:::: MENU ::::
Posts tagged with: Catholic

How do I know I’m forgiven and saved?

It is astonishing to me how something as eternally significant as salvation is so erroneously misunderstood and debated. The following rant is the simple truth of what the Bible demonstrates in receiving salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

When we all sinned and separated ourselves from God, starting back with Adam and Eve, we jumped on the bandwagon of independent belief, demonstrating we don’t need God, and therefore traveled this life, on our own, outside of a walk with Christ. This action is sin and God cannot be in relationship with anyone in sin. So, by our choice we separated ourselves from God.

God is the one who wants us back. God is the one who sent Jesus so that the opportunity to be in a relationship with Him again would be available.

Bottom line…God wants all his lost children back. God sent His Son to seek and save the lost. He wants us, His found Children, to work with Jesus in attempting to find all His lost children.

If God is the one who wants the restored relationship with His lost children, why would He make it extremely difficult for them to return? Imagine a Father who lost his child for a long period of time. Then, after searching for that child, finally finding her. However, when he found his lost child, he wouldn’t let her know that she had been found until he first set up a complicated obstacle course. This lost, but now found child, would have to carefully maneuver through his challenging obstacle course to get back to her father, who would now watch how difficult it was for her to run back to him, while he teases her with outstretched arms, waiting for a reuniting hug.

Silly? Isn’t that what Christians do when they fight and argue over how to be saved? I don’t think it’s silly, I think it’s sick. A sick game of setting up obstacle courses for abused and abandoned children trying to get back into the arms of their hero.

Recently, I accepted the Lead Pastor role in a Church. After accepting the position, and traveling 36 hours across the USA to move my family from everything we were comfortable with, I abruptly resigned after just seven weeks. There were multiple and serious dysfunctions that allowed my short effort to permissibly end. One of the lighter dysfunctions was the mentality of the eldership, and some key people in the church whom these elders submitted to, that kept telling me that if an unchurched person walked in the church building wearing inappropriate clothes that I must approach them and ask them to not wear such clothing again. An example of what was inappropriate was brought up and it was something as silly as wearing a “Lady Gaga” T-shirt. I found myself facing my worst nightmare. I was being forced to set up obstacle courses for lost people seeking God. These man made courses were something that lost children of God would have to maneuver through, as they took the risk to enter the doors of a church building, seeking the loving arms of a father who had been calling out to them in the dark for years. I found myself being forced to behave opposite of how Jesus behaved. I had to walk away from such un-Christlike behavior.

Here’s the deal. God is the one seeking. God is the one finding. God is the one saving. God is the one who wants you back. If this is the deal, then why would He make it so difficult to return to Him? The answer…

He doesn’t make it difficult. People do.

Christians need to be shouting from the pulpits and Bible studies, “Relationship! Relationship! Relationship!” But I fear too many circles of people, to make themselves look more fruitful in their lack of seeking and saving the lost, are busi-fying themselves with more knowledge courses and outward appearance courses, and christian obstacle course meetings, all the while eternally lost children of God are screaming, “Somebody Help Me”, and that scream is a lost cry, crying out for their father.

I find it ironic that the best passage in the Bible to teach somebody how to be get back with God is an Old Testament passage. Psalms 51:17…
“The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken spirit and repentant heart, O God.”

I know of people who have Heard the Good News of Jesus, Believed Jesus to be Lord of Lords, Confessed Jesus as Lord of their life, and been baptized….BUT…they lacked a broken spirit and repentant heart. Were their actions accepted by God? I’m not the judge. If I were forced to share my opinion, I would say they are not.

I know of people who wore Lady Gaga T-shirts, were guilty of drugs and abusive bodily behavior, people who were so desperate that they had nothing to live off of except what only pigs could eat, who ran back to the Father with a broken spirit and repentant heart, who had not been baptized, or confessed or fully believed…yet were not rejected by God and thus were welcomed into his arms as He wanted to hold his lost child again. The lost now found.

Are they saved? I’m not the judge. But if I were forced to guess, I would say they were.

Salvation is found in a
Broken Spirit
Repentant Heart.

The extremists argue with one another about this, as if it’s all supposed to be complicated.

