Sunday, May 11, 2014

When Wife Became A Mom

Here's a little something I dug up in the archives... the birth announcement we sent out by email announcing the birth of our firstborn.  You can read Nana's version of events at her new website:  Her blog is here

The Birthing Crew
First of all, we are pronouncing Jael like the two letters put together saying one after the other "J"+"L".  Jael.  We chose to name her after the biblical character from Judges chapters 4 and 5.  Jael's husband was aman named Heber the Kenite.  Although he was of the larger community of the Israelits, Heber was friendly with Canaanite kings to the point that Sisera (commander of the Canaanite forces) fled to Heber's protection.  The story takes an amazing turn as Jael ends up killing Sisera.  So Nana and I have honored Jael for her loyalty to God and faith in His promises.  We understand that it took courage to act in a way that demonstrated her dedication to God even if it meant possible strife in her family.  Please join us in prayer that our little Jael would prioritize love for God over all other loves and loyalties.  

Apart from the biblical character, the name Jael has Hebrew origin and means, "mountain goat", or "one who ascends".  We will be going with "one who ascends", thanks!  Ghislaine is my mother's name which means, "vow" or "pledge".  This evoked shades of Psalm 15:4b and Psalm 24:3-4.  We have dedicated her to the Lord from the time we knew we had a child on the way.  We have a confident expectation in Him that she will live up to her name and in the words of the psalmist,m "will never be shaken".  Please pray for us!  

Now the birth of Jael came about in this way:  Nana went into labor on Friday afternoon on July 8th.  Jessica Damille, one of our very close friends, along with my mother labored together with her.  Nana barely slept that night and the morning came pretty quickly.  Another close family friend, Cassandra Lewis (who introduced me to Nana) came to assist in the laboring also.  Nana and I took two walks around the neighborhood which (according to her) helped relieve the pain.  We received a lot of encouragement from the neighbors that day!  A little after 4PM, we left for the Family Health and Birth Center in DC since we had been working with the midwives there since December of 2010.  While still on Route 66 coming from God knows where in Virginia, Phyllis Anderson announced she was on her way and we met her at the birth center.  

Once there, Nana and I were order to walk more laps inside the building as the contractions grew stronger and closer together.  While we were walking, the ladies were eating and apparently having a rehearsal for what turned into a 2 hour praise and worship servie complete with readings from selected Psalms, praise choruses and classic church hymns in English, French, and Creole!  This is no exaggeration.  Even our midwife (Karen P.), a Seventh Day adventist remarked how she has never, ever worked on the Sabbath (Saturday) but was glad she had covered for another midwife that day.  She was excited to praise God and sang right along with us while working.  

At almost exactly 9:30PM, Nana was on the bed, ready to start pushing.  And she did!  I know my wife well, I know that she's a focused woman once she sets her mind to a task.  But I couldn't have known to wht degree she would be this way and maintain her compusure throughout something as strenuous as labor.  But there she was with no drugs, still saying "please" and "thank you" for 2.5 hours with very few breaks in between.  I couldn't be more proud of her.  

At precisely midnight, we discovered that we'd be using the girl name and NOT the boy name we had selected.  The LORD really came through for us because we were scheduled for an induced labor on Saturday night itself.  But He answered our prayers for a safe, healthy, and natural birth.  As I mentioned to my pastor, I don't know when or if Christians ever get to a point where we are not overwhelmed and surprised by God's faithfulness.  

Godmother Jessica

The Look of Love

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Speak No Evil II: The True Challenge of the Donald Sterling Story

In a strange way, I think I'm writing this just so that, 20 years from now, if the Lord tarries, I can remember what I really felt at this moment with respect to this story.

My Initial Reaction to the Recording...

I was really confused.  Sterling seemed so insecure.  It was clear in my mind that he didn't actually have a personal issue with any black person and I didn't think that he had an issue with Magic Johnson.  But he seemed totally engrossed with the "he-say she-say"game that some circle of acquaintances or friends were playing with him.  He didn't want his lady-friend to be "broadcasting" the fact that she was with black people or other minorities.  On the face of it, it seemed totally prejudicial in a mean-spirited way against blacks.

