The Power of the Gospel

By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 1 Corinthians 15:2-5

This week is my favorite week of the year. It is a Holy Week. A week of focus on Jesus Christ, the Gospel story, and the greatest sacrifice and miracle the world has ever heard of. Easter week is time of great joy and renewal in our world, and it has proven to be a time of great joy and renewal in my family. Two of my most precious gifts were given to me during this particular week in years past. And I’m asking the Lord, humbly, not greedily, for another gift this year.

On this week in 2005 our family headed out for a spring vacation to the mountains of Virginia. Planning the trip we realized that we would be traveling through a Tennessee town where one of our former ministers of music lived. We got in touch ahead of time to see if we could take them to dinner and have a short visit, but as we should have guessed, his current church was presenting their Easter music on the night we would be traveling through. We immediately decided to make their Easter program a part of our vacation.

Rolling into town too late to get supper before it started, we pulled into the church parking lot and managed to get seats within about 6 rows of the front where our wiggly 6-year-old could stay focused and engaged for the hour-and-a-half long music and drama presentation. He curled up in my lap and to our great relief was attentive and tuned in for the whole evening. The Gospel was presented boldly and clearly, with one particular song, “End of the Beginning,” summing up the whole message of the Gospel in a powerfully moving way.

As we got to the invitation, I did as is my habit for years now, and I closed my eyes and began praying for the lost that had just heard the message. The pastor gave an altar call and began to lead the crowd in the sinner’s prayer. I felt a tug on my shirt and opened my eyes prepared to say, “It’s almost over. Be quiet for just a moment more.” But instead I saw sincere little eyes gazing at me, and my 6-year-old whispered, “I want to pray that prayer too, Mommy.”

My heart was seized by love and joy. Of course I told him, “OK. Let’s pray.” And my sweet little 6-year-old – who had loved Jesus from the time He could talk and begin understand the stories of the Bible – prayed to the Father, asking forgiveness for His sin, and telling God that He could rule over his little heart and life forever! My first joyous gift at Easter!

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Flash forward to April 2017. Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, our pastor had called our church to a week of fasting. He had challenged us in advance to pray about who we would be fasting for – who were we praying for God to move in their heart. My husband and I both felt compelled to pray for our daughter-in-love. Our beautiful daughter-in-love has always been one of the kindest, most tender-hearted, loving people you would ever meet, but we didn’t know if she had a relationship with Jesus. Now, we are not habitual fast-ers. In fact, this was one of only a handful of times in my Christian life that I had committed to a fast, and never before had it been for a week.

So we started that week with continuous prayer in the place of food. We found it wasn’t as hard as we’d feared. This mission with which God had overwhelmed our hearts drove us to prayer and away from food. I think that was one of the most intense weeks of prayer in my life.

On Easter Sunday at the end of that week our son and the prayed-for-daughter-in-love came to the worship service. My mama’s heart was full. Once again at the invitation time, I bowed my head and prayed for the lost in the congregation who had heard the message of salvation, that they would respond to the call of the Holy Spirit upon their heart. Once again there was a tug on my sleeve. This time it was my husband. He nodded toward the altar. As I looked up, there she stood – my sweet daughter-in-love, the first one down to the altar. That day she also prayed to receive Christ. Another joyous Easter gift!

This year I’m praying for my One. God knows who they are. This year I’ll be worshipping at home over the internet because of the Covid-19 virus; I imagine another tug at the sleeve is impossible. But I know better than to doubt what Our Mighty God can do! So folks, I’ll listen to the message, celebrate the resurrection in my heart, pray when the pastor offers the online invitation, and who knows… I would not put it past God to have a tug on my sleeve and find out my One has come to Christ!

How about you? Who’s your One? Are you praying in faith expecting Jehovah to move in their heart? I’ll join you in praying for them – on Easter Sunday I’ll bow my head and pray for all our Ones to answer God’s call.

The End of the Beginning

I was takin’ a trip on a plane the other day
Just wishing that I could get out
When the man next to me saw the book in my hand
And asked me what it was about
So I settled back in my seat
“A best seller,” I said
“A history, a mystery in one.”
And then I opened up the book and began to read
From Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

[Chorus]
He was born of a virgin one holy night
In the little town of Bethlehem
Angels gathered round him underneath the stars
Singing praises to the Great I Am
He walked on the water
Healed the lame
And made the blind to see again
And for the first time here on earth
We learned that God could be a friend
And though he never ever did a single thing wrong
The angry crowd chose him
And then he walked down the road
And died on the cross
And that was the end of the beginning.

