One Way – Only One Way

c
Patrick was suddenly aware of the beautiful woman with crystal blue eyes and chestnut-brown hair.  She was stunning.  She was gracious and approachable.  People seemed to enjoy her presence.  He wanted to win her but had no idea how to do it.  He decided to go out and win the hearts of other women.  He felt that somehow, in this manner, he would learn to win the heart of his loved one.  He became a man of some reputation leaving a trail of broken hearts across the city.  Finally, he felt he was ready.

He had studied about her and knew where she would be.  He arranged to be there and to meet her.  He used all of the methods he had used in winning the affections of the other women.  She looked at him with tears brimming in those crystal-clear blue eyes and said, “Patrick, I saw you long ago and loved you.  I have watched as you have pursued other women and it broke my heart.  Now you come to me with all your experience and it means nothing to me.  All I ever wanted was you.  The way to my heart was clear.  You had only to come to me and I would have received you and loved you.”

Patrick’s face showed his dismay.  “Do you mean that you have wanted me all this time?”  “Yes, I have longed for you.”  Patrick asked, “Is it too late?”  “Dear Patrick, since you have found that there is only one way to my heart and that is to come to me and accept my love, I freely give it and forgive you all your previous efforts. ”

Today’s Lesson:

This is the way of our great God. He has provided one way – only one way – into His Presence.  He sees us pursuing false gods and his heart breaks. He knows that the enemy of our souls wants us to believe that there is more than one way to Him.

There is only one way and it is through the shed blood of Jesus.  He is the Doorway to Father God.  He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to God, except through Jesus.

All we have to do is stop our self-effort and our self-focus and turn to Him.  He sent His only Son, Jesus, to pay the price for all of our sin.  He made it possible for any one of us, regardless of our past choices or beliefs, to come to Him.  The only qualification is that we accept what Jesus has done for us.  As we turn to Jesus, He provides us everything we need for life and godliness.  He loves us and wants to spend time with us.  He wants us to fall in love with Him and fulfill our destiny.

He knew that we needed Him and so He didn’t make it complicated.  He didn’t give a different way to one group of people and another way to another group.  He knew it needed to be simple and so He provided only one way.

The enemy likes to bring doubt and confusion.  He wants us to question everything.  Satan’s desire is to keep us off-balance and away from the One Way, Jesus.  He wants you to think Jesus is just an enlightened teacher or a prophet, but He doesn’t want you to know Him and the power of His blood.  But Jesus is not enlightened – He is the Light!  Jesus is not just a prophet – He is King of Kings and the Lord of lords!  Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”  He is God!!!

Today, He is inviting you to come to Him.  He is waiting.  Just tell Him that you want to know Him and ask Him to make Himself real to you.  I assure you that He will.

We Are Made for Joy!

Mara’s baby had been sick for several months before he died.  Her hope for his recovery had faded slowly and when he died in her arms, it sucked the life out of her.  She had pushed away everyone.  Her husband came home on a hardship leave from his post in Korea, but he had to return a month later.

Dena was Mara’s neighbor who insisted on looking in on her.  When the baby was sick, Mara had given her a key that she never gave it back after the funeral.  If Mara wouldn’t answer the door, Dena would come in any way.  She would take over and open the blinds and air out the house.  She would put a pot of soup on the stove and begin to do the dishes.

When Dena walked in, this time Mara began to scream at her to get out.  Dena talked to her in a soothing tone of voice.  Mara screamed louder and began to jump up and down.  Dena waited until the fury ended and went to the distraught girl and took her in her arms and held her tight.  Mara began to sob.  She cried until she ran through the pent-up emotions.  Dena kept softly telling her that she loved her and that it will be all right.

Finally, Mara rose up and looked at her, “Really?  Will it ever be all right again?  How could God have done this to me?”  Dena knew this was not a time for reason, but she did say this, “Mara, you know God didn’t do this.  God is only good and he didn’t take your baby away from you, but He has your child now in His own strong arms.”

“I believe He has,” she sobbed, “but I miss my baby and my husband.  What am I going to do?” she wailed.

Dena looked at her and sighed.  “Dear girl, the baby has been gone for six months and your husband for five.  Brooding about this loss for such a long time is destroying you.  You were never meant to be sad and that is why it is so hard.  We were made for joy.  When we experience deep grief, it is important to find a way to get back to joy.  Do you know where joy is found? ”

Mara looked hopeless.  “If you want me to turn to God, I can’t pray.  I’ve tried, but I end up blaming God for all that has happened.  He took my baby and sent my husband to Korea at about the same time.  I am all alone!”  Dena said, “I know it is small comfort, but God has sent me to you.  You have never been alone.  He is with you and I am right next door and always as close as a phone call.”

Mara shook her head.  She couldn’t see any way out.  It was hopeless but as she listened to her friend, a glimmer of hope began to shine.  Finally she said, “I’ll try.”

