WARNING! Frost or hurricane!

Sunday morning, as I was checking our weather, I noticed the little red warning triangle. Strange? What could be coming our way? I had seen the sign while checking the weather at Myrtle Beach, obviously listing warnings about hurricane Matthew. But I live in Pennsylvania? Our warning was for a frost tomorrow morning, cautioning gardeners that tender plants may need some attention or they will die.

It seemed odd to me that a category 4 hurricane received the same symbol as a frost warning, and that thought, coupled with the morning’s reading from Oswald Chambers, triggered this post:

We preach to men as if they were conscious of being dying sinners, but they are not. They are having a good time, and all our talk about the need to be born again is from a domain they know nothing about; because some men try to drown unhappiness in worldly pleasures it does not follow all are like that. There is nothing attractive about the Gospel to the natural man; the only man who finds the Gospel attractive is the man who is convicted of sin.

Apart from a knowledge of Jesus Christ, and apart from being crumpled up by conviction of sin, men have a disposition which keeps them perfectly happy and peaceful. Conviction of sin is produced by the incoming of the Holy Spirit because conscience is promptly made to look at God’s demands. (YouVersion)

Sunday morning, I will be substitute taught the Teen Sunday School class, and we looked at our church’s doctrinal statement.  Now doesn’t that sound exciting!! It is! Look at what it says about salvation:

We believe that owing to this universal depravity and death in sin, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless born again (John 3:5-7) and that no degree of reformation, however great; no attainment in morality, however high, no culture, however attractive; no humanitarian and philanthropic schemes and societies, however useful, no baptism or other ordinances, however administered, can help the sinner to take even one step toward heaven; (Gal. 5:1-5; Phil. 3:4-9) but a new nature imparted from above, a new life implanted by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5-7) through the Word, (James 1:18; I Peter 1:23) is absolutely essential to salvation and only those thus saved are children of God.(SVBC)

I admit that it’s not easy reading, but look at what it says:

Salvation is by grace alone:

  • No degree of reformation, however great;
  • no attainment in morality, however high,
  • no culture, however attractive;
  • no humanitarian and philanthropic schemes and societies, however useful,
  • no baptism or other ordinances, however administered,

can help the sinner to take even one step toward heaven.

WARNING: Heaven cannot be earned. To put it simply, praising God cannot save your soul; giving an offering of finances or service cannot save your soul; a church cannot save your soul; successful business adventures in the name of Jesus Christ cannot save your soul; graduating from a Bible college cannot save your soul; being a pastor, missionary, deacon, Sunday school teacher, soul-winner cannot save your soul; tagging along with others that are saved cannot save your soul.

The same warning goes out to every human being, no matter how sinful or superior, rich or ragged, kind or caustic.  All need to trust Jesus, and Him alone!

Have you forsaken your sin and good deeds to trust Jesus for salvation?

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12,13

My Very Own Jacob’s Ladder!

Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.        John 18:36

The above quote contains the words that Jesus spoke to Pilate as the man questions Him about other’s claim that He was a King. Indeed, He is a King: the King of kings, and yet He is the King of an unseen kingdom; nevertheless, it is as real if not more so than this world in which we live!  Our lives are bombarded with other-world themes in books and movies.  Topics dealing with the spirit world are of major interest to this generation.  As I recently looked over the books on display at our local high school’s book fare, I was amazed at the number of books that dealt with the dark side of the spirit world: zombies, vampires, and witchcraft.  Even the Lord of the Ring rage and Narnia are set in other worlds or times in this world that don’t exist on our timelines.