But this was also, in my mind, confirmation of the noetic effects of the Fall.  This is the phrase used to explain the intellectual diminishment of mankind as a result of sin.  In other words, sin makes us stupid.  We simply don't think well due to the dominance of sin in our lives.  If God is the ultimate reality, and sin is rebellion against God, then it makes sense that sin is a rejection of what's real.  How is this Sterling situation related to the noetic effects of sin?  Easy: Sterling thinks its okay to BE with an ethnically minority woman but condemns her for being SEEN with an ethnic minority man.  Hence, sin makes us stupid.

My Initial Reaction to all the Initial Reactions...

To be honest, I was just hoping that no one would make a complete buffoon of themselves.  Generally, I got my wish.  I was happy that nothing was said that took the focus away from a serious investigation or made the outcry against Sterling's comments more a story than the comments themselves.  However, I was almost certain that the NBA would try to skate past this for a few weeks and release a statement or official findings after the Finals.  I had no idea that Commissioner Silver would be rendering/announcing a decision this soon.

My Thoughts on the Decision...

Not too surprising that they came down on Sterling so heavily.  I was, however, intrigued at the apparent power of the commissioner.  How do you ban the owner from coming to see his own team play?  Of course, I have no knowledge at all about the nature of contracts and agreements that owners have with the league.  The scope of it was surprising but the moral indignation wasn't.

It's easy to condemn statements that are racially-charged and hurtful.  As a 40-year old, I can respect the fact that many in an earlier generation, perhaps Mr. Sterling's generation, are still amazed by the changes that have made this kind of talk so heinous in our day.  I guess that 40+ years ago, this might not have made the news.  But certainly since I became an adult, this is basically the America that I know:  Ignorance in the form of racial hatred and/or prejudice is simply not condoned.  I don't know another America than this one.  So really, I don't think it's time to congratulate ourselves or have more talk about a "Post-Racial America", and all that jazz.  Condemning what is worthy of condemnation is not a laudable act; it's a necessary one.  Here's the real challenge...

The Real Challenge...

"...the measure by which you judge will be used against you..."

In the context of the above verse of Scripture, Jesus is warning against hypocritical judgement.  In other words, we have no right to judge others when we are guilty of the same things ourselves.  If anyone is willing to make horrible comments in private but wants to be seen as wholesome individuals in public, how are we any different from Mr. Sterling?

How many of us are really willing to be judged by the content of what we thought were private conversations?  Isn't that what the collective nation just did?  A man with what I consider immoral and inhumane perspectives spoke his mind with someone who he obviously thought would keep a confidence.  And yet, that whole conversation spilled out--literally all over the world.  Dear Reader, I wonder what you'd be feeling if your worst private conversation was made public?

What if everyone, everywhere, at all times was being recorded?  What if our every word became part of a transcript somewhere for someone to scrutinize and judge?  Matthew 12:36 says,

"I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."

In the end, we don't have to worry about multi-media condemning us, our own words will do the job for us if we are careless.  In conclusion, the real challenge is not our judgement of Mr. Sterling, but whether we will judge ourselves righteously in the realm of our own words and what those thoughts communicate about our hearts and our desperate need for a Savior to deliver us from the righteous punishment we deserve.  

Oh Lord, help us to consider our ways that we might walk and talk uprightly before YOU...

Friday, April 11, 2014

Child's Play

As I mentioned in another blog post, being a relatively new father brings new insights into my faith.  Reflections on my daughters as they learn and grow often cause me to consider some of my own childish ways.  Noting their dependence upon their mother and me is a daily reminder of my own need for God's protection and provision.  It's rare that those reminders/reflections don't pop up daily.  This post is about one such lesson.

Months ago, Jael began to master the alphabet.  It's been fun listening to her try to pronounce certain letters like "F", "H", and "X".  And who knew that "W" had 7 syllables?  Of course, at age 2, it's really cute.  As time progressed, she displayed more and more mastery and naturally, made her parents quite proud.  One day, I heard her behind me shouting out "DEEE!  DEEE!" over and over.  I looked over and saw her pointing downward by the glass sliding door.  As I walked over to see what she was pointing at, I saw the picture below.

