Forgiveness…the essential first step.

This is so timely:

I found this video today on a friend’s facebook page.  I love God’s little ‘coincidences!’  It is especially timely as I had been entrenched the last couple of days in a blog dealing with racism.  Within the thread(s) I finally expressed my own frustration with attempting to address the issue and concluded that it could not be done without going to the root and addressing the underlying sin issue.  There is only one cure for sin and that is forgiveness.  Since all sin ultimately is against God – we must come to Jesus Christ, the means of His forgiveness.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23, NIV)

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.” (Luke 23:34, NIV)

We must realize that we all have sin and come to Jesus to receive His forgiveness.  Then we are able to go and give the forgiveness that we have freely received.

Forgiveness does not deny past or even present injustice.  But when we fail to forgive we build our own prison, and will not be happy until every one else is in there with us – and even with company in our misery, we still are miserable.  But having an attitude of forgiveness puts us in a place where we are able to move beyond, to establish relationship through reconciliation.  We are freed.  Then we are able to move forward seeking justice together.

Immaculee gives us a tremendous example of forgiveness overcoming horrific injustice.  It all began with prayer:

“This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’” (Matthew 6:9-13, NIV)

And then Immaculee realized that hate was trying to grow in her own heart, then a conviction, and then a simple decision not to hate but to overcome hate with forgiveness.  Wow!!!  God’s grace grows and flows in the midst of hatred and  injustice.

Forgiveness is the essential first step towards true reconciliation and to overcoming racism and injustice in our world.  Freedom comes through forgiveness.  It is the essential first step.  And it begins with Jesus Christ who forgave us at the peak of His pain so that we could be free.  Freely we have been forgiven, freely we must forgive.

You have made known to me the path of life

A miktam of David. Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge. I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods. I will not pour out their libations of blood or take up their names on my lips. Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16, NIV)

May we Bless the Lord and choose the path of life for ourselves and those who cannot choose it for themselves.  Choose blessing and life today!

Who is this King of Glory?

ps-24

photo by sixsteps

Of David. A psalm. The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters. Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob.Selah Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty— he is the King of glory.Selah” (Psalm 24, NIV)

I loved reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy and enjoyed it even more when leavingtheshireable to see the movies.  As I read this Psalm this morning I flashed back to them and the mixed emotions of the hobbits in the midst of the battle.  They longed for the comfort and security of their ‘shire’.  Within the shire they were free from worries with a sort of childlike innocence, unaware of the impending conflict around them.  As followers of Christ, we have a similar desire.  God has brought us close to Him through Christ.  Formerly, we did not have clean hands nor pure hearts and we were literally at war with God, seeking after many idols and making idols of ourselves.  But through Christ’s sacrifice, we were washed clean, purified, and brought close to dwell with the One true living God.  Our desire is to simply stay with Him on His mountain, experiencing again that childlike innocence free from worry – and He does provide that.  But there is much more to following.

Psalm 24 also speaks of this King of Glory, the one that lifts our heads, as being mighty in battle, yes mighty in battle.  It speaks of Ancient Gates being lifted up.  I first think of the gates of my own heart allowing Christ’s love to come in to dwell and save me.  But I think it is as much a call to go out into the field of battle with Him.

I have wrestled with this tension between the two greatly.  Especially as I write these posts.  Even within my own soul I feel this dual reality happening.  I see so much darkness on the horizon for our nation and I truly expect increasing antagonism and real persecution in the future for those who stand up and follow Christ.  At the same time, I feel tremendous excitement and encouragement by what I sense God doing within my heart and what I therefore anticipate Him doing within His church.

Just as those hobbits were faced with unpleasant circumstance, so they chose to go out into the battle rather than retreat to the shire.  They could not fully comprehend the difficulties they would face, but realized that they and many others would lose all if they did not risk all.  In the end of course, they completed their perilous journey victoriously.

Some preachers would tell proclaim peace and safety, that the church needn’t worry about such trials and tribulations, and that we’ll be out of here before the real battle.  That would be great!  But, I’m not one of them.  No, the hope that seems quite clear in the Scriptures, is not that we will be spared tribulation, but that we will be sustained through tribulation and on the other side emerge victorious alongside our Mighty King of Glory.

To those who have not yet trusted in Christ, it is time to open the gates and let Him come into your heart – that He might cleanse you and bring you to His holy mountain.

Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.

For those who know Him and have seen Him on His holy mountain, it is time to follow Him down the mountain.  It is time to storm the gates of hell, following our Mighty King of Glory, into the battle to set the captives free reclaiming them for our King.

Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty— he is the King of glory.

Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?

” As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”” (John 9:1-5, NIV)

babys-hope

photo by kton25

The creation of human life, God’s crowning jewel for His creation.  I have had the privilege of seeing my three children make their arrival 9 months after their life began.  There is nothing like that truly miraculous experience – witnessing new life.  God’s word teaches us that each life and every life is fearfully and wonderfully made and that He knows each one as he or she is knit within the womb (Psalm 139:13-14).  God simply does not make mistakes.  Unfortunately, we have a terrible tendency to think we know better.

