What is the Gospel?

Photograph courtesy of James LW on Unsplash

You’ve probably met people who have told you about Jesus Christ, haven’t you? They may have said that Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship. They may have told you that you can have that relationship by saying a simple prayer. But that’s not the Gospel.

People have received many benefits of Christian life in this country, including peace and the ability to gather freely at places of worship, whether that is in a church building, a storefront, or a home. But that’s not the Gospel, either.

Christian fellowship may include teaching, praying, and eating together. Sharing the Lord’s Supper together is a wonderful way to fellowship. But it’s not the Gospel.

Photo courtesy of Aaron Burden at Unsplash

Here’s the Gospel.

God is holy and righteous. I am not (neither are you). One day you will die and face the Lord God Himself. You will be judged, either on your own righteousness or that of someone else. Our righteousness is as filthy rags, says the Bible.

Photo courtesy of Milada Vigerova at Unsplash

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away (Isaiah 64:6).”

Now when I stand before God, I will be able to claim Jesus’ righteousness as my own (you can, too) and because of what He’s already done, I will be welcomed into God’s kingdom.

If you understand and believe that, then a simple prayer will, indeed, make you a Christian and guarantee your entrance into heaven. That’s called faith. The Bible says we must come to Him in faith, and His grace will do the rest.

So God caused His Son to walk through this world and live a sinless, righteous life. Then, to pay for all the sins I’ve committed (and you, too), He allowed His Son to be crucified and become the sacrificial lamb to pay for those sins. Then He raised Him from the dead. His death has purchased my freedom and given me His righteousness in place of my own (yours, too).

Photo courtesy of Debby Hudson at Unsplash

Are you ready to believe? Jesus will save you. And that’s the Gospel truth.

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Cultivating Self Discipline

Cultivating Self Discipline

A female eating an apple
SOME PEOPLE seem to be endowed with superhuman willpower, while others seem to lack it to a great degree. I’m one of those last. But it doesn’t mean that I’m relegated to the back seat when it comes to cultivating self discipline. Self-discipline is not in your genes; it is a learned behavior. And if I can master it (to some degree), so can you. Here are the things that work for me.

  1. Admit that you struggle. Many people simply refuse to admit that they have a problem, but like in most things, admitting the problem is the first step to overcoming it. Don’t harbor the thought, “I could stop if I wanted to,” just to avoid recognizing that there is a problem to fix.
  2. Make a plan. You need a strategy to develop self discipline. No one just wakes up one day with it. Whether you need to focus on developing good habits—like reading the Bible everyday—or getting rid of bad habits—like gossiping with the neighbors—you need to plan some action steps to make the change.
  3. Get rid of temptations. The Bible says, “Walk away from evil and do good.” Don’t leave temptations where they are easily accessed. That’s just asking for failure. If you can’t resist cookies between meals, don’t buy cookies. It only takes one minute of weakness to give into temptation.
  4. Get used to discomfort. Practice makes perfect, so they say. No one likes being uncomfortable, but self discipline is necessary to overcome the negative emotions that flood in when we are. Practice letting uncomfortable situations make you stronger, whether it’s boredom, frustrations, sadness or loneliness. You can tolerate more than you realize.
  5. Keep the long-term rewards in mind. It may really be tempting to give in, just this once, and tomorrow you’ll get back on track, but that’s defeatist thinking. Keeping a vision of the end goal in mind can help you stay on track. Visualize what the final result will be, and focus on it when temptation raises its ugly head.
  6. Don’t let mistakes sideline you. Somedays are just easier than others. Stress can cause you to lose your focus for a time. Just don’t let it replace all the hard work you’ve already done. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back on the horse. Remember the long term goal and refocus.

You can do this. I can do this. There is no one who cannot benefit from cultivating self discipline, and anyone can do it. Just remember: the greatest journey began with a single step.

Messianic Seder at My House

Messianic Seder at My House

messianicsedertitleIT WAS a wonderful evening! Our messianic seder meant that we read the Haggadah and ate the meal and made cotton lambs… the kids, really too little to participate, sat in our laps and listened to the story and drank grape juice every time we drank wine. It was magical! Here are a few pictures from the table:
IMG_3573The Seder plate: traditional foods and two white candles. Note: the plate is a pizza tin covered with strips from an antique hymnal. Normally, the two candles don’t go on the plate. I just liked them there.
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Since the last Sacrificial Lamb was slain, we substituted a wooden cross for the lamb shank.
 
 
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The place setting had a bowl for Matzah Ball Soup, with the traditional (although not a real) egg, a plate for charoset,
and a dinner plate, fork, knife and spoon.
 
The food was so good! The potatoes were the best I’ve ever eaten, although I changed the recipe just slightly. I substituted red potatoes for russet, and left the skins on. Unbelievably good, and it will be traditional for us for Passover from now on. We substituted baklava for the chocolate cake, since our son doesn’t like chocolate (I know! Where did we go wrong?!).
One other thing we changed. We did not have an Elijah cup, since the Lord proclaimed in Matthew 11:13-14 that Elijah had already come in the person of John the Baptist.
As I told my son, since the kids all moved away, all our traditions have kind of fallen away, since they were largely built around the kids. So it’s nice to have one tradition that is ours alone. Though the kids said they’d be there next year, too. I replied, “If the Lord tarries, next year in Jerusalem!”

