Tag Archives: salvation

By This Gospel…


“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)

Image there was a supreme, other-dimensional being that decided to create some humanoids. He would have a plan for them to love each other and even love him. If they got out of line, there would be strict consequences, for they were the created beings without the right to dictate their own way. 

Imagine that the beings that were created were considered awesome by this supreme being, and he began to love them as if they were his own offspring. However, the created ones began to rebel and do their own thing. They began to treat one another with disdain and hatred rather than love. They began to destroy the habitat in which they were placed. They began to destroy one another. 

The supreme being had set the rules in place from the beginning of this creation, and now he had to justly punish these beings, but he loved them. 

He tried to encourage them to turn back to his ways by showering them with blessings even allowing them to reap the consequences of their behavior. Try as they might, however, the created ones just couldn’t break this selfish habit that had become ingrained into their culture to the very roots. 

The supreme being could destroy them. He created them, after all. But he loved them. He wanted to see them succeed and find the blessing of life with him. He wanted them to have the opportunity to graduate from this lesser world of imperfection and be able to become perfect in his realm. 

But he couldn’t understand why they turned away. They didn’t understand how much he loved them. 

So one day he created himself into their world as a humble baby. Maybe if he grew up as one of them he could understand them more and see how to show them the way to himself. Maybe if he was tempted as they are he would be able to have compassion for them, and they would be able to see his compassion and love. 

There still lingered the need for consequence for their decision to turn their backs on him and overthrow his reign over their lives. 

He loved them so much that he decided to take their punishment for them. He inflicted on himself the death that they deserved. He granted them freedom from the consequences of their selfishness so that they would turn to him and live once again in a love-relationship with their creator. He proved his majesty and promise-keeping ability by raising himself from the dead with witnesses. 

This freedom from consequences would be granted to all people for all time with one catch. They would need to want it. They would need to want a relationship with the creator defined by love and freedom. 

Some wanted it and some didn’t. Even today, some respond to the call, and some don’t. But for those who realize the goodness of this creator, the salvation offered isn’t just good news. It’s great news!

When the angel announced the birth of the messiah, this is the story to which he referred when he proclaimed the “good news of great joy…for all people”. Good news. Gospel. 

“By this gospel you are saved…” (I Corinthians 15:2)


I Believed I Could Fly

When I was a kid I loved to climb trees. I would spend hours hanging out up in the limbs as high as I could go. Heights have never bothered me. 

I remember one period during my youth when I was convinced that if I believed something strongly enough I could make that idea a reality. My faith would create reality. I had no real example for this, but I had watched enough television and movies to know this must be the case.  

I loved being up high. I still do. But when I was younger, the trees weren’t high enough. I wanted to be like a bird and fly. I convinced myself that if I believed hard enough I could jump out of the tree and flap my arms and soar like a bird. 

So one day I spent time up in the tree meditating upon the truth that I could fly. I remembered the cartoons I had watched and how the characters would flap their arms to generate lift. I convinced myself that this would work, and I jumped. 

I think I may have postponed my inevitable landing by maybe a millisecond. But I didn’t fly. 

Faith doesn’t create reality as much as it latches onto an already proven reality that simply can’t be seen yet. 

Saul was a zealot for his religion. He was a Jew of Jews and went around persecuting anyone who claimed that Jesus was the prophesied Messiah. He put people in prison and even to death because he was convinced of his right knowledge and their false allegiance. 

Was he sincere? Yes. Was he convinced he was doing he right thing? Yes. Was what he was doing in contrast to the plan of God for all mankind? Yes!

Who could’ve convinced him?  As we see in Acts, it took an encounter with Jesus to convince him of the error of his ways. 

If sincere faith was more important than the truth underlying that faith then Saul would’ve been commended for his behavior. If zeal for God was all that was needed for salvation regardless of the teachings of Jesus and discipleship in Him then Saul should have been in. But he wasn’t. 

