Friday, January 31, 2014

What is Pro-Choice Choosing?

One of the most difficult subjects for us to address is death.  Regardless of your religious convictions, the finality of deaths final stamp of conclusion on an individuals journey on the finite mortal coil, it is always difficult to say goodbye.  A foundational philosophical and religious principle for life(and most governance) is the protection of life.  The most egregious crime that you can commit in civilized society is the taking of another's life against their will.

What is obfuscated in the constant rhetoric and argumentative back and forth in the abortion debates is the question of whether or not we are taking another's life "against their will".  Before you ignore that central question let me challenge you to honestly answer the question, "What is the moral, ethical and legal justification for extinguishing a human beings life without its consent?"  

This is the first question that we have to answer.  If the answer is there is never a point where it is justifiable to take another's life, then we have to move on to question two.  Hopefully you are still tracking at this point.....The second question is, "what is life?" 

Neither of these questions are adequately addressed in the context of this debate.  The tired refrain is couched in language about "choice" and "rights" that never delves into the more essential question of what is life, and is murder ever acceptable. 

Let me respond to the inevitable response to my appearing to be flippant about "choice" and "rights".  As already stated, civilized society recognizes murder as an unacceptable immoral act.  Second to murder, an intrinsic reality of a healthy society is to protect those who are weaker from having their rights trampled on by those who are more powerful.  Regardless of the reasoning and the arguments that could be made for the stronger abusing the smaller, justice demands the protection of the oppressed. 

I would hope that no one reading this would want to live in a society where a majority vote could decide what you are and aren't allowed to do and have.  We appropriately look back with shame on the era of slavery and Jim Crow laws.  The self-evident truths that all men are created equal demanded that regardless of one groups opinion, they couldn't willfully take away the rights of others.

When we breeze right past the questions of life and murder and jump right into a debate about rights and choices we are doing a great disservice to the weighty importance of the answers to these questions.

So, what is "life" anyways?  When Roe vs Wade passed, part of the ruling was based on the fact that they did not have an answer of when life began.  Sadly, instead of exploring that question more thoroughly, they lifted the ban and never revisited that essential question. 

In the ensuing decades what we now know about fetal development is light years ahead of where they were at that point.  A heartbeat is measurable by the 6th week.  By the 9th week from gestation all the brain functions necessary to sense and respond to pain are active.  Premature, and viable, births are happening at earlier and earlier stages.  Children born around the 20th week from gestation are surviving.  Albeit, it is a low rate of survivability, it is still happening. 

The inspiration for this post came from an article that my wife posted today about a woman who was about 20 weeks pregnant with twins and was offered money and adoption to not go through with an abortion.  She did it anyways.

This is heart breaking.  From a strictly scientific point of view, that is right at the point of viability.  Regardless of how you feel about abortion in general, two babies, who given just a few more days could have been delivered and given to a loving family who would have raised and cared for those children for the rest of their lives. 

Here is what I am convinced pro-choice is choosing.  It is choosing to define the value of an individuals life on the feelings of another about that life. 

This is a frightening path that we have started on.

If you want to argue about age of viability and super early abortions, that is one thing.  But the pro-choice movement does not only argue for those things.  It is defending the "right" to "choose" to devalue another viable human life simply based on the current location of that life. 

When we accept the premise that a medically viable life does not have a right to life based on someone else's "choice" than we have entered into frightening moral and philosophical territory.  As a society trumps individual values for the opinion of the majority, or the strong(mother) over the weak(unborn child) we have willingly accepted a mindset that creates the framework through which it becomes possible to justify even more immoral decisions.

Once we have accepted that some lives are expendable regardless of what medical science says about the viability of that life, we no longer have the moral "brakes" to stop with at the next stop on the path. 

While my religious convictions convince me of the intrinsic value of all life regardless of developmental stage, I am not arguing for that here.  From a strictly scientific point of view, either life has the right to live unmolested by others, or it does not.  There is no middle ground. 

So how do you define life?  Is all life worthy of defending and protecting, or, just some of it? 

21 week old live birth

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What's Right is Never Easy

Matthew 7:13-14
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

The human body is composed of approximately 60% percent water.  Water is the king of Osmosis.  In simple terms, osmosis is water moving from places of high concentration to places of low concentration following the path of least resistance.  Which is interesting because us humans are also great at osmosis.

We avoid challenges.

We run from difficulties.

We stay right where we are at if there is any sense of "danger" or pressure in moving in a new direction.

