there are any errors.

Anyway, the last night that I stayed at the house where we used to live, I slept there with hardly anything in the house that belonged to us; most everything except bulky stuff had been boxed up and hauled away. 

I looked over into the open closet, and there was nothing there but one set of clothes and a pair of shoes that I was going to wear the next day.

I looked up from the bed that I was lying on and saw the ceiling above me, keeping the rain that was falling hard outside from falling hard on to me. 

Downstairs there was a refrigerator with a little food in it, just enough to make some breakfast and maybe a little extra.

I had running water, electricity, heat, and locks on the doors. 

It was as I was looking around at the near-empty rooms, something very important struck me: I really had all I needed.

I mean, what more did I really need? I had food, shelter, security, a place to sleep, clothes, and probably a few other things that I didn’t notice. With everything gone from the house, I still had everything I needed.

That made me ask, “Why do I have all that other stuff in the first place?”

It made me realize how rich I really am. Take everything away and an “empty” house is not as empty as I thought. 

That’s when I started thinking about Jesus. When everything is gone I still have him, and he’s really all I need.

“But 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 raiment let us be therewith content.” – 1 Timothy 6:6-8

Are you rich? 

Are you content? 

Do you have Jesus? 

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Christianity, General Observations, God, Life Lessons, salvation, worship

“Let God be True, and Luther a Liar”

The following post (and it’s a long one) was written 6 years ago in 2011, shortly after returning from Florida where I officiated a beach wedding.

Being that it was just Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday, I thought this piece might be a nice reminder that racism, regardless of the race, is sin. Dr. King knew that in order to change things, men’s hearts had to change. Unfortunately, the best we can do is still going to be flawed. Our only hope is found in God, our Mighty Fortress and Strength.

St. Petersburg, FL

Forgive me, but I am not a big fan of St. Petersburg, especially in the winter when it is 45 degrees. To me, Florida is supposed to be HOT. The warmest it got last week was in the low 70’s. The water on both coasts was terribly cold; therefore, sightseeing was more appropriate than sunbathing on the beach (which I don’t prefer, anyway). But aside from all of that, I still don’t think I would have liked St. Petersburg, even if it had been in the dead of summer.

However, they did have a few nice museums.

From books to iPhones

One museum we (Katie and I) enjoyed was the Museum of Fine Arts (http://www.fine-arts.org/). Believe it or not, it was the first time that I ever had the chance to stand in a room full of paintings by Monet. It was impressive, especially when you consider how close a teenager could stand next to objects worth multiple millions of dollars. Fortunately for the paintings, teenagers have touch-screen phones to keep their fingers occupied.

Another place we went, at my insistence, was the Florida Holocaust Museum (http://www.flholocaustmuseum.org/). I felt that it was important for the girls to see with their own eyes what true hatred and bigotry, even false religion can do. Not as big, nor as impressive as the museum in Washington, D.C., this museum still told the story well and featured an original cattle car that once carried Jews to the concentration camps.

Amelia Island, FL

When we left St. Petersburg, in order to find another beach to help Haley with her science project, at the advice of my brother-in-law, we went to Amelia Island in Fernandina, Florida. Now THAT was a change from St. Petersburg. Through priceline.com we even got a 3-star hotel for $52 a night! Not bad for a place with a huge, clean beach and a small-town feel.

“Big Guns on the Wall”

The highlight to the trip, for me, was when we got to visit Fort Clinch on Amelia Island. The fort was built back in the 1800’s and served both the Conferderate (1861) and the Union troops. It was a massive, red brick fortress overlooking the Atlantic ocean, and was meant to protect the Cumberland Sound. Fully restored, with reenactors playing the part, it was meant to give you the feel of stepping back in time to 1864.

I was really impressed with the fort. Even my wife was amazed. As I stood on its walls with huge canons, or on its proud bastions, I could not help but remember the words to the famous hymn by Martin Luther, “A Mighty Fortress.”

 

“A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing.
Our helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.”

A Painful Thought

But while at Fort Clinch a painful thought crossed my mind. Just the day before, my girls were able to read other words from Martin Luther in the Florida Holocaust Museum. You see, even though Luther has been regarded as the father of the Reformation, he was a rabid anti-semite. In one display chronicling centuries of hatred toward the Jewish people, the words from Luther’s book, “On the Jews and Their Lies,” was written in bold for every Christian to see. Here are some quotes from that book:

“He who hears this name [God] from a Jew must inform the authorities, or else throw sow dung at him when he sees him and chase him away.”

“If we wish to wash our hands of the Jews’ blasphemy and not share in their guilt, we have to part company with them. They must be driven from our country.”

“Moreover, they are nothing but thieves and robbers who daily eat no morsel and wear no thread of clothing which they have not stolen and pilfered from us by means of their accursed usury. Thus they live from day to day, together with wife and child, by theft and robbery, as arch-thieves and robbers, in the most impenitent security.”

