My Journey Along the Narrow Way

Posts tagged ‘salvation’

But God…

People ask all the time what my favorite verse is in the Bible.  There are so many to choose from but if I had to pick one it would be Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”  During the hardest times in my life I CLING to this verse.

But when I think of what words of Scripture are most precious to me, it would have to be this:  But God.  These have long been my absolute favorite words in the Bible.  And I see I’m not alone.  Just this last Sunday Shawn (our preacher) mentioned those two words in his sermon as well.  Google these two words and multiple postings, including many blogs, pop up.

For being two small little words, only 3 letters a piece, they are very powerful words.  What they say again and again in the Bible is:  man does _________ (which is usually something selfish, hurtful, stupid, etc.); BUT GOD __________ (fixes it, works it all for our good and His glory, hits us upside the head with a 2X4 so we understand, etc.).  How can anyone NOT love that?

For example…I was running away from God and his enemy.  I was literally shaking my fist at him…but God loved me, pursued me, called me to Himself.

Psalm 49:14-15

14 Like sheep they are laid in the grave;
Death shall feed on them;
The upright shall have dominion over them in the morning;
And their beauty shall be consumed in the grave, far from their dwelling.
15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave,
For He shall receive me.  Selah

I am mortal and I will one day die…But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave.

Acts 13:29-30

29 Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb. 30 But God raised Him from the dead.

Jesus’ earthly body died on the Cross, But God raised Him from the dead.

Romans 5:7-8

7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We might lay our life down for another, but only if we feel like they are worthy…But God died for us – worthless, angry, sinful worms.

1 Corinthians 10:13

13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

We are tempted and fail repeatedly…but God is faithful to help us either escape or bear the temptation.

Psalm 73:26

26 My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

We will rot and die…But God will redeem us forever!

I fail and fall repeatedly…But God
I hurt others and am selfish…But God
Satan attacks and tempts us…But God

I mean, how can you not LOVE this?  It reminds me again and again…it is NOT me.  None of it.  Nothing I do.  It is ALL God.  He is sovereign, He is faithful, He is in control.  And all I can say is Thank God!  If my faith was left up to me I would stumble before I finished typing this blog post, mostly likely before I finished typing this sentence.  But God is faithful to the end.

No matter what happens in my life, when I’m down, or disappointed, or I fail, I cling to these two little words….BUT GOD.


We are a Moment…

My stepmom fell today (at a doctor’s office, no less) and broke her hip.  She is currently in the Emergency Room getting admitted into the hospital where they will do surgery  tonight to fix her hip.

Prayers are appreciated – her name is Louava and my dad’s name is Troy.

This immediately brought to mind the suddeness of her fall.  It’s funny how we wake up each morning and we expect to make it through the day in one piece.  We expect for everything to be the same when we get home in the evening as when we left in the morning.  We forget how fleeting life is and how it can all change in the instant.

Before I was a believer, I used to still understand deep down in my heart that if I died without Christ, I would go to Hell.  I didn’t want to go to Hell.  I had been in church enough growing up to know Hell was not where I wanted to spend eternity.

So, what did I do about it?  I stuck my head in the sand.  I put my hands over my ears and closed my eyes and sang, “lalalalalalalala, I’m not listening.”  If my thoughts came even close to thinking about dying, I would quickly and firmly push them into a box and ignore them.

When I did actually let the thought of myself dying come into the corner of my mind, I would assure myself that when the time came, I would have time to “get things right” before dying.  I really thought that.  That I would actually have time to “get saved” at that last instant.  However, the Bible tells us in Job 14:1-2, “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.  He comes forth like a flower and fades away; he flees like a shadow and does not continue.”

James 4:13-14 says, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”

God calls us “a vapor”.  That is how fragile our lives are.  Just like a vapor that comes from a boiling pot, it soon disapates and is gone.  How silly of me to think that me, just a vapor, could just say to God, “Hold it just a minute, I’m not quite ready for You to take me.  I need just a few minutes so I can get saved”?

Ecclesiastes 8:7-8 says, “For he does not know what will happen; So who can tell him when it will occur?  No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, And no one has power in the day of death. There is no release from that war, And wickedness will not deliver those who are given to it.”

What an arrogant thought.  And what an insult to the Cross of Jesus and the blood He shed to save men from their sins, for me to make it so cheap that I could just slide into salvation at the last minute.

