Access to the Almighty

Some people go through life depending on karma, or luck, or their own power.  They either deny that there is a god, or worship a god that is distant and non-relational.  But when something really big happens, they suddenly see that all that they’ve been depending is useless – and they find themselves crying out to a God that they don’t even know.  They suddenly become aware of the “God-sized” hole in their soul, placed there by their Creator and meant to be filled only by him.

But can we really have access to the Holy Creator?  Do we really have the right to approach the Almighty God with our requests? 

Amazingly, God has shown us that although he is the almighty Creator of heavens and earth, he is also our Father – and that he loves us and cares for us more than we could ever know.  That is why he entered humanity as Jesus – Emmanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23);  Son of God, mediator between God and mankind.  That is why Jesus lived a sinless life then suffered and died a sinner’s death.  And it is through Jesus alone that we have access to God. 

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.  This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will find his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.  Hebrews 4:14-16

…we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus.  By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place.  And since we have a great high priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him.  Hebrews 10:19-22

Jesus told them.  “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one can come to the Father except through me.”  John 14:6

…Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.  Ephesians 2:13

The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help.  Psalms 34:17

He grants the desires of those who fear him… Psalms 145:19

If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior – He is mediating for you at the right hand of the Father, and you should freely cry out to him in praise and thanksgiving and in trials and adversity.  If you have not yet accepted Jesus as your Savior – he’s knocking at the door and waiting for you to let him in.  (Revelations 3:20)  And if you’ve been crying out to a God you do not yet know and wondering if he hears you – taking this step of faith into Jesus’ arms will assure you that he does!  And as you draw near to God, you will see that he is near to you!  (James 4:8)

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Scoffing at God

Although they plot against you, their evil schemes will never succeed.  Psalms 21:11

It seems that so many are against God and his Word these days.  Doing everything in their power to eradicate any acknowledgement of either in all public places.  People are scoffing at God, just as the Bible said they would do.  It is momentary pleasure they prefer, over joy and peace.  (2 Tim 3:4)  They mock the truth because it interferes with their own desires.  (2 Peter 3:3)  They don’t like what it says, so in their ignorance, they will distort the Word of God and set themselves up for destruction when Jesus returns.  (2 Peter 3:16)

But someday they will all see how foolish they’ve been.  (2 Tim 3:9)  The Bible says that every eye will see him.  (Rev 1:7)  There will be no denying that God exists.  There will be no denying that Jesus is exactly who he said he was.  There will be no denying that no person on earth will be holy enough to stand in his presence.  No one will have enough “good deeds” on their list; no one will have enough wisdom; no one will have enough money.  But those of us who acknowledged Jesus as the Christ; as God; as the only way to be washed clean of the filth of our sin – we will be invited into his presence.

Jesus said himself that he was going to prepare a place for us.  That we need only trust in him and know that when the time comes, he will be coming back to get us to be with him – always.  And that the way to ensure this was to accept that he is the way, the truth and the life.  (John 14)

Knowing all of this brings a couple of things to mind for me.  First of all, I am so thankful that God has revealed himself to me and has given me a hunger for my word so that I can be part of the “winning team” when it all goes down.  Secondly, I am eager that all of those that God has brought into my life will see the truth and receive the Salvation that comes only through Jesus. 

When Jesus comes, and we are all standing before him, it will be too late.  And there will be many who are saying, “But wait.  I was wrong!”

“Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.  But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.”  Mathew 10:32-33

…God is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus.  1 Corinthians 1:8 (The Message)

God – help me bust my kids!

My kids know that ever since they were young I’ve prayed that God will help me to catch them if they wander into trouble.  And they’ve seen that prayer answered time and time again when their dad or I miraculously catch them breaking the rules though they were sure they were going to get away with it.  I’m sure this is the least favorite of all the prayers they know I have for them – but in my mind, it’s one of the most important ones!

The Bible talks about the moral decay that will become rampant as Christ’s return draws nearer.  One of the things it mentions in the list of ungodly characteristics is that people will be “scoffing at God” and “disobedient to their parents” (1 Tim 3:2)  I do not want my children to fall into either of these categories, not when they’re young and still under my guidance and certainly not when they’re adults and able to make their own decisions. 

