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30th November 2017
Choice and contentment in relationships
When young people marry in their late teens or early twenties, the news is sometimes met with uneasy concern. Sometimes with disgust, sometimes with a sneer. The world looks on and judges that this may not have been the best decision. After all, you mature a lot in your twenties and would probably have chosen someone else had you waited. (Someone better, the thinking goes.) If the couple are Christians, there's the assumption that this antiquated religion, with it's old rules about sex and marriage, is forcing young lovers to make unwise commitments just so they can finally have sex. The thinking goes that choice is always good, it is the basis of freedom and happiness, and it is the foundation for sexual ethics. :
There's a lot to be said about all this, but today I only wish to make one point, and that is a point about contentment and commitment. They go together. Psychologist Barry Schwartz said over ten years ago "choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied."
In the West, we so prize choice, especially in love relationships; and yet we also have the highest rate of divorce compared to the rest of the world, where you will find some marriages are even arranged. If we are truly going to be open-minded and liberal, we must look critically at this state of affairs and consider maybe something could change for the better.
Both Katherine and I are frankly relieved to be done with the dating game. It's exhausting! Constantly assessing who likes you and who doesn't. Who may be a potential partner. Positioning yourself to be noticed by them. Performing on the date. As a single person, I devoted a lot of mental energy to seeking out a mate. Now that I am committed to one, I am free to use that energy elsewhere. Since I'm committed, the thought process isn't: "Is this a deal-breaker? Should I start looking for someone else?" Instead it's: "How can we resolve this conflict? How can we work together to create a better relationship."
The idea that choice is the basis of freedom and happiness ironically leads to fear of making a choice (which cuts off future choices), which leads to paralysis--the opposite of freedom. As the older generation looks on to our generation, millennials have ben characterized by this very thing.
How does the Bible relate to this idea? In the Torah, we see a picture of a God who makes a commitment to a single people group--to set them free from slavery and be their God forever. In the prophets we see that this people strayed from this God and yet he remained committed to them. He didn't go looking for another people group. In the gospels, we see Jesus weeping "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!" In the epistles we see the apostle's declaration "...I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."
"We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also."
5th November 2017
What ought to be the motivation for doing good works?
Why seek to do good in the world? Why not rather remain safe in the hobbit hole, doing your duties and enjoying the simple pleasures of life? Why risk the pain of love when it's so much safer to remain facebook friends? Why risk a real life drama, when you can satisfy that same heart-longing by watching a drama so easily on Netflix? Why engage the world? Engaging the world is uncomfortable, it's messy, and it's risky. Plus it takes time away from things you'd rather be doing. :
But deep down you do want to engage the world. You do want to make a difference for the better. Deep down you know that it's more than your desire, it's God's desire for you. A God who could have easily enjoyed the simple pleasures of his eternal life, without having to pay any attention to the plight of humanity. A God who left the hobbit hole of heaven and chose to engage in the world below.
What does this engagement look like? It is doing good works. Jesus did good works here on earth. He healed the sick, the blind. He raised the dead. He challenged corrupt power structures and gave grace to the humble. Jesus greatest work was his death on the cross. What that work earned for him was a people bought by his blood. What that work earned for us was salvation.
Why shall we do good works? Not to be saved, "for it is by grace you have been saved, not by works so that no one may boast. For we are God's workmanship; created in Christ Jesus to do good works..."
What then ought to be our motivation for doing good works? Duty? Obligation? Certainly not those. "Shepherd the flock of God that is among you not out of compulsion, but willingly..." What should motivate us? Is it a grateful joy? I've often heard that is the proper motivation for doing good works. Surely that is a part of it, but when I think about what motivates me to do good works,'grateful joy' isn't primary.
What is primary for me is the glory of God. I want people to "see good works...and glorify God who is in heaven." I want people to praise and thank God because of the work. I want people to be surprised at what God can do in a person and in a community. I want to be found in the shadow of his wings, and be surprised by his mighty hand at work in our work. I want to work with him as he works through me.
Was Moses motivated by grateful joy? I don't think so. Moses was motivated by his identification with his people, their plight, coupled with the power and command of God. Moses saw his people's plight, and he saw that God was going to work their salvation. The question for Moses was: would he work with Him?
"[Moses] thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward."
Moses could have been quite comfortable for the rest of his life in Egypt. He lived in the palace. But would we be praising God for his work of Hebrew liberation over 5,000 years later? Would we even know the name of his God?
What motivated Jesus was looking ahead to his great reward. It was for the joy set before him that he endured the cross. Moses was looking ahead to his great reward which I AM promised. God is our great reward. He is. That is good news. He is the motivation for good works.
5th January 2017
Trust is the Innovation
IT has made transmission of information effortless. As a result, so many things have become possible. How could you market your product to the right people? How would you know or meet who may be interested? How could you promise a ride to anyone, anywhere in a major city in five minutes? How could you know enough to do that? How could you connect ordinary property-owning people with ordinary people who would want to use that property for a time? How would you know who wants what and when, and how would you know enough to make a business of it? How could the passenger trust the driver? How could the owner trust the tenant? IT is making all these new connections possible. :
But with any new connection, trust issues arise. Do you want to make new connections with any stranger you walk by on the street? Would you invite them into your house? Would you share you information with anyone? With which website would you share your login information?
Most of the problems I see in modern software development come down to trust, and that's where most of the new innovations are popping up. First published in 1976, Diffie–Hellman key exchange made it possible for Alice and Bob, to establish secure communication through an insecure channel. You might think, sure that would be easy because they could communicate some agreed-upon way of encrypting their messages outsite of the channel. No, Diffie-Hellman made it possible to establish that shared secret through the channel, all while the channel is insecure. Satoshi published his paper on Bitcoin in 2007, and it lays out a way for strangers to have some measure of trust needed for exchange of currency without a trusted central organization.
