Tag Archives: Christian

Truth: How do we use it?

As a Christian I strongly believe in Truth!  I believe Gods word is absolute truth.  At the same time I have observed what I see as an abuse of truth in many Christians. 

I believe this abuse of truth falls into one of 2 categories.  The first is when we use truth to gain power over another person or another group. Basically, we use truth see ourselves as better than another person or group. 

The other is when we use truth as a shield.  This kind of TRUTH abuse is when we like to talk about truth but we do not use it to get “wooden” with our own sins, thoughts, and feelings. We talk truth as a way of avoiding discussing uncomfortable thoughts and feelings about ourselves.  We use truth as  a very clever way of changing the subject so we do not have to look at our own sin.

So what does this look like in reality.  Years ago, my wife and I sat down with a couple we were good friends with.  This couple was struggling with some issues the husband was struggling with.  One of the things we knew about this couple was that this couple had  very black and white, all or nothing, legalistic way of thinking. This was especially true of the wife…. but also true of him.  This couple was at their best when they could look out their windows and talk about how BAD other people were and how BAD other groups were.  Well , what do you think occurs when legalistic, black or white thinking finally meets the sin inside the walls of a marriage instead of outside the walls of the marriage,,,, well, you get FIREWORKS!  I vividly remember when we sat down with them and  her strong and incorrect use of  the word “TRUTH!” at her husband as a way of belittling her husband.  She was using TRUTH as a form of a power play.   Oddly, right before she did this she told us how she was calm she was because she had the “fruit of the spirit” working in her.  As she said this her body language was anything except full of the fruit of the spirit.  This was her way of using truth as a shield to deflect everything away from her.  In one conversation with this couple they had used TRUTH both as a shield and as a power play.

Well, anyhow, I believe the question that deserves some thought today is this:

How have we used our faith and religion as either a shield or as a power play?

 

 

 

 

Freedom…. What is it good for?

Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭13-14‬ ESV

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.””

See it at Bible.com:

http://bible.com/59/gal.5.13-14.esv

Last night we discussed the idea of Freedom in my men’s group and we discussed Galatians 5.

For me freedom takes on some deep thoughts.  Freedom, to me,  means freedom from any forms of righteousness the world places on me.   It means spiritual, emotional, and psychological freedom!  However, those are pretty big words.

Some might be looking for Freedom from sin.  But freedom FROM anything is not really freedom in my opinion.  How do we put hands and feet on the idea of freedom and what it means to you?  Is anyone bold enough to make comments on what Freedom means for them?

Freedom… what does it mean for you?  Any takers on making comments?

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WD40 and a Grace and Mercy Narrative

Do I have a Grace and Mercy “narrative” in how I live my life… or do I have performance narrative or self preservation narrative.

Performance narrative … always trying to win, look good. Can be subtle, Today many people have a moral performance narrative. Performance narrative says if I obey and do good I am acceptable. It does not see its own sin but looks at the sin of others,

Self preservation narrative says I need to protect myself from pain and hurt because its not safe (emotionally safe). A person with a self preservation narrative says no matter what I do I will get hurt again. Self preservation narrative does not have emotional safety.

Grace and Mercy Narrative is like wd40. When you pour wd40 on a something “stuck” it soaks deeply into the joint. You never see the wd40 but it makes everything in the joint operate more smoothly. A grace and mercy narrative makes relationships operate more smoothly. It is the wd40 of relationships. Unlike a performance narrative it says I am acceptable, therefore I want to obey and do good. Unlike self preservation narrative it allows me to explore thoughts and feelings safely and gives me the opportunity to grow and change in a safe environment.

However, grace and mercy needs to soak deeply into a person, like wd40 does. The problem we have in todays world is grace and mercy are often understood intellectually… is is not a deeply entrenched narrative in how people live their lives. Often for grace and mercy to become a deeply entrenched “narrative” it must be gained experientially driven vs just intellectually understood.

Simul justus et peccator — Simultaneous Righteouss and Sinner

Simul justus et peccator

(Latin simul, “simultaneous” + Latin justus, “righteous” + Latin et, “and” + Latin peccator, “sinner”)[10]

From:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theology_of_Martin_Luther

Roman Catholic theology maintains that baptism washes away original sin. However, “concupiscence” remains as an inclination to sin, which is not sin unless actualized.[11] Luther and the Reformers, following Augustine, insisted that what was called “concupiscence” was actually sin. While not denying the validity of baptism, Luther maintains that the inclination to sin is truly sin.[12]

“Simul justus et peccator” simply means that a Christian’s righteousness or justification imputed in baptism is a gift of Christ, freely given despite the sinner’s condition. The doctrine of “simul justus” is not an excuse for lawlessness, or a license for continued sinful conduct; rather, properly understood, it comforts the person who truly wishes to be free from sin and is aware of the inner struggle within him. Romans 7 is the key biblical passage for understanding this doctrine.

