28 April 2011

Got Guilt?

I wish I had a dime for every person in the past 35 years who confided in me something like this: “I feel God is punishing me for….”
Unfortunately, dragging around a conviction that you’re condemned and that God is directing wrath at you looks nearly legitimate complaint when I look at their lives, especially when they hit middle-age. By then their anger or self-pity has pretty much encased them in bad habits.
C.S. Lewis has a good word on guilt and condemnation:
“If God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.”
When challenged no one can ever come up with a Christian scripture to support his feeling that God’s punishing him.   I suggest that your feelings regarding this don’t matter–take your feelings to the blackjack table. (We all know how that works out.)
Not only is this toxic guilt not Christian doctrine at all but it also is contrary to God’s will for people: this mindset is a kind of cage. People quit growing as Christians when they spend their time looking over their shoulder, waiting for the boom to fall, or for God to boot up them to the ‘next level.’
Christian maturity is something I can do only as I look forward, and walk forward. But people who nest in toxic guilt are too afraid to try new things for fear of failure. Not only has Christ has set them free from the law of sin and death, Christ has set free them from unreasonable fears. Not from the emotion of fear or even of reasonable fear, but from the quirky, guilt-laden fear.
But why–why would Christ ask us to live in freedom? I think it should be enough to say that we’re not automatons and He knows that. Guilt hurts–it’s painful–it’s deadening. It’s because of His love for us that He would not want us to live this way.
There might be a side benefit, too. I think it has something to do with living out His kingdom in this world. For with Christ’s freedom from guilt, we have freedom to do, and a kind of permission to fail-and learn from failure (though I find, it often takes more than one time to figure out why I fail at something!).
Perhaps you wonder if this is really a Christian way to think (I know we don’t get this picture painted too often). I am sure it is. Biblically we’re freed to love-to love people, not our possessions. Loving requires all kinds of talents and all kinds of works. Paul calls it being “formed” as a Christian, in Christ’s image (Colossians).
I’ll let Paul spell it out here, where he reminded the new churches about their freedom and its pertinence to Christian maturity:
“Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand!…When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love. You were running superbly! Who cut in on you, deflecting you from the true course of obedience? This detour doesn’t come from the One who called you into the race in the first place. And please don’t toss this off as insignificant. It only takes a minute amount of yeast, you know, to permeate an entire loaf of bread. … It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom.”
Galatians 5:1-15 The Message (paraphrase), portions

27 April 2011


Ephemeral: things come, and eventually, go. As I write it is spring and we're always excited about new buds and gentler weather now. Yet, spring's also arrival signals the end of winter. It is an ending as well as a beginning.  "Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.
For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever." I John 2:15-17
Reminds me of a poem by Stephen Crane, which you may also know:

A man saw a ball of gold in the sky;
He climbed for it,
And eventually he achieved it --
It was clay.

Now this is the strange part:
When the man went to the earth
And looked again,
Lo, there was the ball of gold.
Now this is the strange part:
It was a ball of gold.
Aye, by the heavens, it was a ball of gold.
-Stephen Crane

24 April 2011

No Money, No Bunnies--A Big Payment for A Huge Return

Easter Celebration-the day we remember Jesus Christ, after being death for 3 days and 3 nights, arose from the dead and still lives in heaven–is about the triumph of Christ over sin and death.
This is why the Apostle Paul celebrates Christ as the “2nd Adam” who rectifies, sets aright, the problems initiated in the universe by the “1st Adam”–the woes of the created universe, of our flesh (sickness and death) and of our sin (think of emotional problems and hurts if you do not understand sin). No perfection can be attained by ourselves, no, we must have it done for us by a much bigger power–and one who cares for us–humans cannot hoist themselves up by their own bootstraps.
Some scriptural thoughts about this:
“Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood.
For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.
Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. ” The Bible: Hebrews 2:14-15 (NLT)

“Is anyone thirsty?
Come and drink—
even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk—
it’s all free!
Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
You will enjoy the finest food.
“Come to me with your ears wide open.
Listen, and you will find life.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you.
I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.”
The Bible: Isaiah 55:1-3 (NLT)


20 April 2011

My Way, Truth, Life, Light, Feast, Strength, Joy, Love, & My Heart

Come, My Way
 Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
Such a Way as gives us breath;
Such a Truth as ends all strife,
Such a Life as killeth death.

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
Such a Light as shows a feast,
Such a Feast as mends in length,
Such a Strength as makes His guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
Such a Joy as none can move,
Such a Love as none can part,
Such a Heart as joys in love.

  • George Herbert