Salvation and Works

I believe that we are not saved through works, but we are saved to work. I feel that ‘getting saved’ is like getting your diploma or degree.

It’s a great development, and to be celebrated, but it’s not the end point. You’re supposed to do something with it!

Who would get a degree in veterinarian school, then go live on an island where there are no animals? No, you go somewhere that you can start helping animals.

God did not pay a great cost to redeem us, just so we could sit around and be redeemed.

I believe his purpose is to redeem and restore the entire world (I get this idea from the book of Revelation). Once we have accepted his amazing, gracious gift, we’re supposed to continue and cooperate with his will: the expansion of his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

We can’t earn God’s love. When I support a charity or feed a homeless person or visit a prisoner or share the gospel, I don’t earn an extra crown in heaven. What I’m doing, rather, is the same thing Jesus said in John 5:19: ”I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”

I’m just doing what I see God doing. Caring for the downtrodden. Giving hope to the hopeless. Offering a hand to those who have fallen.

Because there is a great deal of work to be done in this world, and God himself has chosen to do it with and through us.

We are God’s plan A, and there is no plan B. This doesn’t point to how great we are, but rather how incredible God is. The epitome of perfection, willing to work through fallen, flawed and frail humanity because he values us.

Working for God and his purposes is not an obligation, it’s an honor. One that we’d have to be blind to refuse.

Battlefield Earth

I started reading “Waking the Dead” by John Eldredge this morning.  In this book, he is talking about a lot of the same themes I’ve been working on lately: kingdoms, war, soldiers. He looks at the fact that when we encounter hard times, we usually think that either A.) We’re doing something wrong or B.) God is letting us down.

But if this earth is a battlefield, maybe that’s not the case. The solider that engages in a firefight with the enemy didn't do something wrong to get there or get let astray by command.

His job is to fight, to battle the enemy. Contact with the enemy doesn’t indicate something has gone awry.

Jesus tells us this is how it’s going to be. “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Look, I’ve secured the victory, but you’re still going to have to fight.

When life gets hard, when you feel like everything is arrayed against you, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have some secret hidden sin that you have to repent for in order to get away from the heat.

“God, I think I borrowed one of those small pencils from the library and forgot to return it a few years ago! Is that why you aren’t giving me a husband/wife/child/job/whatever? Please forgive me!!”

Earth is a battlefield, and sometimes firefights just explode into existence. One minute everything is quiet, and the next minute fire is erupting from every direction.

When a solider finds themselves caught in the crossfire, he or she doesn’t start weeping and get on to the radio to command HQ and ask them to make it all stop. They dig in and start fighting back. It’s that, or be defeated.

Matthew records something Jesus said that we would probably prefer to ignore: “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)

There will be peace once we’ve arrived at God’s kingdom. But our purpose on earth is not temporary peace. It’s to bring the eternal peace of God to everyone. And satan hates your guts for that.

So man or woman up. Remember that “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)  And when you get up and go out today, do so on war footing. Not looking for comfort or luxuries, but looking to advance against the enemy and take ground for the Kingdom.

Lock and load.

Saul vs. David

I think I figured out today why Saul ended up being rejected by God while David has an inheritance that will never end, thanks to his lineage leading up to the Messiah. In 1 Samuel 15, the prophet Samuel tells Saul to go to the Amalekites and destroy everything. People, livestock, “everything that belongs to them”.

I know, stuff like this is hard to hear. How could God order babies to be killed? He’s God and we’re not. Just accept that his reasons are good enough for him, so they’ll be good enough for us when we learn them. But back to Saul.

So Saul leads the army there and kills the people, but spares the king and the best of the livestock and “everything that was good.” So they only killed and destroyed what they didn’t want.

When Samuel returns to the camp, Saul speaks first: “God Bless you, Samuel! I did what God said!”

Samuel, not being an idiot, asks Saul why there’s livestock all around.

Saul is quick thinking: “Oh, um, we kept the good stuff. You know, to give it to God! We’re going to sacrifice it to him!”

Samuel has had enough. He tells Saul how he’s going to be rejected as king by God for his disobedience. Now check out Saul’s response:

“But I did obey the LORD…I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal. (v. 20-21)

He’s trying to justify his actions. “I did obey, and in the places where I didn’t obey, it was for a totally good reason!”

