Beyond The Pale

Thoughts on Kingdom, Grace, Culture, and Church

Beyond The Pale - Thoughts on Kingdom, Grace, Culture, and Church

Tennessee Official Seeks Protection From God’s Wrath Over Gay Marriage Legalization


Whew!  That was close.  On Monday the County Board of Commissioners in Blount County Tennessee was all set to vote on a motion asking God (yes, you read that right, “God”) to spare their county from his coming wrath because of the legalization of gay marriage within the U.S.

At the last minute though saner heads prevailed and the agenda item was not brought forth.  That, or the County Board saw that they were on the verge of looking like fools on the national stage and ignored the motion purely from the motive of self preservation.

The entire proposed motion can be found here but it contains nuggets of pure gold such as:

WE adopt this Resolution before God that He pass us by in His Coming Wrath and not destroy our County as He did Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighboring cities. As the Passover Lamb was a means of salvation to the ancient Children of Israel, so we stand upon the safety of the Lamb of God to save us.

WE adopt this Resolution begging His favor in light of the fact that we have been forced to comply and recognize that the State of Tennessee, like so many other God-fearing States, MAY have fallen prey to a lawless judiciary in legalizing what God and the Bible expressly forbids.

You can kinda see why some of the other Commissioners put the brakes on this.

The kicker for me whenever this weird stuff goes down is the selective memory these folk have and what they think is going to incur God’s wrath.  Ok, laying aside all debate on what God’s wrath is, let’s assume an Old Testament position, as the Resolution’s author Commissioner Karen Miller does, and explore what should be the tipping point for God’s anger to be released.

  • In the 18th and 19th century citizens of the United States, driven by the vision of ‘Manifest Destiny”, committed acts of betrayal, murder, and near genocide of the Native American Indian nations.  What tribes were allowed to remain were relocated to worthless and remote reservations.

God’s Wrath is not released…

  • 12.5 million Africans are shipped to the Americas (2 million die in transit) to serve as slaves.  They had their dignity, their lives, and their dreams ripped from them so hard that the effects still reverberate today.

God’s Wrath is not released…

  • Today we continue to destroy the environment, blithely condemn the lives of both the unborn and the criminal, enact laws that help the rich amass wealth beyond imagination as the poor and middle class slip lower and lower on the economic scales, and America can hardly seem to go a year in our history without being at war with someone in the world and yet…

God’s Wrath is not released...

Surprisingly, THIS didn't seem to set off God's Wrath. It sets off mine though.

Surprisingly, THIS didn’t seem to set off God’s Wrath. It sets off mine though.

But somehow two guys getting married and setting up a house somewhere with a lawn and a white picket fence is what brings it on.  THAT is going to be the catalyst for the ‘Fireballs from Heaven’ to start flying?




Two Views On God’s Wrath (or What Type Of “Justice” Are You Looking For?)

Michael Brown (right) and Brian Zahnd (left) debate God's "wrath"

Michael Brown (right) and Brian Zahnd (left) debate God’s “wrath”

For our monthly Bread & Wine group here in Hong Kong last Friday night we watched a debate between Michael Brown and Brian Zahnd over the concept of atonement, or more simply “what exactly was Jesus was accomplishing on the cross”.

Brown took the position defending the theory of Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA) or the view that God the Father required a violent sacrifice in order to appease his wrath and forgive humanity of its sin.  Zahnd countered that belief and instead stated that God can forgive of his own volition and that Christ’s death on the cross revealed the heart of the Father which can be summed up as mankind executes it’s creator with, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing!”

Now there are many verses in the Bible that support Brown’s position.  You want God’s wrath, anger, vengeance, and calls of slaughter of the sinner…it’s all there.  Arguably it’s confined to the Old Testament but some of that good old fire and brimstone works its way into the New.  Sometimes it looks a little misplaced.  Almost like if you had a book about Mother Teresa teaching on loving the poor unconditionally but then she adds, “you can kick their ass later if they don’t respond.”


But it’s natural, as humans we want, dare I say, need to see “bad people” get their comeuppance, their just deserts!  And that was the focus Michael Brown kept coming back to in the debate. Yes, God is loving but (always look for the “but”) he is also just!  

However the concept of justice takes on different form depending on the perspective. If my son breaks into someone’s home and steals their goods the wronged family rightly want to see my son caught.  They want the police to handcuff him and wouldn’t mind if an embarrassing mugshot was posted in the papers.  They want justice!

