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Category Archives: Faith and Life

the sinners prayer PART III

I am back among the blogger living.  At least for another week or so.  It has been a busy school year as a teacher and a father of a now almost one year-old and almost four year-old.  But, I have finally found some time (winter break) to do a little writing.  So now it is time for the final installment of what God has taught me about the sinner’s prayer.

For a refresher, go back and read Part 1 and Part 2 and then come back.

Are you back?  Great!  Here we go.

Quick summary (in case you did not go read):

  • Part 1- I am amazingly disobedient and selfish toward God, and he is exceedingly patient and loving towards me.  His “no” and discipline it is out of love and care for my soul.
  • Part 2- Being a Christian and my hope of salvation is not built on a moment in time when I “did” something.  It is not a prayer, a pastor handshake, or a dip in water.  It is a life marked by change that can only be explained by the presence of the Holy Spirit.

In other words, I am a destable sinner in utter need of the saving, life changing gracce that is found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  And that circle me back around to the original thought that sparked the start of this series of posts.  The sinner’s prayer and what it means for my life today.

The basics of the sinners prayer is communicating this to God:

  • We realize our sinfulness and inablity to do anything about it.
  • We know our separation from God because of this sinfulness.
  • We accept and believe that Jesus came, lived a sinless life, died a gruesome death, and came back to life again…and that he did this all to make us right with God.
  • We commit to a life of loving, trusting, and believing God and following him.

Some of us were lead through prescribed prayers that cover all of this, some of us were given the basics and encouraged to pray from our heart, and others may even have just been lead to pray without any leading at all.  But the gest of it is that we acknowledge that we are sinners separated from God, Jesus paid the price for our sin before God, and that we will live in trust of this and follow where he leads our lives.  The sinner’s prayer.  Basic and simple.  Proof of a change of heart.

“CupofJoe Guy, we get it.  What’s your point?”

Well, my getting irrated with the comment I mentioned that I read on Facebook (mentioned in Part II), led God to work on my heart.  Why did the overemphasis on the prayer itself bother me so much?  What was wrong with my heart that this was such a big deal?

God started to burn in my heart and mind the idea of the simplicity of the sinner’s prayer.  If the evidence of my salvation is a marked life with change and not a momentary prayer, how am I doing with that?  What does my life look like?  Am I characterized by this change of heart and life?

Slowly, the fact was impressed upon me that the sinner’s prayer is for me.  It is about me.  It is about my relationship with God.  Not the time I said it when I was six, but it is about my daily relationship with him.  Do I start each day with an admittance of my sinfulness and separation, a renewal of trust in Jesus sacrafice and resurrection, and a commitment to follow and trust him?

I don’t.  I live many days without any thoughts in this direction.  I am so focused on my day-to-day life that my relationship with God is mostly an afterthought if I give it any thought at all.  God gave me the realization that I need to begin each morning with the sinner’s prayer.  I need to start each day fresh.  I need to live each day in trust of Jesus.  I need to remind myself of that.  I need to preach the gospel to myself, accept it, and pray to admit and commit that day to follow God.

Have I lived each day this way since these revelations?  No.  But I have somewhere to start from each day, and I pray that it will become a daily instinct to one day start each day this way.

I know it has taken a long time to finish this thought, blogwise, but hopefully God will use the lesson God taught me to help you in your daily relationship with him.

Father, Jesus, Spirit, I am a sinner.  I am sperated from you based on anything I do or offer of myself.  Only Jesus was able to live a life that did not deserve death.  I know that his death on the cross allowed him to take my sin and your wrath.  I believe that he really died and was truly raised again.  I commit to you today.  Help me follow you today.  Please lead me and help me to obey.  I love you.  your son, joe

 

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the sinner’s prayer PART II

Okay, finally the long awaited sequel to my last post…okay, there is probably no one waiting on pins and needles, but here it is.  It has taken me much longer to find the time to write than I hoped.  If you haven’t read the original post, go read the sinner’s prayer and then come back.

Parenthood has taught me that trust is the key.  My son does not want to trust that my wife and I actually care and are out for his better good.  He can only see what he wants or thinks that he needs.  This leads to a lot of headaches.  However, if I remember that trust is the key to his heart, it makes the conversations and decisions that need to be had and made so much easier.

