Sign-up to receive Kathy's FREE E-Newsletter or Weekly Blog Posts

Archive | Salvation

Does Jesus Speak to You?

Does Jesus speak to Christians? Does God communicate with those who love Jesus and follow Him? That question came to national attention last week.

A Quick Review of the Controversy

It all started when former White House aid Omarosa Manigault Newman made derogatory comments about Vice-President Mike Pence’s faith on Celebrity Big Brother. Omarosa said Americans should be worried about the possibility of Pence as president because:

“He’s extreme. I’m Christian, I love Jesus, but he thinks Jesus tells him to say things… It’s scary.”

Then the cohosts of the TV talk show “The View” picked up the topic. Joy Behar, who says she is a Christian, said:

“It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another when Jesus talks to you. That’s called mental illness if I’m not correct. Hearing voices.”

A couple of the other cohosts worked to balance her opinion, but the audience obviously sided with Behar. The conversation ended with the tone that anyone who claims to hear God speak isn’t quite right in the head. 

Then Vice-President Pence responded. He called for ABC to take a stand for religious tolerance, citing the millions of Americans who cherish their faith.

Does Jesus Speak to Christians?

I noticed that both Omarosa and Behar claim to be Christians. Yet, they think people who “hear” Jesus speak to them are either crazy or scary or both.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter what Omarosa or Behar or anyone else thinks. What matters is the truth. Does God speak to Christians?

The short answer is “yes.” God does indeed speak to believers. The Bible tells us God speaks to us.

In the well-known Christian book “Experiencing God,” written by Henry Blackaby and Claude King, the authors make this statement:

One critical point to understanding and experiencing God is knowing clearly when God is speaking. If the Christian does not know when God is speaking, he is in trouble at the heart of his Christian life!

What does the Bible say?

Although this topic needs much more time and space than a brief blog post, we can hit the highlights to confirm the truth that yes, indeed God speaks to us today.

The Bible tells us that before Jesus came, God spoke to His people through the prophets and in various ways (Hebrews 1:1). Examples fill the Bible – angelic visits, dreams and visions, fiery bushes and more. Now, in these “last days” – the time between Jesus’ post-resurrection ascension and His return – God speaks to us through His Son (Hebrews 1:2).

Jesus is present with His people, speaking to His people, today. The Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Christ – lives inside every true believer (Romans 8:9-11). We can hear God speak to us because His Spirit dwells with us.

The Spirit’s Job in Believers

Here are just a few of the things the Spirit does within believers that helps us to hear from God:

  • Gives Spiritual Understanding – The Spirit helps us understand the Bible and the things of God. Much of this seems like foolish gibberish to the world because they don’t have the Spirit to give them understanding  (1 Corinthians 2:9-12).
  • Testifies to Jesus – The Spirit always makes Jesus known to us. He reveals truth in our hearts and minds about Jesus (John 15:26).
  • Teaches and Reminds – The Spirit not only gives us understanding, He helps us see how God’s truth – the Bible – should be applied to our lives. He helps us see how God’s principles throughout Scripture work together. And when we need specific truths or principles for specific life situations, He brings those things to mind (John 14:26).
  • Guides into Truth – The Spirit helps us recognize God’s truth and distinguish it from error and false teaching. The Spirit shows us know how to specifically apply those truths to the current situations and relationships of our lives.

Ways God Speaks Today

So, how does the Spirit’s job translate into a Christian hearing God speak?

  • The Bible –  The Bible is the primary way God speaks to Christians today. In His Word, God has revealed Himself, His purposes, and His ways. As we read, and the Holy Spirit does His job, we “hear” Jesus speak. His Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12-13). The Holy Spirit wields it like a sword – to pierce our hearts and prick our minds with God’s truth. (See 11 Tips for Spending Quality Quiet Time with God)
  • Prayer – Christians have the very Spirit of God living inside us. When we pray we aren’t just tossing words into the air. And it isn’t a one-way conversation. In prayer, God uses His Spirit to bring us into alignment with His truth, with His will for us. The Spirit miraculously works in our hearts. The Spirit brings Scripture to mind that God wants us to apply to specific situations. The Spirit reminds us of ways we need to act, reach out, love, help, forgive. And when God speaks, we should respond.
  • Secondary Ways – Although the Bible and prayer are the primary ways God speaks to His children today, He will often confirm what He wants us to know through circumstances and the counsel of godly people. But, God will never “speak” to us in ways that contradict His Word.

