Saturday, July 28, 2012

On Grace and Tolerance

"When love is a theory, it's safe, it's free of risk. But love in the brain changes nothing... love is too beautiful a concept to keep locked up behind a forehead like a prisoner." -Bob Goff

“When the Truth is demoted to an opinion and grace is replaced by tolerance, society will call fools all who cling to such antiquated traditions as universal truth and morality. But there are those who will stand firm on the Truth, and cling to a hope that none can see. They will choose to embrace a cross which offends, to face mockery and ruined reputations. It is incredible how sure they must be of their Truth to suffer so much for it.” -Anonymous

Jesus did not preach or practice tolerance, but he preached and practiced something even more difficult and liberating: grace! You will inevitably be amazed when you experience his grace; any grace you experience which does not amaze you is a false grace. A God who has no tolerance for sin offers unending grace to sinners. So to be like Christ, we should not tolerate sin but offer grace to fellow sinners.

One of the most immoral things we can do is declare cultural war on immorality. Morality is not a banner under which we gather an army; rather, it is the result of a relationship with Christ. We should spend our efforts introducing Christ to those in culture, not condemning all culture in the name of Christ.

A person who holds homosexuality and abortion above all other sins then calls himself a "conservative Christian" is in reality a theological liberal; because they have taken a few sins and declared war on them but leave most others sins such as gluttony, divorce and drunkenness untouched. That is the worst sort of hypocrisy; it is the plank in our own eyes.

I understand that to some, this is a human rights issue.; if a human right is what a person is born deserving, the only human right is hell. All things beyond that are the grace of God. And as we have been shown mercy and been given favor by such a patient God, should we not show as many graces to as many of our fellow humans as we can. If we choose to condemn one another, we choose to condemn ourselves, for by the measure with which we judge, we will be judged by God. We should not quarrel any more over the rights of man, but humbly offer to all the divine graces we so undeservedly received.

To be Biblically conservative, one must generally be a socially and economically liberal person. Jesus came as a liberator, a freer of people, not to conserve the religious, political, economic status quo. And all who find hope in Washington instead of Christ may well have missed the Gospel's main point.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Searching For Eden

I had a dream. I was riding a motorcycle down the highway, in search of Eden, my one true love.
I came to a roadside diner, and I knew I was hungry. I sat down at the counter between some folks and the waitress, Judy, turned to me and asked, “What’ll you have, hun?”
“Coffee, and...”
I turned to my left and asked the lady next to me, “What do you recommend?”
She smiled sweetly, “Oh, try the apple pie.”
I turned to my right and asked the man there, “How about you?”
He looked at me and said, “What I like is expensive.”
“I guess I’ll have the pie.”
“A la mode? Need another? asked Judy.
I nodded as she put out a cup of joe and a fork on a napkin.
I sat waiting for my pie, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the guy next to me. It felt like he had something to say. “So what is this thing that costs so much?”  I asked.
“It is not expensive the way you think. I would pay for yours, but you would never be able to leave here; you’d want it for the rest of your life.” he told me.
The lady to my left tapped me on the shoulder, “Pay him no mind. He is old and confused. Just enjoy your pie.”
Judy placed the pie on the counter, and poured me more coffee.
I took the fork, cut a chunk off, and took my first bite.
It was an intense feeling. The lady next to me stood and took me by the hand. She walked me to the front of the diner, and we stood in the doorway. She said, “This is what I have to offer you.” She stretched her hand out before me, and I could see everything. “The world is yours. I will give you a great education, a job, a wife and kids, a nice house, a beautiful car. All the comforts of life can be yours. Just finish your pie. Liberty and prosperity await you.”
The man approached me, and he pointed to the things she had offered me.
“I have another offer for you. It may sound odd, but it truly is more satisfying. You will have to be willing to give up the education, the job, the family, the car and the house. All you have to do is follow me wherever I go, and I will give you so much more than you could even imagine. Don’t finish the pie. Eat my flesh and drink my blood, taste and see that I am good.”
I stood at the doorway, each had a hand on one of my shoulders. She pulled me toward the pie, and I followed, but I looked back and saw the man reaching out toward me. The passion in his eyes spoke to me, “I love you, and yet you walk away from me. You are headed toward a poisoned apple, a rotten fruit. Just reach out for me and you will be safe. I can take you to Eden.
I stopped dead in my tracks.
“How do you know about Eden? How can you know about my one true love? Eden is the joy and peace and love that I dream of; she is the comfort I seek. I would give anything to find myself in Eden’s embrace.” I demanded he tell me.
“I am Eden, child. I told you I am everything you’ve ever wanted. Don’t you see? Only I can satisfy you. I am who you seek.”
I wrested my hand from the woman’s grip, and even as I ran from her she showed her true form, a rotting corpse, seething with hatred. The things she promised me rusted and the whole world fell to pieces around us. All that was left was the man and I, and I knew I had found Eden.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fleeing From Nineveh

