Turn And Be Blessed


One of the chief ways God blesses a man is by turning him away from his wickedness. 

God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.

Acts 3:26

Strapped for time today, so allow me to get directly to my point.  I see a pervasive reluctance to call sin sin in the wider Christian environment in America.  Not in every Christian church or in every Christsian home or in every Christian pub, but definitely as the majority posture of the mainstream American Protestant environment.  I see a fear of offending the dominant culture, the one that is dark and under the sway of Satan and in need of a Savior (see Ephesians 2:1-3).  It’s a sort of, “Yes, yes, we know abortion is murder and homosexuality is sinful, but why do we have to talk about it?”  And the answer of course is that people are dying, because sin both physically and spiritually kills.  And we have no problem talking about racial hatred or greed or judgmentalism being sinful, because those are chic and acceptable and cool conversations to have in 2017 America.  But a prophet doesn’t call for repentance from only the sins everybody is in agreement on.  And every nation needs Godly prophets.  

Every nation needs men and women who will tell it all that the Bible says.  

The Word of God is a good thing, meaning it is a thing meant for our good and it is itself intrinsically good and beautiful and true.  Our neighbors need it.  And we need to have the conviction that they need it.  We should lovingly, patiently tell people, people we care for and sacrifice for and listen to, about their wickedness.  

Or they’ll never turn from it and be blessed.  

Long, Long Shadows and A Light


Sin never stops where you think it will. 

Your repeated anger leads to latent bitterness which leads to relationship-destroying gossip.  

Your pornography-viewing leads to unmarital sex which leads to one parent raising a child in isolation which leads to crippling resentment.  

Unchecked sin always spreads, and kills where it does.  Like cancer.  

But one of the beautiful mercies of God is that He has given us a community where sin and its scars can be dealt with.  

The church.  


Churches are little cities of imperfect people, people who have been miraculously remade and who, by the grace of a very real and very compassionate God, continually confess and continually turn from the sins they still commit.  They know who they were (spiritually dead evil people), they know who they are (spiritually alive people being slowly made more and more like Jesus), and they know who God is (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit who love to save sinners).  And because of these 3 things, these little collections of Gospel people are able to bring wicked and broken and scared and angry humans into their midst and minister to them.  Serve them.  Help to stop the bleeding in their lives.  

The world is home to all stripes of sinners who are in different stages of the pain or disarray or death that sin brings along as its trail.  And there is no one else who can get to the root of the chaos or who can apply supernatural salve to the wounds of all this sin like the church can.  She has been given the Good News that can heal and can save people from their evils, and from the evils that were committed against them.  She can rescue them from the worst of the violence and the trouble and the affliction of this world.  

Which is great, because this is not Mayberry.  This is a world of adultery and ulterior motives and hearts who will cast those they love aside for pleasure or power.  This is a world where sin has left some long, long shadows.  Sons deserted by their fathers, marriages in flames because of selfishness, grown men and women who don’t know how to be men or women.  And there in the heart of this world stands the church, giving the hope and the truth and the life that only she can give.  

This world needs her.  The single mothers and the heroin addicts and the workaholics and the shallowest of womanizers need her.  She is a city on a hill.  

She is where they can come for possibility.  For hope.  For adoption into a forever family.  She is where they can sojourn for all of the things that only Jesus can hand over.  

For everyone trapped in what sin has spoiled, churches are households of transforming mercy.  They are families of forgiveness.  They are little peoples of honest confession and honest love and honest Gospel.  

This is a world of long shadows.  Because sin never stops where it whispers it will.   Sin never keeps that promise.  

But the God of the Cross has given a light that can beat those shadows back.  His church holds that light in her hands, for any and all to come see.  

Sentences (Again)

  
A month or so ago I wrote a post simply made up of theological sentences that I held to and believed.  The idea was based (ridiculously loosely) on Peter Abelard’s classic Medieval theological textbook Sentences.  It was I think, the most read post I’ve ever had, so I figured I’d re-gift it.  

