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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 Morning Choice

God has been trying to teach me something as of late. I think I have been avoiding the lesson. That in of itself is proof of what God has been trying to teach me.

I am selfish. I mean really full of myself. I think my life is about me. I know I should know better. God has made it obviously apparent that nothing in my life has been a product of myself.

My family, my job, my house, my cars, and everything else are all real gifts from God. And I really mean this. I don’t say this in the “Oh all of life are gifts from God” kind of way. Everything I have and am has come from his leading, his timing, or actual gifts (I have two vehicles that I did not pay for).

I mean my life almost literally mimics that of the history of Israel. They were literally lead, gifted, and blessed by God for everything. Unfortunately, I mimic them in other ways, as well. Which brings me to my point.

In recent mornings I have had this overwhelming feeling of the choice I have to make before my feet even ever hit the floor. Whom will I choose to serve today? Will it be me? Will it be my wants and needs? Or will it be God? Will I choose to look to Jesus? Will I choose to listen to and obey the Spirit?

The bigger question is probably more about trust. Will I utterly and absolutely trust God today, who has blessed me and given me all that I need spiritually and physically? Or will I trust me, who has really given me nothing that is good?

Who will I choose today?

Performancing Metrics

 

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Number Two

Wait, what?  No, this post is not about THAT.  No, it is a different number two.  This is about my kid(s) and being a father.  No, still not about THAT.

I don’t believe I have shared this on here, but my wife is expecting another child due the beginning of next year. I shall refer to him as ID on here.  We have known about the coming of ID since late spring/early summer.  Now that it is late fall/early winter, I am ready to admit some of my mixed feelings about it all.

Now, please don’t get me wrong.  I am very excited about our second child. I really am.  We wanted to have another one for a while now.  It was awesome news to get to know that there was new life on the way.  This is what we have been hoping for.  Now that NB is a little older now, we are ready for another little one.

What has surprised me, however, is how different this pregnancy would be and how I would go through rollercoaster thoughts and emotions.  The pregnancy itself is fine, LA and ID are doing great.  What is different is how I am interacting with ID.

When LA was pregnant for our first son, I was excited. It consumed my thoughts a good bit.  I talked to him constantly.  I read to him (and LA) at night.  I dreamed about what he would be like.  I was connected.  I was zoned in.  There was great anticipation of being a daddy.  I couldn’t wait.  It was almost like he was already here in my mind even months before he was born.  I was so ready to start my trip into fatherhood.

With ID, it is so different.  I haven’t felt that way at all.  The excitement has been limited.  I haven’t talked to him much.  I haven’t read to at all except during the reading times with NB when both my wife and I are sitting with him.  I haven’t felt connected to him.  I haven’t dreamed much about what he would be like.  A lot of times I have just been scared that I would not connect with him at all because I am so connect to NB.  I just have no clue what it will be like to be the father of two, and there has not been great anticipation to start the journey of it this time.

I know a lot of the reasons behind why it has been this way, but that does not make it any easier.  I know a lot of the “thrill” is gone because we have been through it once before.  I know my attention is not on ID because I have a son to care for that is already here.  I know that the fear of connecting more with one child over the other is natural.  I know that I am not trying to think about what he will be like because I know that he will be who he will be and I will love him anyway.  I know all of this. But it is still hard on me not to have the same excitement.

It all changed a week ago.  LA and I went to the hospital for the preregistration class.  As we were watching a video of the process, rooms, and whatnot at the hospital, all of the feelings came back from when we went through this with NB.  The ended by showing pictures done by the in-hospital photographer, and the moment hit me with ID.  He is really coming.  He is really going to be in my arms in just a couple of months!  I am going to have another son.  It became real.  It became exciting.  It became all that it was the first pregnancy.  I am ID’s father, and I can’t wait to meet him!

This was further cemented in this past Wednesday.  One of my best friend’s wife had a baby.  We visited them in the hospital.  As I got to hold the new little one, the feelings of excitement grew about ID.  I am going to have another son to hold and love really soon!

I know I should have had these moments of clarity earlier.  At the very least, I should have had them at the ultrasound.  I didn’t.  I was still so unsure of what it will be like to have to children (I still am not sure what this will be like).  I was uncertain if I was going to be able to figure out how to split my attention.  I did not not how loving two kids equally yet different was going to work out.  I just did know what to think or feel.

