Pay Now or Later

An oil filter manufacturer once made the following pitch in its advertisements; “you can pay me now, or you can pay me later.”

The meaning of course was that in maintaining the engine of our car, we can pay a few bucks every now and then for a new filter, or pay a mechanic a large bill later if we fail to maintain the engine.

I know this is an imperfect analogy, but all such human attempts to describe Jesus will be thus.

We can ignore Christ, fail to maintain our soul, and go through life on borrowed time so to speak. But one day, either at the instant of our physical death or at the moment of the Lord’s return, we will be called to account for our soul.

Allow the Holy Spirit to filter out all the impurity of your soul. We will all bend our knees and pay homage to the Lord of Heaven. Much, much better to pay now by giving up our sins, receiving His forgiveness, and the promise of eternal life, than to pay later through eternal death in Hell.

Amen.

Poem:

Payday [Rom 6:23]

I want it
I need it
I love it!
It’s fantastic…
don’t blow a gasket!

Might I suggest you read the fine print?

Living your own way
does have it’s payday
The only problem?
It’s a deathly wage

05/30/14

The Dividing Line

This entry relates to a recent Twitter post:

Try to imagine the accumulation of all your sins through today. If we’re honest, the number is staggering. Now extend that thought to every person who has ever lived or will ever live until Christ returns. It’s a number beyond comprehension. Think of how any one individual sin grieves God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is the crushing weight of the rebellion of mankind that fell on the back of Jesus Christ.

Our sins put Him there. The nails held his physical body there. But it boggles my mind how Jesus and the cross could keep from plowing through the earth to physically cut it in half, loaded as He was with all our sins.

It’s a mental picture to be sure, of the impact and weight of sin, but in fact Jesus & the cross does divide the earth. Jesus himself said:

 
Luke 12:51-53

Do you think that I have come to give peace in the earth? I tell you, no, but rather division.  For from now on, there will be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.  They will be divided, father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against her mother; mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

I also thought of the three men who professed to follow Jesus, but gave excuses for not doing so.

 

Luke 9:57-62

As they went on the way, a certain man said to him, “I want to follow you wherever you go.”  And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”  He said to another, “Follow me.”  But he said, “Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father.”  But Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead, but you go and announce the kingdom of God.”  Another also said, “I want to follow you, Lord, but first allow me to bid farewell to those who are at my house.”  But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

 

On the surface these are not unreasonable requests. But Jesus knows the heart of these men. And He is certainly making point, an emphasis, on the radical nature of being a fully devoted follower and disciple.

So what about us?

I profess freely that I have not loved Jesus with my whole heart. I have fallen short of His standard and His love. And what’s worse, sometimes it’s as if I try to keep one foot on each side of the dividing line. One foot in the world and one foot in the Kingdom. It’s like trying to straddle a fissure line during an earthquake; in the end you just get swallowed up whole.

Our collective sin, grievous & voluminous as it is, did not break the back of Jesus. His triumph is our redemption.

