Tag Archives: Sin

Between Two Criminals 

Last Sunday our church had a dramatic reading of Luke’s account of the trial and crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ (see scripture below). 

Maybe I’m a bit dull, but I never saw the simple choice that is presented in that recounting of the death of our Lord. Jesus, the God-man without stain or blemish, is raised on a cross between two criminals meeting their just end. 

One hurls insults and derision on Yeshua, (Jesus’s name in Hebrew.) He mocks him, in the same manner that the religious elite do, “save yourself”. Jesus is essentially mocked for claiming to be the person that He is. The Truth is mocked for claiming to be Truth. 

The other sees his own sin. He makes no excuses, no rationalizing of his actions. He sees his own inability to save himself. He sees the stark Truth, that Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ, is being killed unjustly. And he asks Jesus to remember him, to look with pity upon him. 

So the choice stands before us all. Will we acknowledge our sin, our crimes against a Holy and Righteous GOD or hurl insults at the Chosen One of God? There is none righteous, no not one. 

God have mercy on us. 

________________________

Luke 23: 32-43 (ESV) 
Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.  And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.  And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!”  The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine  and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”  There was also an inscription over him,“This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”  But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”  And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

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The Mysterious

I’m in the middle of a book on Eastern Orthodoxy. It’s a rather odd experience. It’s a lot like going to a new destination, a new place, a far off place. Rather like my first trip to visit Guatemala, my wife’s native country. I flew a red eye flight from LA to Guatemala city. It was 1992 and I deboarded the airplane down one of those stairways out of a 1950’s movie. Right onto the tarmac and then walked inside the building. It was still rather dark. When I arrived at the office to purchase a tourist visa, it was closed. We all had to stand around waiting for this little Guatemalan man to show up at 6 am. After paying my $10 he issued me what looked like a telephone message 4×4 inch piece of paper. It was almost comical if it weren’t for how exhausted I was. The airport itself felt tired. One part gritty, one part age and two parts just small. Leaving the airport I was hit with the scene of many small children asking for money. They were a pitiful sight: small, unwashed and obviously poor. The smell was of unwashed bodies and a tinge of smoke (I would learn later that all poor families use wood stoves to cook). The car ride to my, soon to be, wife’s parents house was full of sights, smells and sounds I was very unfamiliar with. It’s barely a 30 minute drive. Seemed much longer at the time. My wife has told me she wasn’t sure if I was about to just turn around and get on the next flight back to the states. I didn’t, in fact about 5 years later we would move there and make a home for 5 years. I learned a great deal about my wife and her culture and all its attendant facets. And I’m the richer for it.

The book (my apologies for no book name, it’s sitting on my nightstand at home whilst I type away here in a coffee shop) on Eastern Orthodoxy is written by a fellow who spent a number of years in Russia. He went over when it was still the Soviet state, but it collapsed about a year into his stay. He was there as the Russian Orthodox Church made its roaring comeback. I can nearly taste his experience. They not only speak another language, they think about things in a completely distinct way. The ways of Eastern Orthodoxy is also similarly distinct, odd and strange to the Western trained mind.

It’s a little like getting to know a long lost relative. They talk about some similar things, but with a very different twist. Those of the Eastern Orthodox faith have an amazing reverence for both the Mystery of GOD and the spiritual life, a looking to the Holy Spirit that makes Pentecostals look like babbling kindergarteners. The theological debates they engage in are related to this desire to be united to the Holy Spirit and the merging with the Divine. They are much more comfortable with the Transcendent nature of God. An infinite God is only understandable as He reveals Himself to us. All we know about Him is what He has chosen to reveal, leaving an Infinite amount of knowledge yet unknown to us, a mystery then. That our very frame and structure lack the wherewithal to grasp Him, that language and human thought are insufficient to the task of describing His magnificence. And, they are not very big fans of Logic. He recounted his students rather dismissive treatment of C.S. Lewis. He was “too logical” they said. The reliance on logic is an argument against it’s use for things of GOD.

Now, I will admit I find the western church’s  obsession with logic a tad frustrating at times. As if we could logically argue someone into Faith. God’s Love for us is so intense that He would send His only Begotten Son to live among us puny creations and then Die as a propitiation for our sins, our wrongs against a perfectly Holy and Righteous God is not logical. It’s an intense, burning love for us that defies clear explanation, seeming completely out of proportion. And yet He did. Because we bear His image.

He made us, women and men, in His image. Women, have men ever seemed mysterious (odd, strange, not right in the head) to you? Men, have women ever seemed mysterious to you? We are each made in the image of a mysterious, glorious and living GOD. Our Eastern Orthodox cousins tend to swim in the mysterious nature of God, not wanting or trying to understand it but to experience it. I humbly submit that our “Western Church” could use a healthy dose of this transcendent Truth.

