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pill-bottleIntroduction 

I heard about a man who wanted to travel by ship from America to Europe, but could scrape together only enough money for a ticket, thus having no money to purchase food at the ship’s restaurant. So, he packed his own cheese and crackers, avoiding the restaurant, where people feasted daily on the most delicious foods.

Days later, as the crackers went stale and the cheese was probably beginning to mold, a fellow passenger pulled the wretched man aside and inquired, ‘’I noticed that you never dine with us in the cafeteria. Would you mind telling me why?’’ He confessed his inability to pay for anything except for the ticket, to which his new acquaintance replied, ‘’But didn’t you understand? The food came with the ticket!’’(1)

Tragically, many Christians are just like this man. They never grew enough spiritually to understand all that came with their ticket to heaven. Existing on spiritual cheese and crackers, they miss the spiritual feast that God says comes with salvation. Today let’s begin to look at a few items in the feast, and the doubts that keep some from enjoying that feast.

As a “new creation,” we have a fresh, new relationship with God and the desire to pursue that relationship.

Present declarations 

Salvation isn’t just about life after death. We possess eternal life here and now, along with its many benefits. Here are just a few:

Forgiveness. Some Christians continue to go to bed at night, racked with guilt for their past behavior. Yet, from God’s perspective, those sins are gone, taken away as far as the East is from the West, flung into the deepest sea. We no longer have to be shackled by guilt! As concentration camp survivor Corrie ten Boom put it, “When we confess our sins, God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. And even though I cannot find a Scripture for it, I believe God then places a sign out there that says, NO FISHING ALLOWED.”(2)

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace…. (Ephesians 1:7) 

A New Creation. Some people think, “I’ve made such a mess of my life that it would be better if I started over from scratch.” That’s why God did more than simply help us rehabilitate our old lives. He started off fresh, giving us a new birth into His family. As a “new creation,” we have a fresh, new relationship with God and the desire to pursue that relationship.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (II Corinthians 5:17) 

The Holy Spirit. God didn’t save us and then leave us to live the rest of our lives in our own power. At our salvation, His Spirit comes to live inside of us, offering us the power and guidance we need to live successful Christian lives. As we all find out, the Christian life isn’t hard, it’s impossible! That is, it’s impossible to live in our own power. Successful Christians learn to lean on His Spirit to empower them to live the Christian life.

Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38) 

Future Promises 

Years ago, I read an interview with an incredible football player. He was a record- setting, professional superstar—the type hero that fans are tempted to worship. But while this quick and powerful running back was confident on the playing field, he wasn’t so confident about a bigger issue. One day, an interviewer asked him what he feared—an interesting question for a player so intimidating that his opponents feared him. But his answer was revealing. What did he fear? In his own words, “Dying and going to hell. But I hope I don’t, because I’ve been a good person.” 

This man had risen to the top of his profession, but couldn’t find abiding peace because he didn’t know for certain where he was headed for eternity. Many people don’t even think it’s possible to know their eternal destiny. Yet, the Scriptures make it clear:

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. (I John 5:13) 

To know, not to merely hope or think probable, God wants us to have a confidence and peace about our final destiny. We should be looking forward to spending eternity with Him in our heavenly home!

God promises in His Word that we will:

Escape God’s wrath. Since God is a just God, the penalty for sin must be paid. Yet, because of God’s grace, Jesus took God’s entire wrath for sin upon Himself.

Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! (Romans 5:9) 

Be resurrected at Christ’s second coming. Both deceased believers and the ones alive at His coming will be transformed, receiving new, glorified bodies. The more aches and pains my earthly body gets, the more I get excited about my new heavenly model!

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. (I Corinthians 15:42-44) 

Have eternal life. All believers are promised to be with Jesus forever! We don’t have to wait to see if we get eternal life. We possess it now!

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16) 

Dealing With Doubts

If God promised that we will escape His wrath, receive a new heavenly body and live with Him forever, then why do some Christians struggle with doubts? Even if you don’t personally struggle with doubt, you will run across others who do. Let’s deal with some common causes of doubt.