[Verse 2]
“That’s not a new book that’s a bible,” he said
“and I’ve heard it all before
I’ve tried religion
It’s shame and guilt
And I don’t need it anymore
It’s superstition, made up tales
And just to help the weak to survive.”
“Let me read it again,” I said
“Listen closely, cause this is gonna change your life”

[Chorus]
He was born of a virgin one holy night
In the little town of Bethlehem
Angels gathered round him underneath the stars
Singing praises to the Great I Am
He walked on the water
Healed the lame
And made the blind to see again
And for the first time here on earth
We learned that God could be a friend
And though he never ever did a single thing wrong
The angry crowd chose him
And then he walked down the road
And died on the cross
And that was the end of the beginning.

[Bridge]
“The end of the beginning,” he said with a smile
“What more could there be?
He’s dead
You said they hung Him
Put nails in His hands
And a crown of thorns on His head.”
I said, “I’ll read it again but this time there’s more
And I believe that this is true
His death wasn’t the end, the beginning of life
That’s completed in you
Don’t you see He did all this for you!”

[Chorus]
He was born of a virgin one holy night
In the little town of Bethlehem
All the angles singing praises to the Great I AM
He walked on the water
Healed the lame
And made the blind to see
(and for the first time here on earth)
Did you know that God could be a friend
Though He never ever did a single thing wrong
He was the one the crowd chose
Then he walked and he died but
Three days later
Three days later
Three days later
HE ROSE!!!!!!!

Three days later he rose!
You see he came, he lived, and he died
But that was the end of the beginning.

 

Candy Basket

My Boss carried a basket of candy toward me. “You get one for doing a good deed.” She wanted me to know that I had earned a piece of candy. She encouraged me to take a piece of my choosing.

Meanwhile my coworkers wandered up and a few asked for a piece of candy too. She grinned, nodded, and said something about me taking two pieces then. I turned around to continue with my work and another coworker wandered up the hallway.

My Boss held out the candy basket toward her.

“Do you want a piece of candy?”

The coworker paused at the basket and moved her fingers over the candies.

“How much?” She said. My boss looked a tad puzzled and responded, “One.”

My coworker clearly meant something else, “No How much? Like how much does it cost?”

My Boss laughed, “Ooh nothing!! They’re free!”

Immediately I thought about that basket of candy was a representation of salvation. My coworker fully expected a dollar amount in relation to that candy but the candy wasn’t for sale. She couldn’t earn it, she couldn’t purchase it, she could only receive it and receive it she did.

Ephesians 2:8  (ESV)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

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Locked Out!

Have you ever been locked out?

glass-984457_640I remember as a child that we would get locked out of the house. My Mother would break the window out of the back door to get us back in the house. Then we would go to the hardware store to get glass cut the right size for the replacement window. My Mother got us locked out so many times that she had her own putty knife to help with replacing the window.

car-keys-2653311_640I laugh at this funny memory but I did not think it was so funny when I realized my car had locked itself. I left my keys inside the car one night. I did not know the car had the feature to lock if keys were left in the car. We had not had the car very long at that time. I did not remember the door code. My husband was on a business trip and I could not get in touch with him. It took me several hours to get in my car.

Not long ago I was cooking a special dinner. I had made the dessert the day before. My bacon wrapped beans marinated in Catalina dressing were ready to cook. My ham was also ready to go in the preheated oven. I reached for the handle to the oven and it would not open. I tried again. It did not budge. What was going on? Why would my oven not Household Appliances in modern kitchenopen? After several tries, I called for my husband. Usually when he touches something I am having a problem with, the problem immediately goes away. Not this time. He pulled and tugged but sure enough, the door was locked. Then he did what any self-respecting husband would do – he Googled “Oven door will not open.” He found diagrams of the self-cleaning lock and how it could be bent to lock the door. After he finished with my oven door, it will never lock again!

As I reflected on the locked door, I was reminded of Revelation 3:20: “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and sup with him.”

John 3:16 says; “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”

Salvation is the key to the door of our heart. Jesus will never break a window or tug on the door to get inside of your life. He will wait for you to open the door and invite Him in. Jesus says to us in Acts 16:31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” All He is asking is for us to believe and open our heart to Him.

