Category Archives: salvation

It’s What’s In the Bottle that Matters Most

Ole Doc Bell

Last month, as you may remember, I went to a Civil War reenactment nearby (you can read about that in this previous post, if you’d like). But the part where the soldiers get together and shoot at each other is only a small part of the experience.

Just like back in the old days, the soldiers (reenactors) usually camp out somewhere not too far from where the mock battles will take place. It’s there where you will find period reenactors living life like they did back in the 1860’s, and that includes people like Ole Doc Bell (I don’t know his real name, or if he is really a doctor).

The bottles in the above picture were meant to hold your choice of beverage. I thought is was a pretty cool idea. You’d get free refills in the bottle you purchased, and when it was all said and done – or drank – the keepsake would be a lot prettier than a plastic cup.

Regardless, whatever the bottle looked like, and regardless what the label said, it was all Doc Bell’s products on the inside: root beer, birch beer, lemonade, or cream soda.

Ole Kanye

That being said, I just want to make a loose connection to the bottles and say a quick word about Kanye West and his profession of faith.

I don’t know Kanye’s heart, only God does. However, his actions of late have boldly proclaimed the name of Jesus Christ to the world, while I know others who claim to be Christians that haven’t shared their faith in 20 years.

I listened to his album Jesus Is King. I was impressed with the lyrics, especially the ones in “Hands On.” There’s room to take issue with his lament over other believers making him feel unloved by doubting him – I mean, it was just a short while ago he claimed divinity for himself. Yet, when he said what he really needed right now was “hands on,” as in people praying for him, I totally agreed.

Kanye West is a different bottle all together. But what really matters is what’s inside. If that is the legitimate product, he could make a huge and lasting impact on many, many people.

And therein lies the danger: he’s a threat if he’s legit. Ask Paul.

All I can say is “hands on,” everybody. Hand’s on.

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Filed under Christian Unity, Christianity, current events, Faith, salvation, Witnessing

Kids Spitting and Truth Telling

To be “clear,” sometimes the truth is “nasty.” The following is adapted from the last chapter of my book, Life Lessons from the School Bus. 

“Unexpected Truth”

Every once in a while a bus driver, or anyone for that matter, may find himself saying, “I didn’t see that one coming!” In other words, every once in a while something happens; somebody says something that you would have never imagined. Let me tell you about one of those “once in a while’s.”

Spitting Accusations

Kids are always doing stuff to each other to be aggravating. You have probably witnessed children throwing spit wads, taking items out of another’s book bag, or hiding a child’s shoe right before her stop. No? Well what about spitting on each other?

Oh, yes, children are well-accustomed to spitting on each other, especially boys. Now, they never admit to doing it; they usually blame it on the one kid with no salivary glands. But there was this one time when a boy on my bus accused a girl of spitting on him when she actually didn’t. How do I know that she didn’t? She showed me proof!

So, “Jack” hollered from the back of the bus, “Mr. Baker! ‘Jill’ spit on me!” Before I could rationally respond, another voice came from the back, the voice of the accused, crying, “No I didn’t – he’s lying!” Since I was in the process of driving and there was no place to pull over and deal with the situation, all I could do at the moment was respond with a simple request: “STOP SPITTING!”

A moment passed, then Jill came up to the seat behind me (which is dangerous and against the rules, by the way). “Mr. Baker,” she said in a tone laced with disgust, “I did not spit on Jack; he spit on himself after he spit on the seat.”

What?” I asked. “He’s spitting on the seat?! That’s gross!”  Incidentally, this is one of those times when I find it appropriate to ask: why do people of any age find enjoyment in recreational spitting? Why waist perfectly good saliva when there’s nothing necessarily nasty to expel from one’s mouth?

Anyway, a moment or two later, Jack came up to share his side of the story. “Mr. Baker, Jill did spit on me! See my shirt? See, this is her spit…she spit on me! See?”

