Give Thanks

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

While we are often eager to thank God for the good things, we by and large fail at thanking him for what we consider the bad circumstances.

My second daughter was born not breathing. She did not breath for over ten minutes. She was rushed to the hospital and put into cooling to try and prevent the swelling of her brain. It wasn’t until she finally stabilized with the help of an NG feeding tube in her nose and an oxygen mask, that the full extent of the damage became known. She could not swallow or suck; she appeared to be blind; and she had Cerebral Palsy in all her limbs. My daughter would likely never have the motor skills or mental capacity to go to the bathroom or eat with her mouth let alone walk or talk.

It was a devastating experience for out family. In the midst of it all, the medical professionals urged us on a regular basis to just let her go. That she would have no quality of life. That her life was not worth living. That we should remove the feeding tube and let her starve to death.

Being thankful to God in all of this became the last thing on my mind. I was angry at God. I asked him why, but there was nothing… nothing that I could thank him for.

How can we have a thankful attitude in all circumstances?

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28:).

Even in the bad circumstances we can know that God is working and even when the worst happens, we can thank God that he is stripping away all hope for attachment to this world and making us reliant on him alone.

It wasn’t until months after my daughter’s apparent tragic death that I could look back and truly thank God. I can never be glad and joyful in the loss that my daughter suffered but learning to love and care for her as she is has been an incredible experience. Every time she smiles my heart skips a beat. Every new thing she does, like grabbing my finger, or her beautiful cooing laughter, or rolling over is a larger triumph than winning any great war or achieving any great success could ever be.

Not only can I thank God for my beautiful Special Needs baby, but I can thank God that, by allowing us all to go through this he was truly showing his great love. His incredible hand of provision that was there even in the midst of our horror could only have been him. He has taught me that, no matter what I might do as a parent or as a person, it is nothing. By allowing me to fall to the point of true and total desperation, God has taught me that reliance on self is exactly what he has freed us from. Image

I now know how to take hold of the freedom offered to us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Image Source: peperonity.com

Advertisements
Standard

Stop Trying to be Like Christ

Image

Romans 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

 

Romans 16:19 For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.

 

Recently, I read this scripture and thought to myself, I want to be like the Christians in Rome, whose faith and obedience was known throughout the world. Immediately after I assessed my life to see if I was living in a way that was radical, being so obedient to God that people talked about it. I didn’t like what I found. 

 

I began overhauling every aspect of my life, from how I spend my time, down to following the speed limit when I drive. I felt good, I was doing the things God commanded me to do in the bible and felt that I must be on the right track and people would surely begin to see me as different now.

 

Inevitably, I failed. What God showed me, yet again, was that the law is in place to bring glory to God, not man. When I began to do all of these things I was attempting to live by the law but, as it says in Hebrews 10:1:

 

 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.”

 

So if the law is but a shadow and can not bring me closer to God, who is the image of perfection, then what is the law’s purpose and why are we asked to live by it?

 

So, the law is the knowledge of sin and the only way to be justified is through the redemption of Christ. My next step is to go to God and say, God, I’ve realized yet again that I cannot do this in my own strength, please, through the blood of your son, show me grace. Perfect me in your sight.

 

Does this mean that we stop obeying the word of God? Did the Roman church do that? No! They showed their faith through their obedience. They recognized that they could not reach perfection in their own strength but continued to strive for it because now they were no longer doing it in their strength but God’s. In God’s strength we can be broken free from bondage.

 

In this way, as a result of their love and obedience to Christ, not as a goal in itself, the Roman Christians’  obedience and faith spread throughout the entire world. They followed God’s law, perhaps not perfectly, but with hope, knowing that if they slipped back into the flesh they could rely on his strength to pull them back.

 

By giving up control and surrendering ourselves to Christ, we will become more like him; by trying to be like Christ, we will fail.

 

 

Image Source: somesaints.tumblr.com

Standard

How Can Sin Exist Outside the Will of an All-Powerful God

ImageI recently began reading the book “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis. Far be it from me to expand on much of what Mr Lewis writes as his gifting and intelligence far surpasses my own. A particular point he made in one of the early chapters caught my eye and it immediately jumped out as an applicable truth to my own life. Mr Lewis, in explaining how sin can exist outside of the will of an all-powerful God gives the following analogy:


“It may be quite sensible for a mother to say to the children, “I’m not going to go and make you tidy the schoolroom every night. You’ve got to learn to keep it tidy on your own.” Then she goes up one night and finds the Teddy bear and the ink and the French Grammar all lying in the grate. That is against her will. She would prefer the children to be tidy. But on the other hand, it is her will which has left the children free to be untidy.”


