Salvation: It’s not about signing up, but about giving up

There are those who’d have you to believe that Christian living is cookies and cream in the spring, apple pie on a summer day with a dollop of ice cream on top, apple cider in the fall and hot cocoa in the winter. It’s a state of comfort year round for those who live right. And if that is the case I am not the one to look to for answers. Because other than my first 5 minutes at the altar, living the Christian life has been anything but easy. But don’t stop reading there, it’s also been peace at its finest, and for that the ease has been worthy of passing up. If you’re a new convert, meaning just recently having accepted Christ as your Savior, (or an old convert) you’ve made the best decision of your life but it’s an eye opener! You suddenly realize just how many faults and failures you have, and everywhere you turn is a reminder; because this Holy God that you’ve asked to enter into your heart wants nothing to do with sin, and you’ve just discovered how much sin is in your life! The closer you get to Christ the harsher that reality is.

Matthew 7:13-14 says ~ Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

Jesus says that getting saved is like entering in at a straight gate… simple enough right?… but the word “straight” in this passage is not as in “straight as an arrow” but rather as in the “Strait of Gibraltar,” a narrow and turbulent passage of water that connects the Atlantic to the Mediterranean Sea. That sounds so much more like my life than the straight as an arrow analogy. The thing about water is it’s much easier if you go with the flow than to fight against its current. But when we get into a struggle in life our human nature kicks in and we fight with all we’ve got, believing that we’re not supposed to have trouble; we are children of the King after all! But Jesus says no, you’re going to have trouble in this world because this world is messed up. It’s broken and it’s not going to be fixed until He returns, but in the meantime, flow through the turbulent times not kicking and screaming but rather holding onto Him as your life jacket. He won’t let you go and He sure won’t let you sink.

That is why salvation is not about signing up, it’s about giving up. Signing up means you’ve enlisted to “do something.” You can’t do anything to get yourself saved, Christ already did it and that part is indeed easy for you. But man likes to complicate things, we like to “do something, fix something or reinvent something to make it better.” You can’t make yourself or salvation better.

A very easily understood analogy of Christ is his statement that follows in verses 15-17 ~   Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.  Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

We all likely know them, those who preach Christ but live more like His adversary the Devil. They frustrate us, or they do me! Because the damage they do to young Christians by pretending that their life is perfect when it’s apparent it’s not, will cause a young Christian to question their salvation decision, throw their hands up in defeat believing they’re wrong and in so doing lose the peace God affords. Salvation takes two hands, and they both need to be holding onto Jesus, not on to anything in this world. The waters may be rough, but hang on child of God, Jesus has you covered! Woohoo… just wrote myself happy!

A New Member of My Family

Photo: 1975 Fritz Otto Kaiser viola purchased today... needs some work, but the more I learn about her the more I'm determined she's a beauty!

I’d like to introduce you to Gretchen, a German made viola purchased from a Pawn Shop in Lewis County, West Virginia yesterday. Her name means “Pearl” and although I have yet to get her valued, I’m hoping she’s a Pearl of great price. This morning as I looked upon her in the case and ran a cloth across her wood I realized she has much in common with the common Christian, who also are pearls of a great price!

The beauty of a pearl is in its luster. Any marring of the surface of the pearl will diminish the luster, thereby reducing the beauty of the pearl. Because pearls are relatively soft gemstones, their surface is susceptible to damage from hard objects,as well as over-exposure to arid environments (i.e., air conditioning, desert climates) and ultra-violet rays. Also true in the care of a violin (or viola in the case of Miss Gretchen). Her wood is dry and worn, likely from the climate it was stored, the surface is marred a little, she’s lost a little of her luster. She was so far out of tune, one string almost detached from no one having played her. The bow was without rosin and squeaked across her out of tune strings making me cringe when I picked her up out of the case at the Pawn shop. She had been cast away un-cared for until the day I found her.

Her resemblance to many of the Christians that I meet on a daily basis had the same effect on my heart… broken. Because I knew there had been an earlier day that she was in fine tune; her song was one of beauty and brought joy to the hearts of music appreciators. But over time she had spent less and less time with the Master and now she lay dry, on a storage shelf and there was little life in her. But I also knew that with a little TLC (tender love and care) I could possibly restore her to her earlier glory and once again she’d be back in service.

So, child of God… does my new found friend Gretchen bear a resemblance to you? Have you pulled away from the Master in service, thinking your song would be better sung in a version the world would accept. After all the gospel song is not appreciated in every venue. And while that’s true, its the only venue that the anointing oil of God is upon, and the location with the greatest blessing.

Matthew 13:45-46 speaks of that pearl of a great price – Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. And while I’m uncertain of the value of Miss Gretchen in the world, I know of the value of her to me already. I didn’t have to sell all that I had to purchase her, she was just $75.00. But the price paid for you and I by the Lord Jesus was indeed priceless. He gave His life so that we could have a relationship with Him and enjoy that precious oil of favor. Away from Him we are dry and brittle and apt to fall apart.

