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“You’re the God of this family!”

August 22, 2010 3 comments

“He was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family.” (Acts 16:34)

Sometimes, the circumstances in my life seem surreal and last night, God reminded me just how blessed I really am.

I had been saved for about 3 months when I heard about a special service that was going to be held at Gateway Church called “Beyond the Veil”.  Having grown up LDS and intimately familiar with the happenings within the Mormon temples, the idea of breaking down the steps in Old Testament temple worship and then looking at how they were literally fulfilled in the final hours of Christ’s life peaked my interest.  It was a night I don’t think I will ever forget because I gained a deeper understanding of the significance of Jesus’ sacrifice for me.  It became so very personal.

Fast forward to last night…the once-a-year “Beyond the Veil” service was happening again.  I had anxiously waited months for this night to arrive.  I sat in my chair, so expectant that I could not keep still.  The desire to worship my King was building up inside of me and I had to let it out.

One of the things I love about Gateway is their desire to hear and follow God.  They always expect Him to do “a new thing”

Isaiah 42:9 – See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.”

As the service started, there was something noticeably different; the worship band was not on the platform as usual.  With his mic in hand, Zach Neese begins to tell us about a vision he and the other leader had in preparation for the night.  They saw a group of people worshiping God and scattered in the group were some with instruments.  With no clear leader to focus on…they all were able to focus entirely on God and direct their worship to the only one worthy of it.  Throughout the crowd, Zach had placed his group of worship leaders just as he had seen them so we too could focus all our praise on God.

For me, that change was significant but welcome.  I had never really noticed how much I look at and focus on those who are leading worship until they were not there anymore.  With the band all around, we all became worship leaders and there was a sense of added freedom to express myself.  There were times when I knelt, laid face down on the floor or danced without any apprehension.  My only care was that my Father would have no doubt that I love Him.  I have always enjoyed worship but nights like this make it that much more special.

God spoke to me early and often and I tried to write down everything I could.  There was a moment…more profound than all the rest.  It is what moves me to type today and is the essence of the opening verse from Acts.  Also with me last night was my wife and 8 year old daughter.  About 2 hours into the service (that actually went 3 hours), we were singing “God of this city” by Chris Tomlin.  As we made our way through the song, I changed the words to “You’re the God of this family.”  As I did that, I looked to either side of me and saw my wife on my right, and then my daughter on my left.  Both had their hands held high, declaring their belief in God and proclaiming that “there is no one like our God”.

At that moment, I was overcome with gratitude.  To have my family at my side, all of us equally yoked and wanting more of God seemed too great to fully comprehend.  It hit me so hard that I had to sit down, put my head in my hands, and pour out a sacrifice of thanksgiving from the deepest parts of my soul.  It seemed so little to offer for such a remarkable blessing.  He had taken me and my family out of certain death and gave us certain life, affecting generations to come.

God has worked in our family so much in the past two years and it is easy to see when I look back.  After pouring out my heart, I stood, spread my hands over my family, and as the leader of my home I proclaimed the words of the song that came next…

”For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done In this city [Family]
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done here”

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Categories: Family, Freedom, Salvation, Worship

“Be it unto me according to thy word”

August 18, 2010 Leave a comment

I was on a bike ride today with my daughter when out of nowhere the phrase “be it unto me according to thy word” came into my mind.  I repeated it to myself a few times…then God spoke.  “Imagine how powerful my Word would be if you actually believed it.”  As soon as those words registered, thoughts began to run through my mind faster than I could snap mental photos of them all.  Some were promises from God still unfulfilled…plus some that have been.  Others were thoughts of doubt that often hinder my ability to believe.  The good and the bad were present at the same time and I loved it.  One exposed the other and made it look almost silly.  Every doubt or interference was immediately refuted and made subject to the mind of Christ.

When Mary made this statement in Luke, it was the start of an amazing story that blessed every generation that came before her and after.  She had no way of knowing what lie ahead but her faith and trust in God made it to where it really did not matter.  She knew God had spoken and that was all that mattered to her.

What has God said to you lately?

Do you really believe it? (If not, why?)

Are you willing to echo Mary’s heartfelt words?

I personally have a number of things spoken to me by God that I have put self-imposed limits on.  God, in His infinite kindness and love for us, puts no such limitations on the blessings He has in store for us.

