It is well with my soul

Many times, in church and even on social media sites, I get requests for prayer either in person or by a message. Prayer is a necessary part of a Christian’s life, just like breathing or drinking water, yet many people don’t seem to think that God listens to them so they ask their pastor to pray for them. I don’t mind, but if you are a child of God you have the same privilege and right to step into His Presence at anytime.

Sometimes, people just don’t exercise their right as a Christian until it gets to be so bad they just hit their knees in agony. God can and will answer your prayers, particularly when you pray about a family member’s illness or an accident. I don’t mean to say that He won’t answer a prayer about your children or your keys or other “small” thing, but God looks for ways to bless you in areas where He is the real solution for the problem!

So do you seek out God when things are going good or do you wait until He is the last resort? Don’t you think that when things aren’t going very well, you should seek out the One Who can do something about the situation? The Creator that made all of our universe and every molecule in your body can fix any problem in your life, regardless of the cause! If you will give Him the chance to do so.

When life throws a curve ball at you, swing at it because you might hit it. God can give you the strength and the ability to make it through any real problem in your life, regardless of whether it is one involving your spiritual condition or a medical problem. God is bigger than ALL of your problems or any of the problems in our world today or at any time in the future.

Each of us has a choice to make. To ask Jesus into our lives and repent of our sinful ways or to keep doing what we feel is right, what makes us feel good. To keep being selfish and prideful in what we can do and to do it without anyone telling us that it is wrong. In reality, the Bible doesn’t tell you anything like that. There are no rules about what to do or not, but when you truly realize that you need Jesus and you come to Him in repentance…then you will change. You won’t do it on your own but you will change by the influence of the Holy Spirit after you ask Him to live in your heart!

When that happens, and you begin to change into a new creation, a new person. Then you won’t crave those things which you did before. You won’t go to the places that you went to before. The rules have changed because you aren’t the same anymore. Not because of rules from the Bible, but because your heart, your soul, your inner person has changed and is changing. While you learn more about Jesus and read His Word and pray about this new life, you are changing and becoming the person that God has always known you were since before you were born.

When this change occurs then it will be well with you no matter how life turns out, good or bad. Why? Because you are an adopted child of God! The Creator and King of the universe! How could you possibly feel down or depressed or unloved when God loves you more deeply than anyone on Earth could ever understand? Yes, there will be days which you may be depressed, but with prayer and reading God’s Word it won’t last for long. Seek Him and His Kingdom and all of the things which God has prepared for you will be yours.

I’ll get back to you…

How would this attitude feel if you had to put up with it every week or so? It is amazing that God’s patience with us has lasted so long. Especially in light of the fact that the world that He created didn’t last as long before the flood as it has since Jesus’ resurrection! People go to church or to synagogue each week and then go home and act as if they never met the Creator!

While it is true that we don’t meet Him face to face in our religious meetings each week, we are supposed to be seeking Him out to find out Who He really is and get to know Him better. But…do you? We leave our worship services with a vague notion of Who He is or Who Jesus is IF our teacher or preacher is teaching from God’s Word. It seems that many of us go out the door and mostly forget what we have heard or what we have read about in our Bibles!

It is as if the “meeting” that we attend each week is just a meeting of other people who are religious about meeting at this place and time. It seems that our reason for going to church is to be seen by others and not to learn about why we come to worship or even Who it is that we are coming to worship! We pray and sing a few songs and listen to our teacher/preacher telling us stories from his perspective or sometimes from the Bible and then we go home thinking that we have been taught what we need to know.

So let me ask you this: What did you learn about Jesus on Sunday? Do you remember what the sermon was about or the scripture that it was taught from? Did you even tell anyone about what you learned at church and invite them to come and hear about the man, Jesus, who is the Savior of us all?

Some of you did, many more who attended church this past weekend did not. Some even sat with an earphone from your iPod or iPhone stuck in your ear or you just tuned the sermon completely out.

“I’ll get back to you” is a phrase that is used in many areas of life but it shouldn’t be used when you are speaking to or learning from God and His Word! Why? Because you might not get back. The sinner’s prayer is easy to say but it has to come from a sincerely broken heart, one that knows that it is a sinner and that it has sinned and that it needs God, it needs Jesus! You can recite it just as many of us learned to do with the “Pledge of Allegiance” when we were young, although they don’t do that anymore because they don’t want to offend anyone.

