Category: Salvation (Page 1 of 30)

Gain Perspective from the Past

It feels like we’re coming out of the pandemic. Slowly. Thankfully. In fits and starts. And I know your life has been impacted over the past twelve months. Some of us lost money and jobs, some of us lost senior years and graduations, some of us lost loved ones and buried them without funerals. Vacations were postponed, holidays were canceled. What was going well for you before the pandemic was probably disrupted and stressed. What wasn’t so great before the coronavirus probably got worse. We’ve all been affected differently by this thing, but we have ALL been affected.

As we begin the slow transition to whatever the future holds, we need to reflect on where we’ve been and where we are. We can’t really turn the page on something new, something post-pandemic, until we’ve taken a hard, honest look at what’s happened DURING the pandemic.

I would suggest using 2 Corinthians 1:9-10 as a backdrop for your prayers and reflections.

“This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he is delivering us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.”

Scripture gives us the proper perspective on difficulties and tough times. The Apostle Paul says these kinds of trials are to teach us not to rely on ourselves but on God. Placing you in a desert like this is how God shapes you. When you’re in a desert, you can’t survive without God’s intervention. If God doesn’t provide water, you die. If he doesn’t give you bread, you die. If God doesn’t provide shade or rescue, it’s over. You rely completely on God when you’re putting one foot in front of the other in a barren desert.

And that’s exactly where God shapes you. God trains you in the desert. He draws you closer and causes you to depend on him more.

Before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they spent 40 years in the desert. God gave them manna and quail from heaven and water from a rock. And it changed them into the people he wanted them to be.

David spent time in the desert running for his life, hiding in caves, barely staying half-a-step ahead of the enemies who wanted him dead. God protected him and provided for him in the oasis at En Gedi. And it changed him into the greatest king Israel’s ever known.

Elijah complained while he was in the desert. He spent his time griping to God. He couldn’t understand why the Lord would allow bad things to happen to him when he had been so good. But God sent an angel with food to Elijah and the Lord spoke to Elijah in a still, quiet voice. And it shaped him into God’s greatest prophet.

Our Lord Jesus was baptized and preparing to launch his salvation mission to the world when God’s Holy Spirit drove him into the desert. No food, no water; tempted and tortured by the devil for 40 days. Protected and provided for by God. That’s where the Father equipped him to do what God needed him to do.

I know this has been your experience, too. When your dad died. When you lost your job. God formed you during that time. You started reading the Bible more during the tough time and God spoke to you.

When you moved to a new town or when your last kid moved out of the house, God put the exact right people into your life and he changed you.

After the funeral, you immersed yourself in that service project, you started doing more for others. And God shaped you.

When you were in that horrible financial mess, when your marriage was threatened, when your child was diagnosed, you started spending more time in prayer, just you and God, and he convinced you of some things you never would have heard otherwise.

Gain perspective from the past. God has delivered you, he is delivering you, and he will continue to deliver you.

Peace,

Allan

Not a Potluck

I was raised on church potlucks. It feels like to me we had them all the time when I was kid – fifth Sundays, a couple of times during the summers, and almost any other time we could find an excuse to have one. I love the church potluck because it does so much to form us into a people of God.

Everybody brings a dish to the church potluck, one they prepared or at least paid for, and places it on a common table and everybody shares. You’re cooking for each other at the potluck, serving one another. Everyone’s eating the same meal together. There’s unity: Hey, we’re one big family! There’s hospitality: Hey, y’all come sit with us! There are kind words: Who made this? Lisa made this? Lisa, this is so good! There is common conversation, common laughing, common love at the church potluck. And seventeen kinds of banana pudding!

I regret that church potlucks are disappearing because they are the closest thing we have today to the Lord’s Supper the way our Lord Jesus instituted it during his ministry and the way the first Christians practiced it in the early church. The potluck is the best thing we have for experiencing and expressing the unity, community, sharing, and love that happens when we’re saved.

The good news is that we are all invited to eat and drink at the great feast in the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ invitation to his banquet table is for you and me and for everybody you know. The best news is that it’s not a potluck.

You don’t bring anything to the feast but yourself. God through Christ has paid the price for the great banquet. He alone has prepared the feast and provided the meal. Nothing we could possibly bring to the table would be less than an insult to our gracious and generous Father.

We try, though. We try to pay our way in or contribute somehow to our salvation. We show up with a little bowl of self righteousness. We bring a little platter of good works with a side of baptism. We bring a basket of Bible classes and mission trips.

