Tag Archives: understanding

Equal Opportunity Salvation

Equal Opportunity Salvation

March 27, 2016:

Today is Easter, and that means church services will be filled, dinners will be served, and millions upon millions won’t even get why any of that matters. It might even be safe to say that those who don’t get it won’t want to get it because anything “religious” just isn’t their cup of tea. Maybe you’re one of the millions. Maybe you’re perfectly happy with that. In our culture, happiness is what’s important, right?

Honestly, it makes sense. Religion has gotten a bad rep, regardless of the people who run it or the god(s) they serve. Some people just don’t want to get involved. Maybe they think it’s the same as eating kryptonite.

Why should they care about Easter?

I could tell you exactly what Easter is…so I will. It’s about Jesus rising from the dead after taking our sins on the cross and out of this life. Basically, it’s his victory over sin, which translates to our victory over sin. It’s about giving us a place in Heaven. It’s about paying a price we can’t pay ourselves. You know how Christmas is the prime gift-giving day of the season? Easter is about the greatest gift we’ll ever get. I still don’t know how bunnies got involved.

Maybe some of you haven’t heard about the importance of Easter. I acknowledge that there are still people in this world who haven’t heard the Gospel (otherwise we’d clearly be living in the times presented in Revelations, and though I think we’re certainly close to it, I don’t think we’re there just yet). But if you have heard it and you’re not already on board with this, there’s a strong chance that you don’t believe it or care about it or, for some reason, you’re resistant to it.

And again, I understand why you might fit into the latter category. Here are some possible scenarios that may apply:

  1. You think the Bible is fiction.
  2. You think Christians are bigots, and you want nothing to do with them.
  3. You think you can save yourself.
  4. You don’t want to give up the sinful life you’re living.
  5. You believe something else entirely and don’t want religious cross-pollination.
  6. You don’t think sin is real.
  7. You don’t think God is real.

And so on. You get the idea. You know where you fit into this story.

The thing about Christianity is that it’s full of people who have heard all of these excuses and more. In fact, it’s full of people who have made these same excuses at some point in their pre-Christian lives. Even those of us who learned about Jesus at a young age still had to experience the temptations that life brings, so we still get it. It’s the reason there are so many who have turned away as teenagers and young adults. They spent so much time learning the watered down, educational version of Christianity that they didn’t want it any more. They wanted to experience “life,” and their understanding of Christianity wasn’t about to give it to them. And, if you know the difference between “religious” Christianity and true Christianity, then you’ll understand why some Christians still turn away from it.

They knew Christianity as a religion, much like those who refuse Christianity think of it as a religion. And to be fair, many Christians treat it like a religion. These same Christians may be responsible in triggering one of the listed beliefs you have about Christianity above. But it’s not supposed to be that way.

First of all, and I’m going to speak from the heart here, not from some sense of all-knowing righteousness. This is just what I think:

Many non-Christians, and you may be one of them, choose to disregard the Bible as truth, calling it fiction. Some also think of it as a list of archaic laws that no longer apply. And most commonly misunderstood: many don’t believe it’s the inspired Word of God. They simply think that it’s a product of a group of misogynist men getting together and making up some rules that are designed to oppress people and justify evil. This, of course, assumes that the critics understand what evil actually is. Again, this is understandable. Many Christians wrestle with this very notion. It’s why we have faith. We really don’t know if it’s true. We just choose to believe it. Some say we do so foolishly.

BUT…

We choose to believe the Bible is true the same way we choose to believe the Law of Gravity is true. The only proof we have of gravity, besides the fact that everything falls (including us, which is why we have Jesus, but I digress), is what physicists, like Isaac Newton, tell us. We blindly believe them because we trust their authority. And, when we open our eyes, we can see that what they say is true. The same could be said of mathematicians who say that one plus one equals two. I’m no math guy—I studied English in college—but if a mathematician tells me that one and one equals two, I’m inclined to believe him. I don’t believe him because I’m an ignorant tool who thinks all scientists are liars. I believe him because he’s the authority on that subject. He understands math in a way that I never will, just like Isaac Newton and other physicists understand gravity in a way I never will, just like Albert Einstein understands relativity like I never will.

