Tag Archives: salvation

Make a stab at redemption

IMG_9804One problem of “falling out” of the moral code of the church is that you feel you don’t belong to the cadre of brethren. Churches do great wrong in continually passing judgement on its fallen members because they get discouraged and think they can never return (2 Cor. 2:6-11). The devil plays in their minds: Once a failure, always a failure. The church should make the path back to salvation easy — as easy as the original path to salvation.

Without going into details, this is what Fanny did. She formalized her marriage yesterday. She had been a goody-goody as a student in our school and church. But when she left the safe harbor of the school and the church, she found the wide, wide world was full of temptations. Discouragement coupled with temptation can be overpowering.

IMG_9809She wasn’t attending church not because anyone kicked her out. It was the devil that was condemning her (Rom. 8:1). By showing her love, we shed light on the way back. Forgiveness is for sinners, not saints — and we are all sinners.

I’m so proud of her and happy for her. And you who read this, please say a pray for her.

If you have fallen out of the moral code of your church, make a stab at redemption. You might be surprised how easy it is to climb back into fellowship and blessing.

They’re not really “stressed out.” Twenty One Pilots is reaching out to lost youth

twenty-one-pilots-stressed-outTop Ten Christian band Twenty One Pilots declared its musical manifesto three years ago in the song “Car Radio,” “I will try with every rhyme to come across like I am dying to let you know you need to try to think.”

Twenty One Pilots’ hit “Stressed Out” is currently played on secular radio stations across the country and in Europe, and the duo is selling out concerts at every venue. Even though they are open about their faith, the band continues to sneak like a hacker through the world’s default gospel-rejection mechanism.

While the dialectic voice confuses secular reporters, the message of salvation carries through to their listeners.

21 pilots

Tyler Joseph SAYS the black makeup on his hands symbolizes oppressive stress. But it’s likely more a symbol of sin for his adopted touring persona “Blurryface,” who is a representation of the Romans 7 alter ego.

“When I first listened to their music I was like, I’m not alone. I thought I was the only one,” wrote Mattie on a fan site in August 2015. “Twenty one pilots really did save my life in more ways than one.”

Twenty One Pilots is a genre-melding duo composed of vocalist Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun, both 27-year-olds from Ohio. They attended Five 14 Church (as in Matthew 5:14 — “You are the light of the world”) in New Albany, just outside Columbus. Josh now lives in Los Angeles.

The band was formed when Tyler ditched basketball in the eleventh grade to become a musician. He tore through learning piano to bass and ukulele.

twenty one pilots concert energy
“I had identity issues. I didn’t like being the guy who played sports,” he says in a YouTube interview. “So I set up a microphone and a little studio. My mom’s trying to do the dishes and she hears her son screaming his head off down in the basement trying to record vocals, and she’s gotta be thinking, ‘What the heck is going on with him?’ So they were really confused.”

Tyler’s crazy dream is today paying big dividends, not just in terms of downloads and crowds, but also in terms of souls. Their angst-riddled lyrics are resonating with Gen-Y’ers and Gen-Z’ers, showing them a way to hope and faith.

While “Stressed Out” is an innocuous ditty about young adults yearning for the carefree days of childhood, other songs on their two albums – Vessel and Blurryface – pack plenty of gospel punch.

The duo signed with a secular label (Fueled by Ramen) and gets played mostly on non-Christian radio. But make no mistake. Though subtle at times, they are unequivocally Christian. Read the rest of the article.

Our Chinese students loved surfing at our Santa Monica Christian high school

Chinese international student Santa Monica

The author, left, is a student in my World Literature class and completed this article as an assignment

By Jasmine Zhang, Lighthouse Christian Academy sophomore

The first time Brenda Liu and I, students from China, surfed and felt the crash of the waves, we thought we were going to die.

“I was so scared,” said Brenda Liu. “The big waves almost killed me. I saw how the big waves could whirl people away.”

I am from Yunnan, a highland in Southern China. I had only seen the sea in pictures and video before.

