Monthly Archives: September 2017

SIN SAYS “YES” & GOD SAYS “NO!”

I wish to say something about God’s “no” to Sin as He expresses it in the Church.

“For He made Him He who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
In the truth we have embraced, in our trusting God while we share the loss, hurt and anguish of the world—in these and more we reflect our Lord Jesus’ own trust in His Holy Father. From the cross on Golgotha as Luke tells us His last words were “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (As I write this—this very moment—one of our own (Alan Comer) is dying of cancer, enduring an agonizing exit, who has uttered and is uttering words just like that. “Father, into your hands I commit my very self!”)
Our very existence as the Body of the Living Jesus Christ, is a focused expression of God’s faithfulness to His commitment to the human family; not only to the Church but, through the Church and other of His gifts, to the world.  His goodness to us as sinners makes it clear that He will not allow Sin to have the last word and determine the destiny of humans. To those that Sin would strangle and suffocate and fill with despair the Church as a forgiven People, the Church as a reconciled People has been entrusted with a ministry of reconciliation.
The Church embodies and carries a message of inexpressibly good news and it’s this: “God knows about Sin but He refuses to let it have the last word because He is GOD and not a man (Hosea 11:9).” Even God cannot force a friendship upon people but He insists: “Whatever you want; My heart wants friendship. If you don’t want Me then we can’t be friends but the reason we’re not friends if we aren’t friends is not in Me! Where sin increases so does My grace. There is nothing in Me that keeps us apart. I am the sinned against and I say I am Sin’s enemy and I cancel its alienating power by My love of you.”
(Holy One, help us indeed to embody this truth about you. help those who teach us to teach us about this truth. Open their eyes to it and thrill them with it that they may come to us at times wide-eyed and astonished at you and the truth about you with messages that are worthy of you. Come to the Church’s aid in this that we might be thankful and happy servants of yours to our families and neighbors and to the world. This prayer in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ.)

 

IT’S A GOD THING!

Sin alienates us from God!

That’s true, but the truth is bigger than that. Sin IS alienation.

It is not true that we sin and God punishes us with alienation. The truth is that in choosing sin we are choosing, have chosen alienation. To say alienation takes place as a result of our sinning is not true enough! (Yet see Isaiah 59:2.)

[We speak of sins being forgiven. This is good speech (Acts 2:38, Ephesians 1:7) even though we know that sins aren’t forgiven—sinners are.]

God doesn’t punish us with alienation—we choose it and He accepts the choice! Alienation is our doing not God’s!

Consequences follow our choosing alienation (which is the same as choosing Sin). He made us humans and as long as He maintains that decision and purpose we will make choices that (for good or ill) have consequences that include everlasting death or everlasting life. In choosing alienation we sever ourselves from God who is the source of all that is fine and lovely and righteous. In choosing alienation from God, the source of life, we choose death and all the consequences that go with that.

And God’s response to humanity’s choosing alienation; His response to our rejecting friendship with Him? What does He do?

He comes in and as Jesus Christ saying, “I’m utterly opposed to this alienation. I’m utterly opposed to Sin which is alienation. I find no joy in it! I want us to be friends, I want you to return to me and have fullness of life!.”

That is the meaning of the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and glorification of God in Jesus of Nazareth.

So, is He soft on Sin? Does He think it doesn’t matter? No that cannot be! You measure God’s hatred of Sin and sins by the depths of His love for humanity! For Him, to be soft on Sin and sins would be the same as His being casual about the alienation of His children (Acts 17:24-29) ; it would be the same as ignoring our death; the same as His caring nothing for us—the children He created! This He cannot do so He cannot be soft on Sin! On Sin!
And why is that?
It’s a God thing!
It’s the nature and heart of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He hates our sin; hates our alienation precisely because He loves us.
And why does the Holy One love us?
It’s a Holy God thing!
It’s the nature and heart of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And there is no other God!

(Holy One, help us who have had the privilege to hear of you to think noble thoughts of you. Help those you have called to teach us to so teach us that we will be believe and be shaped and energized by your glory, wonder and holy love.)

 

 

PACKED INTO TRAINS BY WHOM? AND TO WHERE?

