Many people, even churchgoers, will be alarmed to discover that efforts at ministry do not in themselves earn us a place in heaven. Some would be shocked to learn that good deeds mean nothing to God unless they are the by-product or the outgrowth of a relationship with Him. The only people who will enter heaven are those who have received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior; no matter how many works or acts of kindness or charity they have performed.
The confusion of church members who often lack faith is caused by their definition of the word believe. They believe in God, Jesus, and heaven which is only right for them to do. But they miss the difference between an intellectual knowledge of Christ as God's son and believing in our hearts and acknowledging with our lips our own personal Savior. With every instance in the Bible of someone truly believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior there is a true change in that person. Listen carefully: It is impossible for one to stay the same after meeting Jesus because they come face-to-face with their most desperate need for Him.
Our most earnest desire for a savior begins with the basic recognition that we have sinned against God and are in need of a Savior. We must also be fully aware that there is no hope for salvation apart from Jesus. "No one comes to the Father but through me." Fully recognizing these two basic facts and understanding what they mean for us, we trust only in His sacrifice for the payment of our sins. He settled the score once and for all when He died at Calvary. Some people use the phrase "ask Jesus to forgive you" or "ask Jesus into your heart" and it really doesn't matter how we describe the event ... if we repent of our sins and make a decision to receive Jesus' free grace and forgiveness, we are saved and we are eternally saved. Don't miss that point: we are saved eternally. Our salvation is secure because it is based on what Jesus has done and not on anything we have done or will ever do.
We have God's promise that he will respond to any humble acknowledgment of Jesus' sacrifice. If anyone desires to be with Him in heaven for eternity, they must ask themselves: Have I been saved? And there is no better time than right now.
It's a nice day so far. I actually shut off my alarm and went back to sleep and slept in until almost 9:00 which I didn't want to happen. But I still just got dressed and then took my books out onto the deck for my quiet time. It is so special when I do that. Being in the cool air and the world somewhat quiet just sets a beautiful setting for communing with my Lord. Michael came out when I was about half finished with my devotional so I just set it aside and visited with him for awhile. Then when he went back inside I went back to my devotionals. It would have been easy for me to get feisty and I confess I wanted to complain to him that he's encroaching on my quiet time and to please go back inside. But risking hurting his feelings would have nullified my purpose in spending time alone with my Lord. I seek change. I seek reformation; and if I chase away those with whom I am learning to relate in this life, what is the value in learning further what I need to do to represent Christ in this world? Slowly I am learning to apply the things I'm learning. To be long-suffering, kind, and patient is a definite challenge when my world is altered from the way I have planned for it to go. I can be so hard-headed and selfish at time. That's my inclination. It's hard to reflect Christ in my day-to-day activities but it's important that I do, for that is my mission in life. One of my Psalms for today says, "... But you are a shield around me, O Jehovah; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To Jehovah I cry aloud and he answers me from his holy hill. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because Jehovah sustains me. I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side" (Ps 3:3-6). Jehovah God is the Lord of my life and of my quiet time and He pulls Himself around me and protects me from the world. And I find that an interruption isn't such a big deal. So what if my quiet time was disturbed? The Lord is my shield against any worldly thing disrupting my holy time set aside to spend with Him. I must not fret. The Lord rules my life ... and my quiet time.
It's a beautiful day so far. Lots of drift smoke in the air from all the fires around California. I think this smoke is coming from the fires up in Trinity National Forest. We had some dry lightning come through the area the day before yesterday and the lightning set off over 700 fires. Most of them are small and won't be much of a problem. But some of them are quite substantial. There is one burning near Santa Cruz in the mountains and that is putting up a lot of smoke but I think most of ours is coming from up north. The smoke is thick enough that it smells like smoke, it isn't just the haze in the air. Our third range of mountains we can see out our window is quite muted. Gray instead of green. The wind has just come up within the last few minutes while I've been writing this and it's really blowing in the heavy smoke so that now the third range is almost completely obscured. It's awful out there. It wasn't all that bad earlier when I had my quiet time but this is awful.
[Michael just came back from getting the mail at the Post Office and he says the smoke is giving him a headache. And I can see how it could.]
The air is cool and it feels so good to not have to have the cooler running. That cooler saves my life in the afternoon when the sun heats things up really well (yesterday we hit 105 degrees) but it creates a deep growling sound that drowns out the things I want to hear; like voices. Having a hearing impairment is a definite struggle. That I can hear a fan easier than I can hear a spoken word is frustrating. But I must learn to accept the things I cannot change. I have prayed repeatedly for the return of my hearing so I won't have to rely on hearing aids but God's grace has been sufficient for me.
We grilled burgers for our dinner last night and they were very good. However they were very expensive as it turned out because the heat melted the brand new burner we just installed a week or so ago. Twenty-five dollars, right down the drain. I hate it when things like that happen. A perfectly new burner destroyed in one grilling. Oh well, such is life, I guess. We still have a little George Bush money left for the house so we'll use that money. I can't help but wonder why the Lord allows things like this to happen. He plots the course for my day so why does He allow something like this to happen in my life. That's easy, because it is conforming me into the image of Christ. I must learn to accept that fact, but that is not so easy. One thing I have learned: Suffering has value in this life and the next. I don't pretend to understand it all, how it works and why it works. I just know that suffering has eternal value. And somehow during that suffering we become more transformed into the image of Christ. He is our model. His attitude is what we strive for. And the more conformed into Christ I become, the easier it is for me to suffer loss. We should cherish the things that have value on into the next life and suffering has that kind of eternal value for us. All of us dislike suffering but we can still be joyful that in our suffering we are becoming more and more the people we are meant to be. None of us like suffering. That is normal or maybe that is human. But somehow all this suffering we experience here on earth has value that will be waiting for us when we get to the other side. As we suffer things big or small, real or imagined, all of them go together to create in us the person God wants us to be. I am obviously not talking about a grille burner here. And yet, I am. This isn't the suffering like that of the loss of human life and yet all these little things that we endure do go together to create that person God desires. It's a constant process of transformation. It's rubbing that branch time after time after time that will cause the twig to be bent into the shape or direction we want the bush to grow. It's all the little things that keep pressure on us and change our shape and our attitude. We would be very shallow people if we never faced adversity or pain or disappointment. We would be very different people if we'd never suffered any of these things, big and small. But just knowing that it is a transforming process makes the difficulties easier to take and tolerate. Adversity is difficult, I'll be the first to admit, but it's all for a good cause. Our heavenly Father wants only the best for us and though there are many tears in this life we are building a beautiful person for the next.