Archive for the ‘forgiveness’ Tag

Balancing Act   9 comments

October 22, 2018

Do you believe everyone deserves a second chance?

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Ouch, hit me where I live why don’t you?

It’s that loaded word, you see – EVERYONE.

Do I think EVERYONE deserves a second chance? Oh, my!

As a born-again Christian, I am grateful for the uncountable “second” chances God has given to me to recognize His guidance and obey His will. I haven’t always “deserved” them. So, if I received forgiveness and a second chance, doesn’t everyone deserve forgiveness and a second chance? Well, the Bible doesn’t say we “deserve” forgiveness. In fact, it’s very clear that we don’t deserve forgiveness in our own right, which is why God Himself stepped down into human history as Jesus Christ to die for our sins. God forgives us because He loves us and He doesn’t want any of us to perish, but that forgiveness is a testament to His grace, not our worth.

The Bible is filled with stories of sinners given a second chance even when, by God’s rules, they didn’t deserve it. Adam, Cain, Moses, David, Solomon, Jacob, Rahab, Gomer, Paul, Peter, Japhthah … the Bible is a book of second-chance heroes. God is a God of second chances.

Charles MansonBut step down to the human level and ask, does everyone deserve a second chance from their fellow human beings, who are, collectively, a damaged and undeserving species? I still say, “Oh, my!”

My conundrum is tied up with the very clear Biblical admonition that we are to forgive those who hurt us 70×7, which is a Hebrew term that means “uncountable”. Seriously, don’t do the math. Just accept that God wants those He has forgiven to forgive without limit.

I try to live my life accordingly — to afford others a second or third or a million chances. I forgave my parents for the rather dysfunctional way they raised me and, in doing so, discovered a wealth of quirky human drama that I now appreciate in my writing. Brad and I would have divorced decades ago if I didn’t follow God’s guidance on this … and if Brad didn’t also, because I am far from perfect and he has had to give me multiple chances too.

I forgave Nora, my mother-in-law, for telling huge lies about me that had the police on my doorstep. I treat her nicely, I take her to lunch, I am her legal guardian and she’s invited to Christmas dinner. On the other hand, I don’t allow her to live with us again because I don’t want to go through another mess like that one. To be fair, I could probably be talked around, but my husband is adamant that his mother will never live with us so long as she is capable of dialing a telephone. Giving someone a second chance doesn’t mean you don’t set boundaries to avoid a recurrence of bad behavior.

I think society is incredibly judgmental and abusive to people in that we maintain open public records that forever mark a person as “less than.” We have a friend who was convicted of manslaughter 20+ years ago and we believe he deserves a second chance. It hurts us to see when people continue to “hold him accountable” for something he can’t change, after he’s done his prison time and parole, paid reparations to the family, built a business, and raised two wonderful children with his wife. It’s as if everything that he has changed is worthless. At what point has he earned a second chance? Well, there are those in society who would say he never can earn a second chance, and they’d say that if his crime had been selling a baggie of weed instead of getting drunk and driving.

He’s just one example among millions in a country with the highest incarceration rate in the world and it is not to our national credit that we do this. People should be allowed a second chance after they’ve paid their debt to society. We have created a permanent underclass through our judgementalism.

This is why I am generally opposed to the death penalty. I think most people deserve a second chance just because I think all humans are depraved and, there but for the grace of God, it could be you or I condemned.

On the other hand, there are some people — a relatively few somebodies — who I don’t think deserve a second chance because the risk of allowing them to go free is too high for others. Serial killers, mass shooters, some pedophiles, paranoid schizophrenics with a history of going off their medication and being violent toward others during those un-medicated periods … they are my stumbling blocks. In theory, I think they “deserve” a second chance as much as anyone, except that the risk of the harm these people can do to others is simply not worth our forbearance, so in practice, I don’t believe they deserve a second chance.

So, everybody deserves a second chance, except ….

Oh, for the eyes of God, so that I might know the future outcome of giving everyone a second chance.

 

 

Stop Being Victims   Leave a comment

There are a lot of amazing jobs out there. I can imagine being a reporter for a media outlet that was well-respected for providing fair, full and truthful reporting. Brad’s dream job is to be able to invent stuff all day and just give it away to people who need it. Ah, if we only didn’t have to eat ….

Paul had an amazing job. He was an ambassador for Christ. As such, he saw himself  as Jesus’ coworker. They were partners. Jesus had given Paul (and all Christians) the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18).

Now because we are fellow workerswe also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “I heard you at the acceptable time, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” Looknow is the acceptable time; looknow is the day of salvation! 2 Corinthians 6:1-2

Image result for image christian reconciliationIt’s not like God needed Paul’s help. He’s God. He doesn’t need our help either. But God wants us to work with Him because it’s good for us. Brad was often torn between letting the kids help him with home construction projects or asking them to go away so he could get the work done quickly. Our daughter loved to “help” in the kitchen, but her help frequently meant wasted food and dinner being slow to get on the table. But we both put up with this because we wanted to work with our kids so that they would learn how to do things for themselves. In a similar way, God allowed Paul and continues to allow us to work with Him so that we might benefit from the interaction. If you go back into Genesis 1, you realize that God’s plan for our lives never involved ease and indulgent inactivity. We were meant to be workers with God and now pet potatoes.

What does it mean to “receive the grace of God in vain”? It means to receive the goodness and favor of God, yet to hinder the work of grace in your life (1 Corinthians 15:10). Paul explained that even if he hadn’t worked as hard as he had, the grace of God would still have been given to him, but in some measure, it would have been given in vain. Grace is, by definition, given freely, but how we receive grace will help to determine how effective it will be in our lives. It’s not given because of any works (past, present or promised) and yet it encourages work. We are not meant to receive grace and grow passive. Paul knew that God gives His grace so that we might work hard and His work might be done.

Verse 2 is a little confusing. We had to turn to Bible commentaries to understand it. It’s a quotation from Isaiah 49:8 and it was meant to give the Corinthian Christians a sense of urgency. God has an acceptable time for us to work with His grace. The day of salvation will not last forever. Sitting down on the job and taking your ease is not in His plan.

We do not give anyone an occasion for taking an offense in anything, so that no fault may be found with our ministry. 2 Corinthians 6:3

Paul was willing to do almost anything to make sure he gave no offense in anything. He was willing to forego payment as a minister of the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:3-15). He was willing to allow others to be more prominent. He was willing to work hard and endure hardship. He wasn’t afraid to offend anyone over the gospel of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:18-25), but he would not allow his style of ministry to offend anyone.

That didn’t prevent people from blaming and discrediting Paul’s ministry among the Corinthian church. What Paul meant was that his ministry could not be rightly blamed. Paul had no control over false accusations, except to live in such a way that fair-minded people would see accusations as false.

But as God’s servantswe have commended ourselves in every way, with great endurancein persecutions, in difficultiesin distresses, in beatingsin imprisonmentsin riotsin troublesin sleepless nights, in hunger, by purity, by knowledge, by patience, by benevolenceby the Holy Spirit, by genuine love, by truthful teaching, by the power of Godwith weapons of righteousness both for the right hand and for the left, through  glory and dishonorthrough slander and praise; regarded as  impostorsand yet true; as unknownand yet well-knownas dying and yet – see! – we continue to live; as those who are scourged and yet not executed; as sorrowful, but always rejoicing, as  poorbut making many richas having nothingand yet possessing everything.