But that’s what being lost does to you.  It makes you arrogant and self-righteous.  It makes you think that you have all the time in the world to do and live however you want to.  You’ll get right in the end…no problem.

Ecclesiastes 8:12-13 also says, “Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him. But it will not be well with the wicked; nor will he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he does not fear before God.”

All this to say… Don’t wait!  You could be gone in an instant!  Romans 10:13 says, “For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”” Call on Him…be saved!  Do it now.  You may not have another chance.

Psalm 90:1-2

Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
Or ever You had formed the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

The Rescuer…

Imagine one nice spring day being on a boat. You are enjoying your day. It’s a nice warm day and the breeze off the water is cool on your face. You have decided to take the boat out on your own just to have some time to think and enjoy some alone time.

As you are going down the river you suddenly hear a sound. It is the sound of people yelling for help. As you look around you finally see a bunch of people in the middle of the river. Their boat has obviously capsized and sank and they are treading water. Even though the day is warm, the water is still really cold. You realize that unless you start saving people, some might not make it.

You have a really small boat but you pull along side the first group and start helping people on. The people are starting to be so cold they can barely work their limbs. It takes a long time to get people in the boat. Also, some of the people fight each other to get on. There are a few that are so frightened; they even are fighting you as you are trying to save them.

Finally, you get a whole load, as many as the boat can safely carry, and you speed down the river and put them on shore. You hurry back to the next group in the water and start trying to rescue them. You do this three or four times, as quickly as you can. In the end you are able to save about half of those in the water.

The news that night sings your praises and calls you a hero. Without your intervention, all 60 people would have died. However, because you chose to become involved 32 are alive that otherwise would have been lost.

It makes sense that they would call you hero, doesn’t it?

If so, then why don’t we call our God a hero? Why do people not see it’s the same?

There we all are in our natural state. We are drowning in our sin. And don’t be mistaken…we WILL drown in our sin and die to eternal Hell. There is nothing we can do to help ourselves. Actually, we are so far gone at that point that we don’t even want help. We think we are fine. We can help ourselves. Everything will be alright…but that’s not true.

And here comes God. He plucks some out of that swamp of sin and death and saves them. Psalm 25:15 – “Mine eyes are ever toward the LORD; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.”

Oh, and we fight Him. We shake our fist at Him. We say it’s not Him that saved us. We say it’s not fair that He didn’t save everyone. We rage against our very Creator and we don’t call Him a hero. We definitely don’t deserve to be saved.
As it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Romans 3:10-18

Why did He choose who He chose? We don’t know, but God sure knows. God has a plan and His plan will be carried out. We should praise Him for His mercy and grace at choosing to save even one of us.

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8

The Door…

All my life I had been walking down a dark, dreary alley. Let me describe it for you. It was damp stone with moss growing between them and cracked and broken bricks. The street was also brick and could be very slippery. Sometimes I would slip on the brick and fall and skin my knee or hurt my hands when I tried to catch myself.

From time to time, I would come to place where the buildings rising up on either side of me were a little farther apart and, if it was daytime, I would have a glimmer of sunlight around me. But most of the time it was dim or even downright dark. And there was no color anywhere. Just blacks and browns and grays everywhere.

There were people around me once in awhile. And every now and then there would be someone there that seemed to shine with light from within. But mostly I trudged along by myself. I did all the things I was supposed to do every day, but I couldn’t seem to escape the alley.

Once in awhile I almost felt like I had escaped! Things would be brighter there might be some blue skies and some nice, soft grass under my feet. However, sooner or later (usually much too soon), I found myself back in my alley – trudging down the uneven brick – in the dark, colorless place that was my home.

Then one day, one glorious day, I found myself in what seemed to be almost a maze. I couldn’t seem to get out of the maze. No matter which way I turned and walked, I always ended up right back going through the maze. And sometimes I was really upset and wanted out of the maze, but mostly I was curious as to where the maze led and how I got in the maze in the first place.

Then one day I noticed that it began to be a little bit lighter in the alley. It wasn’t a big change but it did seem to my eyes that I could see the stones and bricks a little clearer. I didn’t think I was stumbling near as much either. Also, I began to notice things around me in a different sort of way. There were actually more people around me than I had ever realized. Maybe it was because there was a little more light that I could see them better. I also could see their expressions on their faces and hear them talking.

I also noticed that everyone around me seemed a little excited about something up ahead. And when I thought about it, I realized that I had a sense of anticipation and excitement as well.

