Monday, February 16, 2015

In Christ Part 1: Redemption

(NOTE:  As part of an upcoming book, I will be exploring all the  different things that the Bible says about our inheritance in Christ, which is said to  be incorruptible and undefiled.  The inheritance consists of things that Jesus already had, and are now ours because we are joint heirs with Christ.  By my count, there are  37 of these in scripture These  treatises will not be  extensive explorations, but rather brief overviews of colossal concepts.)

  In Romans 3:24, the child of God is described as “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:”   In that simple statement, the Bible says things that are so great we can't even get our brains around it.  To redeem something is to buy it back, and the Bible gives an even more precise definition in Ephesians 1 and Colossians 1 where redemption is  called ”the forgiveness of sins”.  This is larger than  the idea that  Jesus paid our sin debt.  It's possible for  you to pay somebody else's  debts and have nothing to show for it later on.  In redemption, the  person paying the debt acquires, as property, the thing that they paid for.
 That raises the natural question as to whom we the redeemed were  bought back from. Who was our original owner?  The Bible says in Galatians 3:13 that “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written , Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:”  Jesus said “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.” and Paul referred to himself as being “sold under sin”.  If you take all these verses together, a truth emerges; we had sold ourselves to sin, and had become it’s servant.  The wages of sin, and our true inheritance ,was eternal death which the very nature of  God's creation demanded be paid by somebody. It wasn't enough to be sorry, it wasn't enough to never do it again.  That inheritance was ours and was going to arrive whether we wanted it or not.

   But Jesus Christ exchanged our inheritance for his when he became “a curse for us” and “tasted death for every man”. This redemption is said to be “eternal redemption” in Hebrews 9, which is part of our “eternal inheritance”.The  price for our purchase was nothing less than the “precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” according to 1 Peter.  Verse 14 of Ephesians 1 tells us that the redeemed object is a “purchased possession”, a thought echoed in 1 Cor 6:20 where we are told “ye are bought with a price therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.”. Jesus bought you lock stock and barrel, and owns the rights to you.  He owns the rights to your life, to your thoughts, to your time. That redemption doesn’t stop at your eternal soul.

   In fact, the details of our redemption sheds a lot of light on exactly what Jesus went through when he “endured the contradiction of sinners against himself.”   Jesus makes a statement in Mark 3, saying “No man can enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.” According to Colossians 2:13-15 , that’s exactly what Jesus did ;“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly , triumphing over them in it.”  Jesus entered the domain of the “god of this world” who “had the power of death, that is the devil”. He then “submitted himself unto death, even the death of the cross”, and in doing so, won the victory and the redemption for himself, which then became our inheritance.  He didn't need to be redeemed himself, but he won redemption and then freely offered it  to anyone who would put their trust in him.  That’s why, when the risen Jesus appears to John in Revelation he says he has “the keys of hell and death”.
    Sometimes in your Bible, salvation is spoken of in the  past tense. Sometimes it is spoken of in the present tense, and sometimes it is spoken of in the future tense.  The reason for this is simple; the redemption has more than one part, because man has more than one part.  When God created man, he created him as a triune being, and when God redeems a  man, he redeems all three parts of him, The redemption also doesn't all happen at once from our perspective, all though "it is finished" 
  My soul was redeemed when I accepted Christ, my spirit is redeemed by the guidance and teaching of the Holy Spirit, and my body will be redeemed at “the last trump”.  If you are saved, you have been bought back from death itself, and eventually that purchased state will manifest itself in your spirit, soul and body. As surely as an unsaved man receives the full inheritance of punishment for his sin, the  saved man receives the full inheritance of his redemption.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Science Falsely So-Called