So why does Omarosa, Behar, and many other “Christians” deny that God speaks to His children today? I can’t answer that for every individual, but there are two primary possibilities. First, they may be members of a religious group, but don’t have a saving relationship with Jesus. Without the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives, the truth that God speaks to His children sounds like crazy foolishness. Second, they may be new, immature believers who are just beginning to learn God’s truth.

What about you? Do you hear Jesus speak? What would you say to a “Christian” who scoffs at the idea of God speaking today?

Read More »

This Certain Hope

The daffodil bulbs I planted in the fall have raised their fresh green blades above the ground. This morning’s discovery was a touch bittersweet.

Late last spring, I dug up those same bulbs from the back yard of my childhood home – right after all my parents’ belongings rode off down the street in a moving van.

Because of their health, Mom and Dad needed to be close to either me or my brother. They now live a mile from my brother, in a comfortable duplex, with round-the-clock help.

Honestly, I had not been optimistic that the bulbs would live. First, it wasn’t the best time of year to dig them up. But I didn’t have a choice, the house was going to be sold. Second, we soon moved ourselves and the bulbs weren’t constantly stored in a “cool, dry place.”

But I did hope they’d grow.

I dug them up with hope. And I planted them with hope.

When I saw those green stems this morning I also thought about my dad and the future hope God says is his. Really, it’s the hope that belongs to all of us who belong to Jesus.

Since that first sin in the Garden, sin has been taking its toll. This world, our souls, and our bodies have been held in bondage to sin, broken by corruption, and groaning under sin’s burden.

Jesus paid the price of our redemption. And while we are no longer slaves to sin, all creation still waits for the full, future consummation of our redemption. That day when God will restore all things, including our bodies (Romans 8:18-25).

For in this hope we were saved. Romans 8:24

Groaning while waiting with certain hope

Parkinson’s has taken a terrible toll on Dad’s body. Once athletic and strong, age and disease have robbed him without mercy. Now he struggles to rise from a chair and needs a walker to get across a room.

But one day… one day Dad will have a resurrection body that is whole and strong.

Like the daffodil bulb that went into the ground brown and dry has been raised green and supple, our weak bodies will one day be raised in glory and power. One day, all those who know Jesus will be raised imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:35-49).

 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. 1 Corinthians 15:42-43

Do you have this sure hope? The secure and certain hope that one day your weak, perishable body will be raised strong and imperishable? If you’ve never entered into a saving relationship with Jesus, don’t spend another hopeless day. Find out How to Know Jesus now.

What is your deepest “groaning?” Remember God will restore all things. Where do you need to apply this certain hope?

Read More »

4 Christmas Gifts from Jesus

One of our family’s Christmas traditions has been to read the biblical Christmas story together on Christmas Eve. We read those chapters from Matthew and Luke about the angels, the shepherds, the star, the magi, and the infant Christ born in a stable in Bethlehem. These beloved passages are so dear and familiar I can recite huge chunks of them from memory.

But did you know there is also a Christmas account in John’s Gospel?

Christmas gifts

John gives us a different perspective. He didn’t write about the earthly circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus. Instead, John’s account is more of a heavenly perspective. He wrote about the eternal, divine nature of Jesus the Word and His purpose in coming to earth.

4 Christmas Gifts from Jesus to You

If you have time, read John 1:1-14 now. Or read it tonight with your family. As you read, look for the 4 things Jesus brought to the earth with His first coming. They are His Christmas gifts to us.