As days went by, I noticed that it was definitely getting brighter. Through the brightness I could also see how really dingy and dirty everything around me was. I also noticed that even though everyone had that sense of excitement, beneath that excitement there seemed to be a sense of desperation and longing in everyone’s face. When I saw that desperation and longing, I realized that it had been on these people’s faces all along. I had never seen them without those feelings.

The excitement continued to build. People around me had started talking to each other and to me about what lay ahead. What could it be? What did it mean? There was so much anticipation but also still some nervousness too. What would it be like in that light? What if I liked my alley better?

But still we trudged along. And it got lighter. And suddenly, at the end of the dim, dirty alley we saw it! It was a door.

The door was just a plain, ordinary door set into the brick. There was nothing new or even very exciting about the door. It was what was beyond the door that was so exciting. There was light. There was color beyond my wildest dreams. It was as if everything in the world had gone from black and white into Technicolor! There was so much detail in everything I could see through that door. There was also music more beautiful than anything I had ever heard. It seemed as if everyone on the other side was so happy they were laughing and singing all at once!

As I looked I felt the deepest, most profound longing to walk through that door. I actually started to walk right through it but then the doubts and fears started. I had a huge wave of doubt. “Do you really think you, of all people, belong here? What would happen if they found out who you really are? What if they knew how you acted, how you thought deep inside?” I thought if I just stepped back and finished some of those improvements I always thought I needed, then I would be ready to walk through that door. Maybe if I took a good, hot bath and cleaned myself up, then I would be ready.

I looked around and saw that many were hesitating. But what I really noticed was there was a man behind each one of those hesitating and he was whispering in their ear! I didn’t know what he was saying to them but everything he said caused them to hesitate and the wonder and excitement that had previously been on their face was leaving.

I began to worry that I had one of those men behind me too. When I turned around, there he was. And what I thought were my worries and fears were actually what he was whispering in my ear, “Who do you think you are? Do you really think anything over there is for you?”

I realized he was trying to keep me from going through that door. I also realized that there was nothing I wanted to do more but go through that door right at that moment.

I looked back one last time through the door. Beyond the door I could now see my dark, dreary alley. I saw poor, sad people trudging along the alley with their heads down. They were so intent on not stumbling; they didn’t even see the open door in the alley. How I longed for them to look up and see the open door.

Then I turned and stepped through the door.

“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:44

I’m Cured…

Recently, I had a troubling experience with an infection. Through a strange set of circumstances, I ended up finding out that I had brought something more than souvenirs back with me on my trip to Indonesia. The worst part of the whole experience was the fear that I had infected my husband and children as well.

It ended up that I was the only one infected (due to a shot that didn’t quite “take”). Of course, I was very thankful for that. But it did get me to thinking…

I am completely and totally infected with sin. You are too. In fact, we all are. Yet we never think about how this sin infection is affecting and infecting our family, our friends, and even complete strangers.

Every day we walk around spreading this infection around through our actions. Everything we do, even with the best of motives, is sin-filled and dirty in the eyes of our Holy God.

We are called to be light to those around us. How can we be the light that points others to God when we are full of dark, dirty sin? The bad news is – we can’t. The good news is – Jesus can. And He does it through us when we trust in Him and ask Him to be our Lord and Savior.

And in this dirty, dark world, Jesus is a bright light. Like a lighthouse in the ocean that keeps ships from crashing into shore, Jesus shows us the way with His light. We are drawn to this light like a moth to a porch light.

So, with Jesus within me, I am now a lighthouse to the lost and searching people around me. I reflect this light to everyone around me…even fellow believers! I am no longer a person infected with sin dragging down people; I’m a light showing people the way.

I’m cured!

Amazing Love…

habakkuk2_14I have been thinking about some things that I was taught this weekend and mulling them over in my head.  There was much that I learned from this conference but one thing has been bouncing around in my head for hours and hours and is now ready to come out.

The gist of the teaching was that most things in the church tend to be “Me” centered.  This is talking about and dwelling on solely what God did for me.  Jesus died for me, Jesus thought about me while on the cross.  And both of those things are true.  However, that isn’t the whole picture.   The other side of the equation is that Jesus died to bring glory to God.  I guess what has really made me think is the idea that one is more important than the other.

Before we were saved, we were shaking our fist and telling God to “Leave me alone.”  I literally was doing that.  And let me be clear here, so were you.  You may not have been physically shaking your fist or audibly saying the words but emotionally, intellectually, and in your heart, you were saying the same thing.

