but because of the people

Spent some time with some brothers this morning, and one of them mentioned the song "Above All Else". The chorus expresses a particular theology: that on the Cross of Calvary, Lord's thoughts were about us, dying for us.

Wonderful, Hallmark-y concept, but theologically correct? No, expressed a brother. Only thought had by Christ heading to Calvary was obedience to the Father. In the Garden, Christ agonizes over bearing the cup of wrath and facing separation from the Father. And what Christ finally decides is "yet not My will, but Thine be done." Christ heads to the Cross because He desires perfect obedience.

My counter was that the decision to go to the Cross was not necessarily tied to a singular reason. Obedience was definitely part of the equation, no doubt. But to say that love for the world did not play a part of the decision takes away from the sacrificial act. John3:16 reminds us that the Father gave His only begotten Son because He loved the world. And considering the Father and the Son are of the same mind, Christ shared that love for sinners. In John10, Christ compares Himself to a Good Shepherd and states that the Shepherd would lay down His life for the sheep. Jesus makes it clear that one of the reasons He will lay down His life is because He cares for the sheep.

The song says He thought of us "above all". I think we can dispute that point, since it is not a doubt that Christ loved the Father more than anyone else. I don't presume to think that His love for us is anywhere near His love for the Father. But the clear understanding to take from this discussion is that removing love from the Cross is not an option. The Gospel, the Good news of God is love, always has been.


but this I admit to

This post is a wonderful analysis of all the many things wrong with the modern American church. At some point, discussing each of the reasons on his Top Ten list would be a valuable exercise, but I'm more interested in the ending to the post which is an answer to what happens to Christians who die with unconfessed sin, which then veers to look at the problematic philosophy behind confession as a whole. As an evangelical with Catholic tendencies, what he writes at the very end is worth noting:
Then remember this: You could never say enough. You could never be sorry enough. You could never confess sincerely enough or completely enough. At the end of your confession, God would say "All your righteousness is filthy rags in comparison to my law's demands." Not the labor of my hands -- or my best attempt at confession -- can fulfill thy law’s demands. Christ’s perfect confession for us is "It is finished." From there, "there is no condemnation," deathbed or otherwise.
The response to the realization that one could never be sorry enough is perhaps what separates Catholics from Protestants in my view. Protestants cling to the concept of grace and no longer feel any remorse, whereas Catholics use that realization of the enormity of their debt to fervently pursue absolution in every manner possible (bodily prayer, daily communion, other various rites), theologically right or not. Me? I can cling to grace and still be cognizant of the ever present desire needlessly to apologize.


perseverance in these things

"Faith Includes Enduring Trials" {Heb11:32-40}
* Faith may accomplish great things in trials (v32-35a)
- Faith in all types of people
- Faith in all types of accomplishments: public successes, personal deliverances, personal stengthenings
* Faith may suffer great things in trials (v35b-38)
- Faith may suffer to death
- Faith may suffer in life
* Faith will be perfected in spite of -- and because of -- trials (v39-40)
- The promise was not received by earlier generations
- Promise: established kingdom under Messiah
- Redemption will come


created to be gratefully shared

Reflecting on my post from yesterday with a brother this am. His response was one filled with wisdom, and illustrated areas I can continue to grow in. He pointed out that events in my life are not arbitrary ones, not without prior efforts. Hard work in school can translate to a better career or more financial stability. Careful choices around spouses results in a happier marriage. Obedience in following God, spending time in the Word, spending time in prayer -- all these things contribute to healthier families and closer relationships and more fruitful ministry opportunities. He reminded me that current blessings can be tied back to faithful obedience. It is not an arbitrary God we serve.

Secondly, he remarked that feeling guilty is a hindrance to what your true spirit needs to be reflecting -- a continuous spirit of thankfulness. Whether or not things are going your way, whether or not you are in the midst of joy or trial, whether or not blessings or tests are consuming your life, your response to God should be one of thankfulness. Whenever you meditate on where your life is your upward-pointed face should be mouthing words of thanks to a God who is in control and who is full of grace and love and who is interested only in what's best for you.

"I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well." {Ps139:14}


is shamed when he is discovered

American culture has created a deep-seated sense of entitlement in its citizens. Perhaps it gets its start in the whole "pursuit of happiness" from the DofI. People feel like they deserve many things, and anger towards God develops when these things are not easily in their reach.

It could be that perfect job. It could be that perfect mate. It could be children. It could be a stop to that pain. It could be a more prosperous living. It could be an end to that fount of tears. In all of these things, and in many others, that desire for happiness feels like a God-given right.

Why then when given all these things, why then when I have so much, why then when I am the envy of others, why then does having received these "entitlements" bring me no joy? Indeed, why then that sense of guilt?

