Salvation: Good News, Bad News

What is salvation? Whether you believe Messiah had already arrived or whether you are still waiting, it’s clear God saves us from the eternal consequence of our sins by means of His Anointed One, Mashiach/The Messiah. When you accept God’s Messiah as your Saviour and King, then you are “saved”. And,when you are saved, you spend Eternity in a really, really nice place. If you aren’t saved, you spend Eternity in a really, really lousy place. Saved= Eternity in a nice place; not saved= Eternity in a lousy place. That’s Salvation, in a nutshell.

But that’s not the good news, bad news.

From my childhood I wanted a relationship with God and felt unfilled and unfulfilled, yet what kept me from even thinking about being saved for over forty years was the thought that being saved meant I had to be a different person. I couldn’t make dirty jokes, I had to be nice to everyone, I couldn’t get mad, I always had to be holy; no jokes, always serious, no fun…not me at all.

Truth be told, I wasn’t all too happy about who I was, anyway, but I certainly preferred who I was to what I thought I would have to become.

Here’s the Good News about Salvation: you don’t have to become a different person to be saved.

Here’s the Bad News about Salvation: you don’t become a different person just because you’re saved.

Huh? What is this guy talking about?

I am saved, and I am still me. Being saved by Messiah, I am a Saint (according to the Bible, not because I did 3  miracles and was voted in), but I am still me. I still like dirty jokes (but I tell less of them because I am more aware of other’s feelings), I still like to drink alcohol (but I do so moderately), I still curse (but less- a lot less), and I still act like a dope. I am Steve, but Steve is saved. All those years of being afraid of losing myself were for naught. So, why is this bad news?

Because now that I am saved, and have the indwelling Ruach (Spirit) of God that leads me (when I allow it), I think differently. What’s has changed is that  my heart of stone is being replaced with one of flesh.  I am not becoming a different person, I am becoming a better me. And because of this, I now wish, sorta, that I would be changed. I often pray God will take away certain thoughts and desires, and replace them with compassion and patience. Now that I understand what God wants, and now that I want to please Him, I want to be different.

I prayed and prayed for God to excise parts of my personality, to make me a different person, and one day He answered my prayer. He said, “That’s not how it works.” He gave me the insight to know why: we need to learn to rely on God’s Spirit and God’s strength because if He miraculously ‘cured” me I would never learn how to depend on Him. You see, the Tribulation is already here. Just living in the world, but no longer being part of it, is a Tribulation all those who are saved must endure. We need to discipline ourselves and steel ourselves against the sin that is all around us, and (more so) the sin that is always inside us. If God just made it go away, we would be like the seed that falls on poor soil, and when the first wind blows we will lose it all. We need to exercise our spiritual muscles and work them to control ourselves, we need to be good soil and in that way when we call on the Ruach HaKodesh (The Holy Spirit) we will have the strength to listen and obey it.

If anyone is reading this and is a little scared about accepting Messiah Yeshua because (like me) you were afraid of being changed, don’t be. You don’t really change that much; at least, not at first and when changes do happen, you are happy about them.

I used to be a sinner that rationalized my sins, and now I am a sinner who regrets my sins. That’s the big change, and that’s the change that makes me want to do better and be better.

Like I said, I am not becoming a different person, I am becoming a better me. If you want to be a better you, accept God’s grace and accept Messiah Yeshua right now. Make a change for the better.

Love Isn’t Enough

The Manual (that is, the Bible. After all, it is the ultimate Users Manual) is full of commandments and exhortations to love each other. Love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus), God so loved the world He gave His only son (John), in Ephesians, in Numbers (Love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength and soul) , in the Tanakh, in the B’rit Chadashah, everywhere! We are constantly reminded that God loves us and we should love Him, and each other (in that order).

But love isn’t enough. Why? Because human love isn’t God’s love. We don’t love unconditionally. Oh, yeah….people say they do, but we are sinful and self-absorbed. We love people more for how they make us feel as we do for their individual worthiness. What I mean is this: we love people because we see in them things that remind us of what makes us feel good. We love our parents, so we end up finding a mate that has similar qualities, physical and/or emotional, so we can be constantly bombarded with happy memories and feelings. We love people for how they make us feel. Don’t we? Whereas God loves us for ourselves. His love is unconditional and totally absent of ego. Our human love is drowning in ego.

I recognize that my feelings about people are not be “Godly”. I would LOVE it if they were, but it ain’t happening!  I love the Lord, I love my wife, but I love them each in a totally different way. I love really hot buffalo wings, but in a totally different way (and just like love, those wings can turn on you in a second!)

What we need to do is go beyond love. We need to force ourselves to do what God wants, despite our feelings. We need to forgive when we are wronged, even if we can’t stand the person. Doesn’t Yeshua say that it isn’t anything to brag about (I’m paraphrasing here) when we do something nice for someone we love? Wouldn’t even a sinner, if his son asked for something to eat, give him bread instead of a snake? Real love, God’s kind of love, is doing good for people, even those we can’t stand, and even those who can’t stand us.

