RSS

Category Archives: Salvation

For Your Consideration 7.12.13

I received “God’s Favorite Place on Earth” by Frank Viola today! Very excited to dig in and offer a review in the coming days.

In the meantime,here are a couple of blog posts published at Desiring God that challenged and encouraged me this week:

If you have not read anything by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, you really must. This piece will give you a taste of not only her story, but her exceptional writing style. An excerpt:

The Bible is not some pragmatist’s paradigm. It is the double-edged sword that chiseled truth into my stony heart, rendering it new and with it, recreating me as a new creature in Christ, a daughter of the King. I have no personal sexual orientation to call my own after Christ chisels my heart anew — and neither do you. We have Christ orientation, an alien identity to which we claim no rights. Do we struggle with sin? Yes. Is temptation a sin? No. What distinguishes temptation from sin? Temptation clobbers you from the outside and lures you to do its bidding. Sin makes temptation a house pet, gets it a collar and leash, and is deceived to believe that it can be restrained by impositions of civility. What you do with temptation reveals Who owns your heart. How you talk about other people’s sin patterns reveals Who owns your heart.

Read the rest here in her post called, DOMA and the Rock.

The second, written by Jonathan Parnell, is Three Things We Should Know About God. And I confess, “Creator” was one of my three. Think of three things that come to your heart and mind when you think of God then read this post. I promise you will be thankful and encouraged. Here’s a sample:

When you think of God, do you think happy? Or do you think stern? Sadly, it is common for us to think of God as a negative caricature would depict him. Do you think of him frowning? Is he seething with anger like a capricious despot? Or do you see him who is glad at heart — glad in the glory of his Son and the communion that they share? Do we see him as the Father who said of Jesus, with no hesitation, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17)? Do we see him as the Father who delights to give us the kingdom (Luke 12:32)? Do we see him as the God who overflows with joy when a sinner repents (Luke 15:7)?

So long as sin exists, he feels indignation every day (Psalm 7:11). But at heart — who he is in himself — God is happy. To grasp this truth will work wonders in our souls.

Keep feeding your mind and soul with GOOD things. Drink deeply from God’s rich word, and never stop learning, seeking, growing, thirsting, following hard after Him.

Blessings on you this weekend!

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

How Much Do You Have to Hate Somebody to Keep the Truth to Yourself?

In the news this week is the atheist group, American Humanist Association, and their campaign to get teens and pre-teens to reject God via their new outreach site, KidsWithoutGod.com. Now that’s bad. And parents should be ever-the-more vigilant to help their children guard their hearts and minds and they teach them to how to love Christ with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. We should not ignore the schemes of the enemy or be silent about the very wrong messages bombarding us and our children a thousand times a day. Silence can be complicity.

Here are some words from a famous atheist, Penn Jillette:

“The only people I don’t understand are people that say they don’t care about the whole issue. I love evangelicals. One of the things I learned doing Penn and Teller: Bull—-! on Showtime for all those years is that Christians are really good. They’re really good people. You notice there wasn’t an anti-Muslim show that we ever did. We did a bunch of anti-Christian shows. That is the biggest compliment I can give. The fact that Christians will really believe…American Christians…will really, really believe in the marketplace of ideas. And I love the fact that there are people that talk to me after the show and pray for me and give me Bibles. I never understand the atheists that say it’s OK as long as they shut up. They believe that there is eternal life. They believe you can be saved. What could be more hateful than shutting up?”

But we should be doing more than not shutting up about God and the Way, the Truth and the Life, we should also be actively living it. Actions speak louder than words: Everyone knows it. Here is more from Mr. Jillette:

“I don’t respect [people who do not share their faith] at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward, and atheists who think that people shouldn’t proselytize — ‘Just leave me alone, keep your religion to yourself.’

“How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?” Jillette asked. “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? If I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you and you didn’t believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you, there’s a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”

How much DO you have to hate someone to put your light under a basket? To hide the salt? To withhold the life preserver from the drowning and the truth from the crowd shuffling its way toward the gates of hell? How much do you have to hate somebody to play church, to plant your butt in a seat on Sunday and forget for the rest of the week why you are actually left here on earth?

