Changing the Way We Use Our Mouths Can Change Our World

If you know my wife, you would know that she is into studying nutrition, buying organic, and feeding us healthy meals. She reads books, websites, and seeks to learn how to feed our family better.  It's a general rule of nutrition that our body's health is influenced by what we put into our bodies.  If we eat good food, we will more than likely be healthy.  If we eat unhealthy foods, we will more than likely struggle with health problems.  Healthy food can help us overcome most illnesses and improve our overall wellbeing. 

We, in a weird sort of way, provide the nutrition for people's emotions and souls by what we say.  We can either build them up, like a good healthy carrot does for the body, and share God's grace with them, or we can tear them down, like a can of soda does to the body.  We might not see immediate changes; you often don't with nutrition.  But our words can build a framework for growth, grace, and faithfulness, or it can chip away at the foundation that is already there.

I'm not saying you can't be strong and spit out the rotten peas that someone is trying to feed you.  You can, and you should.  You don't have to be controlled by the mean things that others say to you.  If someone tries to tear you down with their words, just let it flow over you.  It's easier said than done, but it is what needs to be done to remain emotionally and spiritually healthy.  There is no need to let a mean person control who you are, but as for each one of us, we need to make sure we use our words to build people up and share God's grace.

Paul wrote, "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear" [Eph 4:29 (ESV)].

The word that is used here to describe "corrupting" in this verse is a word that describes spoiled fish, rotten grapes, and stones that are crumbling.  These things are useless.  On the other hand, the word that is used for "building up" is literally the word that is used in construction for building a house.  With our words we can be used by God to help shape those we encounter into the person He is working on them to become, or we can be used to destroy what God is making them into.  We have been given a great privilege in that God uses us to help shape those around us into who He created them to be.  We are instruments used by God to spread the grace of Jesus.  We are blessed to be part of the redemptive and restorative process of His kingdom.

Building up or tearing down is like the radio in my car.  My car radio reception is terrible.  Before I started my news fast, I used to listen only to talk radio; however, my car could not pick up any of the AM talk radio stations this far from Ft. Wayne.  So I would drive around in silence, not hearing the radio station signals unless I was close enough or the weather was just right to pick up the signal.  Spiritually, we are often like my car radio.  We drive around in silence, only hearing the voice of God when we are in church or doing our devotions, but the rest of the time we find ourselves tuned off.  We are too far away from Him to hear what He wants us to do and what He wants us to say to other people.

If we want to be people who are used by God to help construct other people's lives into what he wants them to be, then we need to be people who are being shaped by God every moment of every day into who He wants us to be.  God has made everyone in His image with a purpose for their life.  We need to see them in that image.

I don't know if you have ever heard of beer goggles.  This is the lingo that is used to describe the state a man or woman gets when they have too much to drink.  They reach a point of intoxication where every person of the opposite sex begins to look better looking than they actually are.  This is called putting on beer goggles.  It causes a guy to view an uglier women in a different light due to the alcohol flowing in their veins.

I would encourage you to not put on beer goggles, but to put on similar goggles, kingdom goggles. When you put them on, you begin to see everyone in the light that God sees them rather in the fallen light that reality shows them in. In God, the fallen can be great followers of Christ. In God, the weak can be strong in the Lord. In God, the blind can see what God is showing them. When we are so full of Christ and His cause, we begin to see people and the world the way he does. We see everything through kingdom goggles.

We need to find that purpose in our life and let it overflow into the lives of those around us.  When we are listening to God and walking in Him, we can be used by Him to help build up others.  When we are living outside of Him, we can be vicious, mean, and hurt those around us.

Viewing people as God intends them to be and using our words to help build them into that image is most important when it comes to those we are around the most:  Those in our biological families and those in our church family, those we work with and those we are neighbors to - we tend to take them for granted.  In doing so - as fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, co-workers, bosses, and neighbors - we miss out on helping to construct the world around us into what God has called it to be.  We need to focus on letting God speak through us to those around us in order to help shape them into who He created them to be.

Those we take for granted could be gone tomorrow, and the words you say to them today could be your last.  It's not a pleasant thought, but it is always the thought expressed by family and friends of a loved one who died unexpectedly from a heart attack or a car accident.  There is great peace in knowing  your last conversation was one of love and building it each other up, and the great thing is that is the type of conversation God has created us for.  May we be people who build up others all of the time.    

The old self tears down and destroys; the new self builds up and shares the grace of God.  Our words are the nutrition for others' souls.

Loving Those the Christian Pharisees Hate - Being Jesus in Our World - Tony Campolo and His Gay Classmate Roger

Tony Campolo shares the following story about a gay classmate in the documentary Lord, Save Us From Your Followers.

When I was in high school there was this boy name Roger.  He was outed - a gay kid and his homosexual orientation became known.  West Philadelphia High was a huge and tough inner-city school.  You can imagine what we did fifty years ago when ignorance prevailed on this issue.  We humiliated this kid at every turn.

On Fridays, after phys-ed, when all of the other kids would go into the shower Roger wouldn’t go in with us; he was afraid to.  When he took his turn we waited for him with our wet towels, and when he would come out, we would whip him and sting his little body.

I wasn’t there the day that they took Roger and dragged him into that shower room and shoved him into the corner.  While he yelled and screamed for mercy, five guys urinated all over him.  I wasn’t there when that happened.

He went home.  He went to bed at about ten o’clock.  They say it was about two o’clock in the morning when Roger went down into the basement of his house and he hung himself.  I knew I wasn’t a Christian because if I was a Christian, I would have been Roger’s friend.  You don’t have to legitimate somebody’s lifestyle in order to love that person, to be brother or sister to that person, and to stand up for that person.

Bringing Back the "Out-of-Style" Prayer Meeting - How to Improve Group Prayer Meetings

One of the things I hope to reintroduce in August at our church is the Midweek Prayer Meeting. 

Here are some of the links I found useful in my research along with excerpts. 

