What Do You Believe?

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Over the last decade I’ve been blessed to have several conversations with folks about Bible doctrine. I’ve also had several awkward moments with people, where they duck the questions or change the topic. I am not on a mission to force people into doctrinal conversations. However, I’m not afraid to discuss it either. Each of us should know what we believe and why, and be able to explain it from the Bible.

As we begin this new year, I’d like to ask a rhetorical question (answer it to yourself, not to me):

What do you believe about salvation?

  • Do you believe in decisional regeneration, meaning that a person must make a conscious decision to be saved, all in his own power? Or do you believe there is a supernatural involvement from the Holy Spirit? If you believe it is both of these, which comes first, the working of the Holy Spirit, or the decision? If it’s your decision, then how much must you decide? Do you grit your teeth and determine to believe? Must you weep? If you have decided to be saved, then, is it also in your power to un-decide, thereby losing your salvation? If the answer is no to that, then why? Why does a person have the power to believe, but no power to un-believe? If he can un-believe, then what scriptures support that?
  • Are you a hyper-dispensationalist, meaning, you believe there are different roads to heaven based on the dispensation of time? If so, then, are you sure you’re on the right road, right now?
  • Are you a Calvinist, meaning, you believe that salvation is totally 100% of the Lord, and 0% man? Are you a closet-Calvinist, fearful of what your peers will think of you if you admit to believing Calvinism because of the false teaching that is floating around about it? (I can completely relate to that fear.)
  • Do you believe in some other way to heaven that I haven’t listed? Are you sure that it lines up with scripture?

These are the questions that I was forced to ask myself in 2007 and beyond. I searched the scriptures, prayed, and searched some more to find my answers. I don’t mind saying that I still often have more questions than answers, but that’s okay! As long as I search the scripture, I can find the answers. And some questions I won’t understand till I reach the Golden Shore. I’m okay with that, too. After all, I’m only human.

So, what do you believe about salvation? If you already know, then be sure that it lines up with the Bible. Also, make sure your church believes what you believe. Ask your church leaders about their confession of faith, and then ask if they agree with it. Many times, a pastor doesn’t agree with the confession of faith that their church has adopted, but the people don’t either, so it’s a moot point. However, folks who are searching for a church with sound doctrine will often use that confession of faith as a guideline for what a church teaches and preaches. What a disappointment to find out that a church has a Calvinist confession of faith, but despises the Doctrines of Grace (or vice versa)! If your church and its pastor do not agree with their confession of faith, perhaps the church should get a new one, or vote not to have one at all.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The church exists for the growth of born again believers! I have been in churches where it is taught that the pastor ranks above all other humans, and we are to “touch not God’s anointed” (Psalm 105:15). But asking questions is not doing harm to the man of God. If your church leaders dislike questions, perhaps it’s more of a cult than a church.

It’s never wrong to probe more deeply into the word of God, and then stand firm in the Bible. It might cost us friends or popularity, but the blessings far outweigh the heartaches.

With love,

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Salvation: An Amazing Orchestra of One

I was thinking about how wonderful it is to know the Lord. What a joy to call Jesus my Savior and my friend! To have a relationship with the Creator of the universe is mind boggling.

I started thinking about how Christ paid such a great price for my soul. He called me – He knew me, and wanted me – long before the foundation of the world! He drew me with His grace, regenerating me (making me alive), showing me my sinful state and then redeeming me. I didn’t pray the “right words” or go to the “right church”. I didn’t pledge to do good for the rest of my days.

I did nothing.

He did everything.

It was like walking into a lovely orchestra hall, sitting on a velvet cushion, feeling relaxed and peaceful. Then, out of the silence and darkness, comes the loveliest music in the world. I am not a musician. For me, attending a concert is sheer enjoyment. No stress. No nerves. No fear. No worry. Just resting in their talent. Trusting that they have prepared, that they have practiced and that they are ready. And reaping the blessings of their hard work.