 

~~~ . ~~~

 

Poem:

World-Breaker

He came to bring a message the world had no taste to hear

To build a bridge to Heaven, He first buried death and fear

The world was broken on His back, His hands, His feet

Our Lord Jesus, Messiah broke the back of sin

and the world became complete

01/26/15

Substandard Care

We are all caretakers of souls…

Ours, first and foremost. What are we feeding our soul? What dangerous and toxic influences are we allowing free and unfettered access to the innermost parts of our being? What old clingy habits do we need to remove, and forcibly evict?? How can we effectively lead others to Christ if our own souls are in shambles?

But also the souls of others. Those with whom God has entrusted us with a spiritual fiduciary responsibility. Children, grandchildren, even those pesky kids that sometimes run amok at church. Are we investing in the proper development of their souls? But there are countless others, from our family, friends and neighbors to school and work colleagues, to random people we meet in not-so-random God-ordained opportunities. Every day.

Substandard care from an engineering or architectural perspective may result in weakness and fatigue in a structure that may not be visible at first, but eventually results in collapse and destruction.

Substandard care in a soul may also result in destruction, but one which is eternal and irreversible. While a building may be rebuilt, a soul at death without faith and trust in Jesus Christ is destined to spend eternity in Hell. There is no greater human tragedy.

What can we do? First, ensure our own soul is covered by the blood of Jesus on the cross. Second, love and care for other souls in a way which points them to the Christ. Life on earth is short and fleeting, and there’s no time for shoddy care of precious souls.

We are called by God to care for souls, just as He does…

Acts 20:28 (Easy English Bible) You should be careful about yourselves, and about what you are doing. Keep safe the people that the Holy Spirit has asked you to help. Lead all the groups of believers. Some men have their own sheep. They feed the sheep and they keep them safe. Be like that kind of man. All the believers belong to God because Jesus died for them. He gave his life blood for them.

Reflect

Isa 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away

Phil 3:8 More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ

I have been thinking lately.  Reflecting.  Specifically, about the following progression.  No matter how “good” our actions may be from a human perspective, no matter how altruistic our aims – even if carried out on behalf of the church or with Christian intent — if we act solely in our own strength our accomplishments might as well be garbage.

Too strong, too harsh?!

Paul did not think so.  He was in the “Who’s Who” of Judaism in his time.  You can refer to Philippians Chapter Three for his resume.  But Paul’s zeal (Saul at the time) resulted in the death of Christians.  Now, I’m not equating our actions with the murder of innocents.  [Although puported Christians who support abortion would in my mind be similar.  But that’s a topic for another day].  But in one respect we are the same as Paul.

Ask these questions about your actions, as I do the same:

  • Whose glory do I seek?
  • Am I confident that I am acting in God’s will, after a time of prayer?
  • And perhaps most important, have I confessed my sins & asked Almighty God to forgive me, accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior?

It is not an easy thing to lay down sin, especially the persistent kind that we are susceptible to, but it is so incredibly necessary.  It is a challenge to pray without ceasing, especially when the distractions of the world encroach, but it is so incredibly necessary.

I pray that we will see all of our earthbound abilities, talents, accomplishments the way that Paul did.  Filth.  Refuse.  Garbage.  Dung.   Depending on your translation.  But you get the idea.  Absolutely worthless.  Only fitting for the landfill or junkyard.

I am not condemning anyone.  But I hope that you will reflect as well. What are you leaning on?  

Important:  If you are unsure about your salvation, if you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you can do so now.  Cry out to Him, admit you are a sinner, ask forgiveness for your sins, and ask Jesus into your heart.  Find peace.




Poem:

Traffic

Isaiah 53:6
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Philippians 2:21
For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

Simple question ~ most of us have run a traffic signal, especially trying to beat it before it turns red…but what would be the result if many or most people simply barrelled through the signal at full speed, from every direction, regardless of the color of the light?

The results are predictable.  Chaos, confusion, frustration, rage, wreckage, pain, death.

I find it interesting how compliant people are with traffic signals.  No matter what’s going on in our lives, we typically obey traffic lights.  I have this curious image in my mind of a thief, who after committing burglary then stops at every traffic signal on the way home.  Doesn’t want to draw attention to himself…

Now, don’t misunderstand.  I’m not saying people are perfect angels on the road.  I keep looking on the front grill of my car for a flashing neon sign that reads “Go ahead and pull out in front of me, I’ll just slam on the brakes.”  Haven’t found it yet, but I’m convinced it’s there…

Here’s the point of this.

Yes, I know, about time.  I can sense the palpable excitement.

