Archive for June 2015

Don’t Avoid the Conflict   4 comments

In Romans 7:14-25 Paul the apostle wrote a poignant description of a soul in conflict with himself.

For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the goodthat I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

Paul loved God’s moral law and wanted to obey it, but felt pulled away from doing so by the sin that was in him.

The scholars and many Christians are conflicted about this — Is Paul talking about a Christian (perhaps even himself) or a non-Christian? Can Christians feel such bondage to sin? Do non-Christians often express such a desire to do good? It’s a conundrum. Christians cannot be bound by sin, but non-Christians don’t desire to keep the law of God.

Paul wrote “I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin” (verse 14) and “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh; I want to do good, but I cannot do it” (verse 18). Those who believe this passage speaks of a non-Christian say that Christians know how to do what is good in God’s eyes and they see an obvious lack of the Holy Spirit’s power in this passage.

Verse 24 “Wretched man that I am!” does seem distant from the promise of Romans 5:1-2 of “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” Romans 6 has many examples of the believer’s freedom from sin’s power. How can the person who said all that turn around and say “I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin?”

Paul did a marvelous job of capturing the messiness that is grace. Chapter 6 emphasize the new creation, nature, and identify in Christ. Now redeemed, the believer has broken sin’s dominion. Chapter 7 shows the other side of the Christian life.

Honestly, every Chrisitan knows from experience that though she is a new creature in Christ, sin is still a problem. Chapter 6 even points out the conflict in verses 12-13: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts.” Because it is still possible for Christians to yield to sin, we are commanded not to.

Arguing that chapter 7 cannot refer to a Christian because of statements in Chapter 6 is to misunderstand the entire gospel as presented in the letter to the Romans.

We are saved through grace by faith, not from anything that we have or will do, so that we have no cause to boast of our accomplishments. But Jesus isn’t done with us after that. We don’t get our “fire insurance” and go on upon our merry way setting fire to the world with our sin. Faith without works is indeed death because it is a mental and verbal assent that returns no fruit.

Romans 8:7 explains that the unregenerate person (the non-Christian) is not subject to the law of God. You didn’t consent. You don’t have to comply. Christians, however, did consent and we owe God the respect of our compliance with His laws. Paul proclaimed that he joyfully concurred with the law of God in his inner man (verse 7:22), but he struggles with his desire to do right because his flesh is weak.

Ah, a carnal  Christian! the gossips among us pounce. Surely it couldn’t be a Spirit-filled missionary to the European continent! It must be someone with a low level of spirituality who is trying in his own strength to keep the law.

Poppycock!

My own experience is that the more spiritual or mature a believer is, the greater his sensitivity to his shortcomings are. An immature Christian doesn’t have such an honest self­ perception. The legalist is under the illusion that he is very spiritual. I believe Paul was describing himself, which should certainly explain the extensive use of the personal pronoun “I.”

What If Characterr Went ViralWas Paul describing his struggles before he was saved? Really? No! Paul was persecuting Christians before the bright light on the road. There’s no evidence he struggled with his conscious or with righteous living at the time. Besides, it is the mature Christian who possesses an honest self-evaluation, which Paul often exhibited (1 Corinthians 15:9-10Ephesians 3:8). Paul was very precise in his language in Romans 7. He states that he hates committing sin (v. 15), that he loves righteousness (vv. 19, 21), that he delights in the law of God from the bottom of his heart (v. 22), and that he thanks God for the deliverance that is his in Christ (v. 25). Those are the responses of a mature Christian.

The change in verb tenses is a clue that this passage applies to a Christian. The verbs in Romans 7:7-13 are in the past tense. They refer to Paul’s life before his conversion and the process of conviction he experienced when he stood face-to-face with the law of God. However in verses 14-25, where we see the battle with sin taking place, they are in the present tense.

Romans 7:14-25 is Paul’s own testimony of the struggle between living as a Spirit-controlled, mature believer who loves the holy law of God with his whole heart, but finds himself wrapped in human flesh and unable to fulfill it the way his heart desires.

This is part of a series What if Character Went Viral?

Make Your Choice Today!   Leave a comment

I wasn’t going to pursue Friday’s SCOTUS decision, but you’ve forced me to it —

Christians, why are you shocked that the secular temple has betrayed God’s law? Jesus told us that the world would hate us and reject what we believe. Don’t be shocked that it’s doing what Jesus predicted!

