Posts Tagged ‘Salvation’

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“HE IS RISEN!” – Mar. 31

March 31, 2013

“But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.” Matthew 28:5-6

Benjamin West's The Angel at the Tomb of Chris...HE IS RISEN!

This angelic pronouncement is the most astounding declaration that has ever been made on earth.  We can spend a thousand years studying the Gospel of Jesus Christ and never fully comprehend the full ramifications of what those words mean.  The far reaching extent to which, HE IS RISEN, changed our world and transformed man and the whole creation.

We are so comfortable in our bondage to sin that we merely pick at the threshold of the freedom in Christ that has been opened to us.  The decay wrought by the fall of man and the slavery to fear is all that we have ever known.  Our bondage to decay is so familiar to us that we consider it a physical law of our existence.  We call it the 2nd law of thermodynamics.  This so-called law, also called entropy, states that “in all energy exchanges, if no energy enters or leaves the system, the

potential energy of the state will always be less than that of the initial state.”  This means that things decay.  All of creation is in bondage to entropy.  All we have ever known is that entropy will eventually win.

That world changed with HE IS RISEN!Empty Tomb

HE IS RISEN! – freed us from entropy and decay.

HE IS RISEN! – freed us from the law of sin and death.

HE IS RISEN! – freed us into Christ Jesus.

HE IS RISEN! – freed us to live in the Spirit.

HE IS RISEN! – freed the righteous requirement of the law to be fulfilled in us.

HE IS RISEN! – freed us to please God.

HE IS RISEN! – freed us to put to death the deeds of the body through the Spirit.

HE IS RISEN! – freed us to belong to God.

HE IS RISEN! – freed us to be adopted as children of God – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.

HE IS RISEN! – freed us to eternal life and peace.

HE IS RISEN! – fundamentally changed the world.  The world was transformed at its basic levels when Christ came out of that tomb.  Nothing has been the same since Christ completed the work of redemption.  All that remains is the full manifestation of HE IS RISEN!

That is what we are eagerly awaiting.  The adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies; all possible because of HE IS RISEN.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for rising from the grave and defeating death once and for all.  Thank you for finishing the Father’s redemptive plan.  Thank you for saving me while I was still a sinner.  Thank you for changing every aspect of my world.  Thank you for freeing me from my slavery to sin and death.  Praise God for You have RISEN!  Amen

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“GIFT OF UNDERSTANDING” – Mar. 28

March 28, 2013

“Only, may the Lord grant you discretion and understanding, that when he gives you charge over Israel you may keep the law of the Lord your God.”  1 Chronicles 22:12

We would say of a man who drives his car 70 mph through a 25 mph school zone, “Does he not understand the danger he is posing to everyone?”

Of a mother who prepares her family’s meals seasoned with arsenic, we would ask, “Does she not realize that will kill her family?”

The young man who takes his inheritance to Vegas for one bet on the roulette wheel would cause us to shake our heads and question, “Does he not understand how irresponsible that is?”

We would say of the middle-aged man who, on national television, assaults a beautiful young woman, “He has lost his mind.”

Of the employee who berates, insults, and curses her employer in the company newsletter, we would ask, “Did she not realize what they would have to do?”

The couple who moves all of their neighbor’s belongings into their backyard would cause us to wonder in disbelief, “Do they not understand that we can see that they stole these possessions?”

Discretion is the ability to make responsible decisions. 

Discretion is a fundamental ability necessary for a society to function under the rule of law.  The rule of law has the assumption that people will understand the law and the consequences of not adhering to the law and choose the appropriate response.  However, the news is full of people whose arrest, prosecution and conviction demonstrates that they lacked discretion and understanding in the activities that they pursued.   Many folks bear the burden of ill consequences due to their lack of understanding and discretion.  Discretion and understanding are essential skills to function appropriately in the world of the physical.

