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Tag Archives: salvation
It started with a beard and some mascara to darken the eyebrows.
Somebody said I looked like Abraham Lincoln. Our “makeup room” is actually a classroom of the Lighthouse Church School in Santa Monica.
I love acting in church plays! When I was a missionary-pastor in Guatemala, I got all the starring (villain) roles. So when I returned to my church in the States, I thought I’d be a sensation.
But when I gave my first rehearsal performance, the faces of the directors said otherwise. I managed to survive the production and was never asked again. I realized I wasn’t a great actor after all.
Then, the asked me to be Barabbas. The way I see it, they were sitting around asking: “Who’s big and ugly to play Barabbas?” They thought of me.
Do you like my mean look?
The sunken eyes help.
When I was little, I didn’t understand what was good about “Good Friday” when basically they brutalized Jesus. Now I understand.
Maybe they’ll give me more acting roles in the future. I told the director that I do deranged villains best. I wonder why those roles come easy for me.
This is perfect. By the smell on the object, the dog brings left items back to their owners while their still in the airport. Can I get one of these dogs to help me find my glasses, my keys, my agenda, my cell phone, my book, my jacket — my everything I lose.
I was sitting on top of the world when I was pastor in Guatemala. At home, my wife found everything I lost. At the church school, my secretary found everything. Even my daughter got in on the act. I was absolutely baffled how, as soon as she started, she’d follow a sixth sense and go straight to where the item lay — usually where I had already searched six times meticulously myself without finding it.
But now, my wife does engineering and doesn’t have time. I don’t have a secretary anymore. And my daughter is in college and is too sophisticated to deign to something so simple (for her) as finding stuff for doddering Dad.
Good thing my head is attached to my shoulders, or surely I would lose it. Good thing Jesus is attached to my heart, or a similar fate would be my demise.
Can you lose God? Actually this is huge controversy among denominations. Without resolving the conflict, I would like to point out that the prodigal son didn’t stop being a son. And, once you’re born again, the Bible mentions nothing about being un-born again.
I guess I’m a believer more in the unfailing love of God than in the failure-prone love of man. Man is fickle; God is faithful. If we are unfaithful, He cannot be so.
I have not intention of making a theological treatise or siding with one point of view entirely. I only wish to conjure much love, admiration and praise to God who loves us much more than we could ever imagine.
It wasn’t long before he found himself in his bedroom proclaiming his destiny: “I’m gay. I’m a homosexual,” he said out loud with no one around. It was a pivotal moment of his life. “There’s power in confessing both good and bad things. When I declared I was gay, I gave a right to a spiritual force in my life.”
When he was 13, he ran away to Hollywood and threw himself headlong into the partying and gay lifestyle. “I just got sucked right into it,” he recalls. “I thought it was great.”
He was too young to be admitted to the gay bars but prostituted himself to support a lifestyle that included drugs like Quaaludes, coke and meth.
“I just ran rampant,” he says. “I had different boyfriends. We would panhandle every day to buy drugs and pay our hotel.”
He slept at anybody’s house who’d have him, in Plummer Park and in the “Hotel Hell,” once posh lodgings for movie luminaries that became decrepit and abandoned on Hollywood Boulevard. Read the rest of the story.
As a symbol of the difficulty of working through guilt, Pearl the brat demands her mother put the fabric “A” back on her dress. On one level, the infant simply can’t accept a disruption in her mother’s appearance. But on another level, for Pearl, the letter is like a wedding ring, and casting it off is tantamount to breaking worse her already broken family.
If all you come away with in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book is stones to throw at repressive religion, I respectfully suggest you’re not delving past a superficial reading of The Scarlet Letter. That is only one of the themes. Hawthorne’s genius explores the intricacies and complexities of the human psyche, and you’re settling for gold dust and missing the mother load.
To be sure, Hawthorne rains his pen down on failed religion. Arthur Dimmesdale flogs himself and performs excessive good works yet cannot find peace. His understanding of Jesus is deficient. A Christian is neither saved by piety nor charity; he is saved simply by Christ’s forgiveness, which Dimmesdale is blind to.
