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It is finished or to be continued…

April 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Easter is the day in which Christians around the world celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of their Lord and Savior. They look to Jesus as their final Passover Lamb, ultimately fulfilling the requirements of the law and making a permanent sacrifice for sin.

Surprisingly, there is a segment of people claiming to be part of the Christian community who don’t believe this, or at least their past leaders have taught that this is not the case. Here are some quotes from former Mormon prophets and apostles on the subject of needing to bring back or restore the Old Testament law of animal sacrifice.

it is generally supposed that sacrifice was entirely done away when the Great Sacrifice [i.e.,] the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus was offered up, and that there will be no necessity for the ordinance of sacrifice in future; but those who assert this are certainly not acquainted with the duties, privileges and authority of the Priesthood, or with the Prophets.The offering of sacrifice has ever been connected and forms a part of the duties of the Priesthood. It began with the Priesthood and will be continued until after the coming of Christ, from generation to generation…These sacrifices, as well as every ordinance belonging to the Priesthood, will when the Temple of the Lord shall be built, and the sons of Levi be purified, be fully restored and attended to in all their powers, ramifications, and blessings. This ever did and ever will exist when the powers of the Melchizedek Priesthood are sufficiently manifest; else how can the restitution of all things spoken of by the Holy Prophets be brought to pass. It is not to be understood that the law of Moses will be established again with all its rites and variety of ceremonies; this has never been spoken of by the prophets; but those things which existed prior to Moses’ day, namely sacrifice will be continued. ~ Prophet Joseph Smith Jr. founder of the LDS church

“The sacramental ordinance replaced sacrifices except that as part of the restitution of all things–and then on a limited basis only–blood sacrifices will be offered again. It was of these future sacrificial ordinances that Malachi prophesied, in a setting descriptive to the Second Coming of the Son of Man, that the returning Lord would “purify the sons Levi,…that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness…” It was to these sacrifices that Ezekiel alluded when he set forth the nature and use of the temple yet to be built in Jerusalem. And so that they might be performed by Levites who once again were legal administrators, John the Baptist, a Levite whose right it was to offer sacrifices anciently, and who was in fact the last Levitical priest to hold the keys of the ministry, brought back the ancient order of Aaron, saying to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, as he did so, that “this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.” ~Apostle Bruce R. McConkie

“We are living in the dispensation of the fulness of times into which all things are to be gathered, and all things are to be restored since the beginning. Even this earth is to be restored to the condition which prevailed before Adam’s transgression. Now in the nature of things, the law of sacrifice will have to be restored, or all things which were decreed by the Lord would not be restored. It will be necessary, therefore, for the sons of Levi, who offered the blood sacrifices anciently in Israel, to offer such a sacrifice again to round out and complete this ordinance in this dispensation. Sacrifice by the shedding of blood was instituted in the days of Adam and of necessity will have to be restored.
The sacrifice of animals will be done to complete the restoration when the temple spoken of is built; at the beginning of the millennium, or in the restoration, blood sacrifices will performed long enough to complete the fulness of the restoration in this dispensation.
Afterwards sacrifice will be of some other character.” ~Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith

I would like to point out that it is possible that many (or even most) LDS have never read, heard or even considered these teachings. This however does not remove their importance or relevancy. These ideas come from the highest level of leadership and from some of the most revered LDS “theologians”. They remain forever cemented in LDS history and to my knowledge have never been repudiated.

When we look at the Bible, it paints a very different picture.

Luke 24:44-48
44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.
46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,
47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
48 You are witnesses of these things.

Hebrews 10 gives us a deeper look into the law of sacrifice and how Jesus brought it to an end.

1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.
3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.
4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
10 …we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:
12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.
17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
18 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin

While Christians today echo Jesus’ words when they proclaim “It is finished!”, it is almost as if the LDS church says “to be continued…”

It is always my hope and prayer that all LDS (and Christians for that matter) come to a deeper understanding of this truth. That Jesus fulfilled the law and the prophets and in doing so canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:14)

The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is the gospel. (1 Cor 15:2-5)
With it comes complete victory over both death and sin. If we truly believe this, we will accept what Christ did, walk in forgiveness and have faith that he meant what he said while hanging on the cross for us…”It is finished.”

