Category Archives: Salvation

Impure in His Presence?

I’ve written in the past about how I love worship and how God inhabits the praises of His people. I also love worship because I always believed that nothing impure could stand in the presence of God and if I could just get over my shame and guilt I’d be a little cleaner because of time with Him.

While it’s true that time with Him in His Word and prayer does improve righteousness, attitude, and wisdom, I was trying to find the Scriptural basis for the notion that nothing impure could stand in the presence of God.

After a few searches, I started feeling queasy. In Job, we see Satan goes right up to the throne of God (Job 1:6, Job 2:1) with the other angels (presumably those still following God).

Satan also approaches Jesus, who never sinned, while Jesus was fasting in the wilderness. Matthew 4:1-11 contains all the details. In effect, Satan was permitted to test Jesus three times over food, power, and proper targets for worship. Jesus of course passed.

Impure spirits were regularly in the presence of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel. In Mark 1:25, an impure spirit challenges Jesus and tries to reveal His identity before the proper time. In Mark 3:11, the impure spirits are constantly bowing and trying to identify Jesus before the proper time.

Mark 5:1-20 describes another time impure spirits were before Jesus. A seriously disturbed man lived in a graveyard. When Jesus was passing by, he began to yell… or the demon began to yell. It tried to identify Jesus and accuse Him of coming too soon to torture him and his evil buddies. They knew His power–they begged Him first not to send them away and then to send them into some pigs. He obliged. They killed the pigs, irritating the farmer and related merchants.

Now Isaiah and Revelation do have some interesting passages. They do talk about the impure not being fit to follow the Lord and be in the presence of the Lord.

Isaiah 35:8 (NIV) — And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it.

Revelation 21:27 (NIV) — Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

As much as it would make life easier if these verses were immediately true in our here and now, both Isaiah and Revelation are prophetic books about a future that has not yet come to pass.

So, what I said is true in the future, but it’s not really true in the here and now. In the here and now, the impure can be in the Presence of Holy God. They are either infinitely rebellious or quivering, shaking, and uncomfortable.

And maybe sometimes they’re a lot like me, or am I a lot like them? The difference is that I can and have chosen Christ and I have His righteousness covering me. At some point, I will not be rebellious, quivering, uncomfortable. I will be perfected and changed in the twinkling of an eye, forever whole and praising the One I love.

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A Weird Turn of Thought

Again, it’s one of those days where two seemingly disparate thoughts become intertwined in my mind. They give rise to a third idea for exploration.

Thought 1

Hospice is a powerful tool. It helps the terminal die with dignity, not by suicide or assisted suicide or homicide, but by letting the diseased body shut down naturally with some palliative support for pain. It helps those who love the terminal come to peace with the impending separation and move through the stages of grief in a healthy way.

Thought 2

Some Christians are at times unkind to those they perceive as sinners, even to those they perceive as completely spiritually dead. While rightfully so they want to guard their hearts and minds, they forget that absenting from the spiritually terminal truly ends all hope.

Synthesis

What if Christians, even only a handful, started to look at those who were really deep in sin as not yet dead, but in need of spiritual hospice? In this case, to preserve the will to live  and keep a connection with believers until it truly is too late. Is that sacrilegious?

If some Christians would commit to simply loving the sinner or those that are perceived as spiritually dead, would it make a difference?

By love, I don’t meaning telling the person that sin isn’t sin or that wrong is right. What I mean is to hang out with them and do something they enjoy that doesn’t violate the conscience of the Christian. Keep in touch, even when other Christians disappear.

Temporarily, stop measuring their worth by the actions that look Christian-like, and begin to see them as the unique creatures they really are. Find that one attribute that is radical and wild and different and praise God for the uniqueness in creation of that individual.

No, in my past I haven’t live up to this. And yes, periodically, the enemy does a most excellent job of rubbing my face in my failures.

But what if just a handful of us committed to loving just one person that was considered unworthy of love by everyone else, selected by God’s decision not the will of other frustrated Christians?

If there is hope as long as there is life and breath, could we live the kind of life that reflected Jesus so another would choose Jesus?

Our God is the God of the miraculous and the impossible. With Him all things are possible.

So, just for tonight, I will hope that the answer is, “Yes.”

Precious, A Nine-Fold Challenge Response for Week 8

Author’s Note: It’s been a series of rough weeks, so I missed Week 7 and this one is for Week 8. This is part of Ninefold Dragon’s challenge on his blog to write poetry in nine-fold style, a formula he developed and explains better than I can.   

Crimson streams down the Wood to the dust.
Blood and water splatters all around.
Red on dark, Blood cries out, “It’s finished!”

Tears, sorrow, shame, guilt together swirl
Into a crimson tabernacle.
Death pain dances into Light’s new life.

Sacrifice blankets darkest of sin.
Wrongful desire hides in righteousness.
Joy explodes from human souls’ caverns.

Then He said, “What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground!” — Genesis 4:10, Holman Christian Standard Bible

But you have come to Mount Zion—to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, a joyous gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are written in a scroll in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous ones made perfect, and to Yeshua, the Mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks of something better than the blood of Abel. — Hebrews 12:22-24, Tree of Life Version

Why Christians Reject Reincarnation

We’ve all heard the jokes.

“When I die, I’m coming back as a man. They have it easy!”

“I wanna come back as a cat. I’m my own master, I make my own rules, no one’s gonna make me do anything.”

“I don’t care who or what I come back as as long as it’s not Bill Maher [or Bill O’Reilly or any other (in)famous person].”

