who says you can’t be saved

Posted: June 11th, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

It wasn’t long before some Jews showed up from judea insisting that everyone be circumcised: “If you’re not circumcised in the Mosaic fashion, you can’t be saved.” – Acts 15:1 MSG

People have always put stipulations on salvation. It’s why some think they can never be good enough and others think they’ve messed it all up. I wish I could say that it’s because they don’t know the scripture well enough to know any better, but I can’t. People can quote chunks of scripture and still forget that Jesus changed everything.

Paul and Barnabas were up on their feet at once in fierce protest. – Acts 15:2 MSG

Where are versions of those guys now? It’s not “if you do this, you can be saved.” You are saved. The only unforgivable sin is unbelief. The “good news”, the news that “makes everyone cheer”, is that the outsiders are now insiders. The unrefined screw-ups and brash non-conformists are in. Just as they are. The only people not cheering are the insiders. Even the “believing” insiders shift their weight at the thought. They want to “get it”, but it’s so hard to let go of the nagging feeling that we’re leaving something out.

Some Pharisees stood up to say their piece. They had become believers, but continued to hold to the hard party line of the Pharisees. “You have to circumcise the pagan converts,” they said. “You must make them keep the Law of Moses.” -Acts 15:5 MSG

This argument is age old, half-blind, and still driving. Even people who can quote the Story misinterpret the result. They embellish the application.

The arguments went on and on, back and forth, getting more and more heated. – Acts 15:7 MSG

God has an enemy. You are the object of God’s love. This makes you the target of His enemy’s deception. You tell me what you think is happening when God’s people are reduced to heated arguments about the result of His greatest act of love. We’re supposed to be giving a first-hand account of the message, but those in the best position to give a first hand account of God’s grace are shushed because they’re the screw-ups. How can they deliver their eye-witness account of the salvation power of Jesus when the collective church too afraid to let the sinner talk? If someone does try to be different and capture the attention of the fringes, he can end up way out in left field saying absolutely nothing. He dulls the people with pointlessness. Maybe he’s afraid of sounding like a preachy Christian, but he’s lost his relevance. An eyewitness account of the salvation of Jesus is necessary for understanding the scriptures or balancing a religious message with the Spirit of Truth. You get to the Truth through Jesus. A huge failure who has been rescued by grace can see Him everywhere. Old Testament and New Testament, He all there. The arguments go on and on… back and forth. Getting more and more heated. Just echo Peter when people try to put stipulations on salvation or tell people what to do once they become Christians:

“God, who can’t be fooled by any pretense on our part but always knows a person’s thoughts, gave them the Holy Spirit exactly as he gave him to us. He treated the outsiders exactly as he treated us, beginning at the very center of who they were and working from that center outward, cleaning up their lives as they trusted and believed him. So why are you now trying to out-god God, loading these new believers down with rules that crushed our ancestors and crushed us, too? Don’t we believe that we are saved because the Master Jesus amazingly and out of sheer generosity moved to save us just as he did those from beyond our nation? So what are we arguing about?”– Peter to the arguers in Acts 15:8-11 MSG  

If you are someone who feels like you damaged your relationship with God either intentionally or unintentionally, please know this: There is nothing you have done, are doing, or can do that will nullify what Jesus did for you. God’s enemy isn’t out trying to get you to screw up, you can do that all by yourself. The enemy is trying to get you to believe that your mistakes separate you from your Father. Nothing can take you away from Him. Read the Bible. There is stuff in there that will save your spiritual life and rescue you from the well-intentioned faithless words of your fellow Christians. who says you can't be saved?

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ugly children

Posted: April 16th, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

With all of this name calling and finger pointing and scripture touting, this is how you can tell the difference: One accuses their brothers and sisters and the other loves them. One demands righteousness and the other reminds them of it. One flares up against and the other stoops down to support.

