Thursday, April 30, 2009

Forgiveness, Bent Outward

On Thursday nights I'm going through a book on marriage with some friends. This Momentary Marriage is by far the best book I've read on marriage, I can't recommend it enough. And this quote that I read for our study tonight is among my favorites:

“As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive”—your spouse. As the Lord “bears with” you, so you should bear with your spouse. The Lord “bears with” you everyday as you fall short of his will. Indeed, the distance between what Christ expects of you and what you achieve is infinitely greater than the distance between what you expect of your spouse and what he achieves. Christ always forgives more and endures more than we do. Forgive as you have been forgiven. Bear with as he bears with you. This holds for whether you are married to a believer or an unbeliever. Let the measure of God’s grace to you in the cross of Christ be the measure of your grace to your spouse.

"And if you are married to a believer, you can add this: As the Lord counts you righteous in Christ, though you are not in actual behavior or attitude, so count your spouse righteous in Christ, though he is not—though she is not. In other words, Colossians 3 says, take the vertical grace of forgiveness and justification and bend them out horizontally to your spouse. This is what marriage is for, most ultimately—the display of Christ’s covenant-keeping grace.

I'm a sinner; Michelle is a sinner. But with a foundation built on this kind of awesome grace, I believe we'll flourish until death parts us, even with our manifold flaws. I love this book, not least because it helps me love my beautiful bride a little bit more like the way Jesus loves His.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Born Again, or Born of the World?

In John Piper's book, Finally Alive, he cites statistics reported by the Barna Group indicating that 'born again' or evangelical Christians (terms used interchangeably by the Barna Group) often live with no discernible difference than those who are not Christian believers. For instance:

  • Only 9% of evangelicals tithe
  • Of 12,000 teenagers who took a vow of abstinence before marriage, 80% had sex outside marriage in the next seven years
  • 26% of evangelicals do not think premarital sex is wrong
  • White evangelicals are more likely than Catholics and mainline Protestants to object to having black neighbors.
The Barna Group looks at these statistics and conclude that born again Christians are morally indistinguishable from the rest of our society.

There is, of course, another possibility: Millions of people who claim to be born again have never actually been born again.

I believe the Bible points us in this direction in many places. For instance, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).

I'm gonna go out on a limb here, but I'll side with Jesus over the Barna Group on this one!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cutting the Grass and the Delight of God's Creation

Yesterday, on my day off, I mowed our front lawn. I have found over the last year that I love mowing the lawn, which is a surprising statement to those who know me well. I used to hate even the idea of mowing the grass (my mom can surely attest to this). Surely there are more important things to do than cut grass...it just grows right back anyway! Have fun outside; I'll do something productive, like reading a book.

But my attitude ignored that the God I claim to worship and love is both a creator and a cultivator. When God created the heavens and the earth, we're told that they were formless and void. But then God took the disorder of the created world and molded it into something beautiful.

And after creating the first man, he told Adam to do in the Garden what God had done in the whole world: "The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it" (Genesis 2:15). God brought order out of His disordered world; now He calls Adam, and all who are made in His image, to reflect that image in their stewardship of the created world.

Which brings me to cutting the grass. Even though I hated the idea of doing it, there was always something in me that looked at a freshly cut lawn and could see, 'This is good.' Who likes to walk or drive by a lawn that's overgrown, nasty and unkempt (like this photo to the right, which is not what my grass looked like before the cut yesterday!)?

In the last year I've learned that this feeling of satisfaction is multiplied greatly when I am the one who did the cutting. When I finished mowing yesterday and looked back on my 'handiwork', I had a sense of satisfaction that a tiny slice of God's creation had been made a little more orderly.

And I thought to myself, 'I wonder if this is a taste of how God felt, after the sixth day, when He looked at the vast universe that He had created and exclaimed with boundless joy, "This is very good."

Of course, God created me to do much more than just cut grass as a way of bearing His image. He's called all Christians to preach the good news of Christ's life, death and resurrection. Cutting the grass will never accomplish such a task. Nevertheless, I believe God is honored when His people fulfill even their most ordinary tasks (like mowing the lawn) with the joy of knowing that we are doing it for His pleasure. Indeed, I believe it's a way of sharing in the pleasure that He has in the goodness of His lavish creation.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Jesus Wants the Rose!