Dena suggested that Mara take a shower and put on some clean clothes while she freshened up the house and then they would go out for lunch.  Mara shook her head indicating that she didn’t want to but slowly lifted her small body off the couch as if it weighed 300 pounds.  She obediently headed for the shower and stepped into the steaming hot water.  It felt good.  She poured shampoo in her hair realizing that she couldn’t remember the last time she had bathed.  She stood in the wonderful flow of warm water for a long time.  She felt she was being revived.

By the time Dena had finished changing the sheets and starting the laundry; Mara had fixed her hair and gotten dressed.  She looked better although her clothes were a loose from weeks of not eating.  She told Dena that she had prayed in the shower.  “I told God that I was sorry that I had been so mad at Him and asked Him to help me find my way back to Him.  I was amazed at the immediate peace that settled over me.  I feel better than I have felt since my baby left me.”  A small tear slipped down her check, but her eyes were brighter as she looked at her faithful friend.

Dena said, “Let’s go someplace really special.  What is your favorite restaurant?  She told her about a wonderful upscale restaurant in midtown and Dena said, “That’s my favorite too!”  Soon they were on their adventure.

Today’s Lesson:

When we go through difficult times, we tend to make them worse by isolating ourselves from our support group.  Mara pushed her friends and family away.  She was angry with God because she was alone; she never connected the fact that she had made it almost impossible for people to comfort her when her husband and baby left.

God never ever intends for us to spend months and months in grieving about loss of any kind.  He is always available to help us through the tragedies.  At one point in the Old Testament, he only allowed Israel to grieve for one month.  It is true that we need some time to deal with the change, but prolonged sadness grows and weakens us.  It becomes a place for the enemy to plant thoughts of hopelessness and victimization.

When we choose to run to Father God, His Presence brings us joy.  The more time we spend in His Presence, the more
joyful we become and he heals our wounds and binds up our broken hearts.  Scripture says, “The joy of the Lord is our strength.”

Mara had meditated on her pain and that always brings more pain.  When you feel the sadness over and over, the enemy helps us feel worse and worse and soon anger boils in our hearts.  Sometimes it results in destructive behavior.

Things weren’t all of the sudden wonderful in Mara’s life although she had begun her journey back from despair.  At times, she still had to fight the feelings of loss and loneliness, yet she has gone back to her church family and resumed her life.  She has even begun looking for a job.

Mara’s husband’s voice has sounded so relieved that last few phone calls.  He had worried about his beautiful wife and struggled with not being able to come home again but his tour of duty will be over in four months.  She is marking off the days on the calendar.

Dena still comes by and they have coffee and Mara is talking again about the baby and the pain.  She has learned the value of true friends and the joy of finding her peace in the Lord.

Until then, she is beginning again to spend time with her heavenly Father, Who never leaves her.

Reject Your Own Opinions

Two young ministerial interns, Russ and Toby, came to live with the John and Karen Wright family.  Karen counted it a privilege to have them share her home.  She had high expectations of their mission to learn and serve the congregation and was proud that she would be a good example for them.

The young men had two very different personalities.  Russ rode a motorcycle and looked a bit like a rock star.  He was zealous for the things of God and diligent in his responsibilities.  Toby, on the other hand, seemed shallow in his relationship with the Lord and more interested in the baseball box scores than doing ministry.

John and Karen took off a weekend to visit a nearby city and left the young men on their own.  When they came home, Russ was at church and Toby was sitting in the midst of the living room watching television and working the box scores.  The fact that he hadn’t bathed was obvious.  The house was a mess.

“Why aren’t you at church?’ Karen inquired barely concealing that she was seething with anger.  This was not what she had signed up for.  She was not interested in housing a slothful young man who was shirking his responsibilities.  ‘I couldn’t get a ride,” he responded.  “Well, you have one now.  Get cleaned up, and I will take you to church.”

The air was tense in the car as they sped over the road the seven miles to the church campus.  When they got there, she dropped Toby off at the door and went looking for the Pastor.  When she found him, he was teaching a class.  She walked to the door and when he looked her way, she beckoned him to come out of class.  “Pastor, Toby is not what I thought I would get when I agreed to take in these interns.    He was at home in a horrible mess when we came back from our weekend.  He is here at the church now.  I want him out of my home and I want him out now!” she said with emphasis.  “Would tomorrow be soon enough?” Pastor sighed.  Toby moved out the next day and she made excuses to Russ as to why he was gone.

Pastor called her and John in to confront Toby in his office.  It was less than satisfying to all the concerned parties.  After Toby left, Pastor looked at Karen and said, “You are an opinionated woman!”  Karen felt justified as she thought her opinions were right!