We seek the comforting embrace of familiarity, regardless of its problems.

And because of that, we rarely change and grow.  In our avoidance of challenges we find ourselves tomorrow and the next day, right where we are today.  The problems that assail us now will assail us always.  It is only through taking on the difficult tasks that lay before us that we can hope to see ourselves become who we desperately desire to be.

Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying that every day we should do something that scares us.   And there is nothing scarier than changing what you have done to pursue something new.  To become new.  To be remade.

But its possible.  Completely doable.  

In this passage Jesus is talking about the Gates of Heaven and the narrow path that leads us there versus the wide and comfortable path that leads to destruction(hell).  This spiritual truth of the easy path being the dangerous path is written into the DNA of every one of us.  Doing what is right is never easy.  

Walking with God and rejecting the things of the flesh is always a much more difficult and unfamiliar journey than the comforting familiarity of our self centered decision making.  For many of us the greatest obstacle to truly walking with God is our fear of what we cannot see.  It is so much easier to just handle what we are used to.  It is so much more difficult to walk a path that you cannot walk alone.  

So we walk forward towards our own destruction.

Are you happy with where you are right now? 

Are you content and satisfied?

Are you able to look with healthy pride at the condition of your heart and life?

If you answer yes to that, great.  If you are like most of us, the answer is probably, not really.  So what are you going to do?  Are you going to continue doing what you have always done.  Living for self.  Leaning on the behaviors and attitudes that put you here?

I hope not.

Jesus didn't tell us about the wide and narrow paths to shove it in our faces that we are destined for destruction.  The full context of His ministry and message of the Gospel is that the narrow path is something you can find, and something you can walk.

But not alone. 

You CANNOT set your feet moving forward in the way you should go by yourself.

Here are some thoughts for getting your journey straightened out.

1)  Be brutally honest with yourself.  What is it that you are doing consistently that causes problems in your life?  Is it specific choices of behavior?  Is it people you allow to influence you?  Is it what you allow your heart/mind to dwell on?

2)  Take those honest answers and start praying!!!  You are not alone.  You cannot do this alone.  Even if you don't think you can handle changing, pray about that.  Like the Centurion one said to Jesus, "I believe, help me with my unbelief!"

3)  Pursue healthy people in your life to be brutally honest with, who will hold you accountable and call you out(with grace) for your behaviors and attitudes.  Who will lovingly remind you of the hope you have in the strength that is found in Christ.

4)  Rinse and repeat

Nothing in life that is worth having comes easy.  Becoming new, being restored, having freedom from sin.  These are all absolute true promises of given hope because of the finished work of Christ. 

Don't give up because it is hard.  If it is hard, you are doing something right!



Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The truth, the whole truth, but nothing of Truth

My four year old has a really odd sense of "fairness".  Basically, anything that he doesn't agree with is an indication of being unfair.  Time to eat dinner?  "You're not being fair".  Time to go to bed?  "You're not being fair".  Another common one is the argument about who gets to pick out a tv show between his little sister and himself. By a wide margin my son watches more of "his" shows.  But, let her watch one show that she requests and he is upset about it not being fair.

Clearly this is a problem and we are addressing it.  It has gotten to the point that he has been instructed to not even utter the phrase, "It isn't fair" at all.  He misuses and abuses it.  Here is the real issue though;  He emotionally feels as if what he is claiming is valid and right.  There is no self-introspection or willingness(yet) to accurately measure what is going on.  The feelings he feels are all the argument he needs to declare a statement of "Truth". 

The concept of Truth used to mean something to everyone.  Namely, that Truth was a non-negotiable and reliable claim about observable conditions and reality.  Seeking the Truth was a process of carefully and honestly appraising competing claims against the backdrop of known reality.  With each subsequent discovery of Truth becoming the building block and lens of which following observations must be weighed by.

Now truth has become a fluid and ever changing concept that is redefined daily based upon the desires and perception of those making the statements.  And to disagree with someone's personal statements of truth is the height of impropriety. 

The key factor in determining the truth of something(today) is how the statement effects you emotionally.  Facts, figures, logic, data points, etc, are all secondary in importance behind the emotional resonance of a particular truth claim.  And once you have emotionally made a decision on truth, the facts must be manipulated and conformed to that decision.

This is tyranny.