Likewise, we need discretion and understanding to function appropriately in the world of the spiritual.  God gave us His law not to hurt us or punish us.  He gave us His law because He loves us and cares for us.  His law is for our own good.  However, there are many people who live as if the only consequences are associated with the tangible.  They don’t understand that they need a savior.  They lack discretion in their decisions because they don’t recognize that the law of God is over them.

Understanding our position under God’s law is a gift granted by God. presenting

When we understand that we face condemnation because of a life of indiscretion and that leads us to repentance – it is a gift.  It is the first act of God drawing his children to Himself.  No one will ever seek a savior until they understand their deep need for one.  It is indiscretion to think that God will be appeased, as long as the good works of our lives, out-weighs the bad.  That is not a responsible decision.  That is a decision that does not understand the holiness and righteousness of God.  That is a person who does not understand the law and the consequences of not adhering to the law because they are clearly not following the appropriate response that comes from understanding.

When Christ hung on the cross, He prayed for the Father to forgive those who crucified him because they did not know what they were doing.  They did what they did because they lacked understanding and discretion.

That lack of understanding continues on a daily basis.

I have read many articles written by atheists.  They tend to be some of the most mean-spirited, rude, and insulting articles in the blogosphere.  They reject the idea that there is a law from God that applies to them.  They make condescending jokes about those who believe such foolishness.

They are demonstrating a lack of understanding.  They are people of indiscretion.  They do not know what they are doing because they have not been granted the understanding and discretion of God’s law.  When God opens someone’s eyes to the consequences of His law, it leads to repentance because it is the only logical choice.  It is the only responsible decision.

This is why we should have compassion for the lost.  They do not understand what they are doing.  We need to pray David’s prayer for them, “Lord, grant them discretion and understanding, that they may keep the law of God.”  The only why for that to happen is to repent and accept the One who kept that law perfectly, for there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for showing me the condemnation that my indiscretion had earned.  Thank you for opening my eyes to my need for a savior.  Thank you for drawing me and saving me.  Thank you for continuing to reveal to me what it means to follow you in grateful obedience.  Lord, I pray for my friends and family who do not understand the true condition of their souls.  Father, grant them the understanding that they desperately need Christ as their savior.  That they must be born again.  Please draw them to yourself – to repentance and everlasting salvation.  Lord, adopt them into the family through the power of your Spirit.  They are stiff-necked just as I was and still have a tendency to be.  Soften their hearts to receive the good news of your Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen

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“WORDS FOR ALL” – Mar. 22

March 22, 2013

“Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:34

1993 reprint of Chafer's Systematic TheologyI love theology.  The study of theology is a wonderful tool to help us dive deeper into the depths of our Lord God.  It was not until I started scratching at the edges of theology that I realized the immense wisdom of God that has been given to us. (1 Cor. 2:7)   I love theology because that is the main tool by which the Spirit teaches me about the depths of God.

However, there is a difference between theologians and those who love theology.  I have found that those who claim the title of theologians tend to speak in a strange and confusing language.  There is a vast array of terms, titles, “isms”, and religious talk in the language of a theologian.  When a theologian speaks in their special language, the majority of the population has no idea of what they are talking about.

I find the language of theologians wearisome.  I often forget what the terms mean.  I get hung up on the words written in Hebrew or Greek, which it is assumed that I know.   The intellectual tone can often be intimidating.  I once subscribed to a theological quarterly journal.  After a period of time, I let my subscription lapse because the authors of the journal articles were clearly not writing for such a person as me.  They were writing for other theologians.  I have no problem with that.  An author has to know their audience and write accordingly.

The problem for theologians, those who love theology, and those who have been in the Church for decades is that we often forget our main audience.   We use this strange language that the vast majority of the population does not understand.  We talk about atonement, redemption, propitiation, pneumatology, born-again, justification, sanctification, eschatology, predestination, ecclesiology, salvation, righteousness, etc.  The majority of the people who we will interact with will not know what those words mean or will not know what we mean by those words.

