Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Light of the World

The Gospel of John in the Bible shows Jesus as the LIght of the world.  The world needs Light to sustain life.  
In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (John 1:4-5).  The world is a dark, broken, hopeless place withut Light.   The greatest hope for mankind is Jesus coming to this earth.  Every person has a choice to receive Light or remain in darkness.  
There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.  He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.  The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world (John 1:6-9).  Physical sight is only possible with light.  Seeing cannot happen without light.  Discerning and believing truth is only possible with the Light.  True spirituality cannot happen without the Light.
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.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.  This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God”  (John 3:16-21).
If you’ve been in church and/ or hung around people of Christian faith for any length of time, you’ve at least heard the John 3:16 verse quoted.  So let’s shed some more Light on the context of that verse as quoted above.  Believing in Jesus (the Light) is what saves our soul from eternal damnation. Our belief in Jesus is also something that grows.  It begins with a conversion experience, and then continues to bring more and more of our fears and evil deeds into the Light.  We need the Light every day of our lives.  We need Jesus to shine his Light into the still-darkened parts of our heart.  Our heart is like a house with many rooms.  Inviting Jesus into our heart brings Light into the first room he enters.  As time moves along, we open more doors (leading to darkened rooms) for him to enlighten.  As more lights go on in the rooms of our heart, more darkness flees, and we reep more benefits of living in the Light.  This is a journey of surrender.  We surrender our right to keep doors closed to hide dark rooms, and allow Jesus to open the doors and turn on the Light.  Practically, this means surrendering bad things we say and do, bad habits, bitterness towards people, and long-standing beliefs not based on truth.  It may even mean surrendering good things that are keeping you from God’s best.  Good works do not chase away darkness.  Only the Light conquers the dark.  
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12).  Not only did John and others witness Jesus as the LIght, but Jesus himself declared it.  Following Jesus is the only way to avoid darkness in this world.  Is your soul longing to cast off the darkness of this world?  Are you willing to let Jesus turn the lights on for you?  
Then he said to his disciples, "Let us go back to Judea."  "But Rabbi," they said, "a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?" Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world's light.  It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light" (John 11:7-10).  Jesus did not condemn those who disagreed or even tried to kill him.  He simply saw them as people stumbling in their darkness.  
Then Jesus told them, "You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going.  Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light." When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.   Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.  This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: "Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?"  For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:   "He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn - and I would heal them."  Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him. Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue;  for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.  Then Jesus cried out, "When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me.  When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me.  I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness” (John 12:35-46).   Light brings health.  Light recovers wholeness.  Light restores relationship with Father God.  The words in this paragraph are quoted closer to the end of Christ’s life and ministry.  Jesus again draws attention to revealing Father’s Love through Light.  Jesus proved himself as a trustworthy source of Light.  Yet many rejected this Light, and still many do today.
Except for John 5:35 and John 9:5, I quoted all the verses in John that mention the word “light” (at least according to the NIV translation of the Bible). John testifies to the Light, and the Light testifies to the Father.   My prayer is that Jesus becomes a greater source of Light in your life.  No matter how close or far you feel from God, the Light of Jesus Christ shines for you to find your way to Father’s Love.
 by Ed Hersh, BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Jesus Saves