The sinner’s prayer goes something like this:

Jesus, I know that you are Lord of Heaven and Earth. I know that you came here to die for my sins, and you proved yourself as the Son of God by rising from the dead after being crucified. I am a sinner and I need You for my redemption. Jesus, I accept you into my life and ask for your forgiveness for me.  Amen.

That is all it takes. If you know that you need Him don’t “get back to Him”, ask Him to come into your heart and He will be there forever.

What will you do?

We will soon have a new year to start or begin again in, so what will you do with it? Will you just hope for a little less waistline or maybe a better job? Maybe you will decide that you will be a better person this year and be nicer to people who you would’ve ignored in years past? All of these good things…these good intentions are wonderful, but if you haven’t changed, if your heart and your soul hasn’t changed, how will you do this?

I am not writing this to criticize people in general, it’s just that problem of character that all of mankind has. If our character hasn’t changed in the past year or two, how can you just decide to be better, when you aren’t really any better than you were? Making resolutions to lose weight or to be a nicer person is great, but if the person doing this or attempting to do this hasn’t truly changed, then it is impossible. Man cannot change himself just by willing it, just as you can’t grow any taller or change your hair color by wanting to do so.

God is the only One Who can change your heart, which changes your character and allows you to be that better person and live a better more productive life through Him. We can’t do it on our own nor can we seek help from someone else to achieve our goal! Being associated with Jesus every day, praying for strength daily, reading God’s Word daily, is the only path that leads us toward Him and being the person that He knows we can be.

Many people don’t like and won’t like the things which I have written here and I really don’t care. I am tasked with the job of telling people, all people, that the only way to get to Heaven and be a better person here and now is by asking Jesus into your life and your heart. Then living it out daily!! You can’t just say the words to the sinner’s prayer without conviction in your life and your heart, and then just go back to doing what you were doing before! Living a changed, ransomed life through Jesus every day, praying and asking for His strength to get you through every day, reading and learning more about Him every day from the Word, that is the life of someone who is seeking to know God and Jesus! Not just say, “Hi!” one morning in church or in your living room, and then go on as if nothing happened!

How can anyone truly and honestly meet the Creator of the universe and not be changed?! It shouldn’t be possible but many people do it every Sunday or whenever they go to church. They hear the message and seem to agree with it and sometimes they even respond to it physically by walking down and bowing their head and maybe even getting wet in the baptismal pool, yet they go back to their lives without much of a change inside and sooner or later, the lack of change becomes evident. How? Because, there was no conviction from the Spirit that brought them to their knees and made them realize how far away from God they really are, that is how you can go through the motions and still not have Jesus or a change in your life! How do I know this? Because I did it. Three times I went down front and three times I went through with the baptism in water, but nothing changed because God had not made that evident in my life that I needed the change!

What can you say….?

The times and the days that we are living in are changing rapidly, yet nothing seems to be noticed by the world outside of the church that we attend. Weeks go by, sermons are preached, plates are passed, commitments are made sometimes, life goes on in between church services. It seems that not much changes. Sometimes the faces in the crowd change, some grow up and move away, some die and go home to be with our Lord. As the Preacher said in Ecclesiastes, nothing changes under the sun. All is as it was in the past and will be in the future.

So, what makes today any different from yesterday or one hundred years ago or even one thousand years ago? The only thing that has actually changed in that amount of time is our technology. We have more ways of communicating with each other, faster over longer distances than we did even fifty years ago. We see and hear the news from around the world in the same way. It is not slow and tedious as it was during the middle of the 1800’s when it would take weeks or months to find out what was  happening on the other side of the world. Even when the attack on Pearl Harbor came in 1941, it took at least thirty minutes to an hour or more to get news back and forth to Washington, DC. Now, it only takes seconds.

Is our world better off with all of the instant communication that we have? Is your day more productive because of technology? Yes, in some ways technology has made our lives better, but the Internet has also made it easier to commit an anonymous crime and get away with it too. It also puts images and videos within easy reach of our children and us. Images and videos which at one time were regulated by being only available to persons over a certain age. We have allowed pornography, murder and the ways to commit murder to come into our homes by way of games and the Internet. So, what can be said about the decline of morality in our culture today?