I do now.  The resevior of love was tapped into.  I love NB.  I love ID.  They are my sons.  They are my responsibility.  They are my legacy.  They are my boys.  I don’t know what this all means completely.  But it is real.  I can’t wait for this adventure to start!

“Okay, Mr. OneCup, what is the God lesson?  I know you have one.”

I do.  It is simple.  Through this, God has given me one thought.  He loves me.  I am his son.  I do not have to worry about how he seems to be working in the lives of others…and by this I mean I do not have to be jealous or concerned that he is not working in my life exactly as he is for others.  I can trust that he loves me.  He cares for me.  His love for me is complete, even if it looks different than how he is working out his love in the lives of other Christians.  It is okay, I can trust him.  I can trust his love for me.  Just like I can love both NB and ID completely, wholly, equally, and different, he can do the same with his children.  And his love is pure, holy, and full of grace unlike my love can be here on Earth.

My Father in Heaven loves me, and I can trust that.  He proved it by letting his Son die for me.  He proved it by bringing him back from the dead as evidence of his acceptance of the sacrafice and his now acceptance of this sinner (me).  He proved it by sending the Spirit.  And the Spirit proves it to me every day.  I can trust in my Father’s love.

Performancing Metrics

 

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The Virtuous Moped

One of my big struggles lately is with patience.  I get so stressed out when life is not working out the way I want or plan.  I know the heart of this is pride.  It is my lack of trust in a big God.  God has put me in a lot of situations to learn more about this.  Two different studies I have been a part of have focused on this.

Yesterday, I think I had a break through.  I am in a study called How People Change through my community group at chruch.  It talks about the heat in life (struggles and circumstances) and how the fruit (positive or negative) that comes from it shows our heart.  If we are drawing life from the Living Water (Jesus and the Spirit), then we will produce good fruit (positive reactions).  If we are drawing life from anywhere else we will produce thorns (negative, unloving reactions).

God taught me a lot last night and this morning.  Today was a good day.  I was not worried about the pacing of my lessons.  I was not worried about being later than I wanted to be to school or our doctor appointments.  It was a good day, and only God can get the glory.

I was thinking about how well the day went while on the way to pick up my son from daycare.  As I was doing this, on the long winding back roads I take, and suddenly I am behind a moped.  Did I mention the winding roads…with double yellow lines the whole way?  Oh, and not only was it a moped, it was a very slow moped.

I wanted to get fustrated, but I couldn’t.  I had to laugh.  I was thinking about how well I had done with patience today, so God needed to “smite” me with a moped.  God was so reminding me that my “good day” was only through him.  I would not have to worry about being later than I wanted to be.  He is big and in control.

Patience is a virtue, and sometimes a moped can prove that.

Performancing Metrics

 

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The Monitor and the Incredible Yelling Boy

I am a teacher. This is summer. I am home. I know, I know, teachers have such a cushy job getting off at 3:30 and getting summers off. I won’t get into all of that here, but as most teachers I work hard and consider the summer “comp. time.”

I say all of this in order to “brag” about the fact that I have gotten to spend all three of my two-and-a-half year-old son’s summers with him. I call it our Daddy/Son Summers. I love it. It is not always relaxing, to say the least, but it is good and worth every minute of fun and fustration.

Before I continue, let me throw this in…from this point on in the blog I will be referring to my son as NB and my wife as LA (per LA’s request to leave their names out of it).

Okay, where was I. Oh yes. As a father, even early on, I realized that I was going to learn a lot more about myself and my relationship to God than I was ever going to be able to teach my little buddy NB. Summers have become almost a time of self-reflection as much as they have been quality time for me and the boy. Many a lesson has been learned through our relationship.

This is the story about one that happened this week.  And it is a message that hit me like a thud to the back of the head…God likes to teach me that way A LOT.

Our daily routine this summer has usually boiled down to this:  get up, eat, drive Mommy (LA) to work, find a “man-venture” to go on (usually the Zoo, park, or just stopping at various stores), home, lunch, nap, “learning time”, then pick up Mommy from work and spend the evenings together.  Did you see that list?  There is little to no daddy-down-time built in, except for during the nap.  Nap time is my time to get things done or rest.  Best case senario is that I am not tired and can actually do some things that need to get done (including grab a shower since that is not quite penciled into the formerly stated schedule).

