Tag Archives: sin

Oaths and Vows

“Now is the hour! Riders of Rohan! Oaths you have taken, now fulfill them all, to lord and land!” – Eomer, The Return of the King.

I love the Rohirrim.

Forth, Eorlingas!
If we’re going to die, we’re taking a lot of you with us.

When I read the books as a kid, I did not grasp the power of their commitment to their oaths. I didn’t really consider that they were riding to presumed death because “we promised.” Consider this conversation:

Gamling: We do not have the numbers to defeat the armies of Mordor.

Theoden: No, we do not. Yet we will meet them in battle nonetheless.

Why? Because honor and oaths demanded it.

4 When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! 5 It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.
– Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 NASB

Oaths are powerful, so long as they are upheld. But they really only matter to the one who makes the oath and the one to whom it is made.

The lap of luxury
Life is an aisle-way, I’m gonna scoot it all night long…

Wal-Mart’s customers aren’t held to fitness standards. I know, that’s a real news flash, right? (I’ll skip links to unfortunate pictures of Wal-Mart customers.)

Imagine walking into your local Wal-Mart and stopping random folk to conduct a weight and waist measurement. Try conducting an impromptu fitness test on the first person you see riding around on a scooter cart. How many push-ups and sit-ups can they do in a minute?

You’re not going to have much luck.

No one would expect you to, either.

On 28 Dec 1994, I stood in the MEPS center in Chicago and raised my right hand. I swore an oath of enlistment. At that moment, a new set of standards applied to me… standards I wasn’t even fully aware of at the time. I would soon learn about all the various regulations that my superiors expected me to follow. And if I ever failed to uphold standards, I was reminded that this was a voluntary choice on my part. No one drafted me. No one held a gun to my head. I raised my right hand of my own free will.

In January of 1997, I remember kneeling at the altar of my church and re-dedicating my life to Christ, not just as the “Get Out of Hell Free” Savior but as the “Not my will but Yours be done” Lord. No one forced me to my knees or put words in my mouth. I made a choice.

I wonder what would happen if I went into Wal-Mart to give a spiritual fitness test to random customers. “These are the standards. It’s all written here in the ‘regs’ of the Bible. This is what you need to measure up to. How’s your prayer life? When was the last time you served someone in need? More than simply walking into a church, have you connected with like-minded people in the last year?”

I might have better success than I would with the AF PT test, but that’s beside the point.

The question is, have those people made a commitment that demands adherence to the same spiritual standards I follow? Did they raise their right hands to God and swear an oath, or fall on their knees to dedicate their lives to Him?

If not, then why should I expect them to live up to my religious standards?

My wife has often asked, “Why are we trying to hold the world to our standards? They aren’t followers of Christ. Why should we expect them to live like something they’re not?”

Maybe we followers of Christ need to focus on how well we’re measuring up to our own standards first.

In the Air Force, I failed to meet PT standards. Now I’m working to correct that. I can look around and say, “But that guy looks fat in uniform. And those civilians are really out of shape. And I know a lady who can’t run to save her life but she gets an Excellent because she’s a twig.”

None of them are taking my test for me. I raised my hand. I swore an oath. I have a standard to uphold.

Some will say, “But what about preaching against sin? Jesus didn’t just love people. He also said,

‘Go and sin no more.'”

Absolutely. But I’m concerned with the way we communicate that message.

NOT made of vitamins
You mean they’re NOT healthy?

I could walk in to Wal-Mart and yell or even gently discuss all the facts about heart disease and proper nutrition and the benefits of exercise. I could make it as simple as “Eat less, move more.”

People already know that. I don’t think anyone would have a sudden epiphany. “You mean the food I eat and the sitting on the couch I do all day is making me fat? Thank you! I never understood where it was coming from!”

I think the message on a lot of sin has already gotten out there. When we rant against favorite target sins like homosexuality, pornography, and abortion, we’re saying what people already know. “The Church thinks porn is BAD?”

Also NOT healthy
This is bad for me too? Why didn’t someone tell me?