The language of the religious can become wearisome to the lost.  Our intellectual tone can be intimidating.  We can make some people feel excluded because we are talking to an audience who they are not a part.  We all have a tendency to let the simplicity of Christ be masked by the deeper truths that the Spirit has taught us in the maturing of our faith.

What must any person do to be saved?  This is a question for the masses.  Every person walking the face of the earth has this same question.  I love that God has given us an answer that does not require a special academic background, knowledge of terminology, or intellectual ability.

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”

In that one sentence, God has given us salvation; distilled in simplicity so that all of humanity can understand it and at the same time containing a depth to which His followers can spend a lifetime plunging into its revealing glory of God’s secret and hidden wisdom (1 Cor. 2:7).

May we all stand humbled before our Lord; always ready with the clear understandable word of the Lord crafted for the audience our Father has given us.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for making your salvation understandable to me and all of humanity.  Thank you for making it so profound the wisest of men will never comprehend.  Thank you for every trace of maturity that you have provided to my faith.  Father, keep my heart away from any pride that may develop due to any understanding I have been given of your wisdom.  May I never seek to know You more due to a desire to win a debate or to impress others.  May I always seek to know You from the heart of a son who loves his heavenly Father.  Help me to speak clearly and plainly.  Help me to proclaim your salvation in manner that those whom You have given me will understand and be saved for your glory.  Amen

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“INSTRUCTION THAT MATTERS” – Mar. 3

March 3, 2013

“And Jehoash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all his days, because Jehoiada the priest instructed him.” 2 Kings 12:2

What will be the words written on my son’s epitaph?

How will a generation who has yet to touch this earth’s soil speak of my daughter?

My children will have a legacy.  They will be known for something.  I wonder what it will be.  Every life is known for the particular fruit that it bears. What will be their fruit?

I have a specific hope for them.

We invest a lot of time instructing our kids in academic subjects.  I will be deeply satisfied if they become known for their intellect…but that is not my specific hope for their legacy.

I coach my daughter’s basketball team.  It will be a blessing if she receives a college athletic scholarship…but that is not what I hope she is known for.

My son has participated in speech competitions and done very well.  I will be very proud of him if venues are filled to hear his oration…but that is not the legacy that I pray will be his.

My children may gain all the accolades of this world.  They may climb to the top of a variety of ladders.  Their resumes may drip with awards and accomplishments.  Success may follow them like an obedient pet.

However, what have they gained if their legacy is a forfeited soul? (Matt. 16:26)

Every legacy has an origin.  The foundations of my children’s epitaphs are being formulated now.

My hope is that, Lord willing, long after I am gone, it will be said of my son, “he loved the Lord with all that he was, for all of his days, to the glory of God Almighty; he was a good and faithful servant of his Savior.”  That my daughter will be a virtuous woman of God whose remembrance brings forth smile as it is said, “she loved her Savior with all that she was, for all of her day, to the glory of God; she was a good and faithful servant of the King.’ old school

I have no control over the legacy of my children.  Their faith is a gift from God to them.  However, this is not to suggest that my wife and I’s instruction is not without importance.  Jehoiada the priest was greatly used in the life of King Jehoash by instructing the young King.  We are told in proverbs, “train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6); Instructing a child in the Lord’s ways does matter.

As Matt Chandler has said, we are stacking kindling around our children with every Bible study, every encouragement in spiritual disciplines, every time we rely upon the Word, every prayer, every example of faithfully walking in the Spirit.  All of our instruction is spiritual fuel around the base of our children’s hearts.

There is no better sound to the ears of a child of God then to hear the “whoosh” of the Spirit sparking a mighty blaze of a passion for our Savior in the heart of our children to the praise and glory of our King.

My children’s legacies have begun.  The period of influential instruction is now.  Therefore, I want to be wise and focus on instructing them in those areas that will have eternal value and will result in an epitaph that will be a pleasing fragrance to our Father.

Now is the time of diligent instruction.  It matters.

