Monday, July 21, 2014

Don't Worry About Evil People

Psalm 37[a]

A psalm of David.

Don’t worry about the wicked
    or envy those who do wrong.
For like grass, they soon fade away.
    Like spring flowers, they soon wither.
Trust in the Lord and do good.
    Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the Lord.
    Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
    and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
Be still in the presence of the Lord,
    and wait patiently for him to act.
Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
    or fret about their wicked schemes.
Stop being angry!
    Turn from your rage!
Do not lose your temper—
    it only leads to harm.
For the wicked will be destroyed,
    but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land.
10 Soon the wicked will disappear.
    Though you look for them, they will be gone.
11 The lowly will possess the land
    and will live in peace and prosperity.
12 The wicked plot against the godly;
    they snarl at them in defiance.
13 But the Lord just laughs,
    for he sees their day of judgment coming.
14 The wicked draw their swords
    and string their bows
to kill the poor and the oppressed,
    to slaughter those who do right.
15 But their swords will stab their own hearts,
    and their bows will be broken.
16 It is better to be godly and have little
    than to be evil and rich.
17 For the strength of the wicked will be shattered,
    but the Lord takes care of the godly.
18 Day by day the Lord takes care of the innocent,
    and they will receive an inheritance that lasts forever.
19 They will not be disgraced in hard times;
    even in famine they will have more than enough.
20 But the wicked will die.
    The Lord’s enemies are like flowers in a field—
    they will disappear like smoke.
21 The wicked borrow and never repay,
    but the godly are generous givers.
22 Those the Lord blesses will possess the land,
    but those he curses will die.
23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives.
24 Though they stumble, they will never fall,
    for the Lord holds them by the hand.
25 Once I was young, and now I am old.
    Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned
    or their children begging for bread.
26 The godly always give generous loans to others,
    and their children are a blessing.
27 Turn from evil and do good,
    and you will live in the land forever.
28 For the Lord loves justice,
    and he will never abandon the godly.
He will keep them safe forever,
    but the children of the wicked will die.
29 The godly will possess the land
    and will live there forever.
30 The godly offer good counsel;
    they teach right from wrong.
31 They have made God’s law their own,
    so they will never slip from his path.
32 The wicked wait in ambush for the godly,
    looking for an excuse to kill them.
33 But the Lord will not let the wicked succeed
    or let the godly be condemned when they are put on trial.
34 Put your hope in the Lord.
    Travel steadily along his path.
He will honor you by giving you the land.
    You will see the wicked destroyed.
35 I have seen wicked and ruthless people
    flourishing like a tree in its native soil.
36 But when I looked again, they were gone!
    Though I searched for them, I could not find them!
37 Look at those who are honest and good,
    for a wonderful future awaits those who love peace.
38 But the rebellious will be destroyed;
    they have no future.

39 The Lord rescues the godly;
    he is their fortress in times of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them,
    rescuing them from the wicked.
He saves them,
    and they find shelter in him.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

** Judging Others

“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.^ ^ I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"- Galatians 2:19-21

Recently, I watched the Oscar-nominated movie Philomena which is based on the true story of a woman who goes searching for the child that was taken from her fifty years earlier when she became a pregnant teenager.  I won't spoil the film for you, but throughout the film, Philomena wrestles with a deep feeling of condemnation for the sex she had that led to this child.  She faces persecution from a number of individuals who have made her believe the pain of not seeing her child grow up is penance for this act "of the flesh".

This is a warped misrepresentation of what the gospel tells us.  Paul points out here that if we believe we can gain our own righteousness by keeping the law, then Christ would have died for nothing.  We have made the blood of Christ cheap.  We are essentially saying that we do not need a savior if we believe we are capable of keeping the law (or a certain set of standards) as a way of achieving righteousness.