I couldn’t argue with what I saw. There, as plain as the marks on a Dalmatian, were wet spots where something liquidy had collided with his shirt. Somebody had spit on him.

“Jill!” I yelled, “Why did you spit on Jack?” From the back of the bus came an insistent reply, “But I didn’t! He spit on himself just to get me in trouble!”

The Truth Comes Out

Where’s Solomon when you need him? Why can’t school buses be equipped with portable DNA equipment? How was I supposed to determine who spit on whom? How could I prove who needed to be punished with a stern warning and a verbal reprimand? The answer came in a way I never would have dreamed, but I will never forget.

“Mr. Baker…” Jill had made her way back up to the seat behind me, again while I was driving. “Jill, you need to sit down!” I told her.

“But Mr. Baker…” Let me just pause here to try to describe Jill’s way of saying my name. Jill spoke with a slightly non-emotional, matter-of-fact, drawn-out southern drawl. It sounded more like “Miiis-turr Buh-ayyy-kurr…”

“Mr. Baker, I didn’t spit on Jack; he spit on the seats and then on himself to make it look like I did it,” she said. “But I didn’t, and I can prove it.”

“Really,” I asked.

“Yessir,” Jill replied. “You see, Jack was eating green candy, and the spit on his shirt was green – mine is not…SEE!

At that point, just around my right shoulder, came the arm of a little girl. Attached to that arm was a palm, and in that palm was half an ounce of spit – yes, spit! It looked like a blob of clear silicone!

“It wasn’t me that spit, ‘cause my spit is clear, seeeee Mr. Baker?”

I couldn’t argue with her. She proved her point. There was the proof puddled in the palm of her hand, clear as day. I nearly threw up.

Life Lesson

We may not like it, but sometimes the truth is hard to stomach – and nothing like what we expected.

The simple fact is that truth isn’t always pleasant; more often it is nasty. No woman wants to hear the truth when she asks, “Does this dress make me look fat?”  No man wants to hear the truth when he asks, “How did I do with the laundry?” But sometimes the truth has to be told to make a difference. Unfortunately, to play off the words of Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, many can’t handle the truth.

For example, there is a saying that goes, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Do you know where that saying came from? It comes from Jesus. He said, “If you continue in my word, then you are my disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:31-32). The part that is hard for many to stomach is the part where He says, “If you continue in my word…” In other words, in order to know the truth that will set one free, one must be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Some say that truth is relative, that it changes with the circumstances of life. Others have said that there is no truth, only perception (Gustave Flaubert). However, without truth there can be no lie, no wrong, and no remedy for the spit on some kid’s shirt, not to mention the darkness in our hearts. But when we follow Jesus, we can rest assured there is Truth to know, for He said in John 14:6, “I am the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE…”

Route Suggestions

  • When faced with a tough situation, one that demands you make a wise decision, ask God for help. James 1:5 says, “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God…”
  • Don’t ask someone to tell you the truth about how you look, how well you’re doing your job, etc., unless you’re willing to hear the truth.
  • Don’t “kill the messenger.” If someone does try to tell the truth, don’t get angry when they say the dress makes you look fat. Just get angry because they weren’t sensitive enough to change the subject.
  • Read the book of John in the Bible. Make a list of the claims that Jesus made. Was He telling the truth? For the atheist or agnostic, that may be a truth too hard to handle, but it can set you free.

Oh, one more thing… When preparing to write this, I asked the girl in the story what she thought the moral should be. She said, “Sometimes the truth is nasty.”

Truth.

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Filed under book review, Faith, General Observations, Humor, Life Lessons, salvation

You Might Be a Sinner If…

I’m a Redneck

Yes, I confess it… I’m a redneck.

I know that I’m a redneck because Jeff Foxworthy told me so. If you remember, Foxworthy’s comic routine made famous the line: “You might be a redneck if…” He would then follow with descriptions, examples, qualifiers, etc.

Below are some I know have applied to me at least once over the last 50+ years.

