Good vs. Saved

“Good people don’t go to heaven, saved people do.” Skip Heitzig

Billions of people on earth are busy doing good works in order to get to heaven. They are doing things such as fasting, following religious traditions, giving alms, feeding the poor, going to church, etcetera. They are trying their hardest to be good enough so that when they die, they can go to heaven.

The problem with this approach is how do you know when you have done enough to get in? Do you think that God puts all of our good works on one side of the Celestial Scale and our bad deeds on the other side and then if the good ones outweigh the bad, we are admitted into heaven?

The problem with this kind of thinking is that our good works are not quantifiable. How much do we have to give in order to have really done a good work? Does showing up for church or at the local temple qualify as a good work? Do we get credit for being nice to our family or those who love us? Who’s keeping score and when do we know when we have done enough?

I spoke to a person a while back and we were talking about good works. He certainly had given more to the needy than most people and I’m sure he hoped that would count for something when he stands before the Lord. He was raised in church but somehow had forgotten about Jesus. So, I asked him, “If we can get to heaven by doing good works, why did Jesus have to come to earth to die for our sins?” He didn’t have an answer to that.

The answer to that question, is by way of inference, that of course we can’t get to heaven by our own good works. That is exactly why Jesus had to come to earth because none of us is good enough or can do enough good works to get into heaven. Someone had to pay the price for our sins in order to secure our way into heaven. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3: 16-17

Are you trying as hard as you can to be good enough for God? Are you doing good work after good work in order to be accepted by Him? Why don’t you take a step back and take a good hard look at Jesus. Can you see that He is the only One that can get you where you want to be when you die? Let me know if this is a new thought for you.

The Eyes of Faith

Have you ever been praying for someone and you only see them as they are? Maybe they are making a bunch of mistakes. Perhaps they are sabotaging themselves at every turn. Their behavior has made you think of them and react towards them in a certain way. We seem to be locked into seeing them in a negative light and we treat them accordingly.

Perhaps we need to take some time and think about how the Lord would like their lives to be. What would that look like? If we can come up with a positive picture of them in our minds, then perhaps we can pray for them that way. We would be seeing them with the Eyes of Faith. Faith that when God intervenes in their lives, their lives will look much different.

The amazing thing about this is that when we can do that, we begin to treat them differently. We begin to treat them with more respect and we are not so negative towards them. We speak to them about the possibilities in their lives and try to help them see a different future for themselves.

When they can see themselves in a different light, it helps to dispel their negative self-image and sometimes they can believe in themselves again. People who are caught in a negative cycle of behavior have lost hope for themselves and their actions may just become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Is there someone you need to begin to look at with the Eyes of Faith? I know there is in my sphere. Remember the Scriptures say, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” Hebrews 11:1 Let’s hope for the best and see those caught in a negative spiral with the Eyes of Faith. It just may help change their world.

Image by Daniel Hannah. Courtesy of Pixabay.

Flip the Script

The other evening, I couldn’t sleep. I began to pray for a member of our family that keeps making mistakes over and over. As I prayed for him, I talked with the Lord about the things he kept doing. Eventually, about 1:00 A.M., I fell asleep. The next morning, when I woke up I was discouraged and didn’t know why. I thought about it and realized that I had been focusing on the mistakes this person kept making. I could see I needed to flip the script.

I then remembered Ruby, a friend of mine, who would say, “Don’t pray the problem!” I looked back at the evening before and that’s pretty much all I had been doing. So what should I do instead? I prayed about it. The first thing I needed to do was to get my eyes off the person and his problems and place them on the Lord.

I spent that day focusing on the greatness of God and his ability to answer my prayers. After all, He created the universe. He keeps the stars fixed in the heavens and the planets spinning in alignment. Surely, He has the ability to help solve the problems that concern me. Psalm 113: 4-6 says, “The Lord is high above all nations, His glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, Who dwells on high, Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and in the earth?” Clearly, our God has the power to answer our prayers.

That evening after thinking about the greatness of God, I felt the Lord nudging me to be thankful for the things He had done for me. He reminded me of the time when I could have accidentally killed my brother. He was not even injured after the incident. My entire life would have been ruined had I hurt my brother, but God in His mercy, prevented that from happening. He also reminded me of the times He protected me during the years when I was not living for Him. Psalm 118: 1-2 says: “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” Surely, I could see how God had been merciful to me and that He would be merciful to my relative.