 It's quite common, in the discussions  and dissent of our day and hour, to refer to 'science' as some sort of  final arbiter of the disagreement.  Science is looked to as this impartial decision maker, an illuminated path by which  all of humanity can brightly see the path forward. Science is  looked to as a settled body of facts, and one need only look at these facts to decide who is and is not right.  This tactic is  handily deployed when the scientific facts appear to be on your side.  For example, Hilary Clinton recently  used science as a bludgeon (while simultaneously trying to revamp her image into some sort of matriarchal font of wisdom as opposed to a bitter, man-hating harpy) when she  tweeted "The science is clear: The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork. Let's protect all our kids. #GrandmothersKnowBest". See the subtlety?  She draws a comparison between two settled facts and then throws in her debatable opinion.  Mrs Clinton, and her ilk, claim to have great faith in 'science'.
  The problem is that not all  facts are equally established and while it is observable and demonstrable that the earth is indeed round (an observation validated by the Bible) and  that the sky is blue, the  jury is still out on many facets of the vaccination process.   There are  a great many very smart people that are on both sides of this issue, but before we start forcing people to  take shots, it might behoove us to look at the track record of 'science' or rather, what the Bible calls 'science falsely so-called"
  For example, it was  a commonly held belief in ancient times  that living matter could  spontaneously arise from non-living matter.  It was  a commonly held-scientific opinion, endorsed and defended  by the great minds of the time, for  hundreds and hundreds of years.  Everybody from Anaximander to Aristotle took the position that dead flesh spontaneously produced maggots, and that  buckets of grain spontaneously produced  mice.  It was such a commonly accepted idea that Shakespeare even alluded to it in Anthony and Cleopatra.  Francisco Reidi performed the first experiments in 1688 that cast  doubt on this notion. His experiment was simple; isolate rotting meat form  flies and see if maggots  develop.  They did not.    For his trouble he was ridiculed and called 'unscientific'.  The pressure was great enough to  cause him to doubt his own hypothesis, not based on the evidence, but rather on its reception in the scientific community.
  In 1745 an Englishman named John Needham performed experiments in which he boiled chicken broth, killing the microorganisms he  believed were present in it.  He sealed the broth up and when  microorganisms grew anyway, victory was claimed for the idea of spontaneous generation.  Later experiments proved that his  boiled broth was still being contaminated by the air  before it was sealed.  It wasn't until 1859 that Louis Pasteur was able to sufficiently isolate the samples to prove , by  demonstrable and repeatable experiments, that the prevailing scientific theory of the day was dead wrong.
  Another  common idea of medieval medicine was the idea of 'humours'. Humours can be loosely defined as 4 different bodily fluids (blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile) that had to be kept in balance to  assure good health.  This 'science' is a distant cousin to herbalism.  In  humour thoery different foods were assigned to different humours, and a person was supposed to treat deficiencies in their humours by consuming, for example, more pasta to bring your bile into balance or more sugar to  adjust your blood humours.  Humours were also tied  to the Zodiac and the four season.  Further study has discredited humours, but for centuries it was as firmly established a 'fact' as  the color of the sky.  No serious  medical doctor at the time would challenge it, even though it was  kind of silly.
  All the great minds of the scientific community agreed for  almost 3000 years that  bloodletting was a valid medical practice.  This  method resulted in, among other things, the death of George Washington.  
   Trepanning , where a hole is drilled into the skull to relieve pressure ( and let evil spirits out) was practiced from ancient times to the renaissance without being questioned.
  More recently,  electroshock therapy reigned nearly 50 years as a viable  method for treating a  variety of illnesses. In the  1980's a procedure called vertebroplasty was  introduced. In vertebroplasty, a sort of cement is injected into the  spinal cord to relieve pain after an injury, and this method  enjoyed a 90% success rate until  , years later, many of the recipients  began to experience a whole new set of problems, and  further studies  found it be no more effective than a placebo.
    My point in all this this that the last chapter of this has not been written, and before we charge ahead, it behooves us to look behind. Throughout history,  scientists have come up with ideas and theories and procedures that  were widely implemented  and endorsed  and defended before ultimately  proving themselves to be  useless.  Sometimes it took hundreds of years to get the truth out, and it may very well be that future generation will sit back and marvel that we were even considering  injecting people with foreign substances against their will in the interest of medicine.  Perhaps someday the vax pushers of today will be classified  with blood-letters and trepanners.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Yoga Pants and Other Matters of the Heart