God gives us our children for just a short time and he charges us with the responsibility of raising them to be godly adults that will eventually raise their children in the same way.  This is the only way to guarantee that future generations will be the light of Christ in the increasingly darker world.  And when Christ does return to take his church with him – I want more than anything for my children to join him!  (And my grandchildren; and great-grandchildren; and so on…)

God quite obviously knew that this job wouldn’t be easy and that we’d need guidance.  The Bible has many, many reminders that we are to discipline our children along with many reasons why.  (There are more than 20 verses about discipline in the Proverbs, alone!)  This task is of eternal importance, and I know that there is no way I can pull it off on my own.  That’s why one of the most important areas we can pray for help in is this one.

I encourage you to pray the prayer below (or your own variation of it) for your children every day.  If your children are grown and have kids of their own, pray it for them as parents.  If you don’t have children of your own, pray it for the parents of children you know. (And tell your kids you’re praying this.  It might encourage them to behave!)

Lord, I pray that you will show my children the way out of temptation when it comes. (1 Corinthians 10:13) I pray that you will enable me to catch them quickly if they begin to wander into trouble so that I will be able to discipline and correct them while there is still hope (Proverbs 19:18) and that they will not think it is safe to do wrong.  (Ecclesiastes 8:11) Help me to guide them in your Word and give them their own hunger for it as they get older so that your law will be written on their hearts and their conscience will guide them.  (Romans 2:15)

 

Marriage

Marriage was God’s idea.  He had a plan for a man and a woman to be united as one since the moment he created them.  (Genesis 2:24)  Over time, human beings have come up with many of their own versions of “marriage”; but no matter how people or society or laws decide to define it – it was never theirs to define.  And ultimately, the only marriage that matters to God is the marriage between one man and one woman that is guided by the Biblical principles he provided.

And since the Bible says that marriage is an illustration of the relationship between Christ and his church (Ephesians 5:32) it makes sense that it has always been and will continue to be a target for Satan.  And the further we move as a society away from the original definition of marriage, the harder it will be for Christian men and women to know what it’s supposed to look it.  It makes me sad for future generations.

So what do we do about it?  Obviously complacency is never suggested in the Bible!  We must stand up and be different!  We must seek the word of God to learn and be constantly reminded of what our marriage should look like – whether we’re currently married or seeking to find a husband or a wife.  He didn’t leave us on our own with this one.  He gave some very clear instructions for husbands and wives.  And they’re not always easy!

For starters – if you’re still “shopping” – do not marry an unbeliever!  (2 Corinthians 6:14) Imagine the strife of spending the rest of your life with someone that doesn’t share your faith in God.  Imagine how hard it will be to make important life decisions from raising children to finances, etc. if the person by your side doesn’t see the importance of prayer and dependence on God.  But if you’re already married to a non-believer, hang in there.  Pray.  Be a godly spouse.  Your spouse might be saved because of you.  (1 Corinthians 7:16)

What about those of us that are married?  How should we be treating our spouses?  There’s so many passages that give guidance on this, and I encourage you to read them on your own.  But here’s some highlights: 

Wives

Be a trusted and productive manager of your home.  Make sure that your family has what they need; speak carefully with wise words, instructing with kindness; be wise with your earnings; be joyful, trusting in God for your future.  (Proverbs 31)  (Wives and moms usually set the tone for the household – so as a godly woman, it goes a long way when you keep things moving smoothly.)

Do not be a quarrelsome wife.  It’s as annoying as a leaky faucet.  (Proverbs 27:15 & 16)  (Put another way – Don’t be a nag!)

Submit to your husbands.  (Colossians 3:18)  (This is a tough one, especially these days, but if you have a godly husband that is following God’s instructions for him – it’s not as hard as you might think.)

Respect your husband.  (Ephesians 5:33)  (Another tough one.  You might be saying:  “My husband doesn’t deserve respect.” – But a lot of times, being respectable will come easier for him if he feels respected.  Try it.)

Live this way out loud – and let your actions as a wife and mother be an example to other women.  (Titus 2:3-5)

Husbands –

Leave your father and mother and join to your wife.  (Genesis 2:24)  (It’s time to start a new family – your family.)

Find other men that can build you up in your faith and hold you accountable as a man of God and as a husband and father.  (Proverbs 27:17)  (You’re not going to find godly accountability in worldly circles.)

Live happily with your wife.  She is your reward from God.  (Ecclesiastes 9:9)  (It’s amazing how a happy husband can make a happy home.  And if you’re unhappy, your wife probably thinks it’s because of her.)

Treat your wives with understanding.  (1 Peter 3:7)  (Women have a totally different perspective than men, and sometimes the things that upset your wife or even the things that bring her joy might make no sense to you.  But she’ll feel more secure if you respond with understanding.)