Today’s Lesson:

Karen had an opportunity to cover Toby and be redemptive in his life but instead she rejected him.  She justified herself and her opinions.  The Bible teaches us that love covers a multitude of sin and also, that we will know Christians by their love.  Where was the love in Karen?  She was judge, jury and executioner.

Toby finished his internship but his experience wasn’t good.  He returned to Bible College and thought that all Christians were like Karen.  The story leaves us wondering if he ever found the true love of God in others.

Since that time, Karen has learned a great deal and had an encounter with the Most High God.  He dealt with her and gently helped her see that her opinions were not His.  He helped her to reject her own opinions.  Father God showed her that passion is a good thing if it lines up with His will for us, but when it is based on our opinions, it is dangerous and destructive.  God healed her heart and she forgave Toby through the Holy Spirit who lives in her.

As Christians, we are passionate about many things.  We are opinionated about the political process.  We have ideas about how the church should be managed and what the color the carpet in the sanctuary should be.  We have ideas about what the right doctrine is and end up dividing from friends and congregations over basic issues like baptisms and tongues.

The point of today’s lesson is that we need to reject our own opinions and find out what God wants in each situation.  When we speak what we consider to be the truth based on opinion, we abuse the young believer and actually hinder his relationship with the Lord.  The Bible says that it is better to have a millstone (a huge rock) hung around your neck and be tossed into the sea that to hurt one of His little ones.

The next time you find yourself in an impassioned conversation filled with judgment, condemnation and opinion, stop, quiet yourself, and invite the Lord to cleanse and purify your opinion so that it lines up with His.  It may be necessary to excuse yourself and get alone with the Lord.

We see in Scripture that we can speak like the very angels of heaven but without love, we are profited nothing.  The next time you see another who is walking in error and you want to rush in and deal with it, remember to reject your opinion and choose love over condemnation.  The amazing thing will be that your heart will change and the wonderful peace of God will reign in the place of opinion.

Minister of Death

The Pastor stood up in the pulpit.  He was a strikingly good looking man his hair graying a bit and a wonderful resonating voice.  He looked out over his congregation still reeling from the last counseling session is his office the day before.  How could anyone be so involved in so many sinful things?  He just didn’t understand.  Images had penetrated his mind that he just couldn’t shake.  He took a deep breath and began.

After an hour of coming against sin and admonishing everyone, by reminding them that every sin led to death, he begged them to give up anything in their lives that would cause them to come to judgment.  His own heart ached at the things he sometimes thought about.  He told them that “lust led to more lust, anger to more anger, dishonesty to more dishonesty, envy and strife to confusion and every evil work.”  He diagnosed their condition, but gave them no remedy.

He was quite worked up and the people sat in shock!  Their pastor had never before been so forceful.  Everyone sat in the pew, condemned and without hope.

This well intentioned pastor was a “minister of death.”

Today’s lesson:  When we try to be good enough, there is always someone to point out that our efforts are futile.  It is a misery that shows us exactly why God gave us the Law.   It is a bit like the diet started on Monday morning.  After you eat something that is not in the plan you just think, “Well, I blew it, I may as well finish that cake I made for the family.”

The purpose of the rules of the Law was to teach us that we can’t do it on our own.  All of our attempts, at keeping the whole Law,  end in frustration and disappointment.    Lifting up sin never leads us to freedom.  The Bible tells us that when we lift up Jesus, He will draw all of us to Him.

The pastor drew no one to the Lord that day.  He showed them their utter hopelessness without the Lord of Love.  His own sin loomed bigger and bigger as he spoke the words of judgment and condemnation over his listeners.

Jesus offers us grace which produces life.  Our job – our work is to believe on Jesus that God sent.  (John 6:29)  Our work is believing.  His work is doing in us what needs to be done.  Believing and trusting in Him sets us free.

So, do you want to be a minister of life or a minister of death?  Telling people all that they have done wrong never changes them.  We are told in Scripture that “the goodness of God leads people to repentance.”  Rom 2:4.  Repentance is a Bible word that means change.  It is turning away and turning around.  We look to Jesus instead of our sin.  We look to the Father instead of our own personal strength and ability.  We trust it all to Him.

As we turn to Him, His life – the ‘zoe’ life of God – grows bigger in us and we become freer and freer.

Why does the church minister death?  The Apostle Paul said, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.”  (Galatians 1:6, 7)  This precious pastor never meant to lead people to a different gospel and a different Christ, but ‘there are some who want to trouble us and pervert the gospel.’  There is a demonic realm that interferes with us and we must be ever vigilant.  He wants to steal our freedom and put us back under condemnation.

There is only one Gospel.  It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Grace and  Love.  It is not about our sin.  It is about how He purchased us out of sin with His own blood and lavished His grace upon us.  Now we share with Him all of theblessings that Father God has provided for us.

‘I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing therefore, choose life that both you and your descendants may live!’  Duet 30:19  It is a generational promise!