“My essay, I hope, will furnish a Christian (who in any case has no desire to become a Jew) with enough material not only to defend himself against the blind, venomous Jews, but also to become the foe of the Jews’ malice, lying, and cursing, and to understand not only that their belief is false but that they are surely possessed by all devils. May Christ, our dear Lord, convert them mercifully and preserve us steadfastly and immovably in the knowledge of him, which is eternal life. Amen.”

What a contrast! One moment I am being inspired by a fortress that reminds me of the greatness of God, the next I am being reminded of the painful truth that men are sinners – all with the same song. How could the words of one man inspire both the Church and the Nazi party at the same time?

Martin Luther

Martin Luther wrote “A Mighty Fortress” based on Psalm 46:11, “The LORD of hosts [is] with us; the God of Jacob [is] our refuge. Selah.” God is our refuge and our hope in time of trouble. The Psalmist also said, agreeing with Luther,

I will say of the LORD, [He is] my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. – Psa 91:2 KJV

What are we to make of this, then? Is my hope in God supposed to be dashed all because of the actions of some (or all) of his followers? Are we to assume the truth of God is a lie because of the hateful words of Luther, as opposed to his hymns and 95 theses? Martin Luther was terribly wrong in his observations of the Jews. For that matter, David wasn’t perfect, either. No, God is God. Man is man. That is why it is so important to keep in mind the following words from the Apostle Paul:

…[Let] God be true, and every man a liar…” – Romans 3:4 KJV

When Peter got it right, Jesus called him “blessed” and praised the fact that the Father gave him the words (Matthew 16:17). However, when Peter spoke in the flesh, out of his own selfish desires, Jesus said, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” (verse 23). When we speak out of hand about God, that does not change the truth about God.  Luther got some things right.  Luther also got some things wrong in a very bad way.

My God IS a mighty fortress…and He loves the people of Israel.  He has made that abundantly clear, despite the ramblings and false doctrines of men. God said, “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” – Gen 12:3 KJV  Nothing has changed.  Let God be true, and Luther be a liar. Let God be true, and Peter a liar. Let God be true, and every one of us a liar. God is Who He is, whether we get it right or not. But because of Luther’s mistaken words, may we be ever more diligent to heed these words:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. – 2Ti 2:15 KJV

Why? Because Jesus said it right, and He ALWAYS got it right, when He said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” – Jhn 17:17 KJV

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar. – Pro 30:5-6 ESV

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Filed under God, Martin Luther, salvation, Uncategorized, World View

Is Your Christianity a Sham?

Adorable Sin

It may come as a shock to some, but many who claim to be Christians are not, actually. It is obvious because of their unrepentant love of sin.

For example, I know a person who willfully admits his failures and flaws (which is a good thing), but happily continues to do the very things he knows are wrong. He says, “I know I have a problem with (blank), but I know I’ll never change, so I’ll just have to keep asking for forgiveness.” In reality, the problem is that he loves his sin, and therefore refuses to truly repent and “turn from his wicked ways.” His particular sin is his claim to fame, his identity. Without it, he wouldn’t be noticed.

Am I suggesting that Christians NEVER sin? Of course not! The Bible plainly tells us that if we say we never sin, “we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Furthermore, just two verses later the Apostle John declares that if we say have have no sin we make God a liar!

But what about 1 John 5:18? Does it not clearly state that “whosoever is born of God sinneth not?” Yes, in the Authorized Version it does. However, the NIV renders the first part of 1 John 5:18 as: “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin [emphasis added]…” Similarly, the NLT says that someone who is born of God (a Christian) does not “make a practice of sinning…

No, I’m not saying Christians never sin. What I am saying is that if you are a true follower of Jesus Christ, sin may happen, but it’s not what you’re known for. What is being expressed here is the idea of continual, habitual sin – the kind one has no desire to change and even brags about it.

Advice for the Soul

depressorsMy advice to you, dear reader, is that you take a moment and conduct a spiritual self-examination.

David prayed, “Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart” (Psalm 26:2). The Apostle Paul even urged church members to “Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine” (2 Corinthians 13:5a NLT).

The hard, cold truth is that when one claims to be a believer, a Christian, yet habitually, characteristically, and proudly continues in the practice of a particular, obvious sin, his salvation/conversion/Christianity is most likely a sham.

Christianity is not just a label one wears, but a change that is made, both initially and on-going, in the life of the believer. Sin may happen, but when it does, a sorrowful and repentant heart is the result.

Please understand, I only wrote these things “that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:4). 

 

 

*Originally published in 2015 – but the truth is still the truth.

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How Badly Do You Want to Be Loved?

