FREE GIFT

Who doesn’t like getting presents?

I mean, really! Someone hands you this beautiful gift; are you just going to set it down and ignore it? I have a nephew who takes his time, gently taking it apart so the paper and ribbon aren’t wrinkled or torn. Not me! I’m one of those people …… I have a hard time not ripping off the paper as soon as I have it in my hands! Whether you are a precise, patient unwrapper like my nephew, or an excited ripper like me, are you going to turn your back on the giver and the gift? You’d think not, but millions of people over the ages have done – and do – exactly that.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – ROMANS 6:23 NASB

Jesus Christ Himself told us “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – JOHN 3:16 NASB

Jesus, Son of the Father, Creator of the Universe, Almighty GOD, left His place at the Father’s side, to bring us the Gift of Salvation through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave. We ignore that gift at our own peril!

“These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the Presence of the LORD and from the Glory of His Power, when He comes to be Glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed – for our testimony to you was believed.” – 2 THESSALONIANS 1:9‭-‬10 NASB

That gift is for you. Doesn’t matter what you’ve done or where you have been; who you are, what you upbringing or social status might be. We all stand on equal ground at the foot of the cross. God alone knows what you’ve been through, and He still wants you. He is still standing with His Hand stretched out for you to grab hold of. What are you waiting for?

Justified

“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one. Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.” – ROMANS 3:21‭-‬31 NASB

That’s a long passage. For some of us (ADD’ers, unite!), it’s easy to get lost in the words and not realize the simple message in there. I am not a scholar, by any stretch, and I certainly don’t mean to try to change anything or manipulate any words. My goal is simply to help us/myself understand what is being said. In short, I think this sums it up:

1. Everybody is a sinner. We all need of redemption.

2. Nothing we can do or say will redeem us.

3. Jesus was sent by GOD to redeem us.

4. All we have to do is to accept Him, by Faith.

Faith. Not words, not attitude, not works. God, the Almighty, the Father and Creator, tells us there is one way to spend the rest of eternity with Him. One. Way.

“….. if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation…..” – ROMANS 10:8-‬13 NASB

Growing up in the church, I loved to sing,and this hymn, especially the chorus, is one that you can close your eyes and lift your hands and really allow the Holy Spirit to carry the words as an anthem, an offering of thanksgiving to the Lord.

Living, He loved me; dying he saved me;
Buried, he carried my sins far away;
Rising, He justified freely forever:
One day He’s coming–O glorious day!

Listen to this hymn as sung by Casting Crowns; GLORIOUS DAY!

Are you justified? Is it a glorious day for you?

Religion Is Dirty Word

I don’t really like the word. It almost has a negative conotation to me, so I thought it would be good to do some research on the word. What does the word ‘religion‘ mean to you?

Merriam-Webster defines religion as

1 : (1)a : the state of a religious – a nun in her 20th year of religion. (1)b : the service and worship of God or the supernatural. (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance.

2 : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.

3 : Archaic : scrupulous conformity. Conscientiousness.

4 : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.

Examples of religion in a sentence:

*Many people turn to religion for comfort in a time of crisis.
*There are many religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism.

(https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/religion)

Even though they list ‘scrupulous conformity’ as the archaic definition, I feel like it’s the one meant by most people today when they speak of religion – like it’s a curse word, almost. ‘Scrupulous conformity‘. Do you even have a reason to believe as you do, or do you just go through the motions? Is just habit to go to mass / communion / confession / Sunday (or Saturday) service? Are you consciously pursuing a relationship with the LORD? This is a serious question, not just for the lay people, but for the church leaders as well. It doesn’t matter what your title is: from the newest Sunday School teacher and nursery worker to the most well-known evangelist, and even to the Pope – are you consciously pursuing a relationship with the LORD?

Having religion is much more than keeping the ‘rules’. It is more than being spiritual. To me, real religion, real spirituality, is the conscientiousness of consciously pursuing a relationship with the LORD.

“If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” – JAMES 1:26‭-‬27 NASB (Read all of James chapter 1)

Betrayed

Who betrayed Jesus the most, Judas or Peter?

Both men loved and were loved by Jesus. We despise Judas for what he did, and we call anyone who betrays us a “Judas”. Does taking money for his betrayal make him worse than the one who swears allegiance and then denies Him? I’m not convinced that there is a “worse” between the two. We like to vilify Judas, and we praise Peter because of his missionary work after Jesus ascended. We know that Judas hung himself in remorse, and Peter went on to become a champion for Jesus. Does that make up for Peter’s betrayal?