Samuel, in his reprimand, says the following: “To obey is better than sacrifice”

Saul then fesses up: ”I have sinned. I violated the LORD’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.”

It’s like Samuel was dealing with a child. He throws out excuse after excuse after excuse. In his admission, he even blames ‘the people’. Saul never accepts that it was his fault.

Now, let’s check out David.

The prophet Nathan comes to confront David about his affair with Bathsheba and killing husband Uriah. After telling David the story about the man with one lamb being wronged by the man with flocks of livestock, Nathan lowers the boom on David, telling him “You are the man!”

And here’s David’s response: “I have sinned against the LORD.”

That’s it. No ‘The devil made me do it.’ No ‘But I married her, so it’s all okay now!’ He makes no excuses. He doesn’t argue.

After Nathan leaves, David goes straight home, lays on the ground and fasts and prays for days.

And that’s when David wrote this:

“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;

you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart,

O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:13-17)

David got it. That it was about obeying God and being open before him. That God isn’t out for stuff we can give him or ceremonies we can put on for him. He wants us. Our whole heart and soul and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5).

Saul didn’t get that. He thought if he gave God enough of the leftovers he would gladly take them. David knew that if he wasn’t putting God first, before everything else, it was meaningless.

In my life, I don’t want to go my own way, then argue that it was all really for God, so he should totally be happy with it. I want to give him my all and go from there.

I want to be like David, whose kingdom and ministry will never end because he made his kingdom and ministry the kingdom and ministry of God himself.

The God of Daniel


After God saves Daniel in the lions den, the king of the Persians sent a message to all of his subjects throughout his expansive kingdom: “I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel…” (Daniel 6:26a)

The king looked at the gods he subscribed to, made of wood and gold and silver, and he decided ‘Daniel’s God is better than the gods I worship’.

I know a lot of people who worship themselves, money, power, sex, etc. Shouldn’t they look at me and say ‘his God is better than mine’?

Whenever Daniel got an opportunity to shine in the kingdom of Babylon, he never hesitated to give God all the credit. When Nebuchadnezzar demanded that somebody tell him what dream he had and provide an interpretation, Daniel’s response was “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries…” (Daniel 2:27-28)

He never left any doubt as to where his special abilities came from. And as a result, “The God of Daniel” was exalted and glorified.

Instead of trying to scare people with hell, shouldn’t we be astounding them when we tell them that what he does in our life, he’s willing to do in theirs?

So I ask myself: What do people think of the “God of TC”? Is he mean? Pompous? Insignificant? Or is he kind and life giving and a source of joy? The only way they’ll be able to tell is based on how I act and what I say.

Truly, we are ambassadors of our God (2 Corinthians 5:20). And everything that people know about our kingdom and its leader, they learn from us.

Dying and Christianity

Jesus gives us some tough things to wrestle with sometimes. You want to be first? Make yourself last. (Matthew 20:16)

You want to lead? Start serving. (Mark 10:43)

You want to live? Learn how to die. (Luke 17:33)

I think the main message Jesus gives us in these teachings is that the Kingdom of Heaven, in many ways, functions the opposite of how this world is organized. Makes sense, seeing as how the person currently in charge of this world is the devil. (Ephesians 2:2; John 12:31)

I started wondering how I could tell whether I had died.

Then I recalled what Jesus says in John 12:24: “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.”

The way you can tell if a seed has died is this: there’s a ton of life growing where it used to be. Ever see a field of crops? Full of life, flowing with the wind, reaching high for the sunlight? Well that’s a field where seeds died.

The defining attribute of death in Christianity is the abundance of life.

Remember John 10:10 where Jesus says “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”? Well, look at the life the Holy Spirit has brought to the world. It’s there because Jesus died.

So I think that the way to tell if a Christian has died to themselves is when you see “life more abundant” in the place where it used to be just them. Is the Holy Spirit bringing joy and peace and love and patience? That’s because the anger and depression and hate and frustration that used to be all you had is gone. Because the old you died.

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:43, talks about being planted in weakness, but raised in power. He’s talking about our current bodies versus our resurrection bodies, but I think it also applies to when we leave behind our carnal lives and instead allow the Holy Spirit to flow in us and through us.

Jesus, in his death, assured the defeat of Satan. In mine, I can be a part of his Kingdom expansion. Where there was once just me, soon there will be an abundance of life.