But it’s retributive justice…They’ve been wronged and that wrong must be righted to restore balance; an eye for an eye .

It’s both very biblical AND what Jesus came to help us rise above.

See the perspective on justice changes radically when it shifts to my view as the father.  Like the offended party I am very upset with my son breaking into a house and stealing their goods but I take no pleasure in seeing him led away in handcuffs or his mugshot on display.

Instead my heart is broken.


As a father I to want justice but I want a justice that makes the situation beautiful again for both my son and the offended party.

I want to see restorative justice.

In the debate, Michael Brown kept coming back to the biblical argument that a debt must be paid for sin but as Zahnd countered this form of retributive justice does not make the world right.

Similarly in the New Testament Jesus countered this Old Testament idea of retributive justice on many occasions (Matthew 5, Luke 9: 54-57).  To repay evil for good in the hope that a sinner could be restored and the world made a little more right.


As a high school school teacher I will often have a student come and tell me what another student is doing that is “bad”.  (For the record, my generation would never have tolerated the tattle tailing that goes on with kids today :) ) The goal of the tattler is to try to get another student in trouble.  When I say I’ll “take care of it” the student is left thinking I will levy some punishment.  In fact they want to see a teacher meet out punishment.  But what is going on in my head though is much different than the tattling student.  They want to see demerits, detentions, and trips to the principal’s office for the offending party.


They want retributive justice!

As a teacher though my goal is much different.  I want to see justice too but I want to bring wholeness to the student’s lives and contribute to keeping the school running in a life giving way.

I want restorative justice!

Paul the Apostle deals with this adolescent attitude to justice in his letter to the Romans.  In the epistle Paul gently encourages a people who only think through the retributive eyes of the offended party towards beginning to view the world, and those around them, through the restorative eyes of a father.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.  On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12: 17-21

As humans we often project our need for retributive justice onto God. We want Jesus to come back and kick some butt and haul the bad guys off in chains.

In the process however we often transform into the angry demanding mob!  (Which never leads to anything good)

So when God says, “It is for me to avenge” that’s His way of telling a tattling student that he’ll take care of it.

And believe me the Father sees “taking care of it” a whole lot different than we do.




A Beyond the Pale Update

Hey Beyond the Pale pilgrims and fellow travelers,Thank-You-message2_edited-1

Just a quick update:

First a big thank you!  Yesterday we just passed the number of visitors we had in all of last year: 47,294 which means Beyond the Pale will have well over 50,000 visits by December’s end.  Ok, admittedly, Rachel Held Evans probably gets those numbers in a couple days, but for this high school teacher sitting in a small apartment in South-East Asia, the idea of 50,000 people stopping by to see what’s on at Beyond the Pale and getting inspired both in their faith journey, and to their identity in God, well, it puts some wind in my sails to say the least.

Second: I apologize for being a little slower with new blog posts the last couple months.  Besides the usual time constraints that a 50+ hour a week job and being a husband and father impose, I’m working on launching a weekly Beyond the Pale podcast very soon.  Most of my spare time right now has been devoted to making that a reality.  I’ve had some great friends working with me on a new podcast logo (Thanks Sara!), a coming new look for the website (Thanks Matt!), and all the tech help needed to make the podcast a quality people will actually want to listen to (Thanks Kit!)

Testing the new equipment!

Testing the new equipment!

The podcast will continue to go “beyond the pale” and further the themes explored in the blog.  We’ll mix in some theology, interviews, movies, pop culture, music, news commentary and more all from the underlying theme of exploration and pilgrimage. And my wife Tammy has promised to host the show with me to help keep me in line…so expect some marriage issues to be addressed as well :) )

My hope is to launch in October…and to launch well!

Thanks again for all your support, comments, and “likes” :)



P.S.  I’m still working on my Camino de Santiago memoir as well, which will get done…sometime :)

Why We Defend The Insane Angry God



You know those old movies and TV shows where the “bad guy” would be holed up in his headquarters or “lair”  surrounded by his loyal henchmen.  Then when the “good guy” arrived these “minions” would start taunting the hero and threatening him with all the destruction their leader was going to meet out on the offending intruder.

The taunts were often quite comical

“Kill him boss!”

“You don’t stand a chance against Mr. Freeze!” (or Doctor Evil, or the Mandarin etc.)

“Look, he doesn’t look so tough now does he?”

