Christianity 201

August 28, 2015

Scripture Medley: Light

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Light is a factor in the name of the ministry organization which I work with.

Light is a factor in the name of the commercial ministry entity which occupies many of my waking hours. A searchlight can shine into the night saying, ‘something is happening here;’ but can also be mounted on a boat, airplane or vehicle to search for the lost. In today’s devotional, the meaning is different, the light of God is the light of truth, exposing and convicting people of sin.

It turned out we weren’t the only devotional website doing a scripture medley last week. Daily Encouragement spent two days considering Spiritual Troglomorphism. (Don’t worry, it’s not going to be on your systematic theology exam.) You can read the two articles here and here. Part two also contained an exposition of John 3 which follows.

  • “You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light” (2 Samuel 22:29).
  • “He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings utter darkness into the light” (Job 12:22).
  • “You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light” (Psalm 18:28)
  • “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).
  • “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2). (This was quoted by Jesus when He began to preach Matthew 4:12-17).
  • “But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23)
  • “When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
  • “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness” (John 12:46).
  • “I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:17,18).
  • “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12).
  • “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).
  • “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).
  • ‘You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:5).
  • “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).
  • “Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:8)

John 3:16 is certainly one of the best known verses in the entire Bible. Most of our readers can quote it from memory and more than a few can go on and quote verse 17 as well, “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.”

However the understandable grandeur of John 3:16 may tend to diminish the rich, instructive material that follows. Bible students differ as to whether John 3:16-21 are the words of Jesus following His discourse with Nicodemus or whether these are the interpretive words of John when he wrote his gospel late in the 1st century. Either way they are God’s inspired Word!

Regardless of whether these are the words of Jesus or a part of John’s inspired teaching we should seek to understand this portion in its context. Today’s text is a macro assessment of the human race.

“This is the verdict.” (NIV)  Other translations render it “this is the judgment” (NASV, ESV), “The [basis of the] judgment (indictment, the test by which men are judged, the ground for the sentence) lies in this” (Amplified), “This is why people are condemned” (GW) The sense is that what follows is the explanation for man’s condition.

“Light has come into the world.” The Greek has the definite article “the” before light and we believe this is very significant. In the Gospel and Epistles of John “the light” is Jesus Christ (see John 1:4-9; 8:12: 9:5; 12:46; 1 John 1:5). The Light coming into the world is at the very heart of the Gospel message.

“But men loved darkness instead of light.”  Again we have the definite article in the Greek prior to both light and darkness precisely reading, “But men loved the darkness instead of the light.” (See here for Greek interlinear scrolling down to v.19.) This is a matter of fact statement that explains much about human nature and the response to the Gospel. Many people would prefer to live in the darkness rather than the light. This preference, a result of the fall, leads to spiritual troglomorphism.

“Because their deeds were [are] evil.” For those of us living in the glorious light of Jesus Christ we marvel that anyone would choose darkness but many do. The awful consequence of spiritual troglomorphism* is that the more one spends in darkness his eyesight for spiritual things is diminished and he increasingly becomes blinded.

The next verse continues, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (John 3:20).  And, of course, many are unwilling to do that so they continue to live in the darkness. In fact they become spiritual nyctophiliacs who love the darkness.

When we come into the light we must deal with our evil deeds, confess, and repent. As we do so we experience another word with morphis in it, metamorphisis in Romans 12:2, which is translated transformed!

Today, we encourage believers all over the world to join us as we live in the light of Christ and walk according to the light of His Word! May this statement be true of us today, that we love light rather than darkness! We come under the truth of Jesus Christ: “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God” (John 3:21).

Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber


*You’ll have to click through to the original articles to get this!

July 12, 2015

Turning a Sinner — Who is Among You — From Error

NIV James 5:19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

The last two verses in the book of James are not typical of the way an epistle usually ends. They have been the subject of much writing. After clicking through more than a dozen options which I rejected (too long, audio link to sermons, forcing the text to address another agenda, etc.) I settled on these.

To kick things off, two short answers from a Catholic forum (yes really!) starting with:

This verse is somewhat ambiguous in the way that it’s written; given the way it’s constructed, it’s a reasonable question to ask “whose soul is saved? whose sins are covered? The revert, or the person who brought him back?”

Clearly, sacramental absolution — that is, ‘confession’ — is a necessary part of every Catholic’s life, and the letter to James isn’t suggesting an alternate path to forgiveness. With that in mind, and given some of the textual clues in the letter, it seems reasonable to suggest that a person who brings back a person to the faith is part of the process by which that person’s soul is saved, and is part of the dynamic by which that fallen-away Christian’s sins may be wiped away — none of which would have happened if that person didn’t bring the fallen-away Christian back into the fold!

And:

Scholars are divided to the exact meaning. What seems clear is the importance placed on the corporeal work of mercy of regaining a lost brother. “will save his soul from death” more likely refers to the lost brother’s not the re-gainer since the confession and apostasy seem to be chief concerns. “A multitude of sins”: some scholars say of the lost, some the re-gainer, some say both. The language is similar to 1 Pt 4:8 and Prov 10:12. These verses seem disconnected from the preceding ones. A practical thought might be that if your brother remained heretical, he may persuade others in his way, whereas due to your intervention, your brother returned and no longer persuaded others (that’s just a thought). But there is no question that the writers thought communally of both sin and benefit of fervent prayer.

Sorry, nothing definitive. Hope it helps.

Still with us?  Here’s a point-form outline from a local Church of Christ assembly that was simply immune to all attempts to copy and paste.

Finally, from the website Pure Unadulterated Grace, one more response. This is lengthier than I’ve reproduced here, so you’re encouraged to read it in context.

The word “save” in James 5:15 means exactly what it meant in verse 20.  Our opponents like to read, “save a soul” as meaning “saved from eternal damnation” but the context clearly does not allow for that rendering, as the “save the sick” in verse 15 clearly was not “saved from damnation.”  One can see that the “save” of verse 15 continued with the same meaning into verse 20.  The word “save” was already defined by the context (vs. 15), so if “save” in verse 20 referred to another type of saving then James would have made it clear.  The word “soul” had to do with the physical life of a person that flows consistently with the previous verses of one that was sick, and this was the saving in the context.  To read “saved or healed the sick” in verse 15, but “saved from eternal damnation” in verse 20 is simply being entirely dishonest with the context.

Verse 19 makes it clear that James was addressing “Brethren” who very well might “err from the truth.”  It would be another “brethren” (not God) to convert him from the “errors of his way” as it was not a “brethren” lost again being saved from eternal damnation.  This again flows with the context of restoration and not a person spared eternal damnation by hearing the gospel afresh.

