Tag Archives: Salvation

Getting them to the starting line

starting

Last night, I was humbled as I heard the voice of a six-year old little girl answer the calling in her heart to accept Christ as her savior.  My daughter asked a million questions over the last few months, and you could certainly see that she was dealing with the question of “what do I do with Jesus?”.  In a simple moment, she made a decision to ask Jesus to save her from her sins and live in her heart.  In that moment, my heart melted.  I silently prayed a prayer of thanks to God for giving her to me and for convicting me with my parental responsibility to tell her all about Him.  As someone living in the millennial age, my next duty was to share it on social media.  I don’t post a lot, but I felt like screaming from the mountaintops.  The “likes” and comments flowed in and I beamed as I went to bed.  When I woke up this morning, I went through my social media again, and a comment caught my eye and it spoke to me so profoundly.  It was a simple “my heart is happy for you” and then a follow-up comment.  “Now the hard work continues…to train her…”.  I kept reading that over and over and it reminded me of my importance in her life – in the life of all my kids.  My job isn’t over.  Yes, we were able to lead her to this point where she realized her need for a savior and where she made a decision for eternity, but that’s just the starting line.

The Bible is very clear on the responsibility of parents, and especially fathers.  One of my favorite movies is Courageous.  It has a very clear story of a father coming to grips with tragedy only to learn what his real responsibility is concerning raising his children.  At the end of the movie he gives a speech where he emphatically answers questions, about who will lead his family and help his children grow in their walk with Christ, with a resounding “I will”.  In God’s word, I am charged with discipling my children and helping them grow in their lifelong walk with Christ.  It doesn’t just end with getting her to this point where she has accepted Christ’s free gift of salvation.  It continues to help her see what that means and what that opens up.  It continues as she learns about giving all areas of her life to Christ and committing to serving Him with her whole heart in all that she does.  It continues as she learns to love everyone the way Christ loves her.  It continues as she silently learns how she’ll raise her own children, leading them to the Lord and walking this same path with them.  I am so grateful for that comment to remind me of my importance in my children’s lives.

I studied Ephesians 6:4 this morning and found great delight and humbleness as I was reminded of the responsibility God has given me.  “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  In this verse, God summarizes a lot of what he wants me to do as a father.  I am constantly butting heads with my 13-year-old because…well he knows everything.  I have always read this verse and thought, I need to be careful not to push his buttons so I don’t make him angry. That lasted all of about 10 seconds.  Reading that again today, and looking through the study notes in my Bible, I understand that it is not just keeping the peace, but being realistic.  I need to create a home where He can grow, learn, succeed and fail and it all be alright, because in the end, we love him unconditionally.  It should be that way with all our kids.  Ultimately, we want to model Christ, and there is no greater picture to model than what He did for all mankind on the cross.  My children will become angry when they get in trouble, but discipline is a key part of discipleship.  My job as a parent is to never stop learning and leaning on Christ and to be consistent as I model that behavior to my kids.  My expectations should be clear and based on my walk with Christ.  If I expect them to love the Lord, they have to see me loving the Lord as well – in all that I do.  I believe the best way to avoid provoking their anger and their resentment of Christ is to be consistent, forgiving and most of all in love with God.  The  last part of the verse is pretty easy to understand.  When I was a young child my parents told me about Christ.  They took me to church and they raised me on biblical standards.  That’s my job with my children.  I am called to impart on them the discipline and knowledge of the Lord so they will continue to honor Him as the generations before them have.  It’s getting harder and harder to see in our society, but that’s still the basic idea.  We are training the next generation so that people will continue to hear the good news of the gospel.

So, we are at the starting line and ready to run this race.  I am thankful that I know how the race will end, and I can already celebrate the victory.

