9 things (Oct.16)

All of scripture points to Christ. Even “getting wisdom”, which is the theme of Proverbs, is about coming to Christ, the wisdom of God. The major problem with the church today is that they view Scripture as a “how to” manual, rather than the revelation of Jesus Christ.

If you view the book of Proverbs as an owners manual on successful living, you will miss everything there.

Alexa misheard me and said, “Now playing – music by Britney Spears”. My wife shouted NO!! Then she muttered, “I’m glad she’s free and all, but I still don’t want to hear her.”

The Bible isn’t about sex, kids, marriage, successful finances, health, prosperity, eating, drinking, working, economics, art, how you smell, what you wear – it is about Jesus. Find him, and you will live. Trust in your own ability to “do this, and live” and you will die. When you find Jesus, everything else flows from there.

Paul Washer said that when you become a believer you no longer dress or smell like the world. I have no idea what that means.

Modesty, in the scripture, means not dressing to show off your status or to shame those who are different than you. Not everyone can afford to stay home and homeschool; not everyone can afford a Sunday dress; not everyone can afford a suit and tie. Not everyone has a spouse or kids or votes republican or has money in the bank. Not everyone can live without ever getting public assistance. Not everyone has 10 dollars to spend on the secret Christmas gift exchange. But everyone can find freedom from shame in Christ and should be able to find it in the church. This is what “modesty” means. Don’t dress or act in such a way that would bring shame on your neighbors.

I spent the week nursing my wife back to health. She had surgery on Monday. Because of her Ehlers Danlos, everything take a lot longer to heal than it would on someone else. I starting thinking that everyone’s growth rate, healing rate, grieving rate, learning rate, “getting over things” rate is different and also comes from the Lord. I’m so thankful that he remembers our frailty and never shames us for being slow. Only the hirelings beat the sheep when they lag behind.

If you ever get a chance to hear Anna Netrebko sing, you should take it.

Sometimes progress in sanctification is spending an hour trying to get your printer to work after an update without once calling for fire and brimstone on the head of Bill Gates, or Hewlett and Packard. Success sometimes means measuring in baby steps.

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Nine Things (October 9)

I read recently that almost all canned pumpkin is actually butternut squash. They are so genetically similar that the FDA considers them the same. But the squash generally has more flavor and better texture.

About ten years ago, my wife and I were sitting outside in a shopping center and drinking coffee. Two teenaged boys walked by. One said, “I’m not going to keep my money in the freezer anymore. I just end up stabbing it.” I still don’t have a context to put that in.

Pumpkin spice contains no pumpkin. Or butternut squash.

Diane Langberg’s teaching on power and vulnerability is tremendous. Her statement “power, if it is to be Christlike, must be used to bless others” is one to meditate on for a long time.

Tomorrow’s sermon is on Zechariah 6. While I was thinking on it, it struck me: They put the crown on Joshua’s head. And then they took it off, because it belongs to another – the Branch. The crown isn’t yours. But you partake in that anointing to the extent that you are being conformed to Christ…You’ll need to hear the sermon.

The crown was put in the temple as a memorial – to point forward to the Branch. If we are the temple of the Lord, our task is always to point to Another.

Years ago, I played the piano at an event of some sort. A woman came up to me and said, “I could listen to you play all day.” Mostpeople would say “Thank you.” That, of course, isn’t me. What I said was “But I can’t play all day.”

Rachmaninoff wanted to meet Stravinsky, but didn’t know how to go about it. Having heard that Stravinsky liked honey, Rach showed up at his house late at night with a jar of honey and no explanation. This is a kind of awkward that resonates deeply with me.

Fried chicken came first. Then someone decided to fry steak the same way that one fried chicken, and the Chicken Fried Steak was born. Then someone decided to fry chicken the way that steak fried like chicken is fried and they called it “Chicken fried chicken.” At some point it should probably stop. It’s just getting silly.

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Victim and victor

Because there are certain types who like to argue over everything, there is a current debate in the Twitterverse over the concept of Christ as a victim.

One celebrity preacher tweets, “Christ was not a victim” and then digs in his heels.

I generally don’t involve myself in the current stupidity on Twitter, but this one strikes close to home.

There is, first of all, a rather unfathomable disdain for “victims”. I have heard “victim mentality” thrown around and I still have no idea what people mean by that.

Are they talking about someone who continues to struggle with trauma after abuse or other criminal activity?

Are they talking about those without power finally getting a voice and speaking out against the wealthy and powerful who have plowed their backs for decades?

I really don’t know. But I know that when they talk about “victim mentality” they spit the word with contempt. This is unfathomable to me.

If anyone could explain to me the “victim mentality” and why it is deserving of contempt, I would be grateful. Is it the desire for justice that is so bothersome? Is it the need for help at times? Is it the lingering affects?

If someone was robbing my home and shot me in the foot, would walking with a limp the rest of my life be a “victim mentality”? Or would it just be my desire to see the one who shot me receive justice? If the one who shot me didn’t receive justice and that made me angry, would that be a “victim mentality?”

If loud bangs after that event cause my adrenaline to spike and me to instinctively seek cover, would that be a “victim mentality”?

If someone asks me where I got my limp and I answer, “Some jackass shot me in the foot” – would that be a “victim mentality”?

Seriously, I don’t get it. What causes such contempt for victims of crimes?

The problem, of course, with contempt for a victim of injustice is that you then have to explain Jesus Christ. Hence, “Jesus was not a victim.”

The justification for this rather inane statement is that Jesus was at no time out of control of the situation. No one took his life from him, he laid it down himself willingly as a sacrifice for sin.

You have no argument from me. That is orthodox theology. But that isn’t what “victim” means.

Victim simply means one who is on the receiving end of a crime or another injustice. It seems to me that in the rush to justify contempt for victims, the celebrity pastor has entered into the territory of gibberish.

Does he really mean to say that Jesus was not a victim of injustice, or a victim of a crime? Victim doesn’t actually mean “Powerless to stop it”.

Jesus is also true God and true man, which I am not. I do not have the ability to remain in control of every situation at all times. I, as a frail human being, am often the victim of crimes or injustices that I am powerless to stop. But the scripture also teaches that Jesus took the form of a servant and is therefore able to empathize with every trial that frail humans endure, except for sin (Heb. 4:15). Being powerless to prevent injustice is not a sin. As true man, it seems to me that he also took upon himself the powerlessness of frailty, in a way we cannot fathom. He was at once victim and victor, and we can’t fathom that any more than we can fathom how he who is life could suffer death.

If they mean by this that Jesus did not sin while he was suffering injustice and being murdered, I have no argument there either. But “victim” doesn’t mean “someone who sins while being victimized”. It simply means one who has suffered from injustice or other crimes.

This is pretty basic Christology. One of my concerns is how quickly evangelicalism jettisons the basics of the Christian faith in order to justify their world view. If the Trinity can become a social playground to battle feminism, then I suppose Christology is also fair game to these people. But they should at least know what is at stake.

If Jesus was not a victim, then we have no salvation.

“Why did he suffer under Pontius Pilate?

“That he, being innocent, might be condemned by the temporal judge, thereby delivering me from the just judgment of God, to which I was exposed.” Heidelberg Catechism #38

But it seems to me that this contempt for “victimhood” has a deeper cause.

There is a certain person who refuses to view themselves as a victim, even if they have suffered tremendous injustice. So it seems to me that defining terms might be more helpful than simply spouting sound bites.

So I would offer this:

Jesus is true God and true man. He was the victim of the greatest injustice ever perpetrated upon a human being. As true God he could have stopped it at any time. But instead, as our Mediator, he prayed, “Not my will, but thine be done.” His willingness to obey even on the cross does not change the fact that they took him with wicked hands and nailed him to a cross.

11 Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.
  12 Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.
  13 They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.
  14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.
  15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
  16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
  17 I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.
  18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
  19 But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.
  (Ps. 22:11-19)

There are many times when men and women are powerless to stop crimes against themselves. Those crimes strike at the heart of our personhood and cause tremendous damage in the soul.

Being powerless against crime does not make you a contemptable, filthy, damaged person. It makes you human in a cursed world. The blood of Abel’s victimhood cried out from the earth, and God heard it.

The severity of the crime against you will determine the level of damage against you. Sometimes you need help climbing out of the pit. Needing help does not make you a contemptable, filthy, damaged person. It makes you a human being.

Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. Our resurrection has not happened yet. Until then, we mourn. Until then, we cry out. We will be afraid, sad, discouraged, anxious, downhearted, fearful and longing for the marriage supper of the lamb. This is what it means to be human.

One more admonition, for those who have read thus far. The gospel is this: “While we were yet without strength, Christ died for the ungodly.”

Modern evangelicalism, on the contrary, is about power and strength. Those with political power and wealth are admired. The only way to “take the country back for Jesus” is through power, money and strength. this is always what makes “Christendom” so contrary to Christianity. Every time the “city on the hill” has been tried, it has failed in an avalanche of oppression, power, money, prestige and politics. There have been no exception, because the kingdom of God is not of this earth.

Christ came for those without strength. He said, “Blessed are the poor.”

Therefore, Paul learned to count all of his earthly advantages as dung that he might know Christ and the power of his resurrection.

For this reason, the apostles endured persecution and injustice. They stopped it when they were able to, but most of the time they were not.

When Paul was beheaded, he was a victim. When Peter was crucified, he was a victim. When Bartholomew was roasted alive, he was a victim.

They were not contemptable and worthless because they did not have the power to stop it, and neither are you.

Evangelicalism today is a movement of strength and self-help. One who is needy is not welcome.

But needing help is not a moral failure. In fact, needing help is the only way that we can come to Christ at all.

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Grief

There is something sneaky about grief. It creeps up behind you while you are weeding the garden or watching the hummingbirds and it bashes you over the head.
Or it sneaks into your pores and hides in the nooks and crannies of the soul only to come out of hiding when you aren’t occupied with anything else.
The song over the speakers in the grocery store. The coffee shop that you used to go to. The street you used to walk down. The hymns you used to sing…

It is so painful and so brutally honest that MostPeople hide from it, bury it, will offer their souls to just make it stop…

But wisdom walks with grief. Wisdom weeps and cries out. Wisdom takes grief out of hiding and turns it this way and that…not to find a solution, but just to grieve.

Grief is the B-side of love. Only those who love much grieve much.
Wisdom sits with grief, not trying to learn, not trying to manage, not trying to overcome – just sits with it…
When we sit with grief, it has a way of pointing us somewhere else. It reminds us that we were not made for this world and this is not how it is supposed to be.
And we are powerless to do anything about it. And so we cry out to a Saviour who hears us, who has conquered death, who walks with us through the dark valleys…
Everything else seems to fade away.
We still eat. We still vote. We still have our opinions about viruses and vaccines. We still have our experiences and personalities.
But suddenly they don’t seem all that important anymore.

Grief is the B-side of love. And when one sits with grief, everything except love is stripped away.
But only if you sit with it without trying to learn anything from it.
Growth comes from the rain of grief coupled with patience.
Take time to grieve.
Every plant has its own pace. Let the rain do its work.

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A Response to TGC on weeping

A couple of days ago, Kevin DeYoung published an article on The Gospel Coalition’s website concerning weeping with those who weep.

I found it quite disturbing, and I want to attempt to explain why.

To set the mood for the blog, he introduces Romans 12:15 and writes,

In recent years, the second half of the verse in particular has been emphasized as a key component in caring for victims, in listening to the stories of the oppressed, and in showing compassion to the hurting.

And then he adds:

These emphases are right and proper. Oftentimes the first thing we must do with sufferers is simply come alongside them, acknowledge their pain, express our condolences, and assure them of our love and prayers.

So far so good.

And then he spends the rest of the blog adding qualifier after qualifier until nothing is left.

The most disturbing sentence is this one:

Surely, the second half of Romans 12:15 does not mean that the only response to grieving people is to grieve with them. Diving into facts, pursuing objectivity, listening to all sides—these are not invalidated by Romans 12:15. “Weep with those who weep” does not dictate that the reasons for our weeping can never be mistaken. In short, the verse must mean something like “weep with those who have good, biblical reason to be weeping.”

I will explain why this disturbs me in a moment. First, to be fair to Rev. DeYoung, I would like to give his reasoning. Arguing from the parallelism of the passage, he writes:

One, almost everyone interprets the first half of Romans 12:15 along the lines just stated above. That is, no one thinks God wants us to rejoice with those who rejoice over the Taliban coming to power. No matter how genuine the rejoicing may be, Christians should not join with those who celebrate abortion or parade their sexual immorality or delight in racial prejudice. Instinctively, we know that the first half of Romans 12:15 means something like, “rejoice with those who have good, biblical reason to be rejoicing.”

His argument, then, is that since we do not indiscriminately rejoice over the Taliban coming into power, but rather we rejoice with those who have good and Biblical reasons for rejoicing, it then follows that weeping also must only be done with those who have good, biblical reasons for weeping.

First of all, this trend among the celebrity neo-“reformed” to view compassion with suspicion is quite disturbing. Why is there such a need in these guys’ minds to add caveat after caveat to compassion and empathy? As soon as we start defining who is and who is not worthy of our compassion, we enter into dangerous territory.

But before I go there, I would first like to critique his exegesis. He adds so many “traditions of men” that the command of God is of no effect, and is therefore committing the same fallacy as the Pharisees of old. Jesus explains this in Mark 7:9ff.

9 He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.
  10 “For Moses said,`Honor your father and your mother’; and,`He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’
  11 “But you say,`If a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban “– ‘(that is, a gift to God),
  12 “then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother,
  13 “making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
  (Mark. 7:9-13)

In other words, according to the teachers at the time, if they had “good and biblical reasons”, they were not obliged to provide for their parents. What more biblical reason could there be than dedicating all of your goods to God himself?

DeYoung makes the same error, in my view. He takes a simple command…weep with those who weep…and adds so many caveats in order to explain that not EVERY person weeping deserves our tears of sympathy.

There have been so many articles lately about this that it is starting to bother me. What are they trying to prevent? Why are the tears of the abused so threatening to them that they have to find a way to silence them?

But back to DeYoung’s exegesis. His example of the Taliban does not hold up, because according to the text itself, Paul is speaking of the context of our neighbors, our fellow church members, and those that we interact with every day.

DeYoung finds the most extreme example (surely you wouldn’t rejoice with a terrorist) and then seeks to apply that to our neighbors.

He also draws a false contrast – “Diving into facts, pursuing objectivity, listening to all sides” is contrasted with weeping with those who weep. It appears that what he is saying is that you can do one or the other. If you dive into the facts, etc., and then determine that the one weeping has grounds for weeping, then Rom. 12:15 comes into play, but not before.

Wow. It just got complicated, didn’t it? Since sin is in the world, if you follow what he seems to be saying, you will always find a reason not to weep with those who weep. There will always be sin involved, therefore I don’t have to obey God. We nullify the command of God so that we might keep our traditions.

One more note on this, Paul isn’t talking about a judicatory of the church. Why must we all, as private citizens, assume that we are the arbiters of truth and that every complaint brought to us must be decided as if we were judges and jurists? Why can’t we just believe people and weep with them? Paul isn’t talking about adjudicating their case. He is talking about compassion.

But what if this passage means exactly what it says. “Leave vengeance in the hands of God. Love without hypocrisy. Empathize with one another.”

Rejoicing and weeping require some entering into the emotions of others, and this terrifies certain minds of the Reformed persuasion. But what if we let the scripture shape us, rather that us trying to make scripture fit our molds?

What if we learned what made our neighbors weep and wept with them?

Suppose, to use and extreme example, our neighbors are a gay couple. And suppose the state legislature passes a law forbidding gay couples from cohabitating together. They are scared. They don’t know what the future holds. Their whole world has turned upside down. Do they have “good and biblical reasons” for weeping?

It gets tricky, doesn’t it? Now you have to determine if the desire for safety and peace, the longing for acceptance and worth, and the security of a person’s home are biblical desires, and if so, are they trumped by the fact that they are living in sin?

Suppose the Taliban has taken over and has commanded that every gay couple be publicly flogged and then executed? Do we weep with them then?

If we ever get to the point that we are OK watching anyone getting flogged publicly, or executed by stoning, we are in a very scary state indeed.  I fear that we are headed there faster than we think.

Wouldn’t it be easier to simply weep with those who weep, and try to enter into their pain and sit with them?

Example two – a 15 year-old girl is raped. She gets pregnant and she is terrified of her church finding out. So afraid, in fact, that she sees no alternative but to abort her baby.

Is she no longer worthy of our tears? Is she no longer human now? What if it happened while she was at a party that her parents didn’t know she went to? What if she was drinking there? Is she now no longer worthy of our tears? No wonder she is terrified of telling the church, if their response is dictated by people like DeYoung. First, determine if their weeping is good and biblical. THEN weep with them. No wonder we are losing the war against abortion.

One example I read a few months ago was this one, “Surely you wouldn’t weep with a drug dealer who lost his whole stash in a house fire.” Once again, using the most extreme example that you can think of isn’t really the best way to do exegesis.

But let’s look at it. Suppose that this drug dealer is your son. And the drugs that he lost weren’t his. And now the cartel is after him. We can certainly hold to our belief that actions have consequences and at the same time be crushed with grief and tears. Surely every parent knows this grief. Surely the father of the prodigal wept great tears at the state of his son, even though it was his son’s fault he was in that state. Isn’t that the point of our faith?

Don’t we worship a God who plucks us out of the miry pit?

Jesus himself wept over Jerusalem, even though their destruction was just and good.

I would never bare my heart to anyone who says things like this, and it certainly isn’t what Paul means.

Paul means quite simply what he says. If your friends and neighbors are rejoicing, rejoice with them. If they are weeping, weep with them. It simply means to enter into their lives. They are image-bearers of God. It certainly doesn’t mean to approve of their sins. If means to have compassion.

You cannot do this without empathy. I am extremely disturbed that compassion and empathy are viewed with such suspicion in the church in these past few years.

But such is the result when you think that the point of Christianity is winning a culture war rather than loving God and your neighbor. These are two quite different things.

But there is one more thing even more disturbing. It is inexcusable that a pastor of sheep wouldn’t be aware of this. Do you know what this article will do in abusive homes?

Do you know what will happen if we tell abusive and violent men that they must not weep with their wives and children if they do not have biblical reasons to weep?

To me, this is the most disturbing part of the whole thing. It is saying that I must determine if your tears are biblical before I can weep with you. The damage that this will cause will be immense. Wait for it…

Wisdom is justified by her children. So is foolishness.

I am afraid that this teaching will bear some very ugly children.

If we are secure in our righteousness before God, if we truly understand that we are complete in Christ already, then we can weep with those who weep without fear that we will somehow become tainted by their sin.

If Jesus waited until he had good and biblical reasons to weep with us, we would still be lost in our sins.

2 “Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations,
3 “and say,`Thus says the Lord GOD to Jerusalem: “Your birth and your nativity are from the land of Canaan; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite.
4 “As for your nativity, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed in water to cleanse you; you were not rubbed with salt nor wrapped in swaddling cloths.
5 “No eye pitied you, to do any of these things for you, to have compassion on you; but you were thrown out into the open field, when you yourself were loathed on the day you were born.
6 “And when I passed by you and saw you struggling in your own blood, I said to you in your blood,`Live!’ Yes, I said to you in your blood,`Live!’
7 “I made you thrive like a plant in the field; and you grew, matured, and became very beautiful. Your breasts were formed, your hair grew, but you were naked and bare.
8 “When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine,” says the Lord GOD.
9 “Then I washed you in water; yes, I thoroughly washed off your blood, and I anointed you with oil.
10 “I clothed you in embroidered cloth and gave you sandals of badger skin; I clothed you with fine linen and covered you with silk.
11 “I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your wrists, and a chain on your neck.
12 “And I put a jewel in your nose, earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown on your head.
13 “Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth. You ate pastry of fine flour, honey, and oil. You were exceedingly beautiful, and succeeded to royalty.
14 “Your fame went out among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through My splendor which I had bestowed on you,” says the Lord GOD. (Ezek. 16:2-14)

Isn’t that beautiful. He doesn’t wait for his people to live before he gives them life. He doesn’t wait for them to be worthy of compassion before he has compassion.

Are we not to be tenderhearted, as God is tenderhearted? It seems we are missing something crucial about our faith.

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Righteous before God

60. How art thou righteous before God?

Only by true faith in Jesus Christ; that is, although my conscience accuse me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sin, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart. Heidelberg Catechism #60

The most important question anyone can ask is this one. How are you righteous before God?

If God is coming again to judge the living and the dead, and if all of the wicked will be condemned, and only the righteous can stand before his awesome throne, how can we be considered righteous?

We can’t do it ourselves. We’ve already blown it. In fact, we blew it even before we were born because of Adam’s sin in the garden.

But beyond that – our own sins. We cannot even satisfy our own consciences. How can we satisfy a holy God who sees the thoughts and intents of the heart?

Well I meant well…keep telling yourself that. You didn’t mean well.

Well I had love in my heart…no you didn’t.

The truest expression of who you actually are is what your conscience reminds you of when all the other voices are quiet.

The fact is that you don’t measure up…and you need to finally admit that before it is too late.

The righteousness that can stand before God’s awesome throne must be perfect. It must not have any flaws. No self-serving motives, but complete purity of thought, purity of motive. Perfect love flowing from a perfect heart into perfect actions.

Have you ever done one thing that fits that description?

So how can we be righteous before God.

It is called “imputation.” Every wicked act, every impure thought, every shameful interaction, every hurtful word, is kept on the books by the righteous judge. And he took them all on himself on the cross. He took your record. In the counsels of the Holy Trinity, beyond our understanding, God the Father imputed your sins to his Only Begotten Son, who took them on himself. This is a single act by the single will of God. Our sins were imputed to Jesus Christ. They were put on his record.

When you read the scripture – the gospels, the proverbs, the law – you see a perfect description of what a human being should be. The scripture gives us a glorious painting of beauty in the pinnacle of the possibility of being a good and wise person. The problem is that no one has lived up to it. (seriously. Be honest here…”)

Except for one. Jesus Christ. He had nothing that he could be accused of. His enemies found nothing to charge him with, even though they looked. His heart was laid bare before his Father in heaven, and there was nothing impure or unclean it it. Every action and every deed and every word was perfect throughout. His only thought was love for God and love for his neighbor.

He didn’t do that for himself. He did it for us. He did it so that he would create a perfect record of what a beautiful, good, wise and holy human could be…and then he put that record on our account, so that is what God sees when we stand before him on judgment day.

Our sins – nailed to his cross.

His righteousness and wisdom – put on our account.

It is finished indeed.

You can’t earn it. You can’t prove yourself worthy of it. You can’t buy it. You can’t be sorry enough for your sins to earn it.

You simply accept it with a believing heart…

But wait – the faith that receives it is not the foundation of that righteousness. It is simply the weak and trembling hand that receives it.

We aren’t even accepted because of the quality of our faith. We are accepted because of the beauty of the Savior.

I just thought you might like to know that.

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9 things

1. To the extent that men coerce their wives to submit, either by threats or promises of reward, to that extent their marriage is NOT a picture of Christ and his church.

2. Our submission to Christ as Christians is from a willing heart of love.

3. When I was growing up, my mother prepared a dish from ground beef, tomato sauce, macaroni, cans of corn…and then she dumped in whatever leftovers she had in the fridge. She called it “goulash”. I just found out that my friend’s mother did the exact same thing. I was an adult before I learned that goulash was actually a real dish with a real recipe.

4. My daughter has numbers that she favors. “Favors” is the wrong word, because it is beyond that. She cannot eat 10 grapes. She cannot eat 11 grapes. She CAN eat 9 grapes. And so on with any food that can be numbered. Thus, “9 things…”

5. Obedience that comes from a servile heart of fear is not acceptable to God. The fact that is acceptable to many who profess Christ continues to astound me. How can a man desire a wife who is afraid of him?

6. When a partner uses sexual favors to reward good behavior or withholds them to punish bad behavior, the sex life will always suffer. Sex that is exchanged for goods if the heart of harlotry, not Biblical sexuality.

7. Yesterday, I finished “The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell” by Robert Dugoni. It is one of the best novels I’ve read this year. I’m not sure about the ending, though…I have to mull that one over…

8. I have been thinking about the concept of “Christian Culture.” I guess that I don’t know what that means and who gets to enforce it. Some proclaim the 19th century south as the pinnacle of Christian Culture.  I guess it would depend on which side of the whip one was on…

9. Proper social behavior enforced by the elite is not Christianity. Taliban, maybe. But not Christ.

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Be Killing Sin? But How?

One frequently hears “Be killing sin or it will be killing you…” I know that it is attributed to John Owen, but I don’t know the context.

Without anything else, it is pretty despairing, isn’t it. How does one go about killing sin?

What knife to you use to circumcise the foreskin of the heart?

Do you cut off the arm that offends? Pluck out the eye that offends?

Where do you stop cutting?

Do we kill sin by amputation?

Do we exercise more will-power? How do we do that when our will is also fallen?

Do we offer expensive sacrifices like Cain?

Ten- thousand rivers of oil? Our firstborn children?

I’m being genuine here. As Christians and as humans we all want to do better. We all long for the day that we will be free from sin. I truly want to kill sin in me…most of the time…

I know that sin is deadly and an offence against a holy God.

I know the hurt that I have caused in others.

And I try to kill it. I have many decades of resolve. And many decades of broken resolve.

Kill sin? Will someone tell me how?

Or do I follow what Paul said –

” O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom. 7:24-8:1)

I don’t know how to kill the sin in me. Crush it out, Lord Jesus. I kill sin by bringing my heart to you. It is safe in your hands.

I will wait on the watchtower, longing for your return.

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Filed under sanctification

Morning thoughts

On reading 1 Corinthians 3

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ.
  2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able,
  3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?
  4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men? (1 Cor. 3:1-4)

Have you ever noticed that sometimes a familiar passage strikes your heart and you realize that it doesn’t at all mean what you thought it meant? I had that experience this morning.

Being raised Reformed, I always assumed that it meant “simple doctrine” was the milk; and “more complicated doctrine” was the meat. It made the rest of the passage somewhat of a mystery to me, but I read and prayed and moved on.

But this morning, I saw something that I never saw before. Paul himself defines what he means by “fleshly” and by “spiritual.”

Fleshly is jealousy and strife. The flesh teaches us to say, “I’m glad I’m not like other men, like that publican over there…”

Or, “I’m glad I’m not like other men. I eat meat. Not milk. Look at that guy, still on milk!”

And you can define milk or meat however you want once you frame it according to the flesh.

Our pride tends to take the things that we do easily and call those things “meat”. And the repugnant others that are Not Like Us are the ones stuck on “milk.”

The milk-eaters are the ones who haven’t read Twisse in the original Latin. Or the ones who don’t know who Bavinck is, or don’t know what Olevianus taught about the covenant of grace or who still don’t know how to pronounce “Oecodelampadius”.

Or, in other traditions, the milk-eaters are the ones who don’t speak in tongues; who can’t point to a conversion experience, don’t dance during worship times.

OR – they don’t raise their kids “in the covenant”, or don’t have their wife in line according to my standards or….go to the wrong movies, read the wrong books, listen to the wrong music…

You get the point. The flesh is this: I am of Paul; I am of Apollos; Well, I am of Christ!”

And I thank God that I am not like you people?

When jealousy and strife are present, are we not fleshly? How then can Paul speak to us the words of God without us taking those words and using them to cause further division and strife?

When everything the preacher says is used as a bludgeon to use on our neighbor, or a club to beat the preacher with, or simply another check box to fill in that give approval to our own self-assessment (at least I am not like those people), then we are fleshly, and are not growing in the knowledge of Christ. We might have a lot of facts. But having facts doesn’t mean “eating meat”.

Paul himself defines flesh throughout his epistles:

3 for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, (Phil. 3:3)

2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.
4 And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,
5 that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (1 Cor. 2:2-5)

2 This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Gal. 3:2-3)

Do you see the point? We point to ourselves by nature. We are the stars of our own story, by nature. We justify ourselves by comparing ourselves to others, by nature. And this always ends up with sectarianism, jealousy and strife.

The Spirit, on the other hand, bears witness to Christ. He takes our eyes off our our abilities and our gifts as the ground of our assurance and places it on Christ alone.

Read the rest of 1 Corinthians 3 from this perspective. You’ll see what I mean….

Thanks for coming with me on my journey.

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Filed under Gospel, Union with Christ

Is God still Good?

We see the announcement of a pregnancy, and we rejoice. “God is so good!”

God hears our prayers and a job opportunity arrives and we rejoice. “God is so good!”

We recover from the disease. We heal from the surgery. A care package arrives and we rejoice. “God is so good!”

He is good to us, isn’t he? We see the sun and the moon and the stars and we rejoice. We taste the apricot and the wine and the olive oil and we say, “God is so good!”

But what happens when you are on hour number eight- again – in the Emergency Room, fully expecting, “All your tests were normal. Follow up with your regular doctor tomorrow.”

What happens when the specialist that your wife REALLY needs to see as soon as possible can possibly squeeze you in in October?

What happens when you spend year after year watching the one that you love suffer so much and there is nothing anyone can do about it?

What happens when your friend is dying from cancer?

Is God still good then?

Is God still good when the baby is born blind?

Is God still good when your children turn their backs on God?

Is God still good when your friends are suffering and you can’t help at all?

When you are outside the wall of the best health care in the world but you can’t get access?

Is God still good then?

And all you can say is “Lord, save me!” and you know above all that God is good.

It goes deeper than “he has a plan”. That too often just seems trite.

I think it is more like silver in a furnace. Like a launderer’s soap.

Even then, though – that doesn’t really speak of the goodness of God.

What language shall I borrow? What words can I stammer? When “Lord save me” doesn’t quite cover everything, what else can I say?

And yet, there he is. In the bottom of the well. In the depths where I cry. There he is, because he is good.

And if I didn’t spend hour after hour in the emergency room, if I we didn’t suffer together, we wouldn’t have seen it. We would have thought that the goodness of God is the same as oil and wine and bread and new babies.

They are great gifts of God. But they are not God. And when we suffer in the depths, that is where we most often meet him.

He is there when the dross is burning away, where the last remnants of self-help and our arrogant pride and self-assurance are being burned away in the fire, when we are exhausted from the race, and just want to throw in the towel….there he is.

In the valley of the shadow of death. He takes us through because he knows it is the only way to the green pastures.

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Filed under Goodness, Hope