Monthly Archives: September 2013

Vindicate or Just Vindictive?

It was grade six and my nemesis, Terry, had gone too far.  Terry was the “bad” kid in our neighborhood.  He came from a pretty rough home. The house and yard weren’t very well cared for, and it wasn’t unusual to hear yelling from inside it.  He and his step-sister Connie didn’t dress very well, kind of smelled bad, and were usually in trouble for something.  They had come to Sunday School and VBS over the years, but I was pretty sure their mom sent them just to get rid of them for a while.  I can remember being appalled when I saw them take the bread and grape juice as the communion plates were passed around.  He told me later that he didn’t drink the juice because he thought it was actually wine, which surprised me because I figured that was why he took it in the first place.

But this time Terry had gone too far.  It was the time of year that the Gideons handed out the little red New Testaments to the grade fives, and somehow Terry had gotten his hands on one and was walking down the sidewalk tearing out and tossing to the wind pages of the Holy Scriptures, all the while loudly mocking God and laughing much to the amusement of a couple of his ne’er-do-well buddies.  A righteous fury of indignation swelled within me and certain that God was on my side I attacked . . . and got thoroughly thrashed.

The question is, was I justified in my youthful zeal?  I was looking again at Psalm 139.  I love that Psalm but I usually skip verses 19-21 where David wishes God would kill wicked, and that he hates those who hate God.  It’s one of a number of what are referred to as imprecatory or cursing Psalms, and we are usually pretty uncomfortable with them even though they’re inspired scripture.  In many of them the Psalmist calls for God to vindicate his righteousness, but without getting into a full blown defense of those Psalms, the question remains, in light of Psalm 139 and others that call for God’s justice was I justified?

Well yes and no.  Yes, because Psalm 139 shows how much God hates sin.  So much so that Jesus bore the full brunt of that hatred and died for our sin.  And therein lies the no.  God’s justice and righteousness was vindicated when Jesus died on our behalf.  I was just being vindictive.  So what I should have said to Terry was, “You can tear out every page but on each one Jesus says to you, ‘I love you.  I forgive you.’”

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28


Swimming In The Ocean

I’ve always enjoyed being in the water.  We took swimming lessons when we were kids and I was quite proud of the badges on my swimsuit.  But even so I remember my first ride on the ferry across to Salt Spring Island and commenting that I wouldn’t want to fall in because the water was so deep.  Apparently the fact that it was frigidly cold and we were miles from land didn’t faze me, but the thought of falling into water that I was certain must have been hundreds of feet deep was rather unnerving.  I wasn’t even convinced when Dad tried to explain that if I could swim in three feet of water I could swim in three hundred feet of water.

What was the issue? I was comfortable in the pool where I knew I could touch bottom, even if the water was over my head I knew I could still push up from the floor and break the surface.  But out on the ocean it was literally sink or swim and as a child that made me very uncomfortable.

In Galatians 2:20 we’re told that Jesus, literally, will live his life through us.  That may sound out of left field, but let me put the two thoughts together.  Far too many Jesus followers never get out of the pool.  They swim, i.e. they allow Jesus to live his life through them, but never let themselves get beyond where they know they can put their feet down and touch bottom.  In other words they don’t whole-heartedly trust their lives to Jesus; they want to maintain that safety, that control factor because going out in the ocean means that if Jesus doesn’t do what he said they’re going to drown.

Now for some people God essentially throws them into the ocean as a death, or illness or some other traumatic circumstance suddenly removes the bottom they thought was there.  But for most of us it comes down to a matter of obedience.  God has told us it’s time to jump into the ocean, maybe a call to career ministry of some sort, maybe taking on a leadership role in the church, maybe even just reaching out to your neighbor to express God’s love.  For some of you it is simply acknowledging Jesus as your God and allowing him to begin teaching you to swim.

It’s time to jump into the ocean; it’s time to obey.

Making It Work?

How have you learned to make your life work?  The Bible teaches that every person ever born, save Jesus, was born with the inclination to move away from God.  In Genesis 8:21 God declares that every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood.  Larry Crabb describes that evil inclination as “the passionate conviction that we need something other than God to satisfy the deepest longing of our souls, and that nothing matters more than the satisfaction of our souls.”

Very early in life we begin to learn that there are things that bring pain and things that bring pleasure.  We learn coping techniques to avoid the pain and to repeat the pleasant experiences.  Some look to be the center of attention, some to high achievement or hard work, and some to less socially valued behaviors.  I coped by being good.

As a kid I was never much trouble.  That’s not to say I never got in trouble, but I learned that if I obeyed my parents and followed the rules life went much easier.  I could keep my head down and kinda fly under the radar and nobody bothered me much.  My teachers always said how much they enjoyed having me in their class even though I didn’t do my work or try very hard, but because I never caused trouble in class they didn’t usually come down on me too hard.

I hated the feeling of guilt, and so if I didn’t do bad things, I never felt too bad about myself.  I always went to church and youth group, and everybody said what a nice kid I was.  And still many of the inclinations of my heart were evil.  I say only many because I had genuinely acknowledged Jesus as my God at a very early age, and I sincerely loved God, but so much of my life even through my teens was about finding something besides God to satisfy the longing of my soul, some way of making my life work for me.

God is not interested in making our lives “work.”  Jesus died so that we could discover that God alone satisfies the deepest longing of our souls regardless of whether or not our life is working as we might want it to.  Because when my deepest desire is for Jesus himself, not even the blessings from God, but Jesus himself then I see everything else in its proper perspective.

So how have you learned to make your life work?

The Masculine Side of Worship

According to the origin of our word “worship” comes from combining the Middle English suffix “-ship”, which denotes a condition, character or office, with the noun “worth”, which can mean excellence of character or quality as commanding esteem.  Therefore our worship acknowledges the condition of excellence of character which commands our esteem.

Recently I have been led to wonder if our church culture places an imbalanced emphasis on what I am calling the feminine side of worship.  It seems to me that a large part of our worship focuses on love and adoration, which certainly is valuable and important.  But so too is the far less emphasised aspects of honor, respect, and esteem which resonates more deeply on the masculine side of worship.  I call it the masculine side of worship, not because it’s foreign to women any more than love and adoration is foreign to men, but rather because this sort of response is more typically associated as a masculine trait.

Let me illustrate.  I help coach a bantam football team.  When I see one of my boys really making an effort out there, courageously paying the price and sacrificing himself for the good of the team, where he’s running hard and hitting fiercely and making plays, where he drags himself off the field exhausted until a couple of plays later I tell him we need him out there and he resolutely puts his helmet on and goes out and does it again; when I see that it draws from me a powerful, right from my gut, emotional response of admiration, respect and honor (and usually a very loud yell of encouragement.)

That’s the sort of emphasis I think is under emphasised in our worship.  When the horde of men came to Gethsemane looking for Jesus to arrest him and he states “I am he!” with such boldness that it literally causes the lot of them to fall back; when he nobly made the way for his disciples to escape leaving him to face his accusers alone; when he stood up to the most powerful man in the country declaring that Pilate had no power but what had been given him by God; when he refused to give up and die till he knew everything had been accomplished.  When we recognize these sorts of actions that’s when worship of admiration and awe, esteem and honor are appropriate.

What courage! What valour! What honor!  That is my Jesus!  That is my savior! That is my God!