I read something in my facebook feed that made me freeze up. I’m very selective with my facebook friends, so I actually know or, at least, really respect those on my “friends” list. I’m telling you this because I’m about to quote someone that I know and respect, then I’ll tell you why I think they’re wrong. I could have just commented on the status update, but I haven’t written to you in a while and I want to start a conversation.

Here is the status update:

There is a new movement toward transparency about sin in many circles of the church. While this can be good, it is also leading to a tendency to hold up our sin as a badge of honor, never even trying to overcome it – becoming identified by it in fact.

It has gotten to the point that those with open unrepentant sin believe they are the future of the church while those without it are viewed as Pharisees. While we all have sin, none of us are excused from attempting to overcome.

Unrighteousness has become the new (self)righteousness.

Beware Isaiah 5:20

I can appreciate personal opinions, and sharing fears or observations. Knowing this friend, it may even be a founded issue to take up. I am, though, extremely protective of the one who messed up. I can’t stay quiet where they are concerned even if the words were not meant for them. I can’t help but feel reprimanded, even if the words were not meant for me.

The comments got more explicit as one commenter put it, “wallowing in our brokenness.” Another commenter said, “Self-pitying group therapy. VOMIT!” They get uglier and more shrill as the comments go on.

I don’t support picking a fight where the people at the center are too fragile to survive any more hits. Clueless remarks that could literally scream condemnation into the core of another person’s eternal existence need a response.

The original post used a scripture, so I’ll use that scripture to support my argument.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!– Isaiah 5:20 ESV

This scripture, within the context of the facebook post, is a death blow to the one who is working through his or her sin and trying to find Jesus through the chaos. Being able to state your sin in an actual church is only a temporary spot, like a toddler finding his legs. It’s a way to take the power away from the spiritual accuser as the person becomes desensitized to the accusation.

The reason that it’s important to become desensitized is because all of hell is trying to convince the person that she is done for. That what they did has caused God to withdraw the sacrifice and condemn them to eternal damnation. If they can call their own failures into the light, they lose their power. These people are in transition. Calling a “special needs class” a “retard class” would make you a monster. Calling a recovery group, of any kind, a group for “self-pity” or “brokenness wallowing” makes you a mouthpiece for the accuser.

The scripture within the context of the rest of the Bible is a literal God-send to the one who is working through his or her sin and trying to find Jesus in the chaos.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil…” What is evil? (Use the cross reference scriptures to trace the contextual meaning.) It is turning justice to “bitter fruit” and “casting righteousness down to earth” (Amos 5:7; 6:12). “Bitter fruit” is “poison” (Deut 29:18). “Casting righteousness down to earth” is trying to turn it into something “man-made”.

Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit…-Deuteronomy 29:18 ESV

Who is a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit?? (All I’m doing is using the cross reference scriptures.)

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled…– Hebrews 12:15 ESV

Do you see it yet? I’ll continue….

What does it mean to “fail to obtain the grace of God”?

You fail to believe that “it is finished” and you fail to rest (Hebrews 4:1). You receive the grace of God in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1).

You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.-Galatians 5;4 ESV

“…who put darkenss for light and light for darkness…” This part is talking about your eyes, or your “lamps” (Matthew 6:22… keep following the cross reference scriptures. That’s where I’m getting this.). It is taking something that is good and making it bad (Matthew 20: 15). It’s taking a gift and turning it into something to withhold to someone weaker than you. Like grace. That’s what we’re talking about here. Deutoronomy 15:9 (another cross reference scripture) talks about praising God for the release and then sneering at the one next to you who needs what you have and not sharing with him. Yeah… we’re still talking about grace.

You make someone’s agony your justice and shove your receipt for grace in their face. “…bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”

Beware Isaiah 5:20.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!– Isaiah 5:20 ESV

Get it right and stop hurting people while they’re trying to heal.



a living contradiction

Posted: January 13th, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments »

“You’re not cold, you’re not hot—far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant. You make me want to vomit.” – Revelation 3:15-16 MSG

People who speak opposing messages with their lives infuriate the faculties. It’s the parent who teaches good parenting techniques while ignoring their child. It’s the grammar teacher who is grammatically incorrect. It’s the Christian who jumps on a pop-culture bandwagon.

