Got Saved?

“I was saved in 1970.”

In that same year, in the United States, the Dow Jones reached 838 points (now over 16,800), average cost of a new home reached $23,450, average household income topped $9,400 per year, gas cost 36 cents a gallon, and a postage stamp was six cents. The Apollo 13 crew survived an aborted trip to the moon, and the Beatles disbanded.

It was quite the year! Did I mention I was saved?

SalvationIn evangelical circles, we typically talk about salvation as a past event. Many of us can even cite a date and place when it happened. It’s a little like a graduation date; the date I stopped one phase of my life and began another.

The Apostle Paul seems to have had a slightly different view of salvation. More often than not, he preferred to think of salvation as a future event. We will be saved from the wrath of God in judgment. It’s less something that has already happened; more an event that lies ahead of us. Meanwhile, we have been justified … made right with God … and this guarantees that we will be saved (Romans 5:9).

The order seems somewhat consistent: We have been justified (made right with God), are being sanctified (being changed into the image of Christ), will be saved (from God’s wrath on the Judgment Day), to then be glorified (privileged with God’s Presence for eternity).

Does it matter that we mix the terms together, that we blur the boundaries?

Perhaps not. Paul himself is not 100% consistent. But I like the idea that I have been made right with God (justified). It’s relational, not merely positional. Being right with Him and being changed by Him forms the essence of our Christian faith. And it assures me that the promises of salvation and glorification are true.

I wonder what might happen if we used biblical words in biblical ways. We just might find that it helps us tell the story of faith — the story of our faith — with greater clarity. Just a thought.

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Certainty & Clarity

Last week I attended the funeral of a 21-year-old young man killed in a single-vehicle car accident. It seems he fell asleep at the wheel while driving through some mountainous terrain nearby.

A large crowd gathered to remember him, to support his family, and to share the experience of grief. Loss always produces grief, and grief has a way of producing questions.

Certainty 2Why? Why this? Why here? Why now? Why him?

Our hearts cry out for clarity. We want to understand. We assume that answers will produce comfort. So, we wrestle with “why.” We try to pin it to the mat, to force a response, to get clarity.

The opening words of the funeral service touched me deeply. How do we explain the death of a child or the untimely death of a young adult or even the passing of a young mom? The pastor delineated between certainty and clarity. “We want clarity, to explain what has already happened,” he said. “Instead, we have certainty that supports the soul.”

The Bible reminds us, over and over, of the certainties that carry us through seasons when we yearn for clarity. We can be certain that:

Nothing can separate us from the love of God
God’s grace is sufficient for our every need
God’s power is perfected in our weakness
God’s Presence supports and sustains us
God hears the prayers of His people
Eternity rests in God’s hands, as do we
God’s Spirit comforts and holds us
God is surprised by nothing, overwhelmed by nothing, and transcends everything.

In times of loss and grief, my questions can easily grow larger than His reality; my sadness distracts me from His goodness; my fear blinds me to His love. My desire for clarity can overshadow the gift of certainty that Christ extends.

I sat with the crowd last week — many young people facing mortality with confusion — and the words of certainty (the words of faith) brought hope and perspective. When I lack clarity, I can rest on certainty.

Because of grace.

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40 Days in the Psalms – Day 40

Ps 22 – “The afflicted will eat and be satisfied; those who seek Him will praise the Lord. Let your heart live forever.”

Easter Saturday is the inbetween day — between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Following the crucifixion, it was a day of uncertainty and grief for the original followers of Jesus; a Sabbath of sadness.

Easter SaturdayThe time between death and resurrection can be equally uncertain and unsettling for us. We believe that hope comes with the dawn, but the night can feel so long. The pain of loss sometimes requires a lengthy Sabbath before life is restored. I’m glad that Jesus didn’t die one hour and rise the next — though He could have.

The inbetween day speaks powerfully to our human experience.

Easter Saturday may be filled with anticipation for some; it is filled with sorrow for others. Easter Saturday pulsates with promise, on the one hand; it also highlights that we should not underestimate the power of sin to kill, on the other hand. Easter Saturday comes upon us with contrasts.

Some of us are ready to celebrate Easter Sunday — resurrection — early. Others of us merely hope it comes, eventually. Some of us can taste the sweet joy of tomorrow even now. Others of us have mouths still filled with the bitter taste of yesterday. Some of us have begun to party already. Others of us remain clothed in sackcloth and ashes.

That’s what Easter Saturday does for us. It’s the inbetween day that declares “God is not done … yet.”

Lent finishes today — Hooray! — but the Journey with Jesus continues.

If your Lenten encounter with Christ exceeded your expectations — wonderful. If it fell short — no problem. Resurrection lies ahead for the doubters as well as the convinced, for the fearful as well as the confident, for the grieving as well as the joyful, for the disappointed as well as the enthusiastic. Our feelings do not and can not alter GOD’s resurrection plan for each of us.

Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.

THANKS for sharing this Lenten Journey with me.
I
‘m honored by your company.

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40 Days in the Psalms – Good Friday

Ps 51 – “Against You, You only, GOD, I have sinned.”

A violent death on an ancient Friday afternoon and the humiliation of God surely deserves a more apt description than “good.” The cross, one of the most brutal public execution instruments ever devised, was more horrifying than “good.” Yet, we call today Good Friday.

Perhaps it’s appropriate.