Here are a few more theological/Spiritual/ecclesiastical sentences from the heart (via the IPhone) of yours truly:  

  • There is an almost universal temptation to assume the best possible motive for what you yourself do and to assume the worst motive for what other people do; resist that temptation. 
  • It is generally best not to trust the man who claims to know God but does not know his Bible.  
  • One of the things the Bible’s existence undergirds for me is this:  My belief that it is appropriate for entities, whether they be churches, marriages, or governments, to be built on written documents; if it’s worth having, it’s worth writing out.
  • If you are a Christian, then I can virtually guarantee that you have underestimated God’s love for you; I can do that because the love of God for His sheep in the crucified Jesus surpasses all the knowledge you could ever collect and store in your brain.  
  • Generally speaking, I don’t find it to be good to invest Christian leadership in someone who hasn’t shown (over a pretty good period of time) that he is ready to do the slow, steady work of personal holiness.
  • I know it’s a word whose definition isn’t as clear as I’d like (depending on the circle you’re talking in), but I am still more than ready to wear the label “evangelical.”
  • Ecclesiastes is a difficult book to interpret and exposit well. 
  • Evangelism can be both a dutiful hard work and an overflow of the heart; after all, the best kind of tired is joyful tired, where you’re worn out from doing something hard that you really love doing.  

Happy weekend, all!

Election Day

  
I wrote this 4 years ago.  Thanks, Facebook memories : )


I am genuinely pleading now: please stop placing so much hope in human beings who run countries. No king will save souls. No president will heal hearts. No prime minister will stop sin. These men, especially if they aren’t believers and work without the Spirit, are not making the changes that hold up in eternity. You speaking a verse tomorrow to a co-worker who’s mother recently died offers real hope. Me holding my tongue and instead offering a helping hand, in the name of Christ, to a person who gets under my skin, offers real hope. You praying with your husband or daughter of grandmother offers real hope.  


Israel begged God for a king, because they thought a man could save them, heal them, and offer them hope. It took battles and bloodshed for them to realize how wrong they were. And still, when their real King came, humbly and perfectly like a lamb being led to the slaughter, they did not want Him.


I promise you President Obama won’t save anyone. I promise you Governor Romney wouldn’t have saved anyone. Please witness Christ tomorrow. Please offer real hope tomorrow. And if you don’t know Him, please know that He is better than any of the frail and fragile kings that for some reason human hearts continue to worship.

I am genuinely pleading.

I still am. 

Political Woes

  
I believe it’s good for a politically-inclined person (like myself) who claims Christ (like myself) to periodically ask himself:  

Do I treasure my politics more than Jesus?  

Am I more fascinated by the kingdoms of this world than the Kingdom of God?

I’ve had to ask and answer my own conscience, in this election cycle, whether I’d be up for not voting the way I normally do because there was something dearer to me than a political victory.  I’m not trying to bind anyone else’s conscience to my own particular answer, but I do think a Christian should ask the question:  Which do I savor and cherish more?  Christ or a political paradigm?  

Put another way:  Is my political outlook an outworking of my faith and devotion to Jesus, or are my politics closer to the bone than my faith?

I hope my faith is my all.  Woe to me if I preach the gospel of a political ideology more often than I do the Gospel of the perfect life, sacrificial death, resurrection, and return of Jesus Christ. 

Woe to me if I am more excited about, more invested in, more anticipatory towards the triumph of an earthly political candidate than the return of my King. 

Woe to me if I have co-workers who know exactly who I’m voting for (or voting against) but have no idea how to be saved.  God placed me in their lives to be a light for His Kingdom.

Woe to me if I do not ever pray for the leaders I disagree with. 

Woe to me if I insult those political leaders I think are wrong from a heart of malice and spite, as though to be nasty about someone famous is somehow more permissible.

Guys, it appears to me we live in a particularly politically charged age.  But woe to us who’ve been brought to life by God if we succumb to the obsessions of our day and so lose our saltiness.  I’ll be voting and I’ll be paying my taxes and I’ll be obeying the law, but I want to want the bigger things even more.  I want to pray for my leaders and my neighbors.  I want to proclaim the Gospel to the people in my life.  I want to live honorably so that those who see me doing so may ask why, and might even glorify my God. 

Nothing inherently sinful about politics.  But the world loves to take good things and make them gods.  The world loves to take average men and make them kings.  

Just ask Saul.  