In Proverbs it says to give our enemy food and water is like pouring hot coals on his head. The idea is that we should do good, it will shock those who hate us, and maybe, just maybe, wake them up and turn them from their hate. That’s God’s kind of love- doing for those who hate us what is good for them.

That’s why (human) love isn’t enough. We need to do more than feel love, we need to act out love. We need to DO what love does, not just what we feel like doing.  We need to push the envelope and get out of our comfort zone; we need to help when we don’t want to help, be compassionate when we don’t care (that’s me all over) and pray good for people we would rather see die a long and painful death.

Hard words. A hard lesson. But, then again, God never said it would be easy, just that it will be worth it when we reach the end.

 

Proof of Existence Not Required

When did people stop believing and start requiring proof? I mean, when did we lose faith?

Not just faith, but the belief in faith as a realistic notion?

In the “olden days” people made up stories to explain what they couldn’t understand. Today, of course, with science as advanced as it is, we know these stories to be unfounded and, pardon my saying so, even archaic and naive. But back then, they believed. And it wasn’t based on facts or scientific proof, but because they chose to believe.

The Earth is flat, witches float on water, the “Evil Eye”, and so many other beliefs that were not even questioned. And even though today we know these beliefs to be wrong, choosing to believe in something isn’t.

Maybe it’s no surprise that today, with science and knowledge and technology, we find it very hard to believe in anything, especially things unseen and unproven, such as , oh, what? God?

We have archaeological evidence that constantly indicates the Bible is an historically accurate document, but we don’t have definite, absolute proof of God’s existence. Or…do we?

I believe in God. I see proof of His existence every day, I have seen Him work in my life, and the lives of others. I still take many things I hear about how He has moved in other people’s lives with a grain of salt, but I concentrate on my life to remind myself of what He has done for me. Why do I believe? Because I chose to believe. That’s right- it’s not scientific or even “sensible”. It’s an ancient and emotional thing. It isn’t verifiable, and diminishes my ability to convince others. It’s a made-up crutch to avoid the real problems in the world. It’s my own little fantasy.

That’s what I used to think about people who believed in God. Thank God I don’t anymore.

I wonder why God doesn’t show Himself anymore like He did in Biblical times. He used to split the sea, rain fire down on His enemies, make earthquakes swallow up people, and heal the lame. Oh, yeah- a lot of this still happens today and I believe it is God, but it’s not like in the Bible. Or, maybe, it’s just not accepted by people like it was in the Bible.

I believe that we will never see definitive, absolute, scientifically acceptable proof of God’s existence until it is too late for anyone to argue about it. Why? Because we are saved by faith, not empirical evidence. The Bible doesn’t say Abraham was able to recreate God’s works in a laboratory experiment, thereby proving He existed, and thus it was credited to Him as righteousness. It says he believed Him, and that because of his faith it was credited to him as righteousness. Faith is defined by Shaul (Paul) as believing in things unseen, unproven. That is what God wants from us; he wants us to believe in Him. He does give us proof, all around us, every day, but if we don’t choose to faithfully see it and accept it for what it is, we can’t believe. No faith, no belief, no salvation.

Stop looking for proof. Oh, yes- read, investigate, keep an open mind and ask questions. That is how we learn. There is much to learn, but when it comes down to it, when the time comes to poop or get off the pot, you will not have enough proof. Ever.

You need to chose to believe or not to believe. There is no middle of the road because God is binomial- it is or it isn’t, black or white, is you or isn’t you my Baby? No wishy-washy when it comes to the Almighty.

We always have a choice, and in todays’ world people want choices but they don’t want to have to deal with the consequences of those choices. Brothers and Sisters, there is a consequence of rejecting God, and you WILL have to deal with it. Eventually, and for all Eternity.

Make a good choice, please.

Dontcha hate Mondays?

It’s Monday. Again.

Sometimes it seems like Monday all week.

That’s what it’s like to worship God. Not that worshipping God is bad, not at all! But Yeshua said that anyone who wants to follow Him has to leave behind everything, pick up his execution stake and get ready for a life of trial and tribulation. It’s not easy being righteous; especially in this world.

On Mondays, though, what do we do? We get up, brush the ivories, have coffee and do the crosswords. That’s my start, every day, only on the weekend it means when I’m done I can do other things, or nothing. On Mondays it means I have to get ready for work. For the next 5 days. Oy!

I like my job, really, and the people and company are good to work with and for.

It’s just work , in itself, I don’t want to do. But I have to. It’s not time to retire yet.

I feel similar with worship, and trying to do what is right in God’s eyes all the time. Shabbat is a time of rest, from work, not from God. The truth is we never rest from being Godly, or trying to be. And there are no spiritual weekends when we can stop being who He wants us to be and just be ourselves. You see, that’s the problem: “ourselves” are not righteous, “ourselves” are not Godly, and “ourselves” are sinners from the gitgo.

That’s why it is so hard to worship God, correctly. There are no weekends, there are no “Hump Days”, there are no vacation or personal days. It’s a lifetime of Mondays.

