Welcome to hot-seat, please sit down

Christian, let me put you on the hot-seat. Don’t worry, I’ll sit there with you. We can warm our buns together and talk about sensitive subjects.

It seems these days you can’t turn around with hearing someone decrying the shame of homosexuality, the evil of abortion, the wickedness of corrupt and dishonest politicians. From nearly every pulpit and Christian media outlet, we hear of pending doom, the unbearable wrath of God looming over society’s collective shoulder as it marches into hell.

Seriously, where do we get that??

Despite our pious followup of “grace” to this vehement condemnation, we hardly live out what Christ the embodiment of LOVE actually exemplified. Think with me.

We’ve heard it and likely said, “Hate the sin and love the sinner.” Is that anywhere in Scripture? NO! In fact, the closest we can get is re-wording Ephesians 6:12, which says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

What we wish it said, what we often act like it says, is, For our struggle is not against flesh and blood sinners, but against all the evil things they’re doing.

Or take, John 3:16, which says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life.”

What we seem to think this verse says, For God so loved those who believe in Him that He gave them eternal life. 

We act as if Jesus never met a homosexual or prostitute (think of the woman at the well). We seem to believe He didn’t know any corrupt politicians or evil government officials (think Roman soldier and Pilate and Herod). And maybe Jesus didn’t ever actually see a thief or a murderer (who hung on the cross next to Him?).

I challenge us who grew up in the protective boundary of the church, and who have the privilege and honor of reading the Bible whenever we desire and knowing Christ, God’s Word, personally – I challenge us to name one time when Jesus rebuked an obviously evil person.

The people Jesus spoke against most often in Scripture were those who not only thought they were good people, but from all outside standards, really were keeping the “whole law”. Except, to love their neighbor – the Samaritan, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the sinners. Christian – who do we most look like today?

Do we keep the whole law, behaving well and even performing outreach and being faithful to our spouses and being activists in our communities – but then, hold our neighbor at arm’s distance, telling them first of their sin and finally of the God who loves THE WORLD?

Another couple verses that often pop up in this delicate conversation are John 16:7-11, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”

Usually, I think, we read this as if the Holy Spirit is standing indignantly within us, slapping our wrists when we miss behave and giving us the authority to point out sin in the world. But I don’t think that’s what it means. Follow along to the next verse…

“…concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;” What is the sin that the Holy Spirit convicts of? It is the sin of unbelief. No other sin is unpardonable. Lay it along side that other verse we struggle over and worry about:

Luke 12:10 “And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is to deny what He says, namely that we must believe. What if we quit beginning our conversations with rebuke, and changed our public arguments to stop railing against the evils of society and simply pleaded with everyone to know the God who loves them and believe in Him?

“…concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father;” because Jesus became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. All righteousness anyone could ever need to perform has been taken care of, all that’s left is belief.

“…concerning judgement; because the ruler of this world is judged.” IT IS FINISHED. There remains no means by which to condemn anyone, except unbelief. So perhaps we’re wasting our breath by tackling all the blatant sins in the world. The only good thing that remains to be done is to believe in the fully sufficient righteousness of Jesus Christ.

And after all, “It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance.” All of our indigence and law quoting is for naught. Jesus never quoted the law to an unbeliever. He merely and only loved them, and that drew them to Him, that they might believe and have eternal life.

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Waiting to be…

“I have always, essentially, been waiting. Waiting to become something else, waiting to be that person I always thought I was on the verge of becoming, waiting for that life I thought I would have. In my head, I was always one step away.” Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life

I felt so guilty as I drug my family, friends and my God through the dregs of my eating disorder. I remember thinking so many times, “I’ll get this right tomorrow, then they will love me again.”

“I won’t be such a disappointment when I weigh enough, finish the program, eat cake with everyone, go out for pizza, etc.”

“God, I know you must be so fed up with me, so tired of my relapses and recurrent fears. When I finally get well, then you can use me. Then you can be glorified in me.”

A well-rehearsed Bible verse echoed in my mind, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:8

How on earth can God be glorified in you? My heart accused me. You have so little faith, you can’t even eat!  What godly fruit are you evidencing? Why would anyone believe in your God? You’re a terrible example. 

