Archive for the ‘Spiritual Growth’ Category

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.


When God Resists Us

September 14, 2011 2 comments

A key point in my journey out of Mormonism and into Christianity was the distance I felt between God and myself. I spent the first 30 years of my life in the LDS system of works but only felt farther away from God as the years passed. It got to the point where I doubted the very existence of God because it seemed that no matter what I did, I could not see or feel him in my life. When I came to that point, I walked away from Mormonism and organized religion with little hope of establishing a relationship with God.

I could never figure out why, even when I was doing all of those good things, I did not feel close to God. That is, until now. God has been working with me on the issue of pride and He showed me something the other day that I think I need to share.

Pride is what was keeping me from the relationship with God that I so badly wanted. Let me see if I can explain. Any religious system that tells you that you can either earn your salvation or keep it by your own actions is a religion based on pride. That statement may step on a few toes but hear me out.

The Bible clearly teaches that it is only by grace that we are saved. Ephesians 2:8-9 is just one example of this. Since grace cannot be earned (Romans 11:6) than any attempt to do so is rejecting God’s gift to us and insisting that we pay for it even though the price is so astronomical that we would never be able to do so in a million years.

So here is the point, all of the righteous acts I do, as a Mormon or Christian, with the heart motive to earn or keep God’s grace and my place in Heaven actually puts distance between me and God.

James 4:6 says “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”

When I read that a few days ago I pictured a dad playing with his child. When the child begins to think they can control the situation and even overpower the dad, he placed his hand on the kid’s forehead. At first he is still close but every time he struggled or worked to get closer, the dad slowly pushed him a small distance away. When the child began to push-back and even swing in vain to reach the father, he is pushed back even more until he is a full arms-length away and flailing his arms. The more he tries, the more he is resisted and kept at a distance.

Eventually, the child tires from the struggle, stops trying so hard and even collapses on the ground with no fight left in him. He has finally submitted to the power and authority of his father. It is at this point that the dad picks him up, gives a hug and demonstrates his willingness to forgive and show grace.

How many of us have played the part of that child, trying to establish our will or ability over the Father’s? How long have we struggled with our own attempts to draw nearer to Him but only on our terms? How many of us take credit for what God has done in and through us? I know I am guilty of all of these and pride is their root.

I got tired of pushing against God and in my pride thinking that I could possibly do enough to be declared righteous in His site. All those works I did as a Mormon could not begin to get me closer to God because they were born of a prideful heart that he resisted. It was not until I humbled myself and acknowledged my absolute brokenness and the futility of trying to “work-off” my sin debt that God drew me into his presence and gave me the grace I so desperately needed. Since that time, I have fostered a relationship with my Father through a lot of those same things I did before but my motive has changed.

The Power of Collective Faith

June 24, 2011 1 comment

I was mowing the lawn yesterday and thinking about a story found in Matthew 9 (also in Luke 5) about a man who was paralyzed. His friends, 4 of them according to the Mark 2 account, physically carry him on a stretcher to a house where Jesus is teaching. When they arrived, it was evident that they could not get him through the crowd so they climbed on the roof, hoisted the man up, then tore a hole in the roof and proceeded to lower him in front of Jesus. The story goes on to say that Jesus noticed their faith and then forgave the man’s sin, healing him physically moments later.

What kept rolling around in my head was that all three accounts of this story specifically mention that it was the collective faith that Jesus saw. It was not just that of the paralytic, it was “their” faith, that of the men carrying the stretcher, which Jesus took into account.

I could almost see these men, clutching each corner of the bed, sharing stories about how Jesus can heal. As they walked, who knows how far they had to go, they were praying for him and quoting prophecy about the coming of the Messiah. Ever increasing their collective faith and the anticipation of the miraculous.

The principle of multiplication is powerful and has the ability to bring about transformation.

Who around you needs your portion of faith?

Who can you be praying for so their eyes may be opened to the power of Jesus to heal both spiritual and physical sickness?

Who do you know that may be in a place spiritually to where they need to be carried with words of encouragement or stories of what God has done in your life, until they can see Jesus for themselves?

Are you willing to walk with them until they do?

Do you have some people around you that are willing and able to do the same for you?

Did God Ever Really Want To Speak To Us Through Prophets?

October 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Everyone knows that the Old Testament is full of examples of God speaking through prophets.  But what if God never intended to work that way?

I understand and believe in the omniscience of God and that ultimately he knows what is going to happen in the future because he stands outside of time.   With that said, I cannot help but think that he would prefer to deal with us in a different way.  The fall in the Garden of Eden is an example of that.  Although he knew they would, God never wanted Adam and Eve to sin and be cast out.

