Monthly Archives: December 2015

The Truth of Scripture

This year, one of my former students beautifully sang “O Holy Night” in her church’s Christmas program. I know her church to be a very liberal, feel good church. Yet I was surprised to hear her sing, “Long lay the world in fear and error pining…” This church has removed the word “sin” from their vocabulary so changed the words of the song to fit their theology.

This morning I ended my year-long read through the Bible plan by reading the last words God breathed into Scripture. It’s a glorious picture of God with His children – NO MORE SEA!

Finally, we will have everything we’ve ever longed for or needed. We’ll be in the Presence of our Heavenly Father forever. Just thinking about this truth makes me homesick!

But John’s revelation doesn’t end there. It ends with a warning:

If anyone adds to or takes away from the words God inspired, God will take away his part from the Book of Life.

Now I know the words from the Christmas song are not Scripture. So changing the word “sin” to the word “fear” shouldn’t be a big deal. But I have to ask myself, why the change? Is it because they have changed what Scripture has to say about our sinful state? In this case, that’s exactly why they changed the words.

We can’t rewrite Scripture without serious consequences. Why would we want to? The Truth of Scripture is so incredible just the way it’s written. Sure, it points out our hopeless condition before a Holy God. But it also contains the best news ever.

It’s a truly happy ending for anyone who believes.

I pray you will resolve to read God’s Word faithfully in 2016. I pray you will block out the outside voices that would change what God inspired men to write so long ago. I pray that you will love Scripture, memorize it, apply it to your life, and hold fast to the Truth contained there.

And may God bless you in 2016 with the knowledge of His Presence, His love, and His forgiveness through the precious blood of His Son, Jesus.

I am praying for you.

It’s Not Just About Love

Christmas. A season of smiles, well wishes, family, and presents. A time when the world stops for just a moment to consider a baby born a couple thousand years ago.

It’s the season of love. We are reminded that Love came down from heaven. We love the serene picture of Mary and Joseph surrounded by the farm animals and shepherds. We sing about the angels and the star. It truly is a picture of love.

But let’s not forget that Christmas isn’t just about love. It’s about sin.

Jesus left His home in heaven and became a human for one reason only. He came because of sin. He came to pay what we cannot pay, and that is the penalty for our sins. He came to die.

You, my friend, are a sinner. I am a sinner. We need a Savior because a Holy God demands that we be holy as He is holy. And we just aren’t holy by any stretch of the imagination.

So as you celebrate the birth of the Savior, I pray that you will recognize the fact that He was born for you. He did that for you. He lived, and died because He loves you so much. I don’t care if you’ve walked with him for decades, or minutes. I hope you’ll take some time today to consider how personal this birthday is to you.

And if you don’t know the saving grace of Jesus, let this be the season you accept it. This baby was born for love of YOU.

Merry Christmas, dear readers. May God bless you, keep you, turn His face toward you, and give you peace. And may you know the joy that comes from sins forgiven by the One whose birthday we celebrate today.

 

Oh, Those Eyes

I wonder if Mary, as she held her newborn son, realized just who it was she had in her arms. Sure, she knew his conception was miraculous. Yes, she was visited by angels, and shepherds, and later, wise men from the east. But there she was sitting in a barn, listening to the low of cattle, smelling the smells of livestock, feeling the pain from what might have been a painful birth.

And looking into the eyes of her Savior.

That’s who I want to see this Christmas. I want to see God Himself. Not just a baby in a manger, but One who would grow up to pay for my sins. For yours.

This is no ordinary birth. This is the most important birth that ever was or ever will be. This is the birth that changed the word. Changed me. And I pray that He has changed you, too.

May you adore the baby, recognize the Savior, and accept the fact that what he did 2000+ years ago, he did for you. Jesus was born for you. Jesus lived for you. Jesus died for you. And Jesus is waiting with arms stretched wide, just for you.

Merry Christmas, dear one. And may you celebrate the birth of the Savior as one who is a member of his family.

The One who was, who is, and is to come! Happy birthday, Jesus.

Like A Child

I wish we’d approach our Christianity more childlike more often. Too many of us analyze and question, dissect and twist what the Bible has to say about so many subjects. I was reading something recently and the author quoted Scripture, then proceeded to explain what he insisted it “meant”, because clearly the words of the verses he’d quoted said something that didn’t fit into his point of view.

My niece was driving, her two children safely strapped in car seats in the back. Colton, her four-year-old just started pre-school and they were talking about seasons. My niece was explaining that God designed summer sun to turn to the cooler, more colorful fall, fall to snowy winter, winter to spring and buds and flowers, spring to summer, and then it starts all over again. “Your birthday is in the winter,” she told him. “And Nora’s birthday is in the fall.”

In fact, we were celebrating his sister Nora’s third birthday that week. Colton gasped.

“Is it fall right now?” he asked. His mother told him it was.

“Call Daddy,” he commanded. “Call Daddy!”