2 Corinthians 6:4-10

Image result for image christian reconciliationPaul had an impressive resume, things with which he could commend himself. He’d been patient beyond ordinary example. The word in the New Testament “hupomone” carries a connotation of endurance rather than simply waiting. Patience is often perceived as a passive thing – just waiting around for stuff to happen. That’s not how Paul was using the word. He was writing about an active endurance, of bearing hardships in such a triumphant way that it transforms the enduring one.

Why did Paul need endurance? He was often stressed and under pressure, assailed by tribulations, needy and distressed. He’d been flogged, imprisoned, and assaulted by angry mobs. He’d worked hard, slept little and fasted a bunch. Paul had willingly chosen to be a coworker of Jesus, uncomplaining and enduring.

He was not without resources to bulwark against the troubles that came his way. God was with him, supporting him on all sides. The world might lie about him, but God gave him an excellent review.

We have spoken freely to you, Corinthiansour heart has been opened wide to youOur affection for you is not restricted, but you are restricted in your affections for us. Now as a fair exchange – I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts to us also. 2 Corinthians 6:11-13

Paul had spent enough time laying down the principles before making a pointed appeal to the Corinthian Christians. He spoke truth in love. The Corinthians were playing “the victim”. Out of godly necessity, he had been firm with them on prior occasions. Now they were claiming they were restricted by Paul’s judgement. I can just imagine what they were saying — “Well, Paul, we’d love to reconcile with you, but we just can’t get over the hurt of what you said before.”

The real problem was that the Corinthian Christians were affecting a victim attitude. It wasn’t that Paul didn’t love them enough, but they loved themselves and the world too much and resented Paul calling them on their selfish attitudes. Paul wanted to see the same honest self-evaluation from them that he had just displayed to them. That was what was needed to bring about reconciliation.

Biding His Time for Good   Leave a comment

Paul’s trip to Corinth had been delayed by sickness and storm, but Paul also believed it had been delayed by the Holy Spirit for the good of the Corinthian Christians.

Now I appeal to God as my witnessthat to spare you I did not come again to Corinth. 2 Corinthians 1:23

The delay had given Paul time to think, but more importantly, it had given the Corinthian Christians time to contemplate what Paul had written in his earlier letter and repent of their own volition.

I do not mean that we rule over your faithbut we are workers with you for your joybecause by faith you stand firm. So I made up my own mind not to pay you another painful visit. For if I make you sadwho would be left to make me  glad but the one I caused to be sad? And I wrote this very thing to you, so that when I came I would not have sadness from those who ought to make me   rejoicesince I am confident in you all that my joy would be yours. For out of great distress and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tearsnot to make you sadbut to let you know the love that I have especially for you. 2 Corinthians 1:24 – 2:4 

Image result for image of hair pin curvesThe Bible wasn’t originally written in chapters and verses. 2 Corinthians was a long-form letter. Why some monk at some time decided to put a chapter break where he did is unnknown, but it makes no sense. I’m focused on topics, so I’ve chosen to ignore the chapter break.

We all know the modern expression “being there for me.” The idea is, if another person really loves us, they will “be there for us” at our time of need. Love is therefore measured in terms of one’s presence. Absence is seen as a failure of love, caring and compassion. Paul challenged this mindset. He felt that love can best be expressed, at times, by being absent. This may not feel right to us, and it certainly isn’t always the case, but in Paul’s situation with the Corinthian church, his absence at their time of need was meant as a benefit to them.

Paul wasn’t a stranger to Corinth. He’d already been there twice. After his initial visit to Corinth, Paul felt compelled to make a hasty second visit. We know this because Paul wrote briefly of this “painful visit” and of his future visit as coming for the “third time” (2 Corinthians 2:1; 12:14; 13:1). Some ugly and painful things seem to have happened during that second visit. Paul had to deal severely with some of the saints. It seems a particular individual must have made some kind of personal attack on Paul, which brought a strong response from the church (2 Corinthians 2:1-11). Associated with this “painful visit” was a “painful letter,” which caused Paul, as well as the Corinthians, great sorrow (2:4). Now, in spite of Paul’s stated intentions to come for a more pleasant visit, he had not yet done so.

Paul wasn’t “there for them” at the time of their perceived need for him. This must mean, some were saying, that Paul really didn’t care about them. Others were “there for the Corinthians” in their time of need. These “false apostles” who were causing trouble for both Paul and the Corinthians (see 2 Corinthians 11). Paul asserted his absence was a purposeful decision motivated by his love.

Paul was very serious about this, so serious that he called God as his witness that his delay in coming to Corinth was for their benefit, to “spare them”,

If you’ve never had an overbearing pastor who thought he could dictate your life, you’ve been most blessed. Paul was not that sort of spiritual leader. He didn’t wish to “lord it over” their faith. He had confidence they would stand firm. Because of his confidence in God’s ability to keep them and bring about their growth and maturity, Paul didn’t feel the need to come, as though the church would get straightened out only by his being present. He had done his part by coming to them and by writing to them concerning needed corrections. They needed time to implement these corrective measures. Not enough time had passed for the Corinthians to fully demonstrate their commitment to obey Paul’s instructions. To come too soon would be painful for both Paul and the Corinthians. He would be obliged to point out what they had not yet done, and they would feel pressured to do them by his presence. A delay gave the Corinthians time to do the right thing and meant Paul’s next visit would be one of great joy.  Paul delayed to allow the Corinthians time to complete their obedience.

Do you have kids? Ever been away on a trip and leave an older teenager in charge? Ever get a phone call from a neighbor who dropped by and found the house in shambles or reported a wild party the night before? Would you cut short a trip and dash home to clean up or would you call your kid and instruct them to clean up before you got there so you didn’t have to yell at them? I would choose the second option mainly because it’s a long trip back from anywhere to Alaska, but also because I’d rather say “Thank you for cleaning up” rather than “This place is a mess. Why should I ever trust you again?” Which do you think the kids would learn more from?  I would opt for a warm welcome and a happy reunion in a meticulously clean house over a confrontation.

Paul was doing the same thing by delaying his visit to Corinth. Paul’s absence is out of love for these saints, knowing it is for their best interest and his. Sometimes love is better demonstrated by keeping our distance from those we love than by being with them. I know that’s hard to accept for some people, but helicopter parenting has proven that over-involvement in your children’s lives is not a healthy thing. Neither is pastoral over-involvement in the lives of church members a good thing. Christianity is not a second-hand faith. We all must learn from the Holy Spirit’s ministry within our own hearts. And sometimes that means our mentors must take a step backward in order for us to grow on our own.

Paul visited many places and founded many churches, but the longest he ever stayed in one place was three years. He sent Titus, Timothy, and others out on their own, rather than keeping them at his side. Paul left churches to struggle and to survive without his presence, not because of his lack of love for them, but because he wanted them to learn to depend upon God’s Word and Spirit. This was accomplished by his absence, as well as by his presence (Acts 20:32; 1 Corinthians 16:15-18; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3). Plus we shouldn’t overlook that it is because of Paul’s physical absence that we have the inspired epistles he wrote to the churches.