The sea exercised a wonderful attraction over me. I love the sea and swimming. I like surfing, even though I am not very good at it. So when I enrolled at Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica, I opted for surfing elective. Actually quite a few of us Chinese foreign exchange students took the class, which in the Fall semester had seven students.

美国留学Brenda agrees with me about surfing. “I thought: ‘I am young. I should try something new and different and keep learning,’” Brenda said. “I knew how to swim and snowboard, so I thought surfing would not be so difficult.”

It turns out it WAS difficult for us international students. But it is fun.

“At the beginning, I was so excited and felt that I was going to do something very marvelous,” Brenda said. “I was surprised by how the sea is really salty. I basically didn’t even stand on the board the first time.”

Even though at our first outing we didn’t surf too spectacularly, we did see a dolphin, something we had never seen before. “That was the most interesting thing,” Brenda said. Read the rest of the story 美国留学.

Maybe procrastination is not all bad

Christian school Santa MonicaWill Clancy was annoyed with Lighthouse at first. They kept talking about Jesus in every subject. From the second grade onward, he had been taught evolution, so he had long ago lost what little faith he might have had belonging to a family that went to Catholic church once in a while.

But while Lighthouse initially peeved him, he also perceived something different in the teachers and fellow students that ultimately brought him to faith and salvation.

“Everybody was happier. It was a closer community,” said Will, 16, an LCA junior. “I thought that was nice. I wonder why everybody was like that. Pastor Rob would always preach that the reason why people were so happy is that they had the joy of Jesus in them.”

Will accepted Jesus in a Harvester’s Homecoming, a Fall Bible conference in which pioneer pastors come back to their launching pad, the Lighthouse Church, to get fired-up about Jesus again. His mom required him to go to church.

One of the breaking points was talking to other youth at the Tucson Bible conference in June. “They were telling me all this stuff about how God was impacting their lives,” Will said. “For some reason, that broke through to me.”

Will enrolled in Lighthouse Church School 2012 in eighth grade. He is now a junior at Lighthouse Christian Academy along with his brother, Chris, a senior. His mom, Lisa Clancy, teaches Classical Literature to the freshmen and works as a counselor for the student body.

When he enrolled in Lighthouse, Will actually regretted it because his brother, Chris, got into Saint Monica’s Catholic School in Santa Monica. “I didn’t get my application in on time. I took too long,” he said. “But now I’d like to thank my procrastination for getting to where I am today.” Click here for the rest of the article.

Even psychopaths and creeps

IMG_8654

Don’t be scared. It’s just me submitted to a trial run on stage makeup.

After longing to be in our church’s plays for years, I got cast in one role — and I nailed it! Now I am included in every production. Yippee!

What was the role I nailed? Barabbas, the psychopath. I guess that comes naturally to me (LOL!), and I thought would be typecast.

Now our church, the Lighthouse in Santa Monica, is producing a revamp of the Scrooge. My role is a surprise, but I’m something like the federal agent from The Matrix. I’m a creepy guy.

This is a lot of fun, but it’s also unnerving that I should so easily fall into roles of evil people. I guess we are all saved — those of us who choose to receive Jesus — by grace and not by works. Even psychopaths and creeps can get forgiveness.

Priceless

christmas-crossSalvation is priceless because you and I don’t have to pay.

Salvation is priceless because no payment could ever be enough.

Christ is the most exquisite gift you could receive a Christmastime.

God doesn’t help those who help themselves

ben franklinDon’t misunderstand. I’m not advocating abdicating responsibilities. But I am hacking away at a mentality that flaunts self-sufficiency and human arrogance. Because Christianity at its most basic level recognizes how helpless humans are to please God. Hence, the need for forgiveness. Christ did for us what we could never do to gain for us what we could never gain for ourselves.

I thank God I’m a Christian. This doesn’t mean I’m perfect. I’m means I humbly and repeatedly ask for God’s forgiveness, intervention and favor. Join us. It’s a beautiful life.