“Why, Colton? Daddy’s at work. Why do you want me to call him?

“Daddy said we could have a baby in the fall!”

My great-nephew had overheard a conversation between his parents some weeks before. And he simply took what he’d heard his father say at face value. He’s too childlike to question or find a deeper meaning than the words his daddy had said. I think our Heavenly Father would be pleased if we’d do the same with his Words sometimes.

Jesus said He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one goes to the Father except through Him. John 3:16 says God loved the whole world so much that he sent Jesus to the cross, “that WHOSOEVER believes will not perish but have everlasting life.” Romans tells us ALL have sinned, all fall short of God’s standards. And many verses tell us if we believe in Jesus, we’ll be saved.

The Bible clearly tells us there is a heaven and there is a hell. Both are real. Both are eternal. One is what we deserve. One is given when we accept Jesus and receive his grace.

Oh, I recognize that there are times when the words we read require thought, even questioning. The Bible is not “Dick and Jane”. There are times when interpreting Scripture requires reading more Scripture in order to understand it. There may be times when knowing the culture and times when passages were written gives us a clearer view. But I honestly think that’s not as necessary as often as some would believe. Sometimes the words in front of us just mean what they say.

You may be saying, well Colton took his father’s words at face value, and he was wrong. There isn’t going to be a baby in the family this fall. And you would be right to say that.

But I hope you are reading God’s Word every day, any way. In fact, I hope you are reading and re-reading the entire Bible. I would challenge you to approach it as a child, not reading so much into it, not trying to fit it into some theological box. Read it as though your Father was talking to his child. What would he say to you today?

I believe God’s words will excite you as much as fall excited my sweet great-nephew. And the truth of the matter is, we just found out that next August, we’ll be welcoming a little addition to this dear family!

Dear Author, thank you for lovingly inspiring men to write down everything you want us to know this side of heaven. Thank you for the privilege we have of reading your Word, of studying it, memorizing it, talking about it. May we prayerfully open its pages every day, expecting to hear from you. Give us discernment. Give us understanding. And draw us to you as we spend time learning what our Daddy would say to us through your Word.

I’m a Bit Confused

I was reading in I John this morning and came across some verses I just could not understand. I even when to a couple commentaries written by people I trust, to see if I could make sense of it. Here’s what confused me:

John talks about sin that leads to death, and sin that doesn’t lead to death. (chapter 5) Now all of a sudden I’m thinking – are there degrees of sin after all? But don’t all sins come with a death penalty? Isn’t that why Jesus went to the cross?

The answer is, yes! According to what I know to be true from reading Scripture in its entirety, I know that sin is sin is sin. And the wages of sin is death.

But, according to the commentaries I read, it seems John is talking more along the lines of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) who died immediately and physically for lying to the Holy Spirit. Like Herod in Acts 12. Like the examples in the Old Testament of people who were put to a physical death for sins they committed.

The commentators say John is likely talking about the death penalty imposed on law breakers. The physical punishment required of certain crimes, and in this case, of crimes committed against the Holy Spirit. I’m sure John took for granted that everyone reading his letter understood that Jesus died for all sin, that all sin requires eternal, spiritual death. John is urging us to never stop praying about those sins as long as the person we’re praying for has breath, as long as our own hearts beat within this body we are wearing.

But he seems to be saying we probably shouldn’t pray that the murderer on death row avoids the consequence for his crime. Maybe we shouldn’t ask God to remove any consequences of sins against the Holy Spirit, but rather that those consequences would lead the guilty to their Savior before they die.

I am reminded that all of us will face two deaths. One is physical. We can pray that God would let us live forever in this skin. But that’s a request He won’t fulfill. The other death is spiritual. That’s a prayer God will answer every time, when we ask Him to forgive our sins. That’s a prayer worth praying for ourselves, and our loved ones who still have not met Jesus.

This passage is not an indication that that little white lie you told yesterday is less serious than the mass murders committed last week in California. Don’t be fooled. That little white lie drove a nail into the hands of Jesus.

And this passage reminds me that the physical death we will all face is nothing compared to the spiritual death those who reject Jesus will experience when this life is over. I pray that you will avoid that spiritual death by giving your heart to the Lord. I have every confidence that if you humble yourself, repent of sin, and ask God’s forgiveness, you won’t have to experience that awful eternal death separated from the One who loves you so much He died that death for you.

Dear God, I’m not 100% sure that I understand exactly what John meant by the words he wrote in this passage. But I know that you inspired him to write every one. Thank you for speaking to me today through this difficult passage. I pray that I will be quick to ask forgiveness for sins I commit. I pray that those reading this blog, who don’t know you, will come to you with repentant hearts and accept your gift of eternal life. I pray for those experiencing devastating consequences for sin, like broken relationships, some diseases, or abandonment. May they face their circumstances holding on to You through the blood of Your Son. And thank You, Father, for dying that death so I don’t have to. I love you, Lord.

