Category Archives: sin

sickness

I am not even sure why I feel the need to blog/write today. I don’t really feel like doing much of anything. Truth be told I have been under the weather for a couple of days now and it is hard to get motivated to do much of anything. It is crazy how much a little infection in your body can take down your entire system. It just seems like everything begins to fail. You have trouble focusing and you can’t seem to get anything accomplished. It is almost as if your entire body is rebelling against you. And so, as one of my doctors once put it, we send in the troops…antibiotics. Now I know there are arguments both ways as to the good or the bad of antibiotics, but you can’t help but be amazed at how they work. You are essentially ingesting a micro-poison that is directly targeting the bacteria that are causing the infection in order to rid your body of the sickness. I can almost imagine the miniscule battle raging as the antibiotics race to the defense of the body and start trying to take down the invading bacteria (yes my brain works like that).
It kind of has me wondering if this is what the affects of sin look like personally and corporately. Does sin come in and wreck the entire system? Does it inhibit our ability to accomplish good for the Kingdom and for our fellow man? And if all of this is true how is it taken care of? 1 John 1:8-10 reads like this, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” All of a sudden our individual sins become a corporate/systemic problem and we become broken as a people. But the writer here says that if we confess these sins (there might be need for personal and communal) that God is faithful to cleanse us from unrighteousness. And the Greek word for cleanse may look familiar: katharizō, from which we get the medical term cauterize. The filth, the sin is burned/stripped/cleansed out of us and it frees us to function as we are called.
The problem that still remains is the vastness of which we as the church and the world are infected. Stanley Hauerwas (an esteemed American Theologian from Duke University) once said, “To be witnesses to the world is to be truth-tellers.” And maybe this is where the greatest sickness lies. We can’t be honest with ourselves in the church as to the degree of our infection and therefore we have no witness. Without a witness we can never expect the world around us to get well. May we as the church come to grips with an honest recitation of that which is making us sick. And then as we are healed through God’s cleansing may we be a witness to the health that only God can bring.

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divided

As a parent of an elementary school student you sometimes find the dusty corners of your academic history needing to be swept. All of a sudden your child is coming home with work and arithmetic that you haven’t even attempted in ages. Most recently I have found myself brushing up on my multiplication tables and division for my fourth grader and I was probably a bit more dusty than I thought. And for some reason he is really struggling with division. The concept behind multiplication sticks, but for some reason the dividing of the whole just isn’t computing all that well. Which I must admit is a little odd to me…not so much for him, but just because division is so explicitly expressed in our society (I’m pretty sure launching into a philosophical discussion will not advance his math prowess, but it helps us in looking at ourselves).

We are quick to divide ourselves. We have so many different versions of ourselves. There is the professional, the personal, the spiritual, the familial, the sexual, the moral, the religious, or even the political self. And strangely enough we tend to draw dividing lines within ourselves to be able to balance out who we are in each and every scenario which calls for the appropriate self to be called upon. We even draw dividing lines against one another based on each other’s expressions of these personas and this is just as damaging. The writer of the epistle of James has a unique way of expressing this and a solution as well. “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” – James 4:8 The word for double-minded is dipsychos and it is best translated as double souled…or split souled.* We allow the fullness of who we are to be divided into categories which should be captured by the whole. And the writer has a very harsh critique of what this ultimately is…sin. How do we repair this? We draw near to God.

When Jesus was quizzed as to what the greatest commandment was he answered with the full spirit of the law, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:37-39 To love God with all that you are basically means that you refuse to let yourself be divided. Your personal, professional, spiritual, religious, political, sexual selves disappear into yourself as you are simply you and that same you is fully dedicated to God. These categories fade away as you become fully devoted to God and consequently expressions of yourself in these categories are expressions of your belief in God. Throughout the gospel of John the writer continually refers to sin as unbelief. The rationale behind this is that belief, true belief, brings about change in one’s self. Does this change exist in you? Is your heart, soul, mind and strength one within Christ and not divided in double-minded fashion? Maybe you need to look at your life and see if you are being honest with yourself and God today and stop dividing yourself and others in a way that God never intended. Maybe division is something we shouldn’t be good at?

 

*Much of the thinking behind this concept comes from John Ortberg’s Soul Keeping


american idols

Don’t make me repeat myself. I’m sure many of us have heard this phrase before. I imagine that some of us as parents have even used this phrase. And yet, it seems as if repetition is built into the very fabric of our lives. Especially in our own household where there are four kids…I imagine many days my wife and I sound like broken record players. But repetition isn’t bad in and of itself. In fact, it can be quite good. Repetition is the motor behind much of our learning and habitual practices. Just take a moment and google the word repetition and be as amazed as I was in terms of the research and studies dedicated to repetition and its effect on the human brain. If repetition is such a powerful tool then it goes without saying that things that have been repeated before us bear our attention. I would even say things often repeated in the Bible probably should grab our attention. Did you know that the most often repeated sin we are warned about in the Bible is the sin of idolatry? So perhaps it demands a little more of our attention.

But Idolatry is an outdated concept. You don’t see people making sacrifices to idols in today’s world…or do you? The first time we are told explicitly what idolatry is in the Bible is probably in the giving of the Ten Commadments. The second commandment goes like this, “make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.” Exodus 20:4-5a But what is an image or a form? An what does it mean to bow down? The word for form in this passage is tĕmuwnah which translates as representation or idea. The word for bow down is shachah and can be translated as worship or give reverence to. So the second commandment is reminding us not to worship any idea/concept/form that ultimately is not the God revealed through the story of scripture. And you may still feel like you have this covered…at least I do most of the time.

But what is worship? Sure you could talk about what we do in churches on Sunday, but worship is more about giving God the appropriate place in our lives. Worship is also abou making sure we haven’t turned anything into an idol…maybe even our thoughts of God at times. You see the reason idolatry was so dangerous is because idolatry meant you coul control that which you worshipped. If you could make an image of it or picture it just the right way, then you could dictate how that deity worked. So when things like sports, fitness, ambition, money, fame, popularity, body-image, etc. become our idol it makes sense because these are things that in theory we can control or manipulate. Sometimes we even do this with God when we tell Him how he should act or when He hates the same people we do or cheers for the same teams we do. We can take God and make an image. We can manipulate the God whose name was, “I am who I am” – Exodus 3:14 This naming itself say to us that God can’t be made into something we can control or manipulate because He is whatever He will be.

So perhaps there is something to this repetition thing after all. And perhaps there is some idolatry we might need to examine in our own lives. The best thing about idols though…they are made to be broken.

 


it’s okay to come home

I can’t recall if I ever went through this phase or not. But I know with certainty that this was definitely a phase my now 9-yr-old went through. Some form of disciplinary action would take place in our home and all of a sudden it was too much for him to handle and he would declare to all within earshot that he was running away. Now he never really made it past the backyard. And there was never really any long-term planning involved other than grabbing one or two favorite toys, but the spirit of the action was understood. At some point though either my wife or I one would beckon him back in the house and all would be restored again.

It reminds me of the parable I was able to share this last week a couple of times. A son runs away from home after wishing for the inheritance he would receive upon his father’s death i.e. wishing his father dead (sounds like a dramatic running away story to me). He waste the inheritance on wild living and then ends up in a very desperate situation and finally comes to his senses and heads home. Here’s where the writer picks it up, “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” – Luke 15:20. And we love reading about this reconciliation but I’ve always thought that perhaps there could have been more. I can’t help but think about the older brother watching the father while the son was still in the distant country. Everyday as he would head into the fields he more than likely would see his father on the front porch staring into the distance. He knew his father’s heart was breaking and yet he just kept busy…doing what he thought his father wanted him to do. When in all truthfulness the father just wanted the younger son home. Had the older brother truly understood his role in reflecting his father’s heart he would have gone to the distant country, found his younger brother and told him, “It’s okay to come home.”

I look at the church today and I wonder which older brother we are reflecting. Are we busy about what we think is the father’s business? Or are we actively pursuing the younger brother or sister and telling them “It’s okay to come home”? Are our churches truly a place where the lost know, “It’s okay to come home?” Are we creating environments and programs to suit our own needs or do we truly reflect the heart of the father reaching out to the runaway son/daughter and telling them, “It’s okay to come home?”

My son was probably never in the backyard for more than an hour in his attempts at running away. But I like to think he knows that at the end of the day regardless of how long he stays out, how far he strays away, or how much he thinks he has failed us that it’s okay to come home. May the same be said for us when we think about those who aren’t home yet with our heavenly Father.


fever

For those of you who may not be following my family or I on other forms of social media I need to fill you in a bit. We have been sick. My wife and I for the most part have avoided the above referenced events, but our kids…well, they haven’t. And it’s kind of scary when kids get sick. You’re used to seeing these tiny humans navigate life at a ballistic pace and then all of a sudden they are reduced to couch sloths who want to binge watch Netflix kid programming that in turn might make you sick. But the scariest part to me of my kids getting sick is and always has been the fever. I guess this is partly due to the fact that I never run a fever and so it is quite foreign to be, but fevers are just weird. All of a sudden the body, via the Hypothalamus decides that the best way to treat the foreign invasion is by over-heating. This results in increased muscle tone, vasoconstriction, shivering and your kid becoming a human heating pad. It’s pretty crazy stuff. And eventually, if unchecked, the fevers can even become deadly. The body can, in it’s attempt at self-defense, roast itself to death. So yeah, fevers are a little troubling.

That which is meant for defense can turn deadly. It’s almost reminiscent to me of the struggle of the human will. The apostle Paul puts it this way in his letter to the Roman church, “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” – Romans 7:19 Paul is alluding to the very war within the body that the will is waging with sin. The human will want’s to do the good, but often ends up doing harm.* Paul goes on though in the next chapter to give us hope for that which holds us back, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus“. The allusion being to that which he talks about in Galatians of being crucified with Christ. The Spirit of God within us puts to death the struggle of wills because it is no longer I who struggle against sin, but the Spirit of God within me that sets me free.

The scary part about kids being sick is that you feel like you always have to monitor them. Is the fever getting better? Is it getting worse? Are they acting more strange than usual? Likewise the presence of God’s Spirit in our lives must be given attention to. Am I giving myself over to God’s Spirit today? Am I producing fruit in line with who God is? Is it my will or thy will? Honestly, giving over the fever of ourselves to God isn’t easy. But the health and growth that occur when we sacrifice our will to God is something that not only leaves us changed, but also those around us. One might even say it’s contagious, but very much unlike the stuff my kids have been passing around. So may you find yourselves being made well by the presence of God’s Spirit today and see how it spreads into the lives of those you come in contact with.

*I realize this analogy is a bit of a stretch as fevers rarely do harm, but it is a possibility. And hopefully this post hasn’t incensed you germaphobes to reach for the hand sanitizer.


not so blind

It’s funny sometimes how ideas come to me for my blog. It can happen while teaching students. Sometimes I am playing with my kids and I have one of those aha moments. Or sometimes the ideas come to me while I am deep in thought early in the morning…hey, it happens. But this one happened while I was pouring out my soul to a friend over coffee. We were talking about life and the curve balls that it sometimes throws your way and then I made this posit, “What if the goal of this life is simply to learn to trust God so that it will make sense in the life to come”. Now I know for many of you this may not be that ground breaking of a thought and maybe many of you had even thought this before, but for some reason it really stuck me.

I don’t think trust is something that comes easy. Sure we operate with blind trust all the time. We trust that the chair we are about to sit in will hold our weight. We trust that the other motor-vehicle operators on the road don’t want to play bumper cars. We even trust that when we wake up there will be breath in our lungs and the sun will rise again (granted some of us wait until the sun is up to rise ourselves). But trust in our future? Trust in God’s best regardless of what is going on around us? I don’t think it’s that easy. And I am pretty sure we can’t call it blind trust at that point.

There was a verse from Proverbs 3 that many of us learned when we were little, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” But what does trusting God with our whole heart look like? Does that mean we trust God with our families, finances, health, career, safety, etc. etc.? I think so. And in a world of violence, hatred, oppression, brokenness, slavery, and just all out sin I don’t think this comes easy. Life itself can beat us down, hurt us, hurt those we love and in the midst of this we are called to trust with our whole heart.

Maybe that is why that thought the other day for me was so monumental. Because in this life I don’t think that this trust comes naturally. I think we are constantly called to renew our trust in God and in His goodness. And I always find the need to remind myself that the trust I am placing is in a God so big He was willing to become a crucified criminal for me. And then all of a sudden the worst life can throw at me doesn’t seem as bad. So my challenge to us today? Keep going, keep moving and keep learning to trust in a God in this life who will be more than we can ever comprehend in the life to come.


root deep

I submit for the jury that tooth/mouth pain has to be one of the worst pains a human can experience. Maybe I am just being a baby about it, but owwww! What did people do before modern dentistry and endodontics?

This past week I found out that I had a horrible infection just below one of my molars. That infection was pressing upon my tooth and basically reducing me to a babbling three-year old. At first I thought the tooth ache could be sinus related as it started prior to the weekend and my wife and daughter had just been sick. But as it grew more severe over the weekend (and my whining increased) my wife insisted that I go and see our favorite local dentist. After seeing me and my x-ray for all of five minutes I was sent to a local endodontist, who proceeded to drill into said tooth in order to correct the previous root canal and treat the infection. All that to say…Ouch! Who knew such debilitating pain could be derived from one tooth infection? I can’t imagine going through this prior to the modern era of Novocaine and Tylenol-3. That root, or rather that root infection was enough to take me out of commission completely (not that it necessarily takes much, but you get the point).

In his letter to young Timothy (I think Timothy is one of those people we think about in the Bible as being perpetually young), Paul makes mention of “root theory”, as I will call it. In 1 Timothy 6:9-10 he writes, “But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” And most of us have heard that adage before, “the love of money is the root of all evil”, but Paul says it slightly different. The desire for wealth is the root of all kinds of evil. Still seems pretty expansive though.

After experiencing that all encompassing effects of root damage I think I have started to understand what Paul is speaking about here. Granted, Paul probably had very little dental knowledge, but he had to understand a little bit of botany to make the reference. My tooth was completely rendered ineffective and useless because of it’s root issue (to this moment it is still pretty useless). Most plants, if the root is shot, whither and die pretty quickly. Likewise if our lives become consumed with the growth and acquisition of wealth we become virtually ineffective. I have seen some amazing Christians become consumed by their desire for more and fall away from an amazing calling on their life, Jesus even said in Matthew 16:26, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”

So I guess we need to examine our root desires. Are they infected? Are our root desires reflective of Christ or are they driven at something else? I can tell you from recent experience that infected roots don’t stay hidden forever and eventually they may even ruin us.


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