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God’s Compassion, Ezekiel 18:32

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Anyone who knows me knows that I adore my little Silky terrier, Buddy. He has a unique and spunky personality and I’d miss him terribly if anything ever happened to him. I don’t love him because he’s perfect, but because he’s my pal.

Do you ever consider that God would miss you terribly if you didn’t go to Heaven after you died?

There is a mistaken idea that the New Testament God is kind and compassionate, but that the Old Testament God is cruel and uncaring. But that’s not true.

“For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord God. “Therefore, repent and live.”–Ezekiel 18:32 (Old Testament)

Because God is perfectly holy and cannot tolerate evil, He won’t permit us to enter Heaven because we’ll mess it up, just as we’ve messed up earth. Just listen to the news every day: Do you want that in Heaven?

However, He found a way to fellowship with unholy people by sending Jesus to die for our sins.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”–John 3:16-17 (New Testament)

God the Father has no desire to see us perish eternally. He wants us to be with Him. If we are willing to humble ourselves–forsake our pride and admit that we have fallen short of His holy standards–He covers our sin with the blood of Jesus and no longer sees it.

“As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”–Psalm 103:12 (Old Testament)

God the Father loves you. And so does Jesus. He suffered a terrible death to pay for your sins. And the Holy Spirit loves you too and will live within you and help “guide (you) in the path of righteousness for His name’s sake.”–Psalm 23:3b

All you have to do is believe that Jesus is God in the flesh, admit you’re a sinner and cannot meet God’s righteous standards, and ask Him to forgive you and enter into your heart.

And He’ll do it immediately because He loves you and wants you to be with him–for eternity.

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God Is Love, 1 John 4:16

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One reason I love this photo is because I love Buddy. He is great company, particularly when I’m alone in the house at night. And because I love him, I don’t think about the bad boy things he has done: I see him as perfect and totally lovable.

The Apostle John, who laid his head against Christ’s breast when Jesus walked the earth, declared that “God is love,”–1 John 4:16

When most people think of Heaven, they think of angels on clouds and green meadows full of flowers and meeting their loved ones again, looking young and healthy. They usually don’t think of it as a place where God dwells.

Since God is love and dwells in Heaven, guess what Hell could be defined as? Not as a place of fire and brimstone, but a place where God does not dwell, a place totally absent of love.

Please think about that. Hell is a place with no mercy, no kindness, no laughter, no joy, no peace, no faithfulness, no goodness, no patience, no freedom…(Galatians 5:22) I’m sure you can think of many others.

I think most people, if mentally healthy, would prefer to go to Heaven and not Hell, but they have a misunderstanding about how to get there. This will shock most people: IT’S NOT BY BEING GOOD! or , like pictured in an Egyptian papyrus painting, I have, “IT’S NOT BY HAVING YOUR GOOD DEEDS OUTWEIGHING YOUR BAD.”

To address the latter firstly: If you think it’s by having your good deeds outweighing the bad, how do you define your good and your bad deeds? God is perfect. His definition of “bad” is far broader than ours is. The longer I’m a Christian, the more I realize how bad I really am, because I become more familiar with what God’s standards really are. When someone asked Jesus what he must do to “inherit eternal life”, Jesus responded, “No one is good except God alone.”–Luke 18:18

This seems to me a really iffy program to place my hope on to obtain eternal life in Heaven. How do you really know when your good deeds outweigh your bad? How many points does gossip get versus donating a toy to Toys for Tots? That method would keep me awake at night.

Most people don’t understand the gospel (which means “good news”). It’s not good news to tell me that I need to work really hard to be good and hope that maybe I did well enough to pass muster on Judgment Day. God cannot tolerate evil, i.e. sin. He demands perfection. In the Sermon On The Mount, Jesus declared, “You must be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”–Matthew 5:48  I blew that one a long time ago.

