Sunday, September 30, 2007

Imagine That John Lennon Wasn't An Idiot

A radio host played Lennon’s classic song “Imagine” this morning. When it finished he went on and on about how great a song it was and how great a person Lennon was.

What is wrong with a person’s world view when he rhapsodises about a wife beating drug addict who can only imagine peace because he is incapable of living it?

And just how stoned do you have to be to believe, to REALLY BELIEVE that you can bring about world peace by refusing to get out of bed?

What a wretched state when people need drugs coursing through their veins in order to feel love toward other human beings.

When asked for his opinion on “What is wrong with the world?” the brilliant G.K. Chesterton answered, “I am.” Would that John Lennon possessed such insight.

A lack of peace is not the fault of borders or religion or anything else outside of one’s own corrupted self-loving soul.

Goals - Who Needs Em?

I feel sad for those who don’t know Jesus as friend, and guide. I feel sorry because they are forced to chart a course for their own lives. If they are to be considered successful by others who are also adrift in the same sea of life, then they must, as it is known in the vernacular, “Set goals for themselves.” They must set financial goals, personal goals, retirement goals and business goals. Goals for the week and goals for the weekend. They gotta have goals for their children’s education, goals for their marriage and goals for the New Year. They gotta have short term goals and long term goals; goals for their body and goals for their mind. People without their Creator for a Pilot must plot a course and head for what they believe to be the safest port. And they must do this all on speculation.

Nevertheless, they gotta nail it down. Figure it out. Peer into the future and avoid mistakes. At all cost they must avoid mistakes. When they are young they call this journey an adventure. The exude pride and possess a noble sense of independence. By middle age however, they call it the wheel of rebirth and suffering or they identify with lines like, ‘Life is hard and then you die.’ The sad part of all this is, setting goals is NOT the way to personal success. Setting goals is simply a way of ignoring the fatigue cracks in the hull of the craft in which you are sailing.

Not so with Jesus. Followers of Jesus have no need of goals. All that we need is a willingness to follow Jesus where ever He leads. For example, followers of Jesus are given the strength and courage to be led into a marriage where disappointments are not something to run from. Instead, disappointments are something in which we are introduced to our true selves. If we are willing to do that, then we are also able to allow Jesus to make adjustments as needed. A willingness to follow Jesus brings the strength to become people of integrity and courage, compassion and grace.

Because of that, we can follow Jesus into both personal and financial loss. We can follow Jesus into the shadow of death. We can follow Jesus and trust in His promise that is found in Isaiah 43:2 - “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.”

You see, all of us, Christian and non Christian, are going to face trials and hardships in life. All of us are going to suffer at some point in our journey, and for some, we’ll suffer all the way through our journey. The only real question is whether you will suffer with Jesus in your life or without Him. The beauty of being in an intimate relationship with Jesus is that, unlike not-yet believers, hardships are not something to be avoided. Most people spend so much time trying to squirm out of their difficulties that they never take part in the learning that is possible only within the context of difficulties. Because of that, they never learn that suffering need not be a barrier to peace. Because of Jesus, difficulties need not be something that destroys or disables our ability to reach the intended end to which Jesus is leading us.

Granted, even with Jesus, difficulties remain difficulties. Suffering remains suffering. Pain remains pain. Grief remains grief. However, with Jesus in one’s life, all these things activate the presence of our Creator. The presence of God’s Spirit, something that resides inside every follower of Jesus, creates a buffer to the amount of damage that disaster can bring. The degree of damage is limited to only that which can promote growth; it need never be enough to permanently cripple. The Holy Spirit creates in a believer courage to face the next test and the next one after that and so on and so on.

Rather than avoiding the tidal waves of life, with Jesus as my guide, I have been able to grab hold of His hand, and with eyes wide open I am able to wade into the midst of the pain and walk changed for the better out the other side. With Jesus as my counsellor, I am able to experience my weakness and failure as the harbinger of yet another level of spiritual victory. It is bracing and exciting - fantastically exciting. Life with Jesus is true adventure. His grace always, always, always outweighs the weight of life.

Do I experience this perfectly everyday? No. But I’m way better at it than I was yesterday. And because each ordeal increases my trust in my Saviour, I’ll be better at it tomorrow than I was today. I think that is why that verse in Isaiah does not say, ‘You will walk on the waters to the other side.’ Jesus knows that our lack of faith will cause us to sink. But I also know, and all believers know, that He will not allow us to drown. With each pass through the waters of affliction, our increasing faith causes us to rise a little bit higher, and to come out the other side a little bit drier. Praise the Lord that I am not the master of my fate, nor the captain of my soul.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

God's Grace - Use It Or Lose It.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8.

D. L. Moody tells the story of a teacher in the 1800's who attempted to teach his students about God’s Grace. The teacher took from his pocket a silver watch and offered it to the oldest boy in the class. “It’s yours if you will take it,” he said.

The boy, believing it a joke, and thinking that he would be laughed at if he held out his hand, smiled and sat still. In the same way, the teacher offered it to the next child, and to the next and the next until he came to the youngest child in the class. When the watch was offered to the young lad, he took it and put it into his pocket. All the class laughed at him.

“I am thankful, my boy,” said the teacher, “that you believe my word. The watch is yours.”

The rest of the class looked on in amazement and one of the them said, “Teacher, you don’t mean that the watch is his, do you?”

“Indeed it is,” replied the teacher.

“Oh, no!” groaned the boy. “If I had only known that, I would have taken it!”

So many people blame God for not allowing everyone go to heaven. Like this story however, God cannot give the gift of salvation to those who will not receive it.

