On Father’s day…a song…

Hope everyone has a great fathers day. This is one of best fathers day songs in my opinion.

 

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Your Help is Needed, America

“Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
–Proverbs 31:9

America is still the richest country in the world.  We can be thankful to God that He has blessed us with a country where most people have a place to live and food on their table.  Even during a recession, with an uncertain future, we are not doing nearly as bad as other countries.

In fact, according to an article from ABC News:

  • In 2005, the American government gave about 28 billion in foreign aid.
  • In the same year, private Americans gave about 33 billion to other countries.
  • Immigrants send about 62 billion to their families in other countries.
  • A few years ago, the American government pledged 900 million in Tsunami aid, while the American public gave 2 billion for the cause.

That is awesome, and no country comes close to us in giving to other countries.  The fact is that America is simply a generous country.  We can be very proud of that fact, except for one thing.

People are still suffering.

With all of the money that we send to other countries to help, there are still children in other countries who go to bed hungry, who don’t have the proper clothing, who are not getting the education they need.  The fact is that with all of the money we send, it simply is not enough.

It is easy for us to look at the statistics and say “we have done enough”.  But that is not what the Bible tells us to do as Christians.

“If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you.”
–Leviticus 25:35

Throughout the Bible, they are many examples of how we are to treat the poor.  The fact is that Jesus gave a commandment to love our neighbors as we love our God.  As such, it is our responsibility to not turn a blind eye to the poor and needy in this world.

Here are some of the statistics from Compassion International:

  • Children under age 18 make up nearly 48 percent of the population of the world’s least developed countries, compared with 21 percent of the population of the world’s industrialized nations.
  • More than 1.6 billion people lack access to electricity and modern forms of energy.
  • Over 1.4 billion people in the developing world live below the poverty line (U.S.$1.25 per day).
  • More than 9 million children under age 5 die each year. Two-thirds of these deaths — more than 6 million every year — are preventable.

The bottom line is that our help is still needed.  It does not matter that we already provide so much help.  As Christians, we are called by our Savior to provide help for our neighbors, and it is obvious that more is needed.

How many times do you go to a restaurant and spend at least $40 or more?  Do you know that $38 a month will feed, clothe and educate a poor child for a month?  Do you know how many children have been saved from poverty by Compassion International in countries like Brazil, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and others?  They are currently helping 1.2 million children, yet so many are still not being helped.  It is Americans like ourselves that can mean everything to one of these children.

When you sponsor a child through Compassion International, you are not just sending money to an charity.  The money you send is going directly to help a specific child.  Your contribution will clothe that child, it will feed that child, and it will educate that child.  They will teach the child about God.  You will have the opportunity to write the child and influence their life directly.  You can even visit the child if you choose.  You will have the opportunity to pull that child out of poverty, and give them a chance they would never have had otherwise.

Will you make a commitment today?

Click here to sponsor a child.

Finding Strength

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? [shall] tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
–Romans 8:35-39

Last week, I wrote a post where I talked about the economic situation in America.  I talked about how things are getting worse.  I offered a way through the mess, through our faith in God.  Today I want to talk more about adversity and hard times.  I hope that through this post, I can reach someone who may be going through tough times, and encourage them to keep their faith in our Savior.

Pastor Greg Laurie recently told a stadium full of worshipers in New Zealand that he simply does not know why God allows suffering.  I don’t know either.  I mean I have my opinions, and I am sure many Christians do as well.  But I truly believe there are questions we simply won’t be able to answer on earth. We will have the answers one day, when we get to Heaven.  Until then, we have to look at the Bible, and do the best we can in this fallen world.

I have had my hardships in life.  No, I have not been at war.  No, I have not been in real poverty.  But the word hardship is such a relative term.  What is a hardship for one man is nothing for someone else.  With that said, I can tell you that I have had times in my life where I simply did not know how I could go on.  I spent many nights awake, pondering how to move on with life.  Yet I have never walked in the shoes of a homeless person.  I have never lived the life of a political prisoner, or a child of war.  So I consider myself truly blessed, knowing that my life has been relatively good.

My wife and I recently started sponsoring a child in Brazil through Compassion International.  The program offers help to children in need around the world.  For $38, we provide food, shelter, and help with education for a girl named Livia.  I don’t mention this to boast, although we are very happy to be able to help her.  I mention it because this experience is serving to humble us, and help us recognize the hardships others endure in this world.

