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Confession, Repentance, & The Seven Deadly Sins

Preparing to preach (or teach) a text requires thoughtful application.

I am the chief sinner of “winging it” in application because I spent too much time “preparing and studying the text” and not enough time on “application.” If we stop short of meaningful application and only convey information in an organized fashion, we haven’t done our job.

The Difference Between Confession & Repentance

Aren’t confession and repentance the same thing? I think not. The clear distinction between confession and repentance can bring life to application and illustration. Definitions:

Confession is the event of speaking, praying, or recounting specific sin acts. “God forgive me for sinning against you today when I…”

Repentance is the turning away from self-justifying, self-centered, and self-gratifying pursuits and towards God in Christ. Repentance says, “Not my will be done, but Thy will be done.”

Repentance includes confession, but…

Repentance has to do with the directedness of our every action (in life). Sin acts that we confess before God are clearly selfish and cannot be otherwise. But every day actions like working, loving, thinking, and feeling can be directed in self-centered (sinful) ways or God-centered (glorifying) ways…

We cannot sin to the glory of God, but we can love to the glory of self.

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The Church Has Bad People In It

The church of God on earth, even when it is at the best, has wicked people and hypocrites in it. In Adam’s family there is Cain, in the ark there is Ham, in Christ’s family or school there is Judas. In the church of Jerusalem, planted and governed by the chief apostles, there are false brethren. The true sheep are often without and wolves within. Therefore we may not so much as dream of a perfection of the church of God on earth so long as wicked people are mixed with true believers.

William Perkins, 16th century theologian, Commentary on Galatians

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Story of My Life: A Shocking Twist

We’ve all done it.

You get that song stuck in your head for apparently no reason and your day is now ruined. This was how our day started today, but that’s not how it finished.

Ugh, Not That Song

Our morning was pretty typical today. Cereal, huevos rancheros, coffee, coffee, and a poopy diaper. Then Jodee (I’m pretty sure it was her) started singing Story of My Life by the (in)famous One Direction.

Like most über-catchy pop songs it was instantly burned into our neural pathways and we knew we were ruined. Then Jodee said, “What does this song even mean?”

Plot Twist

So I googled the lyrics. Reading the lyrics didn’t really help to get the meaning.

Exactly what I thought: generic, insert girl here pop lyrics. I was wrong (but I didn’t know it yet).

Written in these walls are the stories that I can’t explain
I leave my heart open but it stays right here empty for days
She told me in the morning she don’t feel the same about us in her bones
Seems to me that when I die these words will be written on my stone

And I’ll be gone, gone tonight
The ground beneath my feet is open wide
The way that I been holding on too tight
With nothing in between

The story of my life
I take her home
I drive all night to keep her warm
And time… is frozen (the story of, the story of)
The story of my life
I give her hope
I spend her love
Until she’s broke
Inside
The story of my life (the story of, the story of)

Written on these walls are the colors that I can’t change
Leave my heart open but it stays right here in its cage
I know that in the morning now I see us in the light upon a hill
Although I am broken, my heart is untamed, still

And I’ll be gone, gone tonight
The fire beneath my feet is burning bright
The way that I been holding on so tight
With nothing in between

The story of my life
I take her home
I drive all night to keep her warm
And time… is frozen (the story of, the story of)
The story of my life
I give her hope
I spend her love
Until she’s broke
Inside
The story of my life (the story of, the story of)

And I been waiting for this time to come around
But baby running after you is like chasing the clouds

The story of my life
I take her home
I drive all night to keep her warm
And time is frozen
The story of my life
I give her hope (give her hope)
I spend her love
Until she’s broke (until she’s broke inside)
Inside
The story of my life

Resolution

Let’s just say, I did not wake up this Thursday morning thinking that I would be moved (really moved) by a One Direction song. I won’t spoil the twist (you must watch), but I will say I did get goosebumps and teared up.

Truly, it is a rare music video, especially one that has been viewed 210,000,000 times, that actually brings meaning to a song. You be the judge (’cause I know you’ve already judged me for gushing about a One Direction song).

