Deepest Darkness

By now everyone in America is aware of the tragic events in Charleston the other day.  Since and in the coming days we as a nation have choices to make.  We will choose to judge, hate, fear, legislate, and either draw closer to or push away others.  We will either fall victim to the fear of similar events in our own communities.  Churchgoers will look over their shoulders more often and watch outsiders critically out of fear.

fear not, for I am with you;
    be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41;10

We have already seen politicians trying to leverage the blood of these men and women for their own particular myopic view of what’s wrong with this country – namely what they think is the over-proliferation of guns despite the statistics that demonstrably have proven that more guns has not led to more crime, but rather the marked decrease in violent crime.

Others will grab on to the killer’s racial motives and say that this is an example of the extreme racism prevalent within society.  They will say that this is a more common problem and that this particular tragedy is just the latest example of it.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[a] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28

These knee-jerk reactions don’t capture the problem though, and it is the problem we all have.  We live in a world of darkness, of hate, of violence, of evil, and sin.  But, the good news is for all of us, and that is that the brightest light is possible from the deepest darkness.  It is in fact not only possible, for God uses evil for ultimate good.

68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has visited and redeemed his people
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we should be saved from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
    and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74     that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75     in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
    in the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
    whereby the sunrise shall visit us[h] from on high
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Luke 1:68-79

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.

Psalm 139:11-12

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12

The righteous man perishes,
    and no one lays it to heart;
devout men are taken away,
    while no one understands.
For the righteous man is taken away from calamity;
    he enters into peace

Isaiah 57:1-2

While it is tragic that people had to lose their lives, we should rest assured that they died at peace righteous and redeemed.  What an evil men wrought God will turn into something beautiful – and I suspect that it will begin today, with love, not hate, politics, or legislation, in Charleston.  From deepest darkness the light of Christ shines brightest.

Pray for those left behind, thank God for the grace that covers us all, and praise Jesus for reaching though time and gathering all sin to himself so that all men, women, and children of all ages and all nations are redeemed in the Father’s sight – even the man holding the gun the other night.

Echoes of Grace

We are so ridiculously attached the law.  I don’t mean the Law as laid down in scripture, but in our own adherence to the law that we establish in our own lives.  It gives us control, or at least, we think it does.  We use our concept of law to set expectations for others to live up to in our eyes.  We all do it, in every aspect of our lives.

We drive with the expectation that other drivers understand the laws of traffic – drive on the right side of the road, stop at a red light, don’t recklessly speed, and yield to traffic when merging or turning.  When someone violates the law, we expect consequences.  Our need for justice demands them – when someone passes us over a double yellow or tailgates us because we’re not going fast enough or runs a red light in front of us, we all look around hoping that a police officer is nearby and noticed so that the person who broke our expectations of adherence to the laws of behavior on the road is caught, made to feel guilty for what they did, and then punished appropriately with a ticket.  Civil society on the road demands adherence to the law because it allows society to function with appropriate actions, reactions, and consequence for failure to behave appropriately.

12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

1 Timothy 1:12-16

God has given me an insight into grace recently, and how to apply grace in my own life.  How can you show someone grace?  How can you help someone understand it when the world at large does not offer grace?  The world offers small-L law and demands adherence so that the world can continue to function smoothly.

Consider Christ’s command to turn the other cheek.

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic,[a] let him have your cloak as well.

Matthew 5:38-40

Obviously Jesus spoke in multiple layers, like an onion.  Let me peel this back a bit.  Obviously Christ is changing the old law from one of pure, equal justice with appropriate punishment for offense with regard to physical pain and injury caused by one’s action, but he also is changing the old law.  He is providing an insight at grace for us, one more beautiful when you really consider it.

When we sin against God, we slap Christ in the face, because Christ carried our sins to the cross so that we may have reconciliation with God.  God’s justice requires adherence to the Law, which we have failed miserably at keeping, but Christ adhered to perfectly.  When someone sins against us, either violating God’s Law or man’s law (our own expectations whether personal or civil), it is a slap in the face to us.  Our first reaction is to spring to our feet like an NBA player and hold our hands out and look for the ref to call a foul and get awarded our free throws for the perceived wrong.