No one else ever said those words, but I believed them deep in my heart. The feelings of failure served only to push me deeper into depression and deeper into anorexic habits fueled by fear and hopelessness. What if God gave up on me?

Just this morning, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to another Bible verse that I’ve known almost all my life. I can hardly believe I didn’t see the full truth, the full counsel of God’s Word before!

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23a

The fruit that glorifies God and that identifies me as His disciple is not my performance! It isn’t how well I demonstrate Christian behavior. The fruit that I marks me as belonging to Jesus is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, the very same Spirit that He sent to teach me all things and remind me of everything Jesus said and did for me. (John 14:26)

But the best news was yet to come. Jesus also said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” John 15:9

I began to trace the references of God’s love for Jesus through the New Testament. In John 11:42, Jesus was confident in God’s love and that God heard everything He prayed. In Matthew 3:17, the Father shouted from the heavens that Jesus is His beloved son and that He is pleased with Him. In John 15:24, Jesus said that the Father loved Him before the foundation of the world.

Hallelujah! Even in the midst of my darkest days, God still loves me. He sees a forgiven me through Jesus’ blood even when I despair and get discouraged. Because of Jesus, every moment of my life, I am loved, pleasing to my Father, heard by my Father – from the foundation of the world.

The Imprint of Virtue

With finite perspective, we usually only see either vice or virtue. Depending on which we angle of a person we first observe, often we form a fast opinion and relegate that person at least generally, or for a time, to a category: Good or bad.

When my husband has spent half of the weekend watching movies and droll TV shows, I feel disgust and a swelling sense of pride for my own productivity. While he is reclining, I can hardly seen any virtue. When we speak, my tone becomes snippy and condescending because I cannot manage to see all of the good things I know and love about him, while still entertaining my irritation at his vice.

Does that make sense?

Recently, I heard a marital counselor interviewed for tips on how to avoid conflict. The suggestion that struck close to home was this: When conflict is brewing, or I’m angry at my husband, I immediately try to think of his Christ-likeness. (paraphrased)

Don’t get me wrong, there’s an abundance of, “happiness everywhere, see the good in everything, pink glasses, rosy walkways, tolerant wimpy-ness,” to go around. I’m not just talking about finding the good in someone, but searching out their Christ-likeness. I promise it’s there, they were created in His image.

Just a thought from Screwtape on this matter:

Are we to aim at cowardice-or at courage, with consequent pride?Well, I’m afraid it is no good trying to make him brave. Our research department has not yet discovered (though success is hourly expected) how to produce any virtue. This is a serious handicap. To be greatly and effectively wicked a man needs some virtue. What would Attila have been without his courage, or Shylock without self-denial as regards the flesh? But as we cannot supply these qualities ourselves, we can only use them as supplied by the Enemy-and this means leaving Him a kind of foothold in those men whom, otherwise, we have made most securely our own.

Hmmm… is finding that Christ-likess the key to broadening the foothold of God in their lives so that the love of Jesus can seep in?

For excellent expansion on this idea, read Kelley’s post here at She Loves Magazine

Not long after the incident at school I remember my son asking from the backseat, “Do those boys have God’s fingerprints on them, mom?” As we pulled into the driveway I assured him, “Yes, they are made in God’s image just like us.” “So, God loves them like he loves me and my sister?” I answered in the affirmative. “So I shouldn’t be mean back? I should forgive them and give them another chance?”

And there it was … acknowledging the image of God in others and letting that truth control how we seen them and respond to them. We don’t return evil for evil. We offer forgiveness and we believe everyone gets second chances (and then some) from a generous God. We try to see the humanity of those boys like our own, and how a loving God embraces us all.

It feels good! To do, or not to do, remains the question.

If it feels good, do it. 

If it feels this good, it can’t be wrong!

“When asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn’t answer the question or described problems that are not moral at all, like whether they could afford to rent a certain apartment or whether they had enough quarters to feed the meter at a parking spot.

“When asked about wrong or evil, they could generally agree that rape and murder are wrong. But, aside from these extreme cases, moral thinking didn’t enter the picture, even when considering things like drunken driving, cheating in school or cheating on a partner. ‘I don’t really deal with right and wrong that often,’ is how one interviewee put it.