Livia lives near a city named Recife.  If you follow my blog, you may remember that I posted a story about Recife, and the garbage dump people there.  This is the story of the people who live off the scraps of food and items they pick up at the garbage dump in the city.  Livia lives in a small town near this city.  Compassion International is helping to keep Livia from this situation.  They not only provide food and shelter, they educate her and her family, and teach her about Jesus, encouraging her in her faith.  Thousands of children just like Livia have been helped by Compassion International and have been able to get out the slums and ghettos of these countries as a result.

The reason I mention Livia, is because there are so many children just like Livia around the world.  Yet here I sit, in an air conditioned room, sipping on a hot coffee, typing on my computer.  Yes I have suffered hard times, but Livia has nothing.  She lives in a shack with a dirt floor.  I live in a two bedroom villa, with a fully stocked refrigerator.  So I have been thinking about Livia lately.  How is she expected to survive her situation?  How can she persevere, so that she can grow up and get out of that situation?  How can we survive our situation, and get out of our hardships as well?

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
–Philipians 4:11-13

Paul writes in Romans that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Poverty will not do it.  Sickness can’t.  God loves us no matter what our situation is.  It does not matter if we make mistakes.  God knows we are fallen creatures.  He knows that no matter what hardships we suffer, that He has provided a way out, a way of escape. In the verses from Philipians above, we are told that through Christ, all things are possible.  No matter who we are, where we live, or what we have done, there is a God who loves us unconditionally.  We are special to Him, and through our faith in Him, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”
1 Peter 4:12-13

In this passage, we learn how we are to deal with adversity.  We are to rejoice.  Why?  Because by suffering, we come closer to our Savior.  Remember how our Messiah suffered on the cross? Remember how he was beaten and tortured?  He did that for us, to save us from our sins.  In suffering, we can remember our Lord, and what He endured on Earth, and we can know that our suffering, no matter how bad it may seem, is only temporary.

In my last post, and in many that I write, I make reference to us being spoiled in America.  I always try to make comparisons to others around the world, how much other people suffer compared to our relative prosperity in America.  I believe for most of us, it is a good comparison.  It helps us to realize that we have it pretty good in America compared to others around the world.

But the fact is, for the homeless, for those that have lost their jobs, for those who are suffering from illness, my comparisons do not make their situations any better.  I understand that.  No matter how much more someone else suffers, we are still burdened with our own suffering.  I have been there my friend, and I do understand.  But know that no matter what we suffer in our earthly lives, God is with us.  He is right there next to us.  As the passage from Romans says, nothing can separate us from His love, and our faith will be rewarded.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast..”
–1 Peter 5:10

Again, we will never truly understand in this life why God allows suffering.  But we do know – through His word – that He will stand with us while we do.  Our suffering will strength us, it will make us wiser, and it will draw us closer to our Savior, who suffered on the cross for our sins.  We can know that our trials and tribulations are temporary.

For Livia, and  for us, our faith will carry us through.

“I can’t stop the rain, From falling down on you again
I can’t stop the rain, But I will hold you ’til it goes away”
–When the Rain Comes, Third Day

What’s Happening To Us America?

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
–1 John 2:15-17

Things are not getting better folks.  I am sorry.  I wish that I could write a really great, positive message about how wonderful the economy is bouncing back.  I wish I could tell everyone that the light at the end of the tunnel is in sight, that the country will start to flourish and all of us will be back to work very soon.  But it just isn’t happening.

A CNBC article today announced that the Dow Jones Industrial Index was down considerably after the government reported that the recovery is stalling.  I am writing this in the middle of the day so it might bounce back.  However, the writing is on the wall.  Wall Street just does not have much confidence in our economy these days.  We have a housing market in collapse.  We have oil prices soaring due to crisis in the Middle East.  The Obama Administration announced they were releasing 30 million barrels of oil from our strategic reserve.

We hear it around us.  We see it in the news.  It is obvious to anyone who looks around.  Crime is increasing.  An article from a couple of years ago tells us what we know is true.  As economic problems increase, desperation sets in.  Some people turn to crime in search of staying afloat.  Others, taking advantage of the situation, use the economic down turn as an excuse to pursue illegal activity.  It then becomes a downward spiral, as the economy forces local governments to cut back, forcing police forces to work more with less, causing an even sharper increase in crime.

So why do I write such depressing words?

Am I trying to throw salt into an already gaping wound?

No.

