I need a break. So, I thought today you could use a thousand words some other way.
Archive for » August, 2009 «
The “back to work day” sets the tone for the whole week. Will we let the routine of Monday distract us from the opportunity of doing God’s work along with ours?
Why not begin Monday with a prayer that recognizes Who we really serve?
“Father in heaven, I want to serve You in whatever I do. You have engineered my life at this moment so that I am at work where You want me to be. It may not seem like this is right for me, but You know better than I do. You have something special in mind that only I can do in this place. Today, make me aware of the opportunities that You bring across my path that are right from Your hands. Don’t let me be distracted by my routine. I know You are with me always, so that means You are with me right now. Keep my eyes open and my ears listening. Show me Your heavenly surprises today.”
Do you really believe that God is in complete control of all life? Is He in complete control of your life? Well, if He is, then how can you think there is anything that happens that is not what He wants for you today? Let God do what He wants to do through you, and today will be a very different Monday.
What if you said, “The very next person I see is there because God put them there”? It might be the man in the elevator, the woman at the desk, the bus driver, the person standing next to you at the light, the girl selling coffee. It doesn’t matter who it is. It is God’s design to put that person right in front of you for a reason. Will you pass by without leaving anything of Christ behind? You don’t even have to say a word. Have you ever just prayed for the man in the car next to you? “God, bless that man and show him your purposes today”. Be a silent warrior for the Kingdom. Did you smile when you bought the paper? Did you offer meaningful thanks to the bus driver or the parking attendant? Did you greet the guys on the job with the joy of the Lord?
You can put on the face of Christ without a mirror. It starts with “God, let me be your light today”.
Aren’t Mondays fantastic!
30 de agosto a aquel que es poderoso para guardaros sin caída y para presentaros sin mancha en presencia de su gloria con gran alegría, Judas 24
Sin Caída – Zodhiates presenta una pregunta en cuanto a este versículo: “Acaso Judas nos promete que viviremos nuestras vidas sin ningún tropiezo?”Si la respuesta es “si,” entonces parece que Judas se levanta en contradicción a Pablo y Santiago, quienes arguyen que caeremos con frecuencia para guardar la Tora. Si la respuesta es “no,” entonces parecemos negar la declaración de Judas de vidas impecables. Adicionalmente tenemos la preponderancia de nuestras propias experiencias – experiencias que nos recuerdan todos los días de nuestros fracasos en vivir según los parámetros de santidad de Dios. Que debemos hacer?
Podríamos comenzar por notar que la palabra griega aptaistos viene del negativo mas la palabra ptaio (tropezar).Esta no es la misma palabra utilizada para caer (pipto). Tropezar por un pecado no es lo mismo que caer en pecado. Pablo marca esta distinción claramente en Romanos 11:11. Es muy importante. Si creemos que la vida en Cristo consiste de nunca más cometer otro error, nos sentiremos desanimados inmediatamente. Nuestra confianza en nuestra relación con el Padre se tambaleara. Seamos sinceros. Todos continuamos pecando a pesar de nuestros mejores esfuerzos de no hacerlo.
Pero no caemos. Caer es regresar al patrón de acción pecaminosa que una vez me gobernó. Caer es dar paso alejándonos de la relación con el Padre y decidir vivir según mi propio buen juicio. Caer no es lo mismo que tropezar. Quienes caen no sienten convicción de pecado. Están adormecidos al Espíritu. Quienes tropiezan agonizan hasta lograr la restauración. Los pecadores sin arrepentimiento permanecen inconscientes de su condición. Los pecadores que tropiezan reconocen las rodillas ensangrentadas.
Aquí hay un punto muy importante. Nota la fuente del poder. Judas no dice que jamás tropezaremos. El dice que Yeshua tiene el poder de mantenernos de tropezar. En otras palabras, este versículo se trata de la fuente, no del resultado de tropezar. En otras palabras, este versículo se trata de la fuente, no del resultado. Yeshua es capaz aun si no confío en El todo el tiempo. Mi tropiezo no disminuye Su habilidad. Solo muestra que no dispuse de Su fuerza en ese momento. La pregunta de Zodhiates apunta en la dirección errada. Este versículo no se trata de mí. Se trata de Él. La pregunta debe ser, “Acaso Judas me promete que Yeshua siempre es capaz de sostener mi justicia indistintamente de las circunstancias?” La respuesta es, “Claro que sí. El es la fuente de mi justicia.”
