Friday, March 27, 2020

What is the Goal of Salvation?

What is the goal of salvation?

I believe that the message of the Gospel has been watered down to the point that many Christians have missed purpose of salvation. We assume that salvation is about “saving us from sin” and “going to heaven” when we die.

What if I told you there is more?

If the Gospel is just about having our ticket punched for heaven, then there is little motivation to have a transformed life now. The great transformation will happen when Jesus returns and we go to heaven.

But that is not the hope of the Gospel.

The hope of the Gospel is for transformation to happen right now. For God’s Kingdom to come and His will be done here on earth, today, just as it is done in heaven. The part of this great transformation that we have control over is the change that takes place in our lives.

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! 
24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.26 Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.  (Galatians 5:22-26; NLT)

The way transformation happens in our lives is when we follow the Holy Spirit’s leading and allow him to bring healing to our hearts.

We are to be living with love, joy, peace, patience, and the rest of these qualities today. This is not a description of what our lives are to look like in the future, but what they are supposed to be like right now.

The bad news in this message is that you and I are unable to bring about the transformation of our lives on our own. Our addictions and our habits and our culture are too strong.

The good news of this message is that the Holy Spirit is our divine helper in this task. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to bring change to our lives.

The goal of salvation is wholeness and holiness. With the help of the Holy Spirit this can happen.

The Fruit of the Spirit is nothing less than a description of a life that has been made whole and holy. It is the type of life that you and I were created to live.

Take 3 minutes and listen to what John Eldredge has to say about wholeness and holiness.


As we experience wholeness and live in holiness the world around us begins to be transformed.

That is why this message is important. Followers of Jesus are not to sit back and patiently wait for his return. We are to pursue the transformation of the world by being transformed.

By pursuing transformation we will experience purpose and contentment. These two realities will bring a welcomed relief to our lives.

Instead of trying to create life by our own power we will be living the life that God created us to live.

That is a very hopeful thought.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

5 Practical Ways to Contribute to the Great Commission

Our calling to follow Jesus is not just a call to salvation, but also a call to join God in His great
redemptive work.

Peter and Andrew heard this call:

Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” (Matthew 4:19; NLT)

To one degree or another each Christian receives a similar call. This calling for all the disciples of Jesus is found in Matthew 28:18-20, the passage of Scripture we often call the Great Commission.

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (NLT)

The question that many of us who follow Jesus ask is: “What is my responsibility in carrying out the Great Commission?”

Here are 5 practical ways we can participate in carrying out the Great Commission:

  1. We love one another. “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:35; NLT) According to Jesus, the way we treat and serve other Christians, shows the world what it means to follow him. Most people are practical, and what they are looking for is whether or not something works. Our love for each other shows people that following Jesus is better than living in the hostility and rejection of the world. 
  2. We pray. And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike. (Ephesians 6:19, NLT) The apostle Paul asked for prayers to speak boldly about the Gospel. We may not have the talents and opportunities to always share the Gospel with people, but we can pray for people who do. This is one of the ways we  join with each other in making disciples of the nations.
  3. We use Scripture. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. (2 Timothy 3:16; NLT) The Bible is one of the ways God has equipped us to carry out the Great Commission. It isn’t up to us to convince people of the truth of the Gospel. The combination of Scripture and the Holy Spirit will convict people of the truth, our responsibility is to share Scripture with people. In our sharing we must do it correctly. Throwing out verses and constantly shoving the Bible into the face of people is not an effective way of sharing Scripture. Learning to share Scripture with grace and gentleness is important.
  4. We live faithfully. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. (1 Peter 3:15; NLT) Peter wrote that by living a faithful life, a life that recognizes Jesus as Lord, we demonstrate hope in all circumstances. This hope will mark our lives as different and will cause people to ask about the source of our hope. When people ask about our hope we are given the opportunity to tell them about Jesus. Do not under estimate the power of a faithful  life.
  5. We use our gifts. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. (1 Peter 4:10; NLT) Another way God has equipped us to participate in the task of making disciples of all nations is to bless us with certain talents and resources. These blessings are unique to us and can be used to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus. Be a good steward of God’s blessings by blessing other people.