I Can’t Sin (read on)

John says anyone who has been born of God cannot sin. (I John 3) He even says, if you sin you’ve neither seen God nor know Him.

As one who is born again, born of God, I am confused because I sin. Just the other day I told a story that was half-truth, half-lie (I almost called it “creative license” but that wouldn’t be the truth)

Even Paul said he struggled with doing what he shouldn’t, and not doing what he knew he should. Jesus pointed out sin in his own disciples, even calling Peter Satan moments after telling Peter he would be the Rock.

I know some dear people who believe they lose their salvation every time they sin, because this verse says a Christian can’t sin. I’m not sure about that interpretation. But because this verse is in the Bible, it’s clear that God wants us to know His children can’t sin. So…?

If you read the whole section, and not just this one verse, it makes sense. There is an “if” there. IF we abide in Him, sin can’t exist in our lives because there is no sin in God. I believe that when we sin, it’s an indication that we have stepped away from Him. And all sin – even my embellished story – is of Satan.

If I abide in the Father by spending time with Him in His Word and prayer, if my walk with Him is intentional, if I pay attention to the warning signs He so lovingly puts in my way, and if I purposefully acknowledge His Presence with every breath I take – I cannot sin. Sin and God cannot exist together.

So this verse is true… and it’s a challenge. As I consider this portion of Scripture and the story I told the other day, I realize that during my telling God whispered in my ear, “you know that’s not what happened.” But I continued telling my tale. The thought again came to me… “why are you’re lying?” but that, too didn’t stop me. It was an entertaining story. I wanted to see how it ended.

As I look back on the decades since I accepted Jesus as my Savior and was born into God’s family, I see that there have been times when my walk with the Lord was my first priority. And I see that during those times, the temptation to sin was more easily ignored. I recognize that God was actively helping me to win the battle with my enemy, and we won time and time again.

But it was at those times that I held the Lord at arms length, those times when I didn’t want to turn my back on Him exactly, but I also didn’t want to include Him in every detail of my life, that I was weak to resist temptation. It was at those time I sinned, I rationalized my sin, and I ignored the One who loves me to death.

I am challenged today to abide in God. I want Him to be such a part of my life that sin has no control over me, that I am incapable of sinning because God and I exist together. The ability to live a sinless life is available.

If.

 

It’s Not Over ’til It’s Over

The more I read the Bible and get to know God, the more I see that He loves the whole world, died for every person, doesn’t want anyone to die without him, and won’t return until the last soul is saved. I firmly believe that, but until today it was only something I felt was true from getting to know God’s character through years of reading His written Word.

The question, though, concerns that last soul. That last person who will accept Jesus as Savior. It seems impossible that out of billions of people on earth, only one person might recognize the Truth.

Then today I read what the Lord told Daniel through his vision concerning the end of time. Daniel asked the One who rose above the water when all these things would come to pass. The answer?

“when the power of the holy people has been shattered, all these things shall be finished.” (verse 7 NKJV)

It may seem unlikely, but the Bible says the power of the holy people (and isn’t that what the Church is supposed to be?) will some day be shattered.

Then I turned to I John 2 and read, “He who says ‘I know Him’, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him,” “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, is not of the Father.”

Even Christians are falling for Satan’s tactics. Think about it. Christians are jumping on the “God is Love” bandwagon and ignoring His holiness. Christians are accepting all kinds of sins because Satan has quoted a Scripture that says, don’t judge. Christians are being bullied into silence, going to church for a worship “experience”, believing God wants His people to be healthy, wealthy, and successful. Christians think this life is about us. The title “Christian” is becoming meaningless because anyone who isn’t an atheist or Islamist considers himself a Christian.

Ok, I know not all Christians fit in that category. But if one Christian does, if one church isn’t true to Scripture, it is one step closer to the day when the holy people will lose our power to direct unbelievers to their Savior. It is one day closer to when hearts don’t recognize the Truth any more.

I know there are people who will say God wouldn’t let that happen, that He is in control, that He is stronger than Satan. But I’m saying God has already told us it will happen. It has nothing to do with His power.

That’s why, dear one, it is so important for all of us to be in God’s Word, to know the Truth and stand firm in it. God still gives us freedom to choose. You can choose to believe the lies that are out there, or you can choose to hold on to the Truth. The lies are becoming more and more Christian-sounding. But they are still lies.

You may agree with me, or not. I know there are passionate people with varying opinions of what the last days will involve, and my intent is not to debate the details. Today, I only pray that you will consider your heart’s condition before a Holy God who doesn’t want anyone to go to hell, who will continue to use us to draw people to Himself as long as we are willing.

You do know, don’t you, that people who don’t know Him will go to hell. Your neighbor, your child, your parent, the person sitting in the next cubical at work. That friend who is beginning to consider there is a truth other than what is in the Bible. If we don’t step up and be the people who God needs us to be to keep His work on earth going, we will lose the power He wants us to have.

And then the end will come.