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.

Gun Free Zones

Yesterday, a landmark judicial opinion was issued by a US District Court judge in Denver, Colorado.  The judge declined a motion for summary judgment by Cinemark Theaters over the infamous Aurora, Colorado movie theater massacre years ago. 

If you recall, that theater prohibited legal concealed or open carry of firearms except by uniformed police officers by posting a prohibition on firearms.  This is not anything new or rare.  Nearly every mass shooting to occur (where more than 3 people not necessarily related are killed by gunfire in one location) has happened in a location where firearms are generally prohibited. 

That fact was not lost on the judge when it was ruled that Cinemark can be held liable for not providing ample security for it’s “sitting duck” patrons. 

How differently would business owners feel toward lawful open and concealed carry if every location that posted a “no guns” sign would be held liable for any injury or death that occurred on their premises due to a violent encounter by another individual? 

When you, as a property owner, insist that someone else either consciously trespass on your property by continuing to carry against your personal policies, or rather, those of your insurance company, or put their life in your hands by forcing them to surrender the most effective means of self-defense held by the general public in modern times, it is you who are immoral for foisting such a Faustian bargain on them.

You may say, “just shop somewhere else,” but perhaps you work for a company that requires it.  Should you surrender your livelihood or be forced to put your life in the hands of a company that doesn’t take employee safety and security as importantly as it puts data protection or the bottom line?  Should the doctor who stopped a murderous rampage have left his gun in his car in the parking lot rather than keeping it with him in the firearms-prohibited hospital?  If he hadn’t disobeyed a stupid policy, he would likely be dead, and many more in addition.

As a business owner, when you ask your patrons to lay down their God-given right to life (and defense thereof), in order to conduct business with you, you are acting immorally and unethically and it’s about time that someone finally called them on it.  This will be a lesson learned the hard way unfortunately as we have witnessed shooting after shooting in these firearms-prohibited locales and will continue to do so until they are eliminated entirely.

No More Excuses

Looting.  Rioting.  Arson.  Assault with Intent to Kill a Peace Officer.

These and many other things are occurring nightly in Ferguson, Missouri.  I understand the desire for justice and how the reluctance of police to release everything they know as they know it can feed into our imagination’s need to fill-in-the-blanks with our own prejudices.

18 year old man, 6’4″, 300 lbs, lies dead in the street of multiple gun shot wounds.  A police officer admits pulling the trigger and claims it was in self-defense.  It just happens that the dead man is black and the police officer is white.  A thorough crime scene investigation is conducted at the scene of the shooting and then the rumors begin (thanks to another 18 year old man who happened to be at the scene – more on him in a minute).

The white cop had it out for the black guy.  Racism! 

He executed him!

And that’s how the ball got rolling.  Our imaginations are powerful things.  When we don’t know the full story, we can imagine many plausible instances to fill-in-the-blanks of what we don’t know.  This is how conspiracy theories begin. 

I will admit that I understand the desire for justice. I want justice in every instance.

If the officer did in fact act wrongly – either by escalating a normal confrontation unnecessarily or by acting in malice, then he deserves to face a judge and jury.  However, if the officer acted correctly in defense of his life against a larger, aggressive man bull-rushing him after fighting him moments earlier, then his use of lethal force to end a threat to his life is fully justified under the color of law.   You see, more facts have come out since the initial few days that further complicate this situation for the deceased. 

He was walking home after roughing up a shop clerk of a local convenience store after stealing a box of Swisher Sweets (thin cigars used to conceal marijuana and allow it to be smoked in public as “blunts” with plausible deniability).  What began as shoplifting turned into robbery when he was confronted and physically assaulted the shop clerk.  He then began walking home in the middle of the street, evidence of his crime in hand, with his accomplice (the aforementioned man above).  They were acting in a manner that obstructed traffic and in a manner that could cause a traffic accident that would harm someone else or themselves by walking down the middle of the street. 

While the officer involved had not yet heard of the robbery moments before, these two individuals had no way of knowing that.  The deceased likely believed that he was about to be arrested for his crime.  As a thoughtful person, consider that the deceased may have decided in that moment to resist arrest thinking himself larger and stronger and able to do to the smaller officer what he had down to the shop clerk moments before.  That mindset could have been the primary cause of everything that then occurred culminating in the gunshots fired that ended the incident.