Father, thank you for your son Jesus Christ.  Thank you for the perfect gift that satisfied my sin debt.  Thank you for extending that gift to my daughter.  I pray for your wisdom, strength, perseverance and courage to raise her to honor you, fear you, and most of all love you with all of her life.  Make me the man, husband, and father you want me to be for my family and all those in my life.  I pray for my daughter’s lifelong walk with you.  In Christ I pray – Amen.

Lay down my life – am I ready?

firefighterPray

I have read several posts from fellow firefighters over the last couple months about “laying down my life” and “being willing to give it all” for the sake of someone else.  This is a popular theme among first responders.  While it’s not in the fine print, it’s an underlying thought that we all know is there.  The more I read these memes and posts, the more God has laid a burden on my heart to share the truth that should be paramount in that decision to “lay it all down”.  Are we ready?  I’m not asking if we are ready to give our life as in, “will I consciously choose my brother, sister’s or patient’s well-being over mine?”  Honestly, no one knows that answer until it is asked of them.  But the question I am asking is – Are you ready for what happens after you make that choice?

There are no guarantees in life.  There is no way to know where we are on God’s timetable.  As an ordinary human being the Bible paints an urgent picture to be “right with God”.  To make a decision, while we still can, for Jesus Christ.  James 4:13-15 paints a solid picture about the brevity of life and the need to live on purpose.  Now listen, you who say, Today or tomorrow we will go to this city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say,”If it is the Lords’ will, we will live and do this or that.”  It doesn’t get much clearer than that.  We don’t know.  Life is short.  It really is.  While we can’t live just for today or tomorrow, we certainly can’t put off decisions and actions thinking there will be time later.

My post, today, is directed at those that I serve with in first responder world.  It’s open for anyone and everyone, but those men and women are on my heart today.  I challenge you this – are you ready for what happens after you so bravely lay down your life?  Have you made a decision to trust Jesus with your eternal life?  If you haven’t made the choice, or if you have no idea what I’m talking about, I challenge you today to read on.

We are not perfect.  God is.  We do not measure up to His standard – which is perfection.  We can’t be with Him because we are imperfect sinners.  For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10).  This is hard to digest, because we can’t imagine in our mind that laying down are life wouldn’t be enough.  Can’t we become righteous for paying the ultimate sacrifice?  According to God’s word, we can’t save enough people, we can’t give enough, we can’t do anything enough to become acceptable to God.

Where did sin come from?  Why was I born this way?  Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.  We are descendants of the first created being – Adam.  He sinned, and His perfection ended.  From that moment it was in his DNA and passed on to each generation.  The result of that sin is simple – death.  Adam and Eve were created to live forever, but God wants us to choose Him, so he gave them a choice.  Their choice had an outcome.  They chose to disobey God’s direction, and live for themselves, and their outcome was life that ultimately ends in death.  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life (Romans 6:23).  Don’t miss the last part.  God didn’t create us to kill us.  He created us to be with Him.  That was the original design and it was perfect.  God doesn’t throw away His design, so He made a way.  That gift was His way that we can be together when our time here is up.

God shows us His never-ending mercy and love by giving the ultimate gift – Jesus Christ.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Christ came to this world for one purpose: to save us.  As a first responder, maybe you can relate in some way to that.  Maybe that is exactly why you chose to serve – to save.

God demonstrated his love by giving us Jesus who would live the life we couldn’t and die the death we deserved to satisfy the penalty that is rightly ours.  To show that his payment was sufficient, God raised Jesus up, giving him victory over death.  He put one requirement out there to get this free gift – believe.  That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)  God requires that we put our trust in what Christ did as the payment necessary for our sin.  In accepting that He is the payment, we also must believe that God accepted that payment on our behalf.

Worried about your past?  Don’t be. This gift has no prerequisites.  There is nothing we can do other than believe.  For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Romans 10:13).  It’s out there for everyone.  We just have to accept it.

Remember, we don’t know when God will call our name and our life will be over – here.  We, as first responders, have signed up to help others at all costs, even death.  While you may, so bravely, hold that commitment in your heart, I beg you to do it with the assurance that you have trusted Christ as your savior.