Friday, September 28, 2007

I believe in Sin, only Sin, and nothing but Sin

It’s often heard that terrorism springs from poverty - That AID’s springs from poverty - That violent crime springs from poverty - That loss of Hope springs from poverty.

Nothing could be further from the truth! Violence, hatred, despair and diseases like AID’s, etc. spring from a sick and sinful soul, from a soul that is separated from one's Creator. These plagues of violence and disease spring from nothing but sick and sinful souls that are separated from one's Creator.

To say otherwise is to think like an alcoholic who says things like, “I got drunk because I lost my job.” “I got drunk because my boyfriend left me.” “I got drunk because I won the lottery.” “I got drunk because my friends were drinking.” Any comment by an alcoholic that begins, “I got drunk because,” and doesn’t end in, “I’m and alcoholic,” is a lie to others and to self.

Any blame for corruption that doesn’t lay the blame solely in a corrupt and sinful soul is wishful thinking. We adhere to and grasp for this wishful thinking because we'd rather strive to eliminate poverty (good for all, but impossible to accomplish because of our corrupt and sinful souls) than accept the cure of a healed, forgiven and intimate relationship with Jesus (good for all, but desired by only a few).

God's Grace is "Free"

We have rubber because thousands of Natives in the Amazon died. This happened so that the ingredients for rubber could be taken from them and given to us.

We in North America live in wealth beyond imagination because thousands of Native Americans died. This happened so that their land could be taken from them and given to us.

Most of we who blog live with the freedom to express ourselves as we please. Millions of soldiers died so that we could have this freedom.

Disgusting barely describes the transfer of this power and wealth.
Horrific barely describes the subsequent abuses of this power and wealth

We can have forgiveness of our sins, freedom from guilt and possession of the Grace, Mercy and Love of God. We can spend eternity in the presence of our perfectly Holy Creator. This can happen because Jesus died in order to give these things to us.

. God Himself paid the price of salvation for us.
. God Himself was tortured to death on our behalf.
. God Himself did this so that He could give salvation to us “Free of charge.”

Amazing, Fantastic, Astonishing, Marvelous, Tremendous, Wonderful - Our language does not contain the words to describe the amazing Love of our Creator God.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Thoughts on Christian Marriage

Colossians 3:2 - “Set your minds on the things above, not on things on earth.”

Just some thoughts on something that all of us need to be reminded about over and over and over in our Christian walk in marriage. The things that happen to us, the things that aggravate us, the events that take place in our relationships are nothing more than that; they are events. The event (for example one’s partner’s irresponsible behaviour or another partner’s hurtful comments) are not the most important thing to pay attention to. They feel like it, but they aren’t.

I’m not trying to downplay the significance of these or other events. I’m not saying that when one person does something disappointing or when the other person says something hurtful that it doesn’t matter. In fact, I’m saying that these events have more significance than they appear to have on the surface. I’m saying that the changes that these two “events” are meant to bring about in us are what’s important. Pretty confusing? Let me say it this way.

As Christians, we have a promise from God. I can tell you from 26 years of experience as a Christian and after 34 years of marriage that this is a promise that is 100% accurate. Here it is. “In all things [events], God will bring about something good in those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose”(Romans 8:28). (Inclusion of “events” mine.)

That promise was made by God, to all of His followers. The behaviours or events that satan is using to try to destroy you, the things that satan is using to try to tear apart your marriage, the things that satan is using to try to create a broken and chaotic home for your children, God will use to bring about good, if you love Him.

But what is the good that God brings out of these things or these events? The answer is found in verse 29. “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son . . .”

If, instead of focussing on how we’ve been wronged by our spouse, we ask God to help us focus on, “What are You trying to teach me in this situation, Lord?” then God will be able to teach us and to change us. Why is that a good thing? It’s good for at least two reasons:

1) The more that I’m like Jesus, the less that I’ll be doing or saying things that hurt my spouse.

2) The more that I’m like Jesus, the less that I’ll retaliate in hurtful ways when I’m treated badly or with disrespect by my spouse.

This is good news for any Christian marriage. Whenever I do something that is not being as kind to Wendy as I could or should, it’s a reminder to me that I need to draw closer to Jesus. And when I listen to that reminder (and that’s hard to do in the heat of the moment) I begin to treat Wendy better. That’s because Jesus’ Spirit in me causes me to do that. On my own, I’m not that nice. When I let Jesus work through me, I become nicer.

The Bible tells us that the Fruit of the Spirit, or the consequences of allowing God’s Spirit to work in us are: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control (Galatians 5:22). I want to have a character like that! I need to have a character like that for our marriage to be all that I want it to be. Only God can bring that about in me.

But why this lengthy process? I mean, God could heal us immediately if He wanted to. The reason that God takes us along a difficult path, the reason that God brings / allows difficult events and people to come into our lives is because that is how we become strong in our faith. These difficulties force us to continually depend on Him. Without increasing faith in God, we continually repeat old destructive behaviours. Only in Him do we find true life.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Your Future Is In Your Hands

“Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” Galatians 6:7
“They sow the wind and reap a whirlwind.” Hosea 8:7

Farming has come a long, long way from how it was done in first century Palestine. Genetically modified seed, machines that place the seed precisely in the soil, testing that puts the right amount of nutrients into the soil, monitoring weather reports and crop forecasts from around the world - all of these things and more go into deciding the type of seed to plant and projecting the potential quantity of harvest.

Can you imagine stopping a farmer on her/his tractor and asking, “So what are you seeding there?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know? Well, what about the quality? Is it good seed?”
“Sorry. I don’t know that either.”
“Well, is there any market for the type of crop that you’re seeding?”
“Gosh, I don’t know that. I just go out and seed some stuff and then wait to see what happens.”