A lot of what is possible and what is not is limited by trust. As our lives move more and more online, security becomes more and more important to understand and build in from the start. Transmission of the information is possible, and easy, but solving the trust problem will be where the innovation of 2017 lies.
I say this, understanding that we are trying to make the best of the current state of human affairs, but also recognizing that there will come a day when trust is not needed because it is already obtained. Think about it. Why can't we trust each other? It is because we are afraid that another has power to harm us. It is because of sin.
Dr. John R. W. Stott in one of his books makes this comment on civilized society: "Many of the happenings of civilized society would not exist if it were not for human sin. A promise is not enough; we need a contract. Doors are not enough; we have to lock and bolt them. The payment of fares is not enough; we have to be issued tickets, which are punched, inspected, and collected. Law and order are not enough; we need the police to enforce them. We cannot trust each other. We need protection from one another. It is a sorry state of affairs."
Jesus has solved the trust problem because he has solved the sin problem. This solution exists in a small imperfect way among his people, but one day will come in its fullness when he comes back to eradicate sin for good.
In our efforts as software developers to solve the trust problem, we are asking in a small, imperfect way "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ms2ajqlNHeI
16th June 2016
Confidence before God
Do you have confidence before God? Should you? Do you want to? :
When you stand before his throne, you will be standing in front of the supreme being who created the universe. Who tells lightning where to go, and it obeys. Who has all power, authority, and dominion. Who can crush you through a single word.
Could you walk on the edge of the Grand Canyon with confidence? Could you stand before the President of the United States with confidence? Could you stand before God with confidence?
I know myself. I am a sinner through and through and I know that I have disappointed God more than once. I know that I sin every day whether in word, thought, or deed. I know that God has a right to be upset with me. I know I fall short. This is reason to tremble before God. My knees crack before Him.
So how did I gain confidence before God?
Deep down, we all know this, and so we shy away from God. Like Adam in the garden, we run away and try and cover ourselves. Because we know we have offended God, we hide.
And yet God called out to Adam in the garden, and pursued him.
I got tired of ignoring him, so I turned around and spoke honestly with God. I told him the truth. I turned around and faced him. And it turns out that he is not an unreasonable, rigid, unsympathetic judge. It turns out he understands my weakness. Jesus said to come to me all who are weak and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you because my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
I wasn't confident before God because I knew that I wasn't righteous enough for Him. And yet, God loved me and decided to instead look upon the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ. The sin that elicited my death, instead was thrown upon Jesus, and he took the punishment that I deserved.
Because Jesus stands before God and pleads my case, I have confidence before God. Because Jesus took my place, I have confidence before God. Because I am not saved by my works, but by the work of Christ, I have confidence before God. Because God loved me and gave himself up for me, I have confidence before Him. Because he shows me undeserved favor, I have confidence before him.
"Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16)"
"Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; (1John 3:21)"
This confidence is such a liberating thing. To know you are on God's side is to be free.
"There is now therefore no condemnation for those in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:1)"
11th January 2015
The new humanity
On this mountain [Zion] the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples :
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
(Isaiah 25:6 ESV)
In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
Open the gates,
that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in.
(Isaiah 26:1-2 ESV)
Here Isaiah prophesies "...the gospel, ... is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16)."
Why then do we continue to make distinctions among one another? So many crimes against humanity were committed in WWII just because the man was Japanese, or just because he was American. So many crimes against humanity just because somebody is Jewish or Palestinian. So much exclusion based on race.
"For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness (Romans 10:3)"
We humans, not understanding God's righteous standard, sought to create our own. Some made it based on race. One race was righteous and the other was not.
The verse says "open the gates that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in" God does make a distinction amongst peoples. But it is not along racial lines, or any line other than this: It is based upon righteousness through faith.
So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.
(Acts 10:34-35 ESV)
9th June 2014
Make me neither rich nor poor.
I've written poetry shared on this journal. This is my first venture into spoken word. I avoided posting this poem for some time because I was a bit self-conscious. Ironically the poem begins with the fear of being misunderstood, which the poor struggle with a lot, and I guess so do I! Please know that I don't take myself too seriously and I'm open to suggestion for stylistic improvement, or questioning content. Please also know that I do take the gospel of Jesus Christ seriously. I have a lot of respect for beat poets, which I guess is why I chose this style. The entry is back-dated to show it's original date of writing. :
Confused, angry, hurt,
hopeless, disrespected, abused
Poverty isn’t just monetary
Misunderstood, not-trusted, suspected
Stigmatized, demonized, categorized
Don’t let the felon in.
The wise man said: “make me neither rich nor poor.”
He prayed: “don’t make me poor.”
And don’t let your brothers be poor
while you talk about God’s riches.
Love, joy, peace
respect, dignity and hope.
These are Christ’s riches.
Sharing them may be free
or it may cost your money.
May cost your time, your plans,
may even cost your life
But Jesus laid down his and he said
we better get ready to die.
Because a servant isn’t above his master
and if they killed him first, then guess who’s after?
Freedom, healing, restoration
Jubilation, celebration, God’s exaltation.
These are God’s good pleasure.
He said ask and I’ll give them
until they overflow your measure.
We were made for more
than being comfortable and secure
And yes you were made for more
than always being a victim.
You were made for more
than going from one thing to the other
God is the ever-flowing fountain
And his blessing is unending.
You were made for more than sitting around wondering
What’s going to happen to you next or
who’s going to screw you next
or what’s coming out of that court date
more than you suspect.
God says tell me your greatest plan for your life
Now watch me top it.
Your feet bring good news to people who just wouldn’t walk it.