The prophet Jeremiah reminds us that, "The heart is deceitful above all things"(Jeremiah 17:9)  If you are honest with yourself, and I with myself, we will admit to the constant fluidity of our "feelings" on almost all subjects.  Our hearts and emotions are easily manipulated and rarely do those feelings find themselves safely rooted in non-negotiable truths. 

How would you like your spouse to make the marriage declaration to love you for better or for long as they feel then like they do now.....

We need consistency and non-negotiability to safely navigate our relationships, jobs, cultures, physics, and, life in general.  When we become prisoners to the ever changing fickle nature of emotional reactionism we are truly under tyranny. 

But Adam, you say, our hearts and emotions aren't that terrible for making life decisions!!  You're being too critical.

No.  No I am not.

According to the CDC, half of all Americans will suffer at some point in their adult life from mental disorder issues of some sort.  Depression, bi-polarism, PTSD, addiction, etc.  So, in other words, half of every one you know and deal with will have at least some period of time in their lives where they could literally be incapable of making healthy decisions.  If someone is suffering from clinical depression, body dysmorphic disorder, PTSD, and any other number of deep seated issues that reside in chemical imbalances and other brain issues(that are OUTSIDE OF THEIR CONTROL) they are INCAPABLE of even being able to accurately evaluating the reality around them. 

So, how is basing "truth" on unreliable emotions not tyranny?

We need to stop being tossed around and reevaluating truth and our lives through the lens of finite emotional moments.  The hope we have is to root ourselves in absolute Truth.  And then, allowing our emotions to be shaped by Truth, instead of the other way around.

If you are a Christian, let me challenge you.  You aren't called to be "authentic" in your emotional responses and behaviors.  You are called to have integrity to live according to Truth, EVEN WHEN YOU AREN'T FEELING THAT WAY!!!

If you are not a Christian, let me challenge you.   What is Truth.  Big T, non-negotiable, set your clock by it Truth?  What dictates reality for you?  I am convinced that God is reliable and True, and that the Bible is Reliable and True.  Big T True.  It is a bulwark against fickle emotion based reality and a shelter from the storms of life.  If you have any questions, any thoughts, go ahead and ask!!!

Which will you choose?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Regret and Redemption

We love redemption stories.  Some of the most popular movies are about heroes who have made mistakes, been down a dark path, but find their way back to be the hero.  One of my guilty pleasures is the show "True Hollywood Stories".  Without fail, at approximately the midpoint of the show, the narrators voice gets foreboding as he says, "but then it allllll fell apart......"  Then the rest of the show details their recovery from the fall from grace.

Why do these stories resonate with us? 

"For all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God"

Within each of our experiences we have a consistent theme of mistakes and regrets.  And sometimes those regrets are debilitating.  Bridges have been burned, lives ruined, futures deterred.  Often the weight of the heartache of our past(and even present) creates an inability to even perceive a future that could be shaped by hope and joy.

There is a quiet desperation in all of us that weeps over that which we cannot fix.  Decisions that cannot be undecided.  Actions that cannot be changed.

How do we move forward?  How can the future be different from our past?

The other day I came across one of the most powerful quotes.  It was in the context of how faithful Christians should read the Old Testament.  It said that when we read/interact/try to understand the Old Testament we should do so with the Shadow of Christ cast over it.


Everything that we struggle understanding in the OT takes a new shape when we read it through the understanding of Christ moving within it towards the New Covenant.  Nothing that has happened makes sense and has hope and value if it is not moving us towards Christ.  And, if it is moving us towards Christ, even that which was difficult becomes a beautiful testimony of hope within hurt.

How can we move forward?  How can the future be different from our past?

Allowing the shadow of Christ to cover your past. 

In the story of the regrets that dominate our hearts we cannot hope to have hope without redemption.  Redemption does not make that which you have done, or that which was done to you, suddenly become "ok", or "right".  But it changes the results from destruction to construction. 

Joseph(from the hit musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat) is the picture of what this looks like.  His brothers have quite literally destroyed his life.  When, years later, he has the chance to confront them, he says, "What you have intended for evil, God intended for God to accomplish what he is now doing"   His brothers had done evil against him, but God never let Joesph's hope be defined by what happened to him, but what God was going to do through him and for him.

When we stand alone we cannot redefine our past.  There is only one who stands outside and inside of time who straddles the reality of our lives and shapes it according to His purposes.  What choice will we make?  To give Him control to redeem and heal what has happened?  Or, will we allow the infection of past pains rot us away from the inside?