PRAYER: Father, I know that the salvation of my kids is in your hands.  I pray Lord that you will save them and keep them.  Protect them from the evil one and lead them to persevere in their faith.  Father, I know and accept the responsibility that you have given me as a parent.  I know that I am modeling to them how to follow you.  Lord, give me the wisdom, understanding, and passion to show my kids how wonderful you are.  Father, take my kids and use them for your glory.    Amen

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“A LIFE-RING ON A SINKING SHIP” – Feb. 21

February 21, 2013

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

English: (ship) half-submerged and sinking.It is a peaceful night aboard a comfortable ship, sailing through calm waters.  You rest in  peaceful sleep in a warm bunk after a long day of leisure.  Dreams of adventures and loves fill your head as your mind is freed to follow its own meandering course of conscious-less bliss.

This state of peacefulness is suddenly shattered by an unnatural jerk, a shutter, and a metallic groan of a mechanized beast that knows it has just been slashed by a death blow.  You jerk up in your bed, fully alert but swimming through the confusion of panicked shouts, faint emergency lights, warning alarms, and an incessant trampling of feet.

You place your stocking feet to the cold floor and move with no clear directions but certain that movement is the only response to this unknown danger.  Upon leaving your room, the fleeing crowd grabs you.  It pulls you.  It pushes you. It assaults you.  Up and up the crowd of massed fear flows.  There is no fighting it.  It is impossible to resist the blind energy being release by those desperate to be saved.

The crowd spills onto the deck. A cruel and stinging wind bites your face.  The air is filled with panic.  You are surrounded by tears, anger, rage, desperation, wailing, and anguish. They are all seeking an expression, an answer, to what appears inevitable. This is not a respite.  This is not the expected calm that you sought when fleeing the metal walls of luxury that has turned into a tomb.    You try to calm yourself.  You try to think and get your bearings.

At the moment your brain begins to cope with this reality, a man with hands hardened by years at sea grabs you.  He pulls you close and screams in your ear so that he can be heard above the din of confusion.  “You have to jump.  We are going down.  There is not time,” he says these words and forcefully pulls you to the rail and with a push you are falling free from the only thing that feels safe.

You hit the water with the force of a heavy-weight’s upper-cut.  The cold momentarily blinds you.  It stuns you into a new reality.  You have 15 minutes.  You must be saved in 15 minutes or hypothermia with drag you to the depths.  “Think,” your brain screams!  You must think.  You must grab something that will be secure.  You must find the answer in all of this floating debris.  What will you place your trust in?  Deck chairs float past. A wooden pallet bobs precariously.  A person-less life jacket eases past, shocking you to the reality of the sharp-edge that you are standing upon. Death can just as easily slip you from your mortal restrains.

There are so many choices  you have to think through.  You grab one but it sinks.  You try another but it won’t hold you out of the water.  15 minutes.  Your time is passing.  It is hopeless.

English: Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class J...
English: Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua McGowan throws a life ring to a victim of a Rogue Wave kicked up by Hurricane Bill (2009) in Maine that killed a 7yr-old girl. (Image Credit – US Coast Guard) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That is when you see the white ring.  A life-ring and it has rope on it!  Where did that come from? It wasn’t there a moment ago.  It doesn’t matter.  You flail your numb arms toward your only hope.  You must make it.  Swim; your life depends upon it.  Swim; even though you are feeling warm.  Swim; where did it go – focus; there it is; the white ring of hope.  One more stroke and you grasp it.  The moment you slip the ring under your shoulder, you feel the powerful tug of your salvation.  You hear the words, “I’ve got you.  You’re safe now.”

You’re safe now.  You are in the cradle of the only means by which you could be saved.

We are all in this position of being aboard a sinking ship.  Mortal death is a cruel, inevitability for every person walking the face of this earth.  However, we are all spiritual beings, so death is not an end for any of us.  We all will face God at our death.  We all will be judged.  We have all earned a judgment of eternal punishment – hell.

There is an escape from God’s judgment.  Jesus Christ came to save us from the punishment that we have earned.  He came and paid the price for your sin and my sin.