I choose to believe the Bible because it was written by people who have authoritative knowledge that I never will. But more on that in a moment.

Let’s start by addressing the “fiction” that so many non-Christians want to lambast it for. The Bible has parables in it, which are stories about fictional characters. Jesus told us about the servants who were given ten, five, and one talent respectively, and told to do something with them before the master got back. The two servants with ten and five talents respectively invested what they were given and yielded double the return. When the master came back, they were rewarded with even more. The servant who was given just one talent chose to bury his because he knew the master was cold and exacting and wouldn’t want him to lose it. The master thought the servant’s understanding of him was poor, and he saw him as wasting an opportunity, and he ultimately stripped him of the one talent he had, so he was left with nothing. All because he didn’t use what he was given.

I don’t believe the three servants and the master were real people, but I do believe Jesus told this parable to make a point about using what we’re given. It’s still history, as the storyteller is very real, and there are plenty of witnesses who saw him give this parable, and if this message was later written in the Bible incorrectly, there were many, many people who’d know it and rebuke the misinformation.

I think of it in terms of a historian writing a book in 2030 about the events of 9/11 and explaining how the aliens burned down the World Trade Center with their heat vision on September 11, 2001. Um…no. But there was a fire! It must be true. No! Stop being stupid! There were no aliens and no heat rays. You watch too many movies, Mr. Historian.

We can treat the Bible as a history book because there were plenty of people still alive at the time of its writing that would call out its inaccuracies, if it had any, based on the consistency of their eyewitness accounts. And even if they weren’t there personally, the correct information would’ve survived just as our correct information about the assassination of JFK has endured 53 years. If you tell someone JFK was murdered in Houston, Texas, they would quickly reeducate you that it happened in Dallas. If the story of Jesus was written ANY other way, the authors of those four books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) would’ve been laughed out of a reporting job (and possibly sent into exile—those days were a lot tougher on mistakes than they are today—but at the very least they would’ve had their books rejected). There was no way they could’ve gotten it wrong and gotten it into the history book. The people of that time cared more about the historical account than even we do.

Outside of the parables and the history accounts, the Bible is also made up of prophecies, and I’m pretty sure this is where most people have problems with it (well, no, most people have problems with what it claims as sin, but I’ll get to that in a moment). In short, I don’t understand prophecies, or how a prophet can know what God is telling him. But there’s a good reason for that. I’m not a prophet. I don’t specialize in prophecies. But, just as I trust a physicist to tell me the truth about gravity and a mathematician to tell me the truth about one plus one, I trust a prophet to tell me the truth about the heart of God, or in more relevant terms, the divine inspiration of God’s Word, aka, the Bible. I believe the Bible is true because I believe God is wiser than I am and that He knows how to get His exact message across to the world, even if I don’t understand the details. That’s fine, really. God knows not to trust me with His divine prophetic words. I’d screw it up. It’s not my gift. It’s why He gave it to the prophets. They’d know how to handle it.

The people who accuse the Bible of being false, or fictitious, do so in complete ignorance. The same people who accuse Christians of having a closed mind are not that good at opening their own minds, because if they were, they’d investigate biblical truth until they found emphatic proof that it’s a lie (which no one in human history has ever done, FYI—even those theorists—Note: those who specialize in theory, not fact—who think they’ve disproved the Bible because they compared it to something they believe (not proved) and found fault based on their limited understanding just haven’t dared to keep looking beyond their limited understanding or skewed worldview; anyone who has, has given up their quest and become Christians, and yes, that is documented). No, they, too, have a closed mind because they don’t want to find out they’re dead wrong (which they will if they dig deep enough), and why would they want to ruin their precious reputations on silly things like facts or truth?

