RSS

Tag Archives: soul

God Is Good, Part 1

Diane, tell us a story …

 

Our Front Steps

 

During my seminary days, I was housed in some unusual accommodations.  The first semester I stayed for free with an elderly Christian lady who had a spare room.  It so happened that while I was on the phone with the seminary’s head of housing, this lovely lady called in on another line.  Within minutes, my need and her desire to help became God’s provision.  I was given the incredible blessing of free housing and she, a lonely little old lady, had company and a little extra security.  I spent each day on campus and every evening in her company, talking, praising God, and watching Seinfeld together.  To this day I’m amazed at how perfectly He brought us together.  God is so good.

But that’s not all.

At the close of that semester, during the Christmas break, she became very ill.  Her daughter called to let me know that I would probably need to find other arrangements for the following semester.  About two weeks later, she called again, this time with bittersweet news.  Her mother, my hostess, had died in the hospital.  Now here’s the sweet part: while lying on her deathbed, this incredible woman spared some of her last thoughts for me, a woman she’d known for only a few months.  While she lay dying, she took the time to instruct her daughter to allow me to stay in her home, for free, the following semester.  And her daughter, while wary of a complete stranger living alone in her mother’s house, was faithful to her promise.

What an incredible gift!  The housing itself was a huge blessing, but more than that, I was absolutely stunned that this loving woman had chosen to bless me in obedience to the Lord’s calling on her life, even from her deathbed.  What an example of faith in action!

 

 

Fall Colors

 

Now, fast forward through the spring and summer to fall of my second year in seminary.  New housing had to be found.  This time there was no little old lady with a spare room.  Campus housing was full and I had no money to stay elsewhere.  Driving from Seattle to Portland and back again, six hours round trip, four days a week was out of the question if I wanted time to study.  I considered sleeping in my car as a last resort.

Fortunately, the seminary’s head of housing came through again.  She offered me a place to lay my head each night for, you guessed it, free.  It would not be glamorous or even particularly nice.  But it was free.  I accepted on the spot.  Every Sunday afternoon I drove from Seattle to Portland, Oregon; every Thursday afternoon I drove back to be with my family.   And every night in between, I rolled out a self-inflating mattress and sleeping bag on the floor of a closet in the big, old-fashioned house that was the girls’ dorm.  Yes, you read it right – a closet.  It was perfect.  God is so good.

And then it happened.

Coming Soon:  God Is Good, Part 2

 
4 Comments

Posted by on October 8, 2010 in Adventures in Christ

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Two Souls, One Survivor

When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:34-38).

In this passage in the book of Mark, Jesus addresses His words to everybody present, believers and unbelievers alike.  He describes two kinds of people: those who want to live life according to God’s terms and those who want to live life on their own terms.  There is no neutrality; no middle fence.  A person is either with Him or against Him.  Look at the contrast between the two types:  Those who would live on God’s terms must deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow Christ.  They will surely lose their lives through this surrender, but by so doing will end up saving it.  They will lose the world, yet their souls will be saved.  True followers are not ashamed of Jesus Christ or His gospel.  Those who acknowledge Christ will be acknowledged by Him upon His return.

The others, those who want to live life on their own terms,  want to preserve it as such. They are unwilling to surrender to God and instead, reject His terms.  This present world and it’s offerings, however temporal, is their desire.  So they gain the world, but in the end, they will lose their soul.  Why?  It boils down to this:  God is God and He will accept no other place in our lives.  Let everyone understand this:  We will all bow before God; either now willingly, or later, on the judgment day, unwillingly.  In the end, God will give us what we want: we will either enjoy eternity with Him or suffer the torment of eternal separation.  The choice is ours.

Jesus asks, “Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” It is a rhetorical question.  The answer is, of course, nothing. Sinful man can never redeem his own soul. God’s requirement for redemption is a perfect sacrifice.  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).   Jesus is the only one who lived a perfectly sinless life and as such, became the perfect sacrifice.  He is the only one who could ever save us. We, in turn, can only receive like a child what is given.  It is only by God’s grace, through the faith He gives us, that our lives are redeemed and we become part of God’s family.