“Rejecting blind deference to authority, many of the young people have gone off to the other extreme: ‘I would do what I thought made me happy or how I felt. I have no other way of knowing what to do but how I internally feel.’”
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/13/opinion/if-it-feels-right.html?_r=0

Um. Wow.

Apparently, the consensus of this generation is that pleasure is the defining moral code. Wrong.

However, the other extreme, asceticism, is wrong too. Unfortunately, Christianity is often viewed as a moderately ascetic lifestyle. Christianity is considered a list of does and don’ts, and God is seen as the cosmic killjoy. Nothing could be further from the truth. I love the way C.S. Lewis’ demon narrator says it in the book, The Screwtape Letters:

Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing desire for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.

 

What Does He have to do with You?

“When the humans disbelieve our existence we lose all the pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us we cannot make the materialists and skeptics.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

To the most reasonable mind, if there exists a God, there must necessarily exist a supernatural source of evil. And vice-versea. To believe in Satan, by consequence, and observation of the natural world, one must believe in a supernatural source of good. The war between these forces is evident in every waking moment.

  • a normally comforting mother screaming at her child
  • murder and law enforcement
  • generosity and desperate poverty

Humans only know one, good or evil, by its contrast to the other. So, for Satan to convince man that he has no Creator, no Advocate, no moral directive, no eternity, no Savior, no God, then he must simultaneously insinuate that he, himself, is a figment of a weak mind.

“I have great hope that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalize and mythologize their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, belief in us, (though not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy [God].”

This morning in my quiet time, I digested a passage that I have read more than 100 times. Jesus entered the synagogue in Nazareth, his own home town and read from the book of Isaiah. There, He declared Himself to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah. The Jews were furious at this blasphemy and tried to push Jesus over a cliff. But, without a dramatic show, He simply passed through the crowd and left.

In Capernaum, He entered the synagogue again. Immediately, He was confronted by a man with an evil spirit. “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Luke 4:34)

The phrase, “What have you to do with us,” is a Greek idiom, similar to, “I will have nothing to do with you,” or, “Have nothing to do with us.”

In this tantrum, the demon screamed through the man, “I know who you are. You are the Holy One of God!” Wow. Talk about proof! You would think that in such a cosmic display of good and evil, everyone would have collapsed on their faces in worship of the Deliverer. However wonderful that would have been, it would also be insufficient, that would not accomplish salvation. Jesus doesn’t want mere acknowledgement, and Satan knows it.

Yes, salvation is found in believing in Jesus, the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16). But, Christ came for so much more than that. Jesus wants us to love Him with all our heart, souls, minds and strength. Jesus wants everything to do with us. So Satan’s most vicious tactic is not to convince us that God does not exist, or that Jesus is not the Son of God, but to persuade us that God wants nothing to do with us, that relationship is impossible.

Jesus had to die and rise again in order to pay for our sins and restore our right relationship with God. Our God is personal and has everything to do with us! Praise the Lord!

Good and Naked

I’m pretty glad we wear clothes, and not just because they cover up a lot of things I’d rather not see.

However, if Adam and Eve were created naked, “and it was good,” why do we get dressed every day?

Adam and Eve were created in God’s image. All of their nakedness was perfection to Him and mirrored Himself. It’s a little strange to consider, but when Adam and Eve looked at each other relative to the rest of creation, it was obvious that they looked like their Father, their creator.

We often recall that the immediate consequence of their sin was clothing. They scrambled for fig leaves until God gave them a more permanent dressing of animal skins. But they had been naked all along. How could that have been sinful in itself?

I image that Satan curled slippery around the trunk of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. “You won’t surely die,” he whispered. “But God knows you will become like Him knowing good and evil.” There it was, Satan told Eve that God had lied, He really hadn’t made them like Himself. He really wasn’t a benevolent Father offering to them all that they could ever desire. 

Adam and Eve had been naked all along, nakedness wasn’t a sin. How did identifying their nakedness become the shame inducing moment that sent them running to hide from God?

“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.”

In the seconds it took them sink their God-given teeth into the skin of a sweet fruit, the gravity of their choice hit them, painfully. The serpent had lied, they really did look like God. God really had made them in His image. It wasn’t that being naked was evil and they simply figured it out all of a sudden. No, the evil that they instantly became aware of was their decision to believe someone other God. They doubted the goodness and truth of their best friend.

