I Have Decided

People talk a lot about what it means to be saved. They discuss the semantics of it, and different ways they believe it can and cannot be achieved.

Many doubt there is even such a thing as salvation at all. In order for salvation to exist, there must be a thing or perhaps circumstance we are delivered from. In order for mankind to be delivered from sin, sin has to exist.

If sin exists, what is it, and what is the punishment for committing it?

Perhaps a very simple way to put it would be that it is something that pulls us away from God and toward the world, or ourselves, and our own gratification and glorification becomes paramount. The punishment is death.

The semantics of sin have generated endless hours of arguments, likely millions of written pages, and one dead and resurrected savior.

So what does a person have to do in order to be spared eternity outside the presence of God?

Some believe all one needs is to a be a good person. Treat people well and be nice to dogs and homeless veterans.

Others think faith in God receives the gift of salvation rather than causes it.

Then you have decision theology, which tells us one must make a conscious decision to “accept” Christ and follow his teachings to be saved from sin and its penalty.

I think that some people make it a lot more complicated than it actually is. They’ll talk about theology like monergism and that doesn’t sound like Jesus at all to me.

I think you truly do have to simply decide to follow Jesus, and then do it. It is a lifelong commitment, and it is not always easy.

I think of the old hymn, composed in India “I Have Decided To Follow Jesus. Who knows how this hymn was actually composed? I’d like to believe it’s the first version given in the above linked web page, but the truth is that even if it is not, that does not make the words any less true.

Here is a beautiful version of the song, and the story behind it.

As for me, I have decided to follow Jesus.

Advertisements

Something Needs to Change

I really hate election time.

Maybe I’m not being realistic, but I’d hope it would be possible to hear about hear about what ails the country and how each candidate plans to fix it without this almost feral ugliness going on right now.

It seems like people are more interested in making others afraid of the uncertainties to come and who is to blame for them rather than addressing what’s going on and how to fix it.

No candidate is completely innocent of this kind of sensationalism, though supporters of the incumbent president seem to possess a little more in the way of political vitriol than the hopeful candidate’s do.

It’s easy to see by a simple search of social media.

Regardless, this behavior does continue, and in my opinion it is not just because we allow it, but we also condone and support it.

I don’t know what the solution to that is.

Do you?

The Upper Room

Jen and I went to the Wednesday night youth service last night, and it was really good, even from the cheap seats. This particular service was a little heavier on music than usual, but the music was awesome, led by Sam.

20120809-062848.jpg

It was probably one of the more memorable evenings at church I’ve had in some time. What made the night stand out for me was not what I would have expected.

Sam and the band were great, and Zeb’s sermon was convicting (I’m sure he was talking directly to the old guy in the back row), but it was this young man next to Jen that got to me.

I know him a little, and he’s a really great guy. He’s probably only a year or two removed from youth group himself, but I don’t think I know another person of any age I’ve seen worship with such abandon.

I was truly in awe of this young man’s total submission to God during the service. We didn’t speak last night, but every time I would glance in his direction he was worshipping on a level I’ve never gotten to. Raising his hands, singing at the absolute top of his lungs–it was a beautiful thing. Just him and God.

I hope I can get to that point. I want to praise and worship like that–as if no one else is in the room.

As it is, I’m probably a little beyond self conscious when it comes to worship. I’m not one of those people who is unaware of his own presence in a room. I’m typically one of the largest people there, and if I kicked it up more than a little during worship time, I’d probably look like a manatee having a grand mal seizure.

So I usually just chill out and do my own thing, even though I sometimes feel my own thing is not necessarily the best I can give God.

The young man last night was definitely giving it all he had, and didn’t give a rip about who was in the room, and whether or not they were paying him any attention (though people downstairs may have heard him singing).

It was a great night, and gave me lots to think about. Plus, Magen was holding a really cute puppy.

Mad Blood Stirring

It didn’t surprise me when Chik-fil-a executive Don Cathy remarked that the company he works for supports a biblical view of marriage. It shouldn’t have surprised anyone. It is common knowledge Chik-fil-a is a privately owned, Christian-ran company. They close on Sunday so their employees can attend church–if they choose.

I think that’s great. I worked in the fast food industry for some time, and would have appreciated the day off. That’s neither here nor there, though.

What did surprise me about what has now become known as the “Chik-fil-a controversy” is the shit storm Cathy’s remarks generated, though I suppose that shouldn’t have surprised me, either.

It didn’t seem to matter to anyone that Cathy did not seek a forum to air his views. He simply responded to a question, without any particular animosity or hatred toward homosexuals or anyone else.