The last thing I was reminded of is to be careful where I put my faith and focus. The Lord instructs us in His word to believe that He can and will answer our prayers. The disciples had been trying to cast out a demon and they were unable to. Jesus showed up on the scene and cast it out. The disciples wanted to know why they had failed. In Matthew 17: 20 Jesus answered, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” Again, even though this problem seemed impossible to solve, the Lord was reminding me that nothing is impossible for Him.

So the next time you become discouraged in prayer, flip the script and remember Ruby and her advice, “Don’t pray the problem!” Place your focus on the Lord, His greatness, His mercy, be thankful and have a little faith in Him. He can do anything!

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.

The Hellevator

Marco looked across the bay. He loved watching the ocean from his office window. Today, there was no fog and he felt like he could see forever. The blue of the Pacific Ocean was stunning as it glistened in the full sun. It was late Friday afternoon and he was calling it quits for the week. He turned around and looked at his office. He smiled as he saw all of the awards he had received throughout his career as a real estate broker. It had been quite a ride and he was still enjoying the thrill as each sale closed and his company received its commission.

Tomorrow was his 50th birthday and he and his family were going to spend the weekend at his parent’s winery in Napa. He loved his parents but had chosen not to stay in Napa and work with his dad and brothers. Growing grapes and making wine did not compare to the thrill of making thousands of dollars from just one real estate transaction.

Marco walked out the door of his office and headed for the elevator. As he started to reach for the button, everything went black and he collapsed on the floor. He woke up as his spirit left his body and traveled upwards. In a few moments, he was in a room filled with light and millions of books. He looked around and saw what he believed were two angels. They looked at him and then turned and opened a gigantic door. A being filled with light entered and when his eyes adjusted to the light, he could see the most beautiful being he had ever seen. Not only was this person filled with light, he could feel love emanating from his every pore. He could see the scars on his hands and feet and he knew instantly who he was. This was Jesus, the Son of God that his parents had taught him about when he was little.

Marco could do nothing else but fall on his face and worship Him. Jesus came forward and lifted him up. As He touched Marco, love filled Marco’s being. He knew he was loved completely at that moment. A flash of fear coursed through Marco’s mind. What was he doing here? Had he died? What about his life? As those thoughts went through his mind, Marco began to see his life pass before him.

He saw the things he had done as a child and as a teenager. He saw his rejection of God in his college years and his obsession with money and his career in his twenties, thirties and forties. His life looked oh so shallow and self-centered. Had he done any good? He saw how he loved his wife and kids and how his company contributed every year to the homeless shelter near his office. He wondered, was that enough to get him into heaven?

No words were spoken as Jesus looked into the Book of Life that one of the angels held in his hand. He searched for Marco’s name but could not find it. “I’m sorry Marco. I created you to spend eternity with me, but you rejected every advance I made to offer you my love.” Marco then saw the hundreds of times that Jesus had protected him and spoken to him in a still small voice. He watched himself ignore those moments as he hurried on about his life, anxious to cut another deal and make another great commission.

Jesus turned and left the room. One of the angels pointed to the Hellevator and Marco knew that he was going to have to take it and live in a Christless eternity. He began weeping as he was escorted to the Hellevator. The door opened and he saw a demon waiting to take him to Hell. He tried to back up but a force just kept drawing him forward into the Hellevator. He started screaming, “No, No, I am so sorry.” He heard his voice echo off the walls in the Hellevator and the demon smile a wicked smile. Just as the door began to close, everything went dark again.

“One, Two, Clear.” A bolt of electricity shocked his heart. His heart began to beat and he heard, “He’s back. Let’s get him down the elevator and to SF General.” He could feel them lift him onto the gurney and he heard the elevator door open as they rushed him inside. In just a few moments, he was on the street and they were loading him into the ambulance. Someone was talking to him, “We’ve got ya buddy, just hang on. You’re going to be okay.”

