Salvation


While out-of-town at a ministry conference a few days ago, a major cold front and the first real winter storm of the season aimed for the Midwest. Than to stay until the event was ended, I rearranged my travel and returned to Omaha. To be expected, several airports were shut down due to blizzard-like conditions which, too, ushered in a deluge of heavy snow. With accompanying freezing temperatures, nearly 10 inches settled in on Omaha and threatened travel in and around the area both on the ground and in the air. Brrrrr!

As I navigated my connecting airport many were stranded due to the same front that had impacted their plans as well. An earlier flight to Omaha had already been cancelled so I approached the flight desk to see if mine was still listed. Remarkably, it was still scheduled to depart; but at the mention of Omaha the gate agent audaciously asked, “Why in the world would anyone be going to Omaha knowingly heading into a huge storm?” I kindly replied to her, “I’ve got to get home.”

Life for believers is likewise filled with blinding blizzards and similar storms. They often leave us stranded (crippled) in light of the tough conditions we at times must face. These unavoidable difficulties are par the course for every Christian. There’s no way around them. One may ask, “Why do believers maintain faith in Jesus Christ for a future in heaven knowing we will face great difficulties and encounter huge storms along the way?” The answer is simple: “We’re just trying to get home! In fact, it’s the only way we’re going to make it!

Keep trusting Him, dear brothers and sisters! “Trouble don’t last always!”

Great interest has been generated over Steve Harvey’s plainly transparent and particularly moving interview on TBN of late. The many responses to his very emotional display range from positive compliments to overt criticism. Central in the debate is one single unarticulated, but still apparent dichotomy. Can one be emotionally pained, and yet not be spiritually changed? Common today in many an organized church is the uninhibited freedom to be securely open and emotionally expressive. However, does an animated display of a person’s emotions certify one’s spirituality and validate one’s legitimate faith? We need to explore this further.

Paul boldly distinguishes worldly grief from Godly grief in his commentary to the Corinthians in Chapter 7. His second epistle notes several distinct characteristics of Godly sorrow or grief. Godly grief is clearly different because:

1. It begins with clear conviction—the acknowledgment of wrong (9a)
2. It includes genuine regret—sorrow for one’s sinful behavior (9b)
3. It brings about repentance—an obvious change of life’s course(10a)
4. It leads to salvation—deliverance from one’s sinful ways (10b)
5. It leaves no regrets—void of any sense of enduring guilt (10c)
6. It is confirmed by conversion—a new commitment to the things of God (11)
7. It also encourages others—provides needed strength to the church (13)

If the Apostle is right, then it is clear that any expression of mournful emotions that is absent of these qualities should be regarded as suspect. The acid test of true Godly remorse reveals a clear transformative result. If a redemptive change does not emerge from one’s sorrow, the Bible indicates such grief ends only in death (see vs. 10).

Think about it. When is the last time you observed a genuinely penitent sinner consumed by indisputable remorse for their errant ways? If you haven’t seen it in a while, this could mean we are guilty of welcoming many a person to join-the-church, but few sinners to repentance. I pray this is not true!

The church of Jesus Christ is God’s center for corrective change. You see, change without correction falls tragically short. You don’t agree? Then, the next time you have a flat on your automobile, simply take the flat tire off and move it to a place where an inflated tire already sits. You will have change, but you will not have correction. The Lord wants us to experience change with correction. Jesus can help you!

Remember this! God loves each of us just as we are; however, He loves us too much to let us stay that way!

Not twenty minutes ago I made a hospital visit to the room of a gentleman who underwent a successful kidney transplant procedure last evening. We have been praying for Brian for a few years now that God would graciously allow him a chance to have a good kidney. The surgery went without-a-hitch; the new organ is an excellent match and is functioning fine. Brian told me he felt better than he had in years. Up and moving around, he was watching a football game with his family when I left his room.

As I drove back to my office, I thought about the anonymous donor family, and uttered a simple prayer for them in light of their apparent loss. To be sure, somebody—who we do not know—had to die in order for Brian to have this new opportunity to live a healthier, better quality of life.

His is no new irony! In fact, it is a very familiar paradox for many of us. We who know and enjoy redemption could not benefit from such were it not for the fact that Someone had to die that we might live. Bless His holy name!!!!!