Luther also does not deny that the Christian may ever “improve” in his conduct. Instead, he wishes to keep Christians from either relying upon or despairing because of their own conduct or attitude.

 

Boundaries and the beauty in gray

I was listening to a sermon by a person from Somalia at our Church named Dr. Gemechis Buba over a year ago.   Gemechis is very gifted speaker and a Luthereran pastor from Somalia.  He basically said we (all people) wear a shirt that is black on one side and white on other other. One side says “good” and other side says “evil”.  This is a “reality based” statement that is reflected very well in scripture.  Here are 2 good examples of this:

  • King David was a conspirator, murderer, and an adulterer and was also called a man after God’s heart!     David was both a mans after Gods heart  and  a conspirator, adulterer,  and murderer!
  • Solomon was  the wisest man ever, wrote the best marriage book in the bible (Song of Songs) and yet had 700 wives and concubines. In todays world if Solomon was an author trying to get his book released he would have been labelled as a love and sex addict and his book would have never become a best seller!         Solomon was both wise and  an addict!

Most  Christians are very, very uncomfortable with the idea of  what I am calling the  both/and of scripture and the idea that men are both sinner and saint (because of what Christ did!).  They may understand the idea of both/and conceptually but when it comes to their own lives they prefer living in the black and white of their group (especially political groups) or family being either a sinner or a saint. Instead of living in the both/and they are living in the either/or.   The only problem with not living in the both/and is that it (1) sets people up for failure later on when they cant live up to their own black and white,  either/or thinking and (2) it does not see how deep man’s need is for a savior in Jesus Christ.   Christians are uncomfortable dealing with the idea of both/and and they want to simplify this to either/or, legalistic, or  black and white terms.   The world is uncomfortable dealing with both/and and wants to simplify this thinking to the idea of tolerance toward others.  Both tolerance and legalistic thinking never deal with the discomfort of our issues and sin and never allows a person a safe environment to start getting honest and real  about their issues.

Anyhow, one of the reasons for my BLOG is to discuss how the Gospel message of Jesus Christ “works” in relationships in tangible and real ways.   I want to relate this to the idea of healthy boundaries today. Also, I should say one thing here: being both/and is not a goal of the christian life … it is just reality that this side of heaven we will sin against others and others will sin against us!

First of all what is a boundary?  Boundaries are a very complex topic.  I want to describe a boundary as an invisible force field around a person. The purpose of this force field is to protect all the “healthy and good stuff” inside the boundaries.  Inside your boundary are things like your body,  thoughts,  and feelings.  The motives behind boundaries are never about controlling someone else but they are about keeping you or those you love healthy. A healthy boundary will keep unhealthy stuff out.   A healthy boundary also has a door or window in it to let healthy stuff in.    A gospel-centric healthy boundary allows a person to to keep unhealthy stuff out and let healthy stuff in while living in the both/and reality of a fallen world.

Unhealthy boundaries err in one of two ways.   One of those ways is our personal boundaries are too loose.  A person with loose boundaries does not know how to set boundaries for his or her self.  A person with loose boundaries allows another person to come into his/her boundaries and take poessesion of their thoughts and feelings. People with loose boundaries can be nice people pleasers.  They don’t know how to say “no” to others and over time this becomes quite a burden trying to keep up all the people pleasing activitites.

