Creepy crawlies

Infestations always start with something small and totally manageable. Before your house can crumble from the damage of a million termites, a single termite queen must begin laying eggs in the walls. If you could find the queen before the eggs are deposited, you would avoid the entire ordeal with no more effort than a quick stomp of a shoe.

Sin is the same. Before your life dissolves into a puddle of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll, a single act of the flesh must be ignored (or even justified). The tiniest little sin, something that doesn’t even feel wrong or trigger your conscience, can lead to all kinds of deep-seated issues. Additionally, sin can be like an infestation in the sense that sometimes the damage is such that you have to start by doing a little deconstructing of your own before you can start over.

I know this is true because it is in scripture (James 1: 14-15 says “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

Unfortunately, I also know it is true because of my own extensive experience as a sinner. There is a well known statistic that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. Though I’m not prepared to defend this contested idea, I can say with all certainty that if it’s true, my 24.8 years on this earth have given me well over 100,000 hours of practice (and that is if you, rather graciously, assume I only have sin in my heart 50% of the time). So that makes me a master ten times over. But when you master sin, it’s really sin that masters you. And it all starts with a tiny little thought.

The creepy crawly sins in my life right now are materialism and laziness. Exactly where and how they started, I don’t actually know, but I’m finding it really hard to remove from my life. But recognizing the issue is not the same as dealing with it, and when the issue is laziness and materialism, it’s easy to think “I’ll deal with this tomorrow… but for now, why don’t I buy another gizmo, that will make me feel better!”

Only it doesn’t. Not that I really, deep in my soul, think it will or should. And, to be sure, I can justify my sin so easily. I’m not going into debt to feed my desires for more stuff. I’m not missing deadlines at work to watch another season of Doctor Who on Netflix. In fact, I don’t actually buy many things, I just sort of fantasize about having a newer car, a bigger TV, or a faster computer. And I don’t indulge my desire to waste time when I have no time to waste. No, the problem is not that my relationships are in shambles and I am a shell of my former self; the problem is that I have a termite queen laying eggs in my heart, and I’m questioning whether I should stamp her out now.

Praise God for the life, forgiveness, and help He gives! My prayer, right now, in this exact moment of writing, is that He would show me the severity of my sin and remind me that to leave a “small” sin un-squashed is disastrous and foolish. In fact, my prayer is that He would re-teach me the grace He showed at Calvary and help me see that He squashed sin for me. Fortunately, because I know He is good and desires to sanctify those who are His, His answer to requests for help crushing sin will always be yes.

Broken and Breaking

I think there are strategies used by the enemy to wage war against the Lord of heaven and earth that are more effective than I tend to realize. One that the Lord has opened my eyes to most recently is Satan’s desire to make us think this world is a comfortable and good place. The reason it’s so dang effective? We know, deep down we can feel it, the world should be a comfortable and good place. We sense the bit of truth in the lie, and it shuts down our defences and lulls us off to sleep through the battles raging around us.

But sometimes, because of His great mercy and love, God will break us of this silly notion. Pain and brokenness surround us, and recently one friend’s trial has been one of a series of events God has used to remind me that this world has been tarnished and cannot function as He intended it to. Scott Frazier and his wife recently had a beautiful baby girl; beautiful, but far from healthy. Davy’s diaphragm didn’t fully form which allowed her abdominal organs to settle in her chest cavity. This in turn hindered the development of her lungs, which has caused a host of other issues.

This news, in conjunction with the tragedies of other friends over the last few weeks, has shaken my faith more than I want to admit. How could this happen? Why would God allow it? My sadness and grief over the heartache of my friends cannot begin to match that of people going through such trials themselves. I am a third party observer of little Davy’s struggle, and I know that my soul could never cry out in anguish the way Scott and Chelsea’s do. But the truth is, even they do not grieve to the extent God does when He looks at the world. His world, mangled and marred by sin and death, causes Him more pain than we can fathom. The world ought not work this way.

And finally, I begin to understand why trials are a blessing, and it’s not because Christians are sadists and masochists. We are not called to enjoy pain, but to rejoice in it. I never seek out calamity, and I don’t find pleasure seeing others in pain, but still I praise God in times of pain because He is reminding His people that this is not our home. This world is broken by sin, but He is fixing it by grace through Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 says: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

And though this is talking specifically about mourning those who have died in Christ, I think it applies to those who are suffering in Christ by other means, too. We do weep when we feel sorrow, but it’s a weeping that comes from hope and a certain sense of homesickness at the knowledge that one day Christ will return and set things right, restoring what was lost.

When I look at my life and think “things are going well” I’m tempted to love this world, rather than the God who created it. Sometimes, I foolishly decide to settle for the best the world has to offer because I have forgotten that the world’s best is always countered by the world’s worst. For every “pay it forward” chain at a coffee shop, there is a string of killings by a twisted regime. For every beautiful sunset, there is a blood spattered patch of earth. For every sweet and loving relationship, there is a manipulative and abusive one. And, although that is a sobering and miserable thought, it points me back to Christ and the hope I have for the future outlined in Revelation 21:1-6

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem,coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

“And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.””