Many people today are convinced that their sincerity will get them into heaven, but their lifestyle doesn’t look like Jesus’ plan for them. Many people feel that their religion is right because it claims Jehovah as God and refers to Jesus, but their religion doesn’t look like the church we read of in the New Testament. 

People for many years have convinced themselves or listened to other charismatic messengers who convinced them that they are following the right way, but they haven’t looked to the source of righteousness, Jesus, to see if their lifestyle truly reflects Jesus’ teachings. 

If the church tells you that some man’s word supersedes the words of Jesus then that is not a Christian church. If the church tells you that Jesus isn’t God even though Jesus himself claimed to be the God who was at the burning bush with Moses, then that is not a Christian church. To follow the teachings and practices of a man above those of Christ is idolatry, and God is a jealous God. 

It is not politically correct for me to say so, but Catholicism teaches that the church can dictate scripture, and where their mandates differ from the teachings of Jesus in the Bible, then the bible takes second place to the church (This is taught in catechism). Mormonism teaches that the Doctrines and Covenants is to be trusted above the Bible even though their teachings stand in stark contrast to the teachings of Jesus. The Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t even believe in the deity of Jesus though Jesus, Thomas and the rest of the New Testament writers testified to this fact. When men stand above other men to dictate a religion that doesn’t look like what Jesus came to establish then this is not from God. God is about equality among genders, races and social classes – especially in the church – not hierarchy and power and control. 

No matter how much we may “feel” something is right, we cannot hold to that understanding if it is in contrast to the teachings of the Son of God. Trying to find salvation in these religions apart from the message of Jesus is like trying to convince yourself you can fly. Trying to find salvation outside of Christ based on some feeling you have about God is the same as these false religions. 

If you’ve been in one of these religions or have been considering them, then please heed this warning and go to the Jesus of the bible to find your salvation and the way you should live. If you have been living a “good life” to try to please God yet don’t know what God says in his word concerning you, then it is time to learn. I would love to talk with you more about following Jesus apart from the teachings of man. I don’t want to give you my teachings. I want to help you see His teachings for what they are, and they’re not difficult to understand. 

Faith is based on the truth of Jesus, the Word of God. It isn’t based on some gut feeling or emotional experience. Emotions come and go, but Jesus has been consistent for thousands of years. 


James vs. Paul: A contradiction?

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Over the last few weeks I’ve been talking about faith in my sermons on Sunday mornings. We have seen that it is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). We have defined faith as follows:

Believing in something so much that you ACT on that belief without hesitation.

Faith isn’t merely saying you believe in something but living like you believe in that something.

As we talk about faith there are many who want us to talk about James 2. Many people have an opinion one way or the other about this passage. Many in the churches of Christ love this passage and use it to talk about the things we do as Christians. Some people dismiss this chapter because they believe in the “faith alone” passages of Romans and Galatians. Which is it? Are we saved by faith alone or do works come into play?

Paul says this:
Romans 4:1-5
​”What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about–but not before God. What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.
However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.”

He also says this:
Galatians 2:15-16
“We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”

So it seems that we are saved by faith alone. This is true, but you must understand the type of works that Paul is talking about in these passages. He is not talking about the works done as a result of faith. He is talking about the works people do in order to fulfill the law – as in the Old Testament Levitical Law System.

People believed that if they followed the rules of the Old Testament to the letter they would be found righteous. The problem with this is if you break one of the laws even once you have been found unrighteous, and there is no undoing that stained record. A person cannot justify themselves by following law.

But James says this:
James 2:14-17
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

So which is it? Do you need works for Salvation? James thinks so, but he is talking about a different kind of works entirely. He is not talking about following a religion legalistically. He is talking about a life that shows its faith by what it does.

The kind of deeds James is referring to have to do with faith. Faith without action is mere words. It’s not faith at all. If we are going to claim to have faith then there needs to be evidence of it by the lifestyle we show daily. Your lifestyle, the deeds you do daily, shows whether or not you have faith.

