Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death Is Very Gospelly

When Patrick Henry addressed the leadership of Virginia and urged sending troops to fight in the war for independence from England, he played on a theme urged 2000 years earlier by a little-known Jewish teacher from Galilee in his first recorded sermon.

After spending forty days alone in the wilderness, Jesus went to the synagogue in his home town of Nazareth and preached from the words of Isaiah the Prophet:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:18-21.)

Jesus spoke of liberty, the freedom that comes to those who belong to him. He punctuated this later:

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36.)

You can be a slave to sin with its eternal consequences, a death that owns you forever, or be set free in Jesus with the gift of eternally living in him.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23.)

God’s reigning grace – not your own effort to be good enough – brings you into this eternal life in Jesus.

But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20-21.)

So while Patrick Henry might have said “Give me liberty or give me death” in the sense of saying death is better than living under tyranny, what the phrase means in the spiritual sense is that there truly are only two alternatives: liberty in Jesus with the gift of eternal life, or slavery to sin with the consequences of eternal death.

You can either have liberty or you can have death. Those are the only two choices.

Choose life.

***

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Bullies and the Love of God

[From the archives.]

***

Bullying is bad. I should know.

You probably think I’m about to go into a story from my childhood about how I was bullied. Well, I could. But I’m not going to.

You see, while it’s true I was bullied in school there were also times when I was the one doing the bullying. Being both the bully and the bullied can certainly give one a sense of how bad bullying is. Perhaps that’s why an article I read recently was so gratifying.

Using Power Rightly & Wrongly

Chy Johnson started high school this year. If that weren’t hard enough, Chy is also a person with a brain disorder. She’s easy to pick on and she was bullied from the start. Chy’s mother knew only one other student at school so she called him to see if she could learn who was doing this to her daughter. She called the right guy.

Carson Jones is a senior, strikingly handsome, and the quarterback of the football team. When he got the call from Chy’s mom he did something better than hand over a few names.

He started spending time with Chy.

Then he introduced his teammates to Chy as well. Now the players eat lunch with her, walk her to class, and the word has gotten out around school that bullying Chy is not OK.

Chy Johnson and the Queens Creek football team — BYU.edu (by way of Yahoo.com)

Carson is quoted as saying, “They’re not bullying her anymore because they’ve seen her with us or something,” while another senior, Tucker Workman, explains, “It feels good to know that we helped someone else, because you know, we’re doing good, everything for us is going well, but someone else needs to feel good, too.”

Jesus and Bullies

The bullying Jesus confronted in the Bible could be quite subtle and at other times quite blatant, yet in each case we see his consistent gentle love quite plainly.

He is gentle with the woman dragged before him and blatantly bullied as she faces charges of adultery. (John 8:1-11.) He is gentle with the Pharisee who subtly bullies while he sneers at the prostitute who bathes Jesus’ feet with her tears. (Luke 7:36-39.)

Jesus does not ignore the bullying, but he addresses it in ways that show the love of God to all around him. Jesus does the same for us. He advocates for us in our weakness. (1 John 2:1.) He gave us the Holy Spirit, the advocate who is with each of us always. (John 16:7-11.) And not even the biggest bully of all, Satan, can speak against us:

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (Romans 8:34.)

I am grateful for people like Carson and Tucker and their teammates who will intercede on behalf of a young girl.

Even more so, I am grateful that we have an eternal Protector who intercedes for us. Thank you, Jesus.

***

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The Works of Faith Are Not Your Job

When you seek to do good, what do you rely on? Do you try to be strong enough, wise enough or wealthy enough?

The Bible says that our works for God do not originate in ourselves: not in our resources, our talents, our wisdom, nor our strength. Rather, as Paul told his friends in Thessalonica:

We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:3.)

Look at the source of work, labor and endurance in that passage:

  • Work? Produced by faith.
  • Labor? Prompted by love.
  • Endurance? Inspired by hope in Jesus.

Look at what is not the source of work, labor and endurance:

  • Work? Not you.
  • Labor? Not you.
  • Endurance? Not you.

You might be thinking that there are verses that talk about working, though, and that these mean you need to get cracking. You’re right there are, and you’re right that you are expected to work and labor and endure for God. But you are not the one this work, labor and endurance relies upon.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed … continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13.)

The word salvation in this passage seems to mean more than merely being saved from sin and death, saved from an eternity without God. This is about the ongoing salvation from the power of sin and its effect on your life day to day.

Paul told his friends to work it out with fear and trembling. I think in this context it can be understood as an acknowledgement that there is much to fear from sin if it weren’t for the fact that God is working in you.

God’s work gets done through you, but by God

Paul said that “it is God who works in you to will and to act.” Not only the work you get done but the very desire (will) to get it done is God ‘s work in you. And then he went on to say that this is “in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

God’s good purpose – isn’t that the good work you want to get done, the work that came to mind when you read the opening lines of this post? If that is the work you’d like to accomplish, rest assured that God wants that too and wants it so much that he will work in you to get it done. So it’s not up to you to be smart enough or strong enough.

In fact, as the church in Corinth learned, human minds and human strength are not what God uses to achieve his purpose.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Corinthians 1:25.)

There is no human strength strong enough nor wisdom smart enough to overcome what God can do through the weakest of his people.

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. (1 Corinthians 1:26-27.)

God’s good purpose is accomplished through these weak and unwise people of his.

God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:28-30.)

When Paul used the phrase “the things that are not” it gives the impression that he was saying the people of God are a bunch of nobodies in the world’s eyes. But it is these nobodies that God uses to nullify the somebodies, the people who think they run the show.

Remember that it is not a matter of you getting better, stronger, wiser than others so you can accomplish God’s purpose. Rather, Jesus has become your wisdom, and he is the one who has worked in you for righteousness and holiness and redemption.

This is God’s work in you and through you. Because you belong to Jesus, you now get to be part of the work of God as he accomplishes his purpose through you.

***

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My Gluttony, My Gut

If you look at the classical list of Seven Deadly Sins you’ll find: Wrath, Greed, Sloth, Pride, Lust, Envy and Gluttony

Most people would agree that those items belong on that list, at least to one degree or another. Aren’t you tempted to rank them, though? Or perhaps you’re thinking of other sins that are more worthy of inclusion. I mean really, who puts gluttony on the list of the seven deadly sins? Perhaps because of this passage:

Put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony.
(Proverbs 23:2)

I’m here to tell you, then, about my night of gluttony.

Toblerone, Cream Sherry and Rugby

When I was studying at the University of Sussex back in the early 80s, one of my friends was another foreign student, Dave the Australian. Dave played professional rugby before coming to study in England and he looked it.

Dave was huge and he was boisterous and he was about as gregarious a person as I’ve ever met. He was smarter than any 10 people I’d ever met, too. Dave came to Sussex for a Master’s in Early Modern Intellectual History, a subject I didn’t even know existed until I met him. It turns out he then went on to get his doctorate from Oxford. Dave’s brain capacity was as huge as his body and his personality.

I loved the guy.

One evening all the friends we usually met at the pub or played soccer with or generally just hung out with were all out of town. I told Dave not to worry; I’d recently come into possession of a kilo of Toblerone Chocolate and a large bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry.

“What are we waiting for, Tim? Retrieve your supplies and repair to my place!”

So I went by my room, got the chocolate and bottle, and banged on Dave’s door.

We broke open the chocolate and poured from the bottle and sat there through the night, trading stories and laughing at our absent friends missing out on all this. What I thought was going to be us putting a dent into the sherry and chocolate turned out to be us finishing them off. Not a sliver of chocolate nor a drop of nectar remained, and so I left my rugby friend in the hour after midnight and weaved along the path to find my way to bed.

Sleep came quickly as you might imagine. But it didn’t last long.

I woke about 3:00 a.m. with the worst gut cramp of my life. My eyes popped open and I clutched at my midsection, my mind similarly clutching for what could possibly be causing such agony. I doubled over to try to relieve the pain and remembered how I’d passed the earlier hours. All that sherry and chocolate were now doing battle with my digestive system, and my digestive system was getting pummeled.

All I could do was lie there, one agonizing minute stretching inexorably into the next. Minutes piled upon minutes as agony piled upon agony. And yet as dawn broke I somehow fell asleep.

Noon arrived and so did my consciousness. I got up and shuffled my way to the sink, splashing cold water on my face. The funny thing was that I didn’t feel hung over. Just very tired and slightly gut-achy.

That night I saw Dave at dinner and, thinking that misery loves company, asked him how he slept.

“Slept like a baby, Tim! How ’bout you?”

How ’bout me? I didn’t have the guts to tell him.

***

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Your Works Are Not Your Holiness – a response to John Piper’s problems with faith

The problem with John Piper not leaving well enough alone

In an article published last month, John Piper states:

The only kind of faith that counts for justification is the kind that produces love — the kind that bears the fruit of love. The faith which alone justifies is never alone, but always bearing transforming fruit. So, when James says these controversial words, “A person is justified by works and not by faith alone (James 2:24), I take him to mean not by faith which is alone, but which shows itself by works. (John Piper, Does God Really Save Us by Faith Alone?)

There’s nothing controversial about that paragraph (except for that odd and undefined phrase “transforming fruit”) and if he left off with that there would be nothing remarkable about his article. But the next paragraph is extremely problematic.

Paul calls this effect or fruit or evidence of faith the “work of faith” (1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:11) and the “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5; 16:26). These works of faith, and this obedience of faith, these fruits of the Spirit that come by faith, are necessary for our final salvation. No holiness, no heaven (Hebrews 12:14). So, we should not speak of getting to heaven by faith alone in the same way we are justified by faith alone. (Id., emphasis added.)

Rachel Miller ably answers Mr. Piper’s odd assertion that works are necessary for salvation in her article Salvation by Grace Alone through Faith Alone in Christ Alone where she details the history of the theology of salvation from Paul through the Reformation and up to present understanding on works and holiness. If you want the comprehensive analysis of why Mr. Piper’s teaching constitutes grave error, read her post.

I write here merely on the portion of Mr. Piper’s article where he says, “So, we should not speak of getting to heaven by faith alone in the same way we are justified by faith alone.”

Does he really mean that our justification through faith in Jesus is insufficient for “getting to heaven”? It is in that very justification that we are made fit for eternal life with God.

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7.)

Our salvation means we are heirs with Jesus, washed clean and reborn by the Holy Spirit, all because of the mercy and kindness of God and “not because of the righteous things we have done.”

Mr. Piper has undoubtedly read this passage from Titus more than once, so why would he write an article that appears to say we are justified to a state of being that is less than we need to have for “getting to heaven”? The problematic nature of the post has been brought to the attention of Desiring God Ministries, Mr. Piper’s ministry organization which published the article, but there have been no corrections in the weeks since the article appeared. It is up to writers such as Ms. Miller to provide the corrections for him, then.

The rightness of acting rightly

And lest anyone think my own brief post here is an argument for not bothering to follow the way of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, I point to the words of Jesus’ brother James:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. (James 2:14-18.)

Some people might wonder what deeds are evidence of faith in Jesus. That is a hard question to answer if you want to compare one person’s works to another person’s works. There are so many ways to serve God and the people he’s put in your life that quantifying actions and results is impossible.

Happily this is not the way the Bible measures works. Rather, the way to know whether your actions are in step with the Spirit is by the fruit of those actions:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23.)

Mailoica Basket of Fruit, Fede Galizia

If your actions are kind, peaceful, patient, loving, etc., then you are engaging in the work James said will be evidence of your faith. This is fruit which rather than being transforming, as Mr. Piper puts it, is evidence of your transformation.

The fruit of these works are also evidence of the fact that you are “getting into heaven,” to use Mr. Piper’s phrase. But there is no difference between your justification and your holiness when it comes to faith. They both rely on Jesus, the power of the Spirit, and the kindness of your heavenly Father who loves you more than you can imagine.

The present reality of your heavenly presence

Contrary to Mr. Piper’s misunderstanding, “getting to heaven” is by faith alone whether you are speaking of justification or holiness. In fact, your place in heaven is not merely some future event to look forward to but is a present reality:

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7.)

Justification, holiness and eternity with God: it’s all because of the faith you have in Jesus by the grace of God.

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Defining the Relationship – when DTRs meet faith

[From the archives.]

Where Love Exists

My son and daughter are both in college, so I hear a lot about relationships*. It’s not so much romance, but more about friendships and roommates. It might also be about their friends’ and roommates’ romances. We didn’t have DTRs when I went to college but now I’m told you can’t turn around without someone saying they want to Define The Relationship with someone else. I even found out this week that DTRs can apply to families.

Last weekend our son brought some friends home from college. Apparently one of the young women was taken aback by our family dynamics: we joke with our son, sit around the table to talk with him and his friends after dinner, hang out watching TV with them, and generally pay attention to him and them. This was not how her own family operates, and our son later told us she started thinking that perhaps there’s a different way for her family to function.

I asked, “So you mean DTR might apply to families too?”

“Yep.”

I think DTRs are an improvement. DTRs mean taking a chance. DTRs mean being vulnerable. Ever spend a couple times out with someone (coffee or bowling, in a group or just the two of you, whatever) and you think things are going along in one direction but then find out that he or she feels differently? Hearing the words “I really value your friendship” can be such a cold slap in the face.

It’s like C.S. Lewis said in The Four Loves, though – love happens in vulnerability:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. … The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers … of love is Hell.

I don’t know anyone who wants to be that “perfectly safe” from love’s dangers.

The Dangers of Love

In our fallen world, the perils of love are all around us: rejection, pain, loss. If you want a good example of love perverted into pain, look at Tamar and her half-brother Amnon in 2 Samuel 13. Amnon thought he loved Tamar and tricked herinto entering his bedroom alone. There he raped her despite her pleas to stop and her promise to marry him if he’d only ask their father King David. But Amnon refused and it led to one of the most tragic scenes in the Bible:

Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”

“No!” she said to him. “Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.”

But he refused to listen to her. He called his personal servant and said, “Get this woman out of my sight and bolt the door after her.”

I remember when this happened to me in college. No, I wasn’t Tamar in this story, nor was I Amnon (thank God!). It was not the tragedy found in 2 Samuel 13, but it still hurt in its own tragic – and stupid – way. This other guy and I were both bird-dogging a young woman in this orientation we were all in for a school program. One day she started paying more attention to me than to him. A lot more attention. So much, that she practically glued herself to me for an entire evening. The next day, another young woman in our program who knew the object of my desire well warned me, “Watch out for her. She’s a man-eater.” (Yes, people talked like that back then.) I ignored the warning, of course, and immediately sought out more of the same wonderfully romantic attention I’d enjoyed the prior evening.

Didn’t happen. All that next day the young woman ignored me and avoided me. I was confused and crushed, wondering where all the flirtyness of the evening before had gone. Eventually I figured it out: she didn’t like me; she didn’t want to encourage my attention; she had no desire for me whatsoever, and never did. She just wanted to keep the other guy at arm’s length and figured the easiest way to show him her disinterest was to pretend an interest in me. Ouch.

A Dangerous Love

Love is dangerous, but is there hope? Of course there is, because “love comes from God.” (1 John 4:7.) Yet even God’s love is a dangerous love. He wants our love to be complete, undivided. (Matthew 6:24.) He wants it to be above any other love. (Luke 9:57-62.) He wants it so bad he paid the ultimate price to get it. (John 15:13, 1 Corinthians 7:23, 1 John 3:16.) Jesus became vulnerable in his love for us. It’s a dangerous love all around. But it’s good.

And when it comes to DTRs, here’s the one Jesus had with his followers just hours before his death:

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other. (John 15:15-17.)

Jesus’ DTR boils down to three things: we’re his friends, he chose us for a purpose, and he wants us to love one another.

So what does this mean for your relationships? Start with recognizing that God wants you for a friend; then look at the people around you and try to see them the same way God does. And for romance in particular, if you are indeed interested in a young woman or man keep in mind that you should treat her or him as one of God’s friends; because we all know that you don’t want to mistreat one of God’s friends. In fact, Jesus should be the defining member of those relationships because there is no relationship worth having if he’s not part of it.

Now that’s a DTR worth pursuing.

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Dear Mega-Twitterer: there’s a reason I didn’t follow you back

[Exploring the question* of whether meaningful conversation of any sort, even brief, can occur on Twitter.]

***

Dear person who follows 140,980** people on Twitter and decided to make me number 140,981. I appreciate you choosing to follow me, I truly do. On some level at least.

I see that you also have 136,074 Twitter followers. Congratulations on such a large following.

You may have noticed, though, that I did not follow you back and bring your number to 136,075. Then again you might not have noticed. I mean, it must be hard to keep track of these things when you follow so many people yourself. It’s about relationships, right?

It’s not about relationships for you? What? You mean it’s about numbers? On Twitter?! I’m shocked, shocked I tell you!

Social Media – social or media?

I’m new to social media. I just started this blog a year ago, and  created Twitter and Facebook accounts just this past summer. I don’t have much personal experience to go on.

Going by your own tweets, dear Twitter follower, you appear to love Jesus, love his people, and have a good grasp of doctrine. So why wouldn’t I follow you back?

Because for me social media is for being social more than it is about media. It’s about being communicative more than just making connections. It’s about relationships more than it’s about building a tribe.

Especially that last one. If anyone reading my posts or tweets ever thinks I’m tribe-building, please take me aside and shake some sense into me.

You see, Jesus was into relationships.

Come to me when you’re tired, he said.

Let me hold those children, he said.

I want to hang out with you, he said.

I want your comfort and support, he said.

Relationships are important in Jesus’ kingdom. Another way of looking at it is that the kingdom of God includes the relationships God’s people have with each other.

So I try to use social media in a way that builds relationships. I love to read the comments people write about my blog posts, and I try to respond to every comment that is amenable to discussion (and even some that aren’t).

For Twitter and Facebook, I like to read what people write because some of it is informative, some of it’s encouraging, some of it’s funny and some of it reveals something about the person. And then I try to respond to messages in a way that shows my appreciation or support or that might possibly add to the discussion.

But I don’t use social media in order to follow the thoughts of everyone who might have something worthwhile to say. And that brings me specifically back to you, dear person-with-a-hundred-thousand-followers-who-follows-a-hundred-thousand-people-yourself.

I looked at your tweets. You say interesting things about God. These are the types of things that I like to respond to and build a dialog with. But I don’t think that’s what can happen between us. I expect that any attempt to engage in meaningful communication will just get lost among the hundreds or perhaps even thousands of messages and tweets you must receive each day.

So thank you for following me. Please understand if I don’t follow you back.

Cheers,
Tim

***

*Aimee Byrd read through this post and helped me frame that question. Thanks Aimee!

**The numbers used in this letter/post are real, and the person who followed me really exists. I can’t make this kind of thing up, folks.

***

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Majority Rule Has Never Been the American Way, and It’s Not Jesus’ Way Either

Some might say that in a democracy the majority rules. Those in the minority can only hope to convince enough people to agree with their position so as to become the majority the next time.

That might be how it is in a strict democracy, but the United States is not a strict democracy. It’s a constitutional democracy. Despite what the majority desires, if the desire conflicts with the U.S. Constitution the majority will not get what it wants. It is up to the government to enforce these constitutional fetters on majority rule. As James Madison said:

“Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression. In our Governments, the real power lies in the majority of the Community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from the acts of Government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the constituents.”

At no time does the Constitution allow the government to become “the mere instrument of the major number.” Free speech, freedom to practice your faith, the ability to assemble together with those you choose, these are all rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.

The First Amendment also guarantees the right to “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” often a grievance regarding the denial of a constitutional freedom. The burden of deciding those petitions – and ordering redress if necessary – often falls to the Judicial Branch, with both federal and state court judges telling the other branches to provide that redress by way of actions often contrary to the will of the majority.

Yet doing so is, again according to James Madison, the best way for both the majority and the minority to enjoy their freedoms:

“Equal laws protecting equal rights; the best guarantee of loyalty and love of country.”

The rights guaranteed to all people are the rights guaranteed to each individual, and a right denied to one is an assault on all rights enjoyed by everyone.

God tells us not to allow such assault to go without redress:

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy.
(Proverbs 31:8-9.)

The way of Christ is the way of protection of the downtrodden, those unable to speak for themselves. This is the way of God for all his people, regardless of politics, regardless of being in the majority or minority.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21.)

The way of Christ is to redress wrongs and bind up wounds. Walk in it.

***

 

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Being Disqualified Doesn’t Disqualify You

[From the archives.]

Being Disqualified Is Not The End Of The World

I read an interesting passage the other day:

No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, not even in the tenth generation. For they did not come to meet you with bread and water on your way when you came out of Egypt … .” (Deuteronomy 23:3-4.)

King David was a descendant of a Moabite. Here’s how it happened:

Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from his hometown. Today you are witnesses!”

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. … And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. (Ruth 4:9-10, 13, 17.)

Ruth the Moabite: she’s one of those people who can’t enter God’s assembly, and neither can her descendants to the 10th generation. Yet she is treated like one of the family, literally, and is given a place of honor in the town of Bethlehem, Boaz’s home.

Only three generations removed from Ruth we read of her most famous Old Testament descendant:

The Lord said to Samuel … “Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” (1 Samuel 16:1.)

That would be Ruth’s grandson Jesse, although he’s not the most famous descendant. Samuel went to Jesse’s house and found he had many sons, but God told Samuel to wait for the youngest to come in from the fields.

So [Samuel] sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.

Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”

So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. (1 Samuel 16:12-13.)

God chose David, a person disqualified from entering the assembly of God’s people, to be the king of all Israel. How could this be? As God told Samuel:

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7.)

The people around them might have seen David’s family as Moabite descendants, but God saw David as:

 … a man after his own heart and [so] appointed him ruler of his people. (1 Samuel 13:14.)

God did not hold David’s heritage, his past, against him.

Not Disqualified

The Bible tells us we are all disqualified when it comes to entering God’s glorious presence, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23.) On the other hand, we are all also completely qualified to come to God because “all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:24.)

It is because of Jesus we can now approach God boldly and with confidence.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. … Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence. (Hebrews 4:14, 6.)

Those who belong to Jesus are not disqualified. On the contrary, we get to approach God – we get to enter the assembly of God’s people and approach him – because of Jesus.

Don’t let anyone ever call you disqualified again.

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Lying to Myself Never Works

[Today’s guest post is from Laura Droege, a wonderful writer who touches upon the vulnerabilities of life and the strength of faith.]