Recently  a young wife and mother named Veronica Partridge wrote a blog post on her decision to make some changes in how she dresses. It is interesting,  movingly personal and very well written.  The blog itself starts off with a disclaimer:

I am in NO WAY trying to tell people what they can and cannot wear. What you wear is entirely your own choice.
  Apparently a good chunk of the world didn't read that, even though it is  literally the first sentence.  Now that's  quite telling, as we will explore later. She goes on to say that she had been  unaware of how much her appearance and preferences  might affect the men around her, and out of concern for her testimony and out of a concern for others, she was going to adhere to  a more Biblical standard of modesty. I say, bravo, Mrs Partidge.
  What was fascinating to me was the hailstorm of controversy.  Part of the problem is that a lot of Christian writers, including myself, are writing about 'family matters'; to wit we are discussing things intended for saved people, but because we are using the big bad internet as our medium, the whole world gets to listen in on our family discussion.  I  don't  care what the world thinks about modesty. In fact, they prove what they think of modesty by what they wear.  But a lot of unregenerate people skipped that first sentence in her blog and claimed she was 'standing up against yoga pants'.   She wasn't doing anything of the sort.  She was accused of all sorts of dictatorial whims, when the entire discussion was about the decision she had made about herself and what she was going to do.  At no point in the blog, or any subsequent interview did she even recommend what anybody else should do.  Nevertheless, the unregenerate world flipped out.  That's isn't particularly interesting or surprising considering the Bible says they walk "in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened , being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: "
  But also weighing in were more than  a fair share of professing Christians, some of whom I know personally and some  of whom have been the  object of my prayers for  years. It is to these dear Christian folks, both those I know and those I don't know, that my remarks are addressed.
  I wont go into a discussion here on modesty. Others have done a  far better job than I can on that issue.  I wont tell you what I wear, or what my wife wears.  Besides this isn't really about modesty..  This is about your heart. The Bible says "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." and it also says "..for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh".  Whether you like it or not or whether you mean to or not, eventually whatever is  in your heart is going to fall out of your mouth, and in this modern age, your keyboard is an extension of your mouth.
  So let me ask you this; when you take the exact same position on this topic that  lost people take, what does that say about your heart?  When you make snide comments in person or online, what does that say about your heart? When your comments say things like "I'm a Christian too, but..." , what does that say about your heart? When you dig up some other blogger that tears Mrs Partridge to shreds and post that on social media with tags to  all the other  girls you know that agree with you, what does that say about your heart?  When you consider your desires and your liberty more precious  to you than the  fact that you may be  a stumbling block to your brother or sister in Christ, what does that say about your heart?
  It's obvious to everyone what you think about modesty. To whatever degree you can choose your own wardrobe tells the whole world what you think about this. But when you defend the undefendable, you say so much more about yourself than you probably want anyone to hear.  We can talk about 'legalism'  all you want, but the fact that you pitch your camp there, with the Bible-rejecting crowd, says volumes about you, and about your heart.
  As your brother in Christ, let me  plead with you to think about what you're thinking, think about what you're saying, think about why you're saying it, and if necessary repent.  The whole world is listening in.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Led of the Spirit

  Church life is a funny thing if you pay attention.  There is a term that was  bandied about in the charismatic/Pentecostal churches of the  1970's and 1980's.  That term was  'Spirit led' or some variation thereof.  The idea as it was presented was that the God's Spirit  speaks to a man through a sort of intuition and  tells him what is expected of him. The phraseology used when explaining how a decision was made was that "God spoke to me" or "the Spirit led me". Some people claimed to have this discernment down to the level of  being able to  grasp God's will about what to eat for breakfast or what shirt to wear that day.