The stuggles with this combined with a personal soapbox of mine a month or so ago…and God used this to start a little revolution in my heart.

A friend on Facebook shared about an event at church or a camp (I don’t remember which), during which a large group of people “accepted” Christ and “prayed the sinner’s prayer.”  I don’t put these in quotes to belittle these two things, but I do it to emphasize what my issue is that has become a soapbox.

I grew up in a chruch tradition where getting people to “accept Christ” and “pray the prayer” was the ultimate goal.  There was acknowlegement of the need to disciple people, but the practice was that “coming to faith” was the greater goal.  Not that there is anything wrong with this.  But, I have come to having a growing uneasiness about the concentration on the “moment” of becoming a Christian that his leads to.

There are two by-products that can come from this, that I know can cause some major issues.  One is that some people think that if they go through the action of praying the sinner’s prayer, and even follow it up with a short time of religious zeal, that this is enough evidence that they are right with God and have secured their ticket to Heaven.  What is done the rest of their lives does not matter as long as they can look back to that one moment or short span of time.    They can live the rest of their lives however they want, as long as they know that at one point they “accepted Christ into their heart.”  They can go on living or thinking how they did before, as long as they have their Heaven pass and maybe go to church ever once in a while.   There are a lot of people that think that this is okay, and even people who really are Christians that look to this for comfort about loved ones that may not truly be.

I know I am asking for backlash as I get into this, but hear me out…please.

I do not think the Bible supports this.  There is eobviously going to be a moment in time when someone truly believes and the Spirit comes to live in his or her heart.  This is clear.  I just don’t think that the emphasis needs to be on that moment in time, but on the evidence that this change brings.  Jesus, in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-23), talked about the idea that not every heart that hears his message and accepts it will truly take hold of it.  There is the group of people that will hear it and not accept it and three groups that will accept it, but there was only one group that held on to it and changed.  The evidence was in the growth.

Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts.  The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy.  But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.  The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced.  The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!

The last sentence sums it all up…those who truly believe are those that produce a harvest.  The harvest, I believe, is the heart change that proves a new life in Christ…and when someone is truly changed, it will spread to others…and this spreading is when there is a harvest bigger than the seed that was planted.  One heart changed, and I mean really changed, will lead to the heart change of others.

Now, let me just do a quick side note.  I am not saying that what we do (good or bad) can change our standing with God.  We can never be good enough.  So when a person continues living the way they did before they “prayed the prayer”…what they are doing is not what keeps them from Heaven.  Going to church every time the doors are open and living a “Christian lifesyle” does not guarantee a right standing with God.  Only Jesus sacrafice on the cross can do this.  Jesus lived the life that we couldn’t…never breaking God’s law and living out of total trust in the Father…and then he died on the cross.  Jesus did not have to die.  He was not under the curse of death because he never broke the law that death is the penalty for…so dying at all was not in the cards for him.  This freed him up to die in our place.  To take our punishment…our curse on himself.

More than that, he died a gruesome death.  A torturous death.  He did this because he not only took our curse, but he also took the wrath of God in our place.  This was because we, as humans, have come up with a lot of ways to pervert God’s creation and the life he has given us.  This has led to God’s anger on top of separating us from him.  Jesus dying the way that he did, on the cross, took on the wrath of God for even the vilest of offenses.  There is nothing that we can do that is so bad that Jesus sacrafice can not covered.  He took the wrath and scorn for even the worst of things that humans can come up with.

And God accepted this sacrafice.  Jesus’s death was accepted as our.  His tortured murder fulfilled the wrath we deserve.  We know this because three days later, he came back from death.  The price was paid.  The jail time was served.  Once jail time is served, the prisoners are set free.  Jesus walked out of the prison, and it crumbled behind him.  For more on this, read Action Hero Jesus.

I said all of this to bold face the point that it is not what we do that saves us…but if we are brought back from the dead through what Jesus did, we will not be the same.  Our heart will change.  If we truly believe, the Holy Spirit…the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead…lives in our heart.  If the one whose power raises from the dead lives inside of us, we will not be the same.  We will love more, put others needs before ours, and start to live life differently.  This change is the first hint at the harvest.  It is the first few apples on the tree.  Then as you change, this will cause others to want to change.  They will want what you have.  They will want to go to Christ and be changed…which will lead to them having a harvest, causing Jesus’s harvest in you to grow and grow.