There are times when we must demonstrate our love for others by our absence, even though this causes pain to us and to those we are not with. We must sometimes let others fail rather than rush in to rescue them. At times, we must step back and allow others to face the consequences of their folly rather than seek to cushion the blows they have brought upon themselves. This is true of our children, and it is true for others. Sometimes we must physically separate ourselves from others because of their sin — as both Jesus and Paul instructed as to church discipline (Matthew 18:15-201 Corinthians 5:1-13). Our society teaches us “unconditional acceptance,” which implies that we never draw back from those we love, even when they are doing things that are unacceptable. Our society does not know the Scriptures and doesn’t wish to obey them. Loving at a distance is painful, which is why most of us are unwilling to do it, but it is something we must do for the good of those we love as well as for our own good. Jesus is not physically present with us at this moment, but it isn’t because He has ceased to love us. He is not with us because that is better for us (John 16:7f.).

But if anyone has caused sadnesshe has not saddened me alonebut to some extent (not to exaggerate) he has saddened all of you as wellThis punishment on such an individual by the majority is enough for him, so that now instead you  should rather forgive and comfort him. This will keep him from being overwhelmed by excessive grief to the point of despair. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. For this reason also I wrote you:  to test you to see if you are obedient in everything. If you forgive anyone for anything, I also forgive him – for indeed what I have forgiven (if I have forgiven anything) I did so for you in the presence of Christ, so that we may not be exploited by Satan (for we are not ignorant of his schemes). Now when I arrived in Troas to proclaim the gospel of Christeven though the Lord had opened a door of opportunity for meI had no  relief in my spiritbecause I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said goodbye to them and set out for Macedonia.  2 Corinhians 2:5-13

Some take Paul’s words in verses 5-11 to refer to the man who was “living with his father’s wife” from 1 Corinthians 5. I am inclined to believe that theory. It resonates with me. Is that the Holy Spirit or just a personal preference? I don’t know. The Bible study guide I’m using for this study doesn’t hold to that theory. The writer has reasons:

  1. Paul doesn’t specifically identify this person with the person mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5
  2. Paul’s reference seems deliberately vague; he seems to be purposefully avoiding naming names
  3. Nothing is really gained or lost by knowing exactly who Paul was referring to. The Corinthians knew who it was and what they should do.
  4. Paul spoke of the disciplinary measure to be taken against the man in 1 Corinthians 5 as though the outcome would be physical death. The writer thinks the Corinthians may already have attended that man’s funeral.
  5. It appears the person referred to committed some offense against Paul and the Corinthian church had taken up for Paul by censuring the person from their fellowship.

These are all valid reasons for believing these are two different individuals, although I really only feel resonance from #5. The others I think might be the study writer’s own reluctance to forgive sexual immorality after it has been repented. That’s just a personal observation. I’m not sure that it matters. Paul outlines how we should deal with those who repent of sin, regardless of which sins we’re talking about.

I’m going to suggest that Paul might have been practicing what he preached – not discussing the details of this man’s sin now that he had repented. We’re not supposed to bring up the repented sins … ever again. Discussing it in an open letter to the church sort of negates that principle.

Whatever the case here, it seems that during Paul’s second hasty and painful visit, he took an aggressive course of action which caused both him and the Corinthians great sorrow. Paul discussed it further later in this letter. We can surmise that some time during that visit, an individual reacted in an unseemly manner toward Paul and his apostolic authority. The church rushed to Paul’s defense and censured this man by excluding him from their fellowship. Regardless of what sin is being discussed here, the church exercised discipline on this man who had, at the time of the writing of this letter, repented, but the church had not yet forgiven him and received him back into their fellowship. Paul urged them to do so before he arrived to visit them again.

So, I still think it was the sexual sinner being discussed, but let’s ignore that and just look at what we know. Someone sinned against Paul. Maybe he said horrible things about Paul as the apostle was encouraging the church to discipline him for sleeping with his step-mother. The church took disciplinary action against that person at that point. They might have been reluctant before that, but perhaps his own words and actions condemned him, so they disfellowshipped him.

The man repented (presumably after Paul left town), but the church had not forgiven him and received him back into fellowship. Paul’desired to forgive this man and be reconciled to him, but Paul didn’t speak for the Corinthian church. The people comprising the church must first acknowledge the man’s repentance and reverse their disciplinary action. If Paul were to return before the church restored this man, Paul wouldn’t be free to fellowship with him because Paul would be bound by the church’s disciplinary actions against the man. When the church restored the man, Paul could be reconciled and find joy and comfort in his reunion with him.

The church’s failure to reinstate this man hindered Paul’s return, as it hindered the unity of the church,. It made the saints vulnerable to Satan’s attacks (2:11). Further, it placed an excessive burden of sorrow on this man, which is no longer necessary because of his repentance (see 2:6-7). Satan, the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10), loves nothing more than to accuse, especially when he can do so through others, like the church.

Sometimes we do things which seem to be spiritual, but which in reality are counter-productive. The church disciplined this man to protect the purity of the church. Good for them. Then, they went too far by refusing to receive him back into fellowship. Not so good for them. They were actually endangering the church and this man. Going too far with a good thing can be bad. We see this also in 1 Corinthians 7, where Paul spoke to a husband and wife who decided to refrain from sexual relations. This may be beneficial for a short time, Paul told us, such as when a couple sexually “fasts” in order to devote themselves to prayer (see 1 Corinthians 7:1-5), but sexual abstinence should not be maintained for too long a period of time, lest “Satan tempt them for their lack of self-control” (verse 5).

Church discipline is necessary for so long a time as the sinning saint persists in rebellion against God, but once repentance has taken place, restoration should quickly follow. Failing to exercise discipline is dangerous to the whole church (1 Corinthians 5:6).  Failure to remove discipline upon repentence is also dangerous to the whole church (2 Corinthians 2:5-11).

Despite Paul’s physical absence from the Corinthians, he was deeply aware of the presence of God in his life and ministry. He practiced the presence of God.

10 But whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:10, emphasis mine).

Paul was absent from the Corinthians, but he was never absent from God. Paul sought to practice the presence of God by living in a conscious state of awareness of God’s presence.

The two letters of 1 and 2 Corinthinans serve to remind us that sin is dynamic rather than static. After Satan tempted our Lord without success, Luke’s Gospel tells us that after “the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13). Satan never gives up, and his temptations come in all sizes, shapes, and forms. We really should thank the Corinthians for their bumbling in dealing with sin because they gave Paul an opportunity to teach the whole history of the Christian church something we seem to forget every generation or two. As object lessons, the Corinthian saints are impressive poster-children.

In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul reminded these saints that he had previously written to them, instructing them not to associate with immoral people (5:9). The Corinthians misunderstood (or at least misapplied) this instruction. They sought to separate themselves from the unbelieving world, while they continued to embrace professing Christians who lived in ways even pagans would not accept. Paul instructed them to separate themselves from the man living with his father’s wife and to maintain some contact with the unsaved world, to whom they had the obligation to be witnesses.

Now in 2 Corinthians, we find the church had over-corrected their error. While they once failed to exercise church discipline where it was desperately needed, they were now reluctant to remove church discipline, when it was no longer necessary.

Living the Christian life is like walking along a path. You can stumble off on either side. Many times when we wander off the path in one direction, we over-correct so that we then depart from the path in the opposite direction. Let us beware of thinking that once we have dealt with a particular problem, we will no longer struggle with it again. The same problem may recur and, in our zeal to avoid falling into the same sin, we may venture to the opposite extreme.

We have our ups and our downs, our peaks and our troughs. We will struggle with sin as long as we live, just as the Corinthians did over the course of Paul’s ministry to them. Christian maturity and spirituality are not the cessation of sin, but the gradual reduction of the extremes to which we wander. The ideal in this case would be to walk a straight line. We won’t accomplish that in this life, but we can strive to avoid the hair-pin curves!