Most people would have little problem predicting that this person’s future in agriculture was grim.

But what about the person who goes through life with little or no thought for eternity? What about the person who spends little or no time thinking about whether these thoughts or those actions will reap anything positive, not just for this lifetime, but for eternity?

Some people spend their entire lives working to gain all that this world has to offer. Relationships, wealth, power, position - these things seem all important to some people. They never give two thoughts to whether their beliefs, thoughts and actions might have an affect on where they will spend eternity. Jesus calls such person a fool.

As an alternative, Jesus announces that everyone and anyone, no matter what the current condition of their lives, can come to Him and receive forgiveness of their sin, freedom from real guilt and a guarantee of eternal life in Heaven.

What are you sowing for eternity?

Do you know?

Are you rejecting what Jesus has to offer? Or will you allow yourself to bask in the warmth and grace and mercy of God’s love? I can tell you from experience that a life with Jesus is a life worth having.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Lost - Forever Lost

We hear of all types of tragedies on the News - A family lost their house in a fire, A child has been lost since last week, A elderly person lost all her savings in some scam, An athlete lost his ability to play due to an injury, A surgeon lost her reputation due to a mistake.

We cluck our tongues and shake our heads upon hearing such news, but who worries about the loss of a person’s soul? Who weeps for someone that has put a lifetime of effort into gaining all the wealth and fame that the world has to offer, only to ignore the most cataclysmic loss that one can ever endure, that being the loss of an eternal relationship with one’s Creator?

Lord, have mercy on me a Sinner.

Matthew 5:23,24
- "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

Have you ever had to go to court? Have you ever had to face judgement for something that you’ve done wrong? Have your ever been guilty and wished that you could either have the charges reduced or dropped altogether before coming before a Judge?

The Bible tells us three important facts.
1) We are all guilty of open rebellion against our Creator, our Lord, our Judge.
2) The date has been set for hearing the verdict and for hearing the length of our sentence. The date is just one heartbeat away.
3) There is no need for any of us to be found guilty. We can be absolved of all our guilt. The record of our criminal past can be wiped clean.

The Bible’s advice to everyone? Settle out of Court with Jesus now. Full pardon and complete amnesty is immediately available.

2nd Corinthian 6:2 For [God] says, I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Obey the Bible for a Year

This guy is too stupid to blog about but I seem irresistibly drawn to criticise on this lovely morn. What’s really, really stupid is that a magazine actually interviewed him and I mean seriously interviewed him about doing this. So here’s the setting. An agnostic of all things claims to have obeyed every rule in the Bible for a year. He says that he didn’t do it in a mocking or joking manner but it’s obvious that if he wasn’t joking then he is a class A cartoon himself for believing that he could pull off like that. I’ve already said more than this idiot is worth. Bottom line - If you want to obey every rule in the Bible, common sense would dictate that you start with what God calls the two most important rules in the Bible. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind," AND "Love your neighbour as yourself.” An agnostic obeying that? Ah no. I don’t think so. Anyone obeying that for a year or even a day? Sorry. No.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Hypocrites in the Church

When talking about Christianity with non Christians, it isn’t long before someone will say something like, “That f----g Christian hypocrite cheated me out of hundreds of dollars a few years back.” Or “He goes to Church and he’s an alcoholic. What a hypocrite!” First of all, being a sinner is not the same as being a hypocrite. I and other Christians became followers of Jesus because we know that we ARE sinners and that we need forgiveness for that reality. On the other hand, we Christians often fool ourselves by thinking, "Now that I'm a Christian, I've got it all together." We compare how far Jesus has brought us from where we used to be and we mistakenly believe that we've arrived. That is often perceived by non Christians as hypocrisy. This is very important because it deflects non believers from an important Truth.

Are there hypocrites in the Christian Church? Of course. Every person on earth is a hypocrite to one degree or another. However, no one is asking you to follow hypocrites. Follow Jesus. No one is asking you to believe hypocrites. Believe Jesus. There is not a shred of hypocrisy in Jesus Christ. He lived exactly what He preached. He is dependable in every area of life. He preaches truth and justice because True and Just are who He is.

Monday, September 17, 2007

What a Friend We Have In Jesus!

I am part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made - I’m a disciple of His. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.

My past is redeemed
My present makes sense
My future is secure.

I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, colourless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, fake friendships, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean in His presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer, and I labour with power.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my Guide reliable, my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitated in the presence of the enemy, pander at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops me. And when He comes for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me - my banner will be clear!

This is a copy of a note found written in the office of a young Pastor in Zimbabwe, following his martyrdom for his faith in Jesus Christ.


An anti-Theist has stated - “. . . to believe in the God of the Bible we would have to have both [no freewill so that we can fulfill his prophecies] and [freewill so that we can be judged for our choices].”

Fulfilling God’s prophecies is absolutely possible within the context of human freewill. Any given prophecy in the Bible is based on the foreknowledge of God. This foreknowledge has already taken into consideration the choices that will be made by a person’s freewill. For example, Jesus prophesied that Peter would deny Him three times. This prophecy was made with the foreknowledge that each time that Peter was accused of being a friend of Jesus, Peter had the freewill to be honest or to lie, and that Peter would choose to lie.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Blessing of Arthritis

I’ve had arthritis since I was 10-years-old. In fact I have Rheumatoid arthritis, Osteoarthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, and Osteoporosis. That means that joint replacements, bent and disfigured joints and being bowed over like an 90 year-old-man, by the time I was 40 have been my lot.

