Thursday, August 28, 2008

Romans 1-3

Confession: I had to look at the schedule to see what book I was supposed to read next. I was a little dis-heartened to see that I am 2.5 months behind schedule already. Hmph.
Anyway....every time I read verses like this one:
Romans 3:10
As the Scriptures say: "There is no one who always does what is right, not even one."
I think of this video I saw (no, I'm not going to imbed youtube again) of Kirk Cameron interrogating strangers on the street about whether they had broken any of the Ten Commandments.
"Have you ever stolen anything?" Of course, almost everyone said no.
"Have you ever lied?" Most people failed that one, but some still held out. That's how God defines not taking his name in vain, according to Kirk, which is a commandment. This goes on by degrees, but he eventually gets down to the question no one can deny - "Have you ever lost your temper with someone?" (or something along those lines), which, as it turns out, Jesus defines as breaking the comandment not to murder (Matthew 5).
When I watched this, I remember equating it with crazy evangelism - aggressive, over-the-top, unreasonable. Then one day I found myself sitting at day spa getting a facial. O.K.- just stay with me. I had never had a facial or any other beauty-treatment thing before, but my dad got me a gift certificate and there I was. The esthetician was about my age, and somehow got onto the topic of this Bible study she had joined. She was a "seeker," and had never really looked into Christianity before. She had randomly joined this Disciple class, which is a super-intense, start-to-finish Bible study program, and she thought it was interesting, but she didn't really relate. When I asked her what she meant by that, she told me that they just kept talking about how we were all sinners, and she didn't feel like a sinner. Then out of my mouth comes this Kirk Cameron-esque drivel about sin being "anything that separates you from God." God is holy, so sin is a comparison to holiness, not some relative "good-person-ness." And as I sat there thinking she was going to spit in my avacado mask, I realized that this was resonating with her. We had a really good conversation for the rest of the hour, and I was just amazed.
The more I encounter people who are hostile toward Christianity, the more I find out this is the big hang up. No one wants to think of themself as a "sinner." For some people, like the facial lady, it's just a mis-understanding of sin. These people know they are not perfect, but they also know they are not worthless, and they are ready to have those two things reconciled. Then there are the folks who really think they are perfect and are down right insulted at the thought of needed anything from anyone, much less salvation from God.
I enjoy reading Julie's motherhood chronicles at, but she is a somehwat aggresive atheist, and I am often taken aback by her posts. Last week, I got caught up in the comments to this post, and the two topics that I have been struggling to unite in this one post were confirmed:
1- people don't like aggressive evangelism
2- people really don't know what the Bible says about sin and salvation, but they think they do
Oh, and by the way, God made it our job to tell them the truth, whether they like it or not (1:16)
I am not ashamed of the Good News, because it is the power God uses to save everyone who believes—to save the Jews first, and then to save non-Jews.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Matthew 28

This post is many things -

The end of the first book I've completed.

A return after a long break/abscence/period of neglect.

Really tough to write.

My favorite song these days is Sunday by Tree 63. Here's a cute video with the song as background.

So, lately I have been living like it's just plain Friday - like Jesus died and that's the end of it, if you're in too much of a hurry to listen to the song. I don't feel good physically, I'm not getting enough sleep, the kids are endlessly sick, and my job is miserable.

Sometimes, that's how I look at the gospel story, too - like we're in this holding period, this long epoch of time where everything is a bummer and there isn't much to be done about it because, hey, "we live in a fallen world," "God didn't promise happiness in this life," or pick some other churchy platitude.

Reading the Word, I can't maintain that attitude. Jesus was already ressurrected from the dead. Yes, "Sunday" is still coming in the big picture - God is going to redeem the world and reign over it, and that is in the future. But Sunday already came, too. Jesus already defeated death and he already gave you and me the power to live in victory. The world - as in creation - is still in bondage to sin, but I am not. I don't have to feel sorry for myself and drudge around here in my infirmities and irritations. I'm still going to have suffering, but God already redeemed my sufferings. Not one second of unhappiness is wasted, but rather every bump and bruise is doing God's work - every tear is shaping my character by the same miraculous power that let the Colorado River shape out the Grand Canyon.

I don't enjoy it, but I have no reason to wallow in it:


The angel said to the women, "Don't be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus, who has been crucified.6 He is not here. He has risen from the dead as he said he would. Come and see the place where his body was. And go quickly and tell his followers, 'Jesus has risen from the dead. He is going into Galilee ahead of you, and you will see him there.' " Then the angel said, "Now I have told you."