Don’t be mad

grumblingDon’t be mad for what you don’t have. Be glad you don’t get what you deserve.

We deserve Hell. But we get salvation. Why be upset over insignificant things.

Note: Original image not mine. Not making any money on it.

Forgiveness: it’s difficult

ForgivenessThe most difficult thing on the face of the Earth is not proving string theory. It is not harnessing fusion energy. It is not finding a cure for cancer.

It is forgiveness.

Jesus cried out, in the midst of unimaginable pain on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” I tend to think the knew very well what they were doing.

Stephen was being pelted unto death with stones. He did the same. “Don’t take this sin into account against them,” he prayed as he was being struck.

Can I forgive? Can you?

Christianity is not based on works. It is based on forgiveness. We are forgiven of our sins only for the asking.

Jesus asks us to forgive as best as we can those who have wronged us, and he does so most emphatically.

I think that all the rigmarole that blasts around the internet about how bad Christianity is misses its central tenet. Why is nobody talking about forgiveness? It is the most beautiful thing in the world. It is also the most difficult.

It is necessary. If you are going to have any semblance of human relations with people, you are going to need to master forgiveness.

Image source: Google

Choose the straight and narrow path

straight and narrow

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. — Matt. 7:13-14 NIV.

By “wide” we might understand “permissive of everything.” God exhorts us to a narrow path, not that I or any Christian is perfect. Far from it, we recognize our sin and ask Jesus for forgiveness. But we don’t stop calling sin sin.

Why should we choose the straight and narrow path? Because it and only it leads to Heaven.

Photo source: Original from Pinterest.

You must be born again

born againThe butterfly is a symbol of the new birth in Christ. He starts as an ugly worm and gets transformed into the most beautiful and delicate of insects.

Such is the transformation Christ brings when you receive Him into your heart. Jesus says that in order to receive the Kingdom of God, one must undergo this miraculous and instantaneous transformation from unbeliever to believer.

Photo source: Pinterest.

Hygiene is costly

hygieneIn America, we take hygiene for granted. Why do Third World countries not get it? One reason is lack of money. Soaps and hygienic food is expensive. If you don’t have the money, you don’t buy it. You make do without.

People get sick. I’m in Guatemala right now, and I got diarrhea. We all got the runs. Lack of funds is to blame. They were trying to stretch a shoe-string budget to host a quince años — like a Sweet Sixteen but at age 15.

It’s a reminder of the blessings in America.

Spiritual hygiene will cost you too! Prayer, church attendance, Bible reading.

Personally, I think it ironic that people who are fastidious for external hygiene give no thought to internal hygiene. As Jesus said to the Pharisees: they are like whitened tombs, beautiful on the outside but full of death and decay inside.

A lot of Guatemalans don’t see the need for external hygiene. They think it’s all annoying and useless habits of gringos. But you can get sick if you’re not clean — physically and spiritually.

*Image Google search.

But I saw there was cake

chocolate cakeI wasn’t invited. I just popped in looking for an empty room to discuss future employment with a teacher.

But, hey, I saw there was cake — CHOCOLATE cake.

It was a surprise birthday party for one of the kids in the school. So I came in and sat down. They didn’t kick me out. And soon enough, they served me a slice of that yummy chocolate cake.

What fault do I have? I just hung around for a good thing. #PartyCrasherParExcellence

When you spy a good thing, it’s a good idea to hang around. Such is salvation. If you are able to discern (through the fog of confusion of lies in our current culture) the goodness of God, hang around. Go to church. Read the Bible. Pray.

They’ll be serving the cake SOON. At the marriage supper of the Lamb. This is another lesson I learned in the Guatemala church I started 20 years ago.

A street kid off the streets, only through the power of Christ

Iglesia Cristiana La Puerta Zona 1 Ciudad Guatemala

Daniel poses with me a few days ago.

He slept on the streets with only cardboard boxes for a cushion — and he slept well “as if it were the best hotel in the world,” Daniel Paz says.