Did you honestly believe that you would never have to choose between the world and God? There was a time in this country when a majority of the people claimed a cultural Christianity that generally accepted Biblical principles as a good way of conducting society. Those were good times for Christians because we could be in the world and of it and not have to choose . That time is gone!

Get over it!

The world believes it has won a victory. “Love won.” Christians know the world is foolish and that sex is not love. God is still on His throne and sin is still sin. Despite what the priests of the secular temple have decided, Christians are still called to flee sexual immorality. Choose you this day whom you will serve.

 

The civil disobedience this decision is going to give rise to will be an opportunity for Christians to explain why we are willing to give up businesses, social standing, our wealth and maybe even our freedom to obey a standard the world mocks. That doesn’t mean we’re going to “win” those secular arguments. It merely means we’re going to bear testimony to how God wants us to be different from the world.

In giving that testimony, we become Paul before Caesar’s court, giving a reason for why he didn’t obey Roman law. Did you think you deserved better than what Paul received?

“If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me first.” (John 15 — Jesus)

Psalm 146:3-5 (What Does Love Have To Do With It)   Leave a comment

THE RIVER WALK

Supreme Court Ruling

Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them. But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God. (Psalm 146:3-5)

Read: 2 Kings 13:1 – 14:29, Acts 18:23 – 19:12, Psalm 146:1-10, Proverbs 18:2-3

Relate: On Friday five unelected officials overturned with finality thirty-one different state’s constitutional amendments in a highly controversial ruling that same sex marriage is a right guaranteed under the fourteenth amendment to the US Constitution. Each of the dissenting judges wrote opinions to this decision. One of them wrote:

A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.

The strikingly unrepresentative character of the body voting on today’s social upheaval…

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Posted June 28, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Dead Men Feel No Weight   17 comments

I used to have a cartoon on my wall — drawn by a talented artist friend of mine — of a man trying to hold a multi-story brick building on his back, sweat pouring from his brow, his legs trembling with the strain. The caption read:

Be careful that the weight of sin does not crush you

A bunch of my husband’s coworkers were playing Risk at the house. A non-Christian flippantly remarked that he didn’t feel the weight of sin. What did it weigh anyway?

I’m sure he thought he would get agreement from all the other guys in the group, and that Brad would blame it all on me, but our friend Tim (the best Risk player on the planet, by the way) had been invited to join (because he is the best Risk player in the world) and he said “Does a dead body feel a weight?”

Well, no, of course it doesn’t, people agreed around the table. Even if the weight is so great it turns the dead body into goo, the body doesn’t feel it because it’s — well, dead.

The person who doesn’t know Christ is equally dead. It doesn’t matter how great the weight of sin on a spiritually dead human … he can’t feel it.

Christ made Christians alive through the grace-faith relationship. In His mercy, He did not give us the wages of sin (which we deserve), but instead gave us forgiveness (which we haven’t earned). We responded in faith, believing that He could change us as He sees fit. And He did. We were transformed from spiritually dead to spiritually alive and for the first time in our existence, we became aware of our sin — our disobedience to God’s principles. Unlike the average non-Christian, Christians are not indifferent to the weight of sin — we’re hypersensitive to it. When we came to Christ, our senses were awakened to the reality of sin and our sensitivity to sin intensifies as we mature spiritually.

The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 7:14-25:

For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the goodthat I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

What a poignant description of someone in conflict with himself, who loves God’s moral law and wants to obey it, but is pulled away from doing so by the sin that is in him. This is a soul in conflict .. a human being who knew what it was like to have a desire to obey God, but to live in a world that is utterly fallen into sin.

This article is part of an ongoing series – What If Character Went Viral. Stay tuned for more discussion.

Posted June 26, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Author Spotlight: Dyane Forde   Leave a comment

Author Spotlight: Dyane Forde.

Protect UA students’ First Amendment rights: Keep guns out of classrooms – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Community Perspectives   Leave a comment

I wrote this some time ago, but I think now is an appropriate time to revisit it.

aurorawatcherak

Protect UA students’ First Amendment rights: Keep guns out of classrooms – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Community Perspectives.

