My Thoughts: It’s Friday…but Sunday’s Coming!

When they had crucified Him, they divided up His clothes by casting lots. Matthew 27:35

The baby was born. It seems we just celebrated His birth a few months ago. He was laid in a borrowed manger. He grew in wisdom and stature. He fulfilled all prophecy that was written about Him.

He performed many miracles. He did only the will of His Father. He never sinned. He cared for the sick. He loved the poor.

He taught the disciples. He baptized many.

But…

He was betrayed. He was arrested. He was given a phony trial. He was mocked.

He was beaten. He was whipped. He was bruised. He was bloodied. He had a crown of thorns placed tightly on His head. He was made to carry His own cross as far as He could. As He walked, blood and sweat dropped into His eyes and mouth.

His hands and feet had spikes driven into them. The bones must have cracked more with each blow. He was spit on. He was stripped naked in front of all. He was placed between two criminals. He was left to die.

He could hardly breathe on the cross. The lack of oxygen caused Him to gasp. He could barely get His words out. The pain was so intense. Soon His earthly life would all be over.

And all He had left, the clothes on His back, were distributed by the casting of lots. They gambled for His last possessions.

It’s Friday…

But Sunday’s coming…

My friend Artie Davis shares this same concept in a powerful video. Check it out HERE.

What are your thoughts about Christ on this Good Friday?

President Obama at National Day of Prayer

Sadly, I didn’t see this in the news, but I did see it on Ed Stetzer‘s blog and thought is was worth sharing here as well. I’ve asked before about the role of believers in politics. My personal opinion is that Christians need to be influencers in our culture…at every level. Therefore, I think this type speech is important for us to hear. I’m not offering commentary on what was said, but I do believe we should know what the president is saying in these matters.

Watch the video, then share your thoughts:

How Can I Be Sure I’m Saved?

A common email for me is one where someone is questioning their salvation. The typical person is one who has been in the church for a number of years, perhaps even growing up in the church, but, for whatever reason, never quite feels they are saved. Recently I had this kind of question and decided others may have the same struggle. I’m not pretending I have the best answer, but perhaps you need to read it.

Here is my email reply:

Thank you for your email. I don’t know if I can help or not, but I’ll try. I think though, that this may be less complicated than you are making it.

The Bible is fairly clear to me what is required to be a follower of Christ…to be a Christian…to be saved…

John 6:29, John 3:16, Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 10:9, Romans 10:13….

It takes believing that Jesus is the Son of God, that He lived and died on a cross and rose from the grave, and that Jesus is the only way for a sinner such as you and me to be right with a Holy God.

Do you believe that?

If so, you are saved. Not because I said so or you said so, or even because you feel you are saved or you do not feel you are saved, but because God said so. In my experience, many times when a person doesn’t feel saved, it’s because they are looking too closely at what they have done or haven’t done instead of at what Christ has done. Salvation hangs completely on the finished work of Christ, not on the efforts of man.

I seldom meet non-believers who even question their faith. That seems to be something the devil loves to use against believers…causing us to doubt our salvation. The key may be to accept truth…and convince yourself that what God said is true!  (It is by the way.)  You may have to remind yourself of that truth many times until it sticks.

I’m praying God speaks clearly to your heart that you are saved…that your heart has been changed…and that you are in a right relationship with Him, not by your efforts, but by the grace of Jesus Christ, in whom you believe. Remember also, God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). He measures and weighs our motivation.  If you truly are desiring to be saved, I’d say you have a saving kind of faith…

From what you are telling me, I think you’re in! I don’t believe it takes special words or a special prayer to be saved. I believe it’s what happens when a heart chooses to simply, without reservation, follow Christ alone. There’s nothing wrong, however, with saying a simple prayer if it makes you feel more certain in your decision.

You might pray, “Dear God, I know you love me. I know I’ve done things wrong…I’m a sinner. I believe Jesus died for my sins and rose from the grave, paving the only way for me to get to you. Forgive me of my sins, come into my heart, and save me. I want to follow Christ with my life. Thank you for saving me.”

Again, use your own words, but be certain your heart is fully open to Jesus!

God bless,
Ron

Have you ever doubted your salvation? Are you doubting now?

Scripture Memorization: Week 12

I hope you are continuing to memorize these verses.  About this time, gyms empty out because many with a resolution to exercise have fallen out of the habit…or never gained a habit…as the case may be. The same is true here. Now is not the time to give up, but to press forward until a habit fully forms.

Here is this week’s memory verse:

I hope you and I will live by this verse this week and always…

When your “Gospel” is the risen Christ…you can face anything that comes your way.

Jesus Paid it All

There are some songs that stick with you forever. Music has a way of speaking to our hearts and minds in ways the purely spoken word can’t seem to penetrate. I’m so thankful God gave us the enjoyment of music.

Recently I was listening to Fernando Ortega sing “Jesus Paid it All”. Instantly, there was an equally powerful emotion. It was as if I’d never heard it before and as if I’d written the song. The truth, the comfort, the confirmation, and the joy of this song flooded my heart.

In case it’s been a while since you considered these words written by Elvina Hall (1822-1889) in 1865, spend a few minutes reading them now. Let the words sink deep into your heart and mind. It’s even okay if you sing them aloud…I don’t care.

I hear the Savior say
Thy strength indeed is small!
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all

Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow

Lord, now indeed I find
Thy power, and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots
And melt the heart of stone

Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow

For nothing good have I
Where-by Thy grace to claim
I’ll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calvary’s Lamb

Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow

And when before the throne
I stand in Him complete
Jesus died my soul to save
My lips shall still repeat

Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow

BTW, what’s your favorite hymn? Share it with me here.