The situation has been used by race-baiters like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to further highlight their purported platforms and to keep themselves relevant in the eyes of the nation.  The situation has been exacerbated by the national news media through endless reporting, speculation, and glamorization of violent acts through their broadcasts of such to the world.  The situation has been used by anarchists, criminals, and looters in order to provide cover for their actions within Ferguson.  Buildings have been burned to the ground.  People have been shot.  The police have suffered repeated assaults via bottles, rocks, molotov cocktails, and many other forms of abuse. 

And the politicians, legal authorities, and law enforcement officers in charge have excused this behavior by saying that there are rifts in the community that have been exposed by this situation.

What?  Let me explain.

I am not going to render judgment on the officer or the deceased actions and neither should anyone without all of the facts, yet the calls for justice have been used as an excuse for illegal, harmful behavior and that has highlighted the bigger problem that has been exposed in this instance.

What is white guilt?  White guilt is the faulty belief that white people, regardless of their economic circumstances, have more privileges due to their skin color.  This belief, paired with the equally race-based belief that black people have less privileges and are subject to greater fear, scrutiny, and suspicion in every instance when compared with someone with a paler skin tone, have led many to pardon the behavior of the protestors and rioters in Ferguson.  Those beliefs though are far more insidious than that.  These beliefs permeate the very fabric of society from race-preferential college selection, scholarships, government employment applications, and general societal attitudes toward African-Americans. 

Are we so racist to believe that blacks cannot pull themselves up on their own?  Are they inferior to whites or other skin tones because they happen to be a darker shade?  Are we doing African-Americans any favors by saying that they only have to be 75% as good as whites in order to get a job or get into college?  Are we promoting cultural evolution or are we segmenting that portion of the population and giving them an excuse to not improve by rewarding below-average behavior? 

Were Italians given an excuse for mafia behavior in the early 20th century?  They had just emigrated from Italy due to the Italian Civil War. 

Were the Irish given an excuse for their drunkenness and brawling after having fled Ireland due to a terrible famine and centuries of British occupation?

I could go on and on asking the same question of every race, creed, and color of people that has come to the shores of America.  Chinese?  Japanese?  Arabs?  Vietnamese?   Every type of person regardless of color, nationality, or religion has faced discrimination in these United States.  We are not perfect, but we always are seeking to improve in order to forge a more perfect union.  Until the press for affirmative action and the lowering of standards for blacks, the impetus to strive for better was there for that entire community, but in an effort to socially engineer full integration due to the falsehood that is white guilt our society has told the entire black community that they are not good enough or smart enough to “make it” without our help. 

I will say it again – because of a perceived advantage by whites over blacks within our society, whites have had pity on blacks and lowered the standards that are expected of everyone else in order for this class of people because it’s supposedly impossible for them to do anything with their lives without a subsidized advantage.

That is racist and it must stop right this very minute or we will never kill and bury racism within our society.

The excuses that white America makes enables the behaviors that led to the rioting in Ferguson and it generates a standard below that which the average American is expected to meet. 

Until we encourage a truly level playing field where all are equally expected to behave there will be no justice because the black community will not clean itself up.  Without an incentive to do better, why should they?

It worked pretty damn well for the Irish-Americans, German-Americans, Italian-Americans, Greek-Americans, Hungarian-Americans, Polish-Americans, Chinese-Americans, Lebanese-Americans, Syrian-Americans, Korean-Americans, and Cuban-Americans.  Every group faces prejudice and setbacks, but rose to the challenge presented by this country to contribute greatly and become part of the whole because our standards for them were not lowered.  It is time to do the same and it should start in Ferguson.

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

 

 

We Need Heroes

My sons are both young still – the oldest is not yet school age and the youngest is not yet two.  Both are enamored with superheroes – Spiderman, Ironman, Captain America, Superman, Thor, and others.  I’m not surprised though – these fictional characters do astounding things and neither boy is old enough to yet distinguish reality from fiction, which means that they sit in awe through Marvel’s Super Hero Squad show or a DVD from the library with their favorite heroes in it.  My wife has said before that she feels surrounded by it at times as they play as their favorite heroes together.