Juan diría, “Mis pequeños hijos. Anímense. Si, podrán tropezar, pero eso no borra la bondad de Dios o el poder del Mesías. Hay restauración en la cruz. Dios perdona. Así que, levántate, sacude tus zapatos y comienza a caminar una vez más. Aquel que te redimió es capaz de guardarte. Recuéstate plenamente en El y El suplirá todo lo que necesitas.
El pecado es parte de la vida de todo seguidor justo. A fin de cuentas, no fuimos declarados justos porque hemos conquistado nuestros pecados. Fuimos justificados porque todos somos pecadores. La única Victoria sobre el pecado en la vida de un redimido es convencernos que nosotros no podemos lograrlo. Eso es completamente cierto. No podemos lograrlo, pero no importa. No podemos hacerlo, pero El si puede. Es Su vida en mí, no mi vida en El. Así que cuando tú tropiezas, alaba a Dios. El es la fuente de tu justicia. Y levántate y descansa aun más.
Pecado, tropezar, caer, aptaistos, pipto, Judas 24
Now to Him being able to keep you without stumbling, and to set you before His glory without blemish . Jude 24
Without Stumbling – Zodhiates poses a question about this verse: “Is Jude promising we shall live our lives without ever stumbling?” If we answer, “yes,” then Jude seems to stand in contradiction to Paul and James who argue that we often fail to keep the Torah. If we answer, “no,” then we seem to deny Jude’s claim of sinless living. In addition, we have the preponderance of our own experiences – experiences that remind us daily of our failures to live up to God’s code of holiness. What are we supposed to do?
We can start by noticing the Greek word aptaistos comes from the negative plus the word ptaio (to stumble). This is not the same word used for falling (pipto). Stumbling over a sin is not the same as falling into sin. Paul makes the distinction very clear in Romans 11:11. It’s important. If we think life in Christ consists of never making another mistake, we will immediately be discouraged. Our confidence in our relationship to the Father will be shaken. Let’s face it. We all continue to sin in spite of our best efforts not to.
But we don’t fall. To fall is to return to the pattern of sinful action that once ruled over us. To fall is to step away from the relationship with the Father and decide to live according to my own best advice. Falling is not the same as stumbling. Those who fall are not convicted by their sin. They are numb to the Spirit. Those who stumble are agonized until they are restored. Unrepentant sinners are unconscious of their condition. Stumbling sinners recognize their bloodied knees.
There is another important point here. Notice the power source. Jude doesn’t say we will not stumble. He says Yeshua has the power to keep us from stumbling. In other words, the verse is about the source, not the result. Yeshua is able even if I do not lean entirely on Him at all times. My stumbling does not diminish His ability. It only shows I did not avail myself of His strength in that moment. Zodhiates question points in the wrong direction. The verse isn’t about me. It’s about Him. The question should be, “Does Jude promise Yeshua is always able to sustain my righteousness no matter what the circumstances?” And the answer is, “Of course. He is the source of my righteousness.”
John would say, “My little children. Take heart. Yes, you may stumble, but that does not erase the goodness of God or the power of the Messiah. There is restoration in the cross. God forgives. So, pick yourself up, dust off your shoes and start walking again. The one who redeemed you is able to keep you. Lean entirely on Him and He will supply what you need.”
Sin is a part of the life of every righteous follower. After all, we were not made righteous because we conquered our sin. We were made righteous because we are sinners. The only victory sin has in the lives of the redeemed is to convince us we can’t make it. That’s entirely true. We can’t make it, but it doesn’t matter. We can’t make it, but He can. It’s His life in me, not my life in Him. So, when you stumble, praise God. He is the source of your righteousness. Then get up and lean harder.