But I am trying to offer a way to survive this mess.

Maybe, just maybe, money isn’t everything.  Maybe there is a way to survive without the constant pursuit of wealth and profit.

Maybe the answer is in a book.

“The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts.”
–Samuel 2:7

God has tried to tell us in many ways, through His word, how to humble ourselves and stay away from idolizing our possessions. For the most part – as a nation – we have not listened.  Life in our society is so much about what we own – the car we drive, the house we live in, the jewelry we wear.  We love our status symbols.  Yet what happens to us when those status symbols are gone? What happens when God allows those material things to disappear?  What are we really without the cars, the houses, the jewelry?

Sinners.

Imperfect, fallen creatures, now devoid of an identity because we chose to create an identity based on worldly possessions instead of based on the only thing that matters – God.  Yes this is a depressing post, but I feel it is an important one.

Think it about it for just a second.

The last time you were at the mall, didn’t you see plenty of people?  When you walk into many of the restaurants in your town, don’t you still see people there?  Yes we are in a recession, and things may be getting worse,  but if we need to keep things in perspective.  The United States is still the wealthiest country in the world.  Poverty in America means you still get a check from the government.  Most of the poor in our country still have a place to go for help. Contrast that with countries like Haiti.  Compare that with some of the poorer countries in Africa, where people literally starve to death.

Yet we are already seeing the panic in this country.  We see people in the news use expressions like “economic meltdown” and “economic depression”.  What will happen in this country if one day we truly see an economic collapse?  What will happen if the worse happens?

Maybe, just maybe – it is time for a change.

I am talking about real change here folks, not just lip service.  Maybe it is time to start realizing what is important.  God has a way of showing up in our lives whether we like it or not.  No I am not saying that God is causing the economic collapse.  I would never presume to know that.  But He sure is allowing it.  Is it possible He is doing it for a reason?  Is it possible it is a warning?

“There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
–1 Corinthians 10:13

God does not allow bad things to happen without cause.  What a temptation it can be to stray from His will in times like these, choosing to take matters into our own hands.  For some, the temptation is so great, the desperation so much, that they succumb to this fallen world, and do things they will regret. But He is faithful to us, and He loves us more than we know.  He allows us to suffer, but always offers a way out, a way of escape.

What could He possibly be telling us now?

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money”
–Matthew 6:24

I believe the Bible is clear as to how He wants us to deal with money and possessions.  We are not to serve them, but Him. The fact is that the cars we drive, the houses we live in, the jewels on our fingers and necks, the clothes on our backs – they are not ours, but His.  He owns everything.  We are simply stewards of those resources.  We can choose to manage them wisely, or He can simply take them away, to be managed by someone else.

Sometimes Christians in America like to think of our nation as such a great nation.  I think sometimes we tend to believe that God favors us, that he thinks of us as a great people, worthy of His praise.  But are we really?  Are we simply being foolish?  Is that God talking, or is it simply our pride?  Let’s remember that pride is the root of evil.  There are wonderful things to be very happy about in America.  There is no doubt about that.  But the day we consider ourselves to be so great that we don’t need a Savior,  may be the day He takes us down a notch or two.

Maybe it is already happening.

My hope is that as a nation, we find a way to humble ourselves.  America needs to spend more time on its knees in prayer than it spends bowing down to the almighty dollar. I hope that as a nation, we start to learn what is really important in life, and it isn’t accumulation of wealth.

It is about love.

It is about humility.

It is about faith.

But it all starts with God’s grace.

God Set Me Up

1978.

I am walking through the aisles at Kmart.  My grandparents are around somewhere, but I have wandered off, growing bored following them around.

There was a time I was deathly afraid of being alone in a store, but that was at least two years ago.  I am older now.  I am not afraid – sort of.

Hmmm….candy.

I don’t have any money.  In my family, kids don’t have money.  If we want something, we have to ask our parents or grandparents.  Then, if the stars and planets are aligned just right, they may buy what we want.  It is a pretty lousy system I think.  I mean they have tons of that stuff.  They are always buying stuff – clothes, books, magazines, food.  It kinda stinks that they are so stingy with it all the time.  It seems like every time I ask for something, I get the same answers.