When we are slapped we have many ways to respond: fight back, demand justice in order to feel whole again, or offer them grace.  We are really really really good at the first two and horribly bad at the latter.

What we have to ask though is cliche.  What would Jesus do?  Would Jesus hold out his hands and demand an apology?  Would Jesus call for a foul?  Or would Jesus turn the other cheek and offer you another chance to get it right?  Isn’t that what grace is?

Somewhat.

Grace isn’t just the opportunity for the offender to try again, but it is a gift from God in another way.  Grace is something that the victim can cling on to in order to feel whole again as well.  By offering grace, turning the cheek, forgiving without apology (a tit for tat exchange – withholding forgiveness isn’t Christlike whatsoever), and providing an alternative to justice for small-L law, we can be relieved of the burdens of justice on the aggrieved.  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  We didn’t ask for mercy, grace, and forgiveness, but it was given without precondition.  What better way to demonstrate grace and the gospel, but to turn the other cheek?

This turns our demand for justice and reparations on its head, and isn’t that exactly what Jesus said he would do?

Grace and mercy.

No! Non! Nein! Nyet! NO!

You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.

Pope Francis

I have a serious problem with this statement.  God is Just.  God MUST be just or He is not completely perfectly righteous.  If someone doesn’t believe in God and doesn’t seek the walk of faith, then they have no part in heaven.  It seems completely unfair since not everyone has a chance to hear the Gospel, but God is just.  His law is not negotiable, nor does it make special exceptions or exemptions for acts of good conscience.  You can not work your way into God’s grace and mercy because we are unrighteous, unholy beings and everything we do on our own is tainted by our sin-state.

This thinking that we have any say in our salvation aside from acceptance of and adoration for the Savior Himself is the essence of sin itself – it is selfish pride – that we can be good enough!

Ha!  If it came from someone lesser, it wouldn’t offend me as much… but still… I’m sorry if you like Pope Francis, but on this HE. IS. WRONG.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6

Loving Your Neighbor

~ Radical thoughts to follow. ~

So many Christians these days are stuck in thinking of God as the almighty Creator of the universe, the final judge and authority on everything good, and they fear this powerful deity enthroned in unfathomable power.  They get so caught up in the God who utterly crushed Sodom and Gomorrah, caused the ground to swallow up disobedient men whole, and sent bears to maul dozens of “youths” in response to a curse by His prophet after their “teasing” of him.  If that is the God you know, you are missing Him… essentially in a forest for the trees moment.

Now let me get this straight – the God I’m talking about did all of those things, but He is so much more.  The God I’m talking about is not vengeful and destructive – He is creative, He is merciful, He is loving.  He is not hovering somewhere up in space ready to cast down lightning and hurl giant hailstones at you if you stumble and fall in trying to serve Him.

This is why the concept of God the Father is so important.  Think to your own children if you have them.  As a father, we only want the very best for them.  We teach them, guide them, influence them, discipline them, and love them as much as we can before we turn them loose on the world.  God the Father is no different, except that He doesn’t want us to ever get turned loose, but rather to turn back to Him – to love Him in return and to become not just His child, but rather also His friend.

Few men in the Bible were ever credited as friends of God – Abraham, Moses, David. These men didn’t go on and do measly things either. Abraham is the forefather of two great peoples – Jews through Isaac (by extension Christians) and Muslims. Moses became the first civil rights leader the world has ever seen – he led an entire nation from slavery to freedom.  David established Israel as a nation-state and also provided the family lineage for the Son of God to be born with a royal bloodline.  These men also give us a stark contrast though because of their friendship with God – Moses talked God out of destroying the idol worshiping Israelites, but He also repeatedly angered God as well to the point where he was forbidden from entering the Promised Land at the end of the decades-long journey to freedom.  David had a man killed because he thought his wife was smoking hot and wanted her for himself.  Neither of these men were perfectly moral, but they sought and loved God for who He was and unconditionally on their parts.

It is friendship with God that brings with it God’s unconditional mercy.

