Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Behold, if the leprosy have covered all his flesh, he shall pronounce him clean that hath the plague."—Leviticus 13:13.
STRANGE enough this regulation appears, yet there was wisdom in it, for the throwing out of the disease proved that the constitution was sound. This morning it may be well for us to see the typical teaching of so singular a rule.
We, too, are lepers, and may read the law of leper as applicable to ourselves. When a man sees himself to be altogether lost and ruined, covered all over with the defilement of sin, and no part free from pollution; when he disclaims all righteousness of his own, and pleads guilty before the Lord, then is he clean through the blood of Jesus, and the grace of God.
Hidden, unfelt, unconfessed iniquity is the true leprosy, but when sin is seen and felt it has received its death blow, and the Lord looks with eyes of mercy upon the soul afflicted with it. Nothing is more deadly than self-righteousness, or more hopeful than contrition.
We must confess that we are "nothing else but sin," for no confession short of this will be the whole truth, and if the Holy Spirit be at work with us, convincing us of sin, there will be no difficulty about making such an acknowledgment—it will spring spontaneously from our lips.
What comfort does the text afford to those under a deep sense of sin! Sin mourned and confessed, however black and foul, shall never shut a man out from the Lord Jesus. Whosoever cometh unto Him, He will in no wise cast out.
Though dishonest as the thief, though unchaste as the woman who was a sinner, though fierce as Saul of Tarsus, though cruel as Manasseh, though rebellious as the prodigal, the great heart of love will look upon the man who feels himself to have no soundness in him, and will pronounce him clean, when he trusts in Jesus crucified. Come to Him, then, poor heavy-laden sinner,
Come needy, come guilty, come loathsome and bare; You can't come too filthy—come just as you are.
Posted by chris blog at 8:41 AM
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
You ask me why I love the Lord,
well, friend, just let me say...
Life wasn't worth living,
'Till the Savior came my way.
You say I miss so much of life,
yes, friend, praise God, I do.
I miss the pain and sorrow,
that once was all I knew.
I miss the days spent seeking joy,
the long nights full of tears.
I miss the heavy burden,
that I carried through the years.
But, friend, I wouldn't have them back,
for all that life could pay.
Life wasn't worth living,
'Till the Savior came my way.
Posted by chris blog at 5:53 PM
This is the attitude I find in myself and lurking very close to justice-minded people.
Judgment is the pronouncement of condemnation over another person. It is the process of damning someone in our hearts and minds. Jesus confronted the spirit of judgment in the Pharisees and teachers of the law when they wanted him to approve the stoning a woman caught in adultery. I believe Jesus would have reacted similarly if it were the man who was brought before him to be stoned.
Simply put, the Bible seems to distinguish between condemnation (something only God is capable of doing) and correction (something we as fellow law-breakers should do in love for one another). Jesus says in Matthew 7, in effect, “don’t judge, but once you’ve addressed the log of sin in your life and can see clearly, by all means help someone struggling with the speck of sin in their life.”
Condemnation is a spirit in league with pride – the mother of all sins; abhorrent to God and the original sin of humanity as depicted in Genesis 3. A true desire for justice looks first within at all that is broken, depraved and out of sorts with God, our community and the world.
Only then can we act with true compassion and real power in our quest for justice, coming to terms first with our own desperate need for forgiveness and correction.
Of course the discernment of evil and the quest for justice is critical for human flourishing.
We were meant to govern one another in ways that protect the weak and contribute to the good of all; it comes with being made in the likeness of a just God. But the ease with which we damn one another – whether people (like politicians or theologians with whom we disagree) or groups (ethnic, ideological, corporate or denominational) is frightening.
Here are a couple of questions that may help clarify justice from judgment, correction from condemnation:
1. In your offense over an injustice, ask God to show you if there are ways you are guilty of the same injustice. Are there derivative sins related to this injustice that you yourself struggle with?
2. In your anger over this injustice, are there particular people or a particular person that you find yourself hating? Ask God to help you grow in compassion and understanding.
3. Before pointing out wrongdoing or bringing a word of correction to a person or a group of people, ask yourself, “to what extent am I motivated out of a sincere burden for this person’s growth in godliness versus just plain anger and offense over their behavior or words?”
Perhaps Tolstoy put it best, “Everybody wants to change the world but nobody wants to change themselves.”
Let us hunger and thirst for kingdom justice and righteousness – first by examining ourselves and confessing the wickedness in our own hearts and behavior, then by working with compassion toward the healing of both the oppressor and the oppressed.
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Posted by chris blog at 4:44 PM
By Dr. Jeff Childers
The other day I was reading the Didascalia Apostolorum (DA), like people do on a bright May morning. Chapter 12.4 has an instruction for bishops in the worship service:
If, after you are seated, some other man or woman should arrive who is honored in the world, whether from the same region or another congregation, you should not leave off your ministry of the word—whether you are speaking it or hearing it or reading it—in order to show them to a place. Instead, remain as you are and do not interrupt the word.
For those who may not know, DA is an anonymous manual of church order, written largely in the 3rd century. Originally composed in Greek, it survives today mainly in Syriac. Though not especially well studied yet, DA gives us fascinating glimpses into early church life before Constantine’s time.
In this passage, DA counsels church leaders not to do what would come naturally. In the ancient world, when people of worldly dignity show up, it would be normal to drop what you are doing and receive them amidst the pomp and circumstance that fits their status. Not to do so would be rude and politically unwise, since surviving and thriving in that society depended so much on playing long-established games of patronage and preferment.
From a worldly perspective, one would expect that the ranking “dignitary” of the congregation, the bishop, would be quick to court the favor of local luminaries and visiting VIPs by privileging their position in the church assembly. In public gatherings, the seating chart was a primary way of making and reinforcing a person’s significance in society.
But here DA encourages the bishop to recognize that attending to the word is more important than attending to worldly status—and that in the eyes of God a minister of the Gospel outranks those whom society would privilege on account of wealth and power. Like it or not, any bigwig who walked in expecting special treatment would get hit squarely with a different set of values than he or she was accustomed to outside the church.
Later in the chapter (12.6), DA gives bishops further advice about seating arrangements:
But if a poor man or woman should arrive, whether from the same region or another congregation, especially if they are elderly, and if they have no place, then you, bishop, should act for them from your heart, even if it means sitting on the ground yourself. There should be no respect of persons with you, but you should please God through your ministry.
The arrangements are deliciously ironic: When big-shots show up, yanking the minister’s chain to receive attention and trying to impose their privileged status on the congregation, ignore them. But when someone arrives whom the world would naturally place last, someone poor or feeble and insignificant, quickly move to find them a place—even the place of highest honor, the bishop’s own seat! By subverting the toxic norms of a sick society, the minister’s seating chart becomes a pointer to the Kingdom.
Not everything in DA would naturally be to the liking of the contemporary minister, but here we have a worthy teacher. Following Jesus’ lead in Luke 14:7–11, DA instructs ministers to embody the gospel in ways that will foster the world of God’s new creation.
Is there a need to rearrange some of the seating charts in your context?
Posted by chris blog at 4:41 PM