Confess with Your Life

life speak“Confess with your mouth that Jesus is LORD and you will be saved……” Romans 10:9

Christians have used this verse over the years to get people “saved.” Unfortunately, I feel like some have missed the point. It’s not just the confession with the mouth that saves. Words are not enough. There’s more to it than that. It is the faith which accompanies these words that brings salvation. In it’s context, Paul wrote this verse to Romans, who could be killed for saying these kinds of things. They were coming up against the political systems in their culture and this statement would have been considered treason. They were risking their lives to make this confession. The verbal confession was not just a statement. It would have been attached to the rest of their lives. Anyone who made such a claim carried a faith which was expressing itself, not just with words but with a willingness to risk their very lives for this belief. Jesus is LORD.

We must confess with our LIVES that Jesus is LORD. Yes, confessing with our mouths is a huge part of it, but confessing with your life involves more – everyday decisions and sacrifices as well as boldness and taking risks in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is worthy of so much more than just a few words. He humbled Himself, and died on a cross for my sins. The only proper response to that kind of love is to give Him my all, my life. And even that’s still lacking if you think of it as repayment. It doesn’t matter what we give. We still come up short. It’s only by His grace through faith that we are saved.

CONFESS WITH YOUR LIFE! (and your words)

Look

Check out Charles Spurgeon’s conversion story in his own words.

I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair until now had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm, one Sunday morning, while I was going to a certain place of worship. When I could go no further, I turned down a side street, and came to a little Primitive Methodist Chapel. In that chapel there may have been a dozen or fifteen people. I had heard of the Primitive Methodists, how they sang so loudly that they made people’s heads ache; but that did not matter to me. I wanted to know how I might be saved, and if they could tell me that, I did not care how much they made my head ache.

The minister did not come that morning; he was snowed up, I suppose. At last, a very thin-looking man,* a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach. Now, it is well that preachers should be instructed; but this man was really stupid. He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had little else to say. The text was,—

“LOOK UNTO ME, AND BE YE SAVED, ALL THE ENDS OF THE EARTH.”

He did not even pronounce the words rightly, but that did not matter. There was, I thought, a glimpse of hope for me in that text. The preacher began thus—”My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says, ‘Look.’ Now lookin’ don’t take a deal of pains. It ain’t liftin’ your foot or your finger; it is just, ‘Look.’ Well, a man needn’t go to College to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A man needn’t be worth a thousand a year to be able to look. Anyone can look; even a child can look. But then the text says, ‘Look unto Me.’ Ay!” said he, in broad Essex, “many on ye are lookin’ to yourselves, but it’s no use lookin’ there. You’ll never find any comfort in yourselves. Some look to God the Father. No, look to Him by-and-by. Jesus Christ says, ‘Look unto Me.’ Some on ye say, ‘We must wait for the Spirit’s workin’.’ You have no business with that just now. Look to Christ. The text says, ‘Look unto Me.'”

Then the good man followed up his text in this way:—”Look unto Me; I am sweatin’ great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hangin’ on the cross. Look unto Me; I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend to Heaven. Look unto Me; I am sittin’ at the Father’s right hand. O poor sinner, look unto Me! look unto Me!

When he had gone to about that length, and managed to spin out ten minutes or so, he was at the end of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I daresay, with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger. Just fixing his eyes on me, as if he knew all my heart, he said, “Young man, you look very miserable.” Well, I did; but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made from the pulpit on my personal appearance before. However, it was a good blow, struck right home. He continued, “and you always will be miserable—miserable in life, and miserable in death,—if you don’t obey my text; but if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved.” Then, lifting up his hands, he shouted, as only a Primitive Methodist could do, “Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothin’ to do but to look and live.” I saw at once the way of salvation. I know not what else he said,—I did not take much notice of it,—I was so possessed with that one thought. Like as when the brazen serpent was lifted up, the people only looked and were healed, so it was with me. I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard that word, “Look!” what a charming word it seemed to me! Oh! I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away. There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that instant, and sung with the most enthusiastic of them, of the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to Him. Oh, that somebody had told me this before, “Trust Christ, and you shall be saved.” – Taken from Charles H. Spurgeon: His Faith and Works, H.L. Wayland, 1892.

