27 September 2015

What do I mean by "Salvation"?

When I first began hearing Christians use the word "salvation", I wasn't sure what to make of it. I was taught, for over thirty years, that salvation comes after this life. It is something one receives after being tested and tried, and is only certain when the gavel comes down on Judgement Day.
"For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." ~2 Nephi 25:23
My understanding of salvation has shifted somewhat, into an understanding that allows for an exponentially higher degree of hope and joy in this life: being saved, during our lives, from sin and death through the merits of Jesus Christ. There are three degrees of salvation:

  1. Salvation from the punishment of sin: hell, the place of eternal separation from God where lucifer and his angels dwell.
  2. Salvation from the effects of sin: pain and suffering, both mental/emotional and physical.
  3. Salvation from the presence of sin: existence in Heaven with God.

The first degree of salvation comes about when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, and begin our walk as believers.

The second degree of salvation is when we progress in our walk to the point that we trust God enough to believe that Jesus truly overcame sin AND death, and we allow Him to heal us. The baptism of fire and the Holy Spirit usually happens sometime during this phase.

The third degree of salvation happens after this life is through, and we are taken back to the God who gave us life.

So do I mean, then, that salvation is finished and all we have to do is receive it, with nothing required of us for the rest of our lives?

No. I'm not preaching a "do nothing gospel". Not by a long shot. Lip service alone will not work in you the transformation necessary for you to be comfortable in the presence of God. And I know this because scripture is abundantly clear on this point:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 
~Matthew 7:21
If you want to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, your life must actively fulfill the will of the Father.

Peter wrote, pertaining to being able to receive the fulfillment of the promises offered by Jesus:
5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins
10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 
~2 Peter 1:5-11
What I am saying, earnestly, is that when we are truly able to receive the love of Jesus Christ, when we truly trust Him, believing what He said (which is the natural result of actually accepting Him as your Savior), you choose the influence of the Holy Spirit. That bears fruit, as the word proclaims clearly:
 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 
~Galatians 5:22-23
 When you choose Jesus Christ, and begin to walk as a believer, learning of Him and following Him, your life changes. You choose differently, because you believe what Jesus said. You begin to change as God teaches you (Romans 12:2), and He begins to transform you into His own image, the image of God.

The life of a believer, who receives what Jesus offers, the walking out of salvation before God, is a beautiful, powerful, transformative thing. It's not stasis, comfort and flattery. It's challenge, it's being called to deeper and higher levels of discipline and service, and it's learning to receive the comfort Jesus offers as the old life is stripped away to reveal the new creature in Christ Jesus.

If anyone has any questions, please do let me know.

25 September 2015

Receiving the Baptism of Fire and the Holy Spirit

Jesus has, as He proclaimed on the cross, finished His work of salvation. The gift is given. Perfectly. Completely. All that remains is for us to receive it.

I have seen, though, amongst those seeking this spiritual rebirth, an idea that is a major roadblock:
"I understand it comes in due time according to the Lord's timetable." 
God's timetable is as soon as we can possibly receive. It's not about our worthiness, it's about our willingness. If we had to be worthy to receive the baptism of fire, it would simply never happen. We need it BECAUSE we're unworthy. We need it because we are the "old man", and must be born again into newness of life in Christ. This isn't about waiting in line, patiently, until our turn comes to softly ask, if it's not too much of a bother, that God could please give us what He has promised, hoping that He'll not withhold from us. This is about doing what Paul said, and approaching boldly--without fear--the throne of grace.
Inasmuch then as we [believers] have a great High Priest who has [already ascended and] passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession [of faith and cling tenaciously to our absolute trust in Him as Savior]. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted [knowing exactly how it feels to be human] in every respect as we are, yet without [committing any] sin. 16 Therefore let us [with privilege] approach the throne of grace [that is, the throne of God’s gracious favor] with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find [His amazing] grace to help in time of need [an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment]. ~Hebrews 4:14-16 AMP
The invitation is clear: God wants us to come to Him in trust, believing He will not hurt us, believing His experiences give Him a deep and powerful empathy for us, and that we are safe when we are in His presence. He overcame everything through love--everything!!!--so He could fellowship with us and bless us, at any time, and know how to help us in every instance. He's fully committed to our salvation, and through His perfect life and perfect sacrifice has already proven His generosity and astoundingly abundant love. He wants our love, our trust. He wants true relationship with us. He descended below all things, and has ascended above all things. He's been where we are, and will NEVER reject us, NEVER play the part of the stingy and retributive deity. It's not His character, not His heart, not His plan.
"1 Now Jesus was telling the disciples a parable to make the point that at all times they ought to pray and not give up and lose heart, 2 saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and had no respect for man. 3 There was a [desperate] widow in that city and she kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice and legal protection from my adversary.’ 4 For a time he would not; but later he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow continues to bother me, I will give her justice and legal protection; otherwise by continually coming she [will be an intolerable annoyance and she] will wear me out.’” 6 Then the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says! 7 And will not [our just] God defend and avenge His elect [His chosen ones] who cry out to Him day and night? Will He delay [in providing justice] on their behalf? 8 I tell you that He will defend and avenge them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find [this kind of persistent] faith on the earth?” ~Luke 11:1-8 AMP
The justice of God is that ALL should receive the gift that Jesus has given. If I pay for a gift and offer it to my child, it is unjust that another person should come and interfere with my child's ability or willingness to receive the good thing that I have already made theirs. It is unjust that the traditions of our fathers, the iniquities taught as truth, should keep us from receiving what Jesus is giving to EVERY one of us, all the time, without limit and without restraint: the complete gift of His love.
"5 Then He said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves [of bread]; 6 for a friend of mine who is on a journey has just come to visit me, and I have nothing to serve him’; 7 and from inside he answers, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything just because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence and boldness he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
9 “So I say to you, ask and keep on asking, and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking, and you will find; knock and keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who keeps on asking [persistently], receives; and he who keeps on seeking [persistently], finds; and to him who keeps on knocking [persistently], the door will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you, then, being evil [that is, sinful by nature], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!” ~Luke 11:5-13, emphasis mine
This passage in Luke has been SO powerful in my life. And these verses are specifically about receiving the Holy Spirit. We must press into prayer, insistently, open to hear what God says to us. (I know, in my life, that the persistence is for my benefit--it breaks down barriers in my own heart and mind that prevent God from answering my request. The repetition digs deep into my soul, revealing whatever needs relinquishing or correcting.)