Now some part of me says that they are too young to really grasp the heroes and to watch the cartoons and in many cases they are and we try to limit which ones they get to watch for age appropriateness, but as I thought more about this fascination, I saw something in each of these characters, something that few mediums in today’s society are capable of teaching.

Just think about the messages that these characters can convey to young impressionable minds with their words and deeds.  You can even see instances of scriptural truth in the words of these creations of the mind.

I believe there’s a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady, and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams.

Spiderman

Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

Romans 13:14

If anyone knows what it’s like to be on the outside, I do. Sometimes I feel like I’m out there fighting all alone. Sometimes I feel like giving up. But, then I remember that what I stand for is more important than anything else.

Superman

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

“I will live with them
    and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.”

Therefore,

“Come out from them
    and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
    and I will receive you.”

And,

“I will be a Father to you,
    and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”

2 Corinthians 6:14-18

Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world — “No, you move.”

Captain America

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesians 6:13-17

So when my boys run around with their play Captain America shields or acting like they’re Superman and flying about, or Spiderman leaping and running and fighting “bad guys,” I smile a bit knowing that these seeds of truth are finding their way in piece by piece.

Ultimately, I know that they will learn that these characters are fictional.   Hopefully the truths that they learned will remain.

Strength and might must be tempered by compassion and justice.

Liberty deserves and requires sacrifice.

Truth must never be abandoned or denied.

Courage is acting in spite of fear rather than a complete lack of it.

In the end, I hope that they one day learn the most important lesson of all though – that each of us has the opportunity to be heroic because it is the character behind our actions that make us heroic, not the actions themselves.

A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.

Christopher Reeve

Grace Revisited

I originally wrote this in October 2012.  In light of my last two days’ writings, let’s revisit it.

Have you ever contemplated what grace really is?  Grace is not an abstract concept, but a fundamental reconstruction of mans’ relationship with the Almighty.

Imagine when you die and go to stand in judgment before God.  Your sins and shortcomings will be laid before you, down to very last.  The case against you is ironclad, even if you are a “good” person.

This is the point of the law – the Ten Commandments, the Levitical Law, all of the guidelines for living contained within the Bible – they are an ideal to strive for, but we ultimately will fail because we are human.  We are not holy, nor perfect, and we cannot approach God in any way because of even the tiniest sin.  God’s infinite righteousness and holiness would obliterate our very existence like a candle’s flame being blown out because we have sin in our hearts.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:23

Here is where salvation gets interesting.  You and your attorney (the Risen Christ, if you have Him as your Lord and Savior) will not plead for mercy.  Here is how I have heard this characterized.

God: “How do you plead?”

Christ: “The client pleads guilty your Honor.”

God: “The penalty is death then.”

Christ: “Your Honor, Father, the penalty has been paid.  I, Your Beloved Son, have paid it in full.”

God: “The Lord God is Just.  Since the penalty has been paid, no further debt is owed.  Your record is forever sealed and expunged.  Welcome good and faithful servant and enter your rest.”

(I’d like to think that, upon that announcement, the entire heavenly courtroom full of angels erupts into raucous cheers and celebration.)

God loves justice.  He said so directly in Isaiah.

For I, the Lord, love justice.

Isaiah 61:8

There must be justice for the actions you took as an enemy of God, as a sinner.  God will not show mercy at judgment, but rather He will exact full punishment on sin.

The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.

Romans 8:7

If the story stopped here, we’d all be royally screwed. Again, THIS is the point of the law in the first place.  The law shows us how we fall short, it shows us our need for forgiveness, for grace, for mercy, and for resanctification.

You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

Galatians 5:4

We thankfully have a Savior.  He came, lived as one of us – fully God and fully human at the same time.  He surrendered His glory, His will, and His preeminence so that He could serve as the payment of debt for all sin.

We do not rely on the mercy of the Court, but on the fact that Christ already paid the debt you owe.  God is just.

What are you going to rely on?  Mercy or grace?

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

Romans 5:1-2

Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.

1 Timothy 1:13-16

Christ has mercy on you.  He created you.  He came to reconcile His creation to Him.  You might be just a speck in the grand scheme of things, but the Creator of the universe paid your debt.  The payment is grace.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

John 1:1-4

The whole concept of the entire Bible, is to convey to us that we are recipients of grace, not mercy.  There will be justice in the end.  There has to be because God is just.

