Jesus loves lost people

Jesus has a heart for lost people! Many times throughout the gospels we see stories of Jesus going out of his way to reach a lost person. On one occasion, when he was in the presence of some people of questionable character, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were quick to whisper about the scandal of it! — “How can this man hang out with those people?! Doesn’t he know they’re sinners?” (Side note — we are all sinners!)

Jesus answers them with the Parable of the Lost Sheep. (Luke 15:1-7) The point of the parable was clear.  When a shepherd loses one of their sheep, they don’t just shrug their shoulders and say, “Oh, well! I’ve still got all these other sheep. I don’t care about the one I lost.” On the contrary!  They leave the rest of the sheep safe in the fold and go out looking for the one that is lost. Jesus said that the reason he came was to seek and save the lost.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Luke 19:10

His message for lost people was clear.  He declared to them that he was the way, the truth and the life and that no one could come to the Father except through him. (John 14:6)  He warned them to enter through the narrow gate that leads to life, not the wide gate that leads to destruction. (Matthew 7:13-14) He told them that choosing to follow him would cost them. (Luke 14:25-33) And he promised them that if they trusted in him, they need not be troubled. That he would go and prepare a place for them and one day return so that they could always be with them. (John 14:1-3) Jesus also had a message for the self-righteous Pharisees.  He let them know that there was more joy in heaven over one sinner that repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15:7)

Jesus loves lost people.  He died for lost people. Every one of us was once lost and it was because of his grace alone that we were saved, through faith. (Ephesians 2:8) As followers of Jesus, we should have the same heart for lost people as he does.  We should eagerly share the amazing truth of the gospel with them so that they can believe and be saved. We should pray that God will soften their hearts to receive the message and repent. Then we should celebrate with heaven when they do!

Before Jesus ascended into heaven after his resurrection, he gave us clear instructions about reaching the lost.

“Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” – Mark 16:16

Those are our marching orders!

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Fruitless folly

In the moment that you declare out loud that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you are saved! (Romans 10:9) That one moment alters your eternal destination, but it should also alter your whole life! It is true that God wants us to come to him just as we are, but that does not mean he intends to let us stay that way. God wants us to become more and more like his Son and our time on earth will be spent in the potter’s hands being formed into his image. (Jeremiah 18) Jesus wants to see fruit in the lives of the redeemed!

“A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. Finally, he said to his gardener, “I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s just taking up space in the garden’.” – Luke 13:6-7

I can see a clear parallel between this parable and the life of a believer.  We are the fig tree, planted in the garden at the moment we become saved. We are planted so that we can grow and produce fruit. Jesus is the gardener and he keeps checking on us to see if we’re growing fruit.  As with any tree, the fruit won’t grow in abundance all at once but there will be little buds here and there until eventually the fruit begins to bloom. I shudder to think of Jesus looking at my life and being disappointed in the lack of fruit. After all, he has given us a super-charged fertilizer in the power of the Holy Spirit.

This parable also talks about the gardener coming to a point where he’s waited long enough for fruit to appear on the tree. Where he finally decides to cut it down because it’s just taking up space in the garden. Since I believe that if you truly accept Jesus as your Savior you cannot lose your salvation (Romans 11:29; John 10:27-29), I think this is more applicable to someone who’s just “talking the talk”.  This is probably a picture of someone who at one time in their life “prayed a prayer” or in some other way thought they’d give Jesus a try but never truly surrendered their life to him. They had a moment in time that they never looked back on and the life they’ve lived since then has not been a life changed by a redeeming Savior. If that is you – repent now before it’s too late.

“…And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God.” – Luke 13:3

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” – John 15:4

Rejoice!

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! – Philippians 4:4

One thing I’ve always been really good at is completely panicking whenever things seem to be getting out of control.  Out of my control, that is.  As long as things are going smoothly, I’m fine. But the moment something comes my way that I don’t know how to fix, anxiety floods my soul. No matter how much I may know that I need to “let go and let God”, I find it impossible to actually do it. My perspective gets totally out of whack as I focus on my problem and desperately search for solutions. Surprisingly, I rarely find the answers I am looking for when I’m looking within myself.  How is it that I always forget to look up???

I think I should make myself a “praise log” to carry around with me. In it I could keep track of every good thing God has done and continues to do for me. For starters, God has: saved my soul, adopted me as his daughter, prepared a place for me, guaranteed my victory, promised to never leave me, always provided, always protected, and the list goes on and on. When I look at this list it is impossible not to have a change in perspective.  When I remember who God is and what he’s done, it is impossible not to smile. When I look up instead of around, I can’t help but rejoice in the Lord.

Once more the humble will rejoice in the Lord; the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. – Isaiah 29:19

Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. – Psalm 105:3

 

Biblical Worldview

And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. – Deuteronomy 6:6-7

As Moses gave the Israelites some final instructions before they prepared to enter into the promised land, he reminded them about all that God had commanded them.  He reminded them about all of the things that set them apart from the people that surrounded them.  He reminded them about their worldview.

In the same way today, those of us that follow Christ are set apart from the people that surround us.  We have a clear moral guideline in the Word of God.  We have a different worldview – a Biblical worldview – that we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to following. We need to pass this on to future generations. We need to remind our children whenever the opportunity presents itself of what the Bible says about the situations they are confronted with. We need to remind them that the only source of truth is the Word of God.