And then there is this: Romans 10:13 (NKJV) – “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Have you received salvation and opened the door of your heart to Jesus?

If not, say a prayer and unlock the door of your heart. Ask Jesus to come into your life.

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A New Arrival

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Ephesians 3:14-18  “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,  that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

The sweetest gift arrived for our family a few weeks ago in the form of a sweet baby boy.  My first grandchild. Firstborn of my firstborn.  What a joy, and how excited our family is to welcome him. He is loved more than he will ever comprehend.

I heard his paternal grandmother say that day that there is “so much love” for our grandson. He is so dearly loved by his mommy and daddy and all the rest, but nothing can compare to the love that our heavenly father has for him. “For God so loved the world… .” Enough to send his only son to die for us and to sacrifice his blood as the atonement for our sins. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God; and so we are.” (I John 3:1)

I am reminded afresh and anew of how much my heavenly father loves me and delights in me, His child.

  • He sings over me (Zephaniah 3:17)
  • He cares for me (Matthew 10:30-31)
  • He protects me (2 Thessalonians 3:3)
  • He is concerned for me (1 Peter 5:7)
  • I am written on his palm (Isaiah 49:16)

IMG_0282 (1)How God must delight in weaving his little masterpieces together in the womb. He says he knows us before we are formed. In all of his wonderful creativity, he knits together the most precious gifts to give to us as newborn babies. Master craftsman, if you will, when you think of all the splendor of creation.

I wanted to jump up and down with excitement when we knew our little one had arrived and I must confess (with video to prove) that it was too much when I found out that his hair was red. I jumped!

It is amazing to think about how blue eyes and red hair can be formed on one child and because of DNA and lots of other scientific things that I don’t understand, another can have brown eyes and black hair. Or blonde and blue or whatever that precious masterpiece happens to have. And that soft, velvety skin of different shades that the creator adds to the mix. Tiny fingers and toes and legs and arms and button noses. All the little internal organs that work together. Oh my!

What a mighty God he is! My momma has questioned many times how someone could look at a little innocent baby and doubt our God.  I guess many do who don’t know him. But God does allow us to see himself in his creation. (Romans 1:20) Nothing is more tangible than holding our little bundle of God’s creation in my arms and kissing his sweet cheeks and nuzzling his little neck and snuggling him close.

maxresdefaultGod sent the sweetness of Heaven in the form of a baby, His Son, to ultimately be our savior. “God incarnate in the form of helpless babe.” He sends the sweetness of heaven in the form of babies – our own children, our grandbabies, and nieces and nephews. Sweet little babies.

How it pleases our heavenly father when we are birthed back into his kingdom! There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15:10) We rejoiced over our precious grandson’s birth just a few days ago, but we are already praying and anticipating the day that he will be born again. We will rejoice with our heavenly father over another who has repented. Oh what a day that will be!

We laughed and shed tears of joy and hugged and grinned and oohed and aahed. And talked about who he looked like that day of his birth.  We most want our grandson to resemble his savior one day. But right now his is a perfect mix of both mama and daddy. And we just love him.

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Back to Basics: Salvation

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“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’Matt. 7:22-23

Grab your coffee this morning. Relax, and let’s have some serious talk.

We have been remiss. Looking back on this year of Back to Basics articles, we seem to have skipped over the most basic of all basics: salvation. In a recent sermon Pastor Kevin brought up something about salvation that really got me to thinking. He wondered aloud what we in the congregation might say if we were asked to explain salvation. That got me to wondering too. Is there confusion over salvation? Could it be true? Could faithful church members who have lived upright lives be confused about salvation? I pondered my own story and the many conversations I’ve had with women over the years, and I realized that “Yes,” even dedicated church members can suffer from skewed teachings in their past and confusion over the Gospel. Pastor Kevin explained, “Many people in the church … not outside the church, but inside the church … many church folk think salvation is by God’s grace plus good works.  Wrong!! If we could work our way to heaven then the cross at Calvary was a tragedy.” Woah! That is a stop-us-in-our-tracks comment.