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John Calvin & “Ridiculous” Tribalism

Jerusalem was, at that time, the Mother of all the Churches; for the Gospel had spread from it over the whole world, and it might be said to be the principal seat of the kingdom of Christ. Any one who came from it into other churches was received with due respect. But many were foolishly elated with the thought that they had enjoyed the friendship of the Apostles, or at least had been taught in their school; and therefore nothing pleased them but what they had seen at Jerusalem. Every custom that had not been practiced there was not only disliked, but unsurprisingly condemned by them. This peevish1 manner becomes highly pernicious, when the custom of a single church is attempted to be enforced as a universal law. We are sometimes so devoted to an instructor or a place, that, without exercising any judgment of our own, we make the opinion of one man the standard for all men, and the customs of one place the standard for every other place. Such attachment is ridiculous, if there be not always in it a mixture of ambition; or rather we should say, excessive peevishness is always ambitious.

John Calvin, from his introduction to his commentary on Galatians (emphasis mine).

1peev-ish

easily irritated, especially by unimportant things

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Busyness, Excuses, & Suffering

It is Easter Season, which means I come up for air once or twice a week. This is my excuse for the lack of posting. I think I still have a few helpful things to say… coming soon. Until then:

Suffering people are all around you.

Fighting against abortion, sex trafficking, and other hot-topic needs are all absolutely necessary, but don’t let championing “over-there” suffering diminish the suffering of people in the pews next to you. Americans, yes even white, middle-class Americans, can suffer too.

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Is A Wedding All About Adam & Steve? Adam & Eve?

If you are not growing weary from Christendom’s talking past each other on the issue of religious freedom/anti-gay discrimination/a rarely-more-nuanced-middle-ground-description of the brou-ha-ha; if you are not weary then you are a tribalist, controversialist, who gets off on sparing with any comer. How’s that for vitriol? Consider yourself judged by me! I kid, I kid.

Toward the goal of not talking past each other, I want to briefly consider the state of marriage in ‘Merica.

A Celebration of Love, Commitment, Etc etc

When you attend a 2014 wedding in the great US of A, you are most likely to hear, even in the most churchy of church ceremonies, a few blasé reflections on love, a few comical anecdotes about commitment, and maybe even the rare exhortation that “marriage ain’t easy.” The ceremony, often times called a celebration (along with funerals, but that’s another post), is all about the future bride and groom, celebrating their love, kicking off their new digs in style, and generally treating the get together as a slightly-more-formal Super Bowl party.

If this is what marriage is defined as (indeed, the majority position of our day) then it makes perfect sense to allow anyone and everyone to celebrate love, commitment, and having-a-good-time with any guy, gal, guys, or gals of their choosing. You’re probably picking up on the fact that I think marriage is more than that.

“Speak now or forever hold your peace”

This vestige of a bygone era occasionally appears in modern day weddings, and is really only relevant today because movies still use this brief pause in the ceremony so the protagonist can rush in at the last moment and rescue his true love from a miserable, second-choice matrimony (see the video below).

Even those who elope in Vegas, the county courthouse, or any number of other very-informal, strictly-civil wedding ceremonies still must have witnesses. These witnesses sign the marriage certificate, whether in Vegas or in the First Baptist Church.

So what is the point of opening up a wedding ceremony to public debate? Why does the state require random-stranger-in-Vegas or your brother and sister-in-law to sign a wedding certificate?

Like any assembling of the church, a wedding ceremony isn’t about the individuals on stage, but is about the Body of Christ gathering together and giving faithful testimony. When the church gathers to affirm the wedding of two people, they are there to testify before God that these two should be wed, are not already married, or aren’t brother and sister among other considerations. The last line of defense, for protecting the sacred nature of the matrimony was for the church to “speak now” or thus endorse the union. Then the two closest persons involved in this sacred vetting process put their names on a paper to make it official.

So what? What does this have to do with the marriage brou-ha-ha in Arizona and Kansas?

On Speaking Past Each Other

It seems that most people on the side of “support don’t condemn” gay people and gay weddings are assuming the present day definition of what a marriage is. On the other side, the argument is that anything we contribute to a gay wedding, from the wedding cake to the RSVP “Yes” is an endorsement of the proceeding. The former says “judge not lest you be judged,” and the later says allow me to “speak now” in peace.

I know this debate involves more complexities: civil vs religious, marriage as a picture of Christ+Church, and the serious claim of Pharisaism being hurled from both sides of the divide.