People see the word “convert” and immediately assume that it refers to being saved by grace that is not in the context here, but rather it refers to the errors one has turned after.  It certainly can refer to one that is in darkness coming to see the light, but the context always determines that and never leaves us guessing.  Convert simply means to “turn back, to return.”  The brethren was to turn back to the truth and no longer the error he fell into, as this was not a “return back to eternal life.”  Nothing even states the loss of salvation.

Verse 20:  Who here is hiding a multitude of sins?  God?  No, He is not in the context here.  God forgives sins and not hides them.  Some try to say “hide” means forgiveness, but God does not merely veil our sins today but rather He takes them away.  You will find one parallel passage to what you read here in James 5:20 in 1st Peter 4:8:

8And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

This paragraph is important: Was Peter saying that our love would cause God to forgive a multitude of sins of another believer?  No, so neither was James saying that our converting the “brethren” from error would cause God to forgive him of a multitude of sins, but that is what our opponents would like for us to think that James was saying.  This is not a brethren being forgiven again by God, but being restored by a fellow “brethren.”  This is not a believer being saved a second time from eternal damnation, but rather being restored by a fellow “brethren.”

…The person that erred was to be restored in love, and not with “turn or burn” type of nonsense.  This is a practice seldom seen in the church today, because the treatment a person receives for falling away can be quite abusive.  A person often is embarrassed to come back to the truth because of all the gossipers and the ill speech found in most religions today.  A person does not care to come back to the faith where they feel only judgment and glaring eyes await them.

I talk to people all the time that have been rejected by family and friends.  People do not want to stand before a large congregation and ask for forgiveness for whatever it was they did wrong, as religion abuses scripture and people.  These poor souls have no business confessing their sins before a large congregation, as they do not need reconciliation from Joe Smith that they do not know personally, and have not offended personally.  James 5:19-20 clearly was restoration and not preaching fear or guilt tactics.  The hiding a multitude of sins was the fellow brethren accepting the other brethren and their faults, and not God forgiving the person.

James 5:19-20 is not even remotely teaching eternal damnation, loss of salvation, the gospel, God forgiving the erring brethren, or saving him a second or third time from eternal damnation.  Once we stop adding words nowhere stated in the passage is when everything tends to clear up.  Our opponents focused on the words “saved from death…cover a multitude of sins” and have ran off with it ignoring the entire context.

It was the “brethren” that was doing the “converting,” it was the “brethren” that was doing the “saving,” and it was the “brethren” doing the hiding of a “multitude of sins” here.  Religion has allowed our eyes to see words and ideas nowhere presented in the context.  If this passage scared you before then read it again and notice that James preached no fear there at all, but loving restoration only.


I think that various commentaries can give us hints as to the meaning, but probably the framework through which you’re reading this may lead you to a more individual response. Like so many other scripture passages, I think this one is meant to challenge us to think! If you have any thoughts on this passage, be sure to leave a comment.

March 3, 2015

A Good Confession

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In a church we attended years ago, a part of the service called “The Prayer of Confession” was always followed by “The Assurance of Pardon.” Too many times I think confession ends without an opportunity to rest in the assurance of pardon, or as this article proposes, outright celebration.

A year ago Thinking Out Loud linked to an article by Cedric Lundy at the blog So Says Ced. He doesn’t post often, but I thought this piece was worthy of our consideration.  Click the title below to read at source.

What Makes For A Good Confession?

I would wager that if you surveyed evangelical Christians on what are the most difficult disciplines to incorporate into daily life confession would be high up on the list. Not because it isn’t widely practiced, but because there is little instruction on how to do it. Confession is so widely practiced we often take it for granted that people could do with some tips on how to do it well. I believe confession is difficult at times for a combination of three reasons. Maybe some of these will resonate with you.

We become overwhelmed with feelings of shame and guilt. While we should feel a certain amount of shame and acknowledge guilt (as opposed to shifting blame) we shouldn’t stay there. Romans 5.5 tells us that “hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 10.11 reiterates, “everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” Confession is meant to move us past shame and guilt, not intensify it.

We often struggle with feelings of “here we go again” when dealing with recurring sin. We become frustrated with our inability to truly turn away from a certain behavior or, as Proverbs 26.11 so eloquently puts it, “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” We wrestle with whether or not our confession is sincere and our desire to repent is serious if when certain sins become habits.

Last but not least, I think confession is often disconnected from God’s love. It is often the fear of God’s wrath and disappointment that leads to confession. The manner in which many of us practice confession seems to have more to do with clearing our conscience than it does with clearing obstacles to experiencing and knowing God’s steadfast love.

So how do we practice the discipline of confession in such a way that we don’t get hung up on those roadblocks that threaten to steal our joy and experiencing life regeneration that the Holy Spirit wants to bring about? I think we can learn a lot from the instructions given to the Israelites for the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16 & 23.26-44), their annual time of confessing individual and corporate sins, and making atonement for them.

  1. Preparation/No Distractions. The Israelites were to do no work and to fast leading up to the Day of Atonement. I’m not suggesting that any time we are going to confess our sins to God we take a day off from work and fast, but the purpose of Israel doing these things was to remove distractions. More times than I’d like to admit I’ve moved through many Christian disciplines quickly so I could get back to the things that were pressing for my attention. How much would we benefit from slowing down enough and refusing to let the urgency of the day impede on allowing us to have a good confession? Maybe the reason we don’t sense God’s presence in confession is because a part of us is somewhere else. Meditating on or memorizing Psalm 103 might serve as a way for us to focus our attention on the task at hand when it comes to confession and ushering us into God’s presence.
  2. Scapegoat/You Are Pardoned. An essential part to the Day of Atonement ritual as that of the scapegoat. There were two goats set before the Lord. One would be sacrificed for the sins of the people and the other was set free and sent away. It was a very visual reminder that one was sacrificed and the other was atoned for or pardoned. So often the practice of confession involves listing or naming what we’ve done but absent of an intentional reminder that we’ve been pardoned so that we can stay in the presence of the Lord. Moreover, the one who was sacrificed on our behalf is no longer dead but alive. Instead, much like the scapegoat, we go and wander back out into the wilderness away from God’s presence carrying our sins. We fail to realize that we’ve been pardoned in order to draw near to God. 1st Timothy 2.3-6 may serve as a good passage to meditate on and recite during our times of confession.
  3. Celebration. In Leviticus 23.33-44 the Israelites were instructed to celebrate the Feast of Booths five days after the Day of Atonement for seven days. The idea being that they would live in tents for seven days as a reminder of God delivering his people out of slavery in Egypt. As much as it’s never fun to deal with our junk how much healthier would it be if in the process of confession we ended on the positive note of our promised deliverance from sin and death? How much healthier would confession be if it included an intentionality of moving from solemnness to soberness to gratefulness to celebration? Celebration of what God has done and what Christ achieved not only on the cross, but also in leaving his tomb empty because he is alive?