It was clear to the disciples that something had gone wrong for this man to have been born blind from birth.  Jesus made it clear that he was born this way not because of sin but that God might be glorified through him.  That of course is the same purpose each of us have and aspire to.  Where man sees defect, God sees the beauty of His creation.

Nick Vujicic was born without arms and legs – clearly so that God might be glorified through him.  His life rather than a tragedy by ‘defect’ is  a testimony by God’s design.  Jesus was glorified as he healed the blind man, today Jesus is glorified as he heals spirits through Nick.

But in today’s Brave New World, science promises to heal us from these ‘defects’.  In fact, lives like Nick’s, can be spared completely from suffering a diminished quality of life.  We can legally end their lives before they or more importantly we are burdened by them.  Sound barbaric?  It is, and it isn’t some dark science fiction story.  It is today’s reality.  Of course, Nick is very happy to be alive and countless other lives have been blessed through his being alive.

There was no sin causing the blind man, nor Nick to have been born with such adversity.  But it is a barbaric sin for man to prevent those like them from being born.  Who sinned?  We have and are.  You who have ears to hear and eyes to see, you who have legs, get up and walk!  You have arms, reach out!  You have a voice in America, it’s time you use it.  America, best get busy while it is still day – the sun is starting to set.

Two Great Contenders for the Soul of Mankind

fiery-furnace

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”” (Daniel 3:16-18, NIV)

I have recently been ‘reunited’ with some of my treasured books that had been in storage.  As I was doing some reviewing I came across a great commentary in Charles Colson’s ‘Kingdoms in Conflict’ that I thought worth sharing.  With all of the fanfare of Gen Y, it occurred to me that they have grown up unaware of ‘The Cold War’.  Indeed, GenX and the boomers may well have forgotten it as a thing of the past.  That battle ended when the Berlin wall came down right?  No, that evil philosophy is alive and well.  Perhaps changing its colors and morphing its terminology (Liberation Theology), but far from dead.  It’s actually becoming quite ‘popular’.  But Charles Colson explains the reality:

Why is the conflict between the Christian church and the Marxist state so fundamental, ceaseless, and protracted?

Many in the seculared, tolerant West are offended by terms like “mortal enemies,” preferring to see Communists as a particularly enthusiastic band of social reformers and the church as one of the many social institutions that must adapt to changing political circumstances.  History, however, teaches a different lesson.  Communism and Christianity are at odds for very good reasons.

First, Christianity and Communism are irreconcilable in their basic premises.  The Christian believes that the dynamic of all history is spiritual, that its unfolding reveals God’s dealings with men, that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, and that at the end of history, He will reign over all the nations.

For Marxists, the material realm is all there is.  God and the spiritual order are illusions.  Mankind swims in the current of history, which progresses by economic forces from the decline of capitalism, through the dictatorship of the proletariat, to the earthly paradise of the classless society.  Communists are materialists and determinists; individuals count for nothing, the collective or state for everything…

Marxists claim that their system is scientific, in contrast to the “superstition” of Christianity.

I hope that you were able to recognize at least a few of those ideas that are becoming prevalent in our headlines.  I hope that last line sends a chill up and down your spine.  Even though the blood of so many Christian martyrs of the last century has barely dried, we have moved on and forgotten that there is a spiritual war raging over the soul of mankind.  Colson goes on to explain:

The Christian church and the Marxist state may work out an accommodation for a time, but they will always be adversaries.  The very nature of each makes any lasting accommodation impossible.  They are the two great contenders for the soul of mankind.

As our President vows and many in our nation applaud the ‘restoration’ of science to its rightful place and has commited to remove any hindrance, we surely are moving into A Brave New World.  The objective ‘scientist’ unbounded will be able to determine right and wrong, free from politics (your will and mine).  Of course right and wrong, those are just so passe these days.  Can they even be defined anymore?

auschwitz-track1

photo by vm_ramos

Are you ready to be brave…for the name of Christ?  Will you be a contender for faith in Jesus Christ or will you be a passive bystander as another contender steams forward?  It will march over the defenseless unborn, it will march over the elderly, it will march over the sick, and then it will march over you.  The track to Auschwitz was not built in a day.  The German people did not wake up one day and decide to do atrocious unethical, unthinkable things to other human beings.  No it was a slow substitution of ‘quality of life’  in the place of ‘sanctity of life’.  It was the economy stupid… and they looked the other way… until it was too late.  Then they looked in stunned and ashamed disbelief of what they had done and become.  Do I sound like an alarmist?  I hope so, because I am.  Our current trends run almost as parallel as the tracks shown here.  Will you stand or look for a means of compromise?  After all what does faith have to do with politics?  It’s a private matter right?  No, it is not.  Will you turn a blind eye, justify a simple vote, will you choose a false economic hope over Christian moral conviction, will you shrug off the trend towards the ever-increasing power of a secular State.

