Saturday, March 31, 2012

Do you still want it?

“If you could have all of Heaven that the Bible explains and the only difference is that Jesus isn’t there, would you still want it?”

Ever since I heard that question posed by a popular Theologian/Pastor/Teacher it has really made me think – but not about that specific question. Let’s start with the question posed first. I really think that in the area of the world that I live the unfortunate truth is that the answer from many people professing to be Christians would be – Yes (even though, like I, they would initially deny it). How did we get to a point where “Heaven” is the point? The ultimate end-all? That’s not what Christ taught.

 At this point some people may already be mildly offended that such a question could be posed – please keep reading.

You see, the fact is, this question exposes a MAJOR flaw in the current modern “Christian” ideas of Salvation, Redemption and Regeneration. When you hear the Gospel shared, what is the primary focus? – Saving us from Hell. Some may ask what the problem with this is. I hear about so many people (and I was one of them) who say – I got saved because I didn’t want to go to hell. The reality is that I remember after having the “Romans Road” explained to me, I prayed the prayer and was welcomed into the family – the truth is I had no idea what had happened because afterwards, I stepped out to share with my mom what happened I remember saying, “Well, we prayed and everything but I think I still have some more to do”.  I didn’t understand  what really was being offered to me, I had the knowledge that I was a sinner (because I did things wrong) and that Jesus died on the cross to let me go to Heaven but I didn’t understand that He was the COMPLETE satisfaction to my debt and that my redemption was sealed in Him. I thought, getting saved means I don’t have to worry about Hell and “you know that’s good, one less thing to have to worry about” (to quote Forrest Gump).

Now, show me where Christ said, “I have come so you don’t have to go to Hell” or “if you want to not burn forever, just repeat this prayer”.  You see, God is the point of Salvation.  The prophet Isaiah teaches us that it “pleased” the Father to bruise and crush the Son. The primary reason of salvation is the Glory of God. A REAL relationship with the God of the universe, a chance to know the one that gives us breath every day. We are eternally, unconditionally loved by the Divine God of the Universe. He jealously, endlessly pursues us. He gave Himself for us. So, where does hell come in here? It is TOTALLY secondary! The fact that we don’t go to hell is a pleasant by-product when compared to the priority that we GET a real, intimate, relationship with the One who gives life. We get to be loved by Love. We get taught by the Teacher. The Father is ours. The Master leads us through His plan for our life. The point is HIM not Hell. If the truth is that Christ is primary and getting out of hell is a by-product, why is it presented backwards so often?  How come I have heard, “ If we could just drill a hole to hell and let everyone in the world see it for just a second, EVERYONE would get saved” more times than I care to count by pastors bent on “getting people out of hell”. Christ NEVER told us to go and “keep people out of hell”. He said to make disciples and followers of all nations – btw, his standard for a disciple is much higher than just being at church every time the door is open (please do not take this as a stance for “Lordship Salvation” – Christ is all and only, works do nothing but PROVE our devotion to Him).

Why do we put such a focus on hell?- It evokes an emotional response, it is about the fastest way to get people to raise their hand and pray the prayer. But how many of them walk away with that same, unregenerated idea that there is “still more to do”. I believe, by my own personal experience, that we teach that and repeat that because we don’t really know God and what He is really offering when he redeems us (not questioning others salvation).

Let us do what Christ called us to do and be HIM to the world, prove our devotion to Him by living Holy, loving, imitating lives. Let us preach the Gospel that he offers a real life, more abundant, full of real joy and the most intimate relationship we will ever experience and that means we will live in eternal Glory with Him in Heaven, not separated in eternal torture…..Let us put the focus back where it goes.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Created to Praise

We sat on the back-flap of the boat and it was Christmas Eve. Elliott was sleeping and it was an unusually cool mid-morning. The missionary kids were busy doing their schoolwork, leaving just me and Richard to gaze in wonder.

Pink dolphins at play.

We had seen the pink dolphins before, but mostly fleeting glances. This time there they were, five or six that we could count, leaping and playing in the river for nearly an hour.


That was over a year ago on a trip to the Jung|e but the memory is clearly etched. Now I sit on my couch Stateside and hear the sound of birds outside my window, announcing Spring is finally making its debut.

And it hits me, though it's not a new thought: All of creation is glorifying God, yet I, in all my faithlessness and fearfulness, worry and fret.

The dolphins play. The birds chirp. The planets rotate. The stars blaze. The grass grows. The clouds pour out. The whole Universe sings His praises by doing what it was created to do.

The me tries to do life by myself.

I tell God I can handle this one. He can wait.

Instead of shouting His praises and waiting on Him, I shout my disbelief and demand He do things my way.

Little me, boldly defying the One who wrote my very DNA. Forgetting my DNA was indeed created for the purpose of praising Him.

I worry and the Holy Spirit whispers:

Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? (Matthew 6.26-27)

I demand my way and the Holy Spirit whispers:

Where were you when I established the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
(Job 38.4)

For a moment my heart is silenced. Who am I?

And all at once I realize I am tired and the Holy Spirit whispers:
Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matthew 11.28-30)

You will find rest, He says. My burden is light, He says.

That sounds wonderful, my heart says. And I continue this journey of letting go and letting God.
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