The most extremes are the legalists that believe if you die before you enter the baptism waters you will burn in hell.

The other extreme are the ones I call the epic-gracers (Not to be mistaken with the Church my friend Randy Green started called Epic Grace Church…check them out at www.epicgracechurch.com. Randy Green is one of the best one on one evangelists I know!)

This other extremist type of believers, I’m referring to, believes that people are saved no matter how you live…just say a prayer and you’re good to go, all safe and secure from all alarm.

Neither… as it seems, have broken spirits or repentant hearts.

I am one of the first to show and teach that Hearing, Believing, Repenting, Confessing and Baptism always happened when someone who was lost became saved in the New Covenant of Jesus. But, be it noted, I have participated with people who have done all of those things, but lacked a broken spirit and repentant heart. Outward actions don’t save. Broken spirits and repentant hearts towards Jesus’ blood saves. When one truly recognizes Jesus was brutally murdered because of their sins, it should lead to a broken spirit and repentant heart. God will never reject a broken spirit and repentant heart…no matter what outward actions have or have not happened.

How grateful are you for Jesus dying for your sins?
How broken are you knowing your sin required Jesus’s brutal beating and crucifixion?
How repentant are you? Repentant means 180 degree turn from sin.

Repentance is tricky. Its impossible without a broken heart/spirit.


Somehow its all been reversed. In Jesus’ day, the religious leaders despised Jesus and fled from Him and the lost flocked to Him.

Today, its just the opposite. The religious magnetically flock to Jesus and the lost don’t want to have anything to do with Him.

Something has changed.
Who changed?
The Holy Scriptures declare in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.”
One thing I am confident about…Jesus didn’t change.

It’s supposed to be really easy to become Christian…
It’s really hard to live as one.

Somehow, certain Christians have made us think that God’s trend is opposite of that. They’ll use the passages of “counting the cost” and “not being people of the world” to make us think that we have to behave before we believe. (I call this ‘theology’ “Behavioral Modification Religion.” )

Believe and belong first. That’s the easy part. The lost getting found!
Once you have been found, now you and I must work on our behavior. Behavior is another word for obey.

Jesus did not say, “if you are lost you must obey me.” One can’t love somebody if you have no relationship with them!
He said…
“If you love me obey me.” John 14:15.

Anyway with the theme above..Its never your job to make sure your brother has his speck removed from his eye before you remove the log sticking out of yours.

Good grief.

I so thank God, that the people in my life did not make me run through an obstacle course to get to Jesus. I wouldn’t have run it. I’d STILL be lost. That’s eternally disastrous.

Please Lord…I beg of you to never allow me to put up obstacle courses in front of the lost children you are wanting back.

HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 25 (Mt. 6:5-8) “Prayer Motives”

5 “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. 6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. 7 “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. 8 Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!
Matthew 6:5-8 (NLT)

There is no doubt that Jesus brings about a stronger judgement and accountability upon Spiritual leaders. When Jesus was teaching this subject material, the religious leaders must have been present. He called them Hypocrites. The previous post, Hydrate 24, talks about the same motive. This motive of doing anything for recognition. What motivates you to pray? What motivates you to give? Do you pray differently when you are in a private setting than you do when you pray publicly? Why? Jesus may hold spiritual leaders to a higher accountability, but he holds everybody accountable.

As I write this in 2012, I have now been in ministry for the past 20 of my 41 years of life. From my perspective, I have noticed changes amongst pastors over these past two decades. Good changes. I remember when I was in my mid twenties and attending my first pastors conference and we had a breakout prayer session where we gathered into groups of about six to eight for some time of prayer. We were instructed to go around the table and everybody take turns praying. I remember being so uncomfortable as each pastor seemed to want to out-pray the previous pastor. As each pastor prayed, to be followed by another pastor taking his turn, the words became more eloquent and more complicated and more “spiritual” sounding. This prayer time seemed to start a competition of who could outwit, outsmart and outplay their prayer predecessor. It was Prayer Survivor, except there was no prize for the champion. It saddened me. It made me question whether or not I wanted to remain for the rest of the retreat. I did remain, and the rest of the retreat went pretty well. I share this story, because I have attended many more of these retreats in the following years and I have seen more authenticity and less competition when it comes to our corporate prayer time at these retreats. Times are changing. I can only speak for myself, but it seems to me that Christians and Christian Pastors are beginning to be more and more real and vulnerable publicly when it comes to communication and prayer and leadership, and I believe it is a very good thing for the cause of the Kingdom of Jesus of Nazareth. I am convinced that the greatest success for the church is yet to come, and will only come if the churches leaders can be vulnerable and transparent and their greatest motivator be to honor Jesus.