Today we celebrate Easter.  Three days after a brutal death by crucifixion, the resurrection of Jesus Christ accomplished the greatest rescue ever known to mankind.  For all who believe in him, he provides eternal life (see John 3:16).  
Last month marked the passing of Billy Graham.  No man in history has ever publicly quoted the verses in John 3 to more people in his lifetime.   The Bible says, “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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17).  Dr. Graham devoted his life to preaching the message of a resurrected Christ.  Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).  A person can only truly know God by believing in Jesus.  
Although I never met him or never attended one of his crusades, Billy Graham had a profound impact on my life.  Rarely did a message of his that I saw on the TV, or heard on the radio, not bring tears to my eyes at some point while he was talking.  God’s love brings overwhelming comfort to the soul.  Like none other, Dr. Graham helped instill deep into my spirit, a love and passion for sharing the good news of Jesus.  He communicated the gospel of Jesus with unmatched clarity and simplicity. Everywhere he went, and to millions of people around the globe, he had the same message.  Jesus saves.  God’s love is so deep, there’s absolutely no way God can turn a person away whose heart is fully surrendered.  
Soaking in the message that Jesus saves is the quickest way out of depression, anxiety, worry, or any trouble in life.  Common, ordinary challenges all seem easier to bear after stopping to ponder what Jesus endured to accomplish our salvation.  Jesus saves the lost.  To benefit from what he did, I have to admit I’m lost.  When I’m willing to admit I need help (when something went wrong and created loss), Jesus rescues.  Big messes or little goofs, no problem is too tough for Jesus to redeem.  Thank God, Jesus saves!
Jesus never promised to eliminate difficulties in life.  If we had no troubles, he would have nothing to save.  We cannot live a “good life” through our own will power. It’s not about being good enough, strong enough, or smart enough.  It’s about being “fed up” enough to let Jesus be enough.  Jesus is enough.  He is always enough.  
It really is that simple.  Jesus saves.  That message is enough.  
For the follower of Christ, every day is Easter.   Every day, Jesus saves.  My prayer is that you make him enough for you today!
To take the next step after you acknowlege you need what Jesus has done for you, is to say something like this, “I am thankful for what Jesus did for me by dying on a cross and being raised from the dead, I surrender to his power to make me a whole person.”   As you surrender to the teachings of Jesus as described in the Bible, you turn around your ways of thinking and acting, and take on his new life.  Join in company with other believers to help this process and you’re on your way to a new life to confess that Jesus saves.  
The Bible (most trustworthy book on the planet) says,
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.  ….
  The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
 When they call on me, I will answer;
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.
 I will reward them with a long life
    and give them my salvation.”  (Psalm 91:2,14-16;New Living Translation)

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Sanctifying Life: 6 More Stepping Stones