The book is full of ironies because Dimmesdale’s brokenness makes him the town’s favorite minister. This is eminently keen insight. If you have never suffered, you can’t have compassion on your fellows when ministering the word.
Hester Prynne herself, after her one sin of passion, likewise constrains herself to a rigorous life of charity. She dresses the drabbest colors and constricts her luxurious mane of hair to the insides of a bonnet.
After seven years of suffering, the pair meet in the forest and scheme to run away together back to England. Suddenly, sunshine pours in on them and the feel the exhilarating release of nearly a decade of pressure, scrutiny and condemnation.
It’s a good plan — except that they see themselves a sinners for doing it. Pearl is only the first to ruin it. She insists with a temper tantrum that her mother restore the letter to its rightful place. Then Roger Chillingworth, the evil avenger, completes the fatal stroke by booking passage on the same ship.
In traditional Greek fashion, the story must end as a tragedy. Hawthorne is sounding the dark regions of the human conscious, not writing a treatise on salvation. Nevertheless, the message emerges that only grace, only forgiveness in Jesus, can heal the heart. Religion never works — only relationship with Jesus.
The traditional spin on this book is that society is to blame for oppressing these free spirits. If you want to read the book that way, go ahead. But I can’t help but see deeper. You can’t just throw away guilt so easily. You and I need to come to Christ and be healed of our sin. Restoration works, not repression.
God’s principle job is rescue.
We are a sinners, incapable of saving ourselves. God did that for us. Don’t conjure an image of a finger-pointing deity who is hankering to haul the sinner off to jail. That’s contrary to the message: God is love.
If you violate the fire codes, don’t be surprised if you get burned. You may not agree with the fire codes. You may use academic language like “morality is subjective.” But the fire codes — His Bible — is there to help you, not to hurt you.
Regardless, if you violate the fire code, God will rescue you when you call 911 — when you pray to Him.
a time to gather stones together — Eccelesiastes 3:5
The pieces of our lives get scattered. Either things explode by themselves, or we make poor choices and squander the good gifts God gave us.
When we are angry at God, He waits patiently for us. Sometimes, we have to be broken to come to God humbly. Then He begins to pick up the pieces of our lives.
God sent me to Guatemala on a mission that I didn’t originally know what for. But it was for restoration.
Carlos opted out of the church. He was hit with the double whammy of church rules and bubbling hormones. The hardness has melted now. His mother died a month ago. Elisa was a powerful force for years to help build the church. Carlos has finally taken over his dad’s bread bakery and is trying to be the responsible father of two kids and husband of one wife.
My heart melted as I hugged Carlos. He was one of my first converts. A boisterous 7-year-old, he brought his parents to our church and enrolled in our blossoming school. He’s been on a long journey away from God, and it’s so good to see him coming back.
It hurts my heart to see so many people, embittered by offenses, away from God. The joy is to see them come back.
In 2015, let God do a work of restoration in your life.
No longer was it impossible to please a completely holy God, who demanded an animal sacrifice for every sin. That’s A LOT!
Jesus was the last sacrifice to end all sacrifice. He was the price paid in ransom for us; we sold ourselves to sin, death and Hell.
If you experience the love of a family during Christmas, that’s a mere taste of the full flavor of love from God. If you didn’t experience human love during Christmas, you are missing a drop of the ocean of love God has for you.
So when He paid our ransom, it was a light thing. He could afford whatever price the devil set.
His only limited resource was His son. He had only one.
I’ve known parents to suffer prolonged acute grief over the loss of a son. That pain is assuaged many times by the presence of other children. God had no other children. He couldn’t preserve His favorite son and send the brat to die for humanity.
Even though Christ resurrected and triumphed over death, I believe God’s grief was unbearable.
Really, no one told God that it had to be His Son. God makes the rules, so He could have sent an angel to die on the cross for us. He could have sent all of His angels.
