Deep-Dish Hypocrisy (Guilty as Charged)

9 07 2015

Done-it-this-way2

Tradition for tradition’s sake isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

But sometimes, it is.

I have to admit I was deeply disturbed over the recent Supreme Court ruling regarding gay marriage.  I’ve never been one to interpret Christian freedom as condoning or validating homosexual behavior, and I still don’t. I believe one’s expression of sexuality is always a behavior choice versus a “I’m wired this way” sort of thing.    Otherwise anyone could interpret his or her sins as a “I’m wired this way” sort of thing instead of a “I made a choice to sin” sort of thing.

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Even from a strictly secular viewpoint, I believe it’s a slippery slope for the courts to arbitrarily glorify the status of any behavior into a civil right.  Five unelected individuals have opened the door for any group to claim that their behavior choices are civil rights- and this is in my opinion a huge step backward for a civilized society.  I fear that NAMBLA and other perverse groups of individuals are waiting in the wings to have their reprehensible behaviors transformed into civil rights by judicial fiat as well.

I don’t buy into white washing over something that’s completely wrong in the name of “charity” or “compassion.” What is wrong is wrong and telling the truth IS a loving thing to do, even when it’s difficult. Loving sinners doesn’t translate to green-lighting their sins.  Just because we as fallible humans want something to be OK doesn’t always make it so.

Jesus talked about the Pharisees being white washed tombs- (Matthew 23:26-28) and all of us are hypocrites, which underscores the fact that adding a coat of paint to something that is no-good and rotten underneath doesn’t redeem it or fix the underlying problem.  It just gives sin and destructive behaviors a veneer of legitimacy that they shouldn’t have- a sense of “since we all do it, it’s OK.”

Everything is Ok

Not necessarily…

This being said, I’m straight, and that’s only perspective that I have on this issue.  I’ve never been the least bit interested in other women- in fact, I generally don’t even like women as friends.  I usually have more in common with men. The homosexual lifestyle is just not a temptation for me, so it’s easy for me to look at that and say “ewww, gross, vile, etc.”  It’s easy for me to condemn behaviors that I have absolutely no desire to engage in.

I could use the rationalization that “I’m straight,” so yielding to my temptation to (hetero) sexual misbehavior is more “ok” than it is for a person to yield to the temptation of engaging in same-sex sexual misbehavior.  The fact of it is that I am just as guilty of improper lust and/or activity if it’s involving toward a guy I’m not married to.  It’s just as much of a sin.  And I’ve been there.  Many more times than I’d like to admit.  I like men.  A LOT- and in some ways a lot more than I should.

StraightPride

Straight- yes.  A paragon of purity?  Not so much.

I am just as much of a sinner as anyone else- but some sins are more “socially acceptable” than others.

Not too many Christians are saying much about the sexual sins that plague straight people either, which goes back to that good old double standard of “everybody does it, so it’s OK.”  Straight people are more often than not into casual relationships- “friends with benefits,” serial monogamy (and yes, I’ve been divorced and remarried), general promiscuity, and adultery. Those things usually get poo-poo’d or shoved under the rug because they are common and pervasive temptations for a good number of people- me included.   And before I go squinting about to remove splinters from the eyes of others, I have to encounter the great big log in my own eye first.

I have to call sin for what it is- whether I’m “wired that way” or not.

sin

Thankfully my failure- and the depravity of my sin-  is not the end of the story.  Jesus forgives me for my transgressions, so I am called to forgive others as He forgives me.

What other people do really isn’t my concern, save for the generic concern for the impact of the behaviors of a few on the greater society, and concern for the well-being of others. I can’t change what others choose to think and do.  The only thing I can do is attest to the truth and try to live according to it to the best of my ability and the grace of God.  I am not the Judge, and I am glad for that.  I have enough wickedness and issues of my own that need surrender and correction.

The way of mercy and forgiveness (Luke 6:36-38) is the only way to go.

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Isaiah 53:6- Broken Humanity, Missing Pieces, and Who Can Repay?

11 02 2014

exploding-skull-james-mundie

A Beauchene skull.  Fascinating.

I have a hard time taking the creation narrative in Genesis literally, (who is really getting down with talking snakes?) but it speaks an infinite truth even when taken (I believe it was intended) as a metaphor.  Humanity wants to believe that humanity evolves and progresses, but the story of the Fall speaks otherwise.  If anything, humanity has been continually devolving and falling further away from the heart and will of God since the Fall, and if anyone need be convinced of that, just watch the evening news.

lack of beer

The Genesis creation narrative is counter-cultural.  It says (my paraphrase): God made the heavens and the earth, and it was good.  (see Genesis 1-2)

Then it goes on in Genesis 3 to add that we humans, in our disobedience to God and His goodness, screwed it all up.