When I read this passage of Scripture in Deuteronomy this morning, I got a little chuckle when I got to the part about sharing with your children “when you are on the road”. If you’re a parent, I bet you can relate. Some of the most meaningful conversations I have had with my kids have been “car chats”.  After all, they are stuck in a small metal box with you all by themselves with nowhere to go. It is in the car that they’ve asked some of the most thought provoking questions, and I’ve had the opportunity on countless times to share with them what the answer is based on the Bible! I’ve been able to share how even though the answer society is giving them is very different, as a Christian they have to remember that the only correct answer is the Biblical one. I’ve also been able to impress upon them the fact that if they choose a different way, they may not like the consequences.

I pray that God continues to give me these opportunities with my children, wherever we may be.  I pray that I will always seize the moments even if they are at inconvenient times. And I pray that with the power of the Spirit I will always have the words to say that point them to the Bible, the one and only source of truth!

For it is not you who will be speaking – it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. – Matthew 10:20

Never too far gone for forgiveness

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and all your soul. – Deuteronomy 4:29

It was time for Moses to give one of his final speeches to the Israelites as they were getting ready to cross over into the promised land.  God had told him he would not be going with them, and he wanted to be sure that they remembered all that they had learned about God during their exodus from Egypt and desert wanderings. He implored them to always remember the Lord their God.  He reminded them that things would go well for them if they were careful not to turn away from him and warned them that if they did, there would be consequences. Then he gave them an important reminder that is a principle that still applies to us today – even when they do mess up, they will never be too far away to turn back to God.

When we make the decision to follow Jesus, it is a life journey.  Although we receive salvation in that one moment – we have a whole lifetime of moments that will involve making choices to follow him. Sometimes the pull of our old self will be too strong and before we know it we will find ourselves living a life that doesn’t resemble the one God intended for us to be living. Chances are we had reminders along the way to stay the course, but the more we ignored them the less we heard them. Now our hearts are hardened, and we fear that the distance we’ve created between us and God is impassable.  But thanks be to God that he has promised to never leave us or forsake us.  He is waiting with open arms for us to return to him.  All we need to do is make the decision to stop in our tracks and turn around.  (Repent!)  The moment we turn around and seek him he has promised that we will find him!

Know this – no one is too far gone to receive God’s forgiveness! No one is too messed up to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ! With whatever tiny little mustard seed of faith you can muster, just look up to God and tell him you’re sorry. He will forgive you and welcome you home with a heavenly embrace!

Jesus told a story of a prodigal son that perfectly illustrates the fact that we can always come home.  (Luke 15:11-32)

I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you…So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father way him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him…We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!” – Luke 15:18, 20, 32

Protecting our relationships

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships and how important it is to protect them.  Our relationship with God; with our spouse; with our children; with our family, friends and neighbors. The devil doesn’t want us to think about that. He wants to do all he can to convince us that our differences must separate us. To make us believe that if we don’t agree with someone’s choices then our relationship with them is irreparably broken. But God doesn’t see it like that and neither should we!

Once we make the decision to put our trust in Jesus, we have entered into a relationship with our Father in heaven that nothing can ever destroy. (Romans 8:38) God is able to perfectly balance his mercy and grace with his chastening and judgement. He is able to let us go in our free will while standing with open arms waiting for our return. Sometimes he intervenes to protect us from our choices, and other times he allows us to experience the fall-out. But always he works for the ultimate good of our soul! (Romans 8:28)

As we move through life empowered by the Holy Spirit to become more and more like Jesus, (2 Corinthians 3:18) our relationships with the people in our lives should resemble God’s relationship with us. We may not agree with them. We don’t have to celebrate their choices. We can’t always rescue them from the consequences. And we should speak the truth of the Word of God in love! (Ephesians 4:15) But in all of it, we must do everything we can to protect the relationship! To make sure that they know that nothing will change the fact that we love them. If someone we love is lost in a sea of bad choices, we must remain firmly planted on the shore. Not as a cannon firing shots at them, but as a light house guiding them home.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. – Ephesians 4:2,3

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. – 1 Peter 4:8

 

 

Frantic

Picture the scene. The disciples are in a boat with Jesus, the one that spoke the seas into being. Suddenly a treacherous storm hits. The winds are howling and the waves are smashing. I can picture the disciples frantically trying to steady the sail and bail the water out of the boat. I can picture them panicking because none of their efforts were improving their situation. I can picture them looking at one another and exclaiming: “We’re doomed!” I can see them looking at Jesus as he calmly slept, clearly not phased by the storm they had encountered and crying out, “Don’t you care if we drown?”

Then Jesus sat up and calmly rebuked the storm, “Quiet! Be still!” Incidentally, if you notice in the beginning of the story, it was Jesus who had said to them, “Let’s go over to the other side.” Jesus was the one who had decided it was time to set sail!  (Mark 4:35-41)

This is the perfect analogy of the storms of my life. In the midst of walking with Jesus, praying and reading my Bible every day, I forget that I will not always experience smooth sailing. Before I know it, life happens and the winds and the waves begin to overpower my life. And what is my first response? To try to bail myself out, of course! I grab the wheel and start trying to steady the sail against the fierce winds. I frantically search for buckets to empty the water being thrown at me by the overpowering waves. But the storm just keeps hitting me and I can’t seem to do anything to save myself.

It usually takes a while, but eventually I remember that Jesus is right here with me and he is not surprised or worried about the storm I’m in.  When he’s ready, he will simply speak and the storm will subside.  In the meantime, he looks at me as I panic at my inability to gain control and he asks me:  “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40)