Jesus did not come to make our lives better.  He did not come to make our cruise-ship a little more luxurious.  He did not come for us to sit on a sun-deck to be served mojitos and fried shrimp.  He came to be our life-ring.  He came to drag us away from certain destruction.  He came to save us because there is no other way.

There are many who will point to other ways to be saved.  There are even some Christians who shrug to the possibility of other ways for us to be saved.  There is no scriptural basis for that indifference.  Jesus is as clear as He can be:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:17-18)

Causally conceding multi-ways to God to a seeking person is like directing a drowning person to a floating deck chair or bobbing pallet.  There is no salvation in those.  They will perish in their delusional hope.  To suggest that there are paths to salvation other than Christ is a cruel hoax draped in the illusion of compassion.

There is salvation in no one else.  Jesus is our life-ring.  Grab Him with all of your mind, heart, and soul.  Cling to Him because your eternal life does depend upon it.  Let’s shout at the top of our lungs to our fellow ship mates and direct them to the only thing that will save them as we are being pulled to our salvation.  We only have a short time until we are gone.

Let’s get as many as we can into the arms of our Savior.  He is their only hope.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for saving me.  Thank you for reaching out and pulling me to yourself.  Lord, I know that my salvation is in you alone.  There is no hope in any other god or religion.  You are the only way.  Father, may I never proclaim a false gospel of multi-paths to you.  May I never soften the truth of your saving grace for fear of a confrontation of awkward discussion.  Lord, grant to me the strength and courage to speak your word with all boldness.  May your Spirit work in the hearts of all those who are lost and draw them to yourself.     Amen

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LONG TERM INVESTING – Jan. 24

January 24, 2013

“O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!” Psalm 39:14

Belime in his Nerd characterI recently was at a gathering of my profession. There is a reason that they don’t make sexy engineer calendars. It would take too long finding 12 candidates and no one would believe it anyways.  Generally, our specific slice of society is not a physically robust lot.

However, that doesn’t mean we don’t try.

Throw a bunch of competing consulting engineers in a room and the air becomes limited due its consumption in puffed up chests.  We are like a bunch of scrawny bantam roosters strut’n their stuff.  It is rather humorous the gravitas that is assumed.  I wonder how often God looks at such events and our self-proclaimed importance and goes “not so much.”

The recent Presidential Inauguration displayed a lot of grandeur and honor associated with the highest elected office in the United States.  There were a lot of  “very important” people in the specific places of honor.  The media documented every morsel of respect shown and every “roll of the eye.”  I wonder how often God looks at such events and these esteemed officials and goes “not so much.”

English: The inauguration of President Barack ...

English: The inauguration of President Barack Obama Français : Cérémonie d’investiture du président Barack Obama (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The reality is that Presidents come and go.  Legislators come and go. Consulting engineers come and go.  People come and go.  It is all so very fleeting.

Tremendous investments are made daily in maintaining appearances.  Energy is expended in anxiety over what others think about our fleeting little lives.

Is that the best investment of the time that we have?

We have all heard the older generation lament how quickly time moves by.  It truly is disturbing to hear their words coming out of my own mouth but it has happened.  All one has to do is to peruse through old pictures to know the truth behind their lamentations.  Our lives truly are fleeting.  Even if my time here is 110 years, it still is nothing from God’s perspective.  It is fleeting.

Fleeting doesn’t mean irrelevant. Fleeting means scarce. We are careful with scarce things. We measure them out with purpose.

Fleeting is having one day to live; What will you do with it?

Our time on earth is like one day from an eternity perspective. What are you going to do with it? Are you going to strut around in your own self-importance? Are you going to be worried about what other people think about you?

Or, are you going to make investments that will last for all eternity?

