Archives for posts with tag: salvation

Have you ever owned anything you really couldn’t afford?  Maybe you’ve bought a fixer-upper house (or any house) and found that no matter how much time and money you pour into it, there’s always something else to fix or replace.  Or maybe you’ve bought a classic car, intending to restore it to its former glory, and everything you do just leads to something else that needs to be done.  We invest so much into maintaining and improving our investments, sometimes we wonder if they are worth what they cost.

Perhaps you’ve received a gift you couldn’t afford.  Has a well-meaning friend or relative given your child a puppy or kitten, thinking only about how much the child would enjoy the pet and not about how much time and money you will have to spend feeding and caring for it?  Or maybe someone has given you an expensive family heirloom, and over the years you have had to move it, find a place for it, dust it, insure it.  Sometimes a gift can be a burden.

When we consider the gift of salvation that God has offered us, we surely experience joy and gratitude.  This is truly a gift that we cannot afford; yet, it is a gift that we must accept if we are to embrace life and overcome death.  God’s grace is freely given:  it cannot be earned or bought and, just as importantly, it cannot be returned or lost.  It is the gift we celebrate at Christmas by giving presents to one another.  It is the babe in the manger, the offerings of the magi, the miracle of God becoming human and living among us.  It is the wonder of a young girl who gave her own life, her plans and her future, to God to use as He pleased.  How many of us would make such a sacrifice?

If you have children, you have probably heard them say, “I wish it could be Christmas every day!”  Indeed, we are urged to keep Christmas in our hearts all year.  Doing so might make us happier, more generous, more loving people.  But as followers of Jesus, isn’t it even more important to keep Easter ever in our hearts?  The love of God demonstrated by the incarnate Word is a complex love.  It is generous, kind, compassionate, and joyful.  It is also sacrificial, demanding, and loaded with expectation.  It is the warmth of a stable full of animals making quiet sounds over a newborn baby dozing in the protective arms of his mother.  It is the agony and solitude of the cross and the bitter chill of a tomb.  It is the impossible truth of a risen Lord.

angel-prayers public domain

What does it mean to keep Easter all year long?  To me, Resurrection Sunday is like New Year’s Day.  It is a new beginning for everyone who has accepted this incredible gift of salvation.  It is a day of ecstatic joy preceded by three days of darkness, mourning, and despair.  We would do well not to forget those days of hopelessness because they remind us of the despair Jesus felt on the cross as first his friends and then his Father turned away from him.  Christmas is God’s perfect love poured out on creation; Easter is God’s pure love tempered by sacrifice.  It is love that through the tormenting fire of ridicule, abandonment, cowardice, selfishness, abuse, jealousy, hatred, and murder became . . . grace.

How can we respond to such a gift?  Saying “thank you” is a start, but it’s not enough.  Unless our hearts are changed by this extravagant grace, God’s love is wasted on us.  When we are tempted to be proud of our new status in Christ, we might remember that he, not we, paid the price for it.  When we are provoked to righteous indignation, we might consider the many accounts in scripture of his dealings with provokers and respond the way he did, with quiet confidence.  When we are angry, we might remember how an act of sacrificial love was what it took to satisfy the wrath of God, and we might offer love instead of a clever word or hurtful retort.  When we see those in need, we can reach out beyond our own small circles and offer help.  When we don’t know what else to do, we can love.  And if love costs us something, we can be grateful for the opportunity to make the sacrifice.  It is so little compared to what we have been given.

We must keep Easter in our hearts always, lest we forget that the babe in the manger was also the lamb on the altar.

Once I was visiting another church and the pastor used an illustration of how easy it is for sin to color our whole lives for the worse.  It was very dramatic.

He had a glass of water on the podium and also a glass he’d filled with garden dirt.  He took a tablespoon and filled it with the dirt that fit in it and then dumped it into the large glass of water.  You saw how the black soil sunk to the bottom of the glass and then slowly it began to dissolve and filter into the entire glass until all the water was a murky gray.

Obviously, the dirt was sin and the water signified the life of a person and how just a bit of sin could spread through the entire life.  His dramatization made me think of an anecdote I’d heard Charles Swindoll use many years ago.  Swindoll talked about how our actions rub off on another and vice versa…in other words, birds of a feather tend to flock together and we should be careful of the company we keep.  He ended his illustration by saying you can be wearing white gloves and go into the garden and pick up dirt, but the gloves will always get dirty while the dirt will never get “glovey.”

We can have the best of intentions, but when faced with the evil of sin, the dark coloring will scar our souls.

The pastor’s graphic display with the water and dirt sent a quietness over the congregation that was quite noticeable.  And as people filed out, their quietness was depressing.

I wanted to shout and say, “But look what one teaspoon of bleach can do to this muddy glass of water!”   I wanted to grab an eye dropper and fill it with good old ordinary bleach and show how the blackness disappeared and the water became clear again!

THAT is the victory which comes from Christ’s unselfish death on the cross.  His blood is the bleach that cleanses our blackened souls from all the filth of sin–no matter what kind of sin it is.