The principle difference between these observations is clear. In Brian’s case, an accident made it possible for him to receive his new-lease-on-life. For you and I, it was no accident. Jesus died on purpose in order for us to have the privilege to live. Didn’t He do it?

Isn’t that good news?

The year 2009 has been a real challenge for me. Having undergone two surgeries—one for my left knee and the other for my left shoulder due to a rotator cuff tear—God has yet been faithful and allowed me to move assuredly toward recovery. I am so grateful.

 

While seated in the waiting room during one of my scheduled office visits, I asked the receptionist to run off a copy of my account for me. She did and I was blown away at what I discovered. The costs for my knee operation were nearly $5000. My rotator cuff surgery was in excess of $39,000. Neither of these services includes the correlated office visits, x-rays, MRI procedures, medication, nor physical therapy. When it’s all said and done, already this year my medical expenses total over $50,000. As I reviewed the numbers, I was moved with joy in that I didn’t have to pay the balance. In fact, were I required to pay it, I wouldn’t have had it. Thank God for insurance!

 

Before I could fold the page and put it in my pocket, the Lord prompted me about another account. He reminded me there was another bill coming due. And for this balance, Mutual of Omaha, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, nor Cigna, had created a policy to cover these charges. Then it occurred to me that for these expenses, I didn’t need “insurance.” What I would need for this bill was “assurance.” I shouted; because I have exactly that! Blessed Assurance; Jesus is mine…

 

If you don’t have it, you should get it today! You’ll feel so much better!

 

It’s been nearly two weeks since my rotator cuff surgery to repair the tear.  I don’t recall any more challenging days than the ones I just negotiated.  Little do many of us realize the instinctive (automatic) reflex responses to everyday occurrences!  It takes tremendous energy to suppress your body’s natural tendency to react to something as simple as dropping a pen.  I’m still working at it.  The first week was really tough.  My orthopedist instructed me stay out of the shower to avoid getting the site wet, and to only take a sink bath.  So, I had to learn to bathe with one arm (and from a basin) for seven days.  Keeping the injured shoulder immobile made the entire exercise quite the chore.  Thankfully, I made it through.

 

At my one-week appointment the doctor told me I could resume showering.  It was music to my ears.  As I entered the flowing water the very next morning, I thanked God aloud for the privilege of bathing.  Few of us hardly think about it.  The fact that daily we become contaminated is not even a thought, because we have a remedy called a bath or a shower.

 

What a tragic existence the unrepentant world lives!  Remarkably, there remains a great aggregation who continue to live soiled, dirty lives; and with apparent content.  Oh, if they only knew!  No one has to remain unclean.  None are constrained to live out of the basin of filth.  We have at our disposal a Shower!  One dark Friday, a cleansing flood opened to all, and became readily available to whosoever would come.  For it, we should equally thank God!

 

William Cowper put it like this:

 

There is a fountain filled with blood

Drawn from Immanuel’s veins.

And sinners plunge beneath that flood

Lose all their guilty stains;

 

I never thought about the simple privilege of taking a shower until I couldn’t.  When once again I could, I discovered a new found joy.  You, too, can experience this joy if you would only take the plunge.

 

The Lord awaits your arrival.  Do it today!

On July 31, 2008, little Grace Bergere plummeted 14 stories off the roof of her New York West Village apartment building.  The 12-year-old girl’s foot slipped by the chimney and she fell 14 stories down the flue.  Authorities said Grace was showing a cousin, visiting from California, the spectacular view of the city from the top, which has a rooftop deck overlooking the Hudson River.  To get to the highest point, she climbed up a 25-foot ladder alongside the big brick chimney. When she reached the top, she fell in and plunged down the narrow flue all the way down to the basement at the bottom.

 

When authorities along with her family hastily made their way to the basement furnace room certain to retrieve her lifeless remains, they were baffled to see her 12-year old hand reaching from within the ashen chamber to be pulled to safety.  They discovered little Grace completely covered in soot; but for the most part unscathed when they rescued her from her ordeal.  A closer look revealed to everyone how and why Grace survived.  At the bottom of the furnace was a 2-foot-deep pile of ash and dust that remarkably served to cushion her fall.