But the story behind Philomena illustrates an even deeper truth about condemning others for their behavior.  The individuals that berate Philomena (some of whom are nuns) do so because she has not kept God's law.  But that kind of condemnation shows that they believe they have kept "laws" that she has not and therefore, they believe they can judge her for her sins.  When we watch it play out so blatantly in a film like this, it is disgusting before our eyes.  But we all do this in other ways in our own lives.  We are constantly looking at the sins of those around us and making decisions about how we should interact with them, how much grace we should show them, or if we want to have a relationship with them at all based on their behavior.  By doing this, we are essentially saying that we believe we have the key to righteousness.... and others do not.

When we do this, it is as if Christ died for nothing.  We believe we are justified by our behavior but we are justified because of the blood of Christ.  Because he spilled his blood so that we could be made whole.  He died so that we would be made righteous.  That kind of love should motivate us to know that we are not justified by our behaviors and we should not treat others in our lives as though they can be justified in that way either.

Father God, we judge others around us as falling short of what they should be.  And yet we are only justified by the sacrifice of Christ.  We could never obtain righteousness outside of you and for this reason we ask that you soften our judgmental and anxious hearts to those around us.  Humble us to love others in the ways you have loved us and when we are tempted to think less of others pull us back from the brink of our own self-righteousness.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Everybody Worships

"Everybody worships," said David Foster Wallace in 2005. "The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing ... is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough ... Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths ... Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you in your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is ... they're unconscious". -David Foster Wallace. "Transcription of the 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address." May 21, 2005.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Hard Hearted Prayerlessness

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.-James 5:13-15
Reflection:It happens so easily. One day I think I have too much on my plate to spend time with God. The next day I think I’d rather sleep in than get out of bed…but I will pray later…and then I don’t.  Before you know it, days have gone by and I am running on spiritual fumes to keep my job, my relationships and my mood stabilized. I should never be surprised when I come crashing down and realize the neglect of my prayer life has sunk me. And yet I find myself wondering where I went wrong time and time again.
These verses in the book of James show us that prayer is not about petitioning for one aspect of our lives whether it be suffering or celebration. Prayer is about a relationship. Whatever is happening, we should be praying.  We should be as dependent on that relationship as we are for air.  So why aren’t we?
In The Prayer Life, Andrew Murray tells the story of a minister speaking to a woman who is struggling to pray. The minister tells her,” As you go to your inner chamber, however cold and dark your heart may be, do not try in your own might to force yourself into the right attitude. Bow before him, and tell him that he sees in what a sad state you are that your only hope is in him. Trust him with a childlike trust to have mercy upon you, and wait upon him. In such a trust you are in a right relationship to him. You have nothing; he has everything.”
All of our striving and work at having a good prayer life will fail.  Loving Christ is the only way to have the fellowship with God we need.  n a romantic relationship, we often yearn to spend time with our partners. We love our children or family members and long to be with them. We are sad when a friend moves away because we can no longer spend time with them. Love of Christ must drive us to invest in a prayer relationship.  Only when we realize how truly helpless we are without him are our relationships with God nourished.
Prayer:God, we have an aversion to your holiness that keeps us from spending time with you.  We take for granted the privilege that prayer is and choose our own endeavors not understanding that prayer is the lifeblood of our soul.  Without it, we are living in the flesh in our lives.  Help us to fall more in love with Jesus so we are driven by love for him to our knees.

(Originally published by me on The Redemptive Pursuit website)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

He is Jealous For Me

And He is jealous from me, loves like a hurricane, I am a treeBending beneath the weight of His wind and mercyWhen all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictionsEclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful You areAnd how great Your affections are for meOh, how He loves, yeah, He loves usOh, how He loves us, oh, how He loves usOh, how He loves
And we are His portion and He is our prizeDrawn to redemption by the grace in His eyesIf His grace is an ocean, we're all sinking
And heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kissAnd my heart turns violently inside of my chestI don't have time to maintain these regretsWhen I think about the way
Oh, how He loves us, ohOh, how He loves us, how He loves allHow He loves
-How He Loves Us Lyrics, David Crowder Band

Sunday, March 17, 2013

What Resurrection Means

"But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior, from there, The Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious." -Philippians 3:20-21