In the previous Pocket PrincipleTM we answered two sources of doubt. 1)“I’m not sure that I understood everything when I first accepted Christ.” 2)“Sometimes I don’t feel saved.” Do you remember how we dealt with these? Here are some more.

1. “It’s hard to believe God could forgive my past.” 

Listen to the testimony of this great sinner:

…I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man…. 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 unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 

Do you know who wrote that? It was the Apostle Paul in I Timothy 1:13-16, the man who God used to write most of the books of the New Testament. Do you know what he was like before he became a Christian? He rejected Jesus as the Messiah. He was such a violent man and so furiously enraged at Christians that he persecuted the church, imprisoning Christians and having them beaten and killed (I Timothy 1:13; Acts 7:58, 8:1, 9:1,2,4,5, 22:4,5,7,19,20, 26:9-11). But Paul wants you to know that if God can still have mercy on him, then nobody is too bad for God to save. No matter what you’ve done, remember—

…the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. (I John 1:7) 

From how much sin? “All sin.” Even if you’ve abused drugs or committed sexual sins? “All sin.” Even if you’ve killed Christians? “All sin.”

There’s no sin in your past that’s so bad that God can’t take out the stain and leave you as clean as fresh snow.

2. “To be perfectly honest, I’m not very serious about this God stuff.” 

Although Harry prayed to receive Jesus at a high school retreat and presently goes to church a couple of times a month, he really doesn’t give much thought to God in his day to day living. He doesn’t read his Bible to find out how to run his business, raise his children or treat his wife. In fact, his life is really no different from the non-Christians he works with every day. Although he has doubts about his salvation, he’s banking on that high school decision at a retreat to get him into heaven.

Harry needs to read some verses that comfort the disturbed, but disturb the comforted. Harry needs to be disturbed. Do you remember the verse we mentioned earlier in this study?

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. (I John 5:13) 

What were “these things” that John had written to give them assurance? The book of I John describes two kinds of lives, the life of those who have eternal life and the life of those who don’t. Look at the characteristics of each life:

Real Christians show evidence of their salvation by their…

Obedience (I John 2:3,4) 

We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. The man who says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 

Although our lifestyle gives evidence of our salvation, it isn’t what causes or keeps our salvation

Faith (I John 5:1) 

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well. 

Love 

Love for God (I John 5:1,2)

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands. 

Love for People (I John 3:14,15)

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. 

Some of us sensitive types may look at this list and get discouraged. After all, none of us live out faith, love and obedience 100% of the time. Does this mean we’re not Christians? No! When John wrote the book of I John, he often used a tense that in the original Greek indicates a habitual lifestyle. I John 1:8 clarifies that we’re not speaking of perfection.

Some people get so sensitive that when they miss a personal time with God they question whether they are saved or not. But just the fact that you are trying to meet with God, and feel bad when you don’t, shows that the Spirit is working in your life.

When we accepted Christ, a big about face occurred in our lives. Instead of making all decisions centered on “me, me, me,” we’re starting to think about loving others and living for God.

According to I John, my assurance is based, not on how emotional I got at a religious service, but on the general direction of my heart and life, here and now.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 

Do you believe in Jesus now? Are you following Jesus now? Do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ now? Are you following God rather than following self? According to God’s Word you’re a Christian and you have eternal life.

Caution! Although our lifestyle gives evidence of our salvation, it isn’t what causes or keeps our salvation. Our salvation is by grace through faith, not something we earn (Ephesians 2:8,9).

3. “I’m afraid I’m too weak to hold onto my salvation.” 

I’ve got good news for you! First, you don’t have to wait to see if you get eternal life with God after you die. You already have eternal life.

Our salvation is dependent, not on our ability to hold onto it, but on God’s commitment and ability to keep us.

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. (I John 5:13) 

Think about it. If you could lose your eternal life, then it was never eternal in the first place! You already possess the eternal life that you’re afraid you might not get!

