This Great Revolution


The greatest revolution in history is the revolt of the Kingdom of Jesus against the ruler of this dark air, against the principalities of self-love and pride and idolatry and greed that have set themselves up as “kings” in this world.  

The greatest revolt of all time is the one eternal light is mounting against these temporary shadows.  

The church, flawed though she is, is the instrument of that revolution.  She is the people of the coming victory.  

The church, the beloved wife of Jesus Christ, is a people of dangerous love.  She is a people of violent forgiveness.  Christians are a battering ram to the world’s worst lies, both the ones it’s told and the ones it’s been sold.  Our Christian kindness undermines the world’s bloody economy.  The church’s mercy upends this world’s dark systems.  

Our love of children assaults abortion.  Our care for the poor undercuts materialism.  Our promise-keeping in marriage takes a baseball bat to lust.  Our humble serving stands against belligerence and hate.  Christian kindness towards our enemies is an assault on everything Hell stands for.  We are fighting against something just by being children of God.  

We are ice cold water thrown into the face of a world stunned and punch drunk by bitterness and rivalries and selfishness.  We make war with hate by the audacious power of love.  We overcome evil with good.   

We are the people of the greatest revolution.  

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 

Romans 12:21

15 Seconds For the Bitter

  

Often, the chain that binds your heart to bitterness is self-righteousness.  It’s the controlling, constant belief that you did not deserve what was done to you.  And so you can’t forgive.  You can’t stop re-living it.  You can’t stop hating.  

If that’s you, let go of the illusion that you are intrinsically righteous, and you will find your heart freer to forgive.
In Christ, we can know that our sins against God are far more offensive than any sins committed against us.  And we are offered forgiveness by grace through faith in Him.  

Preaching this great Gospel to one’s self helps to foster forgiveness and kill bitterness.  Because no man is ready to forgive from the heart more than the one who knows how wicked he was before Christ.  

Where self-righteousness locks you to bitterness, the Gospel frees you to forgiveness.  

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. 

Matthew 6:14-15

30 Seconds On Grace

  
Christian, the grace you extend is the grace you really believe in. 

If you do not forgive the sins and mistakes of others, it is because, regardless of what you say, you do not approach God with the posture of one who has been forgiven of wrongdoing.  

Instead, you see yourself as more righteous than those who have wronged or inconvenienced you.  And so, unlike Jesus Christ, who truly was holier than those who wronged Him, you refuse to extend them mercy.  While Jesus spent Himself on His enemies’ forgiveness and rescue, you plant yourself on a throne of judgment and refuse to be gracious.  

What do you really believe about grace?  If you want to know how you really see yourself in relation to God, don’t look at your words.  

Look at how you forgive.  

And this could just as easily be a letter to myself.  

3 (Political Season) Wishes

  

  1. I wish someone would tell each candidate who hurls a rebuttal insult at another that rudeness isn’t strength.  Refusing to let things go is childish, sinful.  Overlooking an insult isn’t a sign of weakness; real forgiveness requires more strength than bitterness or pettiness.  The strongest Man who ever lived was also the most willing to forgive the unthinkable wrongs done to Him. 
  2. I wish someone would make clear that it is not generous to want to give away other people’s money.  If I demand the wealthy pay higher taxes while giving none of my own money, time, or energy away to my relatives or neighbors or anyone in proximity to me, I’m not really being generous.  Generosity sacrifices from itself for the good of others.
  3. I wish I would do better at remembering that kings and presidents and congresses matter, but not as much as Jesus.  His Kingdom will outlast and outshine every earthly one.  100,000,000 years after the last light’s been turned out in America, Jesus will still be delighting and awing His people.  

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

From 1 Timothy 2

Some Help for Feeling Like a Failure

  
Here’s how I’m going to try to help:  By clarifying.  Nothing can be done when you have a merely vague, depressing sense of not measuring up, just a shapeless fog of hopeless inadequacy or shame or self-loathing.  

So, permit me to put “failure” into four categories:

  1. Actual Moral Failure.  This is the simplest type, in my opinion, to define.  This sort of failure is the failure to do what is good and/or to actively do that which is evil.  It is, simply put, sin against God and/or others.
  2. Imagined Moral Failure.  This would be something you feel shame or guilt over, but which has not actually been revealed by God as sin in His Word.
  3. Actual “Earthly” Failure.  Here I mean a failure that is not directly sinful; it is a mistake or a shortcoming, but not an ethical violation against man or God.  This would simply be having truly failed at a task/endeavor at which you were trying to succeed.
  4. Imagined “Earthly” Failure.  This is (a) thinking you blew it, failed, or were inadequate concenring some task when in reality you were not the root cause of the breakdown, or (b) fretting about about something that is not truly a failure at all (like distressing about your looks or your lack of charisma).  These are mistakenly labeled failures, and they may be (wrongly) thought to be failures due to pride, misplaced priorities, insecurity, vanity, fear of man, or some other problem in the heart of the person mischaracterizing them as failures.  

