Thursday, January 06, 2005

SALVATION - This is really Good News!

LIFE-LINE! [Psalm 132:7-9; Ark, faith, lifeline, redemption]

The storm had been chasing the destroyer all over the South Pacific and finally caught it. Now it was knocking the huge vessel around like a “ducky” in a child’s bathtub. Frank McDonald, one of our faithful deacons, was serving his country onboard this ship during the Korean War.

Frank, in one section of the ship, needed to return to his quarters following his duty shift; only one thing prevented this from being easy … the storm. In order to get to where he was going, he was forced to go out on deck for a short distance to get to an aft hatch. Knowing he was about to get soaked, he rushed out with his head down … suddenly the ship lurched, his feet flew out from under him … wham, his back hit the hard slopping surface and he shot feet first out over the side of the ship, nothing but air to support him. For some reason, which Frank can’t explain, he held his hands in the air, fingers cupped, thumbs down … as if planned by the ship’s designer, both hands caught and grasped the ship’s lower lifeline, saving him from the sea’s unappeasable gullet.

God’s Son, Jesus, is designed to be His vessel (an ark) of salvation for those who believe. He is included in God’s plan of salvation as our lifeline; unseen as we slide down the slippery slope of life, at an ever increasing rate. Rescue from eternal damnation awaits those who, by faith, would but reach up and grasp the line that is offered.

LOST AND FOUND [Jeremiah 5:25; Carnality, heaven, sin]

Norman Johnston committed a series of appalling crimes, and then murdered his own teen-aged relatives to cover the trail. His young relatives were members of his burglary gang ... they simply knew too much. Johnston, 48, has spent the last 20 years of his life in Huntington state prison in Pennsylvania. He thought he couldn’t cope with imprisonment any longer, so he constructed a dummy for his bunk, cut out his cell window, and escaped. But he quickly discovered he couldn’t cope with freedom either.

He stole car after car because he couldn’t operate electronic gas pumps. He stole mobile phones but couldn’t use those either. Most of his liberty was spent roaming around the Pennsylvania countryside, scared and bewildered. He was captured in a housing development which had been built on land he knew as open farmland during his youth.

Johnston was returned to prison; he was lost, he was found, he was returned but not to his father’s house.

However, with the Lord, who came "to seek and to save the lost," when you are found, you are returned to a right relationship with your Father in heaven and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself goes to prepare a place for you.

PACKED FOR PRESERVATION! [2 Peter 2:4-10a; Apostasy,

According to a story in The Guardian (London), Calin Florea of Scarisoara Romania dismantled his German-made Lanz tractor and packed it in cardboard coated with tar; he did this to escape the confiscating claws of communist collectivization in 1955. By 1990, however, land reforms had made it possible for Florea to farm the land he once owned, so he dug it up, reassembled it, and started all over. Had Florea not protected his possession carefully the elements would have destroyed it when he once came to redeem it.

God commanded Jeremiah the prophet to obtain and bury a waistband near the river Euphrates; taking no precautions to protect it. Later, God commanded him to retrieve the waistband from its burial place. When Jeremiah did so, he discovered that the waistband had rotted and was worthless. [Jeremiah 13:1-8]

God then said to Jeremiah,
"Just so will I destroy the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. This wicked people, who refuse to listen to My words, who walk in the stubbornness of their hearts and have gone after other gods to serve them and to bow down to them, let them be just like this waistband, which is totally worthless. For as the waistband clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole household of Israel and the whole household of Judah to cling to Me … that they might be for Me a people, for renown, for praise, and for glory; but they did not listen."
Jeremiah 13:9-11
Observation suggests the “western” church could easily serve as a substitute for Israel in this passage … without disturbing the water. The same observation reveals that many contemporary believers have hidden their lamps under peck-measures. [Cf. Matthew 5:15-16]

One day, these autumn trees without fruit, much like the five hapless virgins of Matthew 25 [1-13], will return to search out their lamp only to find it without oil or wick … and so worthless.

God is unchanging [immutable] and His judgments are for all ages and all peoples. Therefore, no man shall escape His wrath. God will reach down near the River of Life and retrieve that which He hid in our hearts long ago. Should He find it rotted and worthless the end shall be according to the means [2 Corinthians 11:15-16].

God has given us a prized possession and it is up to us to protect it for they day when it is to be revealed … it must be packed in the precious blood of Jesus. (Added 18 May 2006)

PULL PIN NOW! [John 3:3, 5; deliverance]

The fire extinguisher outside my office says, “Pull pin.” This simple admonition is to remind potential users that the pin must be pulled before the extinguisher can be used to put out a fire.

Likewise, a parachute will have an admonition on its pack, “Pull pin to open.” If the parachutist wants to save his life (after a period of free fall), he must pull the pin before it is too late.

In John 3:3 Jesus said,Truly, truly, you must be born again.” This is Jesus saying, “If you want to be saved, pull pin first.”

If one wants to avoid the fires of hell, he must pull the pin on this life in order for the next to begin; if he wants to avoid the second death, he must open the Savior’s chute this side of the first death before it is too late.

RELIGIOUS MUSCLE RELAXANT! [2 Corinthians 5:17; life, regeneration, sanctification, walk]

My friend Marsha Wagner’s husband, Andy, snored something awful, until he had a heart attack. To help him sleep, his doctor prescribed a muscle relaxant; a side effect of the drug was his snoring stopped.

Prior to this, her husband’s nightly sonata let Marsha know he was at least okay; but know, since he’s sleeping better, she has to poke him to see if he is still alive.

I’ve seen far too many people whose lives exhibited some irritating carnal behavior, walk the aisle, pray the sinner’s pray, get baptized and claim the name of Jesus who now must be poked to see if they are still alive. Though the irritating behavior is gone, the life is not present.