I think that this is what Jesus is saying when it comes to this teaching on prayer. It seems, from this teaching, that Jesus is opposed to praying out loud in public. But, It is obvious from other sections of Scripture that Jesus is okay with group prayers and people praying out loud in a public setting. How do I know this, because Jesus prayed publicly, and sometimes the prayer was said extra loud so that the people around Him could hear what He was praying. The Apostles prayed publicly in the book of Acts. Jesus is not so focused on where we pray, but why we pray.

I think Jesus, for clarification, would add something like this, “if you pray because you like the attention it gets you in public, then you’d be better to not pray than do it for wrong motives.” He might also say something like this, “if the temptation is too great for you to get attention in your prayer time publicly, then retreat to your private closet and pray to the Father secretly, then you will be blessed and God will be honored.” I hope you agree with me in thinking that Jesus would say these things.

Motive matters to Jesus. Motive is an outflow of the condition of our heart. If you are whole in Jesus Christ, if you define who you are based off what Jesus believes about you, and by what Jesus did for you, then you will have no reason to seek approval or grab attention when in public. Motives matter. Motives become very evident when we pray.

Before Jesus actually gives a perfect example of how to pray, He injects one more point into His teaching. In verse seven, He says, “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.”

I grew up in the Catholic religion. I am thankful for some of my Catholic roots. As I am now in the Restoration Movement of the faith of Christianity, I am a better Christian because of my old Catholic roots. When I was younger and in the Catholic religion, I had never read the Bible for myself, and I remember wondering, when I was taught to pray the Hail Mary prayer, why we repeated the same phrases over and over. (I don’t have time in this section to cover what I was thinking about being taught to pray to Mary.) Today, I just refer to the redundancy of prayer. This redundancy is a part of why I quit being committed to Catholicism. I knew God was all powerful and I knew that God knew my very thoughts before I even thought them. I was so confused as to why we had to repeat the same lines, while praying, over and over. As a young kid I remember wondering if my Catholic teachers thought God was hard of hearing and so the more we repeated the prayer, the more likely God would be able to decipher what I was praying. Before, I lose all my Catholic friends, I want to acknowledge that I have been personally guilty of using the same phrases habitually in my private and public prayers. I have seen this repetition and false conversation with God happen in all different faiths, denominations and churches. This is a people problem, not a specific religion’s problem.

Instead of being taught the Hail Mary prayer when I was Catholic, I wish I had been taught this teaching of Jesus. The religious recitation of prayer goes against what the Lord of Lords commands. I think the repetition of prayers insults God. Let me put this in a practical setting. Imagine if I called up my earthly dad on the phone and in my talking with him, I would say to him, “Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. I was hoping you were were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. You are a great dad. You are a great dad. You are a great dad.” Good bye.

But I don’t stop there.

Next week, I get him on the phone again and I say to him, “Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. I was hoping you were were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. You are a great dad. You are a great dad. You are a great dad.” Good bye.

But, hold on, to make sure my dad got my point, I call him the very next day and I say to him.”Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. I was hoping you were were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. You are a great dad. You are a great dad. You are a great dad.” Good bye.

Now imagine I repeat this over and over for the rest of my life. I would not be surprised, for one minute, if my dad never came to visit me. I would think he would be completely irritated with me. If this is how I pray to God, then I’m just not a very good conversationalist. Do I make my point? Please don’t be insulted in what I am writing here, see the error, if you are doing such a thing, and turn your prayers into personal conversations with our relational Father in Heaven.

Now, what about this last sentence that Jesus teaches. In verse 8 Jesus says, ” Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!”