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The Long Game

I’ve been using this phrase for a couple weeks now, maybe longer. The Long Game is this idea of strategic thinking, considering the “down the road” aspect of events. It’s used in American football, it’s used in politics.

I started using the phrase “long game” because I needed to describe life as a parent with teenage/early 20’s children. My wife and I are starting to see some of the payoffs of how we chose to raise our children. We are also seeing some points where, ya know, maybe we didn’t quite get it right. We had played the long game, instilling in our children certain virtues and habits. We had a particular way we wanted to parent. Discipline was short lived and direct to the problem. Sacrificial love was shown as often as possible. We apologized for our mistakes and expected them to do the same. Imperfectly of course, but we knew what our intention was. We wanted children who could control themselves and think about things for themselves and be who God made them to be.

God, in a sense, plays the long game. OT Scripture uses this term “longsuffering” and “lovingkindness”. It’s also where the word Grace comes from in the New Testament. He is willing to wait it out with us. He is merciful, not wanting any to perish (2 Peter 3:9).

But, there is another thing. Our children are also children of Adam and Eve. They have sin, just as assuredly as my wife and I do. We have this tendency to think of children as these innocent little things until the world manages to crush that innocence. As every parent of a toddler knows, things can be too quiet and that’s when you worry. Those sweet innocent children will lie straight to your face when they think that lie might get them a cookie.

Nowadays it’s a lot more difficult to know exactly what is going on in my children’s lives. School and sports and girlfriends take up time away from home. Soon my oldest will being moving out. It will be a sad, sad day. His mother will cry, sob more like. But, it is the way things go. I remember leaving home. My mother cried, my father looked a touch concerned. I understand that look know. The world cares not a whit about little old you. You’d like to think it does, but if one is naive to the depths of human depravity, it will be a very rude awakening indeed.

I pray that my wife and I have properly prepared our children to go out into the world. Interestingly, that is the phrasing used by Jesus as He sends the disciples: “out into the world”. That they “may be in it, but not of it.” (John 17) Mind you, He has them stay in Jerusalem until God the Father send the Holy Spirit upon them.

The entirety of creation points towards the creator. He made the sun and the moon, the galaxies, stars that are billions of light years away. The possessor of unimaginable power decided to use the word “father”, in what we refer to as The Lord’s Prayer (more accurately the prayer the Lord Jesus taught the disciples when they asked Him how to pray), as the way to address Him. Not “Our God, master of light and all power”or “Supreme God, guarded by Cherubim and Seraphim who cover their faces and feet because of your Glory” or “Indescribable Entity which exists outside time and space who made all that is” or “Holy, Holy, Holy, God of ineffable power and might”.

As a father myself now for two decades, I’m starting to truly understand why. He is “raising us” like a human father raises his children. He instructs, He corrects, He disciplines and He rejoices over successes. Our God dearly loves us, intimately. He extends grace to us. He cares for those who rebel against Him. He pours out blessings on those who curse Him.

He chases down the wayward. He knows our predispositions, our weaknesses and pitfalls. He wishes to make us whole again. We are broken and battered creatures. Crawling from lust to lust, from unkindness to unkindness and depravity to depravity. He is never surprised by any of it, always knowing exactly what to do, unlike us poor, damaged mortal fathers.

Thank God He sent the Son to be our sacrifice on the cross, to take away our sins and give to all who believe on Him the right to become children of God (John 1:12).

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Religion is the Opiate of the Masses

It’s rather hard to summarize the faith belief of a Christ follower. Google search Nicene Creed or Apostle’s Creed for a better written one than I am about to attempt here:

Christ Jesus (Messiah Yeshua) is the Only Son of the Living GOD and the Only Way to Heaven, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

This post is written in response to any statement which doesn’t line up with the above. Among which I will sample list here:

There is no such thing as truth. Whose “truth”? How is it possible to know there is a “god”? Hasn’t science disproved god? Isn’t is all a bunch of fairy tales for small children or people of lesser minds? Religion is what’s wrong with this world. You religious people are a bunch of haters. God is the ultimate cosmic killjoy. Aren’t all religions the same?

So, let me ask you a few questions:

Are you serious about your own question or statement? Do you apply the same logic (way of thinking) to all other areas of your life?

Have you ever read the bible? Do you read other books? Do you use the same method to read both?

Are my questions upsetting you? Why? Why do thoughts of an All Powerful God bother you?

If you think the bible is a pack of lies, then please provide me the name of the book that does a thorough job of “debunking” the lies but also doesn’t create its own list of problems that you claim the bible has. Many a great mind have set out to disprove the bible and become converts to the faith because they realized they were the ones who were wrong. I invite you to try to disprove the bible.

This is a great book to cut your teeth on. The author started this project to disprove the bible.  

 

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Wicked Desire

A few weeks ago we had a guest speaker at church, Dr. Mitch Kim from Living Waters Alliance on Colossians 3:5-11. “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On the account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator, Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.”

