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

 

 

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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.

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

 

There is One Truth – A Response to Momastery’s “I love Gay People and I love Christians. I Choose All.” and “A Mountain I’m Willing to Die On”

My wife brought a fellow blogger’s posting to my attention – in fact two such posts (one from back in 2010 and another from two days ago).

I wrote on this topic extensively a few months back, but I’m back for another crack at it because of the above two entries into the public consciousness.

What brought me back to the topic of gay marriage is not a change of opinion or heart (both of which would rely on my own faulty human emotions and reinterpretation of The Holy Word of God and the very meaning and Truth behind the words contained within).  What brought me back is the concept I see littered throughout those two pieces I linked above – that of a re-definable God.

Let’s settle something right now.

God is not human, that he should lie,
    not a human being, that he should change his mind.

Numbers 23:19

He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.

1 Samuel 15:29

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

James 1:17

I the Lord do not change.

Malachi 3:6

God is immutable.  The God of the Old Testament is the same God as the New Testament.  God, Spirit, Son – all are the same since the beginning of the frame of existence that we call time.  The metaphysical aspect of this concept is that the Triune God exists at all points in time simultaneously so if God changes, then there can be no true god as the concept would then be bound by a dimension of the universe that he created.

The author of those pieces I linked above does not seem to understand this fundamental concept about God and is prescribing a course of behavior completely at odds with the Word of God. This is a particular dangerous thing to do.  While there are some who read what this woman writes with a grain of salt and strong understanding of scripture and are able to test what she says (and what she says is sometimes right and true, which makes it all that more insidious).  Someone without a scriptural understanding and lens to measure her opinions over, they are incapable of spotting the inconsistencies and omissions of scriptural truth.

By biggest problem lies in these quotes:

Your parents are Christians who carefully choose what we believe and follow in the Bible.

No. No. No. No! This is the biggest lie that Satan has managed to interject into the world and deep within believers that must be rooted out.  You do not get to pick and choose for yourself what is Truth.  That is your pride speaking.  That is you saying that you know better than God Himself.

What I’m trying to say is that each Christian uses different criteria to decide what parts of the Bible to prioritize and demonstrate in their lives. Our criteria is that if it doesn’t bring us closer to seeing humanity as one, as connected, if it turns our judgment outward instead of inward, if it doesn’t help us become better lovers of God and others, if it distracts us from remembering what we are really supposed to be doing down here, which is finding God in every human being…

STOP!  Finding God in every human being?  Okay… problem.  BIG BIG PROBLEM.  You can see the finger of God in every person, every creation, but you cannot find GOD Himself.  We are made in His image – that’s it.  Purge this thought from your mind now because it will grow like a cancer and pervert your understanding of God’s nature and the nature of our relationship with Him.  Do not assign your personal pride to another person.  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

God gave you the Bible, and He also gave you your heart and your mind and I believe He’d like you to use all three.

Well, that almost sounds like a good idea.  I wonder what scripture says about the heart.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord and shun evil.

Proverbs 3:5-7

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.”

The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.
    Who can understand it?

“I the Lord search the heart
    and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
    according to what their deeds deserve.

Jeremiah 17:7-10

For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.

Matthew 15:19

Well then, sure seems like judging by the heart is a bad idea – it is easily swayed and emotionally led.

Shifting gears here a bit – when you redefine words you change their meaning to you, but not the meaning when they were written, nor the intent of the author.  The author of Momastery relies on these redefinitions to validate her opinion.  She relies on scripture’s call to love, but she badly misunderstands the various types of love.  And here is where she falls into a terribly tenuous place for her – because of her platform and audience, you could consider her a teacher.  I have a tiny fraction of the same audience, but I hold myself as God will upon judgment – as a teacher as well, and for that reason I carefully reflect on scripture, context, and pray upon every word I write so as not to lead someone else astray unintentionally.