Samuel Chadwick, one of God’s great men of past years, taught that Satan’s greatest aim is to destroy our prayer lives. Satan is not afraid of prayerless study, prayerless work or prayerless religion – but he will tremble when we pray. If Chadwick was correct (and many other great men of God have said similar things), then we have a problem. If there is any part of our church life that seems to be in trouble, it is the prayer meeting. IN fact, in an increasing number of churches, for all practical purposes, there is no such meeting at all. 

The lack and neglect of such meetings is, I believe, one of the greatest mistakes in our Bible-believing churches, and such deception by Satan represents a far greater enemy than liberal theology or the cults. In fact, a clear study of 2 Corinthians 10:4-7 would show us that prayer is the principal means through which we are going to stand against the enemy whatever way he might attack us. We seem to be blind to the nature of spiritual warfare and feel that as long as we have a full Sunday school and good numbers on Sunday morning then all is well. Could it be true that if the Holy Spirit left us, very few changes would be made? Would everything go on as usual?

Prayer is one of our main weapons and faith is closely linked with it.  We must not expect it to be easy. Satan will counter-attack any efforts made towards effective prayer. We must refuse any form of discouragement and press forward whatever the cost.

Conversational Prayer Meetings (download only) by William Lantz

When children line up in front of a department store Santa Claus, each has his turn to talk to Santa.  But even though a group of children may be gathered around, what takes place is merely a series of individual communications.  To me this line-up of children seems analogous to the kind of prayer which is called group prayer, but which actually is a series of individual prayers to which others in the room are allowed to listen.  In such a situation there is no real group activity.

I have come to believe that group activity is important to prayer.  Group prayer should be like a time when the children of a family talk something over with their father.  At such a time the procedure is something like this: the children with their father may discuss plans to go to the zoo.  Each one who cares to (including the father) makes a comment or two about this.  Then the conversation may turn to household chores, then the matter of swings for the backyard, then the children’s school activities, and so on to other topics.

Conversational group prayer doesn’t consist of orations but of phrases or sentences from various individuals on one topic until the topic is covered.  Ordinarily it is rude in group conversation to make a statement about a topic and then go on to something else without giving others a chance to say anything.  On the other hand it would be rude to interrupt a speaker or orator to comment on one of his topics, no matter how many subsequent topics he might also discuss before he finished.
    Thus the “rule” for conversational group prayer is this: limit your prayer to one topic at a time.  It may take just a phrase to express it, or a sentence, or two or three sentences – but just one thought.  It could be some bit of adoration, perhaps a thought of thanksgiving, maybe a note of confession, petition, or intercession – but just one idea.
    Then wait and let others add something on that topic.  Perhaps someone else’s addition will remind you of another aspect of that topic for which you would like to pray.
    Then when it seems that everyone has finished on a topic, you or anyone else may introduce a new one.  You may pray many times during the meeting but only a single thought each time.  The prayer meeting thus proceeds topic by topic.  (Incidentally, the same topic could again be introduced later if some important neglected aspect comes to mind.)

In summary, the two rules for conversational group prayer are these: (1) Pray one thought at a time, allowing someone else a chance to add anything he wishes on that topic; (2) Proceed topically, not leaving a topic until everyone who wishes has had a chance to pray something about it.

Can you imagine how weird life would be if all your conversations were like most prayer meetings? You’d be at a party, maybe standing in a circle with friends, and one person would talk constantly for five or ten minutes, hardly taking a breath, covering six or seven topics. Finally that person would finish, and the next person would start saying basically the same thing for five or ten minutes. Maybe the next person would squeeze the person’s hand next to them to let them know they weren’t going to say anything, but then the fourth person jumps in for their five minutes on those same topics, and so on around the circle. How boring would that be? Would you chose to stay in that conversation or would you excuse yourself to go get some more food or drink and find someone else to talk to? This is why it’s so hard to get people to come to pray corporately.

Here are the ground rules for having conversational prayer (they would also work as good ground rules for having a conversation at a party):
  1. Stick with one thought at a time, allowing someone else to add to that topic before proceeding. I call this “paragraph” prayer.
  2. Proceed topically, not leaving a topic until everyone who wishes to contribute has had a chance to pray something about it.
If you follow these rules you will be amazed at the difference you will have in your times of corporate prayer (and it may really help your social life too).

Ruark lists 6 good results of Conversational Prayer.  He goes on to describe them in more detail.
  1. It shows love and respect for others present.
  2. It's considerate of attention span.
  3. There is no need to have all of your thoughts organized.
  4. There is less self-consciousness.
  5. It can be deep and real.
  6. Conversation prayer cuts down on the amount of unplanned silence in a prayer.
Prayer Meetings by Charles Spurgeon

He provides a great list of hindrances to the prayer meeting.  He goes into details on each one.

  1. Unholiness
  2. Discord
  3. Hypocrisy
  4. Long prayers
  5. Little sermons in our prayers
  6. Lack of being direct with our prayers.
  7. Lack of real intensity in our prayers.
  8. Lack of faith.
  9. Inconsistency in our prayers.
It is of no use for me to preach to the people, my dear Christian brothers and sisters, unless you pray for them. It is of no use holding special services for the quickening of the spiritually dead unless the Holy Spirit is brought to them by our prayers. It may be that you who pray have more to do with the blessed results than we who preach.

I think I have told you of the old story of the preacher who had been very successful in his preaching, but a message came from heaven to him that it would not have been so if it had not been for the prayers of an old deaf brother preacher, who sat on the pulpit stairs and pleaded with God for the conversion of the listeners. It may be true. We may appear to the eyes of men to have the credit of success, but all the while the real honor may belong to someone else, and I do certainly myself always ascribe the conversions brought about in this church to the prayers of God’s people. Let it always be so ascribed, and let God have all the glory in it. But do pray for conversions. Never give up praying for your unconverted wife or husband! Never cease to pray for your unconverted children. Never let the devil tempt you to be silent concerning your ungodly neighbors, but day and night, in the house and on the road, lift up your hearts to God in real prayer, and say to him, “Oh! that Ishmael might live before you!” He has given us his pledge that he will answer: believe it, and you shall see it, and you shall have the joy of it while He shall have the glory. Amen

Primitive Prayer Meeting by Charles Finney.  This is a great message.