  1. Life – In his Gospel, John uses the Greek word zoe, translated as “life,” 36 times! True life – eternal, spiritual life – is in Jesus. He embodies life (John 1:4). He alone can give life (John 5:24-26; John 11:25-26). And He came to earth to bring it to us (John 3:16).
  2. Light – This world and everyone in it is dead and dying without Jesus. We stumble around in the darkness and can’t find our way to God. Jesus came to light the way to God (John 1:4-5). Many claim to know the way, but Jesus is the “true light” that gives light to everyone (John 1:9).
  3. Grace – Jesus came from the Father to bring us grace (John 1:14). Jesus’s death on the cross is the ultimate act of grace. Our sin separates us from God and we cannot save ourselves. But Jesus’ death paid the penalty our sins deserve. When we put our faith and trust in Jesus and His death and resurrection we receive God’s gracious gift of salvation (John 3:16-17).
  4. Truth – Jesus came to bring us God’s truth (John 1:14). During His time on earth He testified to the truth of God (John 18:37). Many reject it. Many cling to the world’s “truth.” But only Jesus gives us God’s truth (John 3:31-36).

You may receive gifts this Christmas that cost a lot of money. But none compare to the 4 gifts Jesus longs to give. Open them up. Embrace them. Share them.

May God abundantly bless you with His life, light, grace, and truth this Christmas.

 

Read More »

Following Jesus is either the BEST Decision or the WORST

Yesterday, while visiting another church in our new area, one of the ministers said something that bothered me the rest of the service and into lunch. The children’s minister introduced a ten-year-old girl who had recently decided to follow Jesus. Right before he baptized her he said, “It’s one of the best decisions she will make in her life.”

As soon as we got in the car, we began our after-church, church search routine. We shared our thoughts about the church, the service, and whether we think this might be the church God has for us.

“I was really bothered by the minister’s statement about that girl’s decision to give her life to Jesus,” I said.

“Yeah. That struck me too.”

“It’s not the first time I’ve heard a Christian say that. He probably didn’t even realize what he said. But it puts a decision to follow Jesus right up there with who to marry, what career path to follow, and how to invest your money.”

Maybe you think I’m making a big deal out of nothing. Getting on a soapbox over a slip of the tongue. But I don’t think so.

There are other vitally important decisions in our lives, ones that impact our health, relationships, and livelihood. There are even decisions with eternal consequences like whether to tell others about the salvation found only in Jesus or to keep it to ourselves.

But the decision to follow Jesus – or not follow Jesus – is the only decision a person can ever make that determines her or his eternal destiny.

If there is life after death… If we need a Savior because of our sin… If trusting in the death and resurrection of Jesus is the only way to be made right with a holy God… Then choosing Jesus is the BEST decision you’ll ever make.

But if this life is all there is… Or if your soul gets absorbed into the universal cosmos (or some other silly nonsense)… Or if you can choose your own path to God… Then choosing Jesus is the most ridiculous, time-wasting, WORST decision you’ll ever make.

Choosing to give your life to Jesus in exchange for the eternal life He offers is either the BEST decision you’ll ever make or it’s the worst decision you’ll ever make. Period.

Have you made the BEST decision in your life? If you want to know more about eternal life found only in Jesus, click here.

Read More »

5 Signs of Authentic Faith

Are we living out true, authentic faith in Jesus or simply fooling ourselves? It’s easy to tell, if we take an honest look. The apostle John challenged first century believers – and believers today – to do just that. In his first letter, John clearly laid out signs of authentic faith. And he clearly stated his purpose in writing:

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13).

John wanted his readers to be sure they were saved. He longed for them to stand firm in God’s truth and not be swayed by false teachers. And he wanted “false believers” to wake up.

He did not tip toe around the truth. That would not do them, nor us, any good. In the first two chapters of First John, the apostle gave us 5 signs to test our faith. His “If we…, then…, but…” style describes what a true relationship with Jesus will – and won’t – look like.