Perhaps I was absent the day they programmed in that pursuit of happiness. Or perhaps that switch was knocked off by the realization of the depth of the horror of the blackness that is my true soul only recently cleansed by the grace of God.


things to them, and give up

For personal reasons, thinking about the word "sacrifice". For a believer, you would think the act of sacrifice to be an easy thing. All pales in comparison to Calvary, and the believer that reflects on it each month at the Lord's Table is reminded of the significance and extent of the sacrifice made by Christ.

And yet when it comes to sacrifice, why is it still so difficult? For someone who adores the Lord's Table, who gets choked up regularly at the mention of the cross, why is it still so difficult to part with something anything whose cost is no small matter?

If selfishness has roots so deep within the believer, what must it be like in the unbeliever?


not having become a forgetful hearer

Lord says He can place sins as far as the east is from the west. Apparently, that's not far enough to erase it completely from memory, at least for human beings. I don't doubt that certain sins have consequences with far-reaching implications, but shouldn't those time-transcending consequences be decided upon by God and not by man? And whether or not our paparazzi minds are like elephants, the concept of grace still implies handing out positives despite the presence of negatives. Groucho said he wouldn't want to join a club that would have him as a member; not sure I wish to be part of a club that would have me as one while overlooking others with similar outstanding debts.


they themselves were filled with rage

This story meshes well with the Romans chapters I've been reading lately. The only emotion I get from this story is one of sadness. All of us, even believers -- sometimes especially believers -- get mad at God. All of us come to a point where the helplessness of the situation fuels furrowed brows turned skyward. This man's actions are not uncommon. Frankly, the Lord would probably prefer a senseless act of anger like a car through a church door over the quiet apathy expressed by most with issues with the Lord, especially those who occupy the pews.

Romans 1 discusses how we purposely turn our backs on God, and Romans 3 reminds us that all are guilty. After that? Don't spoil the rest of Romans for me. I want to see how this story plays out. I have a hunch that there's a happy ending.


and breaking it, He began

Hearts made of glass are easily shattered. Sometimes that shattering comes upon impact against a solid surface. Other times that impact creates a fissure that only breaks apart upon repeated smaller impacts. Sometimes that shattering is not a singular event but rather the collective action after a slow erosion, pieces of powder rather than shards. But if you imagine that there are hands with a glorious heat that can mold shards into something finer, and if you remember that panes of glass shatter, but solid forms of some depth not so easily, then maybe you revise that statement.

Hearts of glass are easily shattered. Some of them.


did not say it is hopeless

"Faith Means Trusting God for the Impossible" {Heb11:29-31}
* FAITH: Fearless as I trust Him
* All face impossible situations during their lives: career, health issue, family issue, sin issue
* No promise from God to keep you from impossible situations; only promise to deliver you safely through them
* By faith, I can escape dead ends (v29)
- Crisis: Red Sea crossing
- Faith expressed: Obedience
- Exodus Revealed
* By faith, I can overcome obstacles (v30)
- Crisis: Walls of Jericho
- Faith expressed: Obedience
* By faith, I can behave differently (v31)
- Crisis: Rahab story
- Faith expressed: risky obedience
- From disgraced life to lineage of Christ -- Grace
* Application
- Trust God's purpose
- Obey God's instructions
- Believe in God's ability


His disciplies were together

From something for tomorrow:

One of the great things about faith – and one of the great things about God for setting it up this way – is that faith is not just an individual experience but also a social experience. There’s a reason Jesus chose twelve disciples and not just one disciple. He knew they’d need to support each other as they followed Him, and as they dealt with the crucifixion. There’s a reason the young Christian church fellowshipped and worshiped and broke bread and prayed together. They persevered under persecution by leaning on one another. There’s a reason congregations are considered one extended family, and why small groups are effective. Because faith is designed not just to be an intimate relationship between an individual and God Almighty; it is also designed to be intimate relationships between brothers and sisters united together under the banner of Christ.

Pastor this morning has shown how God allows people to face impossible situations evident in the Red Sea Crossing, the fall of Jericho, and the trusting of Rahab. God often develops faith by putting faith to the test. But one of the great things about this God of ours is that these tests of faith aren’t always solo experiences; sometimes He allows these tests of faith to be collective experiences. God uses our innate need to share experiences as a means of supporting and developing faith as a body of believers.

Can you imagine how scary crossing a dry stretch of land that once was a seabed with towering walls of water to your sides is? How much easier would it be to have another’s hand to hold as you hurried across to the other side. Can you imagine how strange you might feel walking around a city on the hopes that impenetrable walls would collapse at the sound of a horn? How much easier would it be to laugh about the situation with a brother or sister as you trusted God and made that circular journey.