Jesus falling beneath the cross

His blood is greater than ALL our sin.

That is the victorious message of the Cross of Christ.  The plan God conceived before we were born and carried out through His Son Jesus.

A “legalist” might think that we keep adding teaspoons of dirt daily to that glass of water and that we somehow have to figure a way to keep that water clean on our own.  But the joy of God’s plan, God’s calling to His grace, is that when Jesus said, “It is finished” while He hung on the cross, he meant he’d thrown His blood (the cleansing flood) into that glass of our sin, and He did it once for all.  Forever.  It. Is. Finished.

Praise His Name and rejoice in His resurrection.  His triumph over sin and death. For while He was on the cross, YOU were on His mind.

by Cindy Best

We brought home a little puppy from a rescue last Tuesday.  She was scared to death and her fur was all matted and she smelled horrible.  We gave her a bath and held her in lots of towels and worked out the worst of the matted fur.

The first two days, she would only huddle in my lap.  Finally, she has started to believe I am an okay person and she even runs to greet me when I come out of the kitchen or bedroom.  And she follows me everywhere and wants to sleep on something that has my scent on it.

Of course, I think she is just the sweetest thing!

rescued

She has learned my lap is available, that I feed her regularly, and I’ve gotten toys for her and she can play with the cats whenever she wants, too!  My life is all about making her life safe and happy.  I am confident that at some point, her little puppy mind will realize there are only good things for her here.

I thought about how each of us has been rescued by Christ…whether we know it yet or not!   He paid the price and has a great home full of love ready for us to enjoy forever.

Some might think that is just too simply stated, but in fact, the love of God is exactly that simple to have and hold.   There is nothing for us to do but climb into his lap and feel his arms around us.  He wants nothing more than to assure us that we are loved, safe and have a home!

There’s nothing we have to do…HE is the one who chose us and keeps us!

Enjoy His love today.

by Cindy Best

Rachel’s parents had died of AIDS and that is how she came to live with her only blood relative, an aunt, and her three cousins with a sometimes-present husband.

As the uninvited guest, Rachael was expected to earn her keep by doing chores, fetching water and firewood, and digging in the garden.

This tiny girl was strong and could carry a full jerry can, 40 pounds of water. She slept on bare ground, was the last to eat, and often endured verbal and physical beatings by her drunken guardians. This explained why at age nine she looked like she was six.

Staff at Juna Amagara noticed Rachael and, with the aunt’s permission, invited her to come to school. They found a sponsor to cover school fees which included at least one hot meal a day. “She was sick and undernourished when we found her,” Moureen Kyokusiima, the Director of Child Services commented. “Juna Amagara saved this girl’s life.”

 

I met Rachael when, in 2010, she needed to be removed from the abusive living environment and we rode in the same van to her new home, an orphanage/school in another village.

I was extremely fascinated by this diminutive munchkin wearing her whole wardrobe, growing wide-eyed at not-oft or ne’er-seen sights like reflective window glass and tiled bathroom facilities at the petrol station. And the petrol station! I’ll not soon forget how she savored each tiny spoonful of the half cup of ice cream bestowed upon her there at that pre-heaven fuel stop.

While waiting for our ‘taxi’ (van) I pulled out a pen and two sheets of paper and began to draw in an effort to gain the trust of this wordless child. I drew a stick figure of her and wrote her name beside it, drew a sunset scene and taught her tic tac toe.

It was when I drew a dog that she spoke up, “It is a pig.” A smile broke through. After more writing and drawing she pronounced, “It is a book.”

The next morning when our team visited her at The Children’s Home, she produced ‘the book,’ in which she had practiced writing her numbers earlier that morning.

I knew that the childhood stolen from Rachael was being re-discovered when this shy not-comfortable-looking-you-in-the-eye Cinderella broke into dance right before my very eyes.

Rachael gives the conclusion of the matter in this video, in an understatement of monumental proportion:

“My life at Juna Amagara, it is good.”

Blessings upon the not-so-diminutive savor-er of life. And ice cream.

Connie Hoogeveen 2012

If you were sick with the stomach flu this past week, you’d be treating yourself as symptoms arose: stop eating, rest, and as soon as possible begin drinking hot tea or some fluid to replenish your body. If you found out your illness was not just the flu, but something very serious, you’d get yourself to a doctor, maybe even a specialist. If you’ve discovered that your life is in danger of a spiritual death from an illness you can’t begin to cure, you can at once call for the Perfect Physician and as soon as that Healer is allowed into your life, the spiritual malady is cured. There will be no “death” from this disease.