Scott Frazier has a blog of his own called Numbered Days which I highly recommend. His outlook on his duaghter’s situation has been a huge source of encouragement to me. Please visit his blog and be in prayer for his daughter, Davy.

The Pendulum

This is a poem I have been working on for the past few weeks as God shows me the back and forth tendency of my heart. I hope you enjoy it!

My cheeks are burning hot with rage;

Religion is my cozy cage.

 

But it can no more fill me up

Than one who pours from empty cup.

 

The rising water fills each lung

And my good deeds all reek of dung.

 

What shall I do without these rules,

With which I deem all others “fools?”

 

The truly foolish one am I

Who cannot feel my wooden eye.

 

The sickness in my heart does grow,

as evil pulls me in it’s tow.

 

My soul I will gladly harden,

I refuse to tend that garden

 

If “goodness” cannot earn my keep,

Then without sowing I shall reap.

 

I’ll take the things for which I lust

ignoring what I know is just.

 

till I can no more take and take

my heart within begins to wake

 

but Satan heaps upon me, eager,

Shame to make me feel so meager.

 

Yet meager, meek and mild seemed He

Who bore that shame at calvary.

Who paid the price to set me free;

Who ransomed me from slavery!

 

No longer bound to law or sin,

my heart will raise a joyful din.

 

The Son of God I will exalt

And make this state my soul’s default.

Shame on shame

A few weeks back I posted a quote from a lecture called “Gospel fluency” to my twitter. It said “Shame is evidence that we believe Jesus wasn’t enough; that we must first feel sufficiently bad about our sin before God will accept us.” This is how God is helping me to understand what that really means.

I struggle with multiple sins, including self-righteousness, petty anger, and lust, all drizzled with a sticky shame reduction. Some of my “bad habits” I would even say are actually addictions. Recently I felt my own inadequacy, turned from Jesus to my drugs of choice, and began to spiral towards the shamefulness that so often comes with it. God in His mercy chooses to use my faults and the accompanying feelings of despair to refine me and reveal to me my own heart.

In the car, the song “Nothing but the blood” came on and reminded me oh so sweetly that “Naught of good that I have done” will bring me to reconciliation with Christ. When I began listening to the audio Bible, I started with Ephesians and was reminded that “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not your own doing…” And then, when I sat down to write this post, an old Newsboys song by the title “Dear Shame” came to mind, and I decided to look it up. Though the music video is terrible (no offence to the Newsboys, who I really enjoy… but it was made in the 90s), it starts with a wonderful reminder of Romans 8:1, that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Again and again the Lord brought to my mind the wonderful and freeing realization that though I am broken, and I am filled with wicked tendencies, but I am not hopeless nor am I worthless because of my sin.

Suddenly, peace has invaded my soul and given shame the boot. My value comes from the fact that I bear God’s image. He made me unique and placed me specifically where I am with His high and good purposes in mind, and though I may (and sadly, often do) fight it, His sovereign plan will come to completion in my life. As a Christian, sanctification is the natural progression of things. An analogy (from the book You Can Change, which sounds much more “Self-help-y” than it is) would be this: We often feel that sanctification is like trying to roll a large heavy boulder up a hill, but occasionally, we slip and it falls as far as it can before we catch it to begin pushing it back up. Instead, we should realize that sanctification is the other way around. We are adopted as sons and daughters of Christ, and God begins perfecting us to His image immediately, regardless of our efforts. The boulder naturally rolls down the slope into a lush green valley, but occasionally, we decide to take it upon ourselves to try and push it back to the top; that is why sin is so toilsome and tiresome, and righteousness brings such peace and joy; one is the result of our efforts and the other is a result of the Lord’s efforts in us.

This is not to insinuate that the Christian life is easy or comfortable or that it can be accomplished through complacency. No, if I were to assert that, surely I would heap more shame onto those of you who, like me, occasionally feel the noose of addiction or other repeated moral failing tightening around you. What I am saying is that, though righteousness does take conscious effort on our parts to read scripture, meditate on God’s word, seek Him in prayer, commune with other like minded Christians, and declare the gospel to others, it doesn’t feel like work, because in truth it is the Lord who will build in you a desire to know Him more. And He is fully away of the totality of our dependency on Him. He made us to be that way. He has known since eternity past each time and each way you would rebel, and He has planned for each rebellion and squelched them all on the cross of Calvary.

Shame is like feeling worried because you don’t know how you will ever pay a bill you no longer owe. When you disobey God, remember that you are not alone. You are not the first, nor will you be the last, Christian who has proclaimed to trust Christ and then walked in a manner contrary to the call. Even Paul himself admitted that “I practice the very evil that I do not want.” So then, an appropriate response to sin is contrition followed by laughing in the face of the enemy who would love to burden you with shame. Be filled with joy and lighthearted gladness that Jesus’ sacrifice has purchased you from slavery and preserved you from perishing.

Does sin carry consequences? Yes, it does.  But feelings that God has made a terrible mistake in saving me, or that I will never be worth anything, or that I cannot walk in victory over sin are no longer any of them.