Tag Archive | meditation

Good People Go To Hell, Matthew 5:3

Buddy.guilt

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

 

Being Perfect: Matthew 5:49

Perfect.Buddy

To me my little Silky terrier, Buddy, is perfect because I love him. Is he really perfect? No. But when I look at him, I’m not thinking about the times he’s been a bad boy: I’m thinking about how fun he is and loyal and quirky. I’m not focusing on his bad traits (which are very few, of course).

Many Christians love Jesus with all their hearts but don’t really understand their salvation, so oftentimes they’ll preach the bad news to unbelievers. Yet, the Gospel is called “the Good News”. What makes it good, and not bad, news?

During the Sermon On The Mount, Jesus’ most famous sermon, He tells how to be a good person. It’s very convicting because no one can live up to it 24/7, no matter how hard a person tries and how sincerely. Yet Jesus proclaims during the sermon:

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”–Matthew 5:49

Perfect? God expects me to be perfect?

Often, in sincerity, Christians will proclaim that you must do good deeds and live up to God’s Laws to be pleasing to Him. Some even claim you can lose your salvation if you aren’t good enough. But Jesus said that God’s standard was “perfection”. James also proclaimed:

“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”–James 2:10

What James is saying: if you try to please God by attempting to live up to His standards, yet fail just once, you’re guilty. The law of good works condemns you to Hell.

So anyone who tells you that you can be good enough to be pleasing to God, just doesn’t have it quite right. Because it’s impossible to be perfect. God is so incomprehensibly far holier than we could ever imagine or hope to be in this lifetime.

But here’s the GOOD NEWS: “By grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one may boast.”–Apostle Paul, Ephesians 2:8-9

God declares you righteous by faith, not by your good deeds (works): not by being good enough or staying good enough. The truth is: You can NEVER be good enough in this lifetime.

It’s a GIFT: You don’t work to earn it. It’s an act of mercy by a loving, yet holy, God to bring you into a love relationship with Him.

The GOOD NEWS is that you’re saved by faith in Jesus Christ. What is that exactly? By believing that Jesus was God in the flesh, died on the Cross to take the penalty of God’s wrath for your sin, and that He was resurrected from the grave.

“My righteous one shall live by faith.”–Hebrews 10:38.

“And without faith it’s impossible to place Him…”–Hebrews 11:6

And, because it’s still impossible to be perfect after your salvation, you maintain your walk by faith (Galatians 3:1-3). You’re declared “not guilty” by the Great Judge because Jesus nailed your sin to His Cross (Colossians 2:14). If you come to faith in Jesus, on Judgment Day, you will “stand in the presence of His glory, blameless with great joy.”–Jude 24

When you believe in Jesus and become born-again (receive the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit), God looks down on you like I look at Buddy: with eyes of love and not condemnation.

“Therefore there is now no condemnation in Christ Jesus.”–Romans 8:1

“And their sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more.”–Hebrews 10:17

More later on the counterbalance: Actions have consequences.

Waiting: Psalm 27:13-14

herding

Buddy loves to herd me when he thinks I’m walking too slowly on our “walkies”. He’ll swing around behind me and begin bopping me in the back of my left leg with his nose, trying to get me to speed up. He’s impatient to move forward more quickly.

I’m the same way with God. I hate waiting, particularly a long time. I would like to move out of rain-soaked Seattle but events are just not coming together to make it happen, although I am eager to make a fresh start somewhere else where it’s not a major event when the sun comes out.

King David in Psalm 27 also voices his despair. He’s feeling depressed because he wants to be delivered from his enemies. He reminds himself that although the days seem dark, God will come through for him if he’s willing to wait and trust in God’s timing.

“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.”

David reminds himself to be patient, that God will eventually come through and bless him in this life. He strengthens himself emotionally by focusing on God’s faithfulness.