The Great Commission is a task that is bigger than any one person, but it is something that each one of us can contribute to doing.

You are an important part of the work God is doing in the world. Find a way you can contribute and do it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

6 Scriptures to Guide Your Life

I was recently asked to think about the Scriptures I use to make decisions.

When I am uncertain about the next step to take what passage do I turn to for help?

The following 6 passages are key verses that I return to time and time again. Ephesians 5:15-16 is what I consider to be my life verse and has influenced me in my decision making many times.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I would bet that your list is completely different from mine.

That is okay.

This reality  is a reminder of how God works with us as individual people. God uses different Scripture passages to speak to our hearts. The key is to identify those passages that are meaningful to us and use them to build a solid foundation for our lives.


Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Don't Give Away Your Heart


{1 Kings 18:36-37; ESV}
And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”


It is easy to give our hearts away.

Many of us do it without thinking. It is part of our culture.

We are encouraged to give our hearts away to all sorts of things.

This reality is seen in the die hard Denver Bronco fan who says, “I bleed orange and blue.”

It is seen in devoted fisherman who wears the shirt, “Fishing is life, the rest is just details.”

It is seen in the patriotic veteran who declares, “I regret that I only have one life to give to my country.”

It is seen in the love struck young man who tells the girl of his dreams, “I give you my heart.”

None of these things are necessarily bad.

The problem is that each one has the potential to become the most important thing in our lives.

Idols are often good things that we have given our hearts to.

I know we don’t often think that we have an idol problem. We don’t have statutes of wood, silver, or even gold that we bow down to and worship. Christians living in the West believe they are much too sophisticated to do something so silly.

It is easy for us to talk about how foolish these ancient Israelites were to give their hearts to idols. We see ourselves as much smarter. After all, we would never worship something that we had created with our own two hands. Our education has taught us that these things have no power.

In spite of this reality,  if we would take a little time to examine our hearts, we would discover that we are not very different than this ancient people. We too worship equally worthless things.

Part of the Gospel is the declaration that even though we have given our hearts to inferior things,  God still loves us and longs for us to return to Him.

In 1 Kings we are told that Elijah proclaimed to the crowd that God was the One turning their hearts back to Him.

He was the One calling people to Himself.

They weren’t looking for God.

They weren’t loving God.

But God was calling to them!

God continues to call to us. He still desires that we give Him our hearts.

We have guilt because of our sin. God is calling to us to return to Him.

We are discontent with life. God is calling to us to follow Him.

We experience constant pain. God is calling to us to find hope in Him.

We believe we are worthless. God is calling to us to discover our purpose in Him.

No matter who we are, no matter where we have gone, and no matter what we have done, God loves us. He wants our hearts!

God uses the guilt, discontentment, pain, and worthlessness to get our attention. He wants us to see how fake our idols are and the great love He has for us.

Think about the events surrounding Elijah’s challenge to the prophets of Baal. For three years it hadn’t rained in Israel. This was the mother of all droughts.

Don’t you think that many people in Israel experienced pain because of these circumstances?

Hunger and thirst couldn’t ever be quenched because there just wasn’t enough food and water.

It took these difficult circumstances for the people to begin to question the power of Baal and Asherah and to seek the powerful God of their ancestors.

God had to tear down their delusions before they would be ready to love Him.

When it was all said and done and the divine fire had consumed the sacrifice that Elijah had presented, God ordered the death of the false prophets of Baal. These men had to be destroyed if Israel was going to have a hope of being free.

This is where many of us are weak.

We have heard God’s call and realize the powerlessness of the “idols” in our lives.

The problem is that we are not willing to do whatever it takes to eradicate them from our hearts. We allow them to continue to live there. This enables them to continue to plague us and prevent us from truly giving God our hearts.

In order to be free we must carry out the death sentence of our idols. God will not exterminate them for us.

God desires for us to be part of His family and He is calling us to join Him.

We have to make a choice: we are going to give our hearts to God or  are we going to continue to serve our little puny idols?

Even today we must answer the call Elijah gave to Israel:  “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”  (1 Kings 18:21; ESV)

Who are you going to follow?