There has to be a change.  The change is the evidence.  Not the prayer you prayed.  Not the pastor’s hand that you shook.  Not the moment you came to faith.  It is the change that others can see.  You do not cause this change.  It is organic.  It happens because you can not be the same when you truly trust Jesus as your savior.

The second major problem with the focus on the moment and prayer is that those who grow up in church and a Christian family can confuse the values they grow up with is the change that being a true believer brings.  You prayed the prayer and live a Christian lifestyle, so you assume you are right with God.  BUT, again, it is about what you do.  This is my story.  I was not a Christian for most of my life, but I thought I was.  I never truly looked to Christ’s sacrafice as my saving grace.  My only evidence was the things that I did.  I did not have heart change.  Because I have gone long again, if you want to read about my story of life change go check out My Time Travel Testimony.

Once again, it is not about the prayer.  It is about the change in your heart, mind, and life.

Here I go again…never got to the lesson about the sinner’s prayer.  So I have to do a part three.  I promise.  The lesson is good.

Father, Jesus, Spirit, please continue to teach me and help me trust in you alone.  your son, joe

 

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the sinner’s prayer

As the parent of a three year-old, I have learned an awful lot more aboout myself than how to be a good parent.  And I guess that is how it goes.  Being a parent teaches us how selfish, stubborn, deceitful, and self-seeking we are…or at least that has been the case for me.  Now, my friends without kids, hang on and keep reading.  I share all of this because of a realization God has brought me to recently.

It is so hard for NB, my son, to trust my wife and I. He doesn’t want to listen or obey because he trusts more in what he wants or understands for himself. He doesn’t seem to get that “no” or “don’t” is usually for the purpose of safety or something better. I love him so much that I am willing to put off his “happiness” for the sake of something better. “No” and discipline come from a deep love and the want for him to have something greater down the road. He just sees it all as a denial of what he wants and perceives that he needs. There is a fustration on both sides…NB gets frustrated with us because we are not working within his realm of self, and we, as parents, get frustrated with his lack of trust that we are really working towards his good (especially when this is lived out over and over again and he sees that we do know what we are talking about sometimes).

Even while I type this, it is amazing to me how long it took me to get the lesson God is teaching me through the struggles of parenting. God is my Father. He loves me more than I will ever be able to comprehend on either side of Heaven. He is truly out for my good. In good times and bad, in times of plenty or in need, in closeness when I am obedient, or in distance and hard times of discipline…God is always after one thing: my heart. He wants me to love and trust him completely. And he is overwelmingly patient with me…even when I have to learn the same lesson over and over and over. God is out for my good. Always. Even when life isn’t working like I feel that it should.

“Okay, CoffeeJoe, that is a great story and lesson, but what in the world does it have to do with the sinner’s prayer?”

Don’t worry,the tie-in is huge…and it has even grown a bit since I hace started writing this post (it has taken me a couple of days to find the time to write completely). And for this reason, you will have to wait for part two. 🙂

I do want to leave you with some scripture, though. 1 John 3:1-3:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Father, Jesus, Spirit, please help me to trust you. Please help me to see your great love for me and just trust you. I love you. your son, joe

 

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The Marathon

I am not much of a runner.  I have tried many times in the past to become one, but I am not one.  I don’t know if it is my attention span or out-of-shapeness, but I just can’t stick with it very long.  All I can think about while I am running is the fact that I do not want to be running.  My one and only goal during a run is to not be running when it is over.  I think that mindset has a lot to do with why I am not much of a runner.

Unfortunately, that mindset is not confined to running and exercise.  I sometimes view parts of life that way.  Sometimes my job is that way…all I think about is not working.  Sometimes my homelife is that way…all I can think about is the chores being done so I don’t have to do them.  Sometimes I view parenting that way…all I can think about with parts of our newborn’s life at present (crying and constant diaper changes) is the time when that will be over.  Sometimes I even view my relationship with God that way…I think about being done with reading the Bible while reading it…not praying while praying…or lunch during worship at church.