Then the LGBT community and those who support them completely lost their minds and started screaming hatred and intolerance from every rooftop they could get a foothold on.

The man just answered a question.

Let me also say I agree with Mr Cathy and also believe in a traditional and biblical view of marriage. Call me whatever you’d like.

That said, after boycotts were threatened and many harsh words were spoken in the name of tolerance, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee waded into the fray by organizing what he called “Chik-fil-a Appreciation Day.” I was all for that. I thought then (and do now) that Cathy has every right in the world to his own opinions, and every right to express them in answer to a question.

Opinions aren’t against the law.

Opinions are in a sense protected by the law, as are those who voice them.

So a great many people turned out for Chik-fil-a Appreciation day, and drive throughs and dining rooms were all choked with customers, presumably most in agreement with Cathy regarding gay marriage. It was a huge success, and probably several large white feathers in Mike Huckabee’s cap.

I probably would have went myself if there was a Chik-fil-a in Yuma. Instead I took the boys to Carl’s Jr.

But anyway.

I was sitting at in the cafe area at church yesterday trying to pretend there were not donuts only a few short steps away when I started thinking about how Christians really did seem to be thought of negatively these days, and more conservatively held religious and political views often at the least mocked and/or ridiculed, and those who voice them branded as intolerant.

Nothing worse than being intolerant these days. To me, being tolerant of something either means to ignore it or support it. There are things that can be ignored, and other things that can’t.

To someone that professes Christ, we cannot ignore the fact that we live in a fallen world that in many cases holds no love for us. We are called to recognize sin when we see it, while we are also aware of the sin that lives in us at the same time. Christ’s propitiation on our behalves is the only thing that can save us both from it and it’s due penalty.

We are meant to call out the goodness in people by sharing with them the good news of Christ. Part of doing that is pointing out that there is a cost to living a Godly life, and part of that is turning away from sin. The bible is clear on what is sin and what is not.

Often (and probably in this case) people focus too deeply on this sin (homosexuality) they do not struggle with, to the extent they feel justified in overlooking a myriad of other sins.

Make no mistake, the bible is clear homosexuality is sin. It doesn’t matter how commonplace it is, or how much society at large has grown to accept it. We can be as progressive as we want in our faith, and we can call things whatever we want.

We can’t change the truth of scripture.

And while I was trying to avoid donuts yesterday, God pointed out a couple of truths to me; convicted me of them in fact.

No matter what Huckabee and the participants called it, the Day of Appreciation was a protest. The motive, in a sense, did not (and does not) matter.

That day was sort of a middle finger to those who try to silence the viewpoint of the average Christian through slander, and ridicule, even intolerance (because tolerance only extends as far as viewpoints that agree with the status quo).

God is very clear this is something we are not to do.

He tells us what we will face if we follow Him. He warns us about it.

“If the world hates you, it hated me first…(John 15:18-21)

See also Matthew 10: 16-20, Matthew 5:10-12

He consoles us with Romans 8:16-18, and 35-39.

Never, anywhere, does God tell us to flip the bird to sinners, and tell them they can’t put us down. He also tells us what we are to do in response to hatred and persecution:

“but I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you in the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matt 5:39

Or

“do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” Lev 19:18.

I don’t really think you can get much more specific than that. And it’s important to note Chik-fil-a did not instigate any protest, and even went so far as to hand out free water to protestors.

But people still protested, on both sides of this particularly ugly coin. No one wants to feel marginalized, or to have their thoughts, beliefs and worldview mocked and ridiculed.

But Jesus told us it was coming. I think it has come.

I think worse is coming.

I know we have clear instructions as to what we should do.

We should pray for those who persecute us.

And as odious as it might be, as unjust as it might be, we must turn the other cheek, and not seek revenge or retribution.

The world is not friendly to righteousness. It never has been. Sometimes I feel the world has gone completely mad, and as Shakespeare pointed out, “The day is hot, the Capulets are abroad, and if we meet we shall not escape a brawl. For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.” (Romeo & Juliet Act III, scene I)

Indeed it is. And we must prepare for it to get worse.

Mount Ottoman

My little guy is a jumper (a climber, too, thanks to his grandma’s side of the family). We have these 3 padded ottomans in our living room we use for footrests and toy storage. John has taken to climbing on top of them and then jumping as far as he can toward the couch.

20120801-135632.jpg
(here he is, right before a leap)

Of course, since he’s only 1, his little legs don’t carry him very far and he usually ends up getting caught mid-air by daddy before he hurts himself.

What struck me the other day was his jump routine: he gets up on the ottoman, and then gets this expression of utter joy on his little face as he launches himself.