Jesus calls Himself the Way, the Truth and the Life. Adam and Eve denied the very essence and nature of their Father.

He isn’t truth, they thought.

Adam and Eve first clothed themselves. They used it to cover their shame. And so, I believe that it was out of mercy that God clothed them.

Imagine a master potter. His choicest piece of clay spinning smoothly beneath his fingers. When He finishes, he sets the masterpiece in the center of His daily table, pleased with its beauty. One day, a mischievous child intentionally reaches up and throws the beautiful piece to the floor. The potter is crushed. It saddens Him to know its intended perfection and to now see it in shambles. So He picks up the pieces and gently, lovingly covers them with his cloak – clothing the shards.

Maybe that’s what God was doing – until the moment when He restores all of His creation to its original goodness.

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears,a we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” 1 John 3:2-3

 

A Greater Christmas

I have never met anyone who argued that the man Jesus didn’t exist. Historians, secular and religious alike, recorded his footsteps through the dust of history. Religions that deny His deity, dare not deny His humanity.

But from the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, God set up time to declare the greatness of His one and only begotten son, Jesus. In Genesis 1:24, God declared that His creation was good. All aspects of creation met God’s favor in His three word blessing: mammals, fish, birds, plants, light, water, everything… except man. When God made man, He observed His masterpiece and declared that man was very good.

And Jesus was a man. Jesus came in human flesh, so at the very least He was good. But He was so much more.

“But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:30-33

Declare the Greatness of Jesus today, our Deliverer and Salvation.

Day One Review of “How Satan’s Soldier Became God’s Warrior”

If God created everything, then He created evil. So, by that line of reasoning, I decided that God was responsible for evil, controlled it, and was in fact, both good and evil. He had to be responsible for the tragedy that was my life. And if He was responsible for all the suffering in my life, how could He possibly care about me? Since God didn’t care for me, I might as well serve His enemy. If God didn’t think I was good enough to save, why shouldn’t I serve His evil counter part? This evil counterpart is Satan, the god of this world. In my crippled thinking, I viewed Satan as God’s alter ego.

By the time you read that paragraph you’ve started Chapter 2 in Michael Leehan’s book How Satan’s Soldier Became God’s Warrior.  Pretty intense. I picked up this book after hearing Leehan interviewed by Janet Parshall. I confess, the sensationalism of Satanism was the driving force behind my interest in the book. That and the fact that what is a more appropriate topic for a blog about Predatory Lies, than a book that shows God’s defeat of the Father of Lies?

I expected a gripping story; and I wasn’t disappointed. However, I didn’t really expect to address the problem of pain and God’s role in human suffering. I didn’t think about how many decisions Leehan made prior to his final decision to serve Satan. There were tiny steps along the way that seemed harmless enough and unrelated. Things that culturally we might recognize as poor choices, but hardly map them into a progression toward the ultimate rebellion against God.

In truth, is there an “ultimate” rebellion, or is sin simply sin and separation from God simply separation from God? How different are you and I from Leehan in his darkest moments?

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.          Eph. 5:15-16

Another thing that piqued my interest in Leehan’s book is that he is “close to home” for me. Leehan’s story takes place mostly in Oklahoma. The church body that reached out to Leehan even as he plotted to murder their pator – is in my home town! So, let me also take this moment to put in a plug for Lifechurch.tv.  There’s a reason that the pastor, Craig Groschel, was on Satan’s hit list. Lifechurch.tv as well as the mobile phone app, YouVersion and their many other FREE resources are unparalleled.

 

 

Between the Two

Left and Right

Red or Blue

Every opposite

Glaring true.

A choice at every juncture

A fork in every road.

Coffee or tea

Black or cream

Finite, simple they all seem.

But how far reaches

An unprayed choice?

To tomorrow?

Plucking sorrow

From today

For future tears?

Or with caution

Consultation

Time, quiet, prayer

Can peace be stitched

Between each day?

To knit together

How rough

A patchwork of

Supernaturally blessed

moments, choices.

A blanket of righteousness

Submitted to authority

Bigger than my own.

Choices, red or blue.

Hope buried in each

Adventure trims their

Rough edges.

To choose is God-like

To see both sides.