Let me give an example of each:

Actual Moral Failure:  Gossiping about a co-worker.  

Imagined Moral Failure:  Having a normal, healthy sexual desire for your spouse, but believing it is strange or sinful..

Actual “Earthly” Failure:  Having lost track of an assignment at work due to not prioritizing your time well.

Imagined “Earthly” Failure:  Despairing about a relative not liking you when the reason is something truly outside of your control.  

Now, I believe that the only one of these four types of failure we should feel healthy guilt (or conviction), over is the first category. 1 John 1:9 tells us to confess our sins to God, and that He can cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  We are not told to confess our inability to close a sale or our weight.  A little remorse or regret for a legitimate screwup at a vocation or for having forgotten something due to carelessness is one thing, but shame is for sin, and shame and sin are what Jesus resolves for all who trust in Him at the Cross.  

That is the consistent testimony of Scripture: We are, in our own selves, wicked and morally rebellious, morally damaged, and spiritually impotent creatures. And that, our actual moral failure, is what Jesus eternally rectifies in His perfect life, sacrificial death, and powerful resurrection. He has overcome the evil of everyone who believes in Him so that they can have peace with God.  

But while that first category is what we should be convicted about and seek forgiveness for (and is the type of failure that should generally attract most of our attention), what I find in myself is that I’m often drowning in shame or anxiety over things that fall into the latter three categories. To my own detriment, I might waste time and spiritual attention being:

  • Ashamed of things I’d heard or imagined were sinful (or less-than-holy), but which God never calls wicked (to which Paul would tell me, “for everything created by God is good, and and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the Word of God and prayer”). 
  • Despairing over not being as qualified or as talented as someone else I know. 
  • Allowing myself to become depressed or angry that I couldn’t provide something for my family which I’m not even called to provide (such as a perfect, magazine-spread house).
  • Hating myself for a dream not coming true that God never intended to come true.  

So instead of repenting over (turning from) real sins, I’m often dwelling on things that aren’t sins at all.  

Instead of resting in the forgiveness of my sins and letting the joyful, hopeful energy from that help me kill the remaining sin in my life, I can spend hours in anxiety over career missteps or things I don’t like about my personality or being angry that I’m not as captivating as another pastor. 

All right, a few words before exiting the stage:

Obviously these categories can overlap.  And I don’t mean to give an exhaustive description or explanation of failure and shame, here.  But this has helped me a bit as I’ve thought about failure from the inside of shame, guilt, and fear, recently.  

I’ll come back to these categories of failure in the coming weeks and expand on them, but I’ll leave this now by saying:  I hope God’s grace in Christ nourishes all His redeemed failures.  

Why I Pray for the End of Planned Parenthood

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Because it is an organization that, whatever else it may do, stops the hearts of infants and then sucks their bodies out of the wombs of their mothers. And that is wicked. It is evil.

Let me give you a few of my heart’s desires concerning the current American abortion debate: I want people to receive medial care. I want women who are pregnant and scared to be cared for and loved. I want children to be adopted, especially by parents who have been reborn by God’s Holy Spirit. I want women who have had abortions to be forgiven and cleansed through the sacrificial blood of Jesus. And I want the brutality of children being murdered and their corpses dismembered to end and to be repented of.

Those are all things I want, despite what I’m sure Planned Parenthood would have you believe about pro-lifers.

So why do I pray that Planned Parenthood be ended, even if it does other things beside perform abortions? Because there is no acceptable ratio of poisoned infants-to-HIV screenings.

I will gladly support the very government funds that right now go to Planned Parenthood going instead to any agency or health care provider that does not use metal pincers, vacuums, or chemicals to end the lives of unborn children.

It is an affront to God and an assault on humanity to proactively end the lives of infants as they grow in their mothers’ wombs. It is murder; sin against the defenseless infant and sin against his or her Maker.

And so I pray that it would stop. And that the organization that perpetrates it would cease to exist.

I’ll Be Found Out

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And so will you.