In order to have faith that brings down a flood of power from heaven, we have to hear His word and believe it. We need to stand on it. Peter didn't walk on the water: he walked on Jesus' word through the waves. He stood on his faith in God's word to him. It was only when he believed the noisy violence of the storm above the word of God that he sank. That kind of faith starts with studying scripture. That's how we learn to recognize the voice of God. Then, as we learn who God is, and what He is willing to do for us, we can trust that He will do what He said. His word does not return void, but exists in power forever. Even learning one thing, just one element of God's nature, begins this process.
  And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.
  And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.  ~Alma 32:33-34
To those feeling discouraged: discouragement is from the enemy of our souls, so don't pay any heed to it. Speak what you know of God, what scripture tells us He is: His goodness, His love, His kindness. Say it out loud, and the temptation to despair evaporates. Resist the devil, and he will flee. (James 4:7) God has said He will send us the comforter. That is fully established fact, both by the evidence of His word, and the testimonies of so many saints. It's our work to be fully willing to give up anything--any thought, any idea, any doctrine--so that we might know Him.

Father in Heaven, I pray You would light a fire for Your word in the hearts of all people. Make them hungry, God, to read and study and learn and meditate on what You have already said. Show them the sweetness of learning Your character and attributes, and how quickly You will fill a cup that has been emptied for You to fill. I know You are faithful; what You have said, You will fulfill. My faith is dormant in that thing, for You have proven it to me over and over again. Thank You so much for Your patience, Your willingness to give at every turn, Your welcoming embrace, and Your total acceptance of each of Your children independent of their works. And in the name of Jesus I silence the voice of fear that contradicts Your word, or that twists it into unbelief. Let Your peace rush in, Your quiet assurance that You mean what You say, and that You will speak to us according to our own language and understanding. You LOVE Your kids! And I praise You, God, that Jesus won, so He can be present with us always, regardless of how "clean" any of us might be. It is the righteousness of Jesus Christ that makes us worthy, and I praise You for Your wisdom and great love for us that You were willing to offer Him as the perfect and complete offering for my sin. I praise You that I can stand before You, accepted and welcome, a close and intimate friend whom you welcome at any time day or night, someone with whom You discuss Your plans, someone that You trust and cherish, and someone that You long, earnestly and deeply, would be familiar and comfortable with You. I rejoice in the companionship of Your Spirit, in Your comfort and Your unrelenting desire and willingness to pour Your love out upon me at any time--especially when I'm feeling unworthy, for that's when I need Your comfort most of all! All it takes on my part is a true willingness to receive, an open and simple trust that You give good gifts to Your children. Father God, show me better how to tell all people who You are, and how truly safe You are when it comes to people opening their hearts to You, making themselves truly vulnerable before You. I just want everyone to know You as You are; not as the traditions of their fathers have taught them, but to own, for themselves, the understanding of You that brings forgiveness and grace which is the powerful rebirth through the Holy Spirit. In Jesus' name, amen!

13 September 2015

His Strength is Perfected in Us

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” ~2 Cor 12:9

Where we are strong, we don't need God. Because we can do it ourselves. 

We have to step out into our weaknesses, so we SEE the strength of God enabling us to do what we KNOW we can't do ourselves. We can't fathom all God can do. We can't reason out all of His plans. But we can respond to His call, and step forward into the great unknown--into the places in our hearts that we dare not go alone--and watch His strength, perfected and competed by our need--do what is, to us, both wholly impossible and utterly inconceivable. 