James and Paul are not in contradiction with each other. They both believe that faith shows itself in what we do (Galatians 5:6).

So, you are not saved by proving yourself worthy. You are saved by a faith in God that expresses itself daily in a lifestyle of love for God and others and trust in the Creator to sustain and fulfill you.

So are you saved by faith? Yes! But faith cannot be defined without action. May your life reflect that saving faith, and may others see that faith in you.


Time is of the Essence

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Do you ever feel like you have enough time in the day? Are you a busy person? Are you a procrastinator? Does time seem to be moving faster and faster the older you get?

The other day my kids were watching a movie on Netflix. It was a kids show about some children who are spies (conveniently called “Spy Kids”). The dilemma in this show was that the bad guy was stealing time. He was making the clocks all around the world speed up.

The problem was that he was doing it for a good reason. He had lost his father and was trying to teach all people around the world to value the time they have with others. I think the bad guy had a good point.

We take for granted what becomes commonplace in our lives. Through the years we become accustomed to the idea that there will be tomorrow. We make decision based on plans for the future.

The other day I heard a sad story of a person who took the future for granted. This person had been studied with about Jesus and what He did to save us. This person believed the message and wanted to be baptized to give his life to The Lord, but in the end he decided to put it off until a later date.

Fast forward several years, and the person has still not dedicated his life to Christ. He out it off until a better time but that better time seemed to never come. When the decision was in the forefront of his mind he let other factors influence his decision to do what was right. Now he’s dead.

Death is finality. There is no more opportunity for the things you wished to do to come true. The decisions you neglected stay neglected. You are given one shot at living this life.

Hebrews says, “It is destined for man to die one and then to face judgment.” Reincarnation isn’t an option. There will be no time after death to undo the mistakes of your past. All of those mistakes need to be dealt with right now.

That’s why every time we read of someone being convicted of their need for Christ in the New Testament there was immediate response in baptism.

Time is of the essence. Time is fleeting. Now is the time to do what is right. Don’t put off till tomorrow what should be done today. All of these clichés are appropriate for you if you know you need to come to Christ but have been putting it off.

Have you been baptized? Have you been forgiven? Do you have the Spirit living in you? If not, then don’t wait until a better time to get that fixed. The time is now. God is calling.


Not Good Enough – A Dilemma

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I’ve grown up going to church. My grandfather and great-grandfather were song leaders in the church of Christ, and my parents had us at the building pretty much every time the doors were open. Church has always been a part of my life.

I had great teachers in bible class as a kid. They taught us wonderful bible stories and the message of Jesus. We even went and competed at bible bowls. But my greatest teachers were my parents and grandparents. They were the ones who not only told me about the messages of the bible but showed them to me in their lives.

Needless to say I grew up knowing about sin and death and love and joy and Jesus and salvation. There was this problem, though. Once I got to Jr. High I knew I wasn’t good enough to deserve that salvation.

No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t be good enough. I knew all the answers to the bible questions. I was in church every week, but I didn’t feel like I could come to Christ because my sin was still in the way. In fact, I remember going to a church down in South Texas while we were visiting some friends, and I had all the answers in bible class. One of the other students asked me why I hadn’t been baptized since I “knew all the right answers”.

I knew I didn’t know everything – and still don’t – but I knew I needed Jesus.

This was a huge struggle for me. I wanted to be free from my sin, but I didn’t feel like I could stay good enough once I was baptized. I felt like the baptism wouldn’t stick. I’d still be a sinner.

One Sunday morning during my sophomore year I was listening to the sermon, and it dawned on me: I couldn’t be good enough. I needed Jesus to make me good. It was when I realized this that I gave my life to Christ and was baptized.

I’m still a sinner. But now I understand that my baptism was the beginning of a process that would take my whole life – a process to make me look more like Jesus. In the meantime, His blood cleanses me from the sins I continue to commit. I’m a weak sinner, but He’s a tireless Savior.