Jingles (not the bell kind)

Do you ever catch yourself singing commercial jingles for no apparent reason? Well, when I am driving, bored, and a little (or a lot) sleepy, I tend to start singing songs I learned as a child. In particular, one song is tops on my repertoire

The Oscar Mayer Wiener Song.

Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener / That is what I’d truly like to be ‘Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener / Everyone would be in love with me.

First appearing in 1965, this song has become boiled, grilled, steamed, fried, and even micro-waved into our memories. But recently it struck me…what in the world am I saying? Am I so desperate for the attention of others that I would be willing to become an unhealthy food source?

The Need for Love

There are many hurting people in the world who would wish for nothing more than someone to love them. They go to great lengths to be prettier, richer, more popular, or even more “available” – all to find love. But do you really think it’s a good idea to wish you were a hot dog?

What most people don’t know is that there was a second verse to the Oscar Mayer wiener song. In the 1965 commercial a truly intelligent boy quickly understood the true ramifications of the song’s wish and sang the following:

Oh, I’m glad I’m not an Oscar Mayer wiener / That is what I’d never want to be/ ‘Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener / There would soon be nothing left of me.

Sing it, brother! You tell ’em! Why would anyone want to be a hot dog? Do you really want to be loved so badly that you would sacrifice your humanity and allow yourself to be eaten? It’s not worth it, people…believe me!

The lyrics to this song could be re-written to expose what people are really saying. “Oh I wish I was something else instead of human / A tube of meat is what I want to be / I’d gladly die alone in boiling water / If you would only say that you loved me.

in potLook, there is no reason to want to become a hot dog (you might get eaten by one). Really, there is nothing to be gained by having your body boiled or grilled on an open flame; covered in chili, relish, mustard, and onions; then chewed repeatedly until you’re swallowed by someone who will forget you an hour later (unless the chili upsets them). Stay human. It’s better that way! 

You ARE Loved!

Ironically, someone did become something He was not in order to die for love. The big difference is that He was God and became Human, not a hot dog. And what’s more, He didn’t die to be loved – He died because He loved. His name is Jesus, and He died for you.

“For God so love the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16 KJV

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 NIV

You are VERY loved!

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Filed under Food, General Observations, salvation, Uncategorized, Witnessing

Sure of Your Next Step?

image

Preaching on hell is not something I like to do, but every so often I need to. You see, to love people is to warn people, especially when their next step could be their last.

 

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A Flirting God?

The following is Part 3 of a 3-Part series of controversial posts first published in Sept. of 2013. I hope this one’s a blessing.

Don’t Be Shocked

I know that the title may come as a shock to many of you, but don’t be too shocked, at least not yet. I have been talking about men and women flirting over the last couple of days, but as I told you, there was a method to my madness.

You might be saying, “And if you say God is a flirt, then you are truly mad, you crazy fool!” But please, hear me (or read me) out. “Flirting” might not be the best word, but what about “wooing”? If not a flirting God, surely He woos us all the time.

Background

Now, just in case you think I am crazy, let me share with you one of my favorite verses from one of my favorite books in the Bible, Hosea.

I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them.” – Hosea 11:4 KJV

With metaphor God explains to the prophet Hosea how He has gone the extra mile to win over His people’s love. That, after all, is the message portrayed by Hosea’s pursuit of Gomer (that’s his wife’s name) as she runs from lover to lover. God would much rather win our love than divorce (judge) us.

When I think of the first part of that verse, the words “cords of a man” become “heart strings.” In other words, in order to win our affections, God is doing everything He can to “pull our strings,” or at least the emotional strings of our hearts. Cool, huh?

Signs of Wooing

As with the last two posts, I’d like to consider some ways in which God might “flirt” with us. In other words, God might be wooing you if…

  • You wake up earlier than you wanted, but see the most beautiful sunrise of your life.
  • You decide to give up on life, only to have an email pop up showing someone worse off than you.
  • It seems that there is no meaning in life, but then you hear a baby cry, or your child says, “I wuv you.”
  • In the dark, late at night, you find yourself crying, but a warmth you can’t explain wraps around you, cradling you to sleep.
  • You find yourself feeling like a failure, worthless and dirty, then from out of nowhere comes a verse you learned in Sunday School: “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son…”

Do I need to go on? Is He pulling the strings of your heart? Will you respond to His advances?

He does love you!

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The Humble God Brings Revival

On June 15, 2011, I preached a short message from Isaiah 57:15 entitled, “Three R’s and Revival.”

Later, I read through the chapter again on my iPhone, this time in the NET version:

“For this is what the high and exalted one says, the one who rules forever, whose name is holy: “I dwell in an exalted and holy place, but also with the discouraged and humiliated, in order to cheer up the humiliated and to encourage the discouraged.” – Isaiah 57:15 NET

My eyes filled up with tears! The Holy One is not too good to sit down with the humiliated and discouraged! Hallelujah!