He leaps, completely without fear. Into daddy’s arms, knowing that daddy will catch him.

I wish I was like that, especially where God is concerned. I want to take leaps of faith and know that daddy is on the other end of my leap with his arms open. Instead, I often do the opposite.

Instead of leaping, I climb back down off whatever height I’d scaled and I never jump at all.

I need to leap, even if I’m afraid.

I need to trust God to catch me.

I need to put fear where it belongs in matters of faith, or I really don’t have the faith I claim to.

Psalm 56 says: when I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise. What can mere mortals do to me?

I need to leap fearlessly, with the faith of a child.

If I’m able to do that, I can move mountains.

Controversy: It’s not just about chicken

Over the last couple years, there has arguably been no more contentious topic than that of homosexuals and marriage. There were propositions, proposed amendments to the constitutions, protests, boycotts, and much shouting from rooftops from both perceived “sides” of the situation.

Many of the people leaning a little more to the left side of things decry the views of those with a more conservative view of things as archaic and hopelessly out of date. A First century viewpoint on a 21st century issue.

What is typically thought of as the “Christian Right” has been particularly vilified in this regard by the mainstream media as being intolerant to a lifestyle that is now universally accepted by most people.

I wondered how true that was? What about other religions? If Christianity is the chief assailant on homosexual rights then other major religions probably support them, don’t they?

What does Islam say about homosexuality, and by extension gay marriage?

Do they support it?

Not so much. I wonder what would happen if an imam commented against gay marriage? Actually, Louis Farrakhan referred to President Obama’s public approval of gay marriage as “sanctioning what the scriptures forbid.”

Ok…what about Judaism? What does Jewish scripture have to say?

Obviously, the same thing the Christian bible does.

Where does that leave us? With the knowledge that many people of different faiths neither approve of homosexuality and hold it sinless, nor recognize homosexual “marriages” as legitimate unions.

Having said that, I know that at least most Christians that I know who do not recognize gay marriage also do not deny homosexuals in domestic partnerships should be granted the same legal rights as hetero couples who marry.

My point in all of this is not to condemn homosexuals or deny them any basic human rights. I am just pointing out that many people from many walks of life and religions share the beliefs of Christians regarding this extremely volatile issue.

No one is commenting on that. I haven’t seen anything in the clearly very biased media. What I have seen lately is an executive from a privately owned and privately governed, publicly and admittedly Christian principled company being asked a question and giving an answer that should have surprised no one.

Following that answer, this executive has been vilified to the nth degree. Boycotts have been threatened and licensing for new franchises has been threatened.

All by people screaming about tolerance at the top of their lungs, while at the same time practicing their own special brand of intolerance and prejudice.

Lately, I’ve found myself thinking “come, Jesus, come” more than once.
A friend pointed out 2 Timothy 3 to me not long ago regarding the Aurora shootings, but I think it applies here, too. I’d list it below, but I’m writing this on my iPhone.

Go look it up.

Done? Ok. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me how people react to biblical values, when they’re expressed plainly.

The bible is nothing if not clear about what God calls sinful, or lawful, for that matter. Call me whatever you like.

Images

I saw an image today that captivated me. Carlos Whittaker had a great post the other day referencing a picture from the People of the Second Chance website. Go read it.

Ok. If you haven’t looked at it or read the blog, it shows a kind of scruffy young man in his mid twenties looking into a mirror and carving “f—up” into his neck.

A shocking image without question. In his article, Whittaker talks a little bit about his past. He says he’s had moments where he looked in the mirror and saw that exact image.

I know what he means.

20120719-131818.jpg

That image is how I look right now, this very minute. Yet I am not defined by it. You might look at it and think it tells you something about who I am, and that is only partially true.

I look at that picture–or in a mirror for that matter–and I sometimes see the same thing the scruffy young man did. Like Whittaker, I have thought that word

F—up

and much worse about myself over the course of my life. It is only through the intercession of Christ that I know differently. His truth supersedes any lie I might believe about who I am based on how I perceive myself or how others perceive me.

I am not defined by the things I’ve done or that have been done to me.

I am defined by the life, death, and resurrection of a first century Nazarane carpenter.

So when I look in the mirror and see

F—up

Loser

Idiot

Douchebag

Or something worse, the truth is that over those images is the face of Jesus.

His image is greater than any mask we might wear for a time.

His truth is greater than any lie, greater than any label. So before I pass judgement on myself or anyone else, I need to consider the actions of Jesus, taken on my behalf.

And on the behalf of whomever I might consider passing judgement.