Topical Index: sin, stumble, fall, aptaistos, pipto, Jude 24
“And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God demand of you? Only this: . . .” Deuteronomy 10:12
Demand – We don’t like the sound of this, do we? What God demands doesn’t sound much like the gentle, compassionate God we hear about in church. We would rather have this Hebrew word translated asks. In fact, that’s what the word usually means. It is sha’al and it is used almost two hundred times in Scripture for asking. You will find it in God’s instructions about the questions children ask of parents, about asking for help, about asking the proper form of worship or legal proceedings and dozens of other uses. But here the translation of the Jewish Publication Society has decided sha’al should be translated “demands.” Why did they choose something so harsh?
The answer begins with the context. Moses has just recounted the history of the people of Israel in the desert experience. It is a rather sad history of disobedience, revolt and hard-heartedness. In spite of all that, God graciously provides a land for the people. He promised it to Abraham and He does not break His promises. But circumstances for the people have changed. They are no longer under the authority of Pharaoh. Now they belong to God. He is their sovereign ruler, and like any ruler of any kingdom, He has expectations of His citizens. In fact, these expectations are more than just kingly desires. They are conditions of occupancy. If you want to live in the land of the King of kings, you must submit to His demands. It might sound harsh to a people who is used to voting on the rules they live by, but in the 10th Century BC, it would have been so common no one would have lifted an eyebrow. We don’t live in the time of Moses, but maybe we should. All our protests about God’s demands might fade into the desert sand if we just understood that the Kingdom is a monarchy and its citizens are under the direct rule of the King.
Of course, sha’al isn’t usually about stern demands. It’s usually about reasonable questions and requests. I think God’s demands are always questions and requests. That doesn’t mean God isn’t demanding. He is. The Ten Commandments are demands for certain kinds of behavior and attitudes. But beneath those demands is the goodness of God. His demands do not rest of dictatorial authority. They rest of loving creativity. God loves His children. Therefore, God can expect – and demand – behavior of His children. This is the meaning of divine jealousy. So put away the backdrop of the divine moral policeman or the heavenly judge. Yes, in some sense God really is the Judge of all mankind and we must be constantly aware of His right to judge. But God is kind. He says of Himself that He is compassionate, merciful and long-suffering. That does not give us opportunity to trample on His authority, but it does give us a chance. He doesn’t ask or demand more than we can do. He shows forbearance (what a wonderful word). But most of all, He loves. Celebrate His goodness buried inside His demands. The King has spoken and His words are joyfully received.
Topical Index: demands, sha’al, ask, love, Deuteronomy 10:12
Not reading and thinking
Not reading, thinking and contemplating
Rather meditation is offering
It is offering back to God the Scripture He has given us
As our part of the divine conversation
This is God’s love story
When we give back to Him the gift He has given
We say, “Yes, Lord, I am agreeing with You.
This is my love story too.”
“say not to yourselves, ‘The LORD has enabled us to possess this land because of our virtues’, . . .” Deuteronomy 9:4
Virtues – Why does God bless? Do you think His blessings are the result of your goodness? Do you think He provides for you because you have been more obedient than others? I have often heard people say that because they tithe or because they attend church regularly or because they give to charity, God will bless them. Watch out! This kind of thinking is laced with heresy. We do not obligate God. Moses had to remind the people that God’s blessing was the result of God’s purposes, not their spiritual uniqueness. In fact, the possession of the land came about because God disposed of the wicked, not because Israel earned the right of occupancy.
“It’s not because of our virtues,” says Moses. The Hebrew is tzedakah. We could translate this as righteousness. Our righteousness doesn’t buy us anything. It is God’s plan and purpose that changes the course of history. We need to remember this. It’s just too easy to start thinking God will do what I want Him to do because I have been so good. Didn’t the prophets tell us our righteousness is as filthy rags? They also remember us of the arrogance of virtuous assertion. Moses’ warning must constantly echo in our ears. I may be blessed simply because God is taking care of someone else’s unfinished business.