Run.  Run to the one who will take your pain and give you promise.  Lay down your burdens and rest in the shadow of the Almighty and rest.

The hope of redemption is in forgiveness.  In Christ everything
 is forgiven, EVERYTHING is redeemable

Monday, January 20, 2014

What Do You Need?

Matthew 7:7
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you"

Shockingly my four year old son is a picky eater.  A few days ago he LOVED fish sticks.  He asked for them again today and so I gladly made them.  When he sat down at the table he suddenly remembers that he hates fish sticks and doesn't want them.  Pleasing his pallet is a full time and exhausting job.  But you know what I don't do, no matter how difficult he can be?  Feed him candy for every meal. 

One of the regular fights we have is he will refuse to eat what we made him and an hour later be starving for a snack(which usually is gummy's or graham crackers).  Our response is, "Your dinner is in the fridge, we can heat it up for you if you are really hungry."  He doesn't always like that response.  But we love our son and will give him what is good for him, not just what he wants.  It isn't always easy, but good parenting requires giving your kids what they NEED not what they WANT.  And the thing is, he is asking a legitimate question;  "Can I have something to eat?"  The problem is he wants to define it in such a way that isn't always what's actually good for him.

Context matters in interpretation.  The heart of and intention of who is speaking matters also.  This verse about asking and receiving comes within the larger context of the Sermon on the Mount which is one long teaching moment by Jesus.  This passage does not exist alone.

In chapter 6 we have Jesus teaching on prayer(Lord's Prayer).  The only part of it that is about asking for "stuff" is praying for "daily bread".  What is daily bread?  What we need to continue on and be healthy.  It is sourced in God's provision, and is exactly what you need for that moment and that day.

People love to take this verse in chapter 7 and think they just need to be faithful enough in asking and they will get more "stuff".

That's baloney.

Do you know how much smarter and more knowledgeable I am than my son?  My 4 year old son.  Who is convinced that he is capable of protecting himself from "bad guys" because he can hit really hard.  When it comes to what he actually needs I am still the one who knows best.  There will come a day, when he is 40, when he can make his own decisions.  But I love him too much to let him eat gummy's and candy for his daily sustenance.

Do you know how much smarter and more knowledgeable God is than you?  He loves you more than you can imagine.  And when you say, "I need stuff" He is able to see beyond the shallowness of the specific words of our request and respond to what we are really desperate for. 

And here is the great thing.  He is a loving father.  He won't withhold what you need, He will give you exactly what it is you need.  At the exact time you need it. 

Are you asking?

We make two mistakes when we read this passage.  And they are the same mistake on opposite ends of the spectrum.  We either take this to mean we can pray a Ferrari into existence for ourselves, or, we ignore it because He clearly isn't indicating we can pray for a Ferrari and get it.

We need to reject both false choices.  The right choice is openly, humbly, prayerfully, going to God and laying your heart bare before Him.  Even if you don't fully understand what it is you actually need, say what you do know. 

My son doesn't understand his hunger and what he needs.  But when he says he wants a snack, I know his body is actually saying, "I need nutrition".  So I give him the best nutrition I can.  We don't understand our hungers and needs either.  So say what you can, and trust that He is the God He promises He is. 

Don't be afraid to ask anything at all!

Friday, January 17, 2014

When Life Falls Apart

Psalm 46:1-3
"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging"

Everyone went to bed and I felt like I wanted to read some scripture.  I rarely do this, but I did the ole open up and read what you find technique.  And that is what I found.  It was really encouraging and I wanted to share some encouraging thoughts with those who might be struggling.  I am going to unpack it phrase by phrase for easier consumption.

A) God is our refuge

Refuge means a place to go for safety.  When this Psalm starts with this statement it is speaking to all those who have times of danger and pain in their life.  It tells us that during those times God is the place for safety from the storm

B) And Strength

The most difficult part of dealing with difficulties is how exhausting they feel.  Sometimes the problem is not nearly as big as the exhaustion.  God is a source of strength to keep going when you feel like your feet can't move forward one more step.

C) An ever-present help in trouble

Ever-present is a fantastic word.  When you want to believe the lie that you are alone, this Psalm says, "He is EVER-PRESENT". 

D)  Therefore

Whenever you read a therefore, you have to ask yourself, "What is this there...for?"

D2)  We will not fear

What are the fears that eat at you when you are down and out?  That your life is over?  That they don't love you anymore?  That it's all going to fall apart?  When we live rooted in the truth of God's ever-present nature in our afflictions, what do we have to fear?  Life might hurt, but fear is removed!