No, no, no! Jesus Christ has become for us our righteousness, holiness, and redemption! The great feast in the Kingdom of God has been completely paid for by Jesus at the cross! The whole thing is a free gift of our God’s amazing love and grace. The invitation is not to bring anything. It’s to sit together at the table with Christ to experience and express the abundance of God’s rich blessings.

It’s a feast where all the walls are down and the guest list is unlimited. Where crippled people are walking and blind people can see. Where hungry people are eating and sinful people are completely forgiven. Where enemies are sharing lunch and swords are turned into spoons and forks. And all you need to do is simply show up.

Peace,

Allan

His Strategy is a Table

God does not hide from us. A lot of people think God won’t associate with sinners or with brokenness, that God separates himself from the fallen creation. But we know that’s not true.

God went out looking for Adam and Eve, right? Where are you? What’s going on? Our God is very interested in redeeming the world and restoring broken relationships. He goes to the lost and he finds them. He goes to the sick and he heals them. He goes to the broken and he fixes them. He goes to the sinners and takes all of their sin into himself and he forgives them. God’s mission is to do whatever it takes, everything it takes, for as long as it takes, so long as it takes him into closer relationship with you and me.

So he hangs out with us. He eats and drinks with us. He talks with us and shares himself with us around a table. That’s his strategy for expressing his acceptance of you and how you experience that relationship with him.

Jesus says, “I am bringing food that lasts for eternity. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, the one who believes in me will never be thirsty.” He calls himself the true bread from heaven and the bread of life. He tells his disciples, “I am giving you a Kingdom!” Why, Jesus? “So you may eat and drink with me at my table!”

The Pharisees didn’t like the people Jesus hung out with. So they called Jesus names. They called him a glutton and a drunk. They called him a friend of sinners. They didn’t eat and drink with tax collectors and “sinners,” they didn’t associate with the poor, the crippled, the lame, or the blind because they thought God doesn’t hang out with those kinds of people.

They had God wrong. We’ve had him wrong for a long time. Our God wants to be in relationship with everyone. He always has. Jesus didn’t come here to change God’s mind about us, he came here to change our minds about God. When our God has his way, he is sitting at a great feast, eating and drinking with all of us – the lame who are now walking, the blind who can now see, the poor who are eating now, the sick who are now completely healed, and all the sinners whose transgressions have all been totally forgiven forever.

That’s what happens at the table of our Lord. That’s his strategy.

Peace,

Allan

The Goal of Forgiveness

Your forgiveness is a redemptive gift of God’s limitless love and amazing grace for the purpose of relationship with God. That’s the goal of forgiveness: To remove what stands between you and God so you can be a member of God’s family and eat and drink with him at his table.

The woman in Luke 7 kind of barges into Simon’s house to eat and drink with Jesus, and Simon doesn’t think she belongs. But Jesus says, no, she does belong at the table with me because her sins have been forgiven. Jesus sees her as forgiven. He regards her as righteous. There’s nothing to judge here – no sin. Jesus sees this woman as pure and clean and whole. Jesus makes the point clear when he asks Simon, “Do you see this woman?”

Do you see her the way I see her? As forgiven. Do you see what I see?

Jesus tells Simon that he sees kindness in this woman. He sees a tender heart, he sees love. He sees generosity and service. He sees sorrow for sin and gratitude for forgiveness. He sees her faith. He sees her as a restored daughter of God.

Forgiveness restores the relationship and places you at the table with the Messiah and with all of God’s people right now today and forever. In Luke 13, Jesus heals a woman, he delivers her from a crippling disease, and calls her a daughter of Abraham who’s been freed from Satan. In Luke 19, Jesus yanks Zacchaeus out of the tree and forgives his sins so he can eat and drink with him in Zacchaeus’ house. Why? Jesus says because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. Forgiveness restores the relationship.

In Luke 15, Jesus gives us the story of the prodigal son to show us that God’s love and forgiveness can take care of every kind of sin and can restore every kind of broken relationship. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done, the Father says, “I’m not going to wait for you to pay your debt – you can’t! You’re not going to have to earn your way back into the family – I’m just going to take you back! I’m going to cover you completely with the glorious robes of my love and forgiveness!”

And the story ends with the forgiven son inside the Father’s house, at the Father’s table, eating and drinking to the sounds of music and dancing. Why? The Father says, “Because this son of mine was dead, but now he’s alive; he was lost, but now he is found.”