So what is it for you?  Grace and the chance to hear Christ stand up and say “I have paid his debt in full?” Or throwing yourself on the mercy of the court at the very end?

The reason I have such a problem with people picking and choosing what they want to believe out of the Bible is that they are trying to make themselves more comfortable. They are trying to remove the scary part of the grace equation from their consciousness, because to admit that you are as good as shit in a sewer and unable to emerge from it on your own is a scary, unpleasant place to be, and it is even scarier when you consider that every single person who ever lived, except One, was in the same place as you.  The good news is that the One reached down into that muck and all you have to do is take His hand.

That is grace, because

GOD   IS   JUST.

Hat Trick

Scandalous Hat Trick

Mr. President, when it rains it pours, but most Americans hold their own umbrellas. Today in the Rose Garden you dismissed the idea of a Special Counsel to investigate the IRS scandal. With that, your galling political hubris shined bright in the midst of today’s dark clouds.

Mr. President, how can we trust your Justice Department to conduct an independent investigation when there is a systemic violation of the Hatch Act throughout your administration?

Surely you are aware that the Hatch Act prevents certain federal employees from engaging in political activity. Specifically, it’s illegal for these federal employees to engage in action in support of or in opposition to a political party, a candidate for partisan political office, or a partisan political group.

Yet that is exactly what’s happened within the IRS, the Justice Department, and in the Benghazi cover-up. This scandalous hat trick is on your watch. It is not believable that you knew nothing about Obama administration actions in dealing with these scandals. And in regards to Benghazi, when you should have taken appropriate action to save American lives – for instance by calling in the Marines – you were AWOL. Just weeks before the election your team scrubbed the Benghazi talking points in 12 different versions, lied to the American people about some YouTube video being to blame for the deaths of brave Americans who put our country first, and you prove Michael Barone right when he writes, “What actually happened in Benghazi was out of sync with the Obama campaign line.” That’s why you all did what you did. Pure raw politics were at play during a horrific time of loss.

 For more evidence of Hatch Act violations right under your nose, simply consider DOJ’s “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into the free press. Do you think they picked up some political talk when tapping the phones in the House press gallery?

Your team is out of control. Those who cannot remember the past and learn from it are doomed to repeat it, and that is exactly what is happening. Look back exactly 40 years ago this week and apply that disheartening chapter of American history to the team you’ve chosen and lead today.

Some of us warned America; we cautioned voters in 2008 that a community organizer with no executive experience and no sense of accountability would be a very poor choice for the nation’s top management position.

Mr. President, you said today that you have “complete confidence” in the Attorney General. America doesn’t. Eric Holder needs to appoint an unbiased Special Counsel to investigate the illegal political action of this administration. And then Eric Holder needs to resign.

Most Americans see ominous dark clouds looming beyond the White House Rose Garden, Mr. President. They’ll roll away only when light is shined on the Obama administration’s antics, and America will only recover when you cease avoiding responsibility in this mission of yours to fundamentally transform America. For that to happen, the press had better learn from their experiences of being duped and provide a deserving public fairer, more intelligent coverage.

Speaking of coverage, glad you finally called in the Marines… shame it was just to hold your umbrella.

– Sarah Palin

Delegitimized

First Fast and Furious.

Then Benghazi and the subsequent coverup by the Administration.

Then the admission by the IRS that they have been targeting Tea Party, Jewish, and patriot groups requesting tax-exempt status.

Then the DoJ AP warrantless wiretaps to catch a… wait for it… government whistleblower.

The President is awash in scandals now.

Fast and Furious has embroiled the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & Explosives and the entire Department of Justice all the way up the Attorney General Eric Holder.

Benghazi has embroiled:

  1. The State Department
  2. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
  3. Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta
  4. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice
  5. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney
  6. Counselor of the Department of State, and senior adviser to Hillary Clinton, Cheryl Mills
  7. All of the members of the State Department’s Accountability Review Board.
  8. President Barack Obama

The IRS targeting scandal embroils not only the IRS, but also the entire Treasury Department.

And the Department of Justice is up a creek again on the warrantless wiretapping of reporter’s phones in order to “trace a leak.”  What’s worse for Attorney General Holder is that he must personally approve these maneuvers.