But to show how great His love is, He sent His one and only Son. He didn’t send money, which He possesses in limitless supply. He sent the one thing that most touched His heart.
I’m not so rich that I can give gifts without experiencing any personal loss. Such was God. The greatest gift is Jesus. Merry CHRISTmas!
Original photo from Tumblr.
In fact, his essential purpose in leaving his kingship in Heaven and condescending to take mortal form was to suffer. And it started with his birth in a filthy stable.
During his life, He alleviated pain everywhere He found it. Blind eyes were opened. Condemned prostitutes were forgiven. Tax collectors escaped a life of being despised by others. The demon-oppressed were freed.
Then he died excruciatingly.
If Christmas conjures magical feelings of family and beauty, let us never forget its underpinnings are the Son of God coming to help the helpless, the defend the defenseless, to redeemed the scum of society, to sanctify the sinner and prick the self-righteous to reflection.
He feels your pain. He came to take the pain away.
Photo from soulation org
I’ve been in dangers. I’ve brushed with death. The greatest danger is hellfire. I thank God He pulled me out of lostness and into salvation. What would have happened to me, had it not been for God?
They make a great mistaken when they say we think we’re better than anyone else. No, Christians are not better. They are just better off. We are better off because:
- we recognize our sinful condition.
- we ask for and receive God’s forgiveness.
- we throw ourselves into the loving arms of the Eternal Father.
- we are blessed on Earth on our journey to Heaven.
Don’t fall prey to the enemy of your soul.
Original picture from Beautiful Pictures on Google Circles. I don’t own the rights to this image, and I’m not making any money on it.
Don’t be afraid of God. He is loving. The commands of the Old Testament are satisfied in the New Testament through Jesus. Christmas is, in the words of the angel, “good news of great joy” because God is forgiving the sins of all who ask. The gap separating man from God is bridged by the cross. Reconciliation is possible. Perfect love drives out all fear — 1 John 4:18 NIV.
God loves you with a perfect love. All you need to do, as with a Christmas present, is open it.
Simon becomes a convert for awhile, but judging by the negatives given about him in Acts 8, he ultimately became an enemy of the cross. He started turning bad when he offered money to have the power to impart the Holy Spirit with the imposition of hands. Peter rebuked him sharply: May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! — Acts 8:20 NIV.
One thing is clear: you can’t possibly buy anything from God. You can’t buy your way into Heaven even with million dollar donations. Only Jesus could the insanely huge ransom for your and my soul. You can receive it freely, just like you receive freely the Holy Spirit. It is a gift.
Sometimes we want to make the gospel complicated because we have worked so hard. We don’t want it to be easy for newcomers. We have fasted. We have fought the flesh. We have prayed all night. I did it, so you must do it.
But Paul (who did more than any of us) exhorts us to keep it simple. The gospel is simple: Believe in Jesus and be saved. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the SIMPLICITY that is in Christ. — 2 Cor. 11:3 KJV (caps mine).
Romans 10:9 similarly makes it simple: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (NIV).
It was the Pharisees and Jewish leaders who added rule upon rule, making it harder to get into Heaven. Considering they ultimately rejected Christ, I don’t think it’s a good idea to be like them. Some of us are going to be very surprised to see lots of people in Heaven, people we thought wouldn’t make it because they didn’t follow all our rules.
Simplicity is beautiful. Let’s not deprive the gospel of its beauty.
You can’t “do it yourself” when it comes to earning Heaven. Only what Jesus did suffices to earn your entrance. He lived perfectly according to the law. After he passed sinless on the earth, He took our punishment upon Himself. If you have received Jesus, believing in Him, you possess salvation.
Many have tried to earn salvation. Some whip themselves. Some make huge charitable donations. Others become suicide bombers. It’s all pointless.
It’s good to do good things and bad to do bad things, but all are irrelevant is you are trying to “do it yourself,” to impress God enough that He lets you in. We are saved by grace, not by works.
What’s startling about this statement is that kings GET gifts from their subjects.
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! — Matt. 7:11 NIV.