5 Signs of Authentic Faith

  1. If we walk in darkness, then we do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light we have fellowship with God.
  2. If we claim to have no sin, then we are deceived and we call God a liar. But if we admit and confess our sin, God will forgive us and give us Jesus’ righteousness.
  3. If we do not obey God’s commands, then the truth is not in us. But if we obey God, it reveals we truly know Him and His love is made complete in us.
  4. If we do not love fellow believers, then we still live in darkness and prone to fall. But if we love other believers, we live in the light.
  5. If we love the world, then it proves we do not have God’s love. But if we do not love the things of the world it shows we truly have eternal life.

So, how are we doing? Are we walking in the light or in the darkness?

You may also be interested in: How to have a relationship with Jesus

Read More »

6 Ways to Connect with Others for Jesus

evangelism We don’t have to travel to a foreign country to encounter a different culture. Not only has the world come to America, but also the American culture embraces values far different than the godly standards Christians seek to live by. How can we connect with others so vastly different than ourselves in order to share Jesus and His priceless gift of salvation?

The apostle Paul purposefully worked to fit into the culture where he ministered. He removed all the roadblocks he could and sought to build bridges to earn trust and to gain opportunity to share the Gospel. He kept his prime directive in mind: “My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me —the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24, NIV).

 

Paul did everything he could to open doors to share the Gospel. Most of us probably won’t be given the opportunity to talk to Greek philosophers about Jesus on a hilltop in Athens (Acts 17:16-34) or share our testimony with a king (Acts 26:1-32) like Paul. However, we can work to “become all things to all people so that by all possible means we (I) might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22, NIV).

6 Ways to Follow Paul’s Example to Connect with Others:

  1. Find a common life experience or interest – In Acts 17, Paul the evangelist found affinity with the Athenian philosophers. They both liked to engage in deep, thoughtful conversation. Even if your new neighbor comes from the other side of the world you can find common ground. Maybe you’re both parents, or like to garden, or are both trying to get rid of fire ants in your yard. Whatever it is, it’s a place to start.
  2. Adopt their speech – As long as it’s not profane or “unedifying,” use their style of conversation. For instance, when I lived in the north, I said “you guys” and “soda” instead of “y’all” and “coke.” Paul used general sentiments and words his hearers would have known, understood, and accepted. Too often we use words and phrases that are very familiar to Christians, but they sound very foreign to the non-Christian (See “7 Churchy Words”).
  3. Compliment them – Of course, this must be genuine. Paul found something about which to commend the Athenians (Acts 17:22). Look for something about them on which to positively comment or admire. This small effort will help them understand you’re not “against them.”
  4. Find a launch pad – In Athens, Paul spotted an altar to “an unknown god.” This altar gave Paul the opening he needed to talk about Jesus. We may learn of a cultural idea we can use as a springboard to introduce spiritual truth. Or perhaps your new friend is struggling with difficult circumstances, and therefore open to words of spiritual encouragement.
  5. Respect their cultural mores –Paul did not demean or insult their culture or customs. He even conformed to them when they did not conflict with God’s holy standards. When Paul began ministry to the Gentiles, he began going by his given Greek name and did not stick to a kosher diet.
  6. Serve the truth with grace – Christians sometimes try to force God’s standards of values, beliefs, and behavior on non-Christians. We forget that to a person without the indwelling Holy Spirit, the things of God seem “foolish” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Our first priority should be to introduce them to Jesus. But honest, grace-filled conversations about “controversial” topics within the context of relationship can spark interest in Jesus (Colossians 4:5-6). So let’s always be prepared to lovingly, respectfully, and biblically speak to specific topics when asked (1 Peter 3:15). (See “Grace or Truth?”)

I would love to hear how you have purposefully worked to find ways to connect with the people around you to build relationships and ultimately share Jesus.

 

Read More »

Does it Matter What My Church Believes?

church doctrineJust last month, my husband and I moved to a new town. Yesterday, we began the search for the church God has for us. Our actual address may be small town Texas, but since we live on the fringes of the Dallas/Ft Worth area, church choices abound. We could visit for months – maybe even years – without attending the same church twice.