These jokes are all based on the concept of reincarnation. It’s the basic idea that after death the soul can come back in a new form. The better you live your life, the better the form you get. If you’re crappy in life, your new form is going to be crappy too. Hindus, Buddhists, Celts, Greeks, and Taoists all had some belief in death and rebirth. The rules governing the form are culturally based.

Christians (at least those who accept that the Bible is God’s Word in its entirety even if we can’t clearly understand or comprehend its application to our lives) reject the notion of reincarnation. We have two primary verses on which we base this belief, one in Hebrews and one in Romans.

Hebrews 9:26-28 [International Children’s Bible]Then he [Jesus] would have had to suffer many times since the world was made. But Christ came only once and for all time. He came at just the right time to take away all sin by sacrificing himself.  Everyone must die once. After a person dies, he is judged. So Christ was offered as a sacrifice one time to take away the sins of many people. And he will come a second time, but not to offer himself for sin. He will come again to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Further, we gain additional support for Christ’s single death in Romans 6:9-10 [International Children’s Bible]Christ was raised from death. And we know that he cannot die again. Death has no power over him now. Yes, when Christ died, he died to defeat the power of sin one time—enough for all time. He now has a new life, and his new life is with God.

In the first passage, every person is given just one life to live. Even Jesus, as God Himself, only lived one life as the God-Man according to both passages. He died. He did not come back through reincarnation but through a supernatural act of the Father in reanimating, raising, and resurrecting the dead human shell in both passages. When He comes the second time, it will be as Himself in His one glorified body.

We get just once on this earth to make it good. Since we all sin, we have to accept we cannot fix ourselves and we cannot make it good alone. We have to accept Jesus’ death and resurrection as sufficient through His grace to cover us. We have to walk and talk with Him daily and learn His Ways. Otherwise, you would rather be a worm on the end of a fishing hook than face that judgment seat.

Winter Whites, Ninefold Challenge Week 3 Catch Up

Author’s Note: I hoped to publish this before the fourth week’s challenge was issued. Enter Valentine’s Day, impending musical practices, and housework catch up, and I missed it. I’ll just have to go read Week 4 and do the challenge again. (Still missing syllables somehow and updating on the fly.) Please see Ninefold Dragon’s blog for the ninefold drill.

Snow blankets rolling hills, naked trees.
Ice bedazzles branches without leaves.
Long, dark, cold nights chill bones’ marrow deep.

Weary minds cannot shake deep slumber.
The world moves through the syrup of time.
Nothing shakes this icy, dreary shroud.

Sleepy souls wait for springs of deep love
To melt away dark shadows of pride.
Only warm ray of spring Son can save.

Evangelization

I’ve always been at odds with most of my friends in various denominational pews when it came to evangelization. It wasn’t that I disagreed with them on the need for people to know and love Jesus; it was that I disagreed with the how. And because one of my former denominational pews was Catholicism, I often got a new dose with each new friendship in a different denominational pew.

It would start with an invitation to come to some event, usually a party or a concert. We’d hang together up until the event. Maybe we even did devotionals or Bible studies. At some point toward the end of the event, I knew it was coming. It was even harder when it came from the friends I’d spent anywhere from one week to three months hanging with up until the event.

We’re all sinners. We’ve all broken one or more commandments, whether we really want to admit it. In breaking a commandment, we say no to God. And that leads to hell, eternal damnation. But God sent Jesus to be perfect for us. He died on the Cross for every sin you’ll ever commit. All you have to do is admit you’re a sinner and ask Him into your heart. Will you do that? Now, now, now is the time. Pray with me, friend…

Admittedly, sometimes God does align that it’s a chance meeting and one-time thing at some crusade or concert. But I question whether that was really effective. It wasn’t for me.

Salvation for me was a very long process. The teaching came from several different sources. Those moments that stuck were the ones that came from people who had done life with me daily, long-term for more than three or four months. Yeah, I’ll freely admit some of those lessons took 25 years to be fully realized.

As a result, I see evangelization as a long-term process. I shouldn’t even consider inviting someone to follow Christ unless I am seriously growing in my resolve and efforts to follow Christ.

I have to do serious, single-minded work with Him to eradicate my flaws and to be growing in my demonstrations of love for others. Over time, I have to make an authentic effort to implement Christ’s teachings in my life. I have to build relationships for the long haul. I have to earn the privilege (yes, I used privilege, not responsibility or right) of sharing what I believe.

If my life has no integrity and no consistency, I am a poor witness for Christ and will prevent others from making a decision to build a relationship with Christ. And that could have disastrous eternal consequences for them.

It’s a game I don’t want to lose.

The True Cost of Freedom

Do you know the cost of true freedom?

  • Crust of bread, drops of wine, and kisses on the cheek for 30 pieces of silver and a pound of betrayal
  • 39 lashes with dead animal skin, shards of bone, and shredded humanity
  • Thorns driven to bone through flesh like butter and love pierced by mocking hatred
  • Splintering beams crushing compassion beneath the fractures of lust and hypocrisy
  • Going the distance bleeding out with all your friends gone and your mother crying out
  • Nails driven to beams by man’s inhumanity to man
  • Hanging alone in the sun in the absence of the Father’s gaze, the job of a God done by One bereft of His Father’s presence
  • Skies darken, the earth shakes, the veil is torn, His life is snuffed out

Do you know the cost of true freedom?

One solitary life infinitely divine yet finitely mortal
Freely given to purchase true freedom.

Forgiveness ran red to pardon every sin.
Mercy flowed scarlet to justify the soul.
Grace granted in vermillion to sanctify the saint.
Healing given in titian to break chains.

Freedom is never free.
The cost is high.

Choose love to testify to the price we can never pay.
Choose life to honor the debt we can never fulfill.