21 December 2015

Through a child we see the glory of the Lord

Sometimes this child –
Oh, sometimes
Sometimes this child makes me crazy
Crazy enough to forget
that in my hands she is most precious
and I am moved to remove her from the face of the earth
to strike a rock and sacrifice my promise for her silence
to rip stones to pieces and destroy the evidence of things that cannot be changed
to tear my clothes and beg for my own life to be finished
O, Lord, if You love me!
If You love me, then save me now from the burden of this foolish heart
This foolish heart that mocks Your provision with forgetfulness
This foolish heart that tempts Your grace with moanings and murmurings
This foolish heart that hates Your righteousness and rebukes Your love
She must be crazy
But maybe not as crazy as I
who have been before her in self-imposed exile
wherein I may have found an affect of joy
but always felt just slightly removed from it
I, who have been there, and also here
in the inexpressible intangible totality of God
whose light helps me to see how I was so much the same as this child
and my God –
my God!
My God, who surely wept at my stupidity,
showed me a great mercy I did not deserve
while I clung to my misconceptions
He conceived a child to be everything I am not
and everything I was supposed to be
without spot or blemish
firstborn, consecrated, raised up, anointed,
and faithful to His longsuffering Father
then all the things I imagine should be for this child –
my child –
myself –
He poured upon His own flesh and blood
 the lash
  the nails
   the tree
    the tomb
“Don’t you see that I know?” He whispers
“Don’t you know that you don’t know what you’re asking for?
But look!
See that because the price is paid
I have all My love for you
Because you have My love then you can share it
Because it is free, then who are you to demand a profit?”
He teaches me that grace is difficult
that love is a hard choice to make
but, verily, I say to thee,
love is the only choice worth making

20 July 2010

Love Requires Admonition

"Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted." -- Gal 6:1 (NKJV)

Admonition, chastisement, reproof, rebuke, 'fronting out, whatever you want to call it, is a sign of true, deep and unconditional love. Of course we would love it if the people who profess to love us would just leave us alone sometimes -- or anyway, we think we would love it -- but what good does it do for us to be allowed to stumble without being held accountable for our actions?

That's really what admonition is about: accountability. I know that the ability to rebuke your loved ones is a sign of true and unconditional love because God Himself embodies a love that chastises wrongdoing and rewards righteousness.

"My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor detest His correction; for whom the LORD loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights." -- Pro 3:11-12 (NKJV)
[Jesus said] "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten [discipline]. Therefore be zealous and repent." -- Rev 3:19 (NKJV)

I grew up in a household where everyone was held accountable for everything they did. We were not allowed to make excuses for ourselves or blame our circumstances for our mistakes. We were punished commensurate to the mistake we had made, and often this hurt:

"Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peacable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." -- Heb 12:11 (NKJV)

But I know that I am a better person for it, and now I recognize in myself my own weaknesses, and I strive to accept responsibility for the mistakes I make. It may take me a while to realize I have done wrong, but I repent of this weakness and work to be better about recognizing the beam in my own eye, etc...

Seriously, though, how can I love someone and watch them fail? The simple answer is, I can't. I can't control the actions or the consequences of those I love, certainly, but I can do my best to instruct them in the ways of righteousness. The key is not to be some kind of high-minded know-it-all about the situation. Who am I?

[Jesus said] "I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge: and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me." -- John 5:30 (NKJV)
[Jesus said] "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." -- John 7:24 (NKJV)

Righteous judgment relies not on what I can see, or what I presume to have seen, but rather on what God has revealed through His Word to be correct and within His will. Righteous judgment also manifests itself in the fullness of grace and forgiveness.

"Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one." -- Col 4:6 (NKJV)

Again, we must be able to back ourselves up with the Word of God.

"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." -- 2 Tim 3:16 (NKJV)

If I cannot support my conviction with the Written Truth, then I am probably not acting on conviction but instead am acting out my feelings. That's not admonition out of love, but out of anger. However, regardless of whether the ears I speak to listen, the Truth does not go forth void, and the seeds of wisdom I plant begin a process of change that may be instantaneous or a long, painful road to repentance.

How my dearest react to admonition is beyond my control. Whether they listen to me or continue to go their own way is beyond my control. What is within my control is whether or not I choose to allow my dearest to stumble about blindly when I know the way they should go.

If I love, then I love completely. If I love completely, then I cannot watch silently while those I love enter gates that lead them into harm's way. God willing, the words I speak will be in love and filled with grace, and the Truth will bear good fruit in the lives of my loved ones.

"These things also belong to the wise: It is not good to show partiality in judgment. He who says to the wicked, 'You are righteous,' him the people will curse; nations will abhor him. But those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will come upon them." -- Pro 24:23-25 (NKJV)

¡Gloria a Dios!

10 July 2010

Love Requires Forgiveness

"Then Peter came to Him and said, 'Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?' Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven . . .'" --Mat 18:21-22 (NKJV)

One of the pillars of the ministry of Jesus was forgiveness. It was also one of the greatest sources of confusion and derision from those who hated Jesus. The law prior to the birth, life and eventual death/resurrection of Christ required physical sacrifice as atonement prior to forgiveness. Custom also did not require men to forgive their brethren more than a few times before writing them off as unrepentant.

Praise God for Christ. Truly.

The ministry of Jesus revealed God's true desire: that men (and women) be forgiven entirely and without condition whenever they performed a work contrary to the will of God. The death of Jesus -- His acceptance of our punishment -- facilitates this kind of forgiveness to manifest itself, but as ministers of Christ in the present, we must ACT on this divine facilitation.

[Jesus said] "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." --Mat 6:14-15 (NKJV)

There are no conditions here. I don't get to choose when to forgive, who to forgive, or what to forgive them for. If I choose not to forgive in any situation, then I have separated myself from the divine forgiveness of God in my own life. This is a challenging and perhaps the most important part of Godly love: forgive your neighbor.

Forgive your enemy. Forgive yourself.

Forgiveness does not necessarily mean ignoring human nature, though, either. As Christians we are continually counseled to flee from temptation, including temptation in the form of our brethren or non-Christians.

". . . So you shall put away the evil from your midst." --Deu 13:5 (NKJV)
"But those who are outside [the church] God judges. Therefore, 'put away from yourselves the evil person.'" --1 Cor 5:13 (NKJV)

God recognizes that we are weak in the flesh, but WE must recognize that we are strong in spirit, for the Spirit that guides us is the Holy Ghost, who has cast out the enemy and desires most to guide us in all things. We MUST forgive if we intend to love one another, but we do not have to subject ourselves to dangerous and/or damaging relationships.

[Jesus said] "'Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.'" --John 7:24 (NKJV)

Righteous judgment relies on the Word of God to recognize that which is evil: not of God. In every endeavor to forgive, we should also endeavor to be honest with s/he who has transgressed against us. What they have done has caused injury and was wrong. We should also be able to support ourselves with scripture, even if we aren't going to thump each other over the head with a Bible.

If I cannot back myself up with the Word of God, then I am in trouble... In fact, I am in danger of having brought upon myself a need for forgiveness. If I cannot back myself up because I am not familiar enough with the Word to know one way or the other, then I need to consult the Truth before I chastise my brother or sister in Christ, or my friends who do not yet know Christ.

I cannot love if I cannot forgive. This is, for me, one of the great divine mysteries of God: He is love because He forgives.

¡Gloria a Dios!