Tag Archives: Salvation

Water of Life

​Last year, the Atacama Desert, renowned as the driest place on earth, received an unusual amount of rain.  Seeds lying dormant in the sand for years suddenly sprang to life.  The empty landscape was transformed into a garden of astonishing beauty.

Viewed from God’s perspective, humankind is a dry desert, lacking the one essential ingredient for spiritual growth, His Holy Spirit.  But His plan, as announced through Isaiah would be to send “rain.”

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams. This one will say, ‘I am the Lord’s,’ another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and name himself by the name of Israel.”  (Isaiah 44:3 -5)

As promised by Jesus, on the day of Pentacost, those “rains” came.  They are still falling, and are available to any “dry and dormant seed” who will trust Jesus. 

Once upon a time there was a warehouse filled with cell phones that thought they were calculators.  Their manufacturer had designed them to be phones, but their SIM cards had been damaged.  They were dead but did not realize it.  They had battery power and several working apps so they thought they were “alive.”  One day the manufacturer sent someone to bring them to life.  He came with copies of his own perfect SIM card, offering to replace their damaged cards with his own. Most of the phones thought he was crazy and rejected the offer. But those who allowed him to make the exchange were astonished to discover all the new ways they could operate once they could receive a cell signal.  It was as though they came to life for the first time.

Once upon a time there was a planet filled with dead people who thought they were alive. Because their bodies worked and they could think, they assumed they were experiencing all that life had to offer.  One day, their Creator sent Someone to fix them and bring them to full and abundant life.  Here is what they wrote about Him:

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.  (John 1:4-5)

Jesus offered to connect them for the first time with the “Life” and “Light” of God’s Holy Spirit, bringing them to full and abundant life in a whole new way.  He would exchange what was damaged in them with His perfection, personally accepting the cost of their damage and allowing them to operate as their Manufacturer intended.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.  (John 1:9–13)


Hearing and Doing

Look for repeated words as you read the Bible.  Sometimes you will be rewarded with new insight  I learned that again as I read Jesus’ parable that begins in Luke 8:4 about the farmer who sowed seed. 

As Jesus explains the meaning of the parable, He uses the word, hear, repeatedly.  Those alongside the road who hear the Word of God have it snatched away by the devil and fail to believe.  Those who hear the Word and receive it in a superficial, emotional way soon fall away. Those who hear but are then consumed by riches and worries do not produce any fruit from it.  But those who hear with a good heart and hold it fast keep on bearing good fruit.

But wait; there’s more!  In what seems like an abrupt change of subject, Jesus talks about the futility of covering a lamp so it cannot be seen.  And then he says this:

Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”   (Luke 8:18)

Hmmm….   And then Jesus’ mother and brothers show up but can’t get to Him.  When Jesus hears about it, He says this:

“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”  (Luke 8:21)

If you read through that whole section from verse 4 you will see several more times in which the word “hear” or “listen” (same original word) is used.  Apparently, it is all connected by what it means to truly “hear.” Hearing the Word of God makes no difference except for those who understand it, put it into practice, and spread it around.

Running the Rapids with Jesus

Before you even get in the raft, the white water guide begins to establish his or her authority and control.  In the early stages of the float trip they work hard to make sure everyone knows what to do, practicing the commands over and over.  “Back-paddle!”  “Right turn!”  “Let’s do it again!”  Why?  White water!  There’s rapids downstream and, when they get to them, it’s too late to begin figuring out what to do.  The idea is for everyone to be alert, trained and ready to respond quickly, without panic.  Even if the raft seems about to flip.

Jesus told the folks in His raft they would eventually confront dangerous rapids.  When they asked how they could know the end of the age was approaching, He didn’t mince words.  Instead, He prepared them (and us).   You can read what He told them in the 24th Chapter of Matthew, but here are some excepts of what He said:

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you.  For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.

In other words, “When things get dicey, make sure you listen to my commands and not anyone else.”

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 

In other words, “When you hear the roar of the rapids, don’t freak out;  I have told you this trip winds up in white water so keep your heads.”

“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.   –  (Matthew 24:4–13 Excerpts – NIV84)

In other words, “Don’t be surprised at how violent the rapids will seem.  You may even get tossed out of the raft.  But remember to trust me.  Do what I say and you will come through just fine.”

Human history is filled with failed attempts to make our world better as we strive for utopia.  People even held the hope that World War I would serve to end all future wars.  No matter how or what we try, we have not succeeded in eradicating evil.  As we see the rise of ISIS, Russia’s alliances with wicked dictators and nations who pledge the destruction of Israel, it might seem discouraging and frightening.

