Saturday, September 25, 1999

The Road to Salvation

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Salvation. Eternal life. Heaven. It's something that most people either think about, don't care about, are confident about, are confused about, or are concerned about. I've had many conversations with people over the years about the subject, and they generally fall into one of the above categories.

Most of my life, I've felt confident about my eternal future. I base that confidence on the very words of Christ and live by the verse, John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." I also fully acknowlege my sinfulness and realize that my salvation is not based on my own individual merit, but rather the perfect sacrifice of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The main reason my confidence is as strong as it is, is that through Christ, I believe I can be reconciled to a perfect God that detests sin. Knowing full well that I am a sinner (each week the list of sins only grows), I take joy in knowing that each of those sins; past, present, and future have been fully paid for by Christ.

Many people that have a lesser confidence in their eternal future usually either question the authority of the bible, the authority of Christ, struggle with what will happen to good people who do not believe in Christ, or refuse to believe that God could ever forgive them for what they've done in the past.

To those who question the authority of the bible, I challenge them to read it with an open mind. Most people who question the authenticity of the bible, have never even picked it up. To those who question the authority of Christ, I ask you to read about him and come to know him. No relationship can be built between two people (physical or spiritual) without knowledge and communication. To those who question what will happen to good people who do not believe in Christ, I have no easy answer. But the bible does state that "to whom much is given, much is required." I believe that people who had a conscious knowledge of Christ, yet openly rejected him, will be held more accountable than those who did not. Lastly, to those who believe that God could never forgive them, draw strength from the thief who repented in his last dying breath. He said to Jesus, "remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

Saturday, September 18, 1999

Forgiving Others

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32)

Forgiveness is not easy. It is a struggle to find it within my heart to forgive another person that has gone out of their way to hurt or harm me. But God commands it, so I try. If you read the bible, you can not escape the concept of forgiveness. Jesus lived a life of forgiving others. He directed us to "turn the other cheek" and not to live with an "eye for eye" mentality. He directed us to "love our enemies" and not just those that love us. In the Lord's prayer he instructed us to pray the following: "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us".

I like to think that I "turn the other cheek", "love my enemies", and "forgive those who trespass against me" but I don't. At least not in the way that Jesus did. If I was betrayed by my closest friends, rejected by my own people, beaten, ridiculed, mocked, and crucified, the last words I'd be saying in my last breath is "Father forgive them for they know not what they do!" My words would be a bit less loving I shudder to say.

For example, take my trip home from Chicago this past Friday night. It was a day after hurricane Floyd pummeled the east coast and I knew the plane back to Newark would be packed. I had a reserved window seat, and when I went to the agent she switched me from 5A to 4E. In my mind, this seemed like a vicious, cruel act on her part. How could she switch me from my beloved window seat to a dreaded middle seat (B & E seats are always in the middle)! I begged her to give me my reserved seat but she said the seat was already taken. Being the Christian man that I am, I kept my mouth shut and calmly walked away. But don't pat me on the back just yet. Under my breath I was cursing her up and down. I fumed for the next two hours awaiting the dreaded middle seat in a packed plane. As my row was called, I slowly approached the ramp in disgust, and boarded the plane. I glanced to my right and counted 4 first class rows. As I moved closer to row 4, I saw 4A, 4B, 4D, and 4E. There was no C. The agent had switched me to a first class seat - I was furious with her for the past hour when I should have been singing her praises!

I then stopped to think what Jesus would have done if he was in my position. It made me realize that not only do I not "turn my cheek" as He instructed, but there are times in my life when I'm the one throwing the first "punch".

Wednesday, September 8, 1999

Depression II: The Example of Job

Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him. (Job 13:15)

If you ever find yourself sad or depressed, open up the bible and read the book of Job. I know of no man or woman in recorded history that ever suffered as much as Job did. He literally lost everything he had (donkeys, sheep, camels, servants, children, house, his own flesh, and on and on). But through each test, Job never wavered in his faith in the Lord. He persisted despite protests from his family and friends; his wife even encouraged him to "Curse God and die!" Job's response to her is something I wish we all had the wisdom to say "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?"

We all will face tough times in our lives whether it be financial, physical, mental, or spiritual battles. The key to remember during these times is that we do not fight the battle alone. God is ever present (although we often forget) to answer our prayers. It might take years before we ever see an answer, as was the case in my life, but the Lord works in His own time, and does not work around our schedules!

Most people have heard of Job and all of his misery. But many do not know how the book of Job ends: "After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before...The Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters." I'm sure at the height of his struggles, Job never dreamed his life would turn around for the better. But he had the wisdom to know whom to trust and he reaped his reward.