 

Grace Bergere literally fell 14 stories, 180 feet, down the chimney of a West Village New York apartment building and lived; and the reason she was able to survive this tragedy was because of the stuff in which she was covered.

 

This interesting and true story surely arrests the emotions of all of us.  It is a happy-ending saga about a girl named Grace who has a tragic fall and survives.  There is, however, an even more incredible story that needs to be told.  You and I fell farther than Grace.  As a matter of fact, you and I fell all the way from grace.  We actually plummeted down the long dark hole of sin; a depth which far exceeded 180 feet.  But thanks be unto God, we live to tell about it.  And the only reason we can, the only reason we survive is because of the “stuff” in which we are covered.

 

There is but one reason we serve, one reason we sing, only one reason we offer sermons, the same reason we survive.  The only reason we are even saved is because of the stuff in which we are covered.  What can wash away our sins?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus!  What can make us whole again?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

 

Hallelujah!  The blood alone covers us and enables us to survive!

 

My parents’ first school teaching jobs were in a small rural community in north central Arkansas called Hickory Plains. I was only a toddler (about 2 years old) when my dad took me and my older brother, Llewellyn (he was three at the time), to a small pond in the local area where he would often retreat to get away and relax at fishing.

A steep ridge surrounded this common fishing hole and required some skill for one to avoid falling in. My older brother and I played on the hill while daddy focused his attention on one of his favorite pastimes. All of a sudden, this peaceful reservoir transitioned into a near disaster scene. In a moment, my inexperienced foot slipped on the hillside and I began to plunge into the murky waters below. Fortunately, a family friend—Mr. Alvin Hood—who had accompanied us on the outing, was close by, and ably grabbed my nose-diving little body before it was completely submerged. Covered in scum, he hoisted me to safety and gave me to my daddy who took me home where I could be cleaned up, feel safe, and live.

That’s exactly what Jesus Christ does. For everyone who has fallen, although our lives are filled with sin’s nasty scum, the Lord ably takes our slimy bodies and yet presents them to the Father. Our God faithfully takes us into His house—the Church–so that we can be cleaned up, feel safe, and live.

If you’re tired of the scum, let our Family Friend—Jesus Christ—rescue you and bring you into His wonderful family—the church. Remarkably, He is also the Father’s Son. You see, the church is not only critical for our salvation, but it is also vital for our sanctification. Join one today!

During the Thanksgiving holiday I visited my native state (Arkansas), and was able to negotiate an extraordinary deal that only God could arrange. The entire operation would require of me some degree of faith.

For thirty years, I have been a member of Pentagon Federal Credit Union. I joined when first I entered the United States Army as a young officer in Fort Benning, GA. Advances in technology and cyberspace communications afford members the privilege of handling some business via the internet. The item I sought was is Memphis, Tennessee; which would require me to drive the two-hour distance to complete the transaction. While still in Little Rock, I initiated the electronic application online. In faith, I drove to Memphis pending its approval. When I arrived at my destination a couple of hours later, the application had already been approved, the deal was sealed, and I joyfully received the item I desired.

During my return trip, the Spirit spoke to me. Faith (in many ways) is exactly that. One fills out the application in one location (earth), and the Christian journey begins. Along the way there are potholes and bumps, darkness and difficulties, unpredictable weather and other certain hazards; but at last when the destination (heaven) is reached, we discover the application has already been approved, and the guaranteed reward is simply awaiting your arrival.

Trust Jesus for salvation!  If you do, you can consider it a-done-deal. Happy traveling!

Yesterday I had the privilege to preach before a huge crowd of youth and young adults at the funeral of a fallen member—a loving twenty-four year old young man and father of four very small children. His was a tragic execution-style death. While the church gathered to celebrate his life, this throng came primarily to pay their last respects. I cannot recall the last time I spoke to so many un-churched, uninterested, unfamiliar, and unsaved young people at one time. The experience was primed for an encounter with God. At the wake the night before, local police armed in anti-gang apparel positioned themselves for anything that could happen. Additionally, they were likewise poised along the journey all the way to and throughout the cemetery after the funeral ended. Praise God, nothing happened!