You might be a redneck if…

  • You read the Auto Trader with a highlight pen.
  • Every socket in your house breaks a fire code.
  • The taillight covers of your car are made of red tape.
  • Directions to your house include “Turn off the  paved road.”
  • Going to the bathroom at night involves shoes and a  flashlight.
  • You use the term `over yonder’ more than once a month.

I’m a Sinner

But unlike a lot of people in this world (and in a world of their own), I can also admit I’m a sinner. The only difference is that once I confessed my inability to change my nature, I traded my “filthy rags” for the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:9). Now, I’m still a sinner, but I’m am a saved sinner.

So, based on the actions of Adam and Eve in the third chapter of Genesis, I took a cue from Jeff Foxworthy and came up with my own list of “you might be’s.” From that list I preached a message entitled “You Might Be a Sinner If…

You might be a sinner if…

  •   You have ever talked to a Serpent – and taken its advice (v. 2).
  •   You know the difference between “Naked” and “Necked” (v. 7). Side Note: If you consider fig leaves appropriate attire, you might be a sinner.
  •  You feel like running when the law shows up (v. 8).
  •  God is searching for you, and not the other way around (v. 9).
  •  You feel self-conscious or defensive about anything you’ve ever done (v. 9-10).
  •  You ever play the “blame game” – Others, “The devil made me do it” (v. 11-13).
  •  You were born (Romans 5:12).

Change of Status

Some people try on their own to change their status in life. Sometimes rednecks move away from Redneckville in order to become a different person. But what they find out is that Redneckville never left their heart. They still have those same desires to grill Spam and fish with dynamite.

In the same way, many people think, once they finally realize they are sinners, that change can come with a simple change of atmosphere, or the turning over of a new fig leaf.

The fact is that sinners don’t become “saints” on their own. It takes outside intervention.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9

If you really want to change, only Jesus can do it.

If you ask, He may even give you a hankerin for grits 😉

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, clothing, Humor, Preaching, salvation, self-worth

Is Faith an Irresistible Gift?

For your consideration…a fresh new video from Soteriology101.com

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Filed under Faith, salvation, Theology

Just a Reminder to My Readers

As more people come to this blog/website, it is possible for some to read and interpret my words in the wrong way. Therefore, I feel I need to clarify some things, especially if you are new.

By the way, thank you so much for visiting!

First, I am a Christian. “Salvation is found in no one else [besides Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  I could go into a list of other Scripture, but I believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven.

Secondly, my eternal salvation is not dependent on my righteousness, but the the grace of a merciful God. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” (Ephesians 2:8).

Thirdly, my salvation is not is not based on anything I have done, or can do. “Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:9).

In the simplest terms, I am a “recovering legalist” because I sometimes struggle with the scars of a theology that led me to believe God’s love was predicated on my obedience to a list of man-made requirements.

This is more of a rambling post (off the cuff), but what I am typing is what is on my mind at this moment. I don’t want anyone to think that I think that I am better than anyone else, for I know that I am nothing without Christ.

I do not write in order to condemn others. I write about the things with which I sometimes struggle. I write because I care. Sometimes I may get on a soap box, but I can’t totally help it – I am a preacher, you know. It is in my nature to call it as I see it, especially when the dangers of sin are obvious. “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all [men]” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

The ultimate goal of this blog is to help others to see that even though God is Holy, His judgment was poured out on Jesus, His only begotten Son, who willingly sought to reconcile those who believe with His Father (Eph. 2:13-17; Col. 1:20-22). No self-imposed requirement, kept to the most minute degree, can save a man, nor make him any more loved. It was while we were yet sinners, that Christ died for us (Romans 5:8); not after we cleaned ourselves up and scored 100 on a list.

I do not want to argue with anyone. I don’t want to offend anyone, either. However, if you get offended by God’s written Word, then that’s between you and Him – don’t blame the messenger.