Naturally, I laughed.  Everything my daughter does that isn't directly related to disobedience is a reason to dote on her.  How do I explain that door mats are no more the letter "D" than the old Twin Towers are the number "11"?  So, I did the only thing I could think to do: celebrate my daughter's recognition of the shape of a "D" and I kept it moving.  But the observation stuck with me.

My darling daughter, cute as can be, was utterly ignorant of the purpose for which this "D" was made.  The fact that it was on the floor by the door did not give her a single context clue.  Instead of asking what it was, she simply super-imposed her own idea based on her very limited frame of reference, vocabulary, and knowledge.

In other words, my daughter could pass for almost any "Word of Faith" preacher.

When reading the Bible, many persons make the same kinds of mistakes that my daughter made.  Classic examples from my own experience as a campus minister and Sunday School teacher:

1)  Jesus is at the Cross and says, to His mother Mary, "Woman, behold your son.", then turning to the Apostle John says, "Son, behold your mother."  The passage goes on to say that "from that time, the disciple took her into his home. My student's interpretation:  Jesus wanted John and Mary to hook-up and get married.  My student's rationale: "Why else would he take her into his home?"

2)  The Bible says that God "made man in His own image" and also that He "breathed" into man and he became a living being.  So a student got the idea that Adam looked exactly like God and since God's spirit was in Adam, he had the power of God.  You'd think Creflo Dollar and Joseph Smith were visiting my classroom.  That would be awkward.

The failure to comprehend certain cultural norms in a narrative or laziness which prevents us from discovering the ancient Semitic understanding of a given word can easily lead to the danger of imposing our own thoughts and opinions on a Bible passage.  When one reads Scripture without a serious attempt to understand the intent of the author, the most likely way the original audience would have heard, the Bible becomes a wax nose, mere clay in the hands of the reader.  Whether done in arrogance or ignorance, the great danger and sin is this:  it is we who are to be molded by God through the Holy Scriptures, not the other way around  He is the Potter, we are the clay.

The invitation to become like children to enter the Kingdom of God is not an invitation to immaturity or inventive imaginations concerning His word.  Handling the Sword of the Spirit is not child's play.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Speak No Evil

We really don't believe Jesus.  Oh yes, we believe IN Jesus (at least that He existed/exists), but we don't believe Him.  We really don't think He's serious when we read what He preached.  It's as if we've convinced ourselves that the Son of God hoped that we'd take His words with a proverbial grain of salt.  "Oh you know Jesus," we tell others as we wink, "you really can't take Him literally."  It's true that Jesus did use figures of speech and even hyperbole from time to time.  But I'm afraid that when we say one shouldn't take Jesus "literally", I think what we really mean at times is that we shouldn't take every word He uttered seriously.  Case in point:

Last night, I found myself confronted with past sins.  I left one ministry meeting and since I've grown fond of the young man co-leading another meeting, I stopped by to see how it was going.  It was basically a topic-driven prayer session and the topic was depression.  I guess to keep with the mood of the conversation, we shifted/drifted into a talk on suicide.  The two can be connected, obviously not always, but one can easily lead to the other.  That's when an old friend came to mind.  But first, think with me here:

What would you say about a grown man who stands by and watches someone pull out a knife and just start stabbing another human?  How would you view that man congratulating/encouraging the stabbing to continue?  What if, at the end of the liberal lacerations, the grown man and the stabber walked off with howling laughter together?  Even if the first man isn't the one with the knife, what is in his heart that enables him to give hearty approval to such violence?

"You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.'  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing.' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool.' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell."
-Matthew 5:21-22  (NASB)

You may have never witnessed a physical murder.  You might not ever give aid and comfort to a convicted murderer.  But according to Jesus, if you have spoken in anger, intended to harm or otherwise injure another human, "guilty enough to go into the fiery hell".

R.C. Sproul comments in his expositional commentary on Matthew,  "So when God says we should not murder, that means, by extension, that we should not do anything that damages  our neighbor's life.  Murder begins with unjustifiable anger and hatred, and it includes insults, slander, and estrangement from people.  That is why Jesus said that no one escapes the weight of the law merely be refraining from actual murder... Jesus does not say it is just as bad to be angry with your brother as to kill him.  Jesus  never collapsed the difference in degree of heinousness of various sins.  His point is that just because you have not gone all the way to murder does not mean that you are free from the full-orbed responsibility of the law." (pp. 108-109)

Of course, all the protests begin at this point... I've heard them all and I've used them all.  I'm not even going to engage in an argument here because I'm not the judge of any reader and God is the One to Whom we must all give an account.  But I do know this: I have not taken this teaching seriously enough and yet Jesus said that the accounting we face will take into consideration "every careless word" we've said.