So tonight, I took those words to heart and declared to God…”Father, I know that what you have for me is more than I can possibly imagine.  I trust you and know that you want what is best for me.  So, be it unto me according to thy word.”

2 Sam 7:28 – O Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your words are trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant.

2 Sam 22:31 – As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless.

Jeremiah 15:16 – When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty.



Categories: Spiritual Growth, The Word

Words I did not understand – Salvation

August 16, 2010 Leave a comment

I touched on this one briefly in my last post about “Grace” so I thought I would go ahead and give a full explanation.  This post may be a bit longer than usual because of the subject matter but if you are not familiar with LDS doctrine you will find it interesting and eye-opening.  I have taken some quotes from LDS.org to show clearly what their doctrine on this topic is.

Let’s start with what I touched on last time.  When talking to LDS about salvation you are unknowing talking to them about something very different than what a typical Christian would think.  To a Christian salvation means being cleansed from sin and ultimately living with God in Heaven when we die, based on His righteousness and not our own.  Not so for the Mormon.  When they talk about salvation and it being a free gift what they are really referring to is the resurrection.

“All people eventually die. But through the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, all people will be resurrected—saved from physical death.  In this sense, everyone is saved, regardless of choices made during this life. This is a free gift from the Savior to all human beings.”

Christians would share the belief that the resurrection is for everyone but the next paragraph on the LDS website is where our paths quickly part.

“To be cleansed from sin through the Savior’s Atonement, an individual must exercise faith in Jesus Christ, repent, be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (see Acts 2:37-38). Those who have been baptized and have received the Holy Ghost through the proper priesthood authority have been conditionally saved from sin. In this sense, salvation is conditional, depending on an individual’s continuing in faithfulness, or enduring to the end in keeping the commandments of God”

A few things are worthy of note here.  First, LDS doctrine states that you must be baptized by someone having “proper priesthood authority” in order to have a chance at living with God again.  When they state this, what they are actually saying is that in order to go to heaven, you must be baptized into the LDS church because they are the only ones who have this “priesthood authority”.  This view point however does not explain the thief on the cross that was told by the Savior that he would be with Him in paradise that day.  There was obviously no time for baptism yet he was granted a place in heaven.

The second thing to notice is that even after a confession of faith and being baptized into their church, that is still not enough.  Salvation for a Mormon continues to be “conditional” on them doing all the things the church leaders tell them to do.  This next quote punctuates that very point.

“Individuals cannot be saved in their sins; they cannot receive unconditional salvation simply by declaring a belief in Christ with the understanding that they will inevitably commit sins throughout the rest of their lives”

Unfortunately for Mormons, this teaching is not from God.  The book of Romans tells us that “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  In chapter 4 it also says that “to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.”

Romans 10: 9-10 – That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

I was brought up believing that Christ’s sacrifice for sin was only powerful enough to pay for my past sins but it does not pay for future sins.  In addition to that, if I had repented of a sin and years later repeated that sin, the past sin would be added to the new one and the initial act of repentance would be made void.  In essence that is what they are saying.  Salvation is contingent on me being able to stop sinning throughout the rest of my “post-baptism” life.  That, as we all know, is impossible so Mormons go through life with absolutely no assurance of salvation.  They can never say for certain that they have done enough to make it to heaven.  They miss that God justifies the wicked (ungodly) and they diminish the power of Christ’s blood to wash away our sin.

What a Christian would call “salvation, a Mormon refers to as “Exaltation”.  This is their word for living with God for eternity.  According to LDS.org the only people who qualify for this are faithful LDS who complete a number of requirements.  Here is how they explain it:

Eternal life is to know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and dwell with Them forever—to inherit a place in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom.  This exaltation requires that men receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, and that all Church members make and keep sacred covenants in the temple, including the covenant of eternal marriage. If the word salvation is used in this sense, no one is saved in mortality. That glorious gift comes only after the Final Judgment.”

There are so many things to address in that statement that I might have to take care of some of it in a following post.  Let me just say this…the Cross and the Blood have such limited power in this system that they have to add their own works, covenants and requirements to even have a chance of getting there.  They even go so far as to reinstate a version of Old Testament law and temple worship (in their own way and without animal sacrifice).  Unfortunately, even with all of that…they lack any type of guarantee.  As the last sentence points out, salvation is not even possible until we die.