That’s why Jesus had to die. Only He was good enough, being God in the flesh, to live a perfect life and take our punishment for God’s wrath against sin. We don’t do anything to earn Heaven except humble ourselves and admit we’re sinners and need Jesus’ blood to cover our sin for us. And because He rose from the dead, proving Himself to be God and His sacrifice acceptable, ask Him to empower us by giving us the Holy Spirit to live His life through us.

Then God sees us as perfect and totally lovable, just like I love my Buddy.

“As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”–Psalm 103:12

And that’s good news, not working for my eternal life but accepting that Jesus already did it for me.

Sadly, admitting they’re not perfect is just too difficult for most people.

PS. If someone says this is wrong, it’s not by faith in Christ but good works, then ask them, “Why did Jesus have to die?”

***

If you agree with me, “Hey, I’d like to go to Heaven and live with this loving God for eternity, and I know I’m not perfect, I’ve missed the mark,” please pray:

Dear Father, I’m sorry I’ve screwed up and fallen far short of your standards. I know I’m far from perfect but I believe you love me and want me to spend eternity with you. I believe that Jesus was God in the flesh and died for my sins. That He lived the perfect life I couldn’t live. Please forgive me and grant me Your Holy Spirit to lead and guide me. Amen.

 

Hurting People, James 4:11-12

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When I first adopted Buddy from Silky Terrier Rescue, he was terrified of me and my family. He didn’t utter one sound for several days, not even a sniff. We thought his voice box had been damaged by abuse but it turned out he was just too frightened to make noise. When he barked at the neighbor’s dog and was praised for making a sound, he realized it was ok to make noise. Now he’s our most talkative dog ever.

For years, however, whenever I reached toward him, he would duck as if I wanted to hit him. He doesn’t do it as often now, but he still does duck occasionally and it hurts my feelings because I have no desire to harm Buddy. I don’t know the details of his previous life and can only speculate. Only God knows, but now Buddy has a family who loves and cherishes him. He gets treats and walks and hugs and personal care.

Considering this, I realize that people often act like Buddy. There might be abuse in their past or adverse circumstances that I don’t know anything about that might be causing them to act the way they do. Sometimes people act nasty or fearful because of original sin, but sometimes there are other mitigating factors.

“Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law…There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?”–James 4:11-12

When the check-out clerk who is scanning my grocery items looks sullen or is unfriendly, I try to remind myself not to react unkindly. I know how many things I conceal from people that I have far more contact with. The clerk may have been forced to come to work to save their job but may not be feeling well, their dog may have run off or been killed that morning, their kid may have just entered drug rehab, or a customer earlier that day was very rude and they haven’t been able to shrug it off yet. I just don’t know what may have happened ten minutes or ten hours ago in that person’s life. Only God knows.

Similarly, a coworker may be acting like a butt because they were told bad news about a relative or had an ugly family fight that morning. Or they may just feel cranky from lack of sleep and it’s an aberration and I need to be patient while they work it out of their system.

I’m not saying that people should make excuses for acting badly toward others, but we are all human and I am certainly not Miss Sunshine 24/7 myself and need others to forgive and be patient with me, too. “Love is patient, love is kind…” (1 Corinthians 13:4)

Now there are indeed times to judge because we are told to “Open your mouth, judge righteously…” (Proverbs 31:9)  We’re not supposed to remain silent and let evil triumph. “Like a trampled spring and a polluted well, is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.” (Proverbs 25:26)

But in most circumstances of life, I need to remind myself to be patient, be kind, and not judge. Not to be reactive or defensive, but to be proactively loving. I’m still learning because I have my “hot buttons” but I think I’m doing better than I used to because of God’s life in me.

God bless you this week.