Forgive the comic relief.  But from a spiritual perspective this scenario is being played out.  Think about it.  Millions, perhaps blllions of people are careening through life.  Ignoring or blatantly disregarding the signals that God amply provides.  Consequences be damned.

God’s Word has a plethora (I like saying that word btw as an irrelevant aside) of admonitions against sinful behavior.  We are wholly without excuse.  When we follow our own desires with abject determination, we plow through God’s traffic light.

The results are inevitable.  Chaos, confusion, frustration, rage, wreckage, pain, death.

But while you have breath, there is still time to slam the brakes on your out-of-control life.

Poem:

Inner God Divine?

What god resides in your soul tonight?

Yahweh the King or some cheap delight?

I must press the point with all of my might

What if you died or Christ split the night?

No matter your sins

No wrath shall condemn

If you place your trust

In Him who made us

(from dust)

So, who has the throne

in this life you call home?

while your true home awaits

the decision you make

and failing to choose

seals your soul’s doom

but while you have breath

there’s always room…

If only Heaven were filled tight

which god resides in your soul tonight?

The Crushing Weight 

Think of the sin on the earth, at this very moment you read these words from six billion souls.

Now consider the collective sin of humanity; past, present, and future.

The weight of the sin on the cross, laid upon our bleeding, suffering Savior, if it had physical weight would have cut the earth in half and still be hurtling through space.

We begin Lent.  May this thought be impressed upon my mind.

Where’s the Fire?

You’re late.

You have a sense of urgency that is compounded by the multiple loud distractions in the back seat, unexpected road construction, and certain aged people that simply shouldn’t be on the road.  It is only by the grace of God that you have kept some sense of sanity and refrained from letting loose a barrage of profanity that would be instantly implanted in the vocabulary of the young minds sitting the car seats behind you.

Deep breath.

But now on the open road – an opportunity to make up some lost time.  Faster than the limit on the signs that whiz by, but within the “grace period” of miles per hour over the speed limit.  At least, that is what you tell yourself.

But of course, the state trooper hidden over the next hill has a different opinion.

“Where’s the fire?!?”

“Well, Officer……”

You feel an impending sense of guilt.  You are overwhelmed by the reality of God’s grace and forgiveness in this life and the promise of Heaven in the next.  Yet, you know inherently that you have failed in the primary task of the great commission to take the gospel to your neighbors, and beyond.  

Deep breath.

This remorse propels you to act.  You desire to make up for lost time.  You must be bold, unashamed.  An overwhelming sense of love for others, compassion for their souls and their eternal destination without Christ causes you to be persistent, even reckless with sharing your faith.  Praise of Jesus is always on your lips.  You know we are living in a “grace period” before the Lord returns and it will be too late.

The world frowns at this overt Christian “proselytizing” and incessant references to Jesus, the Bible, and especially sin and Hell.

“Woah!  Slow down; put on the brakes with this Christian stuff.  After all what’s the rush?  Where’s the fire?”

The fire is closer than you realize.  It is already whipping at your heels.  In the twinkling of an eye, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.  By then it will be too late.  Today is the day of salvation.  Jesus is watching and waiting…

Poem:


I Should Burn


I can already feel

the embers growing

the oxygen blowing

the flames destroying


I can already taste

the choking smoke

the ashen dust

the pillowing soot


I can already see

the fiery pit

forever lit

human torches

in writhing fits


Now I am running

like an antelope from the flames

to the only

firebreak that remains


And I bow before the

Cross of my beloved Lamb

who smothers the flames to death

and applies the healing balm

to restore life again

Deceptive Coffee Cups

I admit it.  I drink too much coffee.

Now, I might justify it a bit by stating that I don’t navigate into the exotic side of caffeine.  No mocha lattes, no cappuccinos, and heaven forbid I ever partake of something called “iced coffee.”  To me, that’s an oxymoron.

But nevertheless, way too much (even with the occasional decaf).

So, as you might imagine – I have assembled a decent collection of coffee mugs.  Gifts from family and co-workers, trips to the beach and other places, etc…

I find that most of the mugs I have are either black (or very dark navy) or white. Anyone who drinks coffee day in and day out knows that the white cups quickly become enstained (I just made that word up) with coffee [or tea – I sometimes switch to tea later in the day] residue.  Especially if:

  • the daily washing of the cup is a quick 2-second rinse of water [“after all, next time I pour coffee in it, the hot water will kill any germs”]
  • the half-empty/half-full cup of coffee sits overnight on your desk and you get a nice ring in the middle of the mug
  • You go on vacation for 1-2 weeks and come back to a science project in your coffee mug [yuck]

I have no doubt been guilty of all of the above at one time or another, but at least I try to wash my cups with detergent, and keep the white cups as clean as possible.

Interesting enough, the dark cups are a different story.  With a black or dark blue interior, you can’t see the coffee residue!  Works well!  In fact, for practical reasons, I think all coffee mugs should be dark on the inside.