The fact is, brethren, our modern prayer-meetings are too cold and too constrained. Christians are not earnest in prayer. Their souls cannot become deeply burdened and earnestly agonized in supplication; they do not thirst enough for spiritual blessings, and have not the deep communion with God which is requisite for prevailing prayer. You know what a burden is felt in a prayer-meeting when the heart is thoroughly broken; when pride is abased, the soul humbled, and the entire energies are drawn out in earnest supplication. But there are few such meetings for prayer now. There is a lack of sustaining unanimity. It is a law of mind that union of heart sustains the interest and power of prayer. Did you never observe how you can sustain another in prayer, if you enter deeply into his sympathies? You uphold his faith and his fervor.

There is a wide difference between that and a meeting in which the heart has free scope, and the Spirit of God is not straitened, but ranges with free scope and melting power. I have seen prayer-meetings in which manifestly the whole congregation went forth before God in mighty prayer. Some of you have seen such prayer. The hearts of the people were moved as the trees of the forest before a mighty rushing wind.--Words seem as if frightened with irrepressible emotion. You can see that God is there. Everyone feels it. An awe of the Holy Presence pervades each heart. And yet they are not afraid, but are drawn into sweet confidence and most earnest pleading. Literally they seem to pour out their hearts before him. This is true prayer, and meets the idea of social praying. It is a union of hearts before God's mercy-seat, the Spirit coming down to make intercession with their spirit with groanings that cannot be uttered. Every prayer-meeting should bear this character, modified only according to the type of those circumstances that call for prayer.

One of the results of the revival in Korea is the multiplication of daily early morning prayer meetings. I questioned a Korean pastor recently and he assured me that daily early morning prayer meetings (5am in summer and 6am in winter) are part of the lifestyle of evangelical Christians of all denominations. Are these Koreans more angels than men?! Yet Bob Sheehan told me that as a boy he was impressed by the devotion of his father, a working man who laboured from 7am to 7pm daily, yet attended without fail a prayer meeting at 6am on his way to work!

Gandhi's Seven Deadly Social Sins

Politics without principle

Wealth without work

Commerce without morality

Pleasure without conscience

Education without character

Science without humanity

Worship without sacrifice

Rights without responsibility

You may have noticed that there are eight.  That's because Gandhi's grandson, Arun Gandhi, added the eighth.  It is good and has a Spider-Man ring to it.

Viewing Our Sorrow and Sadness Differently - The Story of Thomas Nast and a Landscape Painting

The famous Thomas Nast, so famous that we no longer know him over a hundred years after his death, lives on in the creations he made.  He gave us what we think of as Santa Claus (jolly, fat, red outfit with white trim, and fluffy white beard), the Republican elephant, the Democratic Donkey, and the goatee of Uncle Sam.

At a public exhibition, he awed a crowd with his drawing skills.  He took a landscape canvas, approximately six feet long by two feet wide, and placed it horizontally upon an easel before his audience.  On it he worked from left to write and rapidly painted a landscape.  In quick succession appeared green meadows, with cattle, fields of grain, the farmhouse and surrounding buildings, with orchard near, while over all the bright sky, with fleecy clouds, seemed to pour heaven’s benediction upon the scene below.  At the time, and for some still, it was a scene of all that the human flesh desires, a house on a piece of farmland flourishing in bounty.

When he reached the end on the right side of the canvas, Nast did not need to touch up anything. The artist held his brush, stepped aside to show the crowd his work, and received a hearty applause from the amazed audience.

At the end of the ovation, Mr. Nast stepped back to the canvas.  He apparently was not done.
Taking darker colors, he applied them most recklessly to the canvas. Out went the bright sky. “Did you ever see a picture like this?” he asked, as he blotted out meadows, fields, orchards, and buildings. Up, down, and across passed the artist’s hand, until the landscape was totally obliterated, and nothing but what appeared to just be a glob of colors, such as a child might make, remained.

Then, with a more satisfied look, he stepped aside, laying down his brushes, as if to say, “It is finished.”
No applause came from the perplexed audience as they did not know how to respond to Nast ruining his beautiful picture in front of them.  Nast then ordered the stage attendants to place an elaborate frame around the ruined work of art and to turn it to a vertical position. The mystery was revealed.  Before the audience stood a painting of a beautiful waterfall, the water plunging over a precipice of dark rock, skirted with trees and lush vegetation. It is needless to say that the audience burst into rounds of applause.

And in our lives a greater Artist is at work. We paint our landscapes. How beautiful we make them! All manner of earthly prosperity, with bright skies above. We imagine our sketching perfect, but an unseen Hand finishes more grandly our crude designs.

Houses and yards, cars and material goods, disappear. Yes, our portrait of loved faces is blotted out. We cry, “Hold, hold!  Stop, please Stop!” but the Hand that applies the darker colors moves relentlessly on. We weep and mourn over our ruined paintings because we have not the true angle of vision.

At last God turns the canvas, and there appears a work not for time but for eternity.

While Mr. Nast was spoiling the landscape to produce the falls, he might have echoed the words of Jesus to his disciples to the mystified audience, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand” John 13:7 (ESV).  What puzzled the audience was plain to Nast. In each destructive stroke upon the landscape painting he saw a stroke creating a new painting; and what might appear strange and troubling to us, is most clear to Him who desires to save us from being “conformed to this world,” and will help us be transformed by the renewal of our minds, that we “may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.”

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” Romans 12:1-2 (ESV).


