I have performed six Christmas concerts so far this December. Todays concerts were especially interesting. At the Rehab facility there was a young man named Vang (I believe he was Hmong) who seemed very interested in my Gospel presentation. When I prayed with the group he may very well have prayed with me to receive Christ and was eager to recieve a Gospel of John. He started reading it right away. I also felt led to give him a copy of my CD and he said he was glad to meet me. I am very glad because I think we have a new member added to the family of God!
At my last concert this evening I felt impressed to share about a movie I had seen called Joyeux Noël about a three day treaty that happened on several of the frontlines of World War 1 in 1914.
Here is the trailer for this movie:
It all started with the singing of Christmas carols among the soldiers.
A man spoke up at my concert, “Yes, it’s true. My dad was there and witnessed this event.”
Please be praying for me that as I continue sharing the Gospel that many will respond and also that I continue to be led by the Holy Spirit as I was today.
I am finally sharing this post after years of having a particular movie come back to mind time and time again. It continues to bless me with a glimpse of God’s redemption.
The Razor’s Edge is a movie in which Bill Murray plays Larry. Shortly after WWI, Larry goes on a quest to find truth, to find something worth living for, to find a purpose to life. He was not content to simply be who everyone else expected him to be, living the status quo life he saw all around him. No, he wanted more.
And so he parts ways with the girl he was seeing at the time, Isabel, and goes off for a year to tour the world, eventually finding himself up on a snowy mountain peak in Nepal. At the end of the year he returns to London to learn that Isabel had married one of Larry’s wealthy and influential friends.
One night, while all three of them were out to dinner together they saw in the restaurant an old friend of theirs named Sophie. Isabel related the gossip about her. Evidently she had gotten mixed up with drugs and alcohol and even worse had now resorted to prostitution. Right then and there Larry decides to rescue Sophie.
Larry takes Sophie home with him, to save her. He convinces her to stay with him each new day and they spend the days just enjoying life. Picnics, outings on the lake, long walks, good conversation… Soon the light comes back to Sophie’s eyes. She remembers what it was to have fun, to laugh again, to really be alive. She has hope.
It was in this unselfish daily outpouring of redeeming love, giving worth to Sophie, and restoring the beauty of her soul that Larry finds what he was looking for all along. He finds meaning and truth in true love. He never so much as makes a reference to her past. But instead he gently woos her, wins her confidence and trust and eventually her heart.
After many days Larry and Sophie become engaged, but Isabel, though married to another, is jealous and sabotages Sophie. She cuts her down with snide remarks and tells her that she doesn’t deserve to be loved by Larry. She doesn’t hesitate to remind her of her past and her words find their mark. Sophie is devastated and begins to drink a bottle of alcohol, a gift from Isabel.
Sophie leaves. When Larry learns that she is gone, he is soon in desperate search of her. Sadly, he learns that Sophie had returned to her old life and finds her at the brothel, drugged up, drunk, and surrounded by wicked men. He pleads with her to come home with him and she replies, “Don’t you see, you’re better off without me.” The men throw him out and beat him up as he struggles to rescue her.
The next day Sophie is found dead, floating in the river.
In this story, I see the heart of God for us. We are “Sophie”. We all need a Savior to come to our rescue, sweep us off our feet, and show us how to live, laugh, and love again. But, our story could end as tragically as Sophie’s if we aren’t careful. We have to fight to embrace the love of Jesus. While it may be true that we don’t deserve God’s outrageous love, that doesn’t matter to him. It isn’t about what we deserve at all. It’s all about his passionate love for us.
There is a verse that saved my life found in 1 John 4:18:
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” NIV
or, as another translation puts it:
“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” NLT
This verse gives me hope, that though I may still fear, it’s only because I haven’t quite yet grasped God’s perfect love for me. His love is still there. It still remains to be discovered, embraced and that’s encouraging! And then there’s that whole thing about punishment. Let me ask you, are there any sins left to be punished if Jesus took them all at the cross?
What remains then is, will we receive his love? Will we fight for that love, to hang on to that love? (Romans 8)
God will indeed receive you and lavish such love on you, never to mention the ways you went wrong in the past. But, you must not allow the devil to lie to you, and tear you away from the one who loves you so much that he would die for you (and he did). You must hang on to the hope that Jesus offers you. You need to believe!
