Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Salvation is Found in No One Else...There is No Other Name

It's popular today to say that all different roads lead to God. Awhile back, Oprah Winfrey said to one of her audience guests, “There are many paths to what you call God....there couldn't possibly be only one way.” And yet the Bible says the exact opposite.

“Salvation is found in no one else. For there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we are saved.” (Acts 4:12).

The “name” that this passage is speaking of is Jesus. In-fact, Jesus, himself, said “I am the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). He is the only path to God. But why is Jesus the only way? What is so special about him? Why can't I get to God and to heaven my own way? Two brief answers:

1- We have all sinned and disobeyed God's commandments. (Romans 3:23) And the wages (payment) for our sin is death - eternal death (Romans 6:23).

2- Only Jesus provides a way for us to be forgiven and made right (righteous) before God. “God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him, we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). He is the only one. God did this out of love for the world (John 3:16).

We all have a birthday. Yet every single one of us is heading toward our deathday- when we will stand before God to give an account for our lives. There are only two destinations according to the Bible:

1- Heaven (those who have placed their faith in Jesus alone and follow him)

2 - Hell (those who choose another path).

If you haven't yet, repent and follow Jesus. Time is running out and there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we are saved.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Faith + Good Works ≠ Salvation

I did street witnessing/evangelism for several years in downtown Minneapolis. When asked the question, "How do you think a person gets to heaven?" the vast majority of people we talked to said you had to be a good person, try to keep the commandments, and many hoped that their good works would outweigh their bad and that God would somehow allow them into heaven. I think this is the way most of the world thinks. Even many people who go to church every Sunday.

Doing good works does not earn anyone heaven. Why? Because even if our good works did outweigh our bad, (which isn't humanly possible) there is still the bad to contend with, and Scripture teaches if we keep the WHOLE law and stumble in one place, we're guilty of all, (James 2:20) and the wages of sin is death, (Romans 6:23) and there's coming a day of judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

Here's a test:                     

10 Commandments

1. Have no other Gods before me (don't love anyone or anything more than God and be fully devoted to Him every single day).

2. Don't make any idols and worship them (again, this can include loving/worshiping anything other than/more than God).

3. Don't take the Lord's name in vain ("I will not hold him guiltless who takes my name in vain." - Exodus 20:7).

4. Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy.                           

5. Honor your father and mother.

6. Do not murder (Jesus said if you hate your brother you are guilty of murder- he looks at the thoughts and intentions of our hearts).

7. Do not commit adultery (Jesus said if you look upon someone with lust you're guilty of adultery).

8. Do not steal

9. Do not bear false witness against your neighbor (lying)

10. Do not covet (want what others have).

How have you done? I'm guilty of breaking every single one. And if you were to add up the number of times I've broken these over my entire life, the number would be staggering. And btw, even our "good deeds" are only truly good if they have the right motive (to glorify God and love our neighbor by pointing them to Him). Precisely why we need a Savior and why God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to be tortured, crucified, and die for sinners like us. God, the Father, poured out His wrath against sin and punished His own Son in the place of those who would trust in Him.

In street evangelism, there were also those who knew about Jesus, and they believed that they needed to have faith in Him, but they weren't trusting in Jesus alone for the forgiveness of their sins. Their formula for salvation was: Faith in Jesus + My Good Works  = Salvation. The problem with this formula is that it negates the fact that when Christ died, He did it ALL. He said IT IS FINISHED. All the wrath of the Father against sin and against sinners was poured out on His own Son for those who would repent and trust in Him alone. So to say that my puny little good works are going to somehow add something to the finished work of Christ is to insult what He accomplished. It is ALL of grace.

I realize that James talks about faith without works being dead. This is true, but in the sense that when God saves us and we are born-again (John 3:3), he puts his Spirit in us and we are changed so that we want to and WILL produce good works. If someone says they have faith but there are no good works than there really is no faith. It is dead. We are not saved BY our works, they are evidence that we ARE saved. Again, it is all of grace.

"I do not set aside grace, for if righteousness could be obtained through the law, Christ died for nothing."- Galatians 2:21

"For by the works of the law, no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin." - Romans 3:20

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." - Romans 3:23-24

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not of yourselves. It is a gift of God, not of works so no man can boast." - Ephesians 2:8-9

Can you think of any better news than this? Every other major religion in the world is about people striving to do good things to earn God's favor or earn paradise. Christianity is about God pouring out His lavish grace upon an undeserving people and granting them everlasting life by sending His own Son to die in their place.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Irony of Ironies & The Sovereignty of God

Speaking of chronic pain, if I believed in chance, I'd say, "What are the odds that the very night I wrote my last post I'd get a neck spasm? But I don't, so I won't. In addition to the chronic neck pain, muscle spasms were a big part of the on-going pain I had for years. At its worst, I'd get them maybe 8-10 times a year. The majority of the time they happened at night and they ranged from moderately painful to I'm-pretty-sure-a-truck-ran-over-me-in my-sleep type of pain. The latter being so painful that I could not move without tears and could not hold my head up in a standing position for the better part of a day. Usually it took a few days until the knife-like stabbing pain went away and a good week till I felt semi-normal again. Thankfully, this last one wasn't like that.

But back to the fact that I don't believe in chance (luck, fate, karma, kismet, happenstance). I've written a lot on the sovereignty of God in my last blog. I can't help it, I LOVE THAT GOD IS SOVEREIGN! I love that He doesn't just "allow" things to happen but he "controls" what happens. Chapter lll of the Westminster Confession of Faith states:

"God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established."