God used a snowstorm to keep a pastor from making it to a service so that another preacher would be there for Spurgeon to hear the exact words that He needed in order to be saved. “Look.”

John 3:14-15msg

“In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up—and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life.”

Numbers 21:4-9msg

They set out from Mount Hor along the Red Sea Road, a detour around the land of Edom. The people became irritable and cross as they traveled. They spoke out against God and Moses: “Why did you drag us out of Egypt to die in this godforsaken country? No decent food; no water—we can’t stomach this stuff any longer.”

So God sent poisonous snakes among the people; they bit them and many in Israel died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke out against God and you. Pray to God; ask him to take these snakes from us.”

Moses prayed for the people.

God said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it on a flagpole: Whoever is bitten and looks at it will live.”

So Moses made a snake of fiery copper and put it on top of a flagpole. Anyone bitten by a snake who then looked at the copper snake lived.

Look my friends. LOOK upon Jesus. In Him, you will find everything. You will find salvation. You will find peace. You will find truth and light and life. Look upon Jesus and be saved!

Simon Says

Whoa!! I came home from a rough day @ church last night and found the most amazing e-mail awaiting me.

Simon - back when I knew him.
Simon - back when I knew him.

Simon was a “hard headed punk kid that had it all figured out.” Those are his words but I’d say they’re pretty accurate. I was the leader for a youth ministry skating outreach program called “The Wave.” In those days, we typically had between 70 and 150 youth, but every one of my volunteers knew Simon. He was loud. He was disrespectful. He did whatever he could to be the center of attention – even if the attention was negative. The volunteers and I prayed for Simon pretty regularly and discussed how we could keep being witnesses to him without letting him railroad us. He was tough. We didn’t have very many answers – just prayers.

I think it’s been about 7 years. Anyway, here are some pieces of what he wrote to me:

Steve,

It’s Simon Holloway from Tomball. How are you doing brother?

Wait. . . .Did he just call me “brother?”

I was thinking about you today and the influence you had in my life, when I was younger. . . I sincerely want to thank you for showing me grace and spreading the word with me. . . About 2 months ago I was saved and for the first time had a better understanding about Him and Jesus. After that happened I thought about you many times and you inspired me. I knew it was all real because I had proof from another source, and that was you. It’s all because I think of an old time at The Wave when I was cussin at you and just being a pain in the rear for everyone up there, I was thinking you were coming to rip me a new one when you came and talked to me and gave me grace. It’s almost like in the Bible when they bring the woman who is caught for adultery and they’re expecting Jesus to get mad. Instead Jesus gives grace like he always does and I now see that in you, today.

Whoa! I sure don’t remember that incident. All I really remember is wondering how I could try to be Jesus to him when I really wanted to “rip him a new one” – Had I done it, I would have done exactly what he expected and I would have lost any influence I had with him. Wow! Only by God’s grace did I do the right thing – the thing that he remembered and that made the difference in his life. Had I reacted on my own emotional influences, I would have played right into his misconceptions of God. I guess in some ways, this whole thing sounds sort of like I’m bragging, but what I’m trying to say is that I know how close I was to doing the wrong thing and that God’s power. . . His Spirit is the only thing that made a difference. I want to brag for sure, but on God, not on me. God is amazing!!

Well Steve, I just wanted to thank you a lot and let it be known what you did for me when I was younger and now. . . . I will definitely be praying for you bro and I know God will show you grace in the situation!

Talk to you soon.

Simon

God got a hold of Simon!!!!! Whoa. That’s an e-mail I would have never imagined receiving. If Saul could become Paul, I guess Simon could become a Christian too, but. . .well, sometimes those ministry days seemed unfruitful. They were hard. We kept trying, but it just didn’t seem like we were getting anywhere. I can look back now and see that’s true. We weren’t getting anywhere – BUT GOD WAS!! He used those times and used us in spite of our ignorance. In spite of ourselves.