I have no intent here to even try to sum up his sermon. In fact this blog started out on the topic of sexual sins, but I got sidetracked and now have had to edit the whole thing because I realized that clarity on another topic was way more urgent than another call to control one’s sexual ignition switch. Editing is a skill I’m still working on, so please forgive me if I missed something and a part seems a little stilted (read: poorly edited for clarity.)

Which brings me to the real topic. The heart. Not the one that beats in your chest. The Greek word from which we derive the English word cardiac is kardia. The center. You must remember that Greek was an immensely philosophical language. And Hebrew was built by an intensely theocratic and religious people. Neither of these peoples had our modern view of a brain in our heads for thinking and a heart in the chest for emotions. In both languages, the heart, was the center of a person, the woman or the man, the desires and will of the individual.

I do not hold to the notion of head and heart. That emotions are somehow seated in the heart and the thoughts are seated in your head and that the two can somehow be “divided”. Both the OT and NT refer to the heart in a “center of my being” concept. Emotions and Thoughts emanate from the same place, my center of consciousness. Emotions are just me, they are mine and I am responsible for their management and care in the exact same way as I am for my thoughts. Fingers are not toes and my kidneys are not my eyes, my stomach is not my brain but I need all these to work for me to live. The image given us by God includes complexities of emotion and thought. The quiet will is in my opinion a far bigger player than we give it credit for. That we focus so much on emotions and thoughts and leave the will aside is a testament to its diminished status in our times.

Reviewing the thoughts and meditations of one’s own heart can be scary stuff. We carefully hide things, hoping not to upset the applecart of personal piety.  Our own image of self is a hard thing to get to. It shifts under observation, never quite the same each time we take an internal snapshot and attempt to analyze it. At least mine is. Why is that? I think it is because they are mere tools, tentacles of our own will, not separate and unique but subjugated to a master will that wishes to remain hidden behind its fig leaf.

Proverbs 27:19-20 As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man. Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of a man.

When I first quoted this verse for my original version, I saw it as a reference to the wandering eye of men. And now I see a much, much deeper reference. While the wandering eye of men is still true, it’s only a small truth in face of a much, much bigger one. We are separated from our creator, the Omniscient, Omnipresent, Omnipotent self existent One who Lives outside time and space as He created them as well. We desire what we lost. Which makes our desire infinite. And doesn’t our will chases our desires?

God’s will is pure, undefiled by sin. Jesus said “I have come to do the will of the one who sent me”. All of Jesus’s faculties were set to one task: to do the will of God the Father. So, to have Christ Jesus in you means our entire being, out hearts must turn to that task for which He was sent: to do the will of the Father. Is then the will of your heart to do His will or your own wicked desire?

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Holocaust Day

The moral decline of a society makes the monstrous possible:
Dennis Prager on the Holocaust

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Free Speech and Gay Marriage

From one of my favorite commentators:

By MARK STEYN
He who controls the language shapes the debate: In the same week the Associated Press announced that it would no longer describe illegal immigrants as “illegal immigrants,” the star columnist of The New York Times fretted that the Supreme Court seemed to have misplaced the style book on another fashionable minority. “I am worried,” wrote Maureen Dowd, “about how the justices can properly debate same-sex marriage when some don’t even seem to realize that most Americans use the word ‘gay’ now instead of ‘homosexual.'” She quoted her friend Max Mutchnick, creator of “Will & Grace”:

“Scalia uses the word ‘homosexual’ the way George Wallace used the word ‘Negro.’ There’s a tone to it. It’s humiliating and hurtful. I don’t think I’m being overly sensitive, merely vigilant.”

For younger readers, George Wallace was a powerful segregationist Democrat. Whoa, don’t be overly sensitive. There’s no “tone” to my use of the word “Democrat”; I don’t mean to be humiliating and hurtful: it’s just what, in pre-sensitive times, we used to call a “fact.” Likewise, I didn’t detect any “tone” in the way Justice Antonin Scalia used the word “homosexual.” He may have thought this was an appropriately neutral term, judiciously poised midway between “gay” and “Godless sodomite.” Who knows? He’s supposed to be a judge, and a certain inscrutability used to be part of what we regarded as a judicial temperament. By comparison, back in 1986, the year Scalia joined the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Warren Burger declared “there is no such thing as a fundamental right to commit homosexual sodomy.” I don’t want to be overly sensitive, but I think even I, if I rewound the cassette often enough, might be able to detect a certain tone to that.