In closing, a final thought, I would be amiss if I didn’t acknowledge that evangelicals typically treat confession as something solely between them and God. We recognize James encouragement to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” but I’m not convinced we practice it. This is something we ought to do. It should be steeped in moving us towards acknowledging and embracing God’s steadfast love and not simply clearing our conscience.e to his games. Here is a man who will have an extra-marital affair with a woman of black and Mexican decent buying her a house and a Ferrari, but had to make an out of court settlement on a racial discrimination suit where he is recorded saying he didn’t want black or Hispanic people in his apartments because, “they smell and breed varmint.”

February 22, 2015

The Bible on Depression

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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During Sundays in February we’ve been visiting the blog Christian Fellowship Devotions.  Archives at the blog go back to 1996, and today I want to link you to their topical index.

For our final Sunday with them, I wanted to use an older item by Janice that deals with a topic I know is very real to many of you.  (I think by NNAS she is referring to the updated New American Standard.) Click the title below to read at source.

depression

Passages about Depression

Depression — it’s something many of us struggle with — yes, even Christians. Being depressed does not mean you are “not a good Christian.” In fact, some of the “heroes of our faith” went through periods of what used to be called “melancholy.” Sometimes depression is a result of sin, but at other times, it is as Christian psychiatrist Frank Meier says, simply “…the result of life stresses.” Here is a bit of what God’s word has to say about it.

Biblical Examples of Depression

Neh 1:3-4 (NNAS) They said to me, “The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire. When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. Psa 13:1-3 (NNAS) How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death.

Psa 102:9-11 (NNAS) For I have eaten ashes like bread and mingled my drink with weeping. Because of Your indignation and Your wrath, For You have lifted me up and cast me away.My days are like a lengthened shadow, And I wither away like grass.

Prov 14:13 (NNAS) Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, And the end of joy may be grief.

What We Are to Do About Depression?

We should follow Nehemiah’s and the Psalmist’s examples, pouring our hearts out to God:

Neh 1:6-7 (NNAS) Let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father’s house have sinned.We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses.

James 4:8-10 (NNAS) Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

Find things to be thankful for, even in the most painful times. God will honor that.

1 Th 5:18 (NNAS) In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Share with a trustworthy friend. Let him minister to you.

Rom 12:15 (NNAS) Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

January 26, 2015

When You Hit Bottom and Things are Great at the Same Time

Rock Bottom Remorse

NLT Ps. 51:3 For I recognize my rebellion;
    it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in your sight.

I realized yesterday that I had hit bottom.

Let me qualify that a little, I realized that I had hit bottom in one specific area of my life.

You can actually be doing great in other areas, but have this one area where you struggle; where your responses are not always ideal; where your outlook or worldview is being shaped more by popular consensus or culture than by God’s Word.

Paraphrased, the first step of the classic “Twelve Step” program is, ‘We admitted we had a problem.’ It’s hard for people in ministry to do this. It’s especially hard for church leaders and pastors to admit such things. It’s really difficult when you’re a person that everyone looks up to and admires as a spiritually mature person to realize you see yourself as crashing in a particular area of life.

Instead, you start to believe your own press. You can buy into the image that people have of you. You can decide that nine-out-of-ten is good enough. You can rationalize that the ministry is still happening, people are still getting saved, money is still being raised, the teaching is still being distributed. You don’t admit weakness, that would be letting people down.

I can only imagine what it’s like when you’re the king, especially when your nation or state is somewhat theocratic in nature.  Like King David.

Psalm 51 is his particular prayer of confession. While I usually don’t use this translation, I want to quote from the second half of verse 3 and the first half of verse 4 in the KJV.

…my sin is ever before me.

David admits he can’t run and he can’t hide from the thing he has done, or the person he has become. It’s what he sees when looks in the mirror. He owns up to it. I believe that whatever sin we give into, no matter how private, no matter how secret; it will manifest itself at some point in some more open way. Bathsheba presented a tremendous opportunity — her husband was away at the time — but it wasn’t the first time David had looked at a woman. Or perhaps not even the first time David had hatched a scheme.

You don’t become an adulterer overnight. It happens when you have failed to pre-book your choices. It happens when you’ve never recognized your susceptibility. It happens when pride gives you spiritual over-confidence.

Then he says,

Against thee, thee only, have I sinned

Jerry Bridges says, “We never see sin aright unless we see it as against God.”

  • When you maligned your co-worker, you sinned not against them, but against God
  • When you cheated on that test, you sinned not against the school or the teacher, but against God
  • When you falsified that document, you sinned not against the organization or the government, but against God
  • When you flirted with the girl in the grocery store, you sinned not against them or against your wife, but against God

You get the pattern.

Some of the resolutions people made at the start of the year are long broken. If they carried with them moral or spiritual significance, it isn’t just a personal letdown, you don’t just fail yourself, but rather it’s sin against God.

…I did not commit adultery or cause a neighbor to be put in the front lines of a battle to be killed. But I really felt I hit bottom in one particular area. One some might even dismiss. However…

If it’s big enough to notice, it’s important enough to deal with.

 

December 7, 2014

I Am Mess

There is a Roman Catholic tradition that one does not partake of The Lord’s Supper without having been to confession. The confessional booth was created for this particular purpose, and is often looked down at by non-Catholics as ‘one more thing the Roman church has added to the Christian faith.’ But while it institutionalizes something the Early Church would have seen take place more organically, it is part of the our mandate as we approach the Eucharist or Communion table.

In the instructions for instituting The Lord’s Supper, the King James version translated I Cor. 11:28 with the familiar words, “But let a man examine himself.” Here’s how The Message deals with it through to verse 34:

27-28 Anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Master irreverently is like part of the crowd that jeered and spit on him at his death. Is that the kind of “remembrance” you want to be part of? Examine your motives, test your heart, come to this meal in holy awe.

29-32 If you give no thought (or worse, don’t care) about the broken body of the Master when you eat and drink, you’re running the risk of serious consequences. That’s why so many of you even now are listless and sick, and others have gone to an early grave. If we get this straight now, we won’t have to be straightened out later on. Better to be confronted by the Master now than to face a fiery confrontation later.

The posture with which we come to Communion is a posture of confession.

Unfortunately, this is not always emphasized in all of our churches, and while a few do provide a time of silence for such, many places of worship do not, and many who have more recently become part of our congregations don’t know this teaching.