In salvation, Christ plays the lovely symphony of salvation. I do nothing, yet I receive all the benefits. Words fail me to adequately express my gratitude for the Father’s unspeakable gift – His own Son – Who gave His all for my worthless soul! I believe the prophet Isaiah says it best:

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. ~ Isaiah 61:10

With love,

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Thy Salvation

Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. ~ Psalm 51:12

One of my earliest memories is my “labor to enter into rest”. (Heb. 4:11)

I had heard our pastor, Bro. Glenn Riggs, preach about “calling out to God” and “praying and asking Jesus into your heart”, so I did those things. I was only five years old. I phrased my prayer the best I could, but nothing happened. The preacher said “You’ll know when Jesus saves you!” I didn’t “know”. The preacher said, “It’s not a feeling, it’s faith.” But what exactly was faith? My parents and brother and sister were all “saved”. I wanted to be, too. At age six, I went to my teacher in my Christian school, after two of my friends did, on a Wednesday and said I didn’t know if I would go to Heaven when I died. (Perhaps you had to talk to someone to make salvation official?) And if my friends could do it, why not I? It was October 10, 1984 – my mother’s birthday. I was wearing a Hawaiian style button-up shirt. The short sleeves were gathered in one place on the outside of the sleeve. I sat with Mrs. Parson in what had been my Kindergarten classroom. I was now a mature first grader. I squinted my eyes at her big, burgundy Bible, which was underlined and well-worn, straining to understand, seeking for that which I had been missing. I prayed the words. I left the room, hoping that this time, it had worked. I got baptized (despite my immense fear of water and crowds) soon thereafter. Life went on. I did not feel any different, but I recalled “it’s not a feeling, it’s faith.” Okay. *deep breath* Faith.

I made a second profession of salvation about two years later. The date is fuzzy on that one, but I do recall that it was the summertime. I went forward with a massive influx of other kids from our children’s church. Children’s church was a large production of songs, puppets, preaching and games. We met in the gym. There was no air conditioning in the gym. I had been doubting my salvation, so I went forward seeking answers. But I must admit that finding answers was secondary. I mainly went forward because I knew if I did, I’d get to go into the auditorium – or “big church” as I called it – where there was air conditioning. So around age eight, I filed in with several other boys and girls who had “professed Christ as their Savior” and stood at the front of big church. I smiled at my parents, who were probably very surprised to see me in the line, and I soaked up the blessed air conditioning. I felt my wet bangs turn cold against my forehead, and my Sunday dress gradually loosen from where the sweat had glued it to my skin. I felt the frigid air go up my sleeves, down my back and up the folds of my dress. I didn’t know if I was going to Heaven – despite a worker showing me the plan of salvation and praying with me – but I felt the air conditioning, which had to be the next best thing. I went to big church on a Sunday morning a few weeks later and got baptized. Again.

I continued to privately grapple with salvation for years. I went soul-winning with my church. I wore the right clothes. I sang in children’s choir. I went to every youth activity. I tried to quit talking so much. I read my Bible sporadically and prayed even more sporadically. I looked good on the outside, but I was a disaster on the inside. I was doing all I could do. I had prayed the words, I had tried to understand. Every time doubt sprang up in my mind, I pushed it down by trying to behave better. “You’re doubting this because you haven’t been reading your Bible every day. Just do better,” I would tell myself. I would start a read-through-your-Bible-in-a-year schedule. I would make a prayer list. I would just work harder. Surely, if I did all of that, I would know I was saved.

On the morning of June 12, 1993, as I was reading Ezra chapter one, the Lord quickened me. He said, almost audibly, “You don’t understand any of this because you are not born-again.” WHAT? What was this? I felt a huge sin burden upon my back, a feeling I had never had before. It was as if every sin I had ever committed was flashing before my eyes. I was not a Christian, and no amount of work or prayers would make me one. What a startling revelation. I sought out my friend’s mother, with whom I was staying, and told her I needed to be saved. But this time, I didn’t need anyone to show me verses, or to tell me what to say or do – I knew! As soon as my sinful condition was revealed, I cried out to God for mercy and He gloriously saved me.

SAVED, by His pow’r devine,

SAVED, to new life sublime,

Life now is sweet and my joy is complete

For I’m SAVED! SAVED! SAVED!

This song describes that moment in my life, the moment in which I was a lost sinner one second, and a born-again child of God the next. You see, you DO know if you’re saved. There is a “feeling”. It’s a feeling of sin, of despair, of hopelessness, of embarrassment before a Holy God, followed by a feeling of relief, overwhelming joy and indescribable happiness.