And for the record, Christians have closed minds because once we figure out the truth, we have no reason to lie to ourselves any further. Having an open mind means we’re still searching for the truth. We’re not. We’ve found it and we know it. There are many reasons why we know we’ve found the truth; often it has to do with what Christianity is—a relationship with Christ that goes deeper than knowledge or theory. It’s the same reason why we understand our spouses better than our grocers understand our spouses. Our grocers may think they know our spouses, but they don’t, not really. They only know what they see. They don’t know the fullness of what we’ve experienced, so they don’t know our spouses like we do. Christianity is the same way. We understand Christ better than non-Christians do. That’s why we choose to serve him. Just like a husband might serve his wife, and a wife her husband. They understand what they have (ideally, of course—human nature does get in the way sometimes, but that’s another topic for another time). We’re not idiots. We just have an understanding that you don’t. And that’s unfortunate for you. Sorry to call it out like it is. But, no, actually I’m not sorry.

I am sorry about the second point on the list, the bigotry. But let me explain why this is still a problem:

Christianity is not a religion. It’s a relationship with Jesus Christ, who died for all of our sins. Now, to be clear, sin is sin, and I do not suggest that anything that is sin shouldn’t be called sin. If it’s sin, it’s sin. Period. And if it’s sin, it is the thing that can keep you out of Heaven. Period.

BUT…

That’s why Jesus came to mankind. Because we all do it. Sin. We’re all equal opportunity sinners, and Jesus, thankfully, is an equal opportunity savior.

The problems with Christianity, and the bad rep it gets with things like bigotry, comes down to Christians trying to make it into a religion. It’s about some Christians trying to be better than everyone else. I’m probably guilty of this myself sometimes.

Look, let me set the record straight. We’re not better than anyone else. Period. Part of believing in an equal opportunity savior is to acknowledge that we, too, are equal opportunity sinners.

I’m not going to write about how certain sins that progressive politics have made okay are okay. They’re not. Sorry, but no politician has ever died for my sins, and no politician has ever created the physical laws of earth and heaven, so I don’t believe any politician has the right to tell me what is and isn’t sinful. Even Moses, who drafted the Ten Commandments, had to get his instructions directly from God. And keep in mind that these instructions were passed down from a God who understands human nature very, very well.

The issue here is the people who sin, and that’s all of us. We all need Jesus. None of us need bigotry (in any of its forms, and for the sake of further argument, I’ll refer to it also as prejudice against anyone who isn’t perfect, which is basically everyone, and being prejudice against everyone makes life pretty lonely). I’d spent part of my life misunderstanding the point. I used my human brain to justify my understanding of God’s laws, when I wasn’t really trained well enough to understand. And though I don’t struggle with misunderstanding people anymore (at least, I don’t think I do, but I apologize if I do), I’m sure I still have areas of weakness, including the courage to speak up when others are clearly screwing up their lives (maybe because I don’t want to acknowledge that they are screwing up their lives). As a Christian, I’m supposed to love everyone, and part of loving others is to point out the path they’re on. I supposed that’s the main reason why I’m writing this. Many of us take this concept too far. We’re supposed to do everything in love. That’s what Jesus asks of us.

What it comes down to is that the religion of Christianity is run by fallible men, but actual Christianity is about believing in the infallible Christ as our savior. There’s nothing more to it.

That said, becoming a Christian doesn’t mean automatic goodness. Nobody becomes “good” overnight. Jesus himself tells us that no one is good but God the Father. But, choosing to love Jesus means our attitudes begin to change. It means that our actions begin to change. It doesn’t happen overnight. There are plenty of Christians who still openly sin, and many more who still sin in private. We’re still trying to shed the old life in favor of the new. For those who don’t want to give up the old life, it makes sense that they wouldn’t want to become Christians. Maybe they’re afraid of what life would be like without that addiction. Maybe they enjoy the feeling of hate. Maybe they like to invent their own truths, even if the result of it wrecks their lives. Some people just want to live the mediocre life. Some just want to burn. It’s their choice.

God gave us free will. That’s why evil exists in this world. That’s why we have so many viewpoints about what equals truth, and more difficult, what is and isn’t sin. It’s why we have so many cults and religions, and why those religions require so many tasks. It’s why the state religion, politics, has so many counterintuitive, counterproductive, conflicting laws and practices. We think we can better ourselves with new ideas and new practices. By nature, we progress in ideas because the thing we thought was good before wasn’t actually good enough. Tomorrow we’ll look for something to replace the thing we thought was good today. Eventually we’ll complete the progressive circle and find ourselves back at the beginning.