Religion is not the answer because you can create your own “religion”, and it will be accepted and taken up by anyone who might be disappointed with their own, if they have one at all. No, the answer to our dilemma is the Bible and the wisdom contained in it. Also, the Saviour mentioned in the New Testament has paid the price of atonement for all who will confess their sins and ask Him to come into their lives by believing that He did what He said and what He will do in the future. He is the only way…the only path to Heaven and if we lose sight of that, we have lost everything. Seek Him while He can be found.

What can I do?

In the culture that we live in “I” is an independent person because I can do anything. But what about in the world of finance or in the police department or the fire department or even the military, “I” can’t be independent in any of those arena’s because most of the work is performed as a team, not as an individual. Life, at least the life that we have in Christ, is supposed to be that way too.

We are supposed to be teamed up with Jesus, but in reality He has done all of the work that needs to be done, all that we have to do is accept it and believe it. What is so hard about that? Nothing is hard about it for the most part, but we don’t want to give our lives to Him. We resist it, we fight it, even after we have supposedly given our life to Him, we still give Him some part of our life and then when the answer doesn’t come quickly enough, we take it back. We tell Him that we will do it, since He can’t.

Warning! Warning! We may not have the answer yet because He has something better for us but we have to be patient so that it will come. Patience is not our best ability and very few people really have it as a gift, BUT don’t ask God to increase your patience! He will do so by allowing you to go through some trials that will try your patience to the breaking point, stretching it so that it gets bigger, but you won’t enjoy it!

If you are not a Christian, then I am sorry that you don’t believe in Him. Many people in the world don’t believe in God or in Jesus, but they are religious in their beliefs of whatever religion they practice. Religion is not a bad thing, but many people have done and will do many bad things in the practice of their religion whether it is a twisted version of Christianity or Islam, or any of many religions around the world. People have always looked to their “scriptures” to justify doing something which they know to be wrong, but if they can find one verse or two that can be twisted to fit then they will do it.

People did it in America during the time of slavery and many are doing it now. Different cults or doctrines can be justified by using a portion of scripture out of context and convincing people that God meant it that way. Any portion of this site could be taken out of context and used the same way, just as a sentence in the morning newspaper could be used the same way, if taken out of context.

God loves us all, but He may not like the way we are behaving or treating each other. Just as a parent loves their children, but they may not like the way they are behaving at a particular time. We can’t be compared to God, nor He to us, but the analogy is the same: you can love someone without liking the things that they say or do. That is why He sent His Son to take the sins of the world (past, present and future) on Himself and atone for them on the cross. If we can accept this and believe in Him, then we will be saved from our sins and the punishment for them. If we choose to disregard His atonement for our behavior, then we pay the price.

Many people say that “my god would not send anyone to hell”, well God does not…you do. It is your choice to believe or not in Jesus and His sacrifice, if you do then all is well as long as you are sincere in your belief and change your life accordingly. If you decide that following Jesus is not something that you can do or want to do and you life your life and your sin the way it is, then you have put yourself on the road leading to hell. God didn’t do it, you did.

So, what can you do? Make the right choice and choose life with Jesus in your heart and follow His example in your life. It is the only choice which really means anything for eternity because nothing here and now will matter or even be around in one million years. Your legacy will be lost and nobody will know you at all. On the other hand, if you give your life to Jesus and tell others about what He did for you then there could be many thousands of people who will know you in a million years!

Think about that for a while, but don’t take too long.

 

Do you believe in a religion?

As it is noted in news media these days, religion is everywhere even where some people don’t want it to be! Let’s face it, you can truly be religious about anything from the ritual of putting on your jeans a certain way to following a certain team. Anything that you are passionate about, that you believe in in some way can be a religion or you can be religious about it.

Even atheists are religious in their belief that there is nothing to believe in and most are really passionate about that belief. There are those in society who don’t attend any religious service and yet they know right from wrong and are basically good people who call themselves “none’s”. When asked what religion they are they prefer none. Is that a slight on our society? No, I don’t think so. But, what will these people do when they die and find out that they will face God Himself as their judge?

The very being and person that they have chosen not to believe in and place their faith in during their lifetime is going to be the judge of their lives and what they did with it. The problem is that, regardless how much money you give to charity or how many times you have fed the homeless or visited sick people in the hospital, all good and admirable things, they will not get you into eternity with God.

Religion and doing things, good or bad, in the name of religion is the very thing that has given religion a very bad reputation. People have begun wars, put people to death, imprisoned people and other truly heinous crimes against people whose religion or belief did not fit in with the “accepted” one of the day or country in which you live.

