Friday

Grace from Gibeah

Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

We assume that we know what we are doing. We are an enlightened society. Science is our guide. Philosophy our liturgy. Comfort our god. We have proven there is no god and now, freed from the constraints of the tyranny of religion, we can forego the masses' opiate and forge our own path, create Utopia. We are the captains of our souls.

To anyone who thinks the Bible is a book of children's stories, please avoid Judges. The last 3 chapters contain a story so graphic the writers of Game of Thrones could whip it into a screenplay with but little editing. The book ends with gang rape, a dismembered corpse mailed to 12 tribes, an ensuing civil war, the death of nearly 70,000 men, the wholesale slaughter of an entire city, and 600 girls taken captive and forced into marriages. Ancient historical text or modern headlines?

While there is much to be gleaned from these chapters, my initial gut reaction is merely one of sadness at the state of mankind when we make our own rules. The Cycle of Judges has the repeated phrase, "everyone did what was right in his own eyes."

And this is, I believe, the core value in our world. It is the basis of materialism, sexism, racism, and all the other 'ism's which pervade our world as fungus rots a fallen log. We see it, we want it. We feel it, we do it. Frank Sinatra did it his way. We are the champions. When people look to themselves to find the solution the inevitable result is always death and brokenness and sadness and horror. Religion even looks to man as the solution: Earn your way. Pay your penance. Become nothing.  All religions but one.

Jesus changed everything. He came into this world so desperately broken, not to condemn it, but that it might be saved through Him. Jesus didn't need to condemn us: we do that perfectly well on our own. He came to save us. The gospel comes to ruined people. Ruined by sin. Condemned, helpless, dead. The gospel is not a flannel board fairy tale. It is God seeing people ruined by doing what is right in their own eyes and sending Himself to show them what is truly right.

The 2nd greatest lie in all of history is that we have within ourselves the capacity to know what is right. It's what Satan told Eve. It is built upon the subtle, but Greatest Lie: God does not love you. Because to believe the 2nd, we must concede the first. The reality is that God does love you. Yes, even you. Even me. He loves us so very much that He did what we could never do on our own: Be selfless. Love. Forgive. Grace.

Grace is looking at the man in Judges 19 who threw his wife to rapists to save his own skin. A man who sacrificed a woman on the alter of his own nefarious pride by allowing men to kill her with their depravity. A man who took the weaker and used her to protect his own comfort.  It is looking at that evil man and loving him enough to take the enormity of his sin and bear it for him so that he could be forgiven. Jesus took the people who hurt children and societies who abuse women and He loved them by dying for their "doing what was right in their own eyes." It is impossibly wonderful. Achingly true.

I see in my own heart the capacity for such evil. Nauseated by Judges, I look within and see the man I could have been had not Jesus redeemed my broken soul by His love. And I look to Him to show me what is right. Not myself. Because when I do as I see fit instead of what the Lord says is good, I am the man in Judges. Ah, but He is my Good Shepherd who freed me by his love. He transforms my very heart, my very mind, into a man who looks like Him. Who loves like Him. Who can now do what is right in God's eyes, and not his own.

Glory!

Grace, grace, God's grace.
Grace that is greater than all our sin.

Wednesday

Praise

"Let my soul live that I may praise You, and let your ordinances help me"
Psalm 119:175

Science is wonderful at answering the What and the How. As I was getting out of the shower this morning, our 4 year old son decided to come in and have a little convo. He left the door open. We live in a concrete block house. At 8,000 feet. With no heat. He asked me how our bodies make heat. Mine was currently not making enough. But I knew how to find out the answer. Science is an amazing tool that we can use! It's called Cellular Respiration (remember that Biology class you hated?) Feel free to geek out with me because it's awesome. But we can find out how that works. That too points to our Creator, but that's another post.

The same 4 year old has a favorite question: "Why?" Deep theology pours forth from that tiny mind. Sometimes I have an answer. Like when he asks why there are bad guys. Or why God is good. Sometimes I don't. Like when he asks why grandpa has cancer. Sure, I have an answer, but sometimes they answers don't seem to help. Sometimes I tell him, "I don't know. But I know that God is good and that's enough for me today." And sometimes it's time for bed and the answer is, "We'll talk about it tomorrow, sweet boy."

Why do we even have a soul? That marvelous question has a marvelous answer:

"That I may praise You."

God made us to praise Him. In what is truly a masterpiece of poetic discipline, the Psalmist gives us our purpose: Praise.

Sometimes studying the Bible really messes things up. See, here I am, comfy in my grumpiness and then I read this before I give teeth chattering answers to a wee bitty blonde boy in my bathroom. And I am forced to confront reality. Because what I want to do is yell for him to shut the door. But before my blood pressure can spike, this verse whispers into my mind and I have a choice to make.

Will I praise Him right now? Will I worship He who made my soul, then saved that soul so I could, as Tozer says,  "...perform what the constitution of our natures indicates we are capable of." What will I do? Who will I be? Because reality cannot be avoided forever. God made me to praise Him. Today. Right now. The Bible could not be clearer. And I cannot yell at my child and praise the Lord at the same time.

I cannot ___________ and praise the Lord at the same time.

With what else could will fill that blank?

I bet my list is longer than yours.

Wonderfully, the verse continues, "and let Your ordinances help me."  That word means a judicial decision, a verdict, a judgement, that sets precedent. The Lord didn't give us rules to limit our freedom. He gave us His word so we could have true freedom, because sin and lies bind us. Did Satan make good on his promise to Eve? Do we become like God when we sin, or when we praise Him?

Its no secret that we humans need help. And help we have. Right there in the Bible. Help to answer questions whispered from mouths full of not-too-well-brushed teeth. Little mouths that pull out a thumb and are unafraid to whisper, "Why, daddy?"

Let us be unafraid to wonder. Unafraid to whisper, "Why?" Unafraid to praise Him and receive the help He has given us. It's why we're here.

Unseen



"Your way went through the sea and Your path through the great waters,
but your footprints were unseen"
Psalm 77:19

Oh, how great and marvelous is this mysterious God we serve. In this journey with adopting our son, the Lord has gone before us. His way was through the sea and we could not see His footprints. But seeing does not manifest reality. Much of what I cannot see is real. If the Bible is true, there is an entire other world which we cannot see. That which is invisible, unseen by our eyes. A whole realm that is all around me that I cannot measure or manipulate or manage. A realm to which I have access through prayer. A realm where battles are fought. Where we can be transformed.

I want so much to see. To run my hands over the petrified imprints. But petrified means dead and I serve the Living God. The God who passes through the great waters unseen and asks me to follow. The God who brings nations to the edge of the sea then has them walk through on dry land. The God who takes the Great Problem of our sin and solves it unimaginably. The God who entered, as C.S. Lewis called it, "enemy-occupied territory" as, among all options, a baby boy born to a teenage girl. Our ransom wrapped in swaddling cloth. 

Yet even more, I want to follow Him through the darkness. I want to be carried by my Good Shepherd through the deep waters. I want to forget about seeing proof and rest in His everlasting arms. I want to be so enraptured by His love that I never look back to see where we have been but am content to merely be with my Lord, my Savior, who loves me enough to invite me to join Him in His wonder. 

I want to know Him, not just about what He has done. And as we have gone through this process, He has shown us who He is. Faithful. Just. Good. 

He is Father, Creator, Redeemer, Friend. And I love Him. And He loves me. And you. 

And though He is a mystery, what glimmer I get as He hides me in the cleft of the rock is more than I could ever need.