This was the life. Rebellious, he had left home when he was 14, and now the 20 or so street kids who inhabited the Plaza Mariachi in Guatemala City were his comrades of the wild, “happy” life of no rules, no one to tell him what to do, or what not to do.

The phenomenon of street children is widespread in Latin America, and governmental agencies have been largely ineffective in their efforts to rescue and re-incorporate into society the millions of minors who make their beds on cement. A large-scale effort in Brazil that institutionalized half a million street kids in 1985 failed, according to Wikipedia.

The key for Daniel, who spent 15 years on the streets, was Christ, and his story speaks to the church’s need to be the answer.

While his friends inhaled wood alcohol and shoe glue, Daniel kept the party life low key – mostly drinking beer and smoking. This was God moving in his life because the  cheaper drugs they consumed burned brain cells.

Daniel had accepted Christ once when he saw Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” in a church in his neighborhood when he was 12.

“Before that, I had never heard anything about Christ,” he says. “I knew nothing about the devil, about sin, about the world. I knew nothing about salvation.”

Unfortunately, Daniel didn’t keep attending services beyond two months. Rebelliousness won out – for a while.

After turning his back on his emerging faith, Daniel made his home in the streets. Most of the time, he made money selling plastic roses to romantic couples in restaurants and bars. A lot of his clients were the guys who fell for bar girls, who moonlighted as prostitutes.

Daniel was affable and flirted with these girls. They liked Daniel and would turn their charms on patrons: “Aw! Buy me a roooose” they would whine romantically. If the patron liked the girl, he would pay for it and give it to her.

For a brief period, Daniel fell into robbery. He and four street kids would strike at night surrounding any person who was walking home alone. They never used a weapon but would intimidate and demand the victim hand over wallet and cell phone. Read the rest of the article.

Former Sandinista now part of God’s army

Alex Delgado | Guatemalan church La PuertaThe Contras slipped in during the wee hours of the morning and slit the throats of sleeping Sandinistas, sometimes 30, sometimes 50, sometimes the whole battalion of 350 before they disappeared undetected into the forbidding jungle.

Not so with Alex Delgado’s battalion. His lieutenant had received training from the strictest military specialists in communist bloc East Germany, and Tito Castillo never let a guard fall asleep.

Alex didn’t join the Sandinistas, the former Marxist government of Nicaragua that the Contras sought to topple, because of ideology. As a matter of fact, Alex really had no idea about the meaning of communism and capitalism.

He was just an 18-year-old, the seventh child in his family, ignored among the many mouths to feed. With no one pushing him to study, with no future in sight, Alex got swept up in the euphoria at the beginnings of the Sandinista government with hopes of eradicating the corruption of the former regime.

But the decision to join what seemed like a winning cause turned into two years of sheer misery. He trudged 10 hours a day, in danger of ambush, in danger of trip wires, gathering energy from inadequate food (they once made soup with roots and tree limbs).

His commander voiced vivid dreams of finding the enemy and decimating them in combat. Inside, Alex prayed to a God he didn’t yet know to never find the enemy – and God granted his wish. The only deaths in his battalion were from an ambush on a supply pickup and a friend while fording a river.

Body bags from other battalions flooded homes; sometimes they were left on the doorstep to be found by parents after soldiers rang the doorbell and fled at midnight.  For the rest of the article, click here.

The Gates of Hell or the Gates of Righteousness

heaven hell gatesIt all depends on your perspective, from where you come and where you want to go.

If you want to bolt from Christianity, the gateway bears the title: “The Gates to Hell.” But if you are already in the life of hellishness and you want to escape to Christianity, the headpost declares: “The Gates of Righteousness.” But it is the same doorway.

Either you exit godliness or you exit godlessness. Either you enter the world and the wide path that leads to destruction, or you enter salvation by grace and continuing a walk with Christ that leads to blessing and Heaven. But it is the same doorway by which some enter and others leave.