News Flash! God is humble!

Of course He is! Just look at what He did! Jesus became flesh (John 1:14) and walked in our shoes. He allowed Himself to be humiliated and beaten, even crucified, although He had every reason to look down on us, being God (Phil. 2:6-7). The “High and Lofty One” became the “meek and lowly” (Matt. 11:29).

There is no pride in God!


The Three R’s

“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” – Isaiah 57:15 KJV

There are three “R’s” that I see in Isaiah 57:15… Reign, Realm, and Residence.

  1. I see the first one in the words “high and lofty.”
  2. The second one I see is found in the words “inhabiteth eternity.”
  3. The third “R” is located in the words “I dwell,”and “with him also.”

1. Reign

Earlier, in chapter 6, Isaiah said he “saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up…” The “high and lofty” One is none other than a King. And not just any king, this is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ. The same description is found in Revelation 4. In verse 2, John saw a throne “set in heaven, and [one] sat on the throne.” Who was the One that sat on the the throne? Evidently the same Person who was seen by Isaiah, because in both accounts the angels were crying out “Holy, holy, holy...”

God is not a man-made idol or idea formed in the human mind – He is “high and lofty.” He is “exalted” above every other creature, whether in heaven or in earth. “Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all” (1 Chronicles 29:11 KJV).

Because He is king, there remains only two options with regards to His reign: you are either His subject, or you are His enemy. God does not operate like earthly kings and nations. We have allies; but not God. His kingdom demands total loyalty (every knee shall bow). Serving another king is not a good thing at all, for it will only result in His judgment. No king is greater than He. To serve another is to live in rebellion.

2. Realm

God is the One that “inhabiteth (inhabits) eternity.” This is His realm. His influence reaches not only across all known and unknown areas of the universe, but across time immortal!

It was said that at one time the sun never set on the British realm. All over the world there were colonies under the control of the throne of England. But even more impressive than that, God’s realm isn’t limited to the present rising and setting of the sun, it is in ETERNITY.

It is important to note something here. I am not opposed to reading different translations, but a good example of when a new translation misses the mark is changing the word “inhabiteth” to “rules/lives forever.” Of course it is true that God lives and rules forever; however, there is more to it than that. The word “inhabit” touches upon His eternally sovereign omnipresence. God/Jesus is not just king over the here and now, or the future, but over the past, present, and future at the same time! He inhabits eternity! There is nothing in the realm of time, no matter where it is, that is out of His scope of authority.

Stop and think about this, folks. Think about the practical application of the above statement. Let’s just say you need $100 tomorrow to pay a bill. Or, it could be $1 million, a billion – doesn’t matter. You could go to an earthly king and ask for help, but the king would be limited to the time frame in which you needed the money, the amount that he had, and the limitations of his realm. Not God.

I have seen money come in for a need that was desperate. God provided what was needed. But, when you look at the sequence of events, God started answering that prayer long before it was ever prayed – decades before! God is not limited by time, space, or anything. His realm covers it all. When George Mueller prayed for milk (for his orphanage), do you not think that God had already put in place the neccessary sequence of events to make that milk wagon drop a wheel? It is not even out of line to think that He went back to when the tree was planted that provided the wood for the wagon.

3. Residence

God not only lives in the “holy place,” but He dwells with lowly man. His name is Emmanuel – God with us. But notice this, He only dwells with the humble, the contrite, the broken-hearted, the cast down, the weary, the needy (“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” – James 4:6). Even though He could choose to stay in His high and holy place, far above the heavens (as most men would do, given the opportunity), He makes His bed right on the floor with the lowliest, shivering beggar.

Of all people, God should be the one who looks down His nose at us. He is the “lofty” One upon the throne. We are the helpless sinners. How ironic is it that the only ones who will not open the door of their hearts are the prideful? Pride closes the door to the King.

and Revival

He said “I dwell” in order “to revive.” It is the presence of the God who cares; the God who understands where we are; the God who makes His home with the “discouraged” and the “humiliated” that brings revival. Oh, to live without hope, without compassion, without a tender touch from a caring hand, brings death. But to have a King step down from His lofty position in the heavenlies, from the eternal, to a lowly place in time – that revives the heart.

The gulf that separated me from Christ, my Lord 
It was so vast, the crossing I could never ford 
From where I was to His domain, it seemed so far 
I cried “Dear Lord, I cannot come to where You are” 

CHORUS 
He came to me, He came to me 
When I could not come to where He was, He came to me 
That’s why He died on Calvary 
When I could not come to where He was, He came to me 

He Came to Me – by Squire Parsons

Don’t let pride shut the door to your heart when the King of Kings seeks to dwell with you.

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