You’ll bring hope to people who just couldn’t stop it.
You’ll bring a good word to people who just couldn’t talk it.
He said to me,
When you couldn’t see it, I saw it.
When you couldn’t lose it, I lost it.
When you couldn’t get it, I gave it.
When you couldn’t afford it, I paid it.
The wise man said make me neither rich nor poor
And that’s good news for the both of us.
Just show me where to put the money Lord
‘Cause your kingdom is the only thing secure.
The only thing that won’t be passing
when this life turns into life everlasting.
26th February 2014
You can be a pair of glasses
You can be a pair of glasses, :
but if you're going to sit on my nose
you've got to curve around the bridge.
Don't be too harsh or you'll cut my face.
Don't be too gentle cause you'll slide right off!
You can be a pair of glasses,
but please don't squeeze my head.
But don't let go either,
because I need you to hug me.
You can be a pair of glasses,
but don't you cut my ears!
You've got to rest upon them
without digging in.
You can be a pair of glasses,
but you better know,
that my left eye sees nearer
and my right eye sees farther.
You can be a pair of glasses
but you'd better help me see.
See, one lens doesn't fit all;
You've got to know me.
14th March 2013
My back was injured in the summer of 2007. I hit the ground and was momentarily paralyzed. When the feeling came back into my body I could feel that something was internally wrong with my spine. :
Ever since then I had lived with years of soreness and pain. My muscles were always tight and sometimes would tingle.
I went to a chiropractor who taught me pain-management. I began to do back-stretches every morning. If I didn't do these stretches, the pain would be worse. These morning stretches were a part of my daily routine for years.
There was also a physiological component to my pain. A few years ago I was summoned to be on a jury where back pain (and needles, yuck!) were discussed at length. My mind couldn't take all the talk about back problems because there as un-resolved tension in my own mind that I have the same problems coupled with fear that it would never go away. This feeling resulted in vomit, almost-causing a mis-trial. I was dismissed from the jury.
The physiological component spread to other areas of my life. It would attack me any time something would be called into question about my health. This is embarrassing to admit, but after I went to the dentist and he told me there were some things he would have to do, I passed out on the floor of the bathroom just thinking about it. Then it was the feeling of mistrust for this man and not feeling any genuine care or love, and yet feeling powerless to see another physician who could help me in a better way.
After that I remember going to the Night Light mentor training. In the training, there is a part where you ask God to speak to you and listen for Him. All I could feel while I was listening was pain in my back and I distinctly remember him saying he would heal it. I was afraid to believe him. What if he didn't? What would that say about God?
The same physiological attack came once more in conversation among close friends. I had to step outside in order to stop from vomiting. This last attack I came to terms with the fact that I was not trusting Christ or living in the freedom he gave me. Instead, I was lying on the floor, afraid. He commanded me not to fear. I was still trusting myself and men about my health, instead of trusting God. It was then I realized just how big (and stupid) of a problem this had become and asked God to remove it.
Soon after, my wife and I met with the pastor of our church and I mentioned offhandedly that I hadn't been sleeping well, in-part, because my back was sore. After we had our discussion, he laid his hand on my back and reminded the both of us of Jesus' authority over this ailment. In that prayer, I remember hearing God say that I would wake up the next morning and it would be gone. Unlike last time he spoke to me, this time it was like I actually believed him.
Then I woke up and the pain was gone and my back was straight and I praised God all morning. Then I noticed that my desk at work didn't fit me anymore because now my back was straight. It was too short. So I got a taller desk.
In this whole process God has been teaching me more about my identity. He is showing me that I am taller than I act and that it is not good to act in a way that is not in accordance with who I am. A tall person shouldn't always be bent-over. He should stand tall because he is tall. I don't need to change to conform to others' expectations. That's how God made me. I'm not ashamed of it.
27th February 2013
Yes of course we are all sinners, but who is worse?
We humans have a remarkable propensity for using tragedy as an indicator of sinfulness. We judge people based on the tragedy they suffer. In the bible you can see a recurring theme that people believed that those who suffer tragedy "were worse sinners (Luke 13:2)." You can see this same theme in the entire book of Job where his friends over-and-over suggest that the reason why all of these bad things have befallen him is because of his own hidden wickedness. :
The revelation of Jesus came. When some pointed out a man who was born blind, they asked: "who sinned that he was born blind?"
I want to stop here and point out that I've done this. Where I live, you may easily ask: "who sinned that he was born poor?" As if poverty were always an indicator of judgment from God. This is Job's point in many of his speeches: the rich are sinners too! Those who are at ease are sinners too. Just because Job lost everything, and was stricken with disease, his friends thought he had done something wrong. But in Job's case, he hadn't.
And I also want to say that sometimes God does bring forth his judgment in a tangible way. There are countless stories in the bible of God immediately striking someone with disease or death as a direct result of their sin. But you can't use the disease or death as an indicator that he was somehow a worse sinner than the rest of us; rather, his judgment is a reminder that we will all be judged one day.
"...Or those eighteen on whom the tower...fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
(Luke 13:1-5 ESV)
Sometimes we in the modern day go to the other extreme and make those who suffer tragedy into heros. Perfect, innocent, heros. I heard of the coverage of the cruise ship that stalled and the TV cameras got pictures of sad children and said "They wont be seeing their parents for a week because of this horrible tragedy" One of our commentators said "She wasn't going to see them anyway! They were on a CRUISE!"
There was a young man who died in a car crash
when I was in high school. Some called him "innocent and perfect."
Let's not swing the other way and judge people to be perfect just because they suffered a tragedy.
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
(John 9:1-7 ESV)
Jesus said that it was so that the "works of God might be displayed in him..." Why were you born poor? So that the works of God might be displayed in you. You are blessed because you will be lifted up. That is a promise from God. Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation...(James 1:9).