That means that every year for the last 46 years the physical scope of my life has progressively diminished. No football, no baseball, no volley-ball, no hockey, no hiking, no swimming, no sports of any kind. While I was able to fly a plane and sky-dive for a number of years, arthritis eventually took those from me as well. Why was that a big deal? Because there isn’t a human on earth who wants to be constrained in any way. Being denied physical activity made me crave it like a starving man craves food. Being forced onto disability after 35 years of employment has left me longing to be able to reenter the workforce. Watching other parents play with their children in the park has left me longing to be that kind of parent for my children. Being married for 34 years has left me longing to be the passionate lover my wonderful wife deserves.

Yesterday my grandson asked, “Grandpa, why did God give you arthritis?”
“I don’t know my young friend. Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you.”

Although I’ve spent decades pondering this question, and while I’ve known the answer in part for several years, it was only last night that the answer came to me in it’s clearest form to date. Because of my arthritis I have been given Perseverance, Thankfulness and Sufficiency in Christ Jesus. God used my arthritis to bring me to the point of salvation. My character has been developed to the point that I can’t imagine what kind of tragedy would be able to rock my foundation. As the Bible says, “Those who wait upon the Lord are like Mount Zion, unmoved by any circumstance”

I have been given the Perseverance to follow the Lord through any circumstance no matter how difficult. I guarantee you, Wendy and I have been through plenty in our 40 years together. As we’ve grown in our faith in Jesus, we have become a powerful force when confronted by the difficulties of life.

I have been given a spirit of Thankfulness. Being denied what I thought were the important things in life, I have come to immeasurably appreciate the intangibles of life. Bitterness regarding the challenges of life, including the challenge of arthritis, is simply absent. I acknowledge to my Creator a thankfulness for every heartbeat, for every new day, for every child that has come into our family. In fact I have been brought to a point in my life where I can be thankful for each new difficulty. This is because the greater the problem, the greater the amount of Himself that Jesus pours into my life. Jesus either increases the strength of His presence in me to match my load. Or He decreased the load to match the strength that He has given me. The presence of Jesus produces such a feeling of peace and joy that I cannot help but be thankful. I am free to enjoy the development of these personal qualities and characteristics. They can never be taken from me regardless of circumstances.

Most importantly, I have been stripped of any delusion of self-sufficiency. Instead I have found my Sufficiency in Jesus. Instead of fragile self-esteem, I've been given rock-solid Christ-esteem.

For the first 30 years I fought and fought and fought the life that had been handed to me. In my battle with life, I was determined to not allow life to defeat me even if during this fight I destroyed myself and every one around me. Thankfully, it was arthritis that brought me to my knees. Thankfully, it was my arthritis that caused me to seek Jesus for help.

Some may call that weakness. I say, “Yes, and?” As the saying goes, “To what will you look to for help if not to that which is stronger than yourself?” Since the day of my salvation, since the day that I asked Jesus to come into my life as my Lord and Saviour, I can honestly say that every year has been better than the year before.

Now, someone may say to me, “I’ve developed perseverance, thankfulness and self-sufficiency on my own? I don’t need Jesus.” And I say, “Good for you. Go and enjoy your life as best you can.”

The point is, I couldn’t do it on my own. I gave it my best shot and failed. I gave it my best shot and hurt those around me in the process. I could not beat arthritis. It is my belief that a loving God gave / allowed me to have arthritis in order to change me. And believe me, changes were desperately needed. I believe that a loving God denied me the things that I wanted so that He could give me the things that I needed.

Perseverance, Thankfulness and Sufficiency in Christ Jesus. These characteristics are absolutely essential if one is to receive and live the abundant life that Jesus promises to those who follow Him. These characteristics are mine in quantities that amaze and astound me. Life’s challenges are now nothing but specks of lint to be flicked off my shoulder. I am strong in my weakness. God’s strength is made evident in my weakness. Arthritis has been one of my greatest blessings.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Parables of Jesus

When Jesus told us His parables, He was describing Himself. The parables were describing the love of Jesus. They were describing His passion for those who do not yet know His forgiveness and salvation. He was describing His revulsion toward those of us to have received His forgiveness and who then turn around and withhold forgiveness, grace and mercy from others who are sharing this global community with us.

In the story of the prodigal son, Jesus shows that God longs to renew a relationship with those who are falling between the cracks of life - those struggling with multiple addictions, criminals, those who can only find a sense of belonging in serial relationships, those who can only find worth when it's reflected back to them in the things that they own, those who are “kept in place” through poverty and violence.

Jesus shows in His parables that the whole purpose in His relationship with humanity is to seek and to save those who are in rebellion to His love; to bring into His embrace those who, out of ignorance of His inclusive love, are trying to push Him away.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Sceptic's Miscue on Grace

The question that sceptics ask is, “How could a loving God eternally punish someone as wonderful as me?” What they need to be asking is, “What kind of Love, what kind of Mercy, what kind of Grace does this God possess that causes Him to reach out and save for eternity the worst individuals who have ever been born?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Joy of the Lord is My Strength

I was reading a blog a bit ago. On it a woman was expressing her dismay over the seeming impossibility of ever convincing Christians how stupid they were for “believing” in Jesus. She also went on at length regarding how awful the God was whom these Christians seemed determined to worship. Especially perplexing for this person was the fact that the worse conditions get for Christians, be it a flood, or earthquake or act of terrorism or the death of a child, the greater their joy seems to get and the deeper their conviction in the goodness of God.