PRAYER: Lord, help me to have good priorities.  Father, I don’t want to waste my life of things that will be ashes.  Give me an eternal perspective in that which I choose to be involved, in the words I say, and in how I treat other people.  Lord, give me the humility of being dust in the wind.  Amen

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OSHA RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SHEPHERDS – Jan. 23

January 23, 2013

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:14-15

Convenience store

Convenience store (Photo credit: wilhelmja)

There are three convenience stores along my route to work.  Their name fits them very well.  They are convenient.  However, I do not want to work at a convenience store.  Convenience stores get robbed.  Convenience store robberies account for approximately 7% of all robberies.  Job-related homicides in the retail trade account for approximately 48% of all workplace homicides.  The highest shares of those homicides are in convenience stores.  The problem is that convenience stores are convenient for robbers also.  That makes it a dangerous occupation for employees.

The US Department of LaborOccupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a bulletin, “Recommendations for Workplace Violence Prevention Programs in Late-Night Retail Establishments”.  This bulletin gives a lot of recommendations on hazard prevention and control.  However, there is no recommendation for employees to be trained to lay down their lives.  The recommendations are actually the opposite.  Employees are to cooperate during a robbery such as turning over money or valuables without resistance.

There is an unspoken assumption in these recommendations.  The life of the employee is worth more than the cash in the register.  The life of a person is worth more than a case of beer and a couple of packets of jerky.  No one should sacrifice their life to protect a tank of gas and a couple cartons of cigarettes.

OSHA would have a significant problem with any company employee handbook policy that says:

You shall lay your life down for the store.

You shall lay your life down for the cab.

You shall lay your life down for the tools.

You shall lay your life down for the truck.

You shall lay your life down for the kiosk.

That sort of policy makes no sense.  Can you imagine a sheep rancher instructing his shepherds, “if anything bad goes down, thieves or wild animals, I want to you do everything you can, even give your own life if necessary.  I want you to bring all of those sheep back or don’t come back yourself”?

Sheep

Sheep (Photo credit: James Good)

That sounds so unreasonable because they are sheep.  You do not sacrifice a human life for a sheep’s life.  We eat sheep.  We don’t give our lives for sheep.  Those of us who have grown up in the Church have heard this verse many times, “…and I lay down my life for the sheep.”   We may be prone to think that this is what a good shepherd does.

No, they don’t.

There is no shepherd willing to sacrifice his own life for sheep.  If you spent any time around sheep, you would understand that they are not worth that sort of sacrifice.

Jesus is No Regular Shepherd.

Likewise, we are regular sheep.  Another tendency is to think that we are so valuable that we warrant the sacrifice of the shepherd.  We don’t.  The distinction between the Son of God and us, sheep, is greater than the distinction between a human shepherd and real sheep.  Jesus’ sacrifice as the good shepherd for us rebellious sheep makes no sense .

This fact should astound us.

Jesus’ sacrifice is a treasure – particularly for us sheep.  However, there is so much more.  Jesus is fulfilling 500-year-old prophecies from Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah.  Jesus’ sacrifice is in obedience to a covenant keeping God.  Jesus’ sacrifice is for those who are His – fellow heirs of God, children of the most high.  Jesus is the good shepherd that became like the sheep; laying his life down for those sheep because that was the only way to save them.

Jesus is the incredible shepherd of an incredible God.  Our Father showed us mercy and grace beyond imagination.  The words, “I lay down my life for the sheep,” should boggle our minds.  Jesus’ sacrifice raised us from mere sheep to heirs.  How can that be?  It is an act that cannot be  based on our worth.  It is an act that can only be based on the abounding grace and mercy of our glorious God.

May we live in a way that the joy and astonishment of our salvation never diminishes.  There is nothing in this world greater than our “good shepherd.”

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for saving me.  Thank you for being my good shepherd.  Forgive me for so often living in a way that takes your sacrifice for granted.  Forgive me for not being in awe of you.  Thank you!  You are truly wonderful and abounding in love and mercy.  Amen

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LINGER NO MORE – Jan. 22

January 22, 2013

“Remember Lot’s wife.  Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.” Luke 17:32-33

Shin Dong-hyuk grew up in a North Korean prison camp.  He was not serving a term in that camp due to crimes that he had committed.  He was born there.  He was serving a term called “three generations of punishment”.  This is a punishment for political prisoners in which parent, children, and grandchildren, serve life prison terms in these forced labor camps.