19th January 2013
Dear Christians: Quit being so sad.
There is an attitude that I've seen in most churches that needs to change. It is the attitude of sorrow because of the reading of the bible and a realization of personal sin. You may know what I'm talking about. People read the bible and realize that they are sinners and then they mope about it. They talk about how the bible just keeps hitting them in the face with the truth of how wretched they are. They are always sad, seldom rejoicing, as if sadness in itself were a virtue. They focus on how sinful they are rather than how holy God is. They may occasionally and feebly sigh and say "But thank God for his grace and that he saved me," but deep down they are sad because they can't seem to stop sinning the same sins. They feel defeated all the time, so they have a hard time rejoicing. They feel as if they could never live up to God's standards. :
Here is my thesis: Reading the bible should result in sorrowful repentance, but it should never end there.
Paul said that there is a godly sorrow that leads to repentance and salvation, and there is a worldly sorrow produces death (2cor 7:10). Watch out for this worldly sorrow! Here's how to identify it: Worldly sorrow doesn't ever result in rejoicing.
Reading the bible should result in sorrowful repentance. It did in Nehemiah's days. "For all the peple wept as they heard the words of the Law (Nehemiah 8:9)." But let's read the whole passage:
And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.” And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.
(Nehemiah 8:9-12 ESV)
As christians, [we do] not grieve as others ... who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13 ESV) There is a reality in the kingdom of God that we are "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing (2Corinthians 6:10 ESV)."
Pray to be filled again with his Holy Spirit. The fruit of that Spirit is joy. Our strength is joy. We do not grieve as those without hope. Christ is our hope. He rose from the dead. He has already won. He has made us more than conquerors.
2nd December 2012
Laziness is a problem, but so is a system of injustice and oppression.
There is a set of articles in my facebook news feed that has been showing itself recently. Perhaps the ideas in them can best be summarized in the story of : Little Red Hen 2012
The basic theme can be summarized like this: "It's not fair that I should pay so many taxes for those lazy poor people."
What this viewpoint fails to recognize is that the reason why the rich to make such gains as they do is because they are a direct beneficiary of injustice and oppression. Let's look at the facts. We are not the good guys in this story. First we come here and kill and entire race of people (the Native Americans) and then enslave another race of people (the Africans). We have stolen our land and our labor from the beginning. We are not the good guys in this story. We directly benefit from an entire system of injustice.
People call Native Americans lazy. They weren't lazy before we went and messed up their entire way of life and society. You would be lazy too if everything you tried ended up in failure because you lived in a new foreign system that was passively working against you.
I have met lazy taxpayers and I have met hard-working tax-takers. The problem isn't just laziness.
But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court?
(James 2:6 ESV)
Behold, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.
(Psalm 73:12 ESV)
I'm not advocating for this system. I don't agree with either. But if you are going to complain about oppression, pull the plank out of your own taxpaying eye before you try and take the speck out of your tax-taking brother. I'm advocating for compassion and understanding in this matter. I am an advocate of inter-class relationships where taxpayers and tax-takers learn what it is like for each other. Walk with the poor like Jesus did and you'll have a hard time being so smug about your position of privilege which enables you to pay so many taxes. You did not earn that position of privilege through your own hard work--God has given it to you. You didn't choose where you were born, who your parents would be or how you would grow up. You were born into a system that was setup for you and set against others.
God will judge our nation and one of the criteria is how we treat the poor. Nations who oppress the poor are not sustainable.
Before we write it off as simple laziness, let's take some time to understand the situation of of those "lazy people". Perhaps they are fatherless. Perhaps they grew up in a school system with a "D" or "F" rating. Perhaps they grew up in a school system where the teachers were literally cheating them out of an education. Perhaps their parents couldn't afford better living conditions and then as a child ate lead-paint chips which stunted their mind's growth. Perhaps they grew up in a neighborhood where violence, drug deals, and prostitution were on the street corners. Perhaps everyone they've ever met has re-enforced the idea that they are worthless and will never do anything important in their life. Perhaps they were abused as a child, sexually, emotionally, spiritually crushed. Perhaps they've had times of homelessness and fear. Perhaps they grew up on the street from day one since their mother was a prostitute and never knew anything different. Perhaps they grew up hopeless. And hopelessness breeds laziness.
I'm not saying that tax-taking is a good thing. In fact, government handouts are actually another form of oppression, not just for the rich but also for the poor. I've stood in lines in the social security office and seen the look of misery on people's faces as they wait in line for a check to feed their belly, but receive no loving community support for their soul. These hand-outs create a cycle of dependency and re-enforces patterns of idleness and laziness. I've seen a gross thing in the poor neighborhood and it is this--many men are lazy and have a sense of entitlement. Why is this? If they are the son of a single welfare-mom it is because the only model they've seen for making money is waiting around to collect a check from the government.
But not all of the poor are lazy as little red hen would suppose. Many are hard-working. But because the poor are still having a hard time being accepted into the system of work in america, many turn to something that is more familiar to them and out of the government's control--the streets. They will turn to selling drugs, selling sex, or just plain hustlin' for cash. They are doing what they know to get what they need. This is not laziness. Don't assume that they could integrate into the system just as easily as you can and they don't because they are just lazy. You weren't raised the same as them and you've had many opportunities in life that the poor never have.
A solution will not come from the state--it will come from communities of people who embrace one another as equals and work together towards forgiveness and reconciliation in the name of Jesus. This is also known as the local church. If you church isn't this way, then change starts with you because you are a unique and vital part of said church.