Having been raised with this, I have no problem remembering this. Sometimes my prayer begins, “Lord, I’m a mess.” I know my heart, and I know God knows my heart. Yes, the heart is deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9) and yes, we’re very good at rationalizing our own righteousness (Prov. 16:2) as in, ‘Hey, I’m not as bad as my friend.’ But the moments preceding the communion elements are no time for pretense, at that moment, transparency and honesty is the order of the day. My thoughts might be drawn to:

  • the anger I may feel toward someone who has wronged me, even things that happened years ago;
  • obsessing over regrets concerning past choices;
  • lustful thoughts and more lustful thoughts;
  • terrible stewardship over the use of time;
  • a climate of fear and anxiety which slows lack of trust in God;
  • neglecting Bible reading and study to the degree that would be expected of me;
  • wishes that certain proud or arrogant people would fail, or just people with whom I don’t see eye-to-eye.

Those are just a few that I thought of immediately. I’m sure there are more. You might be reading this and identifying, or maybe you’re further along in spiritual formation and now think I’m a terrible person!  Either way, I come to God with some very small inkling of what my life must appear like before a capital ‘H’ Holy God.

But today, instead of just saying, ‘I’m a mess,’ I found myself saying, ‘I am mess.’ (Take a minute to reflect on the difference.) I don’t just sin, but I am sin personified. Without God’s help, I am a picture of the human condition. I know some will read this and say, ‘Well that’s just the accuser of the brethren talking to you, don’t listen to it.’ But David said, ‘My sin is always present before me (Ps. 51:3).

Both scripture and church liturgy are full of prayers of confession.

But — and here the writers of scripture would add, ‘Thanks be to God’ — we don’t have to stay defined by and defining what it means to sinful and separated from God. We also have the assurance of pardon.

I John 1:9 reminds us:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (NASB)


From the link above, here is the assurance of pardon as found in the Book of Common Prayer:

The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has no pleasure in the death of sinners,
but would rather they should turn from their wickedness and live.
He has given authority to his ministers to declare to his people when they repent
the forgiveness of their sins.
God pardons and absolves all who truly repent and believe his holy gospel.
So we ask him to grant us true repentance and his Holy Spirit,
that what we do now may please him
and that the rest of our life may be pure and holy,
so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

If your life is a mess, or if you just feel like you are mess, the Father wants us to come to him. But this is not something we do once upon a time and then write the date in the front cover of our Bible and that’s it, we’re done.  No God wants us to come to Him regularly and confess that we do wander from His best, and that we are a people in need of a Savior.  True repentance is a sincere acknowledgement of sin, but yes, we will mess up again. Maybe in another area. But his assurance of pardon is always there, even as we come to him over and over and over and over again.

 

Posted jointly with Thinking Out Loud

July 29, 2014

When Sorrow is Godly Sorrow

Sometimes I find some great writing online that was written in the passion of dealing with a particular issue that is taking place in a particular location at a particular time. While the content is worth sharing here, the entire article may not be relevant when it is sourced later on. For that reason, I am editing this piece by Wendy Alsup (while I appreciated the whole thing) to extract what I think is great teaching that will continue to be useful to people for months and years to come.   She describes her ministry:

My family and I have experienced the impact of having been shunned by our church family. This blog is intended to be a forum for processing, healing, and calling for Christians to understand the harm done to people through the harsh practice of shunning. It is also a forum to understand how to pursue justice and mercy in dealing with those who are victims of shunning, or those who have been the perpetrators of shunning.

Check out her blog, Musings from Under the Bus.

Bonhoeffer writes in his Cost of Discipleship:

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”

[The Apostle Paul defines the difference:]

For godly sorrow produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly sorrow produces death. — 2 Corinthians 7:10

When it comes to our personal responses to our own sin, these are the only two options. When faced with confrontation or other natural consequences of your sin, you can mourn your sin in a way that leads you to confess to God, change your direction, and repair with those you have hurt. And that response allows you to get up and go forward without regret. I’ve never once in my life met someone who REGRETTED bringing their sin into the light, confessing it honestly, and repairing with those they had wronged. Godly sorrow producing repentance is beautiful.

repentanceThe second option when faced with painful consequences of your sin is worldly sorrow, grief and lament in response to the consequences of one’s sin that does not understand and appropriate Christ’s payment for it. [A person] can (over)use Jesus’ name in proper context who does not appropriate how the good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection speaks into the consequences of sin he is now facing … Such people often want forgiveness. They want grace extended to them. And, in Christ, there is no condemnation according to Romans 8:1! Yet, the same Paul who wrote Romans 8:1 instructs us in Ephesians 5 to bring our sin into the light, because the light of Christ is a disinfectant. Expose the sin. Own the sin. Not to bring shame and condemnation but to bring restoration and healing! Any hope of “forgiveness” without clear, specific repentance is exactly what Bonhoeffer labels cheap grace. It’s continuing in sin that grace may abound, to which Paul says, “God forbid!”

The indication for any one of us of godly verses worldly sorrow is summed up in one word – repentance. True repentance always starts with a specific naming of your sin, and it always includes a change in your ways. I love the definition of the Greek word for repent according to Strong – “to change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins.” Godly sorrow that produces repentance will include statements along these lines – “I sinned against God and (name redacted). I have asked their forgiveness and am seeking to repair with them in the ways that I can. I am taking these steps to guard myself from doing the same in the future.” It always comes with a hearty desire to amend your ways with an abhorrence for how you sinned against God and others in the past.

I am writing this post because it is of utmost importance that people (believing and unbelieving) hearing Jesus’ name understand the difference in worldly and godly sorrow.

Long before…I wrote about godly versus worldly sorrow in The Gospel-Centered Woman. I felt that many women, myself included, often linger in this sorrowful place over our sin without understanding how repentance in the shadow of the cross heals and repairs. I’ll close with these thoughts from the book.

Worldly sorrow is characterized by feelings of shame, pain, or embarrassment that you got caught in sin. Along with that shame, you may feel hopelessness over ever being cleansed from your sin or your ability to repair the relationship with the person you sinned against. Such worldly sorrow may be relieved by someone else doing something for you or you doing something for yourself. Maybe you seek out someone to affirm you or distract you. You may try to manipulate how others think of you and look to them to make you feel better about yourself. If one relationship is broken, you may manipulate other relationships to replace the one you harmed.

In contrast, godly sorrow is sorrow that directs you to Christ. You do not need someone else to do something for you. You do not need to do something for yourself. Instead, you fall flat on your face before God alone, for godly sorrow points you directly to Him. Godly sorrow is relieved by repentance and faith in what Christ has already done for you. Then, resting in what God has done for you, you can lay down your attempts to justify yourself to others. You can simply ask their forgiveness and repair with those you have hurt.

Many of us spend years of our lives mistaking worldly sorrow on a wide range of sin issues for authentic repentance and then wonder why we never change or why our relationships never heal. Feeling bad about what you have done is not the same as a godly sorrow that leads to repentance. God calls us to recognize our wrongdoing and need for forgiveness and then turn to God to forgive and correct it. We do not have to live in a perpetual state of regret and shame. Christ bore our shame and condemnation on the cross. His sacrifice for us equips us to face our sin head-on without fear that it will forever define us.