Instead of fearing God because of His righteousness, power, and judgment, we should strive to befriend God because He is right there waiting for us to do just that.  It’s all that He wants as our Father…. the absolute best for us.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

Matthew 22:37

 

 

 

 

 

 

The World Lies

Let’s talk about fairness.

The concept of fairness is one that permeates our society.  It’s considered a good thing to be thought of as fair – it is perceived to mean that one is tolerant, understanding, and even-handed, but it is a great lie.

Is the world fair?

Babies are born into wealth and poverty.  Some are born perfectly normal with fully functional minds and bodies and others are born with some sort of defect that will either hinder them their entire lives or leave them with an extremely abbreviated lifespan.

This is just one brief example of how the world is not fair.  To think it should be otherwise is our pride roaring within us. When we see unfairness, we want to hammer it out – correct it, fix it.

We are trying to claim the authority of God when we attempt to enforce fairness.  We are effectively saying to him that we know better.

We can no more force the world to be fair than we can tell gravity to not hold our feet to the ground.

The Truth – The only fairness we should expect is the fairness of God’s judgment for only He is perfect and righteous.  There can be no justice, equality, or perfect liberty without God.

When man enforces his will – the outcome will be imperfect and ultimately fail.  That is what has stricken our country and our world.  Mankind has thought that it has dominion over this world – we are at the top of the food chain, there are billions of us, and we have the tools and might to shake the world – or so we thought.  Despite all of our advances in technology, medicine, philosophy – all of our vaunted progress, the TRUTH is that we are nothing.

We generate power by splitting atoms, but millions sit in the dark.

We grow food from the ground, but cannot feed the world.

We speak lofty words of fairness, equality, tolerance, yet can only try to force such concepts into reality through naked force.

The world is not fair.  You have to accept this truth or you are deluding yourself in pride and envy.  You cannot look at someone who has something and wish the same for yourself just because you think or feel that you deserve it.  The simple fact is that we ultimately deserve only one thing – death.

The good news is that we have a righteous God who is love and compassion perfected.  He gave us the Truth.  He offers fairness, liberty, justice, mercy, and grace.  He will perfect the imperfect and only asks that we lay down our pride and envy and follow Him.

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile,for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Romans 3:19-26

 

 

The Law and You

Yesterday, I wrote what even I consider a pretty scathing piece, but when it comes to the eternal and constant truths of creation and the Creator, I get my cackles up pretty easily.

What I want to use today’s hopefully shorter entry is to address some of the arguments that were presented to say that I was being hateful, or that perhaps I was picking and choosing which laws to follow from the ancient Levitical laws.  More importantly though, I want to redirect the focus of this conversation from the subject of yesterday’s writing, the author of the Momastery blog, and the topic of that writing – homosexuality and the Bible – and bring it back to what all of this is truly about – Truth, Grace, and the Living God.

So let’s take care of the quick and easy stuff first – Levitical Law.  One of the criticisms of my writing yesterday was that I myself was picking and choosing which Levitical Laws to follow and which to ignore.  On it’s face, this criticism has some merit, but when we take the scriptures as an whole, we have to look at these ancient laws differently than we do even the ten commandments.

John Calvin posits that We must attend to the well-known division which distributes the whole law of God, as promulgated by Moses, into the moral, the ceremonial, and the judicial law. Francis Turretin further explained The law given by Moses is usually distinguished into three species: moral (treating of morals or of perpetual duties towards God and our neighbour); ceremonial (of the ceremonies or rites about the sacred things to be observed under the Old Testament); and civil (constituting the civil government of the Israelite people).

Let’s go further back though, Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote We must therefore distinguish three kinds of precept in the Old Law; viz. ‘moral’ precepts, which are dictated by the natural law; ‘ceremonial’ precepts, which are determinations of the Divine worship; and ‘judicial’ precepts, which are determinations of the justice to be maintained among men.

Even Saint Augustine, over 1500 years ago, made the differentiation clear, For example, ‘Thou shalt not covet’ is a moral precept; ‘Thou shalt circumcise every male on the eighth day’ is a symbolical precept.