I'll finish this with a passage of scripture which explains how one group of people, the Gentiles, were welcomed into the community of faith of another group of people--the Jews. The parallel is that the Jews had a system for thousands of years. They benefited from that system and did not often welcome non-Jews into that system. Then they welcomed people different from them to also benefit from that system. The Jew invited the Gentile to be grafted-in to the existing vine, in order to gain the same life-giving sap from the roots. We as the privileged of america, like the Jew in the passage, can welcome the tax-taker to benefit from the same system we do. Then they will become taxpayers.
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
(Ephesians 2:11-22 ESV)
Christ died for the taxpayer and the tax-taker alike. Let us welcome them both.
25th November 2012
Should I do this or that?
Many times in life we get stuck trying to categorize things as being good or bad; right or wrong; black or white. The truth is that there are many gray areas in life. I tend to focus on "doing the right thing" in every situation. I focus on "getting it right." But lately God has been teaching me that he's not as interested in me getting it right as he is in my doing it with him. God simply wants us to be with him, not go off on our own trying to make our own righteousness. "For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness...(Romans 10:3)" :
We get stuck trying to decide what to do. Should I go here or there? Should we do public, private, or home school? Should we watch this movie or eat this food? We try and categorize certain things as always bad or always good when really--many things just are.
Take as an example, the act of doing a political census. In Numbers chapter 1, Moses took a census and God blessed him. In 1Chronicles 21 David takes a census and God punishes for it being a sin. So is taking a census right or wrong? The truth is that it is neither.
It's all about God. See, in Numbers 1, God commands that Moses take a census. In 1Chronicles 21, David took a census because of his own pride.
This is what I keep praying for--wisdom. To know what to do not because there is a big list of do's and don'ts, but because I am living every day knowing the presence of God. He said that if anyone lacks wisdom, to simply ask him.
"For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes (romans 10:4)." We are no longer under any list of rights and wrongs. There are no rules for Christians; or rather, there is only one rule: Follow Jesus. Walk with him and talk with him. Be led by his Spirit, instead of own wisdom or your own ideas. We only follow Jesus. We don't live life with Jesus + rules or Jesus + tradition or Jesus + anything. It's simply Jesus.
27th June 2012
"Note that the following types of organization are NOT eligible for Google community grants: (1) organizations whose mission or activities include proselytizing on behalf of any religion, and (2) organizations that make hiring choices based on race, gender, faith, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability." :
So, essentially what this is saying is (1) We discriminate against you because of your religious practices (2) We will discriminate against you if you discriminate based on religious practices. Does anyone else see the contradiction here? This is basically saying that Google is allowed to discriminate based on religion and you are not. Therefore they don't even play by their own rules!
The background of all of this is this lie that's been floating around saying: "What's true for you is true for you; what's true for me is what's true for me. None of us can really know what's true." So it seems that the only thing that is ever wrong in this new age is thinking that you know the truth. And the capital sin is thinking you know the truth AND trying to convince others of it.
The glaring flaw is the assumption that the statement itself is true. Is it true that none of us really know the truth?
The law of non-contradiction states that contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense, e.g. the two propositions "A is B" and "A is not B" are mutually exclusive. Take the statement A: "Nobody knows the truth." and B:"Somebody knows the truth." A and B cannot both be true. One of them must be true. Let's say that A is the true one. Whoops! Can't do that, because that would be saying that I knew that statement A is true, whereas, statement A clearly indicates that nobody does. Therefore I am forced into B.
As Dr. Ravi Zacharias said: "If you try to clobber the law of non-contradiction, it will clobber you." Because as soon as you start arguing against it, you prove it to be true!
He argues very well against this line of thinking here
6th June 2012
Intellectualism necessary in Christianity
Jesus ministry looks strikingly different in Galilee verses Jerusalem. :
Galilee is the where simple folks live. These are people who prefer not to get involved in all of the ruckus of city life--politics, abstract art, university intellectualism. These are people who have their trade, they work hard to make a living and they have a family. There are about 20 miracles in Mark 1-11 interspersed with teaching. This is Jesus Galilean ministry.
After he entered Jerusalem, I'm having a hard time counting one miracle done by Jesus. The only miracle after his entry into Jerusalem may be the resurrection itself. What did Jesus ministry look like there in Jerusalem? It was much more intellectual. Jesus spent most of his time in the temple striking down every lofty argument presenting itself against the truth of God. After that "no one dared ask him any more questions."
I hear all you intellectuals out there saying by your actions that God doesn't do miracles anymore. Looking at the testimony of Scripture, perhaps you aren't standing in a place where you can see them.
I hear those of you who are excited to see and participate in the miracles of God. You need to know that Jesus could hold his own in an intellectual debate.
27th May 2012
Crossway raising money to deliver ESV Bible resources for Christians in China, India, and Africa
This is a letter I sent to Crossway about the fundraiser:
I would love to give toward providing bibles and printed resources for our brothers and sisters worldwide, but in the Holy Spirit, something seems missing if we only deliver resources to people. Why cannot we also receive resources from them?
I am often encouraged and inspired by writings and testimonies by such Chinese brothers as Mai Fu Ren, Brother Yun, and Watchman Nee. I am encouraged by the testimonies and teachings of Alex Awad, Tass Saada who are Palestinian Christians. They are indeed blessed because Jesus said "blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake--for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Believers who are not from the West can have great insight into the scriptures because they are not as encumbered by worldly passions and wealth. As Jesus said--how difficult it is for the wealthy to enter into the kingdom of heaven. And he also said that there is a seed of the word of God that is choked out by the cares for the world.
I understand that the current fundraising effort is for "delivering ESV Bible resources for Christians in great need -- China, India, and multiple countries in Africa." Could we not put an equal amount of funding to make sure that their pearls of wisdom about the scriptures are published and distributed here in the US?