This video was my first exposure to the ministry of Matt Chandler. Needless to say, I became an instant fan:

More on Care for the Creation

For those interested in reading more about the theme I brought up yesterday regarding Earth Day, you can check out this short article written last year by Noel Piper on the Desiring God blog.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cursed, In Hope

Today is Earth Day, and for me that is a reminder of both the curse of sin and the hope of redemption.

Last week I heard a message in which one of the most well-known Bible teachers in the world cited an evangelical statement of commitment to care for God's creation. The statement said, 'We commit ourselves to extend Christ's healing to the creation.' The Bible teacher then said, with great cynicism, 'I've got news for you: He cursed it! He started all the weeds and disasters.'

After quoting another evangelical statement saying, 'The cosmos in all its beauty, wildness and life-giving bounty is the work of our loving Creator,' the Bible teacher continued, 'What did they do, skip Genesis 3? He cursed it. God created it good, man sinned, and He corrupted it.'

This grieved me, because it seems to be a gross distortion of the Biblical teaching. Yes, some Christians have become so extreme in their commitment to preserve the environment that they seem to care very little about preaching the saving message of Christ crucified and risen for sinners. This is a grievous error. But it does no good to react to that error by plunging to error on the far opposite side of the pendulum, and doing it with great arrogance and smugness as well.

In reality, what this Bible teacher did was not distort the truth, but truncated it. Yes indeed, God did curse the entire created cosmos as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve. But that is NOT the end of the story, as this Bible teacher seemed to suggest so adamantly. Sadly, the Bible teacher did not mention how Romans 8 fit into his scheme of good creation, sin, and curse. In that chapter, Paul writes,

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

Yes, the creation was subjected to futility; it was cursed. But it was cursed in hope, that one day the entire creation will be set free from the curse of bondage and corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. The created world that God cursed is groaning for its coming redemption from that curse, as part of the glorious triumph of the Son of God over sin, death and hell on the Cross.

How a reputable Bible teacher could so casually, cynically speak of God's curse on the creation without mentioning this verse is unfortunate. And whether this Bible teacher agrees with me or not, I believe that Earth Day is a day for Christians to both grieve and celebrate. To grieve, because our sin is what condemned this creation to its current state of bondage and corruption. But also to celebrate, because one day Jesus the Redeemer will set the entire cosmos free from the curse to the praise of His glorious, extravagant grace.

Spurgeon on Being Fashionable

This morning I received a copy of Tullian Tchividjian's new book Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the world by being different. I've been looking forward to reading this one for several months, and it has endorsements from some men I highly respect.

On the first page of the book, Tullian shares this quote from Charles Spurgeon:

The great guide of the world is fashion and its god is respectability -- two phantoms at which brave men laugh! How many of you look around on society to know what to do? You watch the general current and then float upon it! You study the popular breeze and shift your sails to suit it. True men do not so! You ask, 'Is it fashionable? If it is fashionable, it must be done.' Fashion is the law of multitudes, but it is nothing more than the common consent of fools.

I think Spurgeon (and Tullian) is right. In our desire to be 'relevant' and 'culturally engaged,' we best not make an idol out of being fashionable.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

She's not viable, but I love her anyway...

In the debate about abortion, many people say that taking the life of this person is no problem, because he/she is not viable (meaning, capable of surviving outside the mother's womb):

But I don't know of anyone who would say it's ok to take the life of this person, who is also not viable:

This is my daughter Halle, and while I love her to death, I was reminded this past weekend how non-viable she really is. Michelle went away for the weekend and I was left home alone with her. It dawned on me that if I chose to leave the house, lock the door and not come back, then Halle would be dead by the time Michelle returned home on Sunday afternoon.

Even at nearly two years old, Halle cannot survive without the care of adults. In that sense, she is not viable. Yet if I really did leave her alone in the house to suffer and die, our society would condemn my actions as cruel, inhumane and unthinkable. Indeed, it would be.

And it is equally cruel, inhumane and unthinkable to take the life of the child in the top picture who is, like Halle, also not viable.

Halle deserves to live, though she is not yet viable. So do the unborn.

When You Can't Find Anyone Who Can Say a Bad Thing About You

Sometimes when people pass away, one of the flattering things that people say about the deceased is, 'You can't find anyone who can say a bad thing about (insert name here)'

But it doesn't seem like Jesus would be impressed with such a eulogy. He says,

'Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.' (Luke 6:26)

Christians ought to strive not to be liked by everyone, but to be faithful to Jesus. If we do that, some people will love us. And others will have plenty of bad to say about us.