Friday, September 4, 2015

the page that doesn’t belong in your Bible



A professing Christian said something to day that deeply disturbed me: “Either you follow Jesus and love everyone, or you follow the Old Testament, discriminate against gay people, and refuse to eat pork.” When our own fellow Christians are speaking in such a way about the Word of God, it is time to dig in and search for what tremendous gaps there must be in our communication of the Bible’s foundational truths. One thing that might be of benefit is to tear a certain page out of our Bibles completely: that mostly-blank one about two-thirds of the way through which simply says, “NEW TESTAMENT.”

To suggest that the Old and New Testaments are mutually exclusive is to negate not just one, but both. Both testaments declare that God is changeless (Hebrews 13:8, Malachi 3:6, Revelations 1:9, James 1:17), yet I'm hearing it suggested that Jesus is somehow the new and improved "God 2.0" with a more amiable personality and a softer stance on sin (which, by the way, should be a terror and not a comfort - if there ARE variations and shifting shadows in our God, who is to say His change will be to our liking next time around?). Can we possibly think that if God had stopped taking sin seriously, He would have put His own Son through a brutal Roman execution because of it?

Furthermore, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (which happens to be in the New Testament) declares that ALL Scripture is useful for me to know and implement in my life - not just the parts written in red ink. Yes, “Love one another” is a vitally important command for all believers - because it is the glue that bonds Christians together in unity (Colossians 3:14). Yet I am seeing it used time and again as a point of contention to drive us apart, uniting us instead to the cause of sin. Clumsily wielding this one command as the single answer to all sin issues is a cop-out, not an act of courage (1 Corinthians 5).

What can we do then to prevent such scandalously unbiblical doctrines and strategies from taking root in the body of Christ? We can come to know our (changeless) God from beginning to end - from Genesis to Revelation. We can become skilled handlers of the Truth (2 Timothy 2:15). We can learn His whole heart, rather than just bits and pieces of His words.

And we will be amazed by Him.

Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship Him.
Exodus 34:6-8

Saturday, August 22, 2015

on time



Have you ever watched The Dark Knight Rises? If you have, I’m sure you remember the near-unbearable suspense climax as our favorite heroes fight desperately to disable a time-sensitive nuclear bomb. One moment too late, and an entire city could be wiped out. It is a race against the tirelessly ticking clock.

I just pulled up the clock app on my phone and watched the second hand go by for a full minute. Quite literally, I saw an entire minute of my life disappear—lost forever. Irredeemable. And I thought how odd it is that we do not respond to life’s ticking clock the same way we respond to a Hollywood time bomb.

Think: our lives are forever ticking by. Seconds pass on a tireless rhythm, and with them pass hours and days and weeks. Time is like a gun to our backs, pushing us closer and closer to the End—an End which history tells us we must inevitably reach, be it by death or Rapture. No act of genius or heroism can stop the ultimate Clock.

So where is our urgency?


Why are we lounging in our lazyboy recliners instead of perched rigid on the edge of our seats?

The only difference between our lives and the peril of Gotham City is that we have absolutely no idea when it might all stop. Shouldn’t that sharpen our senses rather than dull them?

People say it all the time: “Oh, sorry, I’m just so busy right now. I don’t have time. Maybe later, okay?” It’s the ageless excuse to avoid things that are hard, things that are unpleasant, things that just don’t seem like a priority. I just don’t have time.


Don’t you understand? If you are honest with yourself, time is all you have. The plot twist is that you have no idea how much. So spend it wisely.

For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.     - 1 Thessalonians 5:2-6

Sunday, August 9, 2015

on weakness and trust

Sometimes… at night… I think too much.

The fall of the dark curtain seems a veritable power switch for my brain, and all of a sudden I might be analyzing end times events or manufacturing the sounds of a break-in or remembering, vividly, near-forgotten scenes from a long-ago childhood.

Me and my sister Hannah, with baby Lenny and another kitten we only had for a little while before it died.

Last night, at 12:19 AM, it was grief that came to mind.

Bold, sharp memories of some of the saddest times of my life.

I can’t complain that I’ve had a particularly difficult life thus far, but I can’t claim that this earthly existence is ever quite an easy ride. And in the dark it was like all my forgotten wounds began to open again, like a fist hit me in the gut with breath-catching force… scenes that pour back into my head and flood my eyes before I can put up a defense.

The hot tears blotching my lined notebook paper that morning after they called to say Grandpa had died, and the ache that I felt less for him than for my mom, his youngest daughter.

The strangled silence at 10:25am on August 3, 2010, when they told me they couldn’t save my precious kitty, and the strangely delayed convulsing sobs that came after as I wondered at this new experience of intimate loss.

The odd mix of relief and heartbreak when I watched Mt. Hood go by on the left as my flight ascended eastward, bound for Orlando.

The bland coldness inside when I learned that my grandma had died days before, 2,000 miles away in Washington while I was trying to plod through one more week of counseling at camp in Pennsylvania.

These are all times that I survived; and yet in the night when they stampede my brain, I wonder if I really did pull through and conquer, or if the battle of mourning is only still in process after all. I still strain to hear my grandpa’s throaty voice or see him dip dinosaur crackers in his coffee. I still feel a little raw somewhere inside when I remember the taste of biscotti or the softness of Grandma’s voice or the cooing of their pet dove; the speechless hollowness that first appeared on August 3, 2010 at 10:25am is still there too.

Grief is a mysterious thing. In the beginning, it might be a hurricane… only to morph into a deathly stillness that is almost worse than the storm. It might become easy to ignore for awhile, until without warning, it puts a fist to your guts and you reel, blindsided, groping for balance, gasping for breath.
I wonder if greater maturity will someday yield me a surer hold on these wild parts of my emotional self, or if grief levels us all to an equal state of helplessness, regardless of age or life experience or personality. Perhaps we are all meant to need the muscle of someone else when we have been battered limp by this kind of pain. And yet it is incredible how often we collapse alone instead. Afraid of being preached at, afraid of being misunderstood, afraid of being judged, afraid of more hurt; too proud or too insecure or too confused—at least, these are some of the shackles that have kept my own heart bound up in the face of compassion. But what did Paul say…
“Our mouth has spoken freely to you, O Corinthians, our heart is opened wide. You are not restrained by us, but you are restrained in your own affections. Now in a like exchange—I speak as to children—open wide to us also.” 2 Corinthians 6:11-13
Opened wide. It’s risky. It feels unnatural to relinquish our only source of control when our first concern is to avoid being hit again where we’re already wounded. We are required to trust the grace and love of someone else if help and healing is really what we want.

Does that sound familiar? Maybe this is truth in more than grief... maybe in fear, in doubt, in sin, in loneliness, in anger.
“For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:12-16


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