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:

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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:

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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,