Every secret sin, every careless word, every greed and hatred and unfought lust; each human being will have to give an account to God. You know that web site that got hacked recently? The one where people (mostly men, it turned out) paid to have (or flirt with the idea of having) affairs? I’ve heard a couple of tragic stories about it, and Monday night night I read one Christian leader’s public confession of having browsed it once. And something he said made me think: Nothing I do will stay hidden.

I haven’t done what he did. But what about secret hatreds I’ve nursed? Grudges I’ve held? Faithless fears, idolatry of television or food or other physical pleasures, prayerlessness and bitterness and hypocrisy? What about my selfish fits of impatience or anger? Do I think those will always just stay in the quiet dark?

I am grateful God has kept me from great and destructive sin like the earthquake that is adultery, but before I get too glib and judgmental when I’m reading a confession like the one I read Monday, I should pause and remember the blood the perfect Son of God shed for my petty professional jealousies and thoughtlessness toward my wife and kids.

You know, the stuff I did yesterday.

So what is the hope, the Good News? You know I’m a broken and still-rebellious man; what do I do? And more importantly for you, what do you do?

All the sins are coming to the light someday, guys. So what do we do?

What is the hope for all the sexually immoral, covetous, backslidden, cowardly, deceitful little hypocrites and failures? What do we do on the day we’re crushed by the weight of what we’ve done or who we’ve been? What solace is there on the morning after you self-destruct? For the man who wants to repent of his adultery or the woman who’s realized how toxic her gossip has been or the young guy who wants to stop getting drunk but doesn’t feel like he has the will to stop?

Well, here’s what I got: The Good News is that your worst sins being brought to the light doesn’t have to be the end. It isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you, and it doesn’t have to be the last word on your life.

Do me a favor: Picture a man who loved and followed Jesus, then made his life a disgrace through a very public sin. Throughout the world news of his moral failure gets carried to believers and unbelievers alike, to this day. The folly of it all gets repeated over and over, how he thought he was above committing that sort of sin and how he said so to anyone who’d listen and then how he stumbled hard into a shameful spotlight. It’s retold with crystal clarity all over the world.

Okay, now my flesh would say that that is the end of the man. The part of me who forgets the heart of the Gospel, who forgets that terrible, wicked people can be rescued by a loving Father by grace through faith in His Son, would think, Tsk, tsk, what a shame. What was he thinking? Thankfully, I haven’t done that, as I sipped from a big, tall glass of pride.

But my flesh doesn’t call the shots. So that wasn’t the end of his story.

This brokenhearted and greatly humbled sinner named Simon Peter, whose public cowardice the night of the Crucifixion is still told pretty much everywhere there’s a church and at least one Bible, was held in His loving Father’s hands. He was forgiven by his Great Shepherd.

At the same Supper where Jesus told Simon Peter in advance that he’d deny Him, He also said this:

“Simon, Simon, behold Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

I want you picture that part, too. Picture the Son of God looking into this man’s eyes and knowing what he was going to do. Picture him looking square at this man and knowing his hypocrisy and his sin, and then telling him, “I have not forgotten you. I will not forsake you. I have prayed and interceded for you. And now when you turn back to me again, when you repent and receive the blood that gives grace and kills shame, strengthen your brothers, here. They’ll need to know what you’ll have found out: That I forgive to the uttermost.”

So, tell me: Have you screwed up your life? Are you afraid of what will come out someday? Know that you’ve sinned against God? I have Good News for you, and I have Good News for me, too: The Kingdom of God is made up of some formerly wicked, slimy sinners. People who blasphemed the Son before being reborn and who dishonored Him after. People who fought with their sins and their flesh but who often lost. It’s filled with Peters and Sauls and Davids. You see, the banquet feast in Jesus’ Kingdom has a pretty simple entrance policy: The ones who trust in their own righteousness don’t get in, and the ones who turn to the Savior in faith do.

I’m going to be found out, guys. And so are you. All our sins are going to be public someday, like Peter’s. There won’t be anything that stays hidden.

But there will be all kinds of stuff that gets washed away.

If we have been born of God, we have been brought out of the darkness through the kindness and love of the Father of Jesus Christ. We don’t need to fear like unbelievers. We can have confidence in the blood of our Jesus. We can grieve our sin and repent of it and then have peace because we know and have been known by God. We don’t have to fear the light, because we’re not children of darkness. For us, the light is good. It’s sunlight and forgiveness and the end of winter and knowing our Abba as we’ve been known. For us, it’s the beginning of the last good day. The one that never ends.

If we have been born of God, we don’t have to fear the light of the Gospel of Jesus. It’s our only hope.

And it cleans and saves to the uttermost.