Tag Archives: the Gospel

A New Identity

Genesis 31-34

Why did the angel ask Jacob his name before blessing him? He was an angel so I imagine he knew who he’d been wrestling with all night. I believe there is a lesson in the question.

Fast forward a few thousand years. Jesus is in the middle of His short ministry as a human on Earth. He healed thousands. He forgave sins.

Take Bartimaeus for example. He was obviously blind, yet Jesus asked him to state his request. To the paralytic at the pool Jesus asked, “Do you want to get well?” When a woman touched the hem of his garment, Jesus demanded she identify herself.

Do you see the pattern? Very often in Scripture, we see Jesus requiring people to state their need. Say the words. We see the necessity of confession. It’s not so God is informed of our need. It’s so we know exactly what we need, admit it, and go to the only one who can meet it.

Here in Genesis we see Jacob wrestling with God. Who hasn’t, right? We know what is right, but we want to have our own way instead. A battle ensues. It’s a tug-of-war until we do what? Admit our sin and allow God to change our wants to His.

In my experience – and in Jacob’s – God won’t bless until I confess. When the angel asked Jacob his name, he had to reply: “I’m the deceiver, the holder of the heel, the supplanter.” That’s what his name meant. And we know Jacob had lived up to his name.

Jacob had to admit who he had been before God could give him a new name: Israel. According to the Abarim Publications, Israel means “He retains God,” or “God is upright.” Jacob’s new name reflected God. His new identity honored God.

Jacob received a new beginning, as do all of us who confess our sins and allow God to forgive us and give us new life. Jacob had lived for himself and had committed sins to fulfill his own desires. God was giving him a chance to turn that all around, to live for God and make choices that fulfilled God’s desires for him. That’s awesome!

May that be true in all of us. Some people think they are Christians because they go to church and live good lives. That’s not true. Being a Christian involves a change of heart, saying the words, admitting guilt. And receiving God’s amazing grace.

If God has laid a finger on any sin, if you (or I) are wrestling with that sin, hear God ask “What is your name? What do you want me to do for you?” Then confess. Repent. Be forgiven, and receive a new beginning!

Heaven

John’s Revelation

Think about it: God will wipe away our tears. No more night. No more heartache and sin. No more cares and worries, sickness or death. And we we look upon the One who loves us with a love we cannot fathom right now.

I don’t know if there will be a thousand calendar years before we enjoy our eternal home. It doesn’t really matter if John’s revelation has a material interpretation or whether it is meant to be interpreted spiritually. This book, to me, is about hope.

It’s about redemption. It’s about Jesus and the fact that one day I will be in His Presence! I’ll look into those eyes, study that face, see those nail prints in His hands and know at last I am home.

I have no doubt about that. I know it is a fact because I have died, and God raised me to new life in Him. How? I admitted my sins and repented of them from a humble heart in need of a Savior. I’ve accepted the redeeming work of Jesus, His death and resurrection, and I know I can stand before the Holy God without fear because Jesus paid my death penalty and placed His holiness on me. It wasn’t my doing. It’s all Jesus.

Tomorrow marks a New Year, a new beginning for many. I pray that you will welcome in 2023 with Jesus, your Savior, at your side and in your heart. I pray that you will grow a relationship with Him by reading His Word every day, praying every day, resisting Satan every day.

Who knows if the ball will drop on 2024? It may, or may not. Reading God’s Word reminds me when Jesus returns (and He will) it will be too late to change your mind, too late to repent of sin and accept the Savior. Too late.

There is a heaven for God’s followers. And there is a hell for anyone who hasn’t accepted God’s saving grace.

Choose Jesus. And have a blessed 2023 as His precious child.

Love Like God’s

Jude 17-23

Jesus told us that the second greatest commandment, after loving God with our whole being, is to love one another. It’s that important. People will know we are followers of Jesus if we love one another.

But the modern Church has perverted the meaning of love to mean tolerance and acceptance with a “do not judge” theology that is antichrist. I hope you’ll read what God has to say through Jude in these verses. Pay special attention to verse 23:

Show mercy to still others, but do so with caution, hating the sin that contaminates their lives. (NLT)

HATING THE SIN THAT CONTAMINATES THEIR LIVES.

You might say, “Hate is a pretty strong word.” It’s not my word, it’s God’s. He tells us to hate sin. HATE.