“Money doesn’t grow on trees…”

“Well, if you are good this week…”

“As soon as you get your grades up…”

I would like to see their report card for a change.  Don’t they know how hard school is?  No of course they don’t.  They don’t go to school.  They go away in the morning, to some building they call “work”, then come home with a bunch of money they won’t share with me.  Again, a pretty lousy system.  I have been to that building Dad goes to a couple of times.  It didn’t seem like his job was all that hard – shuffling papers around from one place to another.  I mean, how hard is it really to do what he does all day?

I see all the cool candy now.  Maybe I will ask my grandmother to get me some candy.  She is usually pretty good about that stuff, except this week I  got into a fight with my brother so I am not sure.

Wait.

One of the bags is open.

Before I can think too hard about it, I am reaching for some of the candy in the open bag.  Tootsie Rolls are my favorite. I grab a few, sticking them in my pocket….

“Hey!  What are you doing?!”

I freeze.  The manager comes around the corner, and he catches me with Tootsie Rolls in hand.  How stupid could I be?

“They were…were… open…I just…”

I am shaking now as he approaches…

“Come with me!  Right now!”

I follow him as he approaches the front of the store, and leads me out of the store.  I tell him my grandparents are with me, and he tells me I can wait for them outside.  He tells me not to go back into the store.

I am terrified, shaking like a leaf.  I am a thief.  I am a criminal.  My short life of freedom is over.  Once my grandparents find out, they will tell my parents, and the whole city will find out.  Before you know it, I will be shamed.  They will affix a big “L” on my forehead that stands for “LOSER”.  I will never get a job.  This will definitely go on my permanent record, the one they talk about in school that determines everything.

I am doomed.

After a few minutes, my grandparents find me outside.  They were worried and were looking all over the store for me.  They ask me what I was doing outside.  During my long wait, I had devised a scheme, I had determined to tell them something other than what had really happened, in the hopes of salvaging my future hopes, my future dreams.

What did I tell them?

The truth.

I spilled my guts.  I started crying, telling them I saw the open bag of candy, and I just wanted to try them.  I told them I was sorry a million times.  I guess they saw my pitiful look and realized I had already punished myself enough.  They lectured me all they way home in the car, telling me how wrong it was to steal, the consequences if I did it again.  They told me that if I really wanted something, I should ask them and they would buy it if they could.  I did not go to jail that day.  As far as I know, nothing was entered into my permanent record at school or anywhere else.  I was able to land a job with no problem when the time came.

I am convinced the open candy was placed there on purpose.  It was a setup, placed there to lure unsuspecting children with low morals.  Or maybe it was just my rotten timing.  A few minutes earlier or later, and that manager would not have seen me. I am glad he caught me.  The embarrassment served as a lesson for me, one I carried for the rest of my childhood.  I won’t tell you that I was never tempted to shop lift again. Of course I was. But I always thought, in the back of my mind, that the manager was just around the corner.

I think it is interesting how moments like that can shape our lives.  Sometimes our entire future can be influenced by moments that seem so small.  I have come to believe that God chooses to make an impact in our lives in ways we simply don’t realize until much later.  How many times have we sat back and thought that God simply doesn’t answer our prayers, doesn’t show up, when in reality, He shows up in ways we simply miss?

I know God was there that day.  And I know He has been there in many ways throughout my life, slowly nudging me here or there.  Sometimes I have made the right decisions.  Sometimes, even though he has knocked on my door or tapped me on the shoulder, I have chosen to ignore it.  Such is the case with free will.  We have a choice in which direction we take with our lives, but God will be there for us regardless of our choices.  He loves us that much.

God set me up that day.

Has God ever set you up?

Thanks Dad!

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
–Proverbs 22:6

1978.

We had recently moved from New Jersey to Miami.  Our dad had bought a few chickens, and  was in the backyard, with a bunch of wood and other materials.

He calls out for me to come out.  He says he needs help.

“Son – come over here.  I need some help.”

He is standing there with a box of nails, hammer in hand.

“We are going to build a chicken coop.  Stand there and hold this box of nails.”

It is now three hours later, and I am still holding a box of nails while my dad is hammering away.  During those three hours, I have asked several questions about the chicken coop – how we were going to build it, where it was going to go in the back yard, which chickens would live there.  Yet during the entire three hours, I have done nothing but hold a box of nails. Suddenly I am not getting the whole “we” part of the equation.  Not feeling very helpful, and fidgeting about as frustration grows, I start to complain.

“Papi, I am not really helping here.  Can I go play?”

Dad is not pleased.  He gives me one of those looks that says I am venturing down the wrong path with my words or actions.  History tells me that this look is usually proceeded with consequences for continuing my bad behavior.