The only existence that Shin knew was that of the bleakness of Camp 14.

Shin told how he did not know there was a world outside the prison wires.  He did not know that the world was flat, round or square.  He did not know there was a United States of America or other countries.  All he knew was his existence of perpetual work in forced-labor factories, fields, or mines.  The only life he had ever known was one of constant hunger and exposure. A life where fellow prisoners were executed for “offences” such as hoarding a few kernels of corn and where inmates were starved to make them “repent”. It was a place where he was tortured at the age of 13 for his mother and brother being accused of trying to escape.

That was his life.  He said: “I just thought that those people who carry guns were born to carry guns and prisoners like me were born as prisoners.”

However, Shin’s existence changed in January 2005.  He and another inmate were gathering wood in a remote part of the camp that was near the electrified fence.  Shin’s partner made it to the fence first but was electrocuted as he pulled it down to escape.  Shin escaped that camp by crawling over the back of his dead partner.

When Shin got to the other side of the fence, he did not linger.  There were no nostalgic memories for him to reminisce over at the edge of that camp perimeter.  He ran.  He fled with all of his heart to escape the certain death that awaited him if he were caught.

Consider if Shin’s existence had not be so bleak.  What if Camp 14 had not been the residence of misery but a city of luxury?  What if the prison guards carried candy rather than guns?  What if those things that the prison had given to Shin were good, the food was cuisine, what he did was comfortable?  What if there was no torture?  What if all that he had ever known was a prison that fed his desires?  Would he have fled such a place?  Would he have crawled over a dead body to get away from such a place?

I don’t think that he would have been pressed to flee a city of luxury, particularly if that is all he had ever known.

The desire to linger at the edge of such a city would tempt us all.  There would be only one onus to leave, self-preservation.  The only reason any of us would flee a city of luxury would be if that place was certain death.  That would make you flee.  The imminence of that destruction would cause us to run and not look back.  Lot and his family were told to flee Sodom because its destruction was imminent.  Sodom was a city of craven luxuries.  That city was full of things that they loved and it was soon going to be destroyed.

Jonathan Edwards in his sermon, “The Folly of Looking Back in Fleeing Out of Sodom”, points out that “the chief reason also why Lot was directed to make such haste, and not to look behind; because his fleeing out of Sodom was designed on purpose to be a type of fleeing from that state of sin and misery which we naturally are.”

This world that we reside in is destined for a more terrible destruction than Sodom.  That is the initial reason for anyone to turn their back on this world we live in and flee from it to Christ.  They don’t know anything better than this world.  The tendency to linger at the perimeter is enticing.  However, lingering at the perimeter of this world is very risky.  No one knows the number of their days.  No one knows the time of the Lord’s return.  Those who linger and long for this world are in danger of being suddenly overtaken and seized with destruction.

Therefore, we should all make haste to get far away from the attachments of that former life.  We should flee those entanglements like our lives depend upon it because it does.

The reality is that the further away from the perimeter of this world’s entanglement that you get the more you will realize that there is a much better world in Christ Jesus.  You will realize that you have given up nothing.  The further away you get the more you will see this world for what it really is, a prison.  Those escaping this world are giving up bondage of a prison of sin for the un-estimable treasure of Christ.  It is like Shin escaping his prison.  He has now experienced a world that far surpasses Camp 14.

However, no one will ever be able to see or appreciate the treasures of Christ until they flee.  Those who linger on the perimeter will continue to be blinded by that prison of luxury.  They will not appreciate the sacrifice that Christ has given – the laying of his own life across the prison wires of this world to allow us to crawl across his back to eternal life.