Finding true happiness

happiness

This evening, our youth group, engaged in a series that helps examine “What makes us happy?”  It’s a Sean McDowell series aimed at helping teenagers understand the true source of happiness, and helping them explore examples of how we may lose sight of God’s truth as it relates to happiness and how we may let the world define it for us.  It’s been a great series, but tonight’s lesson really struck a chord within my heart.  We looked at how the world defines beauty, and how that standard is nearly impossible to fulfill.  Many of the stories and questions didn’t seem so difficult, but I’m not a 16 or 17 year old teenager struggling with “measuring up”.  It’s easy for an older adult to see how much of what this world throws at us is simple meaningless and non-defining.  As we broke into small groups for more in-depth discussion, we posed this question: “What qualities do you look for in a potential relationship…?”  The meat of that question forced the students to search their heart and mind and think about what they look for in a potential mate.  The easy “Sunday School” answer is to look for inner-beauty, character, etc.  We even acknowledged that we are created with a heart that is attracted to the opposite sex.  Most of the time the first thing we notice in someone is their appearance.  It’s biological and kept in the right perspective, biblical.  McDowell even mentioned it in his video monologue, Adam and Eve took the fruit from the forbidden tree, partly because it was pleasing to the eye.  The challenge in this question was to see if there was more depth than that.  The point was made that if the appearance was all you focused on and that’s what you “sold-out” for, then you were certainly setting yourself up for much disappointment.

What really jumped out and got me though, was the tiny bit of reflection that I had as it related to my own personal life, especially when I was a teenager.  My life was pretty simple.  I was well liked (mostly), not really “great” at anything, a typical kid.  I never really had serious dating relationships, pretty decent moral convictions and an idea that I didn’t need to rush anything.  Somewhere around my 17th or 18th year, all of that started to change.  I didn’t realize it then, but I was going through a bit of an identity crisis.  I was spreading my wings and trying out the world, and searching for “fulfillment.”  I was shallow – not in a way that comes across as superficial, or “better than thou”, but in the fact that I wasn’t rooted in anything too deep.  I went to church, but wasn’t “sold-out”.  I worked, but not really all that hard and diligently.  I was popular, but usually because I blended in with someone else.  Deep down I was searching.  I needed affirmation that I was of worth and value.  That came in the form of my first serious relationship.  It’s normal for young people to “fall in love” quickly, but usually when all the fluff is over and done, you fall back on your roots and self-identity and decide if it’s worth pursuing, or if it’s time to move on.  Not me.  I found a relationship that made me feel important and made me feel like I was “wanted”.  When the fluff blew over, I lunged to keep a hold of that feeling.  I had nothing to fall back on.  What happened was a commitment to do whatever I had to do to keep that feeling and that source of identity.  Ultimately that led to life-changing decisions, and later a failed marriage.

I shared this part of me tonight with the young men in my youth group to make this point and hopefully help them see the importance of digging deep and focusing your life on that which grounds you and gives you identity – in the way you were meant to have it.  My challenge to young people is to be certain you are building your life on the “rock” and not the “sand”.  I likened my life approach to tumbleweed that is completely at the mercy of every breath of wind.  I am reminded of a verse in Ephesians (4:14) “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming”.  Now, I am not accusing anyone of cunning deceit.  My failures were largely because I was a follower without any clue as to where I was headed.  That verse is speaking about spiritual maturity and it hit the nail on the head.  If we don’t develop a deep sense of identity in Christ, we will be blown here and there by whatever wind is moving at the moment.  I can share that my life for the past 10-15 years has been much deeper and rooted  in Christ than all the years before.  I still have such a long way to go, but there is a peace to know whom you belong to and to understand the source of a true and fulfilling happiness.