Or will you stand up and say enough is enough.  Will you contend for truth in the public square.  Will you put your votes where your Christian convictions are?  Shadrach, Meshack, Abednego and countless followers of Christ in the last century, in the last few decades, in the last day, have taken their stand.  What will you do?  You best get ready either way, because the train is coming.

You Don’t Have the Right to Remain Silent!

“When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”” (1 Kings 18:17, NIV)

shhh

photo by citizen_poeta

That Phillips, Craig, and Dean song “You Don’t Have the Right to Remain Silent’ could not be more appropriate today.  For a long time the evangelical church has slowly bought into the idea that faith belongs in the private domain and should be ‘separate’ from the public square.  Biblical convictions are converted to individual opinion and considered irrelevant to discussions about public policy and action.

More in reflecting than in leading the white evangelical spirit of his age, Moody, as if in conscious reaction to the political overcommitments of evangelicals during and after the Civil War, guided his audiences away from external and social duties toward a consideration of inner and personal states of being. Along with large segments of the Protestant world, Moody’s heightened stress on personal piety seemed to entail a decrease of interest in social conditions…The end result from shifting theological emphases toward the turn of the century was that the more conservative and pietistic elements of American Protestantism were neutering the social impact of Christian faith even as many evangelicals continued to find manifold resources in traditional Christianity for private devotion and domestic guidance.

Mark A. Noll, God and Race in American Politics: A Short History, 2008, p 79-80

gag-order

photo by gitgat

May we, at the turn of this century, recover our societal duties, while maintaining fervent in our private piety and devotion.  As we pursue and live out our saving relationship with Jesus Christ, our Risen and Reigning Lord, let us become the salt and light in this world that He has called us to be.  When we rightfully reject the deception that faith is to be relegated to the private realm, we are received with the same warmth that Elijah received from a wicked King “Is that you, troubler of America, this is not a theocracy, keep your morality to yourself and Sunday morning’.  Sadly, we have all too often complied.

It is hightime the church found her voice.  We are heading into perilous times and personal piety and devotion are the starting point, but they MUST NOT be the ending point. When one looks back at Nazi Germany, a common question is ‘Where was the church?’  The church had lost her voice. There were exceptions within her of course who stood boldly for truth.  Their time in the prayer closet led them to also stand and proclaim truth boldly in the public square.  They were willing to learn the true cost of discipleship, their lives.  May we be willing to follow their faithful examples and found worthy of their company in the coming Day of our Lord.

“The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just.” (Psalm 37:30, NIV)

In order to do so, we must begin to pray less for comfort and pray more for courage.

“Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.” (Psalm 37:8, NIV)
Lord, as we move our faith from private piety and devotion to the public square, to engage the growing darkness, help us to remember that your cause has already won our righteousness and that it will in the end overcome all the evil schemes of man and that Your sovereignty is even more certain than the shining of the sun. Help us as we seek to speak truth into this fallen world, to not do so in the angry arrogance of ‘what we think’, but in the calm confidence of knowing Who You Are.

“For [You] did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7, NIV)

Lord, may Your love  compel us to live our faith boldly and publicly.

When can I go and meet with Him?

I am thirsty for God. I am thirsty for the living God. When can I go and meet with him?” (Psalm 42:2, NIrV)

There have been times when attending worship has been like checking one more thing off of that day’s checklist.  And there have been days when God has spoken, but it has been one voice amongst so many running through my mind even in the middle of the service.  But there have been many more like those of the last couple months, in which, like the verse above, my heart has been prepared and overflowing.  When can I go? I have found myself yearning for the worship service.  Not for lack of God’s presence or His voice, quite the opposite.  As I explained to the boys this evening, God has been giving so much to me during the week through regular devotional times and readings that I look forward to that hour of worship more than any other, as an opportunity simply to lift my soul up to my Savior.  To focus all of my attention, all of my imagination, and all of my adoration upward to the one true lover of my soul.

thoroughbreds

photo by digitalink

I asked my boys why they like to sit on my lap and they responded – because I’m their dad and I love them and I take care of them and they want to be close to me.  It was the simplest way for me to explain why that hour is so special.  It is when I can look up from God’s feet and I can see up to His knees and just beyond His lap, where I want to be – because He loves me and takes care of me and I only want to be close to Him and to enjoy His presence.

satisfied-horse1

photo by deljenphotography

Psalm 42 describes a deer panting for water as a metaphor for that thirst and desire for God.  Honestly, I’ve never seen a deer panting for water and it doesn’t come close to describing the amps running through my soul in anticipation of worship.  On Saturday, I could only think of thoroughbred racehorses primed and ready looking for the gate to fly open, ready to burst through and charge forward toward their prize.  That is the way my soul felt within me in its desire to worship before the throne of God!  To shout out ‘Here is My God – He is my God and My Savior!’  Oh Lord may it always be so – that the cry of my heart be to praise and worship you and you alone, for You alone satisfy and You alone are worthy!