The ultimate road trip (to Heaven)

Yellowstone River

Yellowstone River

My family and I are on a road trip through Yellowstone, Arches and Zion. We’re doing half camping, half glamping (“glamorous camping” = visiting national parks but staying at hotels).

Waterfalls, rivers, trees, geological wonders and animals have highlighted this trip. The driving has been a bit of a killer. I can’t wait to get to Heaven where you can just travel by thought.

photo(115)Yellowstone is so vast that if you drive every road and hike every trail, you only see 2% of the park. That statistic astonished me.

Here’s a park that showcases the artwork of God. And God hid so many surprises for us to enjoy. What will Heaven be like?

The ultimate road trip is the one to Heaven. We’ve had breakdowns. We got rained on. We got sun-burned. We ran out of water. We ran out of chips. But we keep going until we reach the destination.

Name on Coke can? Not as big a deal as your name in the Book of Life

name on CokeWith slacking sales, Coke is churning out gimmicks to get people to buy their chemical and sugar poison. Their latest: put names on the can. It’s an old strategy: Flatter your customer. There’s some kind of thrill of sense of immortality to see your name right along with the most American of soft drinks.

But it isn’t anything. What’s truly worthwhile is to have your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. THAT gets you in to Heaven.

Coke just gets you there quicker.

These are the truest Christians I’ve ever heard

How can the victims’ families forgive the confessed killer of nine blacks in an AME church in South Carolina. He tried to start a race war. It looks like he started a revival.

May all those filled with the sin of racism let the love of Jesus into their hearts. We whites have done hundreds of years of gravest crimes against blacks. It is our time to repent.

Martin Luther King Jr. knew that the love of Christ would prevail. I can only pray to God to have the sincere faith of these brothers and sisters in Christ who, in the moment of fresh pain, unreservedly forgive the killer of their loved ones and invite him to Christ.

(Originally, I tried unsuccessfully to a shorter embed video from the New York Times. Then I found it on YouTube. This video is a must-see for anyone curious about true Christianity.)

A phone call saved him from suicide

Door Christian Center |TucsonAs a street tough and drug addict, he spent his life on the edge of the law. But heaven broke through in a surprising way one afternoon when he looked death in the face.

“I would beat up bullies,” Philbert MacKowiak said. “When I was a little kid, my mom told me the story of Samson. I would pray to God to give me strength against my three older brothers when they would pick on me, and I would beat them up.”

But if he knew about Samson, his understanding of God was limited. He fell into drugs and alcohol at age 8.

By the age of 23, living in Oakland, California, he was a serious addict. One day he smoked 10 PCP joints in his car. When a police officer rapped on his window and ordered him to open it, he suddenly hit the gas pedal, flying off with “50 cop cars after me,” he recounted.

He started driving towards the Bay Bridge with patrol cars in tow.

“I was going to drive my car off the Bay Bridge,” he said. “I was furious. I hated the world. I didn’t want to live, but I was scared to kill myself because I heard it was a mortal sin.”

Read the rest of the article about the Tucson Door Church.

Is it worth it?

walnuts waterA study suggests California is entering the worst drought in 1,200 years. Walnut growers provide 28% of the world’s walnuts, and they use more water than all the homes and businesses of Los Angeles combined (10 million people).

If the investment of water in walnuts seems mind-boggling, you should consider that more has been invested in your salvation. If God was willing to invest his only Son’s blood into one soul’s salvation, shouldn’t we be willing to give lavishly to fund the work of revival?

The most important thing for Christians…

evangelism

from gocomics.com

… is to pray and work for others to get saved.

We have all eternity to praise God, to pursue our hobbies, to enjoy riches. But the opportunity to save souls stops at death.

*I don’t own rights to the cartoon, and I’m not making any money on it. I credit its creator with genius and thank him/her profusely.

How God looks down on us

God's heart

gif from dominique

My transformation into Barabbas

Santa Monica churchHere’s the finished product. I’m standing with Jesus and Malchus, who lost his ear to Peter’s quick sword (but Jesus healed him immediately).