I actually know where she’s coming from. At one time I too found the Christian’s response to life perplexing, disconcerting and at times infuriating. I thought that it was just a phoney act when I’d hear a Christian talk about how blessed he or she felt during a “time of sorrow.” I thought it was absolute rubbish when a Christian would talk about the peace she would feel after what sounded to me like a horrendous loss. Now that I’m on the other side, now that I have a healed relationship with Jesus, I know where those weird Christians are coming from. Now that I have a forgiven relationship with my Creator I can relax and just bask in the loving presence of the Holy Spirit who is the source of my joy.

There is a tremendous chasm that separates a Christian’s deep inner joy and the fleeting happiness that pagans experience. A Christian does not need to depend on manufacturing joy through a well planned trip to the mountains or to a movie. A Christian doesn’t have to depend on the fleeting pleasure of getting stoned. A Christian doesn’t have to search for contentment and security in amassing a fortune or accumulating piles of possessions. A Christian doesn’t have to pretend that h/his worth has increased or that h/she “belongs” because a lot of names have been accumulated on a website. A Christian doesn’t have to work at or discipline him/herself through meditation or rituals in order to finding lasting peace. A Christian’s joy is independent of worldly influence. A Christian’s joy comes to the Christian from the Creator’s Spirit that indwells that person upon accepting Jesus as one’s Saviour.

This is not to say that some of the things that make a pagan happy don’t also make a Christian happy. It’s just that the Christian will acknowledge the truth that “All good things, and every perfect gift is from above, coming down to us from the Father of heavenly lights, in whom there is no changing or shifting like shadows - James 1:17. A pleasant day, a good relationship, the thrill and excitement of exploring or travelling to a new place, watching a much loved child learn a new skill, these things please anyone, pagan or atheist or Christian. Rather than enjoying and then praising a painting, a Christian enjoys the painting and then praises the artist.

The type of attitude that was so troubling for the writer of that blog was highlighted thousands of years ago by another person who had a close relationship with the God of Love.
A person named Habakkuk whose thoughts can be found in a ‘book’ by the same name. In chapter 3 verses 17-19, it says this. “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” A line from the well known book of Job cites, “Though He slay me, yet I will serve Him.”

In more recent times a song writer said -
“When peace like a river attends my soul
When storm clouds like sea billow roll
Whatever my lot
You have taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul.”
These are more than just words. They were written by a man who had lost his wife and children when their ship sank in the North Atlantic. As he later passed that very spot on his way home to England from North America he penned those words.

What creates that kind of loyalty in a person who has just been clobbered by life? What sustains the soul of these people who claim to love and serve a God that does not free his loyal subjects from the harsh realities of life? How is it that possessing the ability to experience love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, supercedes and overshadows the good feelings that come from relationships, power, position, looks, or fame etc.? This is something that the writer of the blog simply can’t comprehend because in her spiritual state, it is impossible for her to experience or to receive what Christians are allowed to experience.

There is no doubt that we humans possess an indomitable spirit. We can adapt to virtually any situation, any cruelty, any oppression. But those who rise above these situations, those who come out of them more convinced than ever in the goodness of their Creator have been given something that they and they alone know to be true.

One of the main things that bring joy to Christians is the solid belief that they have found a “First Principle” when it comes to a code of ethics and moral grounding regarding how to live life. They have found a solid foundation upon which to base their lives. Experience has proven that this is a foundation that is able survive the storms of life. It’s a foundation that nothing and no one can take away from someone who is part of the family of God.

As most people discover at some point during their life, and as has been stating at least a dozen times in the Bible, we are strangers here on earth. We do not instinctively know the way home. The old adage, ‘Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,’ while true, is virtually useless as the majority of people not only fail to learn from history, they purposely ignore it. Each of us begins the journey of life content in the arrogant belief that we know the correct path through a dizzying array of street signs. Even though we’ve never been down this road before, and even though we profess that no single map is any more dependable than any other map we boldly go where all the other idiots have gone before. In a great irony, it is those who are the most lost who proclaim the loudest that they know the correct route to a good life. Only in hindsight and often after great damage has been done to those around them do people confess that they were on the wrong road for decades. I can honestly state from years of experience spent on both the incorrect and finally the correct road, that it is a tremendous relief to no longer have to pretend that I know where I’m going and to simply let Jesus be my tour guide. Christianity is of necessity an admission to self and to one’s Creator that, “I’m lost and I need help.”

First and foremost, Christians have joy because -
The Holy Spirit is the source of a Christian’s joy.
Luke 10:21 - At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.
John 15:10-12 - If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
Acts 13:52 - And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13 - May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 14:17 – For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
Galatians 5:22 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace.
This is a supernatural joy that is as amazing as it is wonderful. In fact, agony is hardly an exaggeration to describe how I feel when I’m not allowed, out of political correctness, to share the way, the path, the how to lay hold of this joy with another individual.

Christians have joy because they possess-
The Road-map of God’s guidance:
Psalm 16:11- You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.
Psalm 19:8 - The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
Psalm 119:111 - Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.
Psalm 97:11 - Light is shed upon the righteous and joy on the upright in heart.
I can’t remember who it was that said it, but someone from another blog said something like, “I don’t believe in God because I can see Him. I believe in God for the reason that because of His light I can see everything else clearly.” Amen to that. I no longer have to wonder whether an affair is worth it or not. I don’t have to ponder if it’s alright to steal something small from a big company. I don’t have to contemplate if it’s worth the risk to cheat on my taxes. I live a life whereby morality is no longer relative to the situation. Do I still fail from time to time? Sure. But it’s due to human weakness; it not because of not knowing the right path to take.

