We are all guilty

Well, it’s been a dozy of a week on social media. The allegations of sexual misconduct against Roy Moore continue to mount as does his adamant denial. Not only that, he has chalked it up as a grand political conspiracy, ‘it’s that other side.’ He will not back down. Now I can’t say for certainty these allegations are true though it is pretty hard to dismiss five separate stories. Given the seriousness of the charges, the thought of there being any truth to them gives me a chill regarding the lack of ownership. But I do recall another time a very prominent political figure was charged with inappropriate sexual behavior that initially met with the same response: “I did not have sex with that woman.” Of course we know how that story went. His adamant denials were dashed with the reality of truth. He was guilty.

This is just a small snippet of denial-defense-blame menagerie that not only has peppered the news. This happens everywhere. Incidents go down. Blame is assigned. Some will even take the opposite approach in blind support of the prominent particularly when driven by strong political or familial affiliations. Others will be quick to throw out unexamined charges of guilt especially against those on the “other side” wherever that is. Social media is rife with virtue signaling.

But here’s the thing. We might be sitting back in smug satisfaction that “these people” are morally corrupt, resting in their fame and power to hide their guilt all the while projecting innocence.  We may not be guilty of sexual misconduct, exploiting the vulnerable, or protecting prominent positions. But make no mistake, we are all capable of participating in the same kinds of charades we so easily denounce in other people. We can be guilty of wrong and project ourselves as right, hide our transgressions behind a veil of virtue, and point our fingers to the ones who can’t see all the while clouded by our own lenses. We’ll justify it because our sins are acceptable, masquerading as Christian concern–pride, self-righteousness, envy, and a lack of love. Sometimes the lies go so deep that we’ve even fooled ourselves in believing our own mess. Continue reading

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Deliver Us From Deliverance: Magic Wands and Maturity

Kneeling Altar CallWhen I came home the other day, I found a card stuck in my door from a local church. The church was advertising a deliverance prayer meeting. I kind of smirked. Not that I didn’t appreciate the intent behind the motives. The motives are good – addressing sin and struggles, to walk in the way of the Lord. However, the problem is that it is supposed that by bringing whatever ails us to the altar, that automatically sets our sanctification straight. This is especially true if there is some heavy emotion involved. I have heard this far too often, because of emotional altar experiences, that person has been delivered and set free.

But how do we know this? The only way to tell if a person has been delivered and set free, so to speak, is that they show it. And by delivered and set free, it typically means behavior, issues or thinking that are contrary to Scripture.  I actually think the language should be revamped (what would this even mean to the unchurched?). We are already delivered and set free in Christ (Col. 1:13-14). The problem is that our Christian walk may not automatically align with this reality. Prayer is good and needed, definitely. But alignment takes time and opportunity. It takes being confronted with situations that would bring out sinful or choices.

The truth is that sanctification is a process. Growing up in Christ is a process.  We don’t get there with a magic bullet of altar crying but by a transference of affections from self to Christ and a transformation of thinking that complies to His Lordship.  While I do acknowledge there are times, when we are jolted out of patterns of bad behavior or thinking, for the most part it is trek through peaks, valleys, deserts, and fire. There are ups and downs, failures and victories on the path of progressive sanctification. Continue reading

The Shame of Shame: Wielding the Sword of Defense

shame_facepalmShame. What comes to your mind when mentioning that word? It’s a word that needs no definition for all of us have experienced it in varying degrees. Inadequacies, deficiencies, past and present failures…all bring that curtain of shame down on us. The problem, I think, is that when it strikes, instead of identifying it appropriate to what it is, we ride the wave of where it takes us.

I’ve been learning a lot about this dreaded animal over the past year or so. Not so much that it exists but the insidious behavior it encourages and has encouraged in my own life over many years. On one hand, there are those that accept it and go along with whatever behavior says it deserves. If you’re inadequate you might as well live like it.

Well, the problem with that for Christians is obvious. We are called to be holy and live according to our position in Christ (1 Peter 1:15-16; Ephesians 4:1). Although, living out shame can explain a lot concerning the presence and pull of sinful, addictive behavior. But any amount of time reading the bible, in prayer or fellowship with brothers and sisters will propel the need to live right and be a “good Christian”.

I personally believe that in our humanity, we are hard wired to earn our righteousness through moralism. It’s why the common response to acceptability to God is “I’m a good person”. The good is a reflection of the perfection that God requires. So good should be good enough. On the contrary, behavior that misses the mark is seen as not deserving any connection to or pardon from God . All this points to one thing: we want perfection. Because in perfection is beauty, goodness and acceptability. Continue reading

The Problem of Evil: Why We Need a Good Theology of Bad

newton ct imagesSadness. Grief. Shock. Horror. Questioning…lots of questioning regarding this recent tragedy that has severely impacted the lives of 26 families who must cope of the aftermath of loss and unspeakable violence. Sheer evil, actually. Even countless more are impacted: the responders, the survivors and their families and anyone else who got close enough to this tragedy to feel it’s penetrating arm.

The question of evil is most obviously on the minds of many. Christians have responded and some responses have been…troubling.

  • We’ve taken God out of the schools
  • Evil spirits at work
  • Video games
  • Gun control
  • Poor parenting

The commonality in all these responses is that there is something outside of oneself to blame. These responses are inadequate. Because they dismiss the very real presence of sin that resides within humanity. This sin and evil that entered the world through one man’s disobedience has impacted us all and subjected humanity to death, disease, dysfunction and delirium. (Romans 5:12; 8:18-22). There is something within, that when facilitated by aggravating factors, like mental illness result in horrific atrocities. But as long as the external factors are blamed, the root cause is overlooked. Jesus himself said

Listen to me, all of you and understand: there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man (Mark 7:14-15)

See also the compatible passage in Matthew 10:10-20. And specifically vs 19 – “for out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.”

So we need a good theology of bad because unfortunately bad is with us. The problem of evil will persist until Jesus comes back and fixes everything. Until then, his kingdom breaks through in various ways in the midst of pain and suffering. We’ll celebrate that in a couple of weeks and marvel at the incarnation and the promise of redemption through God the Son, Immanuel God with us. He provides light, hope and comfort though not eradicating the presence of evil.  Until evil is eradicated with his glorious appearance, we wait and hope and trust though trying to make sense of it all. These are the unfortunate tensions of living in the already-but-not yet kingdom realities. For there remains grief, heartache and questions. .

Here are a few good articles I’ve come across.

An Insufficient Answer to the Shootings in Connecticut

Any Person is Capable of Any Sin

If God is Invited in, All is Well?

Continue to pray for the families of this tragedy.

More Conundrums: Homosexuality and the Church

Well, here’s a touchy subject and one that I think the church has not handled particularly well nor have individual Christians handled well in the public sphere. In fact, I’d say the treatment of this particular subject has been handled rather hypocritically. Yes, I said that. But when I started this blog, I made a commitment to address issues in a straight-foward manner and to express what I really thought about them.

First off,  homosexuality is a sin. It says so in the bible. (If you are a Christian and deny the authority of the bible, then that is another subject altogether). There’s been a lot of hermeneutical gymnastics to make it say otherwise. Leviticus 18 is not a good argument nor is saying that Jesus never addressed homosexuality. Of course he did in Matthew 19:4-9. If he says that marriage has from the beginning been between one man and one woman, there is no default position of what he really meant. It is what it is.

We also can’t look at 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and the list of transgressions and turn that into exceptions. Romans 1:21-32 also identifies that when God’s creation denies the truth that He reveals within them, creature worship can result in same sex attraction.

But here’s the thing. Homosexuality is not the only sin mentioned in the bible nor is it classified as an unpardonable sin. In fact, if you look at the passages mentioned in the last paragraph, this particular sin is included in a list of other sins. That means we can’t highlight one above the other as if it is deserving of some special treatment. Continue reading