***

Without the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ in our lives, it’s difficult to be the person we want to be. God gives us a new heart, a new spirit, and the mind of Christ when we admit we’re sinners and give our hearts to Him. Becoming born-again isn’t just about escaping Hell and going to Heaven; it’s about entering into a close relationship with God and becoming a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:7). If you aren’t a believer in Jesus Christ, He invites you to enter into relationship with Him. Please pray: “Lord, I admit that I have offended You and done what is wrong in Your sight. Please forgive me of my sins and enter into my heart and my life. Make me a new creation by the power of Your Holy Spirit.” If you prayed this prayer, please find a Bible-based church to fellowship with other believers and grow in the knowledge of God. As a fellow believer in Christ, I love you and so does the Lord.

God’s Bath, James 4:6

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Got a surprise tonight. I didn’t plan on spending part of my Saturday evening giving my dog a bath, but it was pointed out to me by a family member that he had a “poopie butt”. That can happen when you aren’t properly maintaining your dog’s coat and let the fur on the back end get too long near the anus.

At time God has to give me a little “bath” too. In His eyes, I am cleansed of my sins because of my faith in Jesus, which was His gift of righteousness to me, unearned (Ephesians 2:4-9) but sometimes I get my feet dirty.

“Jesus said to (Peter), ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean,'”–John 13:10

At times I’ll get a little haughty and think, “I’m doing OK this week in the sin department,” and then God points His finger at me and says, “Well, what about this?”

And I’ll respond, “Augh! Oh no! You’re right, Lord. I shouldn’t be thinking or doing that or having that attitude. Please help me to change.”

God doesn’t toss me into the bathtub to punish me, but to show me where I need to improve to better glorify Him, and serve Him and others.

“God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”–James 4:6

It was pride that caused Satan to fall and become the leader of all wickedness, and pride that caused the Pharisees and chief priests and the elders of the Jewish people to hand Jesus over to Pilate to be crucified:

“For (Pilate) knew that that because of envy they had handed Him over.”–Matthew 27:18

When we become born-again and enter into God’s family as one of His beloved children, we are GIVEN the righteousness of Christ so that we can fellowship with a holy God. A parable of the Christian life that preachers often use to illustrate our changed condition from unbeliever to believer is the caterpillar which weaves a cocoon and emerges, after radical change, into a beautiful butterfly. But as Pastor Bob George points out, we sometimes don’t fly like we should. Sometimes we stay down on the ground and wiggle through the mud like we’re still fuzzy worms.

I add: Then when we try to fly it’s difficult to soar upward and enjoy the freedom of flight when we have mud coating our wings. We have to shake that mud off so that we can fly well. God doesn’t knock the mud off our wings to make us feel bad or to depress us; He wants us to fly in the freedom He’s given us from the bondage of sin and from the consequences that bad or wicked attitudes can bring into our lives.

It feels great to fly free. Thank you, Lord, when you correct me.

And Lord, thank you I can fly in the joy of faith in the sunshine of Your love although there’s still a lot of mud speckling my wings.

Thanks for your time. I realize you have myriads of choices on how to spend it. I appreciate you chose to spend a little with me.

***

End note: If you are not born-again, you may feel free but you’re actually walking in bondage to the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) Jesus said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me will live even if he dies,” (John 11:25). Please consider saying this prayer: “Father, I admit that I have offended you and cannot live up to Your righteous standards. I accept that Jesus died on the Cross to take the punishment I deserve for my sin. Please forgive me and enter into my heart and give me eternal life in Christ. Be my Lord and teach me to walk in your ways.” If you’ve said this prayer, God promises to “give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him”–Luke 11:13  God bless you and guide you to a Biblically-based church fellowship.

 

Strength From Joy, Nehemiah 8:9-10

Happy Buddy

I tried to give Buddy a walk earlier today, but the construction noise across from the park frightened him and he made a mad dash back to my car. He gave me a happy smile when he managed to claim the driver’s seat. Because he felt safe in my car, he could abandon fear and smile again.