This story, The Ruined Painting, is from Signs of the Times, February 7, 1895; via November 2005 Signs of the Times E-mail Newsletter.  I found it here.  I could not find the painting described, so I cannot even verify if the story is true.  But the point is true nonetheless.  I took liberty in modernizing the language, adding, and removing sentences.

We Gather Together to Sharpen One Another - Iron Sharpens Iron

In 1954, the impossible became possible.  Roger Bannister was the first to run a mile in under four minutes.  Within ten years, a high schooler ran a mile in less than four minutes.  Bannister broke the barrier and everyone else followed.  They learned that it could be done, and those who were able to train with him learned his methods on how to do it.  In 1997, two miles were ran in less than eight minutes.  The impossible keeps becoming possible.  When people believe something can be done and train with one another, what was once thought impossible can be achieved.

The same thing happened with the 100m dash.  It was thought to be impossible to run it in less than ten seconds.  That barrier was broken in 1968; now over 70 people have ran the 100m dash in less than ten seconds.  They learn from one another and break barriers that were previously thought impossible.

Last week, I wrote Why Should I Go to Church?   The point of that post was that we gather together to encourage one another and spur each other on to do loving actions for others.  In this post we are going to change gears a little and focus on how when we gather together, we can do more than we could do by ourselves.  This is the result of sharpening one another.  The writer of Proverbs wrote, "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17).

What you have accomplished after hard work and struggling can easily be passed on to me if I am humble enough to learn from you and your experience.  Sometimes our greatest enemy is ourselves, our self-sufficiency and self-reliance.  We think we have to blaze our own trail and not follow down the road of those who are on the journey with us.  We become prideful and unteachable, but the key is that others can unlock doors that we can not; we can do the same for them.  Together we can accomplish more than we could as two separate people.

A healthy gathering of believers is one where the people learn from one another, sharpen one another, and encourage each other to do greater things than they would have done if left alone.  There is this saying that one's ceiling can become the next generation's floor.  I think it is true in the narrower context of daily living.  What you learn today, can be my knowledge and actions tomorrow if I am teachable. I can do what you have learned to do through years of hard work in just a short time if you are willing to share and I am willing to learn.  Let us not neglect meeting together because together we can build something greater than we could apart.

How People Received the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts

In the last year, I have been accused of believing in something that the attackers labeled as "open fellowship."  It means that I accept people as brothers and sisters in Christ who have not been baptized.  To that, I plead guilty.

One of the people who left our church when we were making changes left because I would not say that those who are not baptized are going to hell.  Again, I plead guilty.

These views stem from the same thought.  Here is my study of the arrival of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts.  Taking Acts at face value, rather than reading a presupposed theology into it, leads me to believing in "open fellowship" and accepting people who are not baptized as brothers and sisters.

The Spirit comes on people whenever God knows their heart is surrendered.  For many, this occurs at baptism.  For others, it can be upon hearing the Gospel, upon the laying on of hands, or even some other experience.  If there is one exception to baptism being the place to receive the Holy Spirit (and we have four in Acts alone), then that means that people can receive the Spirit, which is the seal of salvation (2 Cor 1:22, Eph 1:13, Romans 8:9-11,16-17), outside of baptism.   

Alexander Campbell said:
Should I find one [baptized as an infant] more intelligent in the Christian Scriptures, more spiritually-minded and more devoted to the Lord than…one immersed on a profession of the ancient faith, I could not hesitate a moment in giving the preference of my heart to him that loveth most.  Did I act otherwise, I would be a pure sectarian, a Pharisee among Christians.
 Barton Stone reiterated:
None of us are disposed to make our notions of baptism, however well founded, a bar of christian fellowship.  We acknowledge all to be brethren, who believe and obey the Saviour, and, who walking in the Spirit, bear his holy image; yet, in the meekness of Christ, we labor to convince such of their duty in submitting to every ordinance of the Lord.
But then there was Moses Lard, stirring the seeds of exclusivism early on in the Restoration Movement.

I mean to say distinctly and emphatically that Martin Luther, if not immersed, was not a Christian...If a man can be a Christian without immersion, let the fact be shown; or if a man can or may commune without being a Christian, let the fact be shown.  I deny both.  Immovably I stand here.  But I shall be told that this is Phariseeism, that is exclusivism.  Be it so;  if it be true...then am I so far the defendant of Phariseeism and exclusivism.
Where do we find ourselves?  On the side of Lard?  Or on the side of Campbell and Stone?  Really, it doesn't matter.  We need to find ourselves on the side of Jesus and the clear teachings of Scripture.

This discussion becomes fruitless when we begin to parse when the Holy Spirit comes and at what point salvation begins.  We need to focus on total surrender, which will include baptism, and living our lives completely for Jesus.  Minimal Christianity, a Christianity that is just focused on being saved, is no Christianity at all.  People will ask what they must do to be saved.  We will respond by telling them to become disciples, surrender their heart to Jesus, be baptized, and follow him all the days of their life.  If you want to be assured of your salvation, give your whole life to Jesus.  Baptism will not save you without that.

Here is a run through the relevant verses in Acts.

And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself" [Acts 2:38-39 (ESV)].

When we want to put the reception of the Holy Spirit into a little box, this is the verse we come to.  However, we will see that the rest of the book of Acts does not adhere to this box that we like to place receiving the Holy Spirit inside.

"And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance" [Acts 2:4 (ESV)].
The Apostles received the Holy Spirit without baptism.
Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God." [Acts 8:17-21 (ESV)]
The Holy Spirit was given through the laying on of hands.

While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy  Spirit fell on all who heard the word (Acts 10:44).   As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning (Acts 11:15).
The Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles and Cornelius when they heard.
And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”...And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and  prophesying (Acts 19:2,6).
They received the Holy Spirit at the laying on of hands after baptism.  Paul expected them to have received it when they believed.

And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us (Acts 15:8).
The heart being surrendered to God is the key to receiving the Holy Spirit.  Nobody see someone's heart by asking them to show a baptism certificate or proof of membership in some church.  They show that they are a vessel of the Holy Spirit through their fruit.  We can accept anyone who professes Jesus as Lord and shows the fruit in their life as a brother or sister in Him.