Man, I love these kinds of stories. We serve an incredible God!!! He is amazing! His power is ultimate and intimate and infinite! He can and does move people’s hearts. (Both Simon’s and mine that day.) He gives us the strength to follow Him even when we don’t feel like it. He can take a hard headed punk and turn him into a humble servant. He is over all and above all and through all. He is God. He is Yahweh! He is our strength, our redeemer, our salvation, our joy, our light, our love. He is love! He gives love! His character is love!

Prayer:Lord, thank you for Simon. Guide him deeper into your presence. Hold him close to You and draw him close to other believers who will truly disciple him. Use him for Your eternal works and for Your glory! Thank you God for sending this message to me. As You know, it was perfect timing. I needed it. Thank You for choosing me for that time and place in ministry. It was an honor to have been a part of such amazing blessings and to have worked with so many incredible volunteers and students. Lord, hold me close and guide me deeper into your presence. I love You and truly can’t imagine this life without You. I need You.You’re are amazing and it’s not just me that thinks so. . . “Simon says” too! AMEN!

PS – Simon gave me permission to repost his e-mail. He even said, “Never know, it could make an impact on someone else life.”

5 Life-Changing Experiences – White Out

Me, Roger, and Brenda in front of the "chili wagon" - first day of school 1980
Me, Roger, and Brenda in front of the "chili wagon" - first day of school 1980

My first memory of God was truly dramatic!

My family had been skiing in Colorado and were traveling through New Mexico on our way home to Corpus Christi, when a snow storm came upon us. A “white out” is the term used when there’s is so much snow falling that visibility disappears. I was about 11-12 years old and had been laying in the back of the station wagon. (We called it the chili wagon.) Anyway, my parents thought my brother and I were sleeping back there. I think he was. . . but I was wide awake. I remember hearing my parents argue. Mom wanted dad to stop ’cause he couldn’t see the road and we could drive off a cliff. Dad was scared to stop for fear of being covered in the snow and freezing. I was young, but I was old enough to know we were in danger. Old enough to know to be scared. Old enough to realize that my parents were helpless and scared themselves.

I prayed. Dad kept pushing ahead slowly looking desperately for a place to stop, but we couldn’t see anything. We could have been within a few feet of a hotel or rest stop, and never seen it. It wasn’t too long before someone drove up behind us (we could make out the headlights) so dad stopped and a man came to knock on dad’s window. We heard the knock before we saw him. He was a local pastor on an indian reservation and was offering us a place to stay – there was an extra house on the reservation. We were saved! and it wasn’t my parents skills, resources, or abilities that did it. It was an act of God and God alone.

It’s the first time I remember experiencing God. Of course it wasn’t the first time God intervened in my life, but it was the first time I recognized it. As a result of this experience, at 11-12 years old, I began to understand His power, His love, and knew that He cared for me and my family. I also recognized that God used another man to do His work. These initial revelations/experiences laid the ground work for the day I would give my life to Him and for my life. Because He loved me first (expressed in this experience) I eventually began to love Him too and today I hope to serve Him with the rest of my life.

I thank God for snow, white outs, indian reservations, pastors, the chili wagon, ski trips, New Mexico, and my parents and family.

PS – If you want to read more about this experience check out the other blog I wrote a few years ago. My First Memory of God

My First Memory of God

I’ve been doing a project for my family – scanning pictures from mom’s old trunk. In among the pictures I found an article that mom had saved – It’s an article I wrote almost 15 years ago – Dec 1994. It was the first time I remember realizing that my parents couldn’t do anything. It was the first time I remember praying for God to do something to help us. Anyway, I typed it up here ’cause it brought back such memories for me.