When I was a Mormon all of this toil and work, with no actual hope attached to it, was exhausting.  Every General Conference (when you hear the prophet and apostles speak) you are told that what you are doing is good…but not good enough.  Work harder, sacrifice more, do more, re-double your efforts.  There is no rest for the weary.  Why?  Because it is up to each individual to do everything they can to work their way into heaven, never knowing if they have done enough.

My heart breaks when I think about it.  Most of my family is still LDS and running on their individual hamster wheel, going as hard and fast as they can but never moving.  They miss the peace that could be theirs if they would just recognize and understand that Jesus is the “author and finisher of our faith”.  When He said “It is finished” He left no room for doubt.

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.  My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.  Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62: 5-8)

Hebrews 7:28 – The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19(for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. 20And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever.’ “22Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. 23Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.

Romans 3: 20-28 – 20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. 21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. 27Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.

This is the doctrine of Biblical Christianity.  These are the teachings of Christ and His Apostles.  As Paul says:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! (Gal 1:6-8)

The LDS gospel of “works based salvation” is no gospel (good news) at all.  I pray that those Mormons who are weary and burdened will see the hope that is in Christ.  That they will see the futility of trying to be justified by the law and that they will surrender their lives to Jesus and ask for His forgiving grace.

Categories: Mormonism, Salvation, Words

Words I did not understand – Grace

August 14, 2010 1 comment

Before I was a Christian, and when I started to study the Bible, There were a lot of common words, ideas or themes that I did not understand.  That may actually be putting it lightly.  They were so foreign to me that I could not even begin to grasp the concepts behind them.  I now recognize that part of the reason for this is that I was taught from birth that they were either false doctrine or the meaning of them was twisted to denote something very different…often the exact opposite of what the Bible teaches.

One of the first words I struggled with was “Grace”.  I recall going up to a pastor of a church I was visiting and asking him to explain “Grace”.  An impossible task for a 3 minute conversation.  He mentioned the standard idea of “unmerited favor” and what you would expect to hear but I could not, for the life of me, wrap my mind around it.

I grew up in a works based religion where everything must be earned.  I had been reared in a church that taught me that only one thing was free or a guarantee and that was that I would be resurrected.  That was it…according to the LDS teachings I grew up with Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection broke the bonds of death and because of that everyone would be resurrected.  Anything past that though required a lot of work on my part.

To give you a glimpse into that doctrine here are a few of the verses from the Book of Mormon most commonly used to display this idea.

2 Nephi 25:23 – For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

The majority of this verse sounds great and is very much in-line with Biblical teaching but when you add the context of the last five words to it, everything changed.  Grace becomes an afterthought, something that only takes affect when we have left everything we could possible give on the table.  It limits and diminishes the power and scope of God’s grace.

Moroni 10: 32 – Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

This verse, which is actually one of the very last things said in the Book of Mormon, takes it one step further.  Here we see a very clear “if/than statement” that naturally signifies a conditional reward.  “IF” we deny ourselves of ALL ungodliness…”THAN” God’s grace is sufficient for us.  Without one…the other is not possible.  While the first passage in 2 Nephi tells us to basically work harder and do more…this one actually tells us to literally become perfect.  If we have cleared ourselves of “all ungodliness” than we have become perfect.  If we have become perfect by our own actions and works, than we have no more need for a Savior nor His grace.  Now, most LDS would say that it is impossible to actually become perfect but that God wants us to be as perfect as possible and then Christ will make up the difference.  It would appear that these two verses actually contradict each other and they do but that is the doctrine of Mormonism and I have learned over the past two years that it stands in direct contradiction to Biblical Christianity.

What does the Bible say about Grace and salvation by Grace?

Romans 11:6 – And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

1 Cor 15:10 – But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.  No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

I like this declaration by Paul because it underlines the fact that God’s grace is something that can impact our lives every day as a source of strength an empowerment, not just something that fills in the gap at the end of our life.

Galatians 2:20-21 – I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!

Galatians 5:4 – You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

And perhaps the most well know passage about grace:

Ephesians 2:4-5,8-9 – But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Growing up, grace was not a word mentioned very often but when it was, the context was always something earned, a reward for a job well done.

This is now the context in which I view grace…a gift of God.  A gift not to be earned, but received.  A gift I cannot do without NOW.  Grace is the sustaining force in my life that provides me the strength and ability to live each day.  It is my confession of fault and “unworthiness” and subsequent dependency on Jesus that qualifies me for His grace…not my self proclaimed righteousness or good works.  It is by grace that I have been saved and I’m proud of it!