Father, I love the way You teach me. I love the crazy impossibility of Your wisdom and the ways Your power is made perfect in my life. Thank You!!! Do the same for others. Woo them into submitting to Your gracious kindness. Show them that it is not the battle outside that matters; that we're not fighting against anyone! We just have to lay it all down, yielding to You as our King. That is the only battle we fight--against the willfulness of our own flesh. I love You, Lord of Lords and King of Kings. You are my God, and I'll praise You forever! In Jesus' name, Amen. 

09 September 2015

Sin is conquered, man is free.

This was posed by My Utmost For His Highest​ recently:
"The weapons of our warfare are . . . mighty in God for . . . casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God . . . ." --2 Corinthians 10:5 
"It is only when God has transformed our nature that the fight begins. The warfare is not against sin; we can never fight against sin--Jesus Christ conquered that in His redemption of us. The conflict is waged over turning our natural life into a spiritual life. This is never done easily, nor does God intend that it be so. It is accomplished only through a series of moral choices." --Oswald Chambers, from My Utmost for His Highest 
This has been borne out, beautifully, in my life. Pleasing God is not about holy quests or deeds of valor. It is about relinquishing to Jesus every thought we have, every teaching we have learned, to see if it matches with the way He sees things. Pleasing God is walking through your life with Him as your most intimate friend, most trusted confidant and advisor, allowing Him to transform us into the amazing people He created us to become.

Father God, I rejoice daily in the knowledge of Your goodness, Your faithfulness, and the pure and perfect safety I have in You. No matter what happens due to the fallen nature of the world around me, I know that You will never hurt me, never abandon me, and never deny me as much of Your love as I can open my heart to receive. Thank You for pulling down strongholds in my heart and mind, deprogramming triggers that have controlled me for decades, and filling those spaces with the lovely and empowering light and glory of Your Spirit. And thank You, most of all, for allowing Jesus to do the work He did, so all of this could be possible. My amazement will never cease, and I don't know how words could possibly ever express how I feel about the miraculous generosity and kindness of God. In Jesus' name, amen.

02 September 2015

His ways are not our ways.

I've been meditating on how counter-intuitive this God of ours is.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts. 
~Isaiah 55:8-9 
The only way we can express His thoughts and His ways is in impossibly outlandish contradictions, such as:
"These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Revelation 7:14).
Who on earth washes things in blood in order to make them white?

Yesterday, as I was in prayer, marveling on the wonder of how He pours out blessing and healing and relationship for those who pursue Him, eager to receive, yet another totally counter-intuitive characteristic of the Living God struck me:

Yahweh's warfare is not killing.

It's HEALING.

When our God goes out to win a conflict in our world, when He empowers His servants to do His work, He does not destroy. He heals. The Todd White video I shared yesterday illustrates that powerfully. So often, in our own wisdom, we look and see God destroying in order to benefit us . . . but that is not His warfare. That is His mercy, poured out toward us as we labor in sin, giving us opportunity to see His goodness and to turn to Him and offer up the praise and thanksgiving He merits. And when we allow Him, by surrendering to His will, in His way, destruction does not follow. He is permitted to SAVE.

That is His nature, His character. It is what He won on the cross, and what He died to win. The right to save, against all odds, against all physical evidence, against all of the cries of justice, if someone simply opens their heart and lets go of everything but Him.

Jesus SAVES.

It's Who He Is, and the very essence of His being.

He IS salvation.

Healing.

Revelation.

Grace.

Joy.

God's warfare is HEALING.

Lord Jesus, show Your people Your goodness! Let us see the Father Heart of our God, and let us trust You more. Let us have faith we can walk on, no matter WHERE You call us to go, or WHAT You call us to do. Let us know Your love, hear Your wisdom, and walk out Your call to each of us, in Your holy name, amen.

01 September 2015

This is the One Thing

This morning, God has been unveiling the meaning of "blessings of the fathers" to me. (Abraham 1:2) And, contrary to what I've believed for most of my life, I'm fully persuaded those blessings are not physical ordinances men can control and dole out as they see fit. Much to the contrary, the blessings of the fathers are what Jesus showed us how to do. It's what Todd White did in the high school classroom he visited.


God's work is to draw us to Him, lifting our burdens, relieving our suffering, showing forth His goodness and the completeness of His work. The blessings of the fathers is the way that those who have an intimate friendship with their Heavenly Father can help close the gap between God and those who don't know Him yet. It is ministry. THAT is what motivated Abraham. Not a desire to lead or rule. The desire to SERVE. And to serve in the way that only God can empower, with works only God can do. Administering the blessings of the fathers has nothing to do with being kingpin. And everything to do with being the least, and the servant, of all. And when your only desire is to serve and bless, God fills you with His power and provisions everything you need to do His work: relieving the suffering of others, casting off the chains Jesus already broke, healing the broken-hearted, causing the blind to see and the lame to walk.