Christians have joy because -
Praising God brings joy:
Psalm 33:1 - Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
I’ve heard it said that God presents Himself in the Bible as self-centered, egotistical, arrogant, etc. because of all His commands to worship Him. What the people who make these claims don’t understand is that when we are “right” with God and when we possess the Holy Spirit of the living God in our souls, worship is a natural outpouring of our inner joy. Worshiping our Creator is what brings joy to His created beings. Praising God brings joy because it is precisely that for which we were created. He is only asking us to do those things that will bring the most joy into our lives.

Christians have joy because -
Salvation in it’s own right brings joy:
Psalm 51:12 - Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Psalm 68:3 - But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.
Isaiah 12:3 - With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
Psalm 71:23 - My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you— I, whom you have redeemed.
I just finished reading a book by a man who was recently involved in purchasing, or more correctly redeeming slaves in Sudan. At this time in the 21st century, the Muslim slave trade is huge business in Sudan and in many other parts of the world. While the men from villages are usually killed, women and children are sold into both physical and sexual slavery. Many of the young boys are forced to fight in the Muslim militias after little or no training. All slaves are forced to convert to Islam via torture. No one that I know of, except North American Christians are involved in this effort to redeem slaves. This is done at great personal risk. To redeem means to buy back, to free - to set free those who have been enslaved. This is what Jesus did for us. Every person on earth is born enslaved to sin. Every person on earth is born impossibly separated from God. Only through faith in Jesus and what He did for us on the cross brings freedom from the power of sin, freedom from guilt, and freedom to live life as it was meant to be lived. That is indeed a joyful experience. If you are interested in reading about this further, see my post “Freedom - Glorious Freedom” where I list all that areas in which Jesus has brought freedom into my life.

Christians have joy because -
The joy of the Lord brings mental and emotional healing:
Psalm 94:19 - When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.
Two opposing thoughts cannot occupy the mind at the same time. Perhaps the greatest antidote to anxiety is a trusting relationship with Jesus our Lord. My prayer every night is that God would grant my children the gift of faith. It is the greatest gift in the world. Trust of course is built strong over time. I can tell you however that Jesus is more than able to prove Himself to you if you will only let Him. Do that and you are in for the most exciting ride of your life, for the rest of your life.

Matthew 13:44 - "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
What incredible peace and joy lies in the heart of the person who has found the greatest treasure this stage of life has to offer - Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:8 - Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,
This joy that Christians have is not manufactured. It is not a human joy. It is not some chemical mixture in the frontal lobe. It is supernatural. In many cases the joy comes without the person becoming fully aware of its growing presence. We become so used to trudging through life that it’s only in hindsight that one becomes astonished at the power with which s/he handled what would normally be a very troubling experience. Only in hindsight do we realize that Jesus is changing us for the better. Only in hindsight do we realize that the promise of Jesus to bring joy and peace into our lives is no empty promise. It’s a promise that comes to us and is fulfilled in us with power and perfection.

Christians have joy because -
Faith is the greatest gift ever:
So often I praise God with , “Thank you that you are in charge Father.” This faith that I have in Jesus is based on almost three decades of friendship with Him. As the apostle Paul once said, “I know the One in whom I believe.” I know Jesus well enough that I know that I can trust Jesus. I know that He is Truth. I haven’t found even one statement of Jesus’ to not be truth in the absolute. I know that He will never leave me or turn His back on me. My faith is based on being SURE of what I hope for. I am CERTAIN of what I don’t yet see (Hebrews 11:1). This is not just some wishful thinking. My joy is based on fact; it’s based on the reality of Jesus the Christ. Rather, as some say, that faith is based nothing substantial or ‘believing without any evidence,’ my faith is based on irrefutable evidence. It is built on trust that has been built up over 26 years of living with Jesus. This allows me to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
1 Thessalonians 1:6 - You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
15:16 - Be joyful always;
Hebrews 1:9 - You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy."
10:34 - You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.
12:2 - Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
James 1:2 - Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
1 Peter 1:8 - Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,

This is what is so confounding to non believers. Paul is recorded as saying in 2nd Corinthians, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecution, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” The joy that increases even as our troubles increase is so overwhelming, so wonderful, so infused with the love of God, that life’s flaming arrows become as pinpricks. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. There is no trouble so great that Jesus will not be right by your side all the way through it, empowering you and bringing you peace. That is why, in regard to a relationship with Jesus and the victorious life that He provides, someone has written, “Rain on, I will not drown, for I am standing on higher ground.”

Christians have joy because -
Jesus love feels the same as Protection from suffering:
Psalm 4:7 - Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength
James 1:2 - Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
Psalm 5:11 - But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
Psalm 28:7 - The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him
2 Corinthians 7:4 - in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.
8:2 - Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.
Colosians 1:10-12 - And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
1 Thessalonians 1:6 - You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
15:16 - Be joyful always;
Hebrews 10:34 - You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.
Hebrews 12:2 - Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
What humans so often fail to realize is that our problems, our losses, our pummeling by life, while difficult, are also opportunities for growth and courage. This is doubly so for the Christian. The chief source of pain when confronted with hardship is not the hardship itself but our resistance to the hardship. We spend so much time trying to wiggle out of our problems that we completely miss the learning that can be taking place within the problem. As a Christian, you are not always protected FROM life’s difficulties. But you will be protected THROUGH life’s difficulties. This is joy. This is strength. This is character.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Chosen By God

I can’t seem to get out of my mind a comment that was made by an atheist a couple months ago. He seemed obsessed with things fair and unfair. What was / is tremendously unfair in this person’s mind is God’s choosing some people for salvation and not others. ‘If this is how god works, then he is not a loving god' was the gist of his comments. As I reread this, it doesn’t sound like he’s much of an atheist, does it? Oh well.