Judas –

“When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.” …… “That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.” – JOHN 13:21,26‭ (“Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He said to them, “I am He. ” And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them.” – JOHN 18:3‭-‬5)

Peter –

“Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times.” – JOHN 13:26‭, ‬38 (Then the slave-girl who kept the door said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” ….. Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You are not also one of His disciples, are you?” He denied it, and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” Peter then denied it again, and immediately a rooster crowed.” – JOHN 18:17‭, ‬25‭-‬27)

Judas felt deep remorse, so much that he couldn’t live with his conscience, and so he ended his life by hanging himself. Did he, in his guilt and shame, receive forgiveness? I hope he did. As heinous as his action in betraying his Lord, Judas did what was required of him to bring Jesus to the place of His sacrifice for our sins. He did as God ordained. Who am I to judge?

“Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.” – MATTHEW 27:3‭-‬5

Both men were separated from God by their actions. We can see from the scriptures that Peter received Mercy. Did Judas? Sometimes I feel like a Judas, knowing that things I have said and done in my life were motivated by money, and other times, like a Peter, denying knowledge of my Lord either by words or by omission. Do you ever feel like either of these men?

All scriptures are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

Stuck In The Muck and Mire

“But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table. For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” When He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” – LUKE 22:21‭-‬22‭, ‬40 NASB

When I turned on the radio this morning, and a new song by Matthew West was playing. It’s called “Unplanned.” I was unplanned. My 2 younger sisters and my younger brother were unplanned. Should we then not be allowed to live? How many of you, my wonderful readers, were unplanned by your birth parents? I can’t hear the song without being brought to tears. What a slap in the face of the Creator it is each time an unwanted, unplanned baby is destroyed! We betray our Lord with each abortion that is performed. I supported the abortion industry for years until I realized exactly what I was supporting. I wasn’t supporting women’s rights, I was supporting a massive industry that was all about money. As a society, we are stuck in the muck and the mire of political correctness, in which there is very little that is correct.

“…. behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table…..”

That hand was my hand. Betraying the God of the Universe; betraying His Son, and putting His life on the line, just as we put the life of every single innocent baby on the line with each abortion performed. Jesus had to bear that sin on the cross!

Charles Spurgeon, one the greatest evangelists to ever live, said this, “for those claiming to be Christians, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper will also deceive you, if you rest your salvation on them; when you are near death you will find them too frail to be supports to bear the weight of an immortal soul’s eternal interests. It will be worthless when you lie dying, if your conscience prompts you to say, “I went to church or to prayer meetings so many times a week.” You will find it a poor dressing to your soul’s wounds to be able to say, “I made a profession of godliness.” Oh, your facade will all be torn away from you by the rough hand of the skeleton called “Death”; you will need a real Savior, vital godliness, true regeneration, not baptismal regeneration; you will need Christ, not sacraments; and nothing short of this will do “at the end.”

Are we merely claiming to be Christians, the Christians Charles Spurgeon talks about, resting our ‘Christianity’ on an outward show of rituals and attendance, or have we put Jesus in our hearts and our consciousness? Are we listening to our Lord apeak in our lives? I am a massive failure at hearing God in my life. Many times, I hear Him and then I do what I decide to do. I know one thing: I do not want to continue to be that hand on the table betraying my Lord! Abortion – or rather, the opposition of it – may not be your ‘sword’, but I believe it should be in every Christian’s arsenal.

Please hear this: There is forgiveness for having an abortion, or for having facilitated one (or hundreds). That doesn’t mean it’s okay to sweep our participation under the rug, so to speak. I am grateful I didn’t have an abortion, even though I was not prepared in any way to raise a baby*. I was blessed beyond measure that a family member was there to step in and adopt my child, and I know that there are hundreds of Christ-followers who would give almost anything to be able to have those unplanned, unwanted, babies. (*I wanted my baby, but was emotionally, physically, and financially unable to care for the child…. and the father was even more ill-equiped than I.)

“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.” – PSALMS 139:13‭-‬16 NASB

“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.” – ISAIAH 53:4‭-‬7 NASB

Jesus bore the weight of every single child lost through abortion. Like Him, they are lambs, and we are the sheep that are silent. We will do well to immitate Him. As Peter tells us,

“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, And His ears attend to their prayer, But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit ….. ” – 1 PETER 3:8‭-‬9‭, 12,18 NASB

Matthew West announced this song on Twitter with the following message, “As long as my God holds the world in His hands, I know there’s no such thing as Unplanned. Watch the music video for Unplanned from the @UnplannedMovie at the link below. https://t.co/hsd7HT0ruT pic.twitter.com/yg1bU2L3WN

Oh I don’t believe in accidents
Miracles, they don’t just happen by chance
As long as my God holds the world in his hands
I know that there’s no such thing as unplanned

Lead Me

Lead me, for I can’t do this alone.

Sanctus Real sings this in the song, “Lead Me.” It’s something I say to God every day because life is hard, and I can’t do it alone. None of us can. We think we can; we can ‘shoulder through the pain’, we can ‘pull ourselves up by the bootstraps’, we can ‘think positive’ and adopt an ‘I can do it’ mentality, but how successful are we – really – when we are truly alone? Without family or friends, without any spiritual or emotional support, where would you be?