When we focus so much on telling people their faults, many times, we’re repeating what they’ve already heard. And we’re probably talking to people with absolutely no interest in what we have to say.

In most cases, people pursued Jesus. They wanted to hear what He had to say, because He ministered to them. In some cases, He initiated the conversation, and even then, He first demonstrated something to give them a reason to listen.

When we are in relationship with people, or when we demonstrate love through genuine action instead of mere words, people might care to hear what we have to say.

We need not and must not ignore the detrimental effects of sin. We must be honest about that. Yet we need not be combative or prideful in our efforts. The collateral damage we do in that case far outweighs any momentary benefits.

May we focus on the oaths we have taken, the vows we have made. May we show ourselves faithful. Because I suspect when people see that we are real and our love is sincere, they might even start caring what we have to say.

And we might be able to say it right.

Think of the Children

I’m usually a pretty calm person, especially when it comes to dealing with other people. It takes a lot for someone to really get under my skin.

I do have my moments. Technology that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to, for example, is like turning on a flamethrower in my chest. (I’m looking at you, Microsoft products, with all the ways you try to ‘help’ me by complicating the simplest tasks.)

My dog peeing everywhere, just brazen and unashamed. Yeah, that gets me ‘perturbed.’

But mostly, I keep calm and drink my coffee.

One thing that does get on my nerves is when people spew venom in the name of Christ.

I really hate it when they use children as their excuse.

I really, really hate it when they look right past their own faults to point at the faults of others.

You can’t expect mercy for your sins while proclaiming judgment on everyone else’s.

(I probably hate that because I’m often guilty of that myself.)

So… at some point or other I got signed up for a “defend marriage as one man and one woman” page on Facebook. I only recently noticed some of the stuff they post in pursuit of their cause.

I’ve gotten into it with the faceless individual(s) behind the page. Every now and then, someone says something completely asinine, and I feel compelled to share a reasonable voice with a logical counterpoint to the ignorance. It would be one thing if people were having thoughtful discussions and clarifying how their beliefs intersect with government and freedom and tolerance and all that. Most everyone I know is willing to admit we may not all agree, but we can disagree in a civil manner and hopefully all learn something from the debate.

Not everyone seems so inclined.

This little tragedy of grammar and graphics got posted on my wall today:

I’m not posting this because I agree with the image. First off, I can’t agree with incorrect word choice and terrible cut-and-paste graphics…

I don’t know why, but I happened to read the ten comments on the picture.

It was like a religious frat party, with people giving each other textual fist bumps by reminding everyone about God’s original plan for marriage and how sad it would be when the child eventually says, “I wish I had a father.” Someone ridiculed the smiling faces, conveying the tragic nature of this hypothetical union and its dangerous impact on the child’s development. Someone simply responded with, “Oh, barf!!!!!”

I’ll leave aside the fact that there are children being raised by gay couples around the world and not all of them are collapsing under the burden of self-loathing or grief. Both sides will point to various “experts” with studies that “prove” that gay couples raising children is “no harm done” OR there is irreparable damage. Whatever. Let’s just agree that there are a lot of kids out there who are going to grow up with two mommies or daddies (yes, this is a proper time to use the plural ‘daddies’).

And they’ll be just fine.

There was one voice of reason, who made the outrageous and satanic comment that “Making fun of gays is not going to help. This is a serious issue and a heated debate which deserves a thoughtful response. Insulting people is only going to burn bridges.”

One voice out of ten.

You can’t hear my sigh, but trust me, it’s a long one. (My wife can attest to this.)

The response from the page?

“We don’t believe putting adult lusts above the needs of children deserves consideration.”

Those dirty gays, sacrificing the souls of impressionable young kids on the altar of desire! /sarcasm

Full disclosure: I’m Christian, if you didn’t get that yet. I believe what the Bible says, though I understand a lot of it comes down to interpretation and theological debate. And the Bible seems to clearly identify homosexual activity as a sin.

But that’s not all it addresses.