In Genesis 17, God and Abraham made the first covenant between man and God of which circumcision was a symbolic (or ceremonial) distinction between the people that would be later known as the Jews or Hebrews. God and the Hebrews further reinforced or reinstated that covenant in the desert after the exodus from slavery in Egypt, much like our own covenant with Christ after we are baptized and profess our faith.

The law was put in place for a people He had just exposed His greatness to through the devastation brought upon Egypt in order to secure their freedom, through the parting of the sea in order to secure their safety, and then through the physical presence within the columns of cloud and fire that guided them through the desert, and the experience of the entire nation at the foot of Mount Sinai.

In contrast, we as believers, have a personal relationship with Christ.  We have been sanctified and reborn into this relationship.  Based on this change in status, the law (which is in place to convict unbelievers of their sin state).

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

Romans 3:19-20

So what responsibility do we have to the Levitical Laws then?

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

Colossians 2:16-17

Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh.May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.

Galatians 6:12-15

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

Colossians 2:8-12

I would also encourage you to read the Romans 3 for more on the laws.  Now, the next logical step would be to argue that if the Levitical Laws were fulfilled by Christ and we are no longer bound by them, than all of them are null for a believer.  This is a mistruth – the moral laws as explained by Calvin, Turretin, and Aquinas are still valid.

But wait… we have died to the law and been risen with Christ.  Yep.  We are incapable of fulfilling the laws of God because they are perfect and we are not.  Christ fulfilled the law and has infinite righteousness is given freely to all in order to free us from the wages of sin (death).  So how do we rectify what parts of the law still apply and what parts we can do away with?

First – read Romans 1.

The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

Romans 8:7-8

Now, consider this:

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:19-23

Now, it doesn’t take a theologian to marry the two concepts.  If the mind is governed by the flesh and the acts of the flesh are obvious, then by not leaving the life of sin, the logical next step is clearly spelled out as you are trying to play both sides – you saying you believe in God while acting in open rebellion to Him.

A person, truly trusting and placing their faith in Christ, not only is saved, but begins to abhor sin and to purge it from their lives – this is not an easy or comfortable thing to do because it forces us to carefully examine ourselves.

My ears had heard of you
    but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
    and repent in dust and ashes.

Job 42:5-6

Here’s the real crux of what I’m trying to get to and taking a length time to get there (my apologies).  If you are feeling comfortable when you read the Bible’s moral laws, you have a problem.  Those laws are meant to convict us – to show us that speck in our eye where we need to improve. I highly encourage you to look more into this topic at Freedom from Sin, which will much more eloquently explain this topic.

The question I want to leave you with today is this – should Christianity be comfortable?

Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.

Matthew 19:23-24

 

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a simple concept in and of itself.  Forgiveness implies the erasure of debt basically.  When someone wrongs you, they become indebted to you in order to make you whole again and correct the wrong.

Forgiveness implies that you count the debt fulfilled even without recompense (payment).

The last few weeks have been filled with heartache and bloodshed.  The terrible consequences of living in a fallen world echo throughout our civilization.  Despite all of our intrepidity poured into minimizing such horrors, they still occur.  Since shortly after the creation of mankind, man has shed man’s blood.  Disease takes the young and the elderly.  Accidents happen.  Atrocities occur.  Death, destruction, and evil overtake our personal worlds without warning.

Today, there are families walking about missing husbands, wives, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, cousins, and close friends all because of our humanity.  That which sets us apart from a dog in the street, or a bird in the sky, that spark of the Divine that makes us unique with a power to create, conceive, invent, and to improve our own human condition can be harnessed for the worst of evils – to shoot, stab, bomb, abort, and destroy each other.

I have written before about the importance of Godly men and women being willing to stand up and fight such evil over, and over, and over again.

My sons are not yet ready to stand and fight at four and just over one and a half.  In our household, I stand with my gaze fixed outward at the horizon – trying to discern and classify threats.  My wife does the same, but she also must look inward and remind me from time to time that there is little we can do against some threats, but come to our knees and pray.