God made creation perfect, but we couldn’t leave it well enough alone. We have to have what we’re told we can’t have, and that is the Fall in a nutshell.  We don’t want to listen to God, we want to be God.   We all know what happens when a mother of a toddler or preschooler decides to make cookies or cakes.  When he was toddler-to-preschool age my son couldn’t keep his hands off the freshly frosted Christmas cookies, or Dad’s birthday cake, or the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie even though there were Pop Tarts or cheese crackers or other snackies that were OK to nibble on readily available to him.  The special pie or cake just tasted better.  We have to have what we want now, and consequences be damned.

There’s something inherent in human nature (Catholics will call that “original sin”) that insists we cannot resist the forbidden fruit.  Even if it is better if we leave it alone.  Even if partaking of it leads to the death of us.

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The reality is that everyone has that addiction to forbidden fruit.  It’s called sin.  Sin’s not a very popular concept today.  The message coming from most pulpits today comes across more like the old Coca-Cola commercial from the 1970’s.  Let’s all hold hands and sing “Kumbaya” (or “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke“) while the world goes to hell in a hand basket.  Let’s all put up a pretty, moral front and try to earn God’s love and approval- and miss the boat entirely.

letpeaceblossom

It’s not necessarily a bad message, but it’s not the whole message, and it’s not the complete message coming from Scripture.  Flowers and kisses and butterflies and singing pretty songs are all lovely, but how do you deal with the two kids ripping each other’s faces off as they’re fighting over a toy?  There is a reason why God gave humans rules- mostly to keep them from hurting themselves and others.

The Lutheran theological take on that is that there is both Law (the Bad News that we can’t come close to being able to follow God’s rules) and Gospel (the Good News- that God made a Provision to cover for our failed nature) all throughout the Scriptures.

Even though I’m not a Calvinist, I can agree with John Calvin 100% on one of the petals of his TULIP.  Human beings are Totally Depraved. Anyone who doubts this may observe human depravity in its basest forms all around us- a group of toddlers grabbing everything in sight while screaming, “MINE!” or a group of teenage girls gossiping about and backstabbing the girls in the “out” group.

mean girls

Human beings are inherently self-serving.  Many years ago, I had a debate with a psychology professor who contended that there is no such thing as true altruism.  I wanted to believe there was.  I wanted to believe that humans are inherently good and kind.  At first, as I was a young college student and more than a bit naïve, I was shocked at the suggestion that all human behavior is inspired by satisfying a human need. But as I’ve grown older and had the opportunity to observe and interact with fellow humans, I can see exactly where he was coming from- especially when I examine my own heart.  If there’s kindness or goodness to be found in me, that’s the work of the Holy Spirit- NOT me.

I can also understand why younger people have a hard time seeing how being involved in a church is relevant if it’s just a big version of the Coke commercial to them.  There’s plenty of places to get warm fuzzies and play nicey-nice and sing happy songs together.  It’s a little harder to find the Jesus Who wept with His friends when He found out Lazarus was dead.  It’s a little harder to find the Jesus Who says to the woman about to be stoned for adultery, “I forgive you, go and sin no more.”

The big question is, (and probably the big barrier that keeps many people from pursuing God and taking on a life of faith,) why do you need a Savior if you don’t know from what you are being saved from?    In Scripture we learn not only that human beings are Totally Depraved right out of the box, but that there’s not thing one we can do to change our nature or to abide by God’s Laws.  That’s what Jesus came to be- the Perfect Sacrifice to cover for humanity’s egregious and constant sin- and that is the Gospel, the good news that in Christ God wipes our slates clean.

All we like sheep have gone astray.  We have turned every one to his own way.  And the Lord has laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all.”- Isaiah 53:6

The Bad News:  We are all Totally Depraved sinners, incapable of making ourselves right with God.

The Good News: Jesus took the punishment and paid the price for our sins.

Awesome.