In John 7:49 there’s this from the church-leaders, the orthodox scholars “This rabble that does not know the law—they’re accursed.”
Then there’s this in Luke 13:52: “Woe to you experts in the law for you have taken away the key to knowledge…”

Here’s a text: Matthew 14:14, “When He went ashore He saw a great crowd; and He had compassion for them and cured their sick.”
There lies the difference between Jesus and brass-necked leadership. It isn’t the only difference, don’t you know, and if you isolate it it’s not even the main difference but it is a profound difference.
Jesus saw “the mob” and when He saw them He felt something and He did something.
In a multitude of 5,000 plus (Matthew 14:21) there must have been a lot of mixed motives, promises unkept, grudges harbored, self-serving and such. They would have been like any other crowd, ancient or modern. Christ could see it for He knew people. And yet, when He looked, “He had compassion on them and healed their sick.” (Matthew 14:14 and 9:36)

Yes, but if He knew they were sinners, why did He think them like sheep without a shepherd? Why did He see them as uncared for? Why did He feel compassion toward them—or did He scan them with the speed of light and feel compassionate toward the upright in heart and indifferent toward the others?
This is “the Holy One” (Acts 3:14; John 6:69, following NIV and others). Tell me how we can be holy as He is holy? I don’t mean how can we be sinless or how can we feel as deeply as He?
Forget that for now! It’s not going to happen! Whimpering on and on about our sinfulness helps no one.
Help us to lift up our eyes and at least see better, purer, cleaner things. But help us to be holy like Him and still look on people with all the marks of unholiness written on their faces and see them at least as needy people. He wasn’t the first kind man or the only one in the world but He alone flawlessly and truly imaged GOD looking on the sinful feeling what they feel and longing to do them good. For all our wishing, for all our longing there is a chasm between us and Christ that we cannot bridge; His holiness simply outdistances our most fervent imaginings.  It has nothing to do with miraculous power; it has nothing to do with His being able to feed thousands with little or nothing. It has all to do with His unutterable holiness looking on sinners and wanting to do them good, wanting to heal their sick, wanting to lift them out of their gloom and hurt and give them reason to believe that the worst they know doesn’t have the last word. Later, maybe later, if we now and then, at least, hunger and thirst for righteousness, we’ll, in happy astonishment, find ourselves engaged in wise feeding, clothing, housing and enabling in needed ways and thank God that we are more like Him than we thought possible. And teaching them about HIM!
In the meantime they’re out there! Born in the squalor, raised in deprivation, hunted and abused by the people with the power—people whose behavior (sophisticated or openly unrepentant)—that we can’t call anything other than satanic and demonic. So what are we to do? Even those with the best and purest of hearts among us don’t know what to do. We con ourselves into thinking we can heal the world with bombs and threats and sanctions. (I’m not at this moment interested in critiquing anything!) But you’d think we’d learn.
Do Christians have any gospel to offer the multiplied millions in every generation who don’t even know they are sheep and sheep without a shepherd? Is our only “gospel” (one they have not heard, are not hearing and will not get to hear) that if they turn to Christ they won’t go to hell?

I’m not talking about a world that cares nothing about the truth about God and the Lord Jesus Christ, a world that doesn’t care that it doesn’t care.
I’m talking about the damned in this life who hear only that they’ll be damned in the next! (And millions will not even get to hear that! It will come on them like a thunderclap that not only have demonic power-brokers raped and pillaged them the God of John 3:16 will do worse to them than their human torturers did! And with the look of fear, utter confusion, looking at each other, mouthing words like, “What’s happening? Why?” they’ll be packed into trains and carted to the everlasting Death Camps.)

Bless me, these poor people don’t have time to stop and listen to talk about anything. Their first thought  has to be about how to stay alive and get food for their children or a safe hiding place so they won’t be raped again or butchered. And those would be the kind of issues they’d face every day.

So there He stands looking at them with those big eyes of His. Missing nothing! Seeing all! And while knowing and seeing all He feels His huge heart swelling with pity at these sheep without a shepherd. So He healed their sick. I don’t doubt that some there looked at Him, fevered and crippled children in their arms, chins stuck out in some desperate look of rebellion: “How can you see us like this and not do something about it?” I’m sure others showed their desperation with “please” written all over them. There they were, here we are with our awful needs stark and obvious to His holy eyes, masses of us clamoring for attention. People with little interest in Him until our crying needs drive us out of ourselves and away from our useless schemes and shallow prayers. And still He looks, and still He feels compassion and still He offers rich, wise and desperately needed healing.

Holy Lord Jesus Christ! Astonishing Christ who makes it forever clear that true holiness isn’t a firewall against fellowship; who makes it forever clear that true holiness is love’s raging fire that burns down all that would come between us and His Holy Father who sees and feels and does.