We in America are most susceptible to the sin of manifest destiny. We have been blessed. We have also leveraged that blessing at the great expense of many others. Yet we expect God will reward our land because we have done so much for Him. What arrogance! I wonder if we ever considered the fact that our blessings might just be the accidental left-overs from something God was accomplishing in other nations. The mix of nationalism and religion is a potent source of hubris. No Torah-observant follower of the Lord can allow himself such egotism. God works among the community of all men and in executing His plan, some rise and some fall. It is not their righteousness that brings success or failure, gain or destruction. It is God’s hidden hand that turns the hearts of kings. The punishment of the wicked may result in accidently blessing to others.
Realizing that blessings come from fallout helps us remain humble, grateful and obedient. Only the most foolish will ever think their good deeds produce divine favor. God is no man that He might be bribed by my conformity or appeasement. I am a fool to think so. Nevertheless, God does make promises, doesn’t He? He promises if I give to the poor, it will be counted as a loan to the Lord and He will repay. He promises if I live according to His instructions, He will use me for His purpose (and care for me so that I might act as a magnet for Him). He promises I will be an object of His concern, He will never abandon me, I will be conformed to His character and someday His justice will prevail. But, of course, none of these promises really depend on me. They are all ultimately about who He is, not about what I earn.
Today we may need to be reminded that fallout produces blessings. We may need to be reminded that I am not so wonderful that I can command God’s favor. God is doing things beyond me that affect me. Today might be a good day to get some perspective.
Topical Index: blessing, virtues, tzedakah, Deuteronomy 9:4
There are 3 passages that we have to consider. We will briefly look at the first two and then concentrate on the passage in Mark.
Reference to the strong man’s house (Isaiah 49). The issue is about authority. Jesus comes with a sign that can only be interpreted as God acting among the people. Acknowledging this sign is a clear separation between those who understand who Jesus is and who He represents. To reject the implied authority is to reject the One who sent Him. As Jesus says, “If you are not with me, you are against me.”
The expression in Luke reminds us of many OT passages. Leviticus 24:11-23, Numbers 11:17 and 27:18, Numbers 15:30-31, Deuteronomy 34:9, Psalm 106:32-33.
The first thing we need to understand is what is blaspheme.
The Hebrew word that parallels the Greek for blasphemy is ne’asa. It signifies the action or attitude where the former recipient of favorable disposition and/or service is consciously viewed and/or treated with disdain. Consider the following synonymous parallels: mārâ “to rebel against authority” (Ps 107:11); ˒ābâ “to be unwilling and disinclined toward obedience” (Prov 1:30); śānē˒ “to hate” (Prov 5:12), not believing in the Lord (Num 14:1), to forsake God (˓āzab, Isa 1:4), mā˒as “to reject,” Isa 5:24, ḥārap “to say sharp things, reproach, scorn” (Ps 74:10).
Notice that it is not about swearing. It is actions, attitudes and words.
But God does forgive our disobedient actions, our sinful attitudes and our vile speech. So, what’s different about this particular sin?
Now we can look at the passage in Mark.
First notice the formula expression of this verse (Truly, truly – amen lego humin). What does that tell us? This is the first time that this formula is used in Mark.
This expression establishes authority. That is the real issue at stake in this passage. The authority of God manifest in His saving grace
We must understand the issue of authority before we can answer the next critical question: Who is the one who blasphemes in this verse?
We must look at the context
The passage begins in verse 20
What is the story? The scribes contend that Jesus casts out demons through the power of Satan. Why do they say this?
Jesus replies that if this were the case, Satan would already be defeated.
Then Jesus alludes to the lesson of the strong man and the strong man’s house.
Where does this metaphor come from?
Consider Isaiah 63:10: This is the only passage in all the OT that speaks of grieving God’s Holy Spirit. Here the Hebrew word is atsav, usually translated as sorrow and emotional agony. The same word is used in Genesis 3 to describe the results of the Fall. Here it is a Hebrew verb tense that indicates an active cause. In other words, what these people did had a direct effect on the Spirit of God. Their actions caused something to happen.
What is happening in this passage in Isaiah?
First, it’s a passage about the messianic Servant. Consider the context:
The One who comes to save, garments of red, alone, life blood sprinkled on His clothing, producing salvation by His own arm.
He is filled with lovingkindness and mercy. He appeals to His own people. He heals their affliction and redeems them.