In any case, we would do well to acknowledge the meaning somebody is attaching to the wedding ceremony, seeking to understand where they are coming from, however deficient you might think their underlying presuppositions are. We can debate the merits of laws, what true Christian witness is, and other very important theological-practical discussions. But please, please, at least try not to speak past each other.

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Rachel Held Evans, Not Fighting, & Continuing the Discussion

Rachel Held Evans, notorious blogger extraordinaire, has written a very insightful and in many ways helpful entry entitled: “The Cost.” She highlights the painful relational cost of being ostracized from her conservative roots when she came out as an evolutionist, feminist, LGBT activist. She also, very helpfully (and perceptively) sympathizes with conservatives who are labelled as bigots and extremists in the media and the culture-at-large. Here are a few highlights with her conclusion (on which I will comment below):

They say I’ve taken the easy way out.

They say I’ve given in to the culture in an effort to be welcomed and liked by my peers. They tell me I’ve counted the cost of following Jesus and considered it too much, so I’ve jumped on the liberal bandwagon— embracing evolution, feminism, LGBT equality, and theological views that veer from the evangelical norm — because it’s the easy, convenient thing to do.

And I want to shake their shoulders and ask, What culture do you think I came from? Who do you think are my peers? This church, this community, was once my whole world until it took he questions I offered with trembling hands and smashed them against the wall. How dare you say I took the easy way out when these questions have cost me relationships, reputation, status, and security? How dare you say I took the easy way out when this path has been so lonely and treacherous?

And the very helpful balance:

Because the truth is, their convictions come with a cost too.

It’s painful to see your beliefs mocked in the media and satirized on TV. There’s a cost to sticking with your values when they strike others as old-fashioned or strange. It hurts like hell to be the butt of jokes at your office or called a “bigot” or “extremist” on your college campus when nothing could be further from the truth. It takes guts to raise your hand and challenge the professor in a secular classroom or walk away from a compromising situation when it may mean damaging relationships that have been hard-won. And it’s got to sting to be called a fundamentalist by other Christians (like me) when you’re just trying to do the right thing and do it in love. It must hurt to be subjected to the rolled eyes and the know-it-all attitude we progressive-types can conjure as well as anybody.

And her conclusion:

Maybe we don’t have to change each other’s minds to lighten one another’s load by not assuming motives, by giving each other the benefit of the doubt that we arrived at our beliefs through honest searching.

There’s a cost to every conviction.

What mine have cost me may be different than what yours have cost you, but the sense of loss is the same. And so is the hope that comes with breaking bread together in spite of our theological and political differences and settling into the sweet certainty that following Jesus doesn’t have to cost this. It doesn’t have to cost our love for one another.

Not if we don’t want it to.

Please do read the whole thing, then consider below:

Unity in Essentials, Charity in Non-essentials; Who Says What is Essential?

To extricate yourself from any community, whether to the left or to the right, is a painful and difficult process, and we would all do well to think of “the other” with greater love and empathy than we would for our self (and others “like us”). While I definitely understand the sentiment and agree with Rachel’s article at many points, motive alone (“honest searching”) cannot validate a position.

Case in point:

The well-meaning International Eugenics Congresses of the 1910′s, 1920′s, and 1930′s, attended by Americans, Germans, British, Christian, Atheist, many of the enlightened elites from the enlightened countries of the world, came to a screeching halt when Hitler swept through Jewish homes like the plague; indeed, there was a higher, common-to-all morality that the once-united intellectual elite appealed to against their old conference buddies.

I, for one, do not desire a “sameness for all Christians.” I’m with C. S. Lewis when he said that when people of different Christian denominations grow closer to to the heart (distinctives) of their denomination then we actually grow closer to each other.

A Present Day, Front Page Issue

Regarding Evan’s “LGBT equality” badge, let’s be honest, this is the rub of our day, however much raging-anything-ists and Answers-in-Genesis-types irk us. Here again, Clive Staples Lewis has much to say.

Lewis had a lifelong, homosexual friend (Arthur Greeves) whom he loved dearly and corresponded with, visited on vacation throughout his life, and loved equal to or more than any other person on earth. But Lewis still wrote chapter 2 & 5 of Mere Christianity (and the whole book for that matter, along with many letters addressing this topic) and made appeal to a Real Morality which transcends all and to which we all must appeal in the end.