I see the use of prophets to communicate with His chosen people as another example.

We will pick-up the biblical narrative up in Exodus.  God has led the Israelites out of Egypt and has brought them to the foot of Mount Sinai.  God meets with Moses and tells him to prepare the people to come to the mountain and personally hear his voice.  He wants to speak directly to His people and have a relationship with them.  Unfortunately, they rejected that offer.

Exodus 20: 18-21 – When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”  Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.

At the point in which God reached out to them, they put a man (Moses) between themselves and the LORD.  Because He still wanted to be in communication with the Israelites, he set up the tabernacle and continued to work through Moses and subsequent prophets.

I can’t help but think that the Israelites missed a huge opportunity here to have a life changing encounter with Yahweh.  Instead, they left it up to someone else and within a few days were worshiping a golden calf and had to wonder in the desert for 40 years.

Are we relying on someone else to hear God for us?  Do we prefer to receive a word from another man as opposed to revelation direct from God?

We need to take responsibility for our personal relationship with God.  Looking to a pastor, prophet, spouse or mentor to hear for us is a type of idolatry and is sin.  God desires to speak directly to us.  He wants to share his heart with us in an intimate way.  This cannot be done if a man stands between us.

“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

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.

My New Name

July 21, 2010 3 comments

You will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow. (Isa 62:2)

If you have read the “About Doug” page then you know that I spent most of my life as a Mormon.  A key part to Mormon life and theology is wrapped up in modern-day temple worship.  I’m not going to go into the validity of temple worship and how LDS temples compare to Biblical accounts…at least not today.

I do want to talk about the idea of a “new name”.  One of the things done in the LDS temples is the giving of a new name to each person that is worthy to receive it.  It is to be kept secret and is used later in the different rituals done inside.  It is normally considered a grave violation to tell someone your name.  Since my temple privileges and blessings have been revoked, I do not feel beholden to that standard any longer and the name means nothing now.  So, at the risk of offending some (sorry if that is you) my “new name” given to me by the LDS church was Simeon.

As far as Bible names go…it’s not so bad.  It could have been much worse (ask Amy).  After all, he is one of twelve tribes of Israel and played a vital part in the life of Joseph.  Lately though I have been bothered by the fact that this name was spoken over me by a man who claimed to be a High Priest in God’s house.  I believe both claims are far from the truth and not Biblically supported. (Again, another topic for another day)

Here is why I am writing this post…God is good and faithful!

Because this was weighing on my heart, I decided to take it to God and ask what my name would be if He gave me one.  The response did not come as quickly as I had hoped.  In fact, it took 3 hours of drawing close to him, quieting my spirit and getting used to His voice before I heard it…Uriah.

Uriah?  Seriously?

I have to admit that I did not immediately recognize the name so I had to look it up and at first I was disappointed.  In case you don’t know, Uriah was the husband of Bathsheba and was murdered by King David.  That did not make my heart leap with joy…in fact, I was pretty confused.  That is, until I read his story.  As I began to work my way through the lone chapter about him, I paid close attention to the few details it gave of my namesake and God began to speak and show me why he chose Uriah.

If you want to read about him go to 2 Samuel 11

Uriah’s wife was HOT! (I don’t think that is in the King James translation).  The Message says Bathsheba was “stunningly beautiful” and I would say the same thing about my wife and I know God would too.

Apart from this, he was honorable, loyal, devoted and concerned for others.  He was willing to do battle and even go to his death for God.  Despite David’s best efforts, Uriah could not be tricked or pressured into doing something he knew would be wrong.  He was a man of principles.

He was not weak.  In fact, he was part of a select group that was assigned to be King David’s body guards.  He was trusted with a high position of responsibility.  When it came time to go to war, he was fearless and went where the opposition was greatest and never backed down.  He was always in control of his appetites and ultimately died because he would not compromise on his beliefs.

Now, I don’t pretend to embody all of these attributes but I can see some that apply.  God however creates with words.  When he speaks, he does so with purpose.  With His words, God calls out of us who we were created and redeemed to be. (hat-tip to Bob Hamp)

God called Gideon, who was full of fear and self-doubt a “mighty warrior” before he ever was one.  I see God doing the same thing here with me.  I have a long way to go in many areas but I will gladly stand on this word knowing that when my Father looks at me, this is what he sees.

One last note on this:  The name Uriah means “The LORD is my light” which matches up perfectly with a prophetic word that was given to me earlier this year.

Like I said…God is good!