But they rebel against Him. They grieve His Holy Spirit. As a result, He becomes their enemy rather than their savior.
Notice that the description of the messianic savior here echoes the character of God in Exodus 34:6. The character of God is merciful, except note the consequences of rejection of that mercy in Exodus 23:21. Notice that here God says He is sending a representative who carries the authority of His name. Rebellion against God’s representative leads to the impossibility of forgiveness. Why? Because this rebellion denies the authority of God by insulting His name. To deny the authority of the messenger is to deny the authority of the One who sent him.
When Jesus alludes to these OT passages, he shifts the question to one of authority. Just as there were rebellious members of Israel in the first exodus, now there are rebellious members of Israel in the second exodus. Jesus is the second Moses. He is sent in the name of the Father to bring rescue and redemption. But there are those among His own people who deny His authority by suggesting that His power is demonic. In the first exodus, God did not forgive the rebellion of the Israelites. The entire generation died in the wilderness.
Isaiah 63:17 fills in the picture. God hardened their hearts (note the Hebrew verb here)
There are three possibilities for understanding the Greek verb poroo as a Hebrew translation. We can see all three in the description of Pharaoh’s response to God. They are all translated “hardened” in English, but that only means that we don’t understand the nuances – and the nuances make a big difference. The first possible word is hazak. Although it is translated “hardened” in verses like Exodus 4:21, that translation doesn’t really communicate what is happening because hazak normally means “to strengthen” and is most often applied to the idea of “power” (as in “a mighty hand”). When this word is applied to Pharaoh, it means that Pharaoh is unyielding. God simply allows Pharaoh’s natural resistance to be strengthened so that Pharaoh does not relent. The second word is kaved. It means “to make weighty or heavy,” implying either honor or dullness (Exodus 9:7). God allowed Pharaoh’s heart to become dull, that is, to move in the direction of the natural man who does not discern the things of the Spirit, simply by withdrawing common grace. We can see the connection between hazak and kaved. Both involve God allowing the rebellious soul to act without spiritual intervention.
Then there is the third Hebrew word, the one that Jesus probably used. It is qashah. You will find it in Exodus 7:3. It means to become obstinate, resistant or stubborn. You’ll find it in Jeremiah 7:26. Why is it likely that Jesus used this word instead of the others? Because this is the word the prophet uses to describe the condition of disobedient Israel. It is the word for not paying attention to the power and majesty of God. It is applied to the children of Israel in the wilderness and prior to the Captivity. It is about a nation that didn’t listen to those who were sent to from God (see Jeremiah 7:23). When Jesus uses this word, the culpability falls directly on His audience. They resist what God displays.
As a result of this rebellion, they are put to death.
It is possible to reject Jesus as the Messiah during His earthly ministry. Jesus comments on this possibility in the Luke passage. But grieving the Spirit is more than rejecting the demonstration of Jesus as the Messiah while He is on the earth. Grieving the Spirit is the consistent and deliberate resistance to the power of God to save through His anointed One. In other words, while men may reject the Messiah during the time that Jesus brings the message of God’s grace and still be forgiven for that sin, anyone who continues to resist the Spirit excludes himself from the grace of God, with the result that he cannot be forgiven and becomes God’s enemy. To ultimately reject the Messiah by refusing repentance means that forgiveness is not available and can never be available. There is no other means by which we must be saved.
There is a parallel in Jeremiah 5:12 – a denial of the fact that God is the God of authority. The result is utter destruction. To suggest that Jesus’ authority is from Satan is to lie against God. The result will be destruction, just as the prophet said.
Furthermore, Jesus as the messiah is the final revelation of God’s mercy. To insult His authority is to reject the last hope of redemption. There is no other coming rescue, and therefore, no other possibility of forgiveness.
So, there is more here than simply to cut oneself off from future forgiveness by rejecting God chosen One. As Isaiah shows, this rejection turns God from one who provides redemption to one who brings vengeance. This makes God my enemy.