Jesus made it clear in these words that the life surrendered to God is not an easy one. Following Jesus means daily self-denial, bearing burdens, and sometimes, great sacrifice.  It is living as God desires, not as we want.  This life is one of bold, courageous love that extends grace and forgiveness without partiality, just as we ourselves received grace from God who loves us all.  Surrendering ourselves to God means exchanging our will for His will.  Instead of the pattern of my life being “all about me,” it becomes all about Him. Sound tough?  Difficult?  Impossible?  You’re right, it is … in our own strength.  We ourselves cannot live holy lives without help.  God sent us a Helper – the Holy Spirit.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Rely on God.

No, it is not easy to follow Christ, and we will stumble many times.  That is where confession, repentance, and faith come in.  It is a daily challenge.  In difficult times, I like to encourage myself to persevere by looking forward to someday hearing these great words of Jesus in Matthew 25:23: “Well done, good and faithful servant … enter into the joy of your Master.”  

 
2 Comments

Posted by on September 28, 2010 in Adventures in Bible Study

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Making God Happy: Three Essential Steps … Not!

 

Dreamstime image used with permission

The righteous requirements of God were given to His people in Exodus 20:1-17 and are known today as the Ten Commandments.

  1. No idols
  2. No graven images
  3. No taking of the Lord’s name in vain
  4. Keep the Sabbath
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. No murder
  7. No adultery
  8. No stealing
  9. No false witnessing
  10. No coveting

Written in stone.  Unchanging.  God is holy and so also must His people be.  Selah and amen.

On the whole, it seems fairly simple.  Do and don’t do.  Easy enough. For most people, it’s a dream position, isn’t it?  “Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”

Making God Happy: Three Essential Steps To Holiness

  1. Learn the Ten Commandments,
  2. Do and don’t do accordingly;
  3. Reap the results.

Simple!  Nothing complicated here.  So easy a caveman can do it, right?  Let me ask you this: Have you ever lied?  Cheated?  Stole something?  Ever disrespected your parents?  Ever done something they told you not to do?

Sinner!  You’re in good company.  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  Every one of us is guilty before God.  And you’d better believe that we are reaping the results.  The Israelites had the whole sacrificial system in place to deal with their mistakes.  Whenever they messed up, they just sacrificed an animal or two … or two thousand.  Now, before you starting searching the yellow pages for Animal Sacrifice, think first about the sheer number of bulls, goats, and turtle-doves they actually sacrificed over the ages because of sin.   And yet, “Every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins” (Hebrews 10:11).  What?!

We have all sinned.  No one has completely kept God’s Perfect Ten.  So why bother sacrificing those poor animals if doing so does not take away sins?  As a Christian you are thinking, “Because the wages of sin is death!”  How right you are.  Blood is required for all sin.  “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).  The constant problem of sin is the reason so many animals were sacrificed.  

But, you say, if sacrificing animals didn’t completely take away sin, what good was it?  “But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.  For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” Even in terrible situations, God can bring out good. Rest assured no Israelite could forget about sin for very long.  The daily blood and guts of an animal sacrificial system was undoubtedly in-your-face to remind them.  The sinful state of their hearts could not be avoided.  They were constantly aware of the discrepancy between their hearts and God’s standard of holiness.

The Law – all those commandments resulting in all those offerings – had a purpose.  The purpose of the Law is to lead us to Christ.  First, the Israelites had to perceive the holiness of God.  Second, they had to recognize their own sinfulness.  Third, they had to come to understand that sinfulness is not merely outward behavior, but a condition of the heart.  It is the same today.  We sin, not because we weren’t paying attention or because of a mistake, but because it is the very condition of our hearts.  We are rotten to the core.  No matter what good we may do or what love we may give, it is always, always infected with the disease of self.  “As it is written:  There is none righteous, no, not one; there is no one who understands; there is none who seeks after God …” (Romans 3:10-11, from Psalm 14:1-3 and Ecclesiastes 7:20).

The law was designed to show us that sin and death have penetrated to the very marrow of our being.  Because the commandments reveal sin, we realize we are sinful.  And no matter how hard we try to clean up our act, we cannot, and in any event it is too late.  Already we have sinned.  Already spiritual death has overcome us.  We have behaved, and continue to behave, according to the dictates of our heart.  Sin is not just a set of behaviors that we sometimes do.   No.  Sin is a heart issue. It is ever-present within us.  “As in water face reflects face, so a man’s heart reveals the man” (Proverbs 27:19). We don’t just sin; we are sinners.  We cannot change this.  We need rescue.  We need salvation.   We need Christ.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). As sinners, our very life is required of us.  Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.  We are truly caught between a rock and a hard place.