All this came flooding over me last night because the only person I know of who, I am told, committed suicide was a young man who was verbally savaged by so many (especially women) for his size, shape, and appearance.  The code names for him were clever in the cruelest sense and funny at his expense.  I remember when I was told of his suicide, I blamed others.  But then again, I didn't do much to deflect the verbal daggers meant to bring derision to him.  As shocked as I was to hear he took his life, when I considered the kinds of things people said to him and about him even behind his back, I shouldn't have been too terribly surprised.

What can I say?  I'm a fairly sarcastic guy myself.  It comes naturally--too naturally-- to me.  I can rationalize and say I don't mean harm, it's only in fun, etc.  But I know myself and in the kitchen, I'm painstakingly careful with sharp knives as I suspect you are too.  However, are we as careful with our words?

"Don't let any anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in SPEECH..."
1st Timothy 4:12 (NIV, emphasis added)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Star Witness Part 2

"Your example can't save anybody.  It's not how you live, it's that He died!"
-Patrick J. Walker

Some years back, Rob Bell had re-popularized "The Ghandi Question".  Never heard it?  The Ghandi Question is a counter-apologetic move in a conversation intended to derail your gospel presentation and fluster the Christian.  It works like this:

You're presenting Jesus as He described Himself, "... the Way, the Truth, and the Life.", and declaring that no one has access to the Father except through Jesus (John 14:6).  You know it's not popular to express exclusivity in Christ but in your desire to be faithful to what you believe and in Whom you believe, you say it anyway.  Then it happens--the Ghandi Question-- "Well, Ghandi was practically a saint but he wasn't a Christian.  Are you saying that God is as narrow minded as you are?  What kind of God sends a good man like Ghandi to hell?".  Of course, it comes in variations, but the effect is the same.  You look like a bully, a buffoon, or worse.  Naturally, the questioner is smug or self-righteously angry with you and anyone else listening just knows you've lost whatever ground you thought you were standing on.  However...

God's standards are not the standards of men.  It doesn't matter who we think of as a saint.  We are not the judges of who enters Heaven or Hell; God is.  His standard is clear in both the Old and New Testaments: "Be holy, for I Am holy." (Leviticus 19:2, 1st Peter 1:16).  Psalm 15 is only 5 verses, but it will rock your world.  Can you claim any single attribute of one who dwells on Yahweh's holy hill?  Make no mistake: the only sinners who ascend the hill, do so on the back of Christ.  You can disagree if you want to, but God has already explained His thoughts about our thoughts and given His diagnosis of the human heart that doesn't yield to Jesus.  Thank God for the prescription!

But for the same reasons that Ghandi's life isn't enough to qualify him FOR eternal life, your life and my life--even this new life in Christ--is not the message OF eternal life.  If it were, wouldn't Peter's sermon in Acts 2 read very differently?  For our purposes here, it is just as interesting to observe what Peter didn't say as it is to observe what he did say in that sermon.  Think about it, who could have boasted a more "changed life" than Peter?  Certainly none of the Apostles had experienced what he experienced in the preceding 60 days leading up to his sermon.  Why didn't Peter stand up and say something like this:

"Men and brethren!  Just a few weeks ago, I was a coward and a fraud.  Forewarned by my Jesus of Nazareth--my best friend, of course-- that I would be tempted to deny him, I laughed at the thought and denied it outright.  But as I followed my friend Jesus after his arrest, I was shocked to find myself shaking like a leaf in front of a little servant girl.  I was too ashamed and too scared to even admit I knew Him.  I cussed like a sailor and when He looked my way after the 3rd time I had denied him, I wanted to drink myself to death and crawl under a rock.  And yet, here I stand here proclaiming the power of my Lord and Savior to change lives!  I'm brave enough to stand in front of thousands of you and unashamed to claim Him as the One Who transformed me.  He picked me up, turned me 'round, placed my feet on solid ground (does anyone know if this phrase rhymes in Aramaic?)!  And what He did for me, He'll do for you too!  Don't you want Jesus in your life?