So, who is the one who blasphemes? Jesus points to the religious leaders (the scribes) who should have known the authority of God in the messenger but who denied that authority. For them, there is no forgiveness. God becomes their enemy.
and do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
Conformed – Let’s go to visit the blacksmith. Of course, today you might have to travel a long way to find one. Most of the operations of a blacksmith have been given to machines. But we all know what a blacksmith does. He takes metal and shapes it into something useable. He heats, bends and pounds on the metal until he produces a sword, a plow or a horseshoe. That takes real effort and a lot of beating. And that’s what Paul has in mind with the Greek word suschematizo. Literally, it means to shape according to a pattern. It is “to fashion with.” The verb implies a schematic. This is constructing by blueprint.
Paul instructs us not to be shaped with the pattern of this age. But we wont’ be able to identify the pattern without adopting Paul’s worldview. Why didn’t Paul spell out the pattern to avoid? Why isn’t the next verse something like this: “Don’t smoke, drink or go to wild parties?” Why did Paul feel confident that his readers would know what he meant without mentioning the details?
The answer is built into the culture of the early church. When I became a Messianic believer in the first century, I entered into the commonwealth of Israel. As James points out in Acts 15, I heard Moses taught every week. My culture was the culture of Torah. The people of my congregation were practicing Torah. I prayed, learned and lived Torah. And Torah was radically different from the patterns of behavior in the surrounding world. My conversion brought me in touch with an entirely different way of living, a way that challenged my previous patterns at home, at work and at worship. Paul doesn’t have to spell it out because the ways of the “new” man were an obvious part of the community.
But things changed. The “church” adopted a Greek worldview. In the process, it moved from a Torah-oriented culture of radical difference to a culture that embraced, accommodated and, in some cases, even promoted patterns that would have been considered anathema in previous centuries. That syncretization is still going on today. Now we are so far removed from the culture of Torah that we no longer know the difference between the patterns of this age and God’s point of view. Because the “church” has adopted the world’s ways a little at a time over nineteen centuries, we have moved away from God’s worldview in incremental steps. We are like the proverbial frog in the heated pot. Since the change is only one degree at a time, we don’t notice the difference until it kills us.
You can get your cold slap in the face by reading Deuteronomy seriously. Any reading shows us the dramatic contrast between Paul’s view of godly patterns and our view of syncretism. It is impossible to read the exhortations in the New Testament for godly living if we remove those exhortations from the culture of Torah. That is why the church today has nothing really radical to say to the world. The church is the world, wrapped in God-language. It is not radically different. It does not compete with the culture of the world. It does not offer a completely different way of life. No wonder we are so confused and impotent. We can’t be transformed because we are trying to tweak the world’s blueprints instead of throwing them in the trash.
So, what can we do? Well, we can start by changing what we are able to change, right now. We can stop trying to accommodate to the world’s timetable, expectations and attitudes. We can start with one step from Deuteronomy today, and add another tomorrow. We can be willing to be different. The patterns of this age are no friends to the righteous no matter how well they have been shaped to fit the pew.
Topical Index: syncretism, suschematizo, fashion, conform, Romans 12:2, worldview
The truth is that I’m afraid. I don’t mean that I’m afraid of the possibilities of life. I don’t cower under the prospect of hurricanes, earthquakes or tornados. I’m really not fretfully anxious about economic loss or political unrest. I absolutely believe that God engineers my life for His purposes. That gives me a kind of solid platform for dealing with the twists and turns of life. In fact, truth be told there is a sense of relief when I think that God may be deliberately stripping away all the “essential” collection of stuff that crowds out my ability to see the eternal. I often wonder if life wouldn’t be much clearer in a world with much less on the table. I am not a big fan of the American dream.
No, I’m not afraid of what the world might throw at me. I trust God in those matters. I have some history with Him and the men and women of the Bible give me even more confidence that God cares. I might not always like what happens, I might not always understand why it happens, but I think I can honestly say that I am not worried about what might happen.
Unfortunately, what I fear is much deeper. I’m afraid of you.
I’m afraid that if you really knew me, you would reject me. I’m afraid that when push comes to shove, you will turn your back on me. I’m afraid that if I ever really needed a friend, I would find I was alone. I’m afraid that you’re afraid too.