Sometimes we’re not supposed to wait, but pray and then step out in faith. At other times, it seems like our hopes keep being dashed and roadblocks tossed into our paths.

May you find your strength in the Lord’s promises in the Scriptures as you wait on Him.

Scripture verses are NASB

Greatest Faith: Luke 23:39-43

Sad.Buddy.wpI

It’s hard to believe that Buddy was abused for nearly three years before I adopted him from Silky Terrier Rescue. He was so afraid of me that he yanked and pulled at his leash, trying to get back to his foster mother (who is a responsible Silky Terrier breeder). I wondered what I had gotten myself into, he was so adamant about not going home with me. Then he kept running away the next week or so. Fortunately, I had a kitty collar on him with a bell, so I was able to locate him by the ringing when I couldn’t find him. I was so afraid he’d get hit by a car. (Fortunately, at that time we lived in a closed neighborhood which lessened the odds of getting hit, but didn’t eliminate it.)

Then, one day, it was like a lightbulb flipped on in his head, as if he was thinking, “Why am I running away? They love me. They give me good food and treats, bathe me, comb me, kiss and hug on me, and take me for rides and walks.” And he stopped trying to run off. Now, he greets me at the door with joyous adoration.

One of the people I admire the most in the Bible is one of the thieves on the cross next to Jesus. Of all the people in the New Testament, I believe he had the greatest faith.

If you don’t know the story, two thieves were crucified on either side of Jesus. On Jesus’ cross, Pilate had a placard nailed above His read which read, “King Of the Jews” to mock Jesus’ claim to be a King, only Jesus claimed to have a spiritual, not earthly kingdom.

“One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him (Jesus), saying ‘Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!’

But the other answered, and rebuking him, said, ‘Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’

And he was saying, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!’

And He (Jesus) said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.'”–Luke 23:39-43

Though the thief had no opportunity to do any good deeds nor be baptized, he recognized his sinfulness and God’s great mercy. He acknowledged he was a sinner deserving death for his evil deeds, repented of his sin by rebuking the other man for mocking God, and asked Christ to save him. This is why I so greatly admire this man. He was one of the few at the time who really got who Jesus was, the Christ–the sacrificial Lamb of God–who died to cover our sins.

The repentant thief is a great example of salvation. The perfect man, Christ, had to die to take our penalty for God’s wrath against our sin. God is just and must punish evil, and only the perfect God Man was holy enough to take that punishment so we don’t have to.

The thief understood that it was all about repenting and faith, not about working for God’s favor, but receiving God’s approval and gift of righteousness by His mercy alone.

“For by grace you have been saved thorough faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”–Ephesians 2:8-9

And this very kind and loving God, though in great torment, reached out to acknowledge the thief was forgiven and encouraged him to look forward to Paradise.

There were two thieves, however. The other continued in his disbelief. Which is really sad, because God’s grace would’ve covered him too–if he’d only believed in the Son of God.

Seeking the Lost: Luke 19:10

Buddyat River

I’ve many experiences with Buddy, my Silky terrier and best pal for almost six years, but I’d like to make another comment about his great escape.

After Buddy had climbed out of our backyard due to fear of fireworks, I spent hours searching for him, finally giving up at 12:30AM when I was too exhausted to keep looking. I tried to place him into God’s hands, but couldn’t sleep, as I was near the front door and was subconsciously listening for him to return and scratch at the door to ask to come in. The next morning I got up at four AM and spent an hour before work searching for him before driving to work.

I was not going to give up till Buddy was found.

Because I loved him.

Same as the Lord Jesus. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Because, for some unfathomable reason, this fabulously intelligent, powerful, wise and kind God loves us.

Fortunately, a dog-loving couple in another neighborhood across a fairly busy street had discovered Buddy in their backyard that evening and gave him a safe haven. A local dog rescue site on Facebook was able to connect me to them the following day. (Thank you, Facebook.)