The President is encircled with controversy, lies, scandals and yet claims that he himself was not involved.

I don’t buy it.

The Bishop of Rome

Viva Papa Francis.

I am not Catholic, but I respect the Catholic Church and the devoted people within it that daily follow Christ’s calling to be His emissaries in this world.  So today, I celebrate that Spirit-led election of the new Bishop of Rome and the titular head of the Church.  I pray that he is received a double-helping of the Spirit, the courage, bravery, and boldness of Christ in all that he does.

The elevation of this man to the head of the Church comes at a crucial moment, not only in our time as Christians, but also for Americans and lovers of liberty alike.

Why is that you might ask?  I wasn’t even so sure myself until I spoke with my Jesuit-educated bride about it.

The Church will benefit from a man that has lived a life of humility and service despite his titles and authority formerly as a Cardinal and the Archbishop of Argentina.  He seems to deeply believe that the calling of Christ is not to be taken lightly or to be abused, but rather it is a calling to service first and foremost.  The Church will also benefit from a man dedicated not only to service, but also justice.  The man himself, while open to “free-thinking” as espoused by the Jesuits is a rigid defender of the Faith and of Catholic doctrine, not just when it comes to Christ’s teachings, but how those teachings apply in the modern world.  He has come out against gay marriage, gay adoption, and a litany of other social issues that leftists and outsiders use to try to cleave the Church in two.  The arguments and defenses that the Jesuits use in defense of the Church doctrine are usually exceptionally well-thought out, well-versed in Scripture, but also well-versed in science, history, and philosophy.

What it ultimately comes down to for Pope Francis as he begins his tenure as the most visible ambassador of Christ in the physical world is that he will enter this post with humility, but I do not expect him to be timid or meek.  He will rather seek to emulate the founders of his order, Saint Ignatius and Saint Francis.

The man may be 76 years old, but he is one of God’s Marines.  And to steal a saying – only two kinds of people understand marines: marines and the enemy. Everyone else has a second-hand opinion.

Ad maiorem Dei gloriam.

Grace

Have you ever contemplated what grace really is?  Grace is not an abstract concept, but a fundamental reconstruction of mans’ relationship with the Almighty.

Imagine when you die and go to stand in judgment before God.  Your sins and shortcomings will be laid before you, down to very last.  The case against you is ironclad, even if you are a “good” person.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:23

Here is where salvation gets interesting.  You and your attorney (the Risen Christ, if you have Him as your Lord and Savior) will not plead for mercy.  Here is how I have heard this characterized.

God: “How do you plead?”

Christ: “The client pleads guilty your Honor.”

God: “The penalty is death then.”

Christ: “Your Honor, Father, the penalty has been paid.  I, Your Beloved Son, have paid it in full.”

God: “The Lord God is Just.  Since the penalty has been paid, no further debt is owed.  Your record is forever sealed and expunged.  Welcome good and faithful servant and enter your rest.”

(I’d like to think that, upon that announcement, the entire heavenly courtroom full of angels erupts into raucous cheers and celebration.)

God loves justice.  He said so directly in Isaiah.

For I, the Lord, love justice.

Isaiah 61:8

There must be justice for the actions you took as an enemy of God, as a sinner.  God will not show mercy at judgment, but rather He will exact full punishment on sin.

The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.

Romans 8:7

If the story stopped here, we’d all be royally screwed.

You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

Galatians 5:4

We thankfully have a Savior.  He came, lived as one of us – fully God and fully human at the same time.  He surrendered His glory, His will, and His preeminence so that He could serve as the payment of debt for all sin.

We do not rely on the mercy of the Court, but on the fact that Christ already paid the debt you owe.  God is just.

What are you going to rely on?  Mercy or grace?

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, wehave peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

Romans 5:1-2

Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.

1 Timothy 1:13-16

Christ has mercy on you.  He created you.  He came to reconcile His creation to Him.  You might be just a speck in the grand scheme of things, but the Creator of the universe paid your debt.  The payment is grace.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

John 1:1-4

The whole concept of the entire Bible, is to convey to us that we are recipients of grace, not mercy.  There will be justice in the end.  There has to be because God is just.

So what is it for you?  Grace and the chance to hear Christ stand up and say “I have paid his debt in full?” Or throwing yourself on the mercy of the court at the very end?

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