But look, we had perfection once. We thought we could improve on it. We ruined the world and ourselves as a result. God had to step in and fix it for us, because, you know, He’s the one that built it in the first place. He understands how it works. He understands how we work. He knows us better than we know ourselves. The only one who really knows how to fix our mess is God himself.

Maybe you don’t want to trust in God’s leadership and Christ’s salvation, but I hope you will. We can’t save ourselves, no matter how much we convince ourselves we can. We’re not the ones who set the standards on righteousness. Don’t let the faults of any man or woman, or your misunderstanding of a subject you have no expertise in, deter you from experiencing the only gift you’ll ever really need. We all need Jesus. Easter would not be among the world’s oldest holidays if it didn’t mean something.

I think there were other points I wanted to address in this article, but I wanted to keep this as short as possible, and I’ve already gone on too long. Maybe I’ll add a second part if I think of something I’ve forgotten about. That said, if you wish to discuss this, please comment below.

Note: If you came here looking for information on my books, or writing, or something else more to the current theme of Drinking Cafe Latte at 1pm, I will be talking more about them soon. Sometimes I have other topics of interest that I want to write about, so do expect the occasional non-writing topic here.

The Secret God

Originally posted to MySpace on:

April 10, 2006:

For most of my life, or at least most of my Christian journey (and what is that exactly?), I heard the term “personal relationship with Christ” flung around pretty loosely. Not so loosely that it loses all resilience entirely, but loose enough that it sort of misses the mark that I’m sure it’s supposed to reach. In other words, it’s supposed to mean that…well, before I get too far ahead of myself it’s supposed to mean several things, but in the context that it’s often shared, it’s supposed to mean “having Christ in my life,” or quite simply, “I’m saved.”

Okay, fine. I can accept that. It’s a reasonable way of understanding the meaning of having that personal relationship. Sounds easy—mysterious and a little out there, but easy.

But why call it that? Why not just say that Jesus covered my sin with His blood and leave it at that? What’s this relationship thing all about? For something that’s supposed to be “personal,” it feels too much like a “standard,” a “basis,” or even a “requirement.” In the realm of salvation, these things may be true. But what does that have to do with a “relationship?”

Okay, I threw out a lot of quotation marks there, so maybe it’s time to make sense of them. Salvation is only the beginning, not the end all of the Christian life. I think a lot of people treat it as the end all, but this journal isn’t about that. It’s about that next step, that step that says, “okay, now what?” Or more specifically, the step that follows “okay, now what?”

To put things back to the opening mindset, the personal relationship I’ve been taught about in various seasons of life means just what it sounds like. It means having a personal relationship with God, with Christ, with the Spirit. It means walking, talking, and sharing life with the One who gave me life. It’s part of the Christian life that begins after salvation. Sort of like walking along the beach with a friend and talking about whatever the heck you want, but that friend being the Lord. For those who are unfamiliar with this, this probably looks incredibly like a Sunday School teaching…kinda nice, sort of, but mostly vague and unapproachable. After all, this is God. Who am I to walk along the beach with Him? What makes me so special? The thought of walking with God feels like a fairy tale, and the thought of being important to the Creator of rock stars, movie stars, sports heroes, and presidents—people who are clearly too important to hang out with me; there’s no way that I’m that special.

And yet, that’s what I’ve been taught. My whole life. Sure, there were plenty of easy Sunday School lessons in that mix, but come on, what am I supposed to get out of this “personal relationship with God”? It’s a statement wrought with such a high paradox. It’s approached with such weakness but entails such greatness. What am I supposed to do with it?

Many of us who have stood in this position, asking this very question of why this is supposed to be so powerful and amazing, and yet feels like it’s nothing particularly impressive at all (stuck in the middle of the paradox as I’ve been for so long), have more than likely spent an entire life feeling rather insignificant, and certainly underused. Likewise, those who have been introduced to God, but don’t really know the significance of being in that relationship with the Lord, probably don’t have a clue about the depth of heart and life in which they’ve been invited. The whole thing just seems devalued. Who am I? Really, who am I?