Because Jesus loves us, He came down to seek us. He was not content to remain in Heaven and leave us wandering like lost sheep, because we are unable to find Him on our own. “All of us are like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.”  Isaiah 53:6b (NASB)

“So [Jesus] told them this parable, saying, “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing….I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:3-7 (NASB)

Indeed, I greatly rejoiced to see Buddy excitedly greet me at the front door after work. (My family had picked him up earlier that afternoon.)

Fortunately, God does not grow weary and stop looking. He’s waiting for you to open your heart to Him, if you haven’t started your journey with Him yet.

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Please forgive me if I haven’t followed you back yet, because I’m having trouble scrolling the stats page to read your link.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wayward Thoughts: Philippians 4:8

I KNOW I’m supposed to trust God and guard my thoughts. But Buddy had run off the night before and was still missing. I went to work to try to keep busy, to avoid fretting at home and thinking too much. I’d spent hours the night before and an hour before work looking for Buddy. My family was looking for him that morning and I’d put in word at the local QFC, coffee shop, gas station and Starbucks about Buddy. Neighbors were looking for Buddy. I’d posted on Facebook and had put together a game plan on calling all the local vets and the dog chip registry. I activated my prayer network. Even my pastor was praying.

I’d done all I could. So what was I doing?

Fretting!

I foolishly CHOSE to focus my thoughts on my friend who lived in an area similar to mine, suburban yet adjacent to a heavily wooded area. One morning he had opened the backdoor to let his cats into his home and found one hiding under a bush and another being munched on in the jaws of a coyote.

Buddy is only 20 pounds. There’s no way he could defend himself against a coyote, possum or raccoon. Maybe not even an angry rooster! And he was car stupid. I’ve seen squirrels in our neighborhood looking both ways before crossing the street. Not Buddy.

So, although I sensed the Holy Spirit within me was trying to calm me down and reassure me that all was OK, I insisted on picturing Buddy being munched on by a coyote.

Really being positive, wasn’t I?

We’re admonished in God’s Word: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”(NASB)

My thoughts already flunked the first command: I didn’t know the truth about Buddy’s status. And whether I was thinking positive thoughts, “Buddy was rescued and I’ll be reunited with him soon,” or “Buddy is terrified and being munched on,” it wouldn’t change the outcome.

Only whether I had a stomach ache and stressed out or not.

And, more later, Buddy is back with me, snuggled at the end of my bed at night where he belongs.

woods.wp7.8.16

Do Not Fear: Isaiah 41:10

Buddy is hiding in the bathtub because the neighborhood sounds like it’s under attack this Fourth of July. Some of the blasts have made me jump out of my chair. Buddy escaped our backyard and ran off Thursday night for the first time. I mobilized prayer support and a cousin I’d met this Winter reposted my Facebook notice that Buddy was missing to a neighborhood rescue site that I had never heard of before. Her skilled use of social media led us the following afternoon to the dog-loving couple who had found him in their backyard that night.

After an anxious night of nearly no sleep, I’m thankful Buddy was kept safe. It reminds me of Isaiah 41:10 (NASB version):

Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not look anxiously about you, for I am your God, I WILL strengthen you, I SURELY I WILL help you, SURELY I WILL uphold you with my righteous right hand.

If you are born-again, you can be assured that whatever situation you’re going through, God will help you through it. Sometimes Jesus delivers us, sometimes He strengthens us to get through it, and many times, He gives me an idea or wisdom on how to solve the dilemma. After twenty-six years of being a Christian, I’ve found He usually works through the natural world and processes.

But certainly HE DID keep Buddy safe when the SUV skidded to a stop to avoid hitting him Thursday night. I was too far away, walking down a nearby street, to get to that location before he’d run off someplace. To me, that was a miracle.

God bless you. This is my first post. I hope that I will be enable to encourage you to keep seeking the Lord and not lose heart. Life can be discouraging, I know.

Buddy.Hiding.In.Tub.7.4.16.resized