It started with a beard and some mascara to darken the eyebrows.

makeup transformation acting

Somebody said I looked like Abraham Lincoln. Our “makeup room” is actually a classroom of the Lighthouse Church School in Santa Monica.

Lighthouse Church School | Church play

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.

Good FRiday drama

Then they darkened up my face.

Do you like my mean look?

Barabbas

Wig, robe, hair covering completes!

The sunken eyes help.

Caiphas, Malchus, Jesus, Barrabas

This one includes Caiphas.

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.

I need this dog to find my stuff

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.

He was a runaway, gay, drug addict until Jesus changed him. Now, he’s a pastor.

Paul GualtieriMolested a few times when he was a child, Paul Gualtieri dabbled with homosexuality as a largely unsupervised 13-year-old in Palm Springs.

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.

Guilt is not so easy

scarlet-letterJust because Hester Prynne unclasps her scarlet letter and flings it away doesn’t mean disposing of guilt is so easy.

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.

scarlet-letter-hester-pearlTo 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 is a fireman, not a policeman

God firemanHis rules are for self-protection. He’s not prowling looking for somebody to bust.

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.

Restoration

restoration

Little Ismael, one of Carlos’ kids.

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.

Carlos with Veronica and his children.

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.

I make mistakes

grace for mistakesTherefore, I like grace.

Forgiveness is a wonderful thing.

You can try to live without it. But why?

Christmas: a burst of love

meaning ChristmasLove exploded upon humanity when the Son of God was born in human form.

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.

For Christmas, Jesus gave you his very life as a gift

Jesus gave all

What gift do you give when you have unlimited resources?

greatest giftGod has “undiminishable” riches. No matter how much you take away from them, it’s like a drop in the oceans.

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.

He was born to suffer

sufferingSo Jesus can relate to suffering and pain.

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

Narrow escapes

narrow escape

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.

Do not be afraid

afraidEvery Christmas narrative in the Bible contains the command: Do not be afraid. The angel says it to Joseph, to Mary, to Zachariah.

To you.

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.

The gift of God cannot be purchased

giftofgodSimon 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.

Keep it simple

simplicity
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.

No DIY (for salvation)

DIYYou 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.

Faith: Being relentless

relentlessNot giving up is faith.

The greatest gift: forgiveness

forgivenessGod gives gifts to men.

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.

With broken stones, broken hearts

broken stones altarGod asked the ancients to build Him an altar with broken stones.

To us, He asks us to build one with broken hearts.

Dead enough? Halloween in the Bible

Halloween deathWhat do Christians have to do with the “devil’s day?” More than you might think.

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).

If you like scary…

horrorizing hell… you should’ve seen the horror that every demon felt when Jesus rose from the dead.

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.

God wrestles with Jacob

Jacob wrestles God

from blog.adw.org. I don’t own the rights to this image, and I’m not making any money on it.

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?

Romancing Ruth

RuthShe 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.

The Day of the Lord/ The Day of His Visitation

The Day of the Lord

I want to thank whoever originated this image. It is stirring. I don’t own its rights, and I’m not making any money on it.

Two widely used Old Testament terms appear synonymous.

  1. the Day of the Lord
  2. 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 Christians?

seedless ChristiansSeedless 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.

You aren’t alone

despairSo 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.

Need for a finisher

Clint Dempsey. I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

Clint Dempsey. I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

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.

Impossible to stop, Sneijder's goal was part of Holland overturning a 1-goal deficit to win. I don't own the rights to this photo, and I'm not making any money on it.

Impossible to stop, Sneijder’s goal was part of Holland overturning a 1-goal deficit to win. I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it.

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.

Mexico World Cup loss

After barely qualifying, Mexico produced some spectacular football but lost because an exquisite finisher. I don’t own the rights to this photo, and I’m not making any money on it..

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.”

By Picketty on redbubble. I don't own the rights to this art, and I'm not making any money on it.

By Picketty on redbubble. I don’t own the rights to this art, and I’m not making any money on it.

Jesus is our finisher.