Monday, March 23, 2020

3 Actions for Making Wise Decisions

I believe that our lives are the product of the choices that we make.

 There are big choices which will affect the rest of our lives, and there are small everyday choices which set the direction of our lives each day. The big choices, like whether or not to marry, get much of the attention. However, it is often the culmination of all the various small choices that truly plot the direction of our lives.

 Since all choices are important it is essential that we have the proper foundation for making good choices. We discover this foundation in the Bible.
 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” 
Matthew 7:24-27; NLT 

According to Jesus the foundation for being wise is Scripture. Remember the entire Bible contains the words of Jesus. The wisdom we need to make good choices comes from the Bible.

 This leads us to ask an important question: How do we go about laying a foundation of Scripture to build on choices on? 

 Looking at this parable Jesus taught we find three actions we must do in order to lay Scripture as the foundation of our decision making.


  1.  We must LISTEN to Jesus. Listening implies an active intent on part of the listener. A hearer is passive. If we have healthy functioning ears then we hear the various sounds of life. Listening, on the other hand, requires us to focus, tuning out the other sounds, in order to hear what is important. It isn’t enough just read the Bible. We must come to the Bible with the desire to understand what God wants us to know, and how that word applies to our lives. 
  2. We must BELIEVE Jesus. We can listen to what Jesus has to say, but if we don’t believe him then we will not apply his teaching to our lives. Belief in Jesus is what separates the foolish from the wise. The foolish will listen to Jesus, but because they do not believe who he is or what he says, they will not allow his words to affect their lives. The wise believe Jesus is the Son of God and the result is that they trust what he says. The choices they make are a result of this trust. 
  3. We must CHANGE the way we live. This action step is the extension of believing Jesus. You have to first believe before you can change. Change is the application of belief. The action of change shouts to the world that we trust Jesus. Trusting Jesus means we will adjust our lives to his word. We will align our lives with his will, even when the choice means we will live in away that is opposite of the world around us. Jesus said the fool listens, but does not change his life. In contrast the wise listens and obeys. 


Every single day we are faced with choices. Many times we do not have the time we would like to consider all the options. In this fast paced world how do we lay a solid foundation that will help us make wise decisions?

We build our lives on the word of God, committed to listening to Jesus, believing Jesus, and changing our lives.

 Without this solid foundation we will be at the mercy of the changing winds of this world. With the solid foundation of God’s Word we are able to stand against whatever storms come our way.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Set Your Mind

We live in an information age.

The amount of information that is available at our finger tips through the internet is amazing. There is no library in the ancient world that can rival what is available online.

I am sure that our ancestors would be jealous of the tools and the information we have at our disposal. Many of them had access to only a few books, which they read dozens of times.

The problem we have with this constant access to information is that it can give us information overload. Much of the time it is hard to discern what information we should pay attention to and what information we should ignore.

Our constant online connection is like having a buffet available for every meal. Sure there is good stuff there, but it is easy to binge on that junk that seems tasty.

In other words, because of social media and entertainment outlets, our information consumption tends toward the junk food side of the buffet. The consequence is that the information that fuels our thoughts is just empty calories. It brings a little big of enjoyment, but it isn't going to change our lives.

Even though our ancestors had access to far less information, they were able to use what they had to develop a more robust way of thinking. They knew Latin, Greek, and could talk about different philosophers. They developed a philosophy of limited government and individual rights. They knew Scripture and applied its lessons to their lives. What they thought about not only changed their world, but continues to influence us today.

Always remember: Out thoughts determine the direction of our lives.

It is no wonder that the Bible has so much to say about our thoughts. For instance:
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2; NLT) 
We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5; NLT) 
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8; NLT)

To follow Jesus requires that change our old ways of thinking. Transformation begins with changing the way we think.

Changing the way we think takes work. Our entire lives, you and I, have developed ways of thinking that have shaped the way we see the world. This means our thought patterns are second nature to us, we don't give them a second thought, but they are responsible for our moods and our outlook on the world around us.

We need to change the way we think! How do we do that?

Colossians 3:1-4 gives us a couple of insights into what we must do.
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.  Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.  For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.  And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. (NLT)

In this passage there are two steps we must take in order to change the way we think.