There is one more thing we must do though.  Those that are hurting from loss and death are usually incapable of taking this step at first as the searing pain is too great, the anguish too fresh, but those of us detached from the situation personally must take up the mantle.

Despite all of the evils done, despite all of the losses taken and the pain caused… we must forgive.  Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his elder brother could never be sufficiently punished in this life to fill the void and pain caused in so many lives (or in our collective soul as Americans).  Even if Dzhokhar faces the death penalty and is ultimately killed for his role in the Boston attacks, his life does not equal the three innocents lost and the almost two hundred permanently changed by the evil action.

Must we accept evil in this world? Absolutely not.

Must we forgive the lost souls abducted into committing gross evils among us?  Absolutely.

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 2:2

Dzhokhar is a lost soul, just as many others.  He is as much deserving of forgiveness and grace as me.  Will he face judgment for his actions?  Yes, but they will fall short of making those hurt or killed whole again, and that is why we must forgive and turn to God in prayer so that He may make us whole again as it is He who is uniquely able.

Symptom

I recently got into a long conversation with someone regarding a stance that I published on this blog.

The conversation was enlightening for me in one way, and not in the way that the other participant anticipated.  They were hoping to either trap me in a rhetorical loop or get me to recant my position by being unable to defend it aside from the Bible.  I refused to play that game as there is only One Truth and why should I deny it in order to win a rhetorical argument?

That entire episode and my reflections on it have encouraged me to write a little further on the topic of sin.  In that conversation, we were focused on the political hot-button topic of gay marriage.  Gay marriage as a topic of conversation is merely a symptom of an all-consuming sickness that this world is suffering from – sin.

Sin is not a fun thing to talk about.  Sin is an infection that we are all born with.  Whether you want it or not, sin is there.  It is rooted in man’s fall from our created state and has been the root cause of every moment of heartbreak, malice, vice, and destruction in our collective history.

The fundamental truth that we need to recognize in order to fully understand grace and mercy is that we are fully incapable of correcting the infection of sin.  It is insidious and amazingly survivable.

There are many avenues that people take in trying to cope with their infected state.

Some deny it and live as if they are perfectly normal.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:8-9

Some try to equate or rhetorically minimize their sin by either pointing out the sin in someone else’s life as worse than their own, or by using someone else’s sin as an excuse for their own shortcomings.  The problem is that sin is sin.  Small or big – the blackness on your soul from sin is impossible for God not to see.

Your iniquities have separated
you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear.

Isaiah 59:2

Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
    you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.

Habakkuk 1:13

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

Matthew 7:3

Or perhaps the sinner disagrees with the correctness of the translation or of the validity of the scriptures themselves – disagreeing that their sin is not prohibited based on language, societal, or cultural differences.

For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

1 Peter 1:21

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.

2 Timothy 3:16

Others will just, with full knowledge of their state of sin, refuse to change, or believe themselves as being honest about their sin state by flaunting it rather than abrogating themselves of it.

For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

Romans 8:13

So what will it be?  Own up to your sin?  Refuse to assist your brother in committing a sin that may cause him future pain as he goes through the agony of the infection that sin truly is?

Just as I should avoid sin in my own life and invite Christ and the Spirit to purge me of those fleshly desires, should I not also do everything in my power to help my brother to do the same even if they are still horribly infected with sin?  Is it not my responsibility to teach, rebuke, correct, and train up in righteousness as Paul instructed Timothy and as I cited above?

So, to those that would say that I or anyone else firmly planting our feet and saying that we will not concede an inch to the infection of sin as being bigots, or old-fashioned, or bible-thumping?  How dare I!

How dare I stand with the Law?

How dare I be willing to stand with Christ and overturn the money tables with Him?

How dare I look at the woman at the well and love her, but tell her to stop sinning?

How dare I speak the Truth?

Is it love if you give in to sin and allow it to continue unimpeded in this world?

Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves.

Romans 14:22

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?