Wagon It was a cold winter night in New Mexico and the wipers were frantically pushing the snow from the windshield. I was 10 years old and my family had been skiing in Colorado. We were headed back home through New Mexico when the storm hit us. The same snow that had brought joy in skiing, was now the icy villain which threatened our very lives. We were caught in a “white out.” So-called because the intensity of the snowfall had blinded us. Dad was unfamiliar with the road. Did it drop off on one side to a cliff? Were we even on the road? All of these thoughts ran through our minds. I decided to hide from my fears by sleeping in the back of the old station wagon with my younger brother and sister. It was hopeless. I was too scared. Mom and dad just drove. The usual boring adult conversation that had always made it’s way to the back seats had stopped. There was nothing but silence, except for the sound of the tires packing the snow underneath the car. That awful pounding sound the rang with the rhythm of the car.

Finally, dad decided to just quit driving. We no longer had to fear falling off a cliff or hear that awful sound. Now it was only the possibility of being stranded. There was still no conversation, except for the desperate prayers that mom and dad were silently sending up to God. Even at my age, my prayer was the same as theirs, “Help!” I only wished I could have had the innocence of my younger brother and sister who were asleep in the back, but I was older and wiser and understood what there was to be afraid of. Ignorance for them wasn’t a bad thing though.

A few minutes later, there was a knock on dad’s window. It was an older man who offered to let us come stay in his house for the night. With no other real options, dad agreed and we very carefully followed his tail lights to a tiny little cabin. We met his wife and began talking to him. It turned out that he was a Methodist missionary on an Indian reservation there in New Mexico. His wife made jewelry out of rocks that she cut and polished. As a 10 year old I was most impressed by the machine that cut the rocks. That night in a tiny little cabin in a stranger’s house, we slept safe and warm.

To this day, I don’t know that missionary’s name, but then again, I do. His name is Jesus, because he let God work through him. He had given my family one of the greatest gifts that anyone could have ever given us. He made us feel safe in the midst of turmoil. He gave what he had to help us. I wonder if we could learn something from the example of this humble missionary? I wonder if he learned it from another humble missionary – maybe one who came to earth?


Anyway, that’s the article I wrote. Hope it was helpful.

Freewill or Predestination?

FootprintsThis one is a really a tough argument because both sides can be argued with integrity from the Scriptures. My best guess is that this particular issue is much like Brian McLaren describes in “A New Kind of Christian.” (I don’t agree with him all the time, but I like this illustration.) In his book, one of the characters was describing how men pick differing points on a line to argue their stances/viewpoints. He then wondered if God was not on the line at all, but hovering somewhere over the line in another dimension. I think that must be the way it is with this particular argument. The truth (God) is not on our line of predestination or freewill at all, but hovering somewhere over our imaginations – beyond our understanding. As the Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways, my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Here are the differences:
Calvinism/Predestination/Sovereignty
1. Total Depravity – Before they are saved, men are completely dead in their sins and unable to even come to God without His intervention.
2. Unconditional Election – God chooses who he will save.
3. Limited Atonement – Jesus died to save the elect.
4. Irresistible Grace – God gives a special saving grace to the elect that they will not be able to reject.
5. Preservation of the Saints – Once saved, always saved.

Arminian/Freewill
1. Depraved – Before they are saved, men are depraved in every area of their lives, but still able to choose good/God.
2. Conditional Election – God chooses who He will save based upon his foreknowledge of their choices.
3. Unlimited Atonement – Jesus died to save everyone/the world.
4. Resistible Grace – God offers a special saving grace to all men, but he can resist.
5. No preservation – Man can lose his salvation.

I would consider myself a 4 point Moderate Calvinist: Here what I mean:
I agree with points 1, 2, 4, and 5 of Calvinism, but completely disagree with 3 (Limited atonement) and number 1 needs an explanation. Let me explain each one for me:

1. Total Depravity – If one is completely dead, he cannot even choose God. This would mean that the work of salvation is completely God’s work. This is called “monergism.” Scripture seems clear that it is a complete work of God, but it’s also pretty clear that man’s decision matters somehow. This view is called a “synergism” of God’s work with man’s decision. This is the difference in a Dutch Calvinist (hardcore) and a Moderate/Princeton Calvinist who believes that man does still have some responsibility in it all. The moderate would say that “God woos men” to Himself, but that man still chooses. Here’s the summary of the depravity issue:

Arminian – Man chooses God.
Moderate Calvinist – God woos man.
Dutch Calvinist – God rapes man. (God chooses man in spite of his decision or opinion.)