I want a heart like David’s. 

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.

Psalm 118:8-9


“Just for Believing the Wrong Thing?”

  

I’ve heard an objection to Christianity that I was mulling this morning for reasons that probably aren’t interesting enough to mention.  It goes something like this:  “If the Gospel is that God offers eternal life to all who believe in Jesus, then I have a problem.  Because I don’t believe God would send someone to Hell simply for believing the wrong thing.”

*Quick sidebar:  I always want to ask someone when he says something like that, “Where do your ideas about God come from.  How do you know what God is like?”  Because in our day and place I think it is very common for people to think God must simply be like whatever they feel God should be like.  But if God is a real being (and He is), that’s totally incoherent.  Barak Obama and Michael Jordan and my father are all who they are regardless of what I feel they are. Only fictional beings can be re-written based on your own personal desires.  

Here’s the snag with that, though:  There’s an incorrect premise in the argument.  By objecting that the Gospel Christians preach is morally flawed because it means God would be sending people to Hell simply for believing the wrong thing, the person is assuming that we’re morally neutral people (or even good people) who are simply asked by God to pick the right religious option.  

But that’s not the case.  

As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.’ But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

Romans 3:10-12, 21-22(a)

No one goes to Hell merely for believing the wrong things.  Every single person who has ever entered God’s eternal wrath and judgment has done so because he is a sinner against the perfect God who made him.  And God gave His Son to redeem us from us our own lawless suicide.  The Gospel is God’s offer of restoration to those who don’t deserve it.  To not believe on Jesus is to not receive the medicine God procured (at an unimaginable cost) to heal you.  If I refuse the treatment, it is not the medicine’s fault, or the doctor’s, that I die; it’s the gaping, self-inflicted bullethole in my head.

We are not blank slates commanded to fill in the right bubble on God’s spiritual ACT exam.  We are willful rebels against the good King, idolaters and liars and adulterers and hatemongers all, and rather than wipe us from the face of His good, green Earth He chose to bleed out on a shameful Roman Cross that we might be made eternal sons and daughters.  

If you think the Gospel is that some morally neutral people believe the right thing and go to Heaven and other morally neutral people believe the wrong thing and go to Hell, you’ve totally misunderstood our situation, here.  

You, I, and our first father Adam tried to kidnap the glory of the only good King and hold His innocent world ransom, all while clawing our brothers’ and sisters’ eyes out as we tried to be kings ourselves on His free soil.  But He has offered to ransom us from our own suicidal treachery.  

The Gospel isn’t “Believe the right thing, good man, or you’ll get worse than you probably deserve.”  The Gospel is, “Believe, wicked man, and be my son forever; I offer with open arms more than you could ever deserve.”

Don’t be deceived:  A man will reap what He sows.  And everyone reading this (and the man writing it) started adult life having sowed a gallon of poison into his own veins.  

But the unfathomable Good News is that Jesus went to a cross to spill the antidote from His own side.  

What the World Needs

  
The world needs unbridled, unfiltered Christianity.  The ancient, remarkable, simple, beautiful Gospel of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ.  It’s what’s been sparking revival in sub-Saharan Africa, southeast Asia, and Latin America.  It’s what brings the world to life and makes the darkness tremble.  This planet needs the sting and salve of the message of repentance from evil deeds and full-bodied trust in Jesus Christ, not merely a winning smile and a pleasant-sounding insinuation that everything’s going to be just fine.  

Packaged, focus-group-tested, man-centered, worldly Christianity, Christianity where we try to be so much like the world that they won’t be bothered or offended, makes Satan laugh and lulls unbelievers faster to sleep as they careen towards God’s eternal judgment.  

The world needs us to be willing to be hated.  Not to seek it out, mind you, but simply to be ready to accept when it comes, and then to respond with mercy and forgiveness and more pleading for them to repent and believe.  We are tragically misguided if we thing that if we as Christians were more like Jesus, everyone would love us.  The truth is that if we were far more like Jesus, many people would love us deeply, but many others would be standing right behind them, shouting for Barabbas to be released so they could get on with their crucifixion.  And Satan might be right there with them, snickering at our blood.

But then it wouldn’t be the first time he was shortsighted.