Good FridayGood is a moral term. It stands in contrast to evil. We may feel well, but we do good. And on that ancient hill — Golgotha (in Aramaic); Calvary (in Latin) — the perfectly Good One, did the ultimately good thing, for all of us who are considerably less than good as we stand before God.

It’s not just a good Friday, one among many. It is the Friday when Good paid the debt that evil owed; when Good reclaimed that which had been lost; when a world committed to violence, hatred, division, and oppression saw the greater power of Good. It is the Friday when Good — the Good One — declared “It is finished!” GOD’s plan was completed; sin’s reign was over. The Messiah-mission was finalized; the sting of death was forever annulled. Finished!

David, the Psalmist, understood that even though he violated Bathsheba and murdered Uriah, his primary sin was against GOD. Bathsheba would not determine David’s eternal destiny; GOD would. “Against You, GOD, I have sinned.” We might all say the same.

A thousand years later, Jesus — the Holy One of God; the Good One — took the penalty for all of our sin upon Himself. And the blood which flowed on the cross washed our slate clean; made us good.

Good Friday, indeed.

Breath Prayer for Today: “You alone are Good, Lord.”

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40 Days in the Psalms – Day 38

Ps 150 – “Let every living, breathing creature praise GOD! Hallelujah!”

News stories break almost daily of teenagers or young adults whose actions shame or embarrass their parents.

This week’s newsfeeds include the stories of a 14-year-old Dutch girl, whose thoughtless but threatening Twitter message to American Airlines left no one amused; and Kevin “Kayvon” Edson, 25, who left a backpack with a  rice-cooker (not a bomb) at the finish line area in Boston on Monday. In the latter case, the parents have moved quickly to indicate that Kevin is emotionally unstable. It’s not their parenting but his health that is at issue.

Psalm 150The 150-song Psalmody concludes with the resonating line “Let every living, breathing creature praise GOD! Hallelujah!” The statement summarizes the heartbeat of the Psalms as a whole. Whatever we face, whatever we fear, whatever we long for, whatever we suffer, the final word is Hallelujah.

Yet, this statement calls us to more than a vocal declaration.

It’s one thing to honor GOD by what we say. It’s another matter altogether to honor Him by how we live. Indeed, our actions surely do more to bring Him praise than our words. A life that reflects His character speaks far more loudly than a few eloquent sentences.

We praise GOD most authentically and most powerfully by life-choices not word-choices.

As we prepare for this Easter weekend, this final declaration of the Psalms should become the primary declaration of our lives. We choose to live differently and speak differently because of the Cross and the empty tomb. We resolve to bring GOD glory, honor, and praise despite the violence, chaos, and darkness in our lives … because Sunday’s coming.

And as we praise GOD (with all that we are) may all of creation around us do the same.

Breath Prayer for Today: “All praise to You, Lord.”

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40 Days in the Psalms – Day 37

Ps 148 – “Praise the name of GOD–he spoke the word, and creation came into being.”

Nothing in all of creation has the vocabulary — the words — that humanity enjoys. Other animals have sounds and various levels of communication, but we have words; nuanced sounds that form endless combinations of meaning. Even more, we have found ways to articulate these amazing combinations in entirely distinct language groups.

Yet, for all the wonder of words — if we stop and think about it — “the word” has suffered a great loss of confidence in recent generations. Too many words? Too many shallow words? Too many broken words? Too many manipulative words?

WordThe Psalmist reminds us of the most elementary purpose of the word; not to communicate, but to create. God spoke, and the world came into being. He did not need pre-existent matter. “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1).

Our words carry the same potential and the same power in GOD’s hands — first to create; second to communicate. We’ve often lost sight of the former and resorted entirely to the latter. We most typically use words to inform, not to inspire; to instruct, not to create.

Today we have an opportunity to honor Christ with our words; to let Him take our communication and use it to produce transformation. He spoke and the world came into being. Perhaps today he’ll take our words and change the world (ever so slightly but meaningfully) for those around us.

Speak prayerfully and trust Him to do with these sounds more than we could ask or imagine.

Breath Prayer for Today: “Use my words, Lord.”

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40 Days in the Psalms – Day 36

Ps 145 – “GOD’s there, listening for all who pray, for all who pray and mean it.”

Recently, I had a low moment. Kim, my wife, and I were chatting about our day. In the middle of the conversation, I asked her a question. But, before she could give a response I flipped open my iPad and began to check my email. I know. It’s terrible. She asked, quite reasonably, “Are you listening to me?”

It can feel that way sometimes with prayer. Even in this final week of Lent, some of us may wonder if God has been nearly as attentive as we had hoped. Nearly six weeks have passed since we started Lent.

Prayer 2The Psalmist reminds us, however, that GOD is listening both for us and to us. He knows our voice, and what we say matters to Him.

Beyond that, listening implies both attentiveness and responsiveness. It’s not simply that GOD hears the sound of our voice, recognizing its pitch or tone. Rather, He concerns Himself with what we say and He responds. He is neither absent nor deaf.

Thankfully, too, it’s not our eloquence but our earnestness that moves His heart. We do not have to be wonderfully articulate. He does not require a particular prayer language of us. Just sincerity. If we mean it, it matters to Him.

Let’s finish Lent with fresh confidence and determination. Pray earnestly these last four days; believing, trusting.

Breath Prayer for Today: “Hear my heart, Lord.”

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