The other unhealthy boundary is too rigid of a boundary.  Too rigid of a boundary means your boundaries might be good at keeping unhealthy stuff out but your not very skilled at letting healthy stuff inside your boundary.  People with rigid boundaries have not learned the relational skills to manage the window or door in our boundaries that lets the healthy “stuff” in. And,  as I have seen, eventually a person that is only good at keeping healthy stuff out and not very good at letting healthy stuff in is going to “blow” and his sin will come out eventually.  I have found this too rigid of a boundary problem to be very common in evangelical America.  After all  Christians rules are the best rules … right?  Christians know truth… right?  However,  many Christians have never learned the skills in their Family of Origin of how to live in a both/and  world and tend to caricaturize groups of people in simplistic, black and white terms and as a result they live in an either/or reality.  This problem of rigid boundaries is huge with some of the men and couples in my groups.  Many of these men have very rigid Christian boundaries but yet they are caught up in major issues in life and in their relationships. They don’t have the social or relational skills to let healthy stuff in.  Many of these men grew up in Christian homes that seemed to have good theology but here they are doing the same thing (sin) that most of the rest of the world is doing.   Most people feel that a person that is struggling with chronic sinfullness  in some ways needs to put more rigid boundaries in their lives to help overcome their sin.  I think this is true and agree with that statement.  However, in my dealings with chronic recurring sin,  people  tend to know and have rigid moral boundaries.   A bigger issue  is that these people do not have the skills to let healthy things into their world.  They do not know how to live and love in a both/and world because they have been too busy living in an either/or world.

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How the Gospel Works

Reblog Post:

 

Here are some quotes from my favorite author in NYC, Tim Keller.They can be found here:  http://www.timkeller.info/comments/quotes.

 

“We do not have to make ourselves suffer in order to merit forgiveness. We simply receive the forgiveness earned by Christ. 1 John 1:9 says that God forgives us because He is ‘just.’ That is a remarkable statement. It would be unjust of God to ever deny us forgiveness, because Jesus earned our acceptance! In religion we earn our forgiveness with our repentance, but in the gospel we just receive it.” (ht:firstimportance.org )

“The Bible’s purpose is not so much to show you how to live a good life. The Bible’s purpose is to show you how God’s grace breaks into your life against your will and saves you from the sin and brokenness otherwise you would never be able to overcome… religion is ‘if you obey, then you will be accepted’. But the Gospel is, ‘if you are absolutely accepted, and sure you’re accepted, only then will you ever begin to obey’. Those are two utterly different things. Every page of the Bible shows the difference.” (ht: spadinofamily)

on Romans 1:16-17 – “Paul is not saying the gospel produces power. He says the gospel IS the power of God in verbal form. Do we believe that?” [or do I secretly believe that everything is up to me?] (ht: jayhardwick)

“Repentance out of mere fear is really sorrow for the consequences of sin, sorrow over the danger of sin — it bends the will away from sin, but the heart still clings. But repentance out of conviction over mercy is really sorrow over sin, sorrow over the grievousness of sin — it melts the heart away from sin. It makes the sin itself disgusting to us, so it loses its attractive power over us. We say, ‘this disgusting thing is an affront to the one who died for me. I’m continuing to stab him with it!’” – Timothy Keller, Church Planter Manual (net source)

“The gospel creates the only kind of grief over sin which is clean and which does not crush. It says: ‘Look at Jesus dying for you! He won’t leave you or abandon you–how then can you respond as you are? He suffered so you wouldn’t do this thing! You are not living as though you are loved! As his child! It is not because he will abandon you that you should be holy, but because this is the one who at inestimable cost to himself has said he won’t ever abandon you! How can you live in the very sin that he was ripped to pieces to deliver you from?’ See the GRACE of God argument? It is the only argument which cannot be answered.” – Timothy Keller, Church Planter Manual (ht: Of First Importance)

‘Self-salvation through good works may produce a great deal of moral behaviour in your life, but inside you are miserable. You are always comparing yourself to other people, and you are never sure you are being good enough. You cannot therefore, deal with your hideousness and self-absorption through the moral law, by trying to be a good person through an act of the will. You need a complete transformation of the very motives of your heart.’ – The Reason For God, 177 (ht: GaryMcMurray)
“The Cross is not simply a lovely example of sacrificial love. Throwing your life away needlessly is not admirable — it is wrong. Jesus’ death was only a good example if it was more than an example, if it was something absolutely necessary to rescue us. And it was. Why did Jesus have to die in order to forgive us? There was a debt to be paid — God himself paid it. There was a penalty to be born — God himself bore it. Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering.” Tim Keller, The Reason for God, 193 (ht: Scott Stewart)

“… those who understand the gospel cannot possibly look down on anyone, since they were saved by sheer grace, not by their perfect doctrine or strong moral character.
Another mark of the moral-performance narrative is a constant need to find fault, win arguments, and prove that all opponents are not just mistaken but dishonest sellouts. However, when the gospel is deeply grasped, our need to win arguments is removed, and our language becomes gracious. We don’t have to ridicule our opponents, but instead we can engage them respectfully.
People who live in the moral-performance narrative use sarcastic, self-righteous putdown humor, or have no sense of humor at all. Lewis speaks of “the unsmiling concentration upon Self, which is the mark of hell.” The gospel, however, creates a gentle sense of irony. We find a lot to laugh at, starting with our own weaknesses. They don’t threaten us anymore because our ultimate worth is not based on our record or performance.” – Tim Keller, [The Prodigal God?] (ht: pastorinbloggaus‘ The Gospel Creates a Gentle Sense of Irony)