Mr. Jillette’s words sobered me. Do you know what else is sobering? 96.3% of the greater San Francisco Bay Area is un-churched. Over 96 out of 100 people I pass on the freeway, or in the grocery store, or at the mall don’t know what it means to live a life of freedom because of Christ’s saving grace. Let me never again see a fellow human being with my own eyes only, but with God’s eyes, and feel with God’s heart, which is to seek and save that which is lost.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 17, 2012 in Belief, God's Word, Missions, Obedience, Salvation

 

Tags: , , , ,

Broken Resolutions and New Beginnings

What is the real secret of the new year? It’s real secret lies in that we know nothing at all about it. Year after year men and women make their new resolutions. They realize above all else what is needed is a fresh start and a new beginning. They decide to turn their backs on the past, to turn over a new leaf, or even to start a new book of life. That is their desire, that is their firm conviction and intention. They want to break with the past and for a time they do their utmost to do so, but it doesn’t last. Gradually they invariably slide back to the old position and to the old state of affairs. And after a few such experiences they no longer try, and come to the conclusion that all is hopeless. Up to a point, the fight is kept up and maintained, but sheer weariness and fatigue eventually overcome them, the pressure and the might of the world and its way seem to be entirely on the other side and they give in. the position seems to be utterly hopeless.

Well, now, there’s a cheery thought for the new year! But for how many does this ring true? By our own determination we try to keep our new year resolutions. And it lasts for a little while. (My daughter commented last night at how she dreaded January at the gym because beginning January 1 through about mid February, the place was packed with newbies starting their resolutions… for about six weeks.)

This is my first day back at work this year, so the “real” beginning. Thought I should make it count. The above quote comes from a sermon on The Parable of the Prodigal Son by D. Martin Lloyd-Jones (1898-1981). (I wonder if he preached it in January.) He goes on to say (and the rest of this text is largely taken directly from his sermon):

Do  you feel that your life has gone wrong, has gone astray? Are you forever mocked by the haunting spectre of the might-have-been? Do you feel that you have got yourself into such a position, and into such a situation that you can never get out of it and put yourself right again? Do you feel that you are so far away from what you ought to be, and from what you would like to be, that you can never get there again? Do you feel hopeless about yourself because of some situation with which you are confronted, or because of some entanglement in which you have got involved, or because of some sin which has mastered you and which you cannot conquer? Have you turned to yourself and said, “What is the use of making any further effort, what is the use of trying again? I have tried and tried many and many a time before, but all to no purpose, and my trying now can lead to but the same result. I have made a mess of my life, I have forfeited my chance and my opportunity, and henceforth I have nothing to do but to make the best of a bad job.”

The very first word of the Good News (the Gospel) is that people in this position should lift their head! All is not lost—there is still hope, still the possibility of a fresh start, a new beginning. And it can begin right now without a moment’s hesitation, and not by hoping on something imaginary, something that relies on our strength of determination, or something in the unknown future, but rather by leaning of something that happened in the past nearly 2,000 years ago, but which is as strong and powerful today as it was then. There is a possible turning point even along the blackest and most hopeless road. There is a new beginning.

But conditions are attached. Drawing further from the parable, there are three things we must do if we wish to avail ourselves of a new hope and a new start:

