Insecurity

“Jesus Christ. . .is the atoning sacrifice for our sins” ~1 John 1:2

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The evangelist preached a powerful message on God’s forgiveness of sins; explaining how Christ’s death on the cross, followed by His resurrection provided a cleansing stream of absolute forgiveness of sins; past, present, and future. Anyone who calls upon the name of Jesus will walk in that forgiveness for eternity. Dozens of people flocked to the altar to drink in His forgiveness, desperate for a cleansing experience. And they were not disappointed. Washed in the blood, they became whiter than snow in God’s sight.

A few months later, Frank, one of those who experienced God’s total forgiveness that night, met with Carl who had been a Christian for more than twenty years. He needed assurance. “So, Carl, how does this forgiveness actually work. I mean what about now that I’ve made some bad choices, lied a time or two, still wrestling with past sins? Some of the things I’ve done might curl your hair and I’m beginning to feel like I’m not really forgiven. I’m getting a little depressed if I’m honest. And it worries me.”

“I understand, Frank. And you’re not alone. Every person who has given their life to Christ has those feelings from time to time. And we all sin as well. The blood of Jesus washes all our sins away, Frank. Don’t forget that Jesus is at the right hand of God, interceding for our sins 24/7. God sees us through the blood of Christ. He sees us as pure and holy because of our faith in Christ, not our performance. Look at Romans 8:34, “Who then will condemn us? No one–for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.”

“That Scripture is powerful, Carl but sometimes I feel like a jerk. Like a loser. And then I wonder if I am really saved or if I am worth anything. I guess I get scared of my feelings. I get confused.”

“Many years ago I was at a conference and one of the speakers told us this very important fact, “Feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just are!” At first I thought he was wrong but the more I asked God about it I realized he was correct. We all have feelings and they may be absolutely wrong but that doesn’t make them true. What matters is what we do after we have the feelings. If they are not good do we go to God in prayer or do we wallow in them. Do we ask the Lord to forgive us, believe that He has and move on, walking in the light of His forgiveness? Or do we act condemned, weak and hopeless? Keep in mind the very important verses in Romans 8:1-2 “There is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit, which brings us life in union with Christ Jesus, has set me free from the law of sin and death.”

“I can feel (no pun intended) the heaviness lifting from my heart, Carl because I do believe that God never lies and always wants the best for me. You made me think of the verses later in that chapter, Romans 8:37-39, “No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below—there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

“And there it is, Frank, nothing can ever separate us from His love! One of the keys to the Christian life is to believe absolutely in God and His Word, the Bible. He has done everything necessary for our salvation and eternal life but we must believe what it says! If we doubt the Bible and choose to sulk in our pathetic, negative feelings, what hope is there? We are saved eternally, forgiven eternally and never condemned, according to God Himself. If I remember those facts and call out to Him when I “feel” defeated or worthless, those feelings will go away.”

“Here is another promise found in 1 John 1:7, “But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.”  When we accepted Christ as Savior God did not give us a wink and wish us well. Instead, He gave us this assurance as written in Hebrews 13:5, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’.”

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Easter!

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Although pristine and shiny, this elegant cross represents the bloody, cracked and dirty cross on which Jesus Christ willingly gave up His life for all humanity.

On April 1, 2018, many Americans will be aware of Easter Sunday which, for the most part, has become a family church day followed by a wonderful meal and an Easter egg hunt. But what about the cross in this photo? Where does that come in? Simply put, the cross came first, way before any family celebrations. The cross is a symbol of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ to wash away the sins of humanity…all people, all over the world. Jesus died so we could live forever in a sinless, perfect world God has already created for us. Faith in Christ opens the door to total forgiveness and a magnificent life forever with no tears or pain. Not even any bad thoughts!

I tell you this because I want to remind Christians and to offer a life of forgiveness to unbelievers through faith in Christ. Jesus did the hard work, the impossible, painful, dreadful work for us. To reap the rewards of his amazing gesture of love, we must accept his sacrifice just like you accept any gift. Faith in Christ will change your life…forever! That is what Easter is all about…the resurrection of Jesus!