Years later, as a twenty-something married woman, I heard myself praying the words of Psalm 51:12, “Restore unto me the joy of my salvation”. I was going through a time of depression, which by nature I am prone to do. Shortly thereafter, I read the words of that Psalm and noticed that I had misquoted it – it’s not “the joy of MY salvation”, it says, “The joy of THY salvation.” This started an avalanche of thoughts tumbling through my brain. Was salvation not man’s choice? Was it of God and God alone? I’m sure that to those of you who caught on to this ages ago, this sounds silly. But I really thought that I had something to do with salvation! I thought I had to make a choice, to decide to be saved, but I had tried that. It didn’t work.  And while calling out to Christ certainly is part of salvation, it’s not all of it. Christ awakened me to my sin without my consent. My pastor, Bro. Ken Graham, would call this “the conviction of the Holy Spirit”, some call it “the quickening of the Spirit”. Whatever you call it, it was missing from my first two professions of faith. The first two times, I was essentially trying to save myself. I thought that my desire or decision to be saved would supply the final ingredient to salvation. Christ did His part, now I must do mine. I was believing that salvation was Christ plus my belief. In reality, it is Christ plus nothing.

Salvation is through Christ alone.

I went forward in the auditorium – not to please my flesh with air conditioning – but because I had been brought into the fold by the strong arms of the Good Shepherd. I was baptized for the third – and final – time on July 30, 1993. My parents were not surprised. They sat on their pew that Sunday morning silently rejoicing that their struggling little lamb had finally made it home.

With love,

sig

Welcome to Heaven

My daughter, Leslie, enjoys pretending. She likes playing with Barbie dolls and Littlest Pet Shop animals. She likes building with blocks, too.

Last Friday, my seven year old girl built some Bible stories with our blocks. The first one she made was the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and the golden tower.

Babylon is on the left. The tower is on the far right. The blocks bent over (1 blue, 2 yellow and 3 red) are the people bowing. The three that are upright (one blue, one green and one red), are the three Hebrew boys, refusing to bow to the image. 
She built the above scene, but then had to get back to her school work. One thing we did after her work, was make angel paper dolls for Christmas. They’re the kind you cut out once, and then pull apart and they’re supposed to be all connected. Well…we sorta messed up! A few were connected, but not all of them. Leslie said she wanted to keep them; she said she had an idea…

It wasn’t long before I was ushered in to see her new masterpiece! I oohed and ahhed and snapped some pictures that I planned to share here, as I’m doing now. But now, my reasons for sharing are not just to show my daughter’s creativity for loved ones. It’s something more meaningful. {click on photos to enlarge}

She built “Heaven”! She used the angels we incorrectly cut out were now guarding the heavenly gates. Her sign says “Welcome to Heven” in yellow crayon.

Here’s the other side of “heaven”. A tiny paper Jesus is sitting upon His throne inside.

A close up of the sign.

A close up of Jesus. 
I told her she was so creative! I appreciated how well she’d listened to the Bible stories so she could depict these scenes. I couldn’t wait to get on here and share these photos for our family to see. Then, the unthinkable tragedy in Connecticut unfolded on the news. I began shedding tears for these precious moms and dads who had lost children the same ages as mine. I prayed for them, begging God from the depths of my soul to comfort and strengthen these families. Losing a father was hard, but a child? Oh my, I could only imagine. The dreams they will have, the memories, the “what might have been” moments…I’ve been there, but not for a child. I was overwhelmed with sorrow, but strong for my own family. In the wake of this news, I forgot about these block buildings.
Today, I remembered Leslie and her creations. “When did she do that?” I asked myself. I went to my camera, which records the date and time of the photos. She was building the heaven scene on Friday around 11 AM our time, or 12 PM EST. About one and half hours after these precious ones were escorted into heaven! I couldn’t believe the timing. I’m not saying it’s some kind of supernatural premonition or sign, but it did bring me comfort. It cheered my heart to see my own seven year old smiling about heaven, just as those twenty little ones are now doing. They are fine, they were so young, they are with the Lord. We who are still left in this sin-cursed world, grieve with all of our hearts. But we do have hope. Soon all believers will be called home, whether through death or the rapture. Are you ready? If you have questions, email me today or go HERE for more information.