What do I mean by that? I’ll let my response on Facebook to that picture speak for itself:

“Putting adult lusts above the needs of children is terrible, but people do it all the time. It’s just their sins are heterosexual. Or perhaps just gluttony, or alcoholism. Maybe it’s simple neglect. Maybe even it’s how some parents worship their work or ministry by devoting all their time and attention to those things while forsaking their responsibilities to their children.

“Maybe it’s the arrogance of adult Christians who forget that they’re looking down on the needs of some children out there, children who think they’re gay, who know they’re different from most everyone else, who absolutely know without any doubt that the Church is the very last place they’ll find love or acceptance (and I don’t mean acceptance of sin, but acceptance of them as a human being worthy of Christ’s sacrificial love expressed through us).

“Maybe our need to communicate how disgusting homosexuality is gets in the way of God’s desire to communicate to THEM how incredibly powerful and merciful and life-changing His love is, and maybe it gets in the way of His desire to communicate to us that in His holy sight all our sin is just as repulsive and ‘barf-worthy’ as theirs. ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin’ doesn’t mean much if we don’t do it.”
I don’t want to abuse God’s mercy or call sin ‘righteous.’ That’s not within my purview.

I haven’t torn out any passages in my Bible that claim homosexuality is a sin.

The difference is that I’m paying attention to the rest of the passages too.

Blindsided by Reality

So the church has a new target in its ongoing war against the “corruption of our youth” and the dangers of our culture. 

The movie “The Blind Side.”

Yes, the one with Sandra Bullock that came out a few years ago. The one about the family that takes in a troubled kid and gets him playing football, where he thrives and rises to fame in the NFL. The one based (perhaps loosely) on a true story.

It was a nice feel-good movie for most audiences. For Christians, it was a rare chance to see Hollywood show us a Christian character instead of a caricature.

It’s for your own good.
Because we said so.

But apparently there were some potty mouths in the movie at some point. So it needs to be taken off the shelves at the local Christian bookstore, because… I don’t know, THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

Here’s CNN’s Belief Blog with the article.

I understand why some Christians might object to profanity and taking God’s name in vain being in a movie. I know some religious people have a strict code about what is permissible and what is forbidden.

For example, bacon.

A good chunk of the world’s population can’t eat it without violating their faith. I applaud their resolve (and take their share).

Part of entertainment–not popcorn-chewing, mindless action fare, but the thought-provoking, sticks with you when you leave the theater or turn off the DVD kind–is portraying reality.

In life, people sometimes say bad words.

They sometimes do bad things.

They sometimes think bad thoughts.

It’s ok to admit that. It’s ok to see that on a silver screen. It might trigger a discussion with my kids or my friends (or with my own thoughts on the matter). It might force me to evaluate “Why do I believe what I believe about this? What are the consequences of this behavior? Does any good come out of this? Does anything harmful result?”

Imagine the thought of discussing with our kids the power of our words and the importance of how we communicate.

Or you can cover their ears so that they never hear someone drop an F-bomb. (Shock! They probably already have, when you weren’t around.)

Imagine the thought of explaining sexual purity to our kids and discussing the importance and value of healthy relationships.

Or you can cover their eyes lest they see cleavage on TV. (Newsflash, they’re probably already seeing the overly-sexualized images all around them at the grocery store checkout lane.)

Imagine the thought of talking with your kids about the value of life, the dangerous corruption that comes with power, and the many ways violence as a solution is no solution at all.

Or you can stop them from playing Halo or Call of Duty on the XBox. (Spoilers: they’re probably playing it at a friend’s house.)

We can’t live in a protected bubble where no mention or thought of sin ever sneaks past our careful defenses. Doing that separates us from the world around us. Christ didn’t tell us to form little safe communes in the middle of nowhere. He told us to go out into the world and make disciples.

We see Paul do that in the New Testament, and he encounters a lot of objectionable content as he travels. He advises the churches under his care about holiness and getting rid of sin that corrupts. At the same time, he uses the sin and the misguided beliefs of the people around him not as a wedge to create a separation but as a hook to lead them to the Gospel.

Paul doesn’t run from reality to hide in safety. He embraces reality to further the message.

If we look at the Bible, it has a lot of pretty objectionable content too. The movie, The Passion of the Christ is a popular Christian film, but it’s brutal and vicious in its depiction of blood and gore. And we celebrate that, because, hey, it’s Jesus.

“Violence is ok, but don’t say any bad words, don’t show any skin, and heaven help you if homosexuality is involved somehow!”

If all we do is find reasons why things are bad, we’ll end up living in our sheltered communities, avoiding any interaction with the people around us (the ones we say we love, right?). We’ll surround ourselves with all the “pure” things – until someone else figures out what’s wrong with them. We’ll be safe.

And we’ll be completely ineffective at accomplishing the purpose for which the church exists.

Song: Jesus the Righteous

He was the man who ended an epidemic with no thought for his own gain.

In 1955, Dr. Jonas Salk went public with news of the success of a polio vaccine.

Three years earlier, there was a severe outbreak of polio, the worst in U.S. History. About 58,000 cases were reported that year. But polio was an ongoing crisis affecting America and other nations long before that.

Epidemics of polio had become regular events, usually in the summer. The disease caused paralysis and death for thousands of people, mostly children.

A 2009 PBS documentary described the disease as the second greatest fear affecting Americans, behind the atomic bomb.

Salk conducted a trial of his hopeful vaccine that was the first of its kind, with 300,000 workers of various types and 1.8 million children in the experiment. The polio vaccines he and others developed are credited with reducing polio cases from about 100,000 per year to under 1,000.

He was hailed as a miracle worker. His goal was prevention and cure, not profit. Regarding a patent on the vaccine, he is quoted in a 1990 televised interview as saying, “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

Such selflessness and compassion is impressive.

Such a hope in the midst of despair was worth celebrating.

“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” (1st John 2:1-2 NKJV)

“Propitiation” is a big and unfamiliar word. It means “to gain or regain the favor or goodwill of.” It is the atoning sacrifice for wrongdoing, the paying of the debt owed as a result of reckless or harmful action.

The Bible teaches that humanity is broken, crippled and riddled with a disease of the spirit called sin. We were created for fellowship with God. But the wrong that we do–and more than that, the way our hearts have been twisted and warped away from our original design–separates us from God.

Jesus didn’t just create the vaccine for sin.

Jesus Christ, the solution to the epidemic of sin

He IS the vaccine.

He’s the cure to the disease, the solution to the epidemic, the answer to a worldwide problem… a problem that doesn’t just affect some of us, but affects every man, woman, and child on Earth.

The Message paraphrase puts 1st John 2:2 this way:

“When he served as a sacrifice for our sins, he solved the sin problem for good—not only ours, but the whole world’s.”

Like Dr. Salk referring to the patent, this spiritual vaccine is for everyone. There’s not a person on Earth who is exempt from the offer.

Where does this put us?

Some who have received this “vaccine” may act as if they are more loved, more deserving, more important, or simply better than everyone else. This is foolish. I’m not a better person than anyone else just because I got a flu shot (or a polio vaccine). If I think I have somehow earned God’s favor or deserved this gift of grace, then it’s no longer a gift, really. It becomes a wage I think I’ve earned by what I’ve done, and Scripture is clear about what we’ve earned by what we’ve done. (Spoilers: Rom 6:23 – the wages of sin is death.)

Some who have not received or even do not desire this ‘vaccine’ act as if Christians all look on nonbelievers with a sense of superiority. “Oh you benighted fools, who have not been cured of your sin. How sad for you, who do not know how bad off you are… Too bad you’re not as wise or spiritual as we are, who have received this medicine for our souls!”

I assure you, that’s not what we (generally) think. That’s not how we feel. Like I said, there may be some who act this way, but they miss the entire point of the Good News — GRACE.

God’s grace is amazing. It takes us, cleans us up, adopts us into His family, and begins the work of changing us into what God has designed us to be. We have hope that one day we’ll be like Christ, and we have power through grace that says that today we can be like Him. His love is transforming us; it has cured us of the disease of sin, and it works now to abolish the effects of sin on our lives. More than that, it strengthens us and inoculates us so that we can be spiritually healthy from now on.

That’s something worth singing about.

Link to SoundCloud: Jesus the Righteous
(Warning: there’s a lot more guitar and noise on this one compared to previous songs.)

What incredible love You have shown, bestowed on me

That I should be named and counted among the children of God

Now I have this awesome hope, one day I’ll be like You

Purify me, Lord, cleanse me, make me new

 

Jesus the Righteous, the atoning sacrifice

Taking away my sins and the sins of the world

Jesus the Righteous, You came to give me life

Now may I glorify You in everything that I do

Jesus the Righteous

 

What incredible power to transform and make complete

The work of the cross, the hope of glory, Christ in me

Now I have this awesome grace, today I’ll be like You

Teach me, train me Lord, as I follow You

 

Now I have this awesome love, it’s making me like You

My Savior and my Friend, I live to worship You

Succumb to Relief

When we look around at the world from a Christian perspective, it is difficult to ignore the impression that situations happening around us are not what God has intended. Depression overtakes us; strife and division affect us in–and take us out of–healthy relationships with others.

Stupid pigs!
This is my six-year-old’s biggest problem. I’m a little jealous.

As Christians with the grace of God available to us, we still find ourselves overwhelmed by circumstances and catch ourselves after we succumb to temptation. Seeing the condition of the world is painful. We ache when we see just how messed up everything is. We ache when we see just how messed up our own lives are. Surely there must be something that can deal with this.

When I have a headache, I am quick to reach for the medicine cabinet. I’ve been trained well by the commercials that say, “I’ve got a headache THIS BIG…” I want some pain relieving medicine! In the same way, I am looking for something that will give relief in the midst of the mess in my life. I’ve got problems that are THIS BIG… where’s God’s Excedrin?

When we see this mess, we know: This is not the plan God has for our lives.

But this also does not disqualify us from relationship with Him. In fact, when we see ourselves in such terrible conditions, we are ripe to experience RELIEF !

As I thought about this and jotted down notes, I considered the word I had chosen: “succumb to temptation.” What does it mean when we “succumb” to something?

Succumb- 1    to yield to a superior force or overpowering appeal or desire
2   die

From the perspective of God, we are not capable of yielding to a superior force. No such force exists. A few verses will adequately illustrate this point.

Speaking of ungodly spirits that are active in the world, John writes in 1st John 4:4, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he (Christ) made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Col. 2:15). “He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Col 1:13).

It says something when we are willing to yield to a weaker or inferior force. We could fight and win, but we are choosing not to. Sometimes this is intentional and directed by God. We are taught at times to “turn the other cheek,” “bless those that persecute you, do good to those that hurt you.” These commands are given regarding people.

With our enemy, there is no such commandment. The words used are warfare terminology: resist, stand firm, fight, put on armor, take up the sword, be watchful and alert, pull down strongholds, take captive. Christ was the One who “disarmed,” “made a spectacle out of,” “destroyed the works of,” “triumphed over,” “crushed the head of,” and conquered the enemy. He is our Example.

He is the One who could say, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. All authority in heaven and on earth is now given to me.”

We do not face a superior force, and so we have no reason to succumb to our enemy. We instead have been given the opportunity to overpower and push back our enemy.

“Succumb” also means to yield to an overpowering appeal or desire. From the perspective of God, no such appeal or desire exists. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1Co. 10:13).

We are no longer bound to the sinful nature. “If Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation– but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it” (Romans 8:10-12).

“It is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight” (Php. 2:13 AMP).

The reason that we can recognize that from God’s perspective there is no such thing as an overpowering desire or appeal is found in the above. He energizes and creates the desire to do His will within us. His power is effectual power– effective in accomplishing what He sets out to do. This is the power that is referred to in Eph. 1:19 (AMP), where Paul asks “that you can know and understand what is the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His power in and for us who believe.” This is the “power that is at work within us,” that “is able to carry out His purpose and do superabundantly, far over and above all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]…” (Eph. 3:20 AMP).

The fullness of this is found in the work of Christ Jesus as our Great High Priest. Romans 1:16 tells us that the good news about Christ is God’s power working unto salvation in everyone who believes. This good news is that Christ Jesus came to intercede between God and man, to bring reconciliation and restoration of God’s favor upon mankind.

Hebrews 2:17-18 states that “it is evident that it was essential that He be made like His brothers in every respect, in order that He might become a merciful, sympathetic and faithful High Priest in the things related to God, to make atonement and propitiation for the people’s sins. For because He Himself in His humanity has suffered in being tempted, tested, and tried, He is able immediately to run to the cry of, and assist and relieve, those who are being tempted, tested, and tried, and who therefore are being exposed to suffering.”

Some versions use the term “succor.” This is defined as aid, help, or relief– from Latin roots meaning “to run up, to run to help.”

Physical relief
Spiritually, I need to get some of this!

Relief is an interesting word. It has a number of meanings. Relief is:

1. the removal or lessening of something oppressive, painful, or distressing.

2. aid in the form of money or necessities given for those in need

3. military assistance to an endangered post

4. one who replaces another on duty

5. a legal remedy– something that corrects or counteracts an evil, or compensates for a loss

6. a projection of figures out from the background of an image or elevations from the surface– something that stands up or stands out

Picturing Christ as one who succors or relieves gives us a greater understanding of why God doesn’t see any temptation as overpowering.

Christ removes or lessens the oppressive or distressing nature of the temptation. He may just give us direction to leave the vicinity of it, or He may cause the temptation itself to cease.

Christ gives aid in the form of all that we need in order to remain true to Him. He provides us with the strength to stand — “My strength is perfected in weakness” or “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” are verses that demonstrate this.

Christ literally provides a military assistance when we are in danger of losing our position. He did this by “disarming the powers and authorities, triumphing over them by the Cross.” We are no longer at a military disadvantage because our Savior has over powered the enemy. He can bring military assistance by motivating others to pray for us in our time of need.

Christ is One who takes our position on duty. He fights on our behalf. When we realize that we do not stand on our own strength, it is as if He is taking our place. We are no longer relying on our own abilities to hold the position. We are relieved of our responsibility to hold the ground by our own effort, and we are able to join our effort with His limitless supply of strength.

Christ is One who legally corrects or counteracts evils that we encounter. His shed blood and His priestly mediation have swept away the sin. He is, whether one accepts the gift or not, “Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” He has corrected and counteracted the evil in the world. The reason and purpose of His ministry is defined in 1st John 3:8 as “to destroy the works of the devil.”

Finally, Christ is our relief in the sense that He is the One who stands out. When people see us, they should see a relief image– that of the Savior who has transformed us. 2nd Corinthians 3:18 says, “we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” As we encounter and seek God’s face, we are being made more and more like Christ. We identify with Him and people are able to see Him through our lives. Paul said it was no longer Paul that lived, but Christ, as grace worked in his life. “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, then Christ died in vain!”

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. When we humble ourselves, we receive “the grace of God that brings salvation” that “has appeared to all men.” How can something appear to man except in a physical form? How can an intangible thing like grace “appear to all men?” John 1:14– “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” And verse 17, “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Jesus Christ is our Reliever, and grace is the relief He gives. We can only receive it in the position of humility, because that is the only way we can see His face– with the transforming glory that comes with it.

When we are proud, we will fight and resist showing weakness. When we are humbled, we give in and admit defeat. From God’s perspective, we should never feel like we have to give in to the defeated and overpowered enemy. God provided all we need to deal with that. We do not succumb to our enemy or to our temptations.

The key is to succumb to the grace of God. Yield to His overpowering work in our lives. For there we find all the relief we need.

“Prosetry” Piece 3

Last “prosetry” piece. This one’s definitely just prose thoughts instead of a rhyming rhythm like the first “prosetry” piece I posted. This comes from a time when my wife and I were evaluating a lot of the things we’d believed — not questioning our core faith doctrines, but a lot of the particular “flavor” of Christianity that we had been pursuing for years. It started to seem like some of what our churches said was incredibly important actually wasn’t, and how we had been taught to go after our faith (or perhaps how we chose to go after it) seemed more painful and misguided than powerful and beneficial. For me, this was a bit of “I want to make sure I get the basics right.”