The State of Our Heart is the Key to Salvation

Just a brief definition disclaimer before we begin. When I use the word "heart" I mean "heart" in the sense of the way it is used throughout the New Testament as the word kardios. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament states the definition of heart as: "The heart is the center of the inner life of man and the source or seat of all the forces and functions of soul and spirit." In the LXX (Septuagint), kardios is the same word translated as heart oftentimes in the OT.


I was one of those obsessive and immature guys who liked to know the status of my relationship with a girl or girls when I was dating growing up. I hankered for a tangible definition to something that was not really tangible. That temporary yet stated status gave me confidence and assurance.

We often take the same approach to salvation. I would like to have tangible salvation with a formula; however, it is the underlying heart that really matters - not outward actions or intellectual beliefs. Actions and beliefs can be revealing as to the state of one's heart, but just like the mean girlfriend from the past that ripped my heart in two, people can be fake and treat us like spectators at a performance. Some have this instinct to be fake so ingrained in them that artificiality spews from them without them ever realizing it. Only God can see behind the curtain and into the depths of our girlfriend's heart, and only God can see into depths of people's hearts when it comes to salvation.

There are many different proposed formulas for salvation: The four spiritual laws, the plan of salvation, some focus on just believing, or some other plan. The various formulas are scattered across the internet and are mostly based on Scripture.  All pick out Scriptures here and there to make their point. The formulas proposed are one of the most divisive areas in Christianity.

It doesn't matter what denominational or non-denominational background the teaching comes from, every formula seems to leave out elements that are linked with salvation in Scripture. The formulas also seem to emphasize one-time events. The focus is on getting saved rather than living saved. The formulas, which are the nature of formulas, exclude most if not all of continual aspects of salvation.

If you've said a prayer for salvation or been baptized, yet you ignore helping a neighbor, your one-time salvific event doesn't guarantee anything.  We have neglected what truly matters, and what matters are hearts being the home of the Holy Spirit. It is meaningless if you've completed all the steps in your formula and help your neighbors, yet your heart is not the home of the Holy Spirit. Its the depths of people's hearts that matter, and we cannot see past the surface into people's souls. We can't tell if our neighbor is saved. We have to have some sort of trust that people have transformed hearts when we consider them brothers and sisters based upon what they claim they are. It is impossible for us to examine the depths of anyone's heart.

I use the following example because it is the background I am familiar with. This logic could be applied to any steps of the various formulas that are spread throughout all the different formulas for salvation in Christianity. Many members of the Church of Christ/Christian Church have problems with accepting people as saved who have not been baptized. My question would be "Why did they ignore baptism?" If it was because of ignorance due to the fact that they were brought up in an environment that taught them it wasn't important, then salvation would not rely upon baptism but upon their heart, which they would show was in good standing when they decide to become baptized upon hearing that is what they should do. If it was because of stubbornness and disobedience to a teaching that they knew they should do, then we can almost be guaranteed that they are an individual that does not have a transformed heart.

This is all very reminiscent of what one of the founders of the Church of Christ said during the Rice-Campbell debate on on September 15, 1843. Alexander Campbell stated,
 "God is the judge of the world, therefore, judgment should be left to Him. It will require a Judge with infinite knowledge and wisdom to determine the fate of each individual on the basis of the opportunities for knowledge and the degree of ignorance, or of deliberate refusal to obey, or attempt to create and authorize the traditions of men in the place of the commands of God."
 Campbell echoes Paul in his letter to the Romans:

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
Romans 2:14-16 (ESV)

Many American Christians are in the group of ignorance rather than the group of rebellion. Most are not Bible scholars and have not studied Scripture like an educated believer, nor do they come from backgrounds that teach that laymen should. Churches from all branches of Christianity, even the Church of Christ, are guilty of this. Does that mean the apathetic studiers are not saved? Could an apathetic studier still have a transformed heart?

Even if someone has followed their church's formula for salvation to the letter, it doesn't mean they have a transformed heart. Back to my upbringing for instance. It could mean they grew up in a church that emphasized baptism and they did not want to be outcasts or disappoint their family. Baptism, without a transformed heart, is irrelevant and sacrilegious; however, a transformed heart is relevant even without the steps in a specific formula because a person with a transformed heart will do the steps in the formula once it is revealed to them to do so. They have a heart that is focused on following God. The process of their salvation has begun. It is this transformed heart that becomes home to the Holy Spirit that matters: All intellectual beliefs and physical actions are meaningless without that transformed heart.

I've beaten this to death, but there isn't a formula or a prescription for salvation. We cannot measure when salvation begins in other people. I wish it was all so clear as to be biblically prescribed, that we can complete a checklist and be saved. It seems to be that way to many people; it isn't that way to me and many others in Christendom. I'm sure taking this stance will make me evil in some eyes, but I believe our difference in opinion is because I have a different approach when it comes to studying the Bible, not because I don't believe the Bible has authority. My theory that the transformed heart is the key to salvation leaves room for disagreements on methods of studying Scripture because an intellectual pursuit such as how to study the Bible is in no way a measure of one's salvation.

We do not know the exact time of salvation because the heart is a nebulous thing, but we do know that salvation is not always linked to an outward action or a belief statement. It is linked to a change of one's heart. This change of one's heart will bring about proper beliefs, which will result in proper actions; however, proper beliefs and/or proper actions are meaningless without the change of heart. Proper beliefs and actions don't happen overnight. I don't even know if the process of us having proper beliefs and actions will happen on this side of the grave. Our complete transformation is a process, a process that begins with our heart becoming the home of the Holy Spirit.

A surrendered heart that is the home of the Holy Spirit cannot be separated from proper beliefs and actions. This concept seems to lend a stronger credence to baptism and all of the other key actions of the salvation formulas. A kingdom heart will do all of the actions God desires of it. To Focus on having a person live out the actions of a kingdom heart is fruitless until their heart is inhabited by the Spirit.