I’m a moderate.

2. Unconditional Election – It is completely God’s choice who he will save. There are no conditions or works that man must accomplish.

3. Unlimited Atonement – This is where I completely disagree with the Calvinist view. This is also the most popular point in which people disagree. Scripture seems clear that Jesus died for everyone.

4. Irresistible Grace – This is not to say that God doesn’t give grace to everyone – He clearly does – Rain falls on the crops of the saved and the unsaved. All are given breath, and life, etc. This is speaking only of the saving grace which God chooses to give to the elect. They may reject it for a while, but since God’s plan can not be frustrated, he will eventually respond properly to His offer. If God could be resisted, then he must not be sovereign, because he couldn’t accomplish His own plan.

5. Preservation of the Saints – This is the once saved, always saved idea. You cannot lose your salvation, because that would mean that salvation was not God’s work. Your works/lifestyle can not make you lose your salvation, because they had nothing to do with it in the first place. You were saved because God chose to save you, and He doesn’t change his mind. He knew what He was doing when He chose to save you.

There you go. I’m sure there are all kinds of flaws in my logic and understanding ’cause I just don’t have a really good grasp on it all, but this is just where I find myself at this point in my life.

How is my life different because of this concept? I’m not sure. It certainly affects my view of Christianity and also of the world, but in trying to live out my faith, it doesn’t change much on a daily basis. My wife and I disagree on this issue and have chosen not to speak of it, because it just causes division between us. I hope that sometime we can really work to come to a solution, but the truth is that it really doesn’t come up very often, and it hasn’t affected our relationship too much. I do believe it’s gonna be an issue as we raise Kasen. (He’s due Oct 30th). By the time he starts asking those kinds of question, it’s my prayer that we can have a united common view regarding this issue.

(Info from “Man’s Destiny:Free or Forced” by Norman Geisler, also from “The Potter’s Freedom” by James White, Also from “Arminianism or Calvinism” by Steele and Thomas)

Universalism

Heaven OK – for those of you who don’t know, let me first explain what universalism is. Basically, it’s the idea that everyone will be saved. There are quite a few really smart people who adhere to this position, and it’s gaining popularity in the world today because everyone simply “likes” the idea. I “like” the idea of  the Bluebell (ice cream) weight loss program too – that doesn’t make it true. As a matter of fact, if I were to live my life by this idea, it would be pretty harmful. (I’d be even fatter.) Universalism is similar.

The universalists use Scriptures like:
John 3:16 – “God so loved the world . . .”
and  Romans 5:18 – “. . .one act of righteousness that brings life for all men.”

But they like to skip over the verses like:
John 10:11,15 – “The good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” It doesn’t say “everyone.”
and 2 Thes 1:9 – “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord.” If universalism was true, who is this verse talking about?

Anyway, here’s the bottom line for me. If universalism is true, then Jesus death and resurrection was pointless. Why would He have chosen that kind of suffering, if people could be saved any other way? And what kind of Father would allow His Son to endure the cross, for no reason at all? I wouldn’t want to worship the  kind of God that universalism requires.

It’s important to live our lives worshiping the God of the Bible. He clearly loves all people enough to have sent His Son to provide a way for us to be saved, but if we reject Him, He is a gentleman God who allows our rejection. I once heard someone (Scott Crenshaw) say, “Sin is our way of saying to God, ‘I don’t need you.’ and hell is His way of saying,’OK, have it your way.'” If we choose universalism, we also render Jesus’ command to “Go and make disciples. . .” pointless. Therefore, I will live my life telling others about Jesus so that they can come to know Him, follow Him, and be saved.