Inevitably one of the minions would say something out of line with their evil boss and would either get a punch in the mouth…or killed instantly, depending on boss’ mood.

I remember always thinking, “Why are they working for this guy?”  How can they be so adoring and fawning over someone who values them so little?

But the answer became obvious when I grew older and understood;

…they don’t see their value!

They feel just lucky to be accepted into a gang.  A gang with a powerful leader who gives them some form of validation.

Recently I reposted a blog piece I had done on John Piper addressing the distorted view of God I believe he gives to people.  It was sad to see people, Christians, defending the big, bad, boss God in the same way henchmen taunt the good guy who enters the lair.


The Joker was insane…but his henchmen loved him!

Rather than welcome the guy who brings Good News that they are free, they double down and defend the boss that, though a bit insane, still took them in and gave them a tribal identity.

When I have raised this issue in the past, the henchmen of the Angry God Boss always start with, “His ways are much higher than our ways.  Who are you to question God?”  And my answer is always the same,

“Well, since you ask, I’m his son!

Henchmen vs. Children

See a servant or “a henchman” doesn’t question the boss.  And their position in the system is decided solely on their performance.  Say or do the wrong thing (like a henchmen from the TV shows)  and they are out.  A son and daughter are different however.  They can question, dare I say “wrestle” their father without reprisal…without fear.

I’m the father of two sons.  With the 4 year old we wrestle physically.  We roll, and grab, and push playfully.  I love when he gets a little passionate and pushes against me harder. Sometimes he even lashes out and hits me in way that is too hard.  But I’m his father and I can take it.  It gives me the opportunity to lovingly correct him and show him where the boundaries lie.  What is acceptable and not acceptable.   It provides the space needed to develop him into the man I trust he will become one day.

My older son and I

My older son and I

With my 17 year old I don’t physically wrestle anymore (thank God) but we wrestle…believe me, we wrestle.  Emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, and being 17 he pushes back and tests boundaries in different ways.

But he is my son and is free to question me about anything!  

And it’s the time spent with me (and their mother of course) that helps both my children see their identity as sons in this family. Their position is not less if they say or do the wrong thing.  In fact, it becomes even more secure when they see they are still held in the same place of esteem regardless.

In Genesis 32:22 Jacob wrestles with God all night and the result is he is blessed and given a new identity.  It was pushing and pulling back and forth with the Creator of the Universe, the Alpha and the Omega, that transformed Jacob into Israel.

Who he was created to be!

So when I see Christians defending the Angry Boss God it makes me wonder, “Have they ever wrestled with their Abba Father?”

Where does their identity come from?  Why do they defend the indefensible?  If they wrestled with God they would know him.

And thats why when Christians like John Piper try to explain how God would slaughter men, women, and children because, you know, he’s God and he can do that sort of thing I can respectfully reply, “No, he wouldn’t because I know my Father.”





Bernie Sanders Does A John the Baptist At Liberty University


“A voice crying in the wilderness”  

That is what could be said of Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders recent speech at Liberty University this week.  First I give kudos to Liberty University for being willing to break with it’s historical track record; a track record that seemingly only invited and promoted political candidates who were of the same political / religious tribe.  For the conservative evangelical Liberty University to bring in the Jewish Democratic – Socialist Bernie Sanders was certainly blazing a trail founder and Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell probably had not even dared imagine.

On the flip side Sanders has once again shown himself to be a candidate that resonates with a growing segment of America that is wearied with political partisan nonsense.  By going to speak at a university filled with people whose tribe conditions them to resist and antagonize folk like Bernie Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont again demonstrates he is willing to build bridges with whoever is willing to help restore America, and the world, into a better home for humanity.

“I understand that the issues of abortion and gay marriage are issues that you feel very strongly about. We disagree on those issues. I get that. But let me respectfully suggest that there are other issues out there that are of enormous consequence to our country and in fact to the entire world that maybe, just maybe, we do not disagree on and maybe, just maybe, we can try to work together to resolve them.” Watch Bernie Sanders complete remarks at Liberty University here:

Posted by C-SPAN on Monday, 14 September 2015

As you watch the video it’s interesting to note the level of applause he receives from the students.  Sure, some “Bernie supporters” are there to support their man.  But mostly that applause is coming from the students and it gives me hope.

Hope that there is a new generation evangelical Christians who can recognize and respond to a Jewish man who cries out for justice and compassion; to make the crooked way straight, and the bumps in the road level.