Let me try to set something straight here.  Like I said, not everything the author said was wrong, and that’s why it’s difficult for some to separate the truth from it and discount the rest without a strong scriptural understanding.  We’re going to head back to the immutability of God.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

This is the Gospel.  This is Truth.  God loves every one of His creations – mankind – that He Himself, through Christ, offered the only pathway to righteousness through the crucifixion and resurrection.  This God is not a different God from the one who wrote His laws in stone on the mountain in Exodus or provided the remainder of the Law.  Remember – God is constant and unchanging.  The God that rained fire down on Sodom and Gomorrah, sent the plagues on Egypt, and struck down entire armies is the same God who became man two millenia ago.  God is fearsome in His might, majesty, and absolute demand of perfect adherence to His law.  God – pure goodness, pure love, and holiness unblemished in even the slightest way – cannot tolerate sin, even the tiniest one because it is a corruption of the image of God and the bearer of that corruption cannot survive an encounter with the pureness of God.  So the author is neglecting significant chunks of scripture in order to justify their understanding of God and sin.  She discounts Levitical law and various points in the bible where sexual immorality, sodomy, and unnatural relations are expressly prohibited as sinful and meriting death, but forgets that God is unchanging.  She, and so many others, want God to change because it is IMPOSSIBLE for man to follow all of the law without Christ, and that is not unexpected – Christ never promised an easy path – but to use your public pulpit in order to spread mistruths… well scripture has a lot to say on that as well.

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute….

2 Peter 2:1-2

…these people blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like unreasoning animals, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like animals they too will perish.

2 Peter 2:12

they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.

2 Peter 2:18-21

When you deviate from the perfection and completeness of scripture and begin picking and choosing in order to validate your own opinion, you are acting out of pride.  That in and of itself is bad, but to spread your word as truth rather than The Word and The Truth, you are supplanting God and essentially telling Him that He is wrong and spreading that understanding to others and potentially causing them to fall away from God also.

Now, I will briefly touch on a few things that she got right.

God loves all mankind. Yes, absolutely, otherwise redemption would have been withheld from us.

We are not to judge others or condemn others. Judgment is reserved from God alone and Christ alone is our intercessor.

We are to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Absolutely.  We’re all in the same boat – we’re all sinners hopelessly lost and in need of the grace and mercy of God, our Father and Creator.  But the author fell short again here… I will end this session with a question – do I truly love my neighbor if I tolerate and celebrate his or her lifestyle if it is sinful?  Am I doing them any eternal favors, by not bringing them into the saving grace of Christ which will free them from the bondage of sin?

 

 

The Race

In the aftermath of yesterday, my daily life has not changed one iota.  My heart aches for the families rent apart yesterday and the people immeasurably maimed.  Right now, there is little that I or anyone else can say that will help heal the wound or patch the broken heart.  The medical care that they are receiving is about as far as humankind can provide.  The heart can only be healed by God.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2-4

Yesterday produced moments of terror for people trapped between the blasts triggered by men bent on nothing but bloodshed and destruction of innocent life.  The murderers will meet justice eventually, but even then, humankind is only capable of a certain level of justice.

In our society, a capital crime such as a murder can only be punished once.  After the first murder, all subsequent crimes become essentially free to the murderer.  Their life is already forfeit.  While it is our right to apply the laws of our society and to prosecute the murderers and punish them in accordance with those laws, that punishment always falls short of the anguish of the imposed pain felt by the victims and the families of the victims of these tragedies.

This is the essential understanding that someone has to come to in order to truly understand God’s infinite grace and mercy.  All men fall short of the Law.  By failing to keep God’s law, we violate all of it.  Righteousness in God’s eyes is all-or-nothing. It is black and white.  There can be no gray or the very righteousness of God would be called into question.

So bringing this back to the loss of life yesterday, while I mourn for those killed and pray for those injured, the pain inflicted will far outweigh any pain that humankind can inflect in retribution.  That is the terrible fact of acts of terror – the terrorist will inevitably cause more pain than they endure in the end on this Earth.

My great fear is that this IED-style attack is just the beginning.  The attack was simple to plan and execute and few levels of interdiction would successfully stop such an attack within a free republic such as ours.  Perhaps though, this attack will prepare the people of this nation for the trials to come.