Share your love only with your wife and let her be the blessing God intended her to be.  (Proverbs 5:15-18)  (The grass is not greener on the other side – it only looks that way from a distance.)

Never treat your wife harshly.  (Colossians 3:19)  (And don’t aggravate your children so that they become discouraged (v.20) because your wife – the mother cub – will take this personally.)

Love your wife as Christ loved the church.  (Ephesians 5:25)  (That’s a big love!  And much like the respect thing for women, you may sometimes feel your wife is unlovable – but usually when someone feels loved, they’ll become more lovable.)

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Having a Godly marriage is a daily challenge – but it has eternal rewards for you, your spouse, your children and for generations to come.  The battle against it is getting tougher and tougher, but the payoff is worth the fight!

Awful wondering… wonderful return

Do you have a loved one that has strayed away from the Lord?  It can be tough to watch.  But it’s wise to remember that it’s even tougher for God to watch.  He longs for all of his children to remain in his shelter.  He doesn’t want any of his sheep to wander off.  But he has given us free will, and unfortunately the temptations of the world can sometimes be too much of a pull and we head off in search of something we think we’re missing.

To explain his longing for the lost to come home, Jesus tells a parable about a son who did just that.  As blessed as he was in the care of his father, he was convinced that the big world had more to offer him and off he went. 

When Jesus tells parables, he means for us to get a message from them.  So what can we learn about this story that could give us hope in whatever version of a “prodigal son” we may be dealing with in our own lives.

The story (Luke 15) opens with both of the man’s sons receiving all the wealth their father had stored up for them right up front.  This is exactly what God does for us the moment we accept Jesus as our Savior.  At that moment, we receive our share in the Kingdom right alongside Jesus.  God doesn’t wait until after we’ve accomplished a certain amount of “good deeds” or read a certain amount of verses in the Bible.  The moment we turn to his Son, Jesus – we become co-heirs.  (Romans 8:17)

Both sons now had all that father had stored up for them and they were living safely in his care enjoying the daily blessings and provisions he gave them.  They had it all…what more could they want?  In comes the biggest lie that Satan feeds us – “You’re missing something!”  And the younger son just had to find out what that might be.  So he packed up everything and left the safety and warmth of his father’s home to explore the big, exciting world.  I notice here that the father doesn’t stop him from leaving.  This is the free will part.  Certainly, God doesn’t want us to go because he knows what’s really out there and he’s promised us safety in his shelter.  But the part that makes our choice to love him all the better also makes our propensity to wander that much more likely – free will.

So off the son went.  And it seemed as though he might have been having fun for a while.  Jesus tells us that he “wasted all his money in wild living”.  And wild living can be a lot of fun…but along with it comes consequences.  We can all picture a time in our life or in the life of someone we love that there were painful consequences to wild living.  It’s not something you can keep up with forever.  Suddenly it loses its glory and suddenly you notice that the hole in your heart meant to be filled by God alone is dreadfully empty.  Now what?

In the story, it appears as though the son initially comes to his senses enough to give up the wild living – but he doesn’t go home.  Not right away.  First he went out and got a job, hoping to care for himself.  Not wanting to have to go back to his father and admit his misadventure. I’m guessing he was probably pretty ashamed.  Maybe he hoped he would get on his feet and then go home.  I think sadly there are many “prodigal” Christians who may feel the same way.  They might have realized that their journey apart from God was a colossal failure, but they also might mistakenly think that they need to fix themselves before they turn back to God.  But God just wants them to fall to their knees and proclaim their return.  Then he can wash their wounds and bandage them up.  The Bible says there is joy in heaven when a lost sinner repents.  (Luke 15:7)  That just means turn around.  Leave the wild living behind and cry out for God.

The way this parable ends is pretty amazing and it sums up God’s grace quite nicely.  Rather than paraphrase, I’ll let you read it yourself:

“So he returned home to his father.  And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming.  Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.”  Luke 15:20  Then what did the father do?  He threw him a party!  (v. 24)

Amazing!  The father wasn’t sitting in his recliner resigned to the fact that his son had taken off.  He was watching the horizon for his return.  And when he saw him as just a shadowy figure in the distance – he ran to him!  Arms and heart wide open. 

I also notice that they didn’t sit down and have a talk about all of the bad choices the son had likely made while he was gone.  The father probably had a pretty good idea, and God is certainly aware of what we’ve done, but there was no need to re-hash the past.  It was over.  And this was a fresh start.