Somehow, I doubt that they'd be "pierced to the heart" from such a "gospel" presentation.

But it's noteworthy and instructive to see how Peter "brought them to Jesus".  His delivery was:

1.  Historical... Jesus was presented as a real person that his audience knew.  His actions, ministry, arrest, death, and resurrection were addressed not as "faith" but as events that were verifiable.

2.  Scriptural... Peter proclaimed his message from two Psalms.  He used reasoned from Psalm 16 that David was not speaking of himself but of the promised Messiah.  And he used Psalm 110 for other purposes--

3.  Confrontational... This should not be over-looked.  Psalm 110 does not display Christ as One Who is pleading for an opportunity to make the lives of men complete.  Peter's use of Psalm 110 is almost threatening.  It's as if he's saying, "The Jesus you all killed?  Yeah, God is His Father and just put Him on a throne... and promised to crush His enemies.  Um... that would be you.  Any questions?"  Yes, we do make urgent pleas for unbelievers to come to Christ.  However, we must never neglect the importance of warning a world that is hostile toward God that He will break those who oppose Him with a rod of iron.  Therefore, we who believe this message must repent and believe even as we encourage others to "kiss the Son".

This is why Pastor Walker's quotation is vitally important.  No one can look at kindness, winsome dispositions, or other fine qualities and ascertain that Christ lived a perfect life, died as propitiation for the sin-debt of believers while simultaneously applying His righteousness to their account, resurrected on the 3rd day to assure justification and serve as the First Fruits of the Resurrection.  What?  Is the homeless guy I helped supposed to hear all that from me handing him a sandwich and a smile?  But rather, as it is written,

"I believed, therefore I have spoken."  (2nd Corinthians 4:13)

Lastly, this post should not be understood as a rationale for not sharing how one came to faith in Jesus.  But rather, it is a reminder that the story of how one comes to faith is distinct from the gospel story of salvation for all who believe.

Star Witness Part 1

"We are to be witnesses FOR Someone TO someone."
-Pastor Patrick J. Walker

Remember prepositions?  If it wasn't for Miss Puccarelli, my 4th grade teacher who taught us the list of prepositions by singing them to the tune of "Yankee Doodle", I wouldn't remember them either.  She did what she could, but I start drawing blanks after "during".  Anyways...

This past Sunday I was blessed and challenged by God through a major sermon from my Pastor.  As a congregation we were exhorted to expand and exhaust our opportunities to testify as "star witnesses" on behalf of the Lord--especially to those who don't know Him.

My followers on Twitter know that I quote @PastorPWalker ad infinitum, ad nauseum (take your pick) almost every Sunday.  This is so much so that when I don't tweet on Sundays around 8AM to 8:30AM, I get texts and IMs asking if I'm sick or out of town!  But the quote above captured my attention because of, strangely enough, the prepositions "for" and "to".

The sermon was crystal clear as to Who we are commanded to be a witness FOR.  Every Christian is privileged to serve as ambassadors for Christ (2nd Corinthians 5:20).  Not only do we have relationship with Him, it is an honor to speak on His behalf.  Pastor Walker also made it plain who we are witnesses TO.  As it is written, "Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men..." (2nd Corinthians 5:11).  Since we know that the "meek and mild" routine isn't in view for the Second Coming, we are duty-bound to warn and make appeals to the unbelieving that they would repent and believe... which leads to the meat of the matter:

If we know Who we testify for (Christ) and know our audience (unbelievers, primarily), what is the message?  In other words, we know who FOR and we know who TO, but do we truly know and understand what we bear witness OF?

My fear is that if professing believers were asked, upwards of 80% would say that they were called to bear witness of how Christ changed their life.  The formulaic presentation would be something like this:  "Before I knew the Lord, my life was (enter tragic events, tales of woe, and bad self-image here) but then I met Jesus (enter exciting details, lots of smiles, and over-used platitudes here).  It breaks down to Jesus as a product that once tried, revolutionizes the life of the user/consumer.  But consider this:

Commercials practically say the same thing about antiperspirants, toothpaste, cars, pills and gym memberships.  A college education is said to have the power to "change your life" too.  And if the truth be told, many a convert to Buddhism claims to have found "peace of mind".  Many prisoners who convert to Islam can also say that they have "found a new purpose in life".