Matthew 9:9-13 Mercy, Not Sacrifice (-or False Doctrine)

16 04 2013

 

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“As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.  And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples.When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’” Matthew 9:9-13 (NRSV)

Many people (me included, for about seven years,) are creeped out by the church and completely avoid Christian fellowship because of faulty theology or misinterpretation of Scripture.  Some people have been led to believe that some events in the past permanently exclude them from Christian fellowship.  Even being aware, as a Lutheran, that no one is saved by the Law- and that the Law is there to point out how impossible it is for us to follow God’s will, and to point us to knowing how we are entirely dependent upon Jesus, as the apostle Paul teaches in Romans 5:19-21 –

“For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.  But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (NRSV)

I still thought that as a person who had been divorced and remarried, that I had no place in the church, and no right to be there.  The “morality rules” were drilled into my head that deep.

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My background is extremely conservative.  Both traditions that I grew up around- old-school Catholicism and Regular Baptists- frown upon divorce, and frown upon remarriage after divorce even more.  It is true, God hates divorce:

For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel, and covering one’s garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless. Malachi 2:16 (NRSV). 

God only permitted divorce in the Mosaic Law because of the hard-heartedness of His people, as Jesus teaches: He (Jesus) said to them, “It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” Matthew 19:8 (NRSV)  There were a number of issues involved in the end of my first marriage, and I can attest that my own hard-heartedness was most certainly a contributing factor.

God hates all sin, including the laundry list of sins that are cautioned against throughout Scripture- gossiping, lying, coveting, failing to love others, maliciousness, immorality, revenge and the list goes on.  The apostle James goes so far to say that if a person obeys the Law but messes up one tiny little part of it, that person is still guilty of violating the entire law. (James 2:10)  Even so, we humans tend to categorize sin, and in my upbringing, I was taught remarriage after a divorce was one of those “unpardonable” sins that stigmatized a person forever and excluded him/her from Christian fellowship.

open sinner

Most Christian churches have been more accepting of people who have the more “socially unacceptable” scrapes and blemishes in their past, which is a positive development.  After all, we are all sinners, and we have all fallen short of the glory of God.  The people who need healing and comfort the most need to feel as if they are welcomed and invited into the church.

The only issue with “eating with tax collectors and sinners” is that being accepting of people should not imply that sin is anything other than sin.  There is a slippery slope that the apostle Paul discussed, where Christian freedom was mistaken for lawlessness and anarchy.

“(Paul writes:)It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife.  And you are arrogant! Should you not rather have mourned, so that he who has done this would have been removed from among you?” 1 Corinthians 5:1-2 (NRSV)

The difference here is between acknowledging that people are going to sin, and condoning sin.  Instead of looking the other way at our sins, Christians should examine our own hearts and ask the Holy Spirit for what we need to stand and to live a life worthy of how we are called.

Mercy

Every human being that draws breath is a sinner, and even those of us who believe, and have been baptized, and are saved by the grace of God, are saints and sinners at the same time.

“Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.”  Romans 14:4 (NRSV) 

So we are living the saint-as-sinner paradox on the more controversial issues, but it’s easy to forget that the garden variety saint-and-sinner who is very moral and prim and proper (think: Dana Carvey as the Church Lady) is just as much a law-breaker as the people that are excluded from some churches.

People will categorize one sin as being more heinous than another- and some sins are greater in magnitude as far as the damage they inflict upon the self and the greater community- but in God’s economy the kid who takes a pack of gum from the gas station is just as much a law-breaker as the spree killer.

I’m not suggesting that Christians should embrace sinful behavior, or fail to address those things that fall short of the glory of God, but that it’s good to remember, that God’s the judge and I’m not.

“You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.  For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.   For the one who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘You shall not murder.’  Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.  So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.  For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:8-13 (NRSV)

 

 





1 Peter 1:18-19 The Paradox of Judas and Jesus (Holy Week Wednesday)

27 03 2013

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“You must know (recognize) that you were redeemed (ransomed) from the useless (fruitless) way of living inherited by [your] forefathers, not with corruptible things [such as] silver and gold, but [you were purchased] with the precious blood of Christ (the Messiah) like that of a [sacrificial] lamb without blemish or spot.” 1 Peter 1:18-19 (AMP)

Interesting, the paradox of this week.  First, Jesus rides into Jerusalem seated on a donkey, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 –

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Zechariah 9:9 (NRSV)

Then just a few short days later, Judas betrays Jesus and offers him up to the high priests for the equivalent of less money than it would take to fill up a Honda Accord.

Jesus freely gave His precious blood, that has value way beyond any material currency here on this earth, to redeem us from the conditions of sin and death that humanity put in motion to begin with.