Nehemiah was the cup bearer for King Artaxerxes of the ancient Medo-Persian empire. The great king allowed Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem in 445 BC to rebuild the city wall that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had destroyed. Inspired by God, pagan King Artaxerxes also provided the funds and supplies for the project. During those times cities were usually encircled by walls to protect them from their enemies. Because of Nehemiah’s leadership skills, the motley and varied group of Jewish inhabitants of the city rebuilt the wall in 52 days. What was particularly amazing is that these people were not professional builders: women, perfumers, goldsmiths, and all sorts of persons lugged stones for the walls and hung doors for the gates.

After the great project was completed, all the people gathered to hear Ezra the scribe bless them. He also read from the Book of the Law (Old Testament) and explained it in a way that was understandable. The people wept bitterly when they realized they fell far short of God’s requirements.

“Then Nehemiah who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep….Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.'”–Nehemiah 8:9-10

When we’re focused on our works and failures, rather than on God’s goodness and might, we can be self-preoccupied, cranky, bitter and miserable. But what does God say?

“For You have cast all my sins behind your back.”–Isaiah 38:17

“As far as the east is from the west, So far has He moved our transgressions from us.”–Psalm 103:12

After we’ve confessed our sins, God doesn’t continue to hold them against us. He doesn’t want us walking around with long, pious faces. I really think Jesus wasn’t like the movies portray him: serious-looking all the time. I believe he was full of joy, radiating abundant health, because people were drawn to Him and wanted to be near Him. No one is drawn toward a sour puss.

When we are focused on our sin and unworthiness, we’re self-preoccupied rather than God-occupied. Most people are unhappy. If they see Christians who are joyful, even despite adverse circumstances, they will be drawn to you and will listen to your testimony because you clearly have something they lack: joy.

And from personal experience, I feel healthier when I’m focused on God’s goodness, the beauty of nature and positive things in life, rather than where I’m failing or where others are falling short. I feel more pep in my step when I’m focused on the positive instead of being self-preoccupied.

Folks, be God-occupied and rejoice! God is good, thinks about you a lot, and He loves you. You can trust Him to “guide (you) in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3). And “Who always leads us to triumph in Christ,” (2nd Corinthians 2:14).

You can relax in Jesus. He’ll continue to guide you. “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”–Philippians 1:6

End note: If you are not born-again, you can still find temporary joy in nature but without the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, you are not being guided into triumph in Christ. Please consider saying this prayer: “Father, I admit that I have a sinful heart, have offended you and cannot live up to Your righteous standards. I accept that Jesus died on the Cross to take the punishment I deserve for my sin. Please forgive me and enter into my heart. I trust that on the third day after the Crucifixion Jesus was resurrected bodily, an acceptable sin sacrifice, to give me eternal life. Be my Lord and teach me to walk in your ways.” If you’ve said this prayer, God promises to “give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him”–Luke 11:13  God bless you and guide you to a Biblically-based church fellowship.

Quotes from the NASB version of the Bible

 

The Third Guy, Matthew 25:14-29

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Buddy had been abused before I had adopted him. He was three years old at that time and very frightened of my family. He didn’t make a single sound for three days, not even a sniff or a cough. We feared his voice box had been damaged and were about to take him to the veterinarian to be examined when, fortunately, he gave a small woof at the neighbor’s dog. When he wasn’t punished for making a noise, he slowly became more vocal. It took about 1.5 years before he stopped ducking every time we reached toward him. It made us very sad. Now, after 7 years, he is the most talkative dog we’ve ever had and I enjoy his attempts to communicate with us. After living with him for so many years, we usually understand what he’s saying.

Jesus told a parable about a master and his three slaves. Their master gave his servants a great opportunity to show their value to him. He went away on a trip and left them with some money with the expectation they would increase it somehow. Upon his return, two of his servants had invested the money wisely and doubled the amount. They were greatly praised and rewarded. The third slave, fearing his master and thinking he was a harsh and punishing man, didn’t invest the money but, instead, hid it in the ground. This parable is referred to as the Parable of the Three Talents (the talent being the issue of currency in the tale).

Because the third slave didn’t invest the money wisely and bring an increase of the master’s money that was entrusted to him, the master became very angry and had him cast into the outer darkness.