As the song says, “Heaven’s sounding sweeter, all the time…” I’m glad I’m going there someday, and I hope you will be there, too.
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Blossoms in the Desert

Is. 35:1 The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.

This verse captured my imagination today! The wilderness and desert shall rejoice? There will be roses blossoming in the desert? I know that there is a really deep truth to this passage. It’s referring to the gathering of Israel. Isaiah is a prophet for the people of Israel, his words refer directly to them.

But think about this! Isn’t it true that God takes our desert moments, our wilderness experiences, and turns them into something beautiful? God did that for the children of Israel when they were leaving Egypt. They were not in a pretty place, they were not in fun circumstances, yet over and over, God provided in amazing ways! He sent them blessings that they would not have seen anywhere else!

I can say that God has done that for me, too. Because of suffering with PPD not once, but twice, I saw the Lord work in my life in ways others have missed out on. Because of losing my Dad suddenly when I was 26 years old, I’ve seen God work miracles in my life. I’ve received blessings from His hand that I would not have gotten if Dad were still here. Do I wish the Lord could have left him here longer? Oh yes! That will never change. But if I have to go through hard times, I’m so thankful I have the Lord to go with me. He sends blossoms in the desert to make the journey easier, and that is a great blessing.

Are you in a personal wilderness today? Is your desert hot and dry? You are not alone! Cry out to your Heavenly Father and request a few roses! He will send them, and even better, He will see you through to the other side. If you don’t know the Lord as your Savior, then go HERE for more information, or write me using the contact page above. He’s waiting with open arms for you, to see you through and to send you some blossoms in the desert.

The Difference

Is.29:13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me me is taught by the precept of men:

This verse reached out and grabbed me today. I think it could be describing Christianity today. We have so many people filling up Baptist churches all over America, yet it’s hard to “spot” a Christian in the real word. Everyone is the same – so few are vibrant, excited to share the Gospel with others! They come to church and say they are saved, they say they love God, they even say they fear God. But, do they? If you love the Lord, you’ll obey Him (John 14:15) To truly fear God, you have to believe that He is God, you have to realize that all things are under His authority; you have to believe on Him and know that one day you will stand before Him. It’s not a fear as in “I’m shaking in fear”, but a fear as in “I know His power and I respect Him for it.”

The best way, or rather, the only way to know His power is to have experienced His salvation. Probably many folks lack a true love for and fear of God because they don’t really know Him, they merely know of Him. There is a difference.

I grew up in a Christian home. My parents, brother and sister were the real deal: what you saw on Sunday, was they were on Monday-Saturday. I remember as a five year old, wanting what they had, but not knowing exactly what it was. I bet I prayed to ask God to save me two dozen times! I didn’t get saved, however, because I didn’t understand. I didn’t even know I was a sinner, or what sin was! The day I got saved, June 12, 1993, I experienced a change! It was not a feeling – I didn’t cry or anything – but I knew in my mind and heart that I was born again! No doubt about it. There was something different now. I no longer searched or tried to imitate my parents’ or siblings’ walk with God. I had my own.

Perhaps you’ve never truly met Jesus for yourself. It’s not too late! If you already know Him, then you’ve seen the difference for yourself.

My prayer is that others will easily see the difference in me.

Who Shall Stand?

Rev. 6:17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

This verse really convicted me this morning. Not because I fear God’s wrath. I am saved, therefore, I am not appointed to suffer God’s righteous anger. When God looks at me, He sees His Son, Jesus, and He is pleased with His only Son. I was convicted  because so many are lost, so many do not know that one day, God is going to judge them. Only the blood of Christ on their lives can protect them from God’s wrath.

Tomorrow, our church has a visitation/flyer distribution day. I’ll be honest, almost everyone you talk to here claims to be saved. Those who aren’t saved, will let you share the Gospel, and they might even pray the sinner’s prayer. But then, when the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witness share their version of salvation (which are lies from the Devil!), they accept that, too! We’ve witnessed a lot in the 3 years of our ministry here, but very few have gotten saved.

I’m praying that the Holy Spirit is preparing someone right now to listen to the Gospel. I’m praying He will open their eyes, their ears and the hearts to listening to the truth. We can only tell them, we cannot convince folks that what we are telling them is the truth. The Holy Spirit does that part, and oh how we need Him to work!

I want everyone to be spared the wrath of God.