Sin destroys relationship with God. So God took care of it. God made his Son, who had no sin, to be sin for us. And our sin – this includes all of your sin – died with Jesus on the cross. So you are welcome to sit at Christ’s table with all of God’s people right now today and forever.

Peace,

Allan

House Call: Relationship

“Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” ~Luke 5:30

Jesus broke in to the tax collector’s world so he could eat and drink with Levi and his friends. This is God’s great goal through Christ: relationship with you expressed and experienced around a table. Eating and drinking with Jesus communicates relationship. Everybody around the same table, eating the same food, sharing the same drink; community and acceptance, nothing between us, no barriers or animosity. Perfect face-to-face, elbow-to-elbow, feet under the same table, please pass the mashed potatoes relationship. This is how our Lord communicates the new realities in the Kingdom of God.

It’s not that people are in two different categories so you’re either righteous or you’re a sinner, you’re either healthy or you’re sick. It’s that we are all sinners, we are all terminally ill and racing towards eternal death, but Christ Jesus has come to us and changed everything! Jesus totally blows up all our categories and classifications. His table is for everybody! The table says God’s mercy and forgiveness is alive and active, there is healing and celebrating, there is the creation of a brand new world, and all are invited to receive it.

If this is the mission of Jesus – and it is – then it is also the mission of Jesus’ Church. We initiate with others. We go to the sick and dying, we invite the lonely and lost, we go out and we bring in, we make room for others at the table.

Jesus went to Levi’s workplace, he went to Levi’s house. Jesus is always looking for lost people and, when he sees them, he runs to them. We’re not always like that. We typically run away from people who don’t have it all together like we do. We think it’s going to be too messy. They’re going to have issues. It’ll be awkward.

See, there are two strategies on sick people. The Pharisees say quarantine. Isolate. Keep them at a distance. But Jesus says herd immunity all the way! Everybody together around my table at the same time! In my grace! In my presence! That’s how we heal the sick!

There are lots of women and men out there who have negative feelings about Jesus. They’ve had bad experiences with the Church. They’ve been ignored or neglected, judged and condemned. But if we will show a steady, regular, consistent, and persistent expression of Christ’s love and grace and invitation to his table, or to yours, they will see Jesus. They will experience the Great Physician, the promised Messiah who came here to shoulder our sins and to die our death so we can be forgiven and saved and healed.

Peace,

Allan

House Call: Revelation

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” ~Luke 5:31

There is so much revealed about Jesus in the very short story of the great banquet at Levi’s house. Who Jesus is and what Jesus came here to do and why and how he came to do it is revealed in his answer to the Pharisees who are questioning the sort of company he keeps. He is a doctor who has come to heal the sick. Those are his words. It sounds kind of like a mission statement, doesn’t it? I am a doctor and I have come to heal the sick. Why?

Because he knows. Jesus knows the world is sick. He knows God’s creation is sick. Men and women and children are sick. Families are sick. Communities and cities are sick. People are hurting, people are suffering, people are in pain and dying. And Jesus says I am the doctor!

The old prophet Jeremiah uses this kind of language as he is proclaiming the miseries of God’s people:

“We had hoped for peace, but no good has come; for a time of healing, but there was only terror… My heart is faint within me. Listen to the cry of my people… My people are crushed, I am crushed. I mourn and horror grips me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?” ~Jeremiah 8:15-22

God’s people cry out, “Is there a doctor in the house?” And Jesus Christ, the holy Son of God answers, “I Am! It’s Me!”

I am bringing to you the new age of the Kingdom of God. I am bringing to you new power and new possibilities and new hope that’s never been there before. I’ve got complete forgiveness for you and full holiness and total righteousness. Everything that’s making you sick and tired and weak, everything that’s keeping you from being who and what God created you to be, everything that’s killing you – I’ve got the cure!

You know, a doctor like that – you probably can’t just show up to see him without an appointment. He’s probably booked for six or seven months or more. And a person like you – you probably couldn’t even get an appointment with a doctor like this. A doctor this good probably isn’t taking new patients.

Except, no! Praise God the Great Physician makes house calls! He comes to you and knocks on your door! He comes to you and it doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter where you are, he meets you right there. Jesus goes to the tax collector’s booth and then he shows up at the tax collector’s house, at his table!

In Revelation 3, Jesus says, “Here I am. I’m right here. I stand at the door and knock.” It’s a house call. Always. “I am standing right here and I’m knocking. And if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in. And I will eat and drink with you and you will eat and drink with me.”

Peace,

Allan

« Older posts