I’m for people not being arrogant know-it-alls, because the end goal in an appeal to another believer (to turn to an orthodox belief, to repent, whatever) is not about “winning” an argument but is about restoring relationship and reconciliation.

Agree to disagree, while amiable and well-intentioned, will not I fear bring unity. Sure, family reunions might be better in the short run, but shouldn’t our eternal reunion be worth the discussion (not fight)? Articles like this seem to say “stop the discussion” and love one another. If by discussion you mean “fight” then “Hurrah,” we’re on the same team. But I digress.

One might argue that some Christians disagree on infant baptism (and other not-unimportant doctrines) so why are homosexual acts (NOT homosexuality) any different? The stakes (inheriting the Kingdom of God, 1 Cor 6:1-11) seem to be higher on this point, thus, while to each his own works (and is essential) for earthly countries, it must not do for this discussion.

My intention is not to debate/fight/win, and if I have come off this way, please forgive me. However, I do wish to persuade you to not count this topic among the “agree to disagree” discussions that can be so often fruitless and hateful. I count myself as one of those (odd) persons who do not hate homosexuals and have thought-out and loving disagreements and would like to be allowed to keep the conversation going.

Here’s a helpful exploration, although I think “lifestyle” (only mentioned once) isn’t the most helpful word.

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What’s Your Poo Telling You?

No, this is not a post about poo, or coffee, or salad, or stock photography. It is a post about what’s inside our body coming out, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Setup

I received this nifty little book, What’s Your Poo Telling You?, several years ago from a good friend. My always-wanting-to-read son brought it to me yesterday and a wonderfully poopy analogy popped into my head. It is true, what we put into the body comes out in all manner of interesting ways.

I found out the hard way two nights ago what’s inside… wait for it… my heart (again, I have many things to say about the digestive tract, alas, today is not the day for this), because what came out of me was a flood of sadness, low self-worth, and even physical symptoms of stress. And I had a really great day on Wednesday, amidst a really great week, amidst a wonderful season of my life. But in this moment of sadness, I perceived very clearly where my hope lies.

The Dark Moments of the Soul

Life is full of seasons: Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring, depression, exhilaration, success, love at first sight, love in changing diapers, etc. By seasons I mean everything from one week of life-giving joy to 12 years of depression. But this post isn’t about seasons, it’s about moments, and more importantly about what they reveal.

Some of us love to be in love (the feelings associated with new love). Some of us take unbelievable pride in our children and pour our entire souls into parenting. Some give everything to their career, academic pursuits, friendships, serving responsibilities in the church, the Denver Broncos, Russell Westbrook’s health, and all sorts of other pursuits. Praise God that he has made us deep feelers, creators, parents, teachers, and passionate individuals. But what do the brief (but often frequently recurring) dark moments of the soul reveal about these loves?

What happens when your new love leaves? What happens when your child throws an insane tantrum or gets expelled from college for ______, you lose your job, you get a B- on a paper, your 10th conference paper is rejected, your best friend betrays your trust, you lose a serving responsibility in church because of a new pastor, your team loses, your favorite player fails, or you have a train wreck of a message in a Wednesday night service? Do you crawl into a hole and cry? Do you wake the next morning with a canker sore in your mouth (yep, that’s me)?

Our good and merciful God uses the dark moments of the soul to show us where we place our identity. True, if you have kids, a large part of your identity should be titled “Parent.” But if your parenting is your highest goal, if your feelings of falling in love are your highest aim, or the experience of knocking it out of the park in a public speaking or performance event is your chief identity, then your dark moments of the soul will consume you over and over and over again, until eventually they sweep you into a dark season of life.

The Remedy

We wear many hats in life: husband/wife, father/mother, pastor, friend, fan, and (for many of my readers) redeemed son/daughter of the risen Jesus Christ. What identities we prioritize in our souls are seen most clearly in the dark moments. We can say one thing all day long, but how we perceive ourselves when everything we built begins to crumble to the ground shows us what is chief inside.

Thankfully, our God, in every dark moment, welcomes us back with open arms onto the rock solid foundation of his Christ. As we turn, as we confess our upside-down, poorly prioritized hearts, he mercifully forgives us. But he doesn’t stop there: Jesus re-orders our soul with every prayer, with every dark part of the soul we expose to his light in repentance.