E)  Though the earth give way

When the rug is pulled out from under you

F)  and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea

Those things that you used to look up to come crashing down.  And not just down, they implode.  Disappear.  No longer in existence

G) Though its waters roar and foam

Life is tossing you all around

H)  And the mountains quake with their surging

Everything appears to be about to fall down on top of your very head

What is your hope?  Because I know that you are human, I know that life can tear you apart.  In God, and God alone, we have the promise of safety and strength. 

The author doesn't shy away from the truth about life.  That everything does, and will, fall apart.  When we stand alone, it will take us under.  When we run to God, we have nothing to fear.  Even when it is all falling down around us.  There is NOTHING so big and so bad that this promise cannot be your experience.

No matter the storm, no matter the pain,

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Why I am Not Satisfied

John 4:15
"The woman said to him, 'Sir, give me this water so I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.' "

My stomach is an amazing feat of genetic engineering.  No, not just the rippling 6 pack that rests behind a soft cushion of unreleased energy, but the fact that it processes food every day.  Without fail, no matter how much, or what, I ate the day before, I am hungry again.  Doing a bit of simple math I estimate that I have consumed approximately 35,000 pounds of food in my entire life.  Nearly 18 tons!!!!!

No matter how much I eat.  Every day I am hungry again.  It never stops.  You would think after like 20,000 pounds we could at least take a few year break.....

Our whole lives are driven by this truth.  What we consume to satisfy our appetites is burned up by that desire and we must return for more. 

Not just food.  Relationships.  Entertainment.  Sleep.  There is nothing that doesn't fall into that endless cycle.

What is worse is that while some ways we satisfy our appetites is relatively benign(such as eating), we often fill our felt needs with resources that are in the long run significantly more destructive than fulfilling.

Take for instance the individual consumed by drug addiction.  In some cases we know that the altered brain chemistry creates a real "need" for the drug.  But each successive use destroys the user, and leaves them needing more and more. 

Or the person driven by sexual compulsion.  Either in physical acts or pornography.  Recent studies show that brain function is radically affected by sexual promiscuity.  And while it at first meets a legitimate felt need(intimacy) it ultimately destroys the ability to experience intimacy. 

Sadly, in one degree or another, most of us can attest to compelling needs that drive our existence.  And rarely do they bring ultimate satisfaction.  They leave us feeling more empty then before.  And yet when the need screams out, we go right back.

There is so much going on with this "woman at the well".  Jesus is offering her a living water that will keep her from ever being thirsty again.  Which of course is His reference to eternal life.  What does she immediately think about?  No longer walking all the way down to the well each and every day.  She says, give me some of that endless water so I can save myself some daily inconvenience.

She has a real need.  She is thirsty.  And when Jesus comes into her life, she has trouble seeing out of that lens. 

We do this so often.  We look at the needs(legitimate and otherwise) in our lives and say, "Jesus, get in here and fix this problem....this SPECIFIC problem that is very inconvenient". 

We don't want Jesus if we are honest with ourselves.  We want stuff.  Better relationships, more money, less being sick.....Jesus comes to offer Himself.  The only source of absolute and eternal hope and we cry out for finite toys.

Jesus was offering to satisfy the woman at the wells deepest needs.  The ones that being thirsty are pale reflections of.  And that is what He is offering you as well.

Our struggles with a lack of satisfaction are what drive unhealthy and destructive behaviors.  We are desperate to feel satisfied.  So we run after our appetites hoping that this "meal" will be the answer.  It never is.

It is normal to be hungry.  Like me, you have consumed thousands of pounds of food in your life.  There is nothing wrong with eating.  But why do some people eat in damaging and unhealthy ways while others easily make healthy choices?


We treat food as a source of making us feel better.  And so we eat, not to fuel our body, but to get an emotional high.  I don't physically need a donut and a box of chocolates.  I emotionally "need" them.  Have you ever ate just because you are bored?  Than you know what I am talking about.   And as long as I allow my satisfaction to be determined by "food" I will abuse it, and, be abused by it. 

How about you?  What are the things in your life that you abuse and abuse you in turn in the name of satisfying a need?  Is it a relationship?  Money?  Sex?  A hobby? 

Christ comes to you at that very well and says, "Stop exhausting yourself for water that will never satisfy" 

Are you ready to experience a true satisfaction that frees you from the cycle of consumption and starvation?  Drink the Water that is offered freely.