Somehow, it seems like a rather raw exchange.   Even I want to say, “Jesus, you got ripped off!”

I can’t help seeing a deep injustice here.  Jesus was sinless, yet He had to endure the torture and death on the Cross?  Crucifixion wasn’t really done in the neat and easy and clean way that medieval and Renaissance authors usually depict it.  The artwork is aesthetically pleasing, but not terribly accurate. It’s a lot more bloody and dirty and nasty than the sanitized painting above.  Mel Gibson had the gory details of Roman torture and crucifixion portrayed pretty closely in his movie The Passion of the Christ.

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Unfortunately we are more like Judas than we want to admit.  How often do I sell Jesus down the river for trivial things that have no eternal value?  How often do I overlook or miss an opportunity to be a part of His Kingdom to do something else?  How many times do I make decisions without thinking about whether or not my actions are pleasing to God?

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.” Matthew 10:32-33 (NRSV)

This statement Jesus makes is scary.  I know that I don’t acknowledge Jesus in everything I do 24/7, 365.  Sometimes my behavior and actions and the words I say betray my faith.

I don’t want Jesus to look at me come Judgment Day and say, “I don’t know you.”

The good news is that (paradoxically) Jesus forgives us when we ask Him.  He forgives the penitent sinner, no matter how badly we have screwed up.  We are not forgiven because we are such great people.  Left to our own devices we end up like Judas- selling out Jesus for the most trivial and mundane of things, and sinning over and over and over again in spite of “knowing better.” Our salvation is made possible only by the greatness, love and mercy of Christ.

Mercy

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39 (NRSV)

I thank God today that Jesus took the punishment that I deserve.  I pray that the Holy Spirit will help me live in response to His priceless gift of salvation.





Proverbs 16:25 The “Right” Way? (Holy Week Tuesday)

26 03 2013

choice

There is a way that seems right to a man, and appears straight before him, but at the end of it is the way of death.” Proverbs 16:25 (AMP)

It’s easy to malign Judas.  After all, he betrayed Jesus to the high priests for what would (roughly) be about $42.97 in today’s money.

The Author of the Universe, sold for less than fifty bucks.

It’s no wonder there are no pretty stained glass windows with “St. Judas” in them.  Nobody is naming their kids “Judas” either – it would be as bad as naming them “Pontius Pilate,” or “Hitler” or “Stalin.”  The name Judas equates to evil and treachery because of the deed he committed.

But before I’m too critical of Judas, I need to listen to what Jesus said to the Pharisees and others who were itching to stone a woman caught in adultery:

“When they kept on questioning him, (Jesus) he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.” John 8:7-8 (NRSV)

writing on the ground

Some scholars and theologians speculate that Jesus might have been writing names and deeds on the ground- calling out the would be stone-throwers to be mindful of their own sins.  Others suggest that Jesus might have been simply doodling on the ground.

If Jesus was naming names and deeds, perhaps He was saying something to the effect of, “Hey, Jack- I know what you did in Vegas,” or “Hey, Cindy, what about that money you embezzled from your employer,” or “I know every single sin you’ve committed since you first drew breath!”

If most of us were confronted with a frank and all-encompassing assessment of our sins, (known and unknown) we would be dropping the stones too.

As far as Judas goes, it’s hard to say what his motivation was in selling Jesus down the river for less than what a full tank of gasoline costs most people today.  Perhaps he feared the power of Rome, as the high priest and Pharisees did.  Maybe Judas disagreed with Jesus’ methods.  Or maybe his motive was more self-serving than that?  Perhaps he needed money to support a gambling addiction, or to satisfy a taste for fine wine.  Scripture doesn’t spell out Judas’ reasons, although it does tell us that Judas did occasionally pilfer a bit from the treasury box.

Maybe Judas thought that surrendering Jesus was the right thing to do, which is even more troubling.  Maybe it was poor judgment rather than malicious intent or a love of money that motivated Judas.

How many times have we done what we thought was the right thing at the time only to find out later that it was a dreadful mistake?  How many times have we rationalized a wrong choice, and told ourselves that the end justified the means?

The sad thing about history is that it tends to repeat itself.

hitler

Millions of people thought following Hitler- and going along with mass genocide- was the “right thing to do.”

Like Judas, and like all the people in the world remembered for their evil deeds, we make decisions that cause harm to myself and others.  The irony of this is that that those who are remembered for their evil deeds often thought that they were doing the right thing.