We could go on and on but I think that the point is clear:  If your witness amounts to "Here's what I experienced in my life when I asked Jesus into my heart..." what could you possibly offer as an to answer someone who says that they tried Jesus but didn't have your experience of favorable events, circumstances, and feelings?  If our message is tied primarily to our experience of how Christ has filled our lives with positive emotions, physical/material benefits, etc. aren't we inviting our listeners to search out the trappings of a blessed life rather than seeking Christ Himself?

Stay tuned for Part 2 later...

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Knowing God and Ourselves

I don't keep up with sports like I used to.  If it's not play-off time, I hardly know anything that's happened.  My only hope is the highlight reel.  Every now and then I do get a glimpse of ESPN's Sports Center to catch the critical stats and scores.

Last week, I attended the National Conference that Ligonier Ministries hosts annually.  There are so many things worthy of making the highlight reel from that ministry event.  But rather than try to give you a highlight reel, I'm giving you the moment  that arrested my attention but also encapsulates the essence of Ligonier Ministries.

A man submitted a query for one of the famous Q&A sessions that all attendees look forward.  A father was explaining to the panel how his faith had been rocked by the death of his son.  He went further to state that he experienced severe bouts of anger against God.  This father simply could not reconcile his faith in a good God Who would take his son away.  My own initial instincts on how to answer this question might be the subject of another blog.  But I want to share with you the answer given by Dr. R.C. Sproul.  This answer, I believe, sets him--not just apart but above--the thousands and thousands of so-called Bible teachers.  Cutting to the core, his answer was quick and it ultimately came in one word:


He went on to say, "Repent in dust and ashes.  Crawl over glass in your repentance,  if you're angry at God.  "There's never been anything that's happened to you in your whole life, including this great tragedy and most painful experience that could ever possibly justify being angry at God.  There are ten million reasons why He should be angry at you."

My heart was thumping and my mind was racing.  Between my ears was a flood of possible answers more likely to be heard in church pulpits and Sunday School classes across the world.  "It's okay, God can handle your anger."  "It's natural, you're only human."  "God didn't take your son, that was the devil."  "Death is part of God's plan for life, you have to learn to accept it."  "You need the love of family, lean on people who will help see you through."

From a biblical perspective, the kinds of answers usually given in light of a difficult question like this range from the ridiculous, to the reductionistic, to the repugnant.  We either say things that are so stupid it's embarrassing, so simplistic it's insulting, or so evil we prove to be reprobate.  Sometimes we see the pain in the face of the questioner that we rush to bring relief.  But we fail to understand that by failing to correct their false accusation of God is a sin that hurts them far worse than their loss ever would.

Why?  Because that man's loss robbed him of experiencing his son on earth.  But a response that fails to correct his view of God could be used to rob him of enjoying God in heaven.  Not only that, but even on earth, the only true comforter is God Himself.  Disconnection from "the judge of all the earth who does no wrong" is a prelude to hell.

I've been listening to the ministry of Dr. Sproul since 1996.  If I had to pick the central theme of the ministry it's this: The Holiness of God.  If I've learned anything by listening to Dr. Sproul and putting on my best imitation of a Berean, I've discovered that God is good and I am not.  Any failure to understand and be convinced of that fact is only proof that I'm a sinful and fallen creature who, without the sacrifice of Christ to avert God's wrath and the merits of Christ applied to my account, have nothing good to hope for from the hand of a holy God.  While I haven't stopped sinning altogether, I have a far greater awe and appreciation for God's amazing grace towards me as the Holy Spirit enables me to sin less and less in this vale of tears.

There's more to be said on the topic, but this suffices for the day.  I am so grateful for the faithful presentation of God and His gospel by Dr. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries.  If you haven't explored their website, I say to you in the famous words of another man I admire: Don't Waste Your Life.  Tolle Lege!