This letter in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner just goes to show you that Alaskans are not immune to stupidity.

Terrance Cole is a university professor and his brother used to be editor of the News-Miner. I respect his opinion on history, but I’d challenge it if he was talking crap, so I have no problem with exercising my 1st amendment right in challenging when he’s talking crap outside of his field of expertise.

Yes, an armed society is a polite society. It’s one reason that Alaska does not have many driveby shootings, home invasions or muggings on the street. Our local criminals are constrained to selling drugs to willing idiots because the law-abiding among us are armed and the criminals know they could lose their lives messing with us.

For over a…

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Posted June 26, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

The Agony of Criticism   Leave a comment

Willow Branch Blue White Recreation CoverThere are writers and there are authors. Unlike some in the publishing field, I am not convinced that all that separates a writer from becoming an author is publishing a book. I think some unpublished writers are authors in progress while some published writers will never be authors.

It’s a painful truth, but one does not simply sit down and write a good novel. There’s research, there’s writing, there’s rewriting and editing … and more than anything else, there is critique.

How you accept critique is part of what separates writers and authors.

I’ve been scribbling stories since I was 12. I had some critique on my fiction in high school from my teachers, but for most of the decades between then and publishing my first novel I was writing fiction for my own amazement. Then I decided I really wanted to advance a book to publication and I started to submit it to friends to read.

I guess my friends love me. They all said pretty glowing things about the manuscript that would become the seedbed for Daermad Cycle. Somehow I knew that wasn’t completely honest. I went one step further and submitted it to the writers site Authonomy. Mostly I got good reviews and that felt a little bit more honest because these people didn’t know me. Some of the reviewers gave minor critique — moves a bit slowly, takes a long time to get to the point, it’s awfully long — but I wasn’t really sure what to do with that critique.

Then it happened. Somehow I attracted the attention of a notorious misanthrope on the site and he (or that iteration was a she, I think) decided to critique my book.

If you’ve never been run over by a Mac truck, I don’t recommend it.

I knew this was a mean, mean person, but her words bit deep. She (or he) really hated my book. Worse, though a truly miserable human being, this person was also a great writer.

There are three ways to handle that sort of critique:

  • throw the project in the trash bin where the critic suggested … thereby proving that you’re a writer and not an author in progress;
  • ignore the critique and keep the project as it is … also suggesting that you may not be an author in progress;
  • learn from the critique what is worth learning.

The author in progress does the third thing. After I got done being mad and sad in cycles, I resolved to come back to the critique in a while (that turned out to be three months) and mine it for what was worthwhile. Because this person had a history of being deleted from the site, I printed out the critique and put it away for later consumption. In the meantime, more nicer reviews came in that sort of agreed (in a nice way) with the mean review. I recognized that this mean critic had given me solid advice in a truly despicable manner and her critique was really not substantially different from the more soft-soap critique of the nicer reviews. He was brutally honest and that was exactly what I needed.

I went back to the book and applied the critique in a reasonable manner. I broke the manuscript into smaller more manageable portions (thereby creating a series, which is almost never a bad thing in epic fantasy). I was honest about how slow it was and I resolved to change that. I included death and mayhem much earlier than I was comfortable with. I excised the info dumps and limited the beautifully detailed descriptions I like. I added more complex characters, including some actual bad guys. And I got a better book, which got better reviews, but I also gained the confidence to pick a date to publish. You see, buried in that really mean review, was a off-hand statement that I had to mull for a long while and when I came back to it after the rewrite of the book that would become The Willow Branch, Book 1 of the Daermad Cycle, I realized that it was a very subtle compliment. Nasty guy actually thought there was a kernal of something in the book worth saving.

But if I’d done what I thought he was advising — burn the manuscript, eat dirt and die — I never would have come to that realization and either one of two things would have happened. Either The Willow Branch never would have been published or … I shudder to think this — the book entitled that would have been a mediocre book that should not have been published.

One of the major things separating writers from authors in progress is how they handle critique. All critique is useful to those who are willing to use it.

Lela Markham is the author of two published books The Willow Branch (Book 1 of Daermad Cycle), an epic fantasy, and Life As We Knew It (Book 1 of Transformation Project), an apocalyptic headed toward dystopian.

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