As I mounted the sacred desk, the writings of the Apostle James provided the context for a thirteen-minute message I tagged plainly, “Three Things About Life.” From Chapter 4, verses 13-15, we attempted to reiterate the Bible’s obvious outline from these verses: (1) the uncertainty of life, (2) the brevity of life, and (3), you need God if you’re going to make it. It was really that simple! While this was not the usual “church crowd,” these atypical worshipers were strangely attentive and tremendously engaging as God spoke from His word. He sealed the message through an interesting personal experience.

It is my practice to polish my shoes whenever I head out for church. There was nothing different about yesterday. The shoe shine kit rests on the floor of the front bedroom of my house. Equally present is a GE digital alarm clock and radio that sits on a study desk in front of the window. It has the capacity to display the time, signal a wake-up alarm, and allows you to listen to the radio on either the AM or FM bands. Consistently, it sits with a dark display, inaudible (silent), and noticeably functionless each time I behold it. It does not reveal the time, it never sounds an alarm, and it does not offer music or news from any radio station in the area. It is interesting to note there is nothing wrong with my electronic appliance. The only reason it fails to function the way it has been designed is because it’s simply not plugged in. You see, its manufacturers have so created it that for it to function properly it has to be connected to a source of power.

Similarly, there were many present at this funeral and countless others around the world who are very much like the GE alarm clock/radio in my home. For the most part, they just do not realize they have been uniquely designed by the Manufacturer to function—act, behave, conduct themselves, etc.—properly and usefully. The problem with those who clearly fail to function as designed is they’re just not plugged in. In order for any of us to live, move, and have being—that is, legitimacy, usefulness, value, and utility—it means we must be properly connected to the only Source of power which can enable us to live. That power source is God!

I only have one question! Are you plugged in? Put differently, are you properly connected? If not, you should take care of that today!

Peace and Terryfic regards, today and always; from me!

Not long ago I worshiped where a dear friend serves as pastor while visiting the city to lead a conference. It was a typical early morning experience. The choir sang traditional songs and the sermon was centered on one of the healing episodes from the gospels. The pastor offered an accurate account of the selected text, and for the most part, the celebration was encouraging.

Things changed (for me) as I sat in the congregation near the front row of pews when during the “Invitation To Discipleship,” a young girl publicly responded to the gospel message. This was no ordinary teenage girl. She came with the assistance of her patient and quite pleasant mother—a young public school teacher in her mid to late thirties. Her daughter was crippled and presented clear indications of cerebral palsy. She could not walk unaided nor talk intelligibly. With her stature distinctly reflective of her physical malady, the young child came to the altar walking on her mother’s feet. She was greeted by the pastor who had come down from the pulpit, and she lacked any reasonable capacity to manage her motor skills. Erratically, the girl would emit a shrieking sound which we were all able to interpret as unmistakable joy and genuine excitement. The pastor posed the usual evangelistic questions to which she favorably and convincingly responded with an inarticulate noise. Her movements gave every hint of pure delight as she was welcomed into a life of Christ and the fellowship of this grateful church.

I sat there emotionless and suddenly became bewildered by the irony of the moment. Here, a pastor had just concluded a wonderful sermon on a biblical healing narrative, and strangely an innocent, yet crippled young girl had given her heart to Jesus Christ; and was still in need of a physical healing. Perplexed, I prayed and asked God to bless her precious life and admitted my own confusion. I thought how unfair it was for her to have to live life under those trying circumstances, and how hard it must be for her loving mother. The Lord overwhelmed me in the same moment. An interesting revelation emerged and bears sharing with my readers. The miracle was not in the fact that the little girl came to know Christ so that she would be healed; but that she actually wanted to know Him without any need for a healing. I shouted!

All too often, many people seek God and want fellowship with the Lord’s church based upon their sense of some added benefit—prosperity, success, increase, favor, healing, etc.—that having such could yield to them. My learning experience on this particular Sunday proves afresh God’s power to save in spite of a person’s desire or need for anything else. Our God is good and worthy of all glory, honor, and praise; even when God doesn’t change our circumstances; or when the Lord doesn’t come through as we many times prefer.

This little girl came not to request a change in speech or for God to fix her limbs; but she came for a change of spirit and for God to fix her life. Her goal was not to receive new hands; she came to get a new heart. Uncommon, irregular, extraordinary, strange, abnormal, or whatever you may call it, anyway you look at it, it’s still a miracle! Bless His holy name!