Religion and the practice of it can be a true force for good or bad and it has been both in the thousands of years that we have had civilization or something like it on this planet. But, religion cannot save your soul from hell! There will be billions of religious people in hell, people who thought that they were doing God’s work. The problem with doing God’s work that way is that He is not in it!

There are many beliefs in our world that are called religions, even Christianity, Judaism, and Islam to name just three. These three are the “mono-theistic” religions and are based on texts from the Torah to the Koran and the Bible itself. Yet, people disagree between the three as to the identity of their Savior and the way to eternal life.

I know that we cannot change the viewpoints of those who are adamant about not believing in God or Jesus, because until they can see the error of their ways and beliefs it is useless. It is like hitting your head against a brick wall, the only thing that gets hurt is you and your feelings.

Christianity has had its dark times just as any other religion has, but most of that was caused by doctrines that either did not line up with Scripture or churches and their leaders who were so inflexible as to try to deny the Word of God to people in their own language. When Tyndale was translating the Word into English from Latin so that the common man could understand it, he was persecuted and eventually burned at the stake for his so-called crime.

The example above is only one of the black spots on Christianity, but the point of this article is that Jesus really is the only Truth and the only way to come to God. Belief in Him and the sacrifice that He became in order for us to have His righteousness and forgiveness for our sins is the only way to get a pardon that is eternal and will allow us to go to Heaven. Nothing else that we can do will add to our righteousness, because we have none apart from Jesus!

The work that we can accomplish here is nothing unless it is done in love through Jesus and the changes that He has done in our lives so that we might take Him wherever we go! Some people might never see anything that is good and right in this world if you are not the bearer of His wonderful message to them.

Did you know that most religions in our world were created or brought to life by Satan. He is religious too yet he knows Who is on the throne, he knows that the Creator is the One who is over all things, yet he won’t worship Him. Think about it before you decide to mark “none” or some other religion.

Are you religious or are you a Christian?

There are thousands of religions in the world, but there is only one Christianity. Religion from a Christian perspective and viewpoint depends upon the doctrine that you hold to, whether it is Mormon, Baptist, Methodist, Protestant, Episcopal, or Catholic or any number of other doctrines in the world. Religion can be anything that you might want to worship and there are enough religions in the world to prove that, and yet other than Christianity none of them have a living Savior! Their founders are dead or imagined, made up in the minds of men, and yet each of those religions may have thousands or millions of followers, some may have billions of followers. The point that I am making is this…has anyone thought about which way, which path or road should you be following?

I am not trying to cause any more divisions between churches or denominations. What I am trying to point out is that true Christians exist in all denominations but there are also many who think that they are believers when they are not.

There are many around the world who claim to be Christians and there are more of them in some areas than there were one hundred years ago according to this graphic:

christianity-graphic-01This graphic is seen more clearly if you open it in a new tab of your browser. Many things have happened in our world to cause this such as airline travel and other technological advances. The point is that there are more people claiming to be Christians but there are also more people who claim to adhere to other religions or even no religion at all.

What, if anything, can we do to help others see that they need Jesus? If people have made up their minds, there is little that you and I can do. It wouldn’t matter if you were the greatest evangelist in the world for some people, they have their minds made up and nobody is going to change their view except God Himself! If God has determined that they are going to be used by Him for some purpose, then He will get their attention eventually.

What about those who are modern day Pharisees? They see themselves as Christians and don’t believe that they need salvation but are not followers of Jesus. I am not trying to be a judge of their faith, but if the fruit is not visible in their lives, then what are they? Usually their reasons go something like this: “I have always been a member of this church, since my youth. I have served as a teacher in Sunday school and on various committees in the church as well as giving my tithes on a regular basis. How dare you question my faith!” Well, as a comical story I heard once went, “I could live in a garage all of my life but I still wouldn’t have four wheels and an engine!” You cannot absorb a faith and live it out for others to see just because you have been in a church and exposed to preaching for years. You have heard the message, but the message has not penetrated your heart!

We are accountable to God for the light that we have heard and read and lived by whether we have taken it into our heart and our life or not. Because of this there will be many who will be astonished on that day when Christ says, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” Don’t let that day be the day that you hear those words, give your heart to Jesus while there is life in your body so that you can serve Him until He calls you home! Then you will hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant”.