Saturday, September 7, 2013

In His arms

Choosing to SEE, by Mary Beth Chapman...painful, humorous, encouraging, challenging...both times I have read it, I have ended with a more earnest desire to share the hope I have in Christ with others, to trust Him wholeheartedly with the challenges He brings our way, and to rejoice that though a mess, He loves me.  Here are a couple of excerpts that I could identify with:

"Most people I know are quite fond of the apostle Paul, not because he was a superachiever who spread the gospel throughout the known world, but because he realized that his pains and limitations were what kept him dependent on Christ...He said that we carry around the knowledge of Christ like a treasure in 'jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies' (2 Cor. 4:7-10 ESV)."

"I take a perverse pleasure in so many of the Psalms, and I am so absolutely grateful to God that He would include the wild writings of a guy like David, who clearly had his ups and downs.  I can relate with the pain and great sweeps of melancholy in the Psalms.  But I can also relate with the way David always returned to his hope in the Lord.  His pain was real, but so was his hope. And in spite of being slightly crazy, David know that the Lord God Himself knew him before he was born.  He is the One who will cause our stories to ultimately end secure and well, right in His arms."

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Accidental Pharisee?

On Sunday we visited a church called Mars Hill with our nephew Ryan and his girlfriend.  I have listened to their pastor, Mark Driscoll, via podcasts on and off for years.  But Mark wasn't preaching this week.  A man named Dr. Larry Osborne did, and after being greatly encouraged by his preaching, I decided to look him up to see what else he has available online.  One of the first things I came across was introducing a book he has written titled Accidental Pharisee.  Though I want to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, I was convicted that still, all too often, I fall into the very things he mentioned in his's a slice of it, pasted in blue (the rest can be found HERE). 

Here’s a brief list of six of the most telling indicators that we may have inadvertently started down the path of an Accidental Pharisee, looking down on others and trusting in our own righteousness.
  • First and foremost is a deepening sense of frustration and disdain for those at the back of the line. Instead of a Jesus-like compassion for those who can’t keep up, we view them with cynicism and a cocky arrogance.
  • The second warning sign is a spirit of exclusivity. When thinning the herd becomes more important than expanding the kingdom; or raising the bar becomes more important than helping people climb over it, something has gone terribly wrong.
  • A third indicator is the addition of extra-biblical rules and expectations. Few of us would see ourselves as legalists. We think we’ve moved on from old school legalism because we no longer judge people by what’s in their refrigerator. But the spirit of legalism still runs strong. We now judge people by what’s in their driveway and how big their house is.
  • A fourth symptom is a pattern of idolizing the past. Whether it’s the New Testament church or the scholars of old, we tend to give them a free pass for their failures. But the present day Bride of Christ and the current crop of leaders that Jesus has put in place are assailed for their blind spots, failures, and feet of clay. Like the Pharisees of old, we rip on the living prophets and then build monuments to them once they die.
  • A fifth sign that something has gone wrong is a quest for clone-like uniformity. Jesus had room for Simon the Zealot and Matthew the Tax Collector. Yet sometimes, the more biblically grounded we become, the less room we have for anyone who hasn’t yet learned all that we’ve learned. The result is a circle of fellowship that’s tighter than Jesus’s circle of acceptance.
  • The sixth and final indicator that we’re becoming an Accidental Pharisee is something called “gift-projection.” It’s the toxic belief that my calling is everyone else’s calling. It disfigures the body of Christ by insisting that ears become eyes and hands become feet. It looks like passion for the mission. But in reality, it’s chocolate covered arrogance.
Does any of that strike a chord with you too?   Together, let us lay aside the filthy rags of our own self-righteous haughtiness and gladly put on the robes of His righteousness.  

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly 
and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
~ Micah 6:8 (NIV)

26 minutes in...

About a year ago, I listened through a series of talks on marriage by a godly pastor named Steve Wilkins.  I have been thinking once again about the content from his talk about was truly a wonderful talk, given at a family camp in California, and you too can listen to it by clicking this link.  Around the 26 minute mark, he notes that forgiveness costs us something. 

We know it cost God something, don't we?  Forgiveness cost God big time…for Him to be both just and the justifier, Jesus had to suffer and die on our behalf.  But oh the gains!  God could have stayed angry with us and we all could be facing His just wrath on account of our many wrongdoings.  He would have been perfectly just…He is the Judge and we have done wrong…there would be no wrongdoing on His part to make us suffer the due consequences of our sins. That is because He is God.

One of the often memorized verses of the Bible is John 3:16, which says: “For God so loved this world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  Now slow that down.  God SO LOVED.  He GAVE.  His only begotten SON.  Are you a parent?  Could you give your child to rescue rebels?  Would you even want to re-establish relationship with those who have betrayed you, lied to you, forsaken you, killed your messengers, and sinned against you in an overwhelming myriad of ways?  John was not kidding when he told us in 1 John 3:1 to “BEHOLD what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!  Forgiveness wasn’t free for God…it cost Him mightily.  And He didn’t stop at forgiveness in the sense of wiping out  our liability for punishment with His love…He more than restored relationship by adopting us and bringing us into His family.  

He took initiative and died for sinners (not people who had begged for His mercy and totally cleaned up their act...people like you and me, still in our sins and not even caring a hoot about Him)...and we know that.  For those of us who have been forgiven by God, we also know we are supposed to forgive others as Christ forgave us. But have you ever been asked by someone to be forgiven and found it really hard to do?  Getting back to the 26 minute mark, Pastor Steve shed some helpful light: 

"It sounds simple, but it is really hard BECAUSE in order to do this, you’ve got to:
  1. Give up the feeling of superiority that comes from being bitter against someone for a good reason.  It is a delicious feeling, and we have all been guilty of enjoying it. You have grounds for being really angry.  And your holy little soul has been damaged by Mr. or Mrs. Inconsiderate, and you take great inward pleasure in standing above them in your so called righteous judgments.  It is a delicious feeling to think yourself more holy than other people [and it destroys the church all the time because all of us like it!].  You know you are supposed to forgive when someone asks you to, but you delay it…”I just can’t talk about it right now” with puckered lip.  We put people off so we can feel superior for at least a little while longer.  It is a great wickedness.  We hang onto the offenses so that we can feel more righteous than they are.
  2. Holding onto the hurts makes us feel like we have something to hold up as a reason for people to feel sorry for us.  Nobody appreciates me, nobody is thoughtful like me, nobody knows what I suffer…I feel sorry for myself and I like it when someone else feels sorry for me too.  If I let go of the offenses, I lose this power.
Forgiveness costs you something…it costs you your self righteousness and your self pity.  BUT, if you give up your self righteousness and self pity, you are going to be free of anger, and bitterness, and frustration and the poisonous spirit of revenge that drains you from the ability to love, and of peace and joy.  Forgiveness does cost us something, but when we understand the gain we know there is no greater bargain.  There is no substitute for mercy."

We can only do that by remembering the greater price that was paid by God for us all.  It frees us to love.  Notice that the things it costs us to forgive are self-focussed.  Doesn't God call us to consider one another, to lay our lives down, to take initiative to point people to Jesus that they might live by His grace?

Later in his talk, he said: "Nothing but repentance and forgiveness solves the problem, and when you do that you have a place where you can begin to rebuild on the right foundation, the foundation of our Savior and have the life you stopped thinking is possible."