Do you like that picture?  I do.  And that’s God!  So whether you are a “prodigal son” or you know one, this is what you pray for.  All that needs to happen is for the prodigal to turn around and take a step towards God.  Then God will come running.

Don’t concede to the fools

When God gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites (his people), he began by reminding them of who he is. – “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from Egypt, the place of your slavery.”  Exodus 20:2

When we come to Jesus and ask him to be Lord of our life, he rescues us from our own place of slavery.  Slavery to sin. – We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives.  We are no longer slaves to sin.  Romans 6:6

When we accept Christ as our Savior, we become one of God’s dearly loved children, grafted into the promises he made to the Israelites.  (Romans 11:17)  We become part of his plan for salvation.  We become one to whom the Commandments were given.  And we decide whether they matter to us or not.

Our decision to live our lives with a Biblical worldview, shaped by God’s Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), or to adopt a worldview that fits in with the society we live in, will directly impact the generations that follow us.

“I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected – even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me.  But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.”  Exodus 20:5 & 6

So how are we doing with that?  Are we showing our children (so they can show their children) that God’s law is the law.  That the Bible is the first source for determining what is right and wrong?  That laws and rules that people create cannot be contrary to God’s Word.  That people don’t get to decide that it’s time to change things.   That as Christians, we must be bold in our faith and not accept the status quo just because it’s easier; or because someone eloquent in speech comes along and convinces the multitudes.

It seems nowadays as though those that are going against God’s Word are a lot more bold and outspoken than those of us who’s hearts are aching because of the ungodliness abounding.  God sees what’s happening and the Bible tells us that the world will get uglier and uglier as Christ’s return nears.  But as we await his glorious appearing – we would be wise to remember which side we’re on.  To stand for what we know is right and to raise our children to do the same so that they will be not be counted with those that are suppressing the truth.

But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.  They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them.  For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky.  Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature.  So they have no excuse for not knowing God.  Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks.  And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like.  As a result, their minds became dark and confused.  Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools.  Romans 1:18-22

Let’s be sure that the legacy we leave the generations to come is one of proclaiming truth not conceding to the fools.

Cross to bear

Have you heard the saying:  “We all have a cross to bear?” Jesus tells us that in order to be his disciple we must “carry our own cross” and follow him (Luke 14:27).  If you’ve ever seen a movie or television depiction of the story of Jesus, think about the part where the Roman soldiers have Jesus carrying his cross to his crucifixion.  It was heavy.  He was tired.  But he had to carry it to the end.  He couldn’t set it down and walk away.  There was a moment where someone came alongside him and shared the burden with him.  Carried his cross for a little while to give him some rest.  But it was still his cross to bear.

So what does it mean to carry our cross?  If we recall great people of faith, whether from the Bible or in more recent generations, we see many examples of crosses they had to bear.  We hear stories of missionaries that have suffered, sometimes to the death, because their loyalty to Jesus was always first.   We hear stories of brave Christians that defied authority to stand for their faith and suffered imprisonment and worse.  And even today, we each have our own cross to bear.  Some may include these types of sacrifices, but in most cases – it amounts to varying degrees of ridicule and rejection for standing on our Biblical values.  We may be called intolerant bigots when we refuse to accept new societal norms.  We may be called weak when we confess our dependence on God.  And when we dare to proclaim that Jesus is the only way to salvation – we may be called narrow-minded.

The Bible says that one day Jesus will return to judge everyone.  (And Gods got a perfect track record when it comes to predicting the future.)  Then, sadly, those who ridiculed his children and scoffed at our message will suddenly realize that everything we stood for was right – and it will be too late.  But for those of us that carried our cross all the way to the end – we will have Jesus by our side to stand up for us as we’re ushered into the presence of God.

Jesus gives us some encouragement in regards to the persecution we will face:

“I’m speaking to you as dear friends.  Don’t be bluffed into silence or insincerity by the threats of religious bullies.  True, they can kill you, but then what can they do?  There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being.  Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life – body and soul – in his hands.

“What’s the price of two or three pet canaries?  Some loose change, right?  But God never overlooks a single one.  And he pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail – even numbering the hairs on your head!  So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk.  You’re worth more than a million canaries.  Stand up for me among the people you meet and the Son of Man will stand up for you before all of God’s angels.  But if you pretend you don’t know me, do you think I’ll defend you before God’s angels?” Luke 12:4-9 (The Message translation)

So hang in there!  Jesus is paying attention — and he knows you’re not wavering.  Someday we will be able to set our crosses down at his feet.