I stand quietly for the rest of the afternoon.

1982.

My grandfather has passed away, and we are at the funeral home.  My dad’s father was a very well loved man, and it is standing room only as we mourn his passing.  My father is a strong man.  I see him greeting people as they come in.  Many hug him, offering their condolences.  This is my first funeral, and it is confusing.  My grandfather helped raise me, and the loss is so hard to deal with for me, yet I see my father walking around like it is no big deal.  Sometimes I even see him smile and laugh with others as they engage in small talk.

Then it is time for the priest to say a few words.  I don’t remember what he said.  I just remember everyone standing around the coffin and praying.  My grandmother and aunt are crying now.  Then the coffin is closed, and my father finally breaks down.

“No!  I can’t do this!”

I see him run to another room, and we all look around at each other.  Before I realize what is happening, my brothers, my step mom, aunt, and a few others are in the other room, and we are huddled together around him, all sobbing and coming to grips with our loss.

It was the first time I can remember seeing my father cry.

2010

I am getting married.  This is my second chance at a covenant with God.  My first wife passed after a long bout with Diabetes and Kidney disease.  Throughout our battle with the disease, my dad was always there, offering whatever help he could.  But now, I had gotten a second chance at marriage with a wonderful woman.

My dad steps to the altar, and begins to read.  We had chosen John 3:1-17 for him to read.  I know that this is one of his favorite passages of the Bible.  Throughout the years, it had also become mine.  What a comfort it is to know that the man who led me to follow Christ many years ago, is present to remind me and those around us what being a Christian is all about.

The day I spent holding a box of nails was one of the most boring in my life.  I really did not understand what the point was.  What was this torture my father was putting me through?  What was the point of standing there with a bunch of nails?

There was a point.

He was teaching me obedience.  Through my obedience to my father, I was learning patience and humility.  I was learning that sometimes, we don’t have to understand they why’s of life, but that if we simply stand there and obey our father, we just may learn something, through patience, through listening, through observing.

The day of my grandfather’s funeral still plays out in my head.  We all miss him so much, even today.  He was such a great example for all of us.  That day at the funeral home, my father taught me more than he knows.  He taught me strength.   He taught me how to be strong in the face of trials and tribulations.  He taught me love.  His love for his father came through in a way no one could doubt.  It is the same love I hold for him as well.  Finally, I  learned how important family is, how valuable it is to have a family you can call upon at a moments notice.

The day I was married, I had both my mother and father present to view it.  How valuable it was to  be married in the presence of the two people who are responsible for making me who I am.  Hearing my dad recite the way to salvation confirms what Jesus was really about – love.  When I was young, I did not understand, so I put my trust in my earthly father.  His unconditional love for me guided me through a path in my life that led me to the unconditional love of my Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ. Throughout the years, when I have needed him, my Dad has been there.

No he is not perfect.   Part of growing up is coming to understand that our parents are human.  As we become adults, we learn to have adult relationships with our parents, and part of that change is understanding that our parents are sinners.  We all are.  Yet there is strength in that understanding.  When we realize that our parents are not perfect, we also realize that they too have gone through the same trials and tribulation that we may be facing.  It is that wisdom they have from experiencing life that continues to benefit us as we go through this life together, as brothers and sister in Christ.

Thanks Dad, and Happy Father’s Day!

Christian Words, Part Eight – Salvation

Salvation – a : deliverance from the power and effects of sin b : the agent or means that effects salvation c Christian Science : the realization of the supremacy of infinite Mind over all bringing with it the destruction of the illusion of sin, sickness, and death

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
–John 3:16-17

As we end our series on Christian words, we come to the point of the whole series. I am sure many of you realize that the word salvation was left for last on purpose. It’s really the whole point of the series. The passage above, the most quoted verses of the bible, are essentially what salvation is all about. Salvation is about our trust and faith in Jesus Christ. Of course while John 3:16 is well known by most of us, I always like to include the next verse, which explains to us why Jesus came. As Christians, we are to understand that Jesus did not come to condemn. He did not come to chastise us. He came to show us the way to Heaven. If we follow Him, we are assured of eternal life.