I have often wondered why God, if He knows exactly what I need before I even ask Him, or as another Bible passage says, knows my thoughts before I think them, then why do I even have to pray at all? And then I had kids. The more my four children age, and I grow in my experience and relationship with them as their father, the more I recognize my Father/Child relationship with my Heavenly Father. I know my four kids very well. Many times my wife and I laugh as we know what our kids are going to say before they even say it. For instance, when we are in the grocery store with our kids, and we arrive at the checkout station to see the lineup of tempting candy and magazines, at the conveyor belt area, we know exactly what our kids are going to ask of us. When I pick up my children from School and then venture home, I know exactly what they are going say as we drive by the local Sonic Restaurant. When one of my kids is on their cell phone with a friend and its a Friday night, I know exactly what that child is going to ask when He gets off the phone. You get the point?

I still want my kids to ask me. I know what my kids need. I know what is good and bad for my kids. I want to bless my children and give them the desires of their heart, and I want them to talk to me about it all. I am a relational dad. I know what my kids dreams are, but I want them to talk to me about these dreams. When I watch my kids compete in their sports games, I watched as they scored and I watched as they made mistakes in the game. I know they are excited about their win or upset about the loss, but I want them to talk to me about it all. I want to hear it from their view point. I want them to sit with me and tell me about it all. I cherish that when it happens. Have you ever been in your car privately with one of your children when they naturally open up and talk to you, and ask you questions, and actually listen to your answers? Its magical. Its healing. Its thrilling. Its relational. As a father I want that from my children. God made us to be like Him. He desires these things as well.

Even when I know what my kids are going to talk to me about. I still want them to talk to me.
I love conversation with the people I love.
Conversation and prayer are the same thing.

Now, go into a private place and converse with your Heavenly Father.
He is anxious to hear what you have to say, even though He already knows what you are going to say.
Tell Him what’s on your heart and mind. Tell Him your hopes and dreams. Tell Him what you are afraid of. Ask Him for things that you desire.
He will enjoy your time and your words immensely.

The next time you pray, do so with an ear to hear what you are actually praying. Do you repeat the same phrases every time you pray? If you do, catch yourself and make a change in your words. Please don’t let your prayer time be just habit and discipline. Can you imagine your child coming up to you on a daily basis and saying, “Hey, my calendar just told me Its time for me to talk with you…I have to talk with you now.” That would be the same as a husband bringing to his wife a dozen red roses on their anniversary day and handing the roses to his wife while saying, “today is our anniversary, I am obligated to get you these roses.” Roses have thorns, they would hurt as they would be thrown in your face for making such a comment, and performing such a dutiful deed. Get it?

If you struggle with being relational in your prayer time with God, then I want to challenge you to try some things outside of your comfort zone. Next time you pray, go to a private place where you will not be interrupted and bring with you an extra chair. Set this chair up and invite God to sit in it, and as you pray imagine Him physically sitting in the chair listening to you. If you have a hard time staying focused in your prayer time, remove your shoes as you pray, and it will help you stay focused as you recognize that your time with God in that moment makes the place a holy place, as you spend time with the creator of the sun, moon and stars.

If you are stuck in a repetitive cycle of praying the same way, the same time, the same words, each day, then practice praying while you are driving by yourself. As you drive, just talk to God as if He were sitting in the seat next to you. People who pull up next to you at the stop light will think you are weird, but who cares! Go for it anyway. If it happens to be somebody you know, and they ask you about it later, don’t lie by telling them you were conversing with someone via speaker phone, tell them straight up, you were praying! This driving practice will help you break ritual habits and make your conversation with God more real-time and relational.

If you have a hard time knowing if you are just repeating phrases or praying in a weird way of any kind, then use the recording device on your cell phone, and when you are praying just record it all, and listen to it later. As you listen to the playback, you will hear things and notice things that will help you be more relational in your prayer time with your heavenly Father.

We all practice things we want to be good at. Practice your praying. You know you want to be good at praying. Practice it.

God wants you to spend time with Him. He is waiting. God never moves far from you. There isn’t anything that will ever make God stop loving you. Knowing that, spend time telling Him how much your appreciate Him. Talk to Him.
Be self aware of your motives.