His Kingdom: Nine times in the New Testament, the Bible speaks of His kingdom.  Here’s a quick outline of what each passage says:

  1. Not everyone that says “Lord, Lord,” will enter in to His kingdom (Matt. 7:21)
  2. The “sheep” at the Father’s right hand will inherit His kingdom (Matt. 25:34)
  3. Jesus said that He would not “drink…of the vine” until in His Father’s kingdom (Matt. 26:29)
  4. After the Last Supper, Jesus tells his disciples that they will “eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
  5. We are considered workers of the kingdom of God (Col. 4:11)
  6. We are “heirs of the kingdom” who are “rich in faith” (James 2:5)

In Matthew, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a farmer, a grain of mustard seed, a treasure in a field, a net cast into the sea, a man hiring labors for the day, a prince’s wedding, and ten virgins and their lamps.

There’s not much description in the Bible about heaven, or God’s kingdom!  It’s been said that the Bible doesn’t say much about heaven because we wouldn’t be able to understand it!  We know it’s beyond our wildest imagination.  Revelation twenty-one probably gives us the most information about heaven: streets of gold, a river, the Tree of Life, twelve foundations of gems, twelve gates made of pearls.

Whatever you think about heaven, the fact is that as born-again believers, we will someday
enter that kingdom – “the joy of the Lord” (Matt 23:21); and although every religion in the world offers heaven to its followers, Jesus Christ–the ONLY Son of God–alone has the “keys to heaven” and purchased that right with His own blood.  Please don’t be duped by your own fancies or others tales into thinking that you are on your way to heaven if you haven’t followed God’s simple plan of salvation. Jesus said, “Ye MUST be born-again.” (John 3:3) (For more information, take a look at “What is Salvation.”)

How often to do you stop and think of your heavenly home?  How hard are you working for that kingdom?  Think about your day.  Is it packed full with this kingdom’s focus?  Yes, we are living in this world.  We need to care for our homes and families and business; but our FOCUS should always be on HIS kingdom–our future home.

Think about it:  We get seventy or eighty years here on earth to live this life, and then for more years than even an evolutionist can imagine, we will be in the presence of God, living and serving and worshiping Him!  What will we actually be doing?  I don’t really know. But Jesus is very clear about the reality of heaven and His return for us in John fourteen.  “…I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3).

Eternal vision keeps God constantly in our peripheral vision.  When I’m at the store, I’m thinking about others, trying to be kind, giving a word of encouragement here or there, giving the cashier a Gospel tract.  When at home with my children, I’m praying over their boo-boos, reading the Bible and Bible-related stories to them, I’m seeing God’s goodness in my life and readily sharing it with my family.

My husband often says that our home is a little corner of heaven here on earth.  How beautiful!  This world truly is not our home–we ARE just ‘apassing’ through! But snatch a little of heaven and put it in your pocket! Carry it with you and all the cares and worries of this life will truly grow strangely dim! It’s like having your very own Jacob’s Ladder, where God’s Spirit freely joins you and your family as you live your lives for the Savior!  Imagine God’s angels, coming and going as they please, and they ARE pleased to come to your house!  What a blessing!

Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? Hebrews 1:14

 

 

 

Our Song of Victory!

I recently had a piano student prepare a beautiful hymn arrangement, and I asked her to play it for an offertory at church.  I was surprised to hear her say that my daughter had recently played the same piece, and a lesson came to mind:

We all have the same story to tell: Jesus Saves! And each of us is to tell the story in our own way.  Even though both my daughter and this student played the same hymn arrangement, I doubt that anyone listening would have known that.  Why?  Because each played with their own style. The notes were the same, but the delivery was certainly not – and both played it beautifully!

Perhaps Priscilla J. Owens can help us out here.  She wrote the following words, published in 1882 for the Union Square Methodist Church Sunday school in Baltimore, Maryland.