This, in my opinion, is the best way I have ever heard freewill explained and it makes perfect sense. What amazed me was how closely linked my understanding of God was with my understanding of how I am to behave. As the father of two young children and bungling leader of my household, I struggle with the balance between freedom and law. It has seemed to me that, in order for me to be doing my job correctly, my children WILL obey, they WILL speak nicely and they WILL not wine and scream and cry all day for their mother. In order to enforce this I have struggled with whether or not spanking is appropriate, and have wavered back and forth regarding other forms of punishment. Even more difficult is attempting to lead a household with a competent, intelligent adult partner who has different opinions (often vastly) from mine.

 

The question: What does it mean to give freedom of choice without compromising?

 

God does not compromise, and as Hebrews 13:8 says: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.”

 

His truths do not waiver and his goodness does not fail. So how can a perfect and just God allow the antics that we humans get up to? How can an all-powerful God allow things that are outside of his will? The answer is that he loves us. He loves us so much that he wants us to choose to have a relationship with him and follow his ways. The consequences of sin is death. However, all we need do is ask and our heavenly father forgives us and allows us to enter back into communion with him. So what does that look like? Does God suddenly say, it’s OK that you did those things, just don’t do them again? Does he, in his desire to be accepted by us, compromise? No. That is the perfection of Christianity. God does not compromise, yet he offers forgiveness of sins.

 

So as a parent, in order to be truly an image of my heavenly father, my role is not to take away the consequences of disobedience or mis-behavior and that may include a separation of sorts (being sent to the room) or other punishment. However, a sincere desire to restore the relationship should be met with love and acceptance. We should be uncompromising when it comes to mis-behavior but quick to forgive. As a husband I am called to love my wife as Christ loves the church, that means not only giving my life for her but allowing her to be my hands and feet; allowing her to do with my name what she will; trusting her with everything.

 

As may have been revealed in this article, I confess I fall to the sin of being over-controlling and can be the over-bearing husband of any woman’s worst nightmare. I hope that God’s example and my looking to him will change me.

Image Source: www.cnn.com

Standard

Pride. The Original Sin.

Image

Pride. Every man’s (and woman’s) sin. So difficult to overcome; impossible without God. It is boasted about and used by the world and “ambition” is its thinly veiled disguise. I myself struggle with it on a daily basis. CS Lewis in “Mere Christianity” makes the point that the more we are bothered by others asserting themselves over us or  trampling our rights, the more likely we suffer from pride because pride is the only vice that brings you into direct competition with others due to its nature. Many have attributed the fall of man to “the original sin” of pride. While this cannot be found explicitly in the bible, the many exhortations to humble ourselves should serve as enough of a warning. My dad once asked me, would I be willing to help another person get a promotion over me at the expense of my own advancement? My emphatic answer was “no”, but his point was that this is the kind of radical humility of heart that God asks of us. For us to be looking up toward God, we must inevitably recognize our own insignificance and weakness and how much we fall short but most of the time, we look down, because looking down appeals to our pride. So pride is not, like most other sins, a corruption of something good, but rather the opposite of focusing on and worshiping God. Only when we learn to attribute all good things to God and rest in him will we truly be exalted and receive the praise “well done thou good and faithful servant”. This praise in itself should show us what we are trying to achieve, not our own image but that of our master is bettered with the work of a servant, and we are not to seek to be placed above others, only to please the master.

Image Source: www.featurepics.com

Standard

If Jesus Walked the Earth Today

An atheist stated to me recently:

“I think Jesus would have been standing up for the poor and championing woman’s and gay rights.”

I do not claim to have any actual knowledge of what God’s purpose would be if Jesus were here as a man today, but here is what I think:

1. If Jesus were alive today, I believe He would enter the churches and tear the big-screen TVs from the walls of their lobby’s, smash the flashy signs advertising the current programs, and slash the leather couches lining the walls. He would say, “It is written, ‘AND MY HOUSE SHALL BE A HOUSE OF PRAYER,’ but you have made it a ROBBERS’ DEN”(Luke 19:46).

The money spent on making churches attractive or desirable by many churches today is appalling. Money that could be spent on the poor or on missions. It appears that for many churches, it is more important that they fill their pews than that they are doing his work in the world. It appears churches feel they need to supplement the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ with fun programs and flashy signs. People go to church looking for what they can get out of it rather than what they can give. Early church goers gave up everything to enrich and share with the collective body of Christ. “All those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need” (Acts 2:44-45). Some churches still portray this attitude, but it is rare.