There is a similar story found early in the book of Hosea in the Bible. Through this story God tells Hosea to marry a prostitute. Hosea’s wife then leaves him and gets mixed up with other men. Hosea searches for her and when he finds her, he even has to pay a ransom to buy his own wife back.
God orchestrated this story in Hosea’s life to represent God’s relationship with his people. That even though we have been, and are, unfaithful to him, as Hosea’s wife was to him, and even though we cheat on him with our sins, God still loves us. He will not divorce us as his people but will restore us and redeem us… if that’s what we want.
“God has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”” Hebrews 13:5 NIV
He doesn’t even wait for our hearts to turn toward him to redeem us. He redeemed us even when we still loved our sin. Even when we are still pursuing our wicked ways, he died for us. This is what Jesus has done for you and me at the cross.
Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrated his love toward us in this, that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
It is Christ’s death that redeems us from death. It is Jesus who came to our rescue while we were still “in the whorehouse”. He will restore life and beauty to our souls.
One more note. We also must be careful not to play the part of Isabel in other people’s lives. Jesus wants everyone to come to the table of his love and grace. We cannot be obstacles to people coming to Jesus. There is room for everyone and we must not make it about who deserves to come and who is more righteous than the next and who deserves his approval more. No one deserves the extravagant love of God. But God is desperate that everyone knows his generous love and redemption.
Redemption is such a beautiful thing!
Always remember this:
You are loved outrageously by an outrageously loving God!
Love, by Jaeson Ma:
ps. Read Luke 15. This is the Father’s attitude toward us, and relates perfectly to this post:
Luke 15 (NLT)
1 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. 2 This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!
3 So Jesus told them this story: 4 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. 6 When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!
8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”
11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. 12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. 14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. 16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.
17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’
20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.[b]’
22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’
28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’
31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”
I have to admit it. I really do like William Paul Young! Yes, I even enjoyed his book The Shack, and I enjoyed immensely his latest book Cross Roads. I thank God for Paul Young. He is a gift to the human race. Could it be that God thought so much of his son Paul and his book that he said, “I want the world to read this! I want the world to hear his heart! I am so proud of my boy! I am especially fond of him!”
Sadly, I know I will get flack for standing with my brother Paul Young. I know many of my Christian friends think he is a heretic. I think many of my Christian friends need to repent for passing judgement on a fellow brother working in such a creative way to reunite God’s lost kids to their heartsick Papa. That’s what I think.
After reading Cross Roads, I went down stairs and picked up the Bible to see if the same relational unconditional-love-filled God that William Young writes about in his books is the same God that the apostle Paul presents in his letter to the Romans. Surprisingly he is, though for years I read it differently. I saw Jesus differently.
This is when I realized the power of paradigms in my own life. The following are some quotes from an interview William Young gave regarding the Shack and his new book Cross Roads:
“When Jesus showed up he was not recognizable inside the paradigm that religion had constructed.”
“Your paradigm will change the words right in front of your face. You will read it the way your system believes it should be rather than what it truly is. How do we read law into words of grace? How do we read performance into unconditional love?”
“God will go down any road to find you. He has come for every last one of his lost kids. Jesus didn’t come to make people Christians or to start a new religion instead he came to destroy religious thinking by introducing relationship. Relationship always moves you away from control and into mystery. The mystery of relationship.”
“It always hurts to get kicked in your paradigm.”
Over the past several years I have moved toward grace and relationship and away from a demonic fear controlled religion. My paradigm has shifted. The way I read Scripture has been transformed. The blinders are off. I see Jesus and he has a beautiful heart!
Legalistic self-righteous religion is a graceless, judgmental, and ugly thing. It makes God into a petty capricious bully with whom you never know where you stand. There is nothing that boils my blood more than to realize how many are being dragged down (and quite possibly to hell) by a form of religion that denies the slave who ascribes to said religion the joyful freedom that Christ offers us in a pure simple loving relationship.
I would propose that Jesus didn’t come to start a new religion but to set humans free to know and be known, to love and be loved by their God who created them to love them. What are your thoughts? Leave a comment.