People who are caught up in this type of thinking don’t get this fundamental fact. Regardless of everything else that goes on in the world, ALL of us deserve to go to hell. None of us are deserving of forgiveness. None of us deserve to spend eternity in Heaven. God’s Love is shown in that He has chosen, called, elected, destined and predestined in His foreknowledge some people for salvation so that they need not spend eternity in hell.

Is this fair? Well, not in the sense that some people get salvation when they don’t deserve it, or that they don’t get eternity in hell when that is exactly what they do deserve. No. In that sense, God isn’t fair.

Is the setting aside for salvation, people who don’t deserve salvation the sign of a loving God? Considering that God came to earth with the sole purpose of allowing us to do our absolute worst to Him, while He gave to us His best, I’d say that God's love is way beyond our ability to comprehend. Considering that God paid the debt that I owed Him, so that I could be forgiven and be freed from earned guilt, I’d say that I don’t possess the language to describe God's enormous love. I and other Christians have been given the deal of an eternity. It isn't fair but it sure does feel like love.

I don’t claim to know the why of what our Creator does and neither do the ‘chosen’ writers of the Bible. That is why we have verses like, “His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.” And “Does the pot tell the potter what to do?”

This I do know. The doctrine of election is clear. Here is what I could find on the subject.
The Bible speaks throughout its pages of God choosing people especially for His elect purpose. He sets some kings on their thrones and deposes others. He raised up a Pharaoh of Egypt for no other reason that to display God’s awesome power in rescuing a ‘people’ of His choosing. The genealogy of Jesus is an astounding example of this election of people (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for etc.) taking place down through the centuries.

An example of election that causes people to stand silent in contemplating God’s fairness is Romans 9:11 - “Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand . . .” To be chosen by God is not based on our being “good enough.” Obviously this is because none of us could ever be good enough to earn God’s choosing. His plans are Sovereign.

The apostle Paul of course is adamant that it is God who chooses people for salvation. It is not people who choose God. Apparently Jesus taught as much when His best friend John wrote, “No one comes to Jesus unless God the Father draws him to Jesus.” Paul knows this fact because God chose him to become a follower of Jesus while he (Paul) was diligently killing and torturing Christians. Paul was shown in dramatic fashion that salvation is by grace alone and not by merit. He explains in Romans 11:6-8 - And if [salvation is] by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written: "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day”

Hmm. God doesn’t seem too concerned whether some people think He’s acting fairly.

Romans 11:28,29 - As far as the gospel is concerned [and] as far as election is concerned, they are loved . . . for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.
2 Timothy 2:10 - Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
Titus 1:1 - Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.
1 Peter 1:1 - Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God's elect, strangers in the world

Jesus spoke of the elect concerning the final days of history whereby it is only by election that some people won’t be fooled by satan’s delusions that are poured out upon the people “who live upon the earth.” This term, “who live upon the earth,” is used by the writers of the Bible to describe those for whom this life on earth is their primary concern.
Matthew 24:22,24,31 - If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

In a somewhat comical fashion, I had one atheist express worry that rebellion could take place in heaven (something, I would think, that he doesn’t even believe in), just like it took place before the creation of the world. What he doesn’t understand, one of the many things that he doesn’t understand is that the rebellion of the angels, satan et al. was also part of God’s plan.
1 Timothy 5:21 - I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.

Those angels that fell, were allowed to fall. Those who didn’t fall were kept safe by God according to His Sovereign plan.

Another word that is sometimes used to describe this concept is FOREKNOWLEDGE / FOREKNEW:
Like the word elect, foreknowledge is used when describing God’s work within human society as well as in terms of those destined for heaven. The first reference in Acts applies to Jesus himself. His crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection was no random set of events. It was planned from before the beginning of time. Jesus came to earth with this express purpose in mind. This is the same as those who nailed Jesus to the cross. Their actions were not mere accidents of history.
Acts 2:23 - This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

As stated, elect, foreknowledge and foreknew are most commonly used to describe those that God has chosen for salvation.
1 Peter 1:2 - . . .who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
Romans 8:29 - For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Those who have been elected by God’s foreknowledge have clearly been CHOSEN by God.
The first use of this term in the New Testament is to describe unequivocally that all 12 of Jesus’ closest followers, including the one who would betray Jesus were chosen carefully by Him, not the other way around.
John 6:70 - Then Jesus replied, "Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!"

There are many, many verses that are meant to comfort God’s elect by reminding them that if God has chosen them, He is not about to just allow them to drift along through life without His help. One such verse is found in Luke 18:7 - And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?

Such is the importance of this concept, that Paul takes the element of God’s protection and hammers it home in several of his letters to various Churches.
Ro. 8:33 - Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
Ephesians 1:11 - Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
Colossians. 1:27 - Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
Colossians 3:12 - Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
1 Thessalonians 1:4,5 - Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.

In a teaching of Jesus that could be used in concert with the parable of the “Sower and the seed” we find this verse.
Matt. 22:13 - Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' "For many are invited, but few are chosen."

This is an important verse for those who pride themselves in leaving, or in “thinking” their way out of Christianity. While believing they have somehow broken free by their own will, Jesus explained in His parable that roughly 3/4 of those who hear about Jesus and roughly 2/3 of those who make a decision to follow Jesus will at some point reject Him and go their own way. It is nothing rare or individual or courageous. Leaving Jesus is what the common crowd does. It is banal in the extreme. I’ll say more about this in another post. In a bit of irony, Jesus’ brother James points out that it is often those who the intellectual elite look down on who God has chosen for salvation.
James 2:5 - Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?