For the full article at source, link here.

September 14, 2013

Call to Repentance

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Exodus 2:11 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. 12 Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?”

14 The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.”

There’s a story of a young man in a small rural church who decided to study for the ministry. After completing an undergraduate degree in Theology, he surprised his congregations and supporters by announcing he would be pursuing an additional two years of study to complete a Masters degree. After six years total, the church’s pastor thought it would be nice if he would return to preach the Sunday morning sermon in his home church. Because he was a home-town boy the service was heavily advertised and the place was packed. What would the young man have to say that would reflect all those years of study?

When the time for the message came, he stood up in the pulpit, slowly opened his notes, and then, after a long silence, he bellowed in a strong voice,, “REPENT!”

The story is purported to be true, and if it is, I suspect he had more to say beyond that.

We who have been on this faith journey for a long time tend to admire preaching that contains a number of fundamental propositions, supplemented with related Bible texts and historical background information. But sometimes a one word message — like ‘Repent!’ — is what we really need to hear.

I promised I would keep this shorter today after a longer post yesterday, but if you made it all the way through yesterday’s item, I want to invite you to hear a message based on the above story of Moses  — available as either audio or video — which has a very simple premise, but one that invites us to bare our souls before God in a greater way.  The teacher is Steve Carter, preaching just a few days ago at Willow Creek’s Midweek Experience.

Click here to either listen or watch.  (Shovels and Thunder: Seasons in the Life of Moses – 36 minutes)

Also, for those of you who love sermons online, Alpha Course founder Nicky Gumbel returned to his home church to preach a few days ago.

Click here to watch. (The Drama of Destiny – 34 minutes)

August 9, 2013

Dealing with Spiritual Dissonance: Five Steps

Although this appeared at a blog called True Woman, the message here is most applicable to men and women alike. The author is Dawn Wilson, and to read this and reader comments at source click this link: Five Steps to Dealing with Spiritual Dissonance.

Spiritual authenticityI’ve never been a jazz fan; I don’t enjoy the dissonance. As I reacted to some jazz music on a television program recently—telling my husband how much I hated it—the Spirit of God suddenly convicted me on some spiritual dissonance in my life:

“You say one thing, but do another. You tell women to be authentic, but what about this area of your life?”

“You say one thing, but do another. You tell women to be authentic, but what about this area of your life?”

A recent incident flashed across my mind, a situation when I exaggerated the truth to the point where it was a lie. Not a good thing. Hypocrisy.

Truth is one of my foundational life values, so when God pointed out the dissonance, I cringed.

My husband Bob, who directs a mission agency, shared one reason for spiritual dissonance in a recent message. “We tend to compartmentalize our lives,” he said, “and when we do that, the spiritual does not carry over into our everyday decisions.”

I wondered—how often do I compartmentalize, relegating the spiritual to designated parts of my life while ignoring or shutting it out in others? Because I want to overcome spiritual dissonance, I’m taking these five steps. I will:

  1. Recognize the dissonance in my heart. When I depart from fellowship with God, my heart wants something else more than Him. I’m drawn away by my natural desires—away from what God desires for me (James 1:14). I need to admit when my harmonious relationship with Him takes on some dissonant notes.
  2. Realize the root cause of my dissonance. I have a new nature in Christ, and God is making me more like His Son; but I still have free will to reject God’s everyday work in my life. James 1:15 says various lusts conceive and give birth to sin. I get that. I want what I want when I want it—things, pleasures, attention (1 John 2:16)—and when I want them more than what God wants for me, I’m an easy target for temptation.
  3. Repent of any sin that causes dissonance. Instead of rationalizing it away or justifying sin, I need to take it seriously. Sin will always separate me from spiritual intimacy with my loving Father. Because God is light, He cannot fellowship with darkness. My sins are already forgiven in Christ, but I must still recognize my wayward heart, repent, and turn from sin (1 John 1:8–10). I’ve got to get honest!
  4. Resist temptations that lead to new dissonance. The Word of God will help me fight the tendency to compartmentalize (2 Cor. 10:4–5; Heb. 4:12). God wants me to embrace truth and resist the enemy’s lies (1 Peter 5:8). When I take refuge in Jesus and the scriptures, God shows me His “way of escape” (1 Cor. 10:13).
  5. Refocus on harmony to weaken future dissonance. I will praise and worship God, seek Him, and pray for discernment. Because I know my spiritual dissonance grieves Him, I am asking God to rebuild my character where it is weak and change my heart (2 Peter 1:5–9).

My prayer for spiritual authenticity comes from Colossians 1:10:

“To walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

How does spiritual dissonance creep into your life? What has God taught you about not compartmentalizing your life?

April 7, 2013

Do Believers Need to Keep Confessing Their Sins?

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This is from Currents, a new blog at Alltop which originates with Streams church in Red Deer, Alberta.  (Streams, currents, get it?) You’ll have to read this closely to catch what is and isn’t being said here, and regular readers will notice the nuances of this are somewhat opposite a principle we looked at here not too long ago, where classic authors talked about keeping short accounts with God.  So we present it for your consideration. Feel free to comment on how the two posts coincide. As always, you’re encouraged to read this at source where it appeared as Do We Need To Confess Our Sins to Be Forgiven?.

Do We Need To Confess Our Sins To Be Forgiven?

That depends on who is asking.

Confess means to agree with God (to agree with, concede or acknowledge).

Sinners cannot receive the free gift of salvation if they do not first realize they are sinners and that they need a saviour.  Yes, they need to confess their sins, to come into agreement with God regarding their need for salvation.

Saints, on the other hand, have already accepted the free gift of salvation. Jesus died once and for all, we don’t have to keep going back to the start every time we mess up. All our sin, forgiven and forgotten and destroyed utterly; we do not need to keep confessing.

That’s not entirely true, we do need to confess.  We need to confess, agree with God, that we have been made righteous. We are not ‘sinners saved by grace’ and confessing as much puts us under the law.  You are a saint saved and empowered by grace. Period.

But what about 1 John 1:9?

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

This verse is the only place in the New Testament that ties our confession with forgiveness.  To build a doctrine of forgiveness on one verse would be unwise.

John says earlier, in verse 5, that ‘This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you…” and he then presents the Gospel to sinners. Yes, most of 1 John is written to believers, but in verse 6 John speaks to those who are walking in darkness, those who do not practice the truth. Verse 8 and 10 uses the royal ‘we’ to describe those sinners who do not acknowledge their need for a savior.

So, to sinners, yes you need to confess your sins. Once. Once you’ve been saved we do not need additional forgiveness.