There seems to be various gateways to the Spirit inhabiting one's heart, which I equate with the beginning of kingdom living. It can happen at baptism, laying on of hands, upon hearing the Gospel, upon believing the Gospel, and at various other times - the Holy Spirit coming into a person's life and taking over cannot be kept in a neat, little salvific box, nor does it really benefit us to argue about that particular point at which a person begins kingdom living. The key is that the beginning is just that, a beginning. It is not something to get overly hung up on. At the point when one's heart is inhabited with the Holy Spirit and sealed for salvation, one's thoughts and actions will begin to align itself with God's perfect will. Having one's heart changed is the beginning of a process, not the arrival of perfection. Everything we do from that point on should be done to help us perfect our thoughts and actions as our heart was perfected.

This makes sense of our struggle with being saved yet continuing to sin. Our heart, the seat of all the functions of our soul and spirit, has been sanctified, yet our thoughts and actions are still out of tune with our sanctified heart. This doesn't give us an excuse to sin; it just assures us that when we catch ourselves sinning, our salvation is still secure. Our thoughts and actions still cling to the fallen nature of our self while God is trying to redeem our whole being and all of his creation, not just the heart where he started.

This leads me to ask, "How do I change my heart?" And the answer seems to be, "I cannot." We must stand on the truth that we are completely saved by grace. I would argue that at the sound of the gospel, whether that arrives through the voice of a person or an echo of God in nature, everyone's heart is knocked upon by the Holy Spirit. He wants to come into our heart and begin to change our life. We might give intellectual consent before allowing the Holy Spirit in, or our heart might be craving it without our intellect knowing. Sadly, some hearts will resist. I do not know the formula of how to have an open heart to God's Spirit, but all of the formulas provide physical and intellectual things we can do to help that process if it hasn't already occurred. But how we have an open heart is one of the great mysteries of Christianity. Opening up our heart isn't something we can manipulate; it is something that has to be a desire at the core of our being.
'This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds,' he also adds, 'I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.' Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin (Hebrews 10:16-18).


Here is a list of some of the verses that inspired these thoughts:

"I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am the one who searches minds and hearts, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve." (Rev 2:23)

Acts 1:24 - "Then they prayed and said, 'Lord you know everyone's heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen..."

Acts 15:8 - "And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us..."

Luke 16:15 - "So he said to them (the Pharisees), 'You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God."

Romans 8:27 - "And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."

Galatians 4:6 - "And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his son into our hearts, cring, 'Abba! Father!'"

The heart appears to be the home of the Spirit in us.

1 Thessalonians 2:4 - "Just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts."

Romans 5:5 - "Hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us."

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 - "It is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first installment." This is a very similar passage to Ephesians 1:13-14 - "In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked wit the seal of the promised Holy SPirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people, to the praise of his glory."

2 Corinthians 3:3 - You show that you are a letter of Chirst, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tables of human hearts."

2 Corinthians 4:6 - "For it is the God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

Acts 16:14 - "A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul."

Hebrews 10:21-22 - "Since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water."

Romans 10:9-10 - "If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved." Paul doesn't just write "believe" but "believes with the heart" and "believe in your heart". It is much deeper than just intellectual assent.

1 Corinthians 14:25 - "After the secrets of the unbeliever's heart are disclosed, that person will bow down before God and worship him, declaring, 'God is really among you'."

Why Should I Go to Church?

You might be like me.  I am very skittish about organized religion.  And yet here I am, a full-time pastor.  I completely gave up on the church when I was a youth minister.  I had become so discouraged with the way the church operated, the politics involved, people who seemed to be seeking out their own interests rather than passionately pursuing whatever God wants no matter what the cost might be.  In the midst of it, I gave up on God, but he did not give up on me.  He kicked me in the bottom, as we say it in our family to the kids.  “Judge me by who I am.” He said.  “Not by those who claim to follow me.  If you think the church needs to change, so do I.” 

According to a recent poll, 72% of Millenials, the generation after Generation X, who were born sometime between the mid 70s to the early 2000s, identify themselves as being spiritual but not religious. 

The writer of Hebrews wrote, "Let us...not neglect to meet together."  It’s true, not because it is in Scripture;  it is in Scripture because it is true.  “You’re supposed to go to church because Hebrews 10:25 says so” is not a good approach if you want to convince someone that they should come to church.

We are able and expected to ask, “Why?”  Have you ever noticed how we’re scared of that question?  “Why?”  Those three letters are scary, terrifying, and too often ignored by those who have not thought through why they do what they do and teach what they teach.  The church seems to hate that question, but we must be willing to seek answers and explain why we believe what we believe and do what we do. 

I was one of those annoying kids that always asked, “Why.”  I pestered my parents with “why”.  I wanted to know why everything needed to be done the way they said it needed to be done, and I wanted to know why things functioned the way they functioned.  I hated any subject in school or college where the answer to why we had to learn it wasn’t laid out.  “Why” might be a scary question, especially when the answers are unknown, but it is one of the greatest questions.   

As Christians we should be able to answer the “why” question for what we do and how we do it.  If you invite someone to church and they ask, “Why should I come to church?”  They might phrase it, not in the form of a question, but in a statement through which they tell you that they don’t need the church to be spiritual and right with God.  And in a way, they are right.  Church is not necessary to be right with God.  But we’re not trying to live a minimal Christianity of just being right with God; we want to live a faith of complete devotion.  We want to be all that God plans for us to be, a group of people that will cause the gates of hell to shudder when we gather together. 