The greatest gift you could ever receives is NOT a Lamborghini. Nor is it a date with Brittany Spears. Nor is it a trip to Tahiti.
It is forgiveness.
God’s forgiveness is available only for the asking.
Unfortunately, many are too busy arguing that there is no need to ask for forgiveness.
To us, He asks us to build one with broken hearts.
First of all, the devil has no day. Every day belongs to Jesus.
Second, Christians are told to crucify their flesh, to live spiritual, not carnal lives. The sinner gives free reign to his flesh. There’s no death going on as you’re getting drunk with plastic vampire teeth in your mouth. The blood is fake.
But what Christians are doing is real. These verses sounds pretty Halloweeny:
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. — Ro. 6:4, 6, 11 NIV.
Do you think your party celebrating death-things is cool once a year? You should celebrate a real death 52 times a year (every Sunday).
It was over for them, and they knew it. If they couldn’t stop Jesus by killing Him, they couldn’t stop him anyway.
Personally, I don’t like horror movies. Even the picture I selected for this blog repels me. But there are people addicted to the adrenaline rush of scary.
Demons are supposed to be scary. But do you realize that they got scared the day their plan to eliminate Jesus collapsed? They had killed Him, but He resurrected. It was a devil’s day for the devil.
I guess I can’t say it scared the hell out of them, because they’re still hellish, and Hell’s their home eternally.
The unscary news is that YOU don’t have to go to Hell. You can go to Heaven. And pretty much all you have to do is ask for forgiveness for sins to Jesus. Receive Him in your heart. And start a new life with Him.
It’s more wonderful than scary movies.
For God to get Jacob into right relationship with Him, He literally fights against the mortal.
Jacob was a acute and chronic bad boy. He took advantage of this brother, Esau, in a moment of weakness. He deceives his dad and steals his brother’s blessing. He’s the most unscrupulous conniver of the Old Testament.
God works on him. First, he sends him away from his family for 20 years. He can’t attend his mom’s funeral. Then he’s tricked by his uncle, for whom he worked seven years to marry Rachel. When he wakes up the morning after the wedding (lighting was bad in those days), it’s Leah, the ugly older sister. He must work another seven years for Rachel.
Then he’s cheated on wages. When he flees, his uncle comes after him and very nearly kills him.
Still, Jacob is unrepentant.
Then Jacob’s brother comes out with a small army to kill the defenseless Jacob. That night, it finally occurs to Jacob to pray. He literally wrestles with God, a symbol of how his relationship with God has been. God, obviously, wins, but not without some stubborn resistance from the stubborn man.
The next day, Esau’s 400-man army comes upon him — and God miraculously intervenes. Instead of killing him in short order, Esau breaks down and kisses him. It wasn’t the bonds of family that beat the bonds of bitterness. It was God.
How far will God have to go to get your attention?
She chooses poverty, discrimination and likely abuse all to be with her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi. What gets into Ruth to leave behind the connections and culture of Moab and go to Bethlehem, where she has no chances?
Without any job opportunities, she decides to “glean” behind the harvesters, a back-breaking sun-scorching 12 hours of picking up dropped grains in which you’d expect to get about one meal for one person. A panhandler in the U.S. fares far better.
Yet she was hot. Since she was a foreigner, someone could have taken advantage of her, and she couldn’t expect legal protections. Ruth opened herself to all these dangers and adversities to be loyal to her new family and serve God.
God has a way of honoring those who honor Him. Boaz takes note of her sacrifice and kindness rendered to her mother-in-law. Eventually he marries her. As a result, her finances and future are secured.
Two widely used Old Testament terms appear synonymous.
- the Day of the Lord
- the Day of His Visitation.
In fact, they are polar opposites. The first is for judgement, the second, mercy.
Why do you long for the day of the Lord? That day will be of darkness, not light — Amos 5:18 NIV. By contrast, Naomi fled famine in Bethlehem to Moab, but when she heard the Lord had “visited” her people by giving them rain (food), she returned (Ruth 1:6).
