Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"You don't have to go to church to get to heaven."

The statement in my title today really bugs me. It hits a nerve because the people who think and say it are usually looking for some rationale for their disobedience. The thief on the cross proves this statement to be true (Luke 23:39-43). But as I listen to God through his word, I am convinced he never intended for these beautiful words, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise," to be used as an excuse to disobey God. I believe Jesus was giving yet another awesome promise that he can and will save a repentant soul at any point in his life, no matter how much sin is involved.

There are five main things the thief of the cross could not do for God:

1. He could never study his Bible.

2. He could never be baptized.

3. He could never join or attend church.

4. He could never tithe.

5. He could never perform any service for God.

Because the thief on the cross died before he could do any of the normal activities of a Christian, does that mean we who are able are off the hook? The thief was physically incapable of accomplishing one thing for God. Did this keep him from being with God eternally in paradise? If it did, then our great God is a liar. Yet there are many religious leaders who convince their listeners that if they do not do certain things, they will not make it to heaven.

I pray that as we listen and learn from the words of our Savior that we would allow him to convince us of the great love and grace he has for us. And when we do the the things Christians do, like tithing and serving God, we would do them with as much gratitude as the thief on the cross would have, if he were cut down from his cross and set free.

Picture courtesy of Saints Peter and Paul Church by The Lone Cypress

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Benefits of Listening

As I prepare for leading my "Listening for God's Magnificent Voice Retreat" at Little Hope Baptist Church in Clarksville, TN this weekend, I am reminded of some of my favorite verses on listening. One of them is found in the first chapter of Proverbs:

" . . . Whoever listens to me will live in safety

and be at ease, without fear of harm."

Proverbs 1:33

Our God is simple, clear, and straightforward with his promises. Listening to him brings protection. We are like ships at sea, often tossed to and fro by the turbulent weather of living in this crazy, upside down world. To seek safe harbor we have to steer ourselves into our prayer closets, spending quality time alone with him and his word. He is our place of refuge, retreat, and freedom from harm.

Thank you Jesus for being my safe harbor. For when I ignore your advice disaster is around the corner and calamity overtakes me like a storm (Proverbs 1:20-32) but when I listen to you I live at ease and secure. Thank you for speaking your life-giving words into my life and for the privilege of resting in you. Amen.
Picture, Safety Harbor, byfsudaft, courtesy of

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Distressed, but God Gave Me His Peace

This morning I answered the phone without looking at the caller ID. The number, an out of town, unknown number was from my alcoholic brother. If I had looked I would not have answered, but for some reason I did. Calling for help for the millionth time, I had to tell him "no," which is extremely difficult. As I told him I could not help him, I felt a rush of nervous anxiety run through my body. It made me sick to my stomach.

God has had me working on peacemaking in my family, which is torn to shreds over my brother's alcoholism. I didn't go into details in my last blog entry, but my broken family has remained on my heart as I prayed over the Scripture, "Blessed are the peacemakers." God has shown me that when someone struggles over and over with the same issues and refuses to go for the proper help--rehab, counseling, meetings, and so forth, there comes a point when help hinders and you must say, "No, I can't help you anymore." God is showing me this is his way of peacemaking, because it leads to health and wholeness. Human peacemaking is manipulative and causes us to work incessantly on smoothing things over, enabling, trying to make everyone happy (in my case, not saying anything, when I really want to scream), which leads to insanity, illness and more brokenness.

After hanging up the phone, I went to my Bible asking God to speak his peace into my life. A piece of note paper fell out with a grouping of Scriptures on it: Romans 15:33; 2 Corinthians 13:11, and Hebrews 13:20. I had to look them up and could not believe what I found. (Well, I really could believe it because we have an awesome God!) God spoke his words of healing immediately to my heart by saying:

The God of peace be with you all. Amen. Romans 15:33

Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21

Isn't God voice magnificent? His peace flooded my soul and I knew I had made the right decision.

Great Shepherd of the Sheep,

I love you with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Please continue speaking your peace into my heart. In your precious name. Amen

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What does Jesus say about peacemakers?

God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.
Matthew 5:9 (NLT)

About this verse Calvin Miller wrote: "There is a danger in separating quarrelling dogs. When hate rages, peacemakers face injury. Peacemaking is what the cross is all about. At Calvary, God and humankind were at odds. It was as though humanity was at war with the Creator."

So Jesus came as the reconciler. Although we all were at one time hostile toward God and alienated from him, We are now forgiven and have been brought into an intimate relationship with him (Colossians 1:21-22). Because we are now reconciled, we must be about the business of peacemaking, which costs us something. It is not easy dealing with angry souls. While reaching out to them with the love of God there are times we feel the bite of their rage. But wherever enemies dissolve, sons in God's Kingdom are born.

Lord, Help me to be a peacemaker every day, despite the cost. Fill me with your mercy, grace, and love so my actions will bid all earthly hatred to cease. In your powerful name above all other names I pray. Amen.