But here’s the good news: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  Only Jesus kept God’s commandments perfectly.  This is why, when Christ willingly gave his life and died on the cross, his death satisfied the righteous requirements of the Law.  The evidence that God’s justice was satisfied in Christ is seen in Christ’s words, “It is finished” (John 19:30).  The result was the resurrection.

When we confess our sin to God, when we believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, our sins are forgiven and we are saved from eternal death.  “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” (John 11:25).  Do you believe this?  Do you?

Are you saved?  Have you availed yourself of the free gift of salvation and forgiveness in Christ?  If so, then ask God to continue to help you to seek His face that holiness would be your heart condition.  If not, please pray in sincerity something like this:

God, I believe you.  I have not kept Your commandments.  I confess that I am a sinner.  I believe that Jesus’ death on the cross fully paid the debt of my sins and that You raised him from the dead.  I place my trust in Jesus who died that I may live forever with You.  Amen.

If you prayed this, please tell someone!  Talk to a Christian friend or pastor.  And email me.  I’d love to pray for you.

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on September 7, 2010 in Adventures in Bible Study

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Faith Is Being Sure

Have you ever received a calling of God, yet nothing in your life seems to lead you in that direction?  Have you heard His voice, but what He said would happen hasn’t at all?  Have you found yourself worrying that what you labeled as being from God is really only from your own selfish desires?  Well, join the club.  Sometimes I think I could win the gold medal for second-guessing God and myself.

I have wondered for a long time now whether or not God has truly called me to a speaking ministry.  Some days I think He has; other days I’m not so sure.   Sometimes I wonder if I merely made it up in order to feel important.  Current circumstances certainly preclude a speaking ministry:  I care full-time for my mom who has Alzheimer’s and even with a few hours off a week, I accomplish little more than teaching a Bible study, which is, by the way, a great joy for me.

And then I worry that maybe this is pride trying to garner me some of the Christian world’s applause.  After all, what do I have to say that someone else cannot say better?  And why should anyone listen to me in the first place?  A kind stranger reminded me recently that it’s not me from whom people wish to hear; it’s God.  And He can use anyone in any way at any time in any place.  That’s a freeing statement.   After all, it is His Spirit who does the actual work in people’s hearts anyway.  We’re just the messengers.  🙂

Many years ago, God showed me a picture or vision if you will.  I saw myself standing on the cliff of a high mountain overlooking a large, green valley filled with people.  My hair was short, my figure slim, the opposite of what I looked like at the time, and yes, this gave me a great deal of pleasure!  I wore a kilt of red and blue plaid, signifying family.  In my hand was a golden trumpet, which I raised to my lips and blew.   As I looked at myself standing firmly on the edge of that cliff, I understood that I was announcing what God had done in me and my [spiritual] family.   In fact, I was sharing my testimony.  I knew that God was telling me I would someday share this testimony of God’s grace, mercy, and sufficiency before crowds of people.  I had no idea how this might come about; I only knew God was telling me it would be so.  That was about 16-17 years ago.  It hasn’t happened.  And yet, despite the occasional worries, I persist in believing it will be so someday.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).  My hair is quite short nowadays, but I am far from slim and trim.  I suppose that means the time has not yet come.  LOL.

That’s probably not too far from the truth, weight excluded.  I’ve learned that God sometimes gives us an assignment well before the day it becomes due.  I believe it is because He wants us to study [His word] hard and practice, practice, practice.  And I don’t mean to merely practice my speaking ability.  I’m talking about character formation.  God takes time to build our character to match the assignment, as Henry Blackaby says.  We cannot do God’s will in the strength of the natural man.  God must cultivate within us a Christ-likeness and this takes time.  Had I tried to force a speaking career back then, it would have failed.  My character lacked maturity and Christ-centeredness.   I may have been eager, but enthusiasm is not a substitute for preparation.

