Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"Extraordinary Means"

"If we cannot get sinners to Jesus by ordinary means, we must use extraordinary ones. It seems ... that roof tiles had to be removed. That would create dust and cause a measure of danger to those below, but where the case is very urgent, we must be prepared to run some risks and shock some people." --Spurgeon's Morning and Evening, on the paralyzed man lowered from the roof to Jesus
Why is it we do not go to the "extraordinary means" to reach others with the gospel of grace? These friends of the paralyzed man cared so much about giving their friend the opportunity to be healed that they risked displeasing the owner of this house to be able to get the man to Jesus. They counted the cost of paying for a new roof, of upsetting the crowd inside, and decided that it was worth it if their friend could be healed.

What do we do? When we meet or interact with someone who may be lost, do we do whatever it takes to make sure they have heard the gospel? Or seen the love of Christ through our interactions with them? What ridiculously difficult thing are we willing to do to make sure our neighbor or coworker knows that we love them as Christ did. The man who was paralyzed knew the love of Christ before even seeing Him, through the love of his friends who took matters into their hands. What can we do to make that kind of whatever-it-takes love known to the people we interact with? Are we willing to go to the disagreeable neighbor for the fifth time to ask them to turn their music down, and oh, would you like a cookie we just pulled out of the oven? And would you like to come over for dinner? Or do we call the cops and walk by with our head down so we don't have to look them in the eye? (Guess which route I took.)

We are called to a radical, roof-demolishing love of our neighbors. God wishes us to chase down souls, to knock down walls with His love. I pray He fills me continually with the love I need to be able to do this.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


A sudden quake may strike:
Your innards quiver
Turmoil stirs
Your heart may beat
A little

And breath may be
Short, shallow

And you - you are weak,
An unanchored mass
Of tectonic uncertainty
Who shifts with the slightest
Change in pressure

Hold: firm. There is One
Whose presence is like
Concrete. He knits
That which shifts, and binds
That which shakes.

Let quaking cease. The One
Holds all.


Do not let the gentle
Waves break unheeded
On your heart's shore

Take the time to note
The wake they leave,
The swirling foam's impression
On the sand

And bits of broken
Shells, the detritus
Of eons of the sea's cycle

Washing warm, over your
Tender soul

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fit For Human Consumption

These days I've been extra careful what I write on here.

I'm a judgmental person inwardly, even though that rarely (I hope) comes out outwardly. Next time you interact with me, just know that I'm secretly judging you.

I get angry that we're not all better people. I get angry at myself for not being better than I am, and I get angry at other people for not being better than they are.

Which is stupid. I'll readily admit that.

And my temptation, often, is to write scathing opinion pieces which slam judgment down on the world and the people in it for not being better than they, or to write some self-righteous BS piece that makes me feel good about being better than a lot of other people.

I can't tell you how many half-finished BS pieces of writing are sitting unfinished in my blog, because I wrote it, then read it, and realized that it came off as judgmental and self-righteous and know-it-all, and didn't publish it. It's rather shaming to admit that I contain such poison sometimes.

But until a few days ago, I didn't get what the problem was. I didn't understand that the reason everything I've been writing was coming off sounding like that was because my heart has been judgmental, self-righteous, and know-it-all.


What's that verse? "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks"? Yeah, makes sense.

I want to be different. (Don't we all?) I want to be able to speak with grace, not to shame people into agreeing with me, or push them away in resentment. And while I'd love to make my opinions known, I don't want to do it in a way that makes it seem that anyone who disagrees with me will be thought less of by me. Who among us wants that? I don't want to be thought less of by others for my beliefs or opinions; why, then, would I do that to others? "Whatever you wish others would do to you, do also to them."(ESV translation: I love the way they word this.)

I thank God I haven't posted some of the pieces I've written; that He gave me the discernment to keep from hitting that "publish" button. And may I be given fresh inspiration to encourage, uplift, and exhort in my future writings, rather than judge.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

We're Dirty

"There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”
(Mark 7:15 ESV)

With this one sentence Jesus dismisses the entirety of the ceremonial law. No longer, he says, is it necessary to refrain from eating certain meats or wearing certain clothes; bathing or refraining from bathing makes no difference; you cannot be defiled - made impure - by eating, drinking, washing, not washing. These are simply actions; actions have no bearing. It's the motivation behind the actions which defiles.

I don't think we, as non-Palestinian Jews, fully appreciate the revolutionary power of the statement Jesus makes here. For the Jew, ceremonial law is what kept them apart from the other nations. They defined themselves by it: circumcision and dietary restrictions were part and parcel of what it meant to be the chosen people. For Jesus to tell them that it made no difference what they ate was a slap to the face of their heritage and values.

And yet, what he said made it far more difficult for them: "The things that come out of a person are what defile him." In essence he says, "Do what you want - you are free; but know that if your actions are motivated by self-interest, by hate, by pride or envy or jealousy, then you are defiled, not from the outside, but from the content of your own heart."