Romans 6

 

 

 

Uplifted

My wife and I are embarked on a journey to read the entire Bible in a year.  We’re reaching the parts about David prior to the establishment of his kingship over Israel and I am reminded how divinely provident so many of the actions and coincidences in his life were.  David was extremely cognizant of the divine nature of these things, and I find myself wondering how many instances of divine providence that I’ve encountered in my life?  How many did I recognize at the time?  How many days, week, months, or years later?  How many did I fail to see at all?

In all things God works for the good of those who love him.

Romans 8:28

A few nights back, I watched the movie Machine Gun Preacher.  I tried to put myself in the main character’s (Sam Childers) shoes.  He was an outlaw, a man as far from God as light is from dark.  He is at the absolute bottom of the pit.  He can’t see his way out, and isn’t sure there is a way from him to get out.  Long story short, he comes to find Christ and begins to turn his life around.  He becomes inspired some years later to build a church for men and women like him – people at their absolute worst who need Christ’s saving grace and forgiveness, and to begin using that church to support his passion of saving the children and orphans of the ghastly civil war in Sudan.

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.

1 Timothy 1:15

The divine providence evident in this man’s life (since the movie is based on the real Sam Childers) was incredibly portrayed.  While in prison, his wife and daughter find Christ, which opens the door for him to find Christ as well.  Once he is starting to get his feet under him, he goes on a mission trip to Uganda and convinces a soldier to help him go to the front lines of the war because he feels called to help those in need.  There he sees the plight of the children who live in constant fear.

Newly built, the village and orphanage he built are burned to the ground by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Sudan.  He becomes despondent and discouraged.  He calls his wife and she says “Get off your butt, stop your crying, and build it again.”

This man poured his life and spirit into his passion to build something for the glory of God and to help the children and he earned a price for his head.  His response was that he “must be doing something right then.”

Every step in this man’s life along the way prepared him to be a man willing to live with a price for his head.  That is great faith.  I envy that faith.  Despite all of Sam’s failings, Christ reached down into that pit of despair, of drugs, of violence, vulgarity, and wretched sin and grabbed this man and pulled him up.  He washed him clean and used him in such a way as to glorify Himself.

Paul called himself the worst amongst sinners, and he was saved by grace and became one of the most righteous and faithful men to have ever lived.  David lived a fallen life, replete with sin and failings, yet God loved him and provided for him at every turn.

It doesn’t matter where you are or how far down you have fallen, Christ can reach you. Christ will reach for you.  You just have to be willing to take his hand.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.

Psalm 40:1-3

 

Swimming

Water is a terrifying thing.  The might of the oceans manifests itself in the tides, hurricanes, tsunamis, and the corroding power of salt.  Everything that man can conceive of is destroyed given enough time and water. Within water, such an essential life-giving element, is the power to destroy in any number of ways.

But water is something else too… it is essential to life.  It composes over two-thirds of our bodies and every organism on this planet requires it to survive.  More so, it teems with life itself – from fish, to algae, to millions of species of everything from lobsters and sea slugs to the largest mammals on Earth.

Last night, I went swimming.  I love swimming above most workouts because I can’t listen to music while I do it.  It is rhythmic, repetitive, and is an incredibly taxing workout regardless of intensity.  It is also a great time to think and try to listen to God.

We are awash in grace.  We are not just soaked in it, we are immersed completely in it.  It’s like we are in the middle of an Olympic-sized swimming pool and there is just a torrent of grace pouring down on us while we are swimming in it.  There is so much of it, that it is astonishing.  Christ didn’t just pour out enough for each of us on the cross, He poured out increasing grace for each of us and continues to do so every day.  We just have to recognize it.

Have you ever looked at a baptism and really thought about what it symbolizes?  Baptism has always been taught in my life as an expression of faith – that we are putting to death our old life of trying to live under The Law and rising “born again” in Christ.  I’ve always thought this metaphor was lacking.  If we look at water as a symbolic manifestation of grace, could baptism be an acknowledgment and acceptance of that grace…. even a surrender to it?

If you acknowledge Christ, you’re swimming in grace… if you don’t, then you’re drowning in sin.

You get to choose: sink or swim.

Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.

Acts 22:16

For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Romans 6:14

Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.

John 1:16

It is by grace you have been saved, through faith.

Ephesians 2:8

 

 

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