How do we begin? How can we narrow our search? Before we made the first visit, we narrowed the possibilities significantly based on what the church believes.

What? Doesn’t the preaching and the music and the programs and the community involvement carry a lot of weight? Does a church’s doctrine really matter that much?

Yes, a church’s doctrine is that important. Not only do the biblical truths and principles on which it stands shape its people and its ministry, but if what it believes does not align correctly with God’s Word, then the church is not following Christ.

I realize that’s a bold, brazen statement, but it’s based on the teaching of the New Testament. For instance, in Paul’s letters to the churches in Corinth and Galatia, one of his primary purposes in writing was to combat false teaching and to admonish them to cling to the truth of Jesus (2 Corinthians 11:3-4, Galatians 1:6-9). Paul describes the warped gospel they were following as “no gospel at all.”

And in the book of Revelation, Jesus Himself called the churches in Pergamum and Thyatira to repent from following false teaching before they experienced God’s discipline (Revelation 2:14-16, 20-22).

Yes, what a church believes – and therefore teaches and acts on – absolutely matters.

I can hear wheels turning. Do you mean everything? What about the differences between denominations? Are you saying that only one denomination is right?!

Many differences between denominations and even individual churches within denominations are peripheral to the heart of God’s gospel. They do not impact key doctrinal truths. These kinds of differences can be held loosely. In fact, we can enjoy and even celebrate the variety within God’s church.

Things like style of music, order of worship, and areas of ministry focus broaden and strengthen the worldwide church. Even other beliefs like the role of women in ministry, the view of end times, and the structure of church leadership are not considered core essential truths. These types of areas are considered “minor doctrines.” There is room for differences.

But in other areas, those considered to be “major doctrines,” there is little if any room for difference. With these doctrines – ones that are central to Christianity and have significant impact on other doctrines – we must hold firm. These fundamental truths flow from the nature and character of God and His saving work.

We can’t fully cover all these major doctrines in one blog post. But here is a quick list of many of these essential truths:

  • The nature of God
  • The Trinity
  • The deity of Jesus
  • The authority of the Bible
  • The nature of mankind and our need for salvation
  • Salvation solely through faith in Jesus
  • The death and resurrection of Jesus
  • The return of Jesus

What a church believes about essential doctrines are deal breakers for me and my husband. For instance, if a church believes there is something more required for salvation than faith in Jesus – or that salvation can be found anywhere else – that one doesn’t make the cut. If a church doesn’t hold to the truth that God is one God yet three distinct persons, there is no need for us to visit.

Why are we so dogmatic? A church that does not hold to the essential truths of the Christian gospel is not following the gospel at all. Overall, as believers, we can be gracious in those minor doctrines, the non-essentials, but we must be hold tight to the essential truths of our faith.

If you aren’t sure what your church believes about the major doctrines, find out. Many churches have “statement of beliefs” on their website. (I even have one on this website!) If you aren’t sure what you believe, start studying! Of course the Bible is your first and primary source. But if you’d like some additional resources, check out the list below.

Do you know what your church believes about the major doctrines? Does it matter to you?

Suggested Reading:

 

 

 

Read More »

Star Trek, CS Lewis, and Your Free Will

Free WillI am a Trekkie. I was a fan of the original Star Trek series, but I really loved The Next Generation. My favorite character was Lieutenant Commander Data.

Data was an android with high computational capabilities. He looked like a human and was physically fully functional. Yet one thing prevented Data from understanding and relating to humans. He lacked human emotions.

Data’s desire to possess human emotions – and thus become truly human – was an ongoing thread in the show’s storyline. Although Data was like the rest of the crew in many ways, this deficiency made him somewhat of an outsider, unable to form strong bonds and experience deep relationships.

This may sound strange, but I thought about Data the other day while reading “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis. During the discussion of another topic, Lewis wrote this about mankind’s free will:

He (God) gave them free will because a world of mere automata could never love and therefore never know infinite happiness.