It is guaranteed if the only thing we do is “look out for number one” that we are going to make bad choices.  It is guaranteed that if the only thing we do is follow “common” wisdom and just do what everyone else is doing that we are going to make bad choices.

Even if we try to do the right thing, there are times when our judgment is going to prove dreadfully wrong.  There are times when following the crowd turns out to be a fatal mistake.  There is not always strength in numbers.

The only way that we can make good decisions and have good judgment is by submitting our heart and minds to God’s will.

I pray that the Holy Spirit would guide us when we have difficult decisions, and keep us on God’s path.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105 (NRSV)





Colossians 3:6-7 Lead Me Not Into Temptation

15 03 2013

divine comedy inferno

“On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.  These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.” Colossians 3:6-7 (NRSV)

Today’s question:

What moral issues that tempted you once has Christ helped you overcome?  Have you thanked Him for these victories?

I do believe in a literal hell.  Some Christians, and even many Lutherans, do not, but I do.  Jesus talked about hell more than anyone else in the Bible, so as far as I’m concerned, there’s your sign– hell is real.  The good news is that hell doesn’t have to be the end of the story.

As a child the very real possibility of eternity in hell scared the holy bejeebers out of me.  As I was raised by a very staunchly Catholic mother, I knew a lot more about hell than my non-Catholic friends.  Catholicism does not teach the assurance of salvation.  A Catholic is considered to be presumptious if he or she claims to be saved- so you’re always wondering where you’re going to end up if you drop dead all the sudden.  The issue I have with not knowing if I’m saved or not is both Jesus and the apostle Paul teach that salvation is all due to the grace of God- not on what I do or don’t do but on what Jesus has done for me.  He took my place- and my punishment.  Because of the grace of God I become a part of His Kingdom forever- today as well as for the rest of eternity.

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The big problem with overemphasizing the reality of hell is that it minimizes the reality of the grace of God.  I learned much about penance and mortal and venial sins as a child, and much about the omnipresence and the wrath of God, but not a whole lot about grace.   Fear is a great short-term motivator, but it’s not so hot in the long term.   Worse yet, attempting to hold someone’s salvation contingent upon anything other the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross is false.  We can’t “earn ourselves saved,” no matter how many good works we do.

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“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.  We all fade like a leaf,and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” Isaiah 64:6 (NRSV) 

Nothing we do is ever going to be good enough to earn ourselves saved.

busy

Busy doesn’t earn you brownie points in God’s economy.

Some would argue that, “Well since you’re saved anyway, why don’t you just do what you want?”

The problem with that is, a person who belongs to Christ is going to be transformed by Christ- one way or the other.  The easy way or the hard way.  Take it from me, cynical, stubborn and obstinate fool that I can be- the hard way is not fun.

The Bible teacher J. Vernon McGee (well known for his Thru the Bible five year verse by verse study that is still available on the radio and online every day) puts it like this: “You can take a trip to the pig pen, but you won’t be comfortable there.  A son belongs in the father’s house.”

I understand pig pen sojourns very well.

in-the-pig-pen

The good news is that God loves His own too much to let them stay in the pig pen.

I picked up some not-so-nice habits during my sojourns.  I’m not going to come out and say anything ridiculous such as, “a Christian can’t smoke,” because what a person does is between his/her conscience and God, and there is no “Thou Shalt Not Smoke” among the Ten Commandments, but I was a hard core chain smoker for many years- two packs a day of 120 menthols, down to the filters.  Smoking was something that I put above just about everything.  I planned my day and activities around when I could have a smoke.  Smoking was also contributing to some of my preexisting health conditions as well as costing me money, turning my teeth yellow and stinking up my car and my clothes.  By the grace of God He set me free of smoking over 10 years ago.  I am so very thankful for that freedom, because cigarettes were a huge bondage and source of frustration for me.  When I think about it now it’s hard to imagine that at one time I couldn’t even go to bed without having a pack and a lighter within reach if I would wake up in the night.

The Lord has also brought me to freedom from lust and has brought me peace with living celibate.  That’s been a very difficult road, because I have had deep issues with lust and the trouble it can get one into in the past.  It’s not that there is anything inherently wrong with sex.  It is a sacred and beautiful thing between husband and wife, and it is a gift God meant for us to enjoy, in the proper context.  Unfortunately, my husband has ED, and no interest in doing anything to correct it, so relations are not possible for him.  So whether I like it or not, I have to live a celibate life. The only way I have any chance of doing that is in God’s strength.