3 Things that Make a Christian Unhappy

Whenever I see people (or myself) in a pity-party because of the situations or circumstances around them, I’ve learned it’s often because of one of three things. I’m sure there are many other reasons, but these three tend to pop up the most:

Living by the law – The fact is that I see people put unbearable standards on themselves and when they don’t measure up to them, they feel defeated, like a failure, unworthy, or even unloved. The law sets us up for failure. The primary purpose of the law was to show us that we couldn’t live up to God’s standard on our own and point out for us why we needed a Savior. Living by the law keeps us from the freedom, joy and peace Christ died for us to have.

Not realizing truth - The truth is that “if the Son has set you free you are free indeed”. The truth is that “greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world”. The truth is He has numbered the hairs on my head. The truth is we live by faith, not by sight. The truth is He will never leave us or forsake us. The truth is “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind can conceive” what God has planned for His children. (And, so much more.) When we fail to realize the truths of God’s Word it keeps us from living in the freedom, joy and peace God intends for us to have.

Refusing to forgive – Every time I speak about forgiveness people rise up with stories of abuse, neglect, hurt and pain. There are some wounded people in the world. While I am sensitive to the injuries, I’m reminded that as forgiven people we are to be people who forgive. That is not granting people a license to injure us more, but it is freeing our hearts from the bondage of an unforgiving spirit. Whether we are angry at God, at others, or at ourselves, extending forgiveness frees us to live the peaceful, joyful, unbridled life God intended for His children. When we hold onto pain instead of forgiveness, we block the freedom, peace and joy a believer is designed to experience.

I believe that working through these three issues can help us live with freedom, joy and peace, and even live happily, all while residing in a very mixed up world.  I realize using a term such as “unhappy” creates immediate tension for some. You don’t have to be “happy” when life falls apart around you, you see friends or family suffering, or at the tragedies of the day. Those don’t have to make you happy, but for the believer, there is always a reason to work through those negative emotions that naturally come and remind ourselves of the state of freedom, joy and peace that God provides…in the midst of suffering. I don’t know about you…but when I do that process…it makes me very happy!

Which of these is keeping you from experiencing all God has for you?

(Feel free to debate with me the difference in joy and happiness on this post. While not the purpose of this post, I welcome the discussion.)

Why Do Christians Still Sin?

Last Sunday, in our LIES series at Grace Community Church, I addressed the lie that Christians stop sinning when we become followers of Christ. It’s also why we have been called hypocrites by some. Every believer knows, however, that they still battle sin, but it’s often confusing as to why. I addressed this issue in this message:

Did you watch the message? Have you ever thought of Christians as hypocritical?

Perfect Love Can Overcome Fear

Such love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of judgment, and this shows that His love has not been perfected in us. 1 John 4:18 NLT

Evidently, according to this verse, if we could have perfect love for God, we could get rid of all fear. The challenge comes in having perfect love.

I’m not sure I understand the concept completely, especially as it relates to a God I cannot see, but the best way I know of is to compare what I don’t understand to something I do understand.

I do, at least on most days, understand my relationship with my wife.  Working with that thought, let me say that before I met my wife, I didn’t love her. I hope that doesn’t disappoint you, but I really didn’t even know her, so loving her was hard to do.

Oh, sure, I might have had a general love for her as I hope I have for all people, but I didn’t really love her the way I am to love my wife.  Over the years, I have grown to love my wife…and so much more! She has become my closest friend, my richest ally, and my surest companion. I love spending life with her. I truly do love her with all my heart. I can’t imagine life without her.

Additionally, in addition to my love for Cheryl, I’ve learned to trust her completely and without any reservations. We have centered our life together, focussed on Christ.

How did this love develop? It happened over time, as I grew to know her, spent time with her, dated her, and we experienced life together. The saying goes that I “fell in love” with her. That love continues to develop and grow.

This helps me understand what I must do to get rid of fear in my life. I must work towards developing perfect love for Christ. To do that, I need to get to know him better, spend time with Him more regularly, and figuratively date Him as we experience life together.

As it was for falling in love with my wife, learning to love Christ more is a process which can take years, but as I learn to love Him more I will find myself trusting Him more, learning that He is trustworthy, reliable and fully able to meet my needs. When the temptations of fear and doubt enter my mind, I’ll be able to trust in the God I know so well.

What is your greatest fear?  Would you love to be rid of that fear?

Then, may I ask you: Are you investing in your God relationship enough to develop that perfect love?

Where Do You Look When in a Valley?

I lift up my eyes to the hills- where does my help come from? Psalm 121:1 NIV

When you are in the valley, I mean really, deep in the valley, the only place to look is up!

Life has a way of placing you in the valley for seasons. Have you ever been there before? Are you there now?

Have you ever lifted up your eyes, heavy, burdened with guilt, mourning with hurt, drooping from the strain of sorrow, to see the mountains where your heart longs to be again?

Have you ever been so low that you barely have a dream of what it is like to be on top?

All of us will one day have a heart that needs to be filled. Each of us find ourselves at times expereincing that empty painful, awful hole in our heart, the size that only God can completely fill.

In those times, it’s important, more than ever, to remember where your help come from. Your hope lies in a Savior, in a man like no other man, who came, who loved, who shared, who died, and who lives again! Your hope is in Jesus! Your help is found in Jesus! In that most desperate moment…there is no substitute!

If you are in the valley today…look to the hills….look to Jesus!

Can my readers and I pray with you about an issue?  Leave a comment on this post.