Two Roads + Two Gates

The Narrow and Wide Gates

 Matthew 7:13-14 and Psalm 87

 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

This scripture is equally perplexing AND frightening! It is really hard for my small brain to comprehend God’s ways sometimes. Why will only few find it? If all will hear, why will just a few enter?

As Jesus wraps up His teaching on the hillside (now called the Mount of Beatitudes), He has covered a lot ground with topics ranging from serving, to judging, to prayer. He addresses our hearts: pointing out areas of law, tradition, and ritual, and replacing them with pure motives, love, and authenticity.

In an environment of Jewish law and order reigning over all, He fulfills those laws by showing what’s at the root of them – going back to the basics/intention of the law, and then maximizing the law to the fullest with love + utmost surrender to the Lord.

Every time I read this passage, two things come to mind. Anyone else watch A Thief In the Night back in the day? I was 7 and that movie FREAKED ME OUT! The razor left in the bathroom sink… the sad sad song “I Wish We’d All Been Ready”. It was more than my developing brain could process.

The second thing my mind races to is the scripture about the lukewarm being spit out (Rev 3:16). If you’ve read any of Francis Chan’s work, you’ve likely come across some of his thoughts on this scripture.  One cool thing about heaven is we will see + know things as they truly are (1 Cor 13:12) – no more guessing!

When I think about this narrow road of a few, it’s easy for me to start feeling frightened or downtrodden. Many enter the path to destruction, but few enter the path of life. Who am I to be among the few? There are a lot more Christians that are more spiritual than me.  Yikes!

How does this scripture coincide with the popular mantra “Just Believe”? If you pray the sinner’s prayer and confess Jesus as your Lord + Savior, that’s it, right? How do we know for certain? Will we ever know for certain?  Paul’s letter to the Philippians (1:6) sure sounds assuring: Being confident of this very thing, that He that began a good work in you will complete it until the day that Christ returns. How do we get that confidence??

I don’t know the answers to all of these questions. What I do know is that God doesn’t want me living in a state of fear, worry, or a mindset of “working my way into heaven”. This is exactly what Jesus preached against.  He wants my heart surrendered and pure. If I am truly believing in His saving grace and can comprehend His love for me, then my life wouldn’t be lukewarm. My passion for Him would be evident in all areas of my life. My desire to glorify Him (not earn salvation) will supersede everything else.

So what about when it’s not? What’s happening then? Am I “saved” when I have seasons of lukewarm living? When I start walking on the wide path toward the big gate…then what?  Is there grace for that? If I had a car accident in that moment and died, can I just use the common line “well, God knows my heart”?  And is that always a comfort or is that just what people say to justify sin and lukewarm living? Because the truth is, God really does know my heart. ALL OF IT. I’m not sure that’s something I want to brag about all the time.  Sure on Sundays when I’ve sang some worship songs and taken good notes from the sermon…or when I just got back from a long run filled with talking to God. But what about when I’m stuck in traffic, see someone that’s really treated me poorly, or my kids won’t listen. Yep, He sees my heart then, too. We can’t pick and choose when and what He sees. I digress…

The bottom line is, in my heart of hearts, I have confidence in the saving grace of God, His love for me, and I choose to surrender all to Him. I can’t wait for heaven!! I believe in Jesus and I believe in heaven! And I believe I will be there.

As I say that, I also have to tell you that I’ve had moments where I couldn’t get a hold of someone… so had to call another Christian (Grandma Rita is a good one) to make sure Jesus didn’t come back and I was left behind. You know, because if anyone’s FOR SURE IN, it’s her. HA HA!

Does anyone else ponder these questions? What have you come up with?

 

 

 

 

He Will Fight For You

Today’s reading is Joshua 10 and Proverbs 10.

I will admit, growing up, like many I thought the Bible was boring. This must have been because I hadn’t read enough of it. In reading through Joshua in preparation for today’s post, I could not put it down. Joshua is filled with stories of redemption like Rahab, battle after battle, deception, and amazing miracle after miracle by God to assist the Israelites. I’m just wondering when Hollywood will do a movie on Joshua! Let’s just hope they stick to the Word and get it right.

One of the things that always struck me about the Old Testament is how many people were killed in battle against the Israelites because they were God’s chosen people and the other nations were not. How could God let all these people be killed? Our pastor, Mike Baker, said something to the effect that all these other nations and peoples could have been saved if they would have just surrendered to God by surrendering to Israel. We see this in Joshua 9, as the Gibeonites surrendered to the Israelites in fear and their lives were spared. However, we see throughout the book of Joshua, more times than we can count on one hand, every other nation who did not surrender to God and Israel were destroyed. Time and time again the leaders of these nations and the people stated they heard of the many miracles God had done for Israel, knew God had chosen Israel and they were fearful, but instead of surrendering to Israel and God, they fought back and were destroyed.