For believers, the following verses do indeed produce comfort and peace in abundance.
1 Peter 1:1-3 - To God's elect, strangers in the world, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
1 Pt. 2:9 - But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Again, we are reminded in the Gospels of those who will be set apart for God in the latter days of history.
Mark 13:20 - If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them.
Rev. 17:14 - They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers."

People sometimes ask, was I destined to become a Christian? I’ll let the Bible speak for itself.
1 Corinthians 2:7 - No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.
No one should be under the delusion that being chosen for salvation means a smooth and easy life.
1 Thessalonians 3:3 - so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them.
Romans 8:29,30 - For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Ephesians 1:5 - he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—
Ephesians 1:11 - In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,

The Bible makes it clear that, unlike one Hindu mathematician who said that on average it takes a person 6,800,000 reincarnations to reach their concept of paradise, in reality there is just this one “go-round.”
Hebrews 9:27 - Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,

The question then begs to be asked. If I was destined to become a Christian, are some people destined to go to hell? Well, again, left in our natural state every single one of us deserves to go to hell. It is only God’s love and mercy and grace by which some people have been saved from such a tragic end.
1 Peter 2:9 - They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.

CALLED is the final term that the Bible uses to describe the concept of being chosen by God for salvation; it’s a calling that was set in place before the founding of the Universe.
Mark 3:13 - The calling of the disciples: Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.
Romans 1:1 - Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God
Romans 1:6 - And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
Romans 1:7 - To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 8:28 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:30 - And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

But why would God do this? I’ve addressed this in a 2006 post titled “Is God Insane?” It’s probably best, however, to let the Bible describe what’s going on. If you care about this topic, you’d do well to begin at verse 16 or even at the very beginning of Romans chapter 9. There, it is describing just what I’ve been talking about - God justly condemning some people to hell for eternity.
Romans 9:22-24 - What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath (the unsaved) prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy (those whose sins have been forgiven), whom he prepared in advance for glory.

My heart trembles every time I read those verses because it could have been me. Through nothing that I have done or deserved, only through the grace and mercy of God the Father, the Creator of everything that is seen and unseen, have I been chosen for salvation.
1 Corinthians 1:1,2 - even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? To those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy,
1 Corinthians 1:9 - God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
1 Corinthians 1:23,24 - but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 1:26 - Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.
1 Corinthians 7:17 - Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him.
Ephesians 1:18 - I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
Ephesians 4:3-5 - Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
Philippians 3:14 - I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:15 - Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.
2 Thessalonians 2:13,14 - But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ
1 Timothy 6:12 - Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
1:8,9 - But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,
Hebrews 9:15 - For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance
1 Peter 1:15 - But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;
1 Peter 2:9 - But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Again, and finally, it is important for Christians to remember that while we experience the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control of Jesus while we are here on earth, it is not this life that holds our true reward. In fact like every individual on earth, we have been called to endure much hardship.
1 Peter 2:20,21 - But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
1 Peter 3:9 - Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
1 Peter 5:10 - And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.Revelation 17:14 - They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”

So what does this all mean? I wasn’t a Christian until I was 30 years old. Was that part of God’s plan for my life? I don’t think so. The fact that it didn’t happen earlier was my fault not God’s. In fact, my asking Jesus to become my Savior and Lord may not have happened until I was 90 years old or even on my death-bed. Nevertheless, I believe that I was destined to become a Christian.

But what if I’d looked at my life when I was 25 and said, “Well, I guess it’s just not in the cards for me to be a believer. If there is a hell, I guess that will be my destiny. And by the way I think that if there is a God, then he's a Class A asshole for doing this to me.” I can’t be sure of course, but I think that I wouldn’t have remained in that state. As was my experience and has been the experience of millions of others, The Hound of Heaven ran me to ground. He loved me until I couldn’t push away that love for even one more day.

That is why none of us can know who is and who isn’t destined for heaven until the day that person dies. Even then, in many cases, we don't know what took place between that person and Jesus just before death. Like Paul, some of the most hostile and most unlikely prospects for Christ Jesus are just a heartbeat away from salvation. Our job is to pray. God’s job is too save. And as Jesus said, He will never turn away anyone who is genuinely seeking Him. Amen to that!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Is your focus eternal or finite?

Romans 6:23 - “The consequences of sin is spiritual death and eternal separation from God. But the gift of God is eternal life with God through Christ Jesus.”

Humans are so pitifully, desperately, obsessively focussed on their life on earth. The gravitational pull of sin, that results in corrupted self-love surpasses that of any planet or star. We can physically escape the gravitation pull of heavenly bodies, but only the supernatural power of our Creator can lift our eyes to Jesus and to eternal life.

Without Jesus, our focus is on, ‘How do I look?’ ‘What do people think about me?’ 'How can I make people like me?’ If you doubt this focus on self, ask yourself this question. When looking at a group photo of which you are a part, what do you look at to judge whether or not it’s a good picture? And isn’t it true that when you feel annoyed or irritated by someone, the underlying cause is that you're furious that they weren’t thinking about YOU, about your needs and your desires?

The truth is, our focus is solidly drawn to life on earth. ‘What clothes or cars or houses can I buy?’ ‘How much money can I make?’ An atheist once declared to me, “You must not want to be a millionaire,” as though that made me some kind of a freak or something. Our thoughts and motives are constantly drawn to that which is useless and worthless when it really counts. Prove to a wealthy man or woman who is about to die that you can guarantee another year of life and you’d have that person’s fortune in a second.

How odd then that our prayers, pleas and begging go unheeded when telling people how to accept the gift of living forever in Paradise. Such is the pull of sin that only a healed, intimate, forgiven relationship with Jesus can change our focus from self to others, from this stage of life to the next stage of life. A stage that’s just a heartbeat away.