“Jesus’s teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.” – Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God (ht: CoffeeRandom ‘The True Message of Jesus)

“[Jesus] is saying that the inevitable sign that you know you are a sinner saved by sheer, costly grace is a sensitive social conscience and a life poured out in deeds of sheer service to the poor. Younger brothers are too selfish and elder brothers too self-righteous to care for the poor” (p.112). Earlier in the book, Keller elaborated on the sin of the older brother: “Elder brothers may do good to others, but not out of delight in the deeds themselves or for the love of people or the pleasure of God. They are not really feeding the hungry and clothing the poor, they are feeding and clothing themselves” (p.62, The Prodigal God).  (ht: wsvanderlugt “Why Don’t We Care for the Poor?”)

It is only when you see the desire to be your own Savior and Lord -lying beneath both your sins and your moral goodness- that you are on the verge of understanding the gospel and becoming a Christian indeed.  When you realize that the antidote to being bad is not just being good, you are on the brink. If you follow through, it will change everything: how you relate to God, self, others, the world, your work, your sins, your virtue.  It’s called the new birth because it’s so radical. (p. 78) Jesus Christ, who had all the power in the world, saw us enslaved by the very things we thought would free us.  So he emptied himself of his glory and became a servant.  He laid aside the infinities and immensities of his being and, at the cost of his life, paid the debt for our sins, purchasing us the only place our hearts can rest, in his Father’s house…  Knowing this will transform us from the inside out… Why wouldn’t you want to offer yourself to someone like this? Selfless love destroys the mistrust in our hearts toward God that makes us either younger brothers or elder brothers… We will never stop being younger brothers of elder brothers until we acknowledge our need, rest by faith, and gaze in wonder at the work of our true elder brother, Jesus Christ. (p. 87-89 The Prodigal God) (ht:RelentlessGrace, “Our hearts are transformed by service, not power”) * speaking of the power of the Gospel: “... the more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you. Buton the other hand, the more aware you are of God’s grace and acecptance in Christ, the more able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions and character of your sin. This also creates a new dynamic for discipline and obedience. First, the knowledge of our acceptance in Christ makes it easier to admit we are flawed because we know we won’t be cast off if we confess the true depths of our sinfulness. Second, it makes the law of God a thing of beauty instead of burden. We can use it to delight and imitate the one who has saved us rather than to get his attention or procure his favor. We now run the race “for the joy that is set before us” rather than “for fear that comes behind us.” ” Tim Keller in Introduction to Galatians (ht: TheSticklerFamily)

“At the root of all our disobedience are particular ways in which we continue to seek control of our lives through systems of works-righteousness. The way to progress as a Christian is to continually repent and uproot these systems the same way we become Christians, namely by the vivid depiction (and re-depiction) of Christ’s saving work for us, and the abandoning of self-trusting efforts to complete ourselves. We must go back again and again to the gospel of Christ-crucified, so that our hearts are more deeply gripped by the reality of what he did and who we are in him.” – Timothy Keller, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2003), p.61 (ht: pjcockrell)

A New Reality

I was listening to Bill Bohline preach on Acts a few weeks back.  He discussed 4 general steps that the bible discusses.

  1. We were created in Gods Image
  2. The fall: We sinned
  3. Christ Came:  He loves us and  came to save and rescue us
  4. Restoration: Living in the restoration and the victory of the Cross.

Point 1 is generally assumed. Bill said quite often Churches are stuck in points 2 or point 3.  The legallist will stay stuck in point 2 wanting to remind people of their sin.   Usually, understanding well the new covenant of grace but living functionally in the old covenant of the law.  The antinomian will stay stuck on point 3  only wanting to talk about unconditional love and Gods Grace and the new covenant … always forgetting about sin.  As I have discussed in previous posts…. the 2 errors of the Gospel are those 2 extremes.  Staying stuck on point 2 or 3 both miss opportunities for change and growth in the Gospel message of grace toward sinners.

As is the case for many Martin Luther  purists …. we pride ourselves in having the proper biblical  distinction between law and gospel and keeping the “bullseye” in front of us!