I have plenty of evidence to support my fear. While I can review the circumstances of life and see the hand of God weaving a tapestry of events, I don’t have the same composure when it comes to other people. I see a world caught in an endless quest for self-fulfillment. I see caring people who don’t offer tangible assistance to their own friends because they are too busy managing life. I see people of good moral standing who are systematically blind to the helpless in their own backyards. I see men and women of character who do nothing because they don’t know what to do. And I think to myself, “If this is how they respond to the people they say that they love, what makes me think they will respond any differently to me?”
Occasionally I have the temerity to challenge this evidence. I bring a need before the eyes of the righteous. A widow caring for four children who needs replacement of a car that has just been demolished in a near-fatal accident. “It’s not in our benevolence budget. Sorry.” (Under the table I hear that the real issue was “Why should she get a new van when I have to drive a six year old model”). A colleague who is losing his house because a real-estate contract fell through while he was paying for school. “Yes, I know about the situation but what can I do? I have to take care of myself, don’t I?” A couple that lost everything in a disaster. “You’re problem is too big for us.” (so we won’t provide anything at all. It’s easier to just forget about it). A man who is accused, not yet convicted, of molestation. (“We can’t have him around here. What would it look like if he’s guilty”).
How much easier to relieve ourselves of guilt by throwing compassion at national causes and world crises. Oh, those are quite real. Thanks to the media, they are in-your-face traumas. But what happens to the four thousand inmates who live one mile away from that mega-church with a $7 million a year operating budget. “Let’s pray for them” (but keep our distance).
Why should I believe that you would care for me? Why should I take the risk of opening those dark corridors in my soul?
The evidence might not be so overwhelming if it were not for the final bit of bad news. I’m just like you. I get prayer requests that I ignore. I hear of needs that I push aside. I drive by the jail, turn a blind eye toward my neighbor, spend my time with people I enjoy (who don’t really know the darkest parts of me). I buy the “necessary” luxuries. And I even discover that deep inside of me is this unvoiced intolerance for the plight of the poor. Why don’t they do something for themselves? Why don’t they get off their rear ends and work? Why should they always expect someone else to handle life for them? My intolerance sickens me, but it is real. And I’m afraid, it’s just like you. If I were poor, would you even look my way? Would I?
What would happen if I told you about my deepest longings (they are not always pretty) or my darkest sins (they are not the acceptable kind)? Would your opinion of me be diminished? Would you think less of my efforts to reveal God’s grace? Do I have to be sanctified in order to be loved? Or listened to?
The biggest problem we have is that none of us is Jesus. We sinned. We still sin. But the image we hold up is the sinless man from Galilee. Somehow we have been convinced that we must be holy before we can be loved. We have forgotten Abraham’s self-serving sexual disloyalty, Sarah’s abuse, Moses’ murder, Job’s insult, David’s adultery (and murder and genocide), Solomon’s debauchery, Jonah’s denial, Elijah’s cowardice, Peter’s betrayal and Paul’s megalomania. These are the saints of the church. But if they lived next door, we wouldn’t spend one extra minute with them knowing their secrets.
The most fearful verse in the Bible is this: Bear one another’s burdens. The moral fortitude to accomplish this task is almost more than I can manage. Oh, I’m more than happy to lift you up. After all, I get credit for that act. But the implication of this verse is that I have to let you lift my burdens too. And that requires me to be open, vulnerable and take risks. Heaven forbid. What will happen if I put my real burdens on the table and you sweep them to the floor?
There is no simple solution for this dilemma. In fact, there is no solution that guarantees an answer I want. God calls me to share myself with you even if I am crushed in the process. Why would He do that? Because He wants me to learn two things. First, that exposure to rejection is a reflection of His own heart. If I am going to be like Him, I cannot spend my life protecting my emotional image. If I am going to be like Jesus, I will have to risk being rejected while I honestly present myself, a forgiven failure. And secondly, God wants me to discover that I am emotionally secure with Him. I will never be able to risk myself until I know He loves me as I am. That love has to reach far below the surface. It has to get down into the putrid water in the sewers of my life. It has to pry open the closet doors nailed shut from fear. If God can love me in my secrets, I might be able to take a risk with you. Maybe.