A great struggle of mine these last few years has been understanding the voice of God—is it a silent whisper, a conversation in my head, the counsel of a friend, the Bible itself? I’ve heard it described so many different ways, but have had difficulty in pinpointing how it reaches me. Sure, the Word of God is absolute, and anything spoken to me from there is truth. But, it speaks to me through stories that have applications clocking in at over two thousand years old. Sure, I can plug in yesterday’s circumstances with today’s very similar characteristics (we all still eat, drink, fight, flight, and love, so it’s not that different). But how does that help me to decide where best to live, or who to befriend, or all those little specific things that shape the daily progress of life? Yeah, I’ve been given the ability to make decisions for myself, and believe me, I make those decisions all the time (usually in the form of what I’m gonna have for lunch), but there are still some things that I’d appreciate counsel about. Counsel I would only trust coming from God. Stuff that includes those major life decisions that the Bible might not be clear about.

And therein lies the speed bump of my Christian walk. Trusting the voice of God. Yes, the voice of God is trustworthy—it is after all THE VOICE OF GOD!!!!!!!!! It’s not the Voice of Uncle Lou (who is no uncle of mine for the record, it just sounds appropriate for this discussion). The voice of God will only offer truth and what needs to be known: nothing flippant, fluffy, or farfetched. But I’ve struggled with the problem of listening to the voice I thought was God and ended up finding out later on that the “voice of truth” was rather a “voice of my own will,” and seeing as how my will wasn’t in tune to God’s will, that voice led me down a road of heartbreak.

I know some people are gonna wanna jump in here at this point and tell me that sometimes God will bring us down that road of heartbreak to build our character and ultimately bring us down a road of joy. To those I say, “hold your horses.” I know that, but it’s not the point I’m going for here. The point that I am reaching, I’m almost there, but it’s just taking me some time to set it up, so bear with me.

So far we’ve opened the door about the “personal relationship” and the “voice of God,” but how do these correlate into the Christian walk (which, by the way, has plenty of intricate details to discover; it’s not just one or two basic, yet hard to comprehend things)? Okay, to go back to the original point, I’ve never felt particularly caught by this notion of being significant to Christ. When I’m told that He loves everyone, it’s hard to believe that I could have a personal relationship with the God that wants to have a relationship with everyone. It’s like the middle child of a family of twenty trying to stand out to his parents, or the sixtieth boyfriend of an unsatisfied woman trying to be something that the other fifty-nine guys before him were not (and ultimately finding out two weeks later that the girl has to clear him out to make room for boyfriend number sixty-one). Trying to cry “Abba Father,” or “Hey Daddy” to those who don’t know what the first term means, for that much desired, much needed attention from God the Father seems like a futile attempt when, even though He somehow listens to me, He does so as He’s listening to millions of others that very same moment (and probably more if half the world wasn’t fast asleep that very moment). I can appreciate the fact that He does hear me when I call, but how is this relationship personal? Why am I supposed to feel significant when the real world physical aspect of it is like going to a birthday party where forty or more people are there for one person, and the thought of making time to be a friend to that one person is completely absurd (because there are thirty-nine others vying for that same attention and offerings of praise the same time you are). Truly, who am I to be significant in this swallowed up desire to share a personal intimacy with the Creator?

After wrestling with this concept for longer than I care to think about, God finally spoke to me the other night about it (using the voice of the conversationalist—which has been the method I’ve been most skeptical to listen to). Usually when something about the Lord strikes me in a special way, and yes, despite the tone of this journal those moments do still happen, I feel compelled to write them down and share them with whoever will listen. Sort of like what I’m doing now. Not that I expect the world to read them, or even most friends for that matter, but I still like to write down what I’ve learned so that I don’t forget about it later. Because it’s there, I sometimes feel like sharing it with those who I think would appreciate the message. I really can’t gauge other people’s moods though, so I don’t know who all spends the five minutes or so it would take to read one of my journals. But anyway, I choose to write them down, and then I move on, and then I wait for the next great revelation to set me along my path of uncertainty (and inevitable joy if one is to accept the fact that brokenness can turn to joy when placed in God’s hands).

