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.  

Please Stop Gossiping, Christian

  
Gossip is verbal homicide.  

It slays people, relationships, and reputations.  

Its destructiveness, like a nuclear disaster, can’t really be measured for years. 

 It tears down individuals, marriages, churches, and families. 

The Apostle James tells believers in James 3, “Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites. And the tongue is a fire.”

We who have believed in Jesus are called to suffer with a smile, to be silent before our persecutors as our Savior was, and to pray for even the wicked as He did.  Not to maim and destroy with our words.  

I used to love gossip. I ate it up. It made me feel good and big and “in” and better. In other words, it was a deceitful little drug that impersonated the love of Christ.  Like all idols, gossip was a stand-in for what my soul really thirsted for:  fellowship with my Creator.  So I would only gossip to the degree that I was not treasuring and enjoying the love of my Christ.

And Christians, to gossip about an unbeliever is horrible, crushing, and mean. But to gossip about a Christian?   A blood-bought believer who is part of Jesus’spotless bride?   Satan applauds!   Because at that point we are doing his job for him. “Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies” (Romans 8:33).  Unless we’re talking about church discipline or counseling or some other rare instance, it is helping Satan’s cause to say negative things about someone to anyone other than that person.

In all my past gossiping, I was absolutely sinful.  And so I exhort anyone who is doing this now, in the Name (and for the cause) of Jesus Christ, to stop.

All of us who have been saved by the blood of Christ must preach and speak the grace and patience Jesus Christ showed us, and let Satan, quite literally, be damned.

A Confession for Good

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I got sucked in to the TV show M*A*S*H* when I was a teenager.

That’s not the confession.

Well, not entirely anyway.

I had never really had a cause, up to that point. Then I found this show on satellite TV at about sixteen, and I became mesmerized by the lead character Hawkeye’s sarcastic, unwavering convictions. Hawkeye was always right. He knew war was viscous and stupid. He knew authority should be subverted. And in the episode “George,” I learned that he knew homosexuality was almost certainly just fine and dandy.

I still think M*A*S*H* is funny, all these years later, but I’ve come to realize how one-dimensional it was as an artistic creation. Its writers put those characters who agreed with their point of view in a wonderful light, and those with a different take they almost always cast in a terrible one. But for a long time I was blind to that. I had been sucked in by Hawkeye’s rebellion, and by the idea of having a cause.

By the end of high school I was a pacifist who idolized Mahatma Gandhi, without, of course, having read much of anything Gandhi wrote or anything that had been written about him. The Ben Kingsley movie and a few bumper-sticker-quotes were enough for me to go out and tell the world where it was wrong.

I was in a youth group at a Bible-believing church, and I also acted in a touring Christian drama group. And the fact that I could rebel in these environments, could somewhat shock the majority, buck the trend, enthralled me. I wore a shirt to church one time that said that Osama Bin Laden shouldn’t die for his sins (this was probably about 2002). I refused to sing “God Bless America” at a fundraiser for our acting group. And I began to voice my opinion loudly on what I referred to as homophobia in the Christian world.

This is a confession, so I need to get trucking, here. I had friends who listened to me. I had buddies who claimed Christ and who found my prideful schtick compelling, partially because I (often) spoke it with such ridiculous passion and partially because rebellion is seductive to a lot of people. I said things about the Jesus who I claimed that were simply untrue. And not because I had a wrong take on the Bible and His words in it, but because I wasn’t even reading the Bible or His words in it. I said what I wanted to be true about sin, the Old Testament, Hell, homosexuality, gender, and drunkenness, and a few of my friends found at least some of it appealing. I claimed to be speaking for God, and I lied.

I lied. And I did it because I was proud and because I had found something I loved more than the Creator God: the feeling of smug rebellion.

But my life’s greatest story is this, guys: Jesus Christ pulled me from drunkenness and lust and gossip and Hell, and now my life is His. The Messiah washed me of all my sins by grace through faith in Him. The real Jesus, whose words are in Scripture, rescued me though I was dead in my sins.

The real Jesus. We are given His words and ministry and Gospel in the Bible.

And there aren’t any teachings of Jesus anywhere else, by the way. So if you’re not proclaiming the Jesus of Scripture, you’re in some shape or form proclaiming an imaginary person and slapping Jesus’ name on it. That’s what I did. And it hurt people.

So I confess my selfish, arrogant tirades intended just to shock the Christians I grew up around. And I hope to be able to offer most of them face-to-face apologies someday for misrepresenting the only One who can save any of us. And I offer this as a symbol of what Christians are called to humbly do: Confess our sins. He is faithful and just to forgive them.

Grace to you and peace.