But you saints,  don’t throw out confession all together!

We need to agree with God on many fronts, confessing what the Bible says about us is an exercise in faith and it helps us renew our minds. Saints should be confessing things like “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”” (Romans 8:15)

Hebrews 13:15 exhorts us to “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge(confess) his name.”
When snared in temptation, or condemnation, or when suffering, this type of confession does us good.

Confession within community is also healthy.
James 5:16 says “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed,”

That healing usually is physical, but can be spiritual.  Sin thrives in the dark. A guilty conscience is like a stomach ache, it’s a signal that something is wrong.  Just as it is wise to address physical symptoms, when guilt builds up and shame enters in, it’s a sign that we should deal with the sin issue in our lives.

Our bodies, spirits and minds are so interconnected that a chemical or hormonal imbalance can affect our moods (i.e. depression) and our minds can affect our bodies (i.e. the placebo affect). Things like bitterness or shame can manifest in our body as sickness.

Confessing sins in safe community brings about multi-faceted healing of our body and mind (our spirit is already a new creation!).

Confession is healthy and good. But to link the forgiveness of a saint’s sinful acts to confession is incorrect.  When we accept salvation (certainly through confession and faith) all our sins, past present and future, are wiped out and forgotten.  To maintain righteousness we do not need to confess. We cannot maintain righteousness, our righteousness is dependent on Jesus alone.

The place confession has in the life of a Christian is that of dealing with sin, not getting forgiveness. It is about bringing our thoughts more in line with what God says about us, that we are righteous, holy, loved, pure and powerful.

The confession of our sins for forgiveness is then a one time deal. After that confession remains a tool for saints in conquering their sin and faulty heart beliefs about their identity.

Do we confess to receive forgiveness? Depends who’s asking.

February 26, 2013

Where Accusation and Conviction Meet

NLT Ps. 51:3 For I recognize my rebellion;
it haunts me day and night.

KJV Ps. 51:3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

ESV Revelation 12:10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.

NIV I Thess. 1:4 For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.

NIV I Tim. 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…

Sometimes you just know when you’ve messed up.  You need neither the devil’s accusation nor the Holy Spirit’s conviction. It’s black and white. You missed the mark. You weren’t even aiming for the target. You recognize that the border between the righteousness and holiness that people in your church think you live out, and the propensity to sin of weaker brothers is a border only micro-millimeters thick.

How did I think that? What made me say that? Why did I look at her/him the way I did? Why did I charge that customer for two hours’ labor when I did the job in one? Why did I click on that website? Where did that anger come from when they mentioned that person’s name? Why did I say I’d be there when I have no intention of attending?

Yikes! I’m no different than anyone else! Here I thought — and everybody else thought — that I was super spiritual, when in fact I’m … human.

That’s the moment to confess.

This is often referred to as “keeping short accounts with God.”  The blog Amazing Grace Bible Studies explains:

…let’s consider the phrase as it is used in accounting acumen. To keep your accounts payable on a “short basis” simply means to keep them “paid up”, or rather, not to let them become extended. An example of this would be to pay off your credit card balance every month.

In the spiritual sense, when looking at the theology that prescribes this practice, it always refers to confession of sin(s) (the equivalent of a liability or debt in accounting terms), and requesting to be forgiven of sins on a daily basis.1 When you hear believers say that they are “prayed up” this invariably means that they’ve got all their sins “confessed up.”

Rick Warren adds,

“Clean hands” simply means a clear conscious. Does that mean we’re perfect? No. None of us is perfect. But we can keep short accounts with God. 1 John 1:9 (TLB) says, “But if we confess our sins to him, he can be depended on to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.” So when we sin, we just say, “God, I was wrong. I confess it.” There is no power without a clear conscience.

Classic writer A. B. Simpson wrote:

  It is a good thing to keep short accounts with God. I was very much struck some years ago with an interpretation of the verse: So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God (Romans 14:12). The thought it conveys is that of accounting to God daily. For us judgment is passed as we lay down on our pillows each night. This is surely the true way to live. It is the secret of great peace. It will be a delightful comfort when life is closing or at the Master’s coming, to know that our account is settled and our judgment over. For us, then, there is only the waiting to hear the glad Well done, good and faithful servant; . . . enter thou into the joy of thy Lord (Matthew 25:21).

But sometimes we feel a sense of a nagging in our heads and hearts either because (a) we haven’t confessed yet, or (b) we have but something about our sin is such that our brain won’t let go of it — or at least that would be a superficial explanation to what is going on.

But what’s really going one?  In either case above, it has to be either:

  • the conviction of the Holy Spirit (or you might read the I Thess. passage above as ‘the conviction of the gospel’ or in I Tim., the rebuke of God’s Word); or,
  • the accusation of Satan who is described (in the Rev. passage above) as the accuser of the brethren (and, as some translations add, the sistren.) (Yes, I know that’s not a word.)

Conviction or accusation?

So when you find yourself in the situation of unconfessed sin, or of sin you feel you did indeed confess, then is what you are experiencing conviction or accusation?

Does it really matter?

No, I mean that question. We looked at a tough passage a few days ago where David took the census, and the two Old Testaments account differed in terms of whether the idea for David to do this came from Satan or from God.  Theologians still aren’t sure; the jury is still out on how to interpret this passage.

Conviction of sin

So here’s what I think. And remember this is just one guy’s opinion.

I believe that, to use a train analogy, sometimes conviction and accusation arrive on parallel tracks. Both will lead you in the same direction. One is very negative: “So I guess we’re not so spiritual after all, are we?” But the other comes from a heart of love, “Let’s get that confessed, so that we can spend the rest of the day walking in grace and forgiveness.”

One will beat you over the head. Actually, you don’t need to be a Christ-follower to have that experience. All humans have some degree of guilt-reflex.

But the other will free you, provided you act on that conviction, confess and move on.

PW

August 9, 2012

Seven Penitential Psalms

Most of us are familiar with Psalm 51, David’s prayer of repentance following his affair with Bathsheba. But we’re less familiar with the idea that there are actually seven ‘penitential’ psalms: 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130 and 143; although Psalm 102 does not contain a specific confession of sin.  Here are the seven, each from a different translation, with key verses underlined:

Psalm 6

New International Version (NIV)

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger
    or discipline me in your wrath.
Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, Lord, how long?

Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.
Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
Who praises you from the grave?

I am worn out from my groaning.

All night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
they fail because of all my foes.

Away from me, all you who do evil,
for the Lord has heard my weeping.
The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;
    the Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish;
they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.

Psalm 32

Contemporary English Version (CEV)

Our God, you bless everyone
whose sins you forgive
and wipe away.
You bless them by saying,
“You told me your sins,
without trying to hide them,
and now I forgive you.”