Christianity is being used by too many people as a religious muscle relaxant for the flesh but manifests no Spirit-filled, animated, Pentecostal life. God doesn’t relax our muscles to make us stop sinning, He makes a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

THE SIGNATURE IS WHAT MATTERS! [Ephesians 1:7-8; Redemption]

At an annual town reunion, one of the town’s original organizers saw a disheveled man sitting alone on a park bench, a brown paper bag in his hand. The founder thought he knew him, so he approached. “Ben?” He asked gently. “Is that you?” The man looked up through swollen and bloodshot eyes. “Huh?” He responded.

Shocked at the man’s condition he considered leaving but something made him stop. “Ben? Ben Johnson? That is you, isn’t it?”

“Oh, he-llll-llooow.” The man breathed, between a yawn and a belch. “Yea, Sam. It’s me. Your old buddy Benjamin.”

After discovering his friend’s sad history … two tours in Nam, in and out of Veteran’s Hospitals, several divorces, and alcoholism … Sam felt compassion for his old friend and asked if there was anything he could do to help. His friend said there was but he didn’t deserve it; he could help him raise the money to get into a veterans rehab program out of state so he could get his life back together. Instead, Sam wrote him a check for the entire sum. But since it was Sunday, the bank was closed and he’d have to wait until Monday to cash the check.

On Wednesday, Sam was driving out of town to return home, when he saw his friend, Ben, sitting on the same park bench, looking just as pathetic. Angry, he pulled into the park and stopped next to the bench. Accusingly, he said, “What happened, Ben? Did you cash it and spend it on booze?”

Quickly and soberly, Ben pulled the check from his army jacket and held it high. “No! No!” He exclaimed. “I got it I just ain’t cashed it.” Frustrated Sam asked why. Ben’s head dropped and his eyes began to tear up. “Sam, I went to that bank Monday and sat outside all day until they closed. I never went in because I knew they’d take one look at me and know I got no right to have a check this big.”

Now Sam’s eyes began to tear up. “Oh, Ben.” He said. “It’s not what you look like or what you smell like that makes that check good. It’s the signature on the check and whether or not its writer has enough in his account to cover the draft.”

In the same way, on judgment day, everyone will come before the Judge of judges and He will look to see whose name is written on our hearts and whether or not He has the resources to cover the draft. [Author unknown]

TODAY IS THE DAY! [2 Corinthians 6:2; Choices, evangelism, light-dark, redemption]

California is known for its earthquakes and in 1994 one hit the Northridge area of Southern California.

One of the Los Angeles Police Department’s most highly regarded motorcycle officers was in bed, miles away, when he felt the shake. He instinctively knew it was a big one and as a professional knew he’d be needed. Without waiting for a call, he dress and rushed to get his LAPD cycle and head for his station.

What the officer did not know was that Highway 14 leading into Los Angeles had suffered major damage, several overpasses were down. At about 5:15 AM, in the dark, with only his single headlight to guide him, this dedicated police officer and father of three sailed of the truncated end of a freeway overpass to his death forty feet below.

Mankind is driving in the dark, seeking a way to make sense of his life, looking for meaning, with only a puny little light to guide him. He doesn’t know it but the bridge is out ahead. An abyss lies at the bottom. He may not reach it today, or tomorrow, but he will reach it and then it will be too late … unless he is clinging to the Light of the World.

TWO SETS OF PLANS! [2 Peter 2:4-10a; Apostasy,

Not far from the Kremlin wall stands the Moskva Hotel, as gargantuan in scale as Stalin’s state power used to be. After 50 years Muscovites have grown accustomed to it, but a visitor can’t help but notice the bizarre asymmetry of its fa├žade.

An invisible vertical line seems to divide the structure in two, with one architectural style on the left, another on the right.

As one story goes, the architect worked up two designs, and Stalin, not realizing they were different, signed off on both. Nobody had the temerity to explain this mistake to the “Father of Peoples” – so the hotel was built using both designs. [Anatoly Sobchak, For a New Russia, (Free Press)]

God has prepared us to be redeemed by two designs ... one by the Law, through works, and the other by Grace, through His Son, but God knows the difference and is not confused about which is which. (Added 18 May 2006)

UNCOVERED AND USED ANEW! [Romans 3:21-26; Grace, regeneration]

Supposedly, it was laid down in the deep rich soil of rural Clay County, Georgia, around 1828; sometime between then and about 1930 it was forgotten and has reclined unused till discovered in May of 2002.

No one knows for certain when the open-air baptistry of Mt. Gilead Baptist Church (Fort Gaines, Ga.) was last used; in fact, it took weeks to locate anyone who even remembered the concrete pool. Only a few people could recall the church ever having a place to baptize. But one member (who said he was "practically born and raised in this church"), remembers playing in the baptistry with his friends in 1932.

The baptistry was discovered when volunteers gathered to clear land for parking in the woods across from the church. A deacon operating a backhoe hit something that attracted his attention; the heavy equipment strained but couldn’t move whatever it was. Two additional deacons were called to bring hand tools to help clear the decades old accumulation of pine mulch covering the 9’ by 5’, 600-gallon structure. The accidental archaeologists didn’t know they had uncovered a century-old baptistry, they initially thought it might be a grave or a septic tank.

No one was as surprised about the find as were members of Mt. Gilead. The bottom-line, however, is that it was found and is now in use once again. Once the baptismal was found to be functional, the congregation restored the tradition of holding baptisms in it. [Adapted from an October 16, 2002, Baptist Press story by Joe Westbury]

Once we were lost, but now we are found; once we were hidden by decay, but now we are clean; once we were not useful, but now we are on mission and in service.

Praise God I’m found and useful again! To God be the glory, the honor, and the power forever, without end.

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