Jonathan Edwards:

“Therefore it is foolish for any who are fleeing out of Sodom to hanker any more after them; for when they are burnt up, what good can they do? And is it worth the while for us to return back for the sake of a moment’s enjoyment of them, before they are burnt, and so expose ourselves to be burnt up with them?”

I have heard some speak of their former lives of sins with what appear to be fond memories.  I have seen people struggle with their affections for a life prior to their profession.  I can understand their affinity for this world but it is like Lot’s wife lingering outside of Sodom.

We need to understand the dangers of lingering over those reminiscing thoughts.  What are you trying to preserve?  We will never know the greater treasures that await us in Christ until we flee.  It is when we lose our lives that we will actually keep it.  It is when we flee for fear of our own destruction that a miraculous new life in Christ begins.  It is in that new life that we will see the reality of this world as a prison camp full of misery and death that it really is.

That is what we are giving up; we are giving up only that which will be destroyed and lost.  It you try to preserve that, then you will surely lose it.

Therefore, remember Lot’s wife and flee; linger no more.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you saving me from certain destruction.  Thank you for sending your Son to condemn sin in the flesh.  Thank you for the cross and freeing me from bondage.  Lord, forgive me for lingering at the edge of this world.  Forgive me for preserving little morsels of this world.  Father, please continue to give me the urgency of flight from this world.  Give me a heart that desires you more than anything else that the world may entice me with.  Open my eyes to see this world for what it really is.  Give me a heart that appreciates what you have done.  Amen

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GATES OF MY INNER FORTRESS – Dec. 7th

December 7, 2012

“If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” Luke 16:31

I watched a documentary on Cheyenne Mountain. Cheyenne Mtn. is a military command center built inside of a granite mountain. It is home to elements of NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command. The facility is located a third of a mile inside of the mountain and protected by 25 ton blast doors. It is an incredibly secure facility.

However, it seems to me that even Cheyenne Mountain is not as secure as what is within some – a hardened heart. I don’t think that we really grasp the resistive strength of a hardened heart and the miracle of salvation. We often think that if we can just have the right reasoning then the barriers of a hardened heart will be overcome and this person will come to the free gift of eternal life. The rich man was told in Luke 16 that even if a dead person were to come back from the grave, people would still not be convinced. The scriptures completely contain all that is necessary for anyone to be saved.

I have wondered if there were more conversion experiences like that of Paul on the road to Damascus   many more people would be saved.  According to Luke 16, it is not true. So, why do some reject the Word of God, refusing to believe, and some accept it unto salvation?

I don’t know – it is a mystery that breaks my heart. It is a mystery of the hardened heart.Doubleblastdoors_540x359

Every person has a secure fortress deep within them that has impregnable gates. Those gates are locked from the inside. There is no reasoning, cajoling, guilting, shaming, begging, or pleading, that I can do to force those gates open. I cannot devise a method to pick those locks. I don’t even have access to them – they’re on the inside.

The gates of a hardened heart can only be opened by the rebel within, as he or she is drawn out into the light by the King of kings and Lord of lords. Why do some give up their rebellion and come out while others refuse? Why did the rich man in hell not repent and beg to be saved? Why do the demons, knowing who Jesus is, continue in their rebellion, assured of their fate?

I don’t know – it is the miracle of salvation. All I know is the scriptures tells us that God calls His elect to Himself; People will only open the gates of their inner fortress to the Shepherd that they already know (John 10:3-4).   One day we will understand it all.  I have long since stopped trying to figure out how God does things. It is beyond me. I am but a clay pot in His hands.  He is God and can do as He pleases, for His own glory.

Today, I stand in awe of the miracle of salvation; in gratitude to my Savior for calling me out from my own fortress of sin and death. That is a treasure that words fail to explain. Today, I will continue to spread the seeds of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for His glory, and let the Spirit do the work of calling His children to the glorious light of our Father.  A work that only He can do.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for saving me, a sinner, while I was still in my sin.  Father, continue your work of calling your sheep by name and leading us all out.    Amen

Image from http://news.cnet.com/2300-13576_3-10001119-2.html

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