Sanctification is the topic of the previous article which discussed the first 5 stepping stones.  This article describes 6 more facits of the definition provided by a dictionary definition.             The Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines “sanctify” with the following:  to cleanse, purify, set apart, separate, prepare for divine service, ordain and appoint to the work of redemption, cleanse from corruption, purify from sin, render productive of holiness or piety, make free from guilt, and secure from violation.      
At this point, reading the previous article will help fit this together.  Sanctifying life is like crossing a flowing stream of water.  God gives us stepping stones to navigate, but we need to intentionally take the steps and allow the cleansing process of the water to work out the details.  A decision to follow Jesus is not the final destination.  Salvation of our soul begins the journey of crossing the stream of life to fall into the arms of Father God on the other side.  
As we look at these 6 stepping stones, let’s again ask ourselves the question, “Am I living living a sanctifying life?”   Which of these areas might God have you focus on for change?
6. Ordain and appoint to the work of redemption - (2 Corinthians 5)  To redeem is to purchase back or to deliver.  Our sinful condition from birth made us a prisoner in slarery to the enemy.  Jesus delivered our soul from this condition.  Christ’s deliverance gives us more freedom as we surrender more of our heart to the process.  But it doesn’t stop there.  God makes us part of an army sent out to deliver others.  God sanctifies our life so that our focus does not remain on our own welfare, but the welfare of others.  In the journey of crossing the stream, our duties include helping others prevent drowning and finding the stepping stones to sustain life.  Are you able to explain to someone else what Christ’s  “redemption” means?  Are you growing in your understanding and practice of forgiveness and reconciliation?  Are you able to extend grace to close friends  (in their imperfections), and can you give your trust to God, for Him to do His work, with His timing and methods, in their lives?  
7. Cleanse from corruption - (Proverbs 20:10; 2 Peter 2:17-22)  The Bible says,  “People are  slaves to whatever has mastered them” (2 Peter 2:19).  Sometimes we need deliverance for something that has a particular strong hold on our thinking and behavior.  Addiction would be an example of this.  Or, corrupt activity may be in our family line producing destructive patterns. We may even need outside help to become free.  Is there a bad habit in your life you have tried to kick, but you can’t get victory over it?  What desires (that lead to bad deeds) seem hardest to control?  What undesirable habits exist in your family line, and what is the impact on your life?   
8. Purify from sin - (Mark 7:17-23)  Sin is not about wrong actions, as much as it is about a corrupted condition of heart.   Allowing your heart to be reconditioned and purified by Jesus, removes the desire to sin.  Change from the inside out produces more lasting results.  Turning bitterness and resentment over to God will free the heart of rage leading to an act like murder.  The Bible calls them “bitter roots” (see Hebrews 12:15).  Anger is often a sign of a bitter root.  Bitter roots are created by routine critical judgments we make (so common we are not even aware of them).  This topic of  inner life change is frequently discussed in previous articles on my web site.  What is your anger trying to tell you about your heart condition?  Are you “seeing to it” that no bitter root is given room in your heart (see Hebrews 3:13, 12:15)?  What part of your belief system is causing you to form critical opinions (judgments) of people?  
9. Render productive of holiness or piety - (1 Corinthians 7:1)  God is holy.  No man can be holy in the way God is holy.  However, Christians are to represent God’s holiness as best as is possible for mankind.  We are to give God the “glory due his name” (Psalm 29:2).  Jesus commanded us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).  
What does it mean for God to be holy?  Do you love him with all your being?   Is there an idol that might stand in the way?  What is the next step to removing the ungodliness from your life?  
10. Make free from guilt - (Hebrews 10:22)  Repentance prepares the way for sanctification.  Guilt is a good thing, and should lead us to confession and repentance (turning away from wrong doing).  Don’t confuse guilt with shame. Shame condemns who you are as a person.  God does not condemn people for who they are.  God condemns wrong doing (sin).  God provides forgiveness for wrong doing.  Shame comes from condemning self ( rejecting self) as not worthy of God’s forgiveness.  Along with any actions that offend God, we can repent for the guilt of shaming ourselves, and thus be free of shame as well!  God works forgiveness and sanctification.  Our good works can never take the place of that for which we must rely on God.  Are there sins for which you have not repented and asked God’s forgiveness?  Are you trying to “work off” (perform your way out of) a guilty conscience?   Are you feeling condemnation (shame) that is holding you back from the freedom Christ has provided you?  Are you willing to repent (turn these things over to God) and receive his forgiveness?  Do it right now!
11. Secure from violation - (Psalm 91) “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  ….  With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation”  (Psalm 91:1,16).  God is our salvation.  Our “good works” to not save us.  In fact, our attempts to get good enough for God, end up driving us further away.  Going to church, practicing spiritual disciplines, nor progress made (past experiences) in the areas mentioned above, can be relied on for salvation.  We must surrender (hand over) the steering wheel and let God be the Driver for our remaining journey on the sanctifying life.   In the metaphor of crossing the stream, we must hold out our hand and let God’s strong hand-grip  deliver us from the raging, over-powering currents.   Is God the place where your security lies?  To what degree are other people, places, or things in the way of God being a greater  Refuge; Salvation; Sanctifying Life?  Is he your Source (is your full trust in him) for all the good change mentioned above?   
There is a verse in the Bible that people often mis-interpret, and thus rely too much on self-effort for the sanctifying life.  “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) is to reinforce living out the previous verses  with honor and respect for God. The verse before it summarizes, “every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,  to the glory of God the Fatherj” (Pilippians 2:11).    “Work out your salvation” is not a license to trust in your own efforts to be saved, but an admonishment to cooperate with the work of God in our lives.  This is explicitly stated in the next verse, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).  The work of sanctifying life is merely to surrender to, and cooperate with, the work of God In this world.   
Are there things in your life you want to see improved a year from now? Do you want to be a better person?  Do you want to lead, speak, parent, teach, or work with more authority and influence?  Unfortunately, most people aren’t willing to make the changes necessary for sanctifying life, but, if you are still reading this article, you are likely one of the ones who are.  Thus, I have a challenge for you.  For  each of the next eleven months, take one of the areas above and make it a focus for positive change in your life.  Study the Bible on the topic.  I gave some Scripture references for starters.  Pray about it.  Ask God to show you areas that need changed (sanctified) and allow Him to show you how to make it happen.  He is more than willing to meet you where you are (in the stream) and sanctify your life for the journey (left to navigate).  Take the twelth and final month as an evaluation and planning (rest) month the next year.  Evaluate with questions like the following.  Am I now more comfortable with the process of change?   What is the hardest part?  In what areas do I see the greatest improvements?  How can I help others and join with others in sanctifying life?  
One more question ..  Does this article ask enough questions?  <smile>  Please write to me and whare with me any new questions  that come to your mind.  Share your answers too.  I trust God has all the answers!  

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry