Monthly Archives: August 2014

He Sets the Prisoner Free

For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the LORD behold the earth; To hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death (Ps. 102:19-20).

“Tomorrow I will be a better person.”

How many times have you told yourself that? You may have gone to therapists. You have gone to the meetings. You may even have tried “religion”. But you still find that your conscience accuses you. At night you lie on your bed unable to sleep as your mind plays your failures over and over again.

You are told that you are basically a good person. Perhaps you have addictions – sex, drugs, alcohol. Perhaps you just can’t control your urges or your temper. You lash out at your loved ones. You stay up at night browsing porn sites until early morning. No matter what you do to stop, you still find yourself doing the same things.

You have seen the religious experts. They may have told you to try harder. “Find an accountability partner”, you are told. If you would just quit sinning and if you had better influences around you, you could overcome this. But long and cruel experience has told you otherwise. None of your good intentions can break down the walls of your prison.

Is there any hope? You have tried everything. Promises have been made and broken. You have been promised that this time it will be different. But it isn’t.

The Bible tells us what the problem is. The human race is in bondage to sin. The reason that you can’t keep your promises is that you are enslaved; you are a prisoner in the prison of your own making. You cannot break free. What you need is for someone to break down the walls of your prison and deliver you.

But the only one that can do that is God Himself. Only the Creator of heaven and earth can set you free. But now there is a problem. The Creator of heaven and earth has placed you under the death penalty – and He cannot lie. He said, “The soul that sins shall die”. You have sinned.

“But,” you say, “I have had some lapses in judgment, but I am really not all that bad.”

But God doesn’t grade on a curve. God has told us very clearly what sin is. It is even clearer than the speed limit sign posted on the highways. Don’t steal. Don’t kill. Don’t lie. Don’t commit adultery…

“But I haven’t done these things,” you say. But God doesn’t just look at your outward behavior. He looks at the heart. Have you lusted after a woman in your heart? Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever hated someone or held a grudge against someone? Have you ever wanted to steal?  Of course, these are just the “respectable sins”.  The reality is that the heart is so vile and corrupt that we dare not even acknowledge our darkest desires.  What if every thought that you ever had was broadcast to the whole world, and exposed for all to see?

You know in your own conscience that you are guilty, and the Judge is a hanging Judge who will NEVER acquit the guilty. If you need to be delivered from your sins, if the only one who can deliver you is God, and if God has pronounced the sentence of death upon you, then how can you possibly be set free?

Imagine that you are on death row. The crime that you are accused of is a capital offense. In a few hours you will be taken from you chamber, marched down the corridor, strapped into the chair and executed. You have no appeals. You did the crime and you know you did the crime. You know that the judge is perfectly just and will never go against his own justice. He has never once granted clemency. What hope can you have?

You may have heard that the prison is only in your own head. You just need to declare yourself “not guilty” and walk out. But you know better.

You may have heard that “God is love” and He would never execute judgment. But you know better.

You may have heard that all you need to do is exercise your free will and do better, and the prison doors will magically swing open. But you know better.

There is only one hope: When you are executed, the sentence is carried out. Only then can the demands of the law be satisfied. In other words, only when you are dead and buried can you be free from the walls of your prison.

But that isn’t good news. The good news (gospel) is this: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

The only way to be truly free from your prison is if the death sentence is carried out. You must either do it yourself (eternal death and damnation) or believe in Jesus, who did it for us.

He came into the world in the womb of the virgin, Mary, for only one purpose: to take our curse and our death sentence upon himself. He did this on the cross. He died a death that was accursed of God, so that we might be assured that he truly took the curse upon himself. Then, on the third day, he rose from the dead – raising us up out of the grave with him, so that we might have the eternal life that he has.

If you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, then his death on the cross is your death; and his resurrection from the dead is your resurrection from the dead. The prison walls are broken down forever, because you were already executed, taken out of the prison, and buried with Christ. But he didn’t remain in the grave. If you believe on him, you are also raised with him to everlasting life.

When you have exhausted every other possibility; when you have reached the end of your rope; there is nothing else to do except come to the only one who can set you free. Isn’t it time that you quit trying to do that which is impossible? Isn’t it time that you quit pretending that you can escape from your prison in your own power, free-will and wisdom? Isn’t it time to come to Christ, and say, “Lord, have mercy on me; a sinner”?