No big theological point here.  Just thought it was funny....

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Why I Judge People, and Good Christians Should Too!!

Matthew 7:1
"Do not Judge, or you too will be judged"

I looooooovvvveeee Judging people.  It is an essential part of my day.  Without it, I don't think I would be a very good parent, husband, pastor, or, pseudo-famous blogger(tens of readers daily).

One quick example of how much I love judging people;

So my son got really mad at his little sister yesterday.  She apparently was sitting too close to him on the couch.  She has a lot of nerve!!!  So, in classic big brother fashion, he hit her and pushed her off the couch. 

In the back of my head I heard that very important refrain playing on a loop, "do not judge, do not judge do not judge!!!"  But, luckily, I ignored it.  I took my son to his room, gave him a stern talking, gave him a swat on the bottom(yes, we are those parents), gave him a hug, and left him in his room for a long timeout.

You know what he has been doing recently when his sister is "bothering" him?  He gets up and goes to another room.  No more hitting(mostly). 

Do you know how idiotic it sounds when people quote this passage whenever they are trying to call out a Christian for "judging".  On a scale of 1 to super stupid, it is massively idiotic.

One thing we are really good at(in my judgment) in todays culture is proof texting snippets of scripture to bash people with.  Especially when that person is in some way speaking about Biblical convictions and Truths.

So here is where Jesus goes with the whole "don't judge" statement;

When you judge(verse 2---He is assuming you do judge), judge in the way you want to be judged.  Meaning, when you get rightfully called out on something, do you want to be smacked around, or shown grace and patience?  The measure you use for others will be the measure  you will experience. 

Right off the bat Jesus is working in the context of the daily reality of judgment.  We HAVE to use it.  You can't do much of anything in life without utilizing wise judgment.  How else are you able to tell your kid that it is wrong to hit his sister?  And as Jesus addresses this He flips the typical way we judge on its ear.

See, we love to be self-righteous and really give it to people when we catch them being wrong.  Guess what a second assumption he makes is?  You need to be judged at times as well.  Give grace when you deal with other peoples sins, and, get grace when your sins are exposed.

One of Jonathan Edwards life resolutions was to..."Act in word and deed as if nobody had been so vile as I, to live as if I had committed the same sins, or, had the same infirmities or failings as others, to confess my own sins and miser to God when I am prone to look on shame at others"
Jesus calls us to live in such a way as to give grace for others failings in the same measure that we are desperate to experience in the midst of our own.
Later on, Jesus adds a bit more to the process of judging others.  In verse 5 He tells us to remove our beam.  Why?  So we can remove our brothers speck. 
Again, Jesus is speaking in the context of His disciples actively judging sin.  And on top of being graceful about it, He teaches that unless we are willing to deal with(repent) of our own sins, we can't possibly help our brothers and sisters with theirs.
The comedian Kevin James once said, "Nothing is worse than receiving weight loss advice from someone FATTER than you!"  Nothing is worse than hearing judgment from an unrepentant hypocrite. 
Where does this leave us?
1)  Christians SHOULD judge and speak clearly about sin.
2)  Jesus is pretty clear, you better do it in such a way that it is dripping with Grace, patience and love.
3)  Deal with your own heart, be honest, be willing to repent of your own sins as you lovingly address your brothers.
Next time someone tells you that Christians shouldn't judge....Tell them they have no clue what they are talking about and read Matthew 7:1-5 with them.  Do it with love, do it with honesty.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Justification By Faith

This is a powerful quote that was too long for twitter...

"Thus it is that justification is ascribed to faith, because it is by faith that we receive Christ; and thus it is by faith only, and not by any other grace.  Faith is peculiarly a receiving grace which none other is.  Were we said to be justified by repentance, by love, or by any other grace, it would convey to us the idea of something good in us being the consideration on which the blessing was bestowed; but justification by faith conveys no such idea"
-  Andrew Fuller  The Complete Works of Reverend Andrew Fuller, vol 1ed.

I came across this quote in the book "Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God" by John Piper and just had to share it.

Today it is so common to hear the refrain, "God will save those who are truly loving, or truly "this" or "that" "  Or some other sort of high ideal sounding gobbly goop.  What Fuller puts so succinctly here is that there is nothing we do(because there is nothing we CAN do) that is the basis of salvation.  Only by receiving, through Faith, the finished work of Christ will we be saved. 