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Nebuchadnezzar’s Testimony

February 4, 2012 3 comments

I recently share the story about how I became a Christian. If you have not read it yet…click here.

Earlier this week I had the privilege of meeting for a few minutes with a pastor that I have immense respect for. We talked about different things going on in my life and what I wanted to focus on this year to take my walk with God to a deeper level. As we conversed and prayed they would stop to speak life and encouragement to places that have been longing for hope. It can’t remember ever having a conversation like it and I feel extremely blessed to have someone like this pastor to walk beside me.

One of the things that came out of this meeting was the conclusion that it would be helpful if I did a 21 day “Daniel Fast” to seek God’s will concerning a decision I need to make. If you have never heard of a “Daniel Fast” or are not sure what it is let me take a minute to explain. In chapters 1 and 10 of the book of Daniel, it speaks of two separate occasions where he chose not to eat meats and other things, each for a different reason and a different amount of time. In Christian circles it traditionally means to abstain from meats and sweets for three weeks but liberty is given to each person to fast from different things depending on how God directs them.

I started a traditional, no meats or sweets, fast the other day and began reading through the book of Daniel at the same time. I read through Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter two and then the well known story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (which were actually their slave names not their real names). Each of those stories ends with Nebuchadnezzar giving praise to the One True God that Daniel, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach) and Azariah (Abednego) believed in because of the miracles he witnessed on their behalf.

It took a few times for King Nebuchadnezzar to understand that “no other god can save in this way” (3:29) but it finally sunk in. Chapter 4 made me smile as I read it because in it he is telling the world about his conversion story.

King Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful man and not a very nice one either. Think back to the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He wanted to be worshiped as a god and became furious when those three men refused to do so and threw them into a fire to burn alive. And that is just one of the stories about him. I think upon further study, one could find some similarities in the conversion stories of Nebuchadnezzar and Paul.

Chapter four starts by his addressing all the people in the world and he says:
“It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.

How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation.”

He then goes on to tell a story…

“I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous. I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in my bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me.”

Only Daniel was able to interpret those dreams which were not all favorable toward Nebuchadnezzar and prophesied that he would be separated from his kingdom but ultimately restored to it once he renounced his sin and acknowledged loyalty to God.
It turns out that about 1 year later the separation Daniel told him about happened. After he was sufficiently humbled, he explains, “At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.”

My favorite part of the story comes in the last few verses.

“At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before.
Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”

What an amazing testimony of the power of God’s love for us. Nebuchadnezzar had no real desire for God but He desired a relationship with Nebuchadnezzar. After trying to get his attention in other ways, He took from him what seemed to be the most important thing, his power and kingdom. This was not done out of spite or hate but out of love. Once relationship had been established, He restored all that was removed from Nebuchadnezzar and more.

I know I can relate to this story. In the months leading up to my surrender to God I too lost many things I looked to as my source of significance, identity, provision and security. I did not think I needed God but I have come to understand otherwise.

I echo Nebuchadnezzar’s praise and exaltation of the King of heaven because not only has God saved me from my sins, He has restored to me things I lost, or perhaps never really had, because I now know that He is really the source of my significance, identity, provision and security.

As a side note to the story, I think this is a great example of how Christians should share their testimony. It is a simple story format that explains how they were before they knew Jesus, what happened to bring them to a relationship with Him and then how that relationship has changed their life. Such a story would give glory and honor to God while helping those who hear it see and understand the merits of living life as a Christian that is submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. If you have never shared your conversion story with someone, give this a try. Everyone loves a good story.

This is My Story, This is My Song

January 18, 2012 11 comments

While sitting at my desk this morning I looked at my calendar and realized that today is my 3rd Birthday. January 18, 2009 was the day I became a Christian and more specifically, the day I stopped running from God and gave Him control of my life.

In a previous post, I wrote about the need to have a definitive salvation experience. I don’t believe it is necessary to remember the date, time and where you where when it happened but I do think everyone should be able to say without a doubt that they have received the gift of grace Jesus offers you and be able to articulate the ways in which it has changed your life. Sharing such a story is what Christians call a testimony. A testimony is not so much a statement of beliefs but rather a declaration of God’s faithfulness, how we came to accept Jesus as Lord and the tangible results exhibited in our lives as a result of forgiveness and grace given by Him. This is my testimony.