I know this is a difficult teaching, but it is found throughout Scripture:

Who has spoken and it came to pass unless the LORD commanded it. Is it not from the Most High that good and bad happen?" - Lamentations 3:37-38

"The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps." - Proverbs 16:9

"The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD." - Proverbs 16:33 

When I first began to study the sovereignty of God in Scripture, it was a hard teaching. After all, this means that if God ordains ALL things, this would include sinful acts! How can he do this without taking away man's accountability? How can He do this without being guilty of sin Himself?  This is very deep teaching and I want to explore this in my next post. Like I said, at first it was hard to fathom, but now it brings me great peace and comfort. After all,  if God ordains all things, and works all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to His purposes, what do I have to fear? And in case I would be tempted to think his sovereignty didn't apply to my chronic pain:

 "Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good." - 1 Peter 4:19

 "....we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." - Romans 5:3-5

I'm glad this last incident with my neck wasn't that bad. I'm very thankful that the pain was minimal and the duration short. I believe a big reason for that is the book that I read, which I mentioned in my last post. But the main reason is GOD, who ordained this book be put into my hands. So I first and foremost thank Him.

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." -1 Thes 5:18

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

God's Purpose in my Chronic Pain

On my old blog, I wrote quite a bit about the chronic neck pain I was having several years ago. What started out as annoying, intermittent pain gradually became continuous, chronic pain and made sleeping (and living) a pain in the neck. Ha! I went to chiropractors, physical therapy, and motion therapy. Some of it helped a little. For awhile. In addition to the neck pain, I eventually began having intermittent burning sensations throughout my whole upper body and ended up in the emergency room one day. They referred me to a neurologist who diagnosed me (in about 5 min) with Chronic Myofascial Pain Syndrome.

Long story short, someone gave me a book by John Sarno, M.D. (thank you, Lord - and Terri). It's called Healing Back Pain but it's about a lot more than back pain. It's about the connection between chronic pain and stress. After several years of chronic pain, God used this book to heal me. I'm still definitely susceptible to this type of pain but when I start to feel pain, I can actually feel the pain leave when I focus on what I learned in this book.

Without a doubt, I believe God appointed this trial specifically for me. It's so encouraging to me to trust in this God who works all things together for my good. Looking back, I can see how he used this pain to:

a) Turn my attention from what's not important to what is.

b) Show me my utter helplessness and dependence upon him.

c)  Get me on a medication that put 30 lbs on me and helped to begin a process to free me from some things I've battled since my teen years (see old blog)

I've been off any meds for 3 years and if I had to put a number on it, I'd say I'm 90% improved, which is amazing. But even more amazing is the incredible way in which my heavenly Father continuously works in my life to painstakingly free me from the sins that entangle me and turns my eyes upon the most satisfying treasure in the universe. Him.

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." - Romans 8:28
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." - Matthew 13:44

Monday, April 28, 2014

My Mom

Since I did share the story on my old blog about how God saved my mom when I was 4 or 5 (you can find it under the very first post I made in Nov 2009), I thought I’d just share a brief synopsis. My mom graduated from an all-girls Catholic high school. She would have been considered a strong Catholic – she went to mass regularly and sent her kids to local Catholic schools. Then one day someone gave her this comic book:

What the booklet is about isn't as important as what God did in my mom's life through it. He gave her a desire to read the Bible and opened her eyes to what it said. She began to understand that she was "religious" but she didn't know God, didn't have a relationship with Him. She began to realize that true Christianity wasn't about church traditions and trying to be a good person in order to please God but was about the love of God toward her in sending his son, Jesus Christ, to live the perfect life she couldn't live and to suffer and die for the myriads of sins she committed that she could never atone for, no matter how much penance she did. It was at this time that my mom became a born-again Christian and put her faith in Jesus alone for the forgiveness of her sins. She left the church she was a member of and began to seek out a church which taught and held to these truths she was learning from the Bible. It was a weighty thing to leave the church in the late 60s to early 70s, but my mom was transformed and changed forever.

When she died 8 years ago, my mom had spent over 35 years getting to know the Father who had rescued her, the Savior who had died for her. She knew without a doubt where she was going and so did I. In the end, the cancer in her lungs metastasized to her brain. She had lost the ability to speak coherently and remembered very little, including her own daughter. Within the last week of her life, I remember sitting with her and singing Amazing Grace when all of a sudden she started singing the words right along with me.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost but now found, was blind but now I see...

God's grace truly is amazing.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not the result of works, so that no one may boast." - Ephesians 2:8-9

"I do not set aside grace, for if righteousness could be obtained through the law, Christ died for nothing," - Galatians 2:21

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." - John 3:3

My Old Blog

My sister-in-law found my old blog (thanks again, Gail!). So I was thinking, now what do I do? Do I start blogging where I left off 3 1/2 years ago? I thought maybe that would work, so I tried to add a post, but it always takes me back to posting at my new blog. So I decided to just continue on with the new one. I'll add a link to my old blog at the end here, if anyone wants to read it (isn't it funny how I just assume there might be someone even reading this blog, let alone someone who might want to read my old one? Judging by how popular my posts on FB are, that's a pretty huge assumption).

But wow, reading some of that stuff on my old blog - I shared a lot of really personal stuff on there! And I did actually share the story of my mom becoming a Christian, but I'm going to add a few things about it in my next post. Here's the link to my old blog:

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Starting Out

Years ago I started a blog by this same name. I've been trying to find it on blogger, but I guess I must have deleted it. I wish that I hadn't because I had written a lot of things that I would have liked to preserve for my kids. Things that God has done in my life over the years and things that I have learned about Him, about myself, and about life. But I don't mind starting over and reminding myself of how amazing He is.

My next post will go back approx. 42 years, to when my mom was rescued by God out of "religion" into a personal, saving relationship with Him. I love this story.