Before I confessed my sins,
my bones felt limp,
and I groaned all day long.
Night and day your hand
weighed heavily on me,
and my strength was gone
as in the summer heat.

So I confessed my sins
and told them all to you.
I said, “I’ll tell the Lord
each one of my sins.”
Then you forgave me
and took away my guilt.

We worship you, Lord,
and we should always pray
whenever we find out
that we have sinned.
Then we won’t be swept away
by a raging flood.
You are my hiding place!
You protect me from trouble,
and you put songs in my heart
because you have saved me.

You said to me,
“I will point out the road
that you should follow.
I will be your teacher
and watch over you.
Don’t be stupid
like horses and mules
that must be led with ropes
to make them obey.”

10 All kinds of troubles
will strike the wicked,
but your kindness shields those
who trust you, Lord.
11 And so your good people
should celebrate and shout.

Psalm 38

GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)

A psalm by David; to be kept in mind.

  O Lord, do not angrily punish me
or discipline me in your wrath.
        Your arrows have struck me.
Your hand has struck me hard.
No healthy spot is left on my body
because of your rage.
There is no peace in my bones
because of my sin.

My guilt has overwhelmed me.
    Like a heavy load, it is more than I can bear.
My wounds smell rotten.
They fester because of my stupidity.
I am bent over and bowed down very low.
All day I walk around in mourning.
My insides are filled with burning pain,
and no healthy spot is left on my body.
I am numb and completely devastated.
I roar because my heart’s in turmoil.
You know all my desires, O Lord,
    and my groaning has not been hidden from you.
10 My heart is pounding.
I have lost my strength.
Even the light of my eyes has left me.

11 My loved ones and my friends keep their distance
and my relatives stand far away because of my sickness.
12 Those who seek my life lay traps for me.
Those who are out to harm me talk about ruining me.
All day long they think of ways to deceive me.
13 But I am like a person who cannot hear
and like a person who cannot speak.
14 I am like one who cannot hear
and who can offer no arguments.

15 But I wait with hope for you, O Lord.
You will answer, O Lord, my God.
16 I said, “Do not let them gloat over me.
When my foot slips,
do not let them promote themselves at my expense.”
17 I am ready to fall.
I am continually aware of my pain.
18 I confess my guilt.
My sin troubles me.

19 My mortal enemies are growing stronger.
Many hate me for no reason.
20 They pay me back with evil instead of good,
and they accuse me because I try to do what is good.

21 Do not abandon me, O Lord.
O my God, do not be so distant from me.
22 Come quickly to help me, O Lord, my savior.

Psalm 51

The Message (MSG)

Psalm 51

1-3Generous in love—God, give grace! Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt,
soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I’ve been;
my sins are staring me down.

4-6 You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen
      it all, seen the full extent of my evil.
You have all the facts before you;
whatever you decide about me is fair.
I’ve been out of step with you for a long time,
in the wrong since before I was born.
What you’re after is truth from the inside out.
Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.

7-15 Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,
scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don’t look too close for blemishes,
      give me a clean bill of health.
   God, make a fresh start in me,
      shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don’t throw me out with the trash,
or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile,
put a fresh wind in my sails!
Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
so the lost can find their way home.
Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God;
I’ll let loose with your praise.

16-17 Going through the motions doesn’t please you,
a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship
when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love
don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.

18-19 Make Zion the place you delight in,
repair Jerusalem’s broken-down walls.
Then you’ll get real worship from us,
acts of worship small and large,
Including all the bulls
they can heave onto your altar!

Psalm 102

New Living Translation (NLT)

1 Lord, hear my prayer!
    Listen to my plea!
2 Don’t turn away from me
    in my time of distress.
Bend down to listen,
and answer me quickly when I call to you.
For my days disappear like smoke,
and my bones burn like red-hot coals.
My heart is sick, withered like grass,
and I have lost my appetite.
Because of my groaning,
I am reduced to skin and bones.
I am like an owl in the desert,
like a little owl in a far-off wilderness.
I lie awake,
lonely as a solitary bird on the roof.
My enemies taunt me day after day.
They mock and curse me.
I eat ashes for food.
My tears run down into my drink
10 because of your anger and wrath.
For you have picked me up and thrown me out.
11 My life passes as swiftly as the evening shadows.
I am withering away like grass.

12 But you, O Lord, will sit on your throne forever.
Your fame will endure to every generation.
13 You will arise and have mercy on Jerusalem—
and now is the time to pity her,
now is the time you promised to help.
14 For your people love every stone in her walls
and cherish even the dust in her streets.
15 Then the nations will tremble before the Lord.
The kings of the earth will tremble before his glory.
16 For the Lord will rebuild Jerusalem.
He will appear in his glory.
17 He will listen to the prayers of the destitute.
He will not reject their pleas.

18 Let this be recorded for future generations,
so that a people not yet born will praise the Lord.
19 Tell them the Lord looked down
from his heavenly sanctuary.
He looked down to earth from heaven
20     to hear the groans of the prisoners,
to release those condemned to die.
21 And so the Lord’s fame will be celebrated in Zion,
his praises in Jerusalem,
22 when multitudes gather together
and kingdoms come to worship the Lord.

23 He broke my strength in midlife,
cutting short my days.
24 But I cried to him, “O my God, who lives forever,
don’t take my life while I am so young!
25 Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth
and made the heavens with your hands.
26 They will perish, but you remain forever;
they will wear out like old clothing.
You will change them like a garment
and discard them.
27 But you are always the same;
you will live forever.
28 The children of your people
will live in security.
Their children’s children
will thrive in your presence.”

Psalm 130

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

  Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord.

Lord, hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive
To the voice of my supplications.
If You, Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait,
And in His word do I hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
More than the watchmen for the morning;
Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord;
For with the Lord there is lovingkindness,
And with Him is abundant redemption.
And He will redeem Israel
From all his iniquities.

Psalm 143

New Century Version (NCV)

 1 Lord, hear my prayer;
       listen to my cry for mercy.
    Answer me
       because you are loyal and good.
 2 Don’t judge me, your servant,
       because no one alive is right before you.
 3 My enemies are chasing me;
       they crushed me to the ground.
    They made me live in darkness
       like those long dead.
 4 I am afraid;
       my courage is gone.

 5 I remember what happened long ago;
       I consider everything you have done.
       I think about all you have made.
 6 I lift my hands to you in prayer.
       As a dry land needs rain, I thirst for you.
                         Selah

  7 Lord, answer me quickly,
       because I am getting weak.
    Don’t turn away from me,
       or I will be like those who are dead.
 8 Tell me in the morning about your love,
       because I trust you.
    Show me what I should do,
       because my prayers go up to you.
 9 Lord, save me from my enemies;
       I hide in you.
 10 Teach me to do what you want,
       because you are my God.
    Let your good Spirit
       lead me on level ground.