 Scores of messages were preached that emphasized the idea of being 'Spirit led'.  Where the application of this became really  interesting and, in my opinion, damaging, was in church services.  It was a common thesis  that  services where not to be structured things with a clearly stated agenda and purpose. Instead , church services were to be this open-ended spontaneous affair  where the  'Spirit led' (typically the moderating pastor) were to wait and listen for God to tell them what to do next.  Maybe they would sing another song, maybe Brother So-and-So would testify, maybe it would be time to preach or maybe the congregation  would  simply sit there, basking in this intangible presence that the 'Spirit-led' claimed was in the building. 

 Once the preaching started,  the Spirit-led baton would be  passed on to whoever was preaching.  That gave him enormous liberty since his revelations were, by their very nature, extra-biblical.  He could say  pretty much whatever he wanted, and often did, while claiming that the Spirit of God had instructed him to do so.  Often his experience in the ministry was touted as his credentials as to being  able to hear God's voice so well. The meetings were loud, long, and emotional, with good people caught up in the hysteria.

     I give you the background because that spirit has migrated from one end of the church spectrum to the other, and is increasingly common in  independent Bible-believing churches.

  In practice, it's similar to what might happen when my my wife dispatches me to the  Chinese restaurant to get some food.  She knows I'm clueless and forgetful so she writes down what I am supposed to  get.  While standing in line, and gazing up at the menu, with a hand-written note in my grip, I could decide get something completely different.  It's not that her entree is unavailable, it's that I  discern, based off of our years of marriage, that I am at liberty to  substitute the thing she did want for the thing she  might possibly want.  Now, maybe I get it right, maybe I get it wrong. Maybe I get it wrong but she's a good sport and eats it anyway.  Regardless, I cannot claim that I did not have instruction.  That is exactly what happened back then, and it's exactly what is happening now.

  Even though the phrases used are Bible phrases, they are  divorced from the Bible definition, and have been reshaped  and reformed into something that is eerily reminiscent of idolatry.  The golden calf of modern Christianity is our feelings and perceptions about what God wants as opposed to what God actually wrote down.  After all, the Bible does say "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."

  The solution, as always, is simple. The cure for error is truth;  define words according to the Bible and then apply them as such.   Once it's defined, we can see if the modern use of the word matches up, and by doing so we can "prove all things.; hold fast that which is good."

  In Matthew 4:1, the Bible says  "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil".     The parallel passage in Luke says "And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness," 

  Jesus, as God manifest in the flesh, had no need to try to figure out what God was thinking, since whatever Jesus was thinking was what God was thinking. If being led of the Spirit or being full of the Holy Ghost was some sort of divine GPS, I wonder why Jesus  would need  it.  There is nothing in this passage that  indicates that Jesus  was  waiting on  some sort of nudge or prompt to  decide what to do next, or that Jesus used this insight to conduct a church service in accordance with God's will.  The modern use of the term fails this initial Bible test.

  Romans 8:14 says "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.".  The cross-reference to John 1:12 defines New Testament 'sons of God' as people who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.  There is nothing in the passage to indicate that God has set aside a certain class or group of men and given them insight or discernment above anyone else.  Romans 8 does not give you the wiggle room to set up any sort of spiritual dictatorship based off the fact that you are an 'old man of God'.  Being led of the Spirit is part and parcel of being saved. It is not the result of being 'called to preach' or receiving some sort of  secondary anointing. The modern use of this term fails the second Bible test.

Galatians 5:8 is the last use of the  term when it says "But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law."  The context of Galatians 5 meshes with the sentiment expressed in Romans in that the law, though righteous, could not  enable a man to live righteously.  It could only condemn him when he failed.  The law, in and of itself, did nothing to help anyone obey it. It was informative, not reformative in nature.  The same way a speed limit sign tells you what the law is, but  does nothing to control your vehicle, the law showed a man his shortcoming before God, but  could not help a man live according to its dictates.