Jesus and the cross changed all that.  He drew me to Him and He saved me.  The Bible tells us that we love God because He first loved us.  And that love saved us.

So, where is the glory of God in there?  The Glory of God is in Jesus’ obedience to the Father in going to the cross; it is in the death of death, and the final defeat of sin.  But it is also in our salvation and sanctification.

While I agree that you can’t look at the cross and think about ONLY your salvation, you can’t forget it either.

I think part of the difficulty is in how you think about God and your salvation.  If you are more free will in your belief, your salvation originates with you.  You alone make the choice to accept Jesus.  It is your decision.  Because of this I think some need to get to where the glory of God is revealed and that is why there is this dichotomy between the glory of God and our salvation in regards to the cross.

If you are more reformed in your belief, your salvation originates totally with God.  He calls you and then you respond.    The drawing of the sinner to God, the call, and the salvation all bring glory to God because they are all about God glorifying Himself by saving us.

Therefore, I think in our worship we need to sing songs about both the glory of God and Jesus’ dying on the cross for us.  I don’t think you can divorce one from the other without losing God’s greatest glory.

And that’s why I can sing one of my favorite hymns and know it is not about me, it never was.  It’s about Him!

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

I Once Was Lost…

I think that I have a very unique perspective than most people regarding salvation. A good many of the believers that I know were saved pretty early in life. They don’t really remember a time that they weren’t saved. It just always has been this way.

I, however, was not saved until I was 35 years old. I distinctly remember not being saved. I also remember a lot about the time that God was drawing me to Himself.

I always knew there was a God. I also knew that I would go to Hell once I died because I had enough knowledge to know that I wasn’t where I should be spiritually. It was a subject that I tried to avoid thinking about at any cost. I just hoped that when it was my time to die, I would have a few minutes to “get myself right.” Other than that I would push away any thoughts concerning God, Jesus, or my eternal destiny.

I remember when God started opening my heart to His advances. Here are some of my thoughts from that time that I wrote in a previous blog:

It seemed every time I got in the car to go to work in the morning “the Marshall Minute” was on. This is a little minute-long spot where the minister of St. James United Methodist Church would speak on some topic and relate it to Scripture. Every time it would come on I would change the channel. I absolutely hated it. Not really because of what was said in the spot but because I could feel God working on me. I would just get so mad.

Well, anyone who tells you that God doesn’t have a sense of humor is wrong. He absolutely does. Because not only did I hear this everyday, but it started that another station picked it up and when I would change the channel, it would be on that one too! It really infuriated me. And then people at work started talking to me about God and witnessing to me. Every book I would read would have something about religion or God in it somewhere – even though they were secular books.

During this time in my life I was really angry at God. I had a lot of hatred towards God because I felt He had ignored my prayers and let my mother die of cancer when I was 19 years old. This hatred of God almost became like one of my children. I nurtured it and grew it up really big. I had it so long at this point that it was part of who I was and I couldn’t imagine how to begin to let it go.

So, as God started working on me, I started working against Him. A lot of people believe that the decision to believe is all theirs. They believe they can choose God at any time. They believe that they have the will and the strength to do that. I beg to differ on this point. Because I can tell them, you don’t. And not only that, you don’t want to either. The Bible says, “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” — Romans 5:10

You see, I remember being God’s enemy. Oh, I didn’t think I was God’s enemy and I wouldn’t have put it that way at the time, but I was basically shaking my fist at Him. All I wanted was to be left alone. I wanted God to quit bothering me, quit drawing me to Him, and quit making me feel so guilty.

The first thing that happened was I begin to see my guilt. The Holy Spirit was showing me just what a guilty, worm of a sinner I actually was. He had to break me down to get me to even begin to see the light. Everywhere I turned, there He was.

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall[a] on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You. ~ Psalm 139:7-12

There was nowhere I could go to escape from God. And the more I tried to escape from God, and couldn’t, the more I hated Him.

I thank God He did not give me what I wanted. He could have just left me alone. Because He does that sometimes. “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;” Romans 1:28 “But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.” Psalm 81:11-12

He could have done that to me and that would have been right and just. But He didn’t! In His mercy and grace and lovingkindness, He didn’t leave me in the dark, deadness of my soul.

So when I pushed, He pushed back even harder. And finally, I saw His light and believed. And the light shined and the darkness was gone. “For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness.” Psalm 18:28

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
John Newton (1725-1807)