Thursday, October 21, 2010


Know what I love in the middle of the night? The cool side of the pillow!

Last week's blog sparked hearts. More wrote than ever before. I posted a few comments but also received long letters, unpublished. It exposed much about our journey as we live out what it means to be a Christian today.

When I decided to blog, I also determined not to preach. And I won't. I COULD but I won't. Sharing my life with you, as I discover it myself, may sound like a soapbox at times. It's not. However, last week revealed my own heart on the subject of GRACE.

Grace, grace marvelous grace
Coming down from the Father above,
Sweep over my spirit forever I pray
In fathomless billows of love.
* * *
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved,
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Familiar strains from two old hymns remind us of God's GRACE. Warm and comforting.

But to bring balance, I need to share the flipside of my pillow, the less popular: TRUTH.

Most people speak of one or the other and extremes rapidly and rabidly tend to occur. Jump on my see-saw for a moment and together let's see if we can totter between extremes, like Old Testament Law and New Testament Grace.

Tilting too far into grace keels us into liberalism, self-indulgence, even back to enslavement by a worldly harness of sin. Throwing the balance too far the other way distorts truth into legalism, pharisaism, judgmentalism and living a list of rules. That checklist Christianity kills the soul. Both are extremes, not God's plan. Coming out of one extreme often sends one reeling into the opposite extreme. Then extremists draw caricatures of each other.

Like most disciples of Christ, I struggle between "You may" and "You ought."

See-saw, Marjorie Daw, Jack shall have a new master.
He can't make but a penny a day because he can't work any faster.

I mindlessly read that nursery rhyme to Kimberly, Kent and Katy when they were little. Today it seems to speak to me in a new way. Next week's blog will be centered on the fulcrum of the the teeter-totter in a vivid illustration.

But for today, let's delve into sin. Theologically speaking of course. Not experientially, though we may all be experts there!

The philosophy that all truth is relative, there are no absolutes, no black and white issues but all gray areas, left to individuals. . .is not new. Humanism is also a religion and the antithesis of Christianity. Man is at the center of the first, God at the center of the second. There are biblical truths that stand eternally and cannot be erased by man's philosophy. Sadly much of American Christendom has tried to play-nice with political correctness. This can blur our distinctions, even erase truth.

"There is no other name under heaven
given among men whereby we must be saved."

Narrow? Quite! My idea? Nope! Truth? Absolute Truth!

I recently read this on the subject:

14 Oct 2010

Glynnis Whitwer

"For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin." Psalm 36:2 (NIV)

Recently, a publicity firm invited a group of editors of Christian publications to preview a Hollywood film. The film producers were looking to get the message of this film into churches and wanted feedback from people like me in
Christian publishing.

The movie was dark, with a theme of unresolved guilt. Sadly, that guilt consumed the main character all his life, until he became a bitter old man. After we viewed the movie, the publicists turned on the lights and led a discussion. Basically, they wanted to know if we would recommend the movie to pastors. I stayed out of the conversation, because I'm a Pollyanna when it comes to movies. I like them happy and with a predictable ending. I know that's not very high-brow, but it's the truth.
However, the ensuing conversation intrigued me. Some people thought the movie was rich with important themes. They believed it would provoke thoughtful discussion. Others couldn't get past the language, and would never recommend it. One woman shared her opinion on the language with eloquence and passion.
She would never recommend it, she said, because of several instances of taking the Lord's name in vain. She defended her position by saying that too many people minimize sin. In fact, she explained, the film violated one of the Ten Commandments, to not misuse the Lord's name (Exodus 20:7).

The conversation continued with the challenge of relating to people without violating any of our beliefs. Our time together ended, and a few people got up to leave, including the woman who spoke against the movie. After she left however, another conversation began when a college-aged woman spoke up.
"My friends and I would never be bothered by the misuse of God's name," she said. "But we should." We sat in silence digesting her words.
That comment plays and replays in my mind. The honesty of that young woman touched me, as she identified a serious problem among those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus: we tolerate sin. In fact, at times we even re-label it as "normal." I know there's a fine line between being in the culture but not of the culture. But that's not the root of this issue.

That young woman identified the real source: our hearts. We are going to be around sin until we get to heaven. Sin is woven in our human fiber. That's not the issue. The issue is what I think about it. Do I hate anything that sets itself up against God or His character? Do I hate sin?

Living as Christ's disciples, reflecting Him, is a life of love and service to God and others. But loving as God also means hating what He hates, namely sin. Too often we slip down that muddy, sin-slope and express hatred for the SINNER, rather than the sin. The world then PERCEIVES Christians only as proud, harsh bigots, rather than reflectors of God's love, a love that draws men out of sin to Himself.

Truth means we must stand not only FOR some things but AGAINST some. The essentials of the gospel are clear and few. Our impact on society, from neighborhood to globe, is magnified here, not just in the voting booth.

Adultery is still wrong. When did the 10 commandments become the 10 Suggestions? Stealing is not right, whether from the IRS or someone's wallet. OMG is common vernacular. Has it anesthetized us to truth and self-examination because "everybody's doing it" or "I don't mean anything by it?" Living right does not always mean silence.

"Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words."
St. Francis of Assisi

It means both. Walk the walk but talk the talk. Speak up against wrong. Truth is not the opposite of grace because it takes grace to walk in truth! Flipside of the same.

It takes effort, action to get our faith from our heads down into our hearts. But that effort is not about doing a list of do's and avoiding a list of don'ts.

David said, "I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved." Psalm 16:8

Always before me. Here's my plan of action! My efforts go toward my relationship with Him, nurtured daily. Then as God transforms me into His image, the Spirit empowers me to love, forgive, stand against sin personally and in society. I can't do those things alone nor correctly. Focus on outward activity rather than inward transformation robs me of abundant living.

So I do what I can do (spiritual disciplines to know Christ) in order to do what I can not do (love, forgive, be kind, gentle, patient, rid my life of sin.)

My very body, His temple, or my tongue can get in the way when I try to go it alone or by habit. But time with God (often, alone, long) ignites my spiritual gifts to help me perform His will. The fruit of the Spirit then begins to work out in me, a sign of His character. Both are the result, not the reality, of the Spirit in us.

He is the Vine. The Divine Vine. My job is just to stay attached, let His life flow through me. Simple? Yes, in principle. Hard? Yes, practically so, it's very hard. I keep clogging up the graft between branch (me) and vine (Him) with little ME-clogs! Takes daily time to let Him unclog the flow!

Only then can I see sin and truth as God does. It begins in my own self-examined life. When I hear someone expound often and loudly on sin, I watch the finger they use. If it constantly points to others but never notices the other fingers pointing back to self, I wonder about the hollowness of a graceless heart.

Dr. Phil McGraw's dad used to say something wise on the subject, "There's
something about you I don't like in me."
We do tend to criticize our own weaknesses in others, sometimes to avoid dealing with self!

Take a stand on sin. Begin with self. Live purely. Speak up when necessary but only as the Spirit flows lovingly through you.

"SPEAK the TRUTH in love."

Truthfully from my heart to yours,

1 comment:

  1. Powerful, Mom. "Everyone needs a blog like that once in a while," says Elizabeth.