Usually this tale is interpreted as Jesus telling us that He wants us to utilize our lives for His glory and not to waste the gifts and talents given to us. The third slave goes to Hell as he does not invest his life wisely.

Why did the third guy fail so miserably?

It’s because he didn’t love and trust his master. He even had the gall, in attempting to excuse himself for being such a poor steward of the talent given to him, to tell the master to his face:

“Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.”–Matthew 25:24-25 NASB

Often people reject knowing Jesus and submitting to Him as their God and master because they fear him. Like the third guy, they don’t live their lives for God’s glory because they believe God is a harsh master who cannot be trusted. They don’t know Jesus so therefore they don’t trust that He loves them and wants to bless them. But what does Jesus say about Himself?

“I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”–John 10:10b-11

Jesus loves us so much that He laid down His life to die for our sins so that we can be declared pleasing/righteous in God’s eyes. He had to do this because God cannot tolerate sin, so Jesus had to purify us from our sins so that we can enter into God’s presence and fellowship with Him.  There’s no way we can be good enough, no matter how hard we try, so the perfect God/man had to die for our sins. His righteousness is a gift, given to us, just for the asking through an act of faith.

But it takes an act of trust to ask God to enter your life and be your Father and Lord.

As the Good Shepherd, He can be trusted to guide your life to “green pastures”. (Please read Psalm 23). Ask Him to forgive your sin and invite Him to enter into your heart and be your Lord. I’m not promising you’ll have an easier life. But you will never regret it.

And you’ll have eternal life with a reward so wonderful that you cannot imagine it.

Good People Go To Hell, Matthew 5:3

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Did that title get your attention?

Buddy sits by the front door to see what’s going on in the neighborhood but he’s looking in the wrong direction. However, since he has seemingly supersonic hearing, he can still hear what’s going on outside.

Many people hear God’s call or message of salvation, but they look the other way and don’t accept it.

During His famous Sermon On The Mount speech, Jesus began with this verse:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”–Matthew 5:3

Speaker and teacher Kay Arthur explains that being “poor in spirit” is to admit one’s spiritual poverty, one’s utter spiritual bankruptcy and inability before a holy God to have any righteous standing. To admit one’s utter sinfulness.

“For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;”–Isaiah 64:6

Most people think that Judgment Day is like what is depicted in Egyptian paintings: There is a scale on which one side rests all of one’s bad deeds and the good deeds on the other. If the good deeds outweigh the bad, you get to go to Heaven. If the bad outweighs the good, you go to Hell.

But God is so pure and holy that we can never stand before Him on Judgment Day in our own righteousness. “Therefore, you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”–Jesus, Matthew 5:48   God’s standard to get into HIS HOUSE is perfection.

“No one is good except God alone.”–Jesus, Mark 10:18

The people Jesus was harshest with, as reported in the New Testament Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), were the Pharisees, the religious leaders who thought they were good and didn’t need to listen to Jesus’ message or rebukes.  Jesus upset their spiritual apple cart by declaring that those persons that the Pharisees considered to be the most sinful members in their society would get into Heaven before they would.

“Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you.”–Matthew 21:31

Because the Pharisees believed they were good, they didn’t see a need to repent and accept the righteousness of Christ as their own.

Sadly, I know a lot of good people who refuse to believe they need to repent of their sins and accept Jesus’ death on the Cross as payment for their sin. They think they can stand before a perfect God and prove themselves holy by their own deeds.

Pride is the opposite of “poor in spirit.” I pray that pride is not keeping you from accepting that Jesus died for your sins.

***

I stand on the shoulders of giants. I’d like to give credit to my spiritual mentors:

Martin Luther,  Kay Arthur, Dr. Charles Stanley,  Pastor Chuck Smith, Pastor Chuck Swindoll, Pastor Bob George, Pastor Max Lucado, Pastor Ben David of Hope Fellowship and Dr. Michael Youseff