This is more than delving into Scripture deeper than most people care for because of the Day of our Lord Jesus. Was Jesus’ advent a “Day of the Lord” or a “Day of His Visitation?”
The answer is both. His incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection was God’s judgement on the world, diverted onto Christ. It was also God’s favor because we were lavished with His grace — His restoring forgiveness.
Such Bible study should stir us to praise as we marvel over the wonderful conclusion that Jesus Christ brought to the progressive revelation in the Old Testament.
Seedless watermelons have been engineered so that you don’t have to spit. You can devour sweet, wet, red fruit without the hassle of separating out the seeds. Scientists have also genetically engineered seedless grapes, bananas, oranges, lemons, tomatoes. They are a contradiction in terms because fruit is defined by the seeds they carry.
So too, the Christian is defined by the seed s/he carries, seeds of evangelism, seeds of change, seeds of revolution. A seedless Christian is one who remains continually unmotivated to do much for Christ. He is inwardly focused, self-centered and immature.
Seedless fruits were altered to make the fruit more palatable to the eater. If you are a seedless Christian, you are more palatable — to the devil.
The good news is, of course, that we can pray to become full of seeds. We can begin to aim our lives in a new direction and do the things which Christ has called us to do. A Christian, by definition, saves others from their sins also.
So much effort and money is being spent on finding life in Mars or elsewhere — all in an effort to see if we are not alone in the Galaxy. You needn’t invest so much to find out that you are not, in fact, alone.
Jesus is only a prayer away. He is loving you through your time of suffering. He is simply waiting for you to call out to Him.
Part of the weakness of the U.S. Men’s National Team is the lack of a true finisher. Clint Dempsey finished a 34-second goal against Ghana that was nice, but he’s not like the finishers who given half a chance bury it in the net.
Cristiano Ronaldo is a great finisher, but he was injured, so he played poorly. Luis Suarez is deadly as a striker; too bad he likes to bite opponents. Wesley Sneijder took a back-header bouncing ball and rocketed it low into the net to sink Mexico’s hopes for their first-ever World Cup.
As the name suggests, a finisher may NOT be good at passing, possession, bodying, defending, imagination or creation. His job is only one: If teammates get him the ball near or in the area, he smashes it home. (He doesn’t kick it wide or high, as you so often see.)
The U.S. has an awesome goalie, competent defenders, a sensational midfielder, speeding wingers. Dempsey has played forward successfully in the English Premier League, so he’s the best thing we’ve got (if Jozy Altidore doesn’t recover from injury) for Tuesday’s game against Belgium. He’s hardworking, but he’s not a natural finisher.
Every team needs a finisher. Team U.S.A. doesn’t have one.
“It is finished,” Jesus said from the cross. No one else could earn us salvation. We can’t earn our own salvation. When He took our sins to the cross, the Sinless Savior finished off a game that the devil was winning. Death, empowered by the fall, was consuming ravenously all humanity, until Jesus finished Death off. “It is finished.”
Jesus is our finisher.
If you don’t know anguish, relief is boring.
If you ignore what misery is, you will be void of compassion.
If you don’t understand how your sin puts you into desperate straits before God, you will never grasp the imponderable wonder of grace and salvation.
If it’s always somebody’s else’s fault, you will never know what it means to forgive.
If you only love yourself, you do not know what love is.
At the time, I had no idea that Tom* smoked pot. He just seemed like the sweetest kid. He fervently loved God. He even sponsored a friend to go to camp. At Q300, such “fruit” showed genuineness.
I had no idea of the tempest swirling in his background. The only sign of trouble was that quickly a room-renter in his house complained of being robbed. The amount? Q300.
It seemed clear to me who stole it because the amounts were precise. What was weird was that the money was not used for self.
Not long after, I fled organized criminals in Guatemala after almost 16 years of missionary work. I tried to eke out a life in the States and find meaningful ministry. After being away for four years, I visited the church and school we had pioneered with my wife.