If He calls me to something, He will provide the means for me to do it- or in this case, to NOT do it.  I am thankful for being set free of an overwhelming addiction to cigarettes, and for the ability to come to terms with the celibate life and to have peace and joy in the midst of it.

I’m not “there” yet, but by the grace of God, I’m on my way.





Colossians 3:5 My Will vs. Thy Will- Get Rid of What is Not of God

14 03 2013

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“Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry).” Colossians 3:5 (NRSV)

Today’s question:

What worldly passions do you struggle with the most? What needs to happen for you to have a victory over those passions?

“Sin” isn’t a very politically correct word.  Heaven forbid that we tell ourselves that something we’re doing is bad or wrong- or only that it’s bad or wrong because it’s out of context or to excess.  Criticism might hurt our little self-esteem.  Unfortunately there are times the word “sin” is exactly the word we need to hear, and we need to take the admonition of Scripture when it comes to correcting our behavior, even when it’s not politically correct or “nice” to point out the ways in which our behavior falls short of the glory of God.

The apostle Paul didn’t exactly come up with the same Seven Deadly Sins we know today.  But as a fan of Dante’s Divine Comedy, I see the Seven Deadly Sins as being helpful in understanding human nature, and the nature of sin, and for examining my own sin.

The most comprehensive list of noteworthy sins that the Apostle Paul enumerated can be found in Galatians 5:19-21: Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness,  idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy,drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (NRSV)”    The Apostle Paul wasn’t one to either be politically correct, or to mince words.

seven deadly sins

The current Seven Deadly Sins list actually goes back to Pope Gregory I, who was working from an earlier list of sins – “Eight Evil Thoughts,” written by Evagrius Ponticus back in the 4th century.

While the specifics of fleshly lusts to avoid are different in both the Colossians and the Galatians text, and the Apostle Paul does not specifically mention pride, he does mention idolatry, which is a form of pride.

Pride is the root of all sin, and it was the heart of the original sin of the Garden.  The serpent promised Eve that she would be as God.  That desire to take the place of God, is the definition of pride, and is idolatry. At the center of the heart of human sin is one primal and fatal desire that says: “I want my will, even when it is contrary to God’s will.  I want to be in the place of God.”

I’m guilty of idolatry when I put anything I want, anyone, or anything above God.  I’m guilty of the sin of pride when I assume my way of doing things is the best way.  I’m guilty of the sin of pride when I think that somehow I am above judgment when I indulge my lusts even when I know that what I want is wrong.

beanie babies

No, I am not into Beanie Babies, but I can’t think of any logical or sane reason to have this many of them.

I may not have 1000 Beanie Babies cluttering up my shelves, but I am guilty of the sin of greed when I stock up on things I may not really need because I am afraid of running out, or that I might miss out on something “everyone else” already has.  I know full well nobody on earth needs 100+ pairs of shoes- but I have them nonetheless.  Having too much stuff is a problem for me.  It comes from growing up poor and always being worried about not having enough food or appropriate clothing or other essential needs, but what makes the acquisition and stockpiling of stuff wrong is that it demonstrates my lack of faith in God’s provision.  Jesus said He would provide for my needs and I shouldn’t be obsessed with the overwhelming need for anything.

(Jesus said:) “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:31-33 (NRSV)”

at The Sixth Annual Chrysalis Butterfly Ball. The Home of Susan Harris and Hayward Kaiser, Mandeville Canyon, CA. 06-02-07

Didya think I would show a pic of a chick when I’m talking about lust?

I am guilty of the sin of lust when I am consumed with desire for something- or someone. (No, I don’t lust after Charlie Sheen- any more!)  Lust is not as huge of a problem as it was for me at one time, and I’m very thankful for that.  As someone who is married and involuntarily celibate, lust is a huge temptation.  It is only by the grace of God that He has kept me from making unwise choices that might seem exciting and fun at the time, but that I know I would regret later.  I’ve been down that path in the past, and it leads to nothing but guilt and shame.  By the grace of God, I don’t want to go there ever again.

In all seriousness, I’m a work in progress.  I know I need to go through my stuff and get rid of those things I really don’t need.  I have issues with the acquisition of stuff and I am bound up in the tyranny of stuff.  I need to get rid of a lot of stuff. I don’t need to stock up on every single item that goes on sale even when I have the means to do so. I struggle with scarcity mentality every day and it’s difficult for me to trust God for my provision. When I’m struggling to pay for scripts and bills it’s really hard to trust that God will provide even though I know He does, and He will.