Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Jacket

                                                               The Jacket

Somewhere in Jessica Ghawi's apartment is a jacket. It is a man's large. It may be on the back of chair or hanging in a closet. It doesn't matter. Like everything else in that home, its intention, use, and purpose changed when Jessica was killed in the Aurora movie massacre. So many items in her home meant to be enjoyed, tasted, touched, seen, heard, utilized, and worn sit in silence now. Family and friends will come and sigh, and pack and cry. They may take a few things to remember. Many things will probably be given to Goodwill in the name of one who suffered such ill-will. The man's sized large jacket will probably be one of them. It was my son's.

 After the shooing at the Aurora movie theater that killed twelve, Clay and I talked about the tragedy. A few hours later he called back when he learned that Jessica, the aspiring sports reporter from San Antonio was one of the ones killed. He knew her socially. He had been to her apartment just to hang out with mutual friends, transplanted Texans, Aggie Club members. He forgot his jacket. 

This scene is being repeated in various forms all around Denver, at least twelve times over and fifty something times, though not as permanent, for the injured. Emily Dickinson could write poems and words about death and loss like no other. Of the pain of death, its horror, its numbing and acuteness, she said this: 
                                               The bustle in a house the morning after death
                                               Is the solemnest of industries enacted upon earth
                                               Sweeping up the heart and putting love away
                                               We shall not want to use again until eternity.

We analyze, we think, we ponder at such senselessness, such unimaginable loss, but we can't figure it out.
It's scope is beyond us. It is a present darkness, a reality in this world that we all encounter at various times,  but it is also incomprehensible. The only thing that comes close to it in my mind which I find hard to fathom is the Light, Presence, Love and Grace of God. His patience, forbearance, His forgiveness, His love is a reality that is often taken for granted but more real than the the presence of evil. With that hideous strength (my apologies Mr. Lewis) of freedom and choice He has given us, the world has so often chosen wrongly, selfishly, stupidly, sinfully. But in His love God has chosen to redeem, free, forgive, and change our eternity. It is a costly process. We would often not pay the price. Just ask the families of those who have died so senselessly. But God keeps moving history to His glorious ends. We can endure, because He has endured. He has kept in mind the end, the promise and deemed it worth the cost paid in this life.  And listen to His promise:  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."  He who was seated on the throne said, " I am making everything new!"   Rev. 21:1-5

Laughter that was silenced will fill heaven. Voices cut short will sing praises again. Eyes closed to the beauty of the world will if Christ is their Savior, see beauty and glory no human words could explain. Sounds, tastes, feelings, and especially love lost, will be multiplied by a thing called eternity. Hold on by faith and trust the One who can bring life, even Jesus, the Christ.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

3 S Sins

Down at the chapel on Sunday mornings we've been engaged in a light, summer-y sermon series on doctrine.    We've took a look at creation, revelation, atonement, grace and justification. A sharp observer might notice that the doctrine of sin, although mentioned in connection with nearly every other doctrine, has not been treated with its own sermon. Is this purposeful or neglectful? Yes, it is. I believe one can hit the "low" points of sin in connection with sermons on atonement, justification, and the nature of God and man and cover the subject fairly well. Yet, there are nuances and crevices of sin that might warrant their own sermon. Our own ability and Satan's ability at deception are uncanny. On the other hand, if one announces a sermon on sin, you just turned off half to three quarters of the ears and the others who want to hear it probably have some legalistic hang-up or such a poor image of God wanting to whack them that they view a sermon on sin as a flagellation whip. Who needs that? On the other hand a clearer understanding of sin and what it does to humanity would go a long way in keep us on theologically level ground, which is better for spiritual warfare than debating 3 S sins.