Second, God promises that He’ll keep you. Our salvation is dependent, not on our ability to hold onto it, but on God’s commitment and ability to keep us. Jesus said,

And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that He has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. (John 6:39, 40) 

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:27-29) 

These verses paint a vivid picture of us securely held in Jesus’ and God’s hands. Don’t let that picture leave your mind. We’re not dangling from God’s fingers, holding on desperately for fear that we’ll fall away from Him. His all-powerful hand holds us so firmly in its grasp that nothing can snatch us away. Our salvation is as secure as the power of God to hold and keep us!

 

End Notes:

(1) Found in Bill Bright’s Transferable Concepts (Campus Crusade for Christ). Worded by Steve Miller.

(2) Corrie ten Boom with Jamie Buckingham, Tramp for the Lord (Fort Washington, PA: CLC Publications, 1974), 53.

The Story of God’s Work in Pastor Katende Jeremiah Bulasio.

Young Katende was born in 1979 in a village and area in Uganda with a long history of witchcraft. Even before he was born, he was dedicated to the devil.  His training in witchcraft started around the age of 3 or 4 when his mother told him to take food to something she called his brother. When he got into the hut, it was a lion and he dropped the food and ran out. His mother forced him to go back in with more food. There were ceremonies in the home during which he changed. He was able to walk into fire and eat it without being burned. After this, he was given a case with a spear, a knife, and a bark cloth (hammered and stretched fig tree bark).

“The more they had evil meetings at home, the more I went deeper in serving the devil.”

He couldn’t succeed at school, being led out by spirits into the forest, often finding himself with snakes. He was then trained by superior witchdoctors to deal with the second class of spirits. They made him sit on a bark cloth and told him to get hold of whatever was sent to him…big snakes, lions, a python, with the aim of threatening him.  If he fled, he would be killed. He had to be bold and take hold of them. Whatever he got hold of disappeared into his body.  He was trained to be in control, but he was actually controlled and motivated by fear and threats.

The next level of training was done by evil spirits who took him into the forest for weeks at a time, teaching about 2,700 different herbs. With that knowledge, he would give people “medicine” that would get them what they wanted… a lover, for instance, whether that person loved them or not.

Power Failure

He was accustomed to his witchcraft being effective until eight young men came to him to get girls who were born again Christians.  This time, it didn’t work! When he inquired of the spirits about why it didn’t work, he was told that it would take another trick in order to trap them. This was first to abuse them in various ways. When the young men did that, it worked with seven of the eight girls.  They were overcome, but when Katende tried to overcome the eighth girl, although she cried, she said, “May God have mercy on you, may God have mercy on you”…no matter what things he did to her. This girl was used by the Lord to draw him to salvation.

In this, she was being like Jesus in his trial, “when they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” 1 Peter 2.23 This was the first step in breaking the power of evil in Katende’s life. His witchcraft was being disrupted!

“Surely the way God drew me in was incredible…”

He started to hear a voice telling him to go to her church. At first, he resisted but then thought it was the spirits telling him to go so he could get the girl who had become a problem in his practice of witchcraft. He went several times during the praise and worship. One time, he got annoyed as he perceived the preacher was minimizing the power of the evil spirits; so when he went home, he sent spirits to attack the pastor, but it backfired. After some days, when he went back to the church, he found himself laughing uncontrollably. They took him aside and prayed for him. He wondered about that and even told his parents and sisters that he was going to get saved. Right away, the evil spirits told him that if he got saved, he would die immediately.

He went back, having been told by the evil spirits that the Christians blow out the candles at a night prayer service. He expected to get the girl in the dark, but it wasn’t true; they didn’t blow them out. He heard that eighth girl saying, “Jesus is stronger than evil spirits.” He intended to go out but couldn’t move, calling the spirits to come and “rescue” him but they said, “We can’t come in because there is fire inside the church.”  The pastor and church members prayed for him and the spirits spoke saying, “Kasajja is coming and will swallow up all of you.” However, they continued to pray for him and one of his legs changed into the tail of a big snake. Some fled in fear but others continued praying, driving the evil spirits from him. When he came to his senses, they preached the Gospel to him but he was not yet ready to accept Jesus.  The following day, the spirits threatened that they would kill him and all the saved people.