Bill then  made a very good point.  He said churches don’t always tell the rest of the story.    They don’t often show the rest of the story where Jesus has restored and his people are living in freedom and the victory of the cross …. and to be  bold people who  share their stories while helping others overcoming their brokenness.  We just don’t live in the victory of the cross!  In our religiosity we continue to live in bondage!  The victory of the Gospel is where we should live!  The victory of the cross  slowly rewrites our story into Gods story!

Why did this come to mind…. well, I had an interesting thing happen to me a month back and came to some enlightening observations about myself …. but mostly I had some God moments where I saw God writing a different story of me than what I was trying to write for myself.

I have mentioned on previous posts about some friends that have a long line of broken relationships. He was/is  a good friend of mine for the last 35 years.  I was the only person from his side of friends that was invited to their wedding.  I am fairly certain they no longer have a relationship with his brothers.  Also, as I said they have other broken relationships of his friends before marriage.  I am sure there are others I am not aware of as well.  These conflicts normally started from a tension with her religious legalism and then later on him coming to rescue and protect her in the conflict.

Well,   a few years back, in a time after my sin and transgressions… it came to light that he was struggling with some pretty deep issues.   However, in her fear based world she no Continue reading

How is your deck stack

In the last couple of weeks I purchased a cheap deck of cards.  Since the book of  Psalms and Proverbs discusses wisdom and “the heart” a lot I decided to use the stack of cards as a “tool” to figure out the things that have been important to me in the past … but more important to figure out the things that need to be important to me according scripture.

The Greatest Commandment

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

So in light of this deck of cards being a “personal inventory of my own heart” I started writing on the deck of cards using all the “hearts” as stuff that  symbolized items and things that could be ‘functional gods’ of my heart.

The Ace of hearts: On the highest card, the Ace of hearts,  I wrote Jesus  and King of Kings to be inline with the scriptural truth of the greatest commandment to “love our god with all our heart”.   Jesus became the Ace of hearts or the heart with the highest power.

The Queen of Hearts: I made the second highest card the Queen of hearts and I wrote my wifes name on that card.    Sue is my wife and my queen of hearts! Scripture calls the marriage union a  one-flesh union and says it is not good for man to be alone.  God makes a point of emphasizing emphasizing  marriage and woman as “very good” in the book of Genesis!

The King of Hearts: I made the next card directly below the queen to be the “king of hearts” and wrote my name on this card.  Yes, the second greatest command said to love others as “yourself”.  So I believe scripture allows us to place ourselves high in this deck of cards.

The Jack of Hearts: My wife and I dont believe in child centered parenting so the next card was the Jack of hearts and I wrote both  my daughters’  names on this card.

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Gods Baseball game

Gods Baseball game

Bob and the Lord stood together, watching a baseball game. The Lord’s team was playing  Satan’s team. The Lord’s team was at bat, the score was tied zero to zero, and it was the bottom of the 9th inning with two outs. Bob and the Lord continued to watch as the batter, Love, stepped up to the plate. Love swung at the first pitch and hit a single, because Love never fails. The next batter was named Faith, who also got a single because Faith works with Love. The next batter up was named Godly wisdom. Satan wound up and threw the first pitch; Godly Wisdom looked it over and let it pass, because Godly Wisdom does not swing at Satan’s pitches. Ball one. Three more pitches and Godly Wisdom walked, because Godly wisdom never swings at Satan’s throws. The bases were loaded. The Lord then turned to Bob and told him He was now going to bring in His star player. Up to the plate stepped Grace. Bob made a face… Grace certainly didn’t look like much to him!

Apparently Satan’s whole team agreed: they all relaxed and laughed a little when they saw Grace.
Thinking he had won the game, Satan wound up and fired his first pitch. To all but one’s amazement, Grace hit the ball harder than anyone had ever seen. But Satan was not worried; his center fielder, the Prince of the air, let very few get by. He went up for the ball,  but it went right through his glove, hit him on the head and sent him crashing to the ground; then it continued over the fence for a home run! And so the Lord’s team won. The Lord then asked Bob if he knew why Love, Faith, and Godly Wisdom could get on base but could not win the game by themselves. Bob, looking a bit sheepish, admitted that he didn’t know. The Lord explained, “If your love, faith and wisdom could win the game, you would think you could win it by yourself. Love, faith and wisdom will get you on base, but only My grace can get you home. My grace is the one thing Satan cannot stop.”