We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5

So what can be done in the face of terror knowing full well that our legal system, our military, our laws can only take from someone their life and that is the ultimate punishment that we can mete out?

Rise.

Stand up.

Be strong and courageous.

Yesterday, there were instances of God’s grace and mercy at work right in the aftermath before the smoke even cleared.  Men and women, immediately took up that great charge of the unorganized militia and sprung into action tending to the wounded, tourniquetting severed limbs, staunching bleeding, carrying people to hospitals, and intentionally putting themselves in harms’ way.  Those men and women were not just police and paramedics, but spectators – mothers, fathers, children, parents and the runners themselves (many of which heroically ran toward the blast site despite their exhaustion at the end of the grueling marathon course).

Yesterday there was death and despair.  Today there is hope.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

2 Corinthians 4:8-12

Those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31

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

 

 

 

Day of Affliction

Today is Good Friday.

Today is the day that we remember that a man walked the Earth and was punished, tortured, beaten, scourged, and nailed by his hands and feet to a rough-hewn log.

That man had committed no great evil, but yet he hung suspended over the crowd on a modest hill.

Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

He was just a man, like me.  He walked, talked, befriended, ate, slept, had fears and doubts, and yet he was thrown down.  Shattered.  Crushed.  Buried.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

It was my inability to obey the law.  Every lie I told, I spoke against Him.  Every malicious thought targeted Him.  Every wrong, evil, regrettable thing ever done by me was against Him.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Even more so, not only as the target of my anger and sin, but He willfully replaced me in the cross-hairs of an Almighty God who cannot tolerate sin no matter how small or trivial.  My King stood there while I spat in His face and scourged his back with a whip and took the punishment that I deserved in addition to the punishment and insolence that I doled out.

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer.

Isaiah 53

On this day, Christ reached forward and backward through time.  The battle was to take place there, on that rough-hewn log.  God would crush sin once and for all.  Christ hung, afflicted, because of me.  Christ took all of the world’s sin, past and present, on to Himself and offered Himself as the target of the wrath of God’s righteousness.

His love, His desire for my freedom from the terrible burden of blackening sin, His desire for me to return His love held Him there, not the nails.

For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

Romans 5:19

 

Same-Sex Marriage – A Message to Supportive Christians

I am appalled and saddened by the so-called Christians who are openly supporting that which is identified as sin time and time again within the Bible, of which you supposedly assert is the true word of God.  How can you honestly expect to stand before your Creator at your judgment and say that you believe that sinners deserved the right to continue sinning?

Are we not called to eliminate the sin from our lives and to not be stumbling blocks for others?  By enabling further sin and the further defiling of the Godly structure of marriage, do you not become complicit in the very sin itself?

Do you take an alcoholic to a bar?

Do you send your children over to play at a known pedophile’s house?

Do you invite a compulsive gambler to your weekly poker game?

No, because you are enabling the sin.

Now, as an enabler of sin, are you showing love for the person or love for the world?

Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

John 8:10-11

Christ did not hate the woman in this passage.  He saved her from a stoning.  She was living in sin, but Christ did not save her so that she could continue sinning, but rather so she could leave her sins behind and live a new life in the glorious truth of His Righteousness.

So what will it be?  Enabler of sin or freedom from sin?

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Romans 1:28-32

By enabling the sin, by validating it and supporting a so-called “right” to the blessing and privilege of the defined title of marriage, you show a callousness toward sin that should shake you to your soul.  Look at the words Paul penned above… the people he is talking about were professing Christians!  No understanding!  No fidelity! No love!  No mercy!  Does that description offend?  Good.

Christ did not die to enable sin, but to destroy it.

 

 

As a Phoenix

There is a strong push to not allow things to fail occurring in so many spheres of society today.  Banks are “too big to fail.”  Kids shouldn’t be “left out” of awards ceremonies so they don’t feel bad.  Countries can’t fail because of the financial repercussions.  Never mind that the “why” questions that such situations pose are convoluted to answer.  Has anyone actually taken a look at the repercussions down the line for a refusal to allow failure?