9 Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name: and deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy name’s sake.

 10 Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God? let him be known among the heathen in our sight by the revenging of the blood of thy servants which is shed.

 11 Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee; according to the greatness of thy power preserve thou those that are appointed to die. (Ps. 79:9-11)


Filed under Gospel, Hope, Sin and Grace

Are Blacks Being Eliminated in the US?

An excellent article by my friend

Snowed In

Whitney Curtis/The New York Times Whitney Curtis/The New York Times

You’re probably already familiar with the events occurring in Ferguson, Missouri where an 18 year old unarmed black man named Mike Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer. The response from both social media and the ground has been that this is yet another instance of racist white cops killing unarmed black men in what is clearly an indication of systematic racism. The media has had a field day with the story, and it has clogged news sources for weeks.

I’m not here to argue that Mike Brown was or wasn’t at fault. Nor am I here to defend or deny my “white privilege”. I’m not even here to defend or condemn the white cop who did the shooting. You can find that material elsewhere.

I want to talk about a rap song that was trending on Facebook recently called “Don’t Shoot”. It’s…

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Sometimes, we just need to be quiet

You might have noticed that I haven’t posted in a little while.  I have been feeling a bit under the weather, but that really doesn’t have much to do with it.
I’ve been thinking lately – sometimes I just need to stop and meditate.

When I say stop and meditate, I am not talking about what normally passes for meditation: emptying your mind, feeling one with the universe – whatever that means.  I mean it the way the Scripture means it.  David wrote, concerning the blessed man, that he was one who meditates on the law day and night.  The word that we translated “meditate” means to make a low grumbling sound, somewhat like thunder, or the purr of a great lion.
It seems like an odd word to use.  But now imagine that you are in a room of people, all studying, memorizing, reading aloud to themselves, practicing pronunciation, all of them buried in the words of the Holy Scripture.  That’s the sound it would make, wouldn’t it?  Not very many in David’s time could go to Sam’s Club and buy a bible.  They had to go to where the scrolls were and use them together.

To meditate is to sit quietly and think about a passage of scripture.  It means to be slow to speak and quick to hear.  It means that wisdom does not come by reading through a passage once or twice, but by committing it to the heart, through the eyes and ears, running it around and around in your mind.

It means to compare scripture with scripture; to pray for understanding.  It means to take out all the rot and error and ignorance in my own heart, and put the Word of God in.

Meditation in the world means to quiet yourself so you can hear your own heart; but in the Bible it means to change what is in your heart to what is in God’s word.

This can only be done if you quit arguing with God and put all of your ideas on the prisoner’s dock to be judged by the Word.

Sometimes I have to shut up enough to hear God’s word.

I had a lot to say, and I still do.  I’m letting it roll around a bit, marinating in the word.

But there is one thing that I would like to say today:  A very beloved and famous man died a tragic and lonely death this past week.

Why do we then immediately feel the need to spout off our opinions about the “sinfulness of depression”?

Why do we need to make decisions about his eternal state?

Why do we have to always try to make straight what God has made crooked?  Why do we always think that we have all the answers?

Is it necessary to make an ultimatum about what depression is or is not?  Wouldn’t it be far better to simply show the love of Jesus to those who hurt in a lost and broken world?

Why do we need to shout others down?  Do we live in such fear of our beliefs that we cannot allow any opposition?

Are we so sure that depression is always sinful?  I read a majority of the Psalms that describe depression exactly.  Are they sinning, or are the psalmists simply grieving in a broken, sinful and cursed world, and crying out to God, “How long?”

Maybe instead of launching our mostly ill-begotten opinions, all of us should grieve for a lost man in a broken world.

Maybe we should pray for his wife and family.

Maybe we should leave hard questions in the hands of God.  He is perfectly capable of doing what is right.

Maybe this is the time, instead of harping on those who struggle with depression, to reach out and say,

“It’s an ugly and broken world; but God came in the flesh, in the person of Christ, to take that curse upon himself.  He died in my place and rose from the dead, conquering sin and death and the curse forever, and someday, He will make it all right and beautiful and good and peaceful again.

“Take my hand.  I’ll walk with you through your tears, through your pain, through your sorrow, and show you the One who died for the sins of the world.  Surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.”


Filed under Grief