I remember the first time I heard someone speak on the reality that the people of God would be resurrected and have physical bodies in the New Heavens and the New Earth.  I was shocked.  For years I had believed that when I died, my spirit would go to heaven and that was it.  I had no understanding of the scriptures that spoke of our final glorification in Christ.  That Christ would return and we would be raised from our graves and be physical beings.  I had apparently missed out on this crucial truth which is a key to the Easter celebration.  Christ rose from the dead and had a glorious, physical body.  
At the time, I was not only shocked but also dismayed by this information.  As a young woman in the entertainment industry, I had battled self hatred of my body for years.  My body never felt good enough and I wanted to be free of it.  Having a physical body seemed less glorious to me and more an annoyance.
Recently however, the beauty of a physical presence in the afterlife became real to me. I watched my father-in-law battle Lou Gehrig's Disease.  It is a disease where all of the muscles slowly deteriorate and it has no cure.  My father-in-law was one of the most Christ-like and loving people I had ever encountered and for him to lose control of his limbs, speech and breathing was devastating for all who loved him.  When he died, I began to understand why the resurrection provided such hope and truth.  To know that my father-in-law would have a body that was "glorious" beyond anything he had in this life was a remarkable assurance.  He would not only physically live again but would embrace again, speak again, eat and drink again, run again, laugh again.  And in a body that was like the one Christ has which had no deficiency.  It would be a glorious body.
What a truth for us to realize!  Disease, aging, and death would not prevent us from having a physical reality in the future that was glorious.  That is was the resurrection is truly about. "O death where is thy victory? O death where is thy sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55)
John Murray, in his book Redemption Accomplished and Applied, says "The biblical doctrine of 'immortality', if we may use that term, is the doctrine of glorification.  And glorification is resurrection.  Without resurrection of the body from the grave and the restoration of human nature to its completeness after the pattern of Christ's resurrection on the third day and according to the likeness of the glorified human nature in which he will appear on the clouds of heaven with great power and glory there is no glorification."
When we celebrate Easter in two weeks, we celebrate Christ having died for our sins.  But that is not all. We celebrate the end of all death that we know will come because he rose from the dead in human form on the third day.  We will not exist only in a spiritual form but body and spirit will be a glorious reality. And so it shall be for all of the people of God.  That is worthy of great celebration.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Law and Grace

"For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace." -Romans 6:14

When I moved from Kentucky to New York City to go to college, it became clear to me that I was a legalistic Christian.  What I mean by that is that I thought you earned your salvation by following the rules.  This kind of attitude cheapens the sacrifice that Christ has made for me.  It makes me the author of my own salvation and I perform good works so I can feel I am superior to others.  When I live a life defined by grace, I understand that I am a sinner, Christ has saved me through his sacrificial blood and the gratitude of that makes me gracious to those around me.

I recently saw the movie version of "Les Miserables" and it is a fantastic example of what your life looks like when you are justified by the law versus justified by grace.  In case you are unfamiliar with the story, Jean Valjean is a man who lives his life committing mericiful and sacrificial acts to those around him because he was so moved by an act of sacrifice that was shown to him in the name of God.  Javert is a prison warden who spends years trying to hunt down Valjean because he stole some bread to feed his hungry family.  He even prays to God for help to put him behind bars saying, "so it is written on the doorway to paradise that those who falter and those who fall must pay the price."
Valjean and Javert both consider themselves man of God.  They both pray.  They both believe in God.  But one had been so radically transformed by the love of God that he showed mercy and love to others, including his enemies.  The other thought faltering and failing condemned you to hell apart from God and took it upon himself to punish those who had not followed "God's way."
We all have our moments of legalism, of unforgiveness and of self-righteousness.  It is in these moments that we believe we can earn our own salvation and we cheapen the sacrifice that was made for us.  By believing people can earn their salvation through their works, we become people who are deeply ungrateful for the nails that bore our sin on the cross of Christ. 
Our Father God, we often think that our own performance achieves us favor in your eyes.  For this, we ask for your forgiveness.  Not understanding our own sinfulness and not understanding the sacrifice of Christ makes us callous to the mercy you have shown us and to those we encounter around us.