  Galatians 5 is a contrast between what the law could not do contrasted with what the Spirit of God can do in the life of the believer.  You can have victory over the sin that binds you. You can live successfully for God.  You can  rebuild the shattered mess you've made.  That ability is  available to everyone that is saved.  The biblical definition of being Spirit led is a man who is able, with God's help, to walk in the John 10:10 life. It is not not some mystical ability to read the whispers of God in  hunches and chill bumps.  The modern use of the term fails the third  Biblical test, and can be confidently repented of and  discarded.

  Now, you are certainly at liberty to continue on in your well-intentioned error.  I'm not your dad, and I'm certainly not the church police. But the fact that we have so readily consumed the sort of error that  previous generations would have  laughed while claiming to  love the truth  is a sign of how far we've fallen.  Either way, you are now like the clueless husband in the Chinese restaurant.  You have instruction, will you act on it?


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Social Media and the Gospel

 I don't know how long you have to live to feel like everything has changed, but I can tell you that I  am there.   I  was saved in 1995 and way back then the internet was  just finding it's feet.  Cell phones  existed, but  required a credit check and a chunk of cash, and 'clouds' were these white puffy things in the sky.  There was no 'wi-fi', although there was 'hi-fi' (that's a joke, you're supposed to laugh).  Back then there were certain assumptions about how you conduct a ministry for the Lord Jesus Christ.
  An interesting phenomena has come to my attention in the last few years; internet ministries. I'm not talking about  where a church records a sermon and makes it available online, I'm talking about people whose entire ministry consists of making videos or commentary and publishing them on the internet via Youtube or  Facebook or some other entity.  In considering this, I  have tried not to have a knee-jerk reaction that 'everything new is bad'  and I have also tried not to  put undue honor on 'the old time ways' or 'the way we used to do it' as if that was some sort of standard.
  We live in a  world where  men invent things, and those things, by and large, can improve our lives.  For example, I use indoor plumbing and  have every intention to continue.   Some of this technology can even make us more able and effective ministers of the gospel. The Roman Empire built roads and those roads enabled the gospel to spread more quickly.  Someone  invented a printing press, and that enabled more people to have Bibles than before. Radio came on the scene and to this day  enables remote peoples to hear the  gospel.  Television ministries have taken  encouragement and edification to shut-ins.  Blogs and the internet have enabled people who have something to say to say it without having to seek permission or be part of the religious hierarchy.  Technology in and of itself is amoral, but I do have some concerns about the idea of an internet ministry as a stand-alone work, since it's apparent that  literally millions of Christians over the last two thousand years have led happy, successful,  fruitful Christian lives without ever once turning on a computer.
   The Bible says in 1 Cor 13, speaking of  the judgment seat of Christ that "Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is ."  It's interesting that the issue isn't the quantity or size or the perceived success of the work; the issue is what sort it is.  Quality appears to trump quantity with God.  As we  use whatever tools technology puts at our disposal to  obey the Bible, we should be careful as to what sort of work we are doing.
  I'll use as an example a fictitious fellow named Joe.  Joe  buys a webcam, and sets up a Youtube account, and from the  privacy of his  mom's basement  records bible study videos which he then makes available for free, to the whole world.  He hasn't harmed anyone with this, and people can watch or not watch as they see fit.  After all, the Bible says 'Let all things be done to edifying" and "..notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached ; and I therein do rejoice , yea, and will rejoice ."  I would rather Joe make these videos than do nothing, but if all Joe does is make videos, he has missed the boat.
