Yes, We Can Still Carol Amidst the Darkness

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday I learned that I shouldn’t be singing carols as long as suffering persists in the world.

At least that’s the charge of John Pavlovitz, a Christian progressivist blogger whose post I stumbled across today, quite unintentionally, in the course of my internet wanderings (I will not link it). He says our holiday joy should take a sober and subdued form as long as poverty, disease, injustice, and war persist.

I’m still trying to decide how literal he’s being. At first, this seems like a rigid and unfair stance. Suffering will always be around. The poor will always be with us. If you’re holding out for utopia on earth, you’re in for a long wait.

Should we never again sing at Christmas, then?

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Find a Savior Who Looks at You Like He’d Die For You

5661613189_65be533432_bLife has a way of breaking down your categories. You leave home and discover that Christians aren’t always decent people, nor atheists villains. You get a job and find out that some of the people out there with the foulest mouths and quickest tempers also have the very biggest hearts. You go through an election cycle. I’ll say no more about that. Whatever the case, our black-and-white definitions of things and people are constantly being broken down by life. It’s really a huge favor, if you think about it.

Same thing with marriage.

I’ve longed to be married for quite a while. I have many friends who can say the same. The world around me, too, seems convinced that this is the answer. You can tell by what they say, what they post, what they pursue. They just don’t talk about anything else. “Find a man who looks at you like…” Continue reading

After You Betray Him

Doctor: “You betrayed my trust, you betrayed our friendship, you betrayed everything I’ve ever stood for. You let me down!”

Clara: “Then why are you helping me?”

(long pause)

Doctor: “Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?”

fireSuch a simple, powerful moment. Such a cosmic overturning of the most solid, fearful expectations, without even a blink.

Every once in a while, we regrettably grow numb to the Scriptures. We let a certain detached glaze develop between us and it. Then God invokes a moment from a drama or from real life – something we’re actually paying attention to – to get us back to his holy Word.

 

When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.”

“Feed My lambs,” He told him.

A second time He asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.”

“Shepherd My sheep,” He told him.

He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

Peter was grieved that He asked him the third time, “Do you love Me?”He said, “Lord, You know everything! You know that I love You.”

“Feed My sheep,” Jesus said. “I assure you: When you were young, you would tie your belt and walk wherever you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don’t want to go.” He said this to signify by what kind of death he would glorify God. After saying this, He told him, “Follow Me!”

(John 21:15-19)

It is by a fire that the shivering Peter betrayed Christ; it is by a fire that Peter is restored. Three times Peter denied him; three times Jesus restored him. The intention is unmistakable.

Nobody has ever failed to betray Christ. Even those who love him, do so every day. In our actions, our words, our looks, our fears and mistrusts and doubts, our daily sins.

Yet for those who truly love God, he knows who you are. We can come right back to him, seeking his help, his love. That is exactly where he wants the repentant, even if we just sinned. Especially if we just sinned.

We can still follow him.

Debt-Free

Showing the strainThree years ago, having returned home from a four-year tour spent teaching in other towns, I sat down and realized a frustration: I wasn’t any closer to paying off my college debts than when I left.

There were a number of reasons. Teaching doesn’t pay squat, of course (though I wouldn’t want it to become a six-figure profession lest it start attracting gold diggers). But it was also the endless parade of car troubles, time and money spent driving back home to keep in touch with people, and mission trips to attend. It was a situation where I couldn’t spot any flagrantly bad choices with my money (and I’m hard on myself, so if there had been, I’d have acknowledged it). Yet I was no nearer to being debt-free.

It became clear that my debts wouldn’t be recouped unless I chose to make it a top priority. Hard experience had taught that if I put it off to buy an entertainment center or a furniture set or what have you, the next stupid car problem would get me (can you see my paranoia?) and I’d remain in an endless treadmill. Freedom would just never happen.

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3 Relieving Ways God Is Not Like You

Victory Succeed Freedom Motivation Winning Man

I’ve come to believe that what each of us considers “God” is actually, in large part, a projection of ourselves. We think of God as sharing our opinions of things – right down to our judgments of others; of pasts, presents, and futures; and of ourselves.

It can be disrupting to find out otherwise, to find out that God has a very different take on…well, practically everything.

The classic example is revelation of sin. “No, that is not okay, and it cannot continue,” says God in your life with the gentleness of one who no longer condemns (Romans 8:1), and we have to obey and adjust. This is not a chore; it is freedom. How wonderful that he is holier than we are!

Or God might nudge us onto a plan that is different from ours. Isaiah 55:8: ““For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.” And we are reminded that God’s plans are higher and more trustworthy than ours. Again, a relief. How awful it would be if we were in charge of all the drawing boards.

These are the common ways in which we think of God as “not like us”.

However, I am constantly discovering even more.

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When You Sin Seven Times in a Day

Hotel Summer Pool Infinity Luxury Sea Sky WaterI came across an article of John Piper’s in which he listed five besetting sins with which he struggles.

I chuckled bitterly. If only my list were that short.

Not that Piper claimed only five besetting sins, but I don’t even know how he could tier them. Mine certainly don’t lend themselves to stratification. They cling. They bite at my heels. They relentlessly pursue, like a dog who will not yield the chase, or the zombie who knows nothing but the taste of living blood.

I’m not rolling over, mind you. On some fronts, I’m winning more skirmishes than I’m losing.

But something in my heart refuses such encouragement. Total eradication is the goal. If I content myself with less, I will accomplish less.

And there are days in which I do indeed accomplish much less. Days that seem dominated, marked, headlined by sin.

Then, this evening, I read these words of Jesus to his disciples:

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Encouragement After Falling Into Sin

Though a righteous person falls seven times, he will get up, but the wicked will stumble into ruin. (Proverbs 24:16)

For the Christian who longs to please God (and thus demonstrates that God has indwelt their conscience), it is discouraging and heartbreaking to fall into sin.

Satan throws gasoline onto the flame of our frustration, saying that not only have we disappointed our God, but we will never do any better. He tempts us, gets us to cooperate with his agenda by committing sin, then turns around and shames us for it. A vicious one-two punch. Indeed, the Hebrew word “Satan” carries the meaning “accuser”.

Fortunately, we belong to God, not him.

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