 11 Lord, let me live
       so people will praise you.
    In your goodness
       save me from my troubles.
 12 In your love defeat my enemies.
       Destroy all those who trouble me,
       because I am your servant.

 

January 11, 2012

The Way of Jesus is not The Way of Perfectionism

Psalm 51
The Message
 1-3Generous in love—God, give grace! Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
   Scrub away my guilt,
      soak out my sins in your laundry.
   I know how bad I’ve been;
      my sins are staring me down.

 4-6 You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen
      it all, seen the full extent of my evil.
   You have all the facts before you;
      whatever you decide about me is fair.
   I’ve been out of step with you for a long time,
      in the wrong since before I was born.
   What you’re after is truth from the inside out.
      Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.

 7-15 Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,
      scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.
   Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
      set these once-broken bones to dancing.
   Don’t look too close for blemishes,
      give me a clean bill of health.
   God, make a fresh start in me,
      shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
   Don’t throw me out with the trash,
      or fail to breathe holiness in me.
   Bring me back from gray exile,
      put a fresh wind in my sails!
   Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
      so the lost can find their way home.
   Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
      and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
   Unbutton my lips, dear God;
      I’ll let loose with your praise.

 16-17 Going through the motions doesn’t please you,
      a flawless performance is nothing to you.
   I learned God-worship
      when my pride was shattered.
   Heart-shattered lives ready for love
      don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.

Eugene Peterson:

The attempt to impose perfection on either oneself or another, whether parent on child, pastor on congregation, CEO on a company, teacher on student, husband on wife, wife on husband, is decidedly not the way of Jesus.

And how do we know?  In large part because of David, the ancestor of Jesus, who was unembarrassed to be called Son of David.  David provides a large chunk of the evidence that disabuses us of the idea that perfection is part of the job description of the men and women who follow Jesus.  More narrative space is given in our Scriptures to the story of David than to any other single person, and there are no perfectionist elements in it.  The way of David is, from start to finish, a way of imperfection.

… David was a person of prayer.  As it turns out we wend up knowing far more about David’s dealings with God than we do about his dealings with Goliath and Saul, Jonathan and Abigail, Bathsheba and Tamar. And we kneed to know this, for God is the large, totally encompassing reality in which “we live and move and have our being.”  John Calvin described the Psalms as “an anatomy of all the parts of the sou.l”  We will never understand the first thing about who we are and what we are doing if we know ourselves only from the outside. Not that the inside can be understood apart from the outside (nor the outside apart from the inside.)  We need access to both: the story and the prayers. And we have both. There are some ancient manuscripts in which copyists left a gap after each incident in David’s life into which the reader could insert an appropriate Psalm, praying his or her human action into God’s presence and action.

There is not the slightest effort given in the biblical story to make David admirable in any moral or spiritual sense. And yet there is the assumption in all of this that flawed and faithless and failed as is he is, he is representative — not a warning against bad behavior but a witness, inadvertent as it was, to the normalcy, yes, the inevitability of imperfection

The Jesus Way, pp. 79-82

December 4, 2011

Out of My Bondage… Jesus I Come

A beautiful old hymn set to a different tune; this was often the closing song of the evening service in the church where I grew up; sometimes we’d sing it if we’d run out of verses for Just as I Am, extending the altar call long enough to give one more person time to walk to the front…

  1. Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night,
      Jesus, I come! Jesus, I come!
    Into Thy freedom, gladness, and light,
        Jesus, I come to Thee!
    Out of my sickness into Thy health,
    Out of my want and into Thy wealth,
    Out of my sin and into Thyself,
        Jesus, I come to Thee!
  2. Out of my shameful failure and loss,
      Jesus, I come! Jesus, I come!
    Into the glorious gain of Thy cross,
        Jesus, I come to Thee!
    Out of earth’s sorrows into Thy balm,
    Out of life’s storm and into Thy calm,
    Out of distress to jubilant psalm,
        Jesus, I come to Thee!
  3. Out of unrest and arrogant pride,
      Jesus, I come! Jesus, I come!
    Into Thy blessed will to abide,
        Jesus, I come to Thee!
    Out of myself to dwell in Thy love,
    Out of despair into raptures above,
    Upward for aye on wings like a dove,
        Jesus, I come to Thee!
  4. Out of the fear and dread of the tomb,
      Jesus, I come! Jesus, I come!
    Into the joy and pleasure, Thine own,
        Jesus, I come to Thee!
    Out of the depths of ruin untold,
    Into the flock Thy love doth enfold,
    Ever Thy glorious face to behold,
        Jesus, I come to Thee!

September 14, 2011

Corporate or Collective Forgiveness

Blogger and pastor Kevin Rogers has been spending several days [here and here] looking at the subject of forgiveness.  This one appeared recently under the title We Forgive You.

Pastor and author Stephen Crosby said, A mature Christian has capacity to absorb the offenses and weaknesses of others, not just demand they perform up to the code of ideals.’  [i]

When we are offended, isn’t it often our inclination to point out how the other has failed to keep the code? Our maturity lies not in being preachers of the ideal, but in acting graciously. Mature people have the capacity to forgive all manners of injustice directed towards them.

Henry Ward Beecher said, ‘Keep a fair-sized cemetery in your back yard, in which to bury the faults of your friends.’ [ii]

Implicit in our asking for God’s forgiveness, is the recognition that we intend to practice forgiveness toward others.

“Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”

In one breath we ask God to forgive us. In the next breath we state our practice of forgiving others. The two thoughts are joined as if one does not exist without the other.

Is the Father reluctant to forgive us until we act that way toward others?  There are several accounts of Jesus stating this connection.

After teaching the prayer Jesus said,

Matthew 6:

14 “Forgive people when they sin against you. If you do, your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive people their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

(NIRV)

But, this is not a case of God saying ‘You go first’. This is the Father who waits ready to forgive and absorbs offense before it is acknowledged. He acts out forgiveness and initiates the first step toward us—always. He shows up to deal with offense before we are ready to face the problem.

It is likely that we cannot comprehend forgiving others until we first experience forgiveness ourselves. Forgiveness is a learned behavior.

Lewis B. Smedes said, ‘When we forgive evil we do not excuse it, we do not tolerate it, we do not smother it. We look the evil full in the face, call it what it is, let its horror shock and stun and enrage us, and only then do we forgive it.’ [iii]

As powerful as it is for you to forgive one person, there is added strength in a group of people forgiving an offender. For us to say ‘we forgive you’ opens the door to a community that works as a team. Being restored to one can mean restoration to all.


[ii] http://www.tentmaker.org/Quotes/forgivenessquotes.htm

[iii] http://www.tentmaker.org/Quotes/forgivenessquotes.htm

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