First, Paul told us to "set our sights", or to focus on, what is real. The reality that Paul wanted us to focus on is that we have new life with Jesus. Through our faith, repentance, and baptism we have been raised to a brand new life with Jesus. He is our life, the way we are to live. He is our life, our hope of what is promised to us. Our focus is to be on him. To change our thinking requires us to shut out what is happening around us and focus on Jesus. This is why worship, prayer, and Bible reading are crucial to Christian spiritual formation. These disciplines help us to focus on Jesus.

Second, Paul told us to "think about the things of heaven." The "things of heaven" are not gold streets and eternal life. The "things of heaven" are the values, the rules, the standards, and the morality of heaven. In short, they are the qualities that make up God's character. We think about these things and how they apply to our lives. Instead of basing our standard of truth off what the world says is right, we hold fast to what God has revealed to us. We think about His promises, His word, and His truth and let these thing form our world view.

Taking responsibility for our thoughts allows us to develop new and healthy ways of thinking. It gives us a chance to create a world view that is more in line with God's truth, and it allows us to live with hope and faith.

Failing to take responsibility for our thoughts means we will continue to respond to the world through the old thought patterns we have adopted. These thought patterns often lead us to wrong conclusions and cause us to spend our lives in ways that are not beneficial.

We can change the way we think, but it takes the effort to set our minds on God, His purposes, and His ways. This is the starting point of our spiritual formation.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Glory be to God Forever!

There seems to be more bad news in the world than good news.

Bad things happen to us or to people we care about, and we wonder where God is in all of it. Tragedy hits our nation and we wonder why God didn’t protect us.

To be honest, the evil in this world can overwhelm our thoughts and emotions. It is hard to remain positive when everything around us seems to be falling apart.

Though we wouldn't admit it out loud, we know that there are times in our lives when it is difficult for us to worship God.

I have experienced those moments of wanting to stay away from God.

For me, these are times when life did not turn out the way I had hoped that it would, and I decided God was the right person to blame for my disappointment. This attitude killed any desire I had to worship Him.

Have you been to a similar place?

It is okay to admit. You are not some horrible person for feeling like God has abandoned you. There are plenty of people in Scripture who felt that same feeling.

The book of Psalms contains over 60 psalms that fall into the category of lament. These psalms are raw and reveal the questions and disappointment people have with God.

Through the ups and downs of life it is normal to experience periods of time when worship is not something we want to do.

How do we overcome these feelings?

The best way that I know is to commit to worship.

To commit to worship requires that we schedule regular times of worship in our lives and we honor those times as scared. During these times we go through the motions of worship, because we know that worship is essential to life. In this way we declare that our feeling are not the final judge of our actions, rather it is our faith that determines what we do.

If we are going to worship God, we need to know why it is important to worship.

This is what the apostle Paul wrote:
May God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.  Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live.  All glory to God forever and ever! Amen. (Galatians 1:3-5; NLT)

Paul said that God deserves all our honor and praise forever.  Why does God deserve our praise?

God deserves our worship because He sent Jesus to rescue us from Satan, sin, and death.

This was God’s plan from the very beginning. Even before He created us, even before the first sin, God knew what it would cost Him to love us. God planned, from the beginning, to show us His love to us through the sacrifice of Jesus.

How much does God value you?

He values you enough to send Jesus to rescue you from death. He did this even though it cost him his life.

That is not the only reason.

Because of Jesus, not only can we be confident in God's love for us, but we can also experience new life.

Yes, it is true that our lives are still tied up in the drama of this world, but our hope has shifted. We now have new life that will out last the things of this world. Life is still painful, yet our focus is set on the moment when Jesus returns and makes everything right.

We worship God because we know that our present circumstances are not the final word about our lives.

If God never gave us another blessing He would still deserve our endless praise because of the gift of eternal life that we have in Jesus.

Glory be to God forever!

After Thoughts Ep. 2: A Clearer Picture of Jesus

Who is Jesus? One of the challenges for Christians is to have an accurate picture of Jesus. We tend to create Jesus in our own image, rath...