September 17, 2019

Love Lifted Me

I've listened to sermons in big churches and in small churches for a good number of years. I've heard some of the best preachers Christianity has to offer. I've even preached a few sermons myself. But you know something - I do not remember any of them! I could not quote any of those sermons even those I preached. This lack of memory is a not a result of my advancing age, as my wife suggests, or my diminished mental capacity or my inattention during the sermons. I suspect I have a lot company.

However, there are some things I remember quite well. There are good Christian beliefs which come easily to mind, often seemingly "out of the blue". The brain is minding it's own business when out of the blue, something pertaining to God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit interrupts.

The other day I was walking my dog Lilly when this popped into my frontal lobe.
     Love lifted me, when nothing else could help, Love lifted me.
     I was sinking deep in sin, far from the distant shore,
     Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more,
     But the Master of the sea lifted me, heard my despairing cry
     From the waters lifted me. Now safe am I
     Love lifted me, Love lifted me.

 That isn't from a sermon I heard. It isn't from scripture I read and studied. It's from a hymn, a hymn written in the early, early 1900's, It was copyrighted in 1912, but was written and sung years before. The scriptural basis for the hymn is Matthew 14:22-32. I am positive there have been numerous sermons on this passage, but I only remember "Love lifted me". What better reminder of God's love for those of us who are deep in our sin? If you could only remember one thing about God's love, why not this old hymn?

August 21, 2019

Build your house on a rock

Okay, I know Paul wrote in Ephesians and in Romans we are saved by faith and not by works. Here is the passage just in case you missed it.

"For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God's gift - not from works, so that no one can boast." (Eph 2:8-9 HCSB)

What a relief! All we have to do is have faith; faith that Jesus death on the cross is the payment for our sins. Jesus made us righteous before God. Seems so simple and really easy, right? But in the back recesses of our mind, it doesn't seem fair, does it? Jesus suffered and was crucified and all we have to do is believe He died for us. Just believe! Oh well that's what the man said. Now we can go on with our lives, occasionally thanking God for His love and His grace.

And then someone hits us with this bombshell,

"Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will likem him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock..." (Matthew 7:24 27 KJV) (Italics are mine)

How do you like the Old English words from King James? Laugh as we will at the old English, we can not laugh away the meaning of this parable from Jesus. Simply, everyone who hears what Jesus has been saying and does them will be counted wise. I knew it! There is more to this than just believing and getting along with our lives. We do have to do something. Frankly, that is just fine with me; I want to do something, I expect to do something. I am eager to find out what these things are so I can get on with doing them.

Okay, let's look at a few "do's" in no particular order.

"Don't worry about our life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. ...For idolaters eager seek these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteous, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don't worry about tomorrow,...." (Matthew 6:25-34 NIV)

Can you really not worry? How are you going to pay the bills, put food on the table, keep a roof over your head? You can't just forget those things, can you? But Jesus tells you to not worry about those things, God will take care of you. Jesus tells you to seek the Kingdom of God first and foremost. Can you in all honesty do that?

Another "do".

August 7, 2019

Faith vs Works, a Christian tug of War!

One of the lingering questions among Christians is the struggle between being saved by faith alone verses the necessity of doing good works for your salvation.

The Apostle Paul was very emphatic that a person is saved by faith. He writes about salvation by grace through faith in several places. From Ephesus, around 60 AD, Paul wrote Ephesians a letter meant to be circulated throughout the early church. In the second Chapter he wrote, "For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God's gift - not from works, so that no one can boast." (Eph 2:8-9 HCSB) This is a repeat of Paul's earlier statements in his letter to the Romans written in 57 AD. The dates are important because they are among the earliest writings of the New Testament. The Jewish Paul was converted to this new understanding of the relationship with God on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus when he was confronted by the risen Jesus. This experience is normally dated to AD 33-36. Since his birth is estimated to have been in 5 AD, he would have been around the age of 28-31. These dates are also important as they indicate Paul was able to talk with many of the men and women who knew Jesus when he walked the hills and valleys of Israel and Judah. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the influence of Jesus contemporaries Paul developed his understanding of what it meant to be a believer of Jesus Christ. So his statements bare the ring of authority. His understanding was that a person could not work his or her way into God's good graces and thus have eternal life with the Father. But God was willing to grant sufficient grace to those who believed the sacrifice of Jesus erased all barriers to the Godly relationship.

July 23, 2019

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord...

I'll bet most of you can repeat the rest of this nighttime prayer. Unfortunately this is as far as a lot of folks get in their prayer time. There are probably as many reasons for not praying as there are people who need to pray.

For some, prayer is foreign to them because they don't have a belief in God. For others, they believe in a God, but they do not believe their God cares enough for them to want to hear for them. Some think God can not possibly hear all the prayers of all the people on earth, there are just to many of us. Or perhaps they feel God is working on other situations much more important than yours. Maybe, they are like me, I just didn't know how to pray! I’ve been around men who gave long inspirational prayers; they covered all the bases, invoked the name of Jesus and God in the same prayer. When they finished, you wanted to give them a standing ovation. But for me, these prayers were validation I didn't know how to pray. I did not want to offend God with my awkward prayer. So I didn't pray.

Over the years, I have learned a few things about prayer. My prayer life has improved steadily. My relationship with God has improved. I feel better about talking to God. There are two passages in the scriptures which have been instrumental in improving my prayer life.

July 16, 2019

The Golden Verse of the Bible

I think it is safe to say, in our modern culture we demand brevity. We don"t like long books; baseball games are too long; we criticize our preachers if they preach over thirty minutes. We don't like long winded speakers or sales presentations or negotiations. The head of a company to whom I was making a presentation say, "Stop, tell me in ten words or less, 'What is your point?'"

The task of reading the Bible through requires a great deal of patience particularly when you get to books like Leviticus and Deuteronomy with all those laws and rules. Half way through you want to plead with God, "What's the point? Can you tell me in as few words as possible?"

Brevity has another benefit, perhaps it's most beneficial. Once in our history, people, having few books, committed things to memory; family linage, historical events, important documents, anything worthy of remembering. With the advent of the printing press, these things could be written and copied and recorded and saved. There was not need for memorization. Frankly, our attention span grew shorted. We no longer memorized long passages; brevity became the key to memorization.

So, you ask, what does all this have to do with the title of this article? In God's infinite wisdom, the problem is solved by the inclusion of a single verse in the Bible which is short and to the point and is easy to memorize.  That verse I call the Golden Verse of the Bible. It is in John 3:16.

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