As I sit here now, I have three days left with my students at school until the end of the year.  I can’t help but thinking about when this year will be over.  I am not concentrated on the time I have left with them.  All I can see is how hard this year has been and how ready I am for it to be done.

Not that doing something with the end in sight is necessarily wrong, but what am I missing when I live this way?  What joy in the moments could I be missing?

I know that it is cliche, but life is a marathon and not a sprint.  When I live only thinking about when something is over I am trying to sprint 26 miles.  I am not a runner, which has been established, so that will never work.  I can’t run that way…I would die.  I can’t live that way either.  God does not intend that.  When we view life this way, we are taking control back from God and we are missing what he is using in the here and now to grow us and give himself glory.  Everything is God’s…even every little moment that we live and breathe.  God intends to use them to grow us, others, and show who he is.

The Bible is full of examples of times God has given promises but waits to fulfill them.  People take matters in their own hands and try to make the promises happen now.  God had a reason for waiting.  People are impatient…and the consequences are usually dire and they are normally natural consequences for what was done or not done.

I live my life that way.  I miss the things that God want to use for me or use me through for other people.  As I start this third-to-last day with my students, I pray that I view every moment as an opportunity for God.  I pray that my focus is on him and that this allows the moments to change me and change others through me.  It is a big goal, but God is a big God.

I know it is only loosely connected to what I posted, but I leave you with Hebrews 12:1-4:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.  Because of the joyawaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.  Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people;then you won’t become weary and give up.  After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

We are running the race of life.  It is a marathon.  We have a stadium full of those who have gone before us that have made it through.  If we keep our eyes on Jesus, who lived every moment for his Father, we can also see every moment as God’s and live each one for him.

Father, Jesus, Spirit, you want me to view every moment as an opportunity for you.  Please help me live my life slowly today.  Please help me to not waste the moments with my students and family this week.  Please help me to seek your glory in all that I do and say.  Please slow me down.  I love you.  Please help me to try.  your son, joe

 
 

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Call Me Israel…

Life has gotten busy.  My newborn and three year-old, time for my wife, and then work takes up most of my time.  It is hard to focus long enough on God everyday just in seeking him, let alone finding the time to put thoughts to virtual paper.

I have struggled to read the Bible every day as I had been for nearly a year.  When I do, I just don’t have the time to dig in and spend in it as I had been.  However, I am back on track, most days.

I am on my second time through the Bible.  I am not saying this to boast.  No, quite the opposite.  It is quite humbling.  I did not see the same things when I read before.  And what I am seeing is not good.

I am reading a chronological Bible this time through.  What this means is that this Bible puts everything in a time order of when they happened and/or were written.  Because of this, I am not getting the Old and New Testaments together each day (unless I do a seperate reading).  Spending this much time in the OT (Old Testament) has been eye-opening.

The first time through, I remember thinking, “Man, those Israelites just didn’t get it.  God was constantly taking care of them, providing for them, and protecting them, and all they do is run away from him.  How could they have done that?”

This time through, I am realizing that I am Israel.  Their lives as a nation mirror my life as a Christian.  I constantly run from God and what I know is right…all the while God keeps providing and protecting.  More than that, God gave the ultimate sacrafice of Jesus to pay for my sins (my turning from him) and to give me life with hm forever.  How could I keep turning away from him?

I am Israel.  I don’t trust God, even though he is trustworthy.

I am Israel.  I offer little as I ask for much.  God offers much and asks for little.

I am Israel.  I run away from God, and all he wants me to do is turn to him…even in my sin…so that his faithful love and mercy can change me and bring glory to his name.

Call me Israel.  That is my name.  We are one and the same.  The point is God’s mercy for the glory of his own name.  I just need to trust him, look to him, run to him, and know him as my source for everything.  This is when I will change.

Israel is the name God gave Jacob because of Jacob’s trust and faith in God.  Not the good that Jacob did, but because of faith and trust.  This is the other side of this coin.  The history of Israel is a mirror of my life…but the story of Israel (Jacob) should be the goal of my life.  To trust God and put my faith in him, even though I am clearly not deserving of it.