So lets have quite enough of that watered down universalism that parades itself about as "caring" Christianity.  To love is to be truthful.  And the truth is only Faith in Christ can save.  Everything else leads to destruction.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Living in the Moment, but never YOLO....

Matthew 6:27
"Who of you by worrying can add a single our to his life?"

I recently heard a celebrity share about meeting a fan a while back.  The fan never took his eyes of his phone screen as he taped and took pictures of the whole brief meeting.  Wasn't even able to shake hands well because he wasn't looking.  The celebrity was really taken aback by the whole thing.  Didn't you want to meet me?  You can look at pictures of me online anytime you want!!

As a people, we have lost the simple enjoyment of being in the moment.  Every brief experience is only a reflection of something that has come before, or, a prelude to something tomorrow.  We grow restless.  Discontent.  Frustrated.  And the more we refuse to embrace the moment, the more we lose that moment forever. 

A recent study on memory showed that all this constant picture taking of events that we all like to do actually is hampering our ability to create actual memories.  Do you get that?  Taking pictures to have a memory is causing you to actually not have a real memory.  Only a photograph that becomes you looking at someone else's life.

We never live in the moment.  Either the past holds us captive, or, anxiety and dreams about the future diminish our "nows".  Think about it.  How many moments today did you find yourself reliving some past event that you regret(or enjoyed)?  How much energy did you put forth to contemplating scenarios about "tomorrow" that you have little to no control over?  And the more we do that, replay sparkly HD memory films, the more we resent how dull it currently is. 

If only it was yesterday........ 

Tomorrow can't come soon enough.....

Jesus shouts out through the din.  He says, "YOU HAVE NO CONTROL.....YOU MAY VERY WELL DIE TONIGHT!"  But also, within that, he gently encourages us...."God is the source of your hope, and HE WILL NOT LET YOU DOWN TODAY!"

Something that is disgustingly popular today is the phraise, "YOLO", or, "You Only Live Once".  It's meant to be a sort of rallying cry to just be crazy right now because who knows what might happen to you.  And someone might be reading this and thinking, "Yah, Jesus, the original YOLO'er!".  If you are thinking that, please slap yourself. 

This is not Jesus telling you to just embrace the crazy side of you and do something outlandish.  The context is about finding God in each moment that you have.  Giving Him your past pains and your future frets.  To live in the freedom of the now knowing that He is going to do what is right for you ALWAYS.

There is a powerful shift that takes place when we begin to live in the moment the way Jesus calls us to. 

When God owns our now, our past begins to reveal that patterns of hope and love that He was laying down for us, even while we were His enemies.  And our past becomes a testimony of Joy found in trials.

When God owns our now, our future becomes a wide open tapestry that is not controlled or defined by any one experience, event, relationship, or pain.  And our future no longer becomes something we have to try to make happen, but simply to experience.

You are not the person you were yesterday.  You are not the person  you will be tomorrow.  Don't give those people to God.  Give Him who you are right now.  And they will become His as well.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Always a Let Down

Matthew 6:19
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on Earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal"

You know why I like to sin?

Because there is an immediate pay off.

 Like, right then. 

Whatever it might be, I get what it is I wanted.  And in that moment, it can feel soooo good.  Whether it is giving in to anger, having not so pure thoughts, being lazy(favorite one), or, being SELFISH(another biggie), pursuit of that "thing" gives me the immediate sense of "stocking up".

Putting the things of God first rarely has an immediate emotional payoff.  Sort of like buying a new video game feels a lot better today then saving $60 in the bank does.  Sure, I know I want to save money, but that game is going to be soooo much fun....for the week.....

In Matthew, Jesus has some strong, and honest, words for us.  What we store up for ourselves here in our flesh(earth) is all going away.  It does not actually meet the deep need that you felt that drove you to whatever it was you did.  For a moment you have something stored up, but soon it will be gone, and you are left empty again. 

Only in Christ are we able to build something that lasts. 

Be honest with yourself.  When you pursue the things that are diametrically in opposition to what God calls you to, how is the long term return on investment?  Pretty poor? 

Don't be surprised.

Get mad.

See, you keep telling yourself a lie, and you keep believing it.  That "this" thing, "this" behavior, "this" relationship, "this" action, will finally help you settle down.  Feel more like yourself.  Give you some breathing room.  Provide some peace. 

At first it does.

But it never lasts.

It always ends up being a let down.