So let us stop in our tracks and examine ourselves. Would you be able to tell another person how to be saved? Can you explain salvation for yourself: what it means in your life, how you know you’re a child of God, what steps a person takes to be saved? Can you say what salvation is and what it is not? It seems simple, yet so complex. If you were saved as a child, you may sometimes wonder, like I used to, if you did it the right way. Do you? Do you ever doubt your salvation because you prayed as a child, but don’t see much growth in your life right now, and so you wonder, “Am I really saved? What if I’m not?”

When we were younger, we may have gotten the message at church that we had to be perfect. We may have confused healthy admonitions to live a moral life with what it means to be saved. We have seen that people change after they encounter Almighty God, and the enemy or our souls may have twisted that to make us believe that a change in behavior or doing good works equals salvation. But it doesn’t.

What is salvation?

That is such a “churchy” word. But what does it mean? According to dictionary.com salvation is “deliverance from the power and penalty of sin; redemption.” And BillyGraham.org says that salvation is “an act of God. It is initiated by God, wrought by God and sustained by God.” And our own Pastor Kevin reminds us that, “There is only ONE way to the Father and that way is through His Son, Jesus Christ! There is no forgiveness of sins apart from the substitutionary, perfect, sinless, shed blood of Jesus Christ! It is God’s grace plus nothing, minus nothing!!”

Salvation. From the root word “save.” We are being saved from the penalty of our sin we said. But salvation is much more than avoiding punishment. Salvation is coming into relationship with our Creator, Father God. Yes, I will be saved from the penalty of my sin, but it is oh so much more than that. I will have a perfect father. A rescuer. A friend. A guide through life. A healer. A comforter. And I will become His bride, his friend, his daughter, his beloved, a new creation, a chosen one, a forgiven one, a work of art crafted by the Master Craftsman’s hands.

But how does that happen? How do we come into that relationship with God? He is drawing us. He loves us and wants us to come to Him while we are still wallowing in our sin, while we’re still in our selfishness, our addiction, our drunken reveling, whatever. He takes the initial action – He loves us. These verses say it all.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins…. We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:10,19)

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Let’s take a look at the facts of salvation.

So the first step of salvation is realizing that God loves us, even with the mess that we are. In fact, He loved you so much that He was willing to give His only son as a sacrifice for your sin to take the punishment you deserved upon Himself.

The next step is to understand that we sin and to repent of that sin (turn away from it), and ask forgiveness from God. We are sinners. Sin is simply missing the mark. Jesus set a high standard; he lived a perfect life. That is the mark; anything short of that is sin. Murder? Yes, of course. Lying. Yes. Immorality, greed, hatred, jealousy, selfishness? Yes, yes, yes, it’s all sin. We are each and everyone guilty and in need of someone to rescue us from the punishment we deserve because of our sin. The book of Romans has lots to say about sin. Chapter 3 tells us “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Chapter 6 reminds us that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 3:23 and 6:23) Sin demands a penalty payment, death. But that penalty has already been paid!

Third, we must realize that Jesus’ death and resurrection is the only thing that makes it possible for us to be made right with God. Jesus Christ is that sacrificial lamb, that sacrifice that paid the penalty for our sin. Romans 10:9-10 tells us that, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

And that’s it, we come to Jesus bringing nothing. We let go and give Jesus authority over our life to do with as He will for the rest of our days. We raise our white flag in surrender. He redeems our mess and makes us into His new creation. It’s all on Him. He does the saving and the changing, His precious work of grace.

When we realize our sin and brokenness and our need for a savior, we have a choice. We can choose to believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, or we can choose to reject His gift of salvation and try to fill up our broken places by our own means. Jesus is tenderly waiting with open arms.

Have you done that? Have you accepted His love for you, realized and repented of your sin, believed that He is the only way to be made right with God, and given up the authority to rule your own life to Him? If not, now would be a good time. If you’re not sure what you did as a 6-year-old, now would be the time to make sure. All you have to do is pray.

We at Priceless would love to hear from you if you have given your life to Christ today. We encourage you to pray, begin to read God’s word each day, and find a local body of believers (church) near you to meet with. We’ve included a simple video below and The Bridge Illustration that express the truths of salvation in slightly different formats.

3 Circles Video

Bridge Illustration from The Navigators.

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“What Are We Doing?”

“Oh Lord I’m not going to Hell!”

It was a declaration. She was adamant. The sweat was dripping from our brows into our eyes. The sting of it making an already dreadful experience worse.

We had been to the grocery store.

On a Saturday afternoon.

In July.

In Alabama.