A voice crying in the wilderness, “Make straight the Way of the Lord”



Why “Jesus Saves”? Like, What’s The Point?


Beyond the Pale regulars know that the idea of salvation, and what it means to be saved, keeps coming up here.  (Meaning I spend way to much time thinking about it :) )

In the last couple years though I’ve had many engaging conversations with great folk, sometimes with Bibles, sometimes over beers, but more often, and notably more rewarding, with a combination of the two.

People have a lot of different ideas about who Jesus is.

  • Some think he is the Son of God
  • Some think he is a prophet
  • Some think he is a great teacher and example
  • and some don’t even believe he existed

Whether the 1st century or the 21st century, people are pretty much the same because when Jesus asked Peter the same question, he pretty much got those same answers in Matthew 16:

When Jesus arrived in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?”

They replied, “Some think he is John the Baptizer, some say Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”

See, little has changed.  Peter is basically saying, “Hey, the people hold you in pretty high regard.  They think you’re like one of the great prophets they always heard about.  You’re doing great!”


But Jesus didn’t let it lie there.  Like all things Christ did, there was a much deeper meaning in his words and actions.

 He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus came back, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am.

Here’s the thing.  Jesus seems pleasantly surprised by Peter’s answer. Peter really could have answered like others around him seem to answer; that he was a great teacher, prophet, and all ’round cool dude to hang with.

And you know what?

Jesus would have been OK with that…

It’s funny how less uptight Jesus is when people think he is “just a great moral teacher” than many Christians get when they hear the same.  Jesus’ response to his disciples upon hearing the people’s view of him is not one of indignation or compulsion.  He didn’t exclaim, “What??  They only see me as a prophet??  A good teacher ? Don’t they believe I’m the Son of God? Quick, go convince them I am.  Form a street drama, dance team, evangelism troop, something, ANYTHING, and get them to confess me as the Christ. Don’t they realize they could get hit by a bus (ok, back then maybe a mule & wagon), die in their sins, and spend an eternity separated from God in torment?”


Jesus is way more secure in his identity, and the grace that flows from it, than many of his followers.  What makes Jesus excited about Peter’s proclamation is not a triumphalist satisfaction that he finally “gets it” and comes to see him as God.  Rather it’s the joy that Jesus has, and that he has with all who see him as he really isin getting to reveal to us who we really are! 

And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.

“And that’s not all. You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven.”

Jesus came to show us who God is and what he is really like…and the result is we get to see ourselves who we really are; without the masks and pretentious fronts we tend to wear so effortlessly we often forget we even have them on.  The salvation that flows from that revelation is the understanding that we are his children.  We are not orphans.  What Jesus is saying to Peter he is saying to all those who follow Him.  You are given the power to help make it “on earth as it is in heaven.”  To seal the breech between the two.   And though the gates of hell rage with human slavery, child abuse, war, disease, greed, gossip, Donald Trump, and the Kardashians …


He won’t prevail!

…those things will not win in the end because you have the keys that bring healing and restoration to the world.

When we see who we really are, we are “saved”, “being saved”, and able to bring that “salvation” to the world.

And what if Peter had not seen Jesus as Christ at that moment but “just a good moral teacher”?  Do we really think Jesus would have loved him less?  Or perhaps moved on to another disciple whose heart was more open to the truth! 

I highly doubt it…

No, Jesus would put his arm around Peter, have a meal together and continue to share his life with his friend

As he does, and will continue to do, with everyone!



Think You “Get God”? Think Again…


Getting god wrongOne of the common threads running through the Bible is the consistent habit we humans have of assuming we have God figured out…only to be surprised that we don’t.

This happened a lot…

But of course, now we really know God, don’t we?

I mean most Christians will enthusiastically say, “no, of course not.  “His ways are higher than our ways”   but then go on to wax lyrical on heaven, hell, the “end times”, salvation, redemption, and the nature of God with the certainty of a first grade teacher explaining sums to a six year old.

This is perhaps no more evident than in Acts 1.

Let me set the scene…

The disciples are thrilled because not only has Jesus come back from the dead, he’s hanging with them and answering questions. Finally they are “getting” God! They are finally understanding what the big plan is!

Then they walk out outside for a moment and after a couple more questions he suddenly, and with no warning whatsoever, disappears off into the clouds.


I’m sure as they stared up at the sky someone muttered the 1st century equivalent of “WTF?”


They had NO IDEA that was what was going to happen. They really thought they had things figured out.