Nonetheless, Max Mutchnick’s “vigilance” is a revealing glimpse of where we’re headed. Canada, being far more enlightened than the hotbed of homophobes to its south, has had gay marriage coast to coast for a decade. Statistically speaking, one third of 1 percent of all Canadian nuptials are same-sex, and, of that nought-point-three-three, many this past decade have been American gays heading north for a marriage license that they’re denied in their own country. So, gay marriage will provide an important legal recognition for an extremely small number of persons who do not currently enjoy it. But, putting aside arguments over the nature of marital union, the legalization of gay marriage will empower a lot more “vigilance” from all the right-thinking people over everybody else.

Mr. Mutchnick’s comparison of the word “homosexual” with “Negro” gives the game away: Just as everything any conservative says about anything is racist, so, now, it will also be homophobic. It will not be enough to be clinically neutral (“homosexual”) on the subject – or tolerant, bored, mildly amused, utterly indifferent. The other day, Jeremy Irons found himself musing to a reporter on whether (if the issue is unequal legal treatment) a father should be allowed to marry his son for the purpose of avoiding inheritance taxes. The vigilance vigilantes swung into action:

“Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons has sparked outrage,” reported The Independent in London, “by suggesting that same-sex marriage could lead to incest between fathers and sons.”

Outrageous! That isn’t exactly what he said, but, once sparked, the outrage inferno was soon blazing merrily:

“Jeremy Irons’ Strange Anti-Gay rant,” read the headline in Salon.

I wouldn’t say he was ranting. He was languidly drawling, as is his snooty Brit wont, and fighting vainly the old ennui, as if he would rather be doing anything than another tedious media interview. Indeed, he even took the precaution of averring that he didn’t “have a strong feeling either way.”

You sick bigot theocrat hater! Not having a strong feeling is no longer permitted. The Diversity Celebrators have their exquisitely sensitive antennae attuned for anything less than enthusiastic approval. Very quickly, traditional religious teaching on homosexuality will be penned up within church sanctuaries, and “faith-based” ancillary institutions will be crowbarred into submission. What’s that? I’m “scaremongering”? Well, it’s now routine in Canada, where Catholic schools in Ontario are obligated by law to set up Gay-Straight Alliance groups, where a Knights of Columbus hall in British Columbia was forced to pay compensation for declining a lesbian wedding reception, and where the Rev. Stephen Boisson wrote to his local paper, objecting to various aspects of “the homosexual agenda” and was given a lifetime speech ban by the Alberta “Human Rights” Tribunal ordering him never to utter anything “disparaging” about homosexuals ever again, even in private. Although his conviction was eventually overturned by the Court of Queen’s Bench after a mere seven-and-a-half years of costly legal battles, no Canadian newspaper would ever publish such a letter today. The words of Chief Justice Burger would now attract a hate-crime prosecution in Canada, as the Supreme Court in Ottawa confirmed only last month.

Of course, if you belong to certain approved identity groups, none of this will make any difference. The Rev. Al Sharpton, who famously observed that Africans of the ancient world had made more contributions to philosophy and mathematics than all “them Greek homos,” need not zip his lips – any more than Dr. Bilal Philips, the Toronto Islamic scholar who argues that homosexuals should be put to death, need fear the attention of Canada’s “human rights” commissions. But for the generality of the population this will be one more subject around which one has to tiptoe on ever-thinner eggshells.
I can see why gays might dislike Scalia’s tone, or be hurt by Irons’ “lack of strong feelings.” But the alternative – that there is only one approved tone, that one must fake strong feelings – is creepy and totalitarian and deeply threatening to any healthy society. Irons is learning, as Carrie Prejean learned a while back, that “liberals” aren’t interested in your opinion, or even your sincere support, but only that you understand that there’s one single, acceptable answer. We don’t teach kids to memorize historic dates or great poetry anymore, but we do insist they memorize correct attitudes and regurgitate them correctly when required to do so in public.

Speaking of actors from across the pond, I had the good fortune of meeting at the end of his life Hilton Edwards, the founder of Ireland’s Gate Theatre. Hilton and the love of his life, Michael MacLiammóir, were for many years the most famously gay couple in Dublin. At MacLiammóir’s funeral in 1978, the Taoiseach and half the Irish Cabinet attended, and at the end they went up to Edwards, shook hands and expressed their condolences – in other words, publicly acknowledging him as “the widow.” This in a state where homosexuality was illegal, and where few people suggested that it should be otherwise. The Irish officials at the funeral treated MacLiammóir’s relict humanely and decently, not because they had to but because they wished to. I miss that kind of civilized tolerance of the other, and I wish, a mere four decades on, the victors in the culture wars might consider extending it to the losers.

Instead, the relentless propagandizing grows ever more heavy-handed: The tolerance enforcers will not tolerate dissent; the diversity celebrators demand a ruthless homogeneity. Much of the progressive agenda – on marriage, immigration, and much else – involves not winning the argument but ruling any debate out of bounds. Perhaps, like Jeremy Irons, you don’t have “strong feelings” on this or that, but, if you do, enjoy them while you can.

©MARK STEYN

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