Scripture has fighting words for people who speak opposing messages with her lives. You can either believe in the gospel or completely oppose it, but don’t mix the two and expect to get some sort of credit out of it. One of the greatest offenses that I’ve seen is when a person proclaims the gospel of Christ, His forgiveness and unending love, but then use their actions to deny it person next to them.

“The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. “ – 2 Corinthians 5:17 MSG

These people use Christianity is a moral disguise rather than becoming the statement they claim to believe. Creation shudders at the reality that it is more Christian-like to dispose of someone than it is to restore a relationship with them. The tragedy is when people spend more time trying to define and defend themselves rather than trying to reconcile the broken. It’s a disaster because people treat the Blood of the Lamb as though it flows to them without flowing through them. They hoard the treasure as though it’s limited.

“God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them.”– 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 MSG

You are not entitled to claim the path of righteousness as though it is your own to guard against the impotence of others. We are all hobbled by our own humanity. We are all given the gift of righteousness through the sacrifice of Jesus. There is not a single human being who can take that away from you. Out of that belief, do not think for a second that you can take it away from another. We are all in the same boat. Toppling them topples you.

Offer your kindness to someone. See if there is enough left in the debris to restore an old friendship.






8 minutes

Posted: January 10th, 2013 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , | 14 Comments »

When someone’s sin is revealed, people can end up denying everything they know about Jesus with their response. People will often act like there is no God, no mercy, and no hope for the bad guy. They are dehumanized in such a way that they can become a meal for war-blood gluttons. People can rationalize themselves into being spiritual tyrants. They behave as though God is weighed down in royal robes and flanked by fan waving, flute playing angel-fairies completely oblivious to the current circumstances of the wayward people He created. In a world that feels like the concept of God is outdated and theoretical, it doesn’t help when His “special” followers dress up like Roman Soldier relics and hang the sinners upside down.

Much of the ammunition used against the sinners is gathered in those first few days. They’re accused of not being sorry enough. Having no remorse is a bigger sin than the sin itself. Most people will give the sinner about a split ambiguous second to explain himself, then he is abandoned intently and intensely. It’s as though the biggest statement for setting yourselves apart as Bible believing, God fearing Christians is located on a cold shoulder and dripping from a sharp tongue.

When someone is forced to face the reality of their own sin, it’s not unlike finding out that the person closest to them has died. Denial comes first. Not denial like “I didn’t do it” (though they could actually say those words, like the blindsided can say “They’re not dead”, even though they are.) The same way the brain can live separated from the body for about 8 minutes, the conscious awareness of a person can deny their own “death to innocence” for a few days. A head separated from the body can, theoretically, look over at the headless body and still, initially, try to survive. Reality, what we know to be true, what hits our awareness with our acceptance, is only an echo of something no amount of denial can change.

God have mercy on the sinner who has the audacity to cry. They are disrobed of every human quality and spiritually beaten like dogs by people who intend to use the sinner’s failure as a saint’s statement of faith.

‘I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down like an animal. But now, up on your feet—I have a job for you. I’ve handpicked you to be a servant and witness to what’s happened today, and to what I am going to show you. I’m sending you off to open the eyes of the outsiders so they can see the difference between dark and light, and choose light, see the difference between Satan and God, and choose God. I’m sending you off to present my offer of sins forgiven, and a place in the family, inviting them into the company of those who begin real living by believing in me.’ -Acts 26:16-18 MSG

It’s true that the way you handle another’s sin is a statement of faith. Maybe it’s time for them to consider their own faith before moving forward with the emotion-engorged reaction. You can either rub their noses in their mistakes, or open their eyes to the gift of Jesus. There is a difference between those who strive and those who have received.