The LORD, the Psalmist’s Shepherd

A Psalm of David

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of deep darkness, the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil or harm, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” – PSALMS 23:1‭-‬6 NASB

There are many ‘successful’ people who are without a Saviour out in the world, but at what cost to themselves? Money and power on earth are only meaningful temporarily. They can’t buy us into eternity, and they can’t bring us any kind of lasting peace or companionship. The wealthiest people I’ve met in my life are also the most miserable people I have ever known. Having millions of dollars (and I am being literal here) didn’t provide them with the thing they truly craved: real love, and real friendships. What I saw was immense paranoia that someone would ‘take advantage of them’, and I saw it taking place with those people the wealthy had surrounded themselves with to ‘protect’ themselves. They were unable to accept that someone might care for them just for themselves, making themselves absolutely reject anyone reaching out to them in real friendship; lonely, isolated and alone, while surrounded by people. Immensely saddening situation, especially knowing that it is their choice to live that way. Immune to the Gospel, because that would require trusting someone outside of themselves. Keeping too busy in the whirlwind of social life to face reality.

Successful, rich, abjectly lonely, and miserable.

I won’t deny that it would feel so good not to wonder how to stretch a too limited income to cover expenses, and to be able to write a check (not a ‘rubber’ one!!) to pay bills as they come in…… but I have someone, my Saviour, Who loves me regardless of my socio-economic standing. He loves me no matter how I look, how I dress, or whether my address is trendy enough. He loves me through my down times and my up times. His Name is JESUS.

I am blessed to have a family and friends who love me, too. It’s something that many people don’t have, and I know what a blessing it is. That’s the thing about Jesus – He loves you and is reaching out for you, even now. He wants you to understand what it’s like to know you are loved and cared for! Do you know? Have you realized yet that what He is offering is total, absolute, and completely without any strings? Free, a gift for the taking, waiting for you to accept it?

Just as I am

I am reasonably intelligent, and I believe I have at least a bit of common sense, yet I still tend towards depending on me and not GOD. I’ve been blogging a lot lately about my frustration and irritation; my fears and doubts arising from the major changes going on in my life. Yesterday, late afternoon, I received a call from my realtor that closing has been postponed for 7 days due to issues with the buyer’s financing. Keep in mind that by that point, in preparation for the movers, everything except a picnic basket, toaster oven, and French press for my coffee (an essential!!) – AND all my clothes, except 2 changes (I was moving today!) was packed and sealed in boxes.

Sad, broken hearted, sorrow; definitely a dark spot on my heart!

“Come out of sadness wherever you are, Come broken hearted let healing begin ….. Earth has no sorrow Heaven can’t heal …. Come as you are ……” by Crowder, on the album Neon Steeple.

Just as I am. Just as you are.

Are you stumbling over presumptions on the way to a better relationship with Jesus? What simple truth in your life have you made so complex that you can’t see God anymore? Are you not good enough? Need to straighten out your life first? Sins too great and too black; too broken for healing? Too much anger? Presumptions, every one – False presumptions that are fostered by the enemy to keep us away from the healing Mercy and Grace of the LORD!

“Just as I am, without one plea, But that Thy Blood was shed for me ….. Waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot …… With many a conflict, many a doubt, Fighting and fear within without ….. O Lamb of GOD I come!” (Written by Charlotte Elliott and published in 1849, this is a hymn that has been sung in churches and Christian gatherings ever since.)

My first instinct upon receiving the call was to scream in frustration and cry out WHY!??? I wanted to rant and rave, possibly curse everyone involved, and jump onto someone’s desk – or some one – and physically beat on them. It would be so easy to fall into the anger and despair the enemy was pushing on me and to sin in that anger, separating myself from the LORD. All of that negativity was welling up, and for a minute (okay, more than a minute) I surrendered to it.

“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 ESV

I was not feelin’ it.

Some would say that by surrendering to the enemy, even for a minute, would cost me my salvation. Au Contraire, my friends! The sacrifice of JESUS on the cross washed away the sins of whoever accepts Him as SAVIOUR, Once and for all, and for all time!

I have His Salvation, the Hope for Eternity with my LORD, and nothing I say or do will change that; however, I can – and do – disappoint Him in my sinning. I have come to the cross on my knees, just as I am, in sadness and with a broken heart. I will always sin, but no worries! He has given me the Living Water and the Bread of Life.

“Jesus said to them, “I Am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst. For this is the will of My FATHER, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have Eternal Life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” ” – John 6:35‭, ‬40 ESV

HALLELUJAH! I will trust in Him, my Rock and my Salvation, and He will carry me through this mess, too. 😊

Photo credit: https://fccdm.org