Jesus is a self-selling product. All he asks for are foot-soldiers; believers, who are willing to carry the truth to all corners of the earth. We don’t need flashy signs or great church programs.

2. If Jesus were alive today I believe Jesus would preach in the churches, just as He preached in the synagogues but that would be the extent of his “involvement”. He wouldn’t go to the church picnics; He wouldn’t feel obliged to invite other church goers over for dinner after service; He wouldn’t attend the many groups and programs that might be available. He would be out on the streets speaking with the homeless, the drug addicts, the outcasts whose sins make us uncomfortable like homosexuality or compulsive lying.

Jesus would visit the homes of those guilty of homosexuality, theft, and murder and would gather a following of the most annoying, revolting, even scary people around him. He would be so much in the presence of these that Christians might question his moral stance. We might say, “Why is He eating and drinking with (outcasts) and sinners?” And hearing this, (Jesus might say to us), “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:16-17).

3. If Jesus were alive as a man on earth today He would be firm and unmoved in the face of social pressure to accept and exalt sin. He would not take away one thing from the law that was given to Moses. “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill (Matthew 5:17).

In fact, Jesus would hold us to a higher standard. He said that to even think lustfully is to commit adultery and to hate is to commit murder. When presented with someone who had kept all the commandments he challenged him to give up everything he had (Matthew 19:21).

Jesus would not support a marriage between two men or two woman. Jesus would not attend the “wedding” of two homosexuals. 

The law states that homosexuality is wrong and that marriage under God is only to be between a man and a woman. Sinfully engaging in a distorted version of the physical oneness of marriage goes against God’s plan and design for marriage. To support such a union would be to exalt sin and nullify the law.

I address this, because homosexuality is the one sin that society has decided to accept, exalt and flaunt, denying entirely that it is sin at all. While other sins may be laughed at, minimized or even justified, nothing comes close to the outright defiance associated with homosexuality.

When left alone with the humiliated prostitute, Jesus said “Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11). While Jesus was primarily in the presence of sinners and spent much of his time with the lowest of society, he never said to them “it is OK if you sin”, or “I love everything about you, including your sins, so please, continue as you are”. Jesus forgave; he withdrew judgement; he preached salvation but he never justified or exalted sin.

 

This is not just an abstract question since Jesus IS alive in the world today through his body The Church. How should we be?

 

Standard

Humans Will Always be Capitalists

I was speaking with someone today regarding the age old argument that capitalism is wrong because those at the top take advantage of those at the bottom. His solution of course would be a communal lifestyle in which everyone shares everything.

Reality check: Every attempt to form a Communist society in the past has resulted in even worse and more enslaving forms of Capitalism.

What do I mean?

Take the Soviet Bloc as an example. What happened when personal property rights were abolished and all was placed in the hands of a government authority? The same thing that always happens, those at the top took advantage of their place and power and the commoners at the bottom suffered.

I hear often hear references to the olden days when we all lived in tribes and shared everything with everyone else in our community, sort of like some third world communities today. The thought being that everyone had their equal place and all were taken care of.

This is true, sort of. If you can trust everyone in your community then you are able to act with a certain measure of good faith. But what happens when your community grows so large that you aren’t sure who everyone is anymore and can’t be sure of their intentions? Also, in every such community, when things get scarce, those who are strongest have priority and those who are weak go without.

Another problem with the concept of a communal solution is that all people need a leader. It is simply in our nature, plus we need a central organizing force for their to be any semblance of order. Authority and power immediately places people on a different footing from those around them and puts them in the position to take advantage. Generally it is an enviable position so, without accountability, people will resort to every dirty trick under the sun to rise to or maintain leadership.

In order to prevent people from taking advantage, we set up rules. Rules that create accountability and that protect. But rules are much like walls, they serve to both protect and keep you in. As the system evolves, those in power will build and manipulate the system in order to maintain the status quo.

I am not in any way advocating a purely capitalist society as this would result in chaos and true Darwinian elimination of the weak. Nor am I saying that Capitalism is good.

I am saying to all the idealists out there: I agree with you. What you imagine in your mind is lovely, but it won’t work.

I don’t know if there is anything better than what we’ve got. But it is what we’ve got… for now.

I believe Jesus was a communist in the sense that when the Kingdom of God inherits the earth, all will share without question and there will be unquestioned and perfect leadership in the person of Jesus Christ. But even while he was here, Jesus counselled respect and deference to those set up to be in authority. Slaves are even told to accept their position with grace and kindness. Jesus did not come to over-throw governments, he came to over over-haul lives. Only when all have surrendered their human nature to the perfect nature of Jesus can we hope to have a truly perfect social system.Image

Standard