  God designed us to interact with real human beings, as opposed to thumbnail pictures with  goofy screen names.  God told us "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel" .  Obeying that command by necessity means you get out of your mom's basement, and you interact with the flesh and blood people in your town.  If you have  5,000 followers on Twitter and no one in your apartment building has heard the gospel, I would say that your ministry isn't of a very good 'sort'.
  Paul used the technology of letter writing to reprove, rebuke and exhort the churches he had started, but he says an interesting thing in 1 Thess 1. He says  "For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.  And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:  So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.  For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad ; so that we need not to speak any thing.  For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;"  Paul preached to them the  gospel, but that gospel was  under girded by the day to day life he lived among them.  They knew he spoke the truth  by the life he lived in front of them.  I submit to you that anybody can switch on the webcam and  pretend to be super-spiritual for the duration of a web video.  It is an entirely  different sort of work to  try to live your life as an example to people who eventually will see you at your worst.
  In 1 Cor 11, Paul says "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged But when we are judged , we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.  Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat , tarry one for another.  And if any man hunger , let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come . "  As I said before, Paul wasn't afraid to use the technology at hand , but some things apparently can only be handled in person.
  One of the interesting observations I've made about online ministries is that commentators, some of whom hide behind  screen names and avatars are "contentious , and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath".  Anonymity  emboldens the scoffer, and  if you aren't careful, you can  get drawn into 'debates' , which according to Romans 1 is a work of the flesh.  You can lose your focus spin your wheels arguing with  the lost or the apostate, instead of speaking "sound speech, that cannot be condemned" to the world around you.  You can convince yourself that you are contending for "the faith once delivered to the saints", but the faith it speaks of was delivered face to face to people that could see your life and the example behind it. Arguing with stupid people on the internet is not a ministry nor is it the sort of thing you want to have to give account of since "every idle word that men shall speak , they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. "  There will always be one more idiot out there that  wants to vent and frankly, you don't have time to waste.
   I have a public ministry, and that  ministry serves as the foundation for every other way in which I minister.  I  taught a Sunday school class for many years, and the boldness and patience I learned in street work colored the class. I write quite a bit, but my writing would be of no power without real-life examples to draw from. I  teach the Bible, but most of my Bible  has been learned in messy  dealings with messy people.  Your primary  ministry should be one of looking men and women in their flesh and blood faces and dealing with them about their souls. Beyond that, you ought to have a ministry of encouraging and edifying real life flesh and blood believers to whom you can be an example.  Once you have all that in place, and have a good sort of work, I think it's certainly commendable to want to reach people the next street over or the next town over or the next country over and I see no scriptural prohibition against using every tool at your disposal to do so.  My advice to Joe is that he turn off the webcam, and walk outside. Engage people. Let them  laugh at you, and let them lie to you. Let them disappoint you. Let you disappoint yourself.  Let God mold you and shape you in the  way he has chosen, and when you finally do turn the web camera back on (if you do)  you will  have a ministry of a whole different sort.