Those who try to maintain their own version of salvation are brutal to those who mess up. The same way the greedy will crush the weak, the spiritually greedy will use the failures of others to diminish the appearance of their own.

Those who have received the gift of salvation want others to have it, too. They knew that they did not pay for their salvation with their decision. They received because their eyes were opened to the truth. The frustration of the farm hands is exasperated when they lead someone to the well and find it to be flanked by self-important tyrants who ration it out to the so-called worthy. They say you must clean up before you can draw from the well. But, the water is the only thing that can cleanse them. It’s meant to be consumed from within, not without.

You don’t sip living water in fancy glasses held in clean hands. You jump in and open your mouth.

 “If I don’t wash you, you can’t be part of what I’m doing.”

“Master! … Not only my feet, then. Wash my hands! Wash my head!”-John 13:8-9 MSG



the critical eye

Posted: December 3rd, 2012 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

“I’m struggling with 1 Corinthians 5. I understand that we are not to judge the world and that we are to lovingly and gently correct sinners. But what about those in the church that are living in sexual sin?” 

I get asked this question often. Every time I set out to answer it, I revisit it like it’s new. I know my own bias when it comes to a person focusing on another’s sin and wanting to find a way to fix the problems they see. I know that 1 Corinthians 5 is used by people to tear others down and throw them out. I think that people need to be careful when considering using scripture to rip someone else apart and expel them. There is a huge difference between the way God handles people who need handling and the way another person handles people who need handling. People are driven by pride. God is driven by love.

What is it that is causing you to sit in your pew and consider the sins of those who are around you? Did you not get the recognition that you think you earned? What does it say about you that you are so focused on what others are doing wrong and not on what the Holy Spirit is saying to you about you? Were you hurt by disregard and are now trying to point out the faults of others who were not disregarded?

Regarding “those who are living in sexual sin”: How do you know their story? How do you know what the Holy Spirit is working on inside of them? You don’t know where people are coming from. You don’t know the journey they’re on. When you’re prompted by the Holy Spirit to speak love into someone’s life, then you would know what to say. When you’re prompted by pride to address the sin that you are certain is taking place, then you are at odds with the Holy Spirit. You are unsettled and are searching for clarity because you’re in the dark. Pride makes you fight to find footing. It makes you compare yourself with others. When they come up lacking, you want to do something about it. Misery loves company. What company are you seeking?

Take “sexual” out of it. Sin is sin. Take a step back and use the logic you’re working with while you replace their particular sin with one that is less graphic and less personally offensive. If sin is sin, then let their sin be regarded the same as any sin. The same template is used for everyone. Replace their sin with one of which you are guilty. Answer your questions as though they were being asked about your sin. The measure you use for others is the measure that will be used on you.

For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with themeasure you use it will be measured to you. -Matthew 7:2 ESV

Now try to find Jesus in your quest for answers. Let your thoughts and actions begin with Jesus and remain with Jesus. When you take your eyes off of Him and let your thoughts and behavior be instigated and justified by another’s sin, you will end up wrong. Let your actions be explained by the finished work of Jesus. If someone were to ask you why you are doing what you’re doing, let your answer be: “Because I believe in the salvation power of Jesus.” That’s what sets you apart from an unbelieving world.

God is big enough to take care of His wayward children. If you can’t see Jesus in someone, then you are blinded by your own pride and personal offense. You should wait until you can see Him in them, then you will know what to say.

In all of this, I’m not saying that they are not wrong. You just have to be aware of your own motivation and protect your heart from the pride that plagues all of us. That’s all I’m saying. Guard your heart and don’t let your critical eyes be justified by someone else’s sin. Stop thinking about their sin. It’s a death trap because the spirit thrives on life and love. You are much more beautiful when your eyes are wide with love and your heart is soft with grace than when your eyes are slits of suspicion and your heart is hard with jealousy. Grace doesn’t give people a license to sin, it keeps you in right relationship with God.

Use this scripture to guide your thought process:

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.-Philippians 4:8-9 MSG