But these kinds of events have been foretold in Scripture.  Jesus never whitewashed the truth: wickedness will increase as the age continues toward the end.  But He also said,  “see to it you are not alarmed.”  And, “don’t listen to others who will lead you astray.”  And, “stand firm in your faith and you will be saved.”

Where’s the Path?

It’s a hollow, panicky feeling when you are in the back country, hiking along and suddenly realize you are not on the trail.  You look around, trying to spot the path, unsure of where you lost it.  You start backtracking, bushwhacking and stumbling, until at last you see it.  Once you are back on the trail, the hike is so much easier, and it reliably leads to the place you are trying to get to.   Lose the path and you are on your own.

David was a shepherd and spent a lot of time in the back country.  He knew about paths.  As he became more acquainted with God, he realized the truth about paths was also true with God’s paths.  He wrote:

Show me your ways, O LORD,
teach me your paths;
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.  –  (Ps 25:4–5)

If you follow God’s paths, the journey is easier and reliably gets you where you want to go.  Leave the path and you are on your own.  It’s true for individuals and it is true for whole nations.  The nation of Israel had to learn that lesson repeatedly.  They would leave the path, fall into ruin, go back and find the path, recover, and then quickly forget.  The cycle would begin again.  I am convinced we in the US are in the process of learning this same lesson.

Quotes: The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). . Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Dealing with the Truth

How do you respond to criticism?  My first reaction isn’t constructive, I must confess.  I want to argue or fight back.  But after letting my negativity subside, I’ve discovered it often helps to ask pertinent questions, to let the truth soak in deeper and have its way with me.

If you haven’t already listened to the short audio messages I posted earlier in the week, here are the links again.  They are about how Jesus used parables to sneak past our defenses with  tough truth:


To let this parable have its way with you, here are some of the kinds of questions you might  ask:

  • In what sense is teaching from God like a seed?
  • What influences in our world tend to make our “soil” hard, so that His truth bounces off?
  • What is the danger of religion that focuses mostly on drumming up emotional fervor?
  • How much hard work does a seed expend in order to be fruitful?
  • If none, then what does it do?  How is the fruit produced?
  • How are your eyes and ears; do you have defenses to shield you from God’s dangerous truth?
  • If so, what will you do about those defenses?

Listen at Your Own Risk

When Jesus told a parable, it was a time-release gotcha, His version of a Trojan Horse.  He’d light the fuse on what looked like a nice little story and slide it right past the people’s defenses.  Too late, they’d realize His stories were aimed at them, at their bone-headed stupidity or wickedness.

As an experiment, this week I’ve edited an audio message about one of His parables into five chunks, each about 5 minutes long or so, thinking you might spread them out and listen to them during the week. You will discover His seemingly harmless story springs its trap just as effectively today as it did when He first told it.  So, you have been warned: Listen at your own risk.  Here they are the audio links.  Take your time and work your way through these chunks in order:


If  you are willing, let me know how you respond to blog messages in audio form.  They are more work on this end, but worth it to me, if they work for you,


Chick-fil-A was almost denied the right to sell their sandwiches at Denver’s Airport because their President said he believed in the Biblical definition of marriage.  Members of the city council objected to that.  It looks as though they will back down, but the situation is not new.  It is nearly 2000 years old.  The city council in Jerusalem during the earliest days of the church tried to shut them down, too – not what they were doing, but what they were saying.  During the first few weeks of the church, they caused quite a public commotion.  Much of it had to do with miraculous healings the Lord accomplished through them.  A lot of it had to do with some of their amazing acts of generosity to the poor.  Great mobs of people came to see and hear what would happen next.  And the city council (known as the Sanhedrin, led by the High Priest) was not happy about it.  After one public healing, they arrested the church leaders (the Apostles).


“What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it.  But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.  –  Acts 4:16–17 (NIV84)

Next time they arrested the Apostles, they said:

“We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” Acts 5:28a (NIV84)

They didn’t tell them to stop doing the healings or taking care of the poor; they told them to stop saying, “Jesus!”  The same struggle goes on today.  Christians are not told to shut down their hospitals, soup kitchens, or disaster relief ministries.  They are told to shut up about Jesus.

Years ago, the churches in my town came together to cooperate in an outreach to the poor and homeless.  The community at large quickly relied upon the organization they formed to address the problems of that growing population.  Soon the city council voted to support the work financially.  Things changed.  Today, that agency, still named for its “united outreach” has a policy that forbids its volunteers and workers from mentioning Jesus.