I chose to write a blog on baptism because I wanted to force myself to learn more and research this further. When I first started my research, I began to realize just how ignorant I was and, though I felt I was onto something with the few insights that I did have on the subject, I had to admit I did have some mistaken ideas. I also began to realize that this subject is a “can of worms” for many people. Churches and denominations have their lines drawn in the sand regarding baptism. Sometimes their beliefs land in agreement with Jesus and the apostles, but other times… not so much. I think also that there are some unfounded fears and superstitions regarding baptism. (see comments)
I found that the internet and Wikipedia are definitely not the place to go to research baptism if you want sound teaching (this probably goes for any important spiritual subject). The top two sites that came up in a search for baptism teaching, though well researched and presented, I believe, came to wrong conclusions.
The most important thing regarding spiritual matters, is to find out what Jesus and the apostles have to say on the subject and somehow manage to not misinterpret them. This is a huge task that I am not going to pull off (nor attempt to) in a single blog. Instead, I will share my experiences and a few thoughts and leave it at that. I am not the end all be all of spiritual truth – we have the word of God and the Holy Spirit for that.
My Experience With Baptism
I was maybe seven years old I was first “baptized” at Riverview family Bible camp. My mom asked me if I wanted to be baptized and I said yes. The pastor tried to explain baptism to me but I don’t think I understood a word of it. I probably had quite a puzzled look on my face as he explained baptism, but he baptized me anyway. I remember standing down by the river wearing the white robe with the other people about to get baptized and wishing I could go play on the water slide.
Many years later, when I was 18, my best friend Jacob was getting baptized through our church Calvary Chapel. He asked me if I would join him and I told him I’d be happy to. I had just come back to the Lord that year and I was excited about God. I was so excited about God that, as often as I could, I would go to every church service and college group that I could possibly find around Spokane Washington where I lived. I loved hearing God’s word and being around God’s people. I regularly went to Calvary Chapel and a church called Life Center, both excellent and wonderful fellowships where I sensed God was doing amazing things.
My friend Jacob and I went through a class about baptism at Calvary Chapel and then the day came for us to be baptized. The experience itself was unremarkable. A dove did not descend. I can’t say the experience changed anything for me.
I also remember something that happened at a church called Life Center about that same time. They had a big baptism service there every so often and they would encourage those who brought a person to faith in Christ to be the one to baptize them. They had pastoral staff there to guide the whole process. I had a friend named Claire who wanted me to baptize her. She wanted her sins to be washed away. So there I was, having just come back to God and to my faith, wearing a ying and yang t-shirt baptizing my friend.
A Few Thoughts on Baptism
Baptism is one of the few words in the Bible that has never been translated from the Greek into English. Baptism is from the Greek noun Βάπτισμα – baptisma. It means “to immerse”. So, I thought, why was this word transliterated instead of being translated? Why not use the word “immersed” instead of simply Englishifying this Greek word?
Up until last week I thought it was a conspiracy. I believed that the translators of Scripture didn’t translate the word just to accommodate already well established church practices. If the Greek word means “to immerse”, can you guess why the translators would hesitate to render its true meaning? Church practice for centuries was to sprinkle the foreheads, or pour water over the head, but not to fully immerse them. I am under the impression that there is a great deal of superstition around baptism as well. I believe some churches practice infant baptism thinking it best to do this as early as possible so as to save them from an eternity in hell… so they think.
Peter writes that baptism is not a matter of the removal of filth from the body (the physical act of washing) but about the spiritual reality that baptism represents. Just like the Jewish practice of circumcision represented a spiritual cleansing of the filth of the flesh – the removal of sin, so now baptism represents the death and burial of our old life and the resurrection to a new life by the Spirit of God. It truly is the spiritual reality that means something, and the physical act is pointless without this. So what significance does the physical act play?
Think about how differently certain commands of Jesus would read if this word had been translated:
“Go therefore into all the world and make followers of Christ, immersing them in the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit. Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Immersing them in the name. Not immersing them in water per say, but in a name. What would this signify?
However, I could not ignore the fact that most of the instances that baptism is talked about or commanded, it is referring to the Christian rite of baptism. It seemed then to make sense then why the translators would not translate the word. If the word does in fact most often refer to the “rite” of baptism, then it may just add confusion to the subject to say immerse… unless that’s what God and the apostles actually meant to say. What do you think?
