Why We Use So Many Terms for ‘Salvation’

Why do we use different terms to describe the same experience? Depending on your background or denomination, you’ll use terms like:

  • Get saved
  • Pray the sinner’s prayer
  • Walk the aisle
  • Repent
  • Believe in Jesus
  • Ask Jesus in your heart
  • Get baptized
  • Be filled with the Holy Spirit
  • Fall under conviction
  • Be born again

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Why so many terms?  I believe it’s because salvation is such a transcendent experience that human words will never be able to fully capture it. Have you ever had an experience so transcendent that human words couldn’t fully capture it?

Maybe it’s a sunset that takes your breath away. In that moment, calling it “picturesque” can’t do it justice. Guys, it’s that moment when you see your bride walking down the aisle at your wedding. In that moment, describing your bride as “beautiful” can’t do her justice. Moms, it’s that moment you hold your child for the first time after you give birth, and saying you “love” your child can’t contain the depth of emotion you feel.

Salvation is one of those transcendent experiences, when you’re forgiven of your sins, when you become right with your Creator, when the Spirit of the Living God comes to live in you, when your eternal destiny changes forever. Human words can never fully capture the power of that moment. That’s why we use so many terms to describe salvation. We’re just trying to get our arms around it.

QUESTION: What other terms have you heard/used to describe salvation?

Does God Speak Through Dreams?

Does God speak through dreams today? That’s the unexpected topic of conversation I had yesterday with two separate people. One was recounting a family member who had a very clear dream that she interpreted as a sign from God. The second was a note from a church member saying she had a vivid dream Saturday night that mirrored with detail the sermon I preached to her the next morning (she of course had no knowledge about what I was going to speak on).

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So, does God speak through dreams to people today? I believe He does. That might make evangelicals uncomfortable. We like to preach that God can speaks exclusively the Bible. Well, if you read the Bible, guess how God often spoke to people (like Mary and Joseph)? Through dreams. If God did it then, why wouldn’t He do it today?

Some would make a good point that God doesn’t need to speak through dreams today because we have the Bible. My main argument for God still speaking through dreams is the fact that I don’t feel I have the right to limit what God can or cannot sovereignly do. If He can speak through a donkey (see Numbers 22), if He can sovereignly use a worm (Jonah 4), He can speak through a dream.

Now, that doesn’t mean that dreams will be the primary way God communicates or even that God will even use a dream to communicate. I believe that God has the right to sovereignly communicate through a dream if He so chooses. God has never spoken to me through a dream. That’s fine with me. I don’t seek it out. God speaks to me through the Bible regularly.

Important caveat: One of the biggest dangers of dreams is that they can be confusing or misleading. If you have a vivid dream, it may be your own imagination, it may be a bad bowl of chili, or it may even be an agent of darkness sent to mislead you. Relying on dreams to communicate is an easy way to be misled, since dreams can come from a variety of sources. The Bible is the safest bet, since we can rest assured that all of its words come from God.

But at the end of the day, if someone asked me whether or not I believed that God can still speak through dreams today, I would say ‘yes.’

QUESTION: Do you believe God still speaks through dreams today? Has God ever spoken to you through a dream?

5 Ways the Church Should Be Like T-Ball Practice

This season I’m coaching my 5-year-old’s t-ball team. We’re still practicing and haven’t started slugging it out of the park in games yet. Trying to get eleven 5-year-olds to all pay attention to one thing is about as fun as it sounds. Along the way I’ve learned five things that I think apply to church as well:

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1. You have to have fun. I always tell the boys that’s the only rule we have. If you’re not having fun, why play the game? In the same way, church should be a celebration. Christ is risen! You’re free from your sins! Your destiny in heaven is secure! If you can’t have celebrate at church, why show up?

2. I can’t just give instructions, I have to show. I can’t simply tell the boys where to put their feet and hold their hands when they bat. For each one I’ve had to physically place their feet and move their hands to show them. In the same way, it’s not enough to simply preach to people at church. We need to practically show them what a Christian life looks like.

3. They learn best one-on-one. The kids move from hearing to understanding to learning when I work with them one at a time. Hearing it in a group isn’t as effective. In the same way, churches should always be helping people move from large group (worship) to small groups, where they can practice and apply what they’re learning.

4. They need lots of encouragement. They haven’t done this before. They’re scared. They miss the ball more times than they hit it. I spend most of my time encouraging kids to try again and not give up. In the same way, churches should be constantly encouraging their people. That’s called grace. People struggle, people mess up. The church should be a place where they receive forgiveness and encouragement.