You may disagree with me at times. You may even disagree with me all the time. Just know that my prayers are that you will grow to love Jesus, God’s Son, the Savior of the world, because He first loved you (1 John 4:19). God sent Jesus into the world so that we might be saved from our sins. He didn’t have to, you know. It was because He loved us that Jesus did what He did. The proof of His love was shown on the cross. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).

Note:  If you don’t have a place where you participate in corporate worship (church), then I hope you would feel welcome at the place I pastor. As an under shepherd of God’s flock, I seek to lead and guide the best way I know how, understanding that I am totally dependent upon the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about any good.

Please pray for me. Put me on your prayer list. As I take a public stand, both on the internet and behind the pulpit, the powers of hell don’t like it, nor me. Pray that I will be able to show grace and love in the words that I write and preach, but also to be increasingly bold as this world continues to spiral downward into wickedness. Pray that God will be glorified in everything I say, write, and do.

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Filed under Preaching, salvation

Recommendations for Non-Calvinist Works

I’ve been pretty busy and unable to finish anything new to post today. However, I found something worthy of sharing, something I know many of you will appreciate.

Check out the information in the video I’m attaching and let Dr. Flowers know I sent you 🙂

Have a great Monday!

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, grace, salvation, Theology

What Is a “Blessing”?

Earlier this week I posted a question on Facebook:

If I could offer you your choice – if you’d just come to church just once – of either $1,000 or a blessing from God, would you come?

I got a few responses, but one friend, Michael Wheeler, decided to probe a little, asking if I could define what a “blessing” actually is.

The answer seems obvious, but how do you define “blessing”? That word is thrown around with no real meaning. – Michael Wheeler

I gave a typical tongue-in-cheek response:

True. I know a thousand dollars would surely BE a blessing right now 

Michael followed that response with how that he had asked “countless pastors and laypersons who overuse that word to define it, but have never gotten a satisfactory answer.” He then went on to say that the use of the word “sounds good,” but carries with it “no real meaning.”  “Other than salvation,” he proposed, “we have no other ‘blessings’ or promised things over what unbelievers experience.

Well, in fun I replied to Michael Wheeler’s question with:

Do you even own a box of crayons?

As expected (because Michael is usually a very serious kind of guy), he answered with:

Nope… Is that the extent of your definition of “blessing”?

That is when – after a brief distraction – I wrote the following:

No, not hardly. I got distracted by other things. I only asked that because sometimes I feel like you see things only in black and white – not as in truth claims, but in what you see. For instance, I never read fiction, but then I read “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”…it added color to the pallet of my spiritual imagination. Lewis didn’t teach me any new truth, but he added shades of color to what I could already see.

Much of what I would call “blessings” are those moments when the Spirit opens the eyes of my understanding and allows me to see the beauty of a Truth in a new shade. In some ways, it’s like God takes me into His art gallery and amazes me with a new painting of the same scene. I’m speaking in terms of spiritual imagination, of course… the box of crayons.

We are blessed every day by the goodness of God. That goes for everyone who enjoys the providential care of the Creator (it rains on the just and the unjust). But we are also blessed in that we have a Father who not only gave us salvation but continues to give us bread instead of stones. He is the one who will one day bring us close to Himself and share with us that little white stone with a name on it only the two of us will know – that’s true intimacy. So, many blessings are no less than those moments when we enter into worship – corporately or privately – and sense the real presence of the Holy Spirit reassuring us of the truth that He will never leave us or forsake us, that His grace is sufficient for every need. I could go on and on.

If I had the time to sit down do a more meticulous study of the definition of “blessing,” I’m sure you’d find the result more satisfying to your particular taste. However, what I’ve just described for you is the practical and real-world look at how I see it. Simply put, many times getting a “blessing” may be nothing more than being brought the realization of how good, merciful, and gracious our Father is. If He throws in a thousand dollars, well, that’s a bonus.

Excellent answer,” wrote Mr. Wheeler.

That’s why I thought it would be worth sharing with you!

What do you think? How would you define a “blessing”? 

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Filed under Church, Love of God, salvation