Paul reminds the Romans of who they were when they came to Christ when he says “while we were STILL SINNERS Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 emphasis added). Jesus didn’t wait for us to be perfect before He came to save us. If we could achieve that on our own we wouldn’t need a savior.

If you’re waiting until you’re a better person before you dedicate your life to Christ in baptism, then you’re going to always be waiting. You’ll never be good enough, but thank God that once you come to Him He makes you good. He declares you worthy.

He’s waiting for you to answer the call, and He’s been calling for a while.


A Vapor in the Wind

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My uncle was in the prime of his life. He was the oldest of four siblings. My dad was the second oldest. He was the father of two beautiful, grown daughters

Uncle Tony (Mark Dobbs) was a retired Commander from the US Navy. He lived in his lake house in North Arkansas on Bull Shoals Lake. He was involved in the leadership of his town. He had acquired his real estate license and had just published his second book, “Fracked”.

Last Father’s Day he and his wife, Cheryl, were heading eastbound in their small car. There was a car in front of them, and headed westbound was an 18 wheeler with a car leading it. The two cars collided suddenly.

My uncle swerved to the right to miss the accident, and the 18 wheeler swerved to the left to do the same. In an instant their lives changed.

My uncle died on Father’s Day. My aunt is still in the hospital, unresponsive, with major damage to her body. Please pray for her, my grandma, their daughters and grandchildren, and our whole family.

Life is short. The bible says we are but a vapor – here one minute and gone the next.

It is what you do with the time you have on the earth that matters. There is no time for procrastination when it comes to your relationship with God. There is no time to miss telling those you love how much you feel for them. There is no time for squandering your life away on yourself.

You were created to glorify God with your life. You were created to seek Him and find Him – He promises He’s not far from you. You were created to consider others better than yourself. You were created for more than this world says you are.

Time is short. Kiss your children. Tell your mom you love her. Spend time with your dad. Love your wife or husband. But most of all, get your life right with God. There might not be a tomorrow.


I Love to Fish

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I went fishing this morning.

I love to fish. I’ve fished in huge lakes and small streams. I’ve fished on the beach and out at sea. I’ve fished in bayous and bays and in between. I love to fish.

I’m not too worried about the fish. I’m not worried that they’ll like me. I just want them to like what I’m presenting to them. But if they reject it like they did this morning, it’s ok. I still love to fish.

I wake up early and stay up late to fish. I travel long distances and walk across the road to fish. I’ve fished in the heart of cities and up on mountain sides where there is just granite and water. I’ve fished in drainage canals and snowmelt streams. I’ve fished in water where you can’t see anything below the surface and water where you could see the bottom 30 feet down. I love to fish.

I went fishing this morning.

I love to fish. I’ve fished in homes and corporations. I’ve fished in malls and banks. I’ve fished in churches and bars. I love to fish.

I’m extremely worried about these fish. But I’m not worried that they’ll like me. I don’t fish to please them. I’m fishing to save them. My message won’t change. It’s just what they need. And when they reject me I realize it is not me they’re rejecting but the One whom the message is about. I still love to fish.

I wake up early and stay up late to fish. I’ve stumbled upon fish walking along my day and been woken up in the middle of the night to fish some more. I’ve fished across the street and in other countries. I’ve fished online and face to face. I’ve fished for fish that were injured and hurting and for fish who thought they had it all together. And what I’ve found is that no matter what type of fish or where they live they all are in desperate need of what I fish with. I love to fish.

Do you love to fish? Have you been caught by the One who brings life everlasting? If so, He is wondering when you’re going to start fishing.

You have been called to be saved from yourself by the only One who died for you. Then you have been called to tell others about your salvation and how it is offered to them too. Are you afraid to do that? It’s quite common to be afraid, but fear can be conquered.

If you want to know more about how to share your faith with others, then let me know. I’d love to help you. If you’re still a fish waiting on that salvation, I’d love even more to let you know about this offer of salvation to which I’m referring. I love to fish. Jesus called me to be a fisher of men. Let’s fish together.


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