As Paul’s correspondence with the Corinthians continues, we see the dynamic nature of the spiritual life and the struggle with sin. We see some of the problems, still in embryonic form in 1 Corinthians, coming to full term and birthing before our eyes. We see other problems dealt with in such a way that new dangers arise. The struggle is life-long, and thus we suffer and groan, along with all creation, until sin is finally removed once for all.

Advice Well Received   2 comments

What Advice Has Stuck With You For A Long Time? And Who Gave You That Advice?
Did someone give you some great advice at a certain time in your life? Think back to that time and write down the advice as you remember it.

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So last week, I alluded to a period in my marriage that was not easy. I didn’t go into detail because I wanted to use it for this week’s blog hop article.

Image result for image of christian adviceBrad doesn’t make a secret that he’s a recovering alcoholic. We have a rule where we try not to bring up things from decades ago to shove in each other’s faces today, but I have to sort of do that to make this blog post make sense. I’m doing this with his permission.

Relapse happens with alcoholics, but recovery is not guaranteed. About 22 years ago, Brad went off the rails and I decided that for the sake of our daughter and myself, but also for Brad’s sake, he couldn’t be with us for a while. This coincided with the younger adults of our church choosing to dis-fellowship Brad until he straightened up. As a friend of ours put it, “If you show up at our door asking me to drive you to an AA meeting, I’m all in, but if it’s for anything else … don’t bother.” That might sound cruel, but Brad now credits those people as some of his best friends.

My choice to make an ultimatum (get help or lose us) came from advice I received at Alanon, but how I did it was entirely based on advice from my friend Theresa.

Theresa had been a missionary’s wife who discovered that her husband was sexually abusing their sons. By the time of my crisis, she’d been divorced from her husband for 25 years. She’d never remarried, which I had always assumed was because she had so many kids, but when my decision became public knowledge in the church, she came to me to give me some time-honored advice from a modern perspective.

I HATED that we were moving toward divorce (and at that time, it didn’t look like there would be another outcome). I knew that divorce outside of the exemption for desertion of a Christian spouse by a non-Christian spouse or adultery was not Biblically allowed. It bothered me that I was deliberately sinning. But Theresa explained things to me in a different way.

 7:10 To the married I give this command – not Ibut the Lord 8  – a wife should not divorce a husband 7:11 (but if she does, let her remain unmarriedor be reconciled to her husband), and a husband should not divorce his wife.  1 Corinthians 7:10-11

Take a really good look at that clause in verse 11. Theresa chose to remove herself and her children from a damaging situation. She divorced her creeper husband. More power to her. We should never seek divorce lightly. “Irreconcilable differences” is a trivial excuse to end a covenant relationship sealed before God, but some marriages are not salvageable for deeper reasons than he leaves the toilet seat up or he watches football all weekend. There are husbands who beat their wives (and women who abuse their husbands). There are spouses who gamble away every dime and others who drink it away. Alcohol shuts down important centers of the brain having to do with reliability, self-control and judgment. Brad was doing things that needed to stop and he just couldn’t see that through the amber haze he was shrouding his mind in. I needed to keep a roof over our daughter’s head and I couldn’t afford his habits any longer. I provided him with a way back to us before I closed the door on him. But it looked like he wasn’t going to take that lifeline and I felt guilty that I was disobeying God by divorcing my husband.

Image result for image of christian adviceAnd then Theresa showed me this one little clause and my perspective changed.

“If you leave (for a good reason), remain unmarried or be reconciled.”

When Theresa left her husband, she did so to protect her children. He remarried (and there’s tales to tell about that one), but Theresa never did. She understood that she was still bound by the covenant they had both made before God. She was certain that (we’ll call him) John was a Christian, so his remarriage didn’t absolve her of her covenantal responsibility. She remained unmarried as an act of honoring God’s standards.

God blessed her by the way. Jobs fell out of the sky for this woman and her younger children, who had escaped their father’s predations by her choices, turned out to be wonderfully committed Christians who married wonderfully committed Christians. Some of her older children worked through their issues and are adults to be proud of. She was a respected elder in our church and among Christians throughout the state. And, she was happy, surrounded by grandchildren, financially secure, knowing she had obeyed her God to the very best of her ability.

Of course, I was at the other end of that decision. Divorcing without committing a sin wasn’t my only object in view. I had made that choice in hopes of driving Brad to a healthy choice. Would I still be there if he made it? How long was I willing to wait?

If I was going to remain “unmarried”, I could wait until God gave me other instructions. I could still have friends and a life. I didn’t have to grieve or fret about being alone because my relationship with Jesus would fill the voids. I could accept God’s will for my life and live that life.

I didn’t have to adjust to long-term singleness. Brad entered sobriety several months later, although he chose for us to remain physically separated for several more months because he didn’t want to put our daughter through a roller coaster ride while he got his head screwed on straight again. It also gave us time to enact the other part of Theresa’s advice.

Forgiveness doesn’t always mean reconciliation. It sucks when someone hurts you. It sucks more when you hold a grudge. It sucks for you more than it sucks for the person you’re angry at. Theresa never reconciled with John … more power to her … but she forgave him. She prayed for him. She wished him well. In the 1970s, there were no laws against what he’d done to their sons, but she did what she could to protect people from him. She managed to prevent at least one woman from marrying him by telling her about his past. Then he moved out of state and back in those days, it was impossible to intervene long distance. When she heard he remarried, she prayed for that woman and the children she was bringing into that marriage. She prayed every day for them, I suspect until her death just a few years ago. She never forgot, but she did forgive. She wasn’t bitter. Her daughters are friends of mine and they say that she taught them a great deal about what it takes to sustain a marriage that doesn’t have a sexual predator as a partner.

When Brad and I were working out how to reconcile, we discussed that forgiveness thing a lot. It’s not something either one of us grew up seeing modeled. His parents have been married five times between them. My mother would bring up decades-old hurts whenever she was mad. When two people get married, they have to deal with each other’s baggage. We rely on an old Amish tradition. When a person repents of sin in the Amish community, they have to do it in front of the whole community, but once they do it, there is a prohibition from ever bringing it up again. The Amish will actually discipline the person who breaks that rule. Brad and I try to practice that at all times … which still means occasionally having to bite our tongues. Every now and then one of us will say “You’re not being very Amish”, which serves to remind us that the past is dead and we need to leave it buried. That’s usually enough to make us laugh and knock it off.

Not only do we do this for those unfortunate months way back when, but we try to practice it as an ongoing discipline.

To boil Theresa’s advice down:

  • Remember, you two Christians made an unbreakable contract with God for your marriage. You can walk away legally, but God won’t. (This applies only to Christians married to Christians, btw.)
  • You can divorce, if you have a good reason, and provided you’re prepared to reconcile or remain single.
  • Regardless of the outcome, forgive. Don’t leave that anger hanging in your past so that it ruins your future. Forgiveness is not necessarily for the person who did wrong. It’s for you, so you don’t have to live with all that pain.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t always mean reconciliation. Because God created us to have free will, there are times when He can’t fix something that really needs fixing. Trust that He’ll be with you even when things don’t turn out the way that you want, and … because He’s there with you … you can be happy even when other people think you shouldn’t be.

Run!!!   Leave a comment

We live in a sex-obsessed society. If people aren’t thinking about having sex, they’re thinking about how to be attractive enough to attract people who want to have sex with them. Our movies are filled with beautiful, sexy people. Magazine ads sell everything from cars to deodorant based on sexual attraction.