Once something becomes “too big to fail” or “can’t be made to feel bad” or “not allowed to default,” the extent of actions open to prevent these failures is limitless.  This ultimately encourages a decrease in inventiveness, perseverance, creativity, and improvement.  What motivation do you have to get better if you are never allowed to experience the cold feedback of failure?  Failure in and of itself is a fantastic motivation to put forth the extra effort, to take that extra hour doing batting practice to make the little league team, to expend those extra hours at work to make sure that your proposal is perfect,

In science, there is a theory that the universe could ultimately cease to exist in what is called a state of heat death.  The universe is in a constant state of energy flux as matter is compressed into pure energy in the core of a few trillion stars and then recoalesces into matter as it is expelled and cools over time.  These fluctuations in temperature, provided by the mass to energy and energy to mass conversions as the universe heats and cools like a giant ticking clock will eventually even out as the theory states.  At that point, energy and mass with cease to convert back and forth and the universe will stabilize it’s temperature completely – the universe will simply stop working.

By permitting the “thou shalt not fail” mindset in politics, business, and at home, we are slowly crushing the very spark of human of the human spirit and all of it’s ingenuity, creativity, and courage.  This equality of outcome is more counterproductive to society than anything else as it fails to inspire redemption, triumph over adversity, and discipline.

Businesses must never be “too big to fail” or bad business models, foolish management, risk-taking, and lawlessness will prevail.

Countries must be allowed to fail so that failed policies can be purged, leadership can be changed, and prosperity is again possible and hope can be renewed.

Kids must be allowed to fail so that they experience the crush of defeat early in life, and learn to not just overcome it, but to use it is as a motivating force in their life in pursuit of their dreams and ambitions.

Failure is a quintessential part of humanity.  Atheists will often pose a question for Christians that usually goes something like this: If God really exists, loves us, and wants what is good for us why would He allow suffering in the world?

To that question, I respond: How glorious God is and how wise He is that He would allow suffering and failure in the world, in order to prove His glory and power time and time again as He pulled the fallen from the ashes of their own personal destruction and used that temporary hell as a motivating force for mighty deeds for the betterment of mankind.  The beauty of creation, the ENTIRE point of existence since the Fall has been to not shock and awe the world into obedience, but to provide examples of men and women who rise up from the ashes like the mythological phoenix created anew, more powerful and stronger than before… reborn and tempered not by success, but by failure and submission.

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!

Revelation 3:15

Out of adversity and the pain of defeat have come some of the most uplifting and moving successes of history.

George Washington lost a battle to the French at Fort Necessity.  In fact, he was defeated time and time again, such as at the Battle of Long Island where the American revolution came a hair’s breadth from being crushed between the three-times larger British army and the Royal Navy.  These defeats crystallized Washington into the man we see today in the lens of history. This man later forced a night march, on Christmas Eve, to take the Battle of Trenton from a professional Hessian regiment and turned the tide of the Revolution from one of nearly absolute defeat to one of astounding success.

Henry Ford was bankrupted five times before founding the Ford Motor Company and introducing the assembly line to the world as an industrial breakthrough.

Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard and failed at his first computer business.  He went out to found and lead Microsoft to one of the most successful and profitable companies in the world.

Thomas Edison tried thousands of different designs that all failed before creating what we commonly know today as the incandescent light bulb.

Elvis Presley was fired after his first paid gig as a performer and became an iconic stage presence.

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team and became the best player of his era.

Babe Ruth stuck out 1,330 times and is credited as one of the best hitters of all time.

LeBron James lost a free throw contest in middle school and has gone on to dominate the game of basketball at every level.

The option to fail is not an evil to be avoided.  Failure, adversity, and defeat do not destroy the human spirit, they embolden it, to become greater, stronger, faster, smarter, to grow in faith, not in their own abilities, but those given to us by God.  It is the tempering fire, the blacksmith’s hammer, and the pain of discipline.

Failure is creative destruction.

Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.

Arthur Golden

Failure after long perseverance is much grander than never to have a striving good enough to be called a failure.

George Eliot

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. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Romans 5:1-11

 

 

 

 

 

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