  1. First, we must face our position squarely, honestly and truly. It is one thing to be in a difficult position and quite another to face it honestly. Like the prodigal son, we don’t get into that kind of a pickle over night. It’s gradual, it’s quiet, and we scarcely see it at all until we hit bottom. Then we tend to avoid thinking about it. We busy ourselves with other things or say, “what’s the use, here I am anyhow.” But the very first step back is to face the situation honestly and clearly.
  2. The next is to realize that there is only One to Whom you can turn and only one thing you can do. The prodigal had tried and exhausted all his own efforts and the efforts of other people. He was finished and no one could help him but his father. If we pathetically try to cling to our own means, our money, our friends, we will never be pulled from the pit of repetition or the snare of our own doing. The  improvement will only be transient and temporary. You can go on trusting yourself and others and trying with all your might, but a year from now the position will not only be the same but actually worse. God alone can save.
  3. But as you turn to Him, you must realize further that you can plead nothing before Him except His mercy and His compassion. The prodigal left home full of himself, his rights, his own confidence, but he returned determine to be nothing more than a servant in his father’s household, at least they had it better than what he finally made of himself. We are nothing before God—we have turned our back on Him, ignored Him and flouted Him. Yet if we cast ourselves upon Him and His mercy, asking Him if in His infinite goodness and kindness He can possibly make something of us, then all will be different.
  4. If you do, you will find that in your case, as in the case of the prodigal, there will be a real, solid new beginning and new start. The impossible will happen and you will be amazed and astounded at what you will discover. In Jesus Christ, a real genuine new start, and new beginning are possible. And they are possible alone in Him! We see the prodigal son’s father rushing to him as he sees him returning, kissing him, stripping him of his filthy rags of clothes, preparing a huge celebration feast, treating him like the son he always was and not the beggar he had become. God is amazing and surprising. He rises far above our way of thought.
  5. But in order to have a really new start, I require something further. It is not enough that every trace of my past be removed, I require something in the present. I desire to be clothed, I must be robed. I need confidence to start afresh and to face life and its people and its problems. The father does not stop at kissing his son and removing his filthy rags, he clothes the boy with dress that is worthy of a son and places a ring on his finger. He announced to all that his son has returned and clothes him so as to make him feel unashamed when he meets people. No one else could do that but the father.

It is precisely the same with us when we turn to God. he not only forgives and blots out the past, He makes us sons and daughters. He gives us new life and new power. He will so assure you of His love that you will be able to face others unashamed. He will clothe you with the robe of Christ’s righteousness [right standing], He will not only tell you that He regard you as a child, but make you feel that you are one….The world only tries to clean the old suit and make it look respectable. God in Christ alone can clothe us with the new robe and really make us strong. Let the world try to point its finger and remind us of our past. Let it do its worst; we have but to look at the robe and the shoes and the ring, and all is well.

Here is opportunity for a real new beginning. It is the only way. God Himself has made it possible by sending His only Son into this world, to live and die and rise again. It matters not at all what you have been, nor what you are like at the moment. You have but to come to God confessing your sins again Him, casting yourself upon His mercy in Jesus Christ, acknowledging that He alone can save and keep, and you will find that

The past shall be forgotten,

The present joy be given,

A future grace be promised,

A glorious crown in heaven.

My prayer for us all this new year is that we don’t waste time or waste our lives, waiting for some unknown imaginary event or new year resolution to improve our lot. Faith in Christ alone will do that. Such an amazing gift, such a wonderful, unfathomable promise. Time to leave the pig sty and return to the Father.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 3, 2012 in Grace, Jesus, Salvation, Sin, The Journey

 

Tags: , , , , ,

The Greatest Show on Earth

No, it’s not the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, though that’s a good one. I am thinking of the modern American Christian Church. Ours is going through Chuck Colson‘s “The Faith: Given Once for All” and in the first chapter he cites a few George polls (both Gallup and Barna). The stats are really crazy:

  • 65% of American’s call themselves Christians. YET:
  • The majority of evangelicals do not believe in absolute truth.
  • 60% of American’s cannot name five of the 10 commandments.
  • 50% of high school seniors think Sodom and Gomorrah were married.
  • I could go on: Bottom line — not a lot of “real” here.
During this study, I also read “not a fan.” by Kyle Idleman. (The premise of this book is that the majority of American Christians are “fans” of Jesus, maybe even raving fans like those in the Black Hole section at a Raiders game at the Oakland Coliseum, but not many are followers.) There are stats in that book, too, but also some very hard-hitting truths, like “The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren’t actually interested in following Christ. They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them.”  And, “One of the reasons our churches can become fan factories is that we have separated the message of ‘believe’ from the message ‘follow’.”

 

And here’s where I’m getting to: “…Some fans can be almost impossible to identify because they deliver Oscar-worthy performances as they play the role of a follower.” Kyle says this as “a recovering hypocrite.” So do I. The scary thing, though, is that Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23 that on the judgement day He will tell even people who performed miracles and other great works in His name to depart from Him because they did not follow Him — He says, “I never knew you: Get away from me.” That’s harsh. But it’s not unfair.