(Thank you for that information: http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/j/e/jesussav.htm)  Take a look at the words below and notice all her suggestions (I’ve highlighted them for you! )

We have heard the joyful sound: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Spread the tidings all around: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Bear the news to every land, climb the mountains, cross the waves;
Onward! ’tis our Lord’s command; Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Waft it on the rolling tide: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Tell to sinners far and wide: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Sing, you islands of the sea; echo back, you ocean caves;
Earth shall keep her jubilee: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Sing above the battle strife: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
By His death and endless life Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Sing it softly through the gloom, when the heart for mercy craves;
Sing in triumph o’er the tomb: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Give the winds a mighty voice: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Let the nations now rejoice: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Shout salvation full and free; highest hills and deepest caves;
This our song of victory: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

What a wonderful story we have to tell to a lost and dying world!  Several years ago, I was subbing for an English teacher who had given the students the assignment of writing a speech about themselves.  It seemed as though she may have given them questions to get them started.  One question must have been, “What are you afraid of?”  To my surprise, many of the boys especially wrote that they were afraid of dying, probably because a young man from the area had just been killed in Iraq.  I wanted to stand before them and shout the Gospel! Unfortunately, that is outlawed in our public schools! How sad!

We have a story to tell, dear Christian.  It isn’t the eloquence of your delivery that is important, it isn’t how smart you are, or how much Bible you know; it isn’t your audience that matters – what matters the most is that you ARE telling those you meet the best news they will ever hear: Jesus saves!  If you have truly been born-again than you have all that you need to tell others!  Just tell them what happened to you, and God will do the rest!

“And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,”  Ephesians 6:19

Good Christian Men Rejoice!

Sunday night at church, one of the requested favorites was Good Christian Men Rejoice.  The words to this Christmas carol are accredited to Henry Suso who lived in the 14th century.  As we sang the hymn, I couldn’t help thinking about the immutability of our God!  Immutability refers to God’s unchangeable quality – something definitely worth our rejoicing!

Think of it: in the 1300’s, seven hundred hears ago, a German monk wrote these words:

Good Christian men, rejoice with heart and soul, and voice;
Give ye heed to what we say: News! News! Jesus Christ is born today;
Ox and ass before Him bow; and He is in the manger now.
Christ is born today! Christ is born today!

Good Christian men, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice;
Now ye hear of endless bliss: Joy! Joy! Jesus Christ was born for this!
He has opened the heavenly door, and man is blest forevermore.
Christ was born for this! Christ was born for this!

Good Christian men, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice;
Now ye need not fear the grave: Peace! Peace! Jesus Christ was born to save!
Calls you one and calls you all, to gain His everlasting hall.
Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!

That was before Columbus discovered America!  It was before King James ordered the writing of the Bible translation which bears his name.  No one knew what a ‘germ’ was, and Shakespeare wouldn’t come on the scene for another two hundred years! In the 14th century, there was only one church: the Holy Roman Catholic Church and it was having its problems: the moral level was at an all-time low and the church had two popes – one in Rome and one in France.  In fact, Pope Clement VI is quoted as saying:

“What can you preach to the people? If on humility, you yourselves are the proudest of the world, puffed up, pompous and sumptuous in luxuries. If on poverty, you are so covetous that all the benefices of the world are not enough for you. If on chastity – but we will be silent on this, for God knows what each man does and how many of you satisfy your lusts.”                                  (http://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/westtech/x14thc.htm)

During the 14th century, the world was in an upheaval in every way.  France and England we in the midst of the Hundred Years’ War; the Black Death or bubonic plague was sweeping the area and left one-third or an estimated 20 million people dead; and a mini Ice Age when the Baltic Sea completely froze over.

In the midst of all this, Henry Suso wrote a poem and the words were later translated into our present English version Good Christian Men Rejoice! … Christ was born for this!  We have so much to rejoice about.  Although we may look upon the times in which we are living and see corruption and confusion at every turn, REJOICE – Christ is born!

As we enter into the holiday season, may we not forget these words.  May we rejoice when tempted to complain about the long lines or high prices.  May we rejoice when snagged in traffic and time is at a premium.  May we see how minuscule our problems really are compared to a lost and dying world!

Rejoice – Christ is born and He makes all the difference!