We are made for more than what we accept for ourselves.  In your mothers womb God knit you together and called you by name.  You are an immortal soul bound currently in mortal trials.  And too often, bogged down by them.

Do you want to feel peace, hope, fulfillment, joy?  Then start investing in something that will actually provide that.  The payoff isn't always immediate, but it is lasting.  And the compounding interest will blow your mind.

Charles Spurgeon said "The greatest sin we commit is sacrificing what we want most in the world for what we want right now". 

Stop sacrificing your future for what you want right now.  Start investing in things that will actually last.
Ironically, this movies title worked on multiple levels.  Who would have thought a film starring Kate Hudson and Matthew McGhonnneghhyyyy(sp?) could have been so terrible....

Thursday, January 2, 2014

What Control?

John 3:8
"The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

I live with bipolar people.  If you live with people under the age of 18, you know what I am talking about.  My kids are completely unpredictable.  On any given day my four year olds taste buds can radically alter over the course of a single meal.  Yesterday he asked for more chicken nuggets to eat.  So, we bought him the same Tyson brand dinosaur shaped ones he likes.  Today, he decided that they were too meaty and he began to cry because he didn't want them.....  Every single toy he sees is accompanied by this line(word for word), "But I have always wanted "that" toy."  We have never heard of it before, but apparently he has spent 4 years pining for just that thing....

So what do we do as parents?  We deal with what is in front of us.  He is 4.  You will not logically argue him into accepting that he did indeed request this specific food item less than 12 hours earlier.  He feels the way he feels and that is all there is.  No, we are not permissive, we just don't try to "understand" how crazy it seems to us.  As he, AND WE, mature in our relationship together we will begin to understand ourselves and each other better.  Perhaps even before he graduates from college.

This section(chapter 3) of John has some of the most quoted parts of all of scripture.  Who can forget good ole John 3:16?  This is also the "born again" section that is most popular in the evangelical world that I like to run in.  You know what we often don't quote or address?  The unpredictable nature of the Spirits work(like the wind). 

We like to wrap God and His work up in a nice little box that we can understand and therefore, manipulate, to our ends.  Nicodemus is a leading Pharisee(read; really good at doing legalistic things) and he has come during the cover of darkness to talk to Jesus because he actually gets who Jesus is.  But he goes back to the same well;  "What can I do to understand and dictate the terms of this thing you are teaching me"(my paraphrase).

We pray to get things.

We fast to bring about change.

We read the bible to show our piety.

And then we get really frustrated when things aren't working out just like we were hoping.

Here is a big idea for us:  Only God is God.

This crazy and illogical behavior of ours is so destructive.  We pray for God to come to us instead of us running to where He is.  Don't get me wrong.  Pray pray pray.  Seek seek seek.  But we try to create and control formulaic Christianityism(TM).  Our Ego Centric worldview wants to see everything through the lens of our experience and what we want and how we feel.  A Christ centric worldview tells us that we are a bunch of sinful and depraved idiots who really shouldn't be relying on our own judgment. 

Have you ever been following a car that knows where they are going in a place you have never been?  Don't you panic just a bit when you lose them at a turn or a red light?  Of course you do.  Because you know that left to your own devices you really aren't gong to get where you NEED to be.

We want to try so hard to do it ourselves.  And that is rooted in self centered pride.  The wind is going to blow where it is going to blow.  You can't predict it.  You can't dictate to it.

But you can follow where it is blowing.   

Jesus tells Nicodemus that there is nothing in his flesh that can pull off the miraculous transformation of new life in the Spirit.  It is God's work, not ours. 

So here you stand.  Something is wrong.  Something is not right.  And you have been trying so hard to pull yourself back up and right the train.  Stop.  Just stop.  The work that you and I desperately need to have done is that which we cannot do.  You can fight against the wind all you want, but you will never break it.  Run with it.  Let it lift you up.  Change you and give you light feet.

Stop buying the lie of what you need to do and what you need to change.  You can't do it.  We need a new life.  One free of the shackles and chains that bind us. 

We MUST pray to be shaped by the things of God

We MUST fast to prepare our hearts to run hard after His plans

We MUST read the bible so we can learn to recognize the work of the Spirit through knowing God with an ever increasing intimacy. 

There is no formula for a new life in Christ that you can apply like some sort of medicinal balm.  Stop fighting the work of the Spirit.  Let God do His work in you.

This is what you look like when you don't go with the wind.
And it doesn't feel good either.