Letter from grandmother to grandson in jail

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Dear Sam,

Well, I hear you have a new residence for the time being. Can’t say I feel congratulations are in order but if it gives you an idea that no matter what we think, there are rules and regulations we all must follow to make it through this life, it might be worth it.

Dick traded in the VW for a Ram P.U. It’s quite nice and roomy. He’s always wanted a truck so I guess it was time. I can’t believe it, he actually washes it himself once a week. What a difference.

Oh yes, our garden is growing great this year. We’ve had beautiful, sunny weather, except for today…it rained all day!

Why don’t you give some thought to going back to school, Sam? Or think about what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. You surely don’t plan on making a career out of serving hamburgers!

Well, your grandmother will close this boring letter and quit preaching.

Dick says, “Hello”.

Love & a Kiss,

Grandma

Forgiveness Not Feelings

 

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“For we are God’s masterpiece.” Eph. 2:10

Mike was 56 and had been a Christian for most of his life. Now in mid-life he had settled into a mediocre form of faith in Christ. His examples growing up were two parents displaying opposite ends of the faith spectrum. His father was stoic and bound by rules he thought Christians should follow. His mother was frantic, fearing they would all end up in hell because they were not perfect. Mike carried a little of both views into his adult life.  

Mike began to wonder if he would “make it” to heaven because of his sins of infidelity which brought about a divorce after 25 years. He was walking in doubt, secretly hoping he would be allowed into heaven but rather doubting it. Mike did not understand his total forgiveness and his right standing in Christ.

Eph 2:8-10  God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.

Mike’s eternal standing is secure and his life on earth can be filled with that assurance, rather than the forboding of imaginary unforgiveness. This unforgiveness is a lie from the enemy of our souls. He wants Mike and any other Christian in doubt, to give up the promises of God and live in doubt—hopeless and ineffectual. If Mike had turned to his Bible for answers, he would have reminded himself of Christ’s continual interceding for all believers at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Romans 8:34).

1 Thess 5:9-11  For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

2 Thess 1:11-12  So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Phil 2:12-13  …Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and power to do what pleases him.

1 Thess 1:3  As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Tim 1:9  For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.

For various reasons, we take on the responsibility of saving ourselves, wrenching that responsibility from Jesus. Promise after promise fills the pages of our Bible, reminding us that Jesus’ death on the cross brought ultimate forgiveness to all who call upon His name. But because of satan’s lies and our misplaced “feelings”, we fall into disbelief and discouragement, rejecting the love and forgiveness of Christ.

Rom 8:29-30  For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the first-born among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

Titus 3:4-8  But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone.

Two men served in Viet Nam. During combat, one was wounded. His buddy carried him through the jungle for two days. The wounded man begged his friend to leave him so he could make it. He refused and they finally found base camp.

Years later, the one who was carried heard that his friend had a terminal disease and was bedridden. Since he was no longer married, he sold all his possessions and moved to live with his dying friend. He nursed him for over a year until the disease claimed his life When asked why he did this, he replied, “He saved my life. There is nothing I would not have done for him to show my gratitude.”

Jesus gave his life to rescue us for all eternity. Are we grateful?

Rom 15:13  I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

Live By Faith

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Hebrews 11:1  ~Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

 

I attend a weekly Bible study that has been ongoing more than six years. The study is aimed at practical application of God’s Word, the Bible. This approach can bring daily challenges and will often bring spiritual growth in each life. Recently, that is what happened.

I ride with one of the men in the study who has an occasional variance in his work schedule which prevents his attendance. When this happens, the men in the study share their disappointment and I make sure to send a copy of the study via email. But this week would prove different and bring about a God-ordained journey and ending.

“I have a new job and will have to miss a few Wednesdays,” he said at the study. “I hope it won’t be permanent but I’m not sure.”

True to form, we expressed our disappointment and continued with the morning’s study. A few days later, it seemed that God was speaking to me about my lack of faith. “We live by faith, not by sight,” says 2 Corinthians 5:7. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but opn what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal,” says 2 Corinthians 4:18.