But they didn’t…

In fact a couple angels had to appear just to bring them out of shell shock:

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”  Acts 1: 6-11

The last question the disciples ask Jesus just before he leaves, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” so demonstrates their ignorance that Jesus doesn’t even address it, but rather he redirects them back to what God’s plan is.

In that question though, there are some things we can learn for our own understanding.

What the disciples got right

The disciples knew that restoration was what Jesus was about.  There was a tear in the fabric of reality that separated heaven and earth.  This tear was causing death, disease, strife, war, and every other horrible things wrecking humanity and creation.  The disciples knew Jesus was ultimately here to fix that.  To bring healing and restoration.

Restoration and healing of the world unfortunately has taken a back seat priority in most churches.  Once an intricate part of the Good News Christians shared it has now largely been regulated to simply being a tool for creating the opportunity for people to “accept Jesus.”  If such an “opportunity” is not possible, interest in restoration drops off precipitously.


What the disciples got wrong

Jesus preached the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven but the disciples were hearing “God is going to restore the Kingdom of Israel”.

Now understand, Israel was already a Kingdom with a king. That’s not what they were really wanting.  No…

They wanted to see Israel not only out from under the colonial thumb of Rome, but on top.  

They wanted God to validate and affirm before all the earth

Israel is right!

Israel is special!

Israel has a destiny different from other nations!

But God, by raising Christ from the dead was instead affirming Jesus, his Way, and his Kingdom which proclaimed to everyone on the earth

You are all loved!

You are all special!

You all are invited to be citizens in a new Way , a Kingdom of Heaven!

I understand the difficulty the disciples faced.  Nationalism and tribalism held a powerful sway over society then as it does so today.  Though they probably won’t admit it, most Christians struggle to see the Kingdom of Heaven beyond the passport they carry.  Americans so intertwine the two you will have some churches that will recite the Pledge of Allegiance during a church service.

Try to figure that one out…

Hey, if it makes you feel any better, the Apostle Peter, who had the “Keys of the Kingdom” given to him by Jesus still struggled with nationalism and xenophobia in his later years.  He had to be given a vision by God three times before he would even bother to enter the house of a non-Jew (Acts 10) and Paul had to rebuke him for acting like a non-Jew in front of the Gentiles but then acting Jewish in front of the Jews (Galatians 2)

See, there is hope for us!


Even the disciples, who hung out with Jesus both before and after his resurrection, they often failed to connect the dots on what God was actually doing.  That should make us pause, and proceed cautiously and humbly, as we interact with the world and each other.

Jesus told us what to do though…when in doubt:

* Love God

* Love People

Then you can be certain you are part of the Big Plan!



The Gospel According To Jon Stewart


It’s been a busy couple weeks at work so last night I finally sat down on the couch and watched the last episode of Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.  In his 16 years on the show Stewart took the comedy/parody news show occupying a cheap seat in the basic cable nether-sphere and turned it into a cultural phenomenon that a large portion of Americans (and the world for that matter) went to for honest news.

Loosely translated, in a world plagued with bulls^*t, Jon Stewart was the cure!

So it was a sad day when Stewart signed off, but he was not able to get away before his friend Stephen Colbert gave him a tribute that brought him to tears.







Shouldn’t that be what Christians are known for?  Not simply trying to get people to confess a certain creed or belief… but known for a faith that transforms, restores,and equips people around us to be the best God made them to be?

Not just a life…but life to it’s fullest? (John 10:10)

In his 16 years on the Daily Show, Jon Stewart championed the poor, the discriminated against, and the marginalized while speaking out against hypocrisy, corrupt power, and greed.

Sounds a lot like a carpenter from Galilee I know…

…and shouldn’t we all have a legacy like that one day?




What Does It Mean To Be “Saved” Pt 5


Jesus savesSalvation for Christians in the West has tended to imitate our culture; meaning it has become a very personal thing.  Jesus somehow became a personal Lord and a personal Savior. Of course Christ has many titles and names ascribed to him but those are two late inning additions come straight from, and mirror, our very in “pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps” individualistic culture.  Everyone is responsible for themselves. As I was told many times growing up, “God has no grandchildren” 

The affect of this theology though has been reductionist view of salvation resulting in a smaller understanding of it than what God intended.