Tom tracked me down to thank me. He gave me his testimony. He had been smoking weed when he came to our school, and God had challenged him to come out of a lot of confusion. I didn’t ask about the Q300 though. I forgot.
He had heard I was back in Guatemala, and he personally came to thank me. Praise God for what preaching the gospel can do. Next time you sponsor someone to camp, Tom, it has be your own money.
* Name changed.
Dianna’s co-worker was dumbfounded — why was Dianna not crying? Her dad had just died.
Dianna explained that 1) his passing came as no surprise, and 2) we have no doubt as to the reality of Heaven.
If you don’t believe in Heaven, you will try to extract every ounce of pleasure from Earth. Don’t get me wrong: I believe there’s a great taste of Heaven here. But that is just a foretaste. Those who try to experience Heaven on Earth are accepting tinsel for gold. If you don’t believe in Heaven, then you wail hopelessly upon the death of friends and family — or stiffen yourself stoically.
The evolutionists deride Heaven. The atheists scoff. The humanists ridicule. Still the human heart yearns to believe in eternity. We are not animals. Undeniably born in the human heart is the knowledge of eternity. What we yearn for, God confirms in His Word:
- My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I a.m — John 14:2-3 NIV.
- We do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first — 1 Thes. 4:13, 16 NIV.
- And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God — Revelations 21:3 NIV.
In regards to Heaven, let me say one important thing: We eat sumptuous food in Heaven. Why should Dianna cry? Dad is in Heaven.
The reason why Instagram, Pinterest and other photo-hosting sites are popular is because people crave beauty. I consider observing beauty a basic urge, on par with receiving love.
When I was a literature major, I hungered for a good book, one with jeopardy, three-dimensional characters, and a reasonable but surprising denouement. Above all else, it must evoke meaningful themes that leave reflection lingering.
This is why I pray. I am pursuing the happy ending to the senseless chaos in the lives of people around me. You can watch a drama.
You can admire an art. You can take pictures.
Or you can create living art, the transformation of lives freed from the dungeon of lostness, liberated to the thrill of love, purpose and family found only in God. Some snap photos, others brandish brush, I bow my head.
I am a great dramatist! But only in my own mind. I rehearse interactions with people over and over. I’m quite sardonic, tragic and full of pathos. Unfortunately, the vast majority of my rehearsals never come before a true-life audience.
Unfortunately, the majority of these rehearsals played in the theater of my mind are negative.
I’m venting bitterness. I’m being vindicated from all those who have insulted me. These incessantly replaying scenarios are unhealthy. Their product is discouragement.
When I get discouraged, I flatline.
I need to get victory over my
demons. The Bible says: We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. — 2 Cor. 10:5 NIV. It is easy to succumb to disgruntles. It requires immense effort to keep optimism when surrounded by a howling storm of negativism.
The answer to the litany of complaints in your brain is NOT imagining dramatic conclusions. The answer is to silence them. Raise rank and disburse orders to shut up all the negative minions mocking you. You can gag the suckers, but it takes an active decision on your part. You must force them.
Rob’s team’s football helmets just arrived. They cost $200 each. One special helmet, for a high school student injured last year, cost $1,000. That’s a lot of money for sports equipment. Then again, when it comes to your head, you don’t want to tight-wad. A head injury, almost more than any other part of the body, can cause death, so maximum protection is imperative.
Ephesians exhorts us to protect our spiritual cranium. Put on… the helmet of salvation. — Eph. 6:13,17 (entire verses are not cited). I understand that when we are “born again,” we cannot be “unborn,” to follow Jesus’ metaphor. So I don’t think salvation is like a light switch that you turn on and off depending on your behavior. However, this scripture certainly gives us the idea that you need to “put on your salvation” daily. Undeniably, there is a daily element of renewing relationship with Jesus Christ, and that is salvation.
I don’t mean to settle or even get into a centuries-long debate about salvation here. I only mean to inspire Christians to the daily act of prayer — preferably in the morning — as part of protecting your relationship with Jesus. It’s worth the investment to protect your head: make time to pray.