Please bring this idea before your leaders and prayerfully consider it. Thank you very much. Grace and peace be with you.
23rd February 2012
10,000% guaranteed Return on Investment.
Sound too good to be true? This is the gospel! This is only exactly what Jesus said. :
And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
(Mark 10:24-31 ESV)
How does this actually play out? I look at the disciples. They had no place to rest their head; they went from house to house. And yet, every house they entered that welcomed them was their house for that time. So instead of one house, they were welcome in hundreds! I've found it to be true in my own life. I look at how I don't live near my mom or dad or sister, and yet I have such close relationships in the church. My peers are my brothers and sisters in Christ; The pastors are like fathers with wisdom and leadership. I look at City of Refuge, a non-profit in the city of Atlanta. They gave up everything for the cause of Christ. Someone paid millions at one time for the land on which their facilities rest. After much prayer and persuasion, the city gave all of the land to City of Refuge. I think of Hudson Taylor, who was compelled by the love of God to give away the last of his money to a poor, sick and dying family. He woke up to find in the mail 4x the amount he had given away. He exclaimed "Praise the Lord! Four hundred per cent for a twelve hours' investment! How glad the merchants of Hull would be if they could lend their money at such a rate of interest! (Hudson Taylor's spiritual secret
, Moody Publishers, pg 39)"
"Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed (Proverbs 19:17)."
So there you have it. It is possible to live in the kingdom of God--a different way of living that is truly better.
Join us! (all you have to do is give up everything to Jesus first) :-D
But is it really a sacrifice with such a high ROI backed by the King of the Universe? No, its no sacrifice; it's our joy.
"Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found, and hid. In his joy, he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field."
— Matthew 13:44
27th December 2011
Are you a scholar or a disciple?
Reading through Mark, I've been amazed at the difference between the scribes and the disciples. :
1. The scribes learn through reading, the disciples learn by looking at Jesus and doing what he does.
2. The scribes say all the right doctrine, but they don't actually live it.
3. The scribes have a propensity for arguing, especially pointing fingers at Jesus' disciples not doing something the "correct" way.
4. The scribes never see miracles, even if they are performed right in front of them.
5. The scribes ask to see miracles, but they do it to test Jesus and he performs no miracle for them.
6. The disciples are familiar with the teaching of the scribes, but they don't always fully understand it, so they ask Jesus to explain it to them. (Mark 9:11)
7. The scribes viewed the working of God as something of the past to be understood; rather than something of the present to be fulfilled. They knew all the signs of the coming messiah, and yet, when he came, they missed it.
8. In fact, the scribes and the Pharisees hunted down Jesus and killed him.
Jesus didn't ask his disciples to make scribes. He asked them to make disciples. I used to wonder if there was any hope for a scribe like me. Then God reminded me of the apostle Paul. He was a scribe too, and yet God saved him. Jesus, thank you for saving my life. Thank you for killing the scribe in me and fashioning a disciple for yourself.
22nd December 2011
God knowing you.
And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ :
(Matthew 7:23 ESV)
Doing good works is for the purpose of knowing God. These “workers of lawlessness” lost sight of that and they did the good works forgetting that their purpose was for knowing Him. But there’s something more. It’s a two-way relationship. Jesus said “I never knew you.” The implication is that he wanted to know them. God wants to know me. It’s obvious from looking at any magazine that people want to know those who are famous. We are supposed to know God. That’s clear. But does he want to know us? How many times does a famous person want to know you?
I asked him. Is it true you want to know me? You want to know me!?
I said: “I don’t know what I have to offer you. Whatever is sin, you cannot even see. You have no part of it. You don’t know that part of me. And whatever in me that is good you already know because it is already of you. What else is there to know?”
And he told me “You express who I am in a way that no one else on earth does.”
And then the scriptures made sense to me. I do not express the full identity and character of Christ. He said that we all (collectively, in the context of the church) express Him.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
(Ephesians 4:11-13 ESV)
We attain the unity of faith and the knowledge of Jesus, to maturity, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Is that not the point of the body of Christ? I am a part of his body. Alone, I cannot fully express the character of Christ; but in the context of the church is where his fullness dwells. God wants to know you in order to see a unique expression of who he is. After all, isn’t this the delight of a Father? He looks at his children. They aren’t him, but they are like him and he enjoys that. He delights to see how his children express a part of who he is. And together, all of his children give a more accurate picture of who he is.
Some are compassionate. Others are firey preachers. Some have mercy. Others are bold. Some are go-getters; others come alongside. It is only together that we have any hope of fully expressing who God is to a world that is in desperate need of knowing who he is.
16th November 2011
Prominence vs. Preeminence part 2
I realized there is a third assumption that has been recently challenged. :
3. Your work defines you.
This is particularly prevalent in our culture. I've heard that here people ask "How are you?" and "What do you do?" to get to know a person. I've heard in Africa they ask "Who are you?" I asked a middle-eastern Christian what he does. First he said that he is a husband and a father. Then he told me what he does to make a living. He did not define himself by his work.
Under this assumption, if you really love God, you must do full-time ministry. If your work is what defines you, then you must be defined as one who does God's work.
Those who believe Jesus have been given a new identity independent of what they happen to do for a living.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
(2 Corinthians 5:16-17 ESV)
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
(1 Peter 2:9-10 ESV)
Christians primary identity rests in being a chosen, holy, beloved, accepted child of God. Everything flows from their new identity in Christ.
14th November 2011
Prominence vs Preeminence
I was called to ministry when I 18 years old. There were two fundamental assumptions behind this call that I believed at that age. :
1. Regular work and God's work are mutually exclusive.
2. God's work is done by people on church staff, and the rest of the people just do regular work.
These two assumptions have been severely challenged as I have sought to find out what my calling means.