But that’s the rub…or lack thereof [lack of rubbing out the stains lol].  Forgive the bad pun.

I’m serious from here to the end, which you will be glad to know is soon.  Sin ~ especially “secret sins” [actually no such thing – see Hebrews 4:13], are like those hidden coffee stains in the black mug.  They are not visible to the human eye, but are there just the same – and God sees them with vivid clarity.  Chew on that for a while.

In the case of the mug, unless the coffee is cleaned thoroughly – the stain will persist.  Just as it is with us and sin.  Unless we are cleaned, thorough forgiveness of our sins made possible by the blood of Jesus, we can look very Christian on the outside but rotten where it counts.

Woe to you…you are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  [Mat 23:27]

Lord, If Thou art Willing

Lord If Thou Art Willing

And when he came down from the mount, great multitudes did follow him, and lo, a leper having come, was bowing to him, saying, ‘Sir, if thou art willing, thou art able to cleanse me;’ and having stretched forth the hand, Jesus touched him, saying, ‘I will, be thou cleansed,’ and immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus saith to him, ‘See, thou mayest tell no one, but go, thyself shew to the priest, and bring the gift that Moses commanded for a testimony to them.’ [Matthew 8:1-4]


And having sternly charged him, immediately he put him forth, and saith to him, ‘See thou mayest say nothing to any one, but go away, thyself shew to the priest, and bring near for thy cleansing the things Moses directed, for a testimony to them.’ And he, having gone forth, began to proclaim much, and to spread abroad the thing, so that no more he was able openly to enter into the city, but he was without in desert places, and they were coming unto him from every quarter. [Mark 1:43-45]


I have been pondering on this passage for a while.  I prayed this very same prayer that the leper made, while waiting on the Lord to heal my nerve pain.  And He did answer my prayer, although in an extended healing over time rather than the quick relief [like the leper] I had asked for.  I am still on that journey to recovery – but amazed at how far I have already come.  Or rather, how far He has carried me.


I am struck by three things in this passage.


First, the leper asked unabashedly for Jesus to heal him.  He recognized Jesus as a source of healing, fought the crowds to get near Him, and knelt before the Lord to make his request.  I imagine Jesus loves this kind of dogged determination to get close to Him.  The leper was a social outcast.  I can picture others making efforts to avoid this man as he made his effort to get to the Lord.  The leper is a picture of all of us with the stain of sin in our lives.  We are not clean, but we recognize Jesus as the One who can take away our sin.


Second, the leper anticipated the healing.  To be sure, he asked the Lord “if thou art willing,” but at the same time he stretched out his hand to be healed.  Because perhaps of what he had seen or heard about Jesus, he had full confidence that Jesus would in fact heal him!  What great faith!  In the same way, we can have full confidence that God will heal us.  First, to heal our heart of the sin that comes between us and God.  Second, often through physical or mental healing according to His will.  And third, in our final and ultimate healing when He calls us home.  We will not suffer the infirmities of this physical life when we reach our final reward in glory!


Finally, despite Jesus’ stern warning not to tell anyone about what had happened, the former leper could not contain the joy inside of being touched by God.  We can, I think forgive this man for disobeying Jesus’ command to keep it quiet.  Jesus probably wanted less focus and attention on the miracle itself, and more focus on lives changed forever by Him.  We see from the parallel passages in Mark and Luke that instead of telling no one, the former leper made such a fuss, so to speak, that Jesus had to move His ministry out of the city and into the desert.  If you think about it, leprosy is a very visible disease. People who knew this man could not help but see the change. And he could not help but proclaim the work of Jesus in his life! 


We as believers in Jesus should also exhibit a manifested change because of His healing in our life and soul.  We should also have joy so pent up inside that we cannot fail to tell others about what Jesus did for us.



Lord, if thou art willing…I am willing; be thou cleansed

Cleaning Fluid

 


Suppose you spill a gallon of cleaning fluid on the kitchen floor.  The kitchen may smell clean, but it really isn’t.  You made no effort to clean the floors or surfaces, to efface the dirt.

Same rule applies to Christians.  They may carry a Bible, memorize verses, go to church, sing in the choir.  But unless they have allowed God to rid them of the accumulation (massive at times) of the filth of sin deep inside, they will never be clean.  Jesus in Matthew 23 called some of the Pharisees “whitewashed tombs” which look clean and stately on the outside, but inside are full of rot and death.

As to salvation, God knows the heart.  But consider these verses about the effects of carnality:

 

Romans 8:6-7

For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so

 
Galatians 5:16-17

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

 
Galations 5:21

…I am telling you now, as I have told you in the past, that people who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

 

Prayer

Father, help us to live and walk according to the spirit, not the flesh.  Help us to be followers of Jesus who are above all, authentic.
In His Name, Amen.