It’s not a new problem. The society in Corinth in the 1st century was also sexually obsessed. Paul’s admonition in the coming passage was not the standard response for the era. In fact, he was quite out of step with the times.

All things are lawful for me — but not everything is beneficial. “All things are lawful for me– but I will not be controlled by anything. Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food” — but God will do away with both. The body is not for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. Now God indeed raised the Lord and he will raise us by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that anyone who is united with a prostitute is one body with her? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”  But the one united with the Lord is one spirit with him. Flee sexual immorality! “Every sin a person commits is outside of the body” – but the immoral person sins against his own bodyOr do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in youwhom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.  1 Corinthians 6:12-20

The items in quotation marks were popular slogans of Paul’s day, used by the Corinthians to justify their behavior. Paul agrees wit the slogans in part, but corrects them to show how the Corinthians have misused these ideas.

Drawing from my lessons on economics, I’ve learned that short-term pleasure can lead to long-term disaster. This is especially true in the area of sexual immorality. For a few minutes of pleasure, countless men and women will throw their lives away — lose fellowship with God, end up divorced, diseased, or pregnant, and face estrangement from family and friends. There can be psychological and financial losses, damage to your reputation and many other consequences. Most of us assume we’ll be the exception. We won’t get caught. Nobody needs to know. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Rather than tell the Corinthians what bad things might happen, Paul used another approach. He suggested the Corinthians honor God by recognizing their bodies are God’s temple.

Image result for image of fleeing sexual immoralityThere is such a thing as freedom in Christ. I don’t get flung into the fires of hell because I screwed up. Those slogans came from somewhere, most probably from an expression of freedom, but our freedom in Christ is meant for our good and God’s glory. When we step beyond those boundaries, we end up out in a swamp with only a hard way back.

Yes, all things are lawful for the Christian. God’s world is meant to be enjoyed. Everything God created is good, including sex. That’s very, very good! But not everything we can do is good for us. Sex outside of marriage is unprofitable and can lead to being mastered. Christians are to refuse to be mastered by their bodies. Enjoy the world, but don’t press your freedom so far that you do damage to yourself. Immorality breaks marriages and shatters homes. We are free to do it, but sin still has serious consequences. Will what I want to do help my relationship with God or hurt it? Will it damage someone else? Will it affect the church’s testimony?

Freedom does not mean the absence of constraints or moral absolutes. I live in Alaska where I am free to walk out into the woods whenever I wish, but if I do it without bear protection, I stand a good chance of ending up a bear’s dinner. I am constrained by my need of self-protection to carry a gun so that I can enjoy the beauty of nature. God’s moral laws act the same way: they restrain, but they are absolutely necessary to enjoy the exhilaration of real freedom.

Paul argued that sexual immorality is an offense against God the Father (v 13-14), Jesus Christ (v 15-1) and the Holy Spirit (v 18-20).

“Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them.” This sentence isn’t about food, but about sexual immorality. Paul emphasized the subject to show how God values the human body. Both the stomach and the food are temporal. Later, in Chapter 15, we’ll learn that God will raise our bodies from the dead. Our bodies are precious to Him. Why?

This passage sees the return of Paul’s “do you not know” questions. Paul also used the word “members” several times. And this gets to why our bodies are precious to God and why what we do with our bodies matters to Him a great deal.

The moment we believed in Jesus Christ we were grafted into His body. We are now members of Christ. So, just like we wouldn’t want to stick our physical hand in a food processor, God doesn’t want us to misuse parts of His body. It was therefore unthinkable to Paul that Christians would ever be sexually immoral, because what we do to our bodies we also do to God.

Now, I’ve heard it argued that Paul was preaching against prostitution because of the lack of love and commitment. He’d be okay with the sexual relationship between two people who love one another. Yeah, there’s a moral distinction between sleeping with a prostitute and a passionate interlude with a steady date.

Sin remains sin.

Armed robbery is a much more violent form of theft than shoplifting, but that doesn’t mean shoplifting is okay. Corinth had a big prostitute trade, so Paul addressed it, but the Greek word used for “immorality (porneia) deals with all kinds of sexual immorality. And, Paul had just listed some of them a few sentences before.

The word “joins” or “unites” (NIV) is used in each of these verses. The Greek word was used for gluing. An immoral man glues himself to an immoral woman. A believer, on the other hand, should glue himself to the Lord. Why do you think the word “glue” is used of sexual relationships? After all, aren’t many sex acts purely physical, without any real personal involvement? No. Paul says it is impossible to have a physical-only sexual relationship. There is no such thing as casual sex, inconsequential sex, or recreational sex. I’ve met psychologists who will admit that the sexual act is such an intimate act that it involves and affects the whole person. Paul quoted from the Old Testament to prove his point. In Genesis 2:24, God says of the sexual act, “the two will become one flesh or one personality.” We error when we dismiss sex as inconsequential. If you’re a Christian, your body is God’s body. When you have a sexual relationship with someone who is not your spouse, you glue yourself to another instead of God.

The last three verses provide tremendous encouragement about the resources God has given us to live a sexually pure life. It starts with the powerful admonition to “Flee sexual immorality!” It is a present imperative and should be translated, “Keep on fleeing” or “Make it your habit to flee!” The Bible’s advice for avoiding sexual immorality is simple: stay as far away as possible from the persons and places and things likely to get you in trouble. Real men and women run! They don’t stick in and fight.

In 6:18, Paul put sexual sin in a category all its own. All the sins in the world are put in one column and sexual sin is put in another. All sins are outside the body except sexual infidelity, which alone is a sin against one’s own body. There is no gradation of sin. Sin is just sin, but sexual sin is unique in its character. Like a malignant cancer to the body, immorality internally destroys the soul like no other sin. This is why we must flee from it. If we allow ourselves to succumb to immorality, we will be guilty of destroying our own body and the bodies of other partners, but more — we damage the temple of God.

Paul finished the passage with the crux of his argument. “Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God?”

In 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, the local church is called the “temple.” Here, the same Greek word (naos) is used of the individual Christian. The term used in both passages for “temple” is not the word for a pagan temple, or even for the Jewish temple structure and grounds. It refers to the Holy of Holies, the most sacred place for the people of God in the Old Testament. Paul was saying that God Himself is resident within us. Your body is His mailing address. He dwells in YOU!

The New Testament never calls a church building a Holy of Holies, but it designates the believer’s body as such. Does that change your perspective on the subject, Christian? Few of us would consider committing an act of sexual immorality in a church chapel, but some of us frequently commit sexual immorality with God’s temple.

The good news is that we have the Holy Spirit. He lives inside of us, ready to help us in our battle against sin. One of the words for Holy Spirit in the New Testament is parakaleo, which means “counselor” or “helper.” We have been given a divine resource in the battle against the flesh which includes sexual sin. We don’t have to be in bondage, because we have the power of the Spirit of God within us to supernaturally help us resist temptation. It is possible to live a life of sexual purity, especially as we rely on the Holy Spirit Who gives us strength to abstain from our fleshly lusts.