Are you at a point where you need to be assured you are healed from the disease of spiritual deficiency, unrighteousness and therefore, death? Is it all real? Well, I can share what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans so long ago: “Now God says He will accept and acquit us and declare us ‘not guilty’–if we trust Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, by coming to Christ, no matter who we are or what we have been like. For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious ideal; yet now God declares us ‘not guilty’ of offending Him if we trust in Jesus Christ who in his kindness freely takes away our sins.” (Romans 3:33-34, Amplified Version)

You know if you are healed of a tumor or appendicitis, or even a decaying tooth, there is pain involved. Healing is not always painless. With spiritual healing there is the painful act of humility–the conscious agreement that you cannot heal yourself. God must perform His miracle in your life in only one way: you must admit defeat in your own ability, your own “cures.” 1 Cor. 1:10 says, “For God says, I will destroy all human plans of salvation no matter how wise they seem to be, and ignore the best ideas of men, even the most brilliant of them.” (The Living Bible)

When the vaccine to prevent Polio first came to the world, we felt so fortunate that this horrible, crippling and killing disease could be halted. People flocked with their children to receive this “miracle vaccine” to protect themselves from this illness. Now there are vaccines for most diseases that used to plague children–and now we make sure our children get them!

What a pity those who are afflicted with diseases of the spirit don’t flock to the One who can provide the miracle of grace as the cure to the release from the crippling effects of a burdened and aching spirit within.

How simple the story of the stricken daughter and her illness seems, and the answer also. The problem was in the discovery of the seriousness of the disease. If you know you or a loved one is suffering from a fatal spiritual  disease, call in the Specialist. There is no cost. Salvation is free and available to all. “Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13, Living Bible).

by Cindy Best

In this New Year, have you made resolutions?  Or maybe just “thought about” things you’d like to do differently?  Do you doubt you can or will accomplish these?

Come on, now, be honest!  DO you doubt yourself?

Well, guess what?  DOUBT is human!  It means you are part of the Human Race.  So rejoice!  If you thought you were superhuman–or are supposed to be in order to please God–have I got good news for YOU!

Growing up, I always had doubts that I was good enough, had done enough, would do enough, think enough, pray enough…yada, yada….to please God so He would always love me.

Finally, I came to truly understand Ephesians 2:8-9.   “For by grace you’re saved, through faith, and that’s not even from you; it’s a free gift from God, not of your works, or any man could boast about himself.”

Many of us have so many daily struggles with the stresses and temptations of the world we live and work in that we get to the point where we wonder if we really are a part of God’s family.  Even if we claim the name of Jesus Christ.  It’s at this point, when we’re holding onto that fraying knot, we need to grab and cling to God’s promises through His Word.

A pastor once said, “Noah may have fallen while IN the ark, but he never fell OUT of the ark; nor did God tell him to put pegs on the outside and hang on!”

AMEN!  Think of Noah and the ark as a good anchor for our thoughts at times of doubt.  God provided the instructions to build the ark, then provided the rain–and the floods came.  BUT GOD kept His promise of safety.  (By the way, sometime do a word study with your Bible and a concordance–available to you free on the Internet–on the word coupling “but God” and see what God does!)

God has given us instructions for OUR safety through life’s storms.  By trusting our life and eternal soul to Jesus Christ, we are saved eternally!  God keeps us safe throughout all time and brings us safely to shore in heaven through His promised Son.

THOUGHT FOR THIS DAY:  We can slip and fall, but God will always pick us up.

by Cindy Best

Lately I’ve been thinking about the rich young man’s encounter with Jesus (found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke).  He asked Jesus what good thing he had to do to, essentially, earn his salvation.  When Jesus replied, “Obey the commandments,” he said he had done so since he was a boy.  Then Jesus said, in an interesting choice of words:  “You still lack one thing.  Sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, and follow me.”  We’re told the man went away sad, because his wealth was great.

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you know that eternal life is a gift from God.  Discipleship, however, has a price, and we never know exactly what the price will be because most of us pay in increments as we proceed along on our walk with God.  Sometimes we get our priorities mixed up and place a greater value on the things of this world (money, power, material possessions, etc.) than on our relationship with Jesus, and those things can become a stumbling block in the path of our faith journey.  In this particular case, wealth was the man’s impediment, and Jesus’ prescription was to rid himself of it.  Unfortunately for him, the rich young man chose the treasure he already had over the treasure Jesus offered him, unable to see what he was giving up to keep his fortune.  Salvation is free; discipleship is costly, and the price of discipleship was too high for this man.

In his book The Good and Beautiful Life, James Bryan Smith asks us to consider the cost of non-discipleship.  Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.”  In the words of his mentor and friend, Dallas Willard, Smith says non-discipleship costs “exactly that abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring” (p. 31).  When we choose the temporary thing, we give up the eternal one.

In Texas Hold ‘Em, if you bet all the money you personally have on the table, you’re going “all in.”  You trade in a known quantity for a potential jackpot (I don’t play poker, so if that’s not quite right please don’t blast me!).  You could win, yes, but you could also lose—that’s why it’s called gambling.  When we go all in with Jesus, we give up the things that we think we need and love in exchange for love itself.  This exchange is not a game of chance because we always come out ahead in the end.  It does, however, require trust.  On my faith journey I am working toward going all in with Jesus.  I’m not there yet.  Although I know a few people who are, I’m sure many more are, like me, working on it.  What about you?  Are you all in?

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