I heard the excuse from a friend that they don’t have to go to church to be right with God when I invited her to church the other week, and to be honest with you, it is a tendency I have.  I struggle with hating the organized church.  I’m ashamed of the atrocities and the violations of justice that have been done through the organized church in the name of God throughout the years and are still being supported.  I’m distraught over institutions of ritual that go through the empty and endless motions of fake devotion and remain in existence long after God has left the building.  I abhor the politics involved; the disagreements and distractions from the mission we have been called to.  I get frustrated at being criticized for doing what I think is best to bring about God’s will here in Antwerp.  I despise people thinking they are right with God because of head knowledge, being baptized, asking Jesus into their heart, or their knowledge of the Scriptures.  Because of all these things, I would long to just go off on my own and do church the way I understand it should be done.  And you might feel that way too.

In the end, the way I feel is very selfish.  It is not a manifestation of the Holy Spirit but of the individualism of our society creeping out.  You could not create a more American religion than one that is self-sufficient and reliant upon the strength of the individual to stay strong without encouragement and accountability from others.  In the framework of spirituality without the church, my spirituality is about myself and myself only.  I get to use my money on what on I want, study only what I am fascinated with, live my life without anyone else questioning anything, and not have to wrestle with thoughts that are different than mine.  In an American era where we can get our news from sources that always agree with us, commentary from friends we agree with, and have the power to ignore people with a click of a button, this idea that I am the supreme ruler of my spiritual life fits right in.  

But Jesus designed us to gather together.  Jesus did not come and create his ministry in isolation. 

In one of my favorite Pearl Jam songs, Given to Fly, Eddie Vedder tells the story of a spiritual man who learns how humanity can unlock the chains that keep us down, chains he sees everywhere.  This spiritual person begins to tell people about what he has learned and how they can be free, but they respond by beating and stabbing him.  It goes on:
He still stands
And he still gives his love, he just gives it away
The love he receives is the love that is saved
And sometimes is seen a strange spot in the sky
A human being that was given to fly
A beautiful and inspiring story about individual spirituality, but Jesus was different.  He still sets us free, but he didn’t come as a Lone Ranger.  He surrounded himself with disciples.  Then he charged these disciples to create more disciples.  He established a kingdom, a community, a city of believers under his rule.  We are a body connected one to another.  We are a family.

We should not throw that out because the church all too frequently messes up, because we have been hurt by someone at church, or some other reason.  On the flip side, we should not settle for a church that is wasting time.  We should allow God to use us to shape ourselves and the community we are part of into what God wants us to be.  We should not give up on the church because it is faulty.  God does not give up on us because we are faulty.  We need to be open to God using us to bring about the change He desires.

As the rest of that section from the writer of Hebrews states, "Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" [Heb 10:24-25 (ESV)].

We gather, not for our sake, but to spur each other on toward living lives filled with loving actions and doing good for those around us.  That is not always easy.  It's easy to fall in selfish mode, to get absorbed by our own lives and our own needs.  God knew that we would have this tendency to become self-absorbed, so He came down in the flesh and established His Church.  When we, the Church gather together, we need to be focused on encouraging one another.   Maybe that means we need to rethink what we do and how we do it, but encouraging one another is not something we can do by ourselves.

A Message for the Depressed and Hurting

I received a message from a friend who is depressed about his life, where he is, and how he feels.  This is what I wrote in response.  Maybe it will help someone else feeling the same way.

I'm reminded of Nine Inch Nail's Hurt, preferably the Johnny Cash version.

That song was originally released on Nine Inch Nail's Downward Spiral.  In an interview, Trent Reznor noted that he wrote the album to be one whole message.  In it, he rejects God, he lives for himself, but by the end, he wishes he could throw it all away and start over.  You seem like you are in a downward spiral of sorts, and at the end of that spiral is Hurt.  A place where you wish you could start again and throw everything away.  That place is always now.  We constantly have to throw away the hurt others have inflicted on us, the hurt we have self-inflicted, and the dreams we have missed fulfilling.  That's what forgiveness is.

The problem is that people don't think that it is possible to start over, but with God it is possible.  Jesus offers grace, a grace that helps us overcome the failure we feel like we are and sometimes have been.  A grace that will give us the strength to continue on despite continuing to be a failure.  A grace that helps us become more than we can be without it. 

In the end, a life filled with God's spirit, forgiveness and grace will be a life that will end that downward spiral; a life that wills stop the hurt; a life that will reflect the glory of God; the life you were intended to live.  Don't give up.  Be real, be honest, and pursue God with your whole heart.

"Have you not known? Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;  his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.  Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint" Isaiah 40:28-31 (ESV).

When We Steal and The New Life of Helping Others

There is a great collection of stupid criminal stories at a legal forms site.
Investigating a purse snatching, detectives picked up  a man who fit the thief's description and drove him back to the scene. He  was told to exit the car and face the victim for an I.D. The suspect carefully eyed the victim, and blurted, "Yeah, that's the woman I robbed."
When we steal, what do we steal for?  Yes, I didn’t slip.  I meant “When we steal.”

Typically, we narrowly define the term "stealing" into one that we can legalistically adhere to.  We know that stealing is going into a store, taking a good, and leaving without paying for it.  We know it is breaking into someone’s house, stealing their computer, and not paying for it.  None of us struggle with stealing when we define it so narrowly.  But unfortunately, we live in and participate in a culture that has become very creative with stealing and has brought to a whole, new global level.  We're not like that dumb thief handed over his I.D.  We, as a group of people, send our military into nations so that we can buy oil cheaper.  We pilfer a poor nation’s natural resources, albeit in collaboration with their corrupt leadership, and use it to prosper and have more material goods.  We consume goods that were manufactured by people who were not paid a fair wag; people who live under a dictatorship that we support because they provide us with inexpensive goods.  It's almost like we don't think it is stealing if enough of us do it.  We are all thieves, living in a culture of thieves.  We’re the thieves of the world!

Paul wrote, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Ephesians 4:28).  This is delivered in the midst of the old self, new self analogy.  Paul states that the old self is the life of a thief.  The new self is a life of working hard so that we can share with anyone in need.