God, today, I thank you for your love and mercy. I thank you for the grace your salvation provides.  I praise you as the rock and true north in my life.  Thank you for providing that anchor for my heart, mind and spirit.  May I honor you with my life and may I always enjoy and accept the happiness, only found in you.  – Amen.

Stop Wandering, Turn North

wandering

I am 100% male.  I know this, because of the obvious, but also because I despise asking for directions.  I am a careful planner, and do my very best to be sure I don’t have ask for directions, but ultimately end up making a wrong turn here or there, and then the real struggle begins.  I first try to problem solve. While driving 75 mph, arguing with the mapping app on my phone, I end up driving further in the wrong direction, and when it’s a family trip, end up in a disagreement with my wife that adds to the list of things to do: be humble, say you’re sorry, and thank her for still loving you.

Life can be like this too.  I was working on a half-time devotion for the upward basketball games this weekend and came across one that I really found intriguing and it is where I focused my time in God’s word this morning.  Deuteronomy 2:3 says “You have been traveling around this mountain country long enough. Turn northward.” (ESV).  A little context.  The Israelite’s had been wandering around the desert for 40 years (and my wife thinks that extra 5 miles we drove, while I tried to figure it out, was a waste).  Now, God was directing them on the path that would lead them to the promised land.  His simple instructions, quit wandering around, turn northward were epic.  Simple, deliberate and I can almost imagine with a bit of sarcasm in his voice.  Are you done now?  You tried it your way, didn’t work out, ready to listen?  How many of us are wandering around our own desert trying to find the right path, or direction that will take us to our “promised land”?  How often does our wandering cover the same paths, time and time again?

This scripture stuck out to the original author of the devotion and I have to say, I agree.  God specifically pointed them northward…because that was the way he wanted them to go.  Now, remember I have ADD, so I heard north and immediately thought of a map…and maybe a squirrel and a tree, and…

But the word north, brought a picture of a map to mind, and on the map, north is…up.  Where is God?  We are told to look up to the heavens, to lift our voice up to our heavenly father.  So in essence northward may have been the direction of travel, but it was also invoked my natural instinct to think of looking up to follow God.  God is still speaking this same truth to us today.  To anyone that will listen, to anyone that cries out, where should I turn?  God speaks, through His word, and says, enough is enough. I will show you the right path towards where you should be, to what I have for you, and that path is always toward Him.

Human beings (especially males) are independent creatures. We don’t like to think we need help or assistance with anything.  That is what we teach our young men from day 1, be independent.  The truth is, we need someone to give us direction.  We need someone to guide us.  When we turn toward God, we find that someone, or better yet, we find that only one that can lead us in the right direction.  Our sinfulness is what keeps us wandering our own desert, turning down the wrong paths, and following the wrong directions.  When we turn toward God, we find our focus and direction and most importantly a life free from the guilt and dependence of sin.  John 14:6 is an often quoted verse of scripture, but it is so plain and clear.  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the father except through me.” (NIV)

Jesus went to the cross to bear the punishments for my sin, and all the sin of humanity.  He did it without any expectation of compensation from me or anyone else.  It was a free gift to an undeserving world.  It is through that free gift of grace that we are able to live the life God intended for us.  To follow the right path, in the right direction.

Friend, are you wandering today?  Are you tired of doing the same thing over and over again, with no sense of direction or purpose?  Do you find yourself on worn-out paths that keep your circling the mountain?  Well ENOUGH is ENOUGH.  Turn to Jesus today and follow his direction.

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Father God, today I thank you for the gift of your word, and for the gift of salvation through your son Jesus Christ.  I thank you that I am 100% yours, and that nothing can ever change that.  I thank you for the Holy Spirit that guides me everyday.  I pray that someone may read this devotion today and see their need for you.  I pray that you will help me depend on your word and your direction to lead my family and raise my children to understand their need for you.  Help us all to submit to your direction and plan, and give you all the glory forever.  In your name I pray, Amen.