I came to see that I was not at liberty to spiritualize “baptism” into solely a mystical experience of being immersed in God. But, that the physical act also matters to God and is commanded by God. I have a lot more to learn but I’d love to hear back from you. Is there something you think I should know or am overlooking in this brief look at baptism? Leave me a comment!
This is from the vault. One of the oldest blogs I ever posted. There is still so much truth in it and the issues that I discuss here still come up for me all the time.
Baring My Soul
Feb 4th 2006I want to talk about the power of Gods promises. But first, I must premise with the following disclaimer: I find it difficult and intimidating to write or share anything spiritual with anyone. I feel this way mostly because I have suffered in the past (and still recovering) from a very serious condition known as hypocrititus.
For those of you who are in the same boat, I feel for you. I know how hard it is trying to keep up a facade of being a Christian and feeling your life slip away as you become an empty shell of the person you hoped to be.I came to the realization and the relief, that it is not my job to make God look good. He looks good all on his own. After all he is, “beautiful beyond description, to marvelous for words, too wonderful comprehension, like nothing ever seen or heard.”
A note to those also afflicted with hypocrititus:
I recently watched, which I cannot in good conscience endorse, and probably shouldn’t have watched due to the pervasive foul language, a movie called “Phone Booth”. I was very moved and inspired by the ending which I will now ruin for you by telling you. A man is provoked, by the threat of death by a sniper, to bare his soul to the world. He confesses all and it truly was beautiful…
He says, “I’m a fake… I lie to my friends, I lie to everyone… I haven’t done a thing for anyone when it hasn’t benefited me…
He breaks down in tears and tells his wife, I come here every day to call another woman from this phone booth and I wanted to sleep with her. All I have is weakness and I am sorry. I love you.”
So often we live our lives grasping for some shred of dignity, when in reality, none of us have earned any. So we lie.
When the truth finally does come out, we find ourselves accepted and loved and standing in grace instead of judgement… and it is beautiful.
You may find this surprising but the bible supports this idea of public confession:
The bible tells us to, confess our sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed (James 4:16).
The apostle John writes to us these encouraging words with a promise, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
And finally, Paul writes to us telling us that he boasts of his weaknesses so that Christ’s power may be evident in him. (Making it obvious that is Christ alone who is the source of all that is holy, righteous and good.)
So here I am following suit:
I have nothing but weakness in me. I have nothing to offer anyone. I am a self centered proud hypocrite. I am by no means a spiritual giant. I am often prayerless, faithless, and loveless. I am a fake. A phony. I often love other things more than God. He hasn’t been the center of my life… I have been. He hasn’t been the love of my life… I have been. My motives have been acceptance and approval by others, recognition, fame, and even money. “But I want to start over now, hear me God I calling out for mercy, your sweet forgetfulness…” (sorry, I broke into some lyrics to a song)
We are all human beings. God is the only God of the human race. Jesus is the only Savior of the human race. And though we are frail and weak, we are offered hope by the promise of God in the gift of the Holy Spirit whom God sends to live in us as we place our faith in Jesus. And it is by the Holy Spirit working in us that we reflect His glory. And what is his glory? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The fruit of the Holy Spirit, not the fruit of you or I. This is the Holy Spirit of Jesus living in us, living out his life in us, reflecting the image of God in us!
I want to share one final promise of God that I have found to be a lifeline when I was feeling helpless and hopeless:
Ask (*and keep on asking) and it will be given to you; seek (and keep on seeking) and you will find; knock (and keep on knocking) and the door will be opened to you If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! (Luke 11 – *Persistence is implied here see Amplified Bible)
God will freely give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. Luke eleven begins with a parable about persistence, and the Greek word for ask implies a continual act. I have been praying this each morning as I wake up and have noticed my life begin to change, but until death I will never stop asking (so help me God) because I know how desperately I need Gods best gift in me every moment of every day. And praise God we ALL (yes you too) have a Father in heaven who loves us and longs to bless us with the best!
Thank you so much for listening I pray that all who read this will be blessed and respond with faith in Jesus and be filled with the Holy Spirit of God, and that Jesus will live his life of love through you for all your days until his return when he sets up His kingdom on earth. And on that day may you stand blameless in His Presence.