He makes it harder, in essence, to keep the law. Rather than just "minding your p's and q's," making sure you stay away from bacon, shrimp, and clams and watch out for poly-blend shirts, you have to examine your heart. And, for those who have ever done such a thing, examining the heart is about as pleasant as cleaning out a sewer drain.

But the principle is true, and the freedom it grants is true. Do what you want - but you are accountable to your heart's attitude in doing it. But in this disposal of the ceremonial law, now suddenly the lines aren't clearly drawn. The most innocuous thing can become sin to you if it stirs your heart to pride or envy, and what before seemed off-limits can suddenly be a source of pure joy to you. For example, if I enjoy playing a computer game, but that game becomes an escape or an addiction, a way to avoid responsibilities or a distraction from spending time with my family, then it has crossed the line from permissible to impermissible. By the same token, I used to think alcohol was off limits, but have experienced some moments of deep fellowship and joy over a bottle of wine with friends.

What Jesus does here, besides obscuring the lines between the permissible and impermissible, is make a relationship with him a necessity. How do we, the easily deceived and swayed, know where our own heart stands? By being close to the Maker of our hearts. If we can't count on following a list of written rules, we have to continually look to him and ask him for wisdom and illumination along the way.

Let me add to this all, though, that the motivation for a relationship with Jesus goes beyond making sure we're following the moral law. Jesus frees us from all restraints, not just from the ceremonial law, but from the consequences of breaking the moral law, too. So even though, in his dismissal of the ceremonial law, he makes it harder for us to keep the moral law, he also frees us from having to keep it by keeping it for us. Whether or not we are able to "do right" is irrelevant. It really, truly, doesn't matter. One bit. If we believe Jesus wiped the slate, we believe He wiped the slate. Whatever failings we do or have, whether before or after we enter into relationship with him, won't affect our standing with him. He sees us and loves as pure, unsullied, lovely creations, without a stain on us.

While in some sense, we still suffer the consequences for our failings and "defilements," the consequences are temporal, limited to this earth. I can get drunk every night and it wouldn't change Jesus' love for me - but it might cause me to lose my job, my wife, and my friends. I can judge and insult others I come in contact with and be generally mean, and while Jesus would still love me, probably not too many people would want to be my friend. I can spend like a mad fool and fill my life with lots of toys, or hoard all my money and never give it to others, and while Jesus would still love me, I wouldn't have much of lasting value or real worth. I can treat my kids like dirt and lord it over my wife, and Jesus would love me, but my kids and wife would resent me and I'd be lonely.

I could go on, but I think I've made my point. Jesus' love doesn't change with our weaknesses and failings. He's paid for them, and he's not going to punish us. We'll reap the natural consequences of what we sow, but he has paid for it before God. His law is there to show us a happy life, and he's freed us to enjoy that life. But his love doesn't change. We are truly free - of both the ceremonial law and the moral law. May we revel in this freedom, and praise the One who gave his life that we could have it.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Northwest Snow Drivers

In light of recent events, I give you the three types of Northwest snow drivers:

  1. The speedster: This can be most easily defined as anyone who drives faster than you. The speedster immediately conjures rage in each driver they pass, the spray of ice and snow following in their wake the only rival to the spray of saliva from the mouths of their fellow travelers as they shout words we dare not repeat here. Of course, we all wish the speedsters ended up in the ditch, thus teaching them to no longer be speedsters, but rarely do we receive the satisfaction of seeing them spin out or crash and burn. Speedsters themselves can probably be broken into two subcategories: those who drive fast because they have a 4x4 and can get away with it, and those who are driving something sporty and don't know how to drive slow. Either one is equally annoying, though the reasons they're annoying are, perhaps, slightly different.
  2. The creeper: This is the person who seems like the only reason they're driving instead of walking is so they can stay warm and dry, because they're not going any faster than they would if they were pedestrating (pedestrizing? Not sure if there's a verb form of pedestrian, but there should be. Leave a comment with any other suggestions of how to "verb" it). They're almost as maddening as the speedster, and heaven help you if you get behind them going up the hill, because they're bound to lose traction and start sliding backwards into you. These people are usually driving an older model car, often a 90s Pontiac Grand Am or Mercury Tempo, with bad tires. The best way to deal with these people is park your car, walk up to their window (which you can do without much effort, since they'll be driving slower than you on foot), and hand them money for bus fare. They'll get to their destination faster, and you'll have done all the other drivers on the road a huge favor by getting them off of it.
  3. You: You are, of course, the quintessential perfect driver. You drive at the perfect rate of speed that the conditions require, neither too fast nor too slow, and leave just enough stopping distance between you and the car in front of you. You are flawless in every way, and while some may judge you as a creeper, you can obviously dismiss them as reckless speedsters, and others may count you as a speedster, their creeper ways of course color their viewpoint. Congratulations on achieving what all other snow drivers strive for: perfection.