 

This makes sense in light of the admonishment, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Our Pastor talked about this in his message yesterday morning, agreeing with both Colson and Idleman and, of course, most importantly the Word of God: Believing is just the first step. Following is the second, and it’s not an option. “There is no forgiveness without repentance. There is no salvation without surrender. There is no life without death. There is no believing without committing.”

 

If, like me, you grew up believing that raising your hand and repeating a prayer after the pastor, going to church on Sunday, and maybe reading your Bible once in awhile was all it takes to “get into heaven” — you might rethink your relationship with Christ. I highly recommend both books from which I’ve quoted — both will give you plenty of opportunities to search God’s word for yourself:

 

 

 

God bless on your journey as a follower. Not a fan.
 
 

Tags: ,

Ticket to Where? Or Who?

Loved the message at church yesterday morning. It was the last in a series on Getting to Know God, on the topic of Worship, given by our Worship Pastor. The entire message was great, but what I loved was an illustration about how the cross is not a bridge to heaven. Salvation is not a ticket to heaven.

He said: When you go visit your friend, you don’t go to his house regardless of whether he’s there — you want to be with your friend, so you go wherever he is. He said his wife bought tickets to U2 for his birthday and he was excited to go see the band at the Oakland Coliseum. He wasn’t excited to go to the Oakland Coliseum.

Likewise, the cross is a bridge to Christ, not heaven. Salvation is our “ticket” to our chief purpose: Glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.

Since my girlfriends and I are studying “The Cross of Christ” I thought this was a very good add regarding the purpose of the cross, or maybe more accurately, the non-purpose of the cross. Do we make much of the fact that we’re saved so we can go to heaven, or do we make much of Christ, just because of Who He Is and we just want to be wherever He is… now and forever?

Food for thought!

 
1 Comment

Posted by on August 29, 2011 in God's Word, Jesus, Salvation, The Cross

 

Tags: , ,

Pretty Crosses

Why do we wear crosses around our neck or hang pretty cross plaques on our walls? Why do Catholics make the sign of the cross and what is it that we think of when we see these things?

A couple of my girlfriends and I are reading John Stott’s classic, The Cross of Christ. We’re going to read a chapter a week and meet after work to talk about it. Today we talked about the first chapter, The Centrality of the Cross. Here Stott discusses how the cross became symbolic of Christianity. What struck me most about this is what the cross actually meant to first century citizens, both Romans and Jews, as well as others. The cross was the most horrific instrument of torture and death, reserved for the worst of criminals. Its very shadow or mention in conversation was enough to cause strong reactions (an understatement) of horror, disgust, repulsion and shame on the one who experienced this kind of death. Cicero went so far as to state that the very word ‘cross’ was so abhorrent it was to be far removed from a Roman citizen’s eyes, words and even thoughts. On top of this, the Jews knew that anyone who hung on a tree (and they did not differentiate between a live one and its wood cut into two beams) was cursed. And they weren’t talking Harry Potter.

I suspect American Christians know little of this. I know nothing of what reaction the symbol of the cross produced in people 2000 years ago. I only know of pretty crosses adorning necks and entry ways. Why did Christians choose such a shameful, horrible symbol as the very thing that identified them with Jesus? I learned that it is because it was central to Jesus’s life on earth. From His youth He steadfastly walked toward what He knew was His task, His calling, His choice. Because it was central to His mind it was central to His followers. It IS central to His followers.

From chapter one: “How is it that Christians can face such ridicule without shifting their ground? Why do we…insist on its centrality? Why must we proclaim the scandalous, and glory in the shameful? The answer lies in the single word integrity. Christian integrity consists partly in a resolve to unmask the caricatures, but mostly in personal loyalty to Jesus, in Whose mind the saving cross was central. Indeed, readers who have come without bias to the Scriptures all seem to have come to the same conclusion.”