For over a year and a half now, I have been deeply convicted that I needed to obtain a passport in order to obey God’s will. It is hard to say, “Here am I, God. Send me” when you can’t travel outside of your own country. I put it off and put it off; procrastinating and rationalizing, I avoided the whole thing. My secret fear was that if I got my passport God would then automatically call me to an uncomfortable place like he called Jonah to Nineveh.
My simple ironic response to this fear was to disobey God “just a little bit” to avoid “really” running from Him. I didn’t want to head all the way to Tarshish, but I also didn’t want to go to my Nineveh. As I prayed and sought wise counsel, I began to voice this fear. And God showed me it was sinful, irrational and small. God is so much bigger, and His plans are so much better.
Because God is great and I don’t have to be in control, and because He is good and my satisfaction and comfort are in Him, I decided to relinquish my fears at the cross and trust Jesus to guide me through my life. This was my act of faith and repentance, today I went to the passport office and applied. I have been a Christian for the majority of my life, but I still need grace everyday. There is no way to avoid “big sins” by committing “little sins”, but when we let the Holy Spirit fill us and lead us, we can change. The Gospel will not ever stop shaping who I am.
How can God change you today?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Living on the lifeboat: part 1

There is this old question where you are with a bunch of people are on a lifeboat: a stay at home mom, a CEO of a big company, a lawyer, an old man, a pregnant woman, and a preacher; seven in total. There is only enough room for six on the lifeboat. Who should get thrown overboard?
We can argue for hours about who we think is the most valuable and who we think is the least valuable, but the only thing we all seem to agree on is that we should definitely get a spot.

"After the world ends, when God destroys all our buildings and our flags, we will wish we had seen everybody as equal, that we had eaten dinner with the "unlovely" and "undesirable", held them in our arms, opened up our spare rooms and loved them and learned from them."-Donald Miller

There is a human obsession with ranking things and rating people. We endlessly compare ourselves to others. Are we cool or uncool, better or worse than that person? I am richer, she is prettier, he is smarter, we have better taste than so and so.  We so want desperately to be loved and valued. We are wired to receive worth from something outside of ourselves and it deeply compels us to seek it. We can call it the pursuit of happiness or self-actualization, but the reality is that we desire to be validated.
And it was in a garden, many millennia ago, that God saw the lovely couple he had made and declared them good. They were beautiful, content and secure because God had spoken to them; "You are loved" he said. Our hearts were made for relationship. We were designed for community, specifically with God and family and friends.
We have fallen out of sync with that relationship. The friendship with God, when everything was good. Now things are bad and we are surrounded by a hurting, broken mess of a world. The very values and principles that keep our societies and economies afloat are killing us. Slowly deteriorating our soul, the essence of what makes us human. We were made in God's image to live intimately with him, and in his absence we have made a mess. No longer do we see ourselves as beautiful, content and secure; we constantly try to climb the fictitious social ladder clawing over those above us and kicking those below us. We feel it is somehow vital to fight for our identities. To make sure we are not the least valuable on the lifeboat.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Story of God

God is perfect, holy and good.
He created all things including the heavens, the earth, the angels, and mankind, and what he created was good.
He cast Satan and the demons to earth because of their rebellion.
God loved Adam, and provided him a beautiful garden, animals and a wife.
Adam and Eve rebelled against God because Satan deceived them, and God punished the rebellion by casting them out of the garden and cursing them and their descendants.
Any rebellion against God is called sin, and God cannot allow sin to be in his presence.
Sin must be punished by death and separation from God.
Man was fruitful and multiplied, and God promised hope for salvation from sin.
The people of Israel were God’s chosen people, to whom he offered his promise.
God’s holy Law was revealed to his people through Moses.
The Israelites were wicked and idolatrous and broke covenant with God.
God was always faithful and restored Israel to himself, time and time again.
Because he knew man would choose to do evil and disobey his Law, God offers a solution.
He sent Jesus Christ to be born in Bethlehem, as both God and Man.
Jesus lived perfectly; he never disobeyed God’s Law.
The Jews and Romans conspired to execute Jesus by crucifixion.
On the cross, Christ became sin even though he never sinned himself.
His death served as payment for sin, and salvation to any who believe in Jesus’ name.
When we accept grace, it will inevitably change our lives.
Christ wants us to live like he did, obeying God’s Law and showing mercy.
Salvation is a free gift, through grace which is the undeserved favor of God.
It is a great love with which Christ loved us.
While we were still God’s enemies, he sent Jesus to die for us.
If we believe in the story of Jesus, his life, death and resurrection, we will never die.
So would you like to live forever?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Already Dead

This is a clip from the HBO miniseries, Band of Brothers.
I think the spiritual implications are vast, but I will focus one just one.


As Christians, we can be paralyzed by fear. We do not believe that "to die is gain" and so we cannot accept that "to live is Christ." In order to be like Christ, we must be willing to live to bring glory to the Father and be willing to die to build his church. But we are not.
The lieutenant tells his solider, "The only way for a soldier to not be afraid of wars is to accept the fact that he is already dead… the only hope you have is to accept the fact that you’re already dead, and the sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to function as a soldiers supposed to function.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

By accepting Christ, we have died to this world. We are no longer citizens of earth. We are dead.
Our churches and leaders have taught us to not die, to avoid discomfort, to seek security, stay away from anything that is too risky.
The very reasons we don't do the crazy, impractical things God tells us to do. What is going to happen to me? What am I going to lose? What will people think of me? What will it cost me? Those are all avoidance of death.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

“Death has been swallowed up in victory..." Christ has conquered death. 

Jesus said, "In me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

So let's not be afraid of dying. Fear God, not man; if God is with you, none can stand against you. We can be radical disciples, who live and die for the glory of God. But only if we accept that we are already dead. 

To live is Christ, to die is gain.