I have spoken in front of groups of people in the past and looking back it’s easy to see that it was usually about me, not God.  Most of the time, I was just trying to be somebody special.  I’m glad those days ended fairly quickly.  I needed time to grow up.

Even now I cannot call myself a Christian speaker.  I do teach a Bible study and this is a cherished time to be led by the Spirit and talk about God.  My blog is certainly another opportunity.  It’s true that I’m not standing before crowds of people speaking about what God has done, but with these rich opportunities in my hand right now, I am more than willing to wait on God for the latter.   For the first time in my life, I truly understand what it means to be patient and wait on the Lord.  It is not about sitting around eating bonbons and watching soaps.  No, it is about participating with God as He forms our character into the image of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I’ve stumbled around in the dark a bit, but I’m confident that “He who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6) .

And so I choose to wait patiently on God for the fulfillment of that long ago vision.  And as God continues to prepare my heart and my mind, I am becoming more and more sure of what I hope for and certain of what I do not see.  And even if I am wrong about becoming a Christian speaker, at least I will not have wasted these years of preparation for whatever it is the Lord will bring into my life.  And to God be the glory!  Amen.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on August 12, 2010 in Adventures in Christ

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Creation Gives Us A Glimpse Of The Creator

From time to time I like to include a guest post in my blog.  This one was written by my eldest brother, John C. Yuhas, who fishes, hunts, and preaches in Big Sky Country and is Pastor of  New Life Foursquare Church (Darby, Montana).  It first appeared in the Ravalli Republic newspaper on April 17, 2008.   Enjoy!

Glacier National Park, Montana

Montana is of course beautiful, but there are times and places when the glory that is Montana can take your breath away.

For me, the time was many years ago and the place was Glacier National Park.  I stood upon a high mountain on a clear spring day looking at mile after mile of rugged mountains.  Their high peaks were still crowned with the pure white of a departing winter but from their knees downward splashed the vibrant green of a sudden spring.

Running down from white to green were what appeared to be glistening silver lines.  Even as I looked, I knew the lines to be far away streams filled with the energy of the snow melt and sparkling in the sun.  My heart was filled with wonder and thankfulness as my eyes and indeed my soul feasted on this spectacular view.

More recently, I had another perhaps not as majestic but no less soul-refreshing time as I stood knee deep in one of my favorite pools in the East Fork of the Bitterroot River.

I was happily holding on to a throbbing fly rod bent with the weight of a solid trout.  The trout made one lovely, completely out-of-the-water jump, before landing back into the cold dark waters of the Bitterroot with a splash.  It was brown and bigger than what clumsy me usually manages to catch.  So I was especially happy not only to hook it, but to actually land it.

As I was undoing the fly to release it, I was struck by its stunning beauty.  A mature male brown trout in the flaming colors of the spawn – a thing of wild beauty – and indeed very special gift from the Creator.  As I watched it swim away, I took time to gratefully thank the Creator for allowing me to catch such a treasure.

Such experiences and more are why so many call Montana home.  Montana is indeed a very special place.  But did you know that the Bible teaches that this wonderful creation is a gift from God who not only created it but gave it to us for our enjoyment.

Yes, the deer, elk, trout, the land and the waters are all gifts given by the hand of God to be a blessing to all of us who walk this good earth.  I, for one, am very glad for these precious gifts.

Yet, creation is not only a gift, but a form of revelation from God.  Looking up into a clear night sky into the vastness that is this universe, we can get a glimpse of His power, His glory and consequently our own smallness.

Looking into the face of our child, or better yet, a grandchild, we can almost see the eternal.  The mountains, the streams, the oceans, and why yes, even a single flower all have a testimony if we would but listen to it.

As great as this revelation is, the Bible teaches that there is an even more clear revelation of what God is like.  The better, or should I say, the best revelation of what God is like is the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is said, he is the express image of God.

Just as a painting will reveal to some extent, the artist who painted it, only by getting to meet the artist do you get to know what the artist is truly like.  It is the same with God.

One can learn much about Him through the artwork that is his creations, but it is only in the face of the Son of God, that we clearly see God’s face, God’s love, God’s grace and God’s will for us.

May your heart be filled with wonder and revelation as you enjoy this great place we call Montana, but even more importantly may your heart be drawn to Him who created it and unto His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 9, 2010 in Adventures in Christ

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: