Please God!

With the death toll over 500, cry out to God that He would hold back the scourge of tornadoes which has battered our land for over 2 months.  

“Father, in justice, remember mercy.  As a nation we have refused to bow before you and have defied Your will.  In word, deed and spirit we have mocked and ridiculed You–yet feel free to claim your name anyway.  We are proud of our self-effort, our luxuries, and our self-sufficiencies.  We have forgotten that Your hand provides all good things.  We know we deserve judgment.  Grant mercy.  In Jesus’ name Your saints cry out for ourselves and our fellow citizens: grant mercy.  Stay Your hand.  We beg you.  Amen.”

Another date-setter exposed

Well, it’s May 23rd and we’re still here.  Pseudo-prophet Harold Camping should rejoice that he’s not going to be measured by Deuteronomy 18 and found wanting.  His $100 million effort to convince the world (FamilyRadio bought ads and billboards in Iraq, Vietnam, Israel, the Philippines–and just about anywhere else that comes to your mind) May 21 would be the rapture, has been exposed for what it was: unbiblical.  The civil-engineer-turned-Bible-teacher Camping may just be out to lunch (he promotes some other quirky teachings in addition to his odd numerical way to calculate the end of the world) or he may have actually convinced himself that he alone is the repository of truth.  
OK, guys like this drive me up a wall but it’s the followers that most exasperate me.  Unless he/she doesn’t have a Bible–or never reads it, there’s really no reason any believer should fall prey to this nonsense.  Jesus devoted a whole chapter to talking about the end times and punctuated what He said with a statement that couldn’t be clearer.  No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father (Matthew 24:36).
Maybe Camping’s followers are too lazy to do the spadework in the Bible themselves, preferring to be spoonfed their beliefs and theology.  I’d like to think there’s no one in our church like that; that we’re all Bereans.  I’d like to think that. 

Remodeled or Recreated?

How major was Christ’s makeover on you?

My favorite pastime is to dig into a remodeling project around the house.  I love the smell of sawdust, fresh paint, varnish, and the sight of completing a work of art.  (Betty would be happy simply with a different look.  I protest that I want it done “right” but what I’m really after is a masterpiece.)

I’ve added closets, a basement bedroom, refinished oak floors, added crown molding, replaced light fixtures, given the bathroom a facelift, and painted, painted, painted.  And some day, I’m going to build that kitchen I’ve got on the drawing board!  For now I’m redoing our bedroom.

Initial plans were modest: replace all the yesteryear luan doors, close up a window (thanks Dave!), install new carpet, and paint (get this: Buddhist temple scarlet and gold).  Oh yes, and refinish the furniture I made 37 years ago. 

I started with the furniture.  I’d come in from the garage covered with sawdust and declare, “I’m having the time of my life!”  I was.  I had planned only to re-stain the pieces and replace the hardware.  But hey, why not do it right?  Let’s replace the pathetic excuse of a baseboard, add some profile to the square top, and…, oooo, chamfer the corners of the face!  Within a few short years of building the set I had been unhappy with the original design.  It had been pretty basic since at the time I was a novice woodworker.  


Anyway, the craziness continued.  Since I was replacing the entry door anyway, why not widen the opening so we could someday get a wheelchair through if necessary?  (No giggling if you’re under 45.  Age does odd things to the mind!)  So I did.

The door bottom wouldn’t clear the old carpet so I cut it away on a curve just beyond the sweep of the door.  Seeing the oak floor beneath, Betty said, “That looks nice.  Are you going to let it like that?”  If you’d like.  But first I’ll have to sand it and refinish it.  So I did.

The room is not very large so every door that comes out into the room complicates arranging furniture.  So I replaced bifold closet doors with bypassing doors, and the bathroom door with a pocket door. 

I’ve been chipping away at this project for 4 months now and still have a few ahead of me (redoing the half bath too).  But when it’s done it’ll look good and be functional.

I think.

It’s all surface stuff, a facelift to the 40 year-old ambiance.  Nothing’s changing behind the walls, ceiling or under the floor.  It will improve the appearance and make things more convenient, but won’t improve the nature of the house or its structure whatsoever.

Is that how you view what God did in you through Christ?  A makeover, a remodel job?  A change in future destiny and that’s it?  Now it’s time to pull myself up by my bootstraps and grind out this Christian life.  My effort.  
It’s true, in the Christian life we certainly aren’t passive.  The Bible is full of action commands like speak, do, do not, strive, forget, take up, make every effort…  Nevertheless this is neither a solo job nor even one we start which God only joins once He’s convinced we’re really serious about it.
Do you understand the magnitude of what happened to you when Jesus’ blood was applied to you and your sins?  The effect was as drastic as if God had turned you from a plant into a lion.  God doesn’t do remodeling projects; He’s more into creation.  When He regenerated you, he created a new man, a new woman.  He didn’t just add paint and accessories, your structure is brand new.  …if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

That’s why Paul talks so much about the “new man”.  Why he says that Christians no longer live but that Christ lives in them.  It explains the language that we’ve died and now our lives are hidden with Christ in God.  The gospel does not come upon a person merely to change his/her philosophy, but to change THE PERSON.  The gospel comes upon us–not just with words, but with power.

By the power of the gospel, God has made us holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation (Colossians 1:22).  You’re no longer a sin house but a God house.  You’ve gone from totally depraved to totally saved.  From a mess to blessed.  From condemned to redeemed.  Not just a makeover, but a new creation.

Our position before God has changed, our position with the world and Satan has changed, our future has changed, but so have we
Because you’re now a child of God, you have all the rights and privileges of His sons, His daughters–including ’round the clock support.  Because your heart’s been changed from stone to flesh, that old carelessness about your sin has been replaced by a sensitivity to it and sorrow over it–even if you don’t immediately see full victory over it.  Yet because you’re new–and newly related to God who now lives in you, you can hope for victory over your seemingly unyielding sin.  Because you’re new, you can be confident that even when you mess up, God moves in to convict and restore and show love through it all.  Because you’re new you believe the Scriptures will make sense to you in a way they couldn’t possibly before.  Because you’re new you know Satan has no more claim on you–and his accusations are all bluffs.  Because you’re new, God will use you, and because you’re new, you are marked by hope, not despair. 

A makeover is nice; new is better.

For parents going nuts

Parenting 001
([click on the faint ‘Parenting 001’ link above to read.] This is too good not to reproduce for all you parents out there who are going crazy–not just with your kids, but with your assessment of yourself as a parent. I spent most of my parenting years feeling like a failure and know I wasn’t unique. Maybe this will be a little blessing from heaven for you. Funny doesn’t hurt either. KR)

Is Obedience Legalism?

Last fall Charisma magazine published a letter to the editor from a gay reader who objected to an earlier article lumping homosexual behavior together with other sins like adultery, fornication, and infanticide.  

The reader was incensed, claiming the article in essence “rebound [him] by a spirit of legalism”. He scolded the author for forgetting that “Jesus and His cross replaced that law for me.  And I doubt that He would consider my God-given sexuality as a sin since it does not violate God’s law of love for self and others.”  He then referenced Matthew 22:36-40.

My TV fare is pretty boring: movies, an occasional sporting event, and reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond.  In last night’s episode, Ray’s police brother Robert toyed with arresting him and his father for gambling.  The two had been playing poker with some of Frank’s cronies.  Not wanting to seem led by his father who warned him against playing too aggressively, Ray bet big and lost $2300 to his dad.  What he couldn’t understand was Robert’s dismay at the fact that they were gambling.  “Nobody got hurt!”  To which Rob replied, “Oh, so if no one got hurt, it’s not against the law?”
Increasingly that is what people without a religious framework think: no harm, no foul.  However God identifies sin not just as something that hurts another, but something that offends his glory.  Worshiping other gods doesn’t “harm” in the sense we usually think, but it is the most grievous of all sins, the first one God gets to in the 10 commandments. 

Furthermore, no professing Christian can sweep aside God’s self-revealing 66 books–or even 39 of them–and replace it with a bite-sized Bible called “Christ’s law of love”.  First, this so-called law contains no specifics.  What one person decides is love will undoubtedly be disputed by numerous others.  Who decides?  Me?  Based on what?  A word from God?  A subjective inner voice that overrules the Word from God He’s already given?  
And then there’s the legalism piece.  Many Christians would rather be called “scum” than a “legalist”.  It’s the scarlet “A” in the church, even worse than being called a fundamentalist.  Seems like nowadays you’re a legalist if you call for righteous obedience to God’s law.”  Really?  Au contraire, there is no legalism in obedience.  
A common use of legalism is to describe mandates and no-no’s that groups and churches require of their people which cannot be found in God’s revelation: such as forbidding women to use makeup or wear shorts.  But legalism is actually banking on my words and deeds (doing good ones and avoiding bad ones) to save me. Over against that, biblical obedience is the glorious and thankful response of believer who has been saved. 
The same Jesus the letter-writer pointed to for his defense is also the one who wondered, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord, but do not do what I say?'” (Luke 6:46).  The Word of the Lord insists that homosexual behavior is sin that is part of the old life–not the new (Romans 1:24-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).  Like my pride, my lies, my cursing, it is something to repent of–not rejoice in.  
I agree with Chuck Colson that when we teach grace we make it so free it is dangerous; dangerous in that a hearer might misunderstand and abuse grace.  Yes, that’s the independently operating nature of God’s grace.  But today’s licentious, antinomian [people who are “anti-law” or anti code] environment requires that we be just as forthright that obedience is not simply optional for the Christian. Jesus died so that those who by faith receive the benefits of His work on the cross, might be a cause for praise to their heavenly Father for the “…obedience that accompanies [their] profession of the gospel…” (2 Corinthians 9:13).