This battle went on for a year, from the time he first went to the church, thinking he could get the girl who was causing him trouble. Still, this voice kept telling him to go to the church and he was still thinking it was the spirits, so he went again. However, this time, when the preacher called forward all those who wanted to get saved, he went forward and confessed; but it was another 2 months before he was able to bring everything he used for witchcraft to the church to get destroyed. During that time, he was still afraid to fellowship with them because he believed they would all die if he went back.

God’s perfect love casts our fear.

He knows now the importance of follow-up because they continued to come to him, showing him God’s patient love. He asked the pastor what would happen (to a believer) if he died. He was told that he would go to heaven. From that day, he went back to church, certain that he would die because the spirits told him so, but he was happy because he was going to heaven!

No one, even in his family, could touch the things he used for witchcraft without his command (or they would be beaten by the spirits). This was one motivating factor in his taking all of it to the church. The pastor stomped on them as the church members praised God. He was convinced that the pastor would be dead and he or others would become crazy in the next hour, but nothing happened! He found himself singing joyfully. They then took the things out to burn them.

Pastor Martin, who prayed for him also invited him to live at his home and mentored him for 6 years (1998-2004) before Katende Jeremiah started to work under the pastor/bishop he is now working with, David Kagoro.

Jeremiah's test
Katende Jeremiah, on the right, sharing his testimony.

His story wonderfully illustrates how God is the initiator in our salvation and in his mercy he uses believers to be agents of his transforming grace. It also clearly shows God’s power over evil.

The Bible declares that the devil is like a lion, prowling around, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5.8). The “devouring” and deception takes on a different face in a world that honors Science above all else. However, we are still drawn in by our fears and the desires of our hearts. We want what we want and will do whatever we think will get it at the cost of others and ourselves.

We all need the same powerful rescue  “from the dominion of darkness into the Kingdom of the Son He loves in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col. 1.13,14)

Katende Jeremiah Bulasio is now a pastor with a pastor’s heart and desires to see others delivered from what he was born into. He is committed to Discipleship because he knows that communities can be transformed when believers are helped to mature into Christ-like character.

 

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friends

friendsThe central locus of the Christian faith, the very heart of the matter, is in a set of relationships that we’re invited into. Like politics or the mob, it’s not about WHAT you know but WHO you know. Jesus is all like, “I’m in the Father, He’s in me, so if you’re in me, He’s in you.” He’s all like, “Phillip, don’t you KNOW me?” It started with an “eternity past” self-sustaining triune love relationship. Then people come along and we get invited to the party, to a love feast. Before some book of rules floated down from the sky, the first human was in the habit of taking walks with God. Very cool.

So in my opinion, salvation is more about relationship to the Truth (Jesus, both the cosmic and incarnate “logos”) than it is about the exegetical purity of your creed. (by the way Kierkegaard, Bonhoeffer, and C.S. Lewis helped me out there.) Actually, I think God’s going to laugh at some of our ridiculous theology. Oh he’ll judge us alright. But not by the bullet points of our creed.

So… ya know how it feels when you sit down with someone and see past all the nonsense (work, pedigree, image) to the real person beneath, the inner 10-year-old? I wish we could do that with everybody we meet. It wouldn’t excuse their beliefs and behaviors, but it sure would shed some light on the brokenness that informs their thoughts and decisions. I’ve been recently offended by people who come off as passive-aggressive, arrogant, and judgmental. But the more I know about their back stories, their families of origin, the more compassion I have. Their behavior is still unacceptable and I believe they should be in counseling. But THEY are acceptable. That’s the difference. Here I am, lumping people into groups and condemning them when every single person is totally unique.

The cool thing is, God sees the heart of every individual. He has compassion on them in all their brokenness. He invites them into His family, but doesn’t tolerate immature and insecure behavior. I wish I were more like that, seeing past the outer orbit to the core of the human heart.

The end of the story (I’m reading John 14 again, btw) is Jesus really wants everyone to join his Dad’s commune. He’s going up to heaven to put fresh sheets on our beds so that “you also may be where I am.” He’s inviting us all upstairs for the ultimate slumber party. Everything else flows out of that relational proximity, that closeness to the Truth.