Finally, we have been bought with a price. We know longer belong to ourselves. In a sense we never did. Paul’s image does not picture a slave being sold to a god and then set free, but being transferred by sale from one owner to another. Formerly, we were slaves of sin, now we are slaves to God (Romans 6:16-23; 7:6).Your body belongs to God, Christian. So we have no right to pervert or misuse our bodies sexually, because they don’t belong to us to do with what we will. We’re not the masters of our bodies. Verse 20 teaches that we have been purchased by God at the cost of the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross for us. That blood has cleansed us from sin. In light of this great purchase price, Paul commanded us to glorify God through sexual purity, out of gratitude for what Jesus did. This means to show God off, to make Him look good.

We have the privilege of living lives that honor God physically, emotionally, and relationally. Being sexually pure affects our relationships with each other, but ultimately it’s about our relationship with God. He is the only one to whom we owe adoration and ultimate obedience. This is an amazing reality—God can be glorified in the choices we make in expressing our sexuality. The Lord is honored when we resist sexual temptation. God is glorified when we express our sexuality through the marriage relationship.

Yeah, we live in a sexually saturated society in the 21st century. It’s not unlike 1st century Corinth. Paul didn’t lower the bar for them and God has not lowered the bar for us.

So what if you’ve already blown it? I’m not surprised. We live in a sexually saturated society. A message like this can make you feel guilty that you’ve already violated God’s word, which is no doubt why people try to reject teaching like this. The Bible is filled with people who made mistakes and wandered in the wilderness for a while before coming back to God. Confess your sin and God is willing and able to forgive it. You must confess to God because sin against God is so much greater than the sin against anyone else that the other victims pale into insignificance. The question of confession to others besides God is a difficult one. From a 12-Step perspective, it’s always good to confess your wrongs and offer to make amends. Just remember, there is temptation in that direction, so you might want to make your apology in writing.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Choose this day who you will follow and get on with it. Sexual sin is cumulative in its damaging effects, kind of like carbon monoxide. It stays in a person’s system for a long time, with the result that a non-lethal dose can sometimes kill because of the accumulation of poison in the system. A second act of immorality is not a freebee—it compounds the sin of the first one, spreads the cancer a little further, and eats away at a little more of one’s personality and spirit. The only way to deal with such sin is to end it immediately, radically, permanently, and in complete dependence upon God. Covenant with God that you will never let it happen again. Ask Him to give you strength. Become accountable to someone.

In recent years there has been a movement among Christian young adults called “secondary virginity.” It’s been a way to encourage those who have already sinned sexually at a young age to establish a new marker and commit to abstinence from now until marriage. Some in the liberal press have made fun of this effort, but I applaud the young people who have committed to starting over.

A word to those of us who have no fallen, but know those who have. Be willing to forgive them. Remember, God has forgiven you too, of other things. Was the sin in the life of your spouse, child, close friend any worse than the sin you have committed? God forgave YOU. Forgiveness is not just a feeling; it is a decision to do what God does for you every day!

Yeah, we know it’s not easy. We’ve been there ourselves.

Good Friday Sacrifice   5 comments

What’s the one thing you look forward to most on Easter?

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Easter is the high holiday for evangelical Christians like myself. While Christmas gets all the flash and bang by society, Easter is the pivot point of our faith. The entire life and work of Jesus Christ, right up to and including His death on the cross, means nothing outside of Easter. None of it would have had any effect had He not risen again.

Image result for image of the Lord's Supper

For me, Easter starts a couple of weeks before the actual date. Baptists don’t celebrate Lent … actually, I’ve never really understood that word “celebrate” in connection to Lent, which is a time of self-deprivation. I tried it one year with some friends as an experiment and, while dealing with the sudden cravings for chocolate that I’d never had before I chose to give it up for Lent was interesting, but I didn’t have a spiritual experience from it. My pastor at the time suggested this was because Baptists already practice self-control in many areas that society thinks are odd, so saying I wasn’t going to eat chocolate for 40 days was simply just practicing a skill I already possessed. Maybe.

But back to the subject. Once a quarter during the year, our church does the Lord’s Supper and Good Friday is one of those times. I do a more relaxed format of this every quarter, but Easter is when I really try to be formal with myself. A couple of weeks before the Lord’s Supper, I essentially start a Step 4 inventory of my life and sins. I try to be ruthless with myself, digging deeply to jot down people I owe amends to, which includes God. As I write out my list, I am constantly offering prayers to Him for what I know to be failings in my walk with Him. Over the years, my list of people has grown shorter just because I practice self-control more in my personal and thought life. Yeah, sometimes the people who are on my list have no idea that I owe them amends because the sins I’ve committed against them were inside my own head. Yes, I still list them because whether they know it or not, God knows it and that’s the real point of this exercise.

My goal is to be done by Palm Sunday, the list written out, sometimes my apologies made, occasionally my amends underway. It’s not always as clean as that because life is messy, but I try to be at peace with God by the time I approach the Lord’s Supper table. In this, I fulfill Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 5:23-24 – “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24, NIV).

There are some people who will always be on my list because reconciliation is impossible with them. It may be that they wouldn’t accept my overtures or it could be that they have done something for which there can be no reconciliation. This doesn’t mean that I don’t take the Lord’s Supper or that I feel like I am taking it unworthily. Ultimately, Christian salvation is the sole work of Jesus Christ and not at all dependent upon me or my efforts.

There are things in life that we can’t fix. Very likely, if I’d had a wonderfully spotless life, I wouldn’t be a writer. The point of the process is to bring me to self-awareness and forgiveness … both my forgiveness of others and God’s forgiveness of me. There are relationships that can’t or shouldn’t be mended. There are people I have forgiven for things they’ve done to me who I have no intentions of reconciling with because it wouldn’t be healthy for me to do so. There are sins in my life that were a part of my life the first time I worked through this process and will still be struggles I have when I stand before the Bema Seat. The point of the exercise is not to become sinless, incredibly self-aware or to feel like I’m worthy of God’s grace because those things are impossible goals. The point is to stand before God, knowing what I have always known … that my salvation relies wholly on Him and none of it on me.

For me, the best part of Easter is right after I’ve taken the Lord’s Supper on Good Friday, when I know that … at least for a short period … I have laid the burden of my ongoing sins at His feet, secure in the hope that I have perhaps moved a little closer to where my Savior wants me to be as a believer. Once again I feel the way I felt the day I accepted Christ, awed and humbled by His grace and mercy to me who does not deserve it.

Posted April 10, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Looking Forward to 2016   Leave a comment

So it’s January 1, 2016 and that seems like a good time to glance back at the past and forward to the future.

There were any number of topics I could have choose, but I decided to look at racism in the United States and something I learned this year.

Racism exists. Preference is a part of human nature that is actually a positive. It helps to keep us alive. We tend to not want to eat things that taste bad because that preference helps us to distinguish foods that are good to eat and those that are poisonous. Like so many positive human characteristics, our sin nature twists preference to something unhealthy and evil … racism. If we’re all honest with ourselves, we all have some racially based preferences.

A former Sunday School student of mine whose father is black and mother Korean married a Hmong woman and almost all of his male friends are black. He goes to a multicultural church (similar to the one where I was his Sunday School teacher). About two years ago, he invited a white church member to join the basketball team he plays on. After a few weeks, the friend had the bravery to jokingly call himself the “token white guy” on the team. Ken said the scales dropped from his eyes. “I’m a racist. I’m not an evil racist. I’m just exercising my preferences. I would never assault a white person because they were white. But I distinctly prefer black and Asian people over white people.” Ken has been trying to correct that imbalance in his life because he doesn’t like knowing that about himself, but he’s finding it difficult because he really does prefer black and Asian people over white people.