Categories: Grace, Mormonism, Words

Water and Blood + Water and Spirit

August 8, 2010 1 comment

I’m not sure I have much of a point to this blog today which is a strange thing for me.  Usually I write with a specific purpose in mind but I find myself wanting to just point out something interesting (to me at least) that I found a while ago but have not done anything with.

There is the famous story in John 3 about a conversation Jesus has with Nicodemus in the middle of the night in which He tells Nicodemus that he must be “born again”.  Confused by this idea, Nicodemus asked for some clarification.  In response, Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”

What does that mean?  It means that we must be born of flesh or natural birth (There are plenty who look at this as baptism but that is not consistent with verse 6).  This is something that everyone who can read this page has been through so you have at least half of the equation down.  However he does not stop there…he says we must also be born of the Spirit.  There are numerous passages that speak of this idea and the principle of becoming a “new creation in Christ”.  Spiritual birth comes when we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior and we give our life over to Him.  That is why Christians refer to themselves as “Born Again”.

What I think is interesting, and my purpose of writing, is something I came across in 1 John 5:6 – “This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.”

I’m not sure how to articulate what I have in my head but this passage seems so cool to me.  Here we have Jesus, who told us that we must be born of water and of the Spirit, and John tells us that Christ himself was also born again but by blood.  This passage is so very important.  Had Jesus not come by water AND blood then we would not have been able to be born of the Spirit.  One is so deeply dependent on the other.  There would be no Pentecost without their first being a Passover.

I love how the Bible takes what seem to be distant passages and weaves them together.  Old Testament confirms New Testament and New Testament confirms Old Testament.  I guess that is the point here.  There are a lot of “hidden” gems planted in the Word of God for us to find and it has become one of my favorite things to do.  I love coming across something new and then sharing it with anyone who will listen.

Do you have anything you have been shown that you want to share with me?

Categories: Jesus, Salvation, The Word

Fathers with Daughters

August 2, 2010 2 comments

For about 3 months now I have had daughters on my heart.  Not just my daughter…but daughters everywhere and the men who are given the title of “daddy” in their lives.

Little girls eventually grow up to be women and the way their fathers relate to them from infancy to adulthood has a profound impact on who they are and how they interact with God as well as other people.  Men naturally know how to relate to sons.  All that takes is a karate chop or a car.  Girls seem be different and even mysterious to us.  The tricks we use with boys seldom work with girls.  Instead of a karate chop they want a caress…a crown to replace the car.  How many men truly understand what their daughters need/want from them and know how to give it to them?

“Life for Carrie was closer to life as God meant it to be for every little girl.  She knew that her father cherished her.  She was his princess.  He was her knight in shining armor.  He wanted to spend time with her.  Carrie knew her mother loved her and wanted her.  Hers was a world where her father protected her, her mother nurtured her, and she was enjoyed.  This is the soil a girl’s soul was meant to grow in; this was the garden her young heart was meant to flourish within.  Every little girl should be so loved, so welcomed – seen, know, treasured.  From this place she can become a strong and beautiful and confident woman.

Carrie’s father was present to her.  He saw her, and he made it clear that he enjoyed what he saw.  He lavished affection on her with his presence, his protection, his delight.  There were names he had for her – secret names only they knew.  He called her “Kitten” and “Princess” and “Little Darlin’.”  Little girls need the tender strength of their fathers.  They need to know that their daddies are strong and will protect them; they need to know that their fathers are for them.  Above all, a little girl learns the answer to her Question(s) from her father.  “Am I lovely?  Do you see me?  Do you want to see me?  Are you captivated by what you find in me?  Am I worth it?”

This quoted section is from a book called Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge and is going to be the basis of a men’s group I am going to lead starting at the end of August.  The group will be specifically for fathers of daughters and will focuse on how to strengthen and enhance that relationship.  It is my desire to invest in men who are committed to their role as fathers and together learn how to raise the next generation of powerful, confident, women who are secure in themselves and in their relationship with God.

If this is something that stirs your heart too, than please contact me for more information about the group or pass this on to someone you think would be open to joining me for this unique men’s group.

The group will meet Tuesday nights from 7:00-8:30 at my house in Keller.  The first meeting will be August 31st.