Marco felt the weight of his body and knew he was back in it. His chest hurt and he felt weak, so weak he could hardly talk. He looked up at the paramedic and whispered, “Thank you.” He then looked up through the roof of the ambulance into heaven, “Thank you Jesus, for a second chance. I won’t let you down.”

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:16-17.

Image by Gerd Altman. Courtesy of Pixabay

Father Knows Best

When I was growing up, there was a weekly television series called “Father Knows Best.” Every week, the mother and kids would deal with a problem. They would wrestle with a solution and then the father would come home from work. He would listen to the problem and then, in his wisdom, would give them a solution. Whether they liked it or understood the answer, the family would follow the father’s advice and things would work out. Lately, the title of this sitcom has been in my mind.

I’ve been thinking about all the prayers I prayed as a teenager. They consisted of a lot of desires; the boys I thought I wanted to marry, where I thought I wanted to go to school, where I wanted to live, etc.; typical teenage girl hopes and dreams. Looking back, I am so thankful that my Heavenly Father did not answer those prayers with a “yes.” I certainly didn’t know what I was really asking for but He did. You see, my Heavenly Father really did know best all those years ago.

As I think through the decades of unanswered prayers, I wonder why there were so many “no” answers. I thought that what I was praying for was a good thing for my life or for the lives of others but so many of my requests were not answered the way I wanted them to. People divorced, died and lost their homes. Businesses were lost and loved ones went through a lot of suffering. I can’t even comprehend why my prayers were not answered and yet by faith I must trust that my Heavenly Father knew best.

My desire would always be to be spared suffering, for myself and those I pray for. In my quest of faith, I must admit that I don’t understand my Father’s allowance of suffering in this world. Why doesn’t he just wave a magic wand and make everything better? I have no answers for any of these questions. I do know a few things though.

I know I serve a good and loving God. I know that I live in a fallen world where there is suffering as a result of man’s sin. I know that this earth and this life are temporary and that there is an eternal life to come. I freely admit my lack of understanding but I do trust Him because after all, I believe that my Heavenly Father knows best.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Fear: The Ultimate Contagion

fear-198933_640

Over the past few weeks, I have thought about what to write. The media has inculcated the public with an irrational fear of the COVID19 Virus. I have been in different situations and heard people speak of the fear they are experiencing. I have also spoken to people from the medical community who are not living in fear because they face worse germs every day when they go to their workplace.

This particular Coronavirus is real, of course. It does have about a 1% mortality rate, and those who are elderly or have underlying health conditions are the most vulnerable.  These facts are nothing to sneeze at (pardon the pun). It is highly communicable and it did not start in this country, so there is an element of the unknown about it. Each person does need to practice good hygiene procedures and make individual decisions about where they will travel and how they will limit their own risk of exposure to the disease.

That being said, the next condition to deal with is the underlying fear that is present in our culture today. We need to ask ourselves if we are going to give in to that fear. That answer will be different for each one of us based on our age, our health and ultimately the spiritual center we use to guide our lives.  Those who have no belief in God and are completely dependent on their own resources will have little reassurance. Those of us who do believe in God are in a much better position to defeat this particular enemy.

No matter what situation we are facing, the Lord does not want us to live in fear. He has promised us in His word that He will take care of us. “Fear Not” is woven throughout the Scriptures. For this particular circumstance, we have Psalm 91 to read and take comfort in. He tells us that if we are His and we abide under His shadow that: “He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. YOU SHALL NOT BE AFRAID of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.” These are just a few of the verses from this Psalm that we can read and rely on. We can trust God to take care of us no matter what is going on around us.

I am not saying that we will not suffer or that bad things will not happen to us. I am saying that we can trust HIM to take care of us no matter where we find ourselves. For those of us who believe in HIM, let’s take a few deep breaths and remain calm. Let’s trust HIM with our lives because HE ultimately holds them in His hands. And let’s ask ourselves, “Who else would we rather have taking care of us?” He knows our every breath and knows the number of hairs on our heads. He just wants us to trust HIM. 

The truth is that we only have today, it is the only day we have been given. Let’s not live it in fear.  Let’s pray, practice good hygiene and spend time with the Lord in His word. There we will find everything we need to live in peace and to defeat this ultimate contagion. 

Image by john hain. Courtesy of Pixabay