 

I’m desperate to know what You see in me; what You believe I can be. I’m desperate to live up to Your standard, like a child wanting to be like his father; only I try a little too hard sometimes… and sometimes I don’t try at all.

I’m desperate to be approved, to be holy, a vessel You can use. Only I don’t like the path I’d have to take to get there. Isn’t there a shortcut I can follow… perhaps go from ministering to resurrection while skipping the part about a cross. Then I’d have no part in You. I’m desperate to have part in You.

And though it’s deemed incorrect to say it, I feel defeated, weary, maybe broken… though I don’t know what that means. I only know that I can’t turn my back, and I can’t stay here… but I’m afraid to move on.
What more must I face? Haven’t I done enough? Well, it’s not works that save me. Haven’t I believed enough, then? I don’t really know what to believe sometimes.

All I can do is follow, and I don’t even do that very well. But here I am, walking after You on this narrow road that some time ends in Heaven. And I see that sanctification isn’t as fun as it sounded when the preacher shouted “Hallelujah” and the music played. But it’s in this place that You do Your work, and it hurts to see flesh die. But it hurts to see flesh live.

So I walk down this lonely road, desperate to take my foot off this jagged stone and lay it down on streets of gold.

“Prosetry” Piece 2

I’ve forgotten what it meant

that You reached out to the leper.

You saw the need and You responded.

I’ve forgotten what it meant that You ignored the condemning cries

and told the sinner, “Go and sin no more.”

I’ve forgotten what You came for.

Sitting with the wicked,

yet separated by Your virtue…

I separate myself by venue.

You reach down into the gutter

and lift up the one in need.

I’d be afraid to get dirt on my Sunday best.

My Christian tie could get ruined.

And You loved those You saw

as You traveled by foot from city to city.

I try not to get caught speeding,

since someone might see the fish

or the church bumper sticker on my car.

Miracles followed You.

They don’t seem to catch up with me.

You did all You could

to make the message known,

while I get scared someone might ruin

the gold edge of my Bible as I witness,

armed with a leather-bound book.

You were armed with a heart of love,

and You died innocent between two thieves

to heal the one who was sick but never knew it.

I’ve forgotten what it meant

that You reached out to the leper,

but now I remember Your touch.

And though nine others forget,

I’m coming back to thank You,

And I’m bringing some of my sick friends.

“Prosetry” piece 1

This was a piece I wrote a long time ago for a couple reasons. 1) I wanted to try making a sort of rhyming rhythm instead of a strict poetic structure, and 2) I was dealing with a lot of frustrations about going back and forth between the positive goals I wanted to reach in my personal life and the stupid decisions I would often make that brought negative consequences. The Apostle Paul writes about the struggle with sin in 1st Corinthians that “the good I want to do, this I do not do, but that which I hate, I find myself doing all the more.” I can relate.

Innocent lies change before my eyes
into chains, unbreakable ties, despite my cries for grace;
not because You somehow failed to respond,
but because I rely upon my own strength,
not practicing what You teach me to do,
doing instead as I choose, I abuse
the mercy I’ve received from You.

I preach what I do not practice;
I practice what I do not preach, and the fact is,
I’m weary of this, saying, “Master, Friend,”
with a kiss of betrayal,
choosing to fail instead of asking to stand
when You’ve said I can.
Will You practice what I preach about You?

I know it’s been said that I’m free to come boldly, to confess;
my only hope nothing less than that in Christ I receive
Your reprieve and righteousness–
I’ve been blessed beyond a deserved curse
and yet worse is that I act as though I’ve earned it,
trust in my own merit; how can You bear it
when You see this pride in me–
Your Spirit burns jealously for me to live faithfully,
to give myself unreservedly;
abandon myself to Your grace again
so that when I come to this place, my Friend,
I will be the humble one, come undone,
that You may have Your way in me;
let Your Kingdom come, let Your will be done.