The other night, I felt the Spirit urge me to reconsider that compelling need to write everything down (as I’m doing now…ironic in context, but I think this is a case where writing it down is appropriate). In my deep investigation for God’s will for my life (Seek ye first the Kingdom of God), I felt my spirit shaken around left and right to the point that my whole realm of complacency fell (not that I wanted it to stand anyway), and in my shattered moment I heard the Lord whisper the answer to that long sought, but hidden question: “The personal intimate relationship can be found; you just have to discover it as you discover Me.” The exact words, I don’t remember entirely, but the meaning of the context came across that way, with the emphasis added to the word “discover.”

A few years ago, a friend of mine threw a curveball at me. In one of our spiritually related conversations, he brought up the mention of a video game he had once played called Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. For those who know nothing about Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, or about video games in general, it was a game for the Nintendo 64 about a hunter who treks around a 3-D world hunting dinosaurs (as the title implies). Back in the mid-90s, the onset of 3-D gaming was still new, and despite what jaded gamers may say now, it was still cool. But, the story doesn’t end there. When he and I were discussing the use of reaching kids through media (he was a youth pastor at the time), he brought up this example the Lord once gave him while he was in the middle of playing this game. “You see the world I have before you? I gave you this world to explore it.” Just for reference, the world in the video game was savage, lush, and full of cliffs and rivers and all those majestic landscapes that make a landscape majestic. Much like our own world can be at times. Pretty mighty message for God to pull out of a Nintendo game.

God reminded me of this statement the other night in this exploration of Him and of His will. There is something to explore here, and all those nice little Sunday School messages need not apply. Yes, the personal relationship starts with salvation. Yes, it involves the long walks on the beach talking to the One I can’t even see directly (the ocean splendor is the best thing I have at my immediate disposal to even suggest that He’s there). Yes, it includes those daily prayers to get me, my friends, my family, and those random souls I don’t know but might see flicking someone off in middle of the highway, through the day. But there’s far more to go on than that. This personal relationship, or rather, this intimate relationship goes deeper than that.

Discovery seems to be a great part of that. God gave me His Word as a basis for exploration, but never stopped there. God gave me His creation (both world and people) as a means to understand His intent for exploration, but still offers more. God even gave me a chance to hear Him directly (which I’m still trying to grasp, though it’s been incredibly difficult—due primarily to my skepticism of knowing Him over the voice from my own thoughts). But these things don’t quite measure up to the one-on-one intimacy that He claims I’m supposed to have.

“There’s no need to write and share everything you learn from Me. [Close friends do not often share each other’s secrets with the world.] A wife would not tell the world of something that only she was to know of her husband. [A parent would not post his child’s most embarrassing moment on the Jumbotron at a football stadium.] Some things I share, I intend only for you to know. I may share the same things with others, but that is for them to discover on their own. It’s what makes Me personal to you. Not everything has to be a message to the world. I reveal Myself in different ways to everyone. That is what makes your relationship with Me unique. I reveal Myself to you in a way that you’ll understand.”

In a way this journal may seem like a complete violation of the very thing God has spoken to me about. The fact that I’m writing it down—the fact that I’m sharing it must mean I’m not applying the message. But, some things God does intend for me to share, and I think this may be one of them. In any case, the message helped me to discover my worth in this grand adventure with God. Sure, I may be one of millions upon millions who share in this great adventure. But the fact that the Lord can still find a way to keep my part of it unique is just another thing to add to the amazement scale He seems to display so well.

If not for that, I don’t know if I could ever fully convince myself that I’m unique in Christ, or that I’m worthy of being an intimate part of some grand adventure. I don’t know; I’m sure many of us have questioned the significance of our lives in this matter. There’s no way that I’m the only one asking this question. But, hopefully this can add some understanding to those who might share in this feeling of insignificance. Granted, I’m sure God has more for each of us to learn, but that’s something for Him to reveal to each of us in His own way. I just hope I might inspire a jumping off point for that personal deep investigation of God that I know He wants us to dive into.