I was born and raised in an LDS home and Mormonism was the only religious system I would really experience for the first nineteen years of my life when I would spend 2 years on a LDS mission in Spain which is predominantly Catholic. As a result of this, I grew up really only knowing what Mormonism teaches, and even then I only knew what LDS leaders wanted me to know. The works-based aspect of the religion makes life as a Mormon not easy by any stretch of the imagination. To some, this is a badge of honor but to others like me, it is more like wearing weights around our ankles…it makes it hard to run the good race and fight the good fight. When you are leaden down with a littanany of “to-do’s” it is hard to find time and energy to work on a true relationship of Jesus.

There is so much I could say about my 30 years as a Mormon but let me fast-forward to 2007. It was in this year that my exhaustion got to the point where I basically gave up on the Mormon system. No matter what I did, it was never good enough and at no point did I feel close to God. In fact, it was just the opposite, God felt more distant every day. It was not until just a few months ago that I realized this was due to pride. Every work performed as a Latter-day Saint was done in an attempt to earn my own salvation, which is presumptuous to say the least. James 4:6 says “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” I was distancing myself from God because of this attitude of pride that had been imbedded in me from birth. I perceived the space between Him and me to be so big that I began to doubt His very existence.

Needless to say, I was tired, distant, lost and miserable. It was in that state of mind that my LDS Bishop approached me. In no uncertain terms, he made it very clear that unless I got my act together and started to tow the company line, I would not be able to baptize my daughter that following year when she turned 8. This got me to look back at my life as a Mormon and ask the serious question of, “if I had to do it all over again, would I?” The answer was a resounding “NO!” If that was the case for me, why on earth would I put my daughter into that same position?

In December of 2007 I walked out of the local LDS church building and never went back.

I would be lying if I said that decision made things better. In truth, it made things worse. I became Agnostic in my beliefs on God and I searched in just about every place I could think of for peace and truth. It was a very hard year. I must say here that if it were not for some outspoken Christian friends, neighbors and acquaintances that God put in my life, I would have continued down that path.

One of these people sent me a video called The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon which opened my eyes to not only the validity and trustworthiness of the Bible but also a side of Mormonism I had not seen before or at least did not dare question. It was pivotal in both my desire to read and learn more about the Bible and Christianity as well as my quest to learn everything I could about Mormonism, good and bad.

For the next 6 months I ate, slept and breathed Mormonism. I read everything I could get my hands on supporting and disagreeing with doctrine and history. My mind was blown away. I could not believe so many teachings and historical facts were withheld from me. I felt hurt, angry, sad and vengeful. I had come to understand that for 30 years I had been lied to directly and indirectly. I had not been entrusted with facts that were questionable because no one respected me enough to present information and let me make my own informed decision. As a result of the hurt, I lashed out. I’m not proud of that but none the less, it happened. I created a blog (not this one) where I posted all of the disparaging or “non faith promoting” things I found. I was abrasive and at times purposefully antagonistic which in turn hurt a lot of people and burned some bridges I would love to re-build today.

Why do I bother writing about this? Because I firmly believe that it is an integral part of my story. I look back at some of those old blog posts and at my heart in this period of time and can see how spiteful I was.

Let me move on to January 18, 2009. By this time I had been going to church with Amy who was amazingly supportive in this difficult stage. After visiting a few churches for a number of months, we had settled in at Gateway Church where we are still to this day. I woke up that Sunday morning with this pulling in my heart. I don’t know how else to say it but I felt compelled to go to church even though we had already gone Saturday. I woke Amy and told her I needed to go to church and went alone. I arrived just before the 10:45 service and sat in the back row. Worship started and God stated to work on my heart as well. I had been running from Him for a few months now but He met me right where I was. The second song that day was “Beautiful” sung by Kari Jobe. The words could not have been more perfect for my situation. Having spent years in pride and self-reliance I broke as I sang and confessed these words to God.