You can pretty much do whatever you want in the Name of Jesus, as long as you don’t tell people about Jesus.  Maybe you’ve seen this at work.  Navy Chaplain, Wes Modder, experienced it when he was forbidden to minister or even talk to his unit according to his Christian beliefs.

God arranged a jailbreak for the Apostles, not so they could make a clean getaway, but so they go back and tell people about Jesus.

 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.”  –  Acts 5:20 (NIV84)

The “full message of this new life” is this: new, eternal life is given freely to anyone who comes to believe that Jesus is God and Savior.

Jesus said,  “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.  –  John 5:24 (NIV84)

Pass it on.  Don’t forget to say, “Jesus!”

Necessary Power

Do you know why they yell, “Clear!” when they apply paddles to get someone’s heart going?  It is because the tremendous power needed would be dangerous if you were touching the body.  If that’s the kind of power necessary to restart a heart, how much power would be needed to bring a dead body back to life, one that had been dead for days?  We humans have never harnessed that kind of power.  We know how much power it takes to kill a person, but not to resurrect.  That power belongs to God alone.

And yet, that power is offered to everyone who will trust Jesus.  God applies His power that we might be:

“… raised with him [Jesus] through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12b- with my added explanation)

I pulled out that half-sentence from a lengthy and somewhat confusing description of what happens to those who trust Jesus for salvation, to highlight the power of God, necessary to bring dead people back to life.  Without that power applied, we all are dead.  We feel alive because our hearts are beating, but it takes much more to be fully alive.  We say someone whose heart beats but who has no brain activity is “brain dead.”  God considers us dead if our hearts and brains function but we do not have His Spirit living in our souls.  Without His living Spirit, we are missing the essential ingredient for the full life God intended when He designed and created us.  We humans lost that Spirit, that Eternal Life, when we rejected God and embraced sin.

By His power, God offers to restore us to full life.  This can only happen to those whose sin has been completely paid for and forgiven.  Because sin caused our spiritual death, the just penalty for sin is physical death and separation from God, a price we cannot pay.  But Jesus willingly paid the full price on our behalf, with His life.  God, by His great power raised Him back to life.  If you accept this payment for your sins and trust the One Who paid it, then you, too, are raised to life by God’s power.

“When you were dead in your sins … God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,” (Colossians 2:13 excerpt)



Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

When the If Isn’t Iffy

When you fly standby, they tell you, “If we can find you a seat, we will call your name.”  When they call your name, you ask, “Did I get on?”  And they tell you, “If we called your name, you have a seat on this flight.”  Those two “if’s” mean different things.  The first “if” is iffy.  The second one is not.  The first “if” means “maybe, maybe not.” The second “if” means “since.”   Like when someone says, “If the sun comes up tomorrow… ”  It means, “of course this is certain to happen.”

Why the grammar lesson?  Because maybe you get freaked out when you see the word, “if,” in the Bible.  We’ve been talking about how wonderful it is to be reconciled and be transformed from an enemy of God into someone who is considered by God to be absolutely innocent (See: No Halfway Measure).  But the next line says “if,” and it sounds like there’s a catch.  It says, these wonderful things are yours:

“…if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” (Colossians 1:23a)

Sounds like those you don’t get to keep the the wonderful things “if” you screw up and wander away from the faith.  But that’s not the right “if.” This “if” means “since you will certainly” continue in your faith.  This “if” isn’t “iffy.”

How do we know?  Well, the folks that read this in Greek could tell just by looking at it, because “if” is spelled differently if it’s iffy.  But without knowing Greek, we know because the next word is established.”  Established means permanently anchored on a strong foundation.  It’s not something you have to do for yourself everyday.  It is something that has been done for you, once, in the past and is your secure condition forever.

If you get accepted for standby and board, you don’t have to worry about doing anything else to make it to your destination.  (That is, assuming the plane makes it, for the purpose of this illustration…)  People on airliners don’t have to be careful so they won’t fall out.  “If” they are on, they are going to get there.  Same thing for the reconciled.  Once you trust Jesus and are reconciled, you are established, firm and will not be moved from your confidence in the promises of eternity.  You may wonder from time to time, when (if I can club the airliner illustration to death) you encounter some nasty turbulence in life.  But you will discover, in the process, that what Jesus has done for you, He did permanently in you.

That’s why they call it “Good News.”  Because the “if” isn’t “iffy.”

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.