And is Matthew 9:36 and 14:14 written there to taunt humanity’s tormented? Did that occasion and that crowd exhaust God’s good will toward them in Jesus Christ? After that did God say goodbye to the human family? Was it only that crowd He saw as shepherd-less sheep, harassed and in awful need?
For these countless people without a shepherd is Acts 17:31 a THREAT or is it a GOSPEL?
“A day is coming when God will judge the world in righteousness, all wrongs will be right! This God has assured us by raising Jesus from the dead!”

And if it’s a THREAT—is it’s threatening those I’m talking about? Those sheep without a shepherd?
And if it’s a threat to them WHO IS IT that’s threatening these bewildered, raped and pillaged hosts who know absolutely nothing of the Lord Jesus they so desperately need?

Is it the God of John 3:16-17?

A WEARY, BATTERED WEAVER

Here’s what J.M. Barrie said in his book The Little Minister, “Long ago a minister of Thrums was to be married, but something happened, and he remained a bachelor. Then, when he was old, he passed in our square the lady who was to have been his wife, and her hair was white, but she, too, was still unmarried. The meeting had only one witness, a weaver, a weaver who sat day after toilsome day at his window as long as there was light, and he said solemnly afterwards, ‘They didn’t speak, but they gave one another a look, and I saw the love-light in their eyes.’
No more is remembered of these two, no being now living ever saw them, but the poetry that was in the soul of a battered weaver, bound by necessity to his machine, makes them human to us forever.”
Aren’t people like that a gift!? No matter how tough their lives are they keep the romance in their souls and make the world brighter, lovelier. They’re able to see what the rest of us can’t—those of us made hard and cynical or perhaps just too hurt that our poor hearts, because of the disappointment and loss—can no longer see.
There may have been a time when our hearts raced at the sight of someone we held precious; there may have been a time when we were sensitive enough to notice the shy but warm glances that passed between people but for many of us those days are gone. The light has either gone out or grown dim and we resign ourselves to live in the twilight until along comes a “battered weaver” who defied the suffocating world and kept his soul alive.
Barrie doesn’t say if his battered weaver was married or was in love with a particular someone or had ever been in love but he makes it clear that the toil-worn worker was a lover and love has eyes.
Later in his novel he tells how the preacher Gavin Dishart falls in love with Babbie the gypsy girl who at first has little interest in the preacher. But that was only at first—before he kissed her. “Until the moment when he kissed her she had only conceived him as a quaint fellow whose life was a string of Sundays, but behold what she saw in him now. It’s said that Love is blind, but love is not blind. It is an extra eye that shows us what is most worthy of regard. To see the best, the honorable, but what is truly felt, that is to see most clearly, and it’s the lover’s privilege.”
People like the over-worked weaver won’t end up with a ton of money in the bank but they’re able to uncover treasure that all the tycoons in creation can’t buy. You have to have the heart, don’t you see? They won’t build grand skyscrapers, these people, or multi-national companies but they build dreams and open to us the possibility of a life that’s filled with the joy of hope and warmth and they’ll go down to their well-earned graves with a contented heart.
Maybe you’ve met such people. The kind who aren’t too sweet to be wholesome but who are sensitive to the good and lovely that lies hidden just below the surface of an unpromising appearance.
Maybe you are one! Maybe you too are one of the millions that are tied to a job and to responsibilities that make truly heavy demands of you; but not so heavy that you’ve allowed them to blind you to the beauty that is in life—a beauty that a great host of us can’t see. And if you are one of those, God bless you. God has blessed you. Thank you!
Jesus said that even a cup of cold water given in His name will not be forgotten, will not go without reward. The beauty and glory that’s in you changes a dreary world and just by hearing of or, better, knowing someone like you, we are changed or are given the chance to change. You don’t keep a record of your good words, looking for that reward Jesus spoke of; you you don’t think of it in that way; you don’t think of it at all. You simply have the heart for it and turn to people like us and say with a smile, “Did you see how they looked at each other?” And if we’re blessed like you we’ll have seen it and if we haven’t, your sweet, strong, deathless spirit will infect us and maybe we too will begin to see, or at least to look.
Thank you! Thank you for the cups of cold water you are handing out without the blowing of trumpets.

(Holy Father, thank you for the warm—honorable—but warm people of the world who keep our hearts beating and make us smile even when we don’t feel like smiling. This thankfulness, in Jesus’ name.)