So how do we achieve salvation? Most Christians will agree that salvation is pretty straightforward. First, we recognize that Jesus Christ is our Savior, our Messiah, the Son part of the trinity. Jesus is God, in the form of the Son. Second, we recognize that we are sinners, in need of a Savior. Third, we confess our sins to God, asking for forgiveness. That’s it. That is what is involved in salvation. No, we don’t have to be perfect. Yes, we will fail from time to time. Jesus knows that. He knows everything we have done, and everything we will do. He loves us anyway and salvation is there for all of us. All we have to do is surrender, throw up the white flag, and let Him change our hearts.

So the rest of this post, I will list the words we have been discussing throughout this series, and how they relate to salvation.

Jesus

He is our savior. It is His gift of salvation that grants us eternal life. He came down to earth, led a sinless life, was crucified on a cross, rose on the third day, and sits in Heaven, waiting for us to accept His gift. His life and teachings in the bible show us how we should live our lives on earth. Following Jesus is our path to salvation.

Sin

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”
Romans 6:23

Sin entered the world through Adam and Eve in the Garden. God created us in His image, and gave us free will. We made the choice to eat from the tree of good and evil, and so evil entered the world. Sin separates us from God, and the wages of sin is death. Yet God our father loves us more than we can imagine. He cannot allows us to be condemned without giving us a way out of this condition. It is our recognition of the fact that we are sinners, imperfect and living within a fallen world, that allows us to accept the gift of salvation. Surrendering to God’s will is about recognizing that we cannot save ourselves. Our sin does not allow it. Only Jesus Christ our Messiah can save us from our sin.

Love

“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
–1 John 4:8

What is love?

God is love. Love started with God, and we can only love because God loved us first. God created this world for us. Look around you. Look at this incredible world around us. How can we look around at nature, watching how well the world works and provides for us, without knowing that God created it? If we recognize that this world was created for us, then we must acknowledge that God must have loved us so much to create a world like this for us to live in. It was this love from God that gives us a way to grow closer to Him. We do that through His son Jesus Christ. God loved us so much, He chose to allow His son to be crucified, knowing that this would give us a path to salvation, a way to eternal life.

Grace

“Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth, Would care to know my name
–Casting Crowns, Who Am I

An essential part of being saved is recognizing that God’s salvation is a gift. Who are we to deserve salvation? What have we done to earn it? Nothing. As sinners, our wage is death. It is not because of anything we do in this life that we are saved. There is nothing we can ever do to earn our way to Heaven. It is all about grace. God grants us eternal life as a gift, because of His great love for us. When we are saved, we do good things, not to be saved, but because we are saved. It is Jesus Christ dwelling within our hearts that changes us, allowing us to grow closer to Him.

Forgiveness

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you”
–Colossians 3:13

Once we accept that we are sinners, we realize that God loves us, and His loving grace gives us the gift of salvation. As sinners, we ask for His forgiveness. We know that we can never be perfect. While we ask for His forgiveness, we understand that we will fail again. We ask for Jesus to work on our hearts to make us better Christians. As a result, we are asked to do the same to others as was done for us. Just as Jesus forgave us, we are to forgive others. This forgiveness is as much for us as it is for others. Being more Christ-like means for us to love others as Christ loved us, which includes forgiving them.

Humility

“The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.”
–Proverbs 15:33

Accepting salvation from our God is in itself an act of humility. Pride is the root of evil and sin. When we accept the salvation we are given as a gift, we realize that we are not the center of the universe, God is. We must surrender control, and give God the control. We are no longer in charge. We humble ourselves, recognizing that we are but a spec of dust in this universe, with a blip of time at our disposal, and that God has complete control of that blip.

Faith


“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.“
–Galatians 2:16

It is only through our faith that we are saved. Faith is about trust. In the beginning, God gave us a beautiful garden, a utopia to live in. Because He gave us free will, and we chose to allow sin to enter the world, we put our trust in something other than God. Faith is about maintaining our trust in God, and God alone. In our society, we see so many people put their faith in earthly objects and desires, and the fact is that all of those things are fleeting. You can’t take it with you. Only our faith in God will grant us salvation. Nothing we do can earn salvation. Salvation is a gift from God, and our faith gets us there.

I hope you have enjoyed this series. I know that I have learned some things. In writing these series, I have had to read more about my faith. This thing called Christianity is a life long struggle, a life long study. Everyday I realize that the more I learn, the more I realize how much I do not know. However, as I study more, my faith is strengthened. As I learn more about Jesus, I grow closer to Him.

What was your opinion about this series?

Please let me know if there are other topics you would like to see on this blog.