Here, before Your altar, I am letting go of all I am
Of every motive, every burden
Everything that’s of myself
And I just wanna wait on You, my God
I just wanna dwell on who You are

Beautiful, beautiful, O, I am lost for more to say
Beautiful, beautiful, O, Lord, You’re beautiful to me

Here, in Your presence
I am not afraid of brokenness
To wash Your feet with humble tears
O, I would be poured out ‘til nothing’s left
And I just wanna wait on You, my God
I just wanna dwell on who You are

Holy, holy, holy, You are

I remember this day so vividly that even as I write this I can see, feel and sense it all over again. While singing, it was as if God stood right before me, put His hands on my shoulders and spoke clearly into my heart. “If you will lay down your life, your pride and your reliance on your own works, I will take care of you. I want to be your source. I want to be who you come to first. I know all the junk in your past and I still love you and want you to be my son. I have great plans for you if you will follow Me.” Without hesitation, I said YES! Who could resist such a promise from such a great God. I did just what the song said and laid all my baggage at the altar and in brokenness cried till I had nothing left. I gave my life to Jesus.

To this day I am still surprised at how much joy I felt. What a weight lifted off my shoulders when I realized that Jesus took everything I gave him and in return gave me peace and assurance of my right standing before God. Because of that moment, I no longer have to question my eternal destiny. I know that I will be with God because when He looks at me, He sees that I have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus.

It has been 3 years and the Christian journey is a wild one. I have had trials and I have had great successes. Through it all, I have had peace and joy. No matter the circumstance I know that God is for me. That He is faithful to fulfill His promise to me despite my failures.

As I have walked in this new life filled with grace and the Holy Spirit, the Bible has come alive. I have new eyes and ears to hear His voice more clearly. What a difference that has made.

My heart used to be calloused and hard as a rock. Now I am filled with compassion, forgiveness and empathy toward others. I see this manifested as I read through my old blog about Mormonism in comparison to this one. I no longer feel bitter or angry toward the LDS church or those who follow that religious system. Instead, my heart breaks for them. Many are in the same situation I found myself in with no real hope.

God has redeemed my time in the LDS church and I now spend as much of my time as possible educating others about the teachings of Mormonism from a Christian point of view. It is my hope that other Christians will feel equipped enough to reach out to their LDS friends and family around them just as someone did for me.

A Reasoned Response to Amanda – Part 2

January 17, 2012 3 comments

The second thing I said in my post called “Premature Platform” that Amanda took issue with was this statement.

”In fact, if a LDS person does have a genuine salvation experience and continues to allow God to renew his mind and grows in understanding of what the Bible teaches, they will not remain Mormon for long. Eventually their spirit will not be able to coexist in an environment where incorrect doctrine is taught and a false god is worshipped and that person will be lead by God to a place where truth is taught and the One True God is worshipped. I realize that this last statement may make some of you uncomfortable but rather than apologize, I would challenge you to take some time to honestly study LDS doctrine to better understand where I come from when I say that.”

To that she said:
“I in every way disagree with this. Who is to say whether someone’s salvation experience is genuine enough? When Christ atoned for my sins, my weakness, my shortcomings, my trials, my pains, all of my mortal experiences, and for those of every other person created, that was a salvation experience. And I have been being experiencing salvation every day of my life because of it. It is not just one moment. I need His atonement to constantly save me. If by a salvation experience you mean when I fully accepted Christ as my Savior, well I don’t know that there was one exact moment in my life when I did that, I always have. I have always believed in Christ and relied on Him. Does that mean I have not been “born-again”? The way I hear “Orthodox Christians” speak of their salvation experience it is as though Christ chose them to have it. Why would He not choose everyone? I believe He has chosen everyone, that He saved all of us, and He invites ALL of us to come to Him, and the closer we draw to Him the more we can feel of His love and a greater understanding of His salvation we receive. I do not believe the God I worship is false – I believe in God, the eternal Father, my literal Father, the creator of my spirit, the creator of this world – I believe He is all powerful, all knowing, perfectly and completely and endlessly loving, and ever-present. I believe He loves me enough that he provided a way for me to live with Him through eternity – He sent His Son to make this possible. I believe that even if Muslims and Jews and Hindus and any one else that believes in God believes in the same God that I do – they may not have as complete an understanding or a complete knowledge, but we still believe in the same God. I also believe that as I have continued to all God to renew my mind and the more I learn and understand what the Bible teaches I find my testimony of the Mormon church strengthened, and others do as well. I do not believe our doctrine is incorrect or that we worship a false god, and my spirit is very happy as a member of His church.”

Amanda, you are right, only God is the Judge of our hearts and He knows for sure if someone truly believes He is LORD. In your statement you actually bring up a lot of interesting theological questions like predestination and free will that are too lengthy to address here. Perhaps I will tackle them in the future.