The question of our free will has come up countless times in Bible study groups I’ve led or been a part of. “If God knew we would sin, why did He give us free will? Wouldn’t it have been better if we couldn’t disobey?”

Free Will Makes Ultimate Joy Possible

No, it wouldn’t have been better. If God withheld free will we could never know true happiness. We would be like little robots, always doing the right thing, but never experiencing the joy of relating to our Creator.

Even though Data was superior to humans in some ways, he knew he lacked the best part of humanity. The ability to love and be loved.

God desires to love us and to be loved by us. And He implanted the desire to love Him back in the deepest part of our souls. And that’s where we find our purpose, our fulfillment, and our ultimate joy. In choosing to love and be loved by our God.

Have you struggled with the question of mankind’s free will? Does Lewis’ explanation help?

 

Read More »

Jesus Died for Everyone – Even Terrorists

Jesus deathI woke this morning to the news of two terrorist attacks on Christian churches in Egypt. Dozens were killed and more than 100 injured while worshipping during Palm Sunday services. And this just days after a terrorist drove a hijacked truck armed with a bomb into a crowded shopping area in Sweden.

The attacks in Egypt specifically targeted Christians. As I prayed over the tragic events this morning I wondered about the terrorists. How do they justify their actions? How can they be so cruel? How could they dare to go right into God’s house and attack His people? How does God feel about them?

Then I glanced at the bottom of my prayer guide. It reminded me to pray for the attackers too. To pray for their salvation. My first thought was: “They don’t deserve Jesus. They don’t deserve His forgiveness.” But wait…

Neither do I. I don’t deserve Jesus. I don’t deserve His forgiveness. That’s exactly why the Cross was necessary. We are all sinners underserving of a relationship with a holy God. We are all sinners, dead in our sins with no ability to save ourselves.

Today, Palm Sunday, begins the most holy time of the year for Christians. Friday marks the event that makes our eternal salvation possible – Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. That is why Jesus came. To save sinners.

The apostle Paul put it this way:

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy, so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the Kingeternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:15-17, NIV

Paul called himself the “worst of sinners.” Paul had persecuted, hunted, imprisoned, and killed followers of Jesus. It was his chief aim in life, his passion. To put an end to Christians. To blot out Christianity from the face of the earth. Paul was a terrorist. And Jesus saved him. Jesus chose him. And Paul’s life stood as an example of Christ’s unlimited grace and power.

If God could save Paul, God can save anyone.

He could save me. He could save you. He can save a terrorist intent on killing as many Christians as he can.

Here’s a challenge for us this week. On the days leading up to Good Friday, let’s pray not only for the end to terrorism, but let us also pray for the salvation of those who long to create the terror. May they become a display of God’s immense love and grace. May they become a testimony to His glory.

Read More »

Why Do You Follow Jesus?

Follow JesusThis isn’t just a rhetorical question. I am asking it of myself this week. Why do I follow Jesus?

The question came up during my daily Bible reading in the sixth chapter of John. Jesus had just fed more than 5,000 people with just 5 small loaves of bread and 2 little fish – a miraculous, supernatural feat that displayed Jesus’ power and authority.

The next morning the crowds came looking for Him again. But they didn’t come to worship or to seek the things that only He can give.

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”

They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”

Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”

They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

John 6:26-31, NLT

The people looked for Jesus because He had filled their bellies, not because they had allowed Him to fill their souls. They missed the point of the miracle. They failed to see past their own physical circumstances. And even after Jesus pointed out their eternal, spiritual need, they simply asked what else He might do for them.

They asked for less. They looked for things that don’t last. It was all about a full belly and the here and now.

Sometimes I do the same. Often I am consumed by my temporary, physical circumstances and turn to Jesus solely because I want Him to “fix” things. I lost sight of the bigger picture. I allow the short-term to overshadow eternity. I spend all my energy worrying about things that don’t last when instead I should simply come to Jesus for the spiritual food only He can provide.

What about you? Why are you following Jesus today?

Read More »