I used to see a distinction between full-time work and full-time ministry. There used to be a separation between "time set-apart for the benefit of others--ministry" and then there's the rest of your life (which I guess would be time for the benefit of me). You know, you work 9-5 and then volunteer at the homeless shelter for a couple hours afterwards. There's a separation. You don't minister at work, and you don't work for money while you minister. Separate. This assumes that work to benefit others cannot benefit me or that work that benefits me cannot benefits others.
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (Romans 12:1 ESV)." Christ didn't die to gain someone who would be willing to help out with the homeless every once-in-awhile. Christ died and resurrected to give me an entirely new life. My entire life is ministry. Full-time ministry isn't enough. It's only 40 hours a week. I live 168 hours in a week. Christ didn't come to gain part of me, he came to gain all of me.
We live in a spectator culture. We watch TV. We watch sports. We watch YouTube. We watch our Facebook status updates. We watch celebrities. We watch movies. And somehow it just naturally rubbed off in our churches. We come to hear some music and watch a preacher. Then we go home. No interaction. No conflict. No problems. We watch and pay the professionals to "do ministry." Yet see what the bible says: "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12 ESV)." The job of the pastor isn't described as doing ministry, it's described as helping others do their ministry.
This life I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. It is his ministry. Lord, help me.
5th November 2011
Interesting Dream last night
Okay so I had a dream that I was driving around Atlanta. I was going north on 85 following my GPS and it told me to go east on 285, so I went east. I had a feeling I should have gone west. Sure enough, the GPS took me in a big loop and I ended up where I had to make the decision to go east or west again. But before I could make the decision, traffic came to a halt. The highway turned into a roller coaster. The only problem was that our car was stuck. And we were about to come to the part of the roller coaster where it does a twisting barrel-roll. But our car wasn't going fast enough to make it. So the car fell into the water below. Then we had to hold onto the roller-coaster tracks like monkey-bars. So we started inching our way forward so we could finally get on 285 west. But the junction was 2 miles away and we would have to monkey-bar the whole way there, as the tracks began to ascend higher and higher. I became more and more nervous about falling into the water 70 feet below. Every grab I took with my arms made me weaker and weaker. Finally, I lost all strength and fell into the water below. :
Then I woke up.
This is the Atlanta highway system in my subconscious, and it isn't very far from the truth. Please, can we fix it? Thanks.
4th November 2011
How to make an executable script in Mac OS X without Apple Script
I searched around for this and didn't find anything very useful on the internet, so I thought I would share. :
Background: I setup my desktop as a media server. It has a nice screen and speakers, unlike the laptops in our place. We use it as a DVD Player and for iTunes. I like to remotely login to it in order to change the song. So I downloaded Remote Desktop onto the Mac. It's not a polished program and one of the most irritating things is that it doesn't remember the last connection you made, so it makes you click Open->File to open the same connection. ... Isn't there a command line parameter we could use at startup to specify that file and avoid having to click it every time?
Here's how to make a script that will do that for you! I had a lot of fun doing this.
1. Open up TextEdit.
2. Copy paste the command into the editor:
#! /usr/bin/env bash
open -a "Remote Desktop Connection" "/users/cwoolfe/documents/RDC connections/Chris-Media"
(You could modify it to point to your program and your parameter if you wanted.)
3. Go to Format->Make Plain Text. This will remove the hidden font and formatting information from the file. Otherwise, that hidden information would get in the way of execution.
4. Go to File->Save As "Chris-Media" and save it on the desktop.
5. The OS needs to know it has permission to execute this code, so open up a Terminal window and cd to the file location. Then run "chmod +x Chris-Media"
6. The script works now, but you can't run it by double clicking. To fix this, right-click (Command+click) the file and select "Open With" and then select the Terminal, and check "always".
7. Now you can double click, but the icon is a confusing-looking piece of paper. To change it, go to the Finder and right-click your original Remote Desktop icon and go to "Get Info." look in the top left corner and you'll see the icon (not the bottom!) command+click again to copy it and then open the same "Get Info" window for your script icon and paste it in the upper left corner. Voila!
8. Finally, you may notice the terminal window hangs around after it executed. You can remove that by going to Terminal->Preferences->Shell and select "Close the Window" "When the Shell exits."
This also happens to be generally the same steps you would take to run any script on your unix-based machine. See, aren't you glad you learned? Thought so.
25th October 2011
The cause of the immigrants, single-moms, and fatherless
Like a cage full of birds, :
their houses are full of deceit;
therefore they have become great and rich;
they have grown fat and sleek.
They know no bounds in deeds of evil;
they judge not with justice
the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper,
and they do not defend the rights of the needy.
(Jeremiah 5:27-28 ESV)
“For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.
(Jeremiah 7:5-7 ESV)
God calls for justice for immigrants, single-moms, and fatherless children. He calls for an end to their oppression.
Are they not oppressed? I didn't think so until I began to walk with them. It's funny how it's much easier to tell when you are being treated with injustice than it is to tell if someone else is. Immigrants could have probably prospered in their native land where they know the language, culture, customs, laws, and have the support of their family. When a person moves to a new country, it is a new language, culture, customs, laws, and they may be the first family that moved. Immigrants and refugees rely on the hospitality and kindness of those around them in order to help them function in this new place.
I think that the tri-fold group is oppressed not in an active way, but in a passive way. They are oppressed by a general reluctance to include them in anything because, at first, they would only be a burden. People don't think to include immigrants, single-moms and the fatherless because there's nothing in it for them.
Shall I not punish them for these things?
declares the LORD,
and shall I not avenge myself
on a nation such as this?”