Why would God use that word in regard to sin? Well, sin leads to hell, and He doesn’t want anyone to go there. The only way to avoid hell is to deal with sin, not tolerate or accept it. That knowledge should make every Christian hate sin.

There are progressives who call themselves Christian and will tell you they have a deeper understanding of Scripture than the rest of us. So I laughed out loud today when I read what John said about that in his Revelation. In regard to false teaching he said:

‘deeper truths,’ as they call them – depths of Satan, actually. (Revelation 2:24)

These ‘deeper truths’ people are claiming to have are, according to Scripture, deeper into Satan’s theology. Beware!

I will stand by Scripture that tells us to love people enough to address the sin in their lives so they can repent of it. I stand by Scripture that tells us there is no other way.

Real love, God’s kind of love, is NOT tolerant or accepting of sin, according to Scripture.

It’s Not Their Fault

1 John 1-2

I hope you’ll read John’s introduction to this letter. You can feel his love for Jesus, and his desire for you to love Him, too. John saw Jesus, the Creator God, with his own eyes, touched the flesh and blood body of Jesus, and knew for certain that Jesus is the Word of life!

Then John says this:

This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light and there is no darkness in him at all. (1:5)

At all.

We can look at what is happening in our world and recognize the darkness. John told us that people love darkness rather than light. Why? Because their deeds are evil. (John 3:19)

Today, they don’t even hide their sin in the darkness. It’s out in the open, in our government, on our phones, and forced on innocent children. It is out of control. The world is corrupt. Satan is on a roll.

Is it because Satan is getting stronger against God? Or is it something else? I think John has the answer there in 1 John 1:5. There is no darkness in God, only light.

You understand darkness NEVER wins over light, don’t you? Where there is light, there cannot be darkness. Not in your living room, not in your hearts, and not in the world. But there’s a problem.

So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness, we are not practicing the truth. (verse 6)

Jesus told us that we are the light of the world,

A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glory your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

And there you have it.

The world isn’t getting worse because sin is winning. It’s getting worse because Christians aren’t shining the Light, not exposing sin, not showing sinners the way into the Light through the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

John goes on to say all of us need to admit our sin, repent of it and accept God’s forgiveness and cleansing.

Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. (2:6)

So the fault of our world’s sinful condition does not lie on the shoulders of sinful people. It lies squarely on believers who have stopped shining the Light of Truth. It falls on Christians who want to blend in with the world and wonder why the world doesn’t recognize the light in us.

Darkness isn’t winning. Christians have just stopped living in the Light.

Next time you lament over the increasing darkness in the world remember:

Darkness CANNOT exist where Light is.

The question is: what are you doing with the Light you’ve received?

For The Sake of Christ

Hebrews 11:24-28

The other day in Good News Club, one of the children asked if Old Testament people went to heaven since they lived before Jesus went to the cross. I said, “Yes. They had to believe in Jesus just like we do, only they called Him the Messiah. they didn’t know His name. But if they put their in faith in God to keep His promise, they went to heaven.”

Then today I read Hebrews 11 and, maybe I’ve seen it before, but Scripture actually says Moses not only believed in Christ, he gave up the treasures of being the son of Pharaoh’s daughter to suffer for the sake of Christ. And that was thousands of years before Jesus was born!

Jesus! The baby whose birth the whole world is celebrating this weekend.

Jesus! The real flesh and blood Son of God who went to the cross to redeem us all.

Jesus! Our Savior who lives in heaven preparing a place for all of us who believe.

Jesus didn’t become the Savior. He was always the Savior. And there is no other name anywhere that will bring us to the Father. People have been putting their faith in Jesus since the beginning of time.

Have you?

Entering God’s Rest

Hebrews 1-4

This morning, a dear lady from my church entered the rest the writer of Hebrews describes. She may have struggled to take her last breath in this life, but she is now breathing freely in the arms of her Savior. The cares of this life are over for her, because she followed Jesus in the midst of heartache and physical pain, with the joy of the Lord.

But her’s is not the same end for those who choose to live this life apart from God. These chapters in Hebrews not only explain who Jesus is and what He did, it explains who it is that can receive the eternal blessing He offers, and who will never receive that blessing.

Today when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. (4:7b)

You might want to believe there is nothing after this life. But there is.

You might want to believe everyone goes to a better place when they die. Not everyone does.