The length of naps vary, but I can usually count on a minimum of 2 hours.  This means I need to budget my time wisely.  So if I want to rest a little while and get anything done (especially the shower that LA would prefer me to have each day), I need to keep a watchful eye on the ticking clock…and I need to be honest, I almost always choose to take a little bit (or a lot) of rest time during this alloted span.

Occasionally, NB’s sleeping schedule does not agree with mine.  When this happens, I have to get creative.  It has not been too often, but it has happened enough that I have had to start teaching him how to play in his room by himself.  What I will do is go into his room, talk to him about needing him to stay and play, make sure he has plenty to play with or books to look at, and then listen closely to the monitor (or turn it way up if I am taking a shower).

The day that this story happens, NB did not seem real jazzed about this idea.  He wanted to come out his room and hang out with Daddy.  So, I talked to him a little longer and even gave him a special treat by having the dog stay in there with him and keep him company (you have no idea how much he LOVES that dog!  I will have to write a blog post just about that someday).  He seemed to get a big kick about that, so all seemed good to go.  I told him I loved him and that I would not be long, and then reassured him that if he needed anything I would hear him through the monitor and be right there.

I proceded to prepare to take the required daily shower.  Before I could move much past stepping into the bathroom I hear, “DADDDDDDY!”  I wait a few seconds.  Nothing.  I took another step into the bathroom.  “DADDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDY!”  I rush to his room.

I get there, and he is just grinning at me.  “What’s wrong, buddy,” I ask.

NB lifts his arm and points, “Ebow (elbow for those that do not speak two year-old).  Bed hurt me.  Bad bed.”  He points to the footboard.

I go in an look…and of course see nothing.  I talk with him for a second and figure out he bumped his elbow on the bed.  I comfort him, scold the bed, and then encourage him to be careful.  I again reassure him that I am just on the other side of the monitor, and then am off to attempt my shower.

This time, success.  I am able to take a quick shower (we’re talking like five minutes here…I knew the boy was getting antsy, so I needed to try to just get as clean as I can in the shortest possible amount of time).

All seems peaceful in the Land of Two…until I am in the process of drying.  There is a stirring.  I hear talking.  I assume he is talking to the dog.  As I start to get dressed, it happens.

“DADDY!!  ALKJGJDKGJ ADLGKJG DIGNDOITMG!!!!!!  DADDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDY!!!!”

Okay, that middle part is not what he said, but I have no idea what the jibberish there was, so that is my interpretation.

I hurry to throw the rest of my clothes on.  The whole time I am getting dressed the “daddy” and jibberish continues.  Actually, it started to get kind of funny.  It started to become clear that there was nothing really wrong and that he was just trying to get my attention.  He got louder and louder and the talking became more and more random.

I stopped worrying and slowed down with my getting myself together.  I was even able to make sure that I put on deodorant (something else that LA prefers me to do each day, as well).  The yelling continued, but I knew everything was okay.  He would have to learn to wait.  He had everything that he needed and there was no imminent danger.  He needed to learn to trust me.

I went to his room, and of course he was estatic to see me, but before we played I talked to him about not needing to yell to get my attention and how he needs to trust that Mommy and Daddy are aware of him and are looking out for him (the best you can do with a two year-old).

About the time that the yelling became funny over the monitor is when God smacked me in the back of the head.  He spoke to my heart and said, “Dude, that is you.  Why don’t you trust me?  Why don’t you know that I hear you?  Why don’t you think I am in control and will move when I need to move?”

This is all of us.  We get anxious.  We get worried.  We doubt God.  We don’t trust his timing.  We think he forgets about us.  We start to wonder if he is really there.  We start lashing out.  We scream and complain.  We get caught up with the worries of this life and stop believing God has it all in his hands and he knows.

He is there.  He is God.  And he knows.  He will be there when he needs to be.  We need to trust that.  Matthew 6:19-34  Be encouraged!

Oh, and for another perspective on this, please check out this post by my friend Bill Moore, “That Guy“.

Performancing Metrics

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2011 in Gospel and Faith

 

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