It’s the Lord’s day! you’ve been given another chance for restoration. I hope today finds you a.m. or p.m. in the house of the Lord singing His song.

Sticks and Stones

We’ve quoted it since childhood. For many of us it was our first experience with sarcasm and even though you’ve yet to read it, when you read the title of today’s blog, the words were likely running through your mind… “Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words will never harm me.” What a farce! What crazed mind thought up that saying and why do we teach it to our children? The person who had the original thought, and those of us who say it are likely trying to convince themselves that the person who said the hurtful words doesn’t matter; and they do, else it wouldn’t hurt so deep. I’ve been both the recipient and the thrower of stones. I’m shocked at how quickly words are a game changer for me. The Jesus Chick, who’s supposed to be spiritually mature and within seconds I revert back to that child on the playground who just wants to go home where people won’t be mean to me. I want to take off my Jesus Chick hat pretend that God didn’t call me for such a time as this. Maybe time will wait.

Time waits for no man.

That quote is true, but the other is untrue and unbiblical. Jesus said in Matthew 5:22 “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”

Apparently Jewish law had rules against the specific insult raca, (meaning vain, empty or worthless) but Jesus shows that any verbal abuse makes one liable to eternal damnation. Praise God for salvation through faith and the grace of God, for certain I’d be guilty. It is obvious from this scripture that Jesus takes words serious, but do we? We believe that our pain and anguish is justification enough to warrant lashing out at someone, after all they’ll get over it. Do we know that for sure? Our flippant word spoken in frustration might not have been “so bad” but it may not have been the first word spoken to that person and could just end up as the fatal blow to their soul. The one that takes them out of the game.

Ninety-nine percent of the time an ill spoken word will roll off of me like water on a duck’s back…. And then one won’t. It just sticks and Satan drives it into my brain with a hammer and I find myself out of the game and warming the bench. But this morning I met with the Coach who drew me into Matthew 5:22, and showed me clearly that because of salvation I was not in danger of hell fire, but if I allowed words to take me out of the game, someone else might be in danger. And if I used words as a weapon this too could cause someone to fall into Hell, because rather than seeing Jesus they’d see the harshness of life and give up looking for hope.

Words can build up, or tear down. I pray that mine always build on the foundation that Christ laid for me. Christians, we have a job to do… time waits for no man. You, who are unsaved…God has allowed you another day to get it right before it’s ever lasting too late. What is “it.” The game changer! Salvation. It is what will allow you to see that though the words of man may hurt, the Word of Christ will heal. Get in the game.

A Message from the Keeper – What He gives back, He’ll be in

Matthew 3:1-3 ~ In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

John the Baptist came out of the wilderness eatin’ bugs and wearing leather britches; he was the toughest hombre of the day. He’d known Christ from prebirth (having lept in his mama’s womb when Mary came to visit after the Lord had revealed His plan to her). He was excited then and he’s excited now but he doesn’t deliver his message in blazes and bling; it’s simplistic, rugged and humble. It’s straight forward. The salvation of the Lord had begun in the wilderness when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, the law we could not keep; and its completion began in the wilderness when God gave John the Baptist the message of the Keeper, “Repent!”

Turn away from Sin to Sanctification

The Holy, Creator of all the universe, Who created this earth in perfection only to have it marred by the fallen angel Lucifer needed a sacrificial way to restore His relationship with mankind. Throughout the Old Testament the blood of slain lambs was a temporary fix for sin, but at this point God was about to reveal the final sacrifice. And the initial announcement didn’t come from where they’d have expected it… the church. They were waiting for a King in a splendor greater than King Solomon to arrive on the scene, but instead God sends a cowboy preaching on sin. And it works! Because deep in the core of God’s creation lies a seed waiting to take root, and when it hears the Word of God it’s a fertilizer on the soul that makes that seed grow the sinner know that it is God who speaks, and a desire to know Him springs forth. Every Word of the gospel spoken after that is water on the dry thirsty ground making them grow in the grace and wisdom of God’s design. It’s seldom traditional… there’s still a wild side about it. It’s as if we’re still blazing new ground, although it’s not new. But because sin has taken root in the world it is what is considered the norm. So when a child of God begins to see sin as it is (to be fled from) the world doesn’t understand why we’re so against what’s normal.

Turn away from Religion to Relationship

In John the Baptist’s day and in ours religion is a part of the problem. Religion doesn’t like leather. Unless it’s on the embossed seats of their pews. Religion likes tradition, things that don’t change… but when God’s involved things change. Religion doesn’t want a relationship with God, it wants rules. Everybody doing the same thing, the same way, every day, day in and day out and what occurs is legalistic ritualism. So, when God does speak it scares them to death, it’s not the norm.