5. My job is to get them to fall in love with the game. At the t-ball level, I’m not working on advanced batting techniques or fielding disciplines. I’m simply trying to get the kids to fall in love with the game. If I do that, I’ve succeeded. In the same way, at church our overall goal is to help people fall in love with Jesus. Programs, budgets, buildings should all help and support that one goal. If we can do that, then we’ve been successful as a church.

QUESTION: What else would you add to this list?

Celebrate for Molly!

Can somebody give me a ‘slow clap’ for Molly? You don’t know Molly, but God is doing something huge in her life. If you can get excited about life change, then you can celebrate for Molly. Molly is an addict. She came to Mt Vernon Church recently through Recovery House (a local residential treatment facility for drug and alcohol addictions). It was a big deal for Molly to even show up to church.

Enjoying the sun

Molly grew up with some bad religious scars from her childhood and vowed never to go back. When she found out that her rehab facility went to church, she almost dropped out of Recovery House simply to avoid going to church. She was skeptical, bitter, and distant.

But then, as only God can, love began to break down barriers in Molly’s life. People began to show her the love of Jesus in tangible ways. Our people welcomed her and embraced her in spite of her addictions. Ladies in our church became mentors to her. She liked the music and engaged with the message. Church took on new life for her. She began to read her Bible and ask questions. Mt Vernon created a safe space for her to explore her faith, and before long the cold embers of belief began to glow warm again.

Easter Weekend Molly requested (and got) special permission to go off campus and volunteer all Saturday morning at our Easter Egg Hunt. Molly doesn’t have any kids. She just wants to be at church now as much as possible. Yesterday I received an email from the staff at Recovery House to let us know the difference God has made in Molly’s life through Mt Vernon. Her time in rehab is coming to a close, but instead of going back home she wants to move to Columbus permanently. Why? In her words, “I do not want to leave Columbus because I absolutely love, love Mt Vernon Church. I can’t believe I am saying this but it’s true.

You don’t know Molly, but trust me when I say that the Molly I met two months ago would never say that. God is  radically transforming her life. God is doing something big. That’s a reason to celebrate! (or at least give a ‘slow clap’)

P.S. While you’re celebrating for Molly, please pray for Karen. Karen is new at Recovery House. She’s where Molly was when she arrived. Easter Sunday was her first Sunday at church in decades. She did not want to be there. Pray that God transforms Karen’s life like He has transformed Molly’s!

A Skeptic’s Guide to the Resurrection in 4 Steps

The whole jigsaw of the Christian faith falls apart if you take out the resurrection. Our faith is not built on a series of beliefs, how we think the world ought to work, or even a holy book (even though we have all of those). Our faith is built on a historical event: the resurrection of Jesus. So if you don’t automatically take the Bible at face value, is there a foundation to believe in the fantastical claims that a man died and rose from the grave? I believe there is a foundation, and I get there in four steps.

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1. Jesus really did die. There was a man named Jesus of Nazareth that lived in the first century and was executed by the Romans through crucifixion. Texts outside of the Bible corroborate this. And the Romans were experts at crucifixions. They had been doing it for centuries. When they killed him, he was dead.

2. Jesus’ body really did disappear. The grave was empty few days later. Even Jesus’ enemies had to acknowledge this. They couldn’t produce a body.

3. Hundreds of people claimed to see him. The disciples claimed they saw him. Paul claimed to have seen him. 500 people at one time claimed to have saw him, and group hallucinations don’t happen. They all claimed to see the same person, Jesus resurrected from the dead. That’s what Paul was listing in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, the people who saw Jesus after he rose from the dead.

4. The disciples transformed from cowards to courageous followers willing to die for their claims about the resurrection. For me the most convincing proof of Jesus’ resurrection. If you look at their lives before the resurrection, they were cowards, even with Jesus in their midst. Afterwards, they were so convinced of the resurrection that they were willing to risk their lives for it, and many of them did in fact die for their belief in the resurrection.

To me, it just doesn’t make logical sense for a bunch of cowards to suddenly flip a switch and be willing to lose their lives for something they knew was a lie. If they knew the resurrection of Jesus was a lie, why not just give it up? They had a good run while Jesus was on earth. People don’t die for something they know is a lie. We know that about human nature. These disciples were absolutely convinced that Jesus rose from the dead, and they were willing to lose their lives for it.

If you look at it with an open mind, I believe the easiest explanation to believe is that Jesus really did rise from the dead.

QUESTION: What other steps would you add to build a case for the resurrection of Jesus?