Tag Archives: salvation

The Divisiveness of the Cross

So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the Lord threw the Egyptians into the midst of the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained. But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea… Exodus 14:27-29

“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Luke 12:49-51

cross of lightFor one entire race of people, the Red Sea will forever represent God’s provision and liberation. To another, it represents destruction and devastation. It is all a matter of perspective. With the events in Exodus 5-14, the most powerful empire of its time was brought to its knees and forever crippled. But those same events served as a new day dawning for another nation. Destruction and devastation on one side. Salvation and transformation on the other. That is the divisiveness of the Red Sea in Exodus 14.

In this holiest of weeks on the Christian calendar, our attention has a laser fix on an entirely different symbol: the cross. Like the Red Sea, it is a symbol forever engrained in a culture for thousands of years. Like the Red Sea, it represents an end of an era and the beginning of an era. But, unlike the Red Sea, the harsh division between the those two eras carries forward even to today, literally dividing all of …

The God App

Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Genesis 15:13-15

And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.” Exodus 2:9-10

God appI can only imagine the despair and hopelessness that would set in after 400 years of affliction, and generation after generation born into slavery. Even with amazing stories of God’s work among and through their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, the Hebrew slaves in Egypt had to have lost their hope in the God of their fathers. After some 400 years of virtual silence, there had to have been a strong feeling of God turning his back on them, or even abandoning them altogether. And the tiny miracle of Moses’ life being spared and being raised in Pharaoh’s palace would likely have been completely missed or overlooked by the vast majority of those slaves. It would be 80 more years of slave labor before that tiny little miracle would even begin to bear fruit. Good news: God has a plan and in another 80 years or so, He will launch it!

When we (either individually or even as a church) find ourselves in such a hard season of slavery or hard work or otherwise feeling that God is …

God is Not Fair

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus… Ephesians 2:4-6

gavelGod is not dead. It’s a message that is kind of going around recently. It’s a terrific message, too…one the world needs to hear…one the church needs to send. For a lost and broken world, for a world in need of a savior, it is very, very good news…UNLESS, he is also fair. You see, if God is very much alive and is also very much about fairness, then you and I (and everyone else) are very much doomed.

When scripture says, “…even when we were dead in our trespasses…” that is what it means: doomed. It means that you and I (and everyone else) have made choice after choice after choice to please ourselves with little or no regard to God. It means we have opted for short-term prizes with enormous long-term (eternal) consequences. It means we have chosen to live without God and that is exactly what we deserve…an eternity without God. “Fairness”, then, would only mean one thing: getting what we deserve. It would mean our utter and complete destruction. That would be “fair”. That’s what we each have earned, according to our creator’s standards.

We don’t like to think of ourselves that way, of course. We look at our poor choices and bad behavior and then we immediately look for justification for it. We look to blame others for it. We look to compare ourselves to others and, finding someone who is “worse” than we are, we can take some solace …

Two Quick Lessons for Your Church…from Our Older Brother

Tuesday Re-mix –

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.  Matthew 16:16-17

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”  Matthew 16:22-23

I was the baby in my family.  That means I got to learn from my older sibling’s mistakes (sorry, Sis)…not that there were THAT MANY mistakes there to learn from…but there were a few.  And I did learn from them.  That, it seems to me, is a huge benefit of being the younger brother.

I think of Peter that way…an older brother from whom we can learn.  For me, Peter’s spiritual pilgrimage has always served as a great illustration of the human frailty of the church.  Just like a local body of believers, there are times when Peter got it so very right, and there are times when he got it so very wrong.  Looking at his pilgrimage in Matthew 16 raises for me a couple of important lessons for the church.

1.  Celebrate when we get it right, but don’t get too cocky…we may just get it wrong tomorrow.  My church happens to be one of the really healthy churches in our community right now.  I like that.  It makes me feel good.  Even though people coming from other, less healthy, churches do not constitute “kingdom growth”, I am not going to lie and act like it doesn’t make me feel good.  My …

A Surprise (or Two) in Heaven

Tuesday Re-mix –

“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” Luke 13:24

I dreamt death came the other day and Heaven’s gate swung wide;

An Angel with a halo bright ushered me inside.

There to my astonishment stood folks I had judged and labeled

as “quite unfit” or “of little worth” or “spiritually disabled”.

Indignant words rose to my lips but never were set free,

For every face showed stunned surprise…not one expected me!

Anonymous

I think we are all in for some huge surprises if/when we get to Heaven.  I think we are going to find out that we didn’t know quite as much as we thought we knew about God and His ways, about Heaven and Hell, and about the doctrine of salvation.  I think we will be surprised to see some people there we never thought would be there.  I think we will be surprised to NOT see some people there whom we just assumed would be there.  And I think there may be some folks there who will be surprised to see you or me there!

But not everybody is expecting to be surprised.  There are a lot of Christians out there today who are pretty certain they already know everything about God and Heaven and salvation and who is in and who is out.  I suppose my first point in this post is that I always want to be a part of a church who does NOT think they have it all figured out.  I want to worship alongside friends who are actually expecting (even hoping for) some surprises in Heaven.

And while we are talking about surprises, I also happen to believe that many of us who …

Not for the Hope of Winning Heav’n…

Tuesday Re-mix –

My Eternal King

Original author unknown.  Translated from Latin to English by Edward Caswall, 1849.

 

My God, I love Thee;
not because I hope for heav’n thereby,
Nor yet because who love Thee not
Must die eternally.

Thou, O my Jesus, Thou didst me
Upon the cross embrace;
For me didst bear the nails, the nails and spear,
And manifold disgrace.

Why, then why, O blessed Jesus Christ,
Should I not love Thee well?
Not for the hope of winning heav’n,
Or of escaping hell;

Not with the hope of gaining aught,
Not seeking a reward;
But as Thyself hast loved me,
O ever-loving Lord!

E’en so I love Thee, and will love,
And in Thy praise will sing;
Solely because Thou art my God,
And my Eternal King.

I have been taking a look  at four New Testament conversion experiences: Zaccheus’, Paul’s, Lydia’s and the Philippian jailer’s.  It was a Bible study exercise on living a missional life.  Having been raised in a denomination with heavy Puritan influences and which is therefore pretty single-mindedly focused on salvation, I am dumbfounded by this observation of these conversion experiences: none of them included any promise of heaven.  Here are four of the most well-known conversion experiences in the Bible, and every one of them happened without even discussing heaven or hell or the after-life.  All of these people were motivated only by the promise of Spiritual significance, i.e., spiritual meaning now as opposed to eternal life later.

Please do not misunderstand me here.  The Bible teaches us about heaven and hell and “after-life” consequences of the choices we make during life.  I don’t question that.  But I am beginning to question whether our obsession with the promise of heaven is a bit misplaced.  Jesus did not …