(Jeremiah 5:29 ESV)
Friends, we must repent because God's judgment is coming. We must seek to include the immigrants, single-moms, and the fatherless in the things we do that prosper so that they can prosper also; that there may be justice.
24th October 2011
The Hate of God
I will make three points. One, that God rejects and opposes those who refuse to repent. Two, that he rejects and opposes people in order to cause them to repent. Three, that his goal in all of this is reconciliation. :
“I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob's brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the LORD of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the LORD is angry forever.’” Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!”
(Malachi 1:2-5 ESV)
Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.
(Psalm 139:21-22 ESV)
To hate is to reject, despise, and oppose someone or something. Clearly God hates sin, but does he hate people? According to the previous two verses, he does. How can this be?
Psalm 51:17 says "a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Therefore God will not reject someone who hates their sin and wants to change. The logical counterpart in this statement is that he does reject those who love their sin and don't want to change. This accords with James 4:6 which says “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6 ESV)" Clearly God opposes people who are proud and think they don't need God. This is a form of rejection and hatred. Jesus gave no miracle when the proud Pharisees demanded one, and yet he gave miracle after miracle to those who trusted him.
This rejection accords with how God teaches us to treat people who call themselves believers but live a lifestyle of sin and don't want to change. "But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. (1 Corinthians 5:11 ESV)" “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. (Matthew 18:15 ESV) Therefore "gaining your brother" (reconciliation) is the goal of the confrontation. "...God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil... (2 Timothy 2:24-26 ESV)"
The goal of God's rejection (hatred) is reconciliation. This accords with how God treats us. He rejects us and actively opposes us when we love sin more than him. He causes things to go very badly for us in order that we would see the error in our ways and turn to him.
Hear, O earth; behold, I am bringing disaster upon this people,
the fruit of their devices,
because they have not paid attention to my words;
and as for my law, they have rejected it.
(Jeremiah 6:19 ESV)
O LORD, do not your eyes look for truth?
You have struck them down,
but they felt no anguish;
you have consumed them,
but they refused to take correction.
They have made their faces harder than rock;
they have refused to repent.
(Jeremiah 5:3 ESV)
“Come, let us return to the LORD;
for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
(Hosea 6:1 ESV)
“For my name's sake I defer my anger,
for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,
that I may not cut you off.
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
for how should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.
(Isaiah 48:9-11 ESV)
John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
(Mark 1:4 ESV)
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
(1 John 1:8-9 ESV)
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
(Isaiah 55:7 ESV)
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the LORD will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.
(Isaiah 58:9-12 ESV)
23rd July 2011
The ministry of death and the ministry of the Spirit
The truth is that I struggle with the fear of man. The fear of rejection. So sometimes I do what other people want me to instead of what I know God wants me to. The truth is that God accepts me the way I am. No matter my performance. No matter my behavior. Romans 15:7 is the contains the proof: "Accept one another just as Christ as accepted you so that God will given glory." Just as Christ has accepted you. Wow. It's hard for me to believe that because I know who I am and how many times I fail to do his will. But the truth is that my standing before God has nothing to do with how many times I fail but on the victory of Jesus Christ. "For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17)" :
Let me contrast the ministry of the Spirit with the ministry of death. When I understand that God accepts me, I welcome others just as Christ welcomes me. This is the ministry of the Spirit. This contrasts the ministry of the letter, of the law, and of death comes with condemnation. This is the preacher on the corner handing out nothing but wrath and condemnation. This is the ministry that results in that guilty feeling coupled with no hope. The ministry that leads you to frustration because you know that whoever is putting this law on you hasn't even kept it themselves. Hypocrites. This is the ministry that would say to me "You keep doing what other people want you do do instead of what God wants you to do. You're not doing well. You need to to be a better Christian."
ESV study bible puts it this way "The letter kills since it announces God's will without granting the power to keep it, thereby bringing people under God's judgment as covenant breakers. The Spirit alone gives life because only the Spirit can change the heart, thereby enabling God's people to keep his commands."
It's not that the ministry of death isn't stating a fact; it's that it has no power to change the heart. We are unlike God in that we believe that people change through guilt-trips. Now read 2Corinthians 3:5-11
Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses' face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.
(2 Corinthians 3:5-11 ESV)
The law for my situation is "You need to accept other people. You need to not be conformed to other people. You need to stop fearing what people will think." It's negative. It's condemnation.
It's only the beginning, and it's coming to an end.
The glory of the truth that follows in the Spirit eclipses the condemnation: "You are loved by God. You are accepted by God. There's nothing you could do to change that. He thinks about you all the time." What naturally follows is the power to keep the command "accept other people," because it rests on the foundation of God's acceptance.
As Christians, we must no longer operate in the ministry of the letter of the law, death, and condemnation because this ministry is over. God's word and his law still stands. It is till true. The Ten commandmentsIs this not what it says? "God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit," and later, "what once had glory has come to have no glory at all." There is no glory in condemning people. Now, it says "no glory at all" Does this not mean that God receives no glory from the ministry of condemnation? For if there is "no glory at all" that means no glory. At all. Not for anybody. Not for anything.
Now, I used to operate very much in evangelism using the ten commandments. It was and is my understanding that people need to understand how sinful they are and how holy God is before they can come to him. But is this the ministry we have been given? I stood on the NASB translation of Galatians 3:24 "Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith." But the greek is ambiguous and the context is revealing. Let's read it in the ESV "So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, (Galatians 3:24-25 ESV)" Again there Paul goes again de-emphasizing the law, saying that we are no longer under it. That now in Christ we have something better.
Perhaps the principle still stands "Law for the proud, grace for the humble." Jesus did bring the proud rich young ruler to the law, while giving grace to the humble prostitute washing his feet with her tears. Last night, hanging out with those like the prostitute has helped me to understand the ministry of grace so much more.