P.S.  The drawing/sketch above is not mine, it's from at this page:   If anybody's mad, I'll take it down- just ask!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Three Reasons To Give Thanks for the Verdict of the Zimmerman Trial

"In everything, give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus, concerning you."  
1st. Thessalonians 5:18

Looking for God's will in the whole matter?  There it is- at least in part- give thanks.  It's a great verse of scripture, it's clarity can't be surpassed, and it's also one of the best modern gospel songs I've heard.  But if it doesn't apply in a verdict that has broken so many of our hearts, then it doesn't apply at all.  If God's word is truly a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, then it why do so many claiming this truth fail to flip the switch when in the darkness brought on by dismay and disillusionment?  But the light still shines in the darkness... let's look at three reasons to offer gratitude to God for this verdict.

1.  The reminder that ultimate truth and justice is not found in fallen humanity or its systems.  This one should be obvious but it is still worthy of meditation.   Being made in the image of God, all humans have a kind of correspondence, albeit a broken one, with eternity and transcendent truths.  That is to say, we understand that there is such a thing as justice though we can't weigh it on a scale, measure it with rulers, or find it in a microscope.  The source of justice is the immortal, invisible, only-wise God.  We are as separate from it as we are from Him.  This verdict humbles us because the truth is, when all the physical evidence that humans can muster up and all the best human reasoning is accounted for, God is the only One Who really knows the true intentions in both Mr. Martin and Mr. Zimmerman.  Because we lack true certainty of what was in either of their hearts, we recognize our need for a divine perspective, holy justice and God Who is the source of both.  Remembering this also gives us hope because we know that the "Judge of all the Earth" will bring true justice to all and for all in His time regarding every case and question.

2.  The verdict highlights the amazing grace of the God Who justifies the wicked.  Don't take this and run with it.  I am talking about a very specific and narrow slice of this case and am in no way agreeing, excusing, or white-washing the decision of the jury.  But this is what I am saying-

If you're like me, your heart sank when the verdict was read.  I'm no legal expert and I didn't follow the trial with supreme precision, but I was profoundly confused that a man with no badge kill another and be found "not guilty".  Call it what you want, but I struggle mightily to get passed that.  What's more difficult is this: that so many of us have a strong sense of what is just in the case of Trayvon Martin (where we have no absolute truth of all intentions and actions) but can't see God's right to demand full punishment for sins that we know we commit against Him!

The Bible is clear: God was never obligated to forgive sin, but that the wages of sin is death.  The only thing God had to do was to exact justice on each soul for every sin until He was satisfied.  And that would take quite a while because an infinitely holy God is infinitely offended by even ONE sin.  God Almighty, Who had every right to demand justice and had the power to perform it, chose to extend mercy and grace to those who would believe on the Lord Jesus.  Think about the anger and rage that unjust persons like you and me had about this case.  Crying out for justice on behalf of Trayvon is one thing, but God had the right to carry out justice on a vile sinners like us... and He didn't.  Consider how hard it is to get over the verdict despite our own lack of perfection.  Now consider what God did in Christ on your behalf when He absorbed the punishment for the sins of His people.

Are you grateful yet?

3.  The power of radical, racial reconciliation is found at the Cross of Christ.  It is true that this verdict has once again opened up some old wounds that were still puss-filled and bloody.  Racial issues in the U.S. are complex, scary, and wearisome.  And yet, the Christian has this assurance: the sacrifice that reconciled man with God and made Jews and Gentiles one; that same sacrifice can and certainly will bridge the gap and heal the scars from the rift between blacks and the Anglo-Saxon controlled SuperPower that they helped create but feel so alienated from.  For it is written,

"And they sang a new song saying, 'Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.  You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.'"
Revelation 5:9-10

That's a future worth leaning into.  Christ's sacrifice to reconcile us to God not only makes racial reconciliation possible but guarantees it.  God's future promise is worth honoring today by working towards honest and humble forgiveness towards all as Christ forgave us.  We are blessed to serve a God Who made man diverse, but knows how to make us unified for righteousness and not for vanity like in the days of the Tower.  All of our blessings and hopes are rooted in the work of Christ at the cross.  To be sure, the path of the cross instructs us perfectly because we see that the Perfect Man's most perfect work involved the submission of His will for the sake of His Father's will.  We are challenged, but grateful for His example and encouraged by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to live as Jesus did.

Meditations on the Cross of Christ are crucial for this hour.  Anyone care to add to my list?