You might want to think that identifying as a Christian is your ticket into God’s rest. It isn’t.

Ii might be a good idea for all of us to take time to read the book of Hebrews because the lines between right and wrong, truth and lies, good and evil are becoming so blurred we are all in danger of falling away. “Don’t harden your heart” applies to you.

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. (4:12-13)

You Are Chosen

Romans 8-11

Paul specifically says God shows mercy to some people, and chooses to harden the hearts of others so that they refuse to listen. (8:18). He gave Pharaoh as an example. Then he goes on to say, “that’s the way it is. Don’t question God. He will show mercy and compassion to anyone he chooses.”

There are those who base their theology on these and similar verses. They call it election or pre-destination. And as I read these verses this morning, I prayed: Are they right to believe you decide to deny salvation to some based on a criteria we can’t understand? Is that what Paul is saying?

Then I read chapters 10-11 and heard Paul say salvation is for everyone. I was reminded of the “whosoever” of John 3:16, the “not willing that any should perish” of 2 Peter 3:9. How do I reconcile two seemingly opposite views? Because I believe both views are true by the fact they are God-breathed Scripture.

Which makes me think they aren’t all that opposite after all. Here’s what I believe Scripture teaches from Genesis to Revelation: God loves people. Jesus died to save people. God, from day one has been revealing Himself to people, to draw all of us to Himself.

But God created us with the gift of choice. Anyone who chooses God, God chooses to accept. Anyone who chooses to reject God, God chooses to reject. From before creation, God knew who of us would choose Him and who would reject Him. From before creation He chose to save all who choose Him, and condemn all who reject Him.

That’s what He predestined: the means of salvation.

You might not like it. You might think it’s too cut and dry, black and white. Hear Paul say: who do you think you are to question your Creator?

I think many of us have been caught up in trying to figure out predestination, and we may have overlooked the important message Paul wanted us to hear. I think Paul (speaking for God) wanted us to consider the seriousness of rejecting God.

Do you accept that Jesus died to pay your sin debt? Do you choose to believe that He is the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life? Have you been born again? Then you are chosen by God to receive His grace!

But if you don’t accept Him on His terms, if you don’t believe, you are chosen by God to receive His punishment without mercy. And hear His warning:

If you reject Him, He hardens your heart. The consequence of denying Him is an ever progressive hardening toward Him, so that eventually you won’t even hear Him any more. Not that He won’t be revealing Himself. But it will be harder and harder for you to see Him.

Rejecting God is serious. And I think that is the important lesson Paul was trying to convey here. You are chosen by God to be His child. Jesus died for you so that your sins can be forgiven. That is His choice for you.

The question is: what is your choice?

Be A Berean

Acts 17

We need more Bereans today, people who search the Scriptures to know if what they are hearing is really the truth. Sadly, too many people aren’t interested in THE truth any more. They’re happy with the lie they are clinging to.

I guess the most obvious example of this is the pronoun issue these days. Yeah. Pronouns. Does that sound as ridiculous to you as it does to me? But here we go…

What does Scripture say about male and female? Did Jesus use gender specific pronouns? Did the Holy Spirit use pronouns as HE whispered His Words into the men who wrote the Bible? Did God create male and female humans (and animals and plants)? Or is there anywhere in Scripture that suggests gender is a choice?

And, no. I am not going to give you the Scripture that addresses those things. Open up your Bible and search it for yourself. Isn’t it time we stopped living on baby formula?

Even apart from Scripture, is a boy’s anatomy different than a girl’s? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to answer that one. Our anatomy is the outward evidence of the DNA, chromosomal identification of gender within. You don’t change that by lopping off body parts, or masking it with drugs. I know that is the truth, unless you can point me to Scripture that says otherwise.

Find where God speaks about transgenderism as something He acknowledges, much less approves of. Chapters and verses, please.

If God “knit (us) together in (our) mother’s womb(s),” HE CHOSE OUR GENDER. Whether you are a biological male or female, know that God lovingly and purposefully made you that way. Your gender is His gift to you.

And hear me when I say, parents, you had better be teaching your children how blessed they are to have been made by a loving Creator exactly the way they are. Shame on any of you if you convince your babies God made a mistake in them or anyone else. You had better be living the truth, and teaching your children to embrace their God-given gender, to celebrate it, protect it, and live it as the special boy or girl they ARE.