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Back in high school, I was unpopular with the boys. Seriously unpopular. I’m not sure they were aware of my existence, except for those rare occasions when they called to get homework assignments for a class they’d missed. And, being a very self-conscious teenage girl, I was certain that everyone in the entire school was aware of my dateless status. The thought filled me with angst, but I couldn’t exactly coerce a guy into asking me out, and asking him out was out of the question. Too aggressive.

One day in English class, we had a substitute who let us study, do homework, or talk. (You can guess what most of us did.) I was midway through a reading assignment when Susan, the girl sitting in front of me, turned around. “So, who have you gone out with, Laura?”

My best friend poked me in the spine. “Say you went to the movies with a guy last summer,” she hissed.

Susan was popular. I followed Cori’s advice. “Well,” I began, “I went to the movies last summer with this guy. We saw The Lion King.”

Susan’s eyes widened. Here was new information. “What was his name?”

“Joshua, Joshua Trent. He goes to my grandmother’s church, and I met him when I stayed at my grandparents’ house. He’s really super nice. He goes to Vanderbilt. He’s in the pre-med program there.”

“Oooo.” Susan seemed impressed by the details. “So, did you, you know, let him kiss you?”

I smiled one of those I’m-not-a-kiss-and-tell-type-of-girl smiles and flicked my eyes away, like I was remembering a romantic moment.

Now, there was indeed a young man named Joshua Trent whom I had met when I visited my grandmother’s house that past summer. He was very nice. But he was a year younger than I was and he didn’t go to Vanderbilt and we never got within spitting distance, much less kiss.

The news that I had gone on a date spread across the classroom, spilled into the halls between classes, and raced through the cafeteria. By lunch, everyone in my small high school knew. A guy from The Table of Popular People approached me at my place at The Table of Outcasts. “Hey, I heard you’re dating a guy at Vanderbilt. My sister goes there. Maybe she knows him.”

I thought fast. “Well, what I really meant was that he used to go there.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, he lost his scholarship, and his parents didn’t have enough money to keep sending him there, so now he’s going to MTSU.”

Wes trotted back to The Popular Table with that information. Cori’s boyfriend, sitting across the table from me, had his head in his arms because he was laughing so hard. My other friends rolled their eyes.

The more lies I told, the more I had to tell. And with each lie, I became more and more convinced that they were really, in some twisted way, the truth. My mind started whirling with the possibilities of friendship and romance between myself and the half-mythical Joshua. Never mind the truth. In my mind, Joshua and I had a bond, we were destined for each other, and the pain of separation was excruciating. (Really, the only “bond” was my attachment to my lies and their attachment to me.) By the end of the day, I announced to my friends that I missed Joshua. “I feel so sad,” I said, close to tears.

And I really did feel sad. I’d spoken this bizarre lie to myself, as well as other people, and let a lie change my emotional state to sadness and sorrow over a guy who didn’t exist in reality. And why? All to avoid embarrassment.

The wonder at unpopular Laura’s relationship with the former pre-med major-turned-scholarship-loser died off by the next day. To my knowledge, Susan and Wes and the crowd at The Popular Table never found out the truth. So I never got caught in my web of lies like conventional wisdom says liars do.

But I still think about it, every once in a while, and wonder why I felt compelled to lie about something so trivial.

And not just lie once, but multiple times.

And not just lie to others, but to myself and allow a lie to manipulate my emotions.

And not just that, but to allow it to affect my relationship with God. I was telling God, “I don’t trust you to comfort me if someone else finds out that I’m dateless. I can protect myself from gossip with a lie. I can protect myself better than you can, God.”

Maybe that’s why the Bible tells us not to lie. It’s not a suggestion. God commands us not to lie, not just to protect other people from dishonesty, but to protect us from the harm we do ourselves each time we tell ourselves a lie.

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[Laura Droege is a wife of a rocket scientist, a mama of two daughters, and a novelist with three manuscripts in search of a good publishing home. She holds a graduate degree in literature and taught English as a second language for four years. I hope you visit her blog and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.]

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