What I would like to address is the need of a defining salvation experience that can be traced to a moment in time when you exercised your will and confessed that Jesus is Lord. Jesus equates the salvation experience with birth which is an experience which happens in a defining moment in time. In the natural it is a one-time occurrence and the same is true in the spiritual. I have heard many LDS come to an improper conclusion about this passage in John 3 so let me point something out that is important.

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and of the Spirit.”

Most LDS I know like to stop there and draw a premature correlation between the “water and Spirit” spoken here and LDS baptism and confirmation/receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. When not in its full context that appears to be a plausible conclusion. It is however dangerous to not consider the full context of scripture so we must move on to see what verse 6 says.

“Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”

Why is this verse so important? Because it is what Jesus uses to clarify the previous one.
Water = Flesh              Spirit = spirit

Thinking of natural birth, while a baby is still in the mother’s womb it is surrounded by…water. In order for birth to happen, the water must “break” beginning the birthing process that comes to completion with the baby entering a new environment, forever changing what he knew to be true existence and opening his eyes to a whole new world around him. That is the fleshly birth Jesus is speaking of.

Looking at the same idea spiritually, many of the same parallels can be made. There is a moment of conception in all of us, when God plants in us a seed of faith. We carry that faith and hopefully care for it as a mother would her unborn child. While the gestation period varies in length, we all have one. Then, there comes a time when spiritual birth happens. When it does, we are transformed spiritually and nothing is ever the same as it was…and we can not go back. Our eyes truly open for the first time and we see a world around us that we never knew existed. It is only after we are born again of the Spirit that we can truly live the life God created us for. It is a defining moment in time that all true believers in Christ can look back at with rejoicing, acknowledging the change that took place.

Elsewhere, such as in Ephesians 2:8-9 phrases like “for it is by grace you have been saved…”
Colossians 2:13 says it this way, “God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins…”

Notice the definitive and past tense used. Does this moment mean that we no longer have to improve upon our understanding of who God is and ever establish a greater relationship with Him? Of course not; to say that would be ridiculous. So much so that I have not met a Christian yet that thought that or that looked at this free gift of salvation as justification to be in blatant sin.

According to Mormon teaching, a child is not even capable of making such a decision to receive the gift of salvation Jesus offers to everyone. It is not until they are 8 years old that they are even capable of sinning and therefore need baptism to at least momentarily cleanse them of that sin. But as I pointed out at the beginning, baptism is not this born again experience, but it should be the result of such an encounter with God.

Amanda, if you can not say with conviction that you have had such an experience I would encourage you to study it out and try to gain an understanding of why this is so important. Nurture the seed God has obviously placed in your heart until it gives life to your spirit and brings forth the indescribable fruit of salvation.

I know this idea is foreign to mainstream Mormonism but it is at the very core of the Christian life.

Celebrating Jesus as Judge

December 24, 2011 Leave a comment

When someone says to you, “Jesus will be your Judge.” what kind of image does it bring to mind?

I think the answer can depend on your religious background. If you grew up in a more legalistic environment, you probably see God pointing his finger down at you and pronouncing condemnation in one way or another. On the other hand, if you had a grace-filled home, you may see Him pardoning you. I think that if all you see is one of these two options then you are missing something deeper.

Before I get to the more profound meaning in Jesus being our Judge I first want to point out that while everyone knows and can quote John 3:16 rarely do they continue on to verse 17 which says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
This truth that God does not want to condemn anyone is reiterated again in John 5:24 when Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
If you are part of the group that sees Jesus as a finger-pointing, vindictive judge then I pray that you will read the rest of this post with an open mind and heart because what He has to offer us is so much better.

I think I have said this before but I want to say it again. “I love the Old Testament!”

I do. I love finding Old Testament principles and patterns that point to and are fulfilled by Jesus. It makes the Word come alive and gives me a hunger for more. A few weeks ago I found a pattern that I have been thinking about ever since, not sure how to convey it to people. I feel this attempt to do so will be wholly inadequate but I pray that God uses my weakness to speak life into your heart.

In the Old Testament, there is what I call the pattern or principle of the Judges. Here is how it works:

Judges 2:10-19
“After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the LORD to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. In his anger against Israel the LORD handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the LORD was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.

Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the LORD’s commands. Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.”

This passage perfectly explains the idea but you can find this pattern related in the narrative time and time again.
Here is what God said to me as I read this:

“Doug, I have what I call the pattern of the Judges. Whenever my people distance themselves from me I do what is necessary to get them back. Sometimes that means letting them become captive and oppressed by their enemies and mine. But I wait and watch for the moment when they turn to me and cry out for help. When they do, I rescue them. I raise up a judge and I work through that person to bring them back to safety and prosperity. I had to do this time and time again because as soon as my judge died, my people would forget me again and worship other gods. I am faithful even whey they are not so again I wait and rescue them when they cry out to me.

Doug, understand this. I don’t have to raise up another to rescue my people because the pattern of the Judges has been fulfilled. Two Thousand years ago I raised up the last and perfect Judge. A Judge that will free my people from every type of bondage imaginable. This Judge will live for eternity so my people never have to fall back into wickedness and rebellion. He will forever stand as a sign of the patience, mercy, grace and love I have for my sons and daughters. He is the answer to all the cries for help and freedom.
Jesus is your Judge.”

All of this was spoken to my heart in a fraction of a second like only God can do and it only becomes more amazing as I write it down.

Today is December 24th or Christmas Eve. That means that tomorrow we celebrate the Birth of our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ. It is my hope and prayer that as we do so, this truth becomes part of the conversation. That Joy fills out hearts as it sinks in and God begins to expand our understanding of the significance of having Jesus be our Judge.

Honoring a Dishonoring Parent

December 10, 2011 4 comments

In the spirit of full disclosure and before you move on to the next paragraph you should know that what follows is not coming from wise personal counsel bases on my own lesson learned. It instead comes from what God has shone me in what I believe is the answer to a question I, and many of you, have had to ask ourselves countless times. In writing this I am not speaking down from a pulpit, but lying flat on the floor.

This is actually a blog I would rather not write because doing so places me in a position of greater accountability and compels me to do what I can to improve the relationship I have with my parents…which I admit is something I often don’t care to do. Divorce and abuse of different kinds and even my fairly recent commitment to Christ has caused a number of fractures in my family to the point where I have not spoken to most of them in the past 6 months or longer. In reality I have no place to write about restoration in that context but I hope that my full disclosure will help you know that if your can relate to many of these things than you are not alone.

Anyone who has darkened the door of a church has heard the verse, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”

This brings to mind great memories for those who had a good family life and strong, positive parental influence in their lives. They smile and don’t give this commandment another thought. For them giving honor is almost second nature. Please know that I do not think negatively towards those who fall into this category in any way. You are much needed as mentors and support for those in the next group.

The other group of people who are the focus of my writing feel immense pain and confusion at the mention of this passage of scripture. For them, their family is broken and in many ways, their parents were less than admirable and even abusive. They ask the question, “How can I honor a parent who dis-honors me?” or “How do I give honor to the dad (or mom) who spent years abusing me?” For them, answers are hard to come by.
I put myself in this questioning group of damaged souls.

I don’t know what the typical “Pastor answer” is to these questions but let me share with you what God pointed out to me while reading 1 Samuel in my car during lunch this week.

1 Samuel is where we find the story of Saul and David. If you remember, Saul was made king by God through Samuel, the Prophet at the time. Saul did things that were serious infringements in God’s sight and he was rejected as King. This is where David comes into the picture. At God’s direction Samuel goes to the house of Jesse where David is anointed as King but he does not take up this mantle yet. Instead he goes into the service of Saul and becomes well know after he kills Goliath. David looked up to Saul as a father but it was at this point that Saul began to become jealous of him because of the favor God had given him. This is where we pick-up the story.

Saul’s jealousy quickly turned into disdain and hate. It was not long before he began to express those feelings physically. In fact, it got so bad that he repeatedly tried to kill David. Realizing that he was in serious trouble, David left. Saul pursued him, not satisfied until he completed the dark plan his mind had conceived and incubated for so many years.

While my experience is not that extreme I know some can relate to this type of danger at the hands of their parents. Either way I think it is obvious that Saul’s actions do not in themselves merit honor or respect. Most would even say David had significant reason to protect himself with force, which he had multiple opportunities to do. But instead, this is what he said.