3 S sins? 3 S sins are "slippery slope sins." More on that in a moment.....

What is the best way to describe sin or define a sinner? Too often, we begin with the sins (plural) one commits. What is better is to look at the nature of sin. Different word pictures from the Old Testament, define it as a (1)deviation-- a missing the goal, a falling short-- or(2) a change in the person, as from innocent to guilty, debt free to accountable-- owing a spiritual debt, and (3) rebellion, either against a person or a set standard. These are often seen as self-willed pride to decide without regard to God or without faith in God.  The New Testament carries these ideas forward but it makes it more personal, more of an attitude set up against God and His rule, reign, and rights on  His creation's choices. This is sIn, with a capital "I." It says, "Father does not know best," I can make my own way. It is more a disease (sin-singular) of arrogant, un-faith than a list of symptoms (sin-plural) or actions that I may do or not do. This is why the young, rich man thought he was ready for the revival circuit in Luke 18 and Matt 19. Jesus questioned him about the things he  did, no problem. He was a good, young man. But then Jesus gave him a command that revealed his heart--go sell all you have---oops, he loved his money and possessions. They sat on the throne of his heart, and that is where sin (singular, the "disease") lives. It puts us and our stuff where only God belongs. The "disease" then causes the "symptoms" to manifest themselves in behaviors and attitudes, sins. The bottom line problem is not just the sins but the sin of my heart. It is in my nature. I want to rule me and my world without God. That's why the ten commandments starts with who you worship. That sets up everything else. Jesus died for our sins but more to the point, He died to free me from my old nature (sin) and give me a new one, His.

The problem of preaching on sin is that often, despite what is said, people's conditioned minds keep running to "sins," the things we do we shouldn't and don't do that we should. It is as if could fix our selves and this world if we did all these virtues and didn't do all these "sins." This is both naive and deadly. But even if virtues outnumbered the vices, we wouldn't conquer pride, arrogance, self-will, and un-faith. It's hard to see these, that is why they are deadly. We think by doing good we are good. It takes God showing them to us as he did to the rich, young man, Peter, Nicodemus, and me. Maybe you, too. Only God's grace can defeat sin.

3 S Sins remind me of these truths. They are slippery slope sins. Once you get started down that path it becomes very hard to stop and you spend a lot of time justifying your sliding. Let me give you an example. If I say gambling is a sin I can make a pretty good case against it. You don't like it because you enjoy it and are careful with it. You budget some "entertainment" money and just have fun and hurt no one and still pay the bills. I counter with the industry making losers of people, it's promoting poverty because not everyone is as smart or disciplined as you. I say, "Jesus doesn't want you spending His money that way, it's poor stewardship." You counter with, "oh, yeah, what about gluttony, fat boy? Isn't that a sin? Does Jesus want you buying all those Oreos?" See the slippery slope? I may have seen your sin but you see mine. That's the problem with cardinal and venial sins, yours are cardinal, mine are venial. And handling sin in this manner gets the Christian completely off point, which is the devil's point, no doubt.

What do you do with 3S sins? There are, after all, things we should not do and things we should? What do I choose? Pardon, but my simplicity is showing....ask Jesus. What is Godly about this attitude or action? Does my attitude toward ______ and my actions lead to holiness, closeness, and fellowship with Christ? Does this look like what the righteousness of Christ looks like? Do these actions lead to more justice for all and point others to Jesus? Ask Him, then listen. He had the first 4 G network for guidance in life. Our motivations should be Grace filled; Our attitudes should reflect His Godliness; our actions results in Goodness (think justice) toward all men; our lives show God's Glory in the praise, joy, and freedom we display.

Sin is not a matter of keeping score. It is a matter of trusting God's remedy for our disease of rebellion and walking with Him in faith toward Holiness.  As we fall more in love with Jesus and His will for our lives, the chains that so easily entangle us fall off (Heb. 12:1-2) If we do that, we won't have to worry much about slippery slopes, He already climbed one for us on Calvary.

3 S or 4 G?

PS: did you know that one theory states that the main characters in Spongebob Squarepants were patterned after the seven deadly sins?