So, my prayer is that I no longer see pretty crosses. That when I see this symbol I recognize it for what it is. For what it means. For what it meant to Jesus, and what it means to me, and to all those who sit at its base and realize what was wrought upon it.

Today one of my girlfriends reflected that she never understood why a friend of hers honored Good Friday over Easter, but now she gets it. I pray that every day I will “get it” more.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on August 22, 2011 in Jesus, Salvation, The Cross

 

All Religions Are Alike!

Are all religions alike? Are there many ways to get to heaven? Do all religions essentially believe in the same God? This summer our pastor is taking us through a series on “Getting to Know God.” This last Sunday he covered the doctrine of the Trinity — the wonderfully mysterious fact that God is One God yet three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. I’m not going to go into this doctrine here, but focus on one thing that probably hits home for a lot of Americans who call themselves Christian: What differentiates a Christian from a person of another religion, and does it matter?

Christianity is the only religion that has, at the very core of its doctrine, the belief in the Triune God, and especially that Jesus Christ is God and the Son of God. That He came to earth as a human, lived a perfect (“sinless”) life, died a horrific death specifically for the purpose of taking our place, sacrificing His own blood so that a relationship can be restored between us and God, rose from the dead and now sits at the right hand of the Father, acting as our Mediator. To my knowledge, the God of the Christian faith is the only God who seeks out a relationship with the people He created. This is very different from other religions.

In a nutshell, here are what other major religions believe:

  • Mormonism: Sees God as the Supreme Being of the universe. However, He gradually acquired that position over a long period of time by living a perfect and righteous life. God the Father has a body (flesh and bones). Views Jesus and Satan as spirit brothers and sons of God. Every male can eventually become a god.
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses: God is a single being, not a Trinity. He is not all-knowing or present everywhere. Jesus was created; He is a lesser God. He is Michael, the Arch-Angel.
  • Islam: God (Allah) is one and indivisible. They believe in a strict monotheism. Jesus is not God, He was just a messenger, second to Muhammad in importance.
  • Hinduism: Recognize a single deity, and view other gods and goddesses as manifestations or aspects of that supreme God. There are 330 million of these gods (give or take a few).
  • Buddhism: There is no God. By following specific paths, and through reincarnation, one can eventually reach “Nirvana.”
  • Bahai: Believe in a single God who has repeatedly sent prophets into the world through whom he has revealed the “Word of God.” Prophets include Adam, Krishna, Buddha, Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus), Mohammed, The Bab and Baha’u’llah.
  • Taoism: There is no God to hear prayers or to act upon them. They seek answers to life’s problems through inner meditation and outer observation. Tao is the first-cause of the universe. It is a force that flows through all life. A believer’s goal is to harmonize themselves with the Tao.
  • Shintoism: Believe in the “Kami” (many deities). All human life and human nature is sacred. Morality is based upon that which is of benefit to the group. Ancestors are deeply revered and worshipped.
The Trinity is what makes Christianity, Christianity.
The Trinity is what makes the Truth, the Truth.

 

If we cannot believe what the Bible says about Who God is, if we cannot believe that Jesus is the Son of God and very God Himself, then we cannot believe anything much in the Bible. Either Jesus is God, worked miracles (including raising the dead), was raised from the dead Himself, or He is not. Because Christians believe He is Who He says He is, we also believe His Words: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

There is but one way to God and that is through His Son. By the power of the Holy Spirit we are brought to this saving knowledge. This is what sets Christianity apart from any and all other religions. Faith in Christ is transforming and faith in anything else is alarming.

 

I truly love my Mormon, JW, Hindu and Muslim friends. I love my friends who don’t believe in anything, and those who believe in other things altogether. Because Christians believe the Bible tells the truth, they share this truth with those they love — it is not a “let me hit you over the head with this, you pagan!” message, but it IS a message that is often hard for people to hear. People don’t want an exclusive message. But we don’t get to make up our own religion and we don’t get to rewrite the Bible. So we share the truth in love and pray that eyes and hearts are opened and lives are transformed.

 

All religions are not alike. Dig deeper. Know what you believe.

 

(Here is what I believe.)

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on August 17, 2011 in Belief, God's Word, Jesus, Salvation

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,