Monday, January 26, 2015

My Little Brunette

  We have different recollections of when we first met.  We were both in a business partnership with some of the same people and she  seems to recall first noticing me at a business meeting. I seem to recall meeting her at the garage that we were using as a product distribution point, but it doesn't really matter.  We both agree that our mutual friend Cameron is who introduced us.
  She had been through a lot, most of which I am not at liberty to reveal.  People are a mess and all of us are damaged goods to some degree.  She had grown up in church, and despite some  detours, had made her way back and was serving faithfully.  I was a brand plucked out of the fiery gutter with the   mindset to match. I had been saved 4 or 5 years, I guess, and had been on the street all that time.
  She was an upbeat ,optimistic social butterfly. I was a cranky, confrontational misanthrope.  How in the world did we wind up together?
  Neither one of us had ever been in  a relationship that honored Jesus Christ. We had both read some books on that sort of thing, and so we decided to enter into a courtship.  We were  spending time together in order to scope each other out for marriage. If  marriage ever seemed non-viable we agreed to both cut our losses and  walk away.  We prayed, we fasted. We decided not to do any kissing, mostly because I really wanted to. We met with my pastor, and hers. I investigated her because frankly, I had been burned before and wanted no part of it again.  I would say caustic hurtful things, and she would cry.  I took the approach that a woman that could be run off by a little harshness probably  needed to be run off. Looking back, I want to kick my own butt for how I handled some things. How in the world did she survive the courtship?
  I laid down the law, so to speak.  I had a definite idea how we were going to live, where we were going to live.  If she wasn't interested in X, Y, and Z, then let's stop wasting each others time.  I let her know in no uncertain terms that she was marrying a street preacher who intended to breath his last in the accomplishment of that purpose.  Rather than sell her on me, or impress her, I tried to prepare her for what I felt would be a rough life because after all, life is rough, so  quit your crying and let's  go another round.  How in the world did she put up with that?
  In return she  also needed to understand that she was getting a man who would be   totally dedicated to her and our eventual children.  No matter how hard it got, no matter if I had to work 6 jobs, I would never leave.  We had both  been left, by both parents and paramours.  She needed to understand that, whatever  some other guy had or had not done, that what she was getting was different.  If she was interested, then stick around, and if not, then 'see ya around'.  Maybe the challenge intrigued her, I'm not sure.
  I proposed to her in the auditorium of the church just after the sweetheart banquet.  I had bought a silver jewelry box and filled it with candy hearts, and because I couldn't  ask her ring size without tipping my hand, I bought her a  turtle ring out of a  gumball machine.  She claims I  admitted to being nervous, but since I don't get nervous, she's obviously mistaken.
  We were married almost exactly a year later, and seven months later, our first child was on the way.  I remember her last day of work, which was a real act of faith since she  earned way more money than I did.  God opened  a door to move back to Georgia, and we took it.  We grabbed her dad, threw everything we owned into a moving truck and headed to the East Coast. She had taken quite a gamble, and was leaving everything behind to  follow her admittedly unstable husband.  How in the world did she find the courage?
  We lived in a dumpy little place and I  worked 2 and 3 jobs.  We joined up at a little church and  I resumed street work in the same town where I had graduated high school as a lost man.  I lost my job with  baby #2 on the way. I worked for well over a  year at a place where there wasn't enough money to pay all the bills and we  juggled as best we could. Through it all, God was faithful.
  I found a job and we bought a little cracker-box of a house that was falling apart around our ears.  Baby #3 was on her way.  I changed jobs a couple of times, and in no time at all, baby #4 was coming.  A door opened up for us to move out of the cracker-box  to a place with room for us and our kids.  How in the world did she survive 4 C-sections?
  She has  home schooled my 4 children. She has nursed  multiple sick kids while sick herself, She has  washed clothes, and changed diapers. She has planned and executed birthday parties with very little input from her husband. She has  had every fluid the human body makes spilled on her, from pretty much every orifice.  She has put up with my moodiness, my crankiness, my paranoia. She has endured  my tendency towards combativeness. She has laid aside  most of her own  ambitions to support me in mine. She has  worked a hundred street corners with me, passing out gospel tracts. She has stood in the  pouring rain in Fernandina while I preached She has tried to keep  my kids out of the merciless sun in Deland Fl while I preached. She has slept  in a tent on a farm in Memphis while I went and preached.  She has been both mommy and daddy while I  went to the Philippines to preach.  She has endured my over-reactions.  When my ministry seemed like it was imploding, she stood by me and defended me.  She has given so much for the ministry, and  most of the time, her sacrifice has gone unappreciated by me.
  She has somehow  endured almost 14 years of being married to the most incorrigible rascal I've ever known. She has shared a life with the chiefest of sinners; a walking stack of issues and glitches, and  for the most part she has done it  with grace and patience.
  We have an  anniversary coming up, and this anniversary comes, for us, in the midst of great storms and trials and uncertainty. In  so many ways, we are , once again, at a point of life where we've never  been before. I'm lousy at thank you's.  So right now, in front of  the whole internet thingy, I want to let you know that I love you and I appreciate you.