“Saul, my lord the king. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the LORD’s anointed. Father, now understand and recognize that I am not guilty of wrongdoing you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you.”

At this, Saul shows contrition and momentary repentance and promises to leave David alone. That quickly changes and again, he is following David. Once more, David had the chance to put an end to it by taking Saul’s life but does not, and Saul repeats his apology. Seeing the pattern, David puts more distance between himself and Saul. They lived the rest of their lives separated from one another.

Despite all that Saul had tried to do to him, David mourned bitterly when he heard that Saul had been killed in battle. He had always had God-like love for Saul.

“Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan.”

You know how in Acts it says that David was a man after God’s own heart?

I think that is the point. David was put into the care of a man who he looked to as a father but treated him with contempt and abuse. I can only imagine how that must have hurt him to see Saul throw a spear at him. I know many of us have had verbal, spiritual and even physical spears thrown at us from our parents. Perhaps the way we start to honor our parents in this situation is by first not wishing that harm will come to them and making a point to not be the source of such harm. Maybe it is even confronting them in love like David did to tell them that as their child what they did or said was wrong and hurtful but despite it all you wish them the best. For those cases where their contrition only lasts a short while and the abusive action continues, it is justifiable to do these things and followed by separation for an amount of time determined by God, which may be until death.

I don’t pretend for a moment that any of this is easy or that there are most certainly other considerations that may come into play that I have not addressed. But I can say with 100% clarity that there are more answers in scripture for our daily problems and questions than we could ever use. If any of this rings true to you, please go and read 1 Samuel starting in chapter 15 through 2 Samuel chapter 1 while asking God to continue to expand the idea of honoring our parents through this story. I pray He will show you much more than I did here and give you direction on how to begin the process of showing honor to those who dishonor you.

“You are from beneath; I am from above”

September 27, 2011 3 comments

The LDS “Plan of Salvation” is the core of all of its major and distinctive doctrines. One of the reasons for this is that it helps us understand what they believe about God and why, as well as their view of man.

According to Mormonism, we all existed as spirit beings with God before we came to earth in physical bodies. This is commonly referred to as the pre-existence. Simply stated, we were not created, but rather begotten in the spirit and therefore of the same type or species of being as God but at a different level of progression.

It is taught that at one point in time, God was once a man just like we are and was able to progress to the level of godhood that he enjoys now. This too can be our future if we follow the LDS system for salvation or “exaltation” as they say. In this post I don’t want to address the issue of the nature or progression of God, rather I want to speak of the idea that we all existed with God in the pre-existence before coming to earth.

Following LDS teaching, I lived with God as one of his spirit children and I was faced with a decision during the war in heaven to either follow Lucifer or Jesus. Anyone here on earth with a physical body chose to follow Jesus. Those who did not were cast out of heaven along with Satan now roam the earth as spirits.
To state the doctrine in a simple way…we all came from heaven and if we do what we are supposed to do here on earth, we will return there when we die.

In the course of my usual Bible study I have come across a couple of verses that to me teach something all together different.

We will start with 1 Corinthians 15:46-49.

46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.

Notice that just as Adam was from the earth, so are we. The Man that is from heaven is spoken of in the singular form and is the Lord.

John 3:31
He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.

John 8:23

And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

These passages in John point us to the fact that Jesus himself declares that He alone is from above and consequently above all. Our place of origin is this world, while His is not.

Why is this significant? Why take time to write about this? The answer is simple.
When we believe in doctrines that elevate or exalt us to the same divine origin as God it devalues Him and sets us up on a pedestal we don’t deserve to be on. The Bible is clear that we are created beings while Jesus is the only begotten of the Father. That means that naturally, only Jesus is of the same nature as God the Father. It is only through the principle of adoption that we become children of God and that is only possible when we see and accept our true state as sinners before a perfect and holy God and ask him to apply the blood of Jesus in our lives to wash away our sin.

Update:
A few days after posting this, a friend pointed out to me that John 6: 38-46 is another demonstration of this idea that Jesus claimed to be the only Man who came from heaven. Note also that it appears that the Jews of the time had no comprehension or teaching of a pre-existence. This is demonstrated by their confusion in verse 41-42.

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
41 The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” 42 And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
43 Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God. Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father.

Categories: God, Grace, Jesus, Mormonism, Salvation