To deny or mutilate what God has made is to deny Him. To deny Him is sin. And unconfessed sin cannot be forgiven. Search the Scriptures if you don’t believe me.

Here’s another example that addresses our need to be a Berean and search the Scriptures: PC Bible translations. I have in my home translations of the Bible that have already replaced male pronouns with “they,” or “people,” or “men and women” instead of the original use of “man” or “men” to include everyone. I don’t like it. I don’t think it was necessary. But I have used those translations anyway. But sin isn’t satisfied with the first step.

The Presbyterian USA Church is now “Queering the Bible.” And they are proud of it! God, forgive us! We Bereans need to be sure we are searching the translations of God’s Word that comes directly from the original. To do otherwise is to invite heresy into our hearts.

Come on, Christian. Study God’s true Word. Know what it says. Fire your preachers who preach any other Gospel, any who are more concerned about being politically correct than they are about being accountable to God. Quit simply lamenting in your Sunday School classrooms about the horrible state of the world, and get out there and stand for TRUTH. Know what God says. Reject anything else. And reject it loudly.

Be a Berean.

Crossing Boundaries

Acts 8

While talking to the Good News Club children about Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well, I told them about the hatred Jews and Samaritans had for each other. Even Jesus’ disciples had expressed prejudice against them. But the disciples also witnessed Jesus’ compassion toward Samaritans, which may be why Philip could go into Samaria and share the good news about Jesus.

Instead of calling down fire from heaven to destroy them, Philip called the Samaritans to repentance. The strict boundary between Israel and Samaria was crossed, and many Samaritans gave their hearts to Jesus because of it.

How? The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Philip. Without God’s prompting, I doubt Philip would ever have crossed that line.

I don’t have to tell you our nation is divided, much like the descendants of Abraham were divided during the time Philip was preaching. Both Samaritans and Jews could trace their lineage back to their Founding Father, Abraham. All American citizens – black, white, Democrat, Republican, natural born, legal immigrant, gay, straight, believers, and non believers – can trace our lineage back to our Founding Fathers as well.

But that doesn’t prevent us from hating each other. Our recent election emphasizes the great divide. The boundaries between opposing views is strict and dare not be crossed. So what do you do?

Christian, we cross that line with the Good News of Jesus Christ. We rub shoulders with them, show compassion for them, love our “enemies” and pray for those who don’t like us. We go across that line and make disciples. How? The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in each of us.

Can you or I continue to hate with Jesus living inside of us? My prayer is that the Church, you and I who love our Savior, will be the ones who reach across the aisle and love like Jesus loved, talk about sin and Jesus’ work on the cross to pay for sin, share Jesus with the way we live and by the things we say.

Philip did that. Many Samaritans were saved. And then…

Peter and John crossed the boundary lines, too, and joined Philip in Samaria to continue the work Philip had begun.

Yeah. One man obeyed. He crossed the boundary alone. Then others followed. Maybe you need to be that one man today who will cross a boundary line or two with the Truth about Jesus. And maybe, when others follow your lead, we will find ourselves united by our common faith in Jesus. I don’t see the boundaries that have divided our nation eliminated any other way.

Crossing boundaries may be hard, it may be scary. But I’m pretty sure it’s what God is asking His children to do.

They Were Flogged

Acts 5

We rejoice over God’s miraculous freeing of the apostles from prison – as we should! But sometimes I overlook the fact that even though God rescued them, the men were flogged, or caned, beaten with a stick before the religious leaders were done with them.

This is only one of countless atrocities the apostles experienced as they diligently spread the Gospel of Jesus and established the Church. Being a Christian, especially a vocal Christian, came with some tough stuff.

Gamaliel was right. If these men had struck out on their own, decided to make up a religion to counter the Jewish religion, it probably would have died a natural death. Who in their right mind would be beaten and/or killed to protect a lie?

But the disciples didn’t just stop because things got tough. They even counted it a joy, a privilege to take the beatings for Jesus’ sake. They kept preaching the Gospel, wearing the bruises.

The same Gospel they preached is still being preached today. We in the States still can preach it loud and strong without fear for our lives or the lives of our children. That’s not the case everywhere in this world. People are being mistreated and killed for sharing the Gospel, just like they were in the early days of the Church. But the Gospel keeps going because those people are willing to endure unimaginable hardships.

It makes me wonder what I’d be willing to endure to keep the Gospel going.