If we're honest with ourselves, deep down we think that we steal for a good reason.  You see, we have an idol to worship, and that idol is ourselves.  Our self’s temple, also known as a house, is a necessary idolic accessory in America.  And we will do nearly anything for our idol and its temple.  We save for homes, spend so much money on homes, work days off of from our job on our homes, and we don’t think a second thought about our indulgence in our homes.  It’s normal.  It’s the great American temple for our great self idol.  We tell ourselves that it is okay to invest our time and money in our home while those around us are in need.  We might even deceive ourselves even more and say that we are indulging in our home for others.

We spend so much time dreaming, acquiring money, and expending energy maintaining our dream house.  But I want to propose an alternative to overindulgence in our personal temples.  What if we spent the excess money we spend on our houses on furthering God’s kingdom?  What if we chose to live simpler and less extravagantly, maybe even live together, to save our resources to bring about God’s will in our community and around the world.  Are we willing to make changes in our lives in order to bring about the kingdom of God here on earth? 

The 1928 issue of The Rotarian shared a fascinating story.  William James was a professor of psychology and philosophy at the university of Harvard in the late part of the 1800s and the first decade of the 1900s.  He proposed, that “if a group of Eskimos were brought from the far north to New York harbor, they wouldn’t, in all probability, notice the many startling things that would be altogether new to them.  The students - especially the freshmen - failed to be convinced.  Years late the experiment was tried, and the Eskimos were oblivious of the magnificent bridges and towering skyscrapers.  Their attention was caught by, and their eyes riveted upon, a little boat, somewhat similar to the ones that they use during part of the year.”

The Eskimos were not interested in the amazing New York cityscape because they had no framework from which to compare it to.  We are similar to those Eskimos, but instead of being Eskimos in New York we are Christians in the Kingdom of God.  We fail to see what God really wants us to take notice of because it is difficult to look outside of our American cultural lenses that we have been raised with.  We fail to see the radical life he has called us to.  We justify our extravagant use of our money because we are more generous than those around us, but God doesn't want us to compare ourselves to the fellow imperfect people around us.  He wants us to compare ourselves to Jesus and His perfection.  We shouldn't pat ourselves on our back because we live slightly different and a little more loving than the people around us when God has actually called us to live completely different than the world. 

We are part of  a long line of people who have come before us that have made the same mistake.  The Jews, God's chosen people, committed it when they returned from exile in Babylon in 538 B.C.  You would think after spending nearly fifty years in exile, they would have figured out to put God first, but they returned from exile and immediately went back to their old ways of putting themselves above God.  It wasn't until 516, after Haggai rebuked them, that they eventually restored the temple.

Here's what Haggai said,
"Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD." Then the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, "Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.

 "Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the LORD. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors" (Haggai 1:2-11).
I think we would do well to heed that warning.  Let's learn to see the world the way God wants us to see the world, and learn to use our resource to love the people in need around us.  That's the new life we are called to.

Social Justice. Our Involvement as Christians in Politics. And the Kingdom of God

The Beck controversy over social justice is an issue that will not die.  The reason is that at its core are two deeper issues:  What the Christians role in the government should be in a representative democracy and how do Christians reflect the kingdom of God in the here and now.  Beck does a tremendous yet unfortunate job blurring the two. 

The misunderstanding people have is that social justice does not inherently have to express itself in socialism despite both concepts having the word "social" in them.  Pre-school logic might say that since they both use the word "social" they are immanently linked, but that just is not the case.  The Salvation Army grew out of social justice thinking.  As far as I can tell, no government intervention there.  Just a group of Christians trying to more fully reflect the kingdom of God and transform the society around them by providing the poor with inexpensive clothes and other items.  YMCA and Habitat for Humanity are a few more examples of originally-Christian organizations that grew out of that same desire. 

People who take seriously Jesus' teaching to love the hungry, give water to the thirsty, help the sick, visit prisoners, and welcome strangers will look radically different in a society that is a collection of individuals focused on accumulating personal wealth and ignoring those less skilled, educated, connected, or fortunate than them.  You can be a good libertarian, communist, or anywhere in between and desire for society to reflect the kingdom of God; our political differences will not cause us to change our goal for society but will alter our approach in reaching that goal. 

The issue with Beck deals with one's approach to politics, not the validity or purpose of the social gospel.  When it comes to politics, you can either take a hands-off approach, a transformational approach, or a mixed schizophrenic combination of the two.  I still struggle with what stance I should have as a Christian in a representative democracy.  Beck is obviously in the hands-off realm, and he is battling against those like Jim Wallis who take a transformational approach.  Unfortunately, Beck confused the battle as one against social justice, which he then proceeded to link to communism and nazism, two political systems that were natural enemies when they were geographic neighbors who share nothing in common except oppression in their mid-19th century manifestations, when his real argument is that Christians should have a hands-off, libertarian approach to government.  Social justice proponents can have that approach, and you will see it expressed in the development of charitable organizations like hospitals, clinics, counseling centers, homeless shelters, thrift stores, etc.

People who believe in social justice and choose to use the instruments of politics to transform society will politically work for things like open immigration, civil rights, universal health care, and other other policies that would cause an earthly kingdom to reflect more purely the kingdom of God.  Should we expect anything less from them?  Would they not be hypocrites if they claimed to follow Jesus, believed that the government should be used to transform society, and yet did not strive to transform the government into what they believe is God's will?  The difference is not in the Christian views on what the kingdom of God should be here on earth; the difference is the role one believes the government should have in bringing that kingdom about.  The teachings of Jesus are clear that we are to take care of the sick, help immigrants, feed the hungry, and look out for prisoners.  Beck and Wallis just disagree on the government's role in bringing those teachings of Jesus about.

Or maybe there is a bigger difference among us who claim to follow Jesus.  Maybe some of us are happy living selfishly and do not desire to see the kingdom more clearly reflected here on earth.  Maybe that is the real difference.  If so, I am scared and saddened.  But I would like to think that the difference is just our approach to politics.