Call me Israel…I have nothing to trust or put my faith in but God.

Father, Jesus, and Spirit, please make this message clear to me today.  Please help me to trust you in every moment of the day.  Please help me to look to you.  Please help me to see everything as yours…even my time and energy.  Please use me to show your glory today.  Love, your son, joe.

 

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Number Two…Part Two

Now that ID (my second child) has been with us for almost two weeks, I thought I would write a follow-up to my post Number Two.  I have had a lot of time to think and reflect on the experience of going from the father of one to the father of two, albeit the thoughts are from a slightly sleep deprived mind.  Even though I now am in the process of potty training a toddler along with changing a bazillion newborn diapers, this is still not about that number two.  🙂

Here are a few of the things that I am learning:

  • Patience is hard at three in the morning.  I am trying hard not to get fustrated with LA and/or the baby when the ID is fussy and can’t be consoled, but it is hard.  I am being reminded time and time again that I do not have heavenly patience on my own.  It only comes from the Spirit.  I wish I could say I am doing really good at seeking the Spirit early in the AM, but I am not.  I just know what I need to work on.
  • Love can be equal and different.  I love both of my sons so much.  I love hanging out and playing with NB.  I love holding and cuddling with ID.  They are in two different phases of life, and the fathering skills are different for both.  Patience can be harder with the preschooler, especially when he is having trouble adjusting to not being the only one, but that goes back to my first point.  I do love them equally, and I love them differently.  They are different.  I will just stay in prayer that as they grow I will remember that and not compare them to each other.  I just want to love them for who they are individually.
  • I am still a selfish sinner in need of a Savior.  With to kids needing my love and attention, it is becoming even more apparent how selfish I am.  I am so prideful.  I want my time notched out for me as well as them.  I know rest time is important, but I use it as an excuse.  Even now, NB is watching TV when I probably should be playing with him.  I will play with him as soon as I am done, but it is an example of the problem.  I want to use tiredness and the need for a mental break as an excuse to worship at the throne of me.  I need to trust God to give me the energy, strength, and mental ability to do all I need to do for my sons and wife.  I need to admit to God that I am a selfish, prideful man.  I need to preach the Gospel to myself and remind myself that I am nothing without Jesus, and I can’t be the father and husband I need to be without Jesus and the Spirit.  I need the Gospel to be ever present.
  • I need the Bible more than ever.  In the last week and a half, I have found excuse after excuse not to read the Bible.  A week and a half is a long time to go without reading the Bible for me now.  I felt it.  I knew I needed to get back into it.  I finally did yesterday, and it was so refreshing.  I need to recommit to reading it everyday, meditating, and spending quality time with God.
  • God will provide.  I won’t go into all of the details, but God has seen our needs before we have known them and has provided.  It has been amazing.  God does not always meet our needs in the way we think they need to be met, and sometimes he does.  The thing we need to learn is that we can trust him.

Okay, there are a lot more things that I am forgetting, but maybe I can get to those later.  I just knew I needed to write a little.  It is something that burns in my heart until I do.  I need to go play with my son.  Hopefully you can glean something from what God is teaching me.

Has God taught you anything really cool, life-changing, or obvious but needed lately?

Performancing Metrics

 

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The Sweetness of My Son

I am in the hospital with my wife and our second son.  ID was born two days ago.  This morning I just could not get over how awesome it was to just hold him in my arms.  I imagine that is when God is the most pleased with us.  When we are nestled in close and completely relient on him.  Like newborns, he wants us to know we need him for everything.

So often I am more like my almost-three-year-old.  I think I can do everything.  Even the things that I know I should look to God for help, I want to do on my own.  I get anxious and stubborn,  “I do it by myself,” to quote NB.  Though he still needs me, the independent streak is very obvious.

i live my life between the two attitudes.  Completely relient or rebelliously independent.  As I spend time with ID, my new boy, and get fustrated by NB, my firstborn, I hope I continue to analyze myself and my relationship to God.

Right now, with the sleep deprivation, I think I am closer to the newborn.  I know I can’t do this alone.

Okay, I hope this one made sense.  Just some random thoughts from fatherhood as I sit here looking at my newborn son.

Performancing Metrics

 

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