I am proud of my Native American roots, but I was raised to be equally proud of the rest of my heritage. I live in Alaska, a long way away from my mother’s tribe (some of them live in Canada, some in Ohio, some in Kansas, some in Michigan,  and the majority in Oklahoma). I go to Oklahoma occasionally to visit “cousins” (we share an ancestor and our grandmothers called each other “cousin” in truth. I’ve related here before my experiences before. In July I went to the Midnight Sun Intertribal Pow Wow, which has Alaska Natives and First Nations folks. As my dark-brown hair has grayed, I’ve chosen to dye it a dark auburn that I find very attractive with my blue eyes, but when I went to join the activities at the Pow Wow, I quickly felt the temperature drop. “They” did not want me there. As an experiment, I went home and dyed my hair black and went back the next day. Oddly, I felt welcome. I didn’t share that on the blog because I wanted some time to process it and, frankly, I felt guilty for violating my principles to feel included.

The fact is … racism is still alive in the United States because it is alive in the human heart.

Let’s be honest, though, things are a whole lot better since the Civil Rights movement.  I’ve never known anyone my age who has ever been denied housing or a job because of their skin color. I experienced perceived racism in a shop in the southwest, but that may have been a misinterpretation on my part. I’ve experienced overt racism in a shop in Fairbanks and that was not a misinterpretation, but I want to look at that because I learned something about it this year.

JP Jones was a community icon in the Fairbanks black community. He owned a corner store, he was head of the NAACP, he did a lot of good in that community. The community has honored his memory by naming a community center after him. My interactions with him were few, but memorable.

The first time, I was a teenager walking to a friend’s house in cold weather. It’s not uncommon here for pedestrians to walk from store to store to warm up along the way. I ducked into Jones’ corner store and learned about racism. JP clearly didn’t like me; he wanted me out of his shop; he treated me very rudely. When I met him again a year or so later, he was claiming a fight at the high school had been racially motivated because one of the participants was black. As a witness, I knew better and I heard the racism in his whole speech.

JP was a racist, but I’ve realized something — he earned it. I don’t know anything about his life, but I know his accent was southern and I expect he had been treated badly by white shop owners when he was a high school student. Maybe if I’d been buying something he would have treated me better. And, although the fight at Lathrop was definitely not racially motivated, in 1978 racially-oriented fights were not uncommon in high schools across America. JP’s racism was natural, but it falsely colored his perception of the world. Had he been pleasant with me, I would have been his greatest supporter, but because he was rude, I never had much use for him later.

So, this year, Black Lives Matter has been a huge media circus and I’ve been dismissive of it. It smacks of racism just as much as Wounded Knee seemed a racist venture to my mother. It’s is motivated by an understandable anger at cops killing people who haven’t done anything worthy of the death penalty. But by focusing on black deaths, the whole movement reveals its underpinning as racist. Most people shot and killed by cops are white. Yes, compared to their percentage in the population, there is a slightly higher percentage of blacks in that total number, but it is extremely divisive focus on that when the real issue is that cops shooting civilians ought to be a rare occurrence and it’s not.

By saying Black Lives Matter … or Indian Lives Matter … or Chinese Lives Matter … those using that term are saying that Other Lives Don’t Matter.

So, I don’t do resolutions for New Years, but I do state my hopes for the new year. In 2016, I hope we have an honest conversation about the true role of race in America and that we acknowledge that there is no institutional racism left. Those barriers have been kicked down a long time ago. The barriers that persist are individual barriers —

  • What are you going to do with the education that the taxpayers have provided for you?
  • Are you sure that your anger at the light-skinned other is not coming from you rather than engendered by something “they” are doing?
  • Do you see yourself as human or as some subcategory of human who thinks your subcategory is more deserving than the other subcategories?

Resolve to be a human rather than a race hyphen human. If you do that, you may be extremely surprised at how much less racist the world becomes.

Posted January 1, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in racism

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Looking for Excuses   2 comments

Hi, my name is Rose. Lela and I go back more than 20 years. We’ve been through a lot together and been part of each other’s Christian accountability network on many occasions. We have disciplined each other and others in Christian love without excusing sin.

That’s an important distinction. Neither of us is perfect. We have sinned. I’ve sinned more. I cheated on my husband and that adultery became public. What he might have been able to excuse in private, he found himself unable to forgive when it became public and he divorced me. It wasn’t as simple as that. We took over a year to come to that point. We were both Christians who had made a covenant with God before the church. We didn’t believe in divorce, but James couldn’t continue to live with me. He was well within Biblical grounds to divorce me and he is also free to remarry. Neither of us has done that. Although I can’t speak for James, I know that I will not remarry.

Why?

Because two sins do not balance each other out. When I broke my vow to James and my covenant with God, it did not dissolve God’s covenant with me. I agreed to be wife to James in God’s grace for my lifetime. God accepted that vow and it did not change because James and I decided we couldn’t stand to live together any longer. To seek physical happiness in another adultery would not excuse my first adultery. It would compound it. When I committed adultery, the man I had the affair with was unmarried, but he was still an adulterer because he was having sex with a married woman. Like it or not, I have a part in his sin. I can’t say “he made his own choice” or, worse, excuse my own sin by saying he came onto me. It does not make me innocent. It merely excuses my sin. Remarrying, either to the man I had the affair with or another, would be nothing less than trying to cover up my sin in the same way that David tried to cover up his sin by marrying Bathsheba.

The other reason I won’t remarry is because a part of repentance is accepting the consequences of my sin, which is that I will likely spend the rest of my life alone. Would I like things to be different? Yes! I obviously have a libido. And if James ever finds it in his heart to forgive me and reunite, I know that I will deserve it this time. Still, I accept the consequences of my sin. Being faithfully single has really not harmed me and it has taught me many valuable lessons.

“Now the law came in so that the transgression may increase, but where sin increased, grace multiplied all the more, Sthat just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

What shall we say then? Are we to remain in sin so that grace may increase? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection. We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (For someone who has died has been freed from sin). Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, he is never going to die again; death no longer has mastery over him. For the death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires, and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness,but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness. For sin will have no mastery over you, because you are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 5:20-6:14)

That God forgave my sin, both when I became a Christian and for later transgressions, does not give me permission to sin. My sin required grace (God’s unmerited favor) to forgive. Paul explained that the greater the sin, the more grace expands to cover that sin, but we shouldn’t sin expecting more grace. Instead, we should recognize that sin is a work of our former dead selves. As we are now alive in Christ, we should not let sin use our bodies to indulge its desires. When I gave my body to unrighteousness, I acted like someone who had not been enlivened by Jesus, but as if I did not know God at all. I had a choice, but I chose wrongly. I’d been reborn under grace, but when I allowed sin to have mastery of my will, I was showed guilty by the law.

And that’s the important thing to understand. Christians do not live under the law, to follow every jot and iota of it to judge our worthiness for salvation. We live under grace. We were saved by grace … our sin set aside by God’s forgiveness, by the grace that He provided through His own sacrifice on the cross. Christians don’t obey God’s will out of fear that we will somehow be found wanting and left outside Heaven. We don’t obey God’s will in hopes of earning His favor. We obey God because we are grateful for what He already did for us out of His love for us. But when we — when I — disobeyed God by committing adultery, I did more than just affect my life and those directly connected to me. Over the years since, I’ve come to realize how many unbelievers who heard of what happened took my actions as an excuse to ridicule other Christians and to scoff at the Church and God. When Christians act contrary to what God has taught in the Bible, our actions reflect negatively on Him and cause non-Christians to reject the gospel message.