Jesus' "Best Man"

Jesus' "Best Man"

jesusbestmantitleIN ANCIENT Jewish tradition, there was a specific order things were done. First, a covenant was made between the groom and the prospective bride’s father. Then the groom left the betrothed for an unspecified period of time, while he prepared a place for him and his bride to live. When it was ready was determined not by the groom but by his father. When all was ready, the father would tell the son, “Go and get your bride!”
Before Jesus was taken up to heaven, he told his disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am, you may be also.” (John 14:3)
Now, an interesting thing happened when the place was ready. The bridegroom returned for his bride, often in the middle of the night when she was not expecting him. His best man came with him and announced the groom’s arrival with a blast of the trumpet and calling out to the bride. He would call her name and make her aware that the time was NOW!
What will happen when JESUS returns for His Bride, the Church? He will be accompanied by His best man, the archangel, Michael. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 says “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trump of God.”
So who is this archangel? The only archangel spoken of in the Bible is Michael, and he has several duties. One such duty is to stand up for the people of Israel, as Daniel was told by An Angel when he met him on the riverbank in Babylon. He is the General of the Armies of God, and a mighty warrior. He is referred to by name three times in the Bible, and the last time is during the end times.
Here’s the thing. Since there is only one archangel, then it must be Michael who returns with Jesus to gather His bride unto Himself so that we may be where He is. What will Michael shout? Perhaps he will call us each by name, announcing that our Groom, our Lord, has returned for us. Will you be ready?

Christian Passover Decorating!

Christian Passover Decorating!

I’VE JUST about driven myself mad trying to find the perfect, affordable way to decorate for our Seder on Passover. The problem is, there are so many ideas out there! I’m going to post a few links so you can go see for yourself, but I want to describe my table, too. (I’ll post pictures from the Seder on April 4th.) It is surely a challenge to find Christian Passover decorating!
First, I got a blue, round table cloth to fit our table. Then I bought white, round placemats to put at each place. My tableware will be my mom’s beautiful floral pieces, which are mostly pink and white, but I plan to tie it in by having a pink floral centerpiece. Next, two tall white candles, as tradition dictates. My Seder plate is one that I made myself, and is a pizza pan decoupaged with the pages of an old hymnal. The cups for the traditional foods are plastic in a floral edged shape (again, round). Instead of having just one egg on the plate, though, I’ve decoupaged white ceramic eggs with the same sheet music the tray is made from. Each person gets to keep his egg, rather than eating a roasted, boiled egg. (It is symbolic, after all!) Because our Sacrificial Lamb was slain 2,000 years ago and we no longer sacrifice lambs for the forgiveness of sins, we’ve chosen to place a wooden cross where the lamb’s shank bone would have been. (My husband’s idea!)
Anyway, here are a few places to give you some inspiration, and as I said, I’ll post pictures of our own Seder the next day.
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Martha Stewart
E-How.com
PopSugar
Table Setting Ideas

The Parable of the Blessing

imageJESUS SAT with his disciples on a hillside, teaching the crowds. There were about 5,000 men there, plus women and children. Altogether, the crowd could easily have been 15,000 or more. It was late, and they were some distance from the nearest town. Jesus had been teaching all day, and it was getting later by the minute. The disciples suggested that Jesus send the people away so that they could buy food, but the Lord said, “You give them something to eat.”
Unprepared to feed the multitude, the disciples wanted to take stock of what they had to eat, so they could bless the people. While they pondered the situation, Jesus caught the eye of a young lad with some food wrapped in a cloth. He smiled gently at the boy, and the lad looked quickly away. He had heard the disciples and knew there was no food to feed the crowd. He ducked his head and his cheeks grew red. If he gave his meal up, who would have enough to eat? There wouldn’t be enough for two, much less the thousands gathered on the hillside. So he kept his head down and refused to look again at the teacher.
To be sure, the boy had heard of the miraculous signs the teacher had done. In fact, he had actually seen somebody healed. But what had that to do with his lunch? Still the boy refused to look up.
Then he heard the disciples say, “Here, Lord. There was a lad with a few fish and loaves, but what is that among so many?” The boy looked up in surprise and saw the teacher’s face looking sadly at him. Then his eyes turned away from the startled lad’s face, and he saw the teacher look kindly at another boy, who was holding out his own measly lunch to the Lord.
“Have the people sit down in groups of fifty,” said Jesus. The boy sat with the nearest group. Soon baskets were being passed around, and one came near him. To his amazement, the baskets were full of fish and bread. His own lunch looked so small in comparison to what was being passed around.
He looked up at Jesus. The teacher’s eyes were looking directly at him, and the lad knew that Jesus could read the intent of his heart. A single tear slid down his face as the boy took a bite out of his own fish and bread. He was sure that the loaves and fishes in the baskets, while no different than his by sight, were much better. For they had been blessed by the Lord. Then he remembered what he had heard Jesus say once before. “It is better,” he said, “to give than receive.” Then before the basket could be passed on, he dropped what little he had brought into it, thankful that he could be a part of the blessing.