Then I understood what God, through the Holy Spirit, was showing me: believe that my friend, Matt, could be there; to have faith that God would answer our prayers to shift Matt’s schedule to allow him to continue attending. In that instant it was very clear to me, Matt wanted to be in the Bible study, would benefit from his attendance and the rest of us would benefit from his presence.

This is an element of spiritual warfare and the victory belongs to God. Instead of saying, “Too bad you can’t come, Matt, see you when your schedule changes.” We can ask God to make a way for him to attend and believe He will do that!”

Two days later Matt called and said, “Hey my schedule has changed and I will pick you up as usual.” Joyfully I shared my revelation with Matt and we rejoiced in the answer to prayer. God cares. He is always victorious, and He delights in answering our prayers.

 

Book Review: Make Your Voice Heard In Heaven

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“It’s important to remember that we do not always receive what we ask for when we pray. . .God knows what is best for our lives. Even when he doesn’t grant our requests, he is nonetheless working all things together for good.”  -Barry C. Black

Using the Bible as his resource, US Senate chaplain Barry Black takes us on a God-directed pathway to the need and reason for prayer. Reminding us again and again, prayer for Christians is not only good it is essential; not only for the prayer but for the entire Body of Christ.

Not resorting to flowery phrases to captivate and fill with false hope, Black writes to-the-point, using hundreds of Bible verses to verify his thoughts and directions. He wants all believers to understand how important prayer is for our lives and the lives of those whom we are lifting up to God.

If, like me, you have struggled with how to pray and in what manner, this book will bring relief and understanding. God created us and He wants us to talk to him. According to Chaplain Black, prayer is a God-ordained method of talking with God.

Tyndale Publishers gave me a free copy of this book for an unbiased review.

 

God’s Will

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What Is His Will?                                    
Most of us, either openly or secretly, struggle with finding God’s will for our lives. Sometimes, based partly on the influence of our more emotional brothers and sisters in Christ, we long for, no, expect an audible voice answering our plea. But what if we already know His will? What if He has clearly revealed His will for our lives?
First, let’s strip away theological meanderings, traditional liturgy, and false expectations. Let’s prepare the soil of our hearts and minds for a new crop; plow up the crusty surface of misunderstandings and misconceptions to reveal the pliable and rich soil of our hearts…ready to receive His direction — to know His will. Lo and behold, bits and pieces of this deep mystery (or so we think of it) rise from His written word, the book of absolute truth— there all the time!

  •     Romans 12:2  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Sounds so simple and yet, as we all know, so very challenging; “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world.” Lord I want to give up, walk away from, the world and all its trappings but…it is so difficult. It is right there all the time, waiting to pounce on me and drag me back into the mess of wanting to be liked and wanting stuff.

After I spend time reading the Bible and praying I feel spiritually strong, able to repel my own selfish desires and the Devil’s attacks. Then a friend calls with an invitation to coffee. I accept and as I arrive at our favorite coffee place, I see him standing by a shiny new car, my favorite model. “What do you think?” he says, grinning widely.

What do I think? I think I want your car— should have your car! Envy leaps upon me and holds on tightly. My mind is racing, and not toward the Lord. How can I buy one? Desire has not only planted seeds but they are the quick-growing variety and have sprung up to full size. My pulse quickens, I begin sweating, I’m ignoring my friend. And now, worse yet, I dislike my friend for having this beautiful car. Oh, what a fool I am— “copying the behavior and customs of the world.”

If following God’s will depended on me the result would always be like the one above. Thankfully, the second part of that sentence in Romans 12:2 says, “But let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” Heaving a great sigh of relief, we can see it is Him who transforms our thought patterns, revealing His perfect will for our lives.

  •     1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

 

  •     Ephesians 5:15-17  Be very careful then, how you live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

    I find encouragement and excitement in knowing that not only has God revealed His will to us, but has given us His Holy Spirit to come alongside and comfort. We are truly prepared to walk this walk and know His will for our lives. And we can also pray for each other to see His will for our lives, according to the following verse:
    
    Ephesians 1:15-17  For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.