My favorite hang out time in community is in the morning over a cup of coffee. So I make a habit of spending my mornings in community with Jesus, not saying a lot, just enjoying His companionship. That’s what I’m doing right now. Just sidling up close to Jesus: my housemate, my mob boss, my friend.

 

psalm 18.2

psalm 18.2The Sunday evening services at my church have been dedicated to the Psalms since the beginning of the year.  Last night we started on Psalms 18.  As I was listening to the sermon, all I could think was “God is my Superhero.”

Superheroes are more popular than ever before.  Everyone wants a hero who will swoop down and save the day when life gets hard.  Someone who will right the wrongs of the world and protect the little guy.  We all want a protector who will rescue us and help us to feel safe.

God wants to be all of those things for us.  In Psalm 18:1-3 David talks about what God is to him and to all believers.

1 I love you, O Lord, my strength.

2 The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.

  He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

3 I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.

Verse one:  When life is difficult we don’t have to face it alone.  We can draw strength from God and He will carry us through.

Verse two:  The Lord is my rock, and my fortress and my deliverer in whom I take refuge.  He will give you a firm foundation to stand on when things are difficult.  He will defend you and rescue you in your time of need.  He will give you comfort.

He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  He protects you and gives you power and safety.

Verse three:  I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.

I call to the Lord.  He is always there ready for us to call His name.  He wants to have a relationship with us and to give us all these things.  He wants to save us from our enemy, Satan.  All we have to do is ask.  All we have to do is say, “Lord I love you; I want you to be a part of my life. I want you to protect me and save me from my enemies.”

I was involved in a car accident a few years ago and broke my right hand (I am right handed).  I had surgery, which caused a second bone to break, but they didn’t find it for three weeks.  I then had to have a second surgery to repair that fracture.  Therapy was difficult because my hand was so stiff.  I used all of my FMLA and lost my job and my insurance.  It was a difficult time in my life.  If it weren’t for God’s grace I would not have made it through.  Because of the stiffness in my hand I needed to use a CPM machine to flex and extend my hand so that I would be able to use my hand again.  It wasn’t covered by insurance.  The representative from the company that was providing it for me allowed me to use the machine at no charge.

I am currently working with Worldwide Discipleship Association leading Restoring Your Heart groups, and I also work as the art teacher at a school for children with learning disabilities.  God lead me down a new path that has been extremely rewarding. God protected me, took care of me, and provided for me when I needed Him most.

God is my Superhero.  He is always there when I need Him.  He loves me.  He protects me from Satan and gives me power and authority over him.  He gives me strength when I feel I can’t go on.  He has and always will be there for me.

How has God shown himself to be a Superhero in your life? Consider this scripture and find encouragement.

You can also read and learn more from related topics in WDA Pocket Principle

Understanding Our Enemies 

Security in Christ

problem modelWhy is Life so unfair sometimes? Why do I have to suffer the consequences of someone else’s behavior? Ever heard those questions before? Ever asked them?

I know I have. And I have heard those questions asked numerous times in counseling sessions with other people.

None of us like it when somebody else messes up and it affects us. It leaves us with the responsibility of figuring out how to correct the problem. One of the biggest areas that I help people work through in counseling has to do with their fathers. Many fathers are absent, neglectful and hurtful towards their children. Some fathers don’t even realize what they are doing, or the effect it might have on their children.

When these children become adults, the fallout of their father’s interactions with them can cause major problems. When they show up in my counseling office they are suffering from the results of someone else’s behavior. Together we have to figure out how to correct the emotional damage done to them. The good news is that there are solutions. The bad news is that the solutions involve going through a process that takes time and hard work. Yet there is hope and healing during the process.

 

In the Pocket Principle (Fallenness of Man) , I noticed many similarities between the counseling process and the solution God has provided for man’s fallen condition. They both involve a change of heart and a process of restoration. Read on to discover the good solution that God has given us for the consequences of Adam and Eve’s bad behavior.

Get this Pocket Principle in Understanding People, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

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