That thought….a lifetime of Mondays….stinks. What keeps me going is the other thought- an Eternity of joy and peaceful rest. Nothing but weekends forever.

Now, isn’t that worth suffering through a few Mondays?

Kentucky Windage and Salvation

Donna and I are members of the Brevard County Archers Club. We use recurved bows and shoot once a week or so.

I am an expert with rifle and pistol and just learning with bow, but the methods are pretty much the same.

When your aiming point is not exactly dead-center, and you want to hit dead center, you adjust where you aim so that your arrow or bullet ends up where you want it to be. This is called “Kentucky Windage”.

I think we can use this idea when trying to run the good race and keep our eyes on the prize (statements in the B’rit Chadasha/New Covenant for those not that familiar with it) in that we often try to be exactly what God wants us to be, but we miss the bullseye. We forgive someone that did us wrong, then scream at the jerk driving in front of us who won’t make the left turn until there isn’t a car in sight.

We aim for righteousness, but we barely hit somewhere on the target. For me, it’s usually in the 2 or 3 ring- not very close to the bullseye. Once in a blue moon I will hit the mark, I will do what God wants me to do, and I will give Him honor and glory when someone else sees me do what is right in His eyes.

Actually, maybe that’s really once in every two or three blue moons. But, I digress.

What we all need to do is adjust our aiming point so that what we do hits closer and closer to the bullseye. What I mean is, change how we do things when we realize what we are doing isn’t working as we want it to work. When we know that we aren’t doing as God wants, refocus our aim. It’s never that His Ruach (Spirit) is off, it’s that we aren’t listening. So, change your aiming point. If you want to curse less, and it isn’t working, stop trying to curse less and use different curse words, one’s that aren’t offensive. Give up the “F” word and use “Phooey”- it sounds like an F but it isn’t. Use comical words that will lighten your spirit and make others stop what they were saying and ask, “Huh? What did you say?” That way, you help them and yourself.

If you want to forgive and you can’t, change your aiming point. Pray for the person. I have found that when I pray for them, I can’t stay angry. Especially if they don’t know God. How can I do or think anything worse on a person than what will happen to them at Judgement Day when they don’t know God or have Yeshua in their corner? If you stop trying to forgive them, which isn’t working, but you pray for them (use Kentucky Windage) you will find, and I think very quickly, that you’re more compassionate. The Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) will take the lead and, although I won’t guarantee it, I believe you will find sooner than you expect that it is easier to forgive.

If we use Kentucky Windage as we focus on developing our spiritual maturity we will come closer and closer to hitting the bullseye of doing what God wants from us, which is (ultimately) what God wants for us.

 

The Hard Truth about Forgiveness

Here it is: we are commanded to forgive.

The nice part of forgiveness, as hard as it is for most of us, is that it is the only way to make the pain go away.

In a Start Trek episode (the original) Scotty once said, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”  With forgiveness, the sin that is done against us is the first time that someone hurts us. After that, as we recall it and the pain comes back, that is not the sin of the person who did it to us- that is our sin of unforgiveness.

Sin against me once, shame on you. Let me continue to relive the sin and rehearse the anger and pain of it, over and over- shame on me!

You want to get rid of the pain? You want to be free of the shame, frustration and anger of being sinned against? Then do as the Lord requires: release it to Him. Forgive the person, pray for the person (that helps, actually, a lot to be able to forgive) and earn a blessing for doing what God requires.

It’s true, that old saw- To err is human; to forgive, Divine.  God says we should forgive, and when we do, it makes the hurt go away.

 

Have a good one!

Ever wonder, when someone says to you, “Have a good one!” that it would be great if we really could control that. I mean, what if we could have a good one whenever we wanted to?

Well, we can. Not that we can control what happens to us, or that we can stop bad things from happening to anyone else, but we can control how we view the world and our place in it.

That nice, Jewish boy from Tarsus, Shaul (Saul, aka Paul) said that we should  run the good race and keep our eyes on the prize. For Believers, that prize isn’t here on Earth- it’s Eternity in Gods presence.

Yacov (James) tells us that life is but a mist, and Moshe (Moses) said pretty much the same thing. When we compare a human lifetime to Eternity, it is nothing.

Think about the bad times in your life. They were horrible, and often we don’t ever get over them. However, we can get through them. Not on our own power, but with God. With God, all things are possible.

Time is weird: when we look forward to something it takes forever to arrive, when we are in the midst of something it seems to take a really long time to finish, and when we look back at things they were over and done with in a flash.

Did you know that the word “Ruach” is mostly translated as spirit, yet the literal translation is breath. When you are losing control and you feel that string of expletives at the back of your throat straining to get out into the open, take 2 Ruachs and curse about it in the morning. Trust me, when you call on the Ruach to calm you, and remember that this life is but a wink of the eye,you will be in control of how you feel.

So….the next time you are frustrated at work or with someone on the road, or it seems that the entire day is designed to make your life terrible, remember the Ruach (Spirit) that indwells is more powerful than what you are going through (He that is within us is more powerful than that which is in the World) and all of this won’t mean anything in Eternity.

Have a good one!