How many times do we try to fight our own battles in our everyday lives, instead of surrendering to God and trusting He will fight for us and has a perfect plan? This is very tough for me. I’m in a career where there is a direct correlation between effort and reward and there is even a science showing what activity leads to what results. However, I have to keep learning and trusting in my professional and personal life that yes, I have to put in effort and use the talents and abilities God has given me, but I have to trust and truly believe that He is in control and will fight for me.

In Joshua 10:14 and Joshua 10:42, we read that the Lord fought for Israel. Moses spoke similar words all the way back in Exodus 14:13-14. “And Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation the Lord, which He will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you and you only have to be silent.’” We read in Joshua 5:4 the generations who God brought out of Egypt passed away, yet God was still fighting for Israel to complete his plan and keep his covenant. Here in Joshua 10, we read how God made the sun stand still, and it remained daytime so the Israelites could win. He also rained down stones to kill the enemies of the Israelites. Really?! We’ve already read so far in Joshua alone He stopped the waters of the Jordan from flowing and made the mighty walls of Jericho fall with only a yell, just to name a few. Do you think the Israelites were fearful as they wandered in the desert for 40 years, and as they went into battle? Yes. Do you think with their human minds they could have thought of the miracles God would do to help them? No. Are we any different in our everyday lives? No. But, God fought for them, and He’s fighting for you when you’ve given your life to Him through Jesus, surrender to Him in prayer, and when you ask Him to do miracles in your life where you will use them for His kingdom and give the glory to Him. We are now all God’s chosen people like Israel through Jesus. Romans 8:34 says, “Who is to conderm? Christ Jesus is the one who died- more than that, who was raised, – who is at the right hand of God who is indeed interceding for us.“ He will fight for you, even while you sleep, in ways you couldn’t even imagine. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God..”

Reading Proverbs has reminded me we must pray for God’s wisdom, and then we will live righteous lives due to His direction (Proverbs 10:24, 10:30). We must also ask God for wisdom to remember past miracles in our life to remind us He can and He will do it again in ways we can’t imagine. He knows we are prone to forgetting and need reminded. How cool is It in Joshua 4 that He instructed them to bring 12 stones from the Jordan so they could remember God helped them by stoppping the rivers of the Jordan flowing and so they remember to tell their children even. In the Israelites journey, we see they are similar to us and are prone to forgetting God’s miracles, questioning Him and His presence, and falling back into sin. However, we don’t see as much of this in the first ten chapters Joshua. Could their continuing trust in God during this stretch be due to them having stones as a reminder? They didn’t know what exact miracle God would do to help them. They could have never imagined how, but they knew He would.

Reflect. What past miracles has God done in ways you could not have imagined? Remember them. Pray for Him to give you wisdom and do miracles again in your life and you will give Him to glory. Let Go. He will fight for you.

Check out “Do It again” by Elevation Worship. I pray it can impact you, as it has for me, going into 2018 and beyond.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOBIPb-6PTc

 

 

Cornerstone

Matthew 21, Psalm 94

By definition, a cornerstone is “a stone that forms the base of a corner of a building, joining two walls.”  Historically, the cornerstone was the first stone set in a new building.  It was carefully selected and placed, becoming the reference point for the rest of the building.  The Bible often references the cornerstone of our lives.  This stone is special and set apart, selected and laid by God himself (Job 38:4-7).  It has been tested and it is precious. These ensure a firm foundation (Isaiah 28:16).  This cornerstone is an anchor point for an entire building; his temple.  It consists now of apostles, prophets (Ephesians 2:19-21), saints, the chosen as his royal priesthood  (1 Corinthians 1:2, 1 Peter 2:9).  Each of us, placed securely and carefully around the cornerstone.

We get to choose a cornerstone upon which to build our own lives.  Just like the Jews in Matthew 21, we have a choice.  We either choose Jesus for that stone, or we reject him as that stone.  Trouble comes in the rejection.  You see, failure to place Jesus as the cornerstone, doesn’t mean that we have built an inferior house.  No, it means that we have built a house without God.  A house without life (Genesis 2:7, Acts 17:25).  In fact, Matthew 21:44 gets right to the point, reminding us that our rejection results in death. 

As we consider that truth, it is right to consider our current state.  Maybe our lives already have Jesus as the cornerstone.  In that case, the fruit will be obvious.  Our lives are exuding love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  If these are missing, however, what are we to do?  That, my friends, is the wonderful thing about the Gospel. 

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22)

In order to receive his mercy and place him as our cornerstone, there is only one thing required.  Believe.

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Romans 10:9-10)