As we hurled our groceries into the back of her sporty SUV we were drenched in sweat and covered in stress. The blacktop parking lot only served to make a bad situation worse. We had filled our baskets with food enough to feed a family of nine and maneuvered our way through others who had set out to do the same. As we navigated the crowded store I had heard her informally curse under her breath several times. She has some standard phrases of unofficially cursing which include but are not limited to:
“For the Love!” “Come on people Get it together!” and “WHAT ARE WE DOING?!” (She often says this with an emphasis on the we and the doing)

She is an enthusiastic user of the English language and there have been many a popular phrase whose genesis was with her. Her level of patience and clear exasperation with people and the situation was evident that day. This was clearly evidenced by the response she had given me, “It’s not that hard.” Whereupon receiving instructions on pexels-photo-498701starting her car, I looked at her dumbfounded. Unlike my own tired old minivan with duct tape holding the seats together, her vehicle did not require a key. In fact, there was no ignition in which to place said key to start the car. I stared at her, mulling over how exactly I was supposed to turn the key in the nonexistent ignition “Just get in, push the pedal, and push the button.”

“It’s a button?”

“Yes! It’s not that hard! For the Love!” A string of informal profanities propelled me out of the grocer. To my surprise she was right. It wasn’t that hard. Technology and engineering at its best, a far cry from a hand crank Tin Lizzy.

As we meandered our way back to our place of lodging, I began to ponder on that declaration. The one about going to Hell, or rather not going to Hell. I thought about the certainty of her declaration, the authority with which she had spoken it. It was the kind of certainty that accompanies a fact. A vow of sorts. An altogether different kind of swearing.

As I’ve pondered on it still and giggled to myself, my sister’s words still ringing in my ears, I too have given pause and examined my eternity. I’ve pondered about what a declaration means for me. Not just any ol’ declaration though, that one in particular. As a Christ follower, I can confidently declare, “Lord, I’m not going to Hell.” The King’s Word says that He can restore to us the joy of our salvation (Psalm 51:12). I was five years old when I met Jesus. When I declared I would be with Him forever in Heaven. Five, hardly a kindergartener, yet I knew I loved Him. Back then, I would not have necessarily defined myself as a “Christ follower,” I hardly knew how to follow anyone, other than my parents and my soon to be Kindergarten teacher, yet there I was, riding down the road in a green 1970-something Chevy Impala giving my life to Jesus. The faith of a child, blindly committing to Him my everything. A decision that to date supersedes any other I’ve ever made. I do not distinctly remember jumping up and down in celebration but I do remember being happy about it. The certainty that had come with knowing not my future, but the outcome of my eternity, there was comfort and joy in that. There still is.tomorrow

My Mama has a sign in her kitchen, likely a gift she received, that says “I may not know what tomorrow holds but I know Who holds tomorrow.” I suppose that sums it up nicely. I can trust my future is in the Hands of My King and in knowing that I needn’t worry about what will happen, or not happen, tomorrow or the next day or the next. I need only to trust Him.

I like to keep it real. I have real flaws. I’m a real hot mess. I try hard to be real honest, and if I’m being real, I will admit on a day-to-day basis I do not behave as if I am overjoyed with my salvation or that I trust Jesus to take care of tomorrow. I’ve come to realize that may be partly why I struggle so.

The second part of Psalm 51:12 says “grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Perhaps, therein lies the solution to the problem. The joy of one’s salvation, the beginning of a beautiful relationship – how exactly does one get that? The answer seems to be simple.
Go back. Now I know I can not be five years old and even if I could master that one, I’m not sure I’d want to, those teen years were hard to say the least. However, what I have learned is when a relationship gets tough, it helps to remember how and why it began. My relationship with Jesus is the same way.

Ask for a willing spirit. I can pray and ask for a spirit that is willing. Willing to be all that He calls me to be. The Holy Spirit that lives in us has the power to sustain. To maintain that state of joy even when my emotions want to dictate otherwise.

fire-orange-emergency-burningI would venture to say that an Alabama summer isn’t as hot as Hell, although there are certainly times it feels like it might be really close. There are sometimes subtle reminders that I can take comfort in and one of those is knowing that in Christ, my salvation is secure and I can be thankful for a guaranteed eternity and a gracious King who gave Himself for me so that I can boldly take hold of His promises and know without a doubt that I am not going to Hell.