'A lesser woman would have crumbled'

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Great Responsibility

"But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,  To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect ," Hebrews 12:22-23

 When you got saved, you entered into something that is called a "great mystery" in Ephesians 5; the church.. You were placed into the body of Christ and joined  with every other believer not only alive, but every believer since Calvary.  The Bible says in Romans 12:4-5 that "For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:  So we , being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another."  You are an individual, but at the same time, you are not.  We are many, and at the same time, we are one.    A great mystery, indeed.
  Being part of the body of Christ is literally the best thing ever, but carries with it certain responsibilities  that we  don't always understand or don't always consider as we live out our individual lives.  What affects one of us affects all of us. Romans 14:7 explains it as " For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself".
  If all that is true , then every saved person carries a responsibility to every other saved person. That responsibility is to live lives uncluttered by sin, or as 2 Timothy 2 says "Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity".  The fact is when you  sin, you hurt the rest of us.  Secret sin immobilizes the body from within, discreetly  silencing your witness and robbing you of your joy. Secret sin eventually becomes open sin. Open sin damages the testimony of the church (1 Cor 5), and gives unbelievers yet another excuse to reject the Saviour.  It discourages younger believers, and causes confusion and discord within the body.  Sin  invites the chastening of God upon an individual and, if tolerated, upon an assembly.  If you are saved, you have a responsibility to stay clean, and when you fall, you have an obligation to repent.
  Other believers also have a responsibility to not accommodate you in your sin.  We are not obligated to sweep it under the rug under the guise of being nice or non-judgmental. The responsibility God has placed on us in this area is so much larger than your feelings or mine. We must deal with issues that come up in a biblical matter. 
  It is not kindness to restore without repentance. It is in fact, cruelty to the rest of the body. Too often in this  current climate we are  pressured  to overlook sin in the camp with the vapid idea that we should be  "loving" or "accepting" or "supportive".  It is not "loving" to overlook a transgression that hurts everyone else.  It is not "accepting" to turn a  blind eye to someone's crimes against God. It is not "supportive" to let someone damage the body of Christ with their lusts.  We are one body and no rational person would punch themselves in the nose repeatedly while claiming they are being charitable towards their face.    Quite to the  contrary, the Bible says "Charity suffereth long , and is kind ; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself , is not puffed up Doth not behave itself unseemly , seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked , thinketh no evil;  Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;"If you are saved, and you sin, the sheer magnitude of what you have done to other believers and to the cause of Christ should  overwhelm you and drive you to repentance.  That is your responsibility.
  If you repent, other believers have an responsibility to restore you to fellowship, even if the crime you committed was against them. Galatians 6 says "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted ."  Too often people want restoration without repentance, and that is  horrible.  Equally horrible however, is when the repentant one is not restored.  One of  the great blessings of the Christian life is the ability to outlive your mistakes, but to do that, your mistakes cannot be hung around your neck as some sort of perpetual reminder of the past.  Christians who sin have an responsibility to repent, but Christians who did not sin have an equal responsibility to restore the repentant, and let the past be the past.
 Years back, I knew two young ladies, both of whom claimed to be saved, and who both  became pregnant out of wedlock at about the same time.  As my family tried to fulfill our scriptural obligations in this area, the one young lady became bitter and angry at  how 'judgmental' we were being. I was told  that we weren't 'showing love', and even as I  made the case from the scriptures of her responsibility in this area, the relationship deteriorated. She justified her situation, surrounded herself with people who agreed with her, and together they looked down their noses at those 'mean Christians'.  Having disregarded God's opinion on this, this young lady has no right to expect anything other than she  will sow what she has reaped.
  The other young lady, however, went before the church, admitted her sin, apologized and asked to be forgiven.  I will never forget that night. It was absolutely one of the  bravest things I have ever seen, and she will  probably never understand what it did for my heart. In the midst of the turmoil from the other situation, here was somebody willing to do what was right, even if it cost them. I was as much in her corner as a man could be, and she was  immediately accepted back into fellowship. To this day, I consider myself one of her most stalwart defenders, and she remains one of my heroes.  The circumstances under which her son was conceived never comes up. She has outlived her mistake and , having obeyed the scripture, has every right to expect God to bring along a good man to help her. I , for one, am rooting for her.