Jesus & Zacchaeus

When Jesus has dinner with  Zacchaeus which results in the the corrupt tax collector changing his ways Jesus proclaims salvation has come to the entire house:

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Luke 19: 9-10

Now I admit, if you see salvation as ultimately being a determiner of your after-life destination, then Jesus’ pronouncement makes little sense.  A personal Lord and personal savior can save my personal sins and allow me my ticket to heaven…but the rest of my household are on their own.


What if salvation is much bigger and better than that?  If salvation is ultimately to bring restoration to the world than Jesus’ announcement just got a whole lot more interesting!

When Zacchaeus begins instead to operate as a government official from a new nature; dealing with people in fairness, justice, empathy, and compassion than salvation moves far beyond the personnel.

* His wife is impacted

* His children are impacted

* His community is impacted

I’m not suggesting those people don’t have their own choices to make.  They, like everyone, have to choose to engage in that restoration work that Christ initiated, or to work against it.  But those in Zacchaeus’ household will be impacted by Zacchaeus’ decision to walk in the Jesus Way.  They will experience the blessing of that decision and will be in a better position to participate in it themselves.


Paul & The Jailer 

In Acts 16 Paul the Apostle makes a similar statement when the jailer who was about to take his own life when he thought Paul and his companion Silas had escaped while on his watch:

The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.

Acts 16: 27-31

Paul’s declaration is almost better understood by Christians today because salvation is tied to belief in Jesus; and that belief can save your household as well.  As Christians we often err by suggesting salvation comes from believing in God and confessing Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins.  If we believe that we are saved.

But James the Apostle cuts across that thinking by suggesting that even demons can claim that level of belief;

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

James 2: 14-19

James is saying that “belief in Jesus” that does not transform you into ambassador for a new kind of society that Jesus came to begin is not belief at all.

See, the kind of belief James is suggesting, and which Paul shared with the jailer in Phillipi, is a belief that will bring salvation to you and those around you.  Believing in Jesus means believing in the Way he taught us to live.  It’s not a lesson in good moral conduct, it’s a blueprint for restoring a broken world.

Salvation is an invitation and acceptance to participate in the restoration work that Jesus promises will bring rewards “both in this age, and in the Age to Come”




Why “Hyper”-Grace And Charisma News Can’t Play Well Together

I used to enjoy Charisma Magazine.  Honest!  I was the guy who arranged for a group subscription at the church because I thought it was that important for others around me be encouraged by what God was doing in his church around the world.  True, I always struggled a bit with some of the wacky advertisements they accepted for print but dismissed those as a small price to pay to produce a quality magazine.





But in the last few years it seems Charisma (and particularly it’s web based news page) has shifted it’s mission from promoting the Kingdom” to “defending America”.

A quick perusal of the Charisma News website reveals “where their treasure lies” (Matthew 6:21)

* Atheists

* Terrorists

* Political candidates

* Gays

The reason for these topics is, of course, these headlines evoke passions, which drives viewing traffic and promote business.

So, I wasn’t surprised when Charisma News also included, as they often do, an article warning of the dangers of “Hyper-Grace” churches.

In the piece author Joseph Matterra suggests 8 things that identify a “Hyper-Grace” church or pastor.  The list is depressing for a number of reasons. Besides being largely hyperbolic and frightfully inaccurate, the article serves as a tool to lead Believers and non-Believers alike away from the Life, mercy, and healing Jesus brings.

Christ himself warned the religious leaders of his day about doing this kind of thing:

You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

Matthew 23:13

My friend Paul Ellis who blogs over at Escape to Reality is one of those “Hyper” Grace teachers Joseph Mattera and Charisma are warning about.  As a loving husband of many years to his wife Camilla and doting father of 4 beautiful children I was fairly confident he wasn’t promoting free sex, recreational drug usage, and total anarchy within the church, but to be certain I shared the Charisma article with him.


It turns out Paul had dealt with this type of thing before with Charisma so he shared with me his 8 signs of a real Grace message as opposed to the 8 signs suggested by Charisma.

As I looked at Paul’s list I realized why Charisma had to reject the Grace message.  To accept it would bring a fundamental shift in the content they provide.  The focus would again be on promoting the Kingdom of Heaven rather than defending the Republic of America.

Articles on Donald Trump, Muslim terrorism, border control, and gay marriage would fade to be replaced by messages of hope and compassion that would inspire Christians to reflect the image of Christ in their lives.

But Donald Trump and Muslim terrorists articles drive web traffic so I don’t imagine “Hyper”-Grace will be embraced by Charisma anytime soon.

It’s just bad for business…