I know I’ve been forgiven of adultery because I’ve asked for forgiveness and God always takes our repentance, even if my husband does not. I’m sorry for what I did, but I don’t feel guilty. When I think that there would be people out there who took my actions as an excuse to reject God’s salvation, though …

Finally, the last thing I would say is that I’ve been a member of three churches since I cheated on my husband. People know. It was public knowledge and I don’t hide from it. I’ve given my testimony in church. Although Christians cannot actually extend grace to others (grace is God’s gift to give, not ours), I have never felt judged and I think that is because I do not excuse my sin. Yes, there are things James could have done differently. Yes, my church at the time had a hand in what happened. A counselor I was seeing at the time also contributed to my temptation. The culture I was raised in encouraged my mind in that direction. The man I sinned with certainly had a hand … but I am the one who sinned.

It is as simple as that. By not excusing my sin, I allowed grace to abound … and God saw to it that it did.

Jesus Gives Bad Karma   Leave a comment

That’s what the bumper sticker said.

Plastered on the back of a pickup at the gas station as we filled up yesterday. Brad and I noted the owner of the pickup was older than us – old enough not know better, old enough to think he’s wise. Our son came strolling up from the store and said “that’s really disrespectful of my Savior,” to his friend. Did the old guy overhear. Maybe. He looked right at us and scowled.

If my philosophy of life could fi on a bumper sticker it would probably look like this:

Grace is the opposite of karma.

You do bad things in this life. Even when you do good things, your good is as filthy rags compared to the goodness of Jesus.

He loves you anyway.

And even though you deserve nothing good, Jesus still died for your sins and offers you forgiveness instead of karma.

Peace out.

Bar Churches for Alcoholics   3 comments

Brad, my husband, asked to post on my blog. Since he has something worthwhile to say and he managed to organize it into sentences, I agreed. Lela

 

 

It’s rare that Lela allows me to grab the microphone from her. She worries about having a Taylor Swift-Kanya West moment without Beyonce around to protect her, but if I give her convincing material, she agrees to post it. Brad

 

A while back, we (Lela and I) watched a PBS special on “welcoming and affirming” evangelical churches across America. I don’t know how big this movement really is. I don’t know many evangelicals who agree with it and this is PBS, which has strong anti-Christian political biases. If we don’t have a lot of these churches cropping up in the oh-so-very libertarian state of Alaska, I tend to think the story focused on the three churches in America that are actually doing this, but I could be wrong. Lela says the Internet might beg otherwise, but then maybe the churches that are not “welcoming and affirming” just aren’t advertising that … sort of like our church fails to publicize that we don’t serve alcohol during the service.

The basic story on Erbe’s program was about how loving these “welcoming and affirming” churches were, how God would not judge people for loving someone/anyone and that the church is completely wrong about what the Bible says about homosexuality. The destruction of Sodom had nothing to do with the men of Sodom wanting to have sex with the angels God sent to Lot (Genesis 19). God was angry for the city’s lack of hospitality. Pay no attention to Lot’s offering his virgin daughters to these men and them rejecting the girls because they’d rather have the unwilling angels. No, that’s not evidence of mass homosexuality and the desire for gang rape! That’s just not being friendly.

You get my point?

Someone in the Erbe broadcast said “it was all in the interpretation” whether you think the Bible condemns or accepts homosexual sex. Which got me thinking about Bill Clinton’s “it depends on what your definition of is is.”

Clinton, who claims to be a Southern Baptist, wanted the world in general to pass over his sin of lying by stressing the tense of the word. He was not currently having sex with Monica Lewinsky, so he didn’t lie to the press when asked if he was having sex with Monica Lewinski. Of course, he had had sex with Monica Lewinski – in the past. His rhetorical game worked. He got away with it as far as the press and his supporters are concerned.

Of course, he had a much deeper problem with the catholic (small c intentional) evangelical church of which he claims to be a member. Christians still see him as a sinner and, worse, we see him as an unrepentant sinner. You see, we’re all sinners. You, me, Bill Clinton, and Pope Francis – we’re all sinners. Yes, the pope is a sinner! And so am I!

My particularly favorite sin is alcoholism. I come by that naturally. My father, most of his brothers, his father and his grandfather were alcoholics. Irish Catholic, don’t you know? It’s what we do. On my mother’s side, every one of her husbands, several of her brothers, her father and grandfather were all alcoholics. I’ve personally had trouble controlling my drinking since I was 16. And, I’m an ass when I drink. I do stupid, dangerous, unloving and unChristlike things when I drink, which is why I usually don’t.

When I don’t, I am repentant for my sin. I just wrote that above paragraph. That is repentance. I admitted my sin, I called it what it was, I acknowledged its wrongness. And then, more important than anything else in repentance, I try not to do it anymore. I didn’t say I have never done it since salvation. I said I try not to do it anymore.

That’s my sin and repentance as opposed to Bill Clinton who justified his adultery and his lying about it and is probably doing both again and will justify both again if need be. Until he comes before God and then his excuses won’t do him any good.

What separates me from Bill is my dependence on God. I’m not superman. I am a sinner, but I don’t rely on rhetorical tricks to justify my mistakes. Instead, I continually turn to the “I Am” Who tells me there is “no longer any condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the Spirit. For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1. My sin has been set aside and God will not hold it against me … not because of anything that I have done, but because Jesus died on the cross for all of us who accept Him as Savior and Lord.

We all like the idea of a Savior, but most of us don’t like the idea of a Lord. That means submitting to an Authority greater than ourselves and most humans don’t like that idea. I don’t like that idea. And when I dislike it the most is when I’m drinking. One is the symptom of the other, though I’m not sure in what order. When I am embracing my sin is when I am relying on the “I is” … me, fleshly man with feet of clay. I will justify my behavior – I come from a long line of folk who like to drink and Christian morality gets in the way of my good time – but it doesn’t change that I am violating a covenant I made with God. Jesus saved my soul, and I (in continuation of Romans 8) acknowledge my debt to Him by living according to the Spirit and not the flesh.

Which is why I wouldn’t and couldn’t be a member of a “welcoming and affirming” church. It’s not that I think God hates homosexuals. I think He feels about gays the same way He felt about me when I was drinking. Drinking wine is not a sin. No, it is not! Jesus turned water into wine and it was GOOD! The best wine at the wedding!

Drinking wine the way I drink wine is a sin! It was destructive to my body, mind and relationships. God still loved me enough to die for me on the cross and eventually I accepted that love, but in order for me to fully live in that love, I had to give up my favorite sin, because the way I drink doesn’t show God in a good light and is destructive of His temple in my body.

Sadly … when I was drinking, I didn’t know that. I couldn’t see the harm it was doing to me and I definitely wouldn’t to acknowledge the harm it was doing to my relationship with Jesus. And, I think that may be the sad plight of the “welcoming and affirming” movement. They think the problem is that the church is against them when the real problem is that God loves them so much that He wants them to give up something that He knows is harming them … and they can’t see that.

Thank God, literally, for putting Lela and other Christian friends in my life to point me away from sin, even when I didn’t want to give it up.

Thank God we don’t hold church in bars!

Which is kind of what I think a “welcoming and affirming” church is. If an alcoholic’s utopia is church held in a bar and the drinks are free, wouldn’t a homosexual’s utopia be a welcoming and affirming church that denies key portions of Scripture?

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