John the Baptist had spent time away from the world and the message he received and still delivers is “Repent!” There’s no works involved in a relationship with Christ, it’s simply turning away from what the world offers, and turning to what Christ offers. The work comes when we build relationships with people so that we can introduce them to Christ. That’s work! Because religion has convinced them that God is a sharped dressed, Rolex wearing, untouchable man that flies around in a jet looking down on the people. When in reality God is common clothed, barefoot Lord that will stand toe to toe and eye to eye with His creation to prove that He loves them and wants to be a part of their lives in non-traditional ways.

Non-traditional is not about what we wear, or eat, or any man created ideas. Before you think that what you are, is what God’s about… you need to ask Him about it. Turn away from everything in your life and give it to God… what He gives back, He’ll be in.

Narrow Escape!

Okay… maybe not so narrow for me, I had gone through a few hours before the massive pile of rock came down into Route 5 East of Grantsville, West Virginia, but my brother in law missed it by only minutes. I praise my Lord for my self and every other soul that did not get crushed by this rock today. I have another day to tell someone about Jesus, to tell my husband and children I love them. I spent the evening with the greatest kids in the country… my youth department at church, and all because God chose to spare me .

If the big rock had gotten me, I’d have been with the Rock of my Salvation Jesus Christ without regret or worry! What about you? I pray you know Him today!

David: The Pizza Boy with the Heart of a Warrior

I have no idea how many times I’ve read the story of David and Goliath, but long before I had read it for myself I had heard the tale. Even most unchurched people can give you a generalization of the story having never read one Word from the Bible. The greatest story of underdog to victor known to man, beyond a shadow of a doubt in my mind. And as I was drawn into the story this morning I found myself self standing on the hill above the valley of Elah with my pom-poms cheering David on as he fearlessly went to battle Goliath alone. I knew the story… I knew how it would end… but it didn’t stop the excitement that bubbled up in my soul as I read it again. Because going into the battle David wasn’t the warrior, he was a disrespected, part-time pizza delivery boy who kept a few sheep. But inside him beat the heart of warrior.

For background I recommend you read 1 Samuel 17, don’t take my word for any of it.

Only a chapter before teenager David had been anointed the new King of Israel and returned to the fields to tend sheep. But this day his father Jesse had sent out the would be king to deliver bread and cheese (Israeli Pizza) and a few other supplies to his brothers on the battlefield with King Saul. I have to wonder if there wasn’t a little bit of animosity among his brothers over David’s prognosticated career from the way that his older brother Eliab belittled him on the battlefield.

 And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle.

Even this doesn’t discourage David when he responds, “What have I now done? Is there not a cause?

Lessons I learned from the Pizza guy…

#1 – they have good taste in food, but that’s not really a very spiritual lesson, so here’s my life application today.

There’s no glamour in the prep work

Long before I was given the opportunity to be coordinator of the teen department I was a ruddy shepherd. I felt a calling to work with youth, but having teens of my own, I warned the Pastor that there were days I didn’t even like kids. So he put me in the nursery. Ha! That’ll teach me for being honest. But that’s where I was and so I prepared my lessons as if I was teaching a future Charles Spurgeon, and in truth I may have been. But I took my job serious, and I fell in love with it! Year after year of serving Christ I was graduated up through the youth department, K-2nd grade, 3rd -5th Grade, Junior high and then finally to my current position with the teens, Sunday School Superintendent and speaking to women. I needed that time of preparation for what the future had in store.

David’s defense of the sheep prepared him for the defense of Israel. My simplistic bible studies for babies eased me into teaching and gave me a primary understanding necessary to explain the gospel to a “baby Christian” who may be 57 years old. If you’re in the toddler ministry it may be your calling, or it may be the Lord doing prep work. Work it well!

There’s no glory in grunt work

I doubt David was too excited to hear he was carrying “pizza” to his brothers, but it got him near the battle, and for that he was likely glad. His brother’s words were filled with indignation but rather than allowing his temper to get the best of him David used those words to fuel his passion for the purpose. “Is there not a cause?”  I’m using creative license here, but I can hear David’s passion that’s been squelched on more than one occasion by a naysaying adult rising up in him. If you’re a passionate person, you get it when the naysayers don’t. You see the vision when everyone else is seeing defeat. Don’t let their doubt discourage you! Is there not a cause? Did God not put that purpose down in your heart for a reason? Carry the pizza, mop the floors, change the diapers, do whatever it is that needs done but watch for the open door.

There’s a Glitch in their team work

Saul and his army of men were facing Goliath alone, they had left God out of the equation. But not David… in verse 36 he tells Saul “Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.

Can you